Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 1

Introduction Introduction
Charles Francis Adams as a Diarist

“A Diary is the Time Piece of Life,” John Quincy Adams once observed, “and will never fail of keeping Time, or of getting out of order with it. A Diary if honestly kept is one of the best preservatives of Morals. A man who commits to paper from day to day the employment of his time, the places he frequents, the persons with whom he converses, the actions with which he is occupied, will have a perpetual guard over himself. His Record is a second Conscience.”1 John Quincy Adams learned the habit of diary-keeping from his father, John Adams, whose daily record is invaluable for the history of the American Revolutionary generation.2 He himself kept a systematic and voluminous diary, published extracts from which reach twelve volumes and form a basic source for United States history during the first half-century of our national existence.3 Of John Quincy Adams’ children, only the youngest, Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886), regularly continued the family practice,4 in a journal which he began in 1820 and kept up, with only a few interruptions, for the next sixty years, filling in the process thirty-six bound notebooks totaling nearly eleven thousand pages. “He took to diary writing early,” Charles Francis Adams’ son later observed, “and he took to it bad.”5

The daily record which Charles Francis Adams wrote was a very different sort of document from the diaries of his father and his grandfather. His mind, as his son Henry remarked, was not “bold like his xvigrandfather’s or restless like his father’s, or imaginative or oratorical—still less mathematical, but it worked with singular perfection, admirable self-restraint, and instinctive mastery of form.”6 In time his journal was to contain a cool, precise, and informed record of most of the important men and events in mid-19th-century American history, from the presidency of James Monroe to the election of James A. Garfield.

Never before printed in full,7 Charles Francis Adams’ Diary is unquestionably the most important surviving unpublished journal kept by any American in the 19th century. In its early years it is an illuminating record of the so-called Era of Good Feelings and the rise of Jacksonian Democracy. Adams’ journal contains the most detailed contemporary account of the Whig oligarchy which dominated Massachusetts politics in the 1830’s and of its disruption in the 1840’s by the rise of the Conscience Whig faction, in which Adams himself was a leader. The story of the unsuccessful Free Soil party, which nominated Adams for the vice-presidency in 1848, is also here, without romance, without significant distortion. No other contemporary record so adequately traces the tangled story of Massachusetts politics in the 1850’s, with the election of Charles Sumner to the United States xviiSenate, the defeat of the Coalition of Democrats and Free Soilers, the machinations of Henry Wilson, and the triumph of nativism.

After 1858, when Adams was elected as a Republican to Congress, his diary becomes a major source on national as well as on Massachusetts politics. Assuming at once a leading position in the House of Representatives, Adams helped steer his party toward a conservative platform in 1860 and, though he personally favored the candidacy of his old friend, William H. Seward, he loyally campaigned for Abraham Lincoln after his nomination. In the secession crisis Adams battled alike the secessionists of the South and the antislavery extremists in his own party, in an effort to keep the Union intact until Lincoln could be inaugurated. His diary for the crucial months in the great secession winter of 1860–1861 gives a valuable, as well as a vivid, picture of the national government in the throes of dissolution.

After Adams was named United States minister to Great Britain in 1861, his diary naturally is largely concerned with diplomacy and foreign politics, and it is basic for an understanding of American efforts to keep England neutral during the Civil War. Neither minimizing nor exaggerating his own role, Adams’ journal conclusively proves that his work was as important as that of any Northern general in winning the war for the Union. During the postwar period Adams’ diary records in fresh and precise detail his service as American minister until 1868, his labors on the Geneva tribunal to arbitrate the Alabama claims rising from the Civil War, and his unsought and unwilling candidacy for the Liberal Republican presidential nomination in 1872 and for the regular Republican nomination four years later.

In accordance with the policy laid down by the administrative and editorial boards of the Adams Papers, Charles Francis Adams’ Diary, like that of his father and his grandfather, will be published in full, and it is estimated that it will in time fill perhaps eighteen volumes of the present size. The historical value of the subsequent volumes in this series, dealing as they do with weighty events in public life, will be obvious to any reader, but perhaps a few words should be said in justification of the extensive publication of the present youthful and often incomplete diaries.

They are, first of all, a significant new source on the national politics of the 1820’s. Sharing with his father and his grandfather a doubt “whether a people are able to govern themselves,”8 young Adams was a careful, if censorious, observer of political life during the Mon-xviiiroe and John Quincy Adams administrations. The diarist chronicled the breakdown of the National Republican party during Monroe’s last years in office, the fierce personal rivalries that led to the bitterly contested election of 1824, the emergence during the Adams presidency of bitterly antagonistic factions that were soon to become the Democratic and Whig parties, and the defeat of his father’s bid for reelection in 1828. One should not, of course, expect his juvenile diary to reveal hitherto hidden political secrets; John Quincy Adams was so reticent that he carefully screened such matters out of his own diary,9 and he certainly never would have confided them to a teen-age son. But unconsciously the younger Adams’ diary throws some new light on the realignment of party forces that occurred in the 1820’s.

The diarist often noted that the political groups which supported John Quincy Adams in 1824 and 1828 were headed by kinsmen to either the Adams clan or to the Johnson family, to which Mrs. Adams belonged. For instance, one of the leading anti-Jackson men in Massachusetts was Congressman Aaron Hobart, whom the Adamses called “Our fair and loving Cousin.”10 In New York one of the principal National Republicans was Nathan Sanford, who married Mrs. Adams’ kinswoman Mary Buchanan. John Pope, a brother-in-law of Mrs. Adams, was a strong party man in Kentucky, as was his brother Nathaniel Pope, in Illinois. Their nephew, Daniel Pope Cook, who served as the sole Illinois Representative in Congress in 1825, defied the popular will of his state and by casting its vote for John Quincy Adams secured his election to the presidency. An extraordinary number of other politicians who supported John Quincy Adams, like the Kings of New York and the Hopkinsons of Pennsylvania, were close and one might almost say hereditary friends of the Adams family, while in Massachusetts the perennial enmity of Boston ruling families to the Adamses caused many old Federalists there to support Andrew Jackson in 1828. Such facts, which Charles Francis Adams carefully recorded, suggest that historians of the period might profitably make greater use of the usually despised genealogical indexes and local histories, since the political factions of the 1820’s seem to have been tied together not merely by principles and by class or sectional alignments but also by bonds of family and friendship.11


Even more valuable than Charles Francis Adams’ youthful observation on politics are his remarks on American social structure at just the time when the tide of Jacksonian Democracy was eroding traditional class lines. Enough of the older order remained that young Adams could without self-consciousness speak of recognized social distinctions. Of the Negro slaves, whom Adams must often have seen in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, he took no direct notice in these early journals, save to comment that an article in the Edinburgh Review showed slavery in the West Indies to be a “perfectly unnatural” institution.12 In his commonplace book, where he jotted down memorable passages from the books he was reading, he quoted with apparent approval William Mitford’s condemnation of Greek slavery as destroying the “community of interest” between “the rich and the poor.”13

The bottom layer of free society was, to young Adams, the not “very respectable ... lower class,” whom he generally identified with the political opposition to John Quincy Adams’ administration.14 Restive, these “Ragamuffins” dared invade the presidential drawing room even in Monroe’s day; their triumphant swarming over the White House during Jackson’s inauguration was near at hand. For this rising democracy Adams lacked sympathy, and he concluded from his reading of Greek history that “absolute democracy” was “no better than decided anarchy.”15

A little higher than the mob in Adams’ estimation were the “common people,” to whom he attributed a certain childlike “happiness and content” with their position in society.16 During his many trips by steamboat and stagecoach Adams amused himself by noting their foibles and their peculiarities of dress and accent. With some satisfaction he observed that the leveling tendency had not yet shaken the respect this social class still gave to its betters or eliminated from their minds “the idea of family distinction,” as in the Adams dynasty.17

Next in Adams’ hierarchy came those in “the second rank of life,” xxa group which included most “merchants and professional men of respectability.”18 Persons occupying this “middle condition in life” felt highly flattered when their social betters condescended to recognize them or to admit distant ties of kinship.19

At the top of the social ladder was the aristocratic upper class, with which Charles Francis Adams unhesitatingly identified himself and his family. Even though some of the Southern grandees at Harvard tried to exclude him from the prestigious Porcellian Club, he felt sure that his social position was “equal ... if not superior to any in the class.”20 Frankly he admitted that his ideas leaned “to the aristocratic opinions” and that he was “not enough of a republican in his sentiments” to enjoy mixing with the lower social orders. He was, however, realistic enough to recognize the growing unpopularity of his views, and he correctly predicted that these “Early rooted opinions will probably have a material influence upon my future success.”21

Young Adams was deeply concerned with finding the proper basis for this American aristocracy, to which he was convinced he belonged. His quest was made the more difficult by the fact that in a diverse society like the United States social status was not uniformly recognized. In Quincy and Braintree, Massachusetts, the Adamses had few social equals and were treated with almost feudal deference by the lower orders of society. In the ruling circles of the nation, too, the family, because of the offices its members occupied, was recognized as belonging to the elite. But in Boston, on the other hand, Adamses had to seek social recognition.

