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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1862

Thursday 6th

6 February 1862

Saturday 8th

8 February 1862
7 February 1862
Friday 7th



Cold and dry. Much interested in the debate in both houses on the address. The testimonials to the Prince were eloquent and discriminating. On America the declarations made by the leaders of both sides in both Houses seem to indicate fair weather. I think that the proper action on our side is all that is wanted to settle it. Lord Russell and Mr D’Israeli acquitted themselves very honorable towards us. The latter surprised me most. A visit from Captain Britton who came to speak of the conduct of Captain Craven of the Tuscarora, which he could not comprehend. His last movements especially at Portland and at Cours by which he got himself fastened, so that the Nashville could start ahead of her, and gain the twenty four hours. I said what surprised me most was his letter to me from Portland on the 2d abandoning the chase before it was beginning. This only adds one more to the list of navy blunders during this war. Mr Forster came in too and we talked of the state of things. He was anxious for materials to use in case of need. I could give him but little. He said Mr Gregory disarmed the idea of any proposal for emancipation from the rebels. The rest of my day writing letters and dispatches. Walk. In the evening I went to Sir Henry Holland’s by invitation to take coffee after which he took me with him to the Lecture of the royal Institution. I went into the Library and there me with Sir Charles Lyell, Prof. Faraday, Munchton Milnes, Mr Delarne and others whom I knew. The Lecture room was very full. Sir Henry took the chair, and put Cardinal Wiseman23 on his right and myself on his left. The lecture was by Professor J H Huxley, on the fossil remains of man. His manner simple, unaffected and clear. He began by a general exposition of the varieties of the crania of men, illustrated by the length and the breadth of specimens before him. From this he passed to the antiquity of the race, which he maintained to be greater than heret`ofore supposed. His deduction was drawn in a curious way from the remains of early instruments, made of copper, of iron and of stone. In one part of Norway I think a place had been found where the deposites upon a bed of peat showed the succession of forests in decay one over the other, of pine, of oak and of beech. In each case the relics proved the size and age of the trees to have been great. The length of time necessary for the development of such processes could only be inferred. But the most remarkable part of this phenomenon remained to be told. In each layer of this series was found a different set of tools—one of iron one of copper and the lowest of all of stone. This was then the oldest form of mechanical instrument known. But there were no bones. In order to find these, he turned to some new discoveries on the continent which had produced two fossil skulls of man, casts of which he exhibited. One showed the lowest stage of intelligence, nearest approaching the ape, whilst the other would pass a tolerable average of the present day. On a comparison of these with each other he at first inferred a difference of genus, but on examining some skulls of Australians of the present age, perhaps the least mixed race now known on earth he discovered quiet as great a diversity among them. The inference left to be drawn was rather in favor of the unity of the race. But at the same time the lecturer decidedly affirmed the coexistence of man with that of the great primal and now extinct animals which have heretofore been supposed to precede him. The lecture was interesting and in parts very new to me. But I am not quite prepared to jump into this new belief on the sole evidence of two ancient skulls. This company is perhaps the most intellectual and scientific in this kingdom. Walked home.24

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=DCA62d038