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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1861

Wednesday 27th

27 March 1861

Friday 29th

29 March 1861
28 March 1861
Thursday 28th

From the cars at Baltimore we passed over to those about to start for Washington and at six we had arrived at the spot I had quitted only so few days since. Why was it that I felt such a sickening at the heart on passing the various landmarks, and such a sense of relief at the idea that I was not to come again? My career here has not been unsuccessful. My reception has been uniformly kind and friendly. And yet the irrepressible sense of moral desolation here extinguishes all the promptings of the highest ambition. After dressing myself and breakfasting at Willard’s Hotel I went over directly to Governor Seward’s, and was luck enough to find him alone. He stopped me to breakfast, and had some talk about matters here. Not very encouraging I thought he spoke of the President kindly and as coming gradually right, whilst he exposed to me without comment or censure a picture of his own situation and what he had to endure which I could feel without further interrogation. No system, no relative ideas, no conception of his situation—much absorption in the details of office dispensation, but little application to great ideas. The Cabinet without unity, and without confidence in the head or in each other. I must say that I can now foresee but one result. He104 spoke of my appointment as his victory, while he made a species of apology for the selection of Mr Wilson which seemed to me a little lame. Failing to carry his nomination for the post Office at Chicago, the President by way of compensation flung him the place of Secretary of legation of which the man was innocent of all wish. Mr Seward could raise no objection against his own friend. I replied that I had no objection to the choice, upon the assurance of Mr Seward that he was unobjectionable, which he gave me. After breakfast he proposed to me to go to the President’s to acknowledge my appointment which I did. We found ourselves in the Cabinet with only Mr Arnold, the member from the Chicago District of Illinois there. He was evidently grieving at the President’s taking out of his hands the choice of the Postmaster of Chicago, and appointing a person he did not like. Soon the President came in. He shook hands with me and said something complimentary. I briefly thanked him for the honor conferred upon him me, and expressed the hope not to discredit his selection. For the matter of that, said he ,I must frankly admit I have no great claim on you, for the selection was mainly Governor Seward’s. I replied, admitting my consciousness of the fact, but that without his assent, the act could not have been done. The President then turned the conversation quickly to his main idea and announced his decision in the Chicago case. He was about to go on to talk with Governor Seward on other topics without minding me, when the latter gave me a hint, and I respectfully took my leave. Such was his fashion of receiving and dismissing the incumbent of one of the two highest posts in the foreign service of the country! I left the presence cheerfully enough, and congratulated myself that the task of being his council had not been laid upon me. From here I went to the State Department and under the permission of the Secretary began to read the correspondence of my predecessor Mr Dallas. This kept me three or four hours, and then I went up to105 my old residence. Mr Markoe’s, for the purpose of giving orders for the removal of all my remaining effects to Massachusetts. At the house I did not succeed in finding any one to receive me, but I left a message. Mr Markoe has been removed from his place in the State Department by Mr Seward. I also called to see Mrs John Adams and Miss Elisabeth who is still abiding with her. They were glad to see me, and the former invited me to stay with them, which I gladly accepted from tomorrow morning. Mr Seward had asked the same thing, but I declined, on the ground of the superior claim of my sister in law. In truth life in the midst of the swarm of greed cormorants for place who frequent all the avenues of this Hotel is depressing to the last degree. In the evening I called to see Mr Sumner who was dining out, but he came in soon and we had much conversation on the present state of affairs. He gave me the history of some of the nominations, and of the effect produced upon the foreign ministers by them. Indeed Mr Seward in the morning had chuckled a little upon the effects produced upon the President by his action in the case of Mr Burlingame, in rousing the opposition of M Hülsemann, who had written here a thundering missive to prepare him a chilly reception, at Vienna. This and another little incident connected with Mr Chase convince me of his sense of his own position, and inspire great doubt whether he will remain in the cabinet three months. Mr Sumner then began to talk with me about his situation in connection with the place of the postmaster of Boston. The two candidates Messr Phelps and Pangborn had both beset him with the voluminous petitions and myriads of recommendations. He had named Dr Palfrey, but an objection had been raised in the law requiring residence which for a time had stopped him. He turned to the Statute which did not make it a qualification for appointment, but simply demanded it of the incumbent. Dr P had signified his willingness to remove; so that objection vanished. He then recited his doubts about Pangborn’s honesty, which my experience of him converts with me into something more positive, and his scruples as to the title of Mr 106 Phelps to any such confidence. He had agreed to meet Mr Blair this evening and talk it over, and if there were no other obstacles his inclination to Dr Palfrey would prevail. I did my best strongly to reinforce every one of these ideas, which I think perfectly sound, and then left. Soon after getting to my room at Willard’s, a visit was announced from Mr Phelps. He evidently came to find out which way the land lay. I did not commit to Mr Sumner, though I made no secret of my own desire and of what I hoped from him. He seemed to understand the result, and ended by expressing dissatisfaction with the delay of the decision as likely to preclude him from getting any thing else. Here is his stature visible.

Cite web page as:

Charles Francis Adams, Sr., [date of entry], diary, in Charles Francis Adams, Sr.: The Civil War Diaries (Unverified Transcriptions). Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2015. http://www.masshist.org/publications/cfa-civil-war/view?id=DCA61d087