Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Wednesday. 26th. CFA Wednesday. 26th. CFA
Wednesday. 26th.

Morning clear but rather more moderate than it has been. I went to the Office as usual and was busy in despatching Jonathan Simple,1 after which I wrote my Journal and then sat about copying my papers obtained yesterday. By some strange luck however, I was more than usual interrupted by persons upon various errands, so that I accomplished in fact only the letter of Mr. Crawford2 which was very short. This certainly was not a very good morning’s work.

Returned home to dine, and passed the afternoon in copying my father’s reply,3 and preparing two or three other short papers which it was necessary for me to finish to send off by the evening’s Mail. No time was left me to make particular use of and so I used the fraction in reading a report of Col. Davis’s upon Anatomy, which seemed a curious thing for the purpose it was designed to promote. He and I have different notions about the General Court.4

Evening, reading the Year in Spain which we have almost finished. It is a very good production for a young man and keeps up it’s interest very well. Perhaps a little too much enthusiasm for the different classes of the Spanish Women, but that is very pardonable in a young man. I afterwards read Vossius, in his sketch of the different kinds of figurative language, and finished with two Numbers of the Tatler.


Perhaps the nom de plume used by CFA in his communication to the Boston Daily Advertiser, but which when published was unsigned. More likely CFA 410was using it as a generic name for anonymous letters to the press as an equivalent of “John Smith” or “John Doe.”


See entry for 22 Jan., above.


That is, to Crawford; same.


In the Mass. House of Representatives on 25 Jan. “on motion of Mr. Davis of Boston, the bill more effectually to protect the sepulchres of the dead, and to legalize the study of anatomy in certain cases, was taken up for consideration” (Boston Patriot, 26 Jan., p. 2, col. 1).

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

Morning at the Office as usual but my time as unsatisfactorily accounted for as at any time. I wrote and read a little of Enfield walked down into State Street to see if I could not find Mr. Curtis, to tell him of the answer made by my father upon his proposition, relating to the Affairs of Mr. Boylston.1 Called in to see Mr. Brooks and read a little of the Newspapers at the Reading Room and besides a walk, thus went the day.

My Wife was quite unwell today and disturbed by some domestic trouble—Our household having got into difficulty. She went to Medford with Mrs. Frothingham and I spent a long afternoon in finishing the Oration for Roscius of Ameria, and began the review after reading my father’s letters upon it.2

How wonderful when I come to think of it, that in the midst of the heat of his Presidential situation he could find time and inclination to write such Letters. Is there another man like him at present in public life. Perhaps Mr. E. Everett, in point of acquirement, but in moral feeling not one.

A short evening in which we did nothing. I afterwards read Vossius upon Figurative Language and finished with the usual Numbers of the Tatler which have become dry.


JQA’s decision was to postpone the application of the Boylston executors to the Harvard Corporation upon which he had had a conversation with Nathaniel Bowditch (JQA to CFA, 7 Jan., Adams Papers; also see above, entry for 25 Jan., note ).


JQA to CFA, 13, 17, 23 June 1828, Adams Papers.

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

Morning at the Office. The weather having very much moderated, is no trifling source of satisfaction to me who am not fond of the excessive cold. I was busy this morning in my usual pursuits and read a portion of Enfield. Two or three visitors interrupted me for very short periods—Mr. Curtis about the application to the College, Mr. Quincy with his Seal requested by me for my father1—and I went out to see Mr. Harding’s Picture of Mr. Webster, in company with Mr. Peabody. 411It is a great likeness and will I think do Mr. Harding much more credit than his picture of Judge Marshall. I saw also several other pictures at the same place of men whom I had formerly seen often enough. They were generally good likenesses but a little flattered I think. That is to say, the wrinkles are a little smoothed from the faces of Mr. Monroe and John Randolph. I was on the whole well pleased with the specimens I there saw of his painting excepting in the resemblance of my father which I abominate.2

Took a walk and returned home to dine, after which I finished the review of the Oration for Roscius, quite an able effort. The reading of these instead of giving me courage plunges me into despair. What can I do, that is not mawkish when I think of this. Evening a visit from Edmund Quincy. Finished Vossius and read the Tatler.


Toward the end of 1830 JQA conceived the idea of having an heraldic design made for a copper plate that would contain, within its shield, elements from the seals of the Adams, Smith, Quincy, and Boylston families. It was his intent that the engraving should be “a memorial to my children of my father and mother” and that he would use impressions from it as his bookplate. He thereupon employed William J. Stone, Washington engraver, who had executed the 1823 facsimile of the Declaration of Independence, to design and execute the plate (JQA, Diary, 30 Dec. 1830; 14, 27 Jan., 1, 4 Feb. 1831). For Stone’s use, JQA wrote to CFA for wax impressions of the Smith and Quincy seals, most recently in his letter of 15–16 Jan. (Adams Papers), in which he wrote, “I wait for the Quincy blazonry of Magna Charta.” The plate was completed on 17 Feb. (JQA, Diary), and on 28 Feb. JQA sent to CFA an impression of it stamped on the upper portion of the first sheet of his letter paper. To this he subjoined an explication of each of the elements of the seal (JQA to CFA, 28 Feb., Adams Papers; printed along with a reproduction of the bookplate in Catalogue of JQA’s Books , p. 142–144).


The portraits by Chester Harding (1792–1866) were currently held in high esteem. Harding had made his residence in Boston since 1826 and at this time had his studio at 22 Beacon Street ( Boston Directory, 1830–1831). During 1828 he had spent several months in Washington, where a large number of persons prominent in public life sat for him. At that time he did portraits of JQA, of Chief Justice John Marshall, and of Daniel Webster, among others (Margaret E. White, A Sketch of Chester Harding, Artist, Boston, 1890, p. 182–183, 194). However, it is probable that the portraits of Marshall and Webster to which CFA here refers were not those done in 1828. The Boston Athenaeum in Jan. 1830 commissioned Harding to do a full-length portrait of Marshall standing, paid him $350 upon its completion, and exhibited it at its Gallery later in the year (Mabel M. Swan, The Athenaeum Gallery 1827–1873, Boston, 1940, p. 118–120). The Webster portrait which CFA here reports seeing for the first time is probably the full-length one of Webster standing which Harding exhibited later in 1831 at the Athenaeum Gallery, which was then purchased by several subscribers for $500 and presented to the Athenaeum, and which was badly damaged in 1848 and repainted by Harding in 1851 (Swan, The Athenaeum Gallery, p. 120). A smaller version of this portrait is now at the Massachusetts Historical Society and may be closer to the larger painting in its original state than the repainted one at the Athenaeum. It is possible that CFA is referring to an altogether different portrait of Webster by Harding, for Webster was a favorite subject of his; nine portraits of Webster by 412him were listed in 1883 (MHS Procs., 2d ser., 2 [1885–1886]:261–262), and others have since come to light. The Marshall portrait, still hanging at the Athenaeum, is reproduced in Swan, The Athenaeum Gallery, facing p. 118; the MHS’s Webster is reproduced in Guy C. Lee, History of North America, Phila., 1903–1905, 13:259.

Harding painted at least two portraits of JQA, one in 1827, and another, partly from life and partly a copy of the first, in 1828. CFA’s earlier verdict was that though a likeness it was “not an agreeable one.” See vol. 2:160, 177; also JQA, Diary, entry for 20 Feb. 1828. One of the two is probably the portrait now at the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, Rhode Island. It has been reproduced in Frederic A. Ogg, Builders of the Republic (The Pageant of America, vol. 8), New Haven, 1927, p. 240.