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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0001-0025

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-01-24

Saturday. 24th.

My usual numbers of maps being finished this morning as well as Bacon who has been found and resumed. Madame was also much better this morning although her health does not appear so good as it has been. I then went to the House expecting much entertainment today. Mr. Randolph had commenced, and I never knew the House so much crowded in my life. Ladies were admitted in the floor of the hall and it was impossible to get in at the side doors of the gallery. After a long trial I succeeded in obtaining a moderately good place and heard the latter part of his remarks. There is so little connection in his arguments that it is impossible to condense them or make a summary. He has still the power of ridicule and exerted it today with a good deal of force. He is too apt to talk of his past services and what he was

“Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen

Fallen from his high estate”

which excites pity and finally ridicule in the minds of his hearers for he is not old enough to carry proof of what he says with him, and therefore raises the idea of that mental malady with which he is already known to have been attacked. But we look at him as a crumbled pillar, mourning over the loss of it’s own beauty and jealous of the more modern and perhaps less pure ones. He again attacked the South American resolution1 and made some pretty pointed remarks at Mr. Webster. Perhaps said he, some learned Theban is waiting without the walls for the appointment to the agency, clearly referring to Professor Everett who is here, it is supposed, for the purpose of obtaining this mission in case it is determined upon.
{ 64 }
He continued speaking for about an hour and a half with his usual power and fluency occasionally reverting to former times. His age has come upon him early and he will soon do nothing but “fight all his battles o’er again.” Mr. Webster followed him and answered all the gentlemen who had spoken on the other side. He retorted playfully and severely upon Bartlett, sharply upon Wood and noticed occasionally all the rest.
I think myself that it was a better speech than the former. He ridicules the idea of danger, supposes it an unmeaning resolution or nearly so, and says that it does not force the President to any measure which he would not approve. He laughs at the declamation about war, assures them that there is no danger, but with all this it appeared to me that he felt as if he had got into a scrape which he might as well be out of.
Webster made a severe allusion to Bartlett by quoting Don Quixote in his tilt with the Wind mill—and some remarks upon Mr. Wood and his late examination of Grotius.2 Mr. Fuller then took the other side and quoted out of the same romance, by making an analogy between the boy who was whipped by his master, and relieved by the knight, while present but as soon as gone whipped doubly—and the state of Greece and Turkey with respect to this country. He argued also that the President had not yet even recommended a step of this kind, and it was not worthwhile to do any thing until he did. It was evident that he supposed it not worthwhile or dangerous. In fact the argument on this side is so conclusive in every point of view that even the supporters of the cause do not pretend to argue but to feel. Not exactly a correct guide in government.
But now we had the pleasure of a little warmer work. Mr. Bartlett made some remarks in answer to Clay’s observations yesterday with most tremendous force. Mr. Webster’s attack he turned off admirably by referring to the pride he felt in having to boast him a fellow townsman, and that although he had been <unhappily> the cause of some bitter remarks, yet he could scarcely deem it unfortunate or disagreable to himself as it had afforded the opportunity of displaying such bright corruscations of his3 wit as to seize even his admiration. For Mr. Clay, he prepared another dose, informed him that his advise was altogether gratuitous and unasked for, that he was of an age to select his own instructors in political integrity, however young he might be, whenever he felt that he had occasion for any. He repelled the charge of opposing Mr. Webster because he was a Federalist, saying that it was just as unfounded as if he was in his turn { 65 } to charge the Speaker with making speeches to collect golden opinions, outside of the walls of that House. As to the Speaker’s charge, if it was meant for him, he threw it back upon him as “unjust, ungenerous, untrue.” He then adverted to the Speaker’s threat, assuring him that he dare go back to his constituents as boldly as any gentleman in that House, let his vote be what it would. That he would make as poor a slave to the Grand [Seignior] as any man, and then made some severe remarks upon Clay in reference to his conduct in wishing to obtain a certain high situation. The remarks were cutting to the extreme and all proper except insofar as they did not [dash?] too much when he struck upon the last thing. Had he not forced it a little higher than proper, his strictures otherwise were most admirably just and well applied.
They stung Clay to the quick, and he answered in the most furiously passionate manner. In his former remarks he said he had treated the young member with more moderation than at the time he deserved. Nay he had even praised him, and lavished compliments for which he had been thus repaid. He had never heard of the gentleman before; he doubted whether the House had; he was altogether a new Member he believed to every one. He then replied with great violence to the charge of catching golden opinions for a certain office.4 He said it was ungenerous to advert to it; he was placed where he could not help himself and it was improper for any one to take advantage of it. Here he was twice stopped by the chair, which decided him out of order as he was answering what had not been said, on the contrary that he5 had expressly disavowed such an attack. This capped the climax and made him rave like a mad bull. “Yes Sir,” said he, “I know he has disavowed it,” stamping his foot, “but how has he done it, if a person should tell me black is white am I to believe it though he should swear, contrary to the evidence of my own senses.”6 He closed by saying that he had some private words for the gentleman, as he could not condescend to trouble the House with the terms which he felt himself obliged to use towards him, and that as far as referred to the accusations upon him personally he cast them back on the shoulders of him whence they came with indignation and contempt. The House finding it burning too hot then adjourned.
I came home with my feelings very much excited. I must confess, I thought Clay by his violence had exposed himself and that Bartlett had nobly shown himself perfectly independent of all the personal influence and weight which Clay possesses. The latter inflicted a { 66 } severe blow upon himself and gave the former an opportunity to rise. We were employed all the afternoon and evening talking about it, and conjecturing the probability of a challenge as Blunt, who spent the evening here, said that some difficulty was likely to arise, and that the quarrel was evidently embracing sectional prejudices and that the East supported Bartlett against the West and Clay. This [is] a queer young man and a little of a bore here, but being a New York intriguer he is here a good deal. We all separated quite early, my feelings having been strongly worked upon today.7
1. See entry for 20 Jan., and note, above.
2. “No one pretends,” Webster said, “that there is any just cause of war contained in it [his resolution]. Even the gentleman from New York [George Wood], who has read Grotius so recently, has not shown any cause for war” (Annals of Congress, 18 Cong., 1 sess., p. 1195).
3. Webster’s.
4. Bartlett had said that it might be insinuated—however “unjustly”—that Clay had “a great personal and political object in view ... to ‘buy golden opinions from all sorts of men’” (Annals of Congress, 18 Cong., 1 sess., p. 1200–1201).
5. Bartlett.
6. Clay’s actual words were: “If a man says a thing is black, and then tells me he meant by that to say that it was white, I know how to understand him” (Annals of Congress, 18 Cong., 1 sess., p. 1202).
7. The Adams boys then attended a party at the home of the Washington postmaster, Thomas J. Munroe (JQA, Diary, 24 Jan. 1824).

