Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Monday. 28th.

Wednesday 30th.

Tuesday. 29th. CFA Tuesday. 29th. CFA
Tuesday. 29th.

The weather is turning off quite cold, which coming after an un-187commonly mild season makes it more severe to the feelings. I went to the Office and received a letter this morning from my father which has been so long expected. I was on the whole very well satisfied with it.1 It answered my request for advice by recommending me to keep quiet for the present, which coincides with my own sentiments. Yet I wish some occasion would present itself for me to work upon. I read this letter over and over, and what with reflecting upon it, and attending to what little business I had, especially from the receipt of Money from Conant of Weston, I did not read at all, nor did I get a chance to take a walk.

Returned home and in the Afternoon Read the fourth Tusculan of Cicero. These two have a little too much of the leaven of the Schools. There is a jingle of words which mean nothing and lead to no practical end. The truth lies in a Nutshell.

Evening quiet at home. Read to my Wife a little but not with any interest and afterwards, continued Pope’s Iliad which I have never opened before. Also as usual, the Spectator.

1.

JQA to CFA, 22 Nov. (Adams Papers). JQA found in the year’s first winter storm the opportunity to quote, from As You Like It, Duke Senior’s speech on flattery as more painful than any of nature’s blasts. Thus reminded, he professed satisfaction in the knowledge derived from CFA’s letter of 12 Nov. that there was no need to fear flattery from him:

“And God forbid that you should flatter me. I had rather hear truth from you, however unwelcome, than flattery. I wish to say as little as possible of myself, and therefore I shall not offer an apologetic exposition of the causes which have contributed to the waste of my last three years, so far as concerns the purposes to which I had devoted them in my intention. But I go into Congress, with the opinions of those who are nearest and dearest to me in the world, declared against the measure. I go there with expectations of any thing but pleasure, honour, or even profitable service to my country, to be derived from the necessary sacrifice of my Time within the Walls of the capitol. I go to experience slights, mortifications, insults, loss of reputation, and perhaps exposure of myself by infirmities of temper, unsuited to the trials which I am to encounter. Think you that I see a bed of roses before me? Or ask you why with all these consequences in my view I persist in the determination to take my seat in the Legislative Hall? Because I am acting under a sense of duty. For this I know I shall have no credit upon Earth. If the dearest of my friends refuse to receive it as my justification, I have no right to expect from any other human being a more candid interpretation. If I have no credit for it, with him who knows the heart, it is because my own heart deceives me, which I know is not impossible. My election to Congress was a Call, unsolicited, unexpected, spontaneous, from a portion of my Countrymen, into the public Service. Forty years before it might have been an object of laudable, ardent personal ambition. Now, it was an invitation to descend from the highest ranks of public dignity to a station of far less eminence and power. The call so far as opinions could be ascertained was nearly unanimous in the district; and it was from the dwellers on my native land. From the scenes of my childhood—Almost from the Sepulchres of my fathers—This Call, I could not find it in my heart to suppress or to reject, by a flat, ungracious refusal, for 188which I could have given no reason, but an overweening sense of my own personal comfort or personal dignity.

“I therefore accepted it, and with the blessing of God shall take my seat. There are rumours that it will be contested, upon the ground that I was not eligible in the district at the Time of the Election. If the House should so determine I may be relieved at an early day from all obligation of duty to the political service of my own generation, and shall be at Liberty to resume the labours which you consider as having been neglected only by my own unaccountable irresolution.

“I have so short a remnant of life before me, that it is comparatively speaking of little consequence what may befall myself. I have infinitely more concern for the prospects of my children and particularly for yours. You wish to take an independent, and respectable stand in Society, and yet to keep yourself disentangled from all the snarls of political strife as you have done hitherto. My advice to you then is, to confine your attention to such business as you have. To use all laudable exertions of Industry to defray the necessary expenses of your family and to avoid involving yourself in debt, and to devote all your leisure to study, practising rigorous economy, and seeking no political distinction, not even to find a place upon the list of sixty or seventy Representatives of the City in the general Court.”