Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Friday 28th.

Sunday. 30th.

Saturday. 29th. CFA Saturday. 29th. CFA
Saturday. 29th.

Morning cloudy and threatening rain. After reading as much of Prior as possible, I went to the Office to stop only a few moments, before the proper time to go to meet the other gentlemen on the expedition. I went into State Street and after conversing with Degrand about the Salem Murder, the perpetrator of which has just been discovered,1 and also about the nomination of Mr. Randolph as Minister to Russia, a late wise measure of the President,2 I met the gentlemen and we got into Carriages to start for Charlestown where we stopped to see the 248new Mills, the superintendent’s House and every thing which might be considered curious.3 The set in our Carriage consisted of Mr. Coolidge, Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Joy and myself.4 From this spot, we rode to the Aqueduct over Medford river which we examined. I had seen it but a few days before so it was no curiosity.5 We then took the Canal Boat and went directly to Woburn. I saw nothing new excepting the breach made a few days since, and a stone lock which is certainly a very beautiful specimen of work. But the rage for railroads is increasing, and the determination seems to be to obtain one to go to Lowell at all hazards. The very one which will be ruinous to us. We arrived at Woburn in a shower, which changed to a settled rain for the afternoon. This is a beautiful place. I doubt whether any where a sweeter position for a residence could be found.6

Our body here assembled, and we found it consisted of ten of the Board and three visitors. Messrs. Guild, Sullivan, Coolidge, Thacher, Hallet, Chadwick, Joy, Baldwin, Eddy and myself,7 with Mr. Coles of New York, Mr. Whitwell and S. Torrey of Boston. Our dinner was good, and the conversation pleasant, but the party was so mixed it made Conversation a little hazardous, particularly when upon the ticklish points of Politics. Unfortunately, Whitwell touched upon the Hartford Convention, and gave us his idea of that body immediately after his explaining to us how the nonintercourse laws were evaded. The connection seemed to be good, as the one who justified what he himself had practised, would not be there to justify what would bear him out among others in doctrine. I felt awkwardly enough, and did not like to join him in the Conversation, particularly before so many Federalists among whom Mr. Sullivan was, who had taken pains to treat me politely. But it was lucky the conversation was changed for I might have become worked up to speak. There was much other talk about the present state of affairs which might as well have been omitted.

We rose from dinner and returned home, I being unable to accomplish what I had intended, the stopping at Mr. Brooks’, because the party went through West Cambridge, a different route. So that I was compelled to return to Boston before I could go to Medford. My wife was at the latter place, so that I took Chardon Brooks’ horse and went out getting there late, a Short Conversation and went to bed.


Rumor had followed rumor after the murder of Capt. Joseph White, and suspicion had been raised against a number of persons. However, on 27 May announcement was made that the case had been solved and arrests made. Confessions followed. Most of those involved were of good families. Accused as planners and instigators were two Salem brothers, Capt. Joseph J. Knapp Jr., 249married to the daughter of Capt. White’s housekeeper and niece, and Frank Knapp. It was alleged that Richard Crowninshield Jr. of Danvers had committed the act, having been hired by the Knapps because he had a gang organized for robbery and deeds of violence. Crowninshield committed suicide in his cell before trial. The trials of the two Knapps resulted in the conviction and execution of both. (Charles Pelham Curtis, “The Young Devils and Dan’l Webster,” American Heritage, 11:52–54, 101–103 [June] 1960.)


The damage done through the years both to JA and JQA by the rancorous enmity of John Randolph of Roanoke (Bemis, JQA , 2:132–133), and the outraged cries of the anti-Jackson press at the announcement of the appointment of the highly eccentric, if gifted, Randolph as minister, are grounds for a conclusion that CFA’s words are to be understood as bitterly ironic and that he regarded the appointment as an additional proof of that “imbecility” in the President of which CFA had but lately written.


The canal’s point of beginning was at a landing on the Mill Pond at the foot of Mill Street in the area known as Charlestown Neck. Close by were the mills given over to the grinding of corn and sawing of timber. The mills, the milldam, and the pond were owned by the Canal Co., having been purchased in 1803 to provide a terminus with storage facilities for lumber and merchandise. Improvements had been made at various times thereafter. (Roberts, The Middlesex Canal, 1793–1860, p. 113; Timothy T. Sawyer, Old Charlestown, Boston, 1902, p. 464.)


Joseph Coolidge, James F. Baldwin, Joseph B. Joy, along with CFA, were directors of the Canal (Roberts, The Middlesex Canal, 1793–1860, p. 223).


See above, entry for 15 May.


In its passage from Medford to Woburn, the canal, just beyond the Brooks estate and north of Mystic Pond, reached the Symmes or Aberjona River at about the seven-mile line. Here the river was crossed by another aqueduct; a short distance beyond were Gardner’s Locks. Through Winchester to Woburn the canal’s course was to the west of Wedge Pond and Mill Pond. Beyond the eight-mile line, after crossing Horn Pond Brook, the canal entered Hollis’ Lock and soon thereafter, Woburn. The canal then followed close to the eastern shore of Horn Pond, and at the north end of the pond, beyond the nine-mile line, reached Horn Pond Locks and the Woburn landing. Close by stood the popular tavern, built and several times enlarged by the Canal Company. The attractions of the spot caused it to become a resort area, well known for many years. The locks at Woburn, which together with the recently rebuilt aqueduct at Medford were evidently the objectives of the directors’ inspection trip, consisted of three sets of double locks with a total lift of about fifty feet. The lowest set of locks had been rebuilt in hammered granite in 1828. (Lewis M. Lawrence, The Middlesex Canal, Boston, 1942 [processed], p. 111–114; Roberts, The Middlesex Canal, 1793–1860, p. 195.)


Directors not earlier identified: Benjamin Guild, George Hallet, Peter O. Thatcher (same, p. 223).