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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0002-0004

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-02-04

Wednesday 4th.

Spent the day at home, again, although the family all went except Madame to the Supreme Court which opened this week, to hear Mr. Webster argue on the Steam boat Case. A very interesting contention between the proprietors of an extensive grant over the waters of New York, given by the legislature and the owner of a boat which { 80 } { 80 } { 80 } { 80 } { 81 } they had seized and condemned. It is a case of great importance involving a question of state rights which has some bearing on the method of reading our constitution. Mr. Webster and Mr. Wirt are in support of the owner who is the plaintiff and Messrs. Emmett and Oakley of New York are in defence of the proprietors, consequently it is expected that there will be great specimens of argument on both sides.1
Mrs. Sullivan, who is a great lady on occasions of this kind, volunteered to take up two of our ladies to hear the debate, which they accepted. Consequently she came for them, according to her usual custom immediately after breakfast, which was quite teasing to our poor girls. Mary and Miss McKnight went with her. It is highly amusing to observe the parties in which the girls form themselves, Mary and Miss McKnight forming the representatives of the South in life and perhaps in temper while Abby and Miss Cranch, who possessing perhaps more feeling, have none of those alluring fascinating ways which so much grace a woman but the mumpish,2 sentimental, homely silence of New England. In my choice I think I could give up some of the affection for a little more of the vivacity. Perhaps a blending of the two characters would make the most perfect one imaginable. Johnson and John walked up.
The latter now came down saying his boot hurt him which it did. The ladies also came in, but not in the best spirits imaginable as they had been constrained to sit and hear the dry arguments of the law detailed off to them, Mrs. Sullivan having no mercy. She is or apes to be a “bas bleu” and makes herself appear very foolish. In fact she must be a very weak woman, or she would not attempt to gain so much notice. Mr. Webster closed and Mr. Oakley commenced in reply. The girls made a great many lamentations and John I thought was not altogether sorry that his boot pinched him insupportably. Mr. Webster’s speech was however very highly thought of.
In the Evening, all the girls went with John and Monsieur to the Drawing Room, which was held to night for the second time this season, Johnson, Madame and I remaining at home. For my part having been once I did not think it worthwhile to go again as there is but little pleasure in the visits. In fact I do not think they could well be made more stiff than they are at present. Mr. J. W. Taylor of New York came this evening to see Monsieur and as he was not at home, he walked upstairs and took tea with us. He is rather a pleasant man and with considerable abilities of a certain sort. His influence in the House is pretty extensive having been chosen Speaker { 82 } once and talked of often. His visit tonight appeared to be to Monsieur particularly as he went down for private conversation when he returned.3
1. In the celebrated case of Gibbons v. Ogden (9 Wheaton 1), Thomas Addis Emmet and Thomas J. Oakley appeared against Daniel Webster and William Wirt. The case, rising from a monopoly granted by the New York legislature for the operation of steamboats in state waters, resulted in a Supreme Court decision which gave a broad construction of congressional power under the commerce clause.
2. Sullenly angry or depressed.
3. Speaker John W. Taylor (1784–1854) reported that Senator Jesse B. Thomas was again proposing that the caucus nominate Crawford for President and JQA for Vice President. Because of Crawford’s ill health, Thomas argued, the duties of the Presidency might fall to the Vice President, and doubtless Crawford’s friends would support JQA in the next election. JQA declined to place the North below the South or to countenance any caucus nomination. See JQA, Diary, 4 Feb. 1824, and entry for 15 Jan., and note, above.

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0002-0005

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-02-05

Thursday. 5th.

