Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Saturday. 28th. CFA Saturday. 28th. CFA
Saturday. 28th.

Fine day. I went to town, and my time was entirely taken up all the morning. I had visits at my Office from T. K. Davis, Mr. S. Angier, and the new Tenant, Mr. W. G. Ladd. They consumed much time. After which I was engaged in some Commissions and in attending a meeting of the Suffolk bar. E. G. Prescott and R. S. Fay apply to be admitted as Counsellors. I might as well apply myself.1 The facts were to be stated to the Court. Returned to Quincy quite late in consequence.


Afternoon, instead of my usual occupations, I was engaged in copying out a Will for a man in Quincy who came and asked it as a favour of my father.2 It took me until late, when I walked with my Wife to see Mrs. T. B. Adams. Mrs. Angier there, still unwell.


Richard Sullivan Fay and Edward Goldsborough Prescott were CFA’s classmates at Harvard (vol. 1:120, 397–398). Fay was associated in the practice of law with another classmate, Jonathan Chapman Jr. ( Boston Directory, 1832–1833).


CFA drew up the will of Oliver Billings according to JQA’s directions, and he and ABA witnessed Billings’ execution of it (JQA, Diary, 28 July). As cases of cholera became more numerous the making of wills and the disposition of property began to absorb more and more persons. JQA began to work on his will on 4 Aug., completing it in October (Diary, passim, and Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 203). LCA also recorded her wishes as to the disposition of her personal belongings (LCA to JA2, 20 Aug., Adams Papers).

Sunday. 29th. CFA Sunday. 29th. CFA
Sunday. 29th.

Day pleasant and rather warm. Time occupied in copying a letter from my father,1 and reading a little of Seneca whom, for the last Week, I have rather neglected. A discussion of the old subject of happiness which the Stoics would place in a perfect superiority to human feeling, and the idea of virtue. The thing is impossible and if it was attainable it would not make happiness—Such is human nature. Man is so much the creature of circumstances that he can never mark out for himself a time or way to be happy. The Stoics pursue the negative principle, but many a man feels at his heart without any need of reasoning long over the matter, that the absence of suffering from any cause does not satisfy his aspirations.

Mr. A. Bigelow of Medford preached a Sermon upon the doctrine of grace in the morning, and upon the perfect and upright man in the afternoon.2 His matter was good, although I had such excessively drowsy fits that I was very much prevented from listening to him. This somnolent habit of mine, I fear, grows upon me.

Evening, called with my father, mother, and Wife at Mr. D. Greenleaf’s. After our return I had an agreeable literary conversation with my father.


The letter CFA copied in JQA’s letterbook was that to JA2 of 27 July (see above, entry for 26 July, note).


Rev. Andrew Bigelow also dined with the Adamses (JQA, Diary, 29 July).

Monday. 30th. CFA Monday. 30th. CFA
Monday. 30th.

Fine day, though it was cloudy in the morning. I went to town for the purpose of arranging my Accounts for a payment on the 1st instant, on my father’s affairs. I shall do it with difficulty. Went to my House 338for a book or two and was engaged in several commissions. Thus the time passed. I did however succeed in reading several Chapters of the book of Major Hordynski. His book is principally military, but it conveys an idea of the bravery and success of the Polish troops greater than I had entertained.

Returned to Quincy and passed the afternoon in concluding Seneca, De vita beata. The latter portion of this is a defence of himself for possessing wealth and preaching poverty. His argument is undoubtedly sound, considered in itself. Though it might fairly be questioned how far he could be authorized to use it. It is idle to say that poverty is not an evil when so much care is taken to avoid it. The true rule is to consider wealth as not a primary object in life. And to divest it of all idea of value excepting insofar as it increases the virtuous enjoyments of life. Dr. Johnson somewhere remarks that Poverty is an evil, because it makes some virtues difficult to practise, others impossible.1 This is not agreeable to the doctrine of Seneca. Quiet evening at home. A short walk with my Wife.


Dr. Johnson many times expressed himself on poverty as an evil; probably the quotation CFA had in mind was contained in a letter to Boswell (7 Dec. 1782): “Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult” (Boswell’s Life of Johnson, ed. George Birkbeck Hill, 6 vols., Oxford, 1887, 4:157). CFA inscribed the quotation as a part of the epigraph on the front flyleaf of his personal account book, 1829–1844 (M/CFA/9).