Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 8

Tuesday 30th.

Thursday 2d.

Wednesday May 1. CFA Wednesday May 1. CFA
Wednesday May 1.

Day dull and drizzly. Breakfast with Sidney Brooks. Visits, dine with Dr. Wilkes. Steamer Narragansett.

We went out, (that is my father and I) to breakfast by invitation with Sidney Brooks. A very pleasant time and a luxurious french breakfast. Leaving there, I passed the morning in making purchases and visits. Called to see Mrs. C. A. Davis, Mrs. E. Curtis and Mrs. N. Appleton. Saw them all. Also at noon accompanied my father to see the Exchange which is in no more finished condition for inspection than when I left it.1 Glad to get out of Wall Street and home.

Went up at the time to Hudson Square the residence of Doctor Wilkes.2 Found there Mr. and Mrs. Colden, Miss Wilkes of my former acquaintance, Mrs. Wilkes the elder, Mr. Hamilton Wilkes, his Wife and daughter and another brother. It seemed quite a collection of them. I felt a little awkwardly in being thus heralded into the midst of a family, but it was not to be helped so I did as well as I could.

My principle of late years has been always to try to feel at ease, which is hard struggling against my natural diffidence of temper. And circumstances throughout my life have always occurred to prevent my complete success. I never went out unexpectedly that it was not a contre temps, nor made a voluntary advance that it was not put down. Yet I have resisted the effects of these accidents and have been moreover assisted much in doing so by the happy event of my marriage. Without which I should have been incurably shy.

I was obliged to leave in the midst of dinner and hurry to the Steamer. It was the Narragansett and full of passengers. We started precisely at five and passed down the East River in a fog. Thus ended my visit to New York which seems to me to be growing a greater Babel than ever. Perhaps no city in the Union has made such unexampled progress, and if not put back by the bad elements of its poor population bids fair to be the London of America. I desire not to have much to do with it. The people are commercial, enterprising and industrious, but their moral tone is far from encouraging. Adventurers abound and the steady, old settlers occupy the back ground.

1.

The Merchants Exchange was being rebuilt after having been destroyed by fire a few days before CFA saw the remains on a visit to Wall Street and the surrounding area in 1835 (vol. 6:287; see also entry for 25 July, below).

2.

Hudson Square, then one of New York’s most fashionable residential areas, was the site of St. John’s Chapel, from which the square later became known as St. John’s Park. The square was located on what is now Varick Street and was within the Trinity Church parish (Stokes, Iconography of Manhattan Island , 6 vols., N.Y., 1918, 3:608).