Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Thursday. 16th. CFA Thursday. 16th. CFA
Thursday. 16th.

The weather was bad and I had been to town so much this week that I resolved to stay at home and busy myself in the old Papers. This morning I came across a very interesting parcel of Lovel’s communications to my Grandfather.1 They explain much of the private history of the Revolution. How little does a man gather of the true 69causes of public events from the pages of common history. How different is human nature when seen in the gross, and in separate parts. There is enough to make a man humble when he looks at the fallibility of his fellows, even when they are acting for the best general purposes. My progress was necessarily slow.

Read a part of Emile containing the famous Creed of the Savoyard, which seems to me as much levelled at the Philosophy of the period as at the Christian faith. They both took it up, the former with words, because they could use nothing else, the latter with the temporal arm. Indifference would perhaps have better served the turn of both.

Afternoon the balance of the 2d Antonine. A powerful exposition of the condition of the Republic and the worthlessness of it’s Rulers. The Conspiracy of Catiline was only the first signal of universal corruption in the State. Cicero merely cut off one of the heads of the Hydra, and exhausted his powers in the process. Clodius, and Antony finished the work not by superior skill, for they were probably both inferior to Catiline, but by that steady perseverance before which every thing gives. Caesar perhaps pulled the wires in each instance, and perished after all, because there was still a greater remnant of the ancient patriotism left than he calculated. Evening, Emile and the Spectator.

1.

James Lovell (1737–1814) was a long-time friend and correspondent of JA and AA. His letters to JA in the Adams Papers extend over a period from 1777 to 1809 and are of special interest on public matters during his service in Congress from 1777 to 1782. Many of his letters to and from AA are being printed in Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 2 et seq. See also JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:288, and DAB .

Friday. 17th. CFA Friday. 17th. CFA
Friday. 17th.

The weather was still foggy and damp, threatening rain. I therefore thought I would remain at home today instead of tomorrow as I had intended. Engaged in arranging a full file of Mr. Jefferson’s Letters. On the whole, Washington, Jefferson and my Grandfather were the three most remarkable men of our Revolution. And the two latter had more distinguishing peculiarities. Jefferson’s mind was of a very capacious character, his temper philosophical, and his personal feelings kind. But he was ambitious, hypocritical and occasionally ungenerous, besides a narrowness of mind and inveteracy of prejudice peculiar to himself. He was more than a match for my impetuous, irascible but open hearted ancestor. I read the Correspondence between my Grandmother and him and could not help admiring her letters as much the best.1 I did little more than arrange this single file today.

70

Read more of Emile in the last book upon the passions. Rousseau was a sensualist, a most abandoned sensualist, and every line is tinged with that spirit. One may judge how fit he is to write upon Education. So long as he confined himself to early infancy when nothing could be introduced upon the subject, he mixed more truth than falsehood, but in rising to the age of the Passions he gradually abandons himself to imagination and to his own voluptuous fancies. I doubt if this work ever guided a single man right beyond the first book. Read the third and fourth Antonines raising up Octavius Caesar, as a counterpoise to Antony. They display the Policy but are otherwise of no great interest. Evening, rode with my Mother and Wife, we called at Judge Adams’ and paid a visit. Afterwards, Emile and the Spectator.

1.

CFA had already recognized and responded to AA’s extraordinary capacity as a letter-writer (vol. 2:337). His appreciation of these gifts was long maintained and reached a culmination in his preparation of The Letters of Mrs. Adams, Boston, 1840, which, in that and subsequently expanded form, became the most popular of the books CFA edited from the family’s papers and established his grandmother’s epistolary reputation. AA’s correspondence with Jefferson extends, with conspicuous intervals, from 1785 to 1817, but is most voluminous for the period 1785–1787.