Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 2

Saturday. March 10th [–Tuesday, 20 March].<a xmlns="http://www.tei-c.org/ns/1.0" href="#DCA02d601n1" class="note" id="DCA02d601n1a">1</a> CFA Saturday. March 10th [–Tuesday, 20 March]. CFA
Saturday. March 10th –Tuesday, 20 March.1

From an entire inability to make any exertion, I have hitherto delayed giving any account of what has passed during the week. Troubled 111as I have been in mind about it, it has been out of the question to sit down coolly and describe my feelings. Even now it is more than I can do. I shall give only a short sketch of what has passed without many remarks or reflections which I have had in plenty. I went on passing my time very pleasantly with Abby until Tuesday Morning, when upon my return from a first sitting to a miniature portrait which I have directed on her account, I received a letter from Mr. Everett covering a Note from Abby, which entirely changed the face of affairs. They had received upon the preceding day letters from Mr. Brooks. The one to her upon this subject makes it a request that she will suspend her decision for the present. This, after what has passed, surprises us all very much. She in consequence declined seeing me until the return of post would bring letters of a more decisive character. In the mean time they started for Harper’s ferry in order to avoid remaining here. My own situation has been an extremely painful one in consequence of this doubtful state of affairs. I do not yet know what course it will be proper for me to take, and until I do, it would be needless and highly painful to form conjectures. While I cannot but think that Mr. Brooks has acted inconsistently, and with little regard to his daughter’s feelings, I am not much disposed to fall into a fault myself by becoming angry. I shall say no more about this until the final answer comes, when it will be proper for me to take my course. But my feelings have entirely unnerved me for this week.

The feelings which dictated these lines vanished upon the return of Mr. Everett three days after they were written. He sent me an extract from a letter of Mr. B.’s which had arrived one day after the preceding letter, withdrawing his request for a delay and giving his full consent.2 So that I might have been spared a week’s pain. But there is a providence in all things and I am not without belief that it has been exerted in these cases. From the 13th to the 16th my time was delightfully spent. On Thursday, we had a pleasant little dinner consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Everett and Abby, Mr. Webster and Mr. Bartlett. But I was destined to three days severe bodily suffering, owing to an abscess which formed in the inside of my Mouth and which produced inflammation and great pain. It was occasioned by a decayed tooth which a dentist had attempted to extract but had only succeeded partially. On Sunday evening Dr. Huntt came and lanced the gum which gave me immediate relief. I was much provoked at the loss of time as Abby goes on Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday were spent almost entirely in attention to her as it was to be a separation of some time. I have heard of no more difficulties in the case.


From D/CFA/5. CFA spent the morning of 10 March at home, sorting newspapers; he rode with his mother; then he spent the evening with his family, playing cards (D/CFA/1).


Upon further reflection, P. C. Brooks wrote Edward Everett: “We now give our full consent to Abby to act her pleasure.” Everett promptly sent the good news to CFA, with his congratulations (Brooks to Everett, 2 Mar. 1827, Everett MSS, MHi; Everett to CFA, 13 Mar. 1827, Adams Papers).

11. IX.<a xmlns="http://www.tei-c.org/ns/1.0" href="#DCA02d602n1" class="note" id="DCA02d602n1a">1</a> CFA 11. IX. CFA
11. IX.1

Morning at home, copy Mr. Jefferson’s letter to Mr. Van Beuren,2 pain in my face, evening with the family.


From D/CFA/1.


In 1824 Martin Van Buren sent Thomas Jefferson a copy of Timothy Pickering’s A Review of the Correspondence between the Hon. John Adams and the Late William Cunningham, Esq. (see entry for 17 May 1824, and note, above). Jefferson replied on 29 June 1824, explaining his relations with JA, Elbridge Gerry, and other politicians of the Federalist era, defending his connection with the Mazzei letter, and denying any break with George Washington (Jefferson, Writings, ed. Ford, 10:305–316).

12. VIII.

Morning at home, Miniature finished, ride with my Mother, Mr. Jefferson’s letter, evening with the family.

13. IX. CFA 13. IX. CFA
13. IX.

Morning, Mr. Jefferson’s letter, Note from Mr. Everett,1 party returned, and change of information, afternoon, Capitol Hill, visit to Abby, pleasure, evening also.


Everett reported receipt of P. C. Brooks’ letter of 2 March, giving full consent to the engagement (Edward Everett to CFA, 13 Mar. 1827, Adams Papers).

14. VIII:30. CFA 14. VIII:30. CFA
14. VIII:30.

Morning at home, Abby here, conversation, letter from Mr. Brooks,1 evening with the family, Cards.


Presumably P. C. Brooks’ letter to Edward Everett of 10 Mar. 1827, repeating his consent to the engagement and sending his love to the “happy couple” (Everett MSS, MHi).

15. IX. CFA 15. IX. CFA
15. IX.

Morning at home, pain in my face, copying, small dinner party at home, Mrs. Everett, Abby, pleasant.

