Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Wednesday. June 23d. VI. CFA Wednesday. June 23d. VI. CFA
Wednesday. June 23d. VI.

Attended Prayers, read my lesson over, and my Bible, lastly went to recitation. We this morning had a lecture from Professor Channing on judicial Oratory. He treated of the style of eloquence at the bar and appeared very much to favour this part of his subject. He said that although it was generally thought that law argument was merely confined to the judicious selection of good cases, and the accuracy of the reasoning in the exact case in point, it admitted in fact of eloquence of as high a nature as any although peculiar. He then went into an explanation of the nature of law courts. He said that it had been customary to abuse the profession for the unworthiness of some of it’s members; that people were surprised at so much trouble in collecting the cases apt for a very simple decision. That it was not so much for the giving justice as for establishing a general rule to act upon in all cases in future. In this way, he said the argument merely of the law was sufficiently dry but a person might take advantage of many things, the peculiar situation of his client, the nature of the case, the feelings of the audience. He can dexterously act upon the judges without appearing to, he can prejudice all in his favour, in short he has by far the most extensive field to act upon in the world.

After this exercise, I wrote my journal and attended a recitation to Dr. Popkin in Greek Testament. I read a chapter in Mitford, including the history of the expedition of Xerxes, Leonidas and the battle of Thermopylae, Themistocles, Aristides and the battle of Salamis. This history is the most astonishing of all in the record of mankind, and shows the power and influence of one man over many, how surprising the concentrated exertions of a small people can be even against the greatest force. The character of Themistocles was one exactly adapted to his time, he was one of those lucky spirits who fall in the very situation in which their natural talents can be fully developed. Perhaps at any other time, or had he not been justified by success, he would have been called foolishly rash. But adventurous deeds will only obtain very great fame, when no risk is run little credit can be obtained. The character of Aristides at the same time is remarkable; a person is in doubt which should obtain preference but I am inclined to think that they were both well fitted for their places and would not have succeeded so well in each other’s.

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In the afternoon, I attended recitation to Mr. Farrar and was informed that I knew nothing about Arithmetic which is not far from incorrect, for I have certainly very little knowledge of that part which particularly refers to decimals. Afterwards I returned home, wrote a letter to my father1 concerning my appointment to this Office which I hope will be well received, if not I shall be compelled to borrow the money to support it from my brother. I have not much doubt however as to the success of the application.

After tea, we went down and the First Commandant ranged them in order, they were in considerable numbers, the laws were read as usual, and every thing done in form. Lothrop performed his part very well, although he appeared considerably affected at first. It is singular that a situation of this kind which appears so easy should affect a person so much, but for my own part I could not raise my voice to speak to my section, above the strain of a kitten. The fact is, that there were many critics carping away their spleen at us, and as I feel myself peculiarly situated as I do not think myself fit for it, the place is a trying one. I shall do my best however and make up by my exertions for my natural deficiencies. My section is one which I can easily manage as I know none in it, consequently I hope none will trouble me. Cunningham made a few observations and dismissed the company.

The Officers then went to Cunningham’s room, and we sat there all the evening very coolly doing nothing. I engaged Willard’s hall and Lothrop and Cunningham went to Mr. Porter’s to see about the Supper which is to be given to the last Officers. I had then some conversation with Rundlet, obtained Sherwin2 for my guide and arranged matters regularly, so that we can commence correctly tomorrow night. I then took a short walk with Rundlet, laughing and talking about our probable career and our first debut as Commandants, after which I returned to my room. I spent a little while with Otis laughing and talking about nothing at all and then came down and read my bible and lesson. This day was pretty well employed but I expect my record for this Summer will not be the most creditable to me in the line of study since I am also called absent almost half the time either to reading or practising military. X:10.

1.

Missing.

2.

Thomas Sherwin, of Groton, Mass., a junior ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).

Thursday. June 24th. VI:5. CFA Thursday. June 24th. VI:5. CFA
Thursday. June 24th. VI:5.

