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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1862

Thursday 8th

8 May 1862

Saturday 10th

10 May 1862
9 May 1862
Friday 9th



I spent the morning writing my private letters home. I make it a rule to write every week to my sons, to me on business, and to the other, to remind him of our recollection This does not leave much leisure for any other correspondence. At half past two o’clock I drove to the Foreign office to meet Lord Russell on a conference which I had solicited. I began by mentioning a despatch from Mr Seward in regard to the plan of capitalizing the Scheld dues proposed by Belgium. I had been directed to ask information on the subject, and to express a disposition to acquiesce in any arrangement which might be regarded here as worth the while to enter into. His Lordship said that it had indeed been the subject of negotiation in connection with a commercial Treaty with Belgium; but that England96 did not feel much interest in it, and thus far nothing had been done should any action be taken, he would let me know. This subject being disposed of I then proceeded to speak of the old question agitated at our last conference. I said that M Seward had written me further instructions to press the withdrawal of recognition of belligerent rights. I had already presented the argument so fully that it seemed to me superfluous to repeat it. My best way seemed to be, if His Lordship would permit it, to read the very words of his paper. He assented, and I read to him nearly the whole of the paper. His Lordship observed that he should not enter into any question as to the correctness of the representations offered in that document. Admitting all its positions, the fact yet remained that neither New Orleans, nor Savannah nor Charleston was yet in our hands, and such being the case the British government saw no sufficient reason for revoking its policy. I replied by saying that I had expected no other answer. I regretted it very much. My own opinion always had ben that if we were left to ourselves the issue of the struggle could scarcely admit of doubt. In my anxieties for the future I was looking far beyond that. My disposition was very friendly to Great Britain, but could not pretend to disguise the fact that the feeling among my countrymen towards it had become excessively embittered by the series of events that had taken place, and I was persuaded if some act was not due before the close of the struggle that looked like goodwill on its part that the seeds would be completely sown of a bitter and poisoned fruit for after times. His Lordship observed that this was not a now thing in America. There had always been the same spirit manifested ever since we had been a government. It had been so constantly, with the exception perhaps of the year of the Prince of Wales’s visit. Even Mr Everett of whom better things might be expected never lost an occasion to say some sharp thing. The fault lay with the great body of the people of America and not with the English.97 To which I rejoined by saying there was another side of the question. This feeling must have had a cause, All I could object might be presented in convection with my own family experience. After the Revolutionary war, my grandfather had been sent to this point as minister. He came disposed to be friendly, and known to be quite prejudiced against the French— So much so, indeed, that the King, George the third, had, as I thought, rather outstepped the propriety’s of his position, during the audience of presentation in referring to it. Mr Pitt had been indeed disposed to adopt a policy that would have made us more dependent on England than we ever had been in our colonial condition through our commercial relations, but the doctrines of Lord Sheffield’s pamphlet were preferred. The consequence was alienation, and ultimately war. Next, came my father, well inclined to reestablish the relations of the two countries on a most amicable footing. Instead of entering into the spirit of the overture the policy adopted was repulsion, which materially affect his whole subsequent action as a public man towards Great Britain. And now I had come here with the most anxious desire to preserve the peace and amity which ought to prevail. I wished to preserve in the purpose after my return. But it would be impossible if I were not furnished with the means through the manifestation of some good dispositions of Lord Landsdowne to witness the reception of the Japanese, so that I had to take my leave. Lord Russell ended by saying that we should resume the conversation at some other time. I was not sorry that it stopped just so. He invited Mrs Adams and myself to go out to Pembroke Lodge to luncheon which I accepted. I immediately returned home and completed the despatch of letters and papers for the bag. We dined at home very quietly with no guests but Mr and Miss Weed. They had been to the Exhibition and come back naturally much fatigued. Mr Weed is anxious about the course of France, which is undoubtedly ambiguous.98

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=DCA62d129