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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0001-0017

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-01-17

Saturday. 17th.

Spent this morning at home, and read my maps. As there was no House of Representatives, I was obliged to amuse myself as I could. I agreed to accompany Madame and the Girls to Mr. King’s painting rooms1 after their return from Georgetown whither they went in the Carriage with John. They did not return till late and Mr. Cheves2 was introduced and received, but this was so good an opportunity that I did not wish it lost so we went. The pictures, some of them are excellent, others only moderate and others bad. That of Cyr. King of Maine3 is said to be good, Mr. Wirt’s is good, General Brown’s { 48 } and a number of others are remarkably fine. I think my father’s a good one, but by no means so good as I think one could be made.4 His eyes are placed in such a way that one appears directly over his nose. He has some very sweet fruit pieces, which would adorn a summer house or even a dinner parlour very much. Some voluptuous pieces also which it would not do to notice before ladies. One in particular which appeared to be Joseph and the wife of Potiphar although we could not see for a veil which John and myself attempted to raise, when we discovered the deception. It was very accurate.
We went down into his painting room, he was copying his portrait of Mr. Webster, which is one of his best likenesses as it appears to me. The eyebrows and expression of the eyes is very admirably copied. There was also a portrait of John Mason, not finished but nearly so, which was a remarkable likeness. One of Mrs. Mason also.5 As Mr. King appeared to be very busy with his picture we left him soon and Madame returned home with John and I, the girls set off to go and take a walk for the first time this winter.
On reaching the steps of our house, we met Ned Wyer who insisted upon it, Madame should fulfil her promise of going to see his house and his mineral collection. As this was a good opportunity and nothing to do we went over. He has hired a house of one story in height opposite to our house and lives in glorious independence nobody knows how. His rooms are neat and well kept. He showed us every thing, his shells and minerals, some of which are certainly very handsome. He wants to sell them but rates them so high he never will be able to part with them. To day he manifested the love of giving away for which he is so noted—and made me think that in a little while he would have no collection to sell. After an Examination of all things we retired home, dined and on the return of Madame and ladies from Mrs. Thornton’s had an oyster supper.
1. Charles Bird King (1785–1862), a native of Rhode Island, had a studio and gallery on the east side of 12th Street between E and F streets, N.W. Besides the portrait of JQA mentioned below in this entry, King later executed portraits of CFA and Abigail Brooks, both of which are reproduced as illustrations in this diary. He is best known, however, for the long and historically valuable series of portraits of Indian chiefs that he painted in the 1820’s and 1830’s by commission from the War Department. See Groce and Wallace, Dict. Amer. Artists; John C. Ewers, “Charles Bird King, Painter of Indian Visitors to the National Capital,” Smithsonian Institution, Annual Report for 1953, Washington, 1954, p. 463–473.
2. Langdon Cheves (1776–1857), a former South Carolina Congressman, was serving on an arbitration commission set up in 1822 to settle claims of American citizens for slaves carried off by the British soldiers in the War of 1812 (Lanman, Biographical Annals, p. 625).
3. Cyrus King (1772–1817), the half-brother of Rufus King, was a former Federalist Congressman (Biog. Dir. Cong.).
{ 49 }
4. This portrait was the second of two attempts by King to get a satisfactory likeness of JQA in 1819. It had been commissioned by Joseph Delaplaine for his National Portrait Gallery in Philadelphia and was sent there in 1821 or 1822. It is now in the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, R.I. See JQA, Diary, June-Aug. 1819; correspondence between Delaplaine and JA and between Delaplaine and JQA, Adams Papers.
5. Gen. John Mason, the son of George Mason of Revolutionary fame, and his wife, the former Anna Maria Murray (Mason, Life and Correspondence, p. 7–9).

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0001-0018

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-01-18

Sunday 18th.

