Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 8

Wednesday 15th. CFA Wednesday 15th. CFA
Wednesday 15th.

Clear. Distribution as usual. Evening at Mrs. Frothingham’s.

Time passes fast and brings on with it my projected journey to New York which I face with more and more ill will. Office. Nothing done.


I forgot to say yesterday that I attended a meeting of The Suffolk Insurance Co. yesterday in which I found that we were called upon to sacrifice above a quarter part of the Stock. This was the very measure which was last year resisted. And a whole year has done little or nothing for the Stock. Well, this is bad like every thing else at present.

Nothing material. Home to read Oedipus after a visit to the Athenaeum. Afternoon, Law upon Money and trade, and the Townley Gallery. Evening, we went down to see Dr. and Mrs. Frothingham. Pleasant conversation. And return, growing very cold. Prescott’s Ferdinand and Isabella.

Thursday 16th. CFA Thursday 16th. CFA
Thursday 16th.

Severely cold. Distribution as usual. Evening at home. Dr. Palfrey.

The morning was the sharpest we have had. I went to the Office. Distressing intelligence came of the loss of the Steamer Lexington by fire with every one on board but three. As there were many passengers belonging to Boston it came on this cold morning like a chilling blast. There has never been in this vicinity any accident at all to compare with this and the sensation made upon the public was quite equal to it.1 It comes peculiarly to me now at this moment when I am about to make the passage myself. But my trust is in the Deity who if it is his will, is likely to call for my life just as certainly on shore as at sea.

Home after making a call upon Mr. Webster a day after the fair.2 Reading Oedipus which I go through with slowly. After dinner the Townley Gallery and Law. Evening at home, reading a new home book. Dr. Palfrey made us a short but pleasant visit. He wishes me to write again for the Review. I should like to but know not what to take. Continued Prescott.


Accounts of the burning of the Lexington on 13 Jan. in Long Island Sound appeared in the Boston Courier, 17 Jan., p. 2, col. 2; 18 Jan., p. 2, cols. 1–2.


The editors can throw no light on “the fair” nor on Daniel Webster’s suggested connection with it.

Friday 17th. CFA Friday 17th. CFA
Friday 17th.

Extremely cold. Distribution as usual. Evening at Mr. Lothrop’s.

I this morning finished my catalogue of the collection of silver of ancient Rome which I possess and in making it, my opinion of it’s value has much risen.

Office. Received more details of the extraordinary disaster of the Lexington. It turns out that there were not quite so many on board but 359of these several of Boston, well known and much respected. Dr. Follen, Mr. Abraham Howard, Mrs. Russel Jarvis and others. The incident is among the most distressing.

Received a letter from New York and wrote in answer that I would try to get on.1 But the boats are all deranged and I hardly know how to manage it. Oedipus Coloneus making great progress.

After dinner, the Townley Gallery and finishing John Law. Evening at Mr. S. K. Lothrop’s. Nobody but the family and Dr. and Mrs. Palfrey. Rather dull.


The lecture on “Credit” planned for delivery in New York before the Mercantile Library Association had presented problems to CFA almost from its inception (entries for 7, 18 Sept. 1839, above). He had completed in the intervening months no fewer than four versions, none of which entirely satisfied him (above, entries for 30 Nov., 10, 24 Dec.). By the time he had completed a revision of the fourth draft (entry for 14 Jan., above), he had already written to Elijah Ward (11 Jan., LbC, Adams Papers) again expressing his doubts as to the appropriateness of the lecture for the occasion and his concerns about its length. He offered Ward a choice once more. He would, if desired, reserve the paper for publication and deliver the lecture on AA, a proven success. Ward replied on the 15th (Adams Papers) expressing a preference for the lecture on AA. CFA’s present response of the 17th has not been found, but it is clear that he acceded to Ward’s view (below, entry for 23 Jan.). The undelivered lecture, “The Principles of Credit by Charles Francis Adams,” was printed in the March issue of Hunt’s Merchants’ Mag. , 2:185–210, with a headnote: “The following lecture was originally prepared for the Mercantile Library Association, but as when finished it appeared too long, and in some portions too abstract, for delivery as a lecture, the author substituted another in its place, reserving it, however, in its original form, for publication in our Magazine.”