Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4


Tuesday. March 1st.

vii Descriptive List of Illustrations Descriptive List of Illustrations

[Note: for permissions reasons, not all illustrations from the letterpress volumes are available in this digital edition.]

Descriptive List of Illustrations
John Quincy Adams’ Six Bronze Busts or “Household Gods” on the Mantelpiece of His “Writing Chamber” at Quincy following or facing page 124[unavailable]

The desk and its chair, the globes, fireplace, and mantel in the east room on the second floor of the Old House in Quincy as shown in the photograph are essentially as they were in the years following John Adams’ death and John Quincy Adams’ term as President, when John Quincy Adams concluded to make the Old House his residence and began to send to it his belongings that had been stored in various places and for varying lengths of time as he moved from one public post to another. Only in the absence of the books that lined every wall does the room as illustrated here differ from the memory of it, and of John Quincy Adams in it, that one of his grandsons carried from his childhood: “[My grandfather] seemed to be always writing, ... seated at his table in the middle of the large east room, which he used as a library, ... walled in with over-loaded bookshelves” (Charles Francis Adams [2d] 1835–1915; An Autobiography, Boston and New York, 1916, p. 9). The books began to arrive in 1829 to be unpacked, placed on the shelves, and catalogued (see volume 3:32, 55, and passim). By 1832, prints, paintings, cups and saucers, &c., were being sent from storage to Quincy to be restored to their owner’s enjoyment of them. Chief among the artifacts were the six small bronze busts which John Quincy Adams had apparently had on the mantelpiece of his study in the White House. They were to be placed on the mantelpiece at the Old House upon his next arrival at Quincy, and to remain there (see below, p. 399). The busts subsequently passed to the ownership of Charles Francis Adams and afterward to Henry Adams. So far as is known, they were never again removed from the precincts. After Charles Francis Adams built the Stone Library on the grounds of the Old House, the busts were transferred to the mantelpiece of the new writing room, and stand on it now. They were returned to the mantelpiece in John Quincy Adams’ “writing chamber” only to be photographed there. (Photograph by George M. Cushing Jr.) Their subjects in the order shown, from left to right, are Cicero, Homer, Plato, Virgil, Socrates, and Demosthenes. The French ormolu clock in the center is of Empire design with its porcelain dial framed by an arch and supported by caryatids. It was acquired by John Quincy Adams during his years of foreign residence.

Courtesy of the National Park Service, Adams National Historic Site.

Some Dramatic Performers in Their Roles as Seen by Charles Francis Adams at the Tremont Theatre, 1830–1832 following or facing page 124[unavailable]

Charles Francis Adams’ first attendance at the theater after his marriage, indeed his first in more than a year, was on 3 February 1830 to see Shakespeare’s King John with Junius Brutus Booth in the title role and Edwin Forrest as Falconbridge (No. 2; and see volume 3:153). Forrest, in the few years since his New York debut in 1826 as Othello, had won his place as perhaps the finest American interpreter of the heroic roles of Shakespeare. By 1828 he had added to his repertoire, Brutus, Shylock, Richard III, Lear, and Macbeth, as well as Falconbridge with which he was to be long identified (George C. D. Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, New York, 1927–1949, 3:334–337, 384, 404).

The principal event of the 1831 season at the Tremont Theatre was the twenty-five-night engagement of the phenomenal child, Master Burke (Nos. 3 and 4), beginning on 31 January, during which “an unparallelled excitement prevailed” as he repeated the triumphs he had enjoyed in New York from his debut there in November 1830 until the beginning of his tour in the following January. The twelve-year-old, who also conducted the orchestra and played the violin, brought to Boston an astonishing repertoire of roles that already included Romeo, Shylock, Richard III, and Hamlet, as well as Napoleon and young Norval (in Home’s Douglas) and a host of Irish comic characters, of whom the most popular was Looney McTwolter (Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, 3:490–495). Charles Francis Adams, who went twice to see him and tried unsuccessfully another time (volume 3:420, 423, 425), like the critics and the established actors and actresses who played with Master Burke, took his interpretations with the utmost seriousness. “During his engagement, tickets were sold at auction, at advanced prices; which, not infrequently, fell into the hands of speculators, who found purchasers at enormous profits.” (Bowen’s Picture of Boston, 2d edn., Boston, 1833, p. 208.)

