John Cranch to Abigail Adams
[ca. 23 June 1787]
For Mrs. Adams:
Substance of miss Palmer’s account of the University exhibition at Cambridge, the 10th. of April: To J.C.
“—— preceded by a band of Music, consisting of such of the pupils as had a taste for Music—among whom were John and Charles Adams and William Cranch: When the president and governors arrived, the exercises began in the following order:
1st. Forensic dispute in english:—subject—’whether Man has a natural right to destroy the inferior animals’—Peter Eaton & T. Harris:1
2d—Syllogistic dispute in latin by John Treadwell —— Underwood and William Hill:2
3d. Hebrew oration by James Prescott:3
4th. Greek oration by John Phillips:4
5th—Dialogue from the tragedy of Tamerlane: Oliver Baron and Benjamin Abbott:5
6th. Conference upon divinity—physic & law—Nathaniel Freeman—Moses Little—& J. Q. Adams:6
7th. English oration by Bossenger Foster:7
A grand Musical Symphony & chorus, concluded:
The gentlemen all performed to acceptation: Those who held the ’conference’ were loudly applauded: Mr. Adams, in the excellent composition, sound sense & unusual candour, of his argument, happily united the scholar, the man of sense and the gentleman: He spoke well, and his action was easy:— In every sentiment he beathed the spirit of his father: Mr. Freeman’s beautifull face, elegant person and gracefull manner were captivating: He spoke well—and what he said was good—Yet Mr. Adams had greatly the advantage, as a gentleman, by the delicacy with which he avoided drawing a paralel between the three professions—allowing them to be equally necessary in a well-ordered community, while the others contended for a partial superiority:
Afterward the lads assembled in military form &c— &c.”
Midsummer eve, 1787—
Among other agreeable informations from America I have just received the above: It reads so interesting, that I really cannot in conscience keep it to myself; and I flatter myself with your pardon for the liberty I take, by supposing, that though you should already be in possession of the circumstances of fact, it may be only from those whom Modesty and decorum will not permit to do themselves justice in their descriptions of this important and pleasing entertainment.
I intreat my respectfull compliments to mr. Adams, and to Mr & Mrs Smith; and have the honor to be, / Madam, / Your Excellency’s / very faithfull / Humble servant
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “For / His Excellency John Adams Esq / Grosvenor square, / London.”; endorsed: “J Cranch june— / 1787.”
1. For Peter Eaton and Thaddeus Mason Harris, see JQA, Diary description begins Diary of John Quincy Adams, ed. David Grayson Allen, Robert J. Taylor, and others, Cambridge, 1981–. description ends , 2:184–185, 198–199.
2. John Dexter Treadwell (1768–1833) became a physician in Marblehead and Salem, Mass. Nathan Underwood (1753–1841) became a Lincoln clergyman. William Hill died in 1790. All three graduated from Harvard in 1788 (NEHGR description begins New England Historical and Genealogical Register. description ends , 60:194 [April 1906]; 38:402 [Oct. 1884]; Harvard Quinquennial Cat description begins Harvard University, Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636–1930, Cambridge, 1930. description ends .).
3. James Prescott (1766–1829), Harvard 1788, of Groton, Mass., became a lawyer and chief justice of the Middlesex County Court of Common Pleas (William Prescott, The Prescott Memorial, Boston, 1870, p. 75).
4. John Phillips (1770–1823), Harvard 1788, became the first mayor of Boston and the father of abolitionist Wendell Phillips (NEHGR description begins New England Historical and Genealogical Register. description ends , 20:297–299 [Oct. 1866]).
5. Oliver Barron Jr. (1766–1809), Harvard 1788, was the son of Chelmsford legislator Oliver Barron Sr. Benjamin Abbot (1762–1849), Harvard 1788, would serve as headmaster of Phillips Academy in Andover for fifty years. Their recitation was from Nicholas Rowe, Tamerlane: A Tragedy, 1702 (Vital Records of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, to the End of the Year 1849, Salem, 1914, p. 21; Harvard Quinquennial Cat. description begins Harvard University, Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636–1930, Cambridge, 1930. description ends ; John A. Schutz, Legislators of the Massachusetts General Court, 1691–1780: A Biographical Dictionary, Boston, 1997; NEHGR description begins New England Historical and Genealogical Register. description ends , 4:99 [Jan. 1850]).
6. For Nathaniel Freeman and Moses Little, see JQA, Diary description begins Diary of John Quincy Adams, ed. David Grayson Allen, Robert J. Taylor, and others, Cambridge, 1981–. description ends , 2:190, 218. See also JQA to JA, 30 June, below.