Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Wednesday 30th.

Friday. 2d.

December 1831. Thursday. 1st. CFA December 1831. Thursday. 1st. CFA
December 1831. Thursday. 1st.

This was Thanksgiving day. Last year we spent it at Quincy and it was a bright cool day. This time we opened our eyes to see the snow 189falling fast and to realize the arrival of Winter, in all its dreariness. I spent my morning in finishing my Letter to my Father which is unusually long for me.1 Then attended Divine Service at Mr. Frothingham’s and heard him preach from Psalms 147. 13. “For he hath blessed thy children within thee.” It was a good Sermon for the occasion, as he adopted the plan of discriminating the objects for the possession of which we should be grateful. These he stated to be Health, Peace, Liberty and Plenty. He presented the contrast between our condition and that of Europe quite forcibly.

Returned home and finished my work upon the Copy of the Letter excepting a half page which I did in the Evening. Went down to dine at Mr. Frothingham’s. He expected several, but there was only Mr. Brooks, Gorham’s wife, Abby and myself. The dinner was over bountiful. I felt as I always do after such a festival, a little too heavy, but I returned home and read a little of Cicero, before finishing the Evening at Mrs. F’s. Walked home with Mr. Brooks. Read the Spectator. It was very cold and clear.

1.

CFA to JQA, 30 Nov.–1 Dec. (Adams Papers):

“With respect to your going to Congress ..., it was not my intention to enter into the question of it’s propriety.... Whatever opinion I may hold upon it is founded upon a construction of our system of government which like many other matters of that kind with me, is not entertained by you. I lay claim to no infallibility particularly where my conclusions are opposed to your’s. And I may in this case add that I shall be glad to find myself wrong.

“But if the Call on the part of your Constituents was of such a Nature as to make this acceptance of it a duty; was it so imperious as to put in the back ground other Calls which perhaps are not less urgent, yet must be postponed? ... You say the call was ‘from the scenes of your Childhood.’ Is there not another associated with the same scenes which moreover can be answered by no one else? You say, it is ‘Almost from the sepulchres of your fathers.’ There is another, from which ‘Almost’ may be suppressed. There are services to a man’s own generation, and it would be difficult to say you had not already done your share of them. But grant, the only question is, how these can be now multiplied. I say, not so well by your being in Congress, if it should endanger your furnishing to the present and future generations what you only can furnish. This is the gist of the matter.”

Continuing, CFA pressed upon JQA both the uniqueness of his equipment to edit JA’s papers and the extraordinary importance of the task:

“Does my Grandfather’s reputation stand so high that it will need no mending or restoring? Examine every Eulogy of him that was delivered and ask why it is that a veil is suddenly thrown upon his figure immediately upon his reaching the Presidency, when some intimate a fall from his great career, while even the most friendly drop the subject. Is this right? Shall it be, that his course as President of these United States belied all his former career, and proved him An Anti Republican unworthy of further confidence? Even at this moment, a deliberate attempt is made to rob him of all credit for knowledge of political affairs in a trying Crisis and moreover to prove him wrong where he has always been thought right. Is this nothing? Here is a gross perversion of history, in all its essential attributes, obtaining the authority of time and prescription, while the destruction of it is still left to chance.

“I am not nor ever was the unquali-190fied admirer of my Grandfather, neither do I ever expect to be of any man living or dead. It is enough for me that human nature is concerned to distrust all notions of perfection. But from the clearest lights of my understanding I do feel impressed with a conviction that his story is not fairly told.... [H]is defects lying all on the surface impressed men, judging as men ordinarily do, unfavourably; while his rival was only rotten where nobody could see it, at the Core.... You know it all better than I do. The only deduction I wish to make from the whole is this. If this is an important duty, which you and you only can perform, is it wonderful that I feel provoked that the performance of it should be hazarded by Orations, and Eulogies, Poems and Annual Registers, and last though not least by the doubtful (to say no more) advantages of the harassing, perplexing, all engrossing, all exhausting political warfare of a Seat in the House of Representatives?”