Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 5

Monday. 25th. CFA Monday. 25th. CFA
Monday. 25th.

A sudden change in the weather which has brought down the Thermometer again quite low. At the Office. I get no News from home. My father’s last Speech seems to have been quite a successful one.1 I hear of it from several quarters. Engaged this morning in writing and reading Morris as usual. He had made up his mind to a dissolution of the Union. And he was not afraid to say so.

Took a walk and ordered a further provision of fuel for the winter. It is extraordinary what an amazing amount of this I am in the practice of consuming. Nobody can live in this climate without considerable resources. This is the cause of the high price of labour, provisions &c. Afternoon, Anquetil whose book is drawing to a close—Not much to my regret for I am tired of intrigue.

Evening with my Wife and Mrs. G. Brooks to the Theatre. The White Lady of Avenel. Music of Boieldieu. “No” and the last Act of the Tempest for the benefit of Mrs. Austin.2 The Opera is pretty, the music is light and airy and in character with the Scotch scene to which it is adapted, the combined pieces are however of considerable difficulty and above the powers of the performers. The Auction Chorus at the close of the second act requires far more practice to give it, it’s full effect, and one or two trios entirely failed owing to the difficulty of the singers. Sinclair and Mrs. Austin sustained the piece. For the rest, it has neither the brilliancy of Masianello, nor the ringing melodiousness of Cinderella. After all, Rossini is my favourite.

Returned very late. We heard to day of the death of Mrs. Everett’s new born infant.


“‘Il n’y a qu’heur et malheur dans ce monde’ says Jean Jacques Rousseau. Little did I imagine that my chiffon of a Speech upon the Southern Machinery, would have been the most popular thing I ever did or said. I never spoke upon any important topic, with so little preparation. I was too unwell to make any suitable preparation. I had given up the idea of speaking upon the Subject at 38all.... I had commenced it at an early period of the Session and had been obliged to lay it aside half finished despairing of being able to bring it to a close before the close of the Session. I was urged however by some of my Colleagues to say something”

(JQA to CFA, 13 March, Adams Papers).


The program at the Tremont Theatre consisted of The White Lady, or The Spirit of Avenel in which Mr. Sinclair, Mrs. Austin, and Mrs. Barrymore sang; No, a farce, sung by Mr. Sinclair and Miss Hughes; and Mrs. Austin as Ariel in the last act of The Tempest (Columbian Centinel, 25 Feb., p. 3, col. 4).

Tuesday. 26th. CFA Tuesday. 26th. CFA
Tuesday. 26th.

Weather quite cold. At the Office after another business delay with Conant, the Tenant at Weston. Received by Mail, a copy of Mr. Appleton’s Speech from Mr. Everett. Affairs at Washington still remain in a very doubtful state. I studied the Intelligencer and finished the volume of Gouverneur Morris. On the whole, so far I have derived a very mixed idea of his character. That he had a great deal of talent is I think quite clear. That he was an intriguer is also pretty evident. Above all he had a very great idea of his power in political foresight which events will not fully justify. A man of common observation after considering attentively the course of events will hazard half a dozen distinct conjectures as to results, and the probability will be that in some of them he will be right. If it does so turn out, he forgets those in which he has failed, and forthwith sets up as an oracle, on the strength of his success. Morris predicted a military Government for France, but he also insisted upon the weakness and exhaustion of the Revolutionary government. He foretold the result of the French struggle, but he was outrageously mistaken in regard to our own. With him the United States were ruined when the Judiciary bill was repealed, the new Bank was to throw every thing into confusion, and Mr. Madison had destroyed our prosperity. These are the dreams of a party visionary. Seventeen years have shown their utter futility.

Athenaeum and a walk. Afternoon Anquetil. Evening at home. Tried two or three books but disliked them all. Alison on Taste. Glad to have a quiet evening.

Wednesday. 27th. CFA Wednesday. 27th. CFA
Wednesday. 27th.

The Child has not appeared well within a few days. She shows sickness almost immediately. I know no anxiety equal to that which any symptoms of that kind in her create. My trust is always in a higher power, and yet I feel as if I was almost too deeply attached for this world. It brings it’s own punishment in the care it occasions.


Mild weather in the morning, but it cleared off cold at night. Went to the Office but my time was wasted. I had not my regular work, so I began a letter to my father but did not go on with it. Somehow I cannot write as I used to. The rest of my time was passed in destroying the remainder of the loose papers which had been in a box in my other room, and which I perceived today had been ransacked in all probability by some of my Office boys. A troublesome set which would joyfully be dispensed with by me if I could hit upon any other mode of getting my work done. Poor George. He had many, many good qualities. And when I remember what he might have been, it makes me feel more deeply the singular weakness of humanity.1

Walk. Afternoon, Anquetil. I find he was a Catholic priest which dissipates my wonder at his notions about religious liberty. Voltaire. And Alison. He lays it down that nothing in this world is in itself beautiful. Is this true? And if it is, does it not fundamentally destroy the argument of the existence of a deity from his works, or in other words, natural religion? To say that things are beautiful or sublime merely because the mind of man associates certain qualities with certain things, leaves every point to the decision of human caprice. If there is nothing beautiful or sublime in the material world but what is arbitrarily pitched upon by the fancy of man, it will be hard to deny the same assertion when applied to the moral universe. And where will this lead? But I am plunging deep into metaphysics.

My Wife took tea out. Family party at Mrs. Frothingham’s. P.C. and Gorham Brooks and ladies, Edward, Miss C. Dexter and Wife and myself. Tolerably pleasant. Returned at ten and got upon Architecture and building.


The destruction of the mass of papers left in the Court Street office by his brother George (GWA) was an occupation to which CFA frequently returned, and almost always with melancholy reflections on GWA’s unrealized talents. See, for example, vol. 3:xxxi–xxxii, 6–7, 217, 219, 347, 364.