Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 6

Friday. 18th.

Sunday. 20th.

Saturday. 19th. CFA Saturday. 19th. CFA
Saturday. 19th.

The weather moderated and there was snow and hail throughout the day. I went to the Office but did not remain much fixed at any place. Accounts have arrived of a most dreadful fire which occurred in New York on Wednesday the bitter cold night of this week, and devastated the business part of that great city. Such a fire has never before been experienced in this Country. The Insurance Companies are said to have lost all their Capital, and many of the wealthiest Merchants to be nearly ruined.1 What a lesson of the vanity of all earthly goods! What a time to learn that difficult virtue of humility! I hope I may cultivate my talents so as to make me not utterly helpless and upon the world in case of misfortune to myself. I have heretofore hardly regarded this as enough possible.

Time taken up in Accounts. Mr. Walsh came in and talked for a short time. I walked. The town is full of this matter of the fire. Nobody talks of any thing else. Some of the loss falls upon persons here, particularly Insurance Companies and Manufactories. Home where I read Persius rather negligently. It is unpleasant to follow even the best sense through such a very crabbed style. If there were more of the Satires, nobody would read them.

Dined at Mr. Brooks’. Family only. Mr. Everett, Mr. Frothingham, Edward Brooks, Mr. Inches, Joseph Angier of New Bedford and myself. The party was not a very brilliant one. Mr. Everett who 287usually talks to shine seemed to be in a fog, caused perhaps by the accounts from Harrisburgh which are not so favorable as was anticipated. There are few safe topics to discuss in these days of political differences and general quietude. Mr. Angier in mixed society is a very silent man. On the whole I was glad when the party broke up earlier than usual and I found myself at home reading to my Wife from the interesting memoirs of that true French heroine Madame Junot. Afterwards, attempted to write.


On 16 Dec. there had occurred in New York City an “extraordinary conflagration” which destroyed a seventeen-block area in the center of the commercial section, including parts of Wall, William, Water, and Pearl streets. The Merchants Exchange, the Post Office, and most of the insurance offices were leveled. “Since the conflagration of Moscow, no calamity by fire, so extensive and so dreadful” (Columbian Centinel, 19 Dec., p. 2, cols. 1–3).