Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Thursday. 24th.

Saturday. 26th.

Friday. 25th. CFA Friday. 25th. CFA
Friday. 25th.

It was quite warm again today. I went to town. Found a letter from my father for me inclosing two to be copied.1 One of these to my brother is a little remarkable as disclosing a painful state of feeling in respect to him.2 The prosperity of the Presidential days completely unnerved him for exertion, and the climate of Washington together 348with his sanguine temperament may be considered as the causes of his misfortune. This letter is an attempt to bring round a removal to this climate. Will that better the matter? There is in the Cranch and Johnson blood an apparent inactivity which has weighed heavily upon our house. If I have in any degree escaped from utter prostration it has been only through the divine goodness aiding my effort. There was a moment when I was in very great danger.

I went to the Athenaeum and thence round to call for my Certificate in the Merrimack Manufactory. On my return I procured Insurance upon it at the National Office. I then rode to Quincy, dined and passed the afternoon with my father. Miscellaneous conversation. Read a little of Ovid and some of Jefferson’s Letters. Mr. Price Greenleaf took tea and passed the evening. Conversation but not interesting.


The letter to CFA is missing. Of the other letters JQA wished CFA to copy, perhaps as a means of informing him of their content, one was to LCA (24 July), the other to JA2 (23 July, both in Adams Papers).


Writing to JA2, JQA urged that he and his family spend the remainder of the summer and the autumn in Quincy and that he give the most serious consideration to breaking up the Washington establishment and moving permanently to Quincy. For himself he proposed disposing of all his Washington property “and totally to dissolve all connections that I have in the District.... It is doubtful whether after the close of the next Session of Congress ... I shall ever see it again.” Should JA2 agree to fix his abode in Quincy, JQA proposed that he undertake the management of JQA’s landed estate: “A large portion of it I intend shall pass to you or your children.”

That letter and its sense of crisis were provoked by the most recent of LCA’s distressed communications from Washington to JQA (16 July, Adams Papers), in which she had written:

“John has again been sorely threaten’d with loss of sight and I am convinced that it is entirely owing to the dreadfully debillitating effect of this climate. Would to God we could find some lucrative and advantageous scheme of business that would place him in a more social sphere of action. For here all his powers even his qualities are lost for the want of action.... You cannot reproach yourself in this respect as far as intention can go but assuredly there has been great want of judgment in all our plans which has caused great disappointment and I fear serious if not irremediable evils. The convenience resulting from the residence of our children in this place for political purposes has blinded us to the truth of its difficulties in so far as it regards any possibility of promoting their personal interests or the fitness of the business in which they were engaged and this has caused a lavish expenditure resulting in loss. In no way as you know have I ever been consulted or have I even participated in the settlement of my Children but it is impossible for me any longer to remain a silent spectator when I think timely and judicious exertion might save them from years of misery. You have some friends and perhaps might procure some Agency business which would furnish active occupation and a suffi[cient] degree of responsibility to ensure its performance.

“Let me entreat you carefully to deliberate on these suggestions as I really think that the perfect nonchalance exhibited by you as it regards your own affairs has the most fearful effect upon your Sons the more especially as it is a departure from the peculiar characteristic which has been a marked feature of your former life.”