Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Monday 4th. CFA Monday 4th. CFA
Monday 4th.

This is the National Anniversary. And preparations had been made to celebrate it with effect. As my father was to deliver the Oration, I thought I would hear him for the purpose of forming a Judgment upon the character of his Oratory. To do this, I felt as if I should make sure of a good seat only by going through all the Ceremonies. Isaac Hull and I therefore went up a little before nine and endured all the excruciating heat of the sun, effect of the dust, procession &ca. for three hours, until we reached the Meeting house, thus paying pretty dearly for our privilege. The Oration was an hour and twenty five minutes.1 The manner was as I expected, perhaps a little better though with a little of the defect I anticipated. His manner is adherence to nature which in my estimation is superior to E. Everetts studied Style. It is difficult to fancy to one’s self how far the power of words may be carried. Perhaps no more striking contrast would readily present itself than that of the reading of the Declaration of Independence by Mr. Potter, commonly called a good reader,2 and that of passages of the same by My father in the course of the Address. The matter was very good but I fear for him lest in his age it should bring upon him the War of words to which through all his life he has been accustomed.3 It is the character of my Father vehemently to attack. He does it through all his writings more or less, and attack in every community creates defence; Controversy rises, from which issue anger, and ill blood. All this is not to my taste and therefore I presume I must be set down as preferring insignificance and inglorious ease.

I attended the Dinner4 and suffered three hours of excessive heat without any thing to pay me for it, excepting a beautiful tribute to the 83memory of my Grandfather here in his native town, which affected me even to tears.5 That is worth having. Removed from all the stormy passions he sleeps in his last mansion, yet the spontaneous effusion of grateful hearts rises up to cheer and invigorate his drooping descendants. Left the Table at five entirely exhausted, and sought relief in a Salt water Bath.

Occasional visits during the whole evening. We all went to a little party at Mr. Quincy’s which was pleasant enough. There was an uncommon display of Aurora Borealis this evening extending from the North West to the East over full one third of the Horizon. The rays of light shot up to the zenith changing their position and intenseness perpetually. I was so fatigued I could not look at it as much as I wished. Read the Spectator as usual.

1.

JQA began to work upon the oration, the third he had delivered on the nation’s anniversary, while he was yet in doubt that, because of the current bitter division over Freemasonry, the invitation for him to speak in the Adams Temple would be ratified (JQA, Diary, 7 and 9 June). Having finished and discarded a first draft, he completed the draft of a wholly new speech on the 24th and thereafter attempted to reduce the text to no more than an hour in the delivery. He made further revision until the day before, and in the end omitted a third of what he had written (same, 29 June – 4 July). The MS of the oration, which was later published, is in the Adams Papers.

2.

William T. Potter, minister of the Episcopal church in Quincy (JQA, Diary, 4 July; Mass. Register, 1831).

3.

In the main, the theme of the address was an attack upon the South Carolina doctrine of nullification.

4.

At the town hall (JQA, Diary).

5.

The authorship of this tribute and its content are not known.

Tuesday 5th. CFA Tuesday 5th. CFA
Tuesday 5th.

Morning bright with the Sun in great force relieved however in the Country by a free circulation of Air. I went to town and to the Office. Thence to the House and afterwards performing Commissions, for my Wife and others of the family. I was also occupied in my Accounts which at this period always take up some of my time. Mr. Clough called and settled with me for an execution in favour of I. Farrar,1 and I drew afterwards my Atlas Ins. Dividend together with that belonging to the Adamses. In these various ways my time was taken up until the moment for my return.

Found my Wife not very well today, owing to the fatigue and over-excitement of yesterday and I experienced myself a languid feeling not altogether agreeable. Afternoon passed in carelessly arranging Papers. This work has been so little seconded by my Father that it is likely to turn out a grand failure. I shall leave most of the Papers in greater confusion than when I began.

84

Took a Bath at the Wharf with my Father and I. Hull, and from thence went to the Judge’s to pay Miss Eliz. her Quarter’s Interest. I was not however lucky enough to find her at home. Returned finding my Walk almost fruitless. The rest of the evening was passed quietly at home. Finished the Cunningham Correspondence and the Biography of my father2 together with two numbers of the Spectator.

1.

See above, entry for 11 April.

2.

Despite the ambiguity of its wording, this is probably a reference to the fragmentary life of JA which JQA had begun in 1829 (see vol. 3:257) and to which he returned on 26 May with the hope that he would “no more neglect it,” only to record on 7 June, “I make no progress in my father’s biography” (JQA, Diary).