Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Saturday. 12th. CFA Saturday. 12th. CFA
Saturday. 12th.

Morning clear and pleasant. I went to the Office as usual. Nothing material took place. I went through my usual occupations and then read the second part of Bacon’s Novum Organon as drawn up by Mr. Brougham. I have been enlightened by this reading. It has explained to me clearly what I only knew generally before, the merits of the inductive System of reasoning. The difficulties existing in the mind 8against a true examination of effects to find causes, and the proper course to remove them. I am fully convinced of the value of this short work which I am not always in what I read.

Took a walk and in the Afternoon continued the Oration for Cluentius. It is a peculiar production, rather laboured and showing marks of Orationizing if I can use such a word. The thing among persons at the bar now, is often felt. Perhaps the nature of the case required it. Of this we are at this day unable to Judge not being acquainted with the feelings of those who were to decide the cause.

Evening sitting quietly with my Wife. Read a part of Captain Parry’s Journal. What a course amidst all the horrors of an Arctic Winter. Desolation around them, and danger in every motion. A person cannot think of this without some wonder that any thing can induce poor weak man to endure such privations. Yet such is his spirit of curiosity and enterprize. I afterwards read Buffon’s Theory of the Earth. But I am now so intolerably drowsy late at night that I can do nothing with effect. I must change my plan to earlier rising. The Spectator as usual.

Sunday. 13th. CFA Sunday. 13th. CFA
Sunday. 13th.

A lovely Morning. My Wife went out with me to Meeting this morning and we heard Mr. Walker preach the usual Arguments in favour of Theological discussions. I was not convinced by them. That subject is not one for the rough Jarring of inflamed Passions. If there is any on the face of the Earth where humility and meekness are enjoined as a matter of daily practice it is this. Controversy carried to any height is therefore subversive of two of the clearest precepts of the whole System of pure Religion. In the afternoon I went alone and heard a Sermon upon the nature of regenerations. The character of this gentleman’s mind is controversial.

Took a walk. It rained during the latter part of the day and I was caught in it. Wrote letters to my Father and to John,1 which occupied some time. Evening, quiet at home. I continued reading Mr. Buffon’s Proofs of an Air built Fabric and after it, the Spectator.


The letter to JQA (LbC, Adams Papers) was in answer to his letters of 26, 28 Feb. and 6 March; that to JA2 (Adams Papers) acknowledged with thanks the receipt of the pamphlet containing the documents in the Calhoun affair and of the gift of flour and hams.

Monday. 14th. CFA Monday. 14th. CFA
Monday. 14th.

Morning at the Office after an hours reading of Buffon at home which paid me in some measure for my drowsy night. The weather 9has now so much changed that this will be very expedient in future. I can gain an hour of work in the morning which now I lose half of at night.

After clearing my regular duties, I began to read a Work purchased at the sale of E. J. Lowell’s Library called, “Le Bibliotheque de l’homme public.” It is an Analysis by Condorcet and others of the principal Works upon Government, originally published in numbers all of which I do not own.1 The first Work is an abstract of the Politics of Aristotle. And this I read. Took a walk and returned home.

Evening after almost finishing the Oration for Cluentius in the general opinion already expressed of which I persevere with some modification, I despatched my letters to my Father and received one from him, the tone and spirit of which I regret. For it shows me a very stormy future.2 Continued the Journal of Captain Parry, and was much interested with the Account of his Wintering in the Arctic Regions. A tremendous Undertaking. Read Buffon and finished his Theory of the Earth. Also two numbers of the Spectator.


Although the condensations or abstracts of classic works in political theory published as Bibliothèque de l’homme public, ou analyse raisonée des principaux ouvrages François et étrangers, sur la politique ... reached at least 28 volumes, the edition published at Paris in 1790 which CFA purchased on 21 Oct. 1830 for $3 consisted of 12 vols. in 6. In addition to the notation relating to their acquisition, the volumes at MQA contain extensive marginalia and summary comments in CFA’s hand.


JQA to CFA, 8 March (Adams Papers). The letter, an answer to CFA’s of 28 Feb. (LbC, Adams Papers) in which CFA had expressed his view that the controversies appearing in the public prints relating to the break between the President and the Vice-President were degrading to all those who were drawn into them, was for the most part an unflattering and detailed characterization of Hamlet as “invariably governed by an over exquisite sense of moral sensibility,” a characterization which JQA wrote was but “preliminary to the observation which has often occurred to me, and which your letter in pale ink ... has freshened in my mind that there is something of the character of Hamlet in your composition. Your standard of morals is more elevated than belongs to the world in which we live and to the clay of which we are formed.... Apply if you please your inflexible measure of right and wrong to your own conduct towards others, but in estimating their motives, and judging of their actions let down a little your scale of Virtue till its last step at least shall touch the earth.” Spiritedly defending his own choice in the past and for the future of a public career in which inevitably “you will see Slander and vilification enough of me,” he warns that if CFA should ever attempt to render important service to his country or to benefit mankind he must expect “bitter revilings and the foulest Slanders.” Then pointedly, “You must take care not on this account to lose your desire to serve your Country or to do good to your fellow Men.”