CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS QUOTES

American politician and diplomat (1807-1886)

It is so very easy and so very pleasant, too, to read only books which lead to nothing, light and interesting books, and the more the better, that it is almost as difficult to wean ourselves from it as from the habit of chewing tobacco to excess, or of smoking the whole time, or of depending for stimulus upon tea or coffee or spirits.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, American Library Journal, 1876

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In this country ... men seem to live for action as long as they can and sink into apathy when they retire.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, diary, Apr. 15, 1836

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Modern society has created a class of artificial beings who bid fair soon to be the masters of their creator. It is but a very few years since the existence of a corporation controlling a few million dollars was regarded as a subject of grave apprehension, and now this country already contains single organizations which wield a power represented by hundreds of millions. These bodies are the creatures of single States; but in New York, in Pennsylvania, in Maryland, in New Jersey, and not in those States alone, they already are establishing despotisms which no spasmodic popular effort will be able to shake off. Everywhere, and at all times, however, they illustrate the truth of the old maxim of the common law, that corporations have no souls.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, "A Chapter of Erie", North American Review, July 1869

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The American experiment is the most tremendous and far reaching engine of social change which has ever either blessed or cursed mankind.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, attributed, Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Times

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Failure seems to be regarded as the one unpardonable crime, success as the all-redeeming virtue, the acquisition of wealth as the single worthy aim of life.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, "A Chapter of Erie", North American Review, July 1869

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It would be superfluous in me to point out to your Lordship that this is war.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, dispatch to John Russell, Sep. 5, 1863

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All equally see in the convulsion in America an era in the history of the world, out of which must come in the end a general recognition of the right of mankind to the produce of their labor and the pursuit of happiness.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, letter to his son, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., from Mount Felix, Walton on Thames, England, Dec. 25, 1862

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More than all, and above all, [George] Washington was master of himself. If there be one quality more than another in his character which may exercise a useful control over the men of the present hour, it is the total disregard of self when in the most elevated positions for influence and example.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, attributed, Washington's Birthday: Its History, Observance, Spirit, and Significance as Related in Prose and Verse

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The public corruption is the foundation on which corporations always depend for their political power. There is a natural tendency to coalition between them and the lowest strata of political intelligence and morality; for their agents must obey, not question. The lobby is their home, and the lobby thrives as political virtue decays. The ring is their symbol of power, and the ring is the natural enemy of political purity and independence.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, "A Chapter of Erie", North American Review, July 1869

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Morning pleasant but with a remarkable smoky atmosphere which seemed very much to intercept the rays of the sun. I amused myself reading Miss Martineau. Her descriptions of scenery and manners form the most pleasing part of her work. You do not so often have occasion to notice the person who is speaking, to think that she is deaf, opinionated and conceited and has the restless character of mind peculiar to women who think themselves profound. She thinks women should participate in politics, which they are now doing extensively in this country, somewhat, as I suspect at her instigation.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, diary, June 25, 1837

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For however I may in former days as a young man have liked the notice which the being in a great man's train secures one, now that I have a fixed character of my own, obscurity is far the most agreeable.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, diary, July 1837

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It may be that our society is only passing through a period of ugly transition, but the present evil has its root deep down in the social organization, and springs from a diseased public opinion.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, "A Chapter of Erie", North American Review, July 1869

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Carried down my last number to the Advocate. They will not publish the letters I wish. So much for the freedom of that press.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, diary, February 13, 1837

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We shall see these great corporations spanning the continent from ocean to ocean--single, consolidated lines, not connecting Albany with Buffalo, or Lake Erie with the Hudson, but uniting the Atlantic and the Pacific, with termini at New York and San Francisco. Already the disconnected members of these future leviathans have built up States in the wilderness, and chosen their attorneys Senators of the United States. Now their power is in its infancy; in a very few years they will re-enact, on a larger theatre and on a grander scale, with every feature magnified, the scenes which were lately witnessed on the narrow stage of a single State.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, "A Chapter of Erie", North American Review, July 1869

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The prospect in the United States is certainly not favorable to the perfection of the race of man, nor to the duration of the good institutions we live under. Injudicious attempts to liberate the slaves that swarm in this land of liberty seem far more likely to lead us back to anarchy, or more certainly to war and bloodshed than to any political millennium. And the bonds of government are everywhere loosening to the manifest benefit of the unruly rather than to the encouragement of the peaceful.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, diary, July 1837

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A fine day. I remained at home and passed it as I do most of my time between my house and my father's. I sometimes think that I waste too much in this superintendance and that I might be engaged in objects more useful to others and to myself. Perhaps so, but I do not know. My particular position in life precludes me from expectation of much success and my temper from that of aid from artificial interests so that I may as well consult my fancy.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, diary, July 24, 1837

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In many things I defer more to the authority of my grandfather whose political sagacity appears to have been the most striking characteristic of his life. He saw no cessation of war, still less much perfectibility while man is constituted as he has been known to be since the world began. And I think with him.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, diary, July 1837

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Mr. Degrand told me today that he had seen a notice of my Lecture in the Evening Gazette very complimentary. A few tones of the voice have done more to give me notoriety than five years of diligent reasoning. Such is life.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, diary, 1837

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This is one of those days which I am obliged to record as almost a blank in my existence.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, diary, November 23, 1837

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The legitimate demand for money continues; and, fearful of trenching on their reserve, the banks are strained for means. They dare not call in their demand loans, for that would compel their customers to sell securities on a falling market, which would make matters worse. Habitually lending their means to the utmost limit of prudence, and their credit much beyond that limit, to brokers and speculators, they are powerless to afford relief--their customers by the force of circumstances become their masters.

CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, "A Chapter of Erie", North American Review, July 1869

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