Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 8

Monday 12th. CFA Monday 12th. CFA
Monday 12th.

Fine day. General Election. Office. Athenaeum. Afternoon at home. Evening at the Play.

I passed my time at the Office much as usual. It being the day for the choice of State Officers, I voted. My position has been somewhat varied during the last year. The course of the Administration in yielding to the eccentricities of Mr. Calhoun has placed me very much upon the other side and yet I have an innate aversion to the dirty dictation of the Whigs of this place. My opinions agree nearly with those of no body here and hence I am obliged to stand entirely upon what I hold to be right for my justification. I therefore selected the names which I held to be the best on the whole, out of the lists presented and voted it with perfect conscientiousness.

There was much excitement on account of the license law of the last Session which bears with peculiar severity upon the spirit dealers in this city. This has distracted the Whigs and hazards their County ticket. In such matters I feel little interest, but as bearing the best list of names I voted the Amory hall ticket which is considered as favouring the law.1

At the Athenaeum I took out Davis life of Aaron Burr2 with a view to future use for Dr. Palfrey. Afternoon, finished Swifts Tale of a Tub. There is so much of the vulgar and coarse about Swift, it is wonderful that his writings remain at all. A kind of bull dog mind characteristic perhaps of the lower orders of the English people.

Evening with my father to hear the Somnambula. Miss Shirreff as Amina, Wilson for Elvino and Seguin as Rhodolpho. The piece very well got up. And perhaps as well done in all but the prima donna as I ever knew it to be. Miss Shirreff is not the singer that Mrs. Wood or Caradori is but she is respectable. Her acting borders upon excess which is better than tameness. Afterpiece, the same as Friday.

139 1.

The Massachusetts legislature, under pressure of temperance advocates, had passed earlier in the year what was known as the License Law of 1838. Insistent demands for repeal made the law’s future a crucial issue in the current electoral campaign, splitting the whig party. The dominant wing of the party was pro-repeal, the “Amory Hall” wing anti-(Daily Centinel & Gazette, 9 Nov., p. 2, cols. 3–5; 12 Nov., p. 1, col. 2, p. 2, col. 6).


M. L. Davis, Memoirs of Aaron Burr, 2 vols., N.Y., 1836–1837.

Tuesday 13th. CFA Tuesday 13th. CFA
Tuesday 13th.

Fine day. Ride to Quincy. Return to dine at Mr. Brooks’. Evening at home.

Immediately after breakfast my father accompanied me to Quincy. I took the opportunity to go and see Mrs. T. B. Adams about the settlement of the Estate of her son.

The town in a tremendous struggle about the election. It seems that Dr. Duggan has worked with some effect upon the town so that this year it is tolerably democratic. He procured his own election as a Representative and almost surprised a vote against my father for Congress. Today they were attempting to choose two more and doubted their result. Such are the humours of elections to produce what result! I am afraid to look at that part of the Picture. The Democrats without opposing my father openly have endeavoured to throw a combined vote on another candidate so as to weaken the force of his position.1

We returned to dine after I had accomplished my business, with Mr. Brooks. Nobody there but the family and Governor Everett and Edward. Pleasant dinner enough and home in the evening.


“In the 12th Congressional District, there was no nomination of a candidate in opposition to me. But an opposition was secretly organized throughout the District, utterly unknown in many of the Towns until the opening of the polls. No preparation had been made for such resistance, and multitudes did not vote from the mere presumption that as there would be no opposition it would be useless. To play the game with more effect a highly charged democratic abolitionist was selected for the Candidate, and the whole Van Buren phalanx in every town of the District voted for him. Instead of an unanimous vote, my majority in the District will be but a few hundreds” (JQA, Diary, 13 Nov.). Official returns would show that JQA received 4,100 of the 6,951 votes cast in the District (Daily Centinel & Gazette, 27 Nov. 1838, p. 2, col. 1).

Wednesday 14th. CFA Wednesday 14th. CFA
Wednesday 14th.

A beautiful day. Office. After dinner to Quincy. Tea at Mrs. Adams’ and delivered a Lecture. Sleep at Quincy.


I passed the morning at the Office in the usual course of things. My time flies with even greater rapidity than ever and to as little purpose.

After dinner my father accompanied me to Quincy in as fine a day as I ever knew at this season of the year. We reached there at five and went to Mrs. Adams’ to take tea. They had sent me word in the morning that the Lyceum expected a Lecture from me although there had never been a distinct assent on my part. Still as I was anxious that my father should hear me I agreed to take the summons and accordingly we went to the hall where I read the Lecture delivered before the Historical Society last winter.1 Returned home to my father’s where we slept.


“The Hall was crowded and more than half the auditory were women. The most perfect silence was observed and the deepest attention paid throughout the reading, which occupied an hour and a quarter” (JQA, Diary, 14 Nov.). The lecture was that delivered on 23 January.