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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1863

Tuesday 29th

29 December 1863

Thursday 31st

31 December 1863
30 December 1863
Wednesday 30th

My solitary life is hardly diversified enough just now to elicit much recording. I received a letter from my son John on business mattes the reverse of cheerful. I fear that he has assumed a task to which he is not suited. Not one of my children has the faculty of dealing with money questions which has carried me so safely thus far in life. John has every disposition to labor that I can desire. But this is the second time in three years that he finds himself in difficulties from errors in foresight. I wrote a reply at once, and also some letters to other persons which Henry came in from Walton very opportunity to copy. He went back to dinner. I had a visit from Mr Scott Russell who came to signify confidentially to me that if two of the largest sized guns of Sir William Armstrong’s make were wanted, they could perhaps be had. I said that I could not act in the matter, but I would put him in communication with Col’ Ritchie who might perhaps arrange the matter. After this was arranged Mr Russel entered into the matter of our affairs, and expressed his strong interest in the arrival at some form of settlement. He said that he was well acquainted with excellent men of each side, who were in the habit of meeting on Sundays at his531 house in the country as on common ground. There they talked constantly and freely on the practicability of a settlement. He asked me whether I though there was any such feeling of hate among the population of the North as to render reconciliation out of the question. I replied that so far from it the main thing to be apprehended from any opening of the kind would be too eager a rush towards it. The great point to gain by the war was emancipation. It would not be wise to approach the question of restorative until that was put out of doubt. Mr Russell remarked that the condition of affairs was so dreadful in the south, and was viewed as so desperate, that he had good reason for supposing some disposition to exist favorable to some graduated form of emancipation. If that was so, I replied that the greatest obstacle to reconciliation was in the way of removal. I think I could answer for all the rest. Our people, nine tenths of them had no passion in the matter. They would hail a restoration with enthusiasm. Mr Russell asked my opinion of the probable way that it could be initiated. I said by the people acting in the States to overrule their leaders, at Richmond. He intimated the leaders would not be averse to act themselves. The lesson had been frightfully severe and most of them felt themselves subdues by it. I answered that I could not see any safe way of dealing with the quasi government. To recognize it would be a most dangerous precedent. We could see no legitimate source of power there. The case was otherwise with the States. Through the distinctive organizations something might be done. He repeated that the central power was well inclined. He intimated that he had better means of knowing the actual state of things there than he though I could have. To the world, they still held up a bold front, but within was despair. Whom he could refer to as giving him this information I can only vaguely conjecture. His affinities would lead him among the tribe of military and naval agents like Bullock, Sinclair, Maury, Huse and the rest. Be this as it may, the conversation which extended to many other details too long to set down is not without a certain share of interest. It discloses symptoms of that state of mind532 which if once arrived at among the Southern people would speedily bring on a complete prostration. Unless some extraordinary piece of good fortune should intervene their combination will suffer shipwreck even before it will be quite for an advantage to have it. For on many accounts it would be better for us to pass well through the Presidential election before grappling with the difficulties of restoration. After all the course of events is in higher hands than ours. Thus far they have gone not as we expected or hoped, but still showing us that our wisdom is but vanity in the face of the Divine dispensation. Let us continue to work according to our best light, and pray the blessing of the Lord on the issue. Towards dusk I took my usual walk, calling on my way upon Col Ritchie to tell him about the offer of the guns and to ask him to see Mr Russell. He agreed to do so. Quiet evening above at home, reading Mr Hunt’s London.

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=DCA63d364