Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

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

This was Christmas day. A day the celebration of which spreads itself over a very large portion of the Globe. A day however which carries with it less festivity now than it did in former times, and less here than it does elsewhere. It was clear and mild. I attended Divine Service all day. Heard in the Morning, Mr. Frothingham, in the Afternoon, Mr. Emerson. They were both Sermons upon the day. The former drew his Text from Matthew 2. 11. “And when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts: gold and frankincense, and myrrh.” His idea seemed to be that these words conveyed a beautiful idea of the species of worship acceptable in the sight of the Deity. They were each images, the gold of purity, the frankincense of prayer the myrrh of sorrow or tears. I confess I am somewhat of mortal mould, and take things more as I find them. Mr. Emerson was from Isaiah 9. 6, 7. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.” He compared the influence of the life of Christ with that of most of the mortal conquerors known to fame. That of these latter he affirmed to have been good though from no act of their own. I think the position questionable. That of the former was throughout perfect and so intended to be. A perfect example. He closed by predicting the spread of Christianity over the world. Mr. Emerson engages the attention, but I do not think him often conclusive. Read Massillon upon returning home. A fine Sermon upon the Catholic practice of Confession. Text from John. 5. 3. “In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.” He said the defects in confession might be likened to the three species of defects above named. 1. The blind, or those who from want of self examination did not know their own sins. 2. The lame, or those who made a partial or insincere confession. 3. The withered, or those who made it without sorrow and without repentance. The whole examination 205manifests considerable knowledge of human nature. But it is the gloomy side of it. There is no difference between the rigid Catholics and the rigid of all other Sects.

In the Evening, after reading to my Wife a part of the Canterbury Tales, I sat down and wrote off the larger part of my Second Number upon Mr. McLane after which The Spectator.

Monday. 26th. CFA Monday. 26th. CFA
Monday. 26th.

Morning cold again. I went to the Office as usual. And was very busy all my time in finishing the second Number began yesterday. This was written several times over. I closed it by one o’clock and sent it away.1 Then went down to the Athenaeum where I killed an hour in which I ought properly to walk for my health. Indeed I felt a little uncomfortable today from a Cold and head ach which seemed to foretell the far-famed Influenza.

In the Afternoon I finished the Treatise of Cicero “De legibus” which is in many parts defective. The Commentary is interesting but in some respects I think his brother Quintus is more than half right. The Roman Republic is a study for a Legislator. Though many of it’s best Institutions were borrowed from the Greeks. After all that we can say about it, this was a wonderful people and the world is more indebted to them than to any mere men it ever produced. They shone through the powers of the mind. While the Romans always shared this superiority more equally with that which came from the body.

Evening, the Canterbury Tales to my Wife, after which the Iliad, Gibbon and Spectator.


The second number of CFA’s series on the report of Secretary McLane appeared in the Boston Patriot on 29 Dec. (p. 2, cols. 1–2). In it, issue was taken principally with the means proposed by which the national debt could be redeemed at an accelerated rate. The argument was advanced that for the government to require the sale to the United States Bank of the shares in the Bank held by the Treasury would be unfairly disadvantageous to the Bank and to its private stockholders and unsound as a national policy.

Tuesday. 27th. CFA Tuesday. 27th. CFA
Tuesday. 27th.

Day cloudy and moderate. I went to the Office as usual. My time taken up in writing my Journal and a variety of incidental occupations. Called at Mr. H. W. Kinsman’s to ask him about the service of a Writ in Norfolk County. Having made my Writ, I went to the Athenaeum and obtained from there the Volume of land laws in order to criticize Mr. McLane a little upon that subject. I confess I was surprised to find 206the extent of my own ground when I came to examine this book—Which by the way is an exceedingly useful compilation.

Returned home and passed the Afternoon in reading Cicero de Officiis—Perhaps the very best of all his philosophical works. I have read it before, I well recollect when. It was when I came to Boston under a new impulse of existence,1 and sat down doggedly to study as the purpose of my life, instead of dissipation and folly. I was now therefore not so much interested in it.

Evening, continued reading the Canterbury Tales which are very certainly well told. After which, Mr. Brooks spent an hour conversing with us. I then studied the subject of the Land laws and finished with my usual numbers of the Spectator.


That is, 4 Feb.—10 April 1828; see vol. 2:210–228 passim.