Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Thursday. 27th. CFA Thursday. 27th. CFA
Thursday. 27th.

The morning was very pleasant, but the usual change took place at noon, and we were chilled by an Easterly wind. At the Office, but felt indisposed to translating; so that I read the laws upon the course of Administration upon insolvent Estates, and made a reexamination of New’s Papers. Found nothing of any value. Mr. Kinsman called about a demand made in favour of New, and with some propositions to a settlement. I told him that I would attend to it. Mr. Greenough called to be paid his demand for the expenses of the Bust, a stale thing for which he ought to have been ashamed.1 I called on Mr. Bowditch for a memorandum of New’s debt to the Life Office but could get none.2 Called also upon Mr. Welsh for it. He had mislaid it. Thus the morning passed.

The Afternoon found me engaged in an occupation very different from my usual ones. I had sent for Prior’s Life of Burke to the Athenaeum, and could not help sitting down at once to it’s perusal.3 The character of the man, his eloquence, and the society in which he lived, all make him to me one of the most interesting individual biographies in the world. I could not leave excepting for an hour in the Evening to read to my Wife from Eustace. How valuable the privilege of the Athenaeum is to me. I obtain books to amuse my Wife whose state of health depresses her spirits, and to instruct me—Though my own resources are very considerable. Continued Prior until I had nearly devoured the volume.


Horatio Greenough had been commissioned by JQA to do the bust of his father to be placed above the memorial tablet in the Adams Temple at Quincy, and had also done a bust of JQA, both in 1828; see above, entry for 25 Oct. 1829; JQA, Diary, 20–25 Feb. 1828; and Portraits of John and Abigail Adams , p. 231–232, 234.


Nathaniel Bowditch was a director and the actuary of the Massachusetts Hospital Life Insurance Co. on State Street ( Boston Directory, 1830–1831).


The copy of James Prior’s Memoir of the Life and Character of ... Edmund Burke at the Boston Athenaeum is of the 2d edn., 2 vols., London, 1826.

Friday 28th. CFA Friday 28th. CFA
Friday 28th.

Morning bright and pleasant. I went to the Office as usual and passed a great part of my time in translating Aeschines. Mr. Chadwick came in and asked me to accompany the Directors of the Middlesex Canal tomorrow1—An arrangement to which I consented, providing I found no difficulty in my present situation at home, my Servant being gone to Quincy. Called to see Mr. Brooks and afterwards at the Bank to know if Whitney’s Note had been collected, found it was not yet due.

Returned home for an early dinner, in order to be able to go out and see how things went on at Quincy. My Wife accompanied me today. We found things in considerable confusion, and our woman very much discouraged at the magnitude of the Work. Things had been left so very dirty as to multiply the work exceedingly. It made me feel badly, as it showed the mode of life pursued by my father during the last Summer. It will be different this year I hope, but I care much less about it. We remained looking round until evening when we returned through Milton. I received a letter this evening from my Mother in answer to my first, counting very much upon my being there.2 Now I wait for the reply to my last, which will change the face of things. Evening, two hours of Prior’s Life of Burke.


Ebenezer Chadwick was one of the directors (Roberts, The Middlesex Canal, 1793–1860, p. 223).


LCA to CFA, 23 May (Adams Papers).

Saturday. 29th. CFA Saturday. 29th. CFA
Saturday. 29th.

Morning cloudy and threatening rain. After reading as much of Prior as possible, I went to the Office to stop only a few moments, before the proper time to go to meet the other gentlemen on the expedition. I went into State Street and after conversing with Degrand about the Salem Murder, the perpetrator of which has just been discovered,1 and also about the nomination of Mr. Randolph as Minister to Russia, a late wise measure of the President,2 I met the gentlemen and we got into Carriages to start for Charlestown where we stopped to see the 248new Mills, the superintendent’s House and every thing which might be considered curious.3 The set in our Carriage consisted of Mr. Coolidge, Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Joy and myself.4 From this spot, we rode to the Aqueduct over Medford river which we examined. I had seen it but a few days before so it was no curiosity.5 We then took the Canal Boat and went directly to Woburn. I saw nothing new excepting the breach made a few days since, and a stone lock which is certainly a very beautiful specimen of work. But the rage for railroads is increasing, and the determination seems to be to obtain one to go to Lowell at all hazards. The very one which will be ruinous to us. We arrived at Woburn in a shower, which changed to a settled rain for the afternoon. This is a beautiful place. I doubt whether any where a sweeter position for a residence could be found.6

