Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Friday. 19th. CFA Friday. 19th. CFA
Friday. 19th.

The morning was extremely mild and agreeable. I went to the Office and occupied myself as usual in my reading going out only to see Mr. Brooks for a moment. He said Mrs. B. had been a little better yesterday and recommended my going out with Abby to see her this afternoon which we accordingly decided to do. I met Isaac P. Davis who asked me to get that business of the Picture done. But the principal part of my time was passed in reading Williston—The Speeches on the Panama Question made by Mr. Berrien in the Senate and Mr. Webster in the House. The surprising thing to me is to perceive how the ingenuity of man was occupied in perverting the objects of that measure. And how blindly men rushed into opposition on selfish ends of a measure intended for a great good. But so it is in human nature. And great national views must in a free government occasionally meet with great checks and discouragement. The surprising thing is that they prevail so much on the whole. Mr. Berrien is a narrow minded Sophist quibbling in a small way.1

I received this morning a letter from my Father in answer to mine upon business and allowing me my Fee for Administration. But where to get the Money a little puzzles me.2 We dined hurriedly, and I then with my Wife started for Medford. The riding was good and we went fast. But Mrs. Brooks was so sick that it was not thought advisable that I should see her. She had been quite revived yesterday, only to sink back further today. So I sat in the parlour and conversed with Mr. Brooks whose spirits are very much depressed. But getting upon 167indifferent subjects we managed tolerably well. Mrs. Everett looks sick and is dull.3 But my Wife bears all this very badly. It totally discomposes her system and makes her fit for nothing. I grieve for her, yet find it myself hard to bear.4 My maxim adopted many years ago is true. We in marrying and thus doubling our means of enjoyment and happiness also double the sources of pain. We returned just at dark which is now much later than it has been. And on arriving at home I sat down to get a little more comfortable and to read a little of Clarissa Harlowe, after which, Kaimes.


The speeches delivered in March 1826 by John Macpherson Berrien and in April by Daniel Webster are in Williston’s Eloquence at 4:14–96. CFA had been present in the House during several days of the debates on “the Panama Question,” one of the crucial issues arising during JQA’s Presidency; see vol. 2:39–41, 85. The Congressional debate was on the proposal, strongly urged by the President and by Secretary of State Henry Clay, to authorize sending United States representatives to the Inter-American Congress to be held at Panama and on restrictive amendments to that authorization that would limit the freedom of the United States representatives to negotiate. For an account of the episode in the vigorously pursued but ultimately unsuccessful effort of JQA and Clay to achieve a larger Latin-American policy and to foster the creation of a Congress of American Nations, see Bemis, JQA , 1:550–561 and, for an even more extensive treatment, Arthur P. Whitaker, “Tempest over Panama” in his The United States and the Independence of Latin America, 1800–1830, Baltimore, 1941, p. 564–602.


In ordering that the matter of a fee for administering GWA’s estate be referred to JQA (above, entry for 8 Feb.), the Judge of Probate had said that he had decreed $100 in similar cases, but CFA had pointed out to him that in this case he (CFA) enjoyed the use of much of the inventoried property (CFA to JQA, 8 Feb., LbC, Adams Papers). JQA fixed the fee at $100 (JQA to CFA, 12–13 Feb., Adams Papers).


Although sisters of Mrs. Brooks and Mr. Brooks were in attendance, Charlotte Everett, pregnant, felt that, with her sister Ann Frothingham too ill to come to Medford, the family burdens upon her were overwhelming (Charlotte Everett to Edward Everett, letters of Jan.–Feb., Everett MSS, MHi).


CFA’s regard for Mrs. Brooks was beyond the ordinary (below, entry for 23 Feb., note ). To this had been added his awareness for more than a year that her illness was a mortal one. Combined, they had made “a strong reason for my urging my marriage so soon ... for she was exceedingly distressed at the idea that she should not live to see it” (CFA to LCA, 17 Feb. 1830, Adams Papers).

Saturday 20th. CFA Saturday 20th. CFA
Saturday 20th.

Morning hazy but soon changed to a clear sun and a lovely day. I went to the Office as usual and passed my time much as usual, first reading Mr. Hayne’s Speech upon the Western Lands, a bitter Phillipic upon the course of the Eastern States. The truth is that the course of these States during the War was and is totally indefensible and it is a weak point to touch, but still it is not generous to touch so often the subject. The people here have came to their senses and punished the Authors of those measures by removing them from public life. And 168the other States ought to accept of this as sufficient without pushing farther.1

I went to see Mr. Brooks but found his Office closed which led me to conclude that the closing scene was rapidly approaching. I then passed the remainder of the morning in reading Mr. McDuffie’s Speech upon the Amending the Constitution as to the election of President.2 It is a better Speech than I thought, though too long and not sufficiently laboured. Returning home I found Abby had received a letter from Medford intimating that her Mother might not live through the day. She was of course very much affected. After dinner I read Demosthenes as usual. My first Article upon Eloquence was published this morning but so obscurely placed that I do not think it has justice done to it.3 Miss Julia Gorham came in to pass the Evening so that I went out and attended an unusually full meeting of the Debating Society. The discussion upon the Militia was renewed but not carried on with vigor, as none of the warmest Members joined in it. But the question approaching to a decision, I waited till the close and found that my side of it prevailed, after which I went rapidly home.


CFA was reading the newspaper reports on the great debate on public-land policy in the United States Senate during Jan.–Feb. 1830. The protagonists were Daniel Webster, who had shifted with New England from a narrow to a broad construction of the Constitution, and Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina, who made the most of the threat of federal “consolidation” and the near-treasonable course of New England leaders in opposing the War of 1812. Hayne’s speech opening the debate had been printed in the Columbian Centinel, 6 Feb., p. 1, cols. 2–5; his rejoinder to Webster appeared in the issue for 20 Feb., p. 2, cols. 2–5. Publication of Webster’s speech followed; see below, entries for 27 Feb., 3 March.


George McDuffie’s speech delivered in the House, Feb. 1826, is in Williston’s Eloquence at 4:97–152. See below, entry for 2 March and note.


Massachusetts Journal, 20 Feb., p. 1, cols. 3–4. The communication appears under the rubric “Literary,” bears the heading “No. 1,” and is signed “Orator.”