by M. A. DEWOLFE HOWE
PRESIDENT Josiah Quincy of Harvard had five daughters, who might have been called the Articulate Sisters. What they were called in the small circle through which they became known to me was simply “The Aunts” — or, more suitably for members of my generation, “The Great-Aunts.” How voluble they were in speech must now be a matter of surmise for all but a handful of living persons. Their articulateness in the written word stands proved beyond question in the profuse journals of which they were the inveterate writers. No fewer than seven books of these abundant diaries of the second, third, and fourth decades of the nineteenth century lie temptingly before me.
What the sisters wrote, with no thought of years to come, throws a fresh light on the daily lives of a vanished time, and thereby acquires something of historic importance. I cannot think that their shades would object to the copying and printing of certain passages, especially those concerned with public rather than private persons and events. It should be said, by the way, that before any of these manuscript pages were transmitted to posterity some passages, surely of the mildest indiscretion, were either cut out or so thoroughly inked out that no straining of curious eyes can decipher them.
The eldest of the five sisters was Eliza Susan Quincy, born in 1798, and it is solely from her journals that the following passages are taken. During the period they cover, her father, after eight years in the national House of Representatives, was serving in the state Senate of Massachusetts. The mayoralty of Boston and the presidency of Harvard were soon to follow. His daughter Susan, by far the most articulate of the five sisters, the scholar and family recorder, collaborated with her father in many of his writings and was untiringly productive on her own account with pen and pencil, for her drawings no less than her writings bore witness to her zeal as a faithful annalist of what she saw, heard, and thought.
The surviving traces of her industry are innumerable. She was proud of her handwriting, and two manuscript volumes, which she presented late in her life to the Massachusetts Historical Society, beautifully, faultlessly, written, and illustrated by many drawings of her own, hardly distinguishable from the engravings of her day, show good reason for the pride. That none should miss the real grounds for it, she wrote in the first of these volumes a note certifying that, with the exception of the autographs inserted, every word in both the volumes was written by her own hand between 1820 and 1870. Through that whole period of fifty years her script was of a perfect unity.
Her passion for recording found one of its outlets in the writing of descriptive labels on pieces of china, furniture, and other objects. But for this zeal of hers I could not copy from a note on the back of a picture now facing me — a framed engraving of Benjamin West’s painting “The Battle of the Boyne” — the following bit of record signed “E.S.Q. January 8, 1879”: —
This print was purchased in Boston in 1802, by Josiah Quincy, and hung in the drawing room, in his house in Pearl Street, Boston, when it was removed to the dining room of his house in Quincy. The first of October, 1825, President J. Q. Adams dined here, with Stuart the artist, who looked at the picture with interest and said, “I was studying with West when he painted that picture, and I had to lie on the floor for hours to be painted as Marshall Schomberg, — at last West said ‘Are you dead, Stuart?’ I replied, ‘Only half, sir,’ which was true, for the stiffness of the armour almost deprived me of sensation. Then I had to sit for hours on an old horse of the King’s for King William.”
The house at Quincy in which Stuart related this reminiscence of Benjamin West’s London studio was built in 1770 by President Quincy’s grandfather, Colonel Josiah Quincy, the first of a long series of Josiahs. The capture of a Spanish treasure-ship during King George’s War by an armed merchant vessel of which he was a part owner was what a nineteenth-century descendant called “the prosperous occasion of his withdrawing from business.” His generous abode stood in that part of Braintree that came to be called Quincy. There he lived the life of a country squire, sportsman, militia colonel, and public servant. Benjamin Franklin was among those who visited him there, and it was in a letter from Passy to this Quincy friend that Franklin wrote: “In my opinion, there never was a good war or a bad peace.”
In this house, now maintained by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, the sisters wrote countless pages of their journals. The manuscript volume from which the following passages were taken is labeled “Extracts from Old Journals by E.S.Q., of no interest to anyone but the immediate members of her family-her three remaining sisters.” This note appears to have been written in 1871. Members of her family did not agree with this limiting estimate of the Journals, for both a brother and a nephew drew upon them for the printing of passages of special interest.
