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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0007-0022

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-06-22

Tuesday. June 22d. VI:5.

Missed Prayers as I did not awake early enough by about one { 201 } minute. I read my Bible and looked over my lesson and attended recitation, did not recite very much to my credit however. After breakfast I spent an hour at the reading room, then came up and wrote my Journal, attended recitation in Greek Testament also, doing nothing else.
There was much discussion concerning the election of officers this afternoon as the ticket which would have been carried was questioned today. After dinner it was decided. Cunningham was again elected Captain by a unanimous vote, Cenas1 was elected First Lieutenant, with strong opposition on my part however and those whom I could influence. I suspect the vote was a very close one between him and Lothrop. I have a great hatred to the man as he took it into his head to injure me most unreasonably in a variety of ways. I never saw any cause for this treatment of me, and feeling myself far too independent to be made a butt of, I threw up all acquaintance but have never until since the last Meeting of the Medical Faculty,2 tried to injure him; after that difficulty, I thought no further measures ought to be kept. I expressed myself strongly against him this afternoon and tried but did not succeed. I must allow at the same time that he was not unreasonably exalted. As our class is so little provided with men, it is not whom we will but whom we can get. He was not very cordially received.
The next choice was for Second Lieutenant which was obtained by Chapman, a most singular circumstance as it was unexpected. This vote was also pretty close as Lothrop and Otis were his competitors. I voted for him, as I thought without any prospect of success, but such was the result. He was very well received. The last vote for Ensign was the hardest of all. I voted Howard who obtained it by a very small majority, three votes, I believe. He was strongly opposed by the dependent part of our class on the ground of his being a fool, who on the other side advocated Miller who is said to be a scoundrel. The first was preferred to the last, and the malicious part of the class were disappointed. I went for Howard who was at his room, he appeared singularly affected at the news, frightened and at the same time much pleased. He could even under all his regrets, scarcely conceal his satisfaction. Livermore3 was elected Clerk during my absence. Thus closed the election with a result rather unexpected by almost every one. It was satisfactory generally, the only objection to Chapman being in his size and figure, this is not faulty enough however to excite much difficulty.
We returned home and I sat down and read over my afternoon { 202 } lesson, went in and recited or rather went over it with Mr. Farrar as usual, the time being over we returned, I, for my part, getting off very well. I had expected to have been able to read somewhat this afternoon but it was impossible. Cunningham and Chapman came over to see Otis and press him to the acceptance of the place of second Commandant in the Company which he as positively declined. Chapman then came to my room and we talked some time and drank some of my remaining bottle of wine and smoked. Cunningham then came in and finally Lothrop.
The Captain then disclosed to me his message which was the offer of the same place just offered to Otis. I had supposed something of this kind might happen in one of these Offices and had therefore considered the matter and decided that I would refuse it. My reasons I think were strong. In the first place my figure is not fit for it, it was a second offer, my unpopularity, and the excessive trouble besides the expense. These I stated, all but the last, which was in fact the least consideration. They appeared so woebegone though at this result and were so despairing that I was much influenced, every eligible person had declined, and there was not much expectation of continuing the company unless Otis or I accepted. It was an appeal to my generosity as these Officers would lose their satisfaction and their money which is not inconsiderable in amount. I thought also that soon I should like the exercise and that it would promote the good will to me which is much wanting at present, it would set me at least on the par with Otis, who has very much hurt his popularity by this step, and I should no longer feel this galling superiority of a really inferior fellow (without vanity). I have seldom had so much doubt in a step of this kind. We sat till Prayers and after tea I gave my decision in favour of accepting it and so it is. I think, I have acted right.
In the evening after the Lyceum had dispersed from my room where they had collected to smoke and drink wine, I had just sat down to read Anacharsis comfortably for the rest of the Evening when I was called to a Meeting of the Officers concerning the selection of guides. We came to no decision however. Lothrop, Rundlet and J. Otis fill the places of the other Commandants. After some conversation and a number appointed and declined, we adjourned and I returned to my room where I read my Bible and lesson and retired. X:10.
1. Hilary Breton Cenas, of New Orleans, a junior (Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).
2. “The Med. Fac., organized about 1818, was a roaring burlesque upon learned bodies in general and the College government in particular. It had regular meetings, at which a pseudo-professor delivered a fake medical lecture; neophytes were given elaborate fake di• { 203 } plomas; and every few years a fake Latin triennial catalogue was issued.” Although suppressed several times, the group survived until 1905. See Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard, p. 205–206.
3. Charles Livermore, of Paxton, Mass., a junior (Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).

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).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.