Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 6

Monday. 10th.

Wednesday. 12th.

Tuesday. 11th. CFA Tuesday. 11th. CFA
Tuesday. 11th.
New York

The morning broke while we were still on the water and a drizzling rain made objects beyond a short distance entirely imperceptible. We reached New York before breakfast and I procured a Hackney Coach for the ladies in which we rode from house to house to get lodgings. At the Clinton Hotel, the Franklin, the City we were refused and at last barely got in at Bunker’s, only accommodated with bedrooms and those scarcely the best. I was glad to get any at all for such is the state of New York in general that it is with the utmost difficulty families can be accommodated.

Breakfast finished I had the day before me. My morning was consumed in a long walk. The weather cleared away and it was fine. I rambled up the streets of Broadway as far as the famous block of Marble houses in Lafayette place. My thoughts followed a singular channel. Here was a great city of busy people. Yet in this City there 7seemed little of the character of a fixed population and little of the external appearance of happiness or content. The Houses look as if they had been built upon too small a scale for the present necessity. And as if contrivances of every kind had been put in requisition to supply the defects. Then the activity of competition glares in every street. Here is a livery stable built of half burnt bricks and clay mortar painted to imitate a Roman temple, there a two story wooden tenement announces the Café des Mille colonnes. One man advertises his blacking in large chalk capitals upon the wooden fences of every vacant lot and another man builds a house to the clouds that his painted letters may be seen for half a mile glaring over the intervening houses. Then such an intermixture of fashion and poverty. The spot where all the trade of the town is carried on is the residence of most of its wealthy men. Here is a great house and there a ginshop, or a tailor’s or a grocery. Such is the character of New York.1 The old families which were an aristocracy have given way. The new ones are coming forward on the strength of wealth suddenly acquired and which in all probability will be as suddenly lost. Adventurers dash in for the spoils and the thousand and one bloodsuckers who are found in the haunts of a corrupt city. I should never be anxious to live in such a city.

I returned home and dressed for dinner. Found nobody at the large table at which I dined whom I knew, and as neither of the ladies came down I had a very solitary and a very stupid dinner. Afternoon short and spent in my Mother’s room. Evening, a short walk and early to bed.

1.

Contemporary prints of the mansions of Lafayette Place and of the Broadway scene are reproduced in the present volume; see also p. viii–ix, above.