Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 3

Saturday 31st. CFA Saturday 31st. CFA
Saturday 31st.

The first incident which happened this morning was a fire, and not far from my House. We heard the alarm which proved to be from a house next to that occupied by Mr. Thomas Perkins, commonly called short Tom.1 It was kept under, luckily for had it once burst out, the wind was so high that in all probability the whole block would have been consumed. I went to the Office in the midst of a violent Storm of rain, and enjoyed a very comfortable portion of time in examining the Life of Arthur Lee, especially the Documents, which are very interesting as they respect the History of our Revolution. Mr. T. Welsh came in to speak to me about the purchase of his former residence in Hancock Street, which is offered now for Sale at five thousand dollars.2 I made several inquiries about the property, and satisfied myself that it would on the whole be a very safe purchase—And if possible intend to prevail upon my father to purchase it. It would prove better property than his Stock in the State Bank and might prevent his transferring the money to Washington on less safe speculations. I hope to see about it next Week.

My father himself made his appearance and upon my proposing it seemed to relish the plan without giving me definite instructions upon it. He came in through the Storm, in order to despatch a letter to Mr. Vaughan on the business of the Estate of Thomas Boylston,3 and to do some other business in relation to that Estate. As he was here I sent for 63Col. J. B. Davis who had some conversation with him upon the present state of political affairs highly interesting to me. Poor Davis feels himself in a very bad pickle, for he now does not know what course to take and whom to support and therefore feels restless until he can get some ground to stand upon. The prospect of the promotion of Otis to the government of the State seems to provoke him no little—And well it may.4 My father dined with me and was disposed to remain all night but John, his Servant was obliged to return so that he decided to go through a very disagreeable storm. I lost the afternoon for study, and so was obliged to satisfy myself with a little of La Harpe, who gives the Orations against Verres and Catiline, a due share of attention. Evening, read to Abby the beginning of Clarissa Harlowe,5 and closed as usual with five Chapters of John.

1.

Thomas Perkins lived on Sumner (afterwards Mount Vernon) Street which bounded Hancock Avenue at one end ( Boston Directory, 1829–1830). CFA gives his familiar name, perhaps to distinguish him from Thomas Handasyd Perkins, father and son.

2.

Thomas Welsh Jr. (1779–1831) was a son of Dr. Thomas Welsh (1752–1831) and his second wife, Abigail Kent (1750–1824), who was a first cousin of AA (vol. 1:15, 99). Along with Harriet (d. 1857), a daughter of his first marriage, Dr. Welsh and Thomas had lived at 20 Hancock Street ( Boston Directory, 1828–1829). GWA had rented a room there and lived at the house at the time of his death. Although Thomas, an attorney, continued to have his office at 23 Court Street, JQA’s building, he had earlier in 1829 had severe reverses, been imprisoned for debt, and lost his property (vol. 2:375, 399). On those members of the Welsh family mentioned, see also Adams Genealogy.

3.

JQA to Petty Vaughan, 31 Oct. (LbC, Adams Papers).

4.

John Brazer Davis (d. 1832) was editor of the Boston Patriot (1824–1831) and a long-time political supporter of JQA. See Bemis, JQA , 2:22, 206; and MHS, Procs. 49 (1915–1916): 178–256. His purpose at this meeting was to persuade JQA to allow him to publish immediately the “Reply to the Appeal of the Massachusetts Federalists” (JQA, Diary, 31 Oct.), which JQA had written earlier in 1829 while his defeat was still sharply felt and which was particularly bitter in its charges against Harrison Gray Otis. Those of JQA’s friends who had seen the document had advised against its publication; Davis however, in order to bolster his position, would seem to have been overstating the likelihood of another Otis campaign for the governorship. Otis, the mayor of Boston, had left the state scene after the decisive defeat of the Federalists in 1824.

JQA’s reaction to the plea to publish was “to wait yet sometime” (JQA, Diary, 31 Oct.). The “Reply” remained unpublished until 1877, when HA included it with the other documents in the controversy in New England Federalism, q. v. p. v–vii. See also Bemis, JQA , 2:167–176; Morison, H. G. Otis , 2:243–246, 249–251.

Davis was to be further identified with the Adamses in antimasonic politics of 1830–1831 and as an early encourager of CFA to write for publication.

5.

JQA’s bookplate is in the London edition, 2 vols., 1795, in MQA.