Between the dates of 1814, when Eliza Susan Quincy was only sixteen years old, and 1821, she recorded an astonishing number of social and domestic happenings, noting from time to time the books she was reading, Rollin, Gibbon, Maria Edgeworth, Paley’s Evidences, Paradise Lost, the Greek tragedies in translation, sermons, especially on Sundays when a favorite minister did not “preach all day” — everything, in fact, which a young bas bleu of her day would find congenial. With all this, with balls and simpler parties, with streams of visiting and visited friends to mention, there are such entries as that of March 8, 1816: “Saturday employed in cutting out a set of shirts for my father.” Mind and hand seem to have been kept equally busy. The “Extracts” are not always literal copies from the “Old Journals,” but it is easy to identify the bits of retrospect inserted in later years.
When the pages now to be drawn upon began, the War of 1812 was on the point of ending. The young writer’s father, a Federalist opponent of Jefferson, was no longer in Congress. President John Adams, a Quincy neighbor and kinsman, and his son John Quincy Adams, already conspicuous in public life, appear frequently upon the scene. Another President, Monroe, visits Boston and Quincy, and for a moment the “high Federalist’s” antagonism to him seems happily forgotten. In these and other particulars the following passages will speak for themselves — though merely as specimens from a large body of material.
AN ENTRY of October 15, 1814, reported Mrs. John Adams reading a letter from her son John Quincy, “in which he said there was no prospect of peace” — to end what has long been called the War of 1812. On February 12, 1815, the talk of “several Sunday evening visitors, including Noah Webster,” was noted, with the final words, “and the gentlemen agreed there was no prospect of the war with England ending — for a long time to come.” The record of the very next day shows how greatly mistaken the most learned gentlemen may be. Josiah P. Quincy’s chapter, “Social Life in Boston,” in Winsor’s Memorial History of Boston, drew upon his aunt’s original journal for her story of the coming of peace in 1815. With the modifications found in the “Extracts” it is repeated here after more than sixty years — if only for contrast with the remembered celebrations of victory in 1918 and 1945.
Monday, February 13, 1815. — After breakfast, my father was writing in the drawing room and my mother and I and my little sister were pursuing our usual employment about 9 o’clock. We heard the bell of the Old South, and of the Federal St. Church, begin to ring and thought it was fire, when Eliza Cabot burst into the room exclaiming. — “Mrs. Quincy! — do you know what those bells are ringing for? — Peace! Peace!”. Uttering these words as if the last she could ever speak, she sank into a chair. We thought she had lost her senses, and called my father, who rushed out to learn the truth of the glad intelligence. He soon confirmed the joyful news and said the whole town was in an uproar, cannons firing, drums beating, bells ringing. We ordered the carriage, or rather the sleigh, and drove from the South end to the North. In State St. you might have walked on the people’s heads and all were crowded — gentlemen shaking hands and congratulating each other, ladies and women running wildly about. In the Main Street we met a military company, followed by three sleds filled with sailors each drawn by fifteen horses. A man on the front of each with the word Peace! in capital letters on his hat, hurraing as they went, and cheered by the crowds around. Flags were generally displayed, and even suspended across the streets. The joy of the poorer classes of society who had suffered most from the war was very touching. Altogether it was a scene and a day never to be forgotten by anyone who enjoyed it. The gentlemen of Boston decided to defer the public celebration until official intelligence from Washington could be received. An oratorio, an illumination, and a public ball were then to take place.
Wednesday 22. — The oratorio in celebration of Peace, was performed in the morning at the Stone [King’s] Chapel. We obtained seats on the altar [of all places!] and were joined by Mrs. S. G. Perkins and her two daughters. The house was crowded, the music and services appropriate, and the presence of several British Officers in full uniform, gave an occular demonstration that Peace had come.
