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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0002-0003

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-02-03

Tuesday 3d.

The Weather continued remarkably cold and for the first time this season the Potomac exhibited a thick covering of ice over it’s surface. For my part I stayed at home all day and read some numbers in the Enuite de la Sainte Pelagie, a very well written thing but severely reflecting on the conduct of the French government.
Madame was sufficiently well today to go out and pay visits, and Miss Mary was sent to Kalorama1 with the Carriage to bring Miss McKnight down to stay here a few days. Miss Cranch also came which fills up the house pretty well as there are nine of us now in the family. I am not sorry as the old proverb of “the more the merrier” is one which I am at present inclined to think well of, as the family has not yet got out of the dumps.
As it was the last evening at which I was to be present, Madame had the kindness to order the band, at the usual Tuesday Evening. But I did not avail myself much of the invitation as I always prefer to walk about and see the people. For my own part, I danced with Miss McKnight in the regular dances and nobody else. She is a young lady of that description that one observation is enough. There is one thing remarkable about her though, that she is extremely ladylike in her manners and although a little too precise has more of the “ton de la bonne compagnie société” than girls here usual have. I cannot { 80 } help making an exception of the Miss Cottringers who are more praiseworthy as they are more ardent tempers. I have never seen any thing gauche or improper in them. They are not so much out this winter and I have paid them nothing but a card visit as yet and it is so late now I do not intend it. I again asked Miss Peter. It has been a singular circumstance throughout the winter that at almost every party at which I have been present I have asked her, and she has always been preengaged, not that this has been matter of sorrow for I think that she is not the woman which I was formerly inclined to think her. Too much sameness is apt to cloy and at the same time her stiff behaviour. She holds her neck too stiffly and dances badly.
Miss Selden was very cool to me all the evening and it was the same with me as I had found observations had been made upon John. I did not wish to have him continue in the track so set the example against it. John did dance with her and excite remark as much as usual. He intends nothing but is singularly unfortunate in his situations. I asked her myself not to appear too abrupt about knowing her to be engaged.2 Mrs. Sullivan was gracious to me this evening, something very uncommon, and unexpected. I think but poorly of her. She is sister to Winthrop of our class.3 A Mrs. Rieves was here the wife of a new Virginia Member, herself a bride.4 She was not handsome, but lively enough. John danced with her, so took the trouble from me.
After the company had all retreated except Miss dWolf’s and Mrs. Dodge, we had a Cottillion, I dancing with Miss Cranch. A very good sort of mouse. Johnson was hooked into an acquaintance with Miss D’Wolf but could not go to dance. After which we departed to rest.
1. Kalorama, the old estate of Joel Barlow, owned in 1824 by Col. George Bomford of the ordnance bureau, lay just west of the bounds of the city, between Florida Avenue and Rock Creek (Bryan, Hist. of the National Capital, 1:240, 582; 2:8).
2. CFA probably meant: “I asked her myself not to appear too abrupt, knowing her about to be engaged.”
3. George Edward Winthrop, Harvard 1825.
4. Mrs. William Cabell Rives, the former Judith Page Walker (DAB).

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0002-0004

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-02-04

Wednesday 4th.

Spent the day at home, again, although the family all went except Madame to the Supreme Court which opened this week, to hear Mr. Webster argue on the Steam boat Case. A very interesting contention between the proprietors of an extensive grant over the waters of New York, given by the legislature and the owner of a boat which { [fol. 80] } { [fol. 80] } { [fol. 80] } { [fol. 80] } { 81 } they had seized and condemned. It is a case of great importance involving a question of state rights which has some bearing on the method of reading our constitution. Mr. Webster and Mr. Wirt are in support of the owner who is the plaintiff and Messrs. Emmett and Oakley of New York are in defence of the proprietors, consequently it is expected that there will be great specimens of argument on both sides.1
Mrs. Sullivan, who is a great lady on occasions of this kind, volunteered to take up two of our ladies to hear the debate, which they accepted. Consequently she came for them, according to her usual custom immediately after breakfast, which was quite teasing to our poor girls. Mary and Miss McKnight went with her. It is highly amusing to observe the parties in which the girls form themselves, Mary and Miss McKnight forming the representatives of the South in life and perhaps in temper while Abby and Miss Cranch, who possessing perhaps more feeling, have none of those alluring fascinating ways which so much grace a woman but the mumpish,2 sentimental, homely silence of New England. In my choice I think I could give up some of the affection for a little more of the vivacity. Perhaps a blending of the two characters would make the most perfect one imaginable. Johnson and John walked up.
The latter now came down saying his boot hurt him which it did. The ladies also came in, but not in the best spirits imaginable as they had been constrained to sit and hear the dry arguments of the law detailed off to them, Mrs. Sullivan having no mercy. She is or apes to be a “bas bleu” and makes herself appear very foolish. In fact she must be a very weak woman, or she would not attempt to gain so much notice. Mr. Webster closed and Mr. Oakley commenced in reply. The girls made a great many lamentations and John I thought was not altogether sorry that his boot pinched him insupportably. Mr. Webster’s speech was however very highly thought of.
In the Evening, all the girls went with John and Monsieur to the Drawing Room, which was held to night for the second time this season, Johnson, Madame and I remaining at home. For my part having been once I did not think it worthwhile to go again as there is but little pleasure in the visits. In fact I do not think they could well be made more stiff than they are at present. Mr. J. W. Taylor of New York came this evening to see Monsieur and as he was not at home, he walked upstairs and took tea with us. He is rather a pleasant man and with considerable abilities of a certain sort. His influence in the House is pretty extensive having been chosen Speaker { 82 } once and talked of often. His visit tonight appeared to be to Monsieur particularly as he went down for private conversation when he returned.3
1. In the celebrated case of Gibbons v. Ogden (9 Wheaton 1), Thomas Addis Emmet and Thomas J. Oakley appeared against Daniel Webster and William Wirt. The case, rising from a monopoly granted by the New York legislature for the operation of steamboats in state waters, resulted in a Supreme Court decision which gave a broad construction of congressional power under the commerce clause.
2. Sullenly angry or depressed.
3. Speaker John W. Taylor (1784–1854) reported that Senator Jesse B. Thomas was again proposing that the caucus nominate Crawford for President and JQA for Vice President. Because of Crawford’s ill health, Thomas argued, the duties of the Presidency might fall to the Vice President, and doubtless Crawford’s friends would support JQA in the next election. JQA declined to place the North below the South or to countenance any caucus nomination. See JQA, Diary, 4 Feb. 1824, and entry for 15 Jan., and note, above.
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.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/