Never did Charles Francis Adams become reconciled to this sliding scale of social values. He found it humiliating that in Boston society the Adamses ranked below the Otises and Perkinses. Even the Quincy family, which claimed only social equality with the Adamses in Braintree and Quincy, was accorded superiority in Boston. So seriously did young Adams resent this inequity that he firmly rejected invitations which came to him when a Harvard student to attend Boston parties. Later, obliged to attend such functions as the fiancé of Abigail Brown Brooks, who clearly did belong to Boston’s elite, he suffered greatly. Bitterly he complained that Boston young men were “generally a little too vain” and that they had “a notion that the place is really every thing in the world and they every thing in the place.”22 Without com-xxiplete justice he decided that Boston’s ruling class was not a true aristocracy but merely an elite of wealth, and he professed to despise “the purse proud ostentation of the city.” “I am an aristocrat,” he declared, “but not one of Boston.”23

Rejecting wealth as the proper basis for an American upper class, Adams concluded that it was education which distinguished the true gentleman from the rabble. Education, he believed, “forms a limit which it is impossible for the most zealous republican to oppose or attempt to break down,”24 for “there is a distinction in the education of men which precludes some from the enjoyment of the society of others with whom they can share no common feeling and whose conduct is always matter of disgust to each other.”25 In short, the educated gentleman, “bred naturally,” had a different set of manners from those of the rising self-made men then appearing on the American scene, whom Adams found “always over civil but not half so agreable.”26

Since Adams looked to education as the proper basis for aristocracy, he naturally gave much attention in his diary to the processes of learning and teaching. Invaluable as a document in the history of American education, his record of his years at Harvard College is, like the more famous autobiography of his son, the story, as he thought, of a failure. Looking back over the experience in later years, he concluded: “nothing came back to me that I valued. My friendships formed there at Harvard have been none of them permanent.... No graduate of modern times whom I have met entertains any enthusiasm for the place of his education.”27

In part the negative tone of Adams’ journal during his Harvard years is due to the fact that he entered college as a youth of only fourteen, that he did very badly during his first year, and that he never achieved more than a respectable rank in his class. More basic, however, was Adams’ disappointment that Harvard was unable to resolve any of the doubts and problems which haunted him. He found he could not look to the Harvard curriculum for the education he thought the necessary basis for an American elite. Under President John Thornton Kirkland the College seemed undecided whether to continue as a training school for young boys or to begin functioning as an institution of higher learning.

Most of Adams’ time was taken up with an endless round of daily xxiiassignments and daily recitations. Bitterly he protested that his teachers were trying to make him “a perfect galley slave.”28 Most of the recitations he found “very poorly conducted.”29 Except for John Farrar, who tried to interest the students in science and attempted, often with poor success, to teach through experiments, Adams thought his instructors did not “know any thing about recitation as an exercise to acquire knowledge” and taught by “a perfect rote system.”30 If a student failed to comprehend the principles or purposes of a study, as Adams so clearly did with mathematics, the tutors made no effort to rouse his interest; he was supposed to memorize the assignments anyway.

More hopeful to Adams seemed the educational innovations that George Ticknor and Edward Everett were attempting at Harvard in the 1820’s. These two scholars, recently returned from training at the University of Göttingen and other European centers, were trying to bring American higher education abreast of the most recent Continental scholarship, and Adams’ elaborate, and occasionally obscure, record of their lectures reveals both the extent of the revolution they were attempting and the reasons for its limited success. Everett’s lectures on Greek literature, which Adams found absorbing though too heavily “of the German character,”31 were so formidably detailed and learned that students had to have a printed syllabus in order to follow his citations of names, dates, and authorities in several languages. Ticknor’s more “extremely ornamented, elaborate and polished” lectures on French literature32 were more easily assimilated, since Adams had already read many of the books he discussed, but they too represented a synthesis of the new European scholarship. As Adams’ diary clearly shows, both professors were attempting courses which, in technical complexity and bibliographical depth, equaled anything taught in postgraduate work today, and it is scarcely surprising that both soon became discouraged at their want of success in leading teen-age American schoolboys to the higher levels of learning.

Since Harvard training did not provide an acceptable basis for a genuine American aristocracy, Adams had to look to the less formal agencies of education, chiefly to the family. As a grandson of a framer of the Declaration of Independence, he could not advocate the theory xxiiiof a hereditary aristocracy, and he admitted that men “are born free and equal.”33 At the same time he could hardly fail to be aware “that in a distinguished family much of the same spirit and feeling is transmitted from father to son,” not through biological inheritance but by “the conversation perpetually going on, the views laid open before one, and the love of distinction which is so easily caught.”34

Much of Adams’ youthful diary is a kind of case study in the transmission of the love of distinction from one generation of his family to the next. As such, it inevitably does less than justice to many of his kinsmen. Adams’ diary gives no insight into the profundity of John Adams’ political thinking, no glimpse of John Quincy Adams’ enormous erudition and farseeing statesmanship, no adequate idea of George Washington Adams’ gaiety and charm. Of all these matters Charles Francis Adams was naturally aware, but his concern was less with painting a balanced picture of his family than with showing the difficulties encountered in maintaining a notable family tradition in a democratic and changing American society. Central to his demonstration was the venerable John Adams, whom he knew only in his declining years of retirement. With the natural restiveness of youth, Charles Francis Adams chafed when he was obliged to entertain the aged statesman, and he complained: “His curiosity and interest is lost in almost every thing now, few subjects will keep his mind many minutes and it requires a person much more skilled in giving amusement ... than I am to amuse him.”35 At the same time, he unquestioningly judged John Adams as “the most extraordinary character who figured in the American revolution”36 and he unhesitatingly assumed as a family obligation the task of defending his grandfather’s actions and of restoring him to that “place which is his justly due.”37

The next generation of Adamses revealed to the diarist the dangers and difficulties of trying to preserve so lofty a family tradition. John Adams’ younger son, Thomas Boylston Adams, was unable to live up to the expectations of his parents. After an undistinguished career as a lawyer and local judge, he had by the 1820’s become essentially a caretaker for his retired father. Marrying beneath himself, to a woman whom his nephew thought “ineffably coarse,”38 “cunning and deceitful, hypocritical to a degree beyond belief and malicious as a serpent,”39xxivThomas Boylston Adams sought to forget his failure in drink, and he became, Charles Francis Adams recorded, “one of the most unpleasant characters in this world, in his present degradation, being a brute in his manners and a bully in his family.”40

Success in maintaining the family distinction also had its costs, as the career of John Adams’ other surviving son demonstrated. By the time Charles Francis Adams began his diary, John Quincy Adams had already served as minister to the Netherlands and to Prussia, as Senator from Massachusetts, as Boylston professor of rhetoric and oratory at Harvard College, as minister to Russia and Great Britain, and, since 1817, as Secretary of State in President James Monroe’s Cabinet. There was every indication that he would become the next President. But John Quincy Adams’ driving ambition and total devotion to duty placed intolerable burdens upon his frail and hypochondriacal wife, Louisa Catherine (Johnson) Adams, of whom Charles Francis Adams’ diary gives a memorable picture. So long as John Quincy Adams was successful in public life, his wife managed to live up to his demanding expectations. She was a “remarkable ... woman of the world,” her son thought,41 a stylish Washington hostess, whose Southern charm, graciousness of manner, and fondness for romantic poetry and novels compensated for her husband’s angular New England manner.

But when John Quincy Adams ran into political difficulties, when he achieved election to the presidency in 1825 by only the narrowest of margins and his administration promptly bogged down in partisan squabbling, Mrs. Adams lapsed into melancholia and despair. Increasingly she began to brood about the fact that her father went bankrupt at the time of her marriage. This disaster, she felt, made her “a very very bad bargain” as the wife of an ambitious statesman, and she thought it was the basis for her husband’s coldness and want of attention. Complaining that she was treated in a fashion “very likely to be productive of insanity in a weak woman,”42 Mrs. Adams succumbed to a series of ailments, probably psychogenic, and felt herself “rapidly decaying”; she could only “look forward to long lingering pain” before taking her “departure to a better world.”43 From time to time she withdrew entirely from all association with her family, which had “become too burthensome to support.” “I shall,” she announced in one of these moods, “confine myself entirely to my chamber or in the company of my Sisters.”44


Even more clearly did Charles Francis Adams record what the thirst for distinction did to his own generation of the Adams family. A busy, ambitious man, John Quincy Adams could spare little time for his three sons. Indeed, the two older boys, George Washington Adams and John Adams 2d, had to be left behind when their parents went to St. Petersburg in 1809, and the family was not reunited until six years later. More fortunate, Charles Francis Adams accompanied his parents to Europe, and his preoccupied father tried to take a hand in his education. But he was busy with public affairs and in 1814, having been appointed one of the American commissioners to negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, he left his wife and seven-year-old son to make their own way across Europe, confronting all alone the hazards of travel, weather, and armed military bands roving the countryside in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars. Nor did return to America permanently unite the family, for when John Quincy Adams and his wife went to Washington in 1817 they left their two youngest sons behind in Boston, to attend the Boston Public Latin School. Though the boys put up a brave front, they desperately missed their parents, and old John Adams was obliged to admonish his son that “children must not be wholly forgotten in the midst of public duties.”45

