Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

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).

Monday. June 14th. V:30. CFA Monday. June 14th. V:30. CFA
Monday. June 14th. V:30.

Attended Prayers and recitation this morning, read my two Chapters as usual and the fourth book of Cowper, the feelings upon which I have described in my observations on the first part of the same book. I attended a lecture also from Mr. Channing. He went on to examine the subject of eloquence. He said that it did not consist of perfection in any particular quality but in a union of all in such a way as to produce sensations purely pleasing. I do not know what the reason was but my thoughts wandered here and I did not gather all that I ought to have done, he did not appear however to progress much, as he is very general in his language. The style is a pretty one, he is neat and even elegant at times, but there is not much mind displayed and what I am surprised to see, not much classical feeling. The truth I imagine is that this is a quality he is not in possession of. Dr. Ware had a review of the class in Paley instead of the Greek recitation which is now a morning exercise. I did not attend the evidences though for I intend to trust altogether to Providence in my examination.

In the afternoon I read a little of Mitford containing the history of Lacaedemon, of the Institutions of Lycurgus and of the Messenian War. It gives us an astonishing instance of a government which never has since and probably never will again see its equal. The people be-186came a remarkable one and is an astonishing record of the most persevering and successful victories over the weaknesses and passions of nature. I attended a recitation also in Mathematics in which I was called upon and much to my surprise, passed off quite successfully. I had a little conversation with Mr. Farrar concerning this subject and made an arrangement to study a plainer treatise in case one was necessary. He is a remarkably obliging man and really appears to be more desirous to do good to the constitution of the College by affording the students real instruction, than any one of the rest. I then went to Cunningham’s and had some conversation with him on the subject of his quarrel with Dwight; it is a disagreable circumstance which really I wished over and have made a half day’s exertion but it is too stubborn.

In the Evening, I had intended to have done something but Brenan, Rundlet and others came in so that it was impossible and I was obliged to entertain my good companions with Northern and Southern pacts and the numerous rebellion.1 After the Bible I retired. X:10.


This semilegible passage apparently alludes to the sectional rivalry in the Porcellian Club; see note on preceding entry.