A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0001-0014

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-01-14


This day, as we heard Mr. Clay was going to speak and answer Mr. Barbour who spoke yesterday, we, (all the family) went to hear him. He had commenced before we got there so that it was hardly possible to obtain a seat even for the ladies. John had something of a task and so had I, for there were four ladies to attend to, in a great crowd. After settling them, by dint of perseverance we obtained something a little like a place to hear but not to see. From what I was able to gather it was a fine speech, and put up with more argument than he generally condescends to use. He supported Mr. Hemphill’s bill and opposed Mr. Barbour’s motion of yesterday to strike out the enacting clause. He gave Mr. Barbour a number of slight dashes but nothing of the bitter sarcasm which he is so fond of using on these occasions. He argued the words of the constitution thus: “Congress shall have power to establish post offices and post roads.” In this he argued the word established meant to create and Congress had the power to make roads in any state or territory which it should think fit. This is about the whole subject of discussion as the other part insists that Congress has no right to do any thing but select the road on which the mail is to be run and assign post offices.
It is a question in which there is a show of reason on each side. And I am rather inclined to think myself that the words were intended as the Virginians construed them, but if so I think the constitution should be amended for at the time of the formation of the constitution we had no inland states to demand assistance in the way of roads or canals. Mr. Clay stated this argument and exposed the condition of the West, in a very handsome manner, and was commencing a very handsome appeal to the feelings when Mr. Barbour got up for the purpose of explaining away ostensibly, but really to break it up which he did. After speaking for about two hours and a half he sat down and the question was taken as to Mr. Barbour’s amendment and lost ayes 116. Noes about 80. Immediately after which the House adjourned and we went home. On the whole very much pleased indeed. Mr. C. is one of the first speakers in this country, in manner, voice, gesture and simplicity of language. The flexibility and variety of his tones is astonishing.1
In the evening, we did intend having an oyster supper, but were { 43 } interrupted by Messieurs Connell2 and Blunt who came and spent the evening. So we were obliged to delay it.
1. Clay’s speech on Hemphill’s bill to provide surveys and plans for a system of roads and canals was one of his great efforts to promote internal improvements. In closing he argued eloquently that “the bill on your table is no Western bill. It is emphatically a national bill, comprehending all, looking to the interests of the whole” (Annals of Congress, 18 Cong., 1 sess., p. 1040). This was also the view of JQA, who would not have agreed with his son’s view that the Constitution needed amending in order to launch such a program.
The vote on Barbour’s motion to strike the enacting clause was 74–109; the amendment for $30,000 won with 105 yeas, while the vote of the Committee of the Whole House to report on engrossing the bill for a third reading was 114–82 (same, p. 1041).
2. John Connell, a messenger in the Treasury Department (JQA, Diary, 18 Jan. 1824; U.S. Official Register, 1825, p. 17).

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0001-0015

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-01-15

Thursday. 15th.

