Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

Tuesday. 27th.

Wednesday 28th. CFA Wednesday 28th. CFA
Wednesday 28th.

Morning more mild than it has been. My Wife a little better but still remains in a feeble condition. Office, a shocking account from Washington of an absolute murder committed with rifles, in a duel between Mr. Cilley a representative from Maine and Mr. Graves of Kentucky. This is to be sure civilization and progress with a vengeance. Here is a mortal combat between two men without a shadow of quarrel.1

A call from I. P. Davis, and a visit to his son whom I asked to dinner being somewhat dull. Sophocles whose fine Chorus I read which is said to have thrown his persecutors out of court. A beautiful thing certainly. Davis dined with me and sat for a couple of hours. After which I continued my coins and read the greater part of the prolegomena of Eckhel.


The duel in which Jonathan Cilley, a Jacksonian Democrat and representative from Maine, was killed by William Jordan Graves, whig representative from Kentucky, took place on 24 February. Neither Cilley nor Graves had been a principal in the controversy in which they became involved. In a speech in the House, Cilley made personal charges against the newspaper editor who had printed allegations against Cilley’s political associate and senator from Maine. On behalf of the newspaper editor, Graves demanded satisfaction from Cilley. Cilley at first refused to respond on grounds of privilege. In so doing, while within his legal rights, he would have been judged to have broken the code of honor. He chose then to repeat his charge in writing. This, Graves interpreted as a demand upon him for a response that conformed to the code. Hence the duel. The circumstances and background of the quarrel are detailed in JQA to CFA, 27 Feb., Adams Papers.