Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 8

Thursday 25th. CFA Thursday 25th. CFA
Thursday 25th.

Fine warm day. Morning Office. Afternoon Quincy. Evening at Mrs. Minot’s.

It was a very agreeable morning, but I was not in much condition to enjoy it as I was slightly suffering from the excess of last evening. To me all the pleasure of a social meeting is very poor compensation for the feeling of dissatisfaction which it brings with it, the lassitude and inability to set about the usual occupations with relish. I was not able to do much of the work which is really pressing upon me, and so limited myself to accounts and reading a long letter of my father’s which appeared in the Intelligencer, in which Mr. Otis is answered among others.1

Home. Ajax. Afternoon to Quincy, but my work was cut off by a heavy thunder shower. The improvements in the old house are going on simultaneously with all the rest. The shower prevented my getting home until quite late when we went to Mrs. Minot’s. The Quincy family, but it was uncommon dull. Home at eleven.

223 1.

In the National Intelligencer for 23 April (p. 2, col. 1 – p. 3, col. 1) appeared JQA’s letter “to the Citizens of the United States, whose petitions ... have been entrusted to me, to be presented to the House of Representatives ... at the Third Session of the 25th Congress.” In it he reported that those 825 petitions had received “very little attention from the House” because by adoption of the Atherton Resolutions of 12 Dec. 1838 all antislavery petitions were required to be laid on the table “without reading, printing, or debating.” He proceeded to attack the Resolutions as annihilating not only “the right of petition, but the freedom of speech in the House.” Defending his position that the Resolutions were in violation of the Constitution, he undertook also to reply to arguments that had been advanced especially in state legislatures to defeat efforts to record their opposition to the “gag” rules.

One such formulation that had attracted favorable notice recently and that JQA addressed himself to was that made by John Whipple in January in a minority report to the Rhode Island legislature. On 1 March, Harrison Gray Otis had written to Whipple: “Had I been a member of Congress ... I should not have voted for the [Atherton Resolutions]. At the same time, I have no doubt of the constitutional power of the House to adopt them.... Had I been a member of the Rhode Island Legislature, I should have been found on your side.... It is one thing for Congress to refuse to act upon a petition, and another thing for a State Legislature to deny the right of the former to regulate its own proceedings.” The Intelligencer printed Whipple’s report along with JQA’s letter (p. 1, cols. 2–6), and Otis’ letter to Whipple on the 25th, p. 4, cols. 3–5. See also JQA, Diary, 17 April, and JQA to CFA, 23 April, Adams Papers.

Friday. 26th. CFA Friday. 26th. CFA
Friday. 26th.

Fine day. Regular distribution. Evening Mr. Brooks, at home.

I was at the Office today and worked pretty vigorously upon my Review, but the work goes slow. I am not sure whether Dr. Palfrey will publish it after all.

Read Ajax which I am desirous to finish before I leave town. The play is remarkable as departing in many respects from the strict rules of the Unities, and also for its singular combination of power and absurdity. The speech of Tecmessa1 strikes me as superior to the more celebrated one of Ajax to his sword. This is a soliloquy the only one in Sophocles that remains to us.

After dinner studying a Pamphlet by a Mr. Quin in the Financial Register.2 Evening, my Wife went to Medford, and I devoted the time to a draft of a paper for Mr. Hunt’s Magazine. Mr. Brooks spent an hour with me.

1.

In the Ajax by Sophocles, a Phrygian king suffers the loss of his domain and the captivity of his daughter Tecmessa, who is taken by Ajax, lives with him, and by him has a son.

2.

A periodical published in Philadelphia from July 1837 to Dec. 1838 by Condy Raguet, on whom see below, entry for 15 May.

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