Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

Sunday. 26th.

Tuesday. 28th.

18 Monday 27th. CFA


Monday 27th. CFA
Monday 27th.

We passed Syracuse in the night time, a place of some note, and found ourselves making good progress until noon. But then instead of want of water on the long level we found ourselves embarrassed by its excess. We came to the outlet of the Cayuga and Seneca Lakes along what are called the Montezuma Marshes where we found that the rains had so washed the towing path as to make it impassable for horses at some places. And after parting with our’s, we were several hours getting along two or there miles to the spot where others resumed the work of drawing us.

The boatmen employed here are a rude and wild set, very rough to each other and unaccommodating. It is said there are twenty two hundred canal boats and estimating four souls to each without which it is difficult to get along there must be nine thousand men and boys employed in the Navigation. Our boat had six—the Captain, a bow’s man whose business it is to regulate the course through the Locks and generally to watch the bow, two steersmen and two boys to drive the horses, by turns. Thus one of these heavy going machines in 4 foot water requires more management than a clever sailing boat in an open sea.

The day was fine and I was not troubled by the delay. We continued our course through the wild and marshy Country. The gigantic productions of nature here begin to show themselves. Trees which by growing too close to each other stretch upwards as if in emulation for a share of light and heat, until their stems show a length of seventy feet without a branch. This is striking but not beautiful for the foliage is only at the top of the tree and is thin and poor. The land which produces this great vegetation is loose and rich spongy clay mould, with a great deal of decomposed lime stone in it. Consequently when the settler once succeeds in felling and exterminating the forest, he plants wheat and his fears for his subsistence are at an end. But what a task to go into the wide waste of nature and begin civilization.

Mr. Curtis and I were out late by moonlight talking politics. He told me much of Van Buren and Silas Wright which goes to confirm me in my ancient convictions of the mistaken policy my father adopted respecting them.1


To what “ancient convictions” CFA refers is not certain. In supporting Van Buren for the presidency during the preceding months, CFA had differed with his father (see vol. 6:191, 396–398); but the bracketing of Van Buren and Silas Wright suggests that the reference is to JQA’s course in 1828 in relation to the 19“tariff of abominations,” in the framing and passage of which the two New York senators were principal figures (Bemis, JQA , 2:88–90). However, no record of CFA’s convictions at that time on the matter is known to the editors.