Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Friday 30th.

Sunday. 2d.

Saturday May 1st. CFA Saturday May 1st. CFA
Saturday May 1st.

Morning very warm. Finished my last reading of my Article and all my doubts by writing a note to Mr. Everett and submitting the whole to him.1 Good, bad or indifferent it is now of very little consequence for the die is cast. Thence to the Office. Deacon Spear called to take up his Notes. He paid me the sum of $408.80 being the amount without interest of the two. I thought this too little but it was so expressed and I could gain no more. This sum was deposited immediately in the Bank to my father’s credit.2 Mr. Tenney my new Tenant in the House behind this Office called to pay me his rent which became due this day; a proceeding which satisfied me very much, for I began to think that the constant failure to pay must proceed from some defect in my management rather than the fault of the Tenants. Called to see 226Mr. Kinsman about the suit against Ayer, and on the whole had a very busy day of it, so that I was unable to devote any portion of the time to reading.

Passed the afternoon in writing a letter to my father upon the subjects touched in his of Thursday.3 And my mind having previously run a good deal upon them gave considerable fluency to my pen. It is the first differing letter if I may so express it which I have written this season, and may if the season is not too late bring on something of a controversy.4 Evening reading Eustace to my Wife as usual after which I passed an hour or two in copying.


Despite some later reservations, A. H. Everett noted its receipt to JQA “with applause” (JQA to CFA, 13 May, Adams Papers), judging that “the literary execution is highly creditable to his taste and talent, as the substance is to his character and principles” (A. H. Everett to JQA, 4 May, Adams Papers).


That is, in JQA’s personal as distinct from the Agency account.


JQA to CFA, 23 April; CFA to JQA, 1 May (both in Adams Papers).


The “differences” were on two fronts. In his letter JQA had renewed an earlier dispute over ancient and modern eloquence; CFA, firmly holding to the ancients, in his entered a vigorous rejoinder. The second was of a more personal sort.

Both agreed on the superiority of Grahame to other historians of the American colonial period, and JQA moreover in giving his own interpretation of that history, especially as it related to the Puritans, and in surveying much of the territory that CFA had in his newly completed article, arrived, both in the appraisal of Grahame and of the spirit of liberty among the Puritans, at “exactly similar” conclusions. However, on the matter of the proper limits of the power of the British Parliament to legislate over the colonies and of whether Massachusetts had ever acknowledged that power, CFA registered his disagreement with JQA’s views in terms that he was sure would cause JQA to think that his son had come under the heavy influence of Tory and “Scotch Jacobin” writers.

In his dissenting but excellently humored response (13 May, Adams Papers) to CFA’s views, JQA affirmed that “the deductions which will naturally flow from that doctrine upon affairs arising in your own times, may be neither congenial to our institutions nor likely to prove acceptable to your Countrymen. Their tendency is to an overestimate of the rights of authority, and an under-estimate of the rights of the People.” But, he concluded, “the course of your life, as well as the habitual meditation which you bestow upon all the topics which are likely to influence your practice has so far reconciled me to your political heresy that I willingly leave to time and experience the further modifications of opinions to which your continued sober enquiries after truth may hereafter lead you.”