Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Monday. 25th. CFA Monday. 25th. CFA
Monday. 25th.
Boston

Morning clear and pleasant but cold. After breakfast we returned to town with Mr. Brooks in the Carriage. I went to the Office after a visit from Miss Longhurst my quondam Tenant who told me a long story about her misfortunes occasioned by the conduct of a Custom House Officer. To be sure it was bad, but she explained enough of her course in the Spring to satisfy me that it was diamond cut diamond. I had for once an uninterrupted morning at the Office and read Mr. Meisel with some diligence. I begin to feel a little more settled there and as if I could pursue some regular occupation without having my time broken up. A man by name Hayden called and took one of the Houses in Tremont Street.1 Two left.

After dinner I was busy in reading Cicero’s second book de Inventione in which I made good progress and much more understandingly than before. There is a great deal in the connection which never is broken with impunity in reading Latin. Evening, my Wife read a good portion of Corinne and I a few Letters of Gray after which I 347accomplished a considerable part of Todd’s Sketch of Milton’s Life. I believe the events and the character of this Man’s Life are now pretty well impressed upon my Memory. I afterwards read the usual quantity of the Tatler. But I find it very difficult to see the great merit of this species of Essay Writing.

1.

D. Hayden (M/CFA/3).

Tuesday. 26th. CFA Tuesday. 26th. CFA
Tuesday. 26th.

Morning quite cold. After breakfast and the half hour to which I have now become limited in my Catalogue, I walked out first going down to see the Tenements in Tremont Street which are now nearly done. One of them is now occupied. The others I hope will soon go from my hands. At the Office, where I was busy in sorting and burning my brother’s papers. This occupation I take up occasionally only to turn off from it in disgust. There is an insuperable melancholy comes over me when I reflect upon poor George’s fate. When I think of the golden Spring, and then gradually draw my eyes to the cold and fruitless Summer.

I read a little of Mr. Meisel in which he talks of Treaties, Cartels, Conventions and the other formal acts of Diplomacy. This is not what I want. Returned home to find P. C. Brooks to dine with us. He was pleasant, and has softened a good deal of the roughness he used to have. Afternoon, finished the Review of the books de Inventione, from which I have benefitted so much that I believe I shall not go over it again, at least just now. Perhaps after I have read de Oratore I shall be able to understand it still better. Evening Corinne and Gray. After which I finished Todd’s Sketch of Milton and began Johnson’s. Was much struck with it’s malignity.1 Two numbers of the Tatler.

1.

Samuel Johnson’s “Milton,” one of the most captiously critical of his Lives of the English Poets, is in the 9th volume (p. 84–182) of the 12-volume edition of Johnson’s Works, London, 1792, now in MQA. In an inserted note in CFA’s hand issue is taken with one of Johnson’s linguistic criticisms (p. 110).

Wednesday. 27th. CFA Wednesday. 27th. CFA
Wednesday. 27th.

Morning thick, but it cleared away mild and pleasant. Went to the Office as usual and busied myself much of the morning in sorting and destroying Papers both of my late brother and Robert New. It is a poor business looking over such past affairs. It shows so strongly the vanity, the nothingness of Life.

My father sent me a Note1 and a Trunk to be forwarded, by which 348I am in a degree informed that my Mother has resolved to pass the Winter here and that my brother’s Wife goes on to Washington today without her. This is singular but not to me over agreeable. I had thought it probable, and yet when it comes out, so many objections present themselves as to make me dread it. The suitable time for this move has gone by.2

I read Meisel and finished the first Volume. At dinner with us today, Miss Julia Gorham and Horatio Brooks. I was dull. Began this afternoon upon Cicero de Oratore. The difference in the style is apparent. The former was the dry hard style of a beginner, this is the experienced pen of a practised writer. He flows with ease, and with dignity, having learned the art of amplification. Yet I was longer understanding the first ten Sections of this than the other. Evening, Corinne with my Wife and then Mason’s Gray to her. After which, Johnson’s Life of Milton and Critique. The latter is good though a little prejudiced. Two numbers of the Tatler.

1.

JQA to CFA, 27 Oct. (Adams Papers).

2.