Even though a busy man, John Quincy Adams did not consciously neglect his children, but he alternated between extreme severity and broad permissiveness in dealing with them. He insisted that they plan for a distinguished career in the public service, like his own and his father’s. He worried over defects, real or imaginary, in their character that might prevent their attaining this objective, finding in Charles Francis Adams a “great fondness for books, and a meditative mind, but neither disposition nor aptitude for public speaking, or correct reading.”46 With justice he complained of their extravagance, and he vigorously expressed his disappointment when John Adams 2d was expelled from Harvard for participating in a student riot and when Charles Francis Adams ranked near the bottom of his class during his freshman year. Constantly he worried that his sons were all “coming to manhood with indolent minds,” content with “the blast of mediocrity.”47 At the same time, however, he pampered the boys, paid their debts, allowed George Washington Adams to neglect his chosen profession of the law and permitted John Adams 2d to fail to prepare for any profession, and, in general, showed himself, as his youngest son thought, an “indulgent” parent.48


George Washington Adams, as his brother’s diary so clearly shows, found the burden of living up to the family name intolerable. The sensitive, poetic, romantic oldest son was much more like his mother than his ambitious father, and he was singularly ill-equipped to follow in the footsteps of his two presidential forebears. The “pleasant kindness of his nature” and the “light yet ornamental cultivation of his mind”49 marked George Washington Adams as eminently suited for the private life of a wealthy literary amateur, yet both family expectations and financial necessity forced him to practice law and to enter public life. His failure in both roles was strikingly like that of his uncle, Thomas Boylston Adams. Since John Quincy Adams’ diary was deliberately reticent on personal matters, since Louisa Catherine Adams kept no journal for crucial years, and since almost all of George Washington Adams’ papers were subsequently burned, Charles Francis Adams’ Diary is the fullest portrait of his oldest brother and the most complete record of his moral collapse. Shrewdly if unsympathetically the diary traces the slow deterioration of the oldest son, as he became a wastrel, a drunkard, and, finally, the seducer of a young servant girl, by whom he had an illegitimate child. Faced with the return of his parents to Quincy, when he could expect his father to demand a reckoning for his misdeeds and for his mismanagement of the family financial interests, George Washington Adams became deranged and lost or took his own life.

John Adams 2d also fled from the responsibilities of the family name, though in a less dramatic fashion. Charles Francis Adams’ diary portrait of this second brother is far less clear and detailed. The two younger sons were “from infancy much attached to each other,”50 and for many years Charles Francis Adams found John much “more to his taste” than the vain and indolent George.51 By 1827, however, the openness and good feeling which had once characterized the relationship between the two younger brothers had disappeared. Charles Francis Adams complained of his brother’s “singularly unconciliating manners” and of his “insidious and malevolent conduct.”52 In part the misunderstandings may be traced to John’s infatuation with Mary Catherine Hellen, who had earlier captured Charles’ heart and had subsequently been engaged to George. In a larger sense, however, the intractability of John Adams 2d, like his decision to marry his flirtatious cousin and remain in the District of Columbia as manager of his xxviifather’s flour mill there, indicated that he too was abnegating the family tradition.

It was by no means clear at the outset that Charles Francis Adams would be more able to preserve the family’s distinction than were his older brothers. To be sure, from an early age he had felt a responsibility “to act as becomes a member of a high family,”53 but he had assumed that his brothers would enter the public service while he was “doomed to lead an independent and a single life.”54 It was, in fact, a doom which he welcomed, for he thought himself emotionally and intellectually more like his mother than his father. Finding his Mother’s manners “inexpressibly delightful” and her knowledge of “the ways of kindness” in marked contrast with John Quincy Adams’ forbidding demeanor,55 Charles Francis Adams became his mother’s inseparable companion when he was allowed to come to Washington in 1819. Even when he went fishing his mother had to accompany him, because, as she wrote, “he has no companions here with whom he can or will associate.”56 She, in turn, found him “a charming companion,”57 and some years later she wrote him: “I do not hesitate to say that you suit me better than either of your brothers as your manners are more like my own and in consequence of having been so much with me your sense of the proprieties of life is more strongly defined.”58

Inevitably Charles Francis Adams as a youth shared many of his mother’s attitudes. The conventional portrait of him as having had “from childhood upwards a matured, self-contained character” which was cold, calculating, and self-possessed59 finds little support in these xxviiiearly diaries. Instead they reveal him as a lively and sociable youth, who did not even look like an Adams but was at fourteen “very tall and stout of his age.”60 He was romantic, just as his mother was, and he became a devoted reader of the romantic poets and novelists to the extent that his worried grandfather had to warn: “Mathematicks and Law are the true rocks on which a man of business may surely found his reputation.... It is not novels or Poetry. It is neither Scott or Lord Byron who make useful men.”61 Of course, like any other adolescent he often had to protect his privacy from intruding adults by wearing a protective mask, but he knew well that “people never made such a mistake in the world as when they judge me cold or naturally grave.”62 “I am,” he declared in a flash of self-analysis, “the creature of inclination.”63

Not for this Adams was the Quincy heritage in bleak New England. Instead, he completely identified himself with his mother’s Maryland family. “It appears to me from my nature and temper that I was made for the South,” he recorded in his diary,64 and he enjoyed commiserating with his mother on the uncouth ways of Massachusetts folk, whom he found “gothic in some things” while they had “barely passed the middle ages in others.”65 He openly preferred “the traits of the Southern character with all the faulty ones to the eternal purity of the Northern hypocrites.”66 During his father’s first race for the presidency, he expressed a purely selfish interest in victory: “I am so much more attached to the climate and manner of the South, that I have a wish to stay there which can only be gratified by his continuation in office.”67

Young Adams fancied himself in the role of a hot-tempered, hot-blooded Southerner. “My passions are not things ... to be trifled with,” he asserted, “for if excited to a very high degree it might cost my antagonist and myself our life.”68 He spent his freshman year at Harvard in “dissipation, melancholy and waste of time,”69 and his command “of Money and of dash”70 made him the envy of his classmates. Recognizing that his disposition was “naturally jovial,” he felt himself constantly “exposed to temptations which would make himxxixextravagant and dissipated.”71 Precocious, he early learned that “There is magic in a Petticoat to a young man.”72 “Voluptuous” young ladies73 roused his “passions and feelings,”74 and he precipitously fell in love with his cousin, Mary C. Hellen, whose bright brown hair, hazel eyes, and radiant complexion75 were to enrapture all three Adams boys in succession. Far too young even to dream of marriage, Charles Francis Adams sought relief from his overwrought passions in the typically Southern expedient of entering into a liaison with his unnamed “mistress,” possibly someone in a lower social class in Washington.76

During the last half of 1824, however, Adams began to feel the tug of his family tradition, and during the next three years his personality underwent a gradual but marked transformation. The exact reasons for the change can only be surmised, for his full journal record for all of 1825 and the first half of 1826 is missing, and the brief epitomes preserved in his “Index” diary give few clues to his thoughts and emotions. In part the change doubtless was simply an aspect of growing up. That shrewd journalist, Mrs. Anne (Newport) Royall, who had known the family for years, noted that by 1828 Charles Francis Adams’ “features had underwent an entire change from youth to manhood.” No longer was he either tall or stout, but, as Mrs. Royall wrote: “His person is small, his complexion fair, his features delicate, his face wide at the top, narrow to the chin. His countenance is grave and tranquil, and his manners very reserved and distant.”77

A stronger force in producing the change, however, was the alteration in his family’s situation that began in 1824. The transformation in Louisa Catherine Adams’ personality after her husband began his storm-tossed administration was startling and disturbing to her youngest son. His mother always had a peculiar fascination for him, but he was obliged to note her lost “elasticity of character”78 and to recognize her flightiness and essential selfishness. Gradually he came to sense that his closeness to Louisa Catherine Adams had kept him from fully appreciating his father. “God forbid I should ever feel any thing but affection toward her,” he concluded in 1827, “but in a contest between my duty to one parent and the other I must support the one as well as the other.”79