The next theatrical season offered a number of divertissements of varying degrees of importance. The American comedian and mimic, James Henry Hackett, gave his imitations of other actors and of American folk types and appeared in the native American plays which he also produced, such as Rip Van Winkle and James K. Paulding’s The Lion of the West. In the latter he took the role of Colonel Nimrod Wildfire, “an uncouth Kentuckian just elected to Congress” (No. 5; and see below, p. 190; Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, 3:419, 459, 501). Suggestive of the range of theatrical taste was the presence on the same bill of M. Gouffe, the man-monkey (No. 6; below, p. 190; Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, 3:569).

However, the principal feature of the season at the Tremont Theatre was the introduction of operatic performances “in a style of excellence hitherto unattempted” of such character as to “form an era in the annals of our stage.” The stage arrangements for the operas were under the direction of “Mr. Barrymore,” and the lead-ixing vocalists of the time were employed (Bowen’s Picture of Boston, 2d edn., p. 209). Outstanding among these was the lovely and beautiful Mrs. Elizabeth Austin, “the acknowledged queen of song,” who in early 1832 brought to Boston the greatest operatic success of the previous year (and of many years) in New York, Cinderella, an English adaptation by Rophino Lacy of Rossini’s Cenerentola (No. 7; and see below, p. 263–264). The critic William Cox of the New York Mirror had written of the production: “the most incredible transformations take place with a beautiful and dream-like facility, living fairies float on the bosom of the air, above the branches of the forest.... Cinderella offers an attraction superior to anything of the kind ever produced in the United States.” Of Mrs. Austin’s voice he wrote, “its liquid tones come as softly upon the sense of hearing as snow upon the water, or dew upon the flower.... We do not believe more delicate sounds can be borne upon the air, than are breathed forth in some of her cadences.” But it was Mrs. Austin in Cinderella that brought his superlatives: “The unrivalled excellence of Mrs. Austin consists in the possession of a voice, which for bird-like softness, sweetness, and wonderful flexibility, has never been excelled in American theaters, ... a clearness like that which delights the eye upon a sleeping stream in summer, when there is not a ripple to break its motionless beauty.... Mrs. Austin discovers a curious facility of execution, as if music escaped from her involuntarily as fragrance from a flower.... She floats through the whole part with no apparent effort.” (Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, 3:309, 461, 486, 496–498, 546.)

Forrest as Falconbridge is reproduced from a colored etching in Elton’s New Theatrical Costumes; Master Burke as Looney McTwolter from a lithograph of Ingrey & Madeley, London, after a drawing by Allison; Burke in six favorite characters from an engraving published by R. Lloyd, London, 1830; Hackett as Nimrod Wildfire from an engraving after a painting by A. Andrews; M. Gouffe from a West London Theatre playbill, September 1829, printed by Redeord & Robins, London. All are in the Harvard Theatre Collection. Mrs. Austin in Cinderella is reproduced from an illustration of an unlocated original in Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, volume 3, facing p. 498.

Nos. 2–6 courtesy of the Harvard Theatre Collection; no. 7 courtesy of Columbia University Press.

The First Meeting of the Supervisors of the Adams Temple and School Fund Recorded by Charles Francis Adams as Clerk following or facing page 125[unavailable]

