Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Sunday. 19th. CFA Sunday. 19th. CFA
Sunday. 19th.

Is it possible that I should have finished my record of yesterday without recollecting that it is the completion of twenty five years of my life? What can I say of myself on this occasion — Have I done as much as I ought to have done? Am I what I should be? He must be eminently happy who can say yea conscientiously to these questions. I believe I can say that I am happy—That my share of prosperity has continued so far increasing rather than diminishing; at all times, I will humbly acknowledge, far beyond my deserts. But I must admit my exertions not to have equalled my duty, and my success to be trifling. Perhaps my position is not by any means as advantageous as it was, and the 349habits of retirement in which I am settling down, to be making it worse daily. If so it is, I regret it. But I never will do an act merely for the sake of popularity or public attention, nor will I court any man only to advance myself. My conscience must be clear or my position will be gone. Let me, as I trust I ever will, place my great reliance in the support of the Deity.

The day was excessively rainy. We attended divine service however and heard Mr. Stetson preach two respectable Sermons. The remainder of the day was passed quietly at home. I finished the life of Canning. He died at a critical moment for his fame. No one knows how affairs would have turned out. But he did not leave an equal behind him. How totally the face of Europe is changed since his death.

Monday. 20th. CFA Monday. 20th. CFA
Monday. 20th.

A beautiful morning. I went to town accompanied by Mr. Frothingham. Walked to the Athenaeum to get a book, and from thence went to an auction room to see the library of my Uncle, the Judge, which is to be sold this week. It contains many valuable works.1 Returned to my Office and read a little more of the Rhode Island Pamphlet. It is a very singular production. Arguing two ways at once—For the fraternity and against it. Warmly opposed to the Antimasons, and conceding the soundness of their principles. After a fair consideration of this question, I cannot avoid the conclusion that the Masonic Society as a principle is false and unsound even in the point of its charity and useful exertion. Its exclusive character, its secret character, its assumption of a sacred character, and inflicting of penalties, are all in my mind at variance with the foundation of society and government, of morality and religion.2 Returned to Medford to dinner.

Horatio Brooks left this day on his voyage to Calcutta. He sails tomorrow. I walked to see the Rail Road—A great piece of work in crossing the Mystic River.3 A good deal of company at the House. Mr. and Mrs. J. Hall,4 then W. G. Brooks and his afiancée Miss Phillips,5 then Nathl. Hall. Quiet evening. Read Frankland travels in Sweden and Russia.6

1.

The library of TBA was to be sold at Cunningham’s Auction Rooms on the 22d and 23d by order of his executor. His general library of works in English, French, and German, and consisting of histories ancient and modern, biographies, and travel narratives; files of the North American Review , Port Folio, and Analectic Magazine; the works of Shakespeare, Byron, Scott, Moore, Burns, Sterne, Voltaire, Rousseau, Molière, &c., were to be sold on the first day. His law books and his books in Latin were to be sold on the second day of the sale (Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot, 21 Aug., p. 1, col. 3).

2.

This marks CFA’s first unequivocal statement of opposition to Freemasonry 350and his first step toward identification with the antimasonic movement with which JQA had associated himself for a year. On the history of JQA’s participation in Antimasonry in 1831 and 1832 see Bemis, JQA , 2:276–296; on CFA’s early moves toward an active role in Antimasonry see Duberman, CFA , p. 45–48.

3.

The first railroad bridge across the Mystic River at Medford was a wooden structure built on pilings. When it was later damaged by fire, it was replaced by a granite arch with a fifty-foot span constructed by Asa G. Sheldon under the direction of Patrick Jackson. Medford Historical Register, 12 (1909): 57, 65; 30 (1927):facing p. 48; the autobiographical Life of Asa G. Sheldon: Wilmington Farmer, Woburn, Mass., 1862, p. 169, 240.

4.

Perhaps Joseph Hall of Medford (b. 1759), whose mother was a member of the Brooks family (Brooks, Medford , p. 543).

5.

On William G. Brooks and Mary Ann Phillips, see vol. 3:132.

6.

Capt. Charles Colville Frankland, Narrative of a Visit to the Courts of Russia and Sweden in 1830 and 1831, 2 vols., London, 1832.