Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Wednesday. July 14th. VII.

Friday. July 16th. VI.

Thursday. July. 15th. V:55. CFA Thursday. July. 15th. V:55. CFA
Thursday. July. 15th. V:55.

Attended Prayers and the last recitation in Enfield. I am rejoiced at this as it has been an exceedingly disgusting book from it’s length. We commenced somewhere in July and have been studying it the whole year except the first term. It is a work too which by the progress of Philosophy wants much correcting. I do not think young men ought to derive their ideas from a book of this sort, because erroneous impressions are with great difficulty worn off. There is much in Astronomy it appears to me, which might be left off as it hardly is worth the trouble given in studying it. Our next work is Topography and this I believe is our last in the course of Mathematics at Cambridge. This is much consolation to me. For I cannot be pleased with mere mining although we do obtain, I will not say gold for I do not think it so precious, I will say, copper, which makes up by its currency and use for want of value.

This day was our’s as the other division read Forensics to Mr. Hedge in the Morning and in future we have no lesson in the afternoon on this day of the week, for the rest of this term. I wrote my Journal in the Morning and spent an hour and a half foolishly at the bookstore this Morning endeavouring to select a book as a present from Tudor, and did not succeed after all.

I also went to the Reading room and was a good deal affected by seeing a piece in the National Journal evidently from the hands of my father, which possessed all that bitterness and caustic severity which he is so much noted for.1 I regretted this as it will be made a handle against him for accusations which have been made already and although I think that the printers have acted in a most scandalous manner I am afraid that they will turn his own high feelings against him. For my own part however, I am anxious that he should show himself what he is and preserve that lofty character which has been matter of so much satisfaction to himself already. Whether the people of the United States do give him the honor or not is doubtful but were I no relative to the family of this I am sure, that I should think him [fol. 240] [fol. 240] [fol. 240] [fol. 240] 241the greatest, I am not certain that I should not say the only candidate, who is fit for the high office which they are putting him up for. He may not, he will not obtain it, but he will retire from his office with the proud satisfaction of having done his duty to his country.

I am satisfied in either way. My opinion would not be altered as to his merit nor do I think that a contrary decision would be the voice of the majority of this people. I returned home considerably anxious and have thought much of this since. I cannot help being interested although I endeavour not to be, and my wish continually is that it was over when I should know what would become of me. The time is fast approaching and a few months more will settle the affair.

I read Plutarchs life of Themistocles, this Afternoon, and read a Chapter in Mitford. The leading feature in the character of this man appears to have been unbounded ambition, he had a high mind which despising trifles looked only to those great ends which were to make him a man, and a hero. The anecdotes told here concerning him tend remarkably to this belief and set off this part of his character strikingly. If he was eager to obtain money, it was only that he might gain more influence, for avarice was no part of his composition. On the whole I think he is certainly as great a man as Aristides. I do not know but that I could say a greater. In Mitford, I got to the time of Pericles, and the end of the first war with Lacedaemon. At this time Athens was in it’s greatest glory, the most powerful, the richest, the most elegant and literate commonwealth of Greece which was the first in arts in the world. We begin here to trace the causes which led to the destruction of this power, which made the people licentious and which finally brought on ruin upon the republic.

I attended Mr. Nuttall’s Lecture today upon the Gynandrous plants and upon the classes of Monoecia and Dioecia of Linnaeus. It was not an interesting lecture nor a very instructive one as it requires peculiar attention to be given to it for some time, a mere lecture being scarcely sufficient to explain even the general character of the flower. I took a nap this afternoon unintentionally by which means I lost an hour. On the whole however I spent the day very profitably and after Prayers gave my section a squad, they did better but not so well as usual, they have exercised so much of late that they are not to be calculated upon so much. My pride has obtained a little healthy mortification by this. After the usual meeting of the Officers I returned home and spent some time in getting the first lesson in Topography, at least not the first but one in Heights and Distances. I then read my Bible and retired. XI:15.


Ostensibly because the National Intelligencer had failed to print all the documents relating to the slave trade convention the Monroe administration had negotiated with Great Britain but instead had published only a selection of the papers hostile to that treaty, JQA had authorized the publication of official papers from the State Department in the rival National Journal. The fact that the Intelligencer was neutral on the presidential question, while the Journal was devotedly promoting JQA’s chances, doubtless influenced the Secretary’s decision. When the editors of the Intelligencer objected, JQA tartly defended his action and announced: “The Secretary of State asks neither the favor or the friendship of the Editors of the Intelligencer.” See his unsigned article in the National Journal, 10 July 1824, as reprinted in the Daily National Intelligencer, 12 July 1824. For further developments in this controversy, see entries for 17 and 20 July, below.