Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 8

Friday. 4th. CFA Friday. 4th. CFA
Friday. 4th.

Rainy day. I passed a large part of last evening as I forgot to state at the Concert of Madame Caradori Allan. The music was ill selected and pleased me very little. But in witnessing the number of persons present I could not help being struck with a repetition of the same appearance of change in the face of Society. Here was an abundance of persons no one of whom hardly had figured upon this stage ten years ago, and those who had been here were now dissipated, they cannot be dead.

At home all day. Occupied in making a draft of a letter to the Editor of the Courier occasioned by the articles in his paper so anxiously disavowing any responsibility for my letters. I think to assume them to myself in a perfectly distinct manner, and to take the opportunity to restate my principle of action in an intelligible form.1

The day was such as to prevent my going out and to keep us all very quiet at home. Nothing of course transpired. Evening I sat up until rather late writing my final copy of my proposed letter.

1.

Contrary to CFA’s impressions, his letters to Biddle in the Courier had, during his absence from Boston, been given considerable attention by the press. On 28 April the Courier reprinted (p. 2, col. I) part of an article from the Washington Globe (23 April, p. 3, col. 4) praising the letters and the Courier for printing them. This was followed by excerpts from a Boston Centinel article attacking the Courier for them and by reference to a similar attack in the Boston Post. To these, Buckingham attached a further disclaimer that the views of “A Citizen” represented in any way the Courier’s position on the currency question. CFA, in his present letter to the editor, dated 3 May and which would appear in the Courier on the 11th (p. 2, cols. 1–2), made explicit, both in the text and in signing it “A Citizen,” its identity of authorship with the “Letters to Biddle.” Sole responsibility for the views expressed in those letters is taken, and the Courier is explicitly absolved of sharing those views. The author denies any loco-focoism or any desire to defend the administration, and indeed any party purposes. “I am, individually, not a Whig—but neither can I be reckoned among the 35Tories.... It may have been noted down, locofoco, by men who would consider Adam Smith, Hamilton or Gallatin locofoco, if extracts from their writings should now be arrayed against them.” His design was to counter the mistaken policies of Biddle and to support those banks which were disposed to resume specie payments. He had been convinced by the experience “that the expression of independent opinion, in the newspaper press of the day, is so difficult as to impose upon an editor, willing like yourself to allow it, a task he should not hastily be called to perform.”

Saturday 5th. CFA Saturday 5th. CFA
Saturday 5th.

Weather doubtful, more than half the time showery. T. K. Davis called in the morning and sat talking until noon. We then accompanied my father to see the studio of a sculptor by name Pettrich who called here this morning and who is seeking for employment. He had a bust of Commodore Rodgers which was very good, two of a couple of Indian chiefs done with great spirit and some sketches in charcoal on his walls of the same which appeared to me well done. I think this man has much talent.1

From here we went into Pennsylvania Avenue and I parted from Davis with the object of making a call upon Mr. J. Pope. He is now a Representative from Kentucky.2 I found him in a poor room enough, but enjoying it alone. The surprise to me is that men who live comfortably and even luxuriously at home can submit to spend half their time here in the Metropolis in such lodgings. Conversation mainly political. Pope is disposed to be non committal. He has no fondness for any man among the leaders, and opposes the Administration just enough to keep himself well at home. He appears to be shrewd in his judgment, but not great either by nature or education.

Home. Dine at the President’s by invitation. Mr. Tallmadge and his daughter with his brother the Senator, Mr. Howard, his Wife, and daughter and Miss Swan of Baltimore, Mr. Rives, Mr. Legaré of S.C., T. K. Davis, my Wife and myself with two sons of the President made the company. A small dinner in what used to be called the yellow sitting room, next to the Circular room. The house looks in much better condition than it ever did before within my knowledge. The dinner was therefore very conservative in its character and for a democratic President sufficiently aristocratic. Mr. Van Buren is very well fitted for the ceremonials of Office but I cannot help mistrusting upon more important points a great deficiency within. Perhaps I may be in error. I sat between the sons of the President, two youths of little acquirement and less talent. The dinner was fatiguing and I was glad to get away at ten o’clock home.

36

Of all the gentlemen whom I have met with here Mr. Rives is the man whose personal address has pleased me most. On my return I found my father reading the Journal of Commerce sent to him containing the letters to Mr. Biddle all in one paper.3 I had expected that press would from its slightly neutral position transfer them as it has done.

1.

Ferdinand Friedrich August Pettrich, a native of Dresden and a student of Thorwaldsen, had come to Washington in 1835. His most productive years would be spent in Rome (Emmanuel Bénézit, Dictionnaire ... des peintres, sculpteurs, 8 vols., Paris, 1960). JQA, in his account of the visit, provides a more detailed survey of the contents of the gallery (Diary, 5 May).

2.

On John Pope, U.S. representative from Ky. and another of LCA’s brothers-in-law, see vol. 1:28. He had been territorial governor of Arkansas until 1835.

3.

The New York Journal of Commerce reprinted CFA’s “Letters to Biddle” on 3 May, p. 1, cols. 1–5.