During the same years he and his father came tacitly to recognize that if the family tradition of public service was to be maintained, the burden must fall not upon the amiable but dissolute George Washington Adams nor upon the self-centered John Adams 2d, but upon the youngest son. It was not a role that Charles Francis Adams accepted without a struggle. Lamenting “the necessity of the name of which I am so proud,”80 he recognized that “to be a private man would injure me as something is expected” of an Adams.81 Hopefully a law career might satisfy the family’s demand for distinction nearly as well as a “stormy, violent life” in politics.82 Returning to Boston in 1827 to learn his profession in Daniel Webster’s office, Adams found that his father considered his law studies only as a steppingstone to a political career. Even while Charles Francis Adams continued to argue that politics had an adverse effect “upon the heart, the morals, the interest and happiness of life,”83 he found his resolution to lead a private life weakening as he watched his father weather political assaults with courage and dignity. Proudly he noted that the Adams family seemed “destined to live in storms and not to be blasted by them.”84 As late as 1828, however, he persisted in his belief that a political career “shackles the independence of mind and feeling ... and in this Country it destroys all social ties, all the finer but less intense enjoyments of existence.”85

But if his brothers could not continue the family tradition, Charles Francis Adams felt that he must do so. “My pride is such as not to allow me to think for a moment that the family shall be set down as degenerating,”86 he declared. If preserving the family’s distinction meant overruling his personal preferences for a private life, he was reluctantly prepared to make the sacrifice. “With respect to politics,” he frankly explained in 1827, “my feelings are these. My education has led me to take an interest in them, observation to dislike them. I have no intention to go out of the course of my legal profession at present. Family pride (a fault which I cannot deny to exist) together with that peculiar to me as an individual, have produced a wish that the character of the Adams name should not be said to deteriorate xxxiin the generation to which I belong. Should my brother do his duty, none would be left for me. Should he fail, I should regret it both upon his account and my own. For it would become my duty in such case to do my best.”87

From 1824 onward, even while Charles Francis Adams clung to the hope that his brothers would maintain the family tradition, he almost daily grew in awareness that the responsibility was likely to rest finally upon his own shoulders. To prepare himself, he began carefully to study his father, whose career he might be obliged to emulate. He came to recognize how “uncommonly eloquent” John Quincy Adams was and “how immeasurably he rises above all others” in Washington.88 But, like many a later historian, he found John Quincy Adams a hard man to understand, and he failed to see that a frosty exterior masked the fact that his father, like his grandfather, was really a high-tempered and often unpredictable man. Instead, he could only contrast his impenetrable father to his “lively” and “pleasing” mother. “He is the only man, I ever saw,” the son recorded admiringly, “whose feelings I could not penetrate almost always, but I can study his countenance for ever and very seldom can find any sure guide by which to move. This is exactly the manner which I wish to obtain, for were I confident of my features, I should soon be able to throw my expression into it, and in that way manage much better than I could otherwise.” Then he added, shrewdly but in apparent contradiction: “He makes enemies by perpetually wearing the Iron mask.”89

Rigorously Charles Francis Adams set himself to creating his own iron mask. Within a few weeks of his observation on his father’s imperturbability, he recorded: “I am marking out for myself a course in which I lose all the friendship which so pleases and enlivens life. It is the most heartless thing in the world. My nature too is social to an extreme and it is doing strong violence to it. Ambition, pride and all my other feelings contribute however to excite me.”90 With increasing success he began to curb his natural disposition. Toward his Harvard classmates he became more reserved and more critical, and he participated less frequently in their drinking bouts. He sought to make himself appear “grave, sober, formal, precise, and reserved” in public,91 only allowing himself to relax “in comparative freedom at home.”92xxxiiHe counted it a success that some people now called him “proud, others stiff and all reserved.”93

The transformation of Charles Francis Adams from an emotional and outgoing youth into a sober, cold, and reticent adult was not instantaneous, nor was it complete. For one thing he fell in love with Abigail Brown Brooks, and he found it impossible to be imperturbable while asking her hand in marriage or to be stoic while writing love letters to her. Obviously vexed with himself for thus allowing his emotions to show, he kept reminding himself that, by Adams standards, his fiancée’s education was defective, her learning limited, and her manners too outgoing, but the warmth of her disposition and the wholeheartedness of her love for him gradually thawed his icy reserve. Their prolonged engagement, the expenses of his courtship, and the tedium of weekly visits at Medford with the Brooks relatives further taxed this would-be marble man, and his diary for 1827–1829 is full of his all too human difficulties in his role as accepted suitor.

Indeed, Charles Francis Adams, like his father and his grandfather before him, found it hard to wear the iron mask when he had strong feelings. Desiring an early marriage, at a time when he was not even admitted to the bar, he found both his father and his prospective father-in-law reluctant. Forgetting that John Quincy Adams’ resources were already heavily overtaxed, he imperiously demanded that his father increase his really quite generous allowance so that he could support a wife. When John Quincy Adams sharply refused, reminding his son that he must get to work and no longer be a “beggar,”94 Charles Francis Adams went into a prolonged period of adolescent sulking that was in marked contrast with his image of himself as cold and reserved. When Peter C. Brooks also opposed an early marriage and declined to give his daughter anything more than an adequate endowment and a house, the disappointed suitor wholly dropped his pretense of impassiveness and grumbled petulantly: “Rolling in wealth as he is, a little well disposed might do much, but with a timid doctrine, the consequence of habits of early years, he delays it while every day takes off something from the value of the gift.”95

Even so, after these initial outbursts, Adams’ handling of this marital and financial problem showed that he was on the way to becoming the cast-iron man he desired to be. Forcing Brooks’ hand, he warned that his income from the law was not likely to be sufficient xxxiiifor years to come and that, without financial help, he could not support Abigail in the style to which she was accustomed. If marriage could not take place until some indefinite future date, he announced, it would be better that the engagement be called off altogether. Under Abigail’s pressure, Brooks yielded, at least to the extent of beginning to look for a house for his daughter in Boston and of allowing the young couple to start planning a wedding.

Moving John Quincy Adams was more difficult. Defeated in his reelection attempt in 1828, he no longer drew a public salary and had to rely on his limited resources to support himself as well as his three expensive sons. Neither Charles Francis Adams’ reproachful letters to his father nor his emotional ones to his mother could alter this situation. Frustrated and unhappy, the son fell prey to melancholia and hypochondria. His days were numbered, he felt sure; probably he was never meant to marry anyway.

Then George Washington Adams’ death drastically changed the picture. Charles Francis Adams’ bitterness toward his father was melted in grief, coupled, no doubt, with guilt because it had been he who engineered his brother’s summons to Washington, which brought on his mad, fatal act.96 John Quincy Adams too felt remorseful that his excessive expectations might have driven his oldest son to his ruin, and he tried to be more openhanded and more understanding with his remaining children. In any event, with George Washington Adams dead and John Adams 2d resolved to reside in Washington, Charles Francis Adams became the only one who could carry on the family tradition, which now amounted to an “absorbing passion” in John Quincy Adams’ mind.97 Father and son became reconciled, and Charles Francis Adams, recognized now as the one hope of the family’s future, felt “a strong desire to live which he never had before.”98

Succeeding George Washington Adams also as his father’s financial agent, Charles Francis Adams received a salary sufficient to allow him to marry Abigail Brooks. The fact that Louisa Catherine Adams was too distraught and unwell so soon after her son’s death to attend the wedding was the final blow to Charles Francis Adams’ affection for her. “Futurity presents to me no further interest in her,” he bitterly recorded.99 Rejecting his mother’s family and her Southern tradition at the same time, he overcame his earlier hostility to New England and pledged henceforth to live “in the old State of Massachusetts.” “I am xxxivnow wedded to the soil,” he vowed. “Nothing shall take me from it.”100 Now the embodiment of the Adams family tradition, he assumed a protective role toward his father, who seemed in his Quincy retirement “beyond ambition.” “I,” announced Charles Francis Adams, as he ended his youth and entered finally upon manhood, “am just arriving at it.”101

Charles Francis Adams’ Diary: The Manuscripts

Of all the Adams diarists, Charles Francis was the most methodical and thorough. Unlike both his grandfather, John Adams, who jotted down his daily journal on fragile note paper, folded into pocket-sized leaflets, in a fashion seemingly designed to drive his careful editor to distraction,102 and his father, John Quincy Adams, who abridged his diary during some of the most interesting periods of his career,103 Charles Francis Adams throughout his adult life kept a meticulous record, in day-by-day entries that were seldom if ever interrupted. Before arriving at such a regular system, however, Adams as a young man experimented with a variety of different approaches to diary-keeping, and the complex task of interrelating the several and sometimes overlapping journals he wrote during these early years has been a major problem of the present editors.

The original diaries which Charles Francis Adams kept prior to 1 May 1824 all appear to have been lost. His first youthful diary, begun before he was eleven years old and while he was attending the Boston Latin School, has not survived in any form, and it is clear that the habit of daily recording events was not yet part of his life. His father was disappointed that he broke off this early journal,104 and by 1820, again living with his parents, who doubtless urged him to resume the practice, he began a new diary. This document, however, xxxvdoes not survive, except in the form of a subsequently prepared “Index” or epitome,105 covering the six weeks from 1 January through 15 February 1820, which is printed in this volume on pages 1–8, and there is nothing to indicate how long Adams kept up the habit.

