A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close

Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0007-0023

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-06-23

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.
{ 204 }
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).