Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Wednesday. 7th. CFA Wednesday. 7th. CFA
Wednesday. 7th.

Morning cold and blustering. I went to the Office as usual. Heard of the murder of Mr. Jos. White at Salem, a shocking affair enough. Found in his bed this morning stabbed and bruised in the head. The City was a good deal excited about it.1 Read this morning Genl. Harrison’s Pamphlet and was satisfied by it, that his vanity and ignorance of the whole had made a fool of him.2 The worst danger of all to public men comes from themselves. Many are fully equal to prevent surprises from others, who are totally overset by some strange and insidious enemy in their own persons. Although this gentleman was most certainly ill treated, yet he proves himself fully unfit for the place he was occupying. I also read something of Marshall, relating to the early debates in Congress which formed the parties in the Country. These are interesting but they are not managed by Marshall as I should have supposed a man of his powers would have done. He wrote it in too much haste, and did not leave his mind to form conclusions, instead of merely hurrying over premises. But there is notwithstanding much information to be derived from the work. It contains a definite and not altogether a dry statement of facts, and explains the motions of parties, though by one side asserted to be partial.

I received today the Dividends upon the Stock in Neponset and West Boston Bridge.3 The latter is again becoming tolerable stock. My father’s personal Property here is generally good. And all, both real and personal, tolerably productive. If his other property was equally so, he would have been a wealthy man.

The afternoon was passed in reading Graham’s History of the United 208States, the portion relating to New England is very interesting as it conveys a clearer and more impartial account than any preceding Historian. I also compared Robertson.4 In the evening, I began reading aloud to my Wife a part of Eustace’s Tour in Italy,5 in order to render myself a little more familiar with places in that country. It was pleasing. After it, I read part of my father’s Lectures, and found in them much food for reflection.

1.

The 81-year-old Captain White was murdered with hatchet and dirk (Boston Daily Advertiser, 8 April, p. 2, col. 1; Columbian Centinel, 10 April, p. 2, col. 3). The crime became “an all-engrossing topic” for nearly two months until announcement was made that the perpetrators had been discovered, again during their trials, and afterwards, because of the prominence of some of the accused. See below, entries for 29 May and note and 18 Aug. and note , 18 Aug. and notes there . The murder, developments subsequent thereto, and the trials of the accused are reconstructed in Charles Pelham Curtis’ “The Young Devils and Dan’l Webster,” American Heritage, 11:52–54, 101–103 (June 1960); also in Howard A. Bradley and James A. Winans, Daniel Webster and the Salem Murder, Columbia, Mo., 1956.

2.

With his letter of 31 March (Adams Papers), JQA had sent CFA Remarks of General Harrison Late Envoy ... to the Republic of Colombia, on Certain Charges Made against Him by That Government, Washington, 1830, which tended to justify the Bolívar government’s contention that Harrison had involved himself in their domestic conflicts ( DAB , article on William Henry Harrison). CFA amplified his views on Harrison in a letter to JQA, 17 April (LbC, Adams Papers).

3.

These amounted to $79 on JQA’s six shares of Neponset Bridge and five shares of West Boston Bridge stock (M/CFA/3).

4.

William Robertson, The History of America. GWA’s autograph is in an edition published at London in 4 vols., 1803, now in MQA. Also there, is an edition published at Basel, 3 vols., 1790, with JQA’s bookplate.

5.

John Chetwode Eustace, A Classical Tour through Italy, an. 1802. CFA owned an edition published at London in 4 vols., 1815, now in MQA.

Thursday. 8th. CFA Thursday. 8th. CFA
Thursday. 8th.

This was the day appointed according to immemorial custom for the annual fast—One of the practices of the puritans of whom I am reading.1 I did not therefore go to the Office, but passed my time in reading the ninth and tenth books of Robertson. They are written with a great appearance of fairness but he did not feel the great points of character he was describing, and his inclination is rather to slur than to praise.

I attended Divine service at Mr. Frothingham’s and heard a good Sermon, to which however I could not listen, perhaps from my unfortunate habit of inattention. This practice of fasting is now in a great measure done away. Few people think it proper to pursue it and perhaps as the circumstances of the Country are changed it is now without what was once its most rational purpose.

The remainder of my day was passed usefully in reading Graham 209in which I made considerable progress and in writing a little upon the subject. It is useless to read much without writing, for the impressions soon wear away from the mind unless stayed by some attempt to fix them more permanently than reading will do. The subject of our ancient history makes itself on the whole much more interesting to me than heretofore, and I think I shall follow it with much more earnestness. No person in this Country who professes to be well informed should be ignorant of it, and I who call myself a young man of distinction should be least of all so. Looked into Marshall’s first volume and found myself following implicitly Robertson and Chalmers.2 The more I see of this work, the less I think of it. Judge Marshall has however revised his first work. Evening, Eustace to my Wife, and afterwards my father’s Lectures. This is a day delightfully spent. How far preferable to the disgusting troubles of the world, yet it cannot always be enjoyed and perhaps the mixture gives it a keener relish.

1.

The spring fast-day, announced by governor’s proclamation, was observed in Mass. on the first or second Thursday in each April (W. DeLoss Love, The Fast and Thanksgiving Days of New England, Boston, 1895, p. 510–514).

2.

George Chalmers, Political Annals of the Present United Colonies, from Their Settlement to the Peace of 1763, Book 1, London, 1780. See entry for 15 April, below.