Our body here assembled, and we found it consisted of ten of the Board and three visitors. Messrs. Guild, Sullivan, Coolidge, Thacher, Hallet, Chadwick, Joy, Baldwin, Eddy and myself,7 with Mr. Coles of New York, Mr. Whitwell and S. Torrey of Boston. Our dinner was good, and the conversation pleasant, but the party was so mixed it made Conversation a little hazardous, particularly when upon the ticklish points of Politics. Unfortunately, Whitwell touched upon the Hartford Convention, and gave us his idea of that body immediately after his explaining to us how the nonintercourse laws were evaded. The connection seemed to be good, as the one who justified what he himself had practised, would not be there to justify what would bear him out among others in doctrine. I felt awkwardly enough, and did not like to join him in the Conversation, particularly before so many Federalists among whom Mr. Sullivan was, who had taken pains to treat me politely. But it was lucky the conversation was changed for I might have become worked up to speak. There was much other talk about the present state of affairs which might as well have been omitted.

We rose from dinner and returned home, I being unable to accomplish what I had intended, the stopping at Mr. Brooks’, because the party went through West Cambridge, a different route. So that I was compelled to return to Boston before I could go to Medford. My wife was at the latter place, so that I took Chardon Brooks’ horse and went out getting there late, a Short Conversation and went to bed.


Rumor had followed rumor after the murder of Capt. Joseph White, and suspicion had been raised against a number of persons. However, on 27 May announcement was made that the case had been solved and arrests made. Confessions followed. Most of those involved were of good families. Accused as planners and instigators were two Salem brothers, Capt. Joseph J. Knapp Jr., 249married to the daughter of Capt. White’s housekeeper and niece, and Frank Knapp. It was alleged that Richard Crowninshield Jr. of Danvers had committed the act, having been hired by the Knapps because he had a gang organized for robbery and deeds of violence. Crowninshield committed suicide in his cell before trial. The trials of the two Knapps resulted in the conviction and execution of both. (Charles Pelham Curtis, “The Young Devils and Dan’l Webster,” American Heritage, 11:52–54, 101–103 [June] 1960.)


The damage done through the years both to JA and JQA by the rancorous enmity of John Randolph of Roanoke (Bemis, JQA , 2:132–133), and the outraged cries of the anti-Jackson press at the announcement of the appointment of the highly eccentric, if gifted, Randolph as minister, are grounds for a conclusion that CFA’s words are to be understood as bitterly ironic and that he regarded the appointment as an additional proof of that “imbecility” in the President of which CFA had but lately written.


The canal’s point of beginning was at a landing on the Mill Pond at the foot of Mill Street in the area known as Charlestown Neck. Close by were the mills given over to the grinding of corn and sawing of timber. The mills, the milldam, and the pond were owned by the Canal Co., having been purchased in 1803 to provide a terminus with storage facilities for lumber and merchandise. Improvements had been made at various times thereafter. (Roberts, The Middlesex Canal, 1793–1860, p. 113; Timothy T. Sawyer, Old Charlestown, Boston, 1902, p. 464.)


Joseph Coolidge, James F. Baldwin, Joseph B. Joy, along with CFA, were directors of the Canal (Roberts, The Middlesex Canal, 1793–1860, p. 223).


See above, entry for 15 May.


In its passage from Medford to Woburn, the canal, just beyond the Brooks estate and north of Mystic Pond, reached the Symmes or Aberjona River at about the seven-mile line. Here the river was crossed by another aqueduct; a short distance beyond were Gardner’s Locks. Through Winchester to Woburn the canal’s course was to the west of Wedge Pond and Mill Pond. Beyond the eight-mile line, after crossing Horn Pond Brook, the canal entered Hollis’ Lock and soon thereafter, Woburn. The canal then followed close to the eastern shore of Horn Pond, and at the north end of the pond, beyond the nine-mile line, reached Horn Pond Locks and the Woburn landing. Close by stood the popular tavern, built and several times enlarged by the Canal Company. The attractions of the spot caused it to become a resort area, well known for many years. The locks at Woburn, which together with the recently rebuilt aqueduct at Medford were evidently the objectives of the directors’ inspection trip, consisted of three sets of double locks with a total lift of about fifty feet. The lowest set of locks had been rebuilt in hammered granite in 1828. (Lewis M. Lawrence, The Middlesex Canal, Boston, 1942 [processed], p. 111–114; Roberts, The Middlesex Canal, 1793–1860, p. 195.)


Directors not earlier identified: Benjamin Guild, George Hallet, Peter O. Thatcher (same, p. 223).