Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Friday. 18th.

Sunday. 20th.

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

Morning clear and cool. My Wife took advantage of it and rode out for the first time. Our course hitherto has been exceedingly prosperous, she having recovered very gradually and without any material drawback.

Finished my first number upon Proscription and a little specimen of a skit about which I have my doubts. At the Office engaged all the morning with visitors. First, Mr. Ladd who is the Tenant of the house 103. Tremont Street and wants repairs done. He sat a great while, Conant from Weston coming in and after him Judge Hall, the latter 196about nothing, the former about his lease. Conversation was kept up until the bell rung one, and my whole time appeared to have gone like a flash.

Rode to Quincy to dine. Found the family much as usual—My father perhaps in not quite so good spirits from the answer of Governor Lincoln to him.1 I think he has lost his diplomacy as he has advanced in life. No longer having objects to gain, he has indulged in the expression of private opinion to persons in whom he could as he thought confide. The consequence is that when they have a mind to, they become snakes and bite him. So it is with Governor Lincoln. One great rule with politicians should be to treat friends as if they might one day become enemies, and enemies as if they might become friends. And a difficulty in my father’s bold and energetic style is that it puts positions in so striking a shape as to be used by enemies against himself as decisively as it can be for him. A passage in one of his previous letters to Lincoln of which the latter reminds him is one of these and if published at this crisis would hurt him confoundedly.2 He has committed an error also of which he is aware, in trusting any thing to Alexander H. Everett.

Returned home after visiting the Tenants again uselessly. My Wife had a bad tooth ach.


Levi Lincoln to JQA, 14 Oct., Adams Papers. This lengthy reply to JQA’s request for confirmation that he had recommended John Brazer Davis in a letter of 6 April 1832 and that the Governor had received that letter (see above, entries for 3 and 11 Oct., notes 1 and 3, respectively) was accompanied, in conformity with JQA’s request, by a copy of the letter of recommendation. In his reply, however, Lincoln indirectly warned that publication of the recommendation might require him to bring to public notice passages in other letters he had received from JQA indicative of a belief in proscription of those who had taken the Masonic oath and anomalies in the recommendation itself that had caused him to judge the recommendation at less than the value JQA has assigned to it in his letter to Davis.


The passages which Lincoln quoted were from JQA’s letter to him of 18 Dec. 1831 (MHi:Levi Lincoln Papers): “A gang of two hundred thousand Masons from every nook and corner of the Union, are joining in one concerted yell of persecution! persecution! and certifying and swearing that they never took an Oath incompatible with their duty to their Religion or the Laws of the Land”; “The denial of the Royal Arch oath is a miserable prevarication. The entered Apprentice’s Oath and penalty is itself a violation of all Religions and of the Constitution of our Commonwealth. To say that such an Oath is not to affect Religion or Politics is to unite impossibilities”; and from another of 1 Feb. 1832 (same): “I do hold as disqualified for an impartial Juror, at least between a Mason and an Anti Mason, any man who has taken the Masonic Oaths and adheres to them.”

In replying to Lincoln, JQA reserved until later a full discussion of “my consistency with myself on the subject of Masons and Masonry, and the purity of your Administration from ‘the reproach of Masonic influence upon Executive Appointments.’” However, in the meantime, in view of Lincoln’s be-197lief that publication of JQA’s letter to him about Davis would involve Lincoln in the controversy, JQA offered assurance he would not publish it: “It is sufficient for me to know your unwillingness to give this testimony to deny myself the benefit of it, were it even more necessary for my justification than I suppose it to be.” (19 Oct. 1833, same.)