Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Thursday. 12th. CFA Thursday. 12th. CFA
Thursday. 12th.

It rained occasionally throughout the day so that I concluded to remain quietly at home. Time taken up in reading Thucydides whose first book I finished and reviewed a considerable part of it. This makes rather an introduction to his History, than any part of the History itself. I think it valuable for its matter and manner, although a strict copy of it in these days would hardly be popular. The present age calls for more breadth as people take less time to think upon single subjects.

Afternoon read Seneca upon tranquility of mind. It is unfortunate for this author, that all his contempt of riches, and love for the most complete absence of cares arising from such a source, is set off against the fact in his life that he was himself immensely wealthy. Perhaps, 328abstractly considered there may be justice in his reflections. But I cannot help thinking the exercise of moderation in poverty, whether voluntary or involuntary, much easier, than in the possession of abundance. It is true that man’s course is more sure and safe from avoiding temptation, but it is certainly more honourable to resist it. I believe Seneca has the greater merit. He was rich and yet frugal, not from a saving or accumulating spirit, but from a feeling of moderation. In the evening, I read Ludlow and the usual Ramblers.

Friday 13th. CFA Friday 13th. CFA
Friday 13th.

Morning clear, but the day was cloudy with now and then a few drops of rain. I remained at home and passed my morning in reading Thucydides and the life of Pericles in Plutarch, which strikes me as rather unnatural this time. He ascribes motives of action to him worthy of the meanest Statesman and yet calls him the greatest. Even Thucydides who was opposed to him in the State, and who suffered from it, gives better and more probable reasons for his course of policy. Indeed Plutarch is a valuable writer for the temper which he usually treats things, but he is often incorrect and superficial in facts.

Afternoon, read the rest of Seneca upon tranquility. I am almost tired of him. He never varies from his strained, pointed and occasionally extravagant style. I stole an hour from him to read Sydney’s life and Apology. He is one of the principal martyrs in the cause of liberty. He seems to have been a stern republican in his principles and pretty consistent in the support of them. His views of Government I believe I shall read.1

Evening, my Wife and I went over and paid a visit to Mr. Beale and his children. Nothing of consequence occurred.

1.

JA had among his books now at the Boston Public Library two editions of Algernon Sidney’s writings which contained lives of Sidney: Discourses concerning Government ... to which is Added, a Short Account of the Author’s Life, 2 vols., Edinburgh, 1750; and Works ... a New Edition with Memoirs of His Life. Revised by J. Robertson, London, 1772 ( Catalogue of JA’s Library , p. 230).

Saturday. 14th. CFA Saturday. 14th. CFA
Saturday. 14th.

Morning clear, but occasional showers, in the day. I went to town. Time passed in performing commissions and paying visits. I called to see Mr. Blunt of New York at Tremont House and from thence was obliged by a request of his to go to my House. I then went to see Mr. Brooks. The public seemed interested in the last news from Washington of the Veto which the President has put upon the Bank bill.1 Such is 329the fate of our Country. All its creditable and useful institutions are to fall under the blows of ignorance and want of principle. Mr. Blunt again called upon me to obtain the Papers which I went to my House to obtain, and he delayed me rather longer than my usual time. I got home however in season for dinner.

Afternoon, read a little of Seneca, but most of my time was taken up in a long walk to Payne’s i.e. Penn’s hill for the purpose of collecting some of the rents due to my father. This carried me to several places, but I succeeded more than I expected. Quiet evening. Nothing of consequence.

1.

Report of the veto by the President on 10 July of the bill to renew the charter of the Bank of the United States was carried in the Daily National Intelligencer on 11 July (p. 2, cols. 5–6). The Veto Message on Returning the Bank Bill with His Objections, widely disseminated as a pamphlet, is in Richardson, ed., Messages and Papers , 2:576–591.