Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Saturday 24th. CFA Saturday 24th. CFA
Saturday 24th.

Morning at the Office as usual. Occupied myself in reading Marshall as much as I could, but owing to frequent interruptions was impeded somewhat in my progress as well as understanding of it. My father came in to talk of a variety of things and to ask me to go to Quincy with him which was arranged. I then seized the opportunity to consult him about his property here and the disposition of it and he gave me Carte blanche with it as he always does with his Agents. No wonder that they have cheated him. But as it is my intention to do by him as faithfully as I should were the case my own, I feel rather heavily the weight of the responsibility. Mr. Orcutt again called to intimate to me that I had admitted a bad tenant and to tell me he had not yet succeeded in raising any Money, a much more important and less agreeable piece of information. I told him to make another effort and if that did not succeed I would then myself take the Mortgage he offered as his Security. This with the payment of one or two small demands against my Father which were presented and one Post Office Account rather larger than I could quite comprehend, passed the morning.

My father dined with me as did John Gorham, brother of Miss 55Julia.1 Dinner much as usual excepting that I thought Abby made a little too much display, for the occasion and for my economical feelings. The weather was mild so that we rode to Quincy with my father after sunset without being uncomfortable, and that too by the way of Milton as we did before when I confess I suffered a little. We reached my father’s to take tea, found Miss Smith as usual, and Mr. William Greenleaf who is now occupied as secretary to my father, in copying the papers which Thomas left.2 He is not uninteresting. We snatched a moment to look at my father’s library which is gradually developing itself.3


John Warren Gorham was a student at Harvard, class of 1832. In addition to the intimacy of ABA and Julia Gorham, the families were close. Mrs. Brooks (Ann Gorham) was a cousin of Dr. John Gorham, Julia’s father. The Brookses’ son, Ward Chipman, between 1822 and 1826 studied medicine in Dr. Gorham’s office. Following the death of Dr. Gorham in March 1829, Peter C. Brooks contributed toward John’s schooling for several years. See Brooks, Waste Book, 8 Aug. 1822, 26 May 1826, 27 March 1829.


William Cranch Greenleaf (1801–1868), grandnephew of AA, succeeded his cousin, Thomas Boylston Adams Jr., as amanuensis. See vol. 1:434 and Adams Genealogy.


JQA’s diary entries reveal that since the arrival of his books he had been engaged assiduously in unpacking the trunks and boxes and shelving the volumes. According to Bemis, there were 5,000 to 6,000 books in the collection ( JQA , 2:188). The want of space to house it properly caused JQA to call it “l’embarras des Richesses; I have been half a century, as greedy of books as Helluo was of the Salmon’s belly. No such Library exists in the hands of any other individual in the United States; but I have never had the enjoyment of it; nor can I expect to have it now or hereafter for the remnant of my days.... The want of a place in which a Library can be stowed is an inconvenience which nothing but wealth can escape. A large house; and a very large Apartment are indispensable. These I shall probably never possess, and must make up my mind to finish my days without them” (Diary, 17 Oct. 1829).

Sunday 25th. CFA Sunday 25th. CFA
Sunday 25th.

The morning was bright and fair and the air as mild as Summer, so that I enjoyed the day considerably. We all attended Divine Service both in the morning and the afternoon and heard Mr. Whitney preach two Sermons of very indifferent interest. He is a preacher who looks ill suited to his new Pulpit and does not raise the character of the mind in it’s aspirations after good.1

But the most remarkable incident of the day was the first appearance of the Tablet which my Father has caused to be erected to the memory of his Father and Mother. It is very pretty and quite ornamental although in the utmost simplicity. The inscription was written by him, and is chaste and simple, merely recalling the dates and the incidents which made their lives so peculiarly memorable.2 I felt perhaps an undue elation upon seeing it but what is the objection. They earned 56their reward and it is but a humble one after all, and why should not I feel proud that they merited the distinction among men.3

Much of the day was passed in conversation with my father upon subjects of more immediate importance, relating to his affairs, and afterwards in examining his numerous books of which he has a fine Collection. They are selected generally with judgment and to great advantage, being rare and not elsewhere to be obtained. My passion for literature was much increased by the sight of the many books which surrounded me, all of which I felt as if I was anxious to read, and most of which it is more than probable I never shall touch. For what is the life of man and especially of one who has duties of other kinds to perform. All this was a little dull to Abby, especially the refined tone of Conversation of my father which is perhaps a little too literary now for the taste of the present age. My own information is often puzzled by it. But as I am fond of instruction, I like this means of enlarging it. The evening was passed at home. One or two visitors came in, Mr. Beale and Mr. Daniel Greenleaf,4 but they soon left us, and I passed an hour reading Mrs. Thrale’s Correspondence with Dr. Johnson.5


On Peter Whitney, minister of the First Church in Quincy since 1800, see vol. 1:157. The pulpit was that in the new stone edifice, in use for almost a year.


JQA had asked for CFA’s and ABA’s presence on the occasion, also the anniversary of the marriage of JA and AA, “as a special favour and if I may presume so far, would put it in the form of a Mandamus, and command you to come ‘Laying all other things aside’” (to CFA, 22 Oct., Adams Papers; JQA, Diary, 25 October). The bust of JA in white marble by Horatio Greenough (vol. 2:400; JQA, Diary, 20 June 1829) and the tablet beneath, on which Alpheus Cary had carved JQA’s tribute to his father and to his mother (vol. 2:399 and entry for 23 Sept., above), had been put into place only on the preceding Thursday. On that day JQA had also had their names carved on the granite stones in the crypt to which their remains had been removed from the churchyard on 1 April 1828 during the construction of the Adams Temple (JQA, Diary, 22 Oct. 1829; Bemis, JQA , 2:187). The tablet and bust are illustrated in Daniel Munro Wilson, The “Chappel of Ease” and Church of Statesmen [Quincy], 1890, facing p. 103; the inscription printed in Bemis, JQA , 2:125 (where the text is incorrect in one particular: the date of AA’s birth given on the tablet is “November 11/22 1744”). See also Portraits of John and Abigail Adams , p. 231–232, 234.


The self-reproach of pride in the erection of the memorial, evident in JQA’s diary as well as here, is the more understandable from the fact that “There are few such monuments existing in this Country, and indeed very few Churches of durable structure, in which they could be placed. There are three in the Stone Chapel at Boston—All of ante or anti-revolutionary personages.” It was after an inspection of these with Cary that JQA decided upon the form the memorial would take, deriving it principally from the monument to the wife and daughter of a colonial governor, William Shirley. (JQA, Diary, 9, 18 July, 22 Oct. 1829.)


George W. Beale (1782–1851) in 1792 had built a house just to the west of the Old House on Adams Street, Quincy. At least two sketches by him, one of the Old House and one of Mount 57Wollaston, survive; see further, vol. 2:151.

Daniel Greenleaf (1762–1853), an apothecary and doctor, had been a Quincy resident since 1797; see vol. 2:153 and NEHGS, Memorial Biographies , 2:34–37.


Hester Lynch (Thrale) Piozzi, Letters to and from Samuel Johnson ..., London, 1786. There is a copy of the 1788 edn. in 2 vols. in MQA.