The resolute opposition to JQA’s reentry into politics that LCA had expressed before JQA consented to be a candidate (see above, entry for 28 Sept., note) continued unabated after the fact. LCA having persisted in her determination announced to JQA a week earlier “not to go to Washington this winter” (JQA, Diary, 20 Oct.), JQA resigned himself to the decision and began to look to arrangements for making Quincy their year-round residence. In a letter to JA2 (27 Oct., Adams Papers), JQA asked that “all the boxes and cases of my effects, ... my manuscript Letter Books and Diaries, and my flannel and woollen Cloathing” be sent to Boston. Further, he instructed JA2 to advertise for sale JQA’s “two houses in F Street with the land and buildings belonging to them” for $20,000. The possibility that under the changed circumstances JA2 might not wish to remain in Washington did not escape notice: “Whether you will deem it advisable to remain at Washington for the sake of the business of the Mills, is for your consideration.” Beyond the attention given to the immediate consequences of the decision, he allowed himself only the observation: “The separation of the families is very painful to me, but I cannot help it.” Two days later, though plans for the winter in Quincy were reaffirmed, some doubts that announced decisions were immutable seem reflected in a letter modifying the earlier instructions: “You may for the present postpone shipping the boxes and cases, ... but send me my Letter Books, Diaries, and Cloathing” (JQA to JA2, 29 Oct., Adams Papers). However, if LCA was in fact weakening she gave no expression to it in a letter she wrote to JA2 the next day (Adams Papers):

“Do not condemn me for the choice I have made. It sprang from the conviction that I could not go on smoothly with my family holding the opinions which I do concerning the politics of the day without being looked upon as a treacherous spy by my husband and my children. I never was discreet and my feelings now run away with my judgment ere reason has time to act and my nervous system is too much shaken by long suffering to admit of my again plunging into the very focus of political machination. Do not imagine for one moment that I condemn your fathers choice. Family is and must ever be a secondary consideration to a zealous Patriot and in a world where alas I have found that the very best choice brings its evil it is ridiculous to complain of those casual dis-349appointments which may and which will probably produce the most fortunate results.”

LCA’s stance seemed no less firm to CFA, now deeply troubled by the effect his own expressed opposition to his father’s course may have had on his mother. In this mood he wrote somewhat disingenuously seeking his brother’s support in the effort to convince their mother that she should change her mind on the question of residence:

“You may perhaps think that I have advised to this course, but I can say very certainly that I am not sensible of any such thing. The probability is that my father’s accepting the nomination to Congress is unpleasant. Why it should be, I do not know.

“Under these circumstances I shall feel it my duty to recommend her to change her mind. A Quincy residence in her present condition is and always was an impossible thing. It is possible she might accept an invitation from me, which I shall give her if nothing better can be done, but my idea is she had better join you at W. soon. To this effect and as the case is a delicate one, I submit it to you whether it would not be advisable for you to write a mild letter, approving indirectly our Father’s course, and wishing perhaps requesting her company this Winter. But do not join these things, or make it appear that one is in for the sake of the other. I am thus earnest about this matter, because I feel as if it was a case that demands some attention.”

(CFA to JA2, 4 Nov., Adams Papers)

JA2, in his appeal to his mother (letter missing), seems to have followed CFA’s advice, but LCA was unwilling to admit that she had been moved:

“My health is the plea upon which you have put the most stress in your Letter and it is the very reason why I chose my residence here. The Climate will never prove half so deleterious to me as a house which will become the focus of intrigue and in which all those feelings of deep mortification and agony already so painfully endured will be aroused anew in a heart already half broken by its former sufferings. I look around me in vain for anything like benefit that has resulted to any one as a reparation for this suffering or as a motion for future action! Where is it to be found? Is it in the grave of my lost child? Is it in the very necessity which induces you to claim this sacrifice? Is it in the advantages resulting to any of our connections of either side? Or is it to the grasping ambition which is an insatiable passion swallowing and consuming all in its ever devouring maw.”

(LCA to JA2, 14 Nov., Adams Papers)

Nevertheless JA2’s letter (which JQA judged “kind and affectionate in its intentions” but “should have been rather more so in its form” [to JA2, 13 Nov., Adams Papers]), together with CFA’s efforts perhaps (see entry for 7 Nov., below), elicited a grudging consent: “Your Letter my Son ... has answered your intention that is that I again sacrifice myself to my family convenience.” However, LCA chose to base that acquiescence solely “upon the pecuniary principle.... I have no right to encumber the family with expences” (LCA to JA2, 14 Nov., Adams Papers). The im-we shall proceed to Washington” early passe ended, JQA was prepared to “hope impasse ended, JQA was prepared to “hope we shall proceed to Washington” early in December (JQA to JA2, 13 Nov., Adams Papers). The decision taken, however, did not immediately effect a change in LCA’s depressed state. Not until the month’s end was more than temporary improvement to be seen (see entries for 20, 21 Nov., 1 Dec., below). She was able to begin her journey to Washington on 3 Dec.; JQA followed on the 8th.