Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Thursday. 25. CFA Thursday. 25. CFA
Thursday. 25.

Went to town accompanied by my father. His engagements were such as to require his presence in town at 1/2 past 9 o’clock which we just accomplished.1 I went to the House and upon several Commissions. Had visitors to see my father, Mr. Marston, and Mr. Degrand. I wasted my time.

My father engaged me to dine at Mr. J. H. Foster’s. This was somewhat against my will as I was not very fit to grace any other gentleman’s table with my unqualified Diet. But when a man has adopted 385a system, it is not worth while to put it all out for a mere inconvenience. I stuck it out, but it was a very unpleasant affair. Mr. Frothingham was the only invited guest besides ourselves. My father was remarkably animated in conversation so that on the whole we did better.

We started at a little before five o’clock and reached Quincy shortly after Sunset. The night was cold. I read Lingard.


JQA’s principal mission was to have his newly drawn will (see above, entry for 28 July) witnessed by James H. Foster, Edward Cruft, and Col. Josiah Quincy (JQA, Diary, 25 Oct.).

Friday. 26. CFA Friday. 26. CFA
Friday. 26.

Morning was cold. I started shortly after breakfast, to go to Weston. My fingers ached and I otherwise began to experience in a good degree the approach of Winter. I went through Roxbury, Brookline and Brighton, and could not help noticing the great advances that are making in building and apparent prosperity throughout. This portion of the Country is now in an exceedingly flourishing condition. There is wealth and substantial independence to be seen in almost every direction. But it is by no means so stable, as it is great. The present aspect of public affairs portends changes which cannot fail to jeopardize all our success.

Reached Weston in about three hours and was disappointed in finding that Conant, the Tenant, had gone into town for the purpose of seeing me. Thus after four or five months of waiting, we each hit upon the same day to go in quest of each other. I remained but a short time and then made the best of my way home to Quincy where I arrived shortly after three. The distance is not less than forty miles.1 I was chilled, and it took me all the afternoon to recover my natural state. Read Lingard.


That is, to Weston and return.

Saturday. 27th. CFA Saturday. 27th. CFA
Saturday. 27th.

Clear morning and milder than it has been. I remained at Quincy in consequence of my father’s having engaged a meeting of the Supervisors of the Temple and School fund here at twelve o’clock. How the time passed previous to that hour I can hardly say myself. I passed part of it in writing my Diary which had fallen backward some days and part in continuing the Causes Celebres, that part relating the story of the Sieur Rousseau. At twelve, all the Supervisors came, viz. Mr. Quincy, Mr. T. Greenleaf, Mr. Miller, Mr. Beale, and my father. 386After transacting considerable business relating to the affairs of the Corporation,1 we were joined by Messrs. D. and P. Greenleaf and Mr. Whitney which party dined here. After dinner, Mr. Beale spent an hour.

Evening quiet. Conversation until eleven o’clock with my father. One of the few which I catch in the course of a Summer, which are worth remembering. Consideration of the civil and the common law. Reasons of the superiority of the latter — A law of liberty and of purity. The civil Law looks entirely to the government of one man. It is a fair specimen of the sovereignty of a paternal king. The other is the Law of equals. The civil Law has no trial by Jury, no habeas Corpus, it is lenient in the construction of obligations, it is less observant of pure morality. Instances, the penalty of a bond, and the bastardy of children born before marriage. The one is a law of mercy, the other, of rigor. Some observations upon the character of modern study. The avoidance of labour seems to be the great end proposed. Nobody can arrive at greatness who makes that the object of life, hence the superficial character of modern acquirement. Fisher Ames said, Blackstone’s book was the spinning jenny of the Law.2 Blackstone was the most perfect specimen of method extant. Mr. Quincy the other day had depreciated Wood’s Institutes, not so bad a book as he made it out to be.3 Both had taken their arrangement from Justinian. The Roman Law had it’s origin from the Greeks, and there is a striking coincidence between that of the latter and the Levitical law. All originated in Egypt. There is a difference however between Greece and Rome. The former especially at Athens was much more of a Government of law, and depended less upon individual authority. Gibbon calls the Roman Republic the proudest aristocracy that ever existed. A digression to the character of Cicero, his low birth, his immense difficulties in rising to an equality with Caesar, Pompey, Catiline &ca. should be taken into account in considering his compliances. On the whole, a very interesting and profitable conversation.


Among the items of corporate business accomplished was the election and swearing in of CFA as clerk of the Adams Temple and School Fund. Because he was not a resident of the town of Quincy he was not eligible to become one of the supervisors (JQA, Diary, 27 Oct.).


JQA’s appreciation of Fisher Ames’ metaphor on Blackstone’s Commentaries is perhaps a confirmation of what JQA had long maintained was in fact his attitude toward Ames: admiration for the man and his talents as an orator and image-maker, strong dissent from his political views, especially his later ones from which much of New England Federalism derived. See JQA’s American Principles. A Review of Works of Fisher Ames, Boston, 1809. See also the notice of Ames in DAB .


Thomas Wood, An Institute of the Laws of England, 4 vols., London, 1720.