COMPANION TO CANTO XXXIV
Annotations in the List of Works Cited:
Contributor name. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound, IV: n.gloss number. The Cantos Project. Web. Date of access.
Example: Preda, Roxana. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound, IV: n.13. The Cantos Project. Web. 5 September 2016.
((Contributor name), OCCEP IV: n.no).
Example: (Bressan, OCCEP IV: n.3). If no name is indicated, the gloss was written by Roxana Preda. In this case, the citation will have this format: (OCCEP IV: n.13).
References to The Cantos
As The Cantos Project is numbering the lines of The Cantos, references to cantos already glossed will be by canto number and line(s), as standard with classical works. Example: III: 7–17.
For cantos that are not yet glossed within the project, the references will be by canto number slash page number, as standard in the research on the poem. Example: III/12. The page number refers to the American edition of The Cantos by Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1998.
© Roxana Preda. Companion to Canto XXXIV, 8 February 2019.
Updated 24 November 2020
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
Terrell, Carroll F. A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993.
Adams, John Quincy. The Diary of John Quincy Adams 1794-1845, American Political, Social and Intellectual Life from Washington to Polk. Ed. Allan Nevins. New York, London, Toronto: Longmans, Green & Co., 1928.
Matthews, R. H. Matthews’ Chinese English Dictionary. Revised American edition. Cambridge Mass.: Harvard UP, 1943.
Terrell, Carrol F. “Canto XXXIV: The Technique of Montage.” Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship 6.2 (1977): 185-232.
Jefferson, Thomas. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Definitive edition. Ed. Albert Ellery Bergh. 20. vols. in 10. Washington, 1907.
- Oils, beasts, grasses – John Quincy Adams’s diary entry commemorating a dinner with President Thomas Jefferson at the White House on 3 November 1807. Adams particularly remembered the varied and stimulating conversation of Dr Samuel Mitchell (1763-1831).
Adams added: “the Doctor knows a little of everything and is communicative of what he knows — which makes me delight in his company” (D 47; Ter 188).
It is significant that Pound starts the canto with an important turn in Adams’s life. At the time of the dinner, he was U.S. Senator as a member of the Federalist party, but his political position had gradually changed away from the Federalists to that of Jefferson’s Republicans. Responding to the British practice of impressing American sailors to harness them in the war against Napoleon, Jefferson was preparing the Embargo Act, which passed into law just a month after Adams came to dinner. As a result of his support for Jefferson’s policy, Adams lost his seat in the Senate. It is conceivable that President Madison’s decision to appoint him ambassador to Russia in 1809 was made as a compensation for this state of affairs and an implicit acknowledgement of his political turn.
The passage here may echo the conversation between Sigismondo Malatesta and Platina in Rome, while waiting in the papal antechamber in 1467: when asked what they had talked about, Platina replied: “de litteris et de armis, praestantibus ingeniis/ Both of ancient times and our own; books, arms, /And of men of unusual genius, /Both of ancient times and our own, in short the usual subjects / Of conversation between intelligent men" (See XI: ll.94-105; OCCEP XI: nn.36-39).
- voyage to Russia – On 5 August 1809, together with his family and a black manservant called Nelson, Adams set out to Russia as minister plenipotentiary of the U. S., sent by President James Madison, who had just taken office. It was his second time in Russia: at 14, he had accompanied Francis Dana to St. Petersburg as his secretary (1780-83), on account of his fluency in French. Adams spent five years in Russia (1809-1814) and was there at the time of Napoleon's invasion, June-December 1812.
Pound may here connect to material in his previous cantos. In 1809, at the close of his presidency, Jefferson had unsuccessfully attempted to extend the mandate of his ambassador to Russia, William Short. In canto XXXII, Pound quotes from a letter to Short in which Jefferson expresses uncharacteristic respect for a monarch, Tsar Alexander I: “assure him that I carry into my retirement the highest veneration… for his disposition to better at least in some degree the condition of man oppressed…” (XXXII: ll. 27-31). The letter to Short predated Adams’s journey to Russia by five months. Pound thus presents him as continuing Jeffersonian policy through President Madison and as the best man to cultivate further the harmonious relations between the U.S. and Russia at the time.
- Consistent with their peace – Adams assured the Russian Emperor Alexander I that the United States supported him in all ways “consistent with their peace and their separation from the political system of Europe” (D 65; Ter 189)
Adams is thus asserting his father’s neutrality stance, the idea that the United States should not intervene in European affairs and be lured into wars on the continent. John Adams had lost his second presidential term in 1800 on account of this policy, as he had refused to engage the United States in a war with France. The idea of non-intervention in European politics would become part of the so-called “Monroe Doctrine,” which John Quincy Adams would formulate around 1823.
- auf dem Wasser – G. “on the water.”
- En fait de commerce… étourdi – F. “In matters of commerce this fellow (Bonaparte) is fallen on his head.”
See also Jefferson’s own assessment, which Pound quotes in canto XXXI: “Bonaparte… knowing nothing of commerce…” (XXXI: l.115) TJ to John Adams, 5 July 1814 WTJ XIV: 145-6.
- Romanzoff – Nikolay Petrovich Rumyantsev (1754-1826), Emperor Alexander I’s minister of foreign affairs. He was appointed in 1808, just a year before Adams’s own arrival as plenipotentiary to Russia. Wikipedia. Pound uses John Quincy's spelling of the name as per D 79.
- the only members – the only members of the diplomatic corps who had an interest in literature were the Spaniard General Pardo and the Savoyard Count Maistre (C n. 8; D 80; Ter 190).
- Abbé Delille – Jacques Delille (1738-1813), French poet and classicist. He made his fame by translating Virgil into French and composing verse in the tradition of Latin poetry. He also translated John Milton’s Paradise Lost in 1804. Wikipedia.
