Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Sunday. 16th. CFA Sunday. 16th. CFA
Sunday. 16th.

Colder but still cloudy and dull. I went to Meeting all day. In the morning heard my Classmate Cunningham from Psalms. 107. 43. “Whoso is wise, and will observe those things, even they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord.” He discoursed upon the benefits as superior to the pains experienced in life. He considered the various supports of human nature in times of suffering as well as its enjoyments—Meaning to draw a favourable picture of human life. His discourse was terribly common-place. Cunningham has not yet fulfilled his early promise. He graduated first in my Class. I never stood near him in Scholarship. Yet now I think I could have written a rather better Sermon. Perhaps this is mere vanity for I am not likely to be tried. Afternoon. Mr. Parkman. 1. Corinthians 10. 12. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” The vicissitudes of life, wealth and poverty, happiness, misery, reputation and disgrace. A good practical Sermon.

Read Massillon afterwards, upon the Communion. Matthew 21. 5. “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee.” The question involved in this Discourse is one of deep interest to every Christian. I have endeavoured seriously to reflect upon it, and my conclusion has been that a man ought to be thoroughly confirmed 422in the habits of virtue, and of an age to authorize confidence in their continuance before he partakes of it. This Sermon goes even farther. It requires 1. Conversion. 2. Expiatory penitence. 3. Active Christian virtue. Here is almost too much, for that person shall have a marvellous self conceit who could bring to the Altar such claims of fitness in himself.

The days are so short I can do little else of a Sunday. Evening, my Wife was writing, so that I read Ruffhead’s biography of Pope. Some striking lines from the Essay on Criticism. Afterwards Malvina, and German.

Monday. 17th. CFA Monday. 17th. CFA
Monday. 17th.

Morning warm with heavy rain. I went to the Office and from thence to Faneuil Hall. A meeting of the Citizens had been called for the purpose of expressing an opinion in answer to the President’s Proclamation.1 As one of the Community, I doubted the expediency of the call,2 but I went to hear what could be said about it. The hall was quite full. Mr. F. Dexter began. He said not much and was quickly done. And one third of what he did say might in my humble opinion have been left entirely unsaid. Mr. Webster made some remarks, merely pledging himself here and elsewhere to support the proclamation. The most remarkable point was a poor excuse for absence from his public duty under the plea of private affairs. Mr. H. G. Otis then took up the Cudgel and laid about him handsomely. His striking point was a justification of the Hartford Convention. The old sore place. Seventeen years have not yet healed it. I pitied him and his Apology.3 The Stone will roll backwards. Mr. J. T. Austin concluded.

I returned before he finished, and wrote a letter to my Father.4 Part of the Afternoon was taken up in copying it. The rest in reading the beginning of Villemain’s Life of Cromwell.5 A miserably superficial production. I have been cheated in the book.

In the evening. Progressed in Malvina, in the Life of Burns and in my German. This last however goes on very slowly indeed. I find myself a tremendous time upon a single sentence. Not that it is the construction, but the singular difficulty of fixing the meaning of the words.


The call, signed by the leading political figures of Boston, including surviving Federalists, was addressed to “friends of the Union of the States and of the Constitution of the United States” and had as its stated purpose “to take into consideration the late proceedings of the Legislature, and the Convention of the State of South Carolina, and to express their opinion thereon, and to respond to the sentiments expressed in the late Proclamation of the President” (Boston Daily Advertiser & Patriot, 17 Dec., p. 2, col. 3).


In this view CFA agreed with his father, who had written, “I think there 423is no occasion, and there would be little wisdom in a public Meeting at Boston at this time. Wait at least until the whole policy of the Administration shall be disclosed. It is rotten ice” (JQA to CFA, 11 Dec., Adams Papers).


JQA, when he received CFA’s letter (17 Dec., Adams Papers) reporting Harrison Gray Otis’ speech, was led to revert to the old question of publication of his “Reply to the Appeal of the Massachusetts Federalists” (see vol. 3:63 and entry for 23 Sept. 1831, above): “I am now much nearer the disposition to have it committed to the flames. I rejoice that I did not publish it; and so totally is my resentment disarmed by his advances to a reconciliation, and by the modesty of his present position, that I am determined henceforth to bury it in oblivion” (JQA to CFA, 25 Dec., Adams Papers). By Otis’ “advances to a reconciliation” JQA doubtless refers to the recent visit Otis and Col. Thomas Handasyd Perkins had paid him at Quincy (JQA, Diary, 14 Aug.).


See the preceding note. For more on the letter see above, entry for 14 Dec., note. In his reply to CFA’s detailed report of the meeting, JQA commented on the positions taken by the various speakers and suggested additional implications.


In the edition of Abel François Villemain’s Histoire de Cromwell at MQA (2 vols., Brussels, 1829) are CFA’s bookplate, a quotation on the flyleaf from Montaigne, and copious marginalia throughout in CFA’s hand. For more on these annotations see entry for 26 Dec., below.