Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Saturday. October 30th. VIII. CFA Saturday. October 30th. VIII. CFA
Saturday. October 30th. VIII.

Missed Prayers this Morning and scarcely arose in time to pursue the plan I had proposed. I was just in time however, for having been to the President and obtained leave of absence for one night, I took the opportunity of the Stage to Boston. It is the birth day of my Grandfather and he is eighty nine. I consequently determined, if possible, to dine with him on this day. It was out of my power however, for arrived in town, I applied at the Office of the Plymouth Stage and found thirty passengers had obtained seats before me. I consequently despaired and determined to wait with my brother until the time for the Quincy Stage. Having nothing else to do, I took up the papers which are stuffed full of electioneering articles of the 433grossest sort. This is not at all inconsistent with my resolution as I said expressly that I would go no more to the reading room as I misspent much time and only diverted my thoughts to channels very improper. If my father is destined to be President of the United States, I may be glad, but no feelings of mine can alter the result. As I was about to be devoured by Ennui however, I took up the Papers and read them. A late Meeting in Boston has settled the course of the Federalists in this State and there is no doubt about the result here.1 The Crawford papers are making a most tremendous disturbance at present and charge my father with the most extravagant and atrocious crimes. I should be much inclined to prosecute them. When the licence of the press is carried so far as it has been in the present instance, it appears to me highly proper to use some means to prevent it. This however would be called stopping the liberty of the press, and the Lord knows what consequences might ensue. I therefore must bear patiently the most tremendous abuse and know that the poor miserable people who exert their free will are deluded by the noise. My Grandfather lost his second election by means of these calumnies and my father will probably lose the election by the people if he does not that of the House.2

George was at Mr. Cook’s Office3 and I sat talking with him for a very considerable time. He appears to be in pretty moderately good spirits although he does not seem to believe that this election will turn out favourably. He is singular in his feelings as he is ever affected by the breath of the moment. I dined with him at Dr. Welsh’s who it appears has very considerably interested himself in these affairs and who seems very confident of success. He is a singular man but appears well meaning and is certainly honest. I lived in his family two years and although my life was none of the happiest, I always liked him much better than any of the rest of the family. After dinner I went upstairs and amused myself in talking again with George. The Quincy Stage soon came however and we started off for the old town of our ancestors. We arrived uncommonly late and found a room full of company. It appeared that my Grandfather had given quite a dinner—Mr. Marston, George Whitney and others. We found Mrs. Quincy, Susan, Margaret and Josiah, Mr. and Mrs. Greenleaf and one son William.4 After my circuitous address, if I may so call it, I took a chair next to Josiah Quincy and we talked about College matters, and other things quite pleasantly for a little while. He is a lively, good sort of man with abilities sufficient to get along well in the world. I talked much of the Porcellian affair and of the Medical 434Faculty. I also had a little conversation with George Whitney who was full of his usual inevitable complaisance. Mrs. Quincy, very matronly this Evening, and the young ladies I did not approach, an unfortunate barrier has obtained between Miss Margaret and myself, why in heaven’s name I cannot conceive. They all went soon however and we were left with the family which is still larger than usual as Mrs. De Wint has not yet returned. Miss Harriet Welsh is also here as a sort of friend and comforter. They are useful as indefatigable readers and the latter indulging much in “my lady Tongue.” I never could like Mrs. De Wint; she has a good deal of vanity, I think, and much self possession. I do not like her manner of dress. I believe this destroys the charms for if I consider I cannot for the soul of me find any more reasonable objection. She aspires to be a lady of dignity in her manners, and her dress so ill becomes it that I am altogether dissatisfied by the “Je ne scais quoi.” Uncle Thomas very well and very lively, Mrs. A. as usual, the same with the rest, my Grandfather looks better than he did a month ago. He went to bed soon and we could find no more amusing or interesting subject for conversation than the Presidential Election which still rang in our ears. This is the cradle of Politics. XI.


Massachusetts Federalists opposed to JQA’s presidential candidacy could not agree upon an opponent. Some supported an unpledged list of Federalist electors; others backed a mixed, but also unpledged slate. Adams electors ran as Republicans. See Shaw Livermore, The Twilight of Federalism, Princeton, 1962, p. 168.


