Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Thursday. 12th.

Saturday. 14th.

Friday. 13th. CFA Friday. 13th. CFA
Friday. 13th.

The day was cloudy and as I had nothing to do, I concluded to remain at home. Divided my time, so that I read German, wrote1 and began upon the life of Mr. Jay,2 distributing equal portions to each. A peaceful and I hope not unprofitable way of consuming the morning. Afternoon, Mr. Brooks and my Wife rode to Cambridge. I was at home, read Ovid, and finished the last volume of Maritime Discovery. This is uninterrupted study to be sure. Congress have voted to adjourn on the 30th of this month and it remains to be seen what disposition must be made of the remainder of the Summer. I am fearful there will be some difficulty. Evening at home. Read the Letters of Jack Downing which are amusing enough. Mr. Davis is the author of them.3


In the Adams Papers (M/CFA/24.3) is a draft in CFA’s hand, dated 13 June 1834, “On a peculiar feature of our History as a Nation” (4 p.). CFA examines the division among Americans between those who favor a strong ruler and those who would have the power reside in the people. He states that the division has always existed in America, and probably will continue to do so. In the course of the argument, he maintains that those who champion power in the people, when elected to high office, generally find circumstances such that they must belie their theories by actions which strengthen the ruling position (i.e. Jefferson and Jackson).


William Jay’s Life of John Jay had been published in New York in 1833.


Probably, CFA was reading the Letters of J. Downing, Major, to Mr. Dwight, of the New York Daily Advertiser (N.Y., 1834). Charles Augustus Davis had brought them out in imitation of the letters of “Major Jack Downing,” the creation of Seba Smith, which had first appeared in the Portland Courier and been widely circulated in the newspapers and published as a book, The Life and Writings of Major Jack Downing of Downingville, 1833. See DAB under Smith.