During Adams’ freshman year at Harvard (1821–1822) he did not keep a diary.106 Just when he resumed is unknown, but in 1824 he could speak of writing a daily journal as a “habit for years past.”107 This diary, which was certainly being kept up in February 1824,108 is also missing, and, although its essential contents have been preserved in a recension which he wrote shortly afterwards109 and also in a later epitome,110 no sure clue exists as to its precise form. For at least part of the time it was a mere “small Index of events,”111 presumably the kind of listing of places visited and persons met which John Quincy Adams often kept as a guide for the subsequent preparation of his fuller diary record. It may, however, have become a fuller and more personal record as time went on, for in 1829 Charles Francis Adams felt that these youthful diaries contained “silly matter” and “follies” and decided to supersede them with his index, or epitome;112 the implication is strong that he destroyed these juvenile effusions.

Fortunately, however, the record for these early years is not entirely blank. Some of the period is covered in the previously mentioned “Index,” which Adams prepared,113 perhaps in imitation of his father’s habit of epitomizing his voluminous journals for ready reference.114 This abridgment of Charles Francis Adams’ diary was recorded in a notebook, bound in brown calf with a red leather spine label. Though xxxvithe paper bears an 1823 watermark, Adams seems actually to have done the epitomizing in 1824 and in 1829.115 In this book, where, with interruptions, he summarized his diaries through 15 June 1827, Adams systematically allocated the front and back of one sheet to each month and allotted two lines for the events of each day in the month.116 In the present edition, these “Index” entries, which are necessarily brief, impersonal, and often cryptic, have been printed only when they cover dates for which there are no other extant diary records, such as 1–15 March and 1–15 April 1824.

Far more revealing for Adams’ early years than this “Index” are the two volumes of his “Journal of a Vacation,” covering the period from 18 December 1823 to 19 February 1824 and dealing principally with his visit to his family in Washington. This very full journal overlaps chronologically his “small Index of events” (the contents of which are known now only through the epitomes just discussed117). The missing record was a contemporary, day-by-day affair; the extant “Journal of a Vacation” is retrospective, having been written in March and April 1824. The purposes of the two diaries covering the same period were quite different. The missing manuscript was obviously intended simply to serve as a record and to refresh Adams’ memory, but in preparing his fuller “Journal of a Vacation,” which would record “those scenes which so early in life he witnessed, and which were about to have a material influence upon this country,” he believed he would improve both his memory and his style.118 As was fitting for an effort with such literary intent, this “Journal of a Vacation” was written in two handsome, identical small volumes, bound with marbled boards in red half-leather; inside the cover of each the printed label was pasted: “Charles Francis Adams. ’Vita sine literis, mors est.’”119


On 1 May 1824 Adams began his journal under what he called a “new plan,” the nature of which is revealed by the title he chose for the book: “Diary of Events and of Sentiments.” This calf-bound volume was designed to combine the function of his “small Index of events,” which he found now “far too narrow,” with the more intellectual and literary objectives of his “Journal of a Vacation.” It was, in short, to be a day-by-day journal, but one which would stress “those Ideas ... which ... might serve to prop, in case of necessity, his virtuous or good intentions.” Under this new plan Adams expected to record the lectures he heard at Harvard, to delineate the characters of his friends, and to report the “common occurrences of his life.”120 This diary is the first truly contemporary journal of Charles Francis Adams which has been preserved.121

The entries in this new journal were not, however, always made on a strictly contemporaneous basis. Very soon Adams realized that the plan he had outlined for himself was overambitious and that keeping a diary which would record his daily impressions, summarize his readings and lectures, and include formal word portraits of his acquaintances was becoming “a task and a loss of time instead of an improving lesson.”122 Even after he decided to discontinue the character sketches of his classmates and to portray them “rather incidentally than elaborately,”123 he still found that he had “overcalculated his strength of mind and perseverance” in attempting a diary that required about half of his time during the college term.124 “My Journal is a weight,” he lamented,125 but with typical Adams pertinacity he did not abandon the effort. But keeping up to date became an increasing problem, and by August he was ten days behind.126 “I am determined as an example of perseverance to carry through this work,” he announced in mid-October, “but I am xxxviiipretty well resolved never to commence another in the same style. It is making a labour of what should only be an amusement.”127 One can almost hear an audible sigh of relief as on 31 October 1824 he penned the final entry in the book.

Two months before he finished this “Diary of Events and of Sentiments” Adams had been planning to keep his next journal according to a “more advantageous” system, which would save time.128 The precise nature of his new plan is unknown, since his original diaries from 1 November 1824 through 30 June 1826 are no longer extant, but, because there are epitomes for this entire period in his “Index,” he obviously did keep a diary. At one point he referred to the now missing book or books as “a stiff diary of what happens every day,” composed very much as his previous journal had been.129 He also, however, spoke of the missing diary as his “Notes,”130 which would presumably have been more like his earlier, also missing “small Index of events.” Whatever the form, the author was not happy with it, and when he subsequently numbered his diaries, he omitted this volume, and thus indicated that he did not intend it to survive.

On 26 November 1826 Adams inaugurated still another system for keeping his diary, one which would, hopefully, be a full record of important ideas and events but which would not consume too much of his time in daily composition. In his newly purchased notebook bound in green tooled leather, in which he again pasted his bookplate, he proposed to skip the “monotonous pursuits of every day life” and to give “mere short detail of interesting occurences.”131 Most of his space would be devoted to recording his “passions and feelings.” “For me, if I xxxixlive long enough,” he judged, “these things will amuse me, if not they will perhaps divert a few relations and be committed to the flames.”132 The new journal is, consequently, somewhat less systematic than its predecessors. It begins with a retrospective section covering the events from 18 June 1826 (and thus overlaps for two weeks the now missing earlier diary he had kept, the existence of which is attested by the “Index” entries for these weeks), and sometimes the diarist permitted several days to go by without making an entry.

For almost any other young man, such a record would have been ample, but Charles Francis Adams shared the compulsiveness so characteristic of his family and felt obliged at the same time to keep a more detailed day-by-day record of his activities, possibly in a pocket-sized diary or notebook which he carried around with him. None of the original manuscript has survived, but the epitomes in Adams’ “Index” conclusively prove that such documents once existed. There are “Index” entries for numerous days in 1826 and 1827 for which his new-style journal is entirely blank,133 and often, even when his fuller journal does contain an entry, the “Index” summary for the same day gives additional or different information.134 For the period covered by Adams’ new-style journal (26 November 1826–31 July 1827), the present editors have printed that diary in full, adding in footnotes other information gained from the “Index”; where the full diary is silent, they have interspersed appropriate entries from the “Index” covering the missing days.

On 31 July 1827 Charles Francis Adams left Washington for Boston, in order to complete his law studies and to prepare for his marriage. In true Adams fashion he heralded the new era in his life by beginning a new diary. Remembering his father’s injunction that writing is “the labour of life,” he decided to simplify the keeping of his daily records by combining in his new diary, bound between marbled boards in red half-leather, “both his former plans of Index and Journal.”135 At just the time when he was coming to a resolution xlof his personal difficulties, he had also come finally to a solution of the problem of the appropriate form for his diary. Leaving behind him now the day-by-day listing of events, the deeply introspective literary exercises, and the detailed descriptions of his former journals, he began a straightforward, simple, and rigorously methodical diary that would concisely record each day’s happenings and his own sentiments and ideas, in a flow of words that would ultimately rival in length the journal of his father and exceed that of his grandfather.

The Editorial Method
Textual policy

In the present edition of the Diary of Charles Francis Adams an attempt has been made to reach that “desired middle ground between pedantic fidelity and readability,” which Mr. L. H. Butterfield set as the objective of The Adams Papers . In general, the text has been rendered in accordance with the rules set down in the Introduction to the Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, but the nature of Charles Francis Adams’ Diary has required certain minor variations.

Spelling. Charles Francis Adams misspelled few words, and, so long as these are intelligible, they have not been corrected. For instance his aukward is retained for awkward, his agreable for agreeable. The text has not been studded with sic’s to call attention to such errors, and the reader is warned that where they occur Charles Francis Adams, and not the proofreaders, was responsible. Older spellings, such as favourable, labour, theatre, and so forth, have not been changed, and Adams’ habit of breaking up words like every thing and any one has been respected.

On the other hand, mere slips of the pen have been silently corrected. Where Adams carelessly wrote worthwile it has been printed as worthwhile, and magnificience is rendered as magnificence. Adams’ misspelling of a proper name has been corrected on its first appearance by a bracketed insertion which follows it in the text or by a footnote. Subsequent appearances of the same error are not corrected unless the misspelling is misleading or unless the second reference occurs many pages after the first. Misspelled or inconsistently spelled names xliare also corrected in the index, with cross-references from the variant and erroneous forms.