CFA like many others expected the presidential election to be thrown into the House of Representatives, as with four candidates it seemed unlikely any one of them could muster a majority in the Electoral College.


Presumably the law office of Josiah P. Cook, 14 Old State House ( Boston Directory, 1825).


John Greenleaf (1763–1848), his wife, the former Lucy Cranch (1767–1846), and their son, William Cranch Greenleaf (1801–1868). See Adams Genealogy.

Sunday. October 31st. IX. CFA Sunday. October 31st. IX. CFA
Sunday. October 31st. IX.

Arose and sat myself down to spend the day comfortably at home. I had the good fortune to discover yesterday that Mr. Flagg, a well known resident graduate at our good University of Cambridge.1 I therefore immediately made up my mind. It is rather a poor view of life, if we look at the number who have and others who are now toiling through an education at Cambridge, labouring like moles without talent enough to carry them to any distinction, and devoured after remaining here the better part of their lives, consuming their lives in study or in sleep, to obtain at best a miserable parish with perhaps one hundred and fifty dollars a year. Many such exist here 435and many such are toiling through College at the present day to obtain this enviable situation. They are all for the most part able bodied and might have profited society in active labours where mind was not so much in question. I amused myself reading over a variety of numbers of the Adventurer and the Guardian.2 These books were intended to assist the morals of the age and to correct folly and vice. But in my opinion their tendency is bad, at least in some particulars. A large number turn on the seduction and ruin of young women. I think there is much danger in the description and in their effect upon the imagination. I think that it is exposing to young men a view of the weakness of the female sex such as few of them come to the knowledge of until long after they are young. And as to the ill consequences threatened, one misfortune attends them, they are not invariable, hope is left, and hope is the most deceptive phantom in the human heart. Here follow in the MS more than four lines very heavily inked out, presumably by the diarist. The fact is, consequences occur very seldom in comparison with the commission of the deed, and it does appear to me according to our existing laws of society that this commission is no crime. I believe God intended the union of the sexes as soon as they became of age to know the passion, our society forbids it until we can support the consequences. This may be singular doctrine and I may hereafter find it false, but I do now firmly believe. I think the present institutions of society are detestable for a young man, but I must confess I see no way of altering them for the better. I think them a perversion of the natural order of things but I cannot discover what the natural order is.

In the afternoon I went and slept for a considerable time. I spent part of the Evening with my Grandfather and heard him for once tell me of some of his cares. My Uncle and Aunt have so little prospect before them after his death, he spoke feelingly, the children also, if he could have done anything for them but it was entirely impossible.3 I tried to console him as much as possible but I think the thing preys upon his mind very much. He is a remarkable man, he has done much for that family, but I am afraid all the assistance he can give will avail little. He has improved this farm very much and I think I can discover a general plan upon which he has gone of late years to assist that family. I am sorry for them and wish a part well. I got into conversation again downstairs upon the Presidential election and other matters with Miss Harriet which did not break up until my Uncle entered and we had varied our topics so much as to fall upon him so that we could say no more. I afterwards had some political 436conversation with him and some on the Medical Faculty with George by which I made him laugh very much. I was surprised tonight to hear my Grandfather speak so severely of Mrs. Clarke. He spoke of her levity in a tone which might even chill her; she certainly is an amazingly unthinking, inconsistent woman. Religious with asperity, virtuous with repulsion and smooth with insincerity. She is a match for Mrs. Adams and had that poor man, her husband, lived, would have made a vixen of a wife. He did not get out of the honey moon however and as it is, poor dear Mr. Clarke and her delightful husband are good terms for her to indulge in. She can love no one hereafter and it is a good way to prove she has loved somebody once. I went to bed pretty early although my afternoon’s nap took away part of my rest. XI.


CFA’s sentence is incomplete; doubtless his discovery was that John Flagg, graduate resident in the theological school ( Harvard Annual Cat., 1824), was going to preach in Quincy.


The Adventurer, 2 vols., London, 1753–1754, by J. Hawkesworth, Samuel Johnson, and others. JQA’s set of The Guardian, 2 vols., London, 1745, is in the Stone Library.


Punctuated thus in MS.