Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

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.

Tuesday. 12th. CFA Tuesday. 12th. CFA
Tuesday. 12th.

A very bad day with rain which froze as it reached the ground and made the walking intolerable. I went to the Office and after regulating my Accounts as usual, and writing Diary, I sat down and read Mackintosh. I am really delighted with this Volume. It appears to me the most philosophical history I ever read, and at the same time loses none of the high moral and religious character without which it is not worth studying. How poor all my own thoughts and efforts seem to me in comparison. They appear to be the vapouring of an empty head in comparison with the rich store of a highly cultivated natural intellect. I am in despair as to myself. This is one of the very few books which produces upon me the effect which the works of the old masters have been said to upon painters.

After dinner Anquetil who writes well and is yet tedious. The truth is, his subject has no relief in it. A monotony of struggles, for selfish interests and the passions of a moment. No aspirations breathed 29out from the impulse of the higher principles of our nature. Evening quiet. Caroline of Litchfield and Wieland. I make very slow progress in German.