Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Thursday. 13th. CFA Thursday. 13th. CFA
Thursday. 13th.

Colder. I went to the Office and after getting through with my usual duties went out to call upon Mr. Hallett, Editor of the Advocate, in return for a visit paid by him to me. I had never seen him before. He is older than I expected and not at all the kind of man, but his conversation is full of information and his appearance intelligent.1 After a considerable stay, I went to the Athenaeum where I obtained a book or two and from thence to a Sale at Mr. Cunningham’s at which I purchased several works which I did not want. What a difference in satisfaction there is upon such occasions. When I buy a really useful book to me at Auction cheap, I am always glad of it. But when my purchase is merely for cheapness I regret it.

Afternoon, continued upon Masonry. Read several papers given me by Mr. Hallett, and began writing over No 7. I found it exceedingly 419hard work. My mind was not quiet. O, the difficulties of writing, and the uselessness of it. Yet day after day multiplies a thousand fold what man writes.

Evening quietly at home. Read Malvina, and began Lockhart’s Life of Burns.2 Apparently a tolerably agreeable book. Afterwards, travelled through two more paragraphs of Wielands. A paragraph is a sentence.

1.

Benjamin Franklin Hallett (1797–1862) was a graduate of Brown University, had practiced law, and had been a newspaper editor in Rhode Island before moving to Boston to become editor of the Advocate in 1831. He soon assumed leadership in antimasonic politics in Massachusetts. A fairly extensive correspondence between JQA and Hallett, largely on antimasonic affairs, began just at this time, on 10 Dec., and continued through almost the whole of JQA’s interest in Antimasonry to 25 June 1836. An exchange of letters between CFA and Hallett covering a much briefer span, Nov. 1836 —July 1837, reflects the shift in CFA’s interests also, but more significantly the change in Hallett’s political stance and the end of CFA’s use of the Advocate for the expression of his opinions. Hallett’s later course, a refutation of his early principles, took him far from the Adamses’ position on public issues. ( DAB ; Bemis, JQA , 2:279–351 passim; Duberman, CFA , p. 46–57 passim. Hallett’s letters to and from JQA and CFA are in the Adams Papers.)

2.

John Gibson Lockhart, Life of Robert Burns, Edinburgh, 1828.

Friday. 14th. CFA Friday. 14th. CFA
Friday. 14th.

Morning dark and gloomy. I felt a little out of spirits, yet for my life I do not know why. Went to the Office. Read there a Proclamation from the President upon the subject of the Carolina Ordinance. It is an ably written Paper—In several of it’s passages reminding me of my father’s style and turn of thought.1 I do not know who could have been the Author. Read a good deal of Lingard, and felt very much interested in his Account of James 1. and the famous Gunpowder plot. An affair that did wonders in confirming the People’s horror of Popery. Took my usual walk.

In the Afternoon, continued and finished the copy of No. 7. But one of these papers has been published this week. I shall have abundance of time. And if I had any vanity, there seems no great probability of my gaining material gratification from it. I believe after this I will wind up, write no more, and consent to go down the Stream exactly as Providence may direct.

Evening, Mr. Degrand called. Some conversation about the proclamation. It is attributed to my father. Because it is good and contains his principles.2 Went with my Wife to a party at Mrs. Blake’s.3 We had a tolerably pleasant time. Returned at eleven. Miss Anne Carter was with us.

1.

JQA sent a copy of Jackson’s Proclamation against the nullifying Ordinance of South Carolina to CFA on the 10th, the same day he had received it, and 420followed it the next day with his comments:

“If the whole State of South-Carolina were on fire this Proclamation is of a size to cover it like a wet blanket, for an extinguisher.... I thought it contained much sound Constitutional doctrine, more indeed than properly belonged to the source whence it originated. It would make a very tolerable Lecture for a Lyceum. The Constitutional Law is however mingled up with equal portions of pathetic paternity, of comminatory expostulation, and of vindictive personality against Calhoun thinly covered with a veil of gauze.”

On balance JQA found the strength of the national voice sounded in the Proclamation diminished by the policies weakening to the Union advocated in the President’s Message to Congress. “Between the Message and the Proclamation, Nullification is triumphant, but the nullifiers are in a dilemma. There is no danger from them. The danger is all here” (JQA to CFA, 11 Dec., Adams Papers). The text of the Proclamation is in Richardson, ed., Messages and Papers , 2:640–656.

2.

“[The Proclamation] has produced an electrical effect here.... The first general impression here which found its way into the Newspapers, was that you wrote the Paper. The singular coincidence in it’s opinions with those expressed in your 4th of July address certainly gave colour to such a suspicion. And although my own mind could sanction no such idea, yet I cannot help believing the writer of that Paper to have carefully studied that address, even if he has not conversed with you. I do not perceive that you assign any source for the composition. It is hardly possible that a Paper so unusually and in that quarter peculiarly good, should have come from any of the ordinary writers of the Party....

“[T]he old Federal and the Masonic parties are perfectly triumphant here.... You are the subject of the bitterest attack. And yet, after all, when General Jackson is found to have once in his life done a good thing, the whole Community involuntarily almost, looks for it against all probability, beyond him to you”

(CFA to JQA, 17 Dec.).

The effect produced by the Proclamation in Boston is again described in CFA’s letter to LCA of 23 December. JQA in his reply to CFA’s letter to him reflects further on the political consequences of the Proclamation elsewhere, particularly in Kentucky (25 Dec.; all letters quoted and referred to are in the Adams Papers).

The Proclamation’s authorship, which so interested CFA, is now generally attributed, at least that part which expounds the historical justification for the rejection of the nullification doctrine, to Secretary of State Edward Livingston. The view held by CFA that the doctrine asserted in the Proclamation was remarkable for its closeness to JQA’s own thinking was corroborated amusingly. On the same day that the Proclamation was issued, JQA sent to a publisher in New York a preface (to appear unsigned) for a source book that as then planned would contain the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and Washington’s Farewell Address. The publisher was so struck by the similarity of constitutional theory animating both Jackson’s Proclamation and JQA’s Preface that forthwith and apparently without notification to JQA he enlarged his plan so as to include both documents in the source book, which he issued as The Declaration of Independence; the Constitution of the United States; the Farewell Address ... the Proclamation of Andrew Jackson ... to which are prefixed prefatory remarks by one of the most distinguished statesmen of the United States, N.Y., 1833. (Bemis, JQA , 2:262-264.)

3.

Probably Mrs. Sarah Blake, the widow of Edward Blake, whose home at 7 Bowdoin Square was also the home of CFA’s friend Edward Blake ( Boston Directory, 1832–1833).