A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0001-0029

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-01-28

Wednesday 28th.

Coming down after the usual time spent upstairs in the morning, I heard the death of Mrs. de Bresson1 announced, a circumstance very shocking indeed. This lady was married at about this time last year, I attended her parties upon the occasion and officiated in a little ceremony to do her honour. She was then in all the pride of youth and beauty with hopes held out to her of all happiness. But her year had been one of misery, she had suffered by the ague and fever, by discouragement and bad treatment, finally had died in child birth. It is a melancholy case and exhibits to us in full force the mortality of the world. It affects us much more to see a person cut off in the midst of youth and life when she can enjoy it most than when the person is so old it is not more than to be expected. But I could not submit to feel much as it is only putting oneself out of order for nothing. Feelings and thoughts of this kind arise too often even in the usual run of life, so we must endeavour to repel them with vehemence. Accordingly John and myself took a walk with Mary and Abby to see Miss Selden, as I did not think it worthwhile to attend the House this morning. The lady was in full bloom, and looked as pretty as I ever saw her. There was considerable company there, all the Gales’s2 and others. As I did not know them I did not say a word. They soon retired, we took the usual formal set and then went ourselves.
{ 71 }
From here, John and I went to Street’s3 painting rooms, to see the pictures he has up here for Exhibition. There were four of them, a Maniac, which was pretty well, the figure a little too much swollen, but generally the expression was good. This was decidedly the best of the pictures. Two others were so poor and struck me so little that I do not recollect their names. The fourth was from Thomson’s Summer, Musidora on the brink of the stream represented perfectly naked—a fine description but the painting unequal to it. So I retired quite displeased. The face was terribly ugly but the limbs were quite well shaped and might have had an impression had a very little more been exposed. He is pretty true to the description however.4 The third picture I recollect now, to have been Celadon and Amelia, struck by lightning, in Thomson, but the picture very faulty indeed. The dog which accompanies appeared the only natural part of the painting.5
In the evening we went to Mrs. Tayloe’s6 according to invitation, the rooms not remarkably well filled, all the corps diplomatique absent, and many others on account of the occurrence this morning. For myself I did not feel in very high spirits and had I, there was nobody here I wished to see. The Cottringers were not here. Miss McKnight was and I danced with her. Miss Clapham, of whom I should have given a description long since, for I was introduced to her on the fifteenth of the month at Mrs. Ringgold’s but as I forgot to make any mention of this party at that time I must insert it in a note to this volume.7 Watkins was here and lively enough, also Edward Kerr, whom I had not seen before to speak to since my return. He is a singular young man but one not much to my liking as I believe him to harbour in his breast, envy, malice, and all uncharitableness. I drank a good deal of punch with Watkins to try him, but he was steady as possible. Kerr was inclining, but the materials were exhausted. In short, such mean entertainment I do not think I ever saw before in any house in Washington. I did not dance much and enjoyed myself very moderately indeed. Dancing is not so agreable to me as it used to be, more on account of the difference in the society I presume than any other. These [confounded balls?] are very disgusting objects. Madame and Mary did not go on account of this morning’s affair, Monsieur, Abby and we two filling the carriage, as he is always ready and Abby, obedient. We soon went off, I did wish to dance a Spanish dance but Colonel’s black fiddlers could not play one.
1. Mrs. Charles de Bresson, the daughter of Judge Smith Thompson, was the wife of a secretary of the French legation in Washington (JQA, Diary, 28 Jan. 1824).
2. Presumably the family of Joseph { 72 } Gales (1786–1860), the co-editor of the National Intelligencer (DAB).
3. Robert Street (1796–1865), an American painter, who held an exhibition in Washington in 1824 and painted a portrait of Andrew Jackson (Groce and Wallace, Dict. Amer. Artists).
4. The painting depicted a famous scene in James Thomson’s Summer (first published London, 1727), lines 1269–1370. See entry for 3 May, and note, below.
5. See Thomson, Summer, lines 1169–1222.
6. Probably the wife of Col. John Tayloe, owner of the splendid country seat of Mount Airy, Virginia, and the famous Octagon House in Washington (Wharton, Social Life in the Early Republic, p. 65–66).
7. See concluding passage in entry for 15 Jan., above.

