Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 8

Sunday. 13th. CFA Sunday. 13th. CFA
Sunday. 13th.

My father did not get up from the House until nearly two o’clock this morning and yet the Administration party did not succeed in carrying their bill. The game continued, sharply contested by votes of only one, two or three majority. And after all, with what object, merely to embarrass Mr. Van Buren and Mr. Woodbury.1 And for the sake of this, the Country pays it’s thousands.

After breakfast, I filled up Arrears, and then attended divine service at the Presbyterian church with my father. A young man whose name I did not know preached from John 5. 40. “Ye will not come to me that ye might have life.” The various reasons for irreligion, fear, shame, pleasure &c. discussed in an ordinary way, but I still think in manner better than the clergymen with us.

Read a Sermon of Buckminster which I think is one of the best I have yet read. Philip. 1. 9. “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more.” Upon the different effect of reason and of feeling in religion, the excess of coldness produced by one and of vehemence or fanaticism resulting from the other. The introduction of the affections in religion is one of the most difficult and yet the most necessary 42of operations. Indeed I would go further and apply my remark to life in general. Reason is a sure guide only when in conjunction with that moral feeling which is if not originated at least in its perfect state has been much cultivated by the action of the affections. There are passages in this discourse which run very much in my way of thinking.

At three we went by invitation to Woodley, Mr. Johnson’s residence to dine with him. My father and I accompanied Governor J. Pope, and the ladies came with I. Hull. This place was once a pretty country seat of one of the Maryland planters but now partakes of their decay. It has fallen into the hands of one of the french purveyors of the Metropolis, who has made a little out of the foreign legations. Our dinner was a formal one consisting of every thing that could be given, and the wine was abundant. We returned home by eight. I found my letter to the Courier sent from here on the 5th was published in the paper of the 11th. To bed early.

1.

The opponents of the bill authorizing the Treasury to issue notes sought to show that the proposal was dictated by the Treasury’s near insolvency ( Congressional Globe , 25th Cong., 2d sess. same , p. 370–372).

Monday. 14th. CFA Monday. 14th. CFA
Monday. 14th.

A fine day but very warm. T. K. Davis called and sat an hour, after which I walked with him to the Capitol. He gave me an account of his visit to Mr. Rives, from whence I infer that the Conservatives feel the vanity of their middle position very much. In politics as regulated by parties, there can be no influence that is not exerted in one direction or the other. So Mr. Rives who has already sacrificed much of his personal feeling to attain it by now stopping looks only weak.1 The experiment of making no sacrifice is one which either has not yet been made or if it has been, has proved unsuccessful. And yet this is the very experiment towards which circumstances as well as my own temper are driving me. My experience of political life here is such as to make me very lukewarm in my exertions to embrace it. Davis seems to have become more anxious to do so since his arrival here but I confess I am not.2

At the Capitol, we were rather poorly entertained for two or three hours by opposition speakers against time. Then returned home to dine parting with Davis who positively goes tomorrow. I shall regret this a good deal, and indeed feel much inclined homeward by it.

Went to the Theatre with the ladies to hear the Somnambula, and Caradori as the prima donna. Brough as Rhodolpho. The piece was 43better performed than I expected, and although I think Mrs. Wood a more brilliant singer yet this lady is in excellent taste. The house crowded and fashionable.

1.

William Cabell Rives, senator from Va., failing in the attempt to reconcile his convictions with the political necessities in his state had resigned his seat in the Senate in 1835 rather than vote as instructed against Jackson’s removal of the federal deposits from the Bank. Reelected in 1837 as a supporter of Jackson’s and Van Buren’s fiscal policies, he again asserted his independence by opposing the specie circular and the subtreasury system, by advocating the deposit of federal monies in the state banks, and by leading in the formation of an independent group of “Conservatives” in Virginia ( DAB ). Apparently he now regarded the moves as having been made at the cost of his political effectiveness.

2.

The example of Rives’ career and their own experiences in Washington seem to have brought CFA and T. K. Davis to a parting over whether it was then possible for a person of convictions to seek political office without sacrificing personal commitments to the demands of party.