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Browsing: Diary of John Quincy Adams, Volume 2


Docno: ADMS-03-02-02-0001-0011-0004

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-12-04

4th.

We had after prayers a class-meeting, upon the subject of a private commencement. Freeman read the Petition, which he was desired by the class to draw up; it was voted that it should be carried up this week.1 I went with Sever, and pass'd the evening at Mr. Gerry's. Just before we went it began to snow, but when we return'd, we had a violent storm, with the wind in our faces all the way. Sat with Sever about an hour after we got back.
1. This petition and two others mentioned in later entries have not been found. The Corporation did not discuss the petition until 10 April 1787 and decided not to grant the request because “public exercises of commencement have an happy influence in exciting a laudable emulation among the students” and because displays of students' learning “are highly beneficial to the Commonwealth at large by stimulating parents to give their children an education which may qualify them to fill with reputation and honor the several offices in church and state” (MH-Ar: Corporation Records, 3:282–283). Joseph Willard added several more substantial reasons when he spoke to the class the following day. See below. The class made one final appeal on 1 May to the college overseers, but they eventually supported the corporation in denying a private commencement (MH-Ar:Overseers Records, 3:343–344).
In a letter to his sister, JQA explained what was at the heart of the matter. “The expenses of that day, to the class which graduates, are said to amount upon an average to £1000. In the present situation of the country,” he continued, “this is a large sum, and the advantages derived from appearing in public [on a commencement program] are not adequate to it” (JQA to AA2, 14 Jan.–9 Feb. 1787, Adams Papers). To this argument the overseers made some concessions by ordering that the strictest economy be observed at commencement. { 137 } They omitted the usual entertainment and ordered that merely a cold dinner should be provided, for which the students would pay only $2.00. No entertainment was to be given by any candidate for a degree outside the walls of the college, except those whose parents lived in Cambridge. Students were advised to dress simply in inexpensive black worsted gowns, not to purchase new clothes, and not to entertain friends in their rooms in a lavish fashion (MH-Ar: Corporation Records, 3:282–283).

Docno: ADMS-03-02-02-0001-0011-0005

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-12-05

5th.

The storm continued with unabated violence, a great part of the day. In the evening however it cleared up, and is now very cold. This day had been appointed for exhibition, but the weather was such as prevented it. Several of the Class had invited a number of the young ladies in town, to a dance, but were obliged to postpone it likewise for several days.

Docno: ADMS-03-02-02-0001-0011-0006

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-12-06

6th.

The Weather fair, but the Snow, which drifted a great deal, is in some places so deep, that it is impossible to get through it. We danced in the club this evening at Foster's chamber.

Docno: ADMS-03-02-02-0001-0011-0007

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-12-07

7th.

I have been rather idle, this week, and this day entirely so. This evening I went down with Mr. Andrews1 to Judge Dana's, and spent a couple of hours there. Invited Miss Ellery2 and Miss Nancy Mason, to the dance to'morrow.
1. John Andrews, Harvard 1786, who was studying divinity at Harvard at this time.
2. Almy, daughter of William Ellery (JQA to AA2, 14 Jan.–9 Feb. 1787, Adams Papers).

Docno: ADMS-03-02-02-0001-0011-0008

Author: Adams, John Quincy
Date: 1786-12-08

8th.

It Snow'd in the morning till 10 o'clock, and it was feared the exhibition, must be again postponed. But it cleared before noon, and at about 3 o'clock, the president made his appearance in the chapel. Lloyd delivered an Oration, upon Commerce in Latin. He spoke so low that I could not hear him. Abbot 2d. and Chandler, then read a forensic, on the question, whether the natural reason of man be sufficient for the discovery of the existence of a God. The syllogistic, on the Question, Whether self love be the only spring of human actions, by Bancroft, respondent, Baxter, Adams 2d., and Treadwell opponents, followed; after this came the dia• { 138 } logue, between Adams 3d. and Wier, then the greek oration by Prescott and finally the English Oration by Putnam. The forensic, I was much pleased with: but of the last piece I could make neither head nor tail. Agriculture must find another panegyrist, before, it will be praised as it deserves. The mathematical parts were then delivered up; and after an anthem had been sung, and a few tunes play'd the company dispersed. A little after five, several of us went down, and supp'd at Bradish's: after which we went for the Ladies; and danced till 2 in the morning. The Ladies were Miss Ellery, Hill, Williams, Frazer, Wigglesworth,1 Jones2 2 Miss Kneeland, and 2 Miss Masons, Miss Cutts, and Miss Badger. The Lads were Fiske, Little, Bridge, Freeman Mason, Tom and Gardner Chandler, Beale, Amory, Lloyd, Foster, Williams, and myself, besides Mr. Andrews, who undertook to be the manager. The dance was very agreeable, except, that some partners were much better than others; and when we drew the poorest, we were not so perfectly contented. After we had sent the Ladies home, Mr. Andrews came to college and lodged with me.
1. Margaret (Peggy) Wigglesworth, daughter of Prof. Edward Wigglesworth, who later married John Andrews (Paige, Hist. of Cambridge, Mass., p. 691).
2. Catherine Jones, of Newburyport, a distant relative of Prof. Wigglesworth (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates, 5:410; Vital Records of Ipswich, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849, 2 vols., Salem, Mass., 1910).
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, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/