Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

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.

Tuesday. 21. CFA Tuesday. 21. CFA
Tuesday. 21.

Fine morning. I went to town accompanied by Mr. Frothingham. Morning passed quietly at the Office. Engaged in reading the Report on the Masonic Investigation. My own opinion is now pretty well made up. On principle I disapprove of every thing like Masonic Societies, not considering Morgan’s murder as any thing other than one illustration of what such combinations can be made to do.1 With regard to the persons who conduct the party,2 and to the measures which they adopt to sustain it, I have always had much more doubt—At least so far as concerns this section of the Country.

Returned to Medford to dinner. Afternoon pretty much wasted. Took a walk with Mr. Brooks and heard him descant upon the beauty and merit of his land. It is rich certainly, and has been much improved by him. The scene is very lovely although not of the commanding kind which I confess I am more fond of.

On our return to the house P.C.B. Jr. came out with a stranger, and after his departure evening came on. I read a few pages of Frankland. Evening, Horatio Brooks came out—His vessel not ready.

1.

The abduction and murder of William Morgan in 1826 and the subsequent trials in New York State marked the beginning of political Antimasonry in the United States. JQA had earlier this month completed a thorough study of “The Murder of William Morgan” (MS, 5–17 Aug., Adams Papers). The subject became one of continuing interest to CFA, and in 1833 he published as Nos. 8 and 9 in his series of Antimasonic articles in the Boston Daily Advocate, the “History of the Morgan Abduction.”

2.

That is, the Antimasonic party.

Wednesday. 22. CFA Wednesday. 22. CFA
Wednesday. 22.

Fine morning. For two or three days past I have taken a shower bath at the small house under the bank of the Canal, and I feel better for it. Went to town. Office, thence to the House, and thence to Mr. 351Cunningham’s Auction Room where the books belonging to my Uncle the Judge were selling. I purchased a few. But my father coming in I immediately quitted the field and betook myself to my usual occupations.1 Finished the Masonic Pamphlet which on the whole has done much to convince me of the great impropriety of the Institution.

Returned to Medford. Afternoon wasted. Miss Gray passed the day with the ladies. The baby has for two or three days past been apparently labouring under an attack of the measles, but so slight that it is difficult to pronounce it to be so. Mr. Everett came up for fifteen minutes with one of his children. Mrs. Angier and Mr. Jos. Angier came to tea. Some music in the evening. A pretty do-nothing kind of life, but pleasant enough to those who have no admonitions from conscience of higher duties which they are neglecting.

1.

“I found Charles at Cunningham’s Auction room where they were selling my brother’s Books. I purchased a considerable number of them. They all sold very low. There were several of mine among them” (JQA, Diary, 22 Aug.).