- Monsieur Adams… vu – Fr. “Mr Adams, I haven’t seen you for ages!”
- the Emperor – Alexander Pavlovich Romanov (1777-1825), Tsar Alexander I of Russia (r. 1801-25). See also OCCEP XXXII: nn. 23-24.
- peace of Tilsit – Prussian town where the peace between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I was concluded on 7-9 July 1807. It was broken in 1812 by Bonaparte’s invasion of Russia.
- un peu interessantes – F. “of little interest.”
- Oranienbaum – imperial residence near St. Petersburg. John Quincy visited the palace on 14 August 1812. D 97.
- Ld Cathcart – William Shaw 1st Earl of Cathcart (1755-1843), the British ambassador to Russia.
- Mme de Stael – Germaine de Staël (1766-1817), French woman of letters. She was the daughter of Jacques Necker, a Swiss banker and Director General of Finance of King Louis XVI before the French revolution. Wikipedia. Diary entry for 6 September 1812. D 97.
- Qu-il fit la sottise de Moscou – F. “that he did the Moscow silliness.” The silliness was Napoleon’s disastrous idea to push the French army to Moscow in the Russian campaign. In the process, the army was destroyed and Bonaparte returned to his starting point in Germany in such penury that he had to borrow 4000 louis from the German Elector and four shirts from his minister.
Pound refers to an entry in Adams’s Diary in which he reports Rumyantzev’s comment on the war. The phrase is in the original French because Adams and Rumyantzev used the language in their dialogue D 103-4.
- Mr Gallatin – The Russian Emperor tasked Rumyantzev to propose to the United States and to Great Britain that Russia mediate a peace between them. Whereas President Madison accepted the idea and sent Albert Gallatin and James Bayard to join Adams as agents of negotiation, Great Britain rejected the initiative, so the proposed mediation came to nothing.
The war between Britain and the U.S. lasted for two years and was concluded at Ghent on 24 December 1814.
- At the opera – On 14 March 1815, Adams heard Peter Winter’s opera Tamerlan (based on Voltaire’s Orphelin de la Chine) and a ballet drawn from Boïeldieu’s Télémaque.
- was expected – Bonaparte had fled from Elba on 25 February 1815 and was expected back in Paris.
Adams’s going to the opera indicates that he was in Paris at the time Napoleon was returning from Elba in March 1815. He is an eyewitness and his diary entries are timed to overlap with Bonaparte’s approach to the city.
- Auxerre – town in Burgundy, less than 170 km from Paris. On 18 March, Bonaparte was expected to have reached Auxerre on his way to Paris.
Ney – Michel Ney (1769-1815), French military commander, one of the 18 Marshals of France created by Napoleon. While Ney had sworn to protect the House of Bourbon and Louis XVIII from Bonaparte’s return, when he met his former commander at Auxerre, he changed sides and fought alongside Bonaparte until the end. After the defeat at Waterloo, Ney was executed for treason by order of Louis XVIII, who had been reinstated.
- King of Rome – François Charles Joseph Napoleon (1811-32), Bonaparte’s son by his second wife, Marie Louise. He was born on 20 March 1811, four years on the day his father reached Paris form Elba. However, the boy was not in Paris, as his mother had returned to Austria; he would be raised by his grandfather Emperor Francis I under the name of “Franz” as an Austrian aristocrat. After 24 January 1814, Bonaparte did not get to see his son again. Wikipedia.
- March twentieth – On 20 March 1815, Napoleon reached Paris. The previous day, the bulk of the royalist army had defected to him.
- Tuileries – Paris palace, serving as royal and imperial residence, formerly occupying the full west side of the Louvre. It was set on fire during the Commune of 1871. The ruins of the palace stood until 1883, when it was demolished.
- road going toward Beauvais – as Napoleon was approaching Paris on his return from Elba, the army, including Ney, joined him and the Bourbon monarch installed by the Council of Vienna, Louis XVIII, fled. The king took the road to Beauvais, 64 km north of Paris, on his way to Ghent, where he stayed during Napoleon’s 100 days reign.
- Seance Royale – Fr. “Royal Session.” A Séance royale is a meeting between king and National Assembly. Though Louis XVIII had assured the nation that he would die defending the country, he fled, as the army had deserted to Napoleon.
- Ah vouis, vive le Roi – F. “Ah, yes, long live the king.”
- Journal de l’Empire – The Journal des débats (“Journal of Debates”) was a French newspaper created shortly after the first meeting of the Estates-General of 1789. After the outbreak of the French Revolution, it published the exact record of the debates of the National Assembly, under the title Journal des Débats et des Décrets (“Journal of Debates and Decrees”). During Bonaparte’s time as Emperor, it had to change its title to Journal de l'Empire.
During the first Bourbon Restoration (1813–14), the periodical took the title Journal des Débats Politiques et Littéraires, but during The Hundred Days, it returned to the old title from the first Napoleonic period, as Adams notes in his diary. Wikipedia.
- arrived last evening – Napoleon arrived in Paris on 20 March 1815. Adams walked the streets to see the reaction of the people to Napoleon’s return (D 160; Ter 198).
- James Mackintosh – “On May 25, 1815, Adams reached London with Gallatin and his friends to negotiate a trade treaty between the US and Great Britain. At a dinner held at Holland House on 2 June 1816, Sir James Mackintosh (a scholar and a member of Parliament) asked if Dr Franklin was sincere when he ‘lamented the revolution.’ The three lines are Adams’s response” (C XXXIV: n.31; D 172; Ter 199).
my father – John Adams (1735-1826), American revolutionary and second President of the US (1796-1800).
Samuel Adams – Samuel Adams (1722-1803), American revolutionary from Boston and signatory of the Declaration of Independence. Wikipedia.
James Otis – James Otis (1725-83), American lawyer and revolutionary. Wikipedia.