The Adams Temple and School Fund was created by John Adams’ gift to the town of Quincy, dated 25 June 1822, of lands the future income from which were to be used first toward the building of a stone temple in Quincy (see volume 3:xi–xii), and after its completion to the support of a classical school or academy there. By a further deed, on 10 August in the same year, Adams gave to the town with certain stipulations “the fragments of my library which still remain in my possession.” The administration of both the fund and xthe library was placed in a board of five supervisors. After the gifts were accepted by the Town of Quincy, the supervisors and selectmen exercised joint oversight for a time. However, by act of the Massachusetts legislature, 3 February 1827, the Adams Temple and School Fund was incorporated and thereafter the Supervisors assumed full control, elected officers, &c. At about the time that the Supervisors became a corporate entity a record book was begun. The Records of the Supervisors from the beginning to 1942 are encompassed in a single volume of ledger size, bound in full leather. The stamping on front and back includes the rubric “Presented by John Quincy Adams.” Into the volume was first copied in one hand the documents relating to the Fund’s establishment and its administration up to incorporation. The minute book proper begins with the meeting of 18 April 1827, at which time Thomas Boylston Adams was elected Clerk. He served until his death in 1832. The Supervisors, meeting in early October to name his successor on the board, chose John Quincy Adams, and to the clerkship elected Charles Francis Adams, who recorded the first meeting he attended on 27 October 1832. He wrote up the minutes just over a week later (see below, p. 385–386 and 391–392). Charles Francis Adams continued to serve as Clerk of the Supervisors through the meeting of 3 September 1857. For the first ten years of his tenure as Clerk, however, he was not a Supervisor. Initially he could not qualify because he was not a resident of Quincy; after he became a resident, there was no vacancy to be filled until 1842.

On another of the actions taken at the first meeting recorded by Charles Francis Adams as Clerk, namely the appointment of a committee to examine the state of the library remaining in John Adams’ “Office,” see below, p. 139, 389–391. The charge to the same committee to move toward the realization of the donor’s provisions for a school and library building came to nothing for many years, the Adams Academy building not being put into construction until 1870.

The volume of Records is kept in the Treasurer’s vault in the City Hall, Quincy.

Courtesy of City of Quincy, Board of Supervisors The Adams Temple and School Fund, William Churchill Edwards, Clerk.

The Antimasonic Convention in Baltimore Caricatured in an Engraving by David Claypoole Johnston following or facing page 380[unavailable]

A new and exhaustive study of political Antimasonry in the United States remains to be written (Charles McCarthy’s “The Antimasonic Party: A Study of Political Antimasonry in the United States, 1827–1840” in the American Historical Association, Annual Report for 1902, 1:365–574, and George H. Blakeslee’s Harvard doctoral dissertation, The History of the Antimasonic Party, Cambridge, 1903, are still the best monographs available on the subject.) Charles Francis Adams’ participation in the movement began in the last months of the years covered by the present volumes when he emerged as a polemicist in a series of newspaper articles (see below, p. 349–350, 413–431 passim; Martin B. Duberman, Charles Francis Adams, 1807–1886, Boston, 1961, p. 43–55). He had resisted for ximore than a year following his father’s lead in assuming a public role in the struggle. John Quincy Adams’ own identification with the Antimasons in May 1831 was somewhat tardy, but he was soon thought to be a prime possibility as the party’s Presidential nominee. He seems to have done nothing to discourage those who were promoting his candidacy, but at the convention of the party in September 1831 in Baltimore the choice fell on William Wirt, the Attorney General in Adams’ administration and a Freemason. (See below, p. 120, 149–150; Samuel Flagg Bemis, John Quincy Adams and the Union, New York, 1956, p. 276–304.)

Political Antimasonry and the opposition which developed to the party generated an outpouring of pamphlet and journalistic literature (see the bibliographies in the monographs cited above). Despite the opportunities offered, the political caricaturists of the day seem seldom to have been stimulated by the conflict (Frank Weitenkampf, Political Caricature in the United States, New York, 1953, p. 21, 27). One of those who did treat it pictorially, and on both sides of the question, was David Claypoole Johnston (1797–1865) of Philadelphia and Boston, engraver and cartoonist chiefly on political and theatrical subjects (see volume 1:xiii–xiv; Clarence S. Brigham, “David Claypoole Johnston: The American Cruikshank,” American Antiquarian Society, Proceedings, 50 [1940], 98–110; George C. D. Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, New York, 1927–1949, volume 3, facing p. 150, 300).