After the services we went to the balcony of the house of Mrs. Lowell sen., in Colonnade Row, opposite the Mall to see the Procession pass. It was headed by my father as President of the Washington Benevolent Society, followed by the numerous members, and representatives of all the Trades drawn on sleds with appropriate Standards, and carrying their tools. The bricklayers were building a house — they broke their bricks and worked busily. The carpenters were erecting a temple of peace. The printers worked a small press, struck off handbills, announcing peace, and threw them among the crowd. The bakers, hatters, papermakers, blockmakers, etc., etc., had each their appropriate insignia. They went from the State House to the South end, then to the North and were dismissed in State St.
At six o’clock that evening we drove in the sleigh all over the town to see the illumination of all the public edifices and of many private houses, and then went to the house of Mr. D. D. Rogers next the State House, which was also illuminated. The fire works chiefly consisted of rockets thrown from the roof of the State House, which was decorated with transparencies, and on each side of the pediment was a Pine Tree and a Star in the centre all formed of fireworks, and as the Star exploded the word Peace, appeared in the centre. Many houses in Roxbury and on the Brookline hills, and the steeple of Roxbury church were illuminated and bonfires blazed on several hills.
The whole celebration passed off without accident and was highly successful, and we were gratified that it was so, especially as my father had the chief direction.
Thursday 23. — In the evening we drove to Concert Hall to attend the Peace Ball. As I was not yet seventeen, I had some hesitation about going to a public ball, but the occasion overcame my scruples.
My dress on this important occasion was a sheer dotted muslin skirt trimmed with three rows of plaited white satin ribbon an inch wide, the waist or bodice of white satin, was also trimmed with plaited satin ribbon, and white lace round the neck, a bouquet, gold ornaments, chain, etc., and my hair which was long and profuse, in braids, bandeau and curls.
The Mall was decorated with transparencies from the State House, representing pillars between the windows — the building illuminated within and without and decorated with flags, and flowers, etc., etc. The effect was beautiful. The band played as we entered, stationed in a balcony above. A high seat surrounded the floor of the hall on which my mother and I secured seats with Mrs. S. G. Perkins and her daughter and Mrs. R. Sullivan and had much amusement in observing the company.
Several British Officers in full uniform were actively employed in flirting and dancing not in the most graceful manner, but still seemed favorite partners among the young ladies. The Hall being built chiefly for a ball room, the floor was elastic and had a springing motion I never saw equalled.
I danced several cotillions, contrary to my expectations, as I was acquainted with few of the beaux of the day. And toward the end of the evening Col. W. H. Sumner one of the managers, requested the honor of my hand in a contra-danse. To dance with a Manager was then a distinction, and had the advantage of placing his partner at the head of any contra-danse selected. The Colonel who was a tall man and much of a flourish in manner led me through all the sets, just formed, to the other end of the hall, and placing ourselves at the head of the dance, we went down it with great animation, and then left our associates to walk up at their leisure, probably not much to their satisfaction. But the Manager must be obeyed, and I was escorted back to my party, and after supper returned home, after a most amusing evening.
The relief and excitement given by the restoration of Peace did not pass away with the celebration. And Mr. Channing actually preached a sermon to remind his hearers that although Peace had come, they were not secure from other trials.
HENRY BROMFIELD, encountered in the following entry, was an elderly relative of President Quincy’s mother. The arrival at his house in Harvard followed visits to friends — the Higginsons and the Clevelands — at Bolton and Lancaster.