Otis is mentioned again in canto LXXI, where Pound quotes John Adams praising him for his scholarship and a manual of Greek prosody, which Otis in the grip of depression had destroyed, instead of publishing.
- (and on his return… Hall) – the parenthesis and switch to the 3rd person pronoun indicate that Pound is here commenting in his own name, to show that Adam’s personal, unwise comments made to Mackintosh had no impact on his political reputation in the U.S.
It is worth noting the contrast to John Adams’s own answer, which Pound had quoted twice already: “The revolution was in the minds of the people and this was effected from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years before Lexington” (see XXXII: ll.1-2, XXXIII: l.46; see also OCCEP XXXII n.1; and OCCEP XXXIII: n.25).
- Gouverneur Morris – Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816) American statesman, Founding Father from New York, nicknamed the “penman of the Constitution.” He was Senator 1800-3 and Chairman of the Erie Canal Commission, 1810-3. Wikipedia.
- Mr Astor – John Jacob Astor (1763-1848), American businessman from New York who made his fortune in the fur trade and real estate. Wikipedia.
- Tammany Hall – Hall at 170 Nassau Street in New York, belonging to the Tammany Society, incorporated in 1789. It was the centre of the Tammany Society, which campaigned for the Democratic Republican Party. The dinner, inscribed in Adams’s diary, took place after his return from England on 11 August 1817. He had been called as President Monroe’s new Secretary of State (Ter 199).
- Mr Onis’ bell rope – Don Luis de Onís y González-Vera (1762-1827), Spanish diplomat, who served as minister to the United States in 1809-19. He complained to Adams on 27 February 1818:
“Morning visit at my house from Mr. Onis, the Spanish Minister. […] Onis complained, also, that his own house had been of late repeatedly insulted 一windows broken, lamps before the house broken, and one night a dead fowl tied to the bell-rope at his door. This, he said, was a gross insult to his sovereign and the Spanish monarchy, importing that they were of no more consequence than a dead old hen. But if Spain was weak, it was ungenerous to insult her weakness, which was owing to the unparalleled efforts she had made for the deliverance of all Europe from tyranny [fighting Napoleon in the so-called Peninsular War, 1807-14]. I told him I hoped it was nothing more than the tricks of some mischievous boys. He said he had long been willing to think so, but was now convinced they were deliberate outrages of the South Americans now here” (D 192; Ter 200).
The dead fowl hung on Onís’s bell rope was a symptomatic [“luminous”] detail of Spain’s weak diplomatic position and the general hostility against it in the US.
The favourable treaty that Adams negotiated with Onís just a year after the incident is the natural follow-up of such a sign and the most recognizable Jeffersonian event in Adams’s career. Through the Onís Treaty (1819), he enabled the United States to purchase Florida and persuaded Spain to give up its claims to Oregon, thus pushing forward both the Southern and the North-western borders of the US.
- Mr Madison – this remark is a return to the conversation with Dr Mitchell which started the canto. It implicitly stresses Adams’s connection to Jefferson through the agency of James Madison, Jefferson’s close friend and successor to the Presidency. By offering Adams to be Ambassador to Russia, Madison had initiated his diplomatic career which had flourished into the very tangible Jeffersonian service to his country, the Adams-Onís Treaty.
- convention of ’87 – When James Madison and the other 56 delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia in May 1787, they intended to amend the Articles of Confederation. They ended up creating a new constitution, and Madison, representing Virginia, became the chief recorder of information. Madison had helped develop Virginia’s Constitution 11 years earlier, as it was his “Virginia Plan” that served as the basis for debate in the development of the U.S. Constitution. Madison argued for a strong central government that would unify the country. The Convention delegates met secretly through the summer and finally signed the proposed U.S. Constitution on 17 September 1787. America’s Story.
“[…] by far the most efficient member of the Convention was Mr. Madison; that Mr. Hamilton took no active part in it and made only one remarkable speech” (D 204; Ter 201).
Mr Bagot – Charles Bagot (1781-1843) British diplomat, minister to the US, Russia and the Netherlands. Though the passage referring to him in the canto looks sarcastic, Adams was candid in his evaluation and, as Carroll Terrell suggested, even aware of his own shortcomings as a diplomat when implicitly comparing himself to Bagot:
“Bagot is about thirty-five, tall, well proportioned, and with a remarkably handsome face: perfectly well bred, and of dignified and gentlemanly deportment. The principal feature of his character is discretion, one of the most indispensable qualities of a good negotiator; but neither his intellectual powers nor his acquisitions are in any degree striking. His temper is serious, but cheerful. He has no depth of dissimulation, though enough to suppress his feelings when it is for his interest to conceal them. He has resided here three years and though coming immediately after a war in which the national feelings here were highly exasperated against his country, has made himself universally acceptable. No English Minister has ever been so popular; and the mediocrity of his talents has been one of the principal causes of his success. This is so obvious that it has staggered my belief in the universality of the maxim that men of the greatest talents ought to be sought out for diplomatic missions. Bagot has been a better Minister than a much abler man would have been; better for the interest of England – better for the tranquility of this country – better for the harmony between the two nations, for his own quiet，and for the comfort of those with whom he has had official intercourse here. For a negotiation that would require great energy of mind, activity of research or fertility of expedients, such a man would not be competent: but to go through the ordinary routine of business and the common intercourse of society, to neutralize fretful passions and soothe prejudices, a man of good breeding, inoffensive manners, and courteous deportment is nearer to the true diplomatic standard than one with the genius of Shakespeare, the learning of Bentley, the philosophical penetration of Berkeley, or the wit of Swift” (D 214; Ter 201).
