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three; soon after which the night comes on. At four we dine; and pass the evening either abroad until very late, or at our lodgings with company until ten or eleven o'clock. The night parties abroad seldom break up until four or five in the morning. It is a. life of such irregularity and dissipation as I can not and will not continue to lead."
So any moral and reasonable person might have thought! The time of getting up by diplomatic people in St. Petersburg may not, however, be so much a source of remark after reading the following note from Mr. Adams's Diary :—
"I took, this morning, a long walk over the part of the city which we inhabit, and, as the sun rose this day at fourteen minutes past nine, and set at forty-six minutes past two, I was out during almost all the time of daylight."
Notwithstanding Mr. Adams's determination to consider the social demands made upon him as trifling and disgusting, and to put a stop to them, or, at least, to regulate them by a conscientious sense of a more correct and manly course of life, he was not very successful. It was no inconsiderable part of the business and duty of a foreign minister, according to the European view, to spend his time in the manner of which Mr. Adams complained. Whatever were his private notions about these matters, it was evidently contrary to his duty to attempt to carry them out so far as to injure his chances of being of service to his country. And no matter how severe were his private reflections upon the folly and dissipation of the life in the court, and other social circles of Europe, Mr. Adams did succeed in shaping his steps in that moderate and reasonable way which left no room for complaint around him. He spoke the French and German languages fluently, and his versatile and scholarly attainments were greatly in his favor. Indeed, his literary and other qualities served to introduce him to a friendship with the Emperor and his minister of state, which is unusual in diplomatic history.
Formerly under Washington, and his father, John Adams, he had gained a like respect at The Hague, and in Prussia, and it may be truly said that Mr. Adams was a popular man in Europe, however he stood in his own country. His precise and apparently cold nature especially suited him for the heartless and insincere formalities of a European court. What was looked upon at home as austere, "Puritanic," and unapproachable, was there deemed admirable republican simplicity. Washington had not overestimated Mr. Adams's diplomatic qualities. His European education had especially fitted him for diplomatic life, his thorough knowledge of political affairs at home and abroad, and his first-rate literary attainments, even in a foreign estimation, gave him superior standing and advantages. Altogether, Mr. Adams, perhaps, occupies the head of the long and quite respectable list of Americans who have represented their country in the dissipated courts of Europe. Immeasurably above the toy-men who caricatured the intelligence of the race. Mr. Adams was able to give this verdict upon the most essential of the fashions he was forced to observe:—
"The formalities of these court presentations are so trifling and insignificant in themselves, and so important in the eyes of princes and courtiers, that they are much more embarrassing to an American than business of greater importance. It is not safe or prudent to despise them, nor practicable for a person of rational understanding to value them."
It is well to remember that this was a fruitful period for the Diary. Whatever fashion required of him, and however compressed was the fleeting day at St. Petersburg, Mr. Adams found time to make some record of all the more important events which came to his attention, and many of the utterly worthless ones.
Much of his time he was able, too, to spend in a way mainly more useful to himself, at least such may be a charitable view of the case. He pursued with his usual industry the study of the language and history of Russia, and after the customs and manners of the people, made the commerce of the Empire a special study. He also gave considerable attention to the examination of the system of coins, weights, and measures in use in Russia, France, and England; and although this last pursuit did serve him perhaps in the dry, but elaborate, report he made to Congress, years afterwards, on weights and measures, he considered its usefulness, at the time, as exceedingly problematical. He also took up much of his time with the senseless and immoral writings of the old so-called scholars of Greece and Rome.
Amidst all this terrestrial work he was not lost, however. His eyes were daily turned towards the heavens. Religion and astronomy came in for no little share of his thoughts. He read many of the most learned of the foreign astronomical writers, and went largely into computations connected with the ancient, Mohammedan, and Christian modes of reckoning time. During this residence in Russia, too, he wrote the remarkable letters to his sons on the character and use of the Bible, to which full reference will be made in another part of this volume. Thus was this busy man engaged in the midst of the gayeties and follies of a foreign court, in which fashion and a sense of duty to his country compelled him to take part.
How unlike the suicidal and shallow time-killer was he able to write of himself! He said :—
"I feel nothing like the tediousness of time. I suffer nothing like ennui. Time is too short for me, rather than too long. If the day was forty-eight hours, instead of twenty-four, I could employ them all, if I had but eyes and hands to read and write."
Mr. Adams's official services in Russia were not very important. He had not full authority to negotiate a commercial treaty with that country, but he exerted himself to prepare the way for the future, and labored incessantly to enlist the Russian Government in his views against the continental system of commerce, and especially against the intolerant preponderance of England. The Russian Chancellor, Count RomanzofF, one of the most able, wise, and conscientious politicians of his time, highly respected Mr. Adams, and not only listened earnestly to his views, but also submitted his own, in one or two important instances, to Mr. Adams for his suggestions or criticism. This good opinion of Mr. Adams, on the part of Alexander and his prime minister, no doubt, to some extent, sharpened their friendly disposition towards his country, and led the Emperor to offer his services, in 1812, as a pacificator between America and England. Mr. Adams favored this step, and President Madison accepted Russia's offer of mediation^ and was wise enough to risk sending commissioners to join Mr. Adams at St. Petersburg, to begin negotiations under the direction of the Emperor, on the very doubtful supposition of England's acceptance. England rejected the proffer, and by doing so, very evidently started afresh Russia's ill-will for herself, and good inclinations towards the United States. But England now offered to negotiate with this country on her own responsibility, proposing to send commissioners to London, or to Gottingen. This proposition, Mr. Madison also accepted, and at the head of the American commissioners Mr. Adams was placed, who, leaving his family in St. Petersburg, set out on the 28th of April, 1814, to enter upon this important service. But this was destined to be the end of his residence in Russia.
During the session of Congress, in the winter of 1810, a vacancy occurring on the Supreme Bench the President appointed Mr. Adams to fill it. and the Senate confirmed the appointment. Although Mr. Adams fortunately declined this office, it is implied in his letter doing so that had it not been for the illness of his wife making it impossible for him to return to America soon, he would have accepted. Yet his appointment was a mistake on the part of Mr. Madison, and his acceptance would have been a greater mistake on his part. The qualities of his mind, and his active disposition, rendered Mr. Adams unfit for such a position. It would have saved no little turmoil in after times, if Mr. Adams had been lost in a justice's gown, but how brief and tame would have been the history of Judge John Quincy Adams! The very thought of it is ridiculous in view of the active and stubborn Career of the "old man eloquent."