Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Sunday. 13th. CFA Sunday. 13th. CFA
Sunday. 13th.

The morning opened clear and cold—The weather of that bracing kind which promises health and not suffering. We went to Meeting all day and heard in the morning Mr. Walker of Charlestown,1 in the afternoon, Mr. Emerson.2 Their Sermons were neither of them first rate, not even so good as their’s are generally, but nevertheless there is a fine tone of masculine feeling in them which denotes a considerable advancement in the tone of the pulpit. It is that which I most complain of in Mr. Frothingham that he is deficient in this very tone. Mr. Walker leads too much the Church Militant, he is rather over disposed to talk at the powers of others, and their doctrines, and their authority, as if he was jealous of it, but he is still a strong powerful 103preacher and among the best with us. Mr. Emerson has talent and manner which with us is more rare, but his health is indifferent and he has none of the greater powers of the Orator.

I passed part of the day in reading a Discourse of Jeremy Taylor upon the nativity of Jesus Christ. There is wonderful vigour in the style of this man, and though he has faults arising from obscurity of expression and perhaps pedantic language, yet these are trifles compared to his force and the wonderful beauty of his ideas. I also wrote a letter to my Mother3 due long since, and on the whole did better than I expected. My ideas flow easily in letters, but they will not elsewhere. In the one, the careless writing is all natural, in the other it imposes restraint. The remainder of the evening was passed in reading the old Journal of my Grandfather when but a young man of twenty one or two years old.4 It seems to have been nothing but an exercise, to express ideas which in his mind were worthy of it, and on the whole it is admirable. His account of his Writ is also very good.5 How very similarly have I felt at times and particularly now when my trustee process plagues me. It took me all the evening.

1.

On Rev. James Walker (1794–1874), referred to at vol. 1:419, see below, entry for 23 Dec. and note.

2.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was minister of the Second Church, Middle Street, 1829–1832. His sermons are referred to at vol. 2:223, 338.

3.

Letter in Adams Papers. CFA had last written on 30 Oct., to which LCA had replied on 15 November.

4.

This passage marked the beginning of CFA’s study of JA’s papers—a task that was to occupy him at intervals for many years and that culminated in CFA’s edition of his grandfather’s Life and Works, 10 vols., 1850–1856.

JA’s “old Journal” was a volume of heterogeneous character into which inter alia JQA had earlier in 1829 had T. B. Adams Jr. and W. C. Greenleaf transcribe JA’s journal entries of 1755–1759 (D/JA/47, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 3). With these CFA had compared the two booklets in JA’s own hand from which the transcription had been made (CFA to JQA, 20 Dec. 1829, Adams Papers). Later, when he came to the arranging of JA’s papers, CFA numbered these booklets “Paper Book No. 1” and “Paper Book No. 2” (designated D/JA/1 and D/JA/2 in the Adams Papers). The entries which CFA had found admirable in reading are those printed in JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:1–85.

5.

JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:48–50, 62–65 62–63, 64–65 . JA recounts the doubt and uneasiness he experienced in drawing a writ in his first case as a practicing lawyer (Field v. Lambert) and his anguish when the writ proved defective. His notes written preparatory to drawing the writ and a draft of the writ itself, JA put into another booklet that became separated from his papers during his lifetime and was newly discovered in 1965 in VtHi (JA, Earliest Diary , p. 89–90, 93–95). A full editorial review of Field v. Lambert and the problems it presented the young JA appears there also (same, p. 13–14, 82–89).

Monday. 14th. CFA Monday. 14th. CFA
Monday. 14th.

Morning at the Office. Time passed rapidly and yet I did but little. Went to the State Bank and got three Shares of the Stock belonging 104to George formerly, transferred to me for which I pay par, making in all ten Shares belonging to me in that Institution, where I propose to stop.1 The Dividends are now so small there that I feel in some measure indisposed to set much of a stake in the Establishment, though for security I do not know that I could do better. At any rate I will do no more there, indeed I could not if I would. All my Stock is not invested in the best manner. A man in my situation finds it hard to come at correct information because I feel unwilling to ask for it lest I should excite attention. I design selling the six shares remaining of George’s and transferring the whole to the Fire and Marine or some other Insurance Company, to my father. For otherwise I am afraid he will call for it to go to Washington. And I am fearful of the result of his speculations in that place. It may make him rich and it may produce an effect directly the reverse.2

I then called to see Edward Blake who notified me that we were put upon a Committee together last Saturday Evening to decide the affairs of the Bank of the United States in our Debating Society.3 Here is a fine opportunity. We talked for an hour and then I went to vote for City Officers and to get a Mortgage recorded of my father’s Property to pay the bequests of the Will. Thus went the morning. I forgot to say however that I received a letter from my Father,4 containing the receipt from Philadelphia. But the seal had evidently been violated and this induced me to go round and attempt to discover if I could trace it to any body here. I satisfied myself that it was not done here, the next thing to know is if it was done at Washington. I wrote to my father this afternoon to know.5 We shall soon hear if the Post Office is really not to be trusted.

The afternoon was passed in reading Aeschines as usual and translating some part of what I had already done. The Oration is a powerful one. There is a great deal of reasoning talent in it. The Evening was spent in reading aloud in Clarissa Harlowe to Abby, the interest of which goes on increasing. It is written with an accuracy wonderfully minute.

1.

CFA’s seven shares had been purchased for him in Sept. 1828 upon his coming of age by GWA with funds provided by a gift from JQA (vol. 2:286). The shares had a par value of $60 (M/CFA/9).

2.

Since JQA’s acquisition in 1823 of the Columbian Mills (flour and meal) located in Rock Creek in the District of Columbia, they had proved a heavy drain on his resources and were requiring ever more capital. In 1829, with the assumption of responsibility by JA2 as manager, JQA’s hopes for the mills had been again renewed; see Bemis, JQA , 2:197–200, and entry for 17 Dec., below.

3.

MS reads “Societies.” Agitation against the Bank of the United States, a privately owned, profit-making institution which was the depository for public funds and had monopolistic control over the money supply, had been growing in 105the East during 1829, a depression year. The issue, dormant for some time, had been brought to the fore also by the election of Jackson, who held well-known antibanking views. Now that the President in his first Message had raised doubts about the constitutionality of the Bank, the question would be debated until it reached full maturity as the main issue in the election of 1832.

4.

9 Dec. (Adams Papers).

5.

(LbC, Adams Papers). See entry for 29 Dec., below.