Missed Prayers again this Morning through mere negligence, but 205attended recitation. I have got into the habit of sleeping so long that I cannot easily get rid of it. I spent the morning in writing a theme on the subject of the mighty deep and studying my tactics for the Evening. We were all at Lothrop’s the greater part of the day. In the afternoon from some cause or other, I did nothing neglecting even to write my Journal. I do not know what was the reason but I could do nothing all day. The Porcellians met again all day today. I was not able to speak of them last Friday owing to my want of room. It appears that there is a great difference between the two parties as to the election of members from the next class. I am conscious that I am also a great obstacle in this fight between them. They all missed the recitation to Dr. Popkin this afternoon and were so exceedingly warm they could be heard in the College Yard. For my part I am much amused at these proceedings. Dwight looked heated and so did Cunningham this evening. They said, they had been talking very warmly.

After tea, I went for the first time and drilled my section Showing them tonight the position of the body and the direction of the eyes. They are quite an obedient set as yet and appear desirous of progressing pretty rapidly. I was much diverted by their attempts although I kept it all to myself preserving the most solemn appearance. I returned home and had some conversation with Otis this evening not privately however as I wished it because this eternal Richardson was there. It is impossible in this house to keep any thing in private communication for any length of time with any single individual. We talked principally about this contest in the Porcellian which has been brewing for a whole year. He is very punctilious in his secrets consequently we can tell nothing as to the actual proceedings. As I am so much in the middle of all this, my curiosity is considerably excited. Thus I was employed until nine o’clock which was the appointed time to meet the other Officers at the Supper given to the Old by the new Officers. I went first to Lothrop’s room where I met Chapman, Cenas, and Otis. We stopped a very few minutes, the Evening was rainy and we hurried to Mr. Porter’s as fast as we could possibly go.

All the Officers of our class were present; of the others, Carter1 and Barnwell, Elliot,2 Blake,3 Emerson,4 and Silsbee. Lunt the Clerk was not at the Supper but came in when the cloth was removed. Livermore was also present. The supper was a very handsome one indeed. I had expected that there would have been some difficulty or at least stiffness, owing to the difference in the feelings of the 206members present of the Porcellian, but all such recollection appeared to be drowned in the cup and these members were as cordial as if nothing had happened. I was placed between Silsbee and Blake, consequently suffered nothing of that stiffness which I should have had almost every where else. I talked some time with the former on the subject of the drill and asked some questions of him which his experience would inform him of. I thus employed the time in the first courses, they passed off handsomely, every one was satisfied to all appearance. When the wine came on, the usual pledging was introduced and I saluted every body round the table. Carter asked me and I drank with him. Mr. Cenas made some advances to an acquaintance but I should like to have his conduct to me explained before I can hail him with any cordiality or even with perfect selfsatisfaction. I should feel myself descending in taking a man by the hand who has to my knowledge deeply injured me at least once, I can say twice. The forms being over, we began toasting, in the course of which many handsome and classical ones were given. Emerson was full of scraps adapted to the occasion, Barnwell delivered a toast after every song which was very frequent, Lunt who is a pleasant fellow joined us and sang right merrily.

The evening waxed extremely sociable, every thing went on right, and we closed the evening with Auld lang syne in perfection. There was a little difficulty in a toast given by Emerson which touched Howard who returned it so handsomely that no one attempted to play upon him afterwards. Indeed I never was so much pleased with his conduct. We broke up pretty late and I returned to my room not having for a long time spent an evening half so pleasant as this. It resembled an old fashioned Supper of many years ago. I did not neglect my bible for I read it in the afternoon. I:20.

1.

Charles Henry Carter, of Fauquier co., Va., a senior ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).

2.

Stephen Elliott, of Beaufort, S.C., a senior, who became Episcopal bishop of Georgia and professor of sacred literature at South Carolina College (same; Harvard Quinquennial Cat. ).

3.

Edward Blake, of Boston, another senior ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).

4.

Edward Bliss Emerson, of Boston, the first scholar in the senior class and the brother of Ralph Waldo Emerson (same).