Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Wednesday. July 14th. VII. CFA Wednesday. July 14th. VII. CFA
Wednesday. July 14th. VII.

Missed Prayers and recitation again this morning, although I had cautioned Richardson last night to rouse me which he did, but sleep overpowered me and I fell back again and did not awake until I found Otis laughing at my surprise. I could not help doing so too although it was a serious matter. My negligence has been singular and nevertheless it appears to me impossible that it should have been less for I appear almost forced to every bit of it. I am marked for four recitations this week, two of them I could not avoid. I certainly preferred Mr. Nuttall’s Lecture to a recitation which could not profit me at all and yesterday I could not study.

After breakfast I attended Mr. Channing, who continued his subject of the different methods of criticism. He spoke of the class of Annotators to old books and poets, and also to books which had an immediate bearing upon the professions, these last were the most voluminous, they pretended to explain obsolete or difficult passages and terms, and also to give the sense of their author in their interpretation. This was not productive of much good as every man entertained his own opinion and laid it down in dry prose, so that it was of more injury than it was worth to a good author to break off in a fine passage to examine a dull dry note giving you no information in a great deal of words. The fact was that with these men, the difficulty was that they added notes where no information was wanted and gave no satisfaction whenever some was. He then passed on to notice Literary Reviews of the present day, he sketched their history 239and their influence. The Edinburgh Review he said had obtained an authority over all matters of taste and there were many advantages in it for they checked all incorrect style. But one disadvantage in the system was that it forestalled public opinion, it brought a fashion of superficial reading too much into habit. Persons were contented with extracts and satisfied with the representation whatever it was which the reviewer chose to give to his work. Here was an opening for injustice and a habit which was a bad one.

Tudor went this morning with his puppy and I felt singularly upon it for I have become quite attached to him, the traits of his character are so directly catching to a young man that it is impossible not to be pleased with him. His unpopularity at College has been singular, and has originated for the most part in Southern prejudice.

I have never given Wheatland’s Character. It is such a compound of vanity, Narrow mindedness, malignity, and benevolent feeling that I cannot exactly ascertain the true ingredients. His system of bullying, over Richardson and Otis, I did not like at all, and his weakness finally exposed him considerably. His envy made him angry with many here who were in better circumstances and made him slander many unfairly. He had no spirit of justice in his likes and dislikes, and would repeat stories concerning men, of a nature which he knew to be incorrect or exaggerated, without observing the cause however small it might be which made him say so. He was withal kind to inferiors, and to those who were sick, when his envy was laid by any mortification on another, his kind feelings predominated. His prejudices changed quickly when an opportunity offered for soothing them. He loved distinction, and therefore took the character of an eccentric man, or as they call it here, odd. He was in consequence visited respectably without having to support the expense. Above all his ruling passion was Economy. Thus much for him, I shall see him but little hereafter and shall remain content with the idea of having spent a year with him on friendly terms.

We went to Mr. Hedge this morning who read us a Lecture upon the subject of Moral Philosophy. It was attended to very much as usual, and I although I attempted something like it in the beginning, do not think worthwhile to detail it. In the afternoon we went to Mr. Farrar at three o’clock and he kept me up to go through two lessons and gave me something of a screwing as the students call it. He has so much rapidity in his manner that his enumeration of figures confuses a young man and his severity when you are wrong depresses considerably. The rest of the afternoon I spent writing up the Journal 240which has at last I believe got up to its proper regularity and I hope now that the Seniors are gone, that it will not again become a trouble to me. After Prayers, I drilled my Squad as usual, they did not perform at all well and I was quite in a bad humour when I went to the usual Meeting. After which I returned home, got my lesson and retired much on the usual hour. The Sophomores were fined four dollars a man for combination to be absent yesterday from Mr. Hedge. X:30.

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.