- Mr DeWitt Clinton – DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828), American politician who served as a United States Senator, Mayor of New York City and sixth Governor of New York. In this last capacity, he was largely responsible for the construction of the Erie Canal. Clinton was a major candidate for the American presidency in the election of 1812, challenging incumbent James Madison.
Adams makes an extensive unfavourable characterisation of Clinton in his diary entry of 6 May 1819 (D 214-5; Ter 202).
- Banks – In his diary entry of 10 June 1819, Adams wrote his opinion of the banking system in the US:
“Crawford told me much of the information which he is receiving with respect to the operations of the Bankand the gigantic frauds practising upon the people by means of those institutions. The banks are breaking all over the country; some in a sneaking and some in an impudent manner; some with sophisticating evasions and others with the front of highwaymen. Our greatest real evil is the question between debtor and creditor, into which the banks have plunged us deeper than would have been possible without them. The bank debtors are everywhere so numerous and powerful that they control the newspapers throughout the Union and give the discussion a turn extremely erroneous, and prostrate every principle of political economy” (D 217; Ter 203).
- at the President’s – The president of the United States at the time (1820) was James Monroe. Adams was his Secretary of State.
- Colonel Johnson – Richard Mentor Johnson (1780-1850) American politician, member of the House of Representatives (1807-19) and Senate (1819-29). He proposed to Adams that the US sell arms to Bolivar’s revolutionary army so that his friend Duane, a journalist, could broker the deals. Both President Monroe and Adams rejected the proposal (D 225; Ter 203-4; C XXXIV: n.135).
- Duane – William Duane (1760-1835), American journalist from Philadelphia, editor of the newspaper Aurora (1794-1824), which according to Adams was “the most slanderous newspaper in the United States” (D 225; Ter 203-4).
- secretissime – I. “in utmost secret.” This refers to another proposal made to the United States government, namely to provide troops for Simón Bolivar’s independence wars in Latin America, while professing neutrality. Adams rejected it on moral grounds:
“The President proposed for consideration the question, upon the proposal of Manuel Torres [Bolivar’s field marshal] , that the Government should sell upon credit to the Republic of Colombia, any number short of twenty thousand stand of arms, to enable them to extend the South American Revolution into Peru and Mexico. By one of those back stair proceedings which I often feel without seeing, a report has been made from the Ordnance Department to the Secretary of War, just at the critical moment, that there are some thousand stand of English arms which might with advantage to the public be sold.. . I said there was no hesitation in my mind. To supply the arms professedly for the purpose set forth in the memorial of Torres would be a direct departure from neutrality, an act of absolute hostility to Spain, for which the Executive was not competent, by the Constitution, without the authority of Congress. This was enough for me. But I would go further. It would, in my opinion, be not only an act of war, but of wrongful and dishonorable war, committed in the midst of professions of neutrality. . . The decision was unanimous that the proposal could not be complied with, and I am to answer Mr. Torres accordingly. A remark that I have occasion frequently to make is, that moral considerations seldom appear to have much weight in the minds of our statesmen, unless connected with popular feelings. The dishonorable feature of giving secret aid to the revolutionists, while openly professing neutrality, was barely not denied. The President admits it. No one else seems to think that it ought to stand in the way of measures otherwise expedient, especially if supported by popular prejudice. My own deliberate opinion is, that the more of pure moral principle is carried into the policy and conduct of a Government the wiser and more profound will that policy” (D 236-7; Ter 204).
- in the market – In spring 1820, it became clear that President James Monroe would be re-elected. The only open question was who his vice president was going to be. Daniel D. Tomkins was re-elected in this position, the only vice president to serve for two consecutive terms.
- Mr Clay – Henry Clay (1777-1852), American politician from Kentucky. As he was Speaker of the House of Representatives, he hoped to become Monroe’s vice president in his second term.
Adams’s diary shows that Adams was very critical of Clay:
“In politics, as in private life, Clay is essentially a gamester, and, with a vigorous intellect, an ardent spirit, a handsome elocution, though with a mind very defective in elementary knowledge, and a very undigested system of ethics, he has all the qualities which belong to that class of human characters” (D 237; Ter 207).
- Mr Calhoun – John Calhoun (1782-1850), American politician from South Carolina. As will become more visible in canto XXXVII, Calhoun would become a champion of nullification and an antagonist to the Democratic policies of Andrew Jackson and Martin van Buren.
Reflecting on Calhoun’s observation of a diffuse and widespread discontent in the country and general mistrust of the government, Adams wrote in his Diary on 22 May 1820:
“The primary cause is that which has been the scourge of this country from its Colonial infancy — speculations in paper currency, now appearing in the shape of banks; the great multiplication, followed by the sudden and severe reduction, of fictitious capital; then the great falling off in the prices of all our principal articles of exportation, the competition of foreign manufactures carried on by starving workmen, with ours loaded with high wages, the diminution of commerce and the carrying trade, and the accumulation of debt as long as credit could be strained - all this, with ambitious and crafty and disappointed men on the watch for every misfortune and welcoming every disaster, together with the elated hopes, the dazzling promise, and the mortifying reverses of the Florida Treaty, accounts too well for the loss of popularity by the Administration within the last year” (D 241-2; Ter 206).
Mr Noah – Mordecai Noah (1785-1859), American journalist and diplomat. He attempted to establish a Jewish community on the Grand Island on the Lake Erie, near Buffalo, and laid the cornerstone of the City of Ararat there in September 1825. Adams visited it towards the end of his life, as Pound points out toward the end of the canto.
