Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Friday. 21st. CFA Friday. 21st. CFA
Friday. 21st.

Morning cloudy with an occasional dropping of rain which did not amount to a shower. I rode to town and passed my morning indolently, part of it at the Athenaeum Gallery where I was present at the sale of Doughty’s pictures.1 They did very well on the whole. Paintings are things which require a very highly cultivated state of Society and a long established taste in the wealthy. We are as yet but little advanced in these matters. Money has not been long in any hands. I also passed some time in finding one of my father’s Tenants, out of whom I extracted his rent. This is at least something for my visit.

The whole town was alive with the expectation of seeing the President of the United States. General Jackson has been prodigiously successful in his excursion this Summer from Washington. His Popularity has appeared unbounded even in the strong holds of opposition. There is a cause for this. But where it lies I do not know. He has served his Country no more usefully than a thousand others, but he has the prestige of military glory which dazzles all mortal minds. The art of killing is prized higher than the art of vivifying. My father who was his competitor for the Presidency and a man of incomparably superior character, yet carries with him perpetually a load of unpopularity. He knows none of the arts of conciliating. And he relies too much upon the extent of his own powers to flatter by reposing confidence in others. These are useful lessons to the mind that will improve them. Public 111favour is a very fascinating thing, but what wise man would place his happiness in it. How much better to resort to less stimulating pleasures.

My Afternoon was passed in reading Mirabeau whose book I finished. It would have been as well, if closed with the first volume. I must now do something more useful. Threatened today with head ache and indigestion, but it passed away. Evening at home. Read two more admirable papers by Cumberland upon the Christian Revelation.


Thomas Doughty, of Philadelphia, the well-known landscapist and lithographer, had taken up residence in Boston in 1832. Sixteen landscapes by him were offered for sale (Groce and Wallace, Dict. Amer. Artists ; Columbian Centinel, 21 June, p. 3, col. 7).

Saturday. 22nd. CFA Saturday. 22nd. CFA
Saturday. 22nd.

When passed at home, my days have so much uniformity that I think it hardly of use to sit down and record them. Indeed to a man not engaged in great affairs, it is rather absurd to keep a Journal. He has nothing to write about but the reflections of a solitary whose influence on the world is next to nothing. The principal advantage resulting from the habit is derived in early life when habits are forming. We learn method and facility in composition. In these respects I am very sensible that I have been greatly benefitted. But the time has gone by. And I now do from the force of habit which has been formed. Such is man always, and hence the origin of a thousand customs which long survive the causes that created them.

I read Horace, Neal’s Second Volume, and finished Hutchinson’s book. On the whole I feel for the Author. His career was that which many men pursue. Begun with brilliant prospects and ardent hope, continued in the belief that views of personal interest and public convenience could be combined and when the moment of being undeceived came, choosing conscientiously perhaps but not fortunately, he passed the remnant of his life in melancholy exile from the scene of his early promise. He has left a book as little tinged with bitterness as could be expected, but yet disclosing in every page the rankling of the arrow in the wound.

Afternoon, read one or two miscellaneous papers of d’Alembert.1 One upon Rhetoric and Oratory describing what so many learn and teach, yet so few practise with success. Another upon Christine of Sweden, a singular character. I was thinking why it was that she and Charles 5th. never received much applause for their resignation of their Crowns, while Washington’s retirement has been so much lauded. The world will look into motive. In the former they assign as cause, 112caprice, in the latter, patriotism. Prehaps this might be further examined. Evening quiet at home.


No copy of d’Alembert’s works survives in MQA nor among the Adamses’ books at MB and MBAt.