Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1


Friday. 16th.

Thursday. 15th. CFA


Thursday. 15th. CFA
Thursday. 15th.

I resumed today the usual course of studies at least in part by reading two maps of America—and should have read Bacon, had I been able to find the book, but as I could not ’twas not possible. After this I went to the House and heard the last part of the speech of Mr. Wood of New York1 against the bill. Although it was decided pretty well yesterday it appears that it’s opponents are determined not to give up the ground without fighting. His arguments were close as far as I heard them and very argumentative but as his manner is unpleasant, I did not pay great attention to him. I have heard all the arguments which he used before, and it appears to me it can only be a quibble upon a word, for there are few who will not allow the expediency of the measures. He finished with a severe speech, saying that the gentleman from New Jersey, (Dr. Holcombe) the other day had spoken of a new Era. A new Era, if the gentleman meant that a new era was to rise on the ruins of the constitution; he must allow that he was very far from wishing any such thing.2 Mr. Mallary arose after him and commenced a long and dull speech against the bill. As he has the character here of being long and dull among the members I was not sorry that I was obliged to leave him. He was doing nothing but repeating the old strain.3 It appears to me hardly worthwhile to oppose this bill any longer for there is a decided majority in the House in it’s favour and now it will be hardly possible to put the bill to sleep by delay. So I left the House and walked home in order to dress time enough for the company to dinner.

Those consisted of Messrs. Brown of Ohio, De Wolfe of Rhode Island, Johnson of Kentucky and Thomas of Illinois, Members of the Senate. Messrs. Burleigh and Sibley of Maine, Call, delegate from 44Florida, Hamilton of South Carolina, Johnson of Kentucky, Lee of Maryland, Livingston of Louisiana, Martindale and Van Rensselaer of New York, Owen of Alabama, Rich of Vermont, and Rogers of Pennsylvania.4 I had the extreme honour of sitting at the corner with Mr. Jesse B. Thomas and Col. Richard M. Johnson. The former honours our house for the first time, as he has learned hypocrisy in addition to villainy which he knew long ago or if I may not call it so harsh a name, dishonourable and ungentlemanly conduct.5 Col. Richard M. is a really good natured sort of a rough Kentucky man, who got the reputation of having killed Tecumseh in the last War, without any foundation, it is said. He gave us an account of what he is more fond of probably than War, an electioneering campaign. He told us the number of years he had been in Congress, House and Senate, and how he managed to get in. How he used to play the stump orator to the admiration and with the applause of thousands, and moreover how he knocked out the heads of the whiskey barrels which was the strongest reason probably for his election. He supported this system against Mr. Rich and Mr. Van Rensselaer, opposite, who took it all coolly. This was all the diversion at dinner. John got into an awkward situation with Mr. Rich in drinking wine which made me laugh heartily. The party soon broke up and we retired.

I forgot entirely to mention here that we went to a party afterwards at Mrs. Ringgold’s,6 where we spent the evening very pleasantly. It was a singular oversight and caused by hurry, when I wrote the day. I went with the girls and John. I danced with Miss Clapham7 for the first time, a very voluptuous looking girl, with a lively black eye, and Miss Crowninshield. I also had some conversation with Dr. May, a graduate of Harvard.8 Principally concerning the Porcellian Club.9 The evening was soon over as we came late and we retired and arrived at home safe.


For Silas Wood’s speech see Annals of Congress , 18 Cong., 1 sess., p. 1053–1057.


The “new era,” Dr. George Holcombe announced, would be ushered in by millions of Western voters who were interested in internal improvements. Holcombe further argued that internal improvements were constitutionally warranted (same, p. 1013–1021).


Rollin Carolas Mallary (1784–1831), of Vermont, maintained that Congress could build roads only under an original or exclusive grant of power by the Constitution (same, p. 1057–1063).


JQA’s guests not previously identified were: Ethan Allen Brown (1776–1852); James De Wolf (1764–1837); Richard Mentor Johnson (1781–1850); Jesse Burgess Thomas (1777–1853); William Burleigh (1785–1827); Jonas Sibley (1762–1834); Richard Keith Call (1792–1862); either Francis Johnson (1776–1842) or John Telemachus Johnson (1788–1856), of Kentucky; John 45Lee (1788–1871); Edward Livingston (1764–1836); Henry Clinton Martindale (1780–1860); Stephen Van Rensselaer (1764–1839); George Washington Owen (1796–1837); Charles Rich (1771–1824); and Thomas Jones Rogers (1781–1851) ( Biog. Dir. Cong. ).


Senator Thomas led an Illinois faction hostile to JQA. An ally of Crawford, he sought to embarrass and divide the Adams men by having the impending caucus offer JQA the vice-presidential nomination. That he could be linked with Crawford, chosen as second best, and, without consultation, made party to a deal infuriated the Secretary of State. See Pease, Frontier State , ch. 5, and JQA, Diary, 17, 20 Jan., 4 Feb. 1824.


This paragraph was added at the end of D/CFA/3, where CFA noted that it was to be added to the present entry. Mrs. Tench Ringgold was the wife of the marshal of the District of Columbia (Cresson, Monroe , p. 472).


Presumably the daughter of Josias Clapham, one of the directors of the Potomac Company.


Dr. Frederick May, graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard, a businessman as well as an eminent Washington physician (Columbia Hist. Soc., Records , 31–32 [1930]:307–310).


The “Porcellian” or “Pig Club” dated from 1791 and included the “bloods of Harvard,” the “most lively and convivial lads in the College.” By 1800 it had become the most aristocratic club on campus and membership in it was the capstone of undergraduate social ambition. The Porcellian motto, “Dum vivimus vivamus,” summed up the club’s purpose. See Morison, Three Centuries of Harvard , p. 181–182.