Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Sunday. 10th. CFA Sunday. 10th. CFA
Sunday. 10th.

Mild and cloudy. A thaw seems to be taking place as if to remind us of the passage of the Winter. I passed an hour looking over the engravings of the Galerie de l’Hermitage de St. Petersbourg.1 Some of them are very good. Attended divine Service all day and heard Mr. James Walker of Charlestown preach.2 In the morning from Hebrews 12. 22. 23 and 24th. The Text is too long to extract. The subject was the immortality of the social affections. A pleasing idea, very pleasingly managed. Afternoon. 139 Psalm 23–4. “Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts.” “And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Upon 27purity of thought. I remember distinct portions of this discourse, but have no idea of it as a whole. Mr. Walker is an agreeable as well as a sensible Preacher. I know few of the Clergy who rank above him. I afterwards read a Sermon by Massillon from Matthew 11. 6. “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” It was upon the utility of afflictions. He considered the natural effect of them as injured by three excuses prevailing in the world. 1. That people were too weak to bear them, which arose from the want of resolution in themselves. 2. That the afflictions themselves were excessive which is an injurious charge against the Deity. 3. That the incapacity to bear them excused all purpose of improvement. This Sermon shows conclusively what I have so often said, the bad effect of a perpetual division in heads. The same general idea runs through the whole. Evening quiet at home. Read Ruffhead, and afterwards Wieland.

1.

A copy of Musée Imperiale de l’Hermitage, Notice sur les tableaux, St. Petersburg, 1818, remains at the Athenaeum.

2.

Rev. James Walker, whose wife was a cousin of ABA, was later President of Harvard College; see vol. 3:113.

Monday. 11th. CFA Monday. 11th. CFA
Monday. 11th.

Morning mild and cloudy. Snow fell during the night but the days are warm. Went to the Office. The news from Washington remains much the same. This Winter is verifying the fears which I have all along entertained in respect to my father’s situation in Congress. His temperament as well as his situation very much unfit him for that body.1 But it is useless for me to worry myself upon a subject over which I cannot have the least control. My anxiety can be shared by no one. I feel perhaps too sensitively the unfortunate effect upon his reputation, and also the very injurious operation which it reflects upon myself. Indeed as to me, my best way is to court retirement, to turn my attention as much as possible to literature. My course would become necessarily involved with that of my father, if I was at all in a public situation, the difficulty of which would be that I should have to differ or agree—Neither of which might suit my feelings. I must therefore seek private life. I must abandon any hope I may have entertained to keep up the reputation of my family, and must attempt by building up the reputation of a respectable man to give that feature to our character which perhaps it most wants, dignity. In this as in all things, I rely for support upon a higher power, who guides and governs us according to his will.

Dr. Phelps called upon me this morning. He came with a subscrip-28tion paper for the Antimasonic Newspaper. It does not sustain itself. He wants me to subscribe to the Stock.2 I considered of it and concluded to grant more than I was able, fifty dollars. It appears that he expected double the sum. I do not think that is reasonable. A case of this kind is a trial, and one must throw one’s self completely upon one’s own judgment. I took my ground and the Dr. left me to try one or two more with a promise of returning. My income for a year past has been large. But it depends somewhat upon the legislation of Congress how long it may continue—And other contingencies which are but too likely to turn out unfavourably. I feel it a most urgent duty to guard as far as I may against them, and I have therefore saved a portion of each year’s receipts. As yet my endeavours have been crowned with success, and appear to be likely to ward off partially any blow, but they must not be remitted. I this day made an investment, but I know not how judiciously.

Short walk. Afternoon, Anquetil. And evening read Caroline of Litchfield, a very pretty tale, and Wieland.

1.

The immediate occasion for CFA’s observations here would seem to be the debate on the tariff which in JQA was currently embattled. The morning papers reported in extenso JQA’s speeches in the House on 31 Jan. and 1 Feb. (Columbian Centinel, 11 Feb., p. 1, cols. 5–7). The larger issues (adverted to here in the lines which follow) raised for CFA by JQA’s insistence on remaining active in the political sphere are discussed at vol. 3:xxxi–xxxvii.

2.

Dr. Abner Phelps’ appeal was in behalf of the Boston Advocate.