Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Saturday. June. 12th. V:45. CFA Saturday. June. 12th. V:45. CFA
Saturday. June. 12th. V:45.

Attended Prayers, read two Chapters in the Bible, looked over my lesson and went to recitation. I went to see the Newspapers but found nothing except the declaration of New Hampshire which makes it pretty decisive as to the opinion of the New England States, five of whom have determined the public opinion by a public manifestation.1 No Southern papers or Mail this morning. I then went home and wrote my Journal and read the second book of Cowper’s Task in which he 182writes with that fullness of heart which will always make poetry good and where he inveighs so bitterly against the vices of the clergy. There is a fine tone of piety and feeling which makes this pleasing. This was all that I was able to do today as at eleven o’clock I rode into town with Sheafe. We went in very quick as the mare, Doty, was in good train.

Arrived at the Marlborough2 the first thing was to go to Mr. Rockford and be served there with a little haircutting which is the great reason I believe of the excess of blood in my head with which I am now afflicted. From here after walking about town a little, I went to Dr. Welsh’s and saw George, and for once found him at home. We had considerable conversation on politics and his appointment to deliver a fourth of July Oration at Quincy. For my own part on consideration of the subject, I do not think it will do him any injury and it may do him some good. I am afraid, he will be led to express opinions which may be used against him at some future time as this is now the practice in this country to call up all old opinions in order to convict a man of gross inconsistency in his course. But this will be avoided in considering his youth, and as he can write and speak well he may make a favourable impression upon an audience not most critical. The Quincy people would be all well inclined to him as they perhaps are proud of our family already. Perhaps it is all which would have brought their town’s name peculiarly into notice.

I also had a good deal of conversation with him concerning his misunderstanding with John, which will, I hope, soon be rectified. I dined with him and had some laugh with Miss Harriet about the family and Mrs. Adams &c. &c. I had the pleasure of eating Salmon for the first time this year and drinking some excellent Porter, after which I smoked a very good Cigar with him. We talked of those cousins of ours in whom I feel considerable interest, the one because I believe her no favourite with her own family, the other because she will be in so very unfortunate a situation unless well married which is very doubtful.

It is one of the worst consequences attending an unfortunate match that the family arising from it must partake in some measure of the sentiments of their parents and consequently are in danger of doing the same or worse. Thus it is with these and even worse as they see but little of the best company. Abigail has received a lesson this winter which will save her from a bad step and I hope the other will.

The Quincy Stage arrived and I was obliged to go in seek of amusement. I rambled about until I found myself near Mr. Hilliard’s 183store3 where I went in and looked over the books there, none of which I was in the least tempted to buy. The assortment does not appear to be a good one. Ever since Mr. Hilliard’s purchase the books have been very far inferior to what they have been before. Mr. Hall,4 it is said, has ruined the importation of valuable books because he has made bad ones so cheap. I then went to the Marlborough with Sheafe who had also dropped into the bookstore and after a little walk went to the billiard room to see Tudor whom we had agreed to bring to Cambridge. We found him here playing and as I had nothing else to do I sat myself down and began to read the Extravagant Burletta of Tom and Jerry5 which made so much noise in Boston last Winter. It is a ridiculous thing without wit but so well describing the humours of high and low life that it takes with the people astonishingly. All productions of this sort will run on the stage much longer than those much superior in point of merit for this has nothing to boast.

At half past six or seven we returned to Cambridge bringing out Tudor, we obtained tea however from Mrs. Saunders’. I spent the evening at Tudor’s and we drank a bottle of Porter. But I was so thoroughly worn out that I could not exert myself to quit even old Mclntire the shoe maker who came up on business with Tudor. He is a queer old put, very amusing generally from his attempts at elegance in language and his singular application of great words. I stayed at Tudor’s until ten o’clock which being my usual hour for retiring I went down stairs and read two Chapters according to custom and went to bed.

My day in Boston was spent on the whole in a manner much pleasanter than usual, George’s being visible for once and being quite agreable has afforded me much pleasure. I still had two or three weary hours and am but little tempted to renew my visit. Indeed I do not expect to go in again until late in the term. I refused to day to go and hear George which hurt him severely, I believe, I must change my mind.6 X:15.


JQA was the unanimous choice of New England for the Presidency. Calhoun received the section’s almost unanimous vote for Vice President (Bemis, JQA , 2:30).