September, 1816. — After leaving the beautiful valley of Lancaster a short drive brought us to Harvard, and we approached the old mansion of Mr. Bromfield surrounded by venerable elm trees. He was standing at the door as we drove down the avenue and welcomed us with great kindness, took us into his parlour, surrounded by fine engravings, views of Rome by Panini, Charles the lst’s children by Vandyke engraved by L’Estrange [in error for Sir Roger Strange], etc., etc. A beaufet filled with old China and plate opened beside the fireplace. A number of books lay on the tables and window seats, the first edition of the Spectator, and other contemporary volumes. Uncle Bromfield accompanied us on a walk to see his estate. The house is situated in a valley surrounded by hills covered with woods now brilliant with autumnal tints, sloping gently to the borders of a beautiful lake, with islands also covered with trees, all in full view from the house, which is of three stories surrounded by elms just beginning to decay from age. On one side the elms form an avenue to the high road, on another an avenue to the village burying-ground terminated by a pretty arched gate. This avenue gave my father the idea of planting ours at Quincy when he was a young man at college. Later in the morning I wandered with my mother up the avenue, the trees forming a complete arch over our heads. We paused at the gate to look back at the house, when its door opened and Uncle Bromfield in his red cloak and cocked hat, on the top of a wig, came out and advanced toward us. It was a complete picture of past times. He opened the gate, invited us to walk into the burying-ground and read many of the inscriptions on the monuments. After dinner Abby and I again wandered to the lake and the avenue, and the evening was passed in hearing Uncle Bromfield describe his visit to London in 1750,-the year ‘50, as he called it.
Summer St. with him was Seven Star Lane, our opposite neighbor he inquired after as young Harry Hill! — and King and Queen Streets were mentioned. The chamber assigned to my sister and myself was large, the walls covered with a paper ornamented with figures of Turks and furnished with old fashioned heavy furniture. We thought of the green room at Monkbarn and almost expected a spectral visitor. But no strange mysterious dream disturbed us until the great clock struck seven and we awoke to a bright sun, illuminating the windows. After breakfast we took leave of Uncle Bromfield who [was] unwilling to part with us, and begged us to prolong our visit. We took an affectionate farewell, thanking him for his hospitality and kindness. He followed the carriage to say some last words, and then stood at his door watching us till we were out of sight. We cast many lingering looks on the old mansion, its master and the beautiful lake sparkling in the rays of the morning sun. The cool sequestered vale of life, we left to return to the active bustling world.
When President Monroe came to Boston in July, 1817, he could hardly have forgotten that on January 5, 1813, while Monroe was Secretary of State, Josiah Quincy, still a Member of Congress, made a violent speech in the House against the invasion of Canada, with special condemnation of Monroe himself.
Wednesday, July 2, 1817. — Drove to Boston to see the entrance of President Monroe. On the neck we met Col. T.H. Perkins at the head of a cavalcade of gentlemen going out to receive the President at the Boston and Roxbury line. We went to the house of I. P. Davis who resides in Boylston St. (about where the City Library stands, in 1871) fronting on the Common.
The President had passed the preceding night at Mr. Dowse’s at Dedham. The children of the Schools were drawn up in two lines on the Common, ending just opposite the house, and the carriage of the President passed between them — with his escort. Mr. Davis’ house was full of company, and we had a most amusing morning.
3, Thursday. — My father brought us invitations from Mrs. H. G. Otis to a great party they give to the President on Saturday evg.
5, Saturday Evg. — With my father and mother to Mrs. Otis’s party. The windows of the house were all open and as we waited in Beacon St. for the
carriage to get up to the door we had a view of the apartments — three drawing rooms opening into each other. Mrs. Otis received us at the door of the third, a room with a bow in the garden, toward Mr. Sears’s house.1 The company were assembled when suddenly the door of the bow room was thrown open and Mr. Otis in a loud voice said, —
“Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the U. S.”
A band struck up on the balcony toward the garden from which a flight of rockets ascended. Mr. Monroe, a very plain unassuming gentleman entered, — but from his official station, “to him each ladies [sic] look was lent, on him each politician’s eye was bent.”Mrs. Otis received him and he sat on the sofa beside her for a few minutes, and then Mr. Otis came for Mrs. Quincy and introduced her, Mrs. Otis gave her the place next Mr. Monroe, and then the other ladies were successively introduced and, I had also that honor, of being named by Mr. Otis, whose manners are admirably adapted to such an occasion. The crowd was great both within and without the mansion. I passed a most amusing evening, walking about the rooms, talking to the beaux and belles and listening to Mr. Monroe’s conversation, with my father and mother, and I stood next Mrs. Otis when the President took leave.
