Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Tuesday 23rd. CFA Tuesday 23rd. CFA
Tuesday 23rd.

Morning as it opened surprised us with the sight of snow. After such a day as yesterday, it might have been expected, but it certainly was not welcome. I went to the Office, and passed the day pretty 194quietly. Mrs. D. L. Child called upon me to tell me that her husband had been arrested and was in prison, and she herself paid the amount of the sword.1 This was an agreeable settlement of a disagreeable affair. I am sorry for Child’s misfortunes although circumstances had led me to expect them. Mr. Brackett, my new Tenant at the corner of Common Street, and Mr. Hurlbert of the Store, called in and I finished the business of the Leases—So that now, every bit of my father’s heavy real Estate is under Lease. I hope, to give me less trouble than heretofore.

I had a comfortable time reading Williston and progressed considerably. Mr. Everett’s Address to the Phi Beta Kappa is an admirable thing of it’s kind.2 I see nothing after all, that equals it in this particular line of exertion. It is fine, and presents much for reflection and example. Mr. Webster does not succeed so well in this kind of effort, but his best specimen is strangely omitted in this Collection—The Address at Plymouth.3 After dinner, read my portion of Demosthenes, and wondered at the artful method he uses of acting upon the feelings, of the people of Athens. How is it that the art has been lost. How is it, that by not recurring to the models of Antiquity as Students in Sculpture do to the works of it’s masters, men do not attempt to catch some of the spirit of brilliant eloquence.

Afterwards, I read Silas Deane’s Address to the American People, in order to explain if possible the difficulty resting in my mind about him, but it did not do it. He was however either a knave or a coward, no matter which so far as his character for patriotism is involved.4 Then went to Edward’s, where we had a very pleasant time. Chardon not being there allowed us an opportunity to talk and that very pleasantly. He is too noisy for comfort. Returned home at ten in the snow.

1.

This payment of $15 (M/CFA/3), together with the earlier payment of $85 by Child, brought to settlement the sale of GWA’s accouterments to Child, who succeeded GWA as brigade major. Child had begun to serve sentence following his conviction in a libel action against him as editor of the Massachusetts Journal (vol. 2:351). Lydia Maria Child, in addition to being an unusually attentive wife, was conducting the Massachusetts Journal alone during Child’s imprisonment and engaging in numerous other projects as means of support. Her books for children, her Frugal Housewife, and her other unconventionalities made her the subject of sometimes violent comment. See Charlotte Everett to Edward Everett, 10, 28 Jan., 13, 20 April, Everett MSS, MHi; DAB .

2.

Delivered at Cambridge, 26 Aug. 1824; in Williston’s Eloquence at 5: 262–298. CFA had attended the Phi Beta Kappa exercises that year as an undergraduate and had then pronounced good that part of Everett’s oration that he heard; see vol. 1:301–302.

3.

Discourse, Delivered at Plymouth, December 22, 1820, in Commemoration of the First Settlement of New-England, Boston, 1821. There were four editions before 1827.

195 4.

An Address to the United States of North America..., London, 1784. On the long-argued controversy relating to Deane’s conduct as an American commissioner at Paris during the early years of the American Revolution, see above, entry for 28 Oct. 1829, note.

Wednesday. 24th. CFA Wednesday. 24th. CFA
Wednesday. 24th.

Morning clear, and mild enough rapidly to dispel the snow which had only fallen to vanish. I went to the Office and occupied myself as usual, in reading Williston, and in arranging the accounts of my Father and bringing them down to the present time. The result of the Quarter is yet doubtful, but things look better than they did. I may scrape through. If I do, I shall be entitled to more credit than from the ignorance of the circumstances I shall probably get, and should the affair of Whitney be once settled, I shall feel easy in my mind.

I read today Mr. Webster’s Eulogy of the two Presidents.1 It is good, but rather overlong. In all addresses, the great art is to be short. And though here it required time to do justice to the subject yet it inevitably makes it tedious. Deacon Spear called to know my father’s decision, which I could not give him. I talked a little with him and agreed to let him know what should be done. My other interruptions were few and of little or no consequence. I called to see Mr. Brooks and went down to look at a Dictionary of Natural History which I had a great mind to buy,2 but on reflection what good can books do to me, the Money is worth more to all intents and purposes. Returned home and passed the afternoon reading Demosthenes, as usual, though the Oration for the Crown is rapidly coming to an End. I am glad of it for on the whole, it has consumed quite time enough.

The evening was passed with Abby, in reading Lalla Rookh aloud, the story of the Fire Worshippers. It is on the whole the best in the work. Though I cannot say I am partial to the broken metre which is used throughout. It is hard to read, and harder to understand. Occupied afterwards upon Campbell’s Rhetoric. Strictures upon style, which are for the most part good, but time has operated a change in many respects even since he wrote.

1.

On Adams and Jefferson, in Williston’s Eloquence at 5:374–414.

2.

Probably Dictionnaire d’histoire naturelle, 36 vols., Paris, among the works advertised to be sold at auction at Cunningham’s (Columbian Centinel, 24 March, p. 3, col. 5).

Thursday. 25th. CFA Thursday. 25th. CFA
Thursday. 25th.

Morning clear and tolerably mild. Went to the Office as usual and passed my morning in reading Williston and in business affairs. This Agency is far from being an agreeable business, so many little trifling 196demands and applications, and so much trouble about the rent. But as I have undertaken it, I will carry it through without any winking. Mr. Brigham called upon me to make arrangements respecting the payment of Money due on the Canal Notes.1 agreed to go to Quincy on the first of the month. A letter from my Father received this morning is in very low spirits and advises me to sell stock to make up my payments.2 I am sorry to see this kind of thing operating upon him for it portends more ominously to the ruin of his property than any thing I have yet seen. Mr. Isaac P. Davis called about the Picture of my Father.3 I recommended to him an arrangement with Mr. Curtis. Thus passed the morning.

Returning home to dinner, I found P. Chardon Brooks and his wife there according to invitation, and they dined with us. He is a clever fellow, but evidently feeling under heavy restraint with me. My own character is so grave, that he can make nothing of it. I wish to be on good terms with him as with all the other members of the family, but I fear it is more difficult work to be cordial than one might suppose. After dinner the time was so much consumed, that I had only time to finish two pages of Demosthenes, and a short time to read a debate carried on at the close of the Administration of Washington upon the Answer of Congress to his Speech.4 It is curious, as it developes the principles of the day and the very unfinished speaking of the men. I am somewhat amused by the sense of novelty which every Speaker appeared to experience.

In the evening, I finished Lalla Rookh to my Wife. It is a Poem of much glitter and some sweetness, of too much to cloy, and sicken entirely yet not enough to keep alive. The constant description is agreeable at first but gradually becomes fatiguing. Edmund Quincy also spent an hour or two pleasantly.

1.

Probably Josiah Brigham of Quincy, to whom JQA wrote on canal matters, 13 Jan. 1835 (LbC, Adams Papers).

2.

19 March (Adams Papers). The tone of the letter reflects the discomfort he was experiencing from a “hoarse Catarrh.” He wrote that the sale of State Bank stock was to be resorted to only if other sources of funds to meet the quarterly obligations on 1 April proved unreliable.

3.

That is, about a framer for the portrait.

4.

The debate in the House took place on 13–15 Dec. 1796. It was reported in Thomas Carpenter, The American Senator, or a Copious and Impartial Report of the Debates in the Congress of the United States... during the Present Session, Being the Second of the Fourth Congress, 3 vols., Phila., 1796–1797; a copy, with JQA’s bookplate, is in MQA.