Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Monday. 19th. CFA Monday. 19th. CFA
Monday. 19th.

Morning clear but cold. I went to the Office as usual. Nothing of particular consequence in the time. I could not read a line yet my time did not appear to be adequately occupied. Busy upon a lease for one of the Tenants at my new Agency in Quincy. I then took a walk with Mr. Peabody to the North end to observe all the improvements that are making in that quarter. And from thence returned home.

I. Hull Adams returned from Quincy this morning to remain at my House until he goes away. Afternoon I continued my Spanish book with tolerable success.

We took tea early for the purpose of going to the Play. Our party consisted of Mr. Brooks, Mrs. Frothingham, Mrs. G. Brooks and her husband, my Wife and myself. The piece was Cinderella, that part performed by Mrs. Austin.1 It has been got up with much trouble and expense, and is performed on the whole with much better success than I could expect. The music took me back to New York and the period when I heard the Italian Company perform.2 There is a fascination in the style of Rossini though I should hardly think it would bear time and repetition. We returned home at eleven, highly pleased.

1.

Rossini’s opera Cinderella [Cenerentola] with Mrs. Austin in the title role was performed at the Tremont Theatre preceded by a comic opera in two acts, Music and Prejudice, in which Mrs. Austin sang the role of “Alfred (an 264English Gentleman on his travels)” (Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot, 19 March, p. 3, col. 5). On Mrs. Austin, beautiful and with a voice of great purity and range, see Odell, Annals N.Y. Stage , 3:309–312 and passim.

2.

That is, June–July 1826; see vol. 2:54–60.

Tuesday. 20th. CFA Tuesday. 20th. CFA
Tuesday. 20th.

Morning at the Office. I this day managed to accomplish all my usual work and make a little progress in Gibbon besides. I lament the misuse of my time very much. But this has been so often done and so little amendment has followed that I think I may as well say but little more about it. Took a walk with Mr. Peabody over Craigie’s Bridge to Charlestown and home.1

Afternoon, continued the reading of Spanish and dabbled a little with Italian. I think I have too many Irons in the fire, according to the old Proverb. But it is better to have too many than too few. It gives occupation and extends the means of enjoyment.

Quiet evening at home. I continued the lives of the Painters, read the Account of Blake who was little more than a Madman,2 and commenced that of Fuseli.3 Continued the Account of the French Revolution and began reading over Paley’s Evidences.4

1.

Craigie’s Bridge, when opened in 1809, connected Boston with Lechmere’s Point in Cambridge. Some time after the bridge was built, a spur was constructed to Charlestown, taking off from the main bridge before it reached the Cambridge shore. The spur became known as Prison-point Bridge (C. H. Snow, A Geography of Boston, Boston, 1830, p. 125).

2.

The account of William Blake in Cunningham, British Painters, 2:124–155, while it reveals a sensitivity to his genius, gives such emphasis to his madness and to anecdotes illustrative of it as to explain CFA’s observation.

3.

In Cunningham’s British Painters, Fuseli’s life is at 2:223–273. CFA had two months earlier read a different life of Fuseli, which had not satisfied him; see above, entries for 17–22 Jan. passim.

4.

William Paley, A View of the Evidences of Christianity, first published in 3 vols., London, 1794, went through 17 editions in the next 27 years. The reading of it was required in the junior year when CFA was an undergraduate at Harvard (above, vol. 1:12).

Wednesday. 21st. CFA Wednesday. 21st. CFA
Wednesday. 21st.

I made my morning much more profitable today, accomplishing a Chapter of Gibbon upon the victories of Belisarius. The Author has thrown an Interest into his History which one could hardly have expected, considering the time and places he was writing about. I have found it very easy to go through now nearly seven volumes and if I had more time should still be willing to employ it in the same manner.

I was a good deal interested in a debate that took place in the House of Representatives upon a request of my Father to be excused from serving on the Committee of Manufactures. The excessive praise that 265was paid him from Quarters three years since the most violent against him, and the cautious course of those formerly of his party, now friends of Mr. Clay, are worthy of remark.1 They show what I have long since expected that he stands now between two forces which may or may not crush him.

The weather was bad and I did not walk, but I was occupied in Commissions for about the same length of time. Mr. Brooks dined with us so that one hour was taken from my afternoon. I devoted one hour to Spanish, another to Italian, which I have determined to try to learn. Evening quiet at home. Read the Account of Fuseli and after it, the French Revolution and part of Paley.

1.

The debate in the House on 16 March occasioned by JQA’s request to be excused from further service as chairman of the Committee on Manufactures was reported in the Daily National Intelligencer on 17 March (p. 2–3). The announced reason in justification of the request was his impending absence from the House for a considerable period required by his membership on the select committee to investigate the United States Bank. In the debate which followed the motion those who were opposed to granting the request were strongest in their praise of JQA as uniquely able to resolve the sectional conflict over the tariff, as almost alone enjoying the confidence of all parties. Those who spoke in this vein were C. C. Cambreleng of New York, William Drayton of South Carolina, James Bates of Maine, Jesse Speight of North Carolina. Of those who spoke in favor of granting the request for a variety of reasons, the most laudatory of JQA was John S. Barbour of Virginia. Edward Everett, who moved to postpone, and H. A. S. Dearborn, both old supporters, were more temperate in their words of praise. The debate ended when JQA withdrew his motion, reserving the privilege of renewing the request at a later date.

JQA’s effort to have himself removed from his onerous chairmanship was of longer standing than was suggested in the debate. When he took his seat in the House in Dec. 1831, he had wished assignment to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the chairmanship of which seemed to some naturally his by virtue of the offices he had held. But JQA had been kept from the Committee by the fact that he and President Jackson were not in that easy communication that seemed essential for the proper functioning of the Committee. Instead, the Speaker, Andrew Stevenson, had appointed JQA to the most sensitive and perhaps most thankless position the Speaker had to confer, that of guiding a tariff bill through a bitterly divided House. JQA had recorded that it was “a Station of high responsibility, and perhaps of labour more burdensome than any other in the House ... for which I feel myself not to be well qualified” (Diary, 12 Dec. 1831); and on the next day wrote to CFA (letter in Adams Papers) that he believed the Speaker “took me for a Jack, which any Mason or Anti-mason might have told him I am not. The Camel kneels to receive his burden, and so did Caesar’s horse. I shall rather resemble the Horse of Sir Hudibras and kneel to cast my burden off.” On the whole episode, see Bemis, JQA , 2:240–242.