Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 8

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.


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.


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.

Tuesday 15th. CFA Tuesday 15th. CFA
Tuesday 15th.

The weather is waxing warmer. I went out early this morning and made a call upon Dr. Thomas returning a visit from him, and also one from A. H. Everett who is still up in his room, although nearly recovered. Much conversation with him upon the state of politics here and in Boston. I stated very frankly my difficulties as I always do and expressed my unwillingness to put confidence in an Administration which drew it’s support from a sacrifice of the North to the sectional pride of Mr. Calhoun. He told me that Mr. Van Buren had written me a note acknowledging my Pamphlets which note I never received. Also that Mr. Foster wrote to him that the Advocate was to be abandoned, and complained of the doubtful course of the Government. What a turbid state.

My difficulties are of a peculiar character. I want confidence in every thing and every body, and feel almost as hostile to one party on principle as I do to the other from feeling. I trust in an overruling providence both for the country and for myself.

Went to the Capitol. Mr. R. Biddle was speaking and I very soon became interested in his argument. Indeed it is the only one which I have heard which is of a high character. He took up in turn each of the Administration party and certainly exposed them in a manner which could not be exceeded. There was an elegance of style and a facility of imagery which is uncommon where mere talent seems to be almost universal.

After he ceased Mr. Bell took up the debate and as I think little of 44him, I returned home. T. K. Davis really went this morning and I felt his absence. Mr. Everett says he Davis has been very well received and made a favorable impression. So far, so good.

After dinner, again to the play. Mrs. Smith taking the place of my Mother whose visit to the theatre last evening proved too much for her, and she has been unwell ever since. The Barber of Seville. Caradori as Rosina, Walton as Figaro, Pearson as Almaviva and Brough as Basil. The piece quite tolerably sustained. Pearson did well in parts but he spoilt the Quintette at the close of the second act. The trio “Zitti, zitti,” very well indeed. Caradori also sung Una voce, very well. On the whole the Barber carried off the piece most effectively. Home late.