Mr. Williams this forenoon closed the subject of Pneumatics, with an account of the different kinds of air. Was employ’d, the chief part of the day in writing my part for Commencement, and have not yet finished it. As I am conscious, of having no talent at rhetorical composition; this allotment has given me a vast deal of anxiety. As my part is of the same kind with that of Freeman, whose chief talent, among many others, lies in this kind of Compositions; I dread the comparisons which may be made; and although my friendship for him is such, that I shall rejoice to see him perform his part with universal approbation, and unbounded applause, yet I cannot help fearing that contrasts may be drawn, which will reflect disgrace upon me.1
1. Even after four decades, the signs of competitiveness with Freeman over the commencement orations were still evident. JQA wrote: “The incidents attending it were of a nature to make and leave a deep impression upon my mind. The appointment to deliver it was itself a high distinction. Yet it was but the second honour of the Class; and he who took the first, the preferred rival , sunk at the age of 35, to be forgotten” (JQA, Diary, 7 Oct. 1822, Memoirs description begins Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, Comprising Portions of His Diary from 1795 to 1848, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Philadelphia, 1874-1877; 12 vols. description ends , 6:77).