Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

19th. CFA 19th. CFA

Arose this morning considerably refreshed and walked over to Mrs. Gilman’s to breakfast. As I did not intend to board there any longer, I took my leave of her and also of some of the students. Bartlett shook my hand but not so cordially as formerly on account of some late prejudice as to my conduct I presume, instilled into him by Greenough1 and probably in some measure because he was left out in the invitation of the 17th. Having taken leave of the Lyceum also, I got into the Stage for Boston with pleasure. My feelings however were not so extatic as on the same occasion last Winter.

Smith and Wickham were in the Stage, the former going to Philadelphia, the latter on his return home.2 Having left his class he finds the study of the law too dull for him and on that account he goes. Mr. Shaw was in the Stage also, appeared to be in low spirits and did not talk much. I am sorry for this man as it appears to me had his fate been kept a little more in his own power by himself, he might have been if not a distinguished man, at least a very respectable one. We left each other at the office and I have not seen him since.3

I went immediately to George’s room where I found him reading as usual. We had some conversation but on the whole the time passed heavily. The rain began to pour in torrents and I felt dull. After packages from all the Welshes4 &c. &c. had been given to me and some bustle about the town, I got into the stage and in a few minutes 14we were off. Myself in a bad humour as I was apprehensive that the roads would be horrible, the rain continuing. Also on account of a bundle which had just been put under my care and which I, fearing or foreseeing, had long and vehemently resisted. I was also troubled with a package for the United States Bank of Philadelphia which I would gladly have been rid of, had it been possible to avoid taking it. The rain continued violent for four hours and then ceased but the snow had all been washed away except a few drifts. This however did not retard our course in the least for I seldom recollect having travelled faster.

It is the greatest amusement to a person who is fond of observing others, to ride in a stage coach, for in it he sees so much variation in character that he can easily form his contrasts. A corner seat in front is good for an observer as he has more command of faces and can gratify himself with all those little incidents which a want of employment occasions him here to notice. It is not time wasted to move thus for one obtains as much insight into the human character in this way as he could by reading books for a great length of time. In this our first stage we had a young man by the name of Sheaff from Philadelphia, who not long since took a degree at Yale and had not got over the love of that sort of fun so prevalent in Colleges.5 Wild and fearless, he amused me much in giving some account of New Haven frolics which I returned by talking of Cambridge. Besides him were a gentleman and lady who appeared to belong to that sect of Christians called pious who delight in nothing but the length of their pastors’ discourses. Here we had a contrast at once, and I am afraid that their ears were not a little shocked at the freedom of our conversation. In my opinion it is better to appear worse than I really am besides a sort of malicious delight in provoking such persons. These affected my conduct. But they left us soon and we went on through the night between sleeping and waking without any material incidents happening. We were considerably amused by a hog who took it into his head to keep up with us for about half an hour grunting with such vehemence that I thought of the story of the little gray man which had been told us with the appearance of so much seriousness, when we were congregated together at twelve o’clock on a very stormy night last term.


George Barrlett and Horatio Greenough, both juniors, of Roxbury, Mass. ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1823).


Calvin Stephen Smith, of Natchez, Miss., a senior, and John H. Wickham, a law student (same).


William Smith Shaw (1778–1826), son of AA’s sister, Elizabeth (Smith) Shaw Peabody, had been private secretary to President John Adams and later 15was clerk of the Massachusetts District Court in Salem. He was the principal founder and benefactor of the Boston Athenaeum. CFA probably felt that Shaw’s lameness from birth prevented his advancement in life. See Adams Genealogy.


Dr. Thomas Welsh (1752–1831) and his family of Boston, who were kinsmen of the Adamses (the doctor’s wife was AA’s first cousin). Both JA2 and CFA had boarded with them while attending the Boston Latin School from 1817 to 1819 (JQA, Diary, 6 Sept. 1817; see Adams Genealogy).


Either George [D.] or William John Sheaffe (Dexter, Yale Graduates Later than 1815 , p. 96–97).

20th. CFA 20th. CFA

For the last twelve miles to Hartford we travelled over the ground which was some obstacle to our course otherwise we should have come in uncommonly early. We walked over Hartford bridge to ease the horses but very much to my own inconvenience. We breakfasted at Hartford and remained an hour for the preparation of the Mail. After which we again went on, Sheaff being still with us. Our present company was not so amusing as usual. A man by the name, (as I afterwards ascertained) of Lewis sat on the middle seat, who appeared to have been a sea officer, and on the back seat a land surveyer with another man to whom the former appeared to be pointing out fine country seats on the river. He appeared also to be somewhat interested in the canalling volume between Hartford and New Haven. At Middlebury a Lady and a Sea Captain got in. The characters were not remarkable and we proceeded, a sleeping community.

