Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Tuesday. 6th. CFA Tuesday. 6th. CFA
Tuesday. 6th.

A gloomy day. Besides the want of rest caused by the fretfulness of the Child, our anxiety about her was very considerable. She shows every symptom of illness and we feel it the more as we are so little accustomed to it. My time was passed at the Office in reading Mr. Clay’s Speech upon the Tariff which strikes me as rather above the usual character of his writings, and only defective in prudence.1 It took the whole of my time.

Afternoon. Read the first Book of the Aeneid with great ease and much pleasure. The pictures are graphic, the versification smooth and the language elegant. In short about as good as one can imagine a thing of the kind.

Evening. My Wife retired so early that I devoted two hours and a half to the diligent study of Montesquieu upon the greatness and the decline of Rome.2 A book containing a great fund of reflection. He studied History as it should be studied, for the sake of the general 255conclusions he could draw to instruct the human race. But though both in this work and in the spirit of the laws he seems to have much method, in fact his books are but bundles of thoughts irregularly spread.


The speech delivered in the Senate by Henry Clay on 2, 3, and 6 Feb. “In Defence of the American System” was printed by the Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot on 6 March as a 4-page extra section. Also published separately, CFA had a copy in his pamphlet collection (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 326). See also, above, entry for note.


In the edition of the Ceuvres of Montesquieu at MQA which CFA used (above, entry of 1 May 1831), “Considérations sur les causes de la grandeur des romains, et de leur décadence” is in vol. 6.

Wednesday. 7th. CFA Wednesday. 7th. CFA
Wednesday. 7th.

Isaac Hull Adams came to town this day and established himself at our house for the purpose of preparing himself for West Point.1 I was at the Office. Anxiety for the Child not materially diminished. Took a walk to a house in Cedar Street for the purpose of looking at some of the Furniture which I wanted. It did not at all answer my expectation. This and a regular walk at one o’clock fatigued me considerably as I had passed but a middling kind of a night. Read a considerable quantity of Gibbon however, upon Justinian and Theodora. Bad enough in all conscience.

Afternoon. Mr. Brooks having dined with us, I remained down stairs considerably longer than usual, so that I accomplished only about five hundred lines of the second Aeneid, with the description of the taking of Troy. I think it is a very great mistake committed to make boys or men read Virgil first and Homer afterwards. One would think the true way to be exactly the reverse. For the former takes up the subject just where the other drops it. Perhaps it is one of the most curious of occurrences that perfection in this kind of style should have been reached so early.

Evening, we omitted our usual reading. Mr. Degrand came in, and passed an hour. I read more of Montesquieu, and progressed in my irregular study of the harmony of the Gospels.


CFA had invited Isaac Hull Adams to stay with him and ABA until Hull’s departure for West Point in June. “He will have the use of my study part of the time entirely to himself and always without interruption. Though no great hand at the Mathematics I also agreed to do what I could to help him, as a Teacher.” CFA to JQA, 27 Feb. (LbC, Adams Papers).

Thursday. 8th. CFA Thursday. 8th. CFA
Thursday. 8th.

Fine morning. I went to the Office but did not improve my time to the utmost. In the first place I was busy about Commissions for an 256hour, then went to the Athenaeum besides taking a walk at one. So that I only made up my Diary, in itself a tolerable Job, and read Mr. McDuffie’s Paper upon the Bank of the U.S.1 Our political affairs are becoming more and more black. For my part I see little prospect for us.

In the Afternoon I continued the Aeneid, finishing the second and part of the third books. The Child seemed slightly better, although very fretful and apparently suffering. The total want of power to convey an idea of its sensations to others makes the sickness of an infant extremely distressing.

Quiet evening at home. I read part of Goethe’s Memoirs which seem to me to be rather a record of trifles remembered by an old man. Mr. T. Davis came in and spent part of an Evening very agreeably. He has a great deal of conversation and that of a sensible kind. After he went, I continued Montesquieu, and my study of the Bible.


The speech of George McDuffie in the House on 27 Feb. in support of the United States Bank was reported in the Daily National Intelligencer (28 Feb., p. 2–3; 29 Feb., p. 2–3). His “paper” on the subject is probably his report as chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, which on 10 Feb. accompanied the introduction of a bill to recharter the Bank (Daily National Intelligencer, 11 Feb., p. 3, cols. 2, 4).