Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

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.

Sunday. 15th. CFA Sunday. 15th. CFA
Sunday. 15th.

Fine day though cool for the season. I attended Divine service and heard Mr. Newell of Cambridge preach. His Sermons were interesting, though disfigured by the peculiar manner which gives harshness rather than attraction to his style. I think he preached his morning discourse at Mr. Frothingham’s although I do not find it.1 The text was from Luke 12. 13 to 21 verses—The well known parable of the rich miser. The afternoon was upon righteousness. It is far better for a Congregation to have such a preacher as this, who will at least give them subjects for reflection, than the drowsy nothings of many of the old school. I asked him to come and dine with us, but he had been preengaged. Miss Smith came down.

Afternoon, nothing material. I read several articles in the Biographia Brittanica upon various persons of whose history I wished to know something.2 Afterward a little of the life of Waller which I did not admire.3 Quiet evening at home.

1.

That is, CFA thinks that he had earlier heard William Newell preach on the same text at the First Church, Chauncy Place, but this impression could not be confirmed by reference to the diary records of sermons heard.

2.

JQA’s bookplate is in the edition of the Biographia Britannica published at London, 1747–1763, in 6 vols., now at MQA.

3.

Perhaps CFA was reading the life by Percival Stockdale prefixed to Edmund Waller’s Works in the edition published at London in 1772, which, with JQA’s bookplate, is now at MQA.

Monday. 16th. CFA Monday. 16th. CFA
Monday. 16th.

Pleasant day. I went to town principally for the purpose of obtaining from Mr. Blunt the Papers which I lent to him the other day. My time 330was taken up as usual in a variety of small ways. Read the Newspaper and found that my father had been getting himself into difficulty with the House which I do not admire. The affair terminated peaceably. But I am more and more satisfied that he is not suited to an assembly of this character. He cannot see a great many things that are wrong without strongly resenting it. Yet the attempt is often more dangerous to the person doing it than to the object attacked.1

Returned to Quincy and found the family quit for2 a severe fright in the Carriage when riding this morning. I do not admire horses at all. The best of them are dangerous in the extreme.3

Afternoon, read Seneca and almost finished his book on the constancy or firmness of a wise man. I am tired of this writer and shall lay him up for the present I think. All the pointed, ambitious writers require some relaxation with a more flowing style. They will not do for constant companions. Quiet evening at home.

1.

The Daily National Intelligencer for 12 July revealed that JQA was actually embattled on two fronts. The difficulty to which CFA here alludes arose during consideration of a motion to censure William Stanbery of Ohio for an alleged indignity to the Speaker of the House. After objection to a vote until the charge had been investigated had failed to be sustained, and a roll call on the motion was ordered, “[Mr. Adams] asked to be excused from voting as he believed it unconstitutional to pass such a resolution until the facts of the case should have been ascertained.” When the House refused to excuse him, he again refused to vote. The process was another time repeated, at which point the House turned to a consideration of how to deal with his recalcitrance (p. 3, col. 5). According to JQA’s own account, written several days later, that consideration took the form of “a threatened resolution to expel me from this House or to commit me to the custody of the Sergeant at arms.... The Majority of the House were in a towering passion with me for declining to vote upon what I thought an Unconstitutional question. The next morning the House cooled down wonderfully” (JQA to LCA, 14 July, Adams Papers; printed [in part] in MHS, Procs., 2d ser., 19 [1905]:526).

The second difficulty was the most recent of numerous clashes during the session between JQA and speaker Andrew Stevenson. The Intelligencer printed in full (p. 2, cols. 1–6) JQA’s letter of 11 July to the Speaker protesting the conduct of the Speaker in having had printed in the Richmond Examiner while the Tariff Bill was under consideration, a private letter of James Madison “with the avowed purpose of affixing the brand of heresy upon a principle asserted by me prepared in discharge of a public duty.” The full text is printed, along with other passages bearing upon the background of the controversy and the issues pertinent to it, in CFA2’s paper, “J. Q. Adams in Twenty-Second Congress,” MHS, Procs., 2d ser., 19 (1905): 504–553.

2.

That is, “got off with” or “suffered nothing more than” ( OED : Quit, adj., I, 1).

3.

“As we were ascending Pens Hill one of the Horses got his leg over the Pole and Kirk being alone could not dismount so as to assist him.... Fortunately a man came up and opened the door of the Carriage. When we got the Children out Mrs. Charles caught your Louise, and I just cleared the step when the Horses becoming entirely unmanageable upset the Carriage; and poor Kirk has broken one of his ribs and the Horse is much hurt. We are all well. It was in the morning and Kirk has behaved very well for a long time”

(LCA to Mrs. JA2, 19 July, Adams Papers).