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Browsing: Diary of Charles Francis Adams, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0002-0005

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-02-05

Thursday. 5th.

My Geography having been finished yesterday, the few remaining days of this vacation will be spent very much without method or desire of study, as I think that I have done a good deal considering the situation in which I was placed and the many inclinations to divert me from my purpose.
I went this morning to the Supreme Court to hear this case [and] Mr. Oakley’s way of representing the matter. But he was so close in his arguments and so much attached to the law that I could not follow him. He is a very dry speaker and only remarkable for his power of logical reasoning, and insinuating sophistry which he displays here remarkably as he appears to me to be undoubtedly on the wrong side of the subject. He closed today and Mr. Emmett continued his argument. He is old, and looks as if he would soon be obliged to relinquish his business. His teeth have fallen out and it is evident that he speaks with great exertion, although he can endure a great while. He commenced with a severe and tremendous philipic upon the states bordering upon New York, saying that she had endured long without complaining, that she had never put her laws in execution, and that it was only in consequence of the irritating conduct of the neighbouring states that she felt herself obliged to rise in her might. He got himself into a real passion by chafing, and being an Irishman, it was very natural and easy for him to do. His power of language however is great and his manner when a younger man must have been very impressive.
As soon as he fell upon the law I left him and returned home where I was shortly obliged to dress for dinner. The company con• { 83 } sisted of Messrs. Holmes of Mississipi, Knight of Rhode Island and Ruggles of Ohio, Senators. Messrs. Archer of Virginia, Cassedy of New Jersey, Foote and Van Wyck of New York, Ingham and Stewart of Pennsylvania, Livermore and White of Vermont, Warfield of Maryland, and Wayne and Whittlesey of Ohio.1 Mr. Stewart was on my left today. He is quite a pleasant man, and has more power of conversation than I thought was in any Member from that State. It is singular that the representation from that state, which is the second in importance in this union, should be so very badly represented. But the common people of the state are generally so ignorant that perhaps it is not so surprizing. Mr. Sergeant2 was formerly quite an honour to the State.
It is remarkable, that if the last dinner party was unanimous or nearly so against the bill of Roads and Canals this one was as strongly in favour of it and Mr. Whittlesey was very bitter about it, showing very plainly the feelings which actuate the Western people generally. They are considerably exasperated at the illiberality of the people on the sea board with a little reason I think. Mr. Foote of New York exposed himself considerably as he arrived here considerably intoxicated and declined eating any thing saying he had just dined. On the whole he appeared to possess the qualities of a gentleman to a great degree of perfection. Monsieur took it however in very good part, and laughed a good deal about him. Johnson says Warfield is a wag but I saw nothing like a sample of it today.
This dinner was quite a pleasant one considering the general character of things of this kind. They are not pleasant to me as I have for the most part to break the ice myself with the person who sits near me. A circumstance which in a young man may appear rather presuming and which is sometimes repulsed and sometimes politely received. I know my motive to be good, and as I imagine myself generally conferring a favour, I persist. It is however a pretty hard task. After dinner we went upstairs and immediately some ladies and gentlemen came in, as Madame had wished to form a musical party this evening. Foote finding himself not likely to support himself even by his name retired. As did all the others of the party except Stewart who appeared pleased and stayed here the evening.
The musical party, consisted of a Mrs. Bushby and her husband, with her two sisters the Miss Stedmans, ladies from the West Indies but not remarkable for beauty, Mr. Talbot and his wife, a very attractive and pleasant woman. He is a Senator but a most amusing character. And according to the stories about, not the most agreable { 84 } in his person. Mrs. Beaumarchais with a son and niece, not the prettiest. She is hear for a claim which she has come from France to obtain but it is said, not with any probability of success.3 Our good friends Dr. and Mrs. Thornton were here also, whom I would not for the world forget. These formed the party with much pleasure. Mr. Bushby is quite a genteel man, very English in his appearance, a certain class of whom always look genteel—it must be confessed.
But my great diversion this evening consisted of an innocent quiz of mine upon my good friend Dr. Thornton, who got me deeper into the system of courts than I intended to have gone, but by perpetually winding round the subject, he got extravagantly enthusiastic when I turned him over to father in order that he might attend and profit by his theory. The West Indian ladies in the mean time sung a great while without much effect; they have singular voices in tone similar to frogs. Madame also sung and pretty well although not half so clearly as I have known her to. Mr. Addington was here also and stayed till last. Two awkward circumstances occurred. Antonio4 came to extinguish the candles before he had gone and his carriage was announced to be ready two or three times. Retired in good season.
1. A fuller, and in three cases more correct, identification of the guests is as follows: David Holmes (1769–1832); Nehemiah Rice Knight (1780–1854); Benjamin Ruggles (1783–1857); William Segar Archer (1789–1855); George Cassedy (1783–1842); Charles Augustus Foote (1785–1828); William William Van Wyck (1777–1840); Samuel Delucenna Ingham (1779–1860); Andrew Stewart (1791–1872); Arthur Livermore (1766–1853), from New Hampshire; David White (1785–1834), from Kentucky; Henry Ridgely Warfield (1774–1825); Isaac Wayne (1772–1852), from Pennsylvania; and Elisha Whittlesey (1783–1863) (Biog. Dir. Cong.).
2. John Sergeant (1779–1852), a Princeton-educated lawyer who was a Federalist Congressman from 1815 to 1823 (same).
3. Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732–1799), the dramatist and the ill-fated financial agent of the French monarchy, had furnished arms to the United States during the Revolution through a fake company in return for tobacco and other American commodities. The Congress, however, never fulfilled its part of the barter arrangement, and Beaumarchais’ widow was not recompensed until 1835. See Elizabeth S. Kite, Beaumarchais and the War of American Independence, 2 vols., Boston, 1918.
4. Antonio Giusta, JQA’s butler and valet. He was an Italian, an ex-Napoleonic soldier, and had served JQA since 1814. Often called Antoine, his full name as given by JQA in a character reference when his old servant had to leave his employ in 1829 was Michael Anthony Giusta (MS dated 22 Feb. 1829 in MBU). See also Bemis, JQA, 2:159.

