Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

February. 1830. Monday. February. 1st. CFA February. 1830. Monday. February. 1st. CFA
February. 1830. Monday. February. 1st.

The morning presented the appearance of the depth of winter. The Snow was falling heavily and the sky was dark. I arose and went to the Office. My morning was much taken up, very much in affairs con-150nected with my father’s Agency. As my former tenant, Whitney was still very dilatory in his payment I wrote him a Note on Saturday designed to be final.1 I went down in the mean time to see Mr. Tarbell about some little Commissions of mine, and to the meeting of the Stockholders of the American Bank. There were so few and my interest was so small, I was ashamed to appear so I returned, and went to the meeting of the Proprietors of the Middlesex Canal.2 The Exposé was not a very favourable one in my mind. The receipts exhibited a great falling off from last year and the expenses as usual have been very heavy. There was much reasoning attempted to prove that the Stock was not in a low condition but I did not feel convinced by it. The projected railroad has hurt it much and the expenses which are so heavily laid on will injure it more. The Dividend is eight dollars upon the Share—Worse than either of the years preceding. I was chosen a Director at the Meeting for the next year and I hope to be able to become master of the subject in time.3 But I confess my idea is that the property is bad enough.

Returning to my Office I found a Note from Mr. Whitney4 of such a character that I thought it advisable to act at once, so I left the Account to be prosecuted by Mr. Kinsman. This will produce a crisis though I am now much afraid I shall lose the Money. This business of collecting rents is a wretched affair. I have not now a single Tenant who pleases me. But it is advisable to take a short course with such Men and see what the end of it will be.

Returned home to dine and in the afternoon began the Oration of Demosthenes for the Crown, in which I proceeded a little way well. This will be no mean labour. But I now was called to attend the Meeting of Proprietors of Boylston Market which I went to accordingly. The faces were all new and strange to me excepting Mr. Foster’s and Mr. Knapp’s. Yet as soon as I was known Mr. J. D. Williams5 treated me with so much attention as to make me feel very much ashamed. He is one of our rich men yet exceedingly illiterate at first sight, and as I suppose somewhat sensible of the superiority of some who have greater advantages of Education. He accordingly singled me the best educated man in the room out in a very disagreeable manner. The question was upon the purchase of a certain property adjoining, and having given my father’s assent to that arrangement I thought it was sufficient.6 But I had some duty to do. Mr. Greene and I were tellers to pronounce who were elected as Directors, which we did in announcing the old set, and after deciding that the sale of the new shares should happen on Saturday next we adjourned. This time is too early for me or my Father, but 151as Whitney may disappoint me I could not in any event use the chance of investing for him.7

1.

Letter missing.

2.

The office of the company was on Pond Street near the Charlestown Bridge ( Boston Directory, 1830–1831). The Adamses’ interest in the Middlesex Canal was substantial. JQA had been one of the original subscribers at the company’s organization in 1794, taking five shares. He had increased his holdings by two shares before 1802 and purchased twenty-five more in 1817–1818. JA had become an owner of thirteen shares before 1806, and these had passed to JQA at JA’s death. In turn, JQA had given two shares to GWA and two to CFA in 1828 (vol. 2:303). The family holdings of forty-five shares had cost, principally by the one hundred assessments levied from 1794–1817, in excess of $15,700, or an average of more than $350 a share. When CFA set up the Agency’s books in 1829, the shares had an assigned value of $250 each. The total amount realized on the investment, in dividends paid from 1819 to the company’s liquidation in 1853, was $559.50 a share. (M/JQA/12, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 209; M/CFA/3; Christopher Roberts, The Middlesex Canal, 1793–1860, Cambridge, 1938, p. 41–44, 179–184, 227.)

3.

CFA’s election as a director, his first to an important semi-public or public post, was to be followed by annual reelection until he withdrew in 1852. He was a member of the Standing Committee of the directors from 1840 to 1843. See Roberts, The Middlesex Canal, 1793–1860, p. 222–224.

4.

Letter missing.

5.

Probably John D. W. Williams of the firm of Hall & Williams, merchants, 38 Central Wharf ( Boston Directory, 1830–1831).

6.

JQA to CFA, 22 Jan. (Adams Papers).

7.

CFA had recommended the purchase of some of the newly issued shares, but JQA thought the indicated price too high and had some apprehension about over-expansion in the company. (CFA to JQA, 19, 29 Jan., LbCs; JQA to CFA, 22 Jan., 5 February. All in Adams Papers.)

Tuesday. 2d. CFA Tuesday. 2d. CFA
Tuesday. 2d.

The morning was cloudy and cold though not to be compared with what has preceded. I went to the Office and employed myself as usual. I have directed Whitney to be sued, but am fearful the project was not a wise one. We must wait and see. I occupied myself in drawing up a Letter upon business to my Father in which I stated to him very exactly the condition of the Property, to relieve myself from much of the weight which I feel hangs upon me.1 This now hangs considerably upon my spirits. I called to see Mr. Brooks about the News from Medford which was good, and to see Josiah Quincy about the Note of my Father but could not see him. Thus as usual vanished my morning without my being able fully to account for it. And thus it is always, and thus I am afraid it ever will be in future, but we must have Courage, and go on with the task assigned us.

After dinner I read a portion of my Demosthenes as usual and gained time enough after it to draw off a copy of my first Number of Essays upon Oratory. I am now resolved upon offering it, and on the 152whole am tolerably well satisfied with the neatness of the style. It is a good study to me and whatever may be it’s failure to attract attention, I shall feel a little more confidence in my own powers for appearing before the public. I design offering this to the Editor of the Massachusetts Journal,2 if he accepts it, Well, if not, try again. That is my father’s motto, and I will follow it.

I left off to go to Mrs. Frothingham’s to the weekly Meeting which had been omitted last week on account of the sickness of Mrs. Brooks. The number commonly present was increased by the addition of Miss Parks, Miss Phillips and Miss Wells, a niece of Mrs. Edward Brooks.3 The Meeting professed to be lively but was not a whit more agreeable to me than they usually are. After my return, I sat up some time to read a part of Lord Kaimes.

1.

LbC in Adams Papers. Although he writes at length on the generally depressed state of business, CFA’s principal concern is about the $1,134.24 in accumulated past-due rentals.

2.

That is, David Lee Child.

3.

Frances Boott Wells was the daughter of Frances (Boott) and William Wells Jr., see vol. 2:258, 268.