Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5


Thursday. 2d.

January. 1834. Wednesday. 1st. CFA January. 1834. Wednesday. 1st. CFA
January. 1834. Wednesday. 1st.

The first page of a new volume on New Year’s day—A day which to the young brings all the elastic vigor of hope into activity, and to the old presents only the recollections, the pictures of mingled colours as providence has ordained it through the past. I am now reaching that middle stage of life when certainty is gradually taming down the luxuriant imagination, while prosperity has not removed the enjoyments to be derived from the sober reality of life.1 If I am not so much as my fancy ten years since might have painted me as now to be, yet I am more, far more than an unprejudiced observer would at that time have ventured to have prophesied. My own share in producing this situation has been vastly small. I cannot look back and say, this and this, my energy and virtue bought about, therefore I ought not to calculate upon doing in future any more that I have done in times past. The days of my greatest activity in forming character have passed. Yet I do not repine. My mercies have been innumerable. The Deity has looked with eyes of favour upon my efforts, small as they have been. He has compensated them very far beyond their value. This is the highest encouragement for me to persevere. My trust is in his guidance and protection. With that, the future is to me more of a picture of hope than it was in my early days. Then all was dim and indistinct, and I was eager to know. Now that it is clearer, I hope not less, but trust more.


The day was uncommon for the Season of the year. Bright and yet mild. It was the day of the assembling of the Massachusetts Legislature and consequently the one upon which my father had directed me to attend the House of Representatives and immediately after the election of their Speaker to send in the Letter which had been sent to me. After waiting nearly three hours and being elbowed by the five hundred and fifty Legislators who were called to take care of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I succeeded in giving the Letter. The Speaker, Mr. Calhoun read it aloud,2 and the annunciation of the signature created a murmur of surprise through the Hall. I immediately left it but had only time to take a walk and make purchases of some trinkets as New Year’s Presents to the members of my family. This is a day always celebrated in this manner, and we have so few of a festive sort that I am very glad to keep up the custom.

I passed a quiet afternoon at home. But at six o’clock, Mr. Hallett sent a Note requesting to see me and I went down in the Evening.3 His purpose was not distinctly explained, but I gathered it to be, to inquire how far my father’s course and published Address would conflict with the proposed junction with Jacksonism. I did not explain it to him in any but general terms. I told him that it would be disapproved, but that they had better act without reference to him. He seemed very much depressed and a little disposed to kick at my father. He has had so much sway here, that it has a little turned his head. I left him, saying that I would give him the Address in a day or two. Evening, remainder of it reading Sir James Mackintosh.


At the place in the MS to which this note is subjoined an asterisk has been inserted. On the blank page opposite, in CFA2’s hand, dated “May 29/93,” and preceded by an asterisk, appears the sentence: “This middle-aged moraliser was at this time just 26 years, four months and 18 days of age!”


The letter which the newly elected Speaker, William B. Calhoun of Springfield, read was dated at Washington, 21 Dec. 1833 (retained copy in Adams Papers), and asked that the House, in choosing two names to send to the Senate for election from the four who had received the largest number of popular votes, consider JQA’s name “withdrawn—as in the possible event of my election by the Senate, I should deem it my duty to decline accepting the appointment.”


Note missing.