The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

An Adams New Year’s Reflection

Charles Francis AdamsAs the New Year approaches, many people set aside time to reflect upon their lives. What has transpired over the past 12 months? What were our successes? Where could we have improved? Charles Francis Adams, too, used the end of the year as an opportunity to evaluate his life, and the Society has his diary entries on the subject in the Adams Family Papers.

Charles Francis was the grandson of John Adams and son of John Quincy Adams. Hoping to carry on the Adams family legacy of public service after the untimely deaths of his two older brothers, he became a politician, writer, and editor. In this December 31, 1852 diary entry he reflects on the previous year, including both the positive and the negative.

And thus terminates the year 1852. I look back upon it with a great many emotions, in which the leading one is gratitude for unnumbered blessings enjoyed. I have lost in it my last earthly parent, but under circumstances which soften the pain I might have felt for the blow. She lives to me in the agreeable recollection of the profuse affection she uniformly bestowed upon me during her life.   

Charles Francis’s mother, Louisa Catherine Adams, suffered a stroke and died on May 15, 1852. Adams had other difficulties, as well, that year, but he chose to look on them in a positive light, writing, “These things have been given to me to purify my heart and my mind, and to warn me to correct the defects of my own character and temper.” Adams was 45 years old when he wrote this entry but still concerned with improving himself. He hoped to live up to his own expectations and reach his goals before he reached his dotage.

If only all of our year-end reflections were so generous to others and focused on self-improvement. Perhaps Adams’s words will provide us with a little inspiration. Do you take the time to self-assess at the end of the year? What other New Year’s traditions do you keep? Share with us in the comments below.

permalink | Published: Monday, 31 December, 2012, 10:00 AM