On 7 September 1820, Adams received a letter from Noah, requesting an appointment in Vienna:
“W. Lee came with a letter/rom MM. Noah, editor of the New York Advocate, a Jew, who was once Consul at Tunis, recalled for indiscretions and who has published a book of travels against Mr. Madison and Mr. Monroe. He has great projects for colonizing Jews in this country, and wants to be sent as Charge d’Affaires to Vienna for the promotion of them. He is an incorrect, and very ignorant, but sprightly writer, and as a partisan editor of a newspaper has considerable power. He urges with great earnestness his merits in supporting the Administration, as a title to the President's favor. He is, like all the editors of newspapers in this country who have any talent, an author to be let. There is not one of them whose friendship is worth buying, nor one whose enmity is not formidable. They are a sort of assassins who sit with loaded blunderbusses at the corner of streets and fire them off for hire or for sport at any passenger whom they select. They are principally foreigners, but Noah is a native” (D 244; Ter 207).
- Pope’s Messiah – poem by the English poet Alexander Pope, published in 1712.
- George – Adams’s eldest son, George Washington Adams (1801-1829).
- George Clinton – George Clinton (1739-1812), New York soldier, lawyer and statesman, member of the Democratic Republican Party. Governor of New York (1777-95) and vice-president to Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (1805-12). Wikipedia.
- Elbridge Gerry – Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814), American statesman from Massachusetts and vice-president to James Madison (1813-14) after the death of George Clinton. Gerry participated in the drafting and passage of the Bill of Rights. Considering the flimsiness and plainness of funerary arrangements of two most important figures of the republic, Adams concluded that the US should build a durable memorial in stone, like Westminster Abbey or the Panthèon to bury the founding fathers and create for them a place of national remembrance (D 248-9; Ter 208).
- half-educated… European concerns – In these lines, Pound makes a synthesis of the international crisis of 1823 that led to Adams’s elaboration of the Monroe Doctrine. After the fall of Napoleon, continental monarchies had formed a Holy Alliance designed to protect their interests both at home and their colonies. Spain especially was under pressure because of Simón Bolívar’s wars of independence in South America (1807-25). Great Britain wanted to intervene on the side of revolutionaries and requested an alliance with the United States to protect the South American insurgents. As Secretary of State, Adams’s task was to evaluate the situation and help President Monroe reach a decision as to the American position. Adams was averse to an alliance with Great Britain, thinking that it would be a means whereby Britain might influence future American decisions, so he advised President Monroe to establish an independent US line that would not play into the hands of European political strategies, but be an expression of its own interest (D 301-12; Ter 208-12).
The crisis led to the elaboration of the so-called Monroe doctrine, announced by the president on 2 December 1823 and formulated on the basis of Adams’s ideas: first, the United States would not get involved in European affairs, and preserve strict neutrality; however, the US would not allow new European colonial intervention in the Americas. The second part of the doctrine could not as yet be implemented because of the military weakness of the United States. Pound was careful to point out that Adams scrupulously maintained neutrality in the independence wars in South America, refusing to allow secret military aid (XXXIV: ll.83-97).
- interfere with official duty – On 16 June 1826, Adams was called upon to decide on the limitations of government intervention and conflicts of interest:
“Mr. Wirt, the Attorney-General, spent an hour with me; spoke of the unlucky controversy that has arisen between the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Baltimore Railroad Companies, which must terminate in a lawsuit. He intimated that the Railroad Company had applied to him for his professional services, and asked if this would interfere with his official duty as Attorney-General.
I said I thought it would, the United States being interested in the stock of the Canal Company by their subscription of one million dollars” (D 378; Ter 215).
- Evelyn’s “Sylva” – John Evelyn’s Sylva, Or A Discourse on Forest Trees and the Propagation of Timber in His Majesty’s Dominions (1664). Pound carefully traces Adams’s activities as a plantsman, much in the line of his father’s and Jefferson’s similar interests.
The original entry in Adams’s diary for 16 June 1828, the last year of his presidency, delineates his day in more detail:
“Day. I rise at the average of a quarter-past four. Sometimes write an hour or two, but more frequently devote the morning to exercise and idle occupation watching the plants in my pots and boxes; visiting the garden; reading Evelyn’s Sylva; riding from eight to fourteen miles on horseback, or swimming from a quarter to half an hour in the Potomac. Breakfast between nine and ten. Receive visitors, transact business, and write at intervals, and read newspapers, public documents, and dispatches, till between five and six, when we dine. Visit my nursery, and make trivial observations upon the vegetation of trees till dark. Repose in torpid inaction from one to two hours. Write from one to two more, and between eleven and midnight retire to bed” (D 381; Ter 215).
- parting – Adams lost the elections for the second presidential term. His diary entry for 16 March 1829 records his meeting with Henry Clay (D 392; Ter 216).
- Mrs Eaton… Carolina – The scandal regarding Mrs. Eaton’s reputation (also called The Petticoat Affair) caused a political crisis at the start of Andrew Jackson’s presidency. Pound takes it up again in canto XXXVII, which is devoted to a portrait of Martin van Buren, Jackson’s Secretary of state at the time. For now, Pound plants a remark taken from Adams’s comment in his diary entry for 30 December 1830:
“Mrs. Rush spoke about the paragraph in the President's message against the bank, and about Mrs. Eaton, wife of the Secretary of War, now the centre of much political intrigue and controversy. Mrs. Eaton is the daughter of a man named O’Neal, who some years since kept a tavern and failed, so that his house was sold to pay his debts. Mrs. Eaton was wife of a purser in the navy, named Timberlake, who being on service in the Mediterranean squadron, his wife lived at her father’s where Mr. Eaton and General Jackson, when a Senator, were lodgers. When O’Neal’s house was sold, it was purchased by Mr. Eaton. About a year and a half since Timberlake died and very shortly after Eaton married his widow. Her reputation was not in good odor; and last spring, when Eaton was appointed Secretary of War, a grave question arose among the dignitaries, high and low, of the Administration, whether Mrs. Eaton was to associate with their wives. This question has occasioned a schism in the party some of whom have more, and some less, of moral scruple; the Vice-President’s wife, Mrs. Calhoun, being of the virtuous, and having then declared that rather than endure the contamination of Mrs. Eaton’s company she would not come to Washington to winter; and accordingly she remains in the untainted atmosphere of South Carolina. I told Mrs. Rush that this struggle was likely to terminate in a party division of Caps and Hats” (D 398-9; Ter 217).
