Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 6

Friday. 14th. CFA Friday. 14th. CFA
Friday. 14th.

The morning was cloudy with rain at noon. We arose early and hastened to the Steamer Robert Morris which was at the foot of Chesnut Street, bound for Baltimore. Our passage was a quiet one to New Castle where we left the Boat and took the Railroad, which in one hour brought us to Frenchtown. At this moment the weather cleared and we had a lovely day. We arrived at Baltimore shortly after four and concluded to go to the City Hotel and remain there until the morning.

The Cholera has lately broken out here and carried off two or three among the more wealthy and comfortable of society. The Alarm has spread singularly until the public houses have become nearly empty and the citizens are running away.

After a capital supper in which I relished after a six years interval the delicious canvassbacks of these regions, I went out to find Gorham Brooks and his Wife. My direction was so accurate that I found the House without difficulty. They were at home and about to take tea. They were well but evidently fatigued and depressed, the cause of which I soon found to have been their child, who had been suddenly taken the night before with vomiting and had kept them up very anxious through the night. He looked heavy and flushed but took tea and seemed much more lively afterwards. My visit was therefore an unlucky one and yet I lengthened it far beyond my intention. They seemed to be pleased to see me and I thought my conversation would distract their attention from what was evidently the great topic, the Cholera. Their physician Dr. Stewart came in for a few minutes, but was dismissed without seeing the boy. He was rather monosyllabic 11about the disease, whether it was that he had no good to tell or that he was worn out and exhausted by his duties.

I took my leave before ten and threaded the streets home in which I hardly found living thing. The hogs were quietly rooting up the filth which lay in quantities in the Streets highway, but they had the territories pretty much to themselves. This can hardly be natural at such an hour in Baltimore. The night air is thought so dangerous that it has driven people into their houses. The talk, and the loneliness of the walk, reminding me of my imprudence had the effect of making me quite nervous for half an hour after my return. I went to bed and in due time fell asleep.

For the rest, Gorham Brooks is very comfortably settled down in a pretty but not large house. His style is expensive, and must require larger means than the remainder of his family possess. But he was always fond of expense though not of society.

Saturday. 15th. CFA Saturday. 15th. CFA
Saturday. 15th.

The air had turned cold during the night, and it was cloudy. After a good breakfast we started for Washington in an Extra Coach I had procured exclusively for ourselves. It began to rain and freeze so as to be cheerless in the extreme. My Mother who seemed at first scarcely able to go on, gathered strength by exercise and bore the Journey through without stopping. We arrived at Washington shortly after three.

On the road I could not help reflecting how different my feelings were from what they had ever before been. How cheerless and barren every thing looked, how desolate now, where formerly the anticipation of pleasure and youthful vacations and all the novelty of fashionable life had thrown a glow of cheerfulness. Both my brothers with whom I had shared all these hopes and feelings gone, corrupted by the very luxury we longed for, and now numbered only among those thousands and millions that have been. My own views and feelings changed and changing. My situation in life now removed from all prospects of ambition, and from scenes of exalted intrigue. What is Washington to me now, but the monument of my father’s disappointment, the grave of my brothers, and the memorial of most of the misery and all of the vice of my own past life.1 My present entrance was moreover attended with circumstances of a peculiarly melancholy nature. My Mother barely recovering from a dreadful illness, and returning to 12the house of him who was her son but a few weeks ago, to a distressed wife and a fatherless child, to be called back to the memory of him by the million reminiscences in things about her; and this without the satisfaction of having a comfortable home or a mind free from anxious thoughts of the future. This is only a part of the picture and I will not fill up the rest.

We reached the door of my late brother’s house2 and my father came out full of anxiety and distress. I avoided the first meeting with all the family by pretending it was necessary for me to see Mrs. Smith home to her own house. On my return, all was over, the interview between my Mother and sister in law had taken place, and with less of distress than we had feared. I also saw the latter for a few moments. She had been very ill but is now recovering and looks better in health than I expected. She seems now much affected and no doubt will be for some time but if I judge her character right, her impressions will not be lasting. Nor is it at all desirable that they should be. The child Fanny is a pleasing little thing of just the age to be attractive. Mr. and Mrs. Frye with their son Thomas who has grown entirely out of my recollection3 passed the greater part of the evening here.


To the third and fourth generation of Adamses Washington seemed a place to which Adamses were drawn irresistibly and with debilitating and tragic effect. CFA had not in his youth come to the view expressed here and at 18 Nov., below; see vol. 1:xxviii–xxxiii. For the theme in the next generation, see HA, Education , p. 44–45, 243, 256, 296.


At 1601 I (Eye) Street, N.W., just north of President’s (now Lafayette) Square. JA2 had built the house in 1829, and JQA and LCA had lived with their son and his family in it since JQA’s return to Washington in 1831.


On Thomas Baker Johnson Frye, fourteen-year-old son of LCA’s sister, Carolina Virginia Marylanda, and her second husband Nathaniel Frye Jr., see vol. 1:4, 63, and Adams Genealogy.