Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

23d. CFA 23d. CFA

At about one in the morning, we were roused by the announcement of our arrival at Baltimore, whereupon I dressed myself and walked up to Barnum’s1 on one of the most rainy mornings in the year. After taking some time to dress myself I found myself at fault for two hours, and after all the examination of the papers possible finding that the envious minutes would not fly I took a nap in the news room, which brought it to the time of departure. It rained all 19day and the country looked melancholy so that I performed this part of my journey not half so much elated this time as I was last, but I was tranquil and happy, as if there was nothing in the world which I could wish and no one to envy. A young man by name Jacobs was with us who had also been in the boats yesterday. He appeared to be what I call a high fellow and although he informed me that he had but just recovered from a consumption, it did not appear to me that he dieted in the least.

At last the Capitol came in sight and with silent satisfaction I watched all the improvements which had taken place since last winter. I found not much alteration except in the levelling of the hills and the widening and gravelling of the streets which has improved the appearance of the city very much. But the day was so bad that nothing could be seen to advantage. Being determined not to alarm the family I got out at Strother’s2 and left my trunk there, so that I walked home and walked into the parlour like an every day acquaintance. After the usual salutations upon such occasions I set myself down in a chair perfectly satisfied with myself and every thing around me. Madame was well.3 Johnson, John, Mary and Abby were well.4 Monsieur was out to dine, consequently he was well. John’s horse was sick but as he was no old acquaintance I felt not much. Poor Booth5 appeared rejoiced as much as myself.

After conversation and dinner as there was a party here this evening, I was reduced to the disagreable necessity of appearing, fatigued as I was. I found no opportunity to meet my father until late in the Evening and our salutations passed in the middle of the company. It was very cordial on his part and not less so on mine. He has been so indulgent to me that I feel more and more in his debt every day. The evening was very so-so to me as I saw some of my old acquaintances here, and I was otherwise dull. After it was over and I had had a little conversation with my father I retired having (with the exception of five hours last night) been up dressed for ninety-six hours in succession, and more. Johnson appears to be in bad health. He arrived here on Sunday, from Rockville.6 John retired also with me. He appears to be in the highest spirits.


Barnum’s Hotel, on the southwest corner of Fayette and Calvert streets (J. Thomas Scharf, History of Baltimore City and County, Phila., 1881, p. 551).


Strother’s Hotel, on the northwest corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street (Bryan, Hist. of the National Capital , 2:14, and note).


Louisa Catherine (Johnson) Adams, CFA’s mother. “Monsieur,” mentioned below, is, of course, John Quincy Adams, CFA’s father. These lingering French designations for his parents resulted from CFA’s early life and education on the Continent. As a boy he preferred speaking French to English 20(JQA, Diary, 30 June 1812). “Madame” remained the customary name for LCA in the next generation as well; see a famous passage in the first chapter of HA’s Education describing her in old age at the Adams homestead in Quincy.


Abigail Smith Adams (1806–1845), a daughter of TBA, lived much of the time with her uncle JQA in Washington. See Adams Genealogy.


The family dog.


Johnson Hellen had just entered law practice in Rockville, Md. (JA2 to Caleb Stark, Jr., 23 Dec. 1823, MBU). Why he removed from the Adams household and why he chose that country town are not known.

24th. CFA 24th. CFA

Arose this morning very much refreshed and scarcely feeling any effects from the rapidity of my journey. The roads had been so good all through and I had been spared the beautiful piece of road between Baltimore and Philadelphia, which last year had bruised my bones to such a degree. But I determined to keep quiet for a day or two so as to become entirely renovated for the winter. Johnson appears to be perfectly, head and ears, sunk in the great political question now pending, consequently he determined to make me talk. As this is the vortex of politics, there was not much hesitation on my part and the different attitudes of the Eastern States were argued with all the vehemence imaginable. Mr. Calhoun1 appeared to be the great bugbear to him at present. John takes it coolly, says but little and that generally to the purpose. My father appears to be in very high spirits indeed and the Family all talk much about the great ball to be given by him to General Jackson on the eighth of next month, invitations to which are out already.2 Madame does not seem quite so well as formerly although at present considerably excited by this idea.

After Dinner, Mr. Petry came in much as usual, as I understand. He has been French Consul General and resided in this country a great many years to which he is considerably attached.3 But he has been ordered to Spain by the King to which although very much against his will, he is forced to give way, a circumstance which powerfully brought to my mind the advantages of our republican institutions. One example like this is worth fifty thousand theories to support them. He stayed till twelve o’clock rather to John’s annoyance although it appeared to amuse Monsieur.


John Caldwell Calhoun, Secretary of War.


See entry for 8 Jan. 1824, below, for JQA’s party in honor of Andrew Jackson.


A Jean Baptiste Petry came to America as early as 1784 to serve as French vice-consul at Wilmington, N.C., later at Charleston, S.C., and in the 1790’s at Philadelphia. Either he or another Petry was consul at New Orleans in 1815 and was named consul general, to reside at Washington, in 1819. (Information from Howard C. Rice Jr., Princeton University Library, who has compiled extensive data on the service of French consuls in the United States to 1850.)