- two articles of vilification – The London periodical The Quarterly Review published two articles in November 1829, full of “rancorous English passions” – one on the United States and one on Russia. Adams mentions reading them in diary entry for 27 January 1830 (D 399; Ter 217).
- Calhoun … floor – Returning to the Peggy Eaton scandal, Pound intensifies Adams’s sarcasm to van Buren’s subservience to Andrew Jackson. In his entry for 27 January 1830, he wrote:
“The Administration party is split up into a blue and a green faction upon this point of morals; but the explosion has been hitherto deferred. Calhoun heads the moral party, Van Buren that of the frail sisterhood; and he is notoriously engaged in canvassing for the Presidency by paying his court to Mrs. Eaton. He uses personal influence with the wives of his partisans to prevail upon them to countenance this woman by visiting her. There is a story current here, which whether true or false, is significant of the general estimate of Van Buren’s character. It isthat he asked for a private conversation with Mrs. Donelson, and for three-quarters of an hour urged her with pathetic eloquence to visit Mrs. Eaton; that she defended as well as she could her own course，but，being no match for him at sophisticating，she at last said，‘Mr. Van Buren, I have always been taught that ‘honesty is the best policy.’” Upon which he immediately started up, took his hat, and departed” (D 399-400; Ter 219).
- Nicholas Biddle – Nicholas Biddle (1785-1844), American financier and President of the Second Bank of the United States.
- divest myself – In 1831, Adams was elected to the House of Representatives. In order to prepare himself for his new role, he sells his stock in the Second Bank of the United States, as he was favourable to it and did not want to create a conflict of interest:
“I called upon Nicholas Biddle at the United States Bank, and received two dividends of my bank stock, by an order upon the branch bank at Washington. I left with Mr. Biddle my certificate of stock to be sold, and the proceeds to be remitted according to such directions as I may give. I told him that, as I might be called to take part in public measures concerning the bank, and was favorable to it, I wished to divest myself of all personal interest in it. I endorsed my name in blank on the certificate” (D 424; Ter 220). Pound is careful to include the date: 9 November 1831.
- seat Number 203 – In December 1831, Adams returned to the House of Representatives to serve as Congressman for Massachusetts. He had seat no. 203 (D 426; Ter 220-1).
Mr Webster – Daniel Webster (1782-1852), American lawyer and statesman from Massachusetts, renowned for his eloquence. Pound paints a more incisive picture of him in canto XXXVII, from the point of view of Martin van Buren. Webster was Senator during Andrew Jackson’s presidency and a strong supporter of the re-chartering of the Second Bank of the United States.
- I said… obloquy – In his diary Adams is considering the possibility of resuming friendly relations with Andrew Jackson after his electoral defeat.
“So far so good… A restoration of friendly, social, and personal intercourse between President Jackson and me at this time would attract much public notice, and could not fail to expose me to obloquy. The old federal party, now devoted to Mr. Clay，have already more than once tried their hands at slandering me. They have drawn the sword and brandished it over my head. If I set my foot in the President's house, they will throw away the scabbard. I must, therefore, walk with extreme circumspection; even that will not protect me from their malignity. Something is due to myself; and the path is narrow to avoid on the one hand the charge of an implacable temper, and on the other of eagerness to propitiate the dispenser of power”(D 432-3; Ter 222).
- Miss Martineau – Harriet Martineau (1802-76), English writer and author of Illustrations of Political Economy (1832-4). Adams visited her on 18 January 1835. Adams has the title of her book wrong, which Pound brings over into his canto. (D 456; Ter 222-3).
- old states will sacrifice – Adams commented in his diary about the most famous speech in American history, delivered by the Senator from Massachusetts, Daniel Webster, against the Senator of South Carolina, Robert Y. Hayne (19-27 January 1830). Adams thought that good as it was, Webster’s speech did not address all the important issues, especially those dearest to his heart, the question of public lands. Hayne’s speech in favour of nullification had been brought about by a motion from Senator Samuel A. Foote calling for a temporary suspension of surveying new lands in the West until the old ones were sold. This raised the question supported by the Senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton, that land in the West should be given to the settlers, not sold to them. That was also Jefferson’s point of view, which he expressed in a letter to James Pendleton in 1776 (XXXIII: 65-7; OCCEP XXXIII: n.42). Webster-Hayne debate.
Adams, on the other hand, advocated that funds derived from the sale of public lands should be used to develop national infrastructure, such as canals and roads. Instead, to his frustration, Webster had concentrated on the question of nullification brought about by Hayne:
“Webster, however, putting his whole stake upon the answer to Hayne, rather affectedly avoided noticing Benton, who was the great and real assailant. The policy of this is extremely doubtful. It seems to me, upon a review of the whole debate，that Webster should have answered Benton as well as Hayne; that he should have assumed the offensive against both, and exposed the profligate combination between nullification and the robbery of the public lands，which urged the joint attack of Benton and Hayne upon the East. This he did not do. He kept wholly on the defensive as to the East, and suffered Hayne to sacrifice all the rights of the old States to their portions of the public lands with impunity. This was the deadly poison of that league which brought in the Jackson Administration, and it has never yet been exposed. The failure of its consummation hitherto has been owing to the breach between Jackson and Calhoun, brought about by Van Buren; to the consequent precipitation of the nullification rebellion of South Carolina; to the compromise between Clay and Calhoun; and to Clay's Land bills，which, though defeated by Jackson's veto, have yet defeated, or rather delayed, the total sacrifice of the public lands, which yet Jackson openly recommended in his message of December, 1832” (D 459-60; Ter 223-4). See also The American System.
