Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 2

[8. August.] CFA [8. August.] CFA
8. August.

We were glad when Albany presented itself to our view on Tuesday Morning.

My mother determined at Albany, upon the pressing solicitations of the Otis family, to join them at Ballstown Springs on the succeeding day. Dr. Huntt again found us, and brought a letter from my father which had but little ambiguity in it as to the propriety of this journey and which explained very fully the reasons of the preceding ones. But many of these last did not reach us until long after the proper time owing to the folly of Charles King at New York.1 Albany is an excessively dull place and combines filth and heat to a great degree. But it seems to be thriving and prosperous. As a situation for commercial advantages, it may be good, but nobody would ever wish to pass a whole day there a second time, when travelling merely for pleasure.2


CFA misconstrued the meaning of JQA’s letters to LCA and was unduly harsh toward his mother for undertaking her northern journey. Between 14 July and 9 August JQA wrote his wife six letters but only the first suggested that she join him at Quincy with Charles and Elizabeth Coombs Adams (ECA), while all the rest directed her to go elsewhere for her health and comfort. One letter, sent in care of Charles King in New York City, was not received by LCA until later, but it only repeated JQA’s advice to go elsewhere than to Quincy because he had not yet secured the furnishings of the Old House, which were to be bought at auction. All these letters are in the Adams Papers.


CFA and his mother visited Mrs. Van Rensselaer of the patroon family that evening. He was miserable, but his mother was feeling better (D/CFA/1).

[9. August.] CFA [9. August.] CFA
9. August.

On Wednesday we rode to Ballstown, through a very miserable country. But the place is tolerably pretty and we found a very pleasant company collected here. I made a number of agreeable acquaintances here in the five days which we passed, and had I not been very much tormented by the idea of my sickness, I have no doubt that I could have enjoyed myself very much. My time was passed in the company of Mrs. Otis,1 a very agreeable woman, the Wells family who were here during the Spring, and a number of other ladies and gentlemen. Mr. Hone of New York was here too who renewed his attentions to us. I found him a very pleasant man.

Being so near Saratoga where all the principal beauty and fashion was with a great mixture of other things not so agreeable in the bargain, I thought it became me to go over there and see the place at least, as Madame did not propose to make any stay. It is a very ugly situation in a sandy soil and covering with dust all the men and horses. As a spot for fashion to fix I was surprised, as a place for invalids, whatever benefit the springs might produce would be quickly destroyed by an overlong stay towards the autumn. I have no doubt of the efficacy of the waters, but I cannot see the imposing necessity of fixing one’s self there for weeks when nothing is pursued but pleasure. Not one out of five who go to Saratoga drink the water as a medicinal remedy to complaints. Were this not true, a foreigner would be led to judge rather harshly of the healthiness of our country, when he sees twelve hundred and two thousand announced as the number of visitors during a week, and without this deduction certainly with all appearance of truth. But then the question seems what the devil is the use of going to such a spot for pleasure, when our country affords so many beautiful spots where you are not constantly surrounded by stumps of trees, and hillocks of sand, without verdure and with incessant monotony. I think in this wide country not one quarter of which I have seen however, no uglier place could have been pitched 74upon as the scene of dashing high life for two months of the twelve.

But this will not last. It is becoming too cheap and too common to go there. Some change will be operated and then some prettier spot will be fixed upon. Saratoga is now however in it’s glory and riding, singing, drinking, dancing and all accompanying pleasures are the constant order of day and night. Enough of this I say, and I staid but an hour during each of the two days on which I visited it.2 Governor Clinton, Mr. Van Buren, Mr. M’Lane, Mr. Cambreleng and some others were there, which showed that all things were not lying on the superficies.3 Whilst at our place at Ballstown were Col. Hayne, Mr. Drayton, and a variety of S. Carolinians who were amusing themselves here during the healthy season.4 But I had seen and cared so little about any politics that I felt no disposition to talk much upon the subject. I employed myself as well as I was able in eating, drinking, walking, dancing, talking and billiards and riding. A very useful life indeed.


Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis (1770–1836), formerly Sally Foster, was noted for her social grace and beauty ( DAB ; Crawford, Old Boston Days & Ways, p. 402).


CFA went to Saratoga on 9 and 10 August (D/CFA/1).


These politicians had opposed JQA’s election. Senator Martin Van Buren (1782–1862), of New York, and Louis McLane, of Delaware, had favored Crawford in 1824 but were swinging behind Jackson for the next campaign; Representative Cambreleng, also of New York, was another Adams foe. It was becoming obvious that these politicians would lead the anti-administration forces in the next Congress, and CFA astutely noted their social as well as political compatibility. Governor Clinton’s presence was especially significant, for, despite his quarrel with Van Buren in 1824, he was now poised between factions. See DAB and entry for 4 July, above.


Senator Robert Y. Hayne, of South Carolina, was an early Jeffersonian Republican and a political ally of John C. Calhoun, the Vice-President. William Drayton (1776–1846) was a Congressman from the same state ( DAB ). Their seemingly accidental presence at Saratoga at this point presaged a coalition of Jackson and Calhoun forces for the next presidential election.