Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

Wednesday. 14th.

Friday. 16th.

Thursday. 15th. CFA Thursday. 15th. CFA
Thursday. 15th.

The weather is singularly changeable, now and then clear, but more often hazy and cloudy with cold Easterly winds. I went to the House as usual to superintend. Nothing however remarkable to note.

Read Homer, fifty odd lines, but I do not find that my hold of the Greek language increases much. The extraordinary variety of words, and the multiplicity of forms of derivation appear to be the great obstacle. But perhaps a greater one is my present state of mind turning upon other things. To study requires equanimity and produces it when exclusively pursued. My own prospects appear to be study sturdy, so that after I have formed for myself a place, and have got over the paying for it, I hope to be more easy, and then to devote myself, if God spares me life, to some useful purpose.

Read parts of the book written by John Taylor of Caroline, which I accidentally took up, in opposition to the argument of my grandfather’s Defence.1 It is Virginian, ingenious but not solid, written with some negligence but a good deal of natural sense. Taylor lived to doubt his doctrine and to write to my grandfather a personal apology for his hostility.2 Afternoon, working. Nothing very particular. Wieland. Humboldt, Voyage to South America.3


John Taylor of Caroline co., Va., An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States, Fredericksburg, Va., 1814. The copy owned by JA and bearing also JQA’s bookplate is among JA’s books at MB. The Inquiry grew out of notes and speculations first made in 1794 in response to JA’s A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States, 3 vols., London, 1787–1788. Also contained in the Inquiry is the first printing of that 262version of JA’s Thoughts on Government that JA had sent in 1776 to John Penn, a N.C. delegate and the father-in-law of John Taylor of Caroline (a full account of the composition, influence, and later history of this and of the other versions of Thoughts is in JA, Papers , 4:65–68).


CFA is not entirely accurate here. His reference is to Taylor’s letter to JA, 8 April 1824 (Adams Papers), to which CFA attached such importance that he gave it a prime place in the volume of transcripts of documents relating to JA that he made in 1833 to insure their survival (M/CFA/31.7–8, Microfilms, Reel No. 327; on the transcripts and CFA’s purposes, see vol. 5:132). The letter, Taylor’s last surviving one to JA, is a testimonial of lifelong regard and an expression of regret for his part in unfair attacks made by Jefferson’s partisans against JA during his presidency. The differences between Taylor and Adams that emerge in the Inquiry are philosophical differences and speak no “hostility.” Upon the publication of the Inquiry, JA from 15 April 1814 to 5 March 1815 wrote a series of letters to Taylor continuing the dialogue on government (CFA included 32 of these in JA, Works, 6:447–521). Taylor valued these comments so highly that he intended to publish them along with the Inquiry in a 2d edition of that work (Taylor to JA, 20 Feb. 1819, Adams Papers).


A copy belonging to JQA of F. H. A. von Humboldt’s Voyage aux régions équinoxiale du nouveau continent, 2 vols., Paris, 1816, is at MQA.