Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Tuesday. 28th. CFA Tuesday. 28th. CFA
Tuesday. 28th.

Morning cloudy, but as I thought it probable that it would not rain, I went to town. Passed my time in bringing up my Accounts for the past Quarter and in reading Monsieur Mirabeau, who discusses the rate of Interest and the importance of Commerce. This has become a part of a leading Science of the present day1 which has had many Writers and acquired through their means a kind of cant language rather ridiculous than otherwise to those who require that words should distinctly represent ideas. With many authors, this jargon appears fascinating. Certain positions were established by Adam Smith, and those may be considered as solid. All the building upon them that I have seen proceeds from theoretical views and not such as are reduced to the scale of the world’s actual condition.

I returned to Quincy to dine. Afternoon, read some spurious Orations, attributed to Sallust and Cicero, which seemed to have been written as studied imitations of the Style of the two Authors, but they are too much alike, and the roundness of Cicero’s periods is not preserved. I believe I shall stop for the present, as I do not read with the same accuracy at Quincy as in Boston and as the period for my return is approaching. I continued to file Papers with some success.

The Evening was rainy. I read a part of Timothy Pickering’s famous Review of the Cunningham Correspondence. It is the essence of Wormwood. But it failed of it’s effect. My Grandfather was honoured as few men have been at their death, and Col. Pickering lived to see it, in the Presidency of my Father.2 Afterwards I read Grimm and the Spectator.


A reference to “political economy.” JQA comments in a similar vein in his Diary (1 July).


On A Review of the Correspondence between the Hon. John Adams and the Late William Cunningham, Esq., a pam-79phlet by Timothy Pickering published at Salem in 1824, see vol. 1:146. The publication, both of the Correspondence in 1823 and of the Review, was in part the expression of old animosities and in part intended to damage JQA in the Presidential election. A copy of the Review is in MQA.

Wednesday. 29th. CFA Wednesday. 29th. CFA
Wednesday. 29th.

Morning sultry with heavy clouds, which fell in rain before I reached town. At the Office as usual occupied in closing my Quarterly Accounts. Paid some debts on my own and on account of the Estate of R. New, and passed the balance of the time, in finishing l’Ami des Hommes, and a short Essay to improve the Common lands in France. I have not felt much interested in these. Nothing occurred and I returned as usual.

Afternoon passed in assorting Papers. My spirits have of late experienced a slight depression from a view of my present situation. Circumstances connected with my father’s affairs render it desirable for me to become as soon as possible independent of him,1 and in looking round to consider where my means are, I can see none. The circumstances of the last year in which I have made a trial for distinction, discourage my efforts. There appears no opportunity to gain any standing and if there did, I have great doubts whether I could make any thing of it. The confidence which I had for no imaginable reason I now lose for the same. Yet in considering my present situation, how thankful ought I to be for the innumerable blessings that have been showered upon me. And I am thankful to God every day of my life. My anxiety arises only from a knowledge of my duties, of my situation, and of the heavy responsibilities I am under to my race2 and to my Country. Read Pickering’s review and in the evening, Grimm. His infidelity becomes more and more disgusting. The Spectator afterwards. Mrs. and Miss Adams spent the evening here.


Whether aware or not that the proceeds of the loan JQA recently made were to be used to retire an earlier loan and did not increase his liabilities, CFA was made apprehensive by JQA’s pledging of insurance shares from his investment reserves as collateral. See the next entry.


That is, family.

Thursday. 30th. CFA Thursday. 30th. CFA
Thursday. 30th.

Morning cloudy but it afterwards cleared away very sultry, notwithstanding a change of wind. I had doubts about going to town but finally concluded upon it and reached it unusually early. Occupied an hour in performing commissions, and then busy in drawing up my Accounts to settlement for the Quarter. They present an unusual amount, but a poorer view of present prospects than any I have ever 80drawn up. I am endeavouring to familiarize my mind to the probable loss of all of my father’s Property. I see no reason why this should not take place, so long as my brother is engaged in a floating business, of which he is not entirely capable. This opinion I am aware is peculiar to me in our family but I have formed it from the experience of years. He has all his life made a great deal of noise about his success, and I never yet knew one of his transactions, which would bear a probe. Notions pervade the whole.1

Returned home to dinner and passed the Afternoon in assorting Papers as usual, excepting half an hour devoted to Horace’s Art of Poetry. Evening. Finished Pickering’s Review. A compound of evil passions, gathering force in the bitterness of years. It was expected to have demolished my Grandfather. And it’s author saw him exalted. Read over the Cunningham Letters. Grimm and the Spectator.


CFA maintained an at least partially erroneous view that the family’s current business difficulties in Washington were chargeable to JA2’s mismanagement and speculative bent. The heavy indebtedness, amounting at this time to $15,000, and the recent losses sustained were incurred as a result of JQA’s purchases of flour in the winter and early spring of 1831 partly to provide supplies for sale in the cold months during which the mill could not operate and partly as a speculation against the rising prices which JQA foresaw as an accompaniment to the European war he felt impended. When the war crisis passed, flour prices in Liverpool and London dropped sharply. JQA, Diary, 27 Jan.–21 June passim; JQA to JA2, 14, 26 June, 16 July (Adams Papers).