Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Sunday. 26th. CFA Sunday. 26th. CFA
Sunday. 26th.

The weather at last looks a little more in conjunction with the Season and the closing of Winter. Yet the whole surface of the Earth was covered with Ice this morning, making the walking difficult. I went to Meeting all day. Heard Mr. Frothingham from Ecclesiasticus 50. 6, 7, 8. “He was as the Morning star in the midst of a cloud: as the rainbow giving light in the bright clouds: and as the flower of roses in the spring of the year.” It was upon the respect to be paid to great men; occasioned more immediately by the celebration of Washington’s Anniversary. He considered the objections that had been made in two lights. First, as being directed against the practice of paying extraordinary devotion to man, second, as underrating the merits of others who were partners of the same struggle and producers of the same success. These he combated as unreasonable fears, for in the first place 248the man was dead, and could do no harm, in the second, nothing was claimed for him to the disparagement of others. He was in a degree the creature of circumstances which placed him at the head of our Revolution. He was a fitting Instrument chosen by Providence for a definite purpose. He then closed, by some severe strictures upon a Preacher who had vilified our Presidents at Albany. The whole in a strain of Eloquence of the first Order, and very far beyond the usual tone of the Preacher. A Mr. Green1 preached in the Afternoon from Acts 8. 30. “Understandest thou what thou readest?” There was no eloquence in him, but I obtained some information. He explained the manner in which the Testament should be treated. He considered it as the record of revelation and not the revelation itself. As designed not to be a system of morals to apply universally, but as intended for the information of the era in which it was written. It followed from this that in construing the Passages of the Testament, we should have regard to the local character of the illustrations and set it apart as distinct from the general rule which it conveyed. The first were used merely to impress the latter more strongly upon the mind, but have no binding force upon us. The rule however remains forever. He instanced several texts. I confess this gave me new ideas, though I suppose they are not original with him.

Afternoon at home. Read a Sermon of Massillon’s upon the mixture of virtuous and wicked in the world. Text Matthew. 18. 15. “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” He considers this mixture as beneficial in two ways. 1. Because the virtuous are either the safety or the condemnation of the wicked. By leaving them no palliation for misconduct 2. Because the bad teach lessons of instruction or conduce to the merit of the virtuous. I read it rather superficially.

Evening, did nothing. Conversation with my Wife. Read Dryden’s Absalom and Achitophel which contains many very masterly lines.2 Vigour is the great merit of them.

1.

Samuel Green was the minister at the Union Church in Essex Street, Boston; James D. Green was the minister at a Congregational church in Cambridge ( Mass. Register, 1832).

2.

The poems of Dryden read on each of the next several evenings are in vols. 1–2 of the edition of his Poetical Works at MQA owned by CFA; see vol. 2:369.

Monday. 27th. CFA Monday. 27th. CFA
Monday. 27th.

Very disagreeable day with snow. At the Office as usual. Passed the larger part of my time reading Gibbon and his doleful account of 249the sack of Rome and the spreading of the Barbarians over the face of the earth. It is all barren desolation. Received a very short letter from my Father merely saying that his engagements would be such, he should be entirely unable to write to me any more during this session. At the same time appointing me to the superintendence of his Affairs in Quincy, to the same extent at which I have those in Boston. I do not feel particularly pleased with the Job though it may add a trifle to my Compensation. The Cost of going out there to superintend will more than balance what I receive.1 Took a walk and then home. Afternoon I finished the Eclogues of Virgil besides writing an answer to my Fathers letter.2 This consumed my whole time.

Evening: my Wife had made an engagement to go and visit the Mother and Sisters of Mr. Frothingham.3 I accompanied her and Mr. & Mrs. F. There were several People there. I got through it pretty well. But my character is most exceedingly unfit for this kind of thing.

1.

JQA to CFA, 20 Feb. (Adams Papers). CFA had proposed in his letter of 5 Feb. to JQA (LbC, Adams Papers) that he assume the management of JQA’s affairs in Quincy which had suffered somewhat when under the oversight of Deacon Spear. JQA’s acceptance included his agreement to CFA’s proposed charge for the service: 5 per cent “upon all Receipts from that Quarter.”

2.

CFA to JQA (LbC, Adams Papers). For this letter, see below, entry for 7 March, note.

3.

Mrs. Joanna Langdon Frothingham, the widow of Ebenezer and the mother of Rev. Nathaniel Frothingham, lived at 28 South Street. Her two unmarried daughters were Priscilla Langdon and Abigail Langdon, later Mrs. Thomas B. Wales ( Boston Directory, 1832–1833; Thomas B. Wyman Jr., The Frothingham Genealogy, Boston [1917], p. 42, 58, 96, 126).