Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

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.


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.


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


“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).