Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Thursday September 9th. VIII:35. CFA Thursday September 9th. VIII:35. CFA
Thursday September 9th. VIII:35.

Arose and breakfasted, the day fair but exceedingly cold. I was shivering the greater part of the day. I spent the morning, with my mother, in light conversation. I then went and wrote my Journal. My Uncle and George went into town in the morning and my father and mother at noon, so that I was again left at home alone. I did not employ myself very usefully as I was merely engaged in reading the newspapers and studying the Presidential election. I have been habituating my mind to floating visions of comfort and grandeur. This I regret most exceedingly, but who can govern the wayward turns of the mind. I am so much more attached to the climate and manners of the South, that I have a wish to stay there which can only be gratified by his continuation in office. I will be patient and see the result. I am not very sanguine in the belief of his success. He has so much malignant opposition, so much party spirit arrayed against him that it appears to me almost impossible that he should succeed. His friends also are not as adroit as those of the other candidates.

After reading a number of newspapers, I was reading Mr. Noah’s pamphlet1 when I was suddenly interrupted by Mrs. Winthrop2 and others who came in, to look at the portraits of my Grandfather and my father.3 She is one of the Boston great ladies.

In the afternoon I spent my time principally in reading Junius. I went through the first controversy with Sir William Draper.4 As a writer, he had extraordinary power. His words are all so aptly placed and conveyed such an amazing force, his power of distinguishing the points of attack and his force in pressing conclusions drawn from his opponent’s grounds are models for controversial argument. It is my purpose this next year to pay particular attention to style. I have generally written more by the impulse of the moment and without revising any part, but as I have now by this Journal, obtained one habit, that of writing without difficulty upon almost any subject, I shall try 319the hardest part of my task, that of cutting out what I have written. In this country, to a political man, a powerful controversial style is worth it’s weight in gold and to any other sort of man.

After tea as Mrs. Quincy had resumed her invitation for tonight, I went with the two girls. We met a few of the Quincy magnates and spent the Evening in the usual way at Quincy. It was not an unpleasant Evening on the whole. I talked much with Miss Sophia. Miss Meg looked shy. We came off the last, walk’d, returning, took Supper and retired. XI:30.


Mordecai Manuel Noah (1785–1851), editor of the National Advocate, the organ of Tammany Hall in New York City ( DAB ). The pamphlet was probably the Report of a Trial of an Action on the Case, Brought by Sylvanus Miller, Esq., Late Surrogate of the City and County of New-York, against Mordecai M. Noah, Esq., Editor of the National Advocate, for an Alleged Libel, N.Y., 1823.


Mrs. Thomas Lindall Winthrop (1769–1825), the former Elizabeth Bowdoin Temple. Both the Winthrops came from distinguished families, and one of their children was Robert Charles Winthrop. See Crawford, Mass. Families , 1:62–63.


Presumably one of the paintings was Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of JA, finished at this time (see entry for 22 Sept., below) and now owned by Mr. Charles Francis Adams of Dover, Mass. The portrait of JQA may have been one of several painted during the last few years.


Sir William Draper (1721–1787), who defended the Marquis of Granby against Junius in 1769 ( DNB ).

Friday. September 10th. IX. CFA Friday. September 10th. IX. CFA
Friday. September 10th. IX.

Arose and after breakfasting, I read the paper and wrote my Journal, matters of not very great consequence at present. I spent the greater part of the day in the company of my mother, it is so exceedingly attractive that perhaps my duty gives way to it. As my duty at present however is not of any very exceeding importance, my mind is at ease. I have lately come to one determination, after thinking a good deal upon the subject, and that is, if any reasonable subject is given out, to write for the Bowdoin prize even if I should not send it up, and this I make my record.1 All the reading part of the day, I spent in going attentively over Junius as a first perusal. The more I read, the more I admire the style and the more I become impressed with a feeling of the necessity of a forcible one. I will do nothing else while I remain in College but pay attention to it, practically, as well as theoretically and I think a year is but small allowance. I shall be obliged to exercise myself considerably in writing of different sorts and, as there are so many opportunities for writing, I think I shall devote my time most usefully and most economically. I wish I had the power of Junius although it is rather a dangerous one to one’s self. He irritated his enemies to madness almost.


I had much conversation with my mother about their plans which appear to be, simply, to come and reside here and live in simple, unoffending style. I shall trouble my head no more about it. As George had given me a little piece of business to transact, I took advantage of the return of the carriage from taking my father to General Sumner’s.2 I did not collect the note as the person was gone. I returned cursing the trouble. My mother went to town this Evening to remain until tomorrow. I this Evening studied a large part of the drill of the Light Infantry for the campaign next term. The next part of the evening in conversing with Mrs. Clark on indifferent subjects, principally on some observations of Mrs. TBA’s. I then went down stairs and talked with Uncle some time on the state of my father’s landed property, a subject on which he is ever doleful. My Father having directed me to sit up for him expressly, I was obliged to remain up and amused myself with reading Junius. He arrived at last, which dismissed me. XII.


The subjects for the annual Bowdoin prize dissertation competition were: (1) the importance of the study of the learned languages as a branch of education; (2) the antiquity, extent, cultivation, and present state of China. First prize was a gold medal and forty dollars; two second prizes consisted of twenty dollars worth of books. There is no record among CFA’s papers that he entered the contest. Only two prizes are recorded in the Faculty Records, and they went to Edward B. Emerson and Jason Whitman, a junior.


William H. Sumner, of Boston, a brigadier general in the Massachusetts militia and a principal developer of East Boston ( Mass. Register, 1824, p. 106).