Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Tuesday. 3d.

Thursday. 5th.

Wednesday. 4th. CFA Wednesday. 4th. CFA
Wednesday. 4th.

I this morning made the final disclosure to my Wife and although much affected, she bore it on the whole remarkably well. Went to town and had my time engrossed as usual by the cares of my house. I progressed very much this day and looked more as if I was in a state of preparation for our move. Nothing of particular consequence took place.

On my return to my Office yesterday from receiving the news of poor Henry Brooks’ death, I found on the table a notice of my election as a delegate from Boston to the Anti Masonic Convention which meets here next week for the purpose of nominating a Governor and Lieut. Governor. The contrast between the two subjects which thus presented themselves in connection in my mind was painful. There is nothing additional to be said after the touching words of Burke upon a like occasion at the hustings of Bristol,1 but if there is a moment when the bustling nothingness of our political electioneering comes most strikingly across the mind, it is when our ideas are drawn to the solemn appeal of a voyager to a silent world. This subject as well as the incident that gave rise to it must be reserved for more serious consideration.

I was engaged some time in Accounts and returned to Quincy only after an hour or more passed in wandering about to procure my winter’s supply of fuel. Prices are somewhat reduced which is a great comfort. My afternoon was taken up in preparing the remainder of the Volumes of the Correspondence, for which purpose I neglected every thing else. The family went down to Mrs. Quincy’s to a party given in commemoration of the Anniversary of the arrival of their family to this Country two hundred years ago. My Wife and I remained quietly at home.2


In his speech at Bristol on 9 Sept. 1780, when he stood forward on the hustings, Burke referred to the death on the preceding day of Mr. Coombe, another candidate: “The melancholy event... reads to us an awful lesson 163against being too much troubled about any of the objects of ordinary ambition. The worthy gentleman who has been snatched from us ... has feelingly told us, what shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue” (The Works of Edmund Burke, 9 vols., Boston, 1839, 2:286).


The Quincy family was given, too much given in the Adams view, to expressions of its consciousness of the distinction conferred by the antiquity of its marks of gentility (vol. 1:311–312; 3:11–12, 411). On the arrival of the first Edmund Quincy in America in 1633 and of the first Henry Adams at roughly the same time, see A Pride of Quincys, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1969, p. [1].

The manner of marking the two-hundredth anniversary was described by President Quincy’s son Edmund: “The whole family being assembled we all signed a record of the occasion written on parchment and intended to be kept in the archives of the family for the benefit of future generations.... We had singing and dancing and a very elegant supper in the West parlor. Mrs. John Quincy Adams was there too. Pres. A. was absent on a journey.” (Journal, 4 Sept. 1833, Quincy Family Papers, MHi.)