Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Sunday. July 4th. VIII.

Tuesday. July. 6th. VIII.

Monday July. 5th. V:45. CFA


Monday July. 5th. V:45. CFA
Monday July. 5th. V:45.

Attended Prayers and recitation this morning, being prevented from sleeping by the firing of cannon and ringing of bells by which the celebration of this day was commenced. As the true day came on Sunday, this day was fixed upon as the festival day. Of course we had no exercises after the Morning and I was for once freed from the trouble of squadding my section. After breakfast, we went into the Commons Hall as usual upon such occasions and sung patriotic songs, a custom which has been existing for a long time here but which has been wofully shortened and curtailed of late. Like all the other old habits it is advancing fast to it’s end.

After this we remained in the Piazza of the University until the 222President’s freshman arrived with the parts for next Exhibition, they being our first Majors as we call them. Wilder1 got the first much to the displeasure, I cannot say the surprise of many, who nevertheless hoped Chapman would obtain it. The rest it is hardly worthwhile to mention except where I am directly connected with them. Otis had a part, a Conference with Fisher and Greenough. Brenan and Lothrop had another. I was left out much to my joy as I hope I shall be in every Exhibition for in my mind they are the very smallest things in the world. I cannot relish being stuck in public view, below so many others who will never have an opportunity to come above me again. I am not aristocratic except as to talents and acquirements which I know many better scholars are my inferiors in. I was very glad that Lothrop obtained a part although I must confess it was unexpected altogether. His rank in the estimation of the class would not have entitled him to the fortieth rank in the class.2 Brenan was most excessively discontented because he was put with him, and although he had some right to be, I thought it hardly worthwhile to make so many faces at such a little thing. The members of our society were much gratified at their having parts also, from the reason that they were able to give a treat to them at Fresh Pond as usual. We accordingly went. I drove up there in the chaise which I had engaged to go to Quincy with and we enjoyed ourselves considerably. Many of our class were present together with a few Seniors, meaning Tudor and Wheatland. Otis had gone to town as usual and very much in character.

But I could not remain here long and fulfill my promise or duty to George so although very unwilling I took my departure. In fact I think it was fortunate for me that I went away as I felt the punch which I had taken was beginning to operate. A swift ride cured me of this, though I thought that every thing would be over before I arrived unless I hurried on, which I did amazingly. I passed the meeting house in Dorchester as the Company had formed to enter it, so I thought I should certainly arrive at Quincy when they were coming out. When I got to the house, there was but one person in it and that was “that bright” Miss Samson,3 the antipathy woman. She told me I was too late, which did not deter me from going to the Meeting House and breaking in upon what I supposed Mr. Whitney’s concluding Prayers and I cursed myself over and over for coming at all. The Parson finished what I have often heard before and to my surprise and I will add pleasure George got up and commenced his Oration. It was not in the general tone of pieces of this sort, it was not mere declamation. 223It was a historical account of the causes of the revolution. It was very well written but in my humble opinion appeared to be a little too plain for the learned and a little too obscure for the ignorant. This objection was however overruled. The five closing pages were really quite good, the description of character was quite good for a young man who has studied so little of it in his life. His closing passage was fine. I may risk the imputation of coolness towards him by speaking so qualifiedly, but I cannot talk extremes, I cannot tell him what I did not feel. I will give him my opinion if asked but shall not press it upon any one. The production is not an ordinary one but it is not so extraordinary as many people in Quincy from interested motives would wish him to believe and will succeed in their object I am afraid, if I judge by his usual character.4 I heard his praises sounded far and wide by those very people long before he came home and I know that one sign of them would be to go at him openmouthed. Well did the poet commence his address

“Parent of wicked, bane of honest deeds Pernicious Flattery.”

He finished and I waited no longer but came directly home, not much pleased with the idea of meeting so much unpleasant company. I first bounced upon Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Cruft,5 who gave me the whole story of their pleasures and displeasures without amusing me much. I then went round saluting my acquaintance, found my Grandfather and was surprised at finding him so well and able to endure the fatigue of the day. It was a proud one for him as he saw his grandson receiving the reward of talent and heard the acclamations with which his name was greeted in spite of Colonel Pickering or whoever else chooses to attack it. It was a proud day at Quincy for the whole Adams family.

After a little conversation we sat down to a collation for about sixty people and I had the pleasure of seeing about ten young ladies on the downward side of life without any beauty to recommend them. I was not so fortunate as to go near them but I was next to one who played more forcibly on my passions, which by the punch in the morning had been roused, nor were they yet settled down. This was no one else than Miss Abby. Something or other, a cap or I know not what, made her appear certainly much handsomer than usual, and I who am just in the heyday of the blood fell most woefully in love with her for two hours, and had I met her alone, should certainly have made an extreme fool of myself. I was too tired however to take the trouble and 224perhaps a very little prudence restrained me. I rather think Miss Harriet saw through me and gave me a cut indirectly. I always suspect something of the kind from her speeches. Suffice it I got through without injury and made myself additionally sensible that I must not play with burning coals. I had some conversation with Miss Thaxter6 of the literary sort as she is a “bas bleu.” I rather imagine I took the right chord there. The Boston company went home and was succeeded by Mr. Marston’s school and the Quincy families who played and danced here sometime. Afterward George came home but I was so exceedingly fatigued that it was out of my power to remain awake. XI.


Frederick Wilder, a junior from Lancaster, Penna. ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).


The class consisted of 68 members.


Possibly Miss Sampson, a seamstress (AA to LCA, 20 May 1818, Adams Papers).


A copy of GWA’s Oration Delivered at Quincy, on the Fifth of July, 1824, Boston, 1824, survives in the Massachusetts Historical Society. CFA’s appraisal of the speech was a fair one; it was dull.


Mrs. Edward Cruft (1789–1859), the former Elizabeth Storer Smith, was the wife of a Boston merchant and a kinswoman of the Adamses. See Adams Genealogy.


Presumably Celia Thaxter (1749–1829), of Hingham, a cousin of AA. See Adams Genealogy.