A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1862

Monday 2d.

2 June 1862

Wednesday 4th

4 June 1862
3 June 1862
Tuesday 3d.

Mr Parkes came in for a moment and then one or two other persons, after which I went down to Messr Sotheby’s to look at a collection of coins to be sold this week. On my way back I called to see M. Hulseman, the Austrian minister at Washington, at Long’s, but I could not find him there. At home I found Mr Charles Hale on his return from Egypt. There was a general impression abroad that a political crisis might occur this evening in the House of Commons, so that Sir Henry Verney who called in my absence left a message urging me to attend. As a consequence I went at five o’clock. The question was a purely financial abstraction proposed by one of the liberal side in obedience to what is considered as the growing demand for economy. Taking advantage of this defection from the side of the Minster, the opposition have proposed a game of tactics adapted to the opportunity he himself furnished them. For he proposed an amendment which was tantamount to a vote of confidence. For this they prepared a substitute affirming in a very indirect way a retrenching policy. In the exact state of the house this might concentrate a large majority and thus expel the minister. When we got there the debate had commenced and the crowded state of the House indicated the expectations of all sides. Mr Walpole who had been charged with the duty of pushing the amendment had however already intimated an unwillingness to press it which had damped the ardour of opposition. The debate was commenced by Mr Stansfeld, the mover of the resolution, who made a handsome speech, but one which indicated rather a desire to set himself right than to arrive at any object. He has followed by Mr Baxter, the seconder, who argued the details of retrenchment. Lord Palmerston came next with one of his characteristic speeches, of parrying attack by retort, ad hominem, and replying to specific rather than general arguments. Lord Palmerston116 is not a great man, in any sense of the word. His intellect is acute in details, but has neither breadth nor generalization. His ambition is to rule as an English minister purely to please the English nation. Hence he has no system, but stories so far as he can to adapt himself to the prevailing feeling. Hence it is that his cabinet represents no one idea. It is a bundle of arrows of discord tied up by a common band of Office and a common repulsion of the other side. This incongruous mixture would not endure for an hour, if the opposition were any better assimilated. It is here that the Minister has his advantage as was shown tonight. Mr D’Israeli replied to him with great force and effect. But it was plain that he was leading a party reluctant to follow. He is a man put in the lead of conservatives becase the necessities of their position require it. They have no adequate ability elsewhere. But they enter into no sympathy even with his most effective strokes. It was plain from his close that Mr Walpole, frightened by the prospect of success had determined to retire from the field, so that the prize was to be abandoned, even when in his grasp. Mr Horsman followed in a brilliant speech reviewing with laudation the foreign policy of the minister and venting all his spite at the minister of finance, and the school of Mr Cobden. Mr Cobden replied in an exceedingly sharp and trenchant manner. Then a division took place on the original notion, which carried only sixty five being the pure liberal strength. Mr Walpole withdrew his amendment and the storm was over. Lord Palmerston’s amendment was carried without a division, and the prospects of the Tories dissolve into distant futurity. Never did so formidable and opening decline into a more contemptible end. The secret of this is not yet open to me. On the whole I am rather disposed to regret this result. A change of Ministry or a dissolution might have diverted attention from American affairs, and enabled us to prosecute our objects to completion without so much of moral resistance on this side. Still I am satisfied with the appearance of weakness in this ministry, which certainly fared ill the debate.117

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=DCA62d154