Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Thursday. 11th. CFA Thursday. 11th. CFA
Thursday. 11th.

The morning was warm and pleasant. Quite a change from what it has been, and the snow went off in quantities until about twelve o’clock when it began to freeze and grow cold again. At the Office as usual. Received a long and gratifying letter from my father,1 which I read with pleasure, excepting in the business part where he charges the funds in my hands with a still further burden in the education of John Quincy Adams, his nephew, which fact explains to me what before was dark in the matter of the visit of my Uncle to me yesterday morning—He being seldom inclined to favour me excepting when demands are to be made.

I proceeded in my usual occupations. Wrote several Notes to my Tenants and read a part of Mr. Poindexter’s Speech on the Seminole War.2 Mrss. G. A. Otis and S. Brown called to request my subscription to a fund for establishing a Post Office. I subscribed as it is probable it will benefit my father’s property in Court Street. Mr. E. Clough called to speak about the Share in the Republican Institution belonging to my brother. He notified me that the Government declined taking it and asked me if I would not take it for myself. This establishment is now of so little use that I think it exceedingly questionable whether it is worthwhile to keep it up. But seeing Mr. Rayner the President of it afterwards he told me that he thought it likely a motion would be made to wind it up this next annual Meeting, and accordingly I should get what I wanted.3 I asked Mr. Brooks how they were at Medford, and his answer was, much as usual. I tried to find Mr. I. P. Davis, but could not succeed.

The paperer was this day busy with the other Office I was about to move into. He finished and beautified it in such a manner as to make it look entirely another thing. How badly this building has been treated. And now I am afraid I shall do it no good. Had it been so managed at the time of the Fire, it would have yielded richly.4 After dinner I read Demosthenes with pleasure. A fine author and one constantly to be studied. I am an admirer of his pithy, meaning5 style. There is no trifling. And I propose to make him my study. Made a draft of my Essay No. 2. and in the evening read Sir Charles Grandison to the Ladies, and finished Kaimes to myself but I must read him again.


5 Feb. (Adams Papers).


George Poindexter’s speech delivered in the House, Feb. 1819, is in Williston’s Eloquence at 3:128–183.


On Ebenezer Clough, John Rayner, and CFA’s effort to have the Republican Institution buy back GWA’s share in it, see vol. 2:411–412 and note.


Ten brick buildings and some wooden structures on Court Street had been destroyed by fire on 10 Nov. 1825, forcing 35 attorneys to find other quarters. The spread of the fire was checked at the building adjoining 23 Court Street (Columbian Centinel, 12 Nov. 1825, p. 2, col. 3). Since rebuilding had not been completed until the end of 1826, office space had been in great demand (Brooks, Waste Book, 10 Nov., 27 Dec. 1825; 14 Nov., 30 Dec. 1826).


Thus in MS, for “meaningful”?

Friday 12th. CFA Friday 12th. CFA
Friday 12th.

The cold was again extremely severe with us. But I have now become so much accustomed to the temperature which now is common that I mind it very little. Such a thing is habit, and such a change does the agreeable difference of a comfortable home of one’s own produce. At the Office as usual, where I was occupied as usual in reading Williston. My morning however was considerably wasted as is commonly the case. I must labour to introduce a change. Tried to find Mr. Isaac P. Davis but could not succeed. Went to the City Bank to get an old Book balanced which belonged to my Brother. Called upon Mr. Brooks for a moment and paid a short visit to Kinsman. Mr. Whitney appears to make no start in any way, and the City Guards affairs progress slowly.

After dinner I continued reading my Demosthenes, which became a little more difficult—But on the whole still very fascinating. Mr. Sparks called to see me about my letter to him, and seemed a little startled by my father’s words.1 He was for returning the whole, but I thought this would not do, so that I talked over the matter and advised to the withdrawal of several Letters not excepted to heretofore by me, and going on a little more cautiously in the future.2 I was glad to get over this business so well, for I feared it would lead me into a scrape.

I began in the evening to read Sir Charles Grandison to the ladies, but we were soon interrupted by the entrance of Mr. and Mrs. Walker from Charlestown, who passed the evening with us. He is an able and an agreeable man and I was glad to see him. She as I have said before is my Wife’s Cousin. We passed a very pleasant evening. They were quite agreeable, and we all finished with a little Supper and some Whiskey Punch which had a very sensible influence in enlivening the group. They left us at ten.


On 11 Feb. CFA had written to Jared Sparks (LbC, Adams Papers) communicating JQA’s decision stated in a letter to CFA, 5 Feb. (Adams Papers), to withhold consent for Sparks to use a letter about which CFA had asked on 24 161Jan. (Adams Papers). The letter in question was upon public matters and was therefore eligible under the terms JQA had originally fixed, but in it JA had expressed views about Franklin intended as private observations.

Acting on JQA’s instructions, CFA had also had to go beyond this and reverse decisions previously made allowing the use of a number of other letters written to individuals on public matters. Permission thereafter would be restricted only to “such public dispatches from JA to Congress as were not in the Department of State but which ought to be included in a publication ordered by Congress.”


Sparks was so “nettled” by the new decision that he seemed inclined to use nothing on these terms. CFA, wishing to avoid a public charge of “illiberality” against his father, modified JQA’s strict rule so as to allow the use of letters written to public characters on public subjects as long as private observations upon individuals were not included (CFA to JQA, 14 Feb., Adams Papers).

CFA’s new rules, in point of fact, conformed to Sparks’ earlier statement of intent (Sparks to JQA, 18 Jan., Adams Papers). However, in the period since JQA granted access to the letterbooks (above, entry for 26 Nov. 1829, note), he had come to regret that he had done so (JQA to CFA, 5 Feb., Adams Papers). This change had been brought about (1) by the appearance in the North Amer. Rev. for Jan. 1830 (p. 1–25) of Sparks’ review of Timothy Pitkin’s A Political and Civil History of the United States, 1763–1797, a review which JQA viewed as a “gross and wanton outrage upon the memory of John Jay” (to CFA, 5 Feb.), and which had provoked a bitter public controversy between Sparks and John Lowell (Boston Advertiser, 7, 8, 9, 11, 15, 16, 19 Jan.); (2) by JQA’s becoming aware of opinions held by Sparks about Arthur Lee that JQA felt constituted “an outrage equally unjust” (see above, entry for 30 Nov. 1829, note); and (3) by sharp differences between Sparks and JQA over James Grahame’s, The History of the Rise and Progress of the United States (JQA to Sparks, 24 Jan., LbC, Adams Papers).

Contributing also to CFA’s difficulties were the crustiness and arrogance of Sparks (CFA to JQA, 24 Jan., Adams Papers).