We drove home to Quincy after a most delightful party.
6, Sunday. — Drove to Boston to Mr. Channing’s Church. When we entered the congregation were standing singing a Hymn. Col. Perkins, whose pew was the second before ours, on seeing us started out of his pew and opened the door of ours for Mrs. Quincy, and stood until we had entered. The people all looked round, thinking I believe the President was coming. We dined at our house, and in the afternoon went to church again. The President was there in Col. Perkins’ pew — Mr. Channing gave a fine sermon on Patriotism and general benevolence. We thought this was the last time we should see Mr. Monroe, but were mistaken.
7, Monday. — My father returned from Boston at two o’clock to go to Mr. Adams’ to dine with the President. He said many of the gentlemen would come here after the dinner and that he should invite the President to come also. We arranged the rooms with flowers, and soon received a note saying the President had accepted Mrs. Quincy’s invitation, and he came home to receive him. The farm looked beautiful and about five o’clock the President, carriage and four, drove down the avenue followed by his suite and a long train of carriages. Commodore Perry, General Swift, and Mr. Mason, Mr. Monroe’s Secretary, were his attendants.
They were followed by Governor Brooks and his aids, Lt. Gov. Phillips, President Adams, Dr. Kirkland, Mr. H. G. Otis, Mr. James Lloyd, Mr. Wm. Gray, Gen. Sumner, Commodore Bainbridge, other naval officers and a long list of etc., etc. — and Rev. Mr. Whitney and Mr. Colman. My mother received the company in the dining room, the front drawing room being too small for such an assembly. Mr. Monroe is very plain and simple in dress and manner very kind and cordial. He shook hands with all of us and when seated on the sofa beside Mrs. Quincy, said as he looked out over the Bay, — “Well, this is quite refreshing.” But very soon Commodore Perry came and proposed a walk over the farm, and out they all went to the great barn where the Oakes cow and her calf were introduced. Mr. Monroe mounted on the fence to look at the carrot field and regretted he had not time to go down to the salt works.
When Mr. Monroe returned to the house Mrs. Quincy said she feared Mr. Quincy had fatigued him, but he replied, “Oh, no, I am much interested in farming operations, all my property is in land.”
Little Anna brought him a rose, at first he did not see her. When he did he exclaimed “Oh, my dear child ” and took her up and kissed her.
Mr. Colman brought him a beautiful bunch of red and white roses from the ladies at Mr. Adams’. Mrs. Quincy said, — The red and white rose, — York and Lancaster united. — I hope this is a good omen, Mr. President. “I hope so too, Madam,” was his reply. I had some conversation with Commodore Perry, who is very handsome and pleasing, with Gov. Brooks, who is a perfect gentleman, of the old school, and many other gentlemen who were all very animated and pleasant. The President’s barouche kept driving round the grounds during the hour he stayed, — at length he said he must depart, — after taking a cup of coffee. He again shook hands with each of us ladies and bade Mr. Adams an affectionate farewell.
A President of the U. S. taking leave of such a distinguished predecessor, a last farewell, was a very interesting scene. They stood between the dining and drawing rooms, just where the door now opens on the piazza. The whole visit was very pleasant. Mr. Colman was in raptures and said after the company departed, “I never desire to be happier than I have been to-day.”
Few readers of the Atlantic are likely to have seen the following passage copied from Miss Susan Quincy’s journal for printing in the “Transactions of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts 1900—1902.” There, it appeared, with other material, in an article, “An Excursion on the Middlesex Canal, 1817.” This canal, twenty-seven miles in length, which connected East Chelmsford, now Lowell, with Charlestown, was opened in 1803. Besides bringing the products of interior New England to the sea, it appears clearly to have had also its social uses — illustrating here the power of endurance in the pursuit of pleasure by an older generation.
