Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Thursday. 24th. CFA Thursday. 24th. CFA
Thursday. 24th.

The morning was cloudy and damp, and I did not reach my Office until it was quite late. Indeed this practice of mine is bad, and ought to be corrected. I passed my morning much as usual—Not doing so much as I wished but having no moment unemployed. My spirits were rather depressed, owing to the constant struggle I am obliged to keep up to be at all Master of my own time. I confess I am disappointed in this. For one of the great reasons which had impelled me to urge so strongly the accomplishing my marriage, was the entire 114dissipation of time in which my engagement kept me. And now the same action in another form operates. Mrs. Brooks is anxious to see her daughter and to have her spend not hours but days and nights with her, and I am therefore under a pressure to avoid doing it. For they see only what I appear to be compelled to do, and judge from that, my time to be at my own disposal. I feel all this, and yet I feel more strongly what I believe to be a more urgent duty—That of fitting myself for all situations in life to which I may be called.

I read Williston this morning, the Speeches on the British Treaty.1 They all want power, they need that force which is essential to Eloquence, that clearness which gives it power. I also prepared my Quarterly Account for my Father’s inspection. It is long though tolerably clear. After dinner, I was engaged in reading Aeschines which I enjoyed very considerably. The Greek is far from difficult, and I find some reason to flatter myself for the knowledge which I picked up at College, much more firmly than I had myself supposed. How delightful are these occupations. I read to my Wife, Clarissa Harlowe, my progress in this is slow, and I feel desirous now to get through it, to attempt something pleasanter and better. After she retired, I seized an hour to continue an Article upon Eloquence which upon reflection does not please me a bit better than any of the rest.

1.

The speeches of James Madison, William Branch Giles, Albert Gallatin, and Fisher Ames delivered in the House in 1796 on the appropriation bill to effectuate the terms of the British Treaty of 1794 are included in Williston’s Eloquence at 1:332–463.

Friday. 25th. CFA Friday. 25th. CFA
Friday. 25th.

The day was warm but damp. I went to the Office as usual and was occupied in reading Williston, and the Speech of Mr. Ames upon the resolutions of Mr. Clay on the British Treaty. It is certainly a more powerful piece of eloquence than any I have yet read. Mr. Ames was a very able man, and left behind him a very strong feeling of admiration of his character among a circle of admirers here.1 But he became rather incorrect in his views during the latter part of his Life, being in ill health, and depressed circumstances. His mind was totally sound.

I also tried to form a Letter on the affairs of the Agency, a considerable portion of which was accomplished to my satisfaction. This was Christmas day and I reflected upon the probable condition of our family on that day. How will they spend the day this year, when those in place must feel in fear of seeing too much those who are out.2 At any rate, the day brings no particular feeling with it to me now as I 115am here settled without any associations of family to remind me of it’s return.

I read Aeschines all the afternoon excepting a short space of time devoted to Mitford, who provokes me beyond tolerance. I think his Book ought to be thrown into the Fire. How much mischief History philosophically written, to use a fashionable word of the present day, by a prejudiced man, will occasion. I was pleased with my pursuits and my mind felt that kind of self satisfaction which is eminently soothing. I read to Abby, in continuation of Clarissa Harlowe, which becomes more and more interesting at every step. It is a very pathetic Novel indeed. And very moral for it contains much which would do well to be thoroughly understood by every young Lady. I sat an hour afterwards writing more and more on my Essay but getting more and more dissatisfied.

1.

Fisher Ames (1758–1808), member of Congress from Massachusetts and a leading Federalist ( DAB ).

2.

The meaning is uncertain, but would seem to allude to GWA’s death during the year. In this context the sentence might be read: How will they spend the day this year, when those in place [i.e. living] must feel in fear of seeing too much [in their mind’s eye] those who are out [i.e. dead]?