This day, for the first time since I have been here I went to the Capitol to hear Dr. Staugten who has acquired some reputation for preaching good sermons, which has made him a Chaplain. He is President of the College near here and is the head of the sect of the Baptists in this place.1 His delivery is extemporaneous and at first strange and disagreable. Entirely contrary to the notions we have usually formed of pulpit eloquence he is exceedingly theatrical and varies the tone of his voice from high to low with great rapidity. This I have observed is somewhat the fashion here among certain sects who judge less of propriety than of policy, for by the one method they imagine that they can strike the passions of the ignorant whereas by the other they would remain a sect without numbers and with no probability of increase which is their great aim. I came home rather disgusted I must confess. He has nothing of the power of [ . . . ]2 although he tries the same style and greatly exceeds it.
As I had nothing to do in the afternoon, I set off on a stroll with dog Booth. I wished again to see some spots very dear to me by the associations they call up and by the time which has passed since I saw them. I did not go last winter. My course was over the Tiber to the Potomac bridge, where I had been so often shooting, where I had spent perhaps the most delightful of my days, where I had sometimes sat down and thought and thought till I had wrapt myself in an elysium of delight. The feelings are all over, but even now it is sweet to recollect it as a dream which passed over but too soon, and never to be equalled again. The recollection is more sweet, because it is more gentle and not exposed to the same high storms of passion.
From the bridge I turned and came round by the old house of Ironside, whither I had so often gone to recite in my young days. Poor man, he was then in affliction and he had my good wishes for his relief which he has always construed into exertions I could make, none [of] which would avail him. But he was relieved. I have not seen him this winter more than once and he was then in agony, his child { 50 } had died on that morning. I perceived his grief and was quiet. Passing by the house now deserted and wild, I reached the little canal where I had so often fished and had spent some of my most delightful [word omitted]. It was here where the intimacies began, it was here where I could create obligations only to return with more pleasure to myself. The bridge is now broken down, and the planks are off and every thing to which I was attached appears to be going to wreck, even to the great causes of my pleasure. But so be it. Now I am but an indifferent spectator, without interest and without affection.
My walk was a long one and return late, so that I had but just time to dress for dinner. Monsieur had invited one or two gentlemen to dine, Mr. Amory of Boston, Mr. Connell of Philadelphia, Mr. Dodge, the Marseilles Consul,3 and Blunt. The dinner was a so so pleasant one, but Mr. Amory did not appear in good spirits probably owing to his robbery which has made great talk and concerning which he has been much questioned. He laughed and gave us some account of it, in which it appears the thieves were amazingly polite. Connell is a monstrous talker about nothing at all and after the first half hour that you are acquainted with him will talk you almost to death half of which conversation you cannot hear and the other half having so little subject you cannot understand. Dodge is a simpering whimpering sort of an innocently conceited fop, somewhat elated on account of his late marriage with Miss DWolfe, without much meaning in any thing except a great idea of wealth.4 As to Blunt he is a young man with considerable abilities but with twice the vanity and four times the arrogance. Placed here as a political machine to look after matters as they respect the election he claims an intimacy in our family which we have no objection to allow him. Had he not become too conspicuous in the city of New York from his politics, he would have formed a lower opinion of himself and then would have been a very agreable man.
After dinner, Mr. William Lee, Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan and Dr. Watkins with his son5 dropped in at different times so that we looked quite a party. I spent an hour upstairs, reading, and the rest of the evening in the drawing room. Mr. Amory’s spirits were raised considerably latterly by the news of the capture of the robbers brought in by Mr. Lee, and went away repeating to himself his joy. John and Young Watkins talked together almost all the evening. I had some conversation with Sullivan and begin to think him as shallow as he is reputed to be. Lee has grown larger than ever and puffs away with more importance than ever. Thus did the evening pass away, rather { 51 } pleasantly than otherwise. Mrs. Sullivan appears to be much delighted here as she will have an opportunity, she knows, of being more noticed than at home. This has now gone over even here and now she wishes an intimacy here to keep her up in the great world.
1. William Staughton, D.D. (1770–1829), chaplain to the United States Senate and president from 1822 to 1829 of Columbian College (later, George Washington University), established to train ministers for the Baptist Church (Sprague, Annals Amer. Pulpit, 6:334–339; Columbia Hist. Soc., Records, 29–30 [1928]: 211–268; U.S. Official Register, 1825, p. 143 of addenda).
2. Illegible name. Possibly “McKraine” or “Mr. Kraine.”
3. Joshua Dodge (U.S. Official Register, 1825, p. 13).
4. Possibly a daughter of the wealthy Senator James De Wolf, of Bristol, R.I.
5. Lee, the Second Auditor of the Treasury, was an old friend of JQA from their days in the foreign service. Tobias Watkins was a literary physician, formerly secretary to the Florida Claims Commission, who was now writing articles for Peter Force’s National Journal booming JQA for the Presidency. His son was Thomas L. C. Watkins (Bemis, JQA, 2:24, and note; 2:23).
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.