At New Haven we dined and left a number of our passengers. Among others, Sheaff. He pressed me much to stay and offered to show me every thing and make my time pass agreably but as I was in a great hurry to get home to Christmas, I declined. So, on I went. Lewis continued and a Midshipman got in. The Captain remained also, with some others. And to fill the stage we took in a Calvinist Minister.

21st. CFA 21st. CFA

The journey was slow and we did not get to New York till after six in the next morning, owing to the frequent stops which we made on the road. My friend Lewis and the Calvinist in the course of the night fell into a discussion which became exceedingly warm and not the less entertaining on that account. The former possessed to the full that positive manner which men in his profession so generally acquire and evidently was conscious of the superiority which he possessed over his antagonist by his voyages and travels. The parson was pious, 16bigoted and intolerant. I will say however for him that he did not pretend to conceal his ignorance and in the true spirit which he ought always to possess, appeared really glad to become enlightened by this conversation. Though the Lieutenant took seaman’s privilege and extended sundry accounts of his to a most unwarrantable length. But it does disgust me to the full to see a man of this kind turning the very best feelings of the human heart to gall, merely for the sake of acquiring undue influence with the people. There is nothing so wicked to me as to make religion a cover for exciting the passions of the people as there is nothing which can more easily be done and which done, has more pernicious effects. The parson however found no one to support him and therefore sullenly retired from the field. He would not give up his point he said though the gentleman had brought numerous authorities which he had only heard of indistinctly before but of which he was glad he now had an opportunity of gaining a certainty. The argument was the use of Missionary societies, a favourite hobby with that sect of Christians.

Arrived at New York, we parted, and as the Citizen’s Coach had gone I was obliged to wait till the Mail went out, at one o’clock. Consequently I went to the City Hotel1 to spend the Morning and dress myself afresh. There is nothing in the world so dull as to be at a Hotel on Sunday. The hours few as they were hung heavily. And after all my exertions to kill time in dressing and looking out of the window to see the people go to Meeting, I was at last forced to sit down in the bar room to the newspapers with a cigar to comfort me. Luckily a book was laying on the table open, which at first however I was afraid to touch, imagining it might be somebody else’s amusement, but finding no claimant I sat down to it and in this way managed to pass the time. It was called, “Wine and Walnuts” and appeared to be nothing but disconnected stories concerning the principal painters of former times in England.2 By disconnected I mean that there was no regular plan although the same persons were brought on as actors throughout this volume. A Composition in itself rather flat, but interesting from the characters it attempts to describe.

At last the time came for starting and much to my joy, I found myself starting from the wharf in the ferry boat across the river. We lost dinner by mistake and went on. The mail is allowed to carry but six inside which were all gentlemen. Consequently when a lady wished to come in she forced one of us to give up his seat. Who that one should be was for a time doubtful. No one would go until a man who appeared French or Spanish volunteered which immediately 17brought to my mind the truth of the proverbs concerning nations. I was about to offer myself, God knows how unwillingly, and felt glad to be anticipated in spite of the reflection on our nation. It was but for one stage however and it was soon over. We had with us a man who called himself a great proprietor but excessively drunk, and insisted upon having seen me two years ago travelling upon that road in a waggon and complaining at that time of having suffered from a jolting received in it. I was perfectly willing to prove the contrary and as he insisted I had no objection to let him believe all he wished. Suddenly he turned solemn and informed us that his wife lay dying in New York and then gave us an account of her doctor, so that we presumed him to have taken a cup extraordinary to “drown dull care.” There was a young quaker with us who insisted that I belonged to a counting room in Philadelphia so much that I really began to doubt my own identity. Some amusing conversation took place respecting the late robbery of Rufus G. Amory3 on this road. It appears that they treated him very civilly and requested his money merely as a loan until they should become able to return it.


Located at 115 Broadway (Stokes, Iconography of Manhattan Island , 6:611).


Wine and Walnuts; or, After Dinner Chat, by Ephraim Hardcastle, Citizen and Dry-Salter (pseud, of William Henry Pyne), 2 vols., London, 1823.


Rufus Greene Amory, Harvard 1778, had his law office at 90 Court Street, Boston ( Boston Directory, 1823).