- l’ami de tout le monde –F. “everybody’s friend.”
The year is 1836 and Martin van Buren is going to be elected President of the United States. Adams is sceptical:
“Apr.13  一 Finished reading Holland’s Life of Martin Van Buren, a partisan electioneering work, written with much of that fraudulent democracy by the profession of which Thomas Jefferson rose to power in this country, and of which he set the first successful example. Van Buren’s personal character bears, however, a stronger resemblance to that of Mr. Madison than to Jefferson’s. These are both remarkable for their extreme caution in avoiding and averting personal collisions. Van Buren, like the Sosie of Moliere’s Amphitryon, is ‘ami de tout le monde.’ This is perhaps the great secret of his success in public life, and especially against the competitors with whom he is now struggling for the last step on the ladder of his ambition 一 Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun.” (D 465; Ter 224).
Another entry of 9 September 1837 consolidates Adams’s impression of Van Buren:
“There are many features in the character of Mr. Van Buren strongly resembling that of Mr. Madison 一his calmness, his gentleness of manner, his discretion, his easy and conciliatory temper. But Mr. Madison had none of his obsequiousness, his sycophancy, his profound dissimulation and duplicity. In the last of these he much more resembles Jefferson，though with little of his genius. The most disgusting part of his character, his fawning servility, belonged neither to Jefferson nor to Madison” (D 483; Ter 225).
- their object – in the presidents’ yard there was a labourers’ demonstration against working more than 10-hour days. The newly elected president (Martin van Buren) did not receive them, giving protocol reasons. Adams notes the event in his diary for 13 April 1837 (D 478; Ter 224).
- Legaré – Hugh Swinton Legaré (1797-1843), American lawyer and politician from South Carolina.
The entry in Adams’s diary of 10 October 1837 states that it was Congressman Andrew Pickens, not Legaré who said that “if the abolitionists of the North would preach insurrection to the Southern slaves, he would retort upon them by preaching insurrection to the laborers against the capitalists of the North” (C XXXIV: n.77; D 485; Ter 225).
- phrenology – the detailed study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities. Wikipedia.
In his diary entry of 2 August 1840, Adams included phrenology among the latest cultural crazes of his time, such as Emerson’s transcendentalism, the disputes between Calvinism and Unitarianism, non-resistant abolitionism, and animal magnetism (D 510-11; Ter 226).
- Tippecanoe clubs – Clubs to commemorate William Henry Harrison’s victory against a confederation of Native American tribes at Tippecanoe Creek in the Indiana Territory (1811).
The first club was organized in Ohio City on 9 Mar. 1840 – it was formed by the Whig party to elect Harrison president of the United States in that year. The clubs were an important feature of Harrison’s national election campaign. Cleveland history.
On 4 March 1841, Adams commented on W. H. Harrison’s presidential inauguration in his diary:
“Many thousands of the people from the adjoining and considerable numbers from distant States had come to witness the ceremony. The procession, consisting of a mixed military and civil cavalcade, the platoons of voluntary militia companies Tippecanoe clubs, students of colleges, and schoolboys, with about half a dozen veterans who had fought under the hero in the war of 1812, with sundry awkward and ungainly painted banners, and log cabins, without any carriages or showy dresses, was characteristic of the democracy of our institution while the perfect order with which the whole scene was performed, and the absence of all pageantry, was highly creditable to them” (D 518-9; Ter 226-7).
- African slave trade – Adams’s diary entry for 29 March 1841, after his two-day, seven-hour defence of the slaves on Amistad before the Supreme Court on 24 February and 1 March 1841.
“I am yet to revise for publication my argument in the case of the Amistad Africans; and, in merely glancing over the slave-trade papers lent me by Mr. Fox, I find impulses of duty upon my own conscience which I cannot resist, while on the other hand are the magnitude, the danger, the insurmountable burden of labor to be encountered in the undertaking to touch upon the slave-trade. No one else will undertake it; no one but a spirit unconquerable by man, woman or fiend can undertake it but with the heart of martyrdom. The world, the flesh, and all the devils in hell are arrayed against any man who now in this North American Union shall dare to join the standard of Almighty God to put down the African slave-trade; and what can I, upon the verge of my seventy-fourth birthday, with a shaking hand, a darkening eye, a drowsy brain, and with all my faculties dropping from me one by one, as the teeth are dropping from my head — what can I do for the cause of God and man, for the progress of human emancipation,/or the suppression of the African slave-trade? Yet my conscience presses me on; let me but die upon the breach” (D 519; Ter 227). See Adams’s Defence.
- Harrison on a mean looking horse – from his windows at home, Adams watched the parade on the inauguration of President William Henry Harrison (1773-1841) on 4 March 1841. Unfortunately, the president would die a month later, on 4 April. See also n.74.
“The procession passes before the windows of my house. General Harrison was on a mean-looking white horse, in the centre of seven others, in a plain frock-coat or surtout, undistinguishable from any of those before, behind, or around him. He proceeded thus to the Capitol, where, from the top of the flight of steps at the eastern front, he read his inaugural address, occupying about an hour in the delivery, and before pronouncing the last paragraph of which, the oath of office was administered to him by Chief-Justice Taney” (D 518-9; Ter 226-7).
- haec sunt infamiae – L. “these are the infamies.”
- sins of Georgia – The Cherokee nation was distributed across Georgia and as a result of the Treaty of New Echota (1835), it was forcibly relocated to the Oklahoma territory, in what has been historically called “The Trail of Tears.” Martin van Buren was President and General Wingfield Scott the military enforcer of the relocation.
