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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0010-0005

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-09-05

Sunday. September 5th. IX.

Arose rather late this morning and therefore could do but little before it was time to attend Meeting. I went and heard Mr. Whitney deliver a Sermon on some subject or other, which I did not attend to. He is an exceeding feeble Sermonizer. I had occasion to be somewhat displeased with a new regulation they have which is to stand up while the singing is going on. This over, I returned home and continued writing my Journal which I continued also in the afternoon and finally succeeded in bringing it up to it’s precise and exact time. It has been something of a labour but it has exhibited my perseverance and I am satisfied. I employed myself the remainder of the day, in reading over the second volume of Percy Mallory, as I had done it very hurriedly before. Part of it requires attention, particularly the trial which consists in the cross examination of an ignorant witness. I read it over with more care and was much pleased with many observations which the author makes in course, as some of them are very striking. He talks as if he was in high life. Who it is, I have forgotten although I have been told.
In the Evening, much company in the house which I did not go in and see. My feelings are singular in this respect. I do not like to see the visitors we have here half the time and can scarcely give my reasons except that I do not feel confident when I see them; there is something so ineffably coarse about one part of the receiving family that I cannot see her move or speak without feeling degraded. It is this which makes me avoid company in which she is, as I do burn with shame when I see her vulgar, dashing manners. This is the truth and nothing but the truth. I am perfectly convinced with the author of Percy Mallory, that unequal marriages are unfortunate things. I spent half an hour upstairs, Mr. Quincy and Josiah there. As John Taylor of Caroline is dead Grandfather had that famous letter of his read to him which is really an honour to him and a great tribute and a deserved one to Grandfather.1 They went away and then we went in to Supper. George and I had some classical conversation and then retired but we were long awake and conversed very particularly concerning Mary. I think myself that it is a disadvantageous match, and { 314 } therefore if it could possibly be stopped, would be desirable. Although I went to bed at eleven it was after one before I slept.
1. JA and John Taylor of Caroline (1753–1824), the brilliant theorist of the Virginia agrarians, disagreed sharply over the principles and the policies of the American government; in fact, Taylor’s An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (1814) was undertaken in order to refute JA’s A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States of America. Nevertheless the two men remained personal friends, and on 8 April 1824, in his final illness, Taylor wrote JA a farewell letter, praising the President as “a patriot, who I believe has served his country faithfully, and done what man can do, to please his God” (Adams Papers; printed in JA, Works, 10:411–412). See Henry H. Simms, Life of John Taylor, Richmond, 1932, p. 208–209.

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0010-0006

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-09-06

Monday. September. 6th. X.

Arose quite late this morning owing to a restless and disturbed night, and after a short breakfast I went into the Office and commenced writing my Journal. I read a little while this Morning and was much amused in doing so, in a book called New Canaan or a description of New England by Thomas Morton1 a man whose memory is well known in our family because he was the first inhabitant of the estate at Mount Wollaston. It is a singular book, but displays much learning and satirical wit and feelings which may have become part of the soil, at least they agree much with mine. Some time or other, I will study the book with all others upon American affairs. I had almost completed my Journal for the day when news was brought to me that my father had arrived, a long expected event had at last happened. I flew in and going in to one room found not my father but a person as dear and less expected, my mother. I then found him. I was exceedingly happy at finding them. She looks quite well, a little pale but otherwise much better than she was last winter. He looks well but very yellow or brown. My Grandfather appeared to be pleased at seeing them although I never saw him more deaf or weak in his voice in my life. He was generally strong though.
After dinner was over, I had considerable private conversation with my mother and had a great deal of the mystery elucidated which I have formerly mentioned. I received a history of the transactions at Washington and became very fully confirmed in my opinion as to our family concerns. George, who had gone into town in the Morning, came out with them. He is in a sort of tantrum of some sort, I do not know what. George knows nothing of the character of my father. He does not appreciate it and can not look upon him with any thing but fear. This is the true fault of his character, he is always afraid of men { 315 } of a certain decided cast of character, he cannot associate their images with pleasure, he has an indescribable and involuntary awe of them. This is the case with my Father, Johnson Hellen and John whom he never can act frankly to. This is the great, predominating fault in his disposition and I am almost afraid to trust the real truth to this paper, which however is only meant to meet my own eye. It is a painful thing to dip too closely into the foibles of one’s friends.
But of one thing I am satisfied, that Mary has been behaving unworthily to George and consequently that if he marries her, he connects himself with a woman who has no personal affection for him and there is the stumbling block. My Mother is half inclined to the Marriage and half opposed, my Father is tacitly opposed. I have done my duty, I have stated my opinion and I am now prepared to have nothing more to do with the matter. I am sorry for John who, I understand, is the victim of her arts, partially, as it is a conflict in his high feelings of honour which should have been spared him. But I am confident absence will cure him at almost any time. She gave me an amusing account of Johnson Hellen’s engagement2 and unfortunate state of his affairs. He puffed and stormed like a wild colt. The affairs of lovers when represented to third persons are ridiculous indeed. She also gave a very affecting account of the state of Mrs. Keating, so very lately Miss Hopkinson. A very fine woman who met in the first half year of her marriage a very uncommon provision, the death of her husband.3
After a very long “tete a tete” we joined the family and spent the rest of the afternoon talking with them. My Mother is the same woman she always was, as pleasing, and as lively. My father is, as usual, unpenetrating. He is the only man, I ever saw, whose feelings I could not penetrate almost always, but I can study his countenance for ever and very seldom can find any sure guide by which to move. This is exactly the manner which I wish to obtain, for were I confident of my features, I should soon be able to throw my expression into it, and in that way manage much better than I could otherwise. He makes enemies by perpetually wearing the Iron mask.
Tea over I sat part of the time downstairs and then with my Grandfather who is more overcome with a sense of his bodily infirmities now than I ever saw him before. He is a surprising man. We conversed there until nine o’clock when we came down to supper. Mr. De Grand, my father’s unfailing attendant, was here this Evening and as usual very privately closeted with him. We came to Supper and he, soon after it, went off. I spent a half hour in my mother’s room previous to her going to bed and then another with George downstairs after which we { 316 } retired and I having decided that it was useless to talk so much, made a successful effort to sleep. XI.
1. JQA’s copy of Thomas Morton, New English Canaan, Amsterdam, 1637, is in the Boston Athenaeum (Catalogue of JQA’s Books). In 1883 CFA2 brought out a scholarly edition of this celebrated work for the Prince Society.
2. The name of Johnson Hellen’s fiancée is unknown. He did not marry until 1829. See entry for 25 April 1829, below.
3. Mrs. Elizabeth Keating, of Philadelphia, a daughter of Judge Joseph Hopkinson (LCA to GWA, 10 Oct. 1824, Adams Papers; JQA, Diary, 1 Aug. 1829).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.