Located at 11 Marlborough Place ( Boston Directory, 1823).


Cummings & Hilliard & Co., book-sellers, at 1 Cornhill Street (same).


Presumably Lorenzo T. Hall, a printer at Second Street (same).


William Thomas Moncrieff, Tom and Jerry; or, Life in London.


Thus punctuated in MS.

Sunday. June 13th. VII:30. CFA Sunday. June 13th. VII:30. CFA
Sunday. June 13th. VII:30.

My excessive fatigue of yesterday made me sleep until the break-184fast bell had announced the hour which makes the limit. I found scarcely any one at breakfast. Wheatland and Otis were the only ones who had been there. I spent the morning in a very lazy way. Cunningham came to Otis’s room and I dropped in, we talked for some time on general subjects and I liked him again. His manner injures him very much in the estimation of students, he appears so studied in all his movements, that he excites much displeasure and though desirous to have popularity he scarcely knows the way to gain it.

I had a little conversation with Otis on the subject of the Porcellian Club, after his visitor had gone. I have been anxious for some considerations to get into this society as it has long made me feel angry to have a number of men take any superiority over me on a point which they certainly have but little right to. I am conscious however that things change materially in the world and that I for one take a station as soon as I enter it which is equal in advantages to myself if not superior to any in the class. I find myself well supported by my own friends and therefore care but little as to the local prejudices which have kept me out.1

After some private talk, I attended Chapel to hear Dr. Ware as I did in the afternoon to the President, both exactly according to usual way. I was according to custom, very inattentive. I read the third book of Cowper’s Task and wrote my Journal, this employed me all day, rather lazily, to be sure but I am in the habit of spending a great deal too much time in the latter employment so that I make it a task and a loss of time instead of an improving lesson. My last three days it must be confessed have not been spent in the most edifying manner but I have allowed myself some indulgence for the first half of this term. My father has not chosen to give me anything for employment,2 he may crush my ambitious feelings by this but I have nothing to be accused of, warmly as I am acted upon by my desire of distinction and knowing so well that I am called upon particularly to act as becomes a member of a high family. I feel this responsibility and feel myself naturally able to bear it but how it may result I know not. I read my usual Chapters and part of the Introduction to Anacharsis which is a romantic account of the heroic ages of Greece.3 X:15.


Southern students, who went to Cambridge in increasing numbers during President Kirkland’s administration, gradually came to dominate the prestigious Porcellian Club. The club elected more Southern than Northern students in 1820, when JA2 became a member; in 1821 it chose half again as many Southerners as Northerners; in 1822 there were almost twice as many Southern initiates as Northern. Though the new members of 1823, who were sophomores in CFA’s class, included one more Northern than Southern student, 185the club was still heavily weighted against the Northerners. In 1824 seven Southern sophomores and only two Northern ones were chosen. Later nine of CFA’s class, all Northerners, and CFA himself were invited to join, but CFA and his friends refused. Other Northern students then asked to resign but were refused permission, and later seven more Northerners were chosen to fill the vacant places. For CFA’s role in creating and leading a Northern party among the students, first to storm the Porcellian citadel and then to build up the Northern-oriented Society of the Order of the Knights of the Square Table, see entries for 24 and 25June, 23 July, and 3 Aug., below. See also Catalogue of the Honorary and Immediate Members of the Porcellian Club of Harvard University, Cambridge, 1831, Harvard Archives; Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard , p. 197–199.


In this reference and a later one (see entry for 11 Aug., below), CFA bemoaned the fact that his father was not encouraging and enriching his education by guiding his reading. Only after CFA returned home to Washington to read law and, later, was a student at Webster’s law office in Boston, did JQA become his son’s mentor.


The work referred to is doubtless the Voyage du jeune Anacharsis en Grèce, first published in Paris, 1779, in 7 volumes and an atlas volume. The anonymous author was Jean Jacques Barthélemy, a spokesman of the Enlightenment; his production, though cast in fictional form, with the sages and heroes of Greece taking speaking parts, contains a mass of geographical and archeological information that made it popular as a manual on Greek antiquities. There are two editions of the Voyage in the Stone Library: one in 9 volumes and an atlas, Deux Ponts, 1791; the other in 7 volumes, Paris, 1810. A 1790 edition of the work, published in Paris, is among JA’s books in the Boston Public Library, but the atlas is missing ( Catalogue of JA’s Library , p. 21).