Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

Wednesday 22d.

Friday. 24th.

Thursday. 23d. CFA


Thursday. 23d. CFA
Thursday. 23d.

Morning pleasant but doubtful. The day was showery. Albany looked however much pleasanter than I expected, which is probably owing to the more favorably situated hotel at which I was stopping. It is however a dull place for a stranger. I walked round to see the changes which had taken place since I was here, but could not mark them well as I had observed very superficially the first time.1 There is every appearance of prosperity, and yet this depends upon but a very slender thread. The Navigation below this place is so difficult and so much obstructed as to make it really desirable that the depot for canal navigation should be established further down, say at or opposite Hudson, thirty miles below. Should it so happen that the public interest and private enterprise combined to set that way, Albany would find herself soon falling into the rear. At present however the mass of interest both private and public centred in this place gives to it a predominance.

Afterwards my Wife wished to make some purchases and I accompanied her. Then home where I sat down and wrote a letter to Mrs. Frothingham,2 giving a detail of our expedition from West Point. I filled it with matters of no great interest to her, but I could do nothing else, and my Wife was not willing to write.

At dinner we saw some of the noted Albany Regency. Mr. Flagg and Mr. Beardsley were at the house and the former was quite talkative and civil.3 There were also two sons of Mr. Van Buren at table, one a very modest youth, the other our old acquaintance, John, transformed into a man. I did not recognize him. We had no time for the desert, being called to go to the railway depot to be in time for the cars for Schenectady.

We started in company with Mr. White, going out of the limits of the City in a car drawn by horses, for which an engine was then substituted which took us with great rapidity to the end of our trip. Just 14before arriving, there is an inclined plane which we descended—A process of some little hazard and yet so often done as to appear of very little.4 Schenectady is a place not very remarkable for any thing. It lies very level and is distinguished for poor, ill looking houses. The bricks which they make along this whole region are very indifferent. After walking about it, I dawdled away a couple of hours waiting for the remainder of Mr. White’s party which was coming from Saratoga Springs. They came at last in the shape of Mr. and Mrs. Joy and her child, Miss Story and Miss White. Mrs. Paige and Mr. and Mrs. Edward Curtis of New York together with several young men made up the number.

The first poor house we have stopped at. There were great fires in all the parlors, and the remainder of the building was unusually exposed by the changes the man was making to enlarge his accommodations. Small bedroom and middling rest.


With his mother, CFA had visited Albany in 1826. His impressions of the city then were not favorable; see vol. 2:72.


The letter is missing.


Azariah Cutting Flagg, New York state controller, and Samuel Beardsley, state attorney general, were prominent figures in the “Albany Regency,” which, under the leadership of Martin Van Buren, controlled the state’s policies for many years.


Between Albany and Schenectady a sharp change in elevation occurs in the course taken by the Mohawk River and by the Erie Canal parallelling it. In consequence, the distance between the two cities overland was but 15 miles, while that by canal was 30 miles, punctuated by 27 locks. The cars between the cities made the journey in 3 hours; the canal boat consumed 24. Schenectady, then, at this period, became for passengers the chosen port on the canal for embarkation and disembarkation (Ronald E. Shaw, Erie Water West, A History of the Erie Canal, 1792–1854. Lexington, Ky., 1966, p. 214).