Johnston’s unsigned lampoon, here reproduced, of the Antimasonic convention in Baltimore was used on the cover of a piece of sheet music, “Corner-Stone March, as performed by the Boston Brigade Band, At the Ceremony of laying the Corner Stone of the Masonic Temple, Boston. Dedicated to the Fraternity by Ch[arles] Zeuner.” Although the ceremony for which the piece was composed was held on 14 October 1830, the composition was not published until 1832. Perhaps the cartoon was employed somewhat unjustifiably to give a political relevance in a Presidential election year to a composition done for a nonpolitical occasion a year and a half before. The Freemasons themselves did not approve: “The mechanical execution of the work is creditable to the publisher. We regret being obliged to add, that good taste did not require the embellishment of a carricature.—There should have been nothing ludicrous connected with a piece of music dedicated ‘to the fraternity’” (Boston Masonic Mirror, New Series, 3:259 [11 February 1832]; see also the same, 2:133 [23 October 1830]). Significantly, however, in the same issue in which the “good taste” of the caricature was questioned, an article on John Quincy Adams was reprinted in which he is spoken of as “a political rat catcher,” and “an unprincipled political game cock” (the same, 3:257).

The employment in Johnston’s lithograph of donkeys, goats, geese, dogs, pigs, mules, and other animals assembled in convention to satirize Antimasonry would seem to derive naturally from the language of political controversy at the time. In its design and lettering, in its frequent use of puns in the legends and in the words assigned to the various speakers, and in its skill in draftsmanship, xiithe cartoon is like Johnston’s other known work. There is a distinct possibility that the punning words ascribed to the mule, the pig, and the dog are clues to individual leaders of the Antimasonic party. Thus, for example, the dog puns not only on his canine nature but also nautically. (Could Seward be meant?) The sentiment expressed by the mule, who incongruously insists that the Antimasonic candidate be “full blooded,” is, of course, directed against Wirt; however, the intent of the mule in damaging Wirt’s eligibility in order finally to win the nomination for himself is exactly the tactic that was being charged to John Quincy Adams at the very time the cartoon was published on the sheet-music cover and may point to the identification of the mule as the stubbornly ambitious ex-President (see the article on John Quincy Adams cited above in the Boston Masonic Mirror for 11 February 1832).

Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

Jared Sparks in 1828, by Gilbert Stuart following or facing page 380[unavailable]

One of the last paintings done by Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828) before his death and unfinished in the sense that background and dress have been barely suggested, this portrait of Jared Sparks belongs with other such “unfinished” but superb late Stuart works as the portraits of Thomas Motley, Nathaniel Bowditch, and Washington Allston. They may well owe their character as much to a loss of interest on the artist’s part in the rendering of the appurtenances to a likeness and to his preoccupation with the face and what he saw in it as to a lack of opportunity to bring the paintings to completion. The portrait of Sparks, oil on canvas, measures 25” x 20” and is owned by The New Britain Museum of American Art (Lawrence and Smith Funds), having earlier been in the possession of Sparks’ grandson, Professor Jared Sparks Moore of Cleveland. The portrait was begun in 1827, the sittings apparently continuing until March 1828, when Sparks left Boston for several months in Europe. (Lawrence Park, Gilbert Stuart, an Illustrated Descriptive List of his Works, New York, 1926, 2:706–707; Gilbert Stuart, Portraitist of the Young Republic, Washington and Providence, 1967, p. 106, 111–113.)

Jared Sparks (1789–1866) in the years close to the time he was sitting to Stuart was still unmarried; was just beginning to accomplish his pioneering efforts to edit and publish American historical documents; was the owner and editor of the North American Review , 1824–1830; and was engrossed in his labors of locating and copying documents relating to the diplomacy of the Revolution. He was to publish his monumental Diplomatic Correspondence of the American Revolution in twelve volumes in 1829–1830. Despite its marked editorial deficiencies, it established his reputation and defined a point of view about the Revolutionary period that so insisted upon the rightness of all that Washington and Franklin believed and did that it minimized the contributions and impugned the judgment, if not the integrity, of those like John Adams, John Jay, Arthur Lee, and Henry Laurens who often differed with one or the other of them (see below, p. 214–215). It was Sparks’ representation of events xiiiperhaps more than any other single thing which forced the descendants of John Adams into a defensive posture and made three generations of them into perceptive students and interpreters of the early years of the Nation.

