Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Saturday. 24th.

Monday. 26th.

Sunday. 25th. CFA Sunday. 25th. CFA
Sunday. 25th.

Morning fine although the dry weather still continues. I attended divine service in the morning and heard Mr. Capen of South Boston preach upon the character of Balaam. He is not very interesting although his sermon did not want sense.

Nothing material until an occurrence at dinner which materially 155affected the remainder of the day. In conversation a remark together with a gesture of my brother’s at table produced in me an excessive burst of passion and a scene ensued which was quite of an unpleasant character. It is due to him however to say that he did not return the violence. It is needless for me to explain the reasons why I was so agitated. It grows out of feelings on my part which have always been peculiarly sensitive to the peculiarly captious, overbearing, contemptuous tone that appertains to his manners. Accustomed to little of it in my intercourse with others, it galls me beyond expression when I find myself constantly under it’s action in a domestic circle. It makes me after a time, jealous, uneasy, restless and liable to anger. The stronger curb I apply, the more liable I am to a greater extent of violence when I break it. I know that it is my brother’s misfortune in better days to have contracted these peculiar ways which result from want of reflection rather than premeditation, yet it is not always in my power to consider it. The incidents of the past ten days and even from the night of his arrival had put me under a most unpleasant restraint. Is it to be wondered at that my patience failed? Any body who knows what I am will not wonder. My fear of such an event has always occasioned my dislike to be under the same roof with him for any length of time, yet the injudiciousness of my parents has brought on what I fear will not be healed soon. I was far the greatest sufferer because I had the whole family against me as well as my own conscience for an act which I foresaw might happen and did not guard against. Had I been wise enough to persist in my rule of not being led into temptation, all might have been well. I read a Sermon of Massillon’s twice over aloud to cool myself with partial effect, though my state of mental excitement was I think greater than I ever knew it and not far from madness. All the sore feeling of years seemed to be working up a convulsion in my frame. I reasoned myself into a state to be willing to apologize for the offence committed by me to each member of the family, but I could not think of his manner with any calmness at all.1

Massillon’s Sermon was upon Villeroy, Archbishop of Lyon. His Division was simple considering his character, first as a great Statesman second, as a Churchman. A union in those days more common than it is now. Text. Ecclesiasticus 50. 5. Too long for insertion.

My evening was not much more quiet than my afternoon, and my Wife who was much affected by this incident gave me additional and still deeper anxiety. All this was quite punishment enough for my offence, and perhaps even more. I am in the habit of thinking such 156things are a kind of set off to qualify the tendency in my head to turn at my prosperity and happiness.


In JQA’s Diary are two passages which seem likely to relate in whole or part to the unpleasantness: “My ardent desire to abstract myself more and more on this day from the cares and troubles and contentions of this world meets continual obstacles and disappointments” (25 Aug.). “I have this day been in much agitation of mind from sorrows which must be confined to my own bosom. In a life of vicissitudes I have had much prosperity; but as life draws towards its close, anticipation has no ground for hope; all is dark and gloomy. Night is no longer a Season for repose. Morning brings with it no refreshment. It is well for me to prepare the mind for the conviction which cannot fail to be realized that Old Age is the Season of Adversity” (26 Aug.).