Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

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.”

Tuesday. 15th. CFA Tuesday. 15th. CFA
Tuesday. 15th.

Morning cloudy but the weather gradually improved to a bright beautiful day. I read a part of Buffon’s Natural History before going 10out. At the Office as usual. Called to obtain the Report of the Commissioners upon R. New’s Estate, and found to my surprise that the larger claims against the Estate had not been brought in. Occupied in looking into a Law question upon that matter. Mr. Peabody called and sat an hour or two. Conversation upon various subjects, quite agreeably. I had not much spare time but as much as there was, I devoted to a review of the Abstract of Aristotle, which contains many good thoughts. Took a walk and returned home.

After dinner, I finished the Oration for Cluentius and made a deliberate and thorough Review of the Oration for the Manilian Law. It is certainly a beautiful Specimen in its way. A brilliant Panegyric, and it may have been deserved, though that is doubtful. The tone adopted by the Orator is that of independence and the concluding declaration is a noble one. If he was wrong, it was a defect of Judgment, not of principle.

Evening reading Captn. Parry’s Journal which continued to be very interesting. It is described with great simplicity and apparent truth. Read a little of Buffon and the Spectator, retired early.