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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1862

Thursday 12th

12 May 1862

Saturday 14th

14 May 1862
13 May 1862
Friday 13th



I re-examined the form of my note this morning, modified it, and sent it. At the same time I sent a note to Lord Russell requesting an interview at as early a moment as possible. My day was busily spent in writing to Mr Seward a confidential account of this extraordinary proceeding, and likewise some private letters on general topics. By half past two I got an answer from his Lordship offering to see me at once, and I went off123 immediately to the Foreign office. In the antiroom I met with Baron Brunnow the Russian Minister, and had some talk with him. He said he had come to enquire of the Secretary whether here was any foundation for the newspaper rumors of intervention in our affairs. He himself had no belief in them. I spoke of the arrival of Mr Persigny. He said that Mr Persigny would not be selected to do such a duty in preference to Count Flahault who was in all respects more acceptable to this government. He then talked of diplomacy as the art of gaining time, alluded to his service experiences here prior to the breaking out of the war in the Guinea, and expressed the opinion that if Lord Palmerston had been the Minster instead of Lord Aberdeen there would have been no war. The English mode of treating Minsters was sometimes like slow martyrdom. He then cited two instances, one of them Portuguese, the other Neapolitan. They had no sensibility themselves, and hence could not understand it in others. He thought well of Lord Palmerston because he could depend upon what he said. “Maís cet homme a la peau dure comme un rhinocère.” I answered that I was glad to hear him say this as my impressions had been otherwise. I did not however disclose to him how much my present position was involved in his observations. Mr Moreira and Count Flahault also came in. In the midst of an interesting anecdote about Lord Aberdeen which Brunnow was telling I was called upstairs. I began at once by saying to Lord Russell that i had now come under a state of the greatest possible embarrassment. Heretofore in all the difficulties which had encompassed my path during this mission I had seen my way clearly enough. Now the case was different. I had tried steadily to do my duty but at the same time to preserve all the relations of courtesy possible towards Her Majesty’s ministers. And down to this time I had thought that there had ben a corresponding disposition towards myself. Lord Russell interposed and said he had several times so signified in his correspondence with Lord Lyons— I then observed that he might perhaps comprehend my astonishment at receiving yesterday from Lord Palmerston the note which I put into his hands. Though marked “confidential” I124 could not for a moment imagine that Lord Palmerston would seek any concealment from him. His Lordship read the note, and then remarked that with the exception of the last paragraph, the sentiment was his, and that of pretty much every one here. I replied that whatever that sentiment might be it was no affair of mine when not addressed to me. But I held this act to be entirely unprecedented. It had placed me in the greatest possible embarrassment. At first I had though of letting it drop in silence. But on reflection it appeared to me that should any hit get abroad that I had ever received such a letter and let it pass there would be no end to the just condemnation of my conduct in my own country. I had sent an answer to his Lordship and then gave the substance of it. He asked if I had a copy with me to which I replied in the negative, but gave very readily the words. His Lordship said that this was all new to him, and of course he could say nothing until he had seen Lord Palmerston. He hoped I would take no action further until after that. I said that I had no disposition to do so. We then fell into some talk about General Butler and his act. I said that the construction put upon it here was only one example of the general tendency to prejudge us adversely. I had no idea that the true one was more than to threaten violent women with the same punishment commonly administered in New Orleans to prostitutes. And it was not yet known what the view of the government was even of that version. His Lordship said that ministers would be questioned on the subject in both Houses today, and they could be expected to reply. I observed that my anxiety was only for my relations which were not liable to be affected by what is said in Parliament. We then parted and I returned rapidly home for the purpose of reporting the conference at once to Washington in season to go by the bag. We were at work until six o’clock before we completed all the papers. Quiet evening. Mr Lampson came in for a moment.125

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=DCA62d164