Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Friday 18th. CFA Friday 18th. CFA
Friday 18th.

Morning cloudy with a chill of snow in the Air. I went to the Office and passed my morning quietly though not very busily. Mr. Orcutt came to see me and to talk over matters more, but not to arrive at any distinct settlement of his debt so that I was desirous of getting rid of him. He seems to have no sort of disposition to leave the place without settling with me so that I do not feel anxious about him. It is probable that I shall be obliged to take security so that it matters very little to me when it is done. Mr. Titcomb also came to me being desirous to settle the matter for which he was sued. He brought me a watch as a pledge, but I declined taking it, as such a thing was totally useless to my purpose which is the Collection of Money, for my Employer. The rest of my time was taken up in attempting to digest my plan for my argument tomorrow night. It goes hard.

As Mrs. Everett is in town, the relations seem disposed to entertain her, and make much of her. We consequently dined at Chardon’s today, and had a tolerably pleasant time. Nobody there but Mrs. E. and Abby. After dinner I went to the Athenaeum to look at the Files of the Newspapers containing the Debates in Congress on the Bank, which I did. But I was totally unable to make any thing of an examination of the subject as my time was very limited. I merely ascertained a few facts respecting the decision on the subject, in 1811 and 1816.1 This will aid me a little in the few observations I propose to make tomorrow night. I remained at the Athenaeum reading until late in the Evening when I found it was time to go in and hear Dr. Lieber 109deliver his Lecture upon the State of the Turks. This was rather better than the former one, but still it made me feel angry. The information it contained was not so much as in the preceding Lecture, much being repeated.

I got away at eight o’clock and went to Chardon’s to spend the evening where I found Mrs. Gray, Mrs. Story and Henrietta Gray, Mr. and Mrs. Frothingham. I talked a great deal with Mrs. Everett, and took an opportunity gently to intimate that I thought she was not correct in the course she pursued to her husband. I did it very delicately and in such a manner as to prevent her feeling hurt with me, which succeeded. Whatever my opinion of Mr. Everett may be, generally, I think that so far as regards her, his course deserves much consideration. And though she may feel impatient at the progress of circumstances it is not proper for her to check the course of her husband’s career.2 We returned at ten. The snow still holds off.


The charter of the first Bank was not renewed in 1811. The second Bank of the United States was not established until 1816.


Mrs. Everett’s dissatisfaction with the progress of Edward Everett’s political career was probably a reflection of the disappointment he felt that the seat he sought in the Senate had gone to Webster and of his frustration in the House in the new administration (Frothingham, Everett , p. 111–112, 120–130 passim). His next preferment, to the governorship, did not come until 1835.

Saturday 19th. CFA Saturday 19th. CFA
Saturday 19th.

The snow was falling gently but fast when we arose this morning but it ceased soon after I reached the Office. My time here was little interrupted during the morning so that I had much opportunity to mature my reflections on the question of the Constitutionality of the Bank. I studied the subject as much as I could and found myself tolerably well able to perform the beginning. After my return home I devoted all the Afternoon to it and in order to word omitted a more thorough understanding of it, I wrote down my ideas. They appeared to come fluently enough. I then looked into the Speeches of Mr. Clay to find the two which he made upon the different sides of the Question.1 They are curious in themselves. I had read them before but not with the same attention to a particular point. My day was in this manner totally given to the arrangement mentally of what I was to say, and this is by far the most difficult part of the duty of a Speaker. The exercise is one absolutely necessary, for otherwise how could it possibly be in the power of an individual to take any latitude, when he must always be careful to keep in recollection the track which he must follow, to carry through even an argument.


After tea I went down and found collected a considerable number. Our debate was animated and interesting. I did even better than I had expected, and in my reply was enabled to trust myself to some animation without any fear of stumbling. My success this evening will I hope only add a stimulus to my ambition to go on and perfect myself in this species of Oratory. I succeeded this evening tolerably for a first attempt but how very far short of my idea of an Orator. If I can only pursue that to the extent my Imagination carries me, there will be no limits to the effects which such a result might produce. Returned home at ten and retired.


Clay spoke in the Senate against rechartering the Bank in 1811, for the Bank’s reestablishment in 1816. An edition of The Speeches of Henry Clay had appeared in 1827, Philadelphia and New York.