Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Monday. 18th. CFA Monday. 18th. CFA
Monday. 18th.

I am this day twenty seven years old. My youth may now be said to be complete. I have observed that this has frequently been the particular age at which men famous for talent have begun to develope it to the world. This was the age at which my father began his public career, and at which Cicero made his defence of Roscius of Ameria. This was the age at which Demosthenes entered upon the public business. I mean to compare myself with none of these but I have long been impressed with the idea that if I made no reputation at all at this age, I should never make any. My hopes have sustained themselves until now, and this will be the date of their decline.1 In other respects I have to thank God for all his mercies. Health for myself and mine, prosperity far beyond my deserts, and the most encouraging of all, a pretty good conscience. If it is his will, I remain in obscurity, I shall regret it only on account of my family whose previous reputation will in the world’s eye contrast with my “fainéantise,” deeming it far more for my own happiness to keep myself in quiet. Such is the fallibility of man, such is my own weakness that an exposure to the public will diminish my claims to my own esteem.

I remained at Quincy all day. Morning taken up in arranging my thoughts upon Antimasonry. I am quite doubtful whether my frank exposition of my thoughts to Mr. Odiorne may not have the effect of depriving me of a seat at the Convention. Considering the difficulties that surround me, I should prefer this to any other result, as the one which would save me most clearly from harm. But if it should turn out that wanting names they still cling to mine, and that nevertheless 364the leaders adhere to the determination to amalgamate with Jacksonism, it becomes me thoroughly to reflect upon that course which shall redeem me from any similar servitude. The Advocate throws off Mr. Davis, and the course seems to be to nominate Judge Morton as the Antimasonic Candidate, the Jackson party to fall in without making a distinct nomination. The consequences of this course are manifest. At all hazards, I will avoid them.

In the Afternoon, I went with my father to see Mr. Price Greenleaf’s nursery which he has made out of a rocky and marshy swamp. His labour has been prodigious and he is only beginning after the lapse of two years to perceive results. This is better than idleness or vice, but at this work a wild Irishman would do as well as Newton or Bacon. Home. Ovid. Evening quiet. Conversation.


JQA in noting in his Diary CFA’s arrival at the age of twenty-seven called it “A short time to look back.” The substantial amount of writing on political subjects that CFA completed over the next several years is probably to be related to the resolve here made. See, for example, the entry for 18 Aug. 1835, below.

Tuesday. 19th. CFA Tuesday. 19th. CFA
Tuesday. 19th.

I went into town this morning accompanied by Walter Hellen. My time was very much taken up in running around with him to show him the town. This with half a dozen business Commissions made the hours slip away fast enough. Returned to dinner. The day was cloudy, and threatened rain.

Afternoon. I finished Mr. Jefferson’s works. The impression they leave is not favourable. You cannot think the man great. His ideas were all refinements and his benevolence had so theoretical an aspect that it never touches the heart. On the other hand, his malignity seems to have grown with his age, and his last Letters breathe the discontents of a mortified man instead of the softened exultation of a uniformly prosperous one. His irreligion gives the last deep shade to the picture. Read several of the Lamentations of Ovid which are another and a different but an equally discreditable picture of human life.

Evening, quiet, finished the first volume of Madame de Maintenon’s Memoirs which are well written.

Wednesday. 20th. CFA Wednesday. 20th. CFA
Wednesday. 20th.

The rain fell heavily almost all day with a cold north east wind. I remained quietly at home, and thinking I could employ my time to a 365useful purpose, I began again upon my last year’s design, assorting my Grandmother’s papers. Selected my father’s correspondence in order to get that put into a more durable shape. By reading the Letters I get into the whole of the History of the family far more thoroughly than I could do by any other means, and after all, this is knowledge which may become the most essential of all. But besides the information, the Letters are themselves remarkable both in the peculiar style of the writer and in the developement of the feelings which were operating. I continued the work all day with the exception of an hour of Ovid. Evening, we played a game of Whist in the family.