Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Wednesday. 31st.


Journal. January. 1824. Thursday. 1st. CFA


Journal. January. 1824. Thursday. 1st. CFA
Journal. January. 1824. Thursday. 1st.

It was a very rainy day and very discouraging to the good people of Washington and vicinity in their usual visit to the President. We went, however and found the rooms crowded to overflowing. And I had the pleasure of seeing almost all my old acquaintance at present in town. The change in society however is so great here that one will hardly find any number of persons in one winter whom he saw in the preceding. Attached as I became to the society last year the revulsion was not the most pleasant to my feelings. The young men were different and what is of more importance the young ladies were different—some great clumsy ugly looking girls had succeeded the charmers of the former winter. These thoughts made me melancholy in the midst of gaiety and to keep myself from the appearance of moping kept near the family.

The house was full and the crowd much enlivened by the music of the band. All the great characters were present except Mr. Crawford who is very ill. General Jackson was bowing away very low and appeared to excite admiration and attention. He is a very mild man in his manners, possessed of none of that ferocity which his enemies 26have been so eager to ascribe to him. Our good eastern people, some of them have a notion that he is a perfect tiger but good souls, in this as well as in many other things they are mistaken. Mr. Calhoun was evidently exerting himself to the utmost to be agreable and pleasant. His purposes appeared to me however to shine through too clearly to be mistaken by any one. Mr. Clay I did not see although I understood that he was there. Mrs. Monroe did not appear. He, good old gentleman, looked very much as usual, though to tell my humble opinion I do not think him a very dignified man. Mrs. Hay presided over the ladies, and looked very much as usual.1 Senators, Members and Gentry made up the rest of the company. Of these I shall not speak except to notice a very few of my acquaintance. Mrs. Peter was there with America and Sons. The first does not look so well, and is evidently going. America is prettier than she was but I got no opportunity to speak to her. Or at least I sought none. This was the case also as to Miss Selden, for after a very little conversation we separated and I only said a few words en passant afterwards. The Cottringers were none of them there owing to the weather, I presume, and to Harriet’s about to be marriage, a circumstance for which I was sorry.

After waiting sometime for the carriage and then witnessing an almost word omitted scene in which I was tempted to do what I should afterwards have repented, we returned home, having been there two hours and a half, and seen “all the world.” After a little conversation customary upon such a meeting, and all the little talk about this person and that and the other, we were reminded that it was time to dress for dinner, as Monsieur had company. So we retired and I did not return to the parlour till the company had assembled. It consisted of Senators and Members entirely. The most awkward situation that a young man can be put into in my mind, is to enter a room full of persons much older than yourself, and set down among them without the slightest acquaintance with any one. This is my fate generally, but custom has made it easy and with the help of darkness at the first shock my modesty has time to pass off. The fact is that one will soon find these members to be no better than any one else, after which he will get along very well.

The company consisted of Mr. Rufus King of New York, Mr. Talbot of Kentucky and Mr. Williams of Mississipi, Senators, Mr. J. S. Barbour of Virginia, Mr. Cuthbert of Georgia, Mr. Hobart of Massachusetts, “Our fair and loving Cousin,” Mr. Holcombe of New Jersey, Judge Isaacs of Tennessee, Messrs. Jennings of Indiana, Kidder 27of Maine, Letcher of Kentucky, Mangum of North Carolina, Marvin, Sharpe and Wood of New York.2 The dinner was rather an agreable one, I was much struck with the appearance and manners of Mr. King. He has always been in my mind one of the first men in this country, and seems to me now, to possess that sort of dignity which would make him my choice as President before ten Monroes.3 As to abilities there can be no possible comparison but unfortunately he is one of the victims to the vehement outcry raised against Federalists of late years and has now nothing to do but to retire soon from his seat in the Senate with the proud satisfaction of having spent the best part of his life in the service of his country. A lot enviable as it is, but not equal to the sum of his deserts.

I had the pleasure of the company of two western country gentlemen at my corner, Mr. Letcher and Judge Isaacs. New Members both who edified me with an account of “how they got into Congress,” evaded their constituents in certain points and so forth. He Letcher also gave me some account of Mr. Pope and his family which was far more amusing to me. I care not how the gentleman got into Congress except that I know if he carried his election against Mr. Pope which it is said is the case, I am sorry.4 We had some conversation too as to the Greek question and others, in the course of which he informed me that Mr. Clay would take probably no part in the debate. A circumstance which astonished me considerably. But as he lives with Clay I took him for good authority. Judge Isaacs diverted me very much and gave a good specimen of western manners. As the champagne glasses were set on the table he was asked to drink wine. He, supposing these to be measure only, filled his glass and drank it almost all. Finding out his mistake in the mean time, he stops and pours the rest directly into his wine glass and drinks it off so. After which he took care to get a taste of the Champagne to make up. Mr. Barbour is a new member, and appears to be a real Virginian with all their narrow prejudice, but at the same time somewhat of a good fellow. We arose immediately after the ladies retired, and taking the dinner into consideration generally it was rather pleasanter than usual. After drinking Coffee they went off. The usual conversation took place and story after story was told concerning almost nothing. It has often amused me to think of how little will serve to entertain a number. Some little peculiarities picked up from almost any individual, things which are so common that it is impossible to avoid noticing them, will be matter of laughter to a great many when put into an extravagant light. This is a place peculiarly fitted for sport 28of this kind, as one has mere report at command in sufficient quantities to bear him out. We separated at about eleven o’clock after having spent a busy and in spite of my reflections rather a pleasant day.


The President’s wife was the former Elizabeth Kortright, of New York. Mrs. George Hay, the former Eliza Monroe, was their daughter (Cresson, Monroe , p. 92, 93, 360).


In addition to Rufus King, who has been previously identified, the guests were: Isham Talbot (1773–1837); Thomas Hill Williams (1780–1840); John Strode Barbour (1790–1855); Albert Cuthbert (1785–1856); Aaron Hobart (1787–1858), a grandson of CFA’s great-uncle Elihu (brother of JA); George Holcombe (1786–1828); Jacob Isacks (d. 1832); Jonathan Jennings (1784–1834); David Kidder (1787–1860); Robert Perkins Letcher (1788–1861); Willie Person Mangum (1792–1861); Dudley Marvin (1786–1856), of New York; Peter Sharpe, of New York; and Silas Wood (1769–1847) ( Biog. Dir. Cong. ).


Rufus King had been the unsuccessful Federalist candidate for President in 1816 ( DAB ).


John Pope (1770–1845), who had a long and distinguished career in Kentucky politics, was the brother-in-law of LCA, having married Eliza Johnson (d. 1818) ( Biog. Dir. Cong. ; Bemis, JQA , 1:79–80, and note). See Adams Genealogy.