Docno: ADMS-13-01-02-0003-0002-0006

Author: CFA
Date: 1824-02-06

Friday 6th.

Attended the Supreme Court this morning and heard Mr. Emmett in continuation, but he was so much in the law that I could not go { 85 } on with him. The case in it’s simple form is this, that a man in the state of New York having invented or highly improved a method of propelling boats by steam, and it being very expensive, he got a company formed, which applied to the New York legislature for an exclusive right to navigate the river and waters in [and] about the State, which was granted to them. By virtue of this they seized a steam boat coming in from New Jersey and refused all intercourse with other states which refused them in their turn. The question now is whether the state of New York have a right to make an exclusive grant to an individual or a set of individuals, of the waters which may well be styled common highways. Although this is the subject, Mr. Emmett was very extravagant in his language and talked so high about some future separation of the States that he drove my father out of the room. He had been sitting here as the commissioners of the sinking fund met today.
Having remained here a sufficient time, I went into the House where I heard Alexander Smyth prosing away to empty walls. He appeared to be arguing upon this old Internal improvement bill, and consequently I left him to prove the case very much by himself.1 From here I went to the Senate, where they were discussing the subject of increase of the navy, Mr. Lloyd having brought a bill for the appropriation of a sum of 480,000 dollars, to build ten sloops of war. Governor Barbour of Virginia was speaking in his magnanimous way when I first went in but I heard only his close.2
Colonel Hayne of South Carolina then made a short speech in favour of the bill with which I was much pleased. He answered the objections of the gentlemen who had been speaking before.3 He first made a brief objection to the argument used by some radical I presume, who speaking of the superfluous money in the treasury which this is intended to expend, said that it would be much better to pay off the national debt.4 He said that the debt was not yet made due and it was not worthwhile to anticipate as there was no expectation of a deficit. He then retorted to the argument of a navy’s (in peace) being useless. He went on in a clear and logical and at the same time in a handsome strain. I am compelled by my limits to be more brief than was my intention. He is not a handsome man; his voice is quite poor, I think, and his manner is nothing very uncommon. It is too much the habit with the Charleston people to puff their great men to such a height that it is hardly possible to avoid being disappointed with them. It has been the case to me, in Hamilton, M’Duffie and this Hayne. This man however I think much more of than of the { 86 } others. His speech was short and animated and as General S. Smith began to drawl I went away and came home.
Miss Cranch went away today and has left Abby alone to stand the shock of the other party. The two girls have not been on the best terms with each other this winter. Madame was very unwell all day, in her room. Her health is quite delicate. Miss McKnight was quite agreable and we spent the evening very pleasantly in the drawing room, and retired early. Mrs. Mc Lane5 had a party but we did not go.
1. Finishing an argument begun on the previous day, Smyth again argued the lack of constitutional authority for federal sponsorship of internal improvements (Annals of Congress, 18 Cong., 1 sess., p. 1399–1414).
2. Actually the bill which James Lloyd (1769–1831) sponsored for the Committee on Naval Affairs called for two annual appropriations of $425,000 each (same, p. 139, 149, 210, 229–230). Barbour supported the bill as a measure necessary to protect the nation (same, p. 210–214, and 214–216).
3. Robert Young Hayne (1791–1839) answered the argument made by Walter Lowrie (1784–1868), of Pennsylvania, that the country’s finances did not permit the construction of so many ships (same, p. 214).
4. The “radical” Hayne answered was Samuel Smith (1752–1839), of Maryland. For Hayne’s full speech, see same, p. 216–224.
5. Presumably Mrs. Louis McLane, the former Catherine Mary Mulligan (DAB, under her husband’s name).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2016.