During the years covered by these volumes of the Diary, Charles Francis Adams and Jared Sparks remained on fairly familiar terms. Sparks and his copyist had the daily use of Adams’ study in his house on Hancock Avenue from November 1829 to March 1830 as Sparks searched the twenty-one volumes of John Adams’ letterbooks which John Quincy Adams had made available there for that purpose. Despite worsening relations between Sparks and the elder Adams as Sparks’ opinions of Jay and Lee appeared, Charles Francis Adams continued to observe the amenities. (See volume 3:88, 92, 160–161, 202–203; below, p. 214–215, 395.)

Sparks’ literary and archival labors were carried forward assiduously in the United States and abroad. During the next decade he completed The Life of Gouverneur Morris, 3 volumes, Boston, 1832; The Writings of George Washington, 12 volumes, Boston, 1834–1837; The Works of Benjamin Franklin, 10 volumes, Boston, 1836–1840. Rewards came in his appointment as McLean Professor of Ancient and Modern History at Harvard in 1839 and his election as President of the University ten years later. (Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; L. H. Butterfield, “Archival and Editorial Enterprise in 1850 and in 1950: Some Comparisons and Contrasts,” American Philosophical Society, Proceedings, 98 [1954]:159–170.)

Courtesy of The New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut.

The Reverend Nathaniel Langdon Frothingham in 1842, by Thomas Ball following or facing page 380[unavailable]

Nathaniel Frothingham (1793–1870) was the husband of Abigail (Brooks) Adams’ oldest sister Ann. After the death in 1830 of their mother, Mrs. Peter Chardon Brooks, the two sisters became increasingly close to one another and remained so. Their husbands, drawn together by this circumstance, seemed to find common ground on which to build a long relationship that was cordial if not intimate. During the years covered by these volumes Charles Francis Adams was in the Frothingham manse many more times than he was in any other house in Boston save his own. Frequently the Adamses were guests for meals, and Charles Francis Adams seems generally to have eaten at the Frothinghams’ when for one reason or another it was convenient for him to eat out. The two men seem not to have been naturally congenial, although Adams found Frothingham “an exceedingly amiable man” and “a man of talents.” Frothingham was the older by almost fifteen years; they differed sharply in their theological and political views and in their interpretations of American history (see volume 3:289); and although Adams was not moved by Frothingham as a pulpit orator, he listened with respect to his sermons at the First Church once or twice each Sunday that xivAdams was in Boston (see volume 3:42; below, p. 405–406, 426 and passim). They did share an absorbing interest in the classics; Frothingham’s learning was solid, and his concern for music and poetry and literature in the modern foreign languages made his conversation sufficiently cultivated to meet Adams’ exacting standards.

Frothingham succeeded William Emerson in the First Church pulpit in 1815 and remained the Church’s minister until ill health forced his resignation in 1849. A preceptor in rhetoric and oratory at Harvard before he began his First Church ministry, he retained his identification with Harvard, serving as an Overseer from 1819 to 1850. In his retirement, until he was prevented by blindness, he pursued his literary activities, publishing Sermons in 1852 and Metrical Pieces in 1855. Charles Francis Adams wrote in his diary (6 April 1870) that the estimate of Frothingham’s life and character given at his funeral in the oration by the Reverend Frederic H. Hedge “was just, discriminating and forcible”: “As a preacher, he could hardly be said to be popular.... The circle of his admirers was small; but those who composed it listened to him with enthusiastic delight.... The poetic beauty of his thought, the pointed aptness of his illustrations, the truth and sweetness of the sentiment, the singular and sometimes quaint selectness ... of the language, won my heart, and made him my favorite among the preachers of that day.... As a scholar, he had in his profession no superior,— scarcely a rival.... In richness and extent of intellectual culture he stood pre-eminent among his brethren.... In familiar discourse, when most at his ease, the unstudied and innate grace of his mind gave a peculiar and emphatic zest to his conversation.... His words expressed with unerring fitness the thing most fit to be expressed.” (Massachusetts Historical Society, Proceedings, 1st series, 11 [1869–1870]: 378–380; see also, Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; Arthur B. Ellis, History of the First Church in Boston, 1630–1880, Boston, 1880, p. 252–284.)

