Mary Smith Cranch reported to ABIGAIL ADAMS details of the commencement exercises at Harvard, during which John Quincy Adams and Billy Cranch received their degrees, and the entertainment that followed. Every candidate for a degree had to give a commencement oration. The title of John Quincy’s was “The Importance and Necessity of Publick Faith to the Well-Being of a Community.” Although he was much praised, JQ was miffed when the newspaper the Massachusetts Sentinel declared the oration of classmate Nathaniel Freeman superior to his. The party afterwards was quite a do. “We din’d above a hundred People & treated with cake & wine above four hundred”!!!
The Day—the mighty Day is over, & our Sons have perform’d their Parts—& receiv’d the Honour of the college in a manner which will do them credit while they Live—never did you see two Happier Faces than theirs when they return’d from meeting—I do not believe they will ever feel so happy again—If to excell where all did well—can give pleasure your Son must feel a peculiar one. He has a faculty of throughing expresson into his countinance beyond any person I ever met with—I was not in the meeting house, but I am told that he excell’d in his manner every one who ever Spoke in it—The performences of the Day are said by every one to have been the best composition, & the best spoken of any since the universitys were created—
Every thing was conducted in our Chambers with the greatest order & regularity— Mr Beals who lives on our place at Weymouth had the whole care of delivering out drink & we had uncle Smiths Primus—& a Black Servant of cousin Willm. Smiths & our Pheby [Abdee, a former slave of the Smith family] to attend the Tables—she was exceeding useful to me after dinner in washing up the Dishes & clearing the Tables we had two chambers one for the Tables & the other for our company to Sit in. We made no Tea but had cake & wine carried about in stead of it which sav’d us a great deal of trouble
We din’d above a hundred People & treated with cake & wine above four hundred I am very certain we were honour’d after Dinner with the company of His excellency the Governer & L—— Govr. & a number of the Senate—The Resident Professor & Tutors, who all came to congratulate us—In short I had enough to do to set & receive the congratulations of our Friends & acquaintance I most sincerly wish’d you with me to have taken your share—We were not only congratulated that we had a son & Nephew who had done themselves such Honour, that day but that they had sustain’d such amiable good characters during their residence at college—I had as much small Talk to do as their Majestys upon a presentation day—but they never felt half as much pleasure your sons all felt like my own & I presented them as my adopted ones till your return & proud enough I am of them. . . .
My Love to mr. Adams—as to you my sister I know not how to bid you adieu—may God preserve you & bring you once more safe to my arms—This is the constant Petition of your affectionate Sister