Grammar and syntax. Adams’ generally grammatical sentence structure has not been tampered with. Sic-marks have not been introduced to emphasize the occasional structural or grammatical errors, but a clarifying footnote has been added where there is a serious ambiguity. When an expression is seriously obscure, the note reads: “Thus in MS.” Adams’ fondness for fragmentary sentences has been respected. A word inadvertently repeated has been silently omitted.

Capitalization. Adams usually followed correct rules of capitalization, and only a few changes have been made in his practice. In the present edition all sentences begin with capital letters, and all personal and geographical names and honorifics attached to proper names are capitalized. For example, lieutenant Weed is rendered as Lieutenant Weed, and france as France. References to the larger branch of Congress as the house have also been consistently capitalized. Where for the purpose of emphasis Adams capitalized a word in the middle of a sentence, his usage has been allowed to stand, but in the rare cases where his capitalization of common nouns or verbs seems to have been careless, silent corrections have been made. In his early diaries, Adams often capitalized We when it appeared in the middle of a sentence; these have been put into lower-case. In indeterminate cases, where one cannot be sure whether he intended a capital or lower-case letter, modern usage has been followed.

Paragraphing. Adams’ paragraphing has been changed only when it grossly impairs readability. New paragraphs have, however, been introduced to break up long journal entries, which sometimes continue for five to eight manuscript pages without any interruption or indentation.

Punctuation. It has been necessary in a number of ways to standardize Adams’ somewhat individual method of punctuation. In the present edition every sentence has been made to end with a period, and the dash marks Adams sometimes used to conclude sentences have been converted into periods. Clearly superfluous dashes have been removed. Periods have been added after all abbreviated titles appearing before proper names; thus where Adams wrote Mrs Sullivan, the printed version reads Mrs. Sullivan. In the several cases where Adams referred to an individual by initial, rather than by name, a period has been supplied after the initial; thus, Adams’ Mrs. F (for Frothingham) becomes Mrs. F.

Adams used commas extravagantly, and where they are intrusive xliithey have been silently deleted. Thus when he wrote: He delivered, a speech in the House of Representatives, in this edition the comma has been omitted. On the other hand, commas have been supplied in many instances, especially where Adams regarded a line-end in his manuscript as sufficient for such medial punctuation and where the members of a series, such as a list of names, require separation. Whereever intelligibility requires it, commas have also been introduced. For instance, where Adams quoted an Irishman as saying it was interest governed all faith it was, a comma has been inserted after all; where he wrote I had the comfort of feeling cleanly a great refreshment for travellers, one has been added after cleanly. In sentences where punctuation is truly ambiguous Adams’ own symbols are allowed to stand. An example is the diarist’s remark: I refused to day to go and hear George which hurt him severely, I believe, I must change my mind.

The present editors have supplied virtually all the semicolons that appear in these volumes.

Certain distinctive punctuation forms that appear in Adams’ manuscripts have been conventionalized. In many entries he indicated the hour and minute of arising or retiring by a roman numeral and an arabic number followed by the minute sign (such as used in recording longitude and latitude). In the present edition the minute sign has been deleted and a colon has been introduced between the numbers. Thus where Adams wrote VII 15', to note that he arose at fifteen minutes after seven, the present edition reads VII:15. In the heading of entries in his early diaries, Adams frequently used a superscript form, such as September 7th ; these have been rendered as September 7th., with the additional period omitted. The only punctuation that has been added to any date-line caption is the terminal period.

A more than normal degree of conventionalization has been required to render Adams’ “Index” diary (D/CFA/1), which consists of fragmentary phrases, ambiguously separated by marks that might be periods or commas and sometimes not separated at all. Unless Adams was emphatic in choosing a period for punctuation, or unless he began the next phrase with a capitalized word, these have been transcribed as a series of phrases, separated by commas. Commas have been silently introduced in these entries to divide one phrase from another.

Abbreviations and contractions. Where Adams used abbreviations for the names of persons and places, for the names of months or days, for units of money and measurement, or in accounts or tabular documents, his usage has been preserved. Elsewhere abbreviations are retained if they are still in use or if the modern reader will easily xliiirecognize them. The ampersand is retained in the form &c. (for etc.) and in the names of firms; elsewhere it is expanded to and.

Illegible matter. Where Adams’ handwriting is entirely unreadable, suspension points inside square brackets ( ) replace the indecipherable word or words; where it is obscure, a conjectural rendering is given in square brackets ( ). Where a sentence is scrambled because of the omission of words, a footnote suggests a reading or indicates that the present editors have been unable to devise one.

Canceled matter. Unless scored out or erased passages in the Diary have stylistic, psychological, or historical interest, they are disregarded. But when the canceled portion appears at a significant place in the Diary and was obviously expunged by the diarist as being too revealing, the present editors have attempted to recover Adams’ original words. Where they have been successful, such passages have been italicized and enclosed in angle brackets (< >); where they have failed, the omission of the canceled passage is indicated in a footnote.

Editorial insertions. Material added by the present editors to Adams’ text is usually italicized and placed in square brackets. The form word omitted has been used to distinguish missing matter in the manuscripts from illegible passages. In Adams’ long accounts of Congressional debates and of Harvard lectures, the names of speakers—for instance, Letcher, Everett—have occasionally been supplied for clarity. But when Adams’ abbreviations have been expanded, the insertions are not italicized, as, for example, Quincy or Mr. Brooks; in these cases if Adams used a period after the initial, it has been removed.

Problems of dating

Adams customarily began each Diary entry with the date, which he placed on the same line as the first words of his daily record. For convenience to the reader, in the present edition these dates of entry have been centered as captions above the text.

Entries misdated by the diarist have been corrected by adding the true dates in brackets in the caption.

Infrequently Adams’ long retrospective entries have been broken up and placed under assigned dates, so that new material from the “Index” diary can be interspersed. In one or two cases where entries in Adams’ manuscripts are out of order, they have been placed in their proper chronological sequence, with a footnote alerting the reader to the change.

xliv Annotation

“Annotators to old books ... pretended to explain obsolete or difficult passages,” Charles Francis Adams wrote in his diary. “They added notes where no information was wanted and gave no satisfaction whenever some was” (vol. 1:238). The present editors, mindful of the diarist’s strictures (which echo Professor Edward T. Channing’s), have annotated his journals only when passages would be unintelligible to readers without explanation and additional information. In addition to notes which serve to clarify or correct the text, annotations have been supplied to identify the following categories of references:

(1) Persons, personal names. An attempt has been made to identify every person mentioned in Charles Francis Adams’ Diary. Despite all efforts, some remain unidentifiable, and for these no footnotes can be given. Nor are identifying notes supplied for unmistakable, prominent men, like Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. In all other cases the available or pertinent biographical information is given in footnotes which follow the first mention of each name. Subsequent references to previously identified individuals are not usually annotated; the reader can find their full names and essential biographical data by consulting the index. When, however, between two diary references a person has significantly changed his status—for instance, if a man has been elected to Congress, or a woman has married—or if his relationship to the Adams family has altered, further information is supplied with the later entries.

The amount of biographical information given about any person depends upon his importance in public life, the frequency of his appearance in Charles Francis Adams’ Diary, the closeness of his relationship to the Adams family, and, of course, the availability of data. The briefest of notes suffices for many casual acquaintances. Congressmen and other well known men in public life also require little identification beyond their complete names and dates of service, since biographical information about them is so readily found elsewhere. Members of the Adams family and other relatives are also treated briefly, because the forthcoming Adams Genealogy, a description of which can be found in the Guide to Editorial Apparatus, will contain more detailed biographical information on them.

(2) Place names. No attempt has been made to identify in the notes well known cities, like New Haven or Trenton, or familiar buildings, like the White House. But wherever possible, local names now lost or obsolete have been identified, and the hotels at which Charles Francis Adams stayed and the theaters which he attended xlvhave been located. Adams’ occasional misspelling of a place name has been allowed to stand without a corrective footnote, unless the error makes his meaning unintelligible. Thus Brooklyne has not been corrected to Brookline (Massachusetts).

(3) Books and other publications. Wherever possible, every book, magazine, pamphlet, and newspaper article mentioned in Charles Francis Adams’ Diary has been identified. Bibliographical data are supplied only upon Adams’ first reference to a book; subsequent references may be traced through the index. In every instance an effort has been made to ascertain which edition of a book Charles Francis Adams read, or had available for his use. Where he owned a personal copy of a work which is still preserved in the Stone Library at the Adams National Historic Site in Quincy, that fact has been noted. Copies of books owned by his father, now in the Stone Library, the Boston Public Library, and the Boston Athenaeum, and by his grandfather, now in the Boston Public Library, have also been indicated. The notes should not be read as suggesting that Charles Francis Adams necessarily read these family copies; indeed, during his stay in Cambridge and in Washington he probably did not. Where no Adams copy of a book is known to exist, the note gives the original place and date of publication.

Notes following Adams’ references to his own writings, and to those of his family, indicate the location of extant manuscripts of the work or the place and date of publication. Often a précis of the writing is also given.

