Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Sunday. 26th. CFA Sunday. 26th. CFA
Sunday. 26th.

The Weather was cool and pleasant all day. I attended Divine Service and heard Mr. Whitney preach. His afternoon Sermon was an 76attack upon Miss Wright for her doctrines with a general defence of the immortality of the Soul as established by revelation.1 Nothing material took place.

My Mother with her usual benevolence of intention, thinking to assist I. Hull has interested herself with the higher powers to get him a place in the Navy. She has obtained it and it seems he is averse to the proposition. The Warrant has been offered to his youngest brother who springs at it.2 This family is a thorn in our side. It is craving and ungrateful. I am willing to give my best advice to the children who help themselves, but I would not raise a finger for father or mother or gentlemen youths. My father’s life has been one constant series of benefits forgot. But I must say, the course he pursues is a premium to misconduct.

I filed Papers a considerable part of the day. In the evening had a conversation with my Father upon the character of Milton’s Poetry. The first since I have been out here embracing any thing like general literature. Such are the expectations of life. Read Grimm and the Spectator.

1.

Frances Wright (1795–1852), later married to Phiquepal D’Arusmont but always better known as Fanny Wright, English agitator against slavery, against established religion, and for the emancipation of women, had earlier been to the United States in 1818–1820 and in 1824, when she settled Negro slaves on land she purchased on the Nashoba River in Tennessee. Returning in 1828, she settled at New Harmony, Ind., and from there traveled widely, exciting strong opposition by her public lectures, particularly because of her religious views, to the point that she became identified in the public mind with almost any cause that was unpopular ( DAB , DNB ). Rev. Peter Whitney, frightened by the spread of Universalism, identified her with that sect in the hope of blackening it. JQA’s misinformed account of her may reflect his own views or may be wholly or in large part simply a report of Whitney’s characterization:

“Fanny Wright an English female Atheist who has been delivering Lectures in the principal cities of the United States, against Slavery, Marriage, and Christianity. She has every where gained numerous Proselytes, and there is a party scattered all over the Country, who call themselves the working men’s Party, but who are generally called by others Fanny Wright’s Party. Fanny makes no pretension to believe in a future State; nor even in the existence of a God; but she has an inveterate aversion to Slavery of all kinds—To African Slavery—Matrimonial Slavery—Religious Slavery. She declaims against them all, and never wants an Auditory. There is a Religious Sect rapidly growing in this part of the Country denominated Universalists who approach very nearly to the doctrines of Fanny but they profess to be Christians. They suppose the Soul and body to perish together ... and particularly that there will be no future State of punishment. This is a compound of Atheism and Superstition well suited to the inconsistencies and absurdities incident to the reasoning faculties of men; and the Sect is spreading marvellously. They have had preachers here for these two years, and have taken from Mr. Whitney about one third of his Parishioners.”

(JQA, Diary, 22 May, 26 June.)
2.

The warrant for Joseph Harrod Adams was secured through the good offices of Commodore Isaac Hull, after whom the reluctant Hull Adams had been named. LCA to JA2, 26 June (Adams Papers).

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