November 30 1814: JQ Adams, the Slacker!

For November  30 1814, John Quincy Adams writes an entry for this diary, which describes the American response to the British. He also has a concluding paragraph where he bemoans not getting enough exercise, growing “uncomfortably corpulent” and fearing that he may fall into a “habit of indolence or dissipation!”

30th. I have insensibly run several days in arrears with this journal, at a time when it has become important to keep close to the current of time. I began therefore this morning to retrieve it. But at eleven o’clock came again the time for the meeting of the mission, which was in my chamber. Mr. Gallatin had very much shortened, and very materially altered, my paragraphs. Mr. Clay had brought a draft of his own. My draft, as originally written, and as amended, and his, were all read. Mr. Bayard was for omitting the whole. I objected to Mr. Clay’s, as having altogether departed from what I had wished to say. Mr. Gallatin’s amendments had very much altered the character of my draft, but I acquiesced in them, and it was concluded to admit them, and adopt my draft thus amended as part of the note.

In waiving our claims of indemnities for losses subsequent to the war, Mr. Gallatin thought there was one description of them for which another effort ought to be made. It was for vessels and property which were in English ports on the commencement of the war, and were seized without allowing them the usual six months to depart. We had allowed the six months for English vessels and property in our ports at the time of the declaration ; and it was agreed to send the British Plenipotentiaries a copy of that part of the statute, and ask a discussion of the subject. I proposed also to send them a copy of the deposition we have respecting the sale by their officers in the West Indies of negroes seduced from their masters in our Southern States by promises of liberty. The part of our instructions which asserts this fact has been noticed in both houses of Parliament in England. The Ministers have pledged themselves to make strict enquiry into it, and I thought the communication of the proof furnished us by the Secretary of State might be useful, as it would certainly become thereby public, and by drawing the public attention to the practice might prevent its repetition hereafter. It would probably cease when the officers should no longer have the motive for stealing the negroes, in the opportunity to sell them. But all my colleagues objected against sending this paper. They said its tendency would only be to irritate, when we should make our note as conciliatory as possible; that the proof was weak, being only a single deposition; that the charge as made in Mr. Monroe’s instructions to us had more weight without this proof than it would have with it.

I replied that the fact was stated to be of public notoriety; that the deposition which we have is circumstantial upon one particular instance, with names and dates, and that it testifies also to the general practice ; that no proof could be stronger, so far a$ one witness could afford proof. It was, however, determined not to send it. We adjourned from one o’clock until three, while Mr. Hughes prepared the note thus agreed to. At three we had a second meeting, and signed the note, which Mr. Hughes immediately took to the British Plenipotentiaries. Some of the gentlemen went to the theatre and returned. As we came home, Mr. Gallatin told me that an answer had been received from the British Plenipotentiaries, appointing to-morrow noon for the conference, at the Chartreux, their own house.

Day. I rise usually between five and six, but not so regularly as heretofore, my hour for retiring at night being more irregular. I begin the day with reading five chapters in the Bible, and have this day finished in course the Old Testament. I then write until nine o’clock, when I breakfast alone in my chamber. Write again after breakfast, until we have the meeting of the mission, and when there is none, until three, afternoon. Walk an hour. We dine at four, and sit at table usually till six. In the evening, I attend the theatre, redoute, or concert, or pass an hour or two at Mr. and Mrs. Smith’s lodgings. Between ten and eleven I return to my chamber, and betake myself immediately to the night’s repose. There are several particulars in my present mode of life in which there is too much relaxation of self-discipline. I have this month frequented too much the theatre and other public amusements ; indulged too much conviviality, and taken too little exercise. The consequence is that I am growing uncomfortably corpulent, and that industry becomes irksome to me. May I be cautious not to fall into any habit of indolence or dissipation!

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