The numerous plays which Adams attended are identified in the notes only by giving the full name of the author and complete title, since there is no way of ascertaining which printed edition a theatrical troupe used. This information is supplied only upon first reference to a play or opera; for subsequent references the reader should consult the index.

(4) Events, and other miscellaneous references. The public events which Charles Francis Adams attended, such as exhibitions at Harvard College, presidential drawing rooms in Washington, &c., are explained in the notes. His frequent references to Congressional debates, which his father urged him to attend, are amplified in the annotations. Political events are likewise explained. These notes also identify Harvard social clubs, Washington political factions, and, in general, all other references that would be unclear to the modern reader.

In addition to identifying names, places, books, and events, the notes frequently make reference to other manuscripts in the volumi-xlvinous Adams Papers. John Quincy Adams’ extensive diary, as well as George Washington Adams’ fragmentary one, often yields further information about matters briefly mentioned in Charles Francis Adams’ record. Much has also been gleaned from the frequent letters which the three generations of Adamses exchanged during these years.

Whenever a letter mentioned in Charles Francis Adams’ Diary is no longer preserved, it has been recorded as “Missing”; all other such letters still survive in the Adams Papers, or as photoduplicates in the Adams Papers Editorial Files. It has not been thought necessary to annotate all these latter references, for the letters in the family collection are currently available in full in the microfilm edition of the Adams Papers and an extensive selection is being published in the Adams Family Correspondence. But where the letters written or received are of unusual interest, or where they add essentially to Charles Francis Adams’ Diary record, they have been quoted or paraphrased in the notes. Longer notes characterize and summarize the particularly interesting correspondence Charles Francis Adams carried on with his future wife in 1827 and 1828 and with his father in 1827–1828.

A final function performed by the notes in this edition is to indicate the manuscript sources from which entries in Charles Francis Adams’ Diary are derived.136 Every time the printed text shifts from one manuscript diary to another, that fact is indicated in a note. When an entry has no such note, it is derived from the same source as the entry or entries which precede it. Other notes add information from Charles Francis Adams’ “Index” diary not contained in the longer journal for the same date which is here printed in full.


John Quincy Adams to George Washington Adams, 28 November 1827. Unless otherwise indicated, all manuscripts cited in the Introduction are in the Adams Papers, in the Massachusetts Historical Society.


Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, 4 vols., Cambridge, 1961.


John Quincy Adams, Memoirs ..., Comprising Portions of His Diary from 1795 to 1848, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Philadelphia, 1874–1877.


At his father’s repeated urging, George Washington Adams did keep a diary from time to time, and a fragment of it, covering 1–23 August 1825, has been preserved in the Adams Papers. Other portions of it were destroyed by Charles Francis Adams in 1829–1830.


Charles Francis Adams 2d to Henry Adams, 15 April 1895 (Adams Papers, Fourth Generation).


The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography, Boston and New York, 1918, p. 27.


Apparently only one extended passage from Charles Francis Adams’ Diary has been previously published, the late Henry Adams’ edited text of “Charles Francis Adams Visits the Mormons in 1844,” in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 68 (1944–1947):267–300, of which a few copies were also issued separately with their own covers and new pagination. Charles Francis Adams 2d quoted extracts from the Diary in his biography of his father contributed to the American Statesmen series in 1900, and in the remaining years of his life he made use of it from time to time in his studies of Civil War diplomatic history, usually published first in the proceedings of learned societies and later revised and printed again in his volumes of collected essays such as Lee at Appomattox and Other Papers (1902) and Studies Military and Diplomatic (1911). All these were incidental to his much grander design, his plan, announced in the preface to his American Statesman biography, to publish “a larger and more detailed work . . . [which] will be made up in a much greater degree of extracts from his diary, letters, and papers, with only such extraneous matter as may be deemed necessary to connect the narrative.” To prepare for this undertaking, the younger Charles Francis Adams read his father’s Diary with great care, even though he found it “awfully diffuse, and almost intollerably monotonous and dull; with an absence of perspective and imagination which truly astonishes me” (Charles Francis Adams 2d to Henry Adams, 26 May 1895, Adams Papers, Fourth Generation). He penciled red lines along the margins of passages in the manuscript that were to be typed up by his assistant, and the resulting typescript, now housed in the Massachusetts Historical Society, is bound up in ten stout volumes containing over 4,000 pages for the years 1824 to 1880. But the undertaking exceeded even his great energy and organizing ability, and it remained unfinished when he died in 1915.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 17 July 1824 (vol. 1:244).


“[A]ll is not to be told, even of that which may most affect the peace and happiness of the Writer. There is much in the life of every individual which for his own comfort and that of others should be forgotten.” John Quincy Adams to George Washington Adams, 1 January 1828.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 1 January 1824 (vol. 1:26).


The publication of the comprehensive Adams Genealogy, based on information accumulated since the start of the Adams Papers enterprise, will greatly facilitate the tracing of these patterns of kinship among the National Republicans. For a discussion of such relationships among the appointees of John Adams, see Sidney H. Aronson, Status and Kinship in the Higher Civil Service, Cambridge, 1964, p. 140–157.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 14 August 1824 (vol. 1:289).


Charles Francis Adams, “Literary Commonplace Book,” p. 22 (M/CFA/18, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 312).


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 11 August 1824 (vol. 1:284).


Same, 17 June 1824 (vol. 1:191).


Same, 3 January 1824 (vol. 1:30).


Same, 13 September 1828 (vol. 2:282).


Same, 19 January 1829 (vol. 2:336).


Same, 17 September 1827 (vol. 2:161).


Same, 13 June 1824 (vol. 1:184).


Same, 14 February and 4 July 1827 (vol. 2:107, 142).


Charles Francis Adams to Abigail Brown Brooks, 15 June 1827.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 4 September 1824 (vol. 1:312).


Same, 22 January 1824 (vol. 1:59).


Same, 18 December 1823 (vol. 1:10).


Same, 29 May 1824 (vol. 1:162).


Same, 28 August 1833, quoted in Martin B. Duberman, Charles Francis Adams, 1807–1886, Boston, 1961, p. 427, note 19.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 11 October 1824 (vol. 1:378).


Same, 15 June 1824 (vol. 1:187).


Same, 30 June 1824 (vol. 1:215).


Same, 16 October 1824 (vol. 1:393).


Same, 10 October 1824 (vol. 1:375). The manuscripts of Ticknor’s lectures on French literature, in five volumes, and on Spanish literature, in three volumes, are in the Harvard University Archives.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 18 December 1823 (vol. 1:10).


Same, 4 September 1824 (vol. 1:311).


Same, 26 May 1824 (vol. 1:159).


Same, 7 April 1827 (vol. 2:118).


Same, 9 July 1826 (vol. 2:66).


Same, 5 September 1824 (vol. 1:313).


Same, 2 June 1824 (vol. 1:167-168).


Same, (31 May 1824 (vol. 1:164).


Charles Francis Adams to Abigail Brown Brooks, 3 October 1828.


Louisa Catherine Adams to Charles Francis Adams, 25 July 1828.


Louisa Catherine Adams to Charles Francis Adams, 19 December 1827.


Louisa Catherine Adams to Charles Francis Adams, 10 March 1828.


John Adams to John Quincy Adams, 20 May 1818.


John Quincy Adams, Diary, 25 December 1820.


Duberman, Charles Francis Adams, p. 18.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 23 December 1823 (vol. 1:19).


Same, 16 June 1829 (vol. 2:390).


Abigail Adams to Louisa Catherine Adams, 20 May 1818.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 14 October 1824 (vol. 1:389).


Same, 13 July 1827 (vol. 2:144).


Same, 13 June 1824 (vol. 1:184).


Same, 18 May 1824 (vol. 1:147).


Same, 23 September 1824 (vol. 1:332).


Louisa Catherine Adams, Diary, 30 May 1820.


Same, 18 January 1821.


Louisa Catherine Adams to Charles Francis Adams, 25 May 1828.


Charles Francis Adams 2d, Charles Francis Adams, Boston and New York, 1900, p. 11. In his letters the younger Charles Francis Adams expanded this characterization of his father: “I may respect the young man, as a young man; but I neither admire nor like him. The first thing I notice is the absence of anything large, humane or sympathetic. A young, a very young man, he enters into the enjoyments and dissipations of young men prudently and in an unsocial sort of way, never, so far as I can see, making a fool of himself, or losing his self-control in any way, except through occasional out-bursts of temper which he does not seem to regret. He seems, even in college, to have had no real friend-ships, but to have been self-contained, rather unsociable, very industrious in his way, and, above all, cursed with that shyness and reserve which is, and seems always destined to be, the stumbling-block of the race” (Charles Francis Adams 2d to Henry Adams, 15 April 1895, Adams Papers, Fourth Generation). Before accepting this portrait, however, one must remember that Charles Francis Adams 2d knew his father only as a mature man, whose self-possession was overwhelming and seemingly inborn. It was natural for him while reading these early diaries to see in his father’s boyhood those traits which he exhibited as a man.


