Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 2

Monday 15th. CFA Monday 15th. CFA
Monday 15th.

Returned to town this morning bringing Abby with me. Found at the Office a letter from my father upon the subject of the old federal question which has lately been excited. It was quite interesting and quite full.1 The morning passed without my doing more than reading some Cases in the Massachusetts Reports. I was engaged to dine out so called for Abby and went to Mrs. William Smith’s. Found Mr. and Mrs. Pickman, Mr. Storer, and Mr. and Mrs. Frothingham constituted the Company. The dinner was not unpleasant and passed the afternoon so that the Office was out of the question.

I then called at Mrs. Gorham’s and spent a couple of hours with Abby’s friend Julia. Mr. Charles Warren, a brother of Mrs. Gorham’s, came in.2 He is a wild being and subject to fits of a terrible kind. There is some feeling on this subject existing in relation to Abby, growing out of some insult offered to her formerly, which I have been unable to comprehend. This happened when she was very young and she evidently does not now understand what it was, but it created a violent affront which makes the meeting unpleasant to all parties. The family would not introduce him to me and so I was a little awkward. I had 323no desire for his acquaintance. He is not a man to take notice of, and inasmuch as he has now learnt his distance, there is nothing for me to be troubled about. Returned to Mrs. Frothingham’s with Abby, passed half an hour in conversation and then went home. This was a pleasant day to me, though it reminded me that I was paying the price of my engagement as I shall do often in spite of myself.


Protesting that his communication to the National Intelligencer had been badly misunderstood (see entry for 18 Nov., and note, above), JQA claimed that his purpose had been to refute the allegation that New England Federalists during the War of 1812 had been in correspondence with British agents; their intrigues with the British had been earlier, before the two nations were at war. He announced that he had “under respectful consideration” a letter of interrogation from “thirteen distinguished members of the old federal party” (JQA to CFA, 8 Dec. 1828, Adams Papers).


CFA was in error; Mary (Warren) Gorham's brothers were named John Collins, Joseph, and Edward (John Collins Warren, Warren Genealogy, Boston, 1854, p. 50–51). CFA was likely referring to Charles Warren (ca. 1794–1854), son of John and Abigail Warren. Mary (Warren) Gorham's other brothers were named John Collins, Joseph, and Edward (Massachusetts Vital Records, 1841–1910, 86:49; John Collins Warren, Warren Genealogy, Boston, 1854, p. 50–51).

Tuesday. 16th. CFA Tuesday. 16th. CFA
Tuesday. 16th.

Morning at the Office, passed in reading the Massachusetts Reports. Little of any consequence occurred. This was the day appointed for the trial of Genl. Lyman, and with some much interest was expressed.1 Mr. Quincy failed again yesterday in his election for Mayor.2 This is marvellous. Afternoon, reading the Secret Journals of Congress, and in the evening I wrote a draught of a reply to my father. So that the day was on the whole passed over quietly and more busily than any for a week. Little therefore to say.


The libel suit which Daniel Webster brought against Theodore Lyman was related to the controversy between JQA and the New England Federalists (see entries for 19 Oct. and 18 Nov., above). During the 1828 presidential campaign Lyman, a last-ditch Federalist, had thrown his weight behind Andrew Jackson and in the Jackson Republican charged, allegedly upon the basis of JQA’s statement to the National Intelligencer, that Webster and other Federalists had been in 1807–1808 “engaged in a plot to dissolve the Union and reannex New England to Great Britain.” Webster brought suit for criminal libel in the Supreme Judicial Court, Chief Justice Isaac Parker presiding. The evidence showed that JQA had never specifically mentioned Webster in this connection and that Lyman had included him only because of his later important position in Federalist councils. The jury was unable to agree, and the case was dismissed. See Fuess, Webster , 1: 173–174; Josiah H. Benton, A Notable Libel Case, Boston, 1904.


See entry for 11 Dec., and note, above.

Wednesday. 17th. CFA Wednesday. 17th. CFA
Wednesday. 17th.

Morning at the Office, busy in writing my reply to my father’s last letter. It was chiefly confined to the subject which has principally agitated this place for some time, and which is now interesting every body in the trial of Genl. Lyman.1 In the afternoon I finished the 324Secret Journals of Congress and in the evening read Dr. Johnson’s Life. The whole day being passed very busily and not without profit. The Jury could not agree in their verdict.


CFA recalled that he had been present during the conversation between Clay and JQA, which immediately preceded the latter’s statement in the National Intelligencer concerning New England Federalists and the embargo (see entry for 19 Oct., and note, above). Old Federalists in Boston, he reiterated, were ready to forget the past and paid no attention to Jefferson’s letter; consequently they regarded JQA’s statement as an unprovoked denunciation of themselves (CFA to JQA, 17 Dec. 1828, Adams Papers).