Friday, July 18, 1817, — Set off early my mother,
Catherine [Eliot], Abby, and myself in the carriage, my father, Margaret and Sophia in his gig. We drove to a place in Charlestown on the Middlesex Canal. We found a large party of friends we had been invited to join, already in one of the canal boats. They were the families of Mr. and Mrs. Richard & William Sullivan, Mrs. George Sullivan, two of her younger sisters, Jane and Ann Winthrop, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Webster, Mr. John Sullivan, a superintendent of the Canal who arranged this charming party. Olivia Buckminster, — George B. Emerson & S. May, two collegians, — and some other young men.
We proceeded up the Canal, passed through several locks, — the banks were beautiful, passing through the grounds of Mr. P. C. Brooks. — and along the banks of several beautiful ponds or rather lakes, until we arrived on the bank of the largest, denominated the Lake of the Woods, surrounded by hills covered with trees and a beautiful wooded island. There our party disembarked, & as we wound our way to a Pavilion, situated on the finest point of view, strains of music floated over the lake and a boat emerged from the island, — and rowed toward the shore. The musicians landed and, followed by a long procession of children, advanced to an eminence situated between the canal and the lake & commanding a complete view of both. There the grass had been cut and the ground levelled, under an awning, — and here the whole party assembled. The children danced, the band played. The ladies and gentlemen either looked on, or wandered on the banks of the lake.
The scene was diversified by a canal boat full of passengers coming down the canal from the Merrimac, & exchanging salutations as they passed on toward Boston. After an hour or two a march was played and the company walked in procession to the Pavilion where a collation was prepared. Walking and dancing was again resumed, and late in the afternoon we bade a reluctant farewell to the lovely scene, & again descended the Canal & the Locks we had passed in the morning, the band playing & the gentlemen & the ladies now and then singing songs. We again disembarked in a wood, through the shade of which we walked to the banks of another lake. Some of the ladies expressed a wish for some water lillics. Mr. Webster said “If I was a young man the ladies should not ask for those flowers in vain.” On which Mr. Fessendon and Mr. Sam. May dashed into the lake and, wading about, gathered a great number of lillies brought them to shore and distributed them, at a great risk of their health, as they were obliged to wear their wet clothes the rest of the afternoon. Fortunately they were attired in black silk or stuff pantaloons which were not injured in appearance. Mrs. Quincy thought it was very wrong in Mr. Webster to make such a speech, — it caused the young men to run such a risk. We walked farther up the bank of the lake, my mother seated herself on the stump of a tree. C. Eliot and I and some of the gentlemen placed ourselves at her feet & she sang several songs. A return to the boat was sounded and we marched through the wood to the tune of “ How sweet through the woodlands.” We paused again to take coffee,and it was delightful floating down the Canal. The sun set, the moon rose, the band played, and the gentlemen sang songs,-until we arrived at the place of embarkation in Charlestown where the carriages were in waiting, and after leaving C. Eliot at her father’s house in Tremont House [for Street?] Boston, we returned to Quincy.
THE passages in the remainder of this paper are concerned chiefly with the social life of the time and region. In all this, President John Adams and his family, as neighbors and kinsfolk, naturally played an important part. The recorded activities were not confined to the town of Quincy. One entry carries the reader to Pine Bank, the Perkins place on Jamaica Pond, more recently the site of the Children’s Museum.
Tuesday, August 19, 1817. — We saw a chaise drive up and to our surprise found it contained Mr. Adams and his son Mr. J. Q. Adams who has just returned. My mother went to the door to receive them, and as they stood together in the porch, Mr. Adams said, “Here, Mrs. Quincy, I have brought you my son, who was lost but now is found.”My mother replied, “But not a Prodigal son, Mr. Adams.” It was very pleasant to see these gentlemen together, and the delight of the elder at the return of his son, — who only arrived yesterday, and came here before my father had visited him. He looked well and conversed on the affairs of Europe, Bonaparte, Waterloo, etc. The ladies here were much pleased to have this opportunity of seeing Mr. J. Q. Adams. The two gentlemen staid late.
