Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Friday 18th.

Sunday. 20th.

Saturday 19th. CFA Saturday 19th. CFA
Saturday 19th.

The snow was falling gently but fast when we arose this morning but it ceased soon after I reached the Office. My time here was little interrupted during the morning so that I had much opportunity to mature my reflections on the question of the Constitutionality of the Bank. I studied the subject as much as I could and found myself tolerably well able to perform the beginning. After my return home I devoted all the Afternoon to it and in order to word omitted a more thorough understanding of it, I wrote down my ideas. They appeared to come fluently enough. I then looked into the Speeches of Mr. Clay to find the two which he made upon the different sides of the Question.1 They are curious in themselves. I had read them before but not with the same attention to a particular point. My day was in this manner totally given to the arrangement mentally of what I was to say, and this is by far the most difficult part of the duty of a Speaker. The exercise is one absolutely necessary, for otherwise how could it possibly be in the power of an individual to take any latitude, when he must always be careful to keep in recollection the track which he must follow, to carry through even an argument.


After tea I went down and found collected a considerable number. Our debate was animated and interesting. I did even better than I had expected, and in my reply was enabled to trust myself to some animation without any fear of stumbling. My success this evening will I hope only add a stimulus to my ambition to go on and perfect myself in this species of Oratory. I succeeded this evening tolerably for a first attempt but how very far short of my idea of an Orator. If I can only pursue that to the extent my Imagination carries me, there will be no limits to the effects which such a result might produce. Returned home at ten and retired.


Clay spoke in the Senate against rechartering the Bank in 1811, for the Bank’s reestablishment in 1816. An edition of The Speeches of Henry Clay had appeared in 1827, Philadelphia and New York.