Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 8

Tuesday. 21st. CFA Tuesday. 21st. CFA
Tuesday. 21st.
New York

Cold and clear. Ride to New Haven and thence to New York.

We were roused at four o’clock which to me was no inconvenience as for some reason or other I had heard the clock strike two, three and four without getting to sleep. After dressing we were carried down to the Depot or rather to the terminus of the Railroad to New Haven and got into the cars as they stood in the open air. There was no fire in them and it was in all respects cheerless and uncomfortable enough. We however had the consolation of finding what used to be a tedious journey quite a short process and of arriving at New Haven to breakfast.

But here our troubles began, for we found that the Steamboat did not go nor was it likely to go so we had to make up our minds to go overland. This road is one which for many years I have not passed over, but when I did, it left indelible traces in my memory of discomfort so that I was prepared to expect the same today. I was not disappointed. The sleighs were poor, the delays vexatious and the stops uncomfortable so that it was two o’clock in the morning when we were turned into the street at No. 21 Bowery with not a single soul to look to nor any accommodation to get to a hotel.

After some delay we picked up a black fellow who was straggling about and followed him and our trunks to the Astor House which we reached at ten minutes before two o’clock. In passing along I could not help being struck with the lonely character of the streets. I did not imagine that New York ever was so quiet. And the only sign of life was at Tammany Hall where there was a brilliant illumination and ball. The contrast was striking enough.1

1.

The Astor House, five stories of Quincy granite, occupied the block fronting Broadway from Barclay to Vesey street. Begun in 1834, the hotel was opened in 1836 and continued in operation at that site until 1913 (Stokes, Ico-362nography of Manhattan Island , 5:1727, 1741). Tammany Hall had been built during 1811–1812 on the southeast corner of Nassau and Frankfort streets and would remain as the “Great Wigwam” until 1867 (same, p. 1533–1534, 1543).

Wednesday 22d. CFA Wednesday 22d. CFA
Wednesday 22d.

Rain hail and snow. Walking. Evening at Clinton Hall.

The sleep of a few hours was not refreshing to me inasmuch as waking brought with it the consciousness of a sharp head ach. The weather was bad being snowy and on the whole the aspect of things cheerless enough. After a light breakfast I walked out, to see if Sidney Brooks had started, and upon calling at his store found that he left town yesterday.

The snow began to turn into rain and I found no acquaintances and no sign of an inquiry on the part of the Mercantile Library Association if I was there. I do not remember in my life that I ever felt more dolefully. My fear that I should be utterly unable to execute my engagement at all aggravated my uneasiness very much. I starved myself and this probably prevented my being obliged to give up entirely. But finding things so out of joint and myself so poorly I set about inquiring the readiest means of getting away, and finally engaged a seat in the stage going out tomorrow morning.

This done I called to see Hunt the publisher of The Merchants’ Magazine and set him in quest of Mr. Ward who finally called to see me at five o’clock. He notified me of his abdication and that the new President would call with himself at 7 o’clock to take me to Clinton Hall. Accordingly we went at the specified hour, the rain pouring in torrents.

Clinton Hall is a neat building erected for the accommodation of this Society and contains a Lecture Room, Library and Reading Room, besides a small room for the Directors into which I was introduced.1 But I soon found by various whisperings among the young men that there was no audience. They charged this to the weather and finally requested of me to postpone the delivery of my Lecture until tomorrow evening. My own inclination was to go on that I might get away in the morning. But I answered that I had come to please them and not myself and if it was their desire that I should wait I would. This they finally determined upon. So the matter was announced to the few who had the energy to come.

The Directors then carried me round their Library and showed me many new books as well as old ones. They pride themselves as all 363young men do more upon the number than the selection, but this is on the whole creditable. I was not however in good order to think about it so I was glad when the time came for me to be transferred to the Astor House and thence to bed, tired and dull.

1.

Clinton Hall, erected for the Society in 1829–1830, was located at the southwest corner of Beekman and Nassau streets (Stokes, Iconography of Manhattan Island , 5:1681, 1686).