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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1862

Friday 2d.

2 May 1862

Sunday 4th

4 May 1862
3 May 1862
Saturday 3d.



Cloudy and chilly. We had some American papers which interested us as usual. Mr Cobden came to breakfast with me, to talk of American affairs. He thinks that matters are becoming more and more gloomy here. The pressure is likely to come to its height by July and then I must not be surprised to find Lord Russell on a sudden shift his tone and the government policy. He trusted we might be prepared with some measures of relaxation of the blockade, or an abandonment of it altogether. I represented on my side the difficulty of our situation, the desire we had to reopen the trade, and the confidence we entertained of our power to do so, if not prevented by the assistance given to the rebels from here. A few weeks more would show results. It was now impossible that things should stand still. We must succeed or fail in our principal objects. In either case there would be a probability of a modification of our systems. My own impression was that with Appalachicola, which we already had an Savannah and New Orleans which we hoped to get, the trade so far as cotton was concerned might be reopened. In any event I was puzzled to comprehend what course could be adopted here which would be of any more service. Surely war could not mend it. Mr Cobden suggested the idea of a joint representation of the powers of Europe. I said very well. But what could they represent? They must suggest some plan. What was it to be? Mr Dayton had put it to the Emperor to suggest one, but he got no answer. Where was the basis of a pacification? Who was to dictate it? The South could not go on90 if it consented to the uti possidetis. We on the other hand could not be asked to yield the line of the slave states. Neither party could maintain itself on that basis. It was the failure to comprehend this truth that clouded every European judgment of our affairs. The basis of the difficulty was slavery. That could not remain, for whilst it lasted, there could be no durable peace. How was Europe to meet that question? Was she to being by upholding it against all opposition. A pretty situation, especially for Great Britain! For my part I did not pretend in these difficult times to look forward very far. I hoped and believed that we might still accomplish enough before midsummer at least to obviate all course of remonstrances Mr Cobden acquiesced in this view for the present. His opinion of Lord Russell strikes me a good deal. It is corroborated by that of some others who have known him well. They all speak of him as not to be depended upon in action, and as of very fluctuating and incongruous ratiocination. He certainly has shown it thus far in treating of our question. I cannot make him a great man by any hypothesis. The policy of the government does not seem to me to be at all guided by him. It is rather that of Lord Palmerston, and for that reason not to be trusted by us. Part of the rest of my day spent in paying visits in company with Mrs Adams. In the evening I attended a reception of the President of the royal Society at their rooms in Burlington House. Quite a large assemblage among whom I found some acquaintances. Many things lie about in such a way as to attract attention and to furnish materials for conversation. One of the most curious was a process by which the action of the larynx can be scrutinized whilst in action in the production of sounds. Mr Holmes the agent at the Exhibition, for America, showed me a model of a cotton press, and some specimens of the petroleum, which is becoming such an article of commerce. Having remained an hour, I then joined my son Henry and went on to Lady Palmerston’s. A large assemblage among whom I found many of the Corps Diplomatique, the Speaker and Lady Denison, and a good many others, acquaintances. There is no conversation however at these places. Lord Palmerston91 as usual alluded to American affairs, but remarked that the reports which came from Washington spoke of our army as a very superb one. I replied by saying that the only doubt about ti in my mind grew out of the tastes it might inspire, I had no objection to giving him that hint. We left at about 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=DCA62d123