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0001-0030

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-01-29

Thursday 29th.

Morning spent upstairs, then to the Capitol. Mr. Stevenson of Virginia delivering his sentiments against the passage of the bill on roads and canals. He argued in his usual furious, rantipole,1 manner much to my entertainment. He made an attack upon Mr. Clay, charging him with inconsistencies in his conduct, comparing his two speeches, one on the question concerning the United States Bank, delivered some years ago in the Senate, and the late one. He was very vehement, used the old Virginia argument of the unconstitutional point of it. On the whole there was some blinding sophistry and two or three ridiculous stories—to cast reflection on Mr. Clay.2 But I observed that it was received without the least difficulty, and that although once or twice he coloured a little it was not like his last foam.
Mr. Storrs followed him, on the opposite side, his argument was a very good one, although at present I do not recollect the course of it at this distance of time. It is quite difficult to do so, unless the person is so distinguished that I not only heard him with attention but read his speech afterwards. All these sketches are taken from memory. The manner of this gentleman is rather good than otherwise although there is something harsh in his voice. He argued “establish” meant to create and in this way, that in the context it was that Congress have power to establish post offices and post Roads. What does establish post offices mean? It means to make offices or create them where they were not before. If so the argument is clear, for the same word applies to both.3 He finished the sitting of the House today.
Returning home, I was obliged to dress in haste to be prepared for the company to dine to day. They consisted of Mr. Mills of Massachusetts, Senator. Messrs. Carter of South Carolina, Eddy of Rhode Island, Foot of Connecticut, Henry of Kentucky, Houston of Tennessee, Mallary of Vermont, Morgan of New York, Plumer of New Hampshire, Tucker of Virginia and Williams of North Carolina.4 The { 73 } dinner was a very lively and agreable one. Mr. Williams was next to me; he is a violent enemy of the house and consequently I felt on my guard to him. Mr. Foot was opposite and Tucker next. It was remarkable what a number of the opposing parties there were making up this dinner. It is supposed that the three above mentioned are all enemies and that but four decided friends were at table.
There was a great deal of life in the conversation at our end of the table, particularly when the subject of roads and canals came up, all the members there being in direct opposition to the passage of the bill. Mr. Tucker would not argue upon the subject as he informed us that he reserved his reasons for the House. Mr. Williams called it absolute destruction to the constitution. In fact by talking and laughing they became so severe that the only two supporters of the bill sprung from table immediately after the ladies retired under pretence of an engagement, but really if one could judge from the colour of Houston’s face, it was from rage. They all then went upstairs, and after some lively conversation, went away. Blunt was here in the evening after they had gone and staid till eleven o’clock.
1. Wild or disorderly.
2. Congressman Stevenson argued that in 1811 Clay, then a Senator, had believed in strict construction, holding that the incorporation of the United States Bank was an unconstitutional assumption of powers not specifically delegated to the federal government. Now Clay and his followers maintained that the federal government had the necessary power to assist the building of canals and roads under the constitutional provision giving it the right to establish post offices and post roads and to regulate commerce (Annals of Congress, 18 Cong., 1 sess., p. 1264–1282).
3. Congressman Henry Randolph Storrs (1787–1837), of New York, argued that the general government was created to promote grand national interests and that any grant of political power necessarily included the right of using all necessary means for accomplishing the object of that power. Consequently Congress had only to seek authority for supporting internal improvements in the general welfare clause of the Preamble and in the commerce clause (same, p. 1282–1291).
4. Congressmen not previously identified were: Elijah Hunt Mills (1776–1829); John Carter (1792–1850); Samuel Eddy (1769–1839); John Jordan Morgan (1770–1849); William Plumer Jr. (1789–1854); George Tucker (1775–1861); and Lewis Williams (1786–1842) (Biog. Dir. Cong.).
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.