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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1863

Friday 2d.

2 October 1863

Sunday 4th

4 October 1863
3 October 1863
Saturday 3d.

The investigations respecting the transactions of the man Light still occupy me. But nothing more occurs of a startling character. I now discover only evidence of his neglect of duty and retention of various things which were destined for different individuals. All the family left London at two o’clock for Hastings, where they propose to spend some time. I remain alone to guard the house in its present disorganized state. The Despatches and newspapers from America arrived and absorbed me much. The later reports from Genl Rosecranz give a different color to the battle, making it without essential results. We now must await later intelligence to decide the point. Took a long walk, going about paying bills myself as that is the only safe way. In the evening a visit from Mr George Harrington who is just out in the Scotia from America and who brought me two confidential Despatches from the government. He explained to me the circumstances attending this last news.474 It seems that Mr Dana of the Tribune who is now talked of as taking a post in the War Department, and is in the Western country sent a telegram to the President on the 20th announcing the total defect of Rosecranz. His distress at this I might imagine. Four hours later Mr Dana sent another rectifying the first; but the impression had been made, and was not fairly corrected until Rosecranz’s own message of the 21st came to assure him of his safety at Chattanooga, and his ability to hold the position until reinforced. Mr Harrington had himself seen that message. We then talked a good deal about public affairs. He had come out by the direction of his physicians, who were greatly apprehensive of the effect of overwork upon his brain. The excitement attending this struggle has had this result with several of the government Officers. After he went, I read my Despatches. Only one of them was important. And that is in a high degree curious as connected with the history of the stoppage of the iron clad vessels. Lord Russell’s note to me announcing the decision of the government to be to permit them to go was dated on the 1st of September, but did not reach me until four o’clock of the 4th. I had written a strong note on the 3rd and a protest on the 4th, before receiving it. In consequence I wrote another and a still more stringent one on the 5th going as far as I dared in signifying the consequences that might ensue even to the taking up my connections. My note had been gone perhaps an hour, when I received a brief note saying that the subject was still under the anxious and earnest consideration of the government. This is the picture as it appears on the English side of the canvass. Now comes the American side. A memorandum is sent to me of the substance of a conversation with Mr Stuart, the Secretary of Lord Lyons, held immediately after the arrival of the Steamer which sailed on the 5.th the very day in question. Mr Stuart tells Mr Seward that an order had been sent on the 5th to stop the Steamers, and that it was done prior to the receipt of my note of the 5th . Now we know that that note actually was crossing the other note which announced that the subject was yet under anxious and earnest consideration. We also know that whilst in the name of475 Lord Russell it could not have been written by him, for he had never stirred from Scotland. Both that note and the later decision must have come from Lord Palmerston who was here. My conclusion is that the decision was taken after the reception of my letter of the 5th, and in consequence of its tone. But Lord Palmerston anxious to cut off any such inference waited until the next Tuesday to announce the decision to me here, whilst he sent to Lord Lyons a direction confidentially to notify Mr Seward of the decision, by that very steamer, because “he might have received by it different and more alarming intelligence” In other words he alludes the language of my note of the 5th to Lord Russell which refers the whole case back to my government for instructions. It was to anticipate the effect of this at Washington that he made the decision, and communicated it at once, not to me, as was most proper under any other circumstances than the presence of my letter, but to Washington. With a man of Lord Palmerston’s character there was one single word in my note of the 5th, which must have jarred on his pride as an Englishman most severely. That word was “impotence” as applied to the British government. May it not be that he meant to prove that word falsely used by men, and hence assumed the responsibility of action in the absence of Lord Russell? I scarcely dare to flatter myself that I actually saved the peace of the two nations in this critical moment, yet it looks a good deal like it. My note left this house soon after two o’clock P.M. Lord Russell’s was here at about 3 P.M. How long could “the anxious and earnest consideration” have continued before my note arrived? Yet if it did arrive before it ceased, was it not of great importance to Lord Palmerston and the pride of the British people that no such inference of intimidation should be drawn. Hence all this round about way of doing the thing by confidential assurance to Mr Seward so as to stave off all danger of implications from failing to give me the same information. Verily, his Lordship is an acute manager. I spent an hour or more looking over the pages of Mr Phillimore’s book on International law.476

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=DCA63d276