Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Wednesday. 14th. CFA Wednesday. 14th. CFA
Wednesday. 14th.

Morning clear and quite cool but it soon clouded over. I pursued my usual study of Demosthenes, until it was time to go to the Office. Began today a review of the Federalist which I propose now to examine more thoroughly than I have yet been able to do.1 It is becoming every day of more importance to know what the framers of the Constitution did really and in truth mean. One man says one thing, another thinks the opposite to it is the proper sense, and none are willing now to bow to the decision of any common arbiter. If there is any thing more particularly dangerous than the rest, to our prospects of continuance as a Nation, it is this growing indisposition to compromise. A disposition which if cherished in the minutest concerns of life makes unhappiness, 136must be destructive when it is prevailing in the divisions of a People. If I should ever be called to deliver any address, I think this would be a useful subject. No body called today. I passed an hour in reading George’s Papers, particularly his letters to Mary. How sorrowful they make me. And when I look back, what causes have I to be grateful to the protection of a divine Providence.2

Returned home and passed the afternoon in reading the Letters to Atticus. An Essay of Lord Bacon on Seeming Wise, and in the Evening Translated the rest of my task excepting the last Section, and the Spectator. My Wife was pretty well, the Child with a little cold.

1.

CFA’s earlier reading in The Federalist was in 1826; on the Adamses’ copies, see above, vol. 2:29.

2.

See above, vol. 3, entry for 8 Sept. 1829. No letters from GWA to Mary Catherine Hellen (Mrs. JA2) are known to survive.

Thursday. 15th. CFA Thursday. 15th. CFA
Thursday. 15th.
Quincy

The day was cloudy, and it rained in showers all along, until it set in more heavily towards night. After reading a part of the Oration of Demosthenes, I went to the Office and occupied myself in my usual avocations, attending particularly to my Journal and Accounts.

Mr. Kirke came in and notified me of his being ready to take us out, so that accordingly I made ready. This visit to Quincy is an unexpected one to me. I had resolved not to go again and had it not been for the strong recommendations of both Doctor and Nurse I should have wished to avoid it.1 Returned to my house and found it in disorder and my Wife under the impression that leaving a place almost always creates.

We got through the ride very well, but the circumstances attending our arrival were not pleasant. Madame was sick, Miss Roberdeau unwell, the day gloomy—All together combined to dispirit. My Wife was strongly under the influence,2 and I escaped it more only from occupying myself in making my arrangements to establish myself in the Office independently of any other person’s room.3 I have come here this time on a new footing. I remain here all the time instead of passing my mornings in Boston, and I abstract myself more in order to avoid being entangled in the results likely to occur from diversities of sentiment between my father and myself.4 These results made my last stay here unpleasant, and unless I prevent it by decided conduct will this.

Read Bacon’s Essay on Friendship, but rather negligently, and two numbers of the Spectator as usual.

137
1.

ABA had not regained her strength, had lost considerable weight, and was not able to resume her management of the household; LCA2 had had to have a tooth extracted before she was a month old. The conditions that impelled the removal to Quincy and the benefits effected by the visit are evident in LCA’s letters to Mrs. JA2:

“[Y]ou would be shocked to see how she ABA has fallen away to a mere shadow. Her spirits were almost as much affected as her health but they are recovering and I hope much from her visit tho’ I fear it will take a long time to restore her. The Boston system of nursing does not suit me at all from what I see of it....

“The Baby grows finely and I think promises to be like our stock; she will have dark eyes like her Mothers I think but every body here calls them Blue. Her head is quite bald in front and so exactly like her Grandfathers that it is hardly possible to look at her without laughing. Poor little thing her tooth was obliged to be extracted by a dentist who was under the necessity of making an instrument for the purpose. It was in the under jaw with a perfect root the top of it indented and as white and sound as that of Infants at the regular age. This circumstance has set all the doctors to work at their books but hitherto it is said there has no case been found recorded. If it is to be productive of so much research it must at all events be called a wise tooth”

(20 Sept., Adams Papers).

“Dr. Holbrook ... says Abby’s ... child [has] ... a very uncommon head the bones of which are more formed than that of a much older Child, and the shape of it is exactly like her Grandfathers which makes her look as wise as an Owl. She bids fair to be as lively as her Mother”

(13 Oct., Adams Papers).

See also, LCA to Mrs. JA2, 27 Aug., 5, 10, and 27 Sept. (all in Adams Papers); and below, entries for 21 Sept.11 Oct. passim.

2.

That is, influenced by the surrounding gloom.

3.

On “the Office” at Quincy, not to be confused with CFA’s office in Boston, see below, entry for 17 Sept. and note.

4.

The subjects which were the cause of friction were JQA’s financial affairs and his antimasonic politics. See above, entries for 22 May, 18 and 19 July, 25 August.