Charles Francis Adams, returning from the funeral services and mindful of their long association, wrote: “I walked home meditating on the time when I first knew him in connection with the sunniest hours of my life, on the steady good will that prevailed between us all through middle life, and lastly on the fading of the scene” (Diary, 6 April 1870).

The portrait of Frothingham here reproduced hangs in the office wing of the First Church in Boston. (Photograph by George M. Cushing Jr.) It was painted in 1842 by Thomas Ball (1819–1911), who is better known as a sculptor than as a painter. He maintained a studio in Boston from 1837 to 1853 and exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum almost every year from 1840 to 1867. (George C. Groce and David H. Wallace, The New-York Historical Society’s Dictionary of American Artists, 1564–1860, New Haven and London, 1957; Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; Mabel M. Swan, The Athenaeum Gallery, 1827–1873, Boston, 1940, p. 179–180, 199.)

Courtesy of the Trustees of the First Church, Boston.

Charles Francis Adams’ Marginal Comments Entered in His Copies of Villemain’s “Histoire de Cromwell” and Abbé de Mably’s “De la Législation, ou Principes des Loix” following or facing page 380[unavailable]

Charles Francis Adams was generally not given to entering marginal comments in the books in his library. The keeping of a diary in which he so often recorded his opinions of what he was reading provided ample opportunity ordinarily for the expression of his reaction. Furthermore, beginning in 1822 and continuing during the period covered by these volumes, he kept a commonplace book into which he copied passages that he found particularly memorable or with which he was in hearty agreement (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 312). A few books remained with which he so profoundly disagreed that he succumbed to the urge to enter his dissent in the form of marginalia. Two of the subjects in which he maintained an avid and abiding interest and on which he felt impelled to write essays and articles as well as marginalia were the Puritan contribution to the founding of New England and the Nation, and the wisdom of deriving principles of government from experience, as represented by history, rather than from abstract theories (see volume 3:213; below, p. 428). These interests expressed themselves in vigorous defense of the Puritans in 17th-century England and in vigorous opposition to the abstract theorists who preceded and gave doctrinal justification to the French Revolution. The two works in which his marginal comments illustrated here were entered fall within these two subject fields.

Abel François Villemain was one of the leading literary critics and teachers of the early 19th century in France, politically liberal, distinguished and sometimes criticized for his advanced technique of combining in his lectures and books on literary criticism, biographical and historical material. His Histoire de Cromwell, first published in two volumes at Paris in 1819, was of this mixed genre, in which through analogies drawn between Cromwell and Napoleon he expressed highly critical views of each. The copy which Charles Francis Adams owned, and in which he entered his numerous animadversions upon Villemain’s derogations of Cromwell and other Puritan leaders, was of an edition published at Brussels in 1829 (see below, p. 423, 429). Beyond calling the author, “humbug,” “goose,” “brazen dog,” &c., and characterizing his opinions as “stuff,” “slander,” and “flat Popery,” Adams expresses at times in his comments the real grounds of his disagreement with Villemain’s views and his own bias: “This Man does not understand the principles involved in this struggle.... He does not seem to understand how much of public spirit and of genuine patriotism there was in the combat. In fine, he is a Frenchman.” “To stand in the fear of God, and to be conscientious is according to this man, ‘fanaticism.’” “Say what you will, Cromwell was never absolute. It was because his Government was in the main a very good one, that he retained his power.” “[I]t must always be remembered that all the testimony that comes from republicans or the royalists of the court of Charles 2d is not perfectly impartial. The first hated Cromwell’s memory because they attri-xvibuted to him the failure of their schemes and the return of the Royalists. The second abused him to pay their Court to the new Monarch.”

