Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

397 Sunday. 11th. CFA Sunday. 11th. CFA
Sunday. 11th.

Cloudy day with snow. As the season advances the atmosphere takes more of a chill. Read Potter’s Account of the civil government of Athens. How much of this which would so facilitate a youth’s early classical knowledge if he was familiarized to it!

Attended divine Service as usual and heard Dr. Walker of Charlestown. Romans 2. 14.15. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another.” The preacher began by a definition of the so called natural law of the Universe, and argued the existence of a corresponding moral law, or in other words a conscience which was as certain an indicator of violated general principles as the consequence of any deviation from physical rules. There was however a general petitio principii which runs through all this gentleman’s reasoning. The question is precisely this whether there is any intellectual moral sense and moreover whether if admitted, it is not susceptible of almost infinite modification by local laws and habits.

Afternoon, the same from Revelations 3. 17. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” The necessity of feeling the value of virtue and religion as a want, and the tendency so frequent to substitute in their place other objects of a temporary and deceptive kind. Dr. Walker is a reasoner strong in his way, but he makes me doubt his premises, so positively does he press his conclusions. Logic is not a strong instrument when its working is too apparent.

Read a discourse of Buckminster’s from Psalms 119. 71. “It is good for me, that I have been afflicted.” An interesting discourse drawn from his melancholy experience at the threshold of active existence of the effects of a severe disease. He reviews the various reasons for consolation under sickness and it’s susceptibility of a useful application. I deny not this, but adversity though hard to bear is most frequently a refiner of character. Perhaps the occasion when moral reflection is most necessary is in the midst of prosperity.

Sensible as I too often am of the weakness of the judgment when set in array against the dazzling and seductive vanities of life, I rejoice with trembling. My lot has been so happy that I always feel as if the 398approach of evil would be but the signal how entirely I had been corrupted. May God be merciful to me and mine and not deal with us according to our offences is my frequent and earnest exclamation. Evening at home. Read a little of Miss Baillie.

Monday. 12th. CFA Monday. 12th. CFA
Monday. 12th.

Morning fine. I was up early to go upon the Visitation of the College which was fixed this year for today being eight days sooner than last year. My companions were Judge Merrill, Mr. Hillard who took with him his Wife and child and Mr. Cunningham joined us at Cambridge. The whole class was this year examined in the fifth and sixth books of Herodotus, and acquitted itself very well. I do not think it was so bright as the class of last year but perhaps more thoroughly grounded.

There is a great improvement in the general acquaintance with the structure of the Greek language since my time, but a retrograde movement in respect to the spirit which the youths catch from the Author. They want a man of enthusiasm there. Every thing is tame and insipid. Dined as usual with the President and some of the Professors, E. T. Channing, Longfellow and Felton. And we had rather a pleasanter dinner than usual. Some sportive talk about Mr. Emerson and the popular passion for lectures which brought out Judge Merrill pretty much in his peculiar style.

Home by three with a copy of Eckhel on Roman coins which I procured from the University Library.1 Afternoon, Aristotle, but I found my mind wandering. Evening at home playing backgammon with my Wife after which writing. My boy John unwell so as to make me anxious.


Joseph Eckhel’s numerous works on ancient numismatics included Traité élémentaire de numismatique ancienne, 2 vols., Paris, 1825, and Elementa numismaticae veteris, Buda, 1799.

Tuesday. 13th. CFA Tuesday. 13th. CFA
Tuesday. 13th.

Morning a dull fog which terminated towards night in rain. John seems much oppressed by a cold on his lungs and awakened anxiety. This weather is of the worst kind for children, and always makes me feel a little melancholy. Office and thence to an auction where I made only one or two purchases for my Quincy house.

Nothing but a page or two of Sismondi which has been so broken as to make me lose much of it’s value. Home to Sophocles. Finished 399today the Oedipus, a master piece of tragic art. Masculine, simple and yet highly pathetic. There is nothing so worthy of study to form the taste as the ancients. Afternoon, Aristotle whose ideas upon Government are many of them strong and sound, but they are mixed up with strange fancies. Yet even he has the germs of much of our boasted modern discoveries. Evening, played backgammon and afterwards Potter.