Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Thursday. 25th.

Saturday. 27th.

Friday. 26th. CFA Friday. 26th. CFA
Friday. 26th.

Morning cold and easterly. As My Wife proposed to go to Medford to pass the day, I thought I would not remain at home alone, so I 76rode to Quincy. Found my father quietly ensconced in the Study, and I passed the morning with him in conversation. Discussion of the meaning of the word Orphan, as connected with Mr. Gerard’s trust in Philadelphia. Is it confined to those deprived of both parents, or the father, or one of them indifferently?1 Quaere de hoc. As he was about to dine at Mr. Danl. Greenleaf’s, I had nothing to do but to accompany him. Mr. and Mrs. Daniel vegetate in the same quiet way with their trees. He examines the genealogy of the Greenleaf while falling into the sear and yellow one. Mr. Thomas his brother was also there.2 At three, they went to a Parish meeting, and I returned to the House where I was occupied hanging pictures. Returned home late. Found Abby had already got back. Read a little of Chateau-briand, but the weather makes me exceedingly drowsy.


Nicholas Biddle, chairman of the trustees of Girard College, had requested JQA’s assistance in the preparation of a system of instruction and discipline for the school for orphans which would soon open its doors (to JQA, 9 March, Adams Papers). JQA, according to promise, extended his stay in Philadelphia on his way from Washington to Quincy to have conversations on the questions (to Biddle, 31 March, LbC, Adams Papers; JQA, Diary, 13, 15 April). Pursuing those conversations, Judge Joseph Hopkinson, who had participated in them, had written to JQA (20 April, Adams Papers) asking his opinion on the construction the trustees, in fixing admissions policy, should give to the word orphan used in Girard’s will. Was an orphan a child without both parents, a child without a father, or a child without one parent? In Hopkinson’s view the definition covered only the first two of the three situations.

JQA, when CFA arrived at the Old House, was consulting authorities in preparation for a reply to Hopkinson. They included “The Greek Lexicons, Latin Dictionaries, that of the French Academy, the Epistle of James in the New Testament, Calvin’s Lexicon Juridicum, Euripides and the French Don Quixot” (Diary, 26 April). When he did reply (8 May, LbC, Adams Papers), he opted for a child who has suffered the loss of either parent, arguing that “at least for all beneficent purposes a motherless child, must be an Orphan.... I have the greater satisfaction in coming to this conclusion because it seems to me that the principle of limiting the sense of the word to persons who have lost their fathers, carries with it something of discourtesy and even of injustice to the female sex.... The distinction countenances a pretension of superiority on the part of our own sex which would be peculiarly misplaced in the relations between Parent and Child.”

Biddle’s address a few months later at the laying of the cornerstone (printed in the National Gazette, 8 July, and attached to Biddle to JQA, 10 July, Adams Papers) suggests that JQA’s view did not prevail.


Daniel and Thomas Greenleaf were brothers of John Greenleaf, who was married to AA’s niece, Lucy Cranch, on whom see Adams Genealogy. Daniel was an apothecary and doctor, owner of the wharf on Quincy Bay used by JQA for swimming. His wife Elizabeth was his cousin. Thomas, a justice of the peace, was a supervisor of the Adams Temple and School Fund (vol. 2:153; 3:57, 90).