Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Monday. 26th. CFA Monday. 26th. CFA
Monday. 26th.

Continued my studies in Geography and read Lord Bacon, also one or two numbers in the North American Review, which in my opinion is not exactly equal to it’s predecessor. Having nothing to do, I walked with Johnson to the Capitol, but we were not very well rewarded for our pains, Mr. Alexander Smyth being up, making remarks and observations without end. We saw his papers before him and were always expecting the present one to be the last but he always had one more so that we were entirely disappointed for the day. Finding this to be the case, I went into the Senate. Mr. Barton speaking very coolly on a case of land claims.1 This was the first time I had been here for three years, as last Winter although often at the House, there never had been even curiosity enough to draw me here.

The speech here was as uninteresting as the other so that I soon returned to the House. As Johnson was patiently sitting here, I joined him and we made observations on the Members generally. Alexander Smyth is only famous for his proclamations, and foolish conduct in the last war and for having excited the wrath of my father who gave him a most complete overthrow.2 This is no boasting as it has been allowed on all sides. He finished logicizing and Mr. Rich then rose, and moved that the committee rise without asking leave to sit again—which was carried without counting the division, Webster voting for it. So this bill is laid asleep after having made some disturbance and ill blood. We returned home very much amused on the whole and spent the rest of the day in conversation.


David Barton (1783–1837), Senator from Missouri, spoke in favor of a bill to adjust land claims in Missouri and the Territory of Arkansas ( Annals of Congress , 18 Cong., 1 sess., p. 142).


For Smyth’s conduct in the War of 1812, see entry for 22 Jan., and note, above. Smyth and JQA had been carrying on a running battle for months. In January 1823 the Congressman charged JQA with falsifying the Journal of the Federal Convention, published in 1819 on congressional order by the State Department, but he was obliged to drop his accusation of what JQA called a “conspiracy of the colons and capital letters” when the Secretary proved that no errors were intended when some unusual punctuation appeared in the official printing of the document. In January 1824 Smyth made the preposterous charge that JQA favored the African slave trade. See JQA, Memoirs , 6:120–122, 124–127; 7:242, 308, 431; and JQA’s Letter [of 22 Dec. 1822], in Reply to a Letter of the Hon. Alexander 69Smyth, to His Constituents . . . [Washington?], 1823, first published in the Richmond Enquirer, 4 Jan. 1823, then in the pamphlet cited here, and reprinted in JQA, Writings , 7:335–354.

Tuesday. 27th. CFA Tuesday. 27th. CFA
Tuesday. 27th.

This morning after having gone through the customary portion, I went to the House of Representatives not with the expectation however, of meeting with any thing remarkable. Mr. McLane was delivering his reasons for the passage of the old affair concerning the roads and canals which I believed had been settled long ago.1 He is a sound man, and has some influence or had when the Congress was less brilliant. Not pleasant in his manner, a person will find matter but nothing to amuse in the process of acquiring it. He was not “metal so attractive” though as to keep me long here. Monsieur was at the House today, which is a very uncommon thing. There being a meeting of the sinking fund2 he always devotes a portion of his hours at the House which can be spent in no other way.

We came home and after dinner dressed ourselves for the ball, at Mr. Livingston’s.3 Madame being unwell did not go, the rest departed together. The ball was given to the bride who was there with Cornelia, Anne sick at home. Cornelia was the only girl I knew in the room and consequently my evening was not perfectly pleasant. I was much diverted with some sly remarks of Mrs. Brent concerning John, whom she appeared to consider a gone case; she also informed me that as she knew the symptoms, she certainly must be the best judge. This I allowed her. She is a very pleasant and ladylike woman, in my mind far superior to the common run here, but there is a little repelling stiffness which is disagreable. She deports herself very matronly.

Mr. Livingston’s good supper and Champagne Wine compensated fully for all my want of dancing, and after the ladies retired we formed a retired table very pleasantly. Blunt, Watkins, John and myself. Blunt, I have often mentioned and shall only say, I was better pleased with him than usual. Watkins is a very pleasant fellow indeed and full of life. After drinking a sufficit of what Blunt was pleased to call “Cider” and eating Canvass Backs we again went upstairs, and as I felt very much like dancing I was introduced to and danced with Miss Hamm of Alexandria. My head was turning very rapidly and I felt in extravagantly high spirits. I did nothing however which could in the least compromise my character. The only difficulty was that I could not plainly distinguish her questions, so that I had to answer at random, but it was with general success. She asked me my opinion 70of Miss Crowninshield and here I got into a difficulty for I did not speak in the highest terms of them and afterwards understood they are intimates from a boarding school. This one was a pleasant girl, with considerable vivacity—and probably made allowances for Cider. Watkins in dancing the reel was thrown down in elegant style and in attempting to recover himself drew up Miss Orr’s gown to a considerable height. On the whole, I had a delightful time and taking another glass of cider with Blunt we three got in to the Carriage and dropping him arrived safe at home. The family had gone long before.


Louis McLane (1786–1857), of Delaware, favored the bill to procure surveys and estimates of necessary roads and canals ( Annals of Congress , 18 Cong., 1 sess., p. 1217–1232).


The Commissioners of the Sinking Fund, who dealt with the funding of the national debt, were Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins, Attorney General William Wirt, JQA, Registrar of the Treasury Joseph Nourse, and one Marshall (JQA, Diary, 6 Feb. 1824). As a member of the commission JQA signed a resolution recommending the purchase of 7-percent stock according to law (same, 26, 27 Jan. 1824).


Robert LeRoy Livingston’s wedding party for Robert Brent and his wife (JQA, Diary, 27 Jan. 1824).