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0001-0026

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-01-25

Sunday 25th.

It was very rainy indeed this morning, but as my father was going to the Capitol, I thought that it would be better for me to accompany him. We went in the Carriage and found Dr. Staughton performing the services. There was hardly any body present. This did not appear to be the most pleasing circumstance of all, and he made his sermon or rather homily what he called short, that is to say about ten minutes, the proper length in my mind, to have an effect. He told us that on account of the inclemency of the weather the service must be short, indeed he appeared in a great hurry to get out of the pulpit. Mr. Fuller appeared to think when I met him coming out, it was scarcely worth the trouble of coming up. It certainly was not worth the trouble of walking home in the heavy rain which was my lot as the Coachman had taken French leave as soon as we got out.1 Monsieur went visiting, he had an Umbrella, but I had to make the best of my Cloak and Cap which served me well, indeed I did not get wet except in my feet which were exposed, the water washing through my boots very soon.
This was a writing day at home. John, Mary, Madame and others employed. So that I was somewhat ennuyé, not being able to talk { 67 } so much politics on account of Johnson’s absence. This was remedied in the afternoon by his appearance. Finding Rockville a very poor place for bad weather, he thought he would again come up to try the air of the city and the conversation of friends to the cause of his favourite candidate. I was very glad to see him, as I know he enjoys himself more here and he is a very pleasant young man.
After some conversation concerning politics and a laugh at the fears about New York,2 we went up to dress for dinner. Monsieur had invited two or three. Blunt was invited to fill up the table. Professor Everett, and Dr. Sewall. They came early and we had to sit considerable time before dinner. Johnson got talking with Dr. Sewall3 about sickness and varioloid and every thing medical which must have been amusing to his nerves who can hardly hear the mention of blood. This man is a very unpleasant looking man as he has all the dark appearance of a rogue. Dwight of my class4 would say immediately that he was a most tremendous villain.
Blunt had his invariable self conceit and impudence and Everett looked every way except the right way, talked as if he was hammering steel, and excited the great displeasure of the ladies. But the circumstance which amused me most was that after dinner Monsieur got upon his favourite theory concerning comets and argued with a man of undoubtedly a great deal of learning without coming to much of a point. But Blunt undertook to talk upon the subject and informed us of the sundry great things he had done in his youth in the astronomical way. Monsieur treated him very much like an infant and manifested to him, if such a thing was possible, that he knew precious little about the matter upon which he was so fluent.
There was some discussion as to the character of the French Mathematicians, Monsieur attacking them as not being original geniuses, which the Professor did not seem to relish. This diverted me as the Cambridge course is entirely French. In fact I have often been led to question the propriety of using them so exclusively. Everett appears to be considerably down—as he finds no success in this measure of Webster’s, he packs up to go back to Cambridge and resume his lectures. He did not say much against the opposers of the resolution but his friend the Dr. supplied his place and poured his philipic pretty severely on the heads of the foolish men. Everett has an unpleasant way about him, arising from too deep seclusion and attention to himself. They retired early and Blunt went off not in the least troubled.
1. JQA had sent the coachman home (JQA, Diary, 25 Jan. 1824).
2. The latest report from New York was that the legislature might give Craw• { 68 } ford the state’s entire electoral vote. To forestall such massive support, the other presidential candidates were beginning to think of uniting forces to check Crawford. Their initial objective was to prevent a congressional caucus, proposed for April, from nominating the Georgian.
3. Dr. Thomas Sewall, Harvard Medical School 1821, was professor of anatomy and physiology at the Columbian College from 1821 to 1845 (Harvard Quinquennial Cat.).
4. William Dwight, of Springfield, Mass. (Harvard Annual Cat., 1824).
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.