Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Sunday. 24th.

Tuesday. 26th.

Monday. 25th. CFA


Monday. 25th. CFA
Monday. 25th.

Morning clear and exceedingly warm. After an hour devoted as usual to the reading of Aristotle, I walked down for the purpose of doing some little Commissions for my Wife and myself. This took up so much time that upon arriving at my Office, I found my Father doing business there with several of his friends. They left soon and so did he to attend a Meeting of the ΦBK Society about their secrets.1 I was engaged much of my morning in preparing Copies of his Oration to be sent away by the Mail.2 I also began my Grandfather’s principal work, the Defence of the American Constitutions, for the purpose of 98forming an Independent opinion.3 Mr. Ballister called upon me about seeing my Father but he did not succeed in finding him.

Returned home and found my Mother with little Louisa come in to spend the day. This young Lady is a great trouble as I cannot treat her with the little ceremony I could with one of my own children. My nerves are not made for these trifling trials. I did not enjoy the visit.4 In the afternoon, I continued reading Cicero’s Letters, to Curio and Caelius. They are good models to learn the science by. My father and Mother went away at about Sunset and after a conversation with Judge Hall and going to the Post Office, I took a little walk with my Wife. Thus passed the time until nine, when I read Aristotle commented upon and the Spectator.


At a meeting of the Harvard Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society on 21 July a committee of nine, JQA being one, was appointed to propose a revision of the charter and laws of the society. Reflecting the desire of a number of members to take a stand consistent with their antimasonic leanings, the Society was bent upon the elimination of secrets. At the first meeting of the committee, JQA moved to repeal all parts of the charter and laws which required the administration of an oath and any promise of secrecy. This motion encountered little opposition, but was not adopted because of the intrusion of an attempt to amend the law governing election by eliminating the requirement of unanimity. The issues were fiercely argued through several sessions. (JQA, Diary, 21, 25 July; 8, 11 Aug. See also Catalogue of the Harvard Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Cambridge, 1933, p. 152–154.)


JQA received printed copies of his oration on 22 July (JQA, Diary). Extracts began to appear in newspapers in Boston and elsewhere almost at once. See, for example, Boston Patriot, 25 July, p. 2, cols. 1–3. The copy at MQA of the pamphlet, An Oration ... on the Fourth of July 1831, Boston, 1831, has in JQA’s hand: “Mary Louisa Adams.”


A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, 3 vols., London, 1787–1788, was the most ambitious literary composition that JA undertook, contained his most comprehensive speculations in political theory, and was among the most controversial of his published works. See vol. 1:314; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:202. Among the copies in MQA is one of the first edition, presented and inscribed to CFA by JA, 25 Jan. 1819.


Despite his disclaimers, CFA seems to have been much drawn to the two-year-old, Mary Louisa. LCA thought her “a great favorite” of both ABA and CFA and quoted him as saying “she is irresistible in her little ways.” Certainly his manner with her provoked enthusiastic response from the child. LCA’s frequent reports to Mary Louisa’s mother throughout the summer on the child’s activities and predilections leave no doubt that she had “a most extraordinary affection for her Uncle Charles”; she mimicked him delightfully and “dearly loves a romp with Charles as she familiarly calls him.” LCA to Mrs. JA2, 2 and 21 May, 7 and 27 July, 11 Aug. (all in Adams Papers).