The “Mr. Daggett” who figures in the following passage was obviously David Daggett, Connecticut Federalist, who became Kent Professor of Law at Yale and Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors.
July 2, 1818.— Mr. Webster and Mr. Daggett came to breakfast. The latter is an eminent Connecticut lawyer, tall, awkward, stiff, narrow in his views, said to be a wit, — but displayed none. The uncommon talents for which Daniel Webster is distinguished are indicated by a countenance which at first view is not prepossessing. But when he speaks, the varied and expressive tones of his voice, and the piercing intelligence of his eye, command admiration. He conversed chiefly on historical subjects, and said to me, “Miss Quincy, I advise you to read Clarendon’s History and Barnet’s Own Times. You will find them in your father’s library, and there is a great deal in them which will interest you.”
After breakfast when the chaises came to the door to take the gentlemen to visit Mr. Adams, Mr. Quincy said, “You will lead the way, Mr. Webster, with Mr. Daggett, and I will soon follow.” “I think I can make a better arrangement than that,” replied Mr. Webster, “Come Miss Quincy, suppose you bring your bonnet and go with me, and your father shall drive Mr, Daggett.” Continuing the tone of the preceding conversation during the drive, I asked his opinion of the comparative talents of John and John Quincy Adams. To the first he gave the superiority in original power of intellect — to the last in immense acquisitions of knowledge on all subjects.
I then said, “Do you think John Quincy Adams will be the next President of the U. S.?” “No man can answer that question. But his chance is good, his qualifications preëminent.” Mr. Webster now became lost in thought. The prospects of another Secretary of State, of another candidate for the Presidency, evidently rose before his mental vision. His eye flashed. His brow darkened, and I watched with intense interest the manifestations of a mighty Intelligence. The moments I thus sat beside him, were never to be forgotten. It was Mr. Webster looking forward on his brilliant, — but alas,-not unclouded career. [Evidently a comment of later years.] Driving rapidly he soon reached the Adams mansion, fastened his horse at the gate, lifted me from the carriage, and gave me his arm in silence. And when we entered the drawing room of Mrs. Abigail Adams, she was seated on a sofa, with a large basket beside her. Faithful to her education as a thrifty New England housewife, she was overlooking the garments of her family, just come from the laundry, when Mr. Webster was presented to her for the first time. Mr. Adams was seated near her at a table reading aloud.
It was a meeting of three historical characters which I have always remembered with great interest. Mr. Quincy and Mr. Daggett soon appeared, & after a short visit Mr. Webster said he had an engagement in Boston, and departed to show his companion the view from Milton Hill.
Mr. and Mrs. Adams were much interested and excited by the appearance and countenance of Webster, especially Mrs. Adams who now saw him for the first time. She requested me to remain, & pass the day with her, and I have ever regretted I did not accept her invitation. It was the last summer of her eventful life & such a visit would have given much that was interesting to remember. Although she was exceedingly kind to me I never felt at ease with her, as I did with Mr. Adams. — and I returned home with my father.
Friday, August 14, 1818. — Prepared our dresses for a party at Mr. J. Perkins’, in the afternoon. Before we set off for Brookline Air. Sparks and Lyman Buckminster came from Cambridge. About sunset we, that is, Mr. and Mrs. Quincy, Miss Morton [a New York cousin] and myself arrived at Pine Bank, the beautiful villa of Mr. James Perkins on a peninsula in Jamaica Lake. . . . [The party ended with an animated dance of “several cotillions.”] My partners were Stephen Cabot, Wm. H. Gardiner, Wm. H. Prescott, and Mr. Aquira, the Spaniard. — all very agreeable. We staid till 1/2 past 11 O’clock, and then, to the surprise and terror of Mr. Aquira, drove home 9 miles by moonlight. “Why Miss Quincy, are you not afraid of robbers! — & I don’t believe your father has even a sword to defend you!”
Notwithstanding the apprehension of the Spaniard, we arrived safely at Quincy after a beautiful moonlight drive & a romantic party which will always survive in “Memory’s rich domain.”
