Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Tuesday. 24th.

Thursday. 26th.

55 Wednesday. 25th. CFA Wednesday. 25th. CFA
Wednesday. 25th.

It being Election day in town,1 and the weather appearing very unpropitious, I thought I should do better by remaining out here, than by going. I sat down and devoted a considerable time to my task. Read many of the letters of my father to my Grandfather at the time of his first mission to Holland and was a good deal struck by them.2 They display a power which puts me to shame. I am nothing, and shall be nothing, but a daudler over trifles. At my age, how infinitely superior he was to me! I feel discouraged. Read some of Mr. Jay’s, and Mr. Gerry’s Letters and attempted to gain some insight into the state of things in the Commission in France,3 but my time is limited and I must avoid reading voluminous Papers as much as possible. My progress was tolerable.

Afternoon, T. B. Adams Junr. was here, and I was so much interrupted I could not progress much in Cicero. I finished however the Oration for Balbus and began that against Piso, which is invective indeed. The fury with which he attacks is remarkable. Evening, with the family as usual except that I conversed a little while with my father for the first time upon literary topics. And afterwards, I read the Spectator.

1.

This was the last “Election Day” observance. By an amendment to the state constitution approved by the voters on 11 May, a change in the commencement of the political year was effected. Instead of the election and installation of its officers by the General Court at the beginning of its session each May, the new amendment provided for only one session each year, that one to be held in January (Boston Patriot, 11 May, p. 2, col. 3; 14 May, p. 2, col. 5; 25 May, p. 2, col. 2). The passing of one of the most widely observed events on the civil calendar was more regretted than CFA’s words suggest. JQA wrote, “It has been a day of solemn festivity, from the first settlement of the Colony, but will be so no more” (Diary, 25 May). On the traditional observance, see vol. 3:245).

2.

JQA was twenty-seven when he became minister to The Hague; the numerous letters that he wrote to JA during his service there in 1794 and 1795 are in the Adams Papers. On his diplomatic activities during the period, see Bemis, JQA , 1:50–65.

3.

Presumably this refers to the tangled and protracted Franco-American diplomacy during the period of the quasi-war with France while JA was President. On Gerry’s and Jay’s parts in these events, see Kurtz, The Presidency of John Adams, p. 235–401 passim. A number of letters from Jay and from Gerry to JA during these years are in the Adams Papers. The letters from Jay have been published in Jay, Correspondence and Public Papers ; letterbook versions of the Gerry letters to which CFA was probably alluding have recently been published in Elbridge Gerry’s Letterbook, Paris 1797–1798, edited by Russell W. Knight, Salem, 1966.