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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1861

Friday 8th

8 November 1861

Sunday 10th

10 November 1861
9 November 1861
Saturday 9th

This is the day of the Lord Mayor of London. He enters on his annual term of Office with much of the ceremonial handed down from the middle ages. Among other incidents is the public dinner at Guildhall, to which it is the custom to invite the princes of the royal family, the ministers of State, the Judiciary, the foreign ministers, and all the city authorities with a great multitude of strangers. It is usual to announce toasts and responses are expected from some of the respective bodies. For this reason the Diplomats commonly show the occasion. I accepted the invitation because it seemed to me prudent just at this moment of doubt in the feelings of England that America should274 not appear to decline civility. And yet I feared that the habitual secession of my seniors in the corps might leave to me the task of making the speech. In order that I might not be taken by surprise I spent much of the morning in meditating what I could say. As to writing I found this impossible. At noon I had a visit from Sir Henry Holland who assured me that Count Flahaut was to be present and hence that I might be easy on that score. So that I ceased to worry about it. But yet the possibility that I might fall into it by accident seemed to prevent me from being able to do any thing else. I had a visit from Mr Guttierez, the minister from Honduras, quite a sensible man, who came to make some enquiry about this matter. He is been to Rome to get an interdict taken off from his country, in which he says he has succeeded. He thinks the papal power yet too strong for the policy of Napoleon. Italy must go on as she can without a capital, and with an intriguing Hierarchy in her bosom to undo all she may strive to accomplish. The popular feeling is impatient and may precipitate a war with Austria that will involve all Europe. I do not say that I wish it, for that would be too selfish and cruel, but I do hope that it may keep so close on the verge of it as to draw away the attention of great powers from our side of the Atlantic. At half past five I put on my gewgaws and drove down to Guild hall. The rooms were already full and I marched through a narrow lane between people crowded together, until I was presented to the Lord Mayor, an old and rather vulgar looking man dressed up in red cloth and gold lace with plenty of gold chain hanging around his neck. His daughter received as Lady Mayness, a rather pretty, modest girl. For about an hour people continued to come in, the reception of each of whom was hailed by the spectators with more or less applause according to their rank and popularity. The Judges came in with their grotesque wigs and flaming red robes. The military and naval Officers in their uniforms. The ministers in court dress and the city authorities in quaint and antiquated garb. Last of all came the Duke275 of Cambridge, who was received with applause, and Lord and Lady Palmerston who had most of all. Then came the movement to the dinner table which was adroitly done. The body of the guests quietly and gradually drew off to take the seats assigned them at the respective tables as marked on their cards. The Dignitaries were left, who marched in procession around the hall and took seats last at the head table. Mine fell next to Sir George Gray to whom luckily I had been presented last Season. I do not descant on the dinner. It was lavish in abundance and good in quality. But there were nearly twelve hundred guests! It turned out just as I had anticipated. Count Flahaut had declined to come, and my only senior present Mr Billé of Denmark begged of me to make the speech. Though not fully prepared I determined to risk the plunge. I though by possibility a word from me to the people of England would do my country good. So much effort is studiously made to prejudice the popular mind that possibly the manifestations of kindness might help to counteract it. The Mayor’s introduction was in an excellent spirit though he alluded to our difficulties in a rather embarrassing way if he expected me to reply to him. I preferred to avoid it. So I descanted on the uses of diplomacy to perpetuate peace. I spoke fifteen minutes and was heard very imperfectly. But what I saw was very well received. And the reporters for the newspapers came immediately to me to get a copy of my remarks for the observe the Times and the Herald. I had not written them. But I agreed to write them out for the latter papers tomorrow. It was clear that they had given up the attempt to report, when the end convinced them of the expediency of making up the void. I have more doubt of the effect on the other side of the Atlantic, where the wretched vacillation of some of the leading men has justly caused surprise and indignation. I must risk something there. Be this as it may, my mind was greatly relieved at least by the attempt to avail of the opportunity. If I have done no good, at least I may hope that I have done no harm. The feast went on for276 some time, the only marking speech being one from Lord Palmerston which had his customary shrewdness. He touched gently on our difficulties and at the same time gave it clearly to be understood that there was to be interference for the sake of cotton. At about half past ten, so many had left the table that I ventured to take my departure. I got home at eleven and spent an hour in writing out less than half of what I had said.

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=DCA61d313