I resumed today the usual course of studies at least in part by reading two maps of America—and should have read Bacon, had I been able to find the book, but as I could not ’twas not possible. After this I went to the House and heard the last part of the speech of Mr. Wood of New York1 against the bill. Although it was decided pretty well yesterday it appears that it’s opponents are determined not to give up the ground without fighting. His arguments were close as far as I heard them and very argumentative but as his manner is unpleasant, I did not pay great attention to him. I have heard all the arguments which he used before, and it appears to me it can only be a quibble upon a word, for there are few who will not allow the expediency of the measures. He finished with a severe speech, saying that the gentleman from New Jersey, (Dr. Holcombe) the other day had spoken of a new Era. A new Era, if the gentleman meant that a new era was to rise on the ruins of the constitution; he must allow that he was very far from wishing any such thing.2 Mr. Mallary arose after him and commenced a long and dull speech against the bill. As he has the character here of being long and dull among the members I was not sorry that I was obliged to leave him. He was doing nothing but repeating the old strain.3 It appears to me hardly worthwhile to oppose this bill any longer for there is a decided majority in the House in it’s favour and now it will be hardly possible to put the bill to sleep by delay. So I left the House and walked home in order to dress time enough for the company to dinner.
Those consisted of Messrs. Brown of Ohio, De Wolfe of Rhode Island, Johnson of Kentucky and Thomas of Illinois, Members of the Senate. Messrs. Burleigh and Sibley of Maine, Call, delegate from { 44 } Florida, Hamilton of South Carolina, Johnson of Kentucky, Lee of Maryland, Livingston of Louisiana, Martindale and Van Rensselaer of New York, Owen of Alabama, Rich of Vermont, and Rogers of Pennsylvania.4 I had the extreme honour of sitting at the corner with Mr. Jesse B. Thomas and Col. Richard M. Johnson. The former honours our house for the first time, as he has learned hypocrisy in addition to villainy which he knew long ago or if I may not call it so harsh a name, dishonourable and ungentlemanly conduct.5 Col. Richard M. is a really good natured sort of a rough Kentucky man, who got the reputation of having killed Tecumseh in the last War, without any foundation, it is said. He gave us an account of what he is more fond of probably than War, an electioneering campaign. He told us the number of years he had been in Congress, House and Senate, and how he managed to get in. How he used to play the stump orator to the admiration and with the applause of thousands, and moreover how he knocked out the heads of the whiskey barrels which was the strongest reason probably for his election. He supported this system against Mr. Rich and Mr. Van Rensselaer, opposite, who took it all coolly. This was all the diversion at dinner. John got into an awkward situation with Mr. Rich in drinking wine which made me laugh heartily. The party soon broke up and we retired.
I forgot entirely to mention here that we went to a party afterwards at Mrs. Ringgold’s,6 where we spent the evening very pleasantly. It was a singular oversight and caused by hurry, when I wrote the day. I went with the girls and John. I danced with Miss Clapham7 for the first time, a very voluptuous looking girl, with a lively black eye, and Miss Crowninshield. I also had some conversation with Dr. May, a graduate of Harvard.8 Principally concerning the Porcellian Club.9 The evening was soon over as we came late and we retired and arrived at home safe.
1. For Silas Wood’s speech see Annals of Congress, 18 Cong., 1 sess., p. 1053–1057.
2. The “new era,” Dr. George Holcombe announced, would be ushered in by millions of Western voters who were interested in internal improvements. Holcombe further argued that internal improvements were constitutionally warranted (same, p. 1013–1021).
3. Rollin Carolas Mallary (1784–1831), of Vermont, maintained that Congress could build roads only under an original or exclusive grant of power by the Constitution (same, p. 1057–1063).
4. JQA’s guests not previously identified were: Ethan Allen Brown (1776–1852); James De Wolf (1764–1837); Richard Mentor Johnson (1781–1850); Jesse Burgess Thomas (1777–1853); William Burleigh (1785–1827); Jonas Sibley (1762–1834); Richard Keith Call (1792–1862); either Francis Johnson (1776–1842) or John Telemachus Johnson (1788–1856), of Kentucky; John { 45 } Lee (1788–1871); Edward Livingston (1764–1836); Henry Clinton Martindale (1780–1860); Stephen Van Rensselaer (1764–1839); George Washington Owen (1796–1837); Charles Rich (1771–1824); and Thomas Jones Rogers (1781–1851) (Biog. Dir. Cong.).
5. Senator Thomas led an Illinois faction hostile to JQA. An ally of Crawford, he sought to embarrass and divide the Adams men by having the impending caucus offer JQA the vice-presidential nomination. That he could be linked with Crawford, chosen as second best, and, without consultation, made party to a deal infuriated the Secretary of State. See Pease, Frontier State, ch. 5, and JQA, Diary, 17, 20 Jan., 4 Feb. 1824.
6. This paragraph was added at the end of D/CFA/3, where CFA noted that it was to be added to the present entry. Mrs. Tench Ringgold was the wife of the marshal of the District of Columbia (Cresson, Monroe, p. 472).
7. Presumably the daughter of Josias Clapham, one of the directors of the Potomac Company.
8. Dr. Frederick May, graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard, a businessman as well as an eminent Washington physician (Columbia Hist. Soc., Records, 31–32 [1930]:307–310).
9. The “Porcellian” or “Pig Club” dated from 1791 and included the “bloods of Harvard,” the “most lively and convivial lads in the College.” By 1800 it had become the most aristocratic club on campus and membership in it was the capstone of undergraduate social ambition. The Porcellian motto, “Dum vivimus vivamus,” summed up the club’s purpose. See Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard, p. 181–182.
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, 2014.