Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 4

Tuesday. 20th.

Thursday. 22d.

Wednesday. 21st. CFA


Wednesday. 21st. CFA
Wednesday. 21st.

I made my morning much more profitable today, accomplishing a Chapter of Gibbon upon the victories of Belisarius. The Author has thrown an Interest into his History which one could hardly have expected, considering the time and places he was writing about. I have found it very easy to go through now nearly seven volumes and if I had more time should still be willing to employ it in the same manner.

I was a good deal interested in a debate that took place in the House of Representatives upon a request of my Father to be excused from serving on the Committee of Manufactures. The excessive praise that 265was paid him from Quarters three years since the most violent against him, and the cautious course of those formerly of his party, now friends of Mr. Clay, are worthy of remark.1 They show what I have long since expected that he stands now between two forces which may or may not crush him.

The weather was bad and I did not walk, but I was occupied in Commissions for about the same length of time. Mr. Brooks dined with us so that one hour was taken from my afternoon. I devoted one hour to Spanish, another to Italian, which I have determined to try to learn. Evening quiet at home. Read the Account of Fuseli and after it, the French Revolution and part of Paley.


The debate in the House on 16 March occasioned by JQA’s request to be excused from further service as chairman of the Committee on Manufactures was reported in the Daily National Intelligencer on 17 March (p. 2–3). The announced reason in justification of the request was his impending absence from the House for a considerable period required by his membership on the select committee to investigate the United States Bank. In the debate which followed the motion those who were opposed to granting the request were strongest in their praise of JQA as uniquely able to resolve the sectional conflict over the tariff, as almost alone enjoying the confidence of all parties. Those who spoke in this vein were C. C. Cambreleng of New York, William Drayton of South Carolina, James Bates of Maine, Jesse Speight of North Carolina. Of those who spoke in favor of granting the request for a variety of reasons, the most laudatory of JQA was John S. Barbour of Virginia. Edward Everett, who moved to postpone, and H. A. S. Dearborn, both old supporters, were more temperate in their words of praise. The debate ended when JQA withdrew his motion, reserving the privilege of renewing the request at a later date.

JQA’s effort to have himself removed from his onerous chairmanship was of longer standing than was suggested in the debate. When he took his seat in the House in Dec. 1831, he had wished assignment to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the chairmanship of which seemed to some naturally his by virtue of the offices he had held. But JQA had been kept from the Committee by the fact that he and President Jackson were not in that easy communication that seemed essential for the proper functioning of the Committee. Instead, the Speaker, Andrew Stevenson, had appointed JQA to the most sensitive and perhaps most thankless position the Speaker had to confer, that of guiding a tariff bill through a bitterly divided House. JQA had recorded that it was “a Station of high responsibility, and perhaps of labour more burdensome than any other in the House ... for which I feel myself not to be well qualified” (Diary, 12 Dec. 1831); and on the next day wrote to CFA (letter in Adams Papers) that he believed the Speaker “took me for a Jack, which any Mason or Anti-mason might have told him I am not. The Camel kneels to receive his burden, and so did Caesar’s horse. I shall rather resemble the Horse of Sir Hudibras and kneel to cast my burden off.” On the whole episode, see Bemis, JQA , 2:240–242.