Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

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.

Thursday. 22d. CFA Thursday. 22d. CFA
Thursday. 22d.

I staid at my Office very quietly all the morning because one of my father’s Tenants complained he could not find me to pay his Rent. He did not come and I a little suspect that it is a take-in.1 I read a Chapter 266of Gibbon and had a visit from Mr. Gourgas which related to the two Farms belonging to the Estate of my Uncle. I could not give him any definite information but suppose some will soon come, so I promised to let him know. We had some conversation with regard to the condition of Mrs. Adams and her prospects. He takes out Administration himself but does not as yet know the extent of the demands upon the Estate. Received a short letter from my Mother postponing her intentions with regard to this Quarter.2

Dined at Mr. Frothingham’s with Mr. Brooks and my Wife. A pleasant day enough. Afterwards I went home and read a little of Spanish and Italian as usual. Evening quiet at home. Read to my Wife from the Appendix to Croker’s Boswell.3

1.

A swindle.

2.

LCA to CFA, 17 March (Adams Papers). Her hope to return to Quincy in early April had given way to a new date in early May.

3.

To the text of The Life of Samuel Johnson which John Wilson Croker had edited (5 vols., London, 1831), he had added in vol. 5 a General Appendix consisting of a miscellany of Johnsoniana including recollections of Dr. Johnson by Miss Reynolds, a selection of letters and prayers of Johnson, a collection of anecdotes, &c.