My Geography having been finished yesterday, the few remaining days of this vacation will be spent very much without method or desire of study, as I think that I have done a good deal considering the situation in which I was placed and the many inclinations to divert me from my purpose.
I went this morning to the Supreme Court to hear this case [and] Mr. Oakley’s way of representing the matter. But he was so close in his arguments and so much attached to the law that I could not follow him. He is a very dry speaker and only remarkable for his power of logical reasoning, and insinuating sophistry which he displays here remarkably as he appears to me to be undoubtedly on the wrong side of the subject. He closed today and Mr. Emmett continued his argument. He is old, and looks as if he would soon be obliged to relinquish his business. His teeth have fallen out and it is evident that he speaks with great exertion, although he can endure a great while. He commenced with a severe and tremendous philipic upon the states bordering upon New York, saying that she had endured long without complaining, that she had never put her laws in execution, and that it was only in consequence of the irritating conduct of the neighbouring states that she felt herself obliged to rise in her might. He got himself into a real passion by chafing, and being an Irishman, it was very natural and easy for him to do. His power of language however is great and his manner when a younger man must have been very impressive.
As soon as he fell upon the law I left him and returned home where I was shortly obliged to dress for dinner. The company con• { 83 } sisted of Messrs. Holmes of Mississipi, Knight of Rhode Island and Ruggles of Ohio, Senators. Messrs. Archer of Virginia, Cassedy of New Jersey, Foote and Van Wyck of New York, Ingham and Stewart of Pennsylvania, Livermore and White of Vermont, Warfield of Maryland, and Wayne and Whittlesey of Ohio.1 Mr. Stewart was on my left today. He is quite a pleasant man, and has more power of conversation than I thought was in any Member from that State. It is singular that the representation from that state, which is the second in importance in this union, should be so very badly represented. But the common people of the state are generally so ignorant that perhaps it is not so surprizing. Mr. Sergeant2 was formerly quite an honour to the State.
It is remarkable, that if the last dinner party was unanimous or nearly so against the bill of Roads and Canals this one was as strongly in favour of it and Mr. Whittlesey was very bitter about it, showing very plainly the feelings which actuate the Western people generally. They are considerably exasperated at the illiberality of the people on the sea board with a little reason I think. Mr. Foote of New York exposed himself considerably as he arrived here considerably intoxicated and declined eating any thing saying he had just dined. On the whole he appeared to possess the qualities of a gentleman to a great degree of perfection. Monsieur took it however in very good part, and laughed a good deal about him. Johnson says Warfield is a wag but I saw nothing like a sample of it today.
This dinner was quite a pleasant one considering the general character of things of this kind. They are not pleasant to me as I have for the most part to break the ice myself with the person who sits near me. A circumstance which in a young man may appear rather presuming and which is sometimes repulsed and sometimes politely received. I know my motive to be good, and as I imagine myself generally conferring a favour, I persist. It is however a pretty hard task. After dinner we went upstairs and immediately some ladies and gentlemen came in, as Madame had wished to form a musical party this evening. Foote finding himself not likely to support himself even by his name retired. As did all the others of the party except Stewart who appeared pleased and stayed here the evening.
The musical party, consisted of a Mrs. Bushby and her husband, with her two sisters the Miss Stedmans, ladies from the West Indies but not remarkable for beauty, Mr. Talbot and his wife, a very attractive and pleasant woman. He is a Senator but a most amusing character. And according to the stories about, not the most agreable { 84 } in his person. Mrs. Beaumarchais with a son and niece, not the prettiest. She is hear for a claim which she has come from France to obtain but it is said, not with any probability of success.3 Our good friends Dr. and Mrs. Thornton were here also, whom I would not for the world forget. These formed the party with much pleasure. Mr. Bushby is quite a genteel man, very English in his appearance, a certain class of whom always look genteel—it must be confessed.
But my great diversion this evening consisted of an innocent quiz of mine upon my good friend Dr. Thornton, who got me deeper into the system of courts than I intended to have gone, but by perpetually winding round the subject, he got extravagantly enthusiastic when I turned him over to father in order that he might attend and profit by his theory. The West Indian ladies in the mean time sung a great while without much effect; they have singular voices in tone similar to frogs. Madame also sung and pretty well although not half so clearly as I have known her to. Mr. Addington was here also and stayed till last. Two awkward circumstances occurred. Antonio4 came to extinguish the candles before he had gone and his carriage was announced to be ready two or three times. Retired in good season.
1. A fuller, and in three cases more correct, identification of the guests is as follows: David Holmes (1769–1832); Nehemiah Rice Knight (1780–1854); Benjamin Ruggles (1783–1857); William Segar Archer (1789–1855); George Cassedy (1783–1842); Charles Augustus Foote (1785–1828); William William Van Wyck (1777–1840); Samuel Delucenna Ingham (1779–1860); Andrew Stewart (1791–1872); Arthur Livermore (1766–1853), from New Hampshire; David White (1785–1834), from Kentucky; Henry Ridgely Warfield (1774–1825); Isaac Wayne (1772–1852), from Pennsylvania; and Elisha Whittlesey (1783–1863) ( Biog. Dir. Cong. ).
2. John Sergeant (1779–1852), a Princeton-educated lawyer who was a Federalist Congressman from 1815 to 1823 (same).
3. Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732–1799), the dramatist and the ill-fated financial agent of the French monarchy, had furnished arms to the United States during the Revolution through a fake company in return for tobacco and other American commodities. The Congress, however, never fulfilled its part of the barter arrangement, and Beaumarchais’ widow was not recompensed until 1835. See Elizabeth S. Kite, Beaumarchais and the War of American Independence, 2 vols., Boston, 1918.
4. Antonio Giusta, JQA’s butler and valet. He was an Italian, an ex-Napoleonic soldier, and had served JQA since 1814. Often called Antoine, his full name as given by JQA in a character reference when his old servant had to leave his employ in 1829 was Michael Anthony Giusta ( MS dated 22 Feb. 1829 in MBU). See also Bemis, JQA , 2:159.