In criticizing the political theorists who provided the philosophical justification for the French Revolution, Charles Francis Adams followed a pattern set by John Adams. Nowhere does the grandson better reveal his distrust of theory when applied to human behavior and when used as a foundation for political systems than in the marginal comments he made in his copy of Bibliothèque de l’homme public, ou analyse raisonée des principaux ouvrages françois et ètrangers, sur la politique ... et sur le droit naturel et public. This work, made up of condensations and summaries of political treatises, was compiled by the Marquis de Condorcet and others. Published in 1790–1792 at Paris, its relevance to the Revolution manifest, it reached 28 volumes. Charles Francis Adams’ copy (12 volumes in 6, Paris, 1790) was acquired at the sale of Edward Jackson Lowell’s library in October 1830 for three dollars. He read in it with some regularity from March to June 1831 (see below, p. 9–61 passim). The marginalia acquire substance and pith especially in the comments on the essays of Bodin, Machiavelli, Guicciardini, Plato, Montesquieu, Holbach, Languet, Mirabeau, and Mably. Reproduced here is the concluding page of the abstract of Abbé de Mably’s “De la législation, ou principes des loix” (first published in 2 volumes in 1776). This sharp dissent from Mably’s praise of the system devised by Lycurgus at Sparta on the ground that it ignores what history teaches about human nature, Adams develops at greater length in the journal entry reporting his reading of Mably (see below, p. 63).

A month later, having finished his reading in the philosophes, he took up another work on government which he found much more to his taste, John Adams’ Defence of the Constitutions of Governments of the United States of America (3 volumes, London, 1787–1788), constructed upon the historical and experiential method, and there found to his delight that his grandfather had reached identical conclusions about Lycurgus’ Sparta and in language often startlingly similar. Thus confirmed, he noted the lesson that “merely by looking at things in a plain practical light one may succeed at arriving at wise conclusions” (below, p. 100; John Adams’ strictures on Sparta are in the Defence, 1:256–260; The Works of John Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1850–1856, 4:553–556).

Courtesy of the National Park Service, Adams National Historical Site.

“Evening, Made a Little Further Progress in My Translation. I have Copied It, Into the Margin of the Quarto Copy of Cicero Which I Have” following or facing page 381[unavailable]

Nothing occupied Charles Francis Adams so continuously or so absorbingly during the years covered by these volumes as the study of oratory or eloquence. He read and reread the orations of Demosthenes and Aeschines in the original Greek and in translations, he read the orations of Cicero in their entirety; and, among the moderns, xviihe read the orations of Burke, Pitt, and Sheridan. To familiarize himself with the art as practiced in his own country, he read through the five volumes of E. B. Williston’s compilation, Eloquence of the United States; the reports of the debates in Congress that were available in Thomas Carpenter’s The American Senator; and Jonathan Elliot’s four volumes of debates on the ratification of the Federal Constitution in the several states. He devoted himself as well to a close study of pulpit oratory, both as it was observable in Boston and available in the published volumes of the reputed masters: Massillon and those gathered together in the nine volumes of The English Preacher. On the advice of his father he directed his attention to the theorists of eloquence also: to John Quincy Adams’ own Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory; to all of Cicero’s treatises on the subject; to Quintilian “On Oratory”; to Vossius; to Fénelon’s “Dialogue on Eloquence,” Hume’s “Essay on Eloquence,” and to works on the subject by Lord Kames, Hugh Blair, and a number of others. He balanced this by making a determined effort to acquire experience in the construction and delivery of oratorical pieces in the weekly meetings of the Private Debating Society. And finally he sought to develop his literary skill and to bring his reading into focus and use by writing translations from the Greek and Latin texts and by attempting articles and essays on the principles of eloquence or on the great orators. One number of his essay “Eloquence” was published (see volume 3:168); an additional piece on the same subject, a fragment of another, and an essay-review of Williston’s compilation—all by him—survive in manuscript form in the Adams Papers (Microfilms, Reel Nos. 294, 317); also the beginning of a dissertation on Cicero (Reel No. 294). The diary reveals that there were other such efforts which have not survived. Of his translations, fragments of his version of Aeschines’ and of Demosthenes’ orations “On the Crown” remain (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel Nos. 312, 317); and the translation of Cicero’s “De optimo genere oratorum,” which he made on 6–13 September 1831, he entered in the margins of his large-paper edition of Cicero (Oxford, 1783, 1:540–544), which is in the Stone Library and one page of which is reproduced here. The quotation above recording this action occurs at p. 135, below.

Courtesy of the National Park Service, Adams National Historic Site.