Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 6

Saturday. 28th. CFA Saturday. 28th. CFA
Saturday. 28th.

It is now quite a week since the cloudy weather set in during which we have not much rain but a great deal of comfortless weather. I went to the Office and was met first by Wm. Spear who had some little to do and much to talk about, and afterwards Harvey Field came in.

He was in a fever about the Quincy Bank. The payments are to be made on Wednesday and the Stockholders fail him. I told him that I thought he ought to have given me some notice of the subscription—That I had disposed of every particle of money that I could raise in the belief that my aid which had been offered to him had not been found necessary. He admitted his negligence and begged hard. He said he had put my father’s name down for ten shares and mine for as many but that as there were in consequence of the great pressure failures in taking other shares he wished me to go as high as fifty. After talking and calculating all the resources I could command, I told him I would for the sake of the town engage for thirty and no more—And to do this I must put myself to very great inconvenience. He seemed satisfied that I could do no more and relieved that could do so much.

I strongly suspect his course to have had some very little motives. He wanted to be in the direction and was perhaps a little afraid of the weight of our shares and influence if we had thought proper to exert any. He thus kept back even the information I had any shares assigned to me until after every arrangement is made and trusts to luck when he is obliged to call. I cared nothing about all this and his tactics might if he had known me have been spared. He has consulted my best interests without knowing it, for in these days Bank direction is to be avoided.

Received two letters from Washington, one from my Father which exceedingly alarmed me for the fate of our organization in Massachusetts.1 I went down to see Mr. Hallett and talked with him on the subject. I explained to him as clearly as I could do the situation in which my father felt himself placed, and how far it might conflict with the present course of parties. Mr. Van Buren had in some degree brought upon himself the storm which had been directed against Webster, by the agency of the articles in the Globe. I was fearful that the Slavery question would bring my father up in aid of Mr. Webster 397again and that thus the State would be swept out of our hands just at the moment we were likely to seize it. Mr. Hallett seemed to have apprehended this result and his ideas seemed to be only to gain time. If we could postpone the question until after the election, then we might act with far greater effect. But at this moment, Mr. Van Buren’s election is hazarded and our own position is nearly destroyed. Any hasty action at this time drives him into the very course from which we wish him to be preserved. I said I would write to my father my opinions and we then parted. This result is what I foresaw to be possible and justifies my caution about committing my name.

Home to dinner. Afternoon, finished Sismondi’s Literature of the South of Europe which has pleased me although I find nothing very striking in it. Read more of Sir James Mackintosh with continued pleasure. Evening devoted entirely to writing a reply to my father which I nearly finished.


The letters from LCA and JQA, 24 May, are in the Adams Papers. JQA expressed the belief that “the motive for the desperate assaults upon my character for veracity in the Globe ... was that ... I divulged prematurely the project of wresting from Mexico, territory enough for nine States as large as Kentucky to re-establish Slavery in them, abolished by the Mexican Government, and to admit them as Slave-holding States.” He recognized that his own inflexible opposition to that policy which Van Buren and his forces adhered to in order to secure the support of the South would be likely to rupture the tender alliance in Massachusetts between the Democrats and Antimasons, built upon support of Van Buren’s presidential hopes against Webster’s. “Mr. Van Buren especially does not deem the full disclosure of this system of policy safe, at the present time.... I hope to be able to open the eyes of the People of the North to the designs which are maturing to consummation affecting their interests.... But this operation cannot be performed without hazarding the rupture of the harmony which seemed to be forming itself between the Antimasonic and Democratic parties in Massachusetts.... [Van Buren’s] policy is to play Webster and me against each other and the Massachusetts parties against one another, to purchase the votes and support of the South by the sacrifice of them all.... The Indian and Negro War, bursting upon us almost without warning, and the Mexican War ... have brought up subjects of discussion which must have over ruling influence upon the new formation of parties at the close of this and the opening of the next Administration.”

Sunday. 29th. CFA Sunday. 29th. CFA
Sunday. 29th.

Morning still cloudy and dull. I read Sir James Mackintosh in whose favour I have postponed all my other occupations. Then to meeting where I heard Mr. Frothingham 1 Timothy 6.3. “Wholesome words”—One of his most polished and beautiful efforts. He spoke of their effect in three ways, first as modes of advice and expostulation, second as modes of encouragement, third of consolation, and on the whole 398three he introduced observations which show his acquaintance with human feeling to be greater than one would suspect. There was much in the discourse which did me good because it fell upon my precise state of feeling with great effect. I hope I was better for it.

In the afternoon, 2. Samuel 24. 14. “And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait. Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for his mercies are great, and let me not fall into the hand of man.” I recollect this discourse when delivered before. It relates to that singular census of David which brought upon him and his people such a severe punishment—No more incomprehensible story in the whole of Ancient Scripture. There is an appearance of priest craft in it.

Mr. Walsh walked and dined with me. Read a discourse of Dr. Barrow upon that mysterious subject, the sufferings of Christ foretold in the Old Testament. The Dr. explains the case more clearly than I have yet seen it and I am inclined to his opinion, but it is not long since Mr. Noyes in an able Essay in the Christian Examiner denied all the ground—And the thing is not clear, that is certain.1 Acts 3. 18. “But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his Prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.” My main difficulty is that to doubt on this point is like shaking the whole of the Christian religion.

Finished copying my long letter to my father and sent it — This is a venture.2 Evening, young Mr. Miller was here for an hour. I read Sir James.


On the essay-review by George Rapall Noyes, “Christology of the Old Testament,” see above, entry for 9 July 1834. CFA had then called the views expressed by Noyes “very abominable.”


In response to JQA’s determination to oppose Van Buren’s appeasement of the South on Texas at the cost of the alliance effected against Webster in Massachusetts, CFA, after recognizing the difficulties of his father’s position and affirming his conviction “that in this Country it is impossible to continue in public life with any success, on a basis distinct and independent of parties,” urged upon JQA all the unhappy consequences for himself and his political beliefs of forwarding Webster’s triumph for whatever reasons. “To all this I am aware you will oppose the ... evident disposition to court the South at any expense.... I see it all and understand it. But ... Mr. Van Buren is involved in very great difficulties out of which his being a Northern man is the greatest.... Mr. Van Buren is undoubtedly in a false position and must remain so for some time.... He is therefore flexible but he wants time to get rid of the election and he wants to shun committal. On some accounts it might be prudent for the Northern party to grant him the indulgence.... The great point to be gained seems to be delay. Delay to enable Mr. Van Buren to get rid of General Jackson,... to give him an opportunity to develope his own system,... to more fully organise a party in this quarter upon which it might be practicable to oppose him in case that system is not a fair one,” (28 May, Adams Papers.)