Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1


Friday 26th.

21 25th. CFA


25th. CFA

Arose this morning in high spirits and caught Johnson and John in the first salutation as I roared it out from one room to the other, before I was up. After breakfast I walked with Madame and Abby to see Aunt Smith. She looks very well and appears as comfortably settled as could be expected. She as usual in the highest word omitted although “bless me she had suffered so severe an attack from the rheumatism.” After some hesitation, she accepted an invitation to our Christmas dinner and upon that we returned. He1 came in latterly—he does not look well. We were not long before the proper time to dress for dinner which being done, we assembled in the parlour to receive the guests. The company consisted of a Mr. Blunt of New York, Mr. Carter the editor of a New York paper, Mr. Cook, Member from Illinois, Mr. Dwight from Massachusetts, Edwards, Senator from Connecticut, Mr. Fuller of Massachusetts, Dr. Huntt, Mr. Newton from Virginia, Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan2 with two young sons, and Uncle and Aunt Smith. Some of these I knew long since, others were new and unexpected. Mr. Sullivan by chance had the left corner at the bottom of the dinner table which was the seat next my usual one, and amused me very much indeed by his discursive powers. He would talk, heaven how he would talk, of soup, of bread, of College, of every thing in short, and although I thought him something of an amusing man, I could not help assenting to the common proverb that you can do more business with a taciturn character. Some sharp cuts passed between Dwight, Fuller and Sullivan and I saw plainly that the latter was no favourite. Mr. Newton was very agreably excited and spouted to some purpose on the subject of the Greeks. He appears to be a pleasant man. Blunt exhibited himself as I shall have occasion to mention hereafter, for he was a man thrown very much into our society during my stay. After some lively conversation in the latter part of the evening, the company retired and then we set down to a game of Whist, so that it was twelve o’clock before we separated. Of all persons whom I have ever seen, to prepossess against, I think Mrs. Sullivan the most likely to have that effect. But I had not much opportunity to judge this evening. The subject of Greece appears to have created some conversation as Mr. Webster is about to come out in his most powerful manner, and to be supported by Mr. Clay. Their side of the question is as I hear to be warmly attacked by men equally powerful.3 Mr. Sullivan in the course of his conversation after deciding this question, carried through a most tremendously severe philippic upon Harvard College which I should have thought more of, had it come from a weightier man.


Uncle William Steuben Smith.


Most of the guests were Congressmen: Daniel Pope Cook (1794–1827), of Illinois; Henry Williams Dwight (1788–1845), of Massachusetts; Henry Waggaman Edwards (1779–1847), of Connecticut; Thomas Newton Jr. (1768–1847), of Virginia; and Timothy Fuller (1778–1835), of Massachusetts ( Biog. Dir. Cong. ). Joseph Blunt was a rising New York City politician who was organizing support to make JQA President (Bemis, JQA , 2:23), and Nathaniel H. Carter was editor of the New York Statesman (Frank Luther Mott, American Journalism, N.Y., 1941, p. 198). Dr. Henry Huntt was the Adams family physician (Bemis, JQA , 2:119). George Sullivan (1783–1866), another Adams supporter, was in Washington to lobby for payment of Massachusetts claims stemming from the War of 1812; his father was the late governor James Sullivan of Massachusetts; his wife was the former Sarah Bowdoin Winthrop of Boston (same, 2:35, 56–57, 74; Gouverneur, As I Remember , p. 282; Mayo, Winthrop Family , p. 217–218).


Sympathetic toward the Greek struggles for independence against their Turkish overlords, Daniel Webster on 8 December had moved the sending of an American commissioner to Greece, and his oration in support of his proposal was announced long before it was actually delivered, on 19 January 1824 (Fuess, Webster , 1:312). Speaker Henry Clay also supported the proposal “in a ringing speech” (Van Deusen, Clay , p. 161). On the “Greek Fever” which swept America at this time see Stephen A. Larrabee, Hellas Observed: The American Experience of Greece, 1775–1865, N.Y., 1957, ch. 3.