Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Friday 15th. CFA Friday 15th. CFA
Friday 15th.

Morning cloudy with light rain, but it afterwards cleared away and became sultry. After an hour at home I went to the Office where I was busy as usual. Some time taken up in superintending some little repairs wanted to the different rooms in this building. This Property has been suffered to depreciate constantly while the rage for making handsome Offices has counteracted the necessity which could only keep them in demand. I am doing perhaps too much, though I am not sensible of being very extravagant. Little attentions given in time will do more and be less expensive in the end, besides giving an air of neatness which makes the place attractive. I feel as if I wish I had not nothing1 to do with this business however for it involves a responsibility I do not at all admire.

Read and finished the Analysis of Montesquieu, and also the Laws of Plato.2 This is a more sensible work than the Republic, although it still betrays the visionary and the Poet, rather than the practical clear minded Philosopher. After calling at the Athenaeum, I went home. 29Read some sections of the Oration pro domo sua, and was very much provoked at my laziness in not going faster. John Gorham took tea here.

Attended in the evening, a Meeting of the Republican Institution. Of this I am not a Member, but was invited to attend as representing my brother’s Estate which owns one Share.3 The question was upon a return of the Money. This was settled in the affirmative and a Collation for the Members provided to finish the Evening. I remained for a short time. The People were all unknown to me and I had a stupid time. Returned home and read a Review of Ross’s Voyage in an old Quarterly4 after which the Spectator.

1.

Thus in MS.

2.

In Bibliothèque de l’homme public, vol. 5, with CFA’s annotations.

3.

On the Republican Institution of Boston and GWA’s investment in it, see vol. 2:411–412; vol. 3:159.

4.

Quarterly Review, 21:213–262 (Jan. 1819).

Saturday. 16th. CFA Saturday. 16th. CFA
Saturday. 16th.

The day was dark and rainy. I read Aeschines as usual and went to the office where my time was passed with little interruption in reading and my usual occupations. Completed a Dissertation by Condorcet upon the question whether Errors are at any time useful in government.1 It is not very valuable, as the tendency of it is to weaken the belief in true Institutions the practical benefit of which no reasonable man can doubt. My own notion is that Religion is necessary to the human mind, and, even if I suppose it an error which I never could, that the error is practically productive of much of the whole amount of human happiness. This is an argument about which I should never reason, nor think of weighing the logical sentences of Condorcet or even much better writers. In truth if there is any thing which leads me more particularly to doubt the great benefits of the spirit of Revolution which is overrunning the Continent of Europe, it is the connection which seems evident between it and Scepticism. This leads to the unsettlement of all Society and brings us to a State of utter confusion.

Walked down to the Athenaeum where I looked over the European Papers. Full of moment. Afternoon, continued the Oration pro domo sua. It displays a good deal of vanity, let him say what he will, yet these little things are not to be weighed in the great scale of merit.

Evening, Mr. N. Hall, a Cousin of my Wife took Tea and passed the Evening. After which, I began reading Mackenzie’s Track to the Arctic Ocean,2 and my usual numbers of the Spectator.

30
1.

“Dissertation philosophique et politique” in Bibliothèque de l’homme public, vol. 6.

2.

Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Voyages from Montreal, on the River St. Laurence, through the Continent of North America, to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans, ... 1789 and 1793. With a preliminary account of the ... fur trade of that country, London, 1801.