A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1861

Monday 11th

11 November 1861

Wednesday 13th

13 November 1861
12 November 1861
Tuesday 12th

A thick fog and rain so that we breakfasted by lamplight, and did not extinguish it until near noon. I received a familiar note from Lord Palmerston asking me to call at his house and see him between one and two o’clock. This took me by surprise, and I speculated on the cause for some time without any satisfaction. At one o’clock I drove from my house over to his, Cambridge House in Piccadilly. In a few minutes he saw me. His reception was very cordial and frank. He said he had been made anxious by a notice that a United States armed Vessel had lately put in to Southampton to get coal and supplies. It had been intimated to him that the object was to intercept the two men, Mess Slidell and Mason, who were understood to be aboard the British West India Steamer expected to arrive tomorrow or next day. He had been informed that the Captain, having got gloriously drunk on brandy on Sunday had dropped down to the mouth of the river yesterday as if on the watch. He did not pretend to judge absolutely of the question whether we had a right to stop a foreign vessel for such a purpose as was indicated. Even admitting that we might claim it, it was yet very doubtful whether the exercise of it in this way could lead to any good. The effect of it here would be unfavorable, as it would seem as if the vessel had come in here to be filled with coal and supplies, and the Captain had enjoyed the hospitality of the country in filing his stomach with brandy, only to rush out of the harbor and commit violence upon their flag. Neither did the object to be gained seem commensurate with the risk. For it was surely of no consequence whether one or two more men were added to the two or three who already been so long here. They would scarcely make a difference in the action of the government after once having made up its mind. He was then going on to another question, when I asked leave to interrupt so far as to reply on this point. I would first venture to ask him if he would enlighten me as to the sources of information upon which he imputed the intention of Captain Marchand to take such a step. His Lordship answered that he had no position information, but that his belief rested on inferences of the motion for sending the vessel so far, and the coincidence in her time of departure. To this I remarked that279 Captain Marchand had been to see me, and had shown me the instructions under which he sailed. The object of the government had been, upon receiving information that the Steamer Nashville from Charleston had succeeded in breaking the blockade and was proceeding with these men on a voyage to Europe, to despatch vessels in several directions with the design of intercepting and capturing her. I presumed that no objection could exist to such a proceeding on our part. His Lordship assented, though he did not seem to have heard of the Nashville or to understand its destination. I then said that he James Adger had been sent in this direction, but finding no news of the Nashville and learning that the two emissaries had stopped at the West Indies, Captain Marchand had written to me his intention to return to the United States. I would however remark that I had urged him to follow up a steamer called the gladiator which had been fitted up and depatched from London with contraband of war for the insurgents. Though sailing under British colour I advised him to seize her on the first symptom of destination to a harbor in the United States. His Lordship did not deny my right, but he intimated that the proof ought to be well established. I said that my government had no desire to open questions with this country. On the contrary I think they would do all in their power to avoid them. But I could not deny that these proceedings in England were excessively annoying, and that there would spring up a strong desire to arrest them as decisively as possible. His Lordship then passed to the case of Mr Bunch, the consul at Charleston. He had been informed that the United States government had decided to revoke his exequetur, which he thought was much to be regretted. As it could be of very little consequence whether he were there or not so long as the place was not in our possession. The effect therefore was simply irritating, which in the precise condition of opinion here was unfortunate. To this I replied that I had no notice of any such intention, and asked him if he would give me his reason for supposing it to exist. He said that Mr Hammond of the Foreign Office had told him so. I rejoined, admitting the validity of the source, but at the same time expressing surprise, for that I had received a despatch by the last Steamer on the very subject of Mr 280 Bunch, and the seizure of his bag, which I proposed to communicate tomorrow to Lord Russell, as in the best spirit towards Her Majesty’s government. His Lordship said he supposed there must be some mistake. We then passed into more general conversation, in the course of which I ventured to ask if it was to be presumed that the governments of France and Great Britain were acting in concert in regard to the United States. He said, Yes. I then mentioned my having received in my latest despatch notice that M Mercier had apprised my government that the French stood in need of cotton. Was I to understand that this was in concert too? His Lordship said that he was aware of the French government having directed a suggestion to be made, that it would be glad to have cotton, but it was nothing more, and Lord Lyons had not any direction to join in it. I replied that I so understood it, but that I could not but regret such steps as they formed the only foundation upon which the insurgents rested their hopes of success, Mr Yancey in his speech at fishmongers dinners had sufficiently expressed it, but in point of fact I had reason to know that he had and his associates had been indefatigable in their representations of the certainty of interference in their behalf. It was this view of the subject which created the irritation in the United States. If we could be left entirely to ourselves the issue would not be long doubtful. To this his Lordship made the common remark among his countryman that we might perhaps coerce and subdue them, but hat would not be restoring the union. I answered that such was not our desire. What we expected to do was to give them an opportunity for making an unbiassed decision. We believed that this was a conspiracy which had blown up a great rebellion. A short time would test the sense of the whole community. If the presence of a force adequate to protection did not develope a counter movement to return to the Union, I did not believe that pure coercion would be persevered in. I did not however add my conviction that slavery as a political cleaver must be completely expunged before there can be any hope of permanent peace. I then took my leave and returned home. The remainder of the day was passed quietly,281 In the evening Mrs Adams and I attended by invitation at Baron Brunnow’s the Russian Minister, at a small gathering of the corps Diplomatique to meet the Grand Duke Constantine and the Grand Duchess. Lord and Lady Palmerston, Sir George Grey, Mr Gladstone and Lord Granville of the Ministry— Count Flahaut, his Wife and daughter, the Countess Apponye were all the heads of legations. I forget M Bille. I heard much of my speech which has evidently given me footing here, and conciliated the English. Sir Roderick Murchison seemed to be the only unofficial person I saw. In due course I was presented to the Grand Duke, a young palefaced man of 34, quite delicate in frame and using glasses. He asked me some questions about America, mentioned the great desire of many Russian Officers to take a part in the war, and the sympathy felt for us. I alluded to my interest in Russia from my having been almost born there—and he bowed. The Grand Duchess is rather pretty but very white and delicate. She spoke only a few minutes on the weather &c. Soon afterwards we left and got home before midnight.

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=DCA61d316