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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1864

Monday 11th

11 January 1864

Wednesday 13th

13 January 1864
12 January 1864
Tuesday 12th

Up an hour earlier for the convenience of Mrs Adams and Mary, who were to start at a quarter to ten for Paris. This season ever since the beginning of August has been remarkable for the mobility of the family. They have been at home about eight weeks in six months. I am reconciled to it because it gives them health and pleasure, in a foreign land in which there are not many attractions in residence. My duty however is residence in London. I have already varied from it as much as I think proper. After they had gone, I had a succession of visits of long duration. Mr Dudley from Liverpool came first. He brought with him some papers which he gave me for use with Lord Russell. He talked of the policy of the government with his usual nervous distrust. He has no confidence in any thing. This is partly owing to his situation in such a place as Liverpool, and partly to his temperament. I did my best to encourage him. Next came Mr Morse who brought the account at last for the prosecution against the forgers of the government notes. I paid over the balance due and thus disposed of that business. He stayed talking of other things a good deal. Next came Mr Evarts who sat for two hours going over all the events of the last autumn connected with the policy of Great Britain. I explained to him the narrow escape in September, and the change of tone ever since. Whilst he was here Col’ Ritchie come in and brought his estimates of the amount that would be required for the purchase of the Armstrong cannon. I agreed to them, and he proposed to draw up a letter to Messr Baring & Co for their information, and shew it to me tomorrow. He thought he would go back to America as nothing more could be done here, and he could make the whole affair far more clear to authorities at home. I thought he might. All this left me without time to perfect a note to Lord Russell require a good deal of care. Just as I was stepping out of my front door, on my customary543 walk at dusk, Mr Scott Russell came in. Finding me going out he said he should prefer to join me in my walk. Recurring at once to our conversation of the 30th of last month, he said his object was to talk further with me on the same subject. He began by telling me that he was in a position to know the mind of Mr Jefferson Davis as well as I might be likely to know that of President Lincoln. He had come to find out from me whether there would be any probability of arriving at some settlement, if terms could be made on the main points of difficulty. He addressed himself to me because, from what I had said before, he had been led to suppose that like himself I was not insisting upon subjection which would never bring about union, but sought a reconciliation which could only come from agreement. In order to arrive at that, it was necessary to test opinion about details on other subjects than the Slavery question. Assuming that he was prepared to propose on that, certain terms, was I in a situation to represent the opinion of the government on other matters; for instance in the disposal to be made of the southern debt? I replied, by no means. The possibility of a negotiation was an idea just opening on my mind. I had never gone beyond the notion that emancipation was to be the sine quä non of any pacification. On the secondary question of money I not only had no conception of what was thought at Washington, but I had formed no opinion of my own. Yet, said he, you must see that to the confederates who have embarked their all in their cause, it is a serious consideration, if they are to lose as well their remaining property as their slaves. The alternative is utter destruction. He presumed I did not want that. Could I not give my own views of the probability of doing something here? I answered that I could only speak vaguely from my impression of the substance of Mr Menninger’s last report. On one point I was already very clear. To treat concerning the immense mass of depreciated paper now afloat in the Souther States would be entirely out of the question. It was not worth more than five cents in the dollar. The recovery of any of it seemed to me as desperate as it had been in the case of the continental issues in the American Revolution. The case might admit of more question as relating to the funded debt. I would not affirm that544 this would be equally beyond the pale of negotiation, thought I could as little vouch that it would not. He asked me if after looking at Mr Menninger’s report I should not be able to go farther. I said, I would look at it, but after all this must be a purely tentative process. I did not know any thing at all of the opinions of the government on the matter. I desired it to be understood that I did not even undertake to assume that it would listen to any negotiation at all with the authorities at Richmond. I should have to begin by sounding them on that point. Here it was that the slave question became paramount. Could any thing be done about that? He though it was possible, but not through immediate emancipation. That was regarded as in no way practical or expedient. Mr Russell then alluded to the manner in which he remembered the thing to have been brought about in the West Indies. It was by intermediate steps. He was prepared to suggest such. For example, a complete prohibition of the right to alienate slaves by purchase. I admitted that if faithfully executed this might be effectual in part. But it should be associated with the specification of some date, after which all children should be free from birth. He assented to this amendment. Upon which I remarked that the admission of two such principles might indeed from the basics of some ultimate agreement on that point. If not precisely what was desirable, it might lead to something that would be. With such a departure I did not know but what the experiment of a negotiation might be worth beginning . Assuming this to be so, Mr Russell next desired to know by what means I thought it could be initiated. He felt afraid of committing the friends for whom had ventured to act, to their own injury if nothing should come of it. His object was peace and reconciliation between parties to both of whom he was friendly. I replied that I knew of only one road, and that a slow one to travel. I must begin by enquiring of my government whether it was disposed to take the first step. I saw many difficulties and obstacles in the way of any recognition of the authority at Richmond. But no man desired the restoration of peace and harmony more than I. The war had always been deplored as the offspring of the insanity of those parties who were now suffering most545 severely from the consequences. I had never felt vindictive even under the greatest provocations from the slaughter of so many innocent and excellent parties to the war. If any opening however small could be made towards a cessation of it I should not decline to try at a beginning. Mr R said that if the principles could one be mutually agreed on, he would take the responsibility of sending a special messenger to Richmond, and he hoped an armistice might follow, during which the details if the arrangement might be perfected. I replied that this seemed like looking a long way ahead. I yet stuck at the beginning. Mr R then sounded the possibility, or the expediency of reciting to the friendly mediation of any of the Foreign powers at some stage or other, to facilitate the work. To which I again remarked that I could not travel so fast. All that I could promise now was to put out a feeler at Washington. I should do so by reporting the substance of this conversation, without implicating him by name, or any body whom he might represent. I disclaimed any intention or wish to take an ungenerous advantage of such an overture; neither did I believe that the government would think of it. I had avoided asking him any questions purposely. In case nothing came of, the whole of our conferences might then be as if they had never taken place. Mr R then asked how long it would be before I could get a reply to my enquiry. I said about five weeks was the nearest interval. We then separated at the South end of Portland place. We had been all the time walking in the dark either there or in the Regent’s Park as far as York Gate and back. I have recorded this conversation thus fully because I consider it very curious if not important. Who it is that prompts Mr Russell is the question? Just yet, I do not care to solve it. I went home and had to dinner Mr Dudley, Mr Evarts and his son, a boy of about the age of Brooks, whom he has brought out with him. The conversation mainly turned upon the alleged predilections of the English to the Slaveholders. Mr Dudley who lives in the best, who lives in the hot bed of succession at Liverpool sees every body elsewhere the same colour. I am thankful that my temperament sans me from such visions. They left me towards ten o’clock.546

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=DCA64d012