Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Tuesday. 13th. CFA Tuesday. 13th. CFA
Tuesday. 13th.

Morning again gloomy and cold, with rain and snow. I went to the Office as usual and received a letter from my father upon miscellaneous subjects which was quite interesting.1 The rest of the time was passed in reading Marshall, the fifth volume of which I finished. It has refreshed my memory upon the principal matters relating to the Administration of Genl. Washington, a period of history which is becoming every day more interesting and important. But it has dissatisfied me more with a work which is miserably poor in reflection, and withal carries with it no slight evidence of the feelings of party, and the hurry of agitated writing. But my pursuit of the earlier portion of our History engrosses me now infinitely more, and I intend to carry it on more fully in future.2

My time was entirely at my own disposal and I did little or nothing, my books not being here. I looked over my brother George’s papers to see what was to be done with Mr. Whitney’s claim, but could make nothing of it. Afternoon passed in thinking and writing. But to me it is exceedingly hard to do the latter and I try over and over again. I did begin in earnest today and am resolved now, to intermit as little as 213possible. Evening, Eustace to my Wife and the enthusiastic description of Rome—After which, the second volume of my father’s Lectures.

1.

8 April (Adams Papers).

2.

The idea of writing an essay in American history had been evolving since 3 April following completion of the reading of Robertson, Hutchinson, Chalmers, Marshall, and Grahame comparatively, and took final shape as a study of the Puritan inheritance in New England. CFA was engaged steadily during the next several weeks in preparing successive drafts. Submission to the North American Review in the form of a review of Grahame was followed, after considerable delay, by publication. See below, entries for 14 April–1 May; Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel Nos. 294, 316; North Amer. Rev. , 32:174–195 (Jan. 1831).

Wednesday. 14th. CFA Wednesday. 14th. CFA
Wednesday. 14th.

Morning at the Office. Occupied in Graham’s second volume which is exceedingly interesting. It contains the History of the rise of the settlement of Maryland, the Carolinas, New York and Pennsylvania. The account of these so far as I have gone each presents distinct and strongly marked features. My views vary as I read, and I am fearful my attempt at writing will again terminate abortively. Yet my impressions are rather strengthened of the correctness of my own views. Perseverance is all I need, and confidence in myself which is very grievously deficient. I then took a short time to look further over the papers of my brother which still remain and I destroyed several of them. Then I went down to see some new books which are advertised to be sold tomorrow.1 The temptation was considerable, but I was resolved to withstand it, as I have a plan to pursue which these things should not shake. Unity of purpose in life seems to be the great secret of success. My poor brother’s records show much and bright talent, but constantly diverted by the seductions of pleasure, and even the trifles of life.

After dinner I sat down to my studies but being unable to procure Chalmers from the Athenaeum I was in some measure deprived of the afternoon for having finished what I had to say of Robertson, I could not proceed, and therefore wasted much in reading trifles. The day was clear and pleasant, and my spirits which had been wavering now took a more steady balance. The Evening was short. I read only a little of Eustace, and afterwards my father’s Lectures on Oratory.

1.

At the Julien Auction Rooms, corner of Milk and Congress streets (Boston Daily Advertiser, 14 April, p. 3, col. 5).

Thursday 15th. CFA Thursday 15th. CFA
Thursday 15th.

Morning at the Office. The day was mild and bright though the Easterly wind prevents any softness in the air. Occupied all the 214morning in reading Graham and was much interested in it. His account seems to be fair and tolerably impartial—Giving to every author in turn his due merit and correcting them properly when wrong. My mind is not firmly made up, I think or it would waver less about my purposes. This subject is I am afraid as yet beyond me. But I will persevere and finish something at any rate for myself, and then we shall see what can be done with it.

My time was very little interrupted. After dinner I went myself to the Athenaeum, where I found Chalmers book, and took the opportunity to look over all the works upon America which I could find there. My general impressions become strengthened but as yet the mass is not woven so as to bear examination. My own impression is that the New England character has not been justly appreciated, that men have taken the start in giving false and unfavourable views of the early settlers which it will take long years to shake off. But whether by previous study or occupations I am the fit person to shake it off remains to be seen. At any rate it would be an honourable quest, and peculiarly appropriate in me, the descendant of one of the clearest of its lines, not undistinguished in its history. My thoughts flow in upon me far too fast to speak them even if I would. But they are only fit for secret meditations.

The evening was passed as usual, reading to my Wife out of Eustace the splendid description of the Church of St. Peter’s at Rome. A magnificent subject. After it, I read Mr. Clayton’s Speech in the Senate,1 and a Lecture of my Father’s. My spirits today exceedingly agreeable.

1.

JQA, in a letter to CFA (6 April, Adams Papers), had enclosed Speech of Mr. [John Middleton] Clayton, of Delaware ... on the Fourth Day of March, ... the Resolution of Mr. Foot of Connecticut, being under Consideration (Washington, 1830), with the statement that it “disputes the palm with that of Mr. Webster.” CFA was more restrained in his judgment of it (CFA to JQA, 17 April, LbC, Adams Papers).