Louisa Catherine Adams, Diary, 18 August 1821.


John Adams to Charles Francis Adams, 3 December 1825.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 8 February 1824 (vol. 1:87).


Same, 28 September 1824 (vol. 1:339).


Same, 8 February 1824 (vol. 1:87).


Charles Francis Adams to Louisa Catherine Adams, 24 May 1828.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 3 January 1824 (vol. 1:30-31).


Same, 9 September 1824 (vol. 1:318).


Same, 8 May 1824 (vol. 1:126).


Same, 10 May 1824 (vol. 1:130).


Same, 15 May 1824 (vol. 1:141).


Same, 9 May 1824 (vol. 1:128).


Same, 20 May 1824 (vol. 1:151).


Same, 22 January 1824 (vol. 1:59).


Same, 20 May 1824 (vol. 1:151).


Anne Hollingsworth Wharton, Social Life in the Early Republic, Philadelphia, 1902, p. 215.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 24 April 1827 (vol. 2:124).


Anne Royall, The Black Book, Washington, 1828, 2:123.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 11 March 1828 (vol. 2:220).


Same, 13 October 1827 (vol. 2:170-171).


Same, 20 September 1824 (vol. 1:330).


Same, 3 October 1824 (vol. 1:353).


Charles Francis Adams to John Adams, 26 February 1826.


Charles Francis Adams to John Adams, 21 May 1826.


Charles Francis Adams to John Adams, 9 April 1826.


Charles Francis Adams to John Quincy Adams, 22 January 1828.


Charles Francis Adams to Abigail Brown Brooks, 13 May 1827. Charles Francis Adams’ concern lest the family name deteriorate in his generation is strikingly similar to the later worry of Henry Adams, his son, that he was not living up to the family tradition and was, therefore, a failure.


Charles Francis Adams to Peter Chardon Brooks, 24 May 1827, letterbook copy.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 31 March 1827 (vol. 2:116).


Same, 6 September 1824 (vol. 1:315).


Same, 17 October 1824 (vol. 1:395).


Charles Francis Adams to Abigail Brown Brooks, 5 April 1827.


Charles Francis Adams to Abigail Brown Brooks, 25 October 1828.


Charles Francis Adams to Louisa Catherine Adams, 21 March 1829.


See note 1 to Charles Francis Adams’ diary entry for 22 August 1828 (vol. 2:271).


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 15 November 1828 (vol. 2:309).


Charles Francis Adams to Louisa Catherine Adams, 10 July 1829.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 20 July 1829 (vol. 2:406).


Same, 7 May 1829 (vol. 2:374).


Same, 28 August 1829 (vol. 2:428).


Charles Francis Adams to Louisa Catherine Adams, 28 June 1829.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 31 July 1829 (vol. 2:411). It need hardly be added that Charles Francis Adams was quite wrong about his father, whose ambition was soon to lead him into the House of Representatives and an even more distinguished second career in public life.


See the discussion of these problems in Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, 1:xli-xliv.


Note, for example, the gap in John Quincy Adams’ Diary between 6 August and 1 December 1828 (John Quincy Adams, Memoirs ..., Comprising Portions of His Diary from 1795 to 1848, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Philadelphia, 1874–1877, 8:77).


John Quincy Adams to Charles Francis Adams, 19 January 1818, letterbook copy.


For a description of this index diary, see note 5 113 , below, on this page.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 10 May 1824 (vol. 1:130).


Same, 1 May 1824 (vol. 1:105).


Same, (15–16 February 1824)vol. 1:96–97.


See page xxxvi, note 2 119 , below.


See note 5 113 , below, on this page.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 1 May 1824 (vol. 1:105).


Same, 26 May 1829 (vol. 2:381), and 2 June 1829 (vol. 2:384).


This “Index” is designated as Diary No. 1 (D/CFA/1) in the Adams Papers serial numbering of the Charles Francis Adams diaries. In the microfilm edition of the Adams Papers its serial number is 608, for the volume was not discovered by the present Adams family until after the major diaries had been filmed. The 132-page book measures 8 7/8” × 7 3/16” The inscription on the first page reads, “Index commencing January 1820,” and the spine is labeled simply “Index.”


Following another of John Quincy Adams’ practices, his son wrote in the margins of this Index the appropriate dominical letters. This ingenious system had been devised by medieval computers to fix the date of Easter. The letter “A” is assigned to the first day of January, “B” to the second day, and so on, through “G,” after which the lettering begins anew. The year is designated by the letter which corresponds to its first Sunday, and, of course, to all other Sundays in the year. For a further discussion of dominical letters, see A. Giry, Manuel de diplomatique, Paris, 1894, p. 134–137. These letters have been omitted from the present edition.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 25-26 September 1824 (vol. 1:335), and 26 May 1829 (vol. 2:381).


For part of the period covered in this “Index” there are epitomes for only the first fifteen days of each month. It is reasonable to speculate that Adams, having written his entries for the first half of a month on the right-hand page of his notebook, feared that he would blot them if he proceeded at once to fill in the remainder of the month on the back of the sheet and therefore skipped ahead to the beginning of the next month. This inference is borne out by the fact that in many cases where Index entries do exist for an entire month, those for the last fifteen days are written in a different style of handwriting, presumably at a different date, from those for the first half of the month.


The fact that these epitomes contain information not included in the “Journal of a Vacation” is conclusive proof that Adams was continuing to write his “small Index of events.” In the present edition the “Journal of a Vacation” is printed in full, while additional information gleaned from the “Index” is supplied in the notes.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, December 1823 (vol. 1:9).


The two volumes of this “Journal of a Vacation” are designated as Diary No. 2 (D/CFA/2) and Diary No. 3 (D/CFA/3) in the Adams Papers serial numbering of the Charles Francis Adams diaries. Each volume contains 117 pages and measures 7 7/8” × 4 3/4”.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 1 May 1824 (vol. 1:105–106). Adams designated this 349-page volume as the first in his own serial numbering of his diaries, but in the Adams Papers serial numbering it is counted as No. 4 (D/CFA/4). The spine covering of this quarto volume is now missing, but a handwritten label gives its number and inclusive dates. At the back of the book Adams made indexes of the Harvard lectures he attended and of the character sketches he had recorded in his diary, but these have not been printed in the present edition.


The “Index” entries for 1 May-31 October 1824 contain nothing that is not included in the longer “Diary of Events and of Sentiments.”


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 13 June 1824 (vol. 1:184).


Same, May 1824 (vol. 1:166).


Same, 12 August 1824 (vol. 1:285), and 10 October 1824 (vol. 1:374–375).


Same, 22 July 1824 (vol. 1:253).


Same, 28 August 1824 (vol. 1:303).


Same, 10 October 1824 (vol. 1:375).


Same, 2 September 1824 (vol. 1:309).


Same, 26 November 1826 (vol. 2:50).


Same. In this entry Adams states that his “Notes” ended on 18 June 1826, “after having struggled through a lively existence of eighteen months.” If this statement is taken literally, this missing journal began in January 1825, and the “Index” entries for November-December 1824, therefore, must be epitomes of some other, now missing diary. In all probability, however, Adams’ memory was at fault and the “Notes” were actually started on 1 November 1824, when the previous “Diary of Events and of Sentiments” was concluded.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 23 October 1826 (vol. 2:85). This 354-page volume measures 8 1/2” × 6 1/2”; the spine covering is missing, but a handwritten label gives the diary number and inclusive dates. In numbering his own diaries, Charles Francis Adams designated this book as No. 2, but in the Adams Papers serial numbering it is No. 5 (D/CFA/5). The book was packed away, unfinished, when Adams returned to Boston in July 1827. On 4 September 1829, the day following his marriage, having meanwhile completed two other diary volumes, he began using the remaining blank pages of D/CFA/5 for his daily record through 16 May 1830, beyond the time span of the two volumes now published.


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 26 November 1826 (vol. 2:50).


For example, 1-3 December 1826 (vol. 2:90), and 1-4 April 1827 (vol. 2:116).


For example, 6 December 1826 (vol. 2:91, note 1), 5 April 1827 (vol. 2:117, note 2), and 1 June 1827 (vol. 2:134, note 1).


Charles Francis Adams, Diary, 31 July 1827 (vol. 2:146). This 168-page volume measures 8 3/8” × 6 5/8”. In arranging his own diaries, Charles Francis Adams listed this as No. 3, but in the Adams Papers serial numbering it is No. 6 (D/CFA/6). Upon completing this diary in mid-October 1827, Adams began another, listed as No. 4 in his own count but as No. 7 (D/CFA/7) in the Adams Papers serial numbering. This small quarto volume of 144 pages is in marbled boards and blue half-leather. After almost filling it up by the date of his marriage, Adams turned back immediately thereafter to use the blank pages of his earlier diary (D/CFA/5); see page xxxviii, note 5 131 , above.


For a discussion of these manuscripts and the complex problem of interweaving them, see pages xxxiv–xl of this Introduction, above.