Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

55 Wednesday. 25th. CFA Wednesday. 25th. CFA
Wednesday. 25th.

It being Election day in town,1 and the weather appearing very unpropitious, I thought I should do better by remaining out here, than by going. I sat down and devoted a considerable time to my task. Read many of the letters of my father to my Grandfather at the time of his first mission to Holland and was a good deal struck by them.2 They display a power which puts me to shame. I am nothing, and shall be nothing, but a daudler over trifles. At my age, how infinitely superior he was to me! I feel discouraged. Read some of Mr. Jay’s, and Mr. Gerry’s Letters and attempted to gain some insight into the state of things in the Commission in France,3 but my time is limited and I must avoid reading voluminous Papers as much as possible. My progress was tolerable.

Afternoon, T. B. Adams Junr. was here, and I was so much interrupted I could not progress much in Cicero. I finished however the Oration for Balbus and began that against Piso, which is invective indeed. The fury with which he attacks is remarkable. Evening, with the family as usual except that I conversed a little while with my father for the first time upon literary topics. And afterwards, I read the Spectator.

1.

This was the last “Election Day” observance. By an amendment to the state constitution approved by the voters on 11 May, a change in the commencement of the political year was effected. Instead of the election and installation of its officers by the General Court at the beginning of its session each May, the new amendment provided for only one session each year, that one to be held in January (Boston Patriot, 11 May, p. 2, col. 3; 14 May, p. 2, col. 5; 25 May, p. 2, col. 2). The passing of one of the most widely observed events on the civil calendar was more regretted than CFA’s words suggest. JQA wrote, “It has been a day of solemn festivity, from the first settlement of the Colony, but will be so no more” (Diary, 25 May). On the traditional observance, see vol. 3:245).

2.

JQA was twenty-seven when he became minister to The Hague; the numerous letters that he wrote to JA during his service there in 1794 and 1795 are in the Adams Papers. On his diplomatic activities during the period, see Bemis, JQA , 1:50–65.

3.

Presumably this refers to the tangled and protracted Franco-American diplomacy during the period of the quasi-war with France while JA was President. On Gerry’s and Jay’s parts in these events, see Kurtz, The Presidency of John Adams, p. 235–401 passim. A number of letters from Jay and from Gerry to JA during these years are in the Adams Papers. The letters from Jay have been published in Jay, Correspondence and Public Papers ; letterbook versions of the Gerry letters to which CFA was probably alluding have recently been published in Elbridge Gerry’s Letterbook, Paris 1797–1798, edited by Russell W. Knight, Salem, 1966.

Thursday. 26th. CFA Thursday. 26th. CFA
Thursday. 26th.

Morning cloudy but it became beautifully clear by Noon. I went to Boston as usual. Busy in Commissions for the family, and in making 56up my Journal which by absence from town becomes burdensome, as I have two or three days to make up at a time. Went also to the Athenaeum, and was so generally engaged that I could not read at all. Such is the daily course of living out of town and such are the reasons that cause me to object to it. Wrote several dunning Notes which is my amusement. Returned to Quincy, having John Kirk with me who brought in a horse my father has been trying.

After dinner, I passed an hour in reading the Oration against Gabinius, and another in assorting Dr. Franklin’s Letters to my Grandfather. He had considerable difficulty with my Grandfather whose very uncompromising character did not suit him. And much of this History is a secret. And much of it is so debateable as to be dangerous matter to bring up.1

In the evening, I read a portion of Walter Scott’s book upon demonology,2 after which my old acquaintance, Baron Grimm and the Spectator.

1.

JA and Franklin served together, not always harmoniously, as Commissioners on all three joint American missions from 1778 to 1786. See JA, Diary and Autobiography , passim. Franklin’s letters to JA in the Adams Papers were written largely during those years.

2.

Sir Walter Scott, Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft. The edition at MQA was published at New York in 1830, the year of its original publication in London.