Sunday. March 25th.<a xmlns="http://www.tei-c.org/ns/1.0" href="#DCA02d607n1" class="note" id="DCA02d607n1a">1</a> CFA Sunday. March 25th. CFA
Sunday. March 25th.1

The Everetts deferred their departure till Thursday 22 March. And I determined to accompany them as far as Baltimore. My mother 113determined to go too. So I got into the carriage, and we took in Abby at about twelve miles and had a very pleasant ride. On Friday after spending the morning in a round of company, I parted with them at the Steamboat when it went to Philadelphia. Anxious to leave town directly, my Mother ordered the Carriage and we rode to Merril’s that night, and starting again yesterday morning, we reached home before two o’clock.

Leave takings are always melancholy. I seldom patronize them and in this case I was obliged to make as little of it as possible. I think I succeeded better than I had hoped. For being prepared for it by time and thought, not to speak of a bottle of Sherry, the larger part of which I swallowed, I came off quite handsomely, and the motion of travelling served to keep off dullness till my feelings were blunted. And although now I am constantly experiencing a vacancy of object, owing to my having devoted my time so entirely to her, I have got over all the dull part of the matter. And my summer, though not positively happy, will at least have the benefit of being calm. I wrote to her today—and propose during the remainder of my stay here to write regularly twice a week.2

My plan for the Summer is Study—and devotion to the objects of my profession and future prosperity. As it is my last Summer here I must make the most of it—and attempt to become much wiser when I go to fix in Boston. I must resume my regular duties long neglected and continue hereafter to be as regular as possible in their performance.


From D/CFA/5.


From this entry through that of 17 July 1827, CFA’s diary is full of references to letters received from, or sent to, Abigail B. Brooks. Unless otherwise indicated, all these letters are in the Adams Papers. Since they are presently available in full in the microfilm edition of the Adams Papers and will shortly be published in large part in the Adams Family Correspondence, it is not necessary to quote or paraphrase each of them in these pages, except where such reference is needed to make the meaning of CFA’s diary clear.

Like any other love letters, these are easier to characterize than to summarize. Though written with 19th-century restraint, they are warmly affectionate in tone. CFA addressed his fiancée as “My dearest Abby,” and she replied to her “dearest Charles.” Both repeatedly wrote of their love. “Why should I be ashamed to confess that I love you better than all the world,” Abigail asked; “I begin to think . . . that I love you too well and think too much about you. . . . To get a kind letter from you makes me all gayety and light-heartedness again” (18 April 1827). “I do not hesitate in declaring my affection for you in almost every line,” Charles replied, “because it may please you, when to another it would seem superfluous and flat” (21 April 1827).

At first filled with reminiscences of the recent season in Washington and of the events leading up to their engagement, the letters soon grew more difficult to write as these topics were exhausted. The trouble was that the young people, though deeply in love, did not have much to talk about. Both remained largely out of society during these 114months. Charles failed to attend the usual round of Washington parties, because “the young ladies here seem to think a person ‘mortgaged’ as they call it not worth expending smiles upon” (9 April 1827). Abigail saw only relatives when she was in Boston, and after she returned to her country home she reported: “I do not pretend to give you any news, that is quite out of my line lately as Medford offers none to amuse any but ourselves” (10 June 1827). Since neither really knew the family of the other very well, there was not much domestic gossip worth exchanging. Charles tried to get his fiancée interested in the books he was reading, but she replied, “I am pretty sensible how tedious it is to gentlemen to hear ladies discuss these subjects therefore I always endeavor not to do it, but with my brother, and Father” (27 June 1827).

Increasingly, therefore, their letters were filled with the discussion of the one subject which most interested them both: themselves. CFA hoped that the correspondence would lead to a formal exposition and analysis of their characters; he begged Abigail to “give me a full account of every thing which concerns you even to the most minute details,” so that he could “have something by which I may still further learn to study your character and appreciate the many good points which I have already perceived” (29 Mar. 1827). Abigail seldom attempted introspection, though she did warn Charles that she had faults: “I am even sometimes free in my manners . . . but perhaps you will make some excuse for me when you consider that I am the youngest and have been a good deal petted” (17 May 1827). Charles, on the other hand, took pains systematically to unfold his personality: “I am grave, sober, formal, precise and reserved,” he wrote (5 April 1827), but he added that his character was “not naturally reserved. Circumstances have made it so with respect to strangers” (24 April 1827). Admitting to an “unyielding temper,” he explained: “it always has been my wish to consult the feelings of others in all things where they are concerned. But in matters relating to the guidance of my own conduct, my notions of independence and of stubborn pride are almost unbounded” (4 May 1827).

As the date of CFA’s return to Massachusetts approached, the letters became more than ever full of anticipation. Shortly before leaving Washington, Charles wrote Abigail: “I am really and terribly and may I add foolishly in love with you, since it makes me say many extravagant things which, were I in my ordinary senses, I should not, but which as it is, I cannot help” (9 July 1827).