Adams’s entry of 30 June 1841 describes the desperate situation of the Cherokee:
“Morning visit from John Ross, chief of the Cherokee Nation, with Vann and Benn, two others of the delegation. Ross had written to request an interview for me with them on my appointment as chairman of the committee on Indian affairs. I was excused from that service at my own request, from a full conviction that its only result would be to keep a perpetual harrow upon my feelings, with a total impotence to render any useful service. The policy, from Washington to myself, of all the presidents of the United States had been justice and kindness to the Indian tribes 一 to civilize and preserve them. With the Creeks and Cherokees it had been eminently successful. Its success was their misfortune. The States within whose borders their settlements were took the alarm, broke down all the treaties which had pledged the faith of the nation. Georgia extended her jurisdiction over them, took possession of their lands, houses, cattle, furniture, negroes, and drove them out of their own dwellings. All the Southern States supported Georgia in this utter prostration of faith and justice; and Andrew Jackson, by simultaneous operation of fraudulent treaties and brutal force, completed the work. The Florida War is one of the fruits of this policy, the conduct of which exhibits one uninterrupted scene of the most profligate corruption. All resistance against this abomination is vain. It is among the heinous sins of this nation, for which I believe God will one day bring them to judgment 一 but at His own time and by His own means. I turned my eyes away from this sickening mass of putrefaction, and asked to be excused from serving as chairman of the committee. Ross and his colleagues are here, claiming indemnity for the household furniture, goods, and cattle stolen from their people when they were expelled from their dwellings, and a new treaty, to give them some shadow of security for the permanent possession of the lands to which they have been driven. They complain of delays and neglect by the new Secretary of War, Mr. Bell; and I promised to speak to him in their behalf; and I told them to call upon me freely, if upon any occasion I could be serviceable to them” (D 526-7; Ter 228-9).
- Buchanan – James Buchanan (1791-1869), American statesman and President (1857-1861).
In his diary entry for 3 April 1843, Adams evaluates the presidential candidates at that time:
“Morning call from Mr. Herman Lincoln. He is connected with the Baptist missions, and has been on an excursion to Virginia. He was inquisitive upon the prospects of this approaching Presidential election. He asked my opinion of the chances, and agreed with me that the prospects were in favor of Martin Van Buren. He thought the prospects of Henry Clay irretrievably gone; as I have no doubt they are. Those of Tyler, Calhoun, Cass, are equally desperate. Buchanan is the shadow of a shade, and General Scott is a daguerreotype likeness of a candidate - all sunshine through a camera obscura. Mr. Lincoln’s partiality was for Theodore Frelinghuysen or Judge John McLean. I had never heard the name of Frelinghuysen as a candidate before, and McLean is but a second edition of John Tyler 一 vitally Democratic, double-dealing, and hypocritical. They will all go into the Democratic convention, and all melt into the Corinthian brass of Kinderhook” (D 549; Ter 229).
The winner of the presidential elections and successor to Tyler was James K. Polk (1845-61).
- Scott – General Wingfield Scott (1786-1866), American soldier and Commanding General of the US Army during Tyler’s and Polk’s presidencies.
- Webster spouting – On 17 June 1843, Adams commented in his diary on a celebration of the new monument dedicated to the Battle of Bunker Hill (17 June 1775) in Boston:
“What a name in the annals of mankind is Bunker Hill! what a day was the 17th of June, 1775! and what a burlesque upon them both is an oration upon them by Daniel Webster, and a pilgrimage by John Tyler and his Cabinet of slave-drivers, to desecrate the solemnity by their presence! […] But now, with the ideal associations of the thundering cannon, which I heard, and the smoke of burning Charlestown, which I saw, on that awful day, combined with this pyramid of Quincy granite, and Daniel Webster spouting, and John Tyler's nose, with a shadow outstretching that of the monument column – how could I have witnessed all this at once, without an unbecoming burst of indignation, or of laughter? Daniel Webster is a heartless traitor to the cause of human freedom; John Tyler is a slave-monger. What have these to do with the Quincy granite pyramid on the brow of Bunker Hill?” (D 550-1; Ter 230).
- city of Ararat – The city of Ararat was the project of the Jewish-American Zionist Mordecai Noah, who campaigned for a Jewish state to be founded on the Grand Island on Lake Erie. Though he laid the cornerstone, Noah abandoned the project. See also n.51.
- firemen’s torchlight procession – In July 1843, Adams made two trips to the Midwest and was gloriously received, with speeches, ovations and firemen’s torchlight processions (D 552-3; Ter 230-1).
- Morse – Samuel Finley Morse (1791-1872), American inventor of the telegraph. Adams marvels in his diary about the speed of communication whereby the proceedings of the political conventions in Baltimore on 4 March 1844 could reach the Capitol in Washington on the same day (D 570; Ter 272).
- Hsin – C. “xin” [W/G “hsin4”: M 2748] (“integrity, trust, sincerity”).
By analysing the ideogram into two radicals, the left (“man”) and the right (“to speak”), Pound translated the ideogram as follows: “Fidelity to the given word. The man here standing by his word” (Confucius 22). See also Wee 2011.
The ideogram was added at Pound’s request in the New Directions edition of Cantos I-LXXXIV in 1958 (Eastman 67-8).
- Constans proposito… Justum et Tenacem – L. “constant in purpose… just and steadfast.” On the golden ring underneath the pummel of a cane that Adams received as a gift, there was this inscription, quoting the first line of Horace Odes III.3: “To John Quincy Adams, Justum et tenacem propositi virum [the man of firm and righteous will].”
Adams is almost ashamed at the pleasure this inscription gave him. This entry on 13 March 1845 is the last one in Adams’s diary (D 574-5; Ter 232).
Achilles Fang observed the correlation between the “constans proposito” here and the inscription on a medal of Isotta degli Atti which Pound included as a commemoration of her in canto IX. See Fang I: 53-4. See also OCCEP IX nn.63-66.