Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Sunday. August 8th. VIII.

Tuesday. August 10th. VI.

Monday August 9th. VI. CFA


Monday August 9th. VI. CFA
Monday August 9th. VI.

Attended Prayers and recitation in Topography. Was taken up and acquitted myself with about as much propriety as usual. After breakfast I attended a lecture of Mr. Channing’s, in which he made a few remarks upon the structure of sentences, in continuation, particularly in reference to their unity. Every sentence he said should be perfectly comprehended by itself. There should be no meaning to hunt for any where else. A sentence should invariably explain itself, and is always faulty, either when it has too much left to be understood, or when words are placed so together as to injure the signification of each other. He had read many authors he said, who wrote well enough except that they had such a fashion of twisting their sentences that it was necessary to go far from the original meaning of the words to get at the supposed meaning of the author. Otherwise the sentence was absurd. This was an evil particularly to be avoided and, although it was not desirable to have much diffuseness as to make style weak, it certainly was proper to have it, of full clearness. A young man if he went by the rules given for criticism by Dr. Blair might find much fault with every author in the English language even the most classical, and would despair but it is by no means necessary to be so absolutely close. It is hypercriticism. His lecture was remarkably short and gave me time to go down to the Reading room and see what the papers said.

The New York legislature will probably do exactly as I supposed, that is, will adjourn without any farther ceremony. The Senate have passed a vote concerning the Governor, the house have passed a vote that it was expedient to pass an electoral law.1 Thus has this ridiculous affair ended, on one side a political job has been exposed, on the other many fruitless conferences to run their candidates for the Presidency. My father in my opinion has lost his election and if it is so, it has been managed by the most tremendous intrigue that has ever been carried on. Men will not hesitate for power to do many exceeding scandalous things. But this is nature and although I cannot help it I am sorry. It remains to see of the seventy five votes in the Legislature 281now how many will be in my father’s favour in November. I must say I have felt considerably interested in this election and cannot conceal that I shall feel sorry if my father does not obtain it. A life, spent in the public service and almost exclusively devoted to it, ought to obtain so high an honour. His competitors are so much his inferiors, also, that it is mortifying to suffer a defeat. This is what my father would feel and this only. His high spirit will ill bear to see a man whom he despises governing a nation partially and feebly. But if so, it must be, I am resigned.

I returned home and read over my Paley lesson but not with so much attention as usual, my thoughts would wander from one thing to another all the time, and it was impossible for me to help it. So that at recitation time I was not so well prepared as usual. I know the lesson well though and went in without fear, I was taken up in the review however and recited very well. After it was over I went home and read tomorrow’s lesson upon Oaths. That today was upon Lies, a very ingenious essay but doubtful. But I did not pay that attention to the lesson, which is usual with me.

After dinner I wasted the afternoon in an attempt to get a lesson in Trigonometry, or rather it’s Appendix. The lesson was not difficult but I only half understood it when I went in. I came off much as usual. I spent the remainder of the day in writing my Journal. The weather has been remarkable today. A perpetual series of thunder and lightning and rain.

After Prayers the Company was not called out but, there being music, there was a voluntary drill. Almost twenty six came out and we, the Commandants, were compelled to tug about with six men each. I never felt so ashamed of myself in all my life. Cunningham as usual gave a number of wrong orders, and we were confused by not performing an order correctly on account of not recollecting the difference between single and double rank manoeuvres. In truth we cut a most lamentable figure, and injured the company considerably, I am afraid. We were dismissed as we found that nothing could be done and the clouds threatened more rain. It was well for in five minutes we had a very heavy thunder shower. Although there was no meeting of the Officers, I had considerable conversation with Cunningham and Chapman after which I returned home, looked very indolently over my lesson, and retired. X.


The failure of the New York legislature to pass an electoral reform law, which was supported by JQA’s friends who had formed a “People’s Party” on that issue, caused such an uproar that the governor called a special session of 282the legislature in August. The assembly passed the reform bill, but the senate adjourned without acting. Before going home, however, the legislators, under tight Regency (Democratic) control, removed former Governor DeWitt Clinton, now an Adams supporter, from his post as canal commissioner. The move was a costly mistake for the Regency, since Clinton was popular as the father of the state’s canal system, and his outraged followers gave new strength to JQA’s candidacy. See Dixon Ryan Fox, The Decline of Aristocracy in the Politics of New York, N.Y., 1919, p. 286–293.