Thursday, October 28, 1818. — Our excellent friend Mrs. Abigail Adams died today. For several days we had given up all hope of her recovery, but this preparation did not render the event less affecting to us all. Her place can never be filled in society. Advanced as she was in life, that life was never more useful and valuable to those around her than when she cheerfully resigned it. For many days she was unable to converse with her friends. But the day before her death she sent for Mr. Adams, and had a long conversation with him, — said she was resigned and willing to depart, and entreated him to support their separation with firmness and evince his Faith, — by fortitude on her loss.
When our privileges are withdrawn we feel as if we had not justly estimated their value, — but I shall ever remember with gratitude that of having enjoyed the society and friendship of this excellent and remarkable woman, — and notwithstanding the differences in our ages, I have in some degree appreciated the advantages to be derived from her experienced conversation. Her place is in History — she will never be forgotten.
MISS SUSAN QUINCY did not carry her “Extracts from Old Journals” beyond 1821. One entry of that year should be rescued for present use. It touches on a subject that has been much discussed — the authorship of Washington’s Farewell Address. The “Old Journal" refers to it as “General Washington’s Legacy, as it is termed.” So indeed it was, for in three of its earliest printings, in 1796, it was entitled The Legacy of the Father of his Country, and America’s Legacy, and Columbia’s Legacy.
The contention of Alexander Hamilton’s widow that he wrote the famous document led to much controversy. Published correspondence between Washington and Hamilton shows quite clearly that Hamilton bore a large part in its preparation. Pre-
cisely how much he did to it may never be known, nor yet whether his widow, who gave him full credit for it, or Timothy Pickering, of Washington’s cabinet, who regarded Hamilton in all this matter as more an editor than a creator, came nearer to the fact of the matter. The presumption — which is fortified by varied bits of evidence — is in Pickering’s favor.
Tuesday, January 16, 1821. — Col. Pickering called. He gave us an account of Gen. Washington. My mother asked his opinion on the question of the authorship of Gen. Washington’s Legacy, as it is termed. Mrs. Hamilton in her late visit here had asserted that her husband had left a copy of that paper in his own hand writing among his M.S.S., and a number of original letters had been found all tending to prove that he was the author of “The Legacy ”. Colonel Pickering said that General Washington had laid the first draft of that, paper before him as Secretary of State, and before the other members of his Cabinet, and that he did not believe that General Hamilton did more than alter it and perhaps throw it into a new form. He said he did not think General Washington was great as a Statesman, but that he had the discernment and magnanimity to be sensible of his deficiencies and to avail himself of the counsels of others, — and patriotism which induced him to sacrifice everything, and to risk all for the good of his country.
Colonel Pickering is a great egotist and has a most exalted opinion of himself, probably well founded. Col. Pickering looks like an old Roman, has nothing of the weakness of old age about him, and is as firm and alert as a young man. He talked on for two hours notwithstanding the interruptions of five or six other visitors, saying at last, “Mrs. Quincy, you have been so long a diplomatist that I know you can understand me, as well as Mr. Quincy would.” He at length departed having an engagement with the Governor.
Did Miss Susan Quincy’s pen fall idle after 1821? By no means. Up to the end of her life, in 1884, it was incessantly busy, not only in collaboration with her father but in various biographical and historical studies of her own. Her interests ranged wide and far. See, for example, in an old collection of autographs, the number of letters from Maria Edgeworth in a correspondence begun by Miss Quincy; and also the letters from Admiral Francis Austen, who responded to her request for a scrap of his sister’s writing by forwarding a long letter in Jane Austen’s own script and following it up with an extended correspondence.
Both her interests and the fashion of her dealing with them were essentially of the time to which she belonged. What wonder that members of her family, in a later generation not yet extinct, have greeted many new inventions, new manners, and new freedoms with “What would Aunt Susan say?”
- An early picture of the Sears house, now enlarged and occupied by the Somerset Club, shows a former bow-windowed end of the Otis house, now occupied by the Boy Scouts of America.↩