Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Monday July 19th. VI. CFA Monday July 19th. VI. CFA
Monday July 19th. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography this Morning. I 247was not taken up as usual. I returned home and after breakfast attended a Lecture of Mr. Channing’s. It was upon the way of writing. He said it was not wonderful that it was an amusement so little popular, for that it required much exertion. A man when he undertakes to write must sit down and first drive away all other thoughts from his mind, he must think upon his subject exclusively, he must not give himself any range in ideas, but must wait and work for his production. It was not proper however when the moment for writing had come to stop the current of the thoughts, as was the case with some in order to correct what had gone before, a person should write upon the impulse of the moment. Nor should he stop until he was to look over the whole for the sake of correction. Nature is the best auxiliary to powerful writing. It was the habit with some to write very quick he said, and they were able to do so from practice and because their ideas always lie on the surface. They have a few common places to say on every subject. Writing of this kind was shallow and weak, however this was not uniformly the case for there were some who could write from the inspiration of the moment as strongly and as richly as they ever would be able to do. These were great and uncommon geniuses, and not very frequently occurring. He expressed himself as fully believing the dictum of seasons of inspiration or at least that men could write much better at one time than at another, which Dr. Johnson speaks so severely of. This man however is no admirer of Dr. Johnson in any thing, and when he does allude to him does not do it with much respect. Though I myself do not think much of Mr. Channing’s method. Study does exceeding well to form a style but practice is as good and, if one can write handsomely without deep study, I think it has more effect. For my own part if study is to form style I do not think I shall be so fortunate as to become a good critic.

As soon as he had finished, I returned home and studied my Paley until recitation time. I have had some idea of making an analysis of this book but on the whole I hardly thought it worth the trouble. He writes in a style so simple that I shall not be afraid to trust it to my memory. At ten we attended recitation and I on being called upon acquitted myself very handsomely. After it was over, he detained us with a very dry lecture upon the subject very little varied from Dr. Paley and an explanation of his system of Utility which we have not yet seen. This over, I spent the rest of the morning in looking over the lesson for tomorrow.

After dinner, I spent an hour at Otis’ looking over the lesson in Trigonometry which was quite long. At two, I attended Mr. Nuttall’s 248lecture upon the Roots and Stems. He gave us examples of the different roots, but the afternoon was so oppressively warm, that I could do nothing. My attention was not in my power. His lecture was very long and detained us until after three. I hurried home, and spending a few minutes more in going over the lesson, attended the recitation. He was so concerned with others that it was not in his power to give us more than a few minutes attention, not enough to approach me with his quizzical face. He has the most singular countenance when he is in the least interested that it is with great difficulty that I can avoid laughing. At last I obtained a respite. This is the most busy day in the week with us, and I have not one moment of leisure time from the Prayer bell in the morning until four o’clock. We have but three more of these however and then enter upon our last College Year. A most august situation in my former recollections when I little thought of being here so quickly. The remaining hours until Prayers were devoted to the writing of my Journal which before I had not been able to touch.

After Prayers I drilled my section but was very much dissatisfied with mine, they never conducted themselves in so shameful a manner since I have had them. They at last made me exceedingly angry and I gave them a lecture individually upon the subject which made some impression upon them. I was afraid that I should get the character of harshness which would very probably be the case from what I have been told as the impression I first make. I was therefore too lenient and appeared too well satisfied with moderate efforts. When I had piqued them they began to do exceedingly well. I was obliged then to dismiss them having recovered my good opinion of them. This is probably the last time they come out together under me. After drill I spent an hour with the Commandants as usual. When I came home, looked over some hard sums without doing them, read my Bible and went to bed. X:40.

Tuesday. July 20th. VI. CFA Tuesday. July 20th. VI. CFA
Tuesday. July 20th. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography this morning and was taken up upon a sum I did not understand but I managed myself from it with success. Indeed this morning I had only time to go to Brigham’s room and look over some sums when the bell rung so that I could only copy them and study the explanation out myself, in the short time of recitation. After breakfast I went to the reading room where I found the answer of the Intelligencer to my father. It is exceeding lame but handles the subject precisely as I supposed it would, taking the ground of magnanimity and forgiveness of injury.1 I was 249angry at the man’s confounded duplicity, consequently did not finish the article but returned home to study my lesson in Paley, the subject today was human happiness. The author has a simple way of writing his opinion without ornament or finish. He writes directly to the point. Attended recitation after which I employed the time until dinner in reading the lesson for tomorrow.

In the afternoon I wasted one hour in conversation with the students after dinner, so that I could do nothing but look over my Trigonometry for this afternoon before the time for recitation. We attended Mr. Farrar but did not recite very long for as usual he had quantities of students reciting to him. I was taken up and recited very satisfactorily to myself. In fact I have been considerably pleased at my recitations of late, because they stand on so light a foundation and I am always in fear that I shall expose my ignorance. After recitation I came home and wrote my Journal, and also read part of Shakspeare’s Comedy of Love’s Labour’s lost. I was surprised to find with what pleasure I returned to Shakespeare after an absence of three months. I read over all his passages with great eagerness and was astonished at finding myself so soon at the third act. I could not finish it however before the Prayer bell rung. The three first days in the week are employed so closely that I have not a single minute to perform any thing but my regular duties, and a little light reading.

After tea I drilled my section which was a new one as the company men sized2 this Evening again in order to admit the honorary members. But we were disappointed as these did not take their places but, acting most stupidly, remained standing there after they had come out for the purpose. I lost one of my men, Atherton,3 in which from some unaccountable reason I felt considerably angry, my interest having risen to a pretty high degree in him. My section were exceedingly troublesome to me and irritated me most exceedingly. Brigham of my class, supposing that his familiarity authorized him to conduct himself as he pleased, was very disorderly. In fact my passions became very highly roused and my next order would have been that one of them should leave the ranks had not they stopped in time. I was in a continual state of agitation however and was not in the sweetest state of mind when I went down with the rest of the officers as usual for refreshment. Lothrop was in much the same sort of humour. It required only a spark to start the flame and Cunningham illadvisedly applied it. I blazed out instantly and we had quite a warm discussion. It would have become exceeding sharp, had he continued any observations upon the subject. He has an amazingly great idea of the perfection of 250soldiers without recollecting that it is not often that men who have been drilled for so short a time can do so well and he ought rather to be mindful of their excellencies than their trivial faults. He has some foolish ideas about the company which experience only will correct. In consequence of this short dispute however, the evening was very stiff and unpleasant. We became all very grim and did not continue conversation with pleasure. We soon broke up but Lothrop and I sat down before the area near Massachusetts4 and vented our illfeelings for a considerable time and becoming soothed in this way I came home and went to bed. X:15.


Unappeased by the explanations of the National Intelligencer (see entry for 17 July, and note, above), JQA anonymously published another attack on that newspaper in the National Journal, 13 July 1824, again charging that the editors had garbled the documents concerning the slave trade convention with a view to securing its rejection. The Intelligencer once more defended itself against the accusation of distorting the documents, claiming that it had printed all the papers then available. “With regard to the opposition in the Senate . . . to the Convention,” the editors added, “it is very singular, that, to chastise the Senators who rebelled against the Treaty, the Secretary should have bent his bow at us. . . . We approved the Treaty. . . . But, we allowed the publication of a summary of the arguments in the Senate against the Treaty! Hinc illae lachrymae!” (Daily National Intelligencer, 17 July 1824).


In military terminology, to size means to arrange or draw up men in ranks according to stature.


George Atherton, a sophomcre from Amherst, N.H. ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).


Massachusetts Hall in the Harvard Yard.