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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1864

Sunday 31st

31 January 1864

Tuesday 2d.

2 February 1864
1 February 1864
Monday 1st



The American mail by the Africa came in this morning and brought letters from John and Charles, not very encouraging to our hopes of seeing the latter. Yet he still persists in the belief that he shall get his leave and come away. I confess to my great doubt whether it will be practicable, and make up my mind not to expect it. The newspapers continue to give large extracts from the Southern press showing an extremely desperate state of things there. It would seem as if the question of their ability to continue large armies in the field were involved. Whilst in the midst of this perusal, Mr Scott Russell was announced. He came to report what was the decision of the Elswick Company as to the terms of payment. They had agreed to stand by the original contract. From this he soon launched into the other subject which had been so fully discussed on our former meeting on the 12th of last month. He asked me whether I had thought more of the pecuniary question then brought to my notice. I said, Yes. I had read Mr Menninger’s report. It had not however materially varied from my notion of it then expressed. With respect to the great mass of the floating paper which had become depreciated to nothing, it was out of the question to consider it a moment. There was however a funded debt amounting to perhaps four hundred millions, which might be made an exception, not if regarded as a debt made to carry on a rebellion, but in connection with the project of emancipation. That which could not be conceded in the one case, might be admitted in the other. And as it was much likely that the whole of this fund was the contribution of the slaveholders, the assumption of it might be the means of saving to them something from the general wreck. On his part Mr Russell said he had been striving to do something by way of advancing results. In answer to some preliminary remarks of mine upon the embarrassment the government must be placed in for want of confidence in the good faith in which any overture from that source at Richmond would be made, he begged to explain to me precisely how the case now stood. He went back to the beginning which he said came from the conversation held at his house at Sydenham, with one particular person, whom he described as a Southern man who had married a Wife in the north. From the representations made of the unfortunate condition of the slave states, he Mr R. had of his561 own head suggested the expediency of making some attempt at reconciliation, and had offered to act a part in it. This at first had been met with objections and difficulties. Yet he had preserved, and the issue had been what I already knew. He would now go on to tell me how far I could judge of the good faith of the venture on this side. This person had taken the trouble to consult with every man in any way connected with the south in England. He had gained their concurrence. Not content with this Mr R had urged him to go over to France where were much the greater number of these people. Accordingly he had been over and brought back with him the general assent of these two. The next stop would be to mature the plan in a written form and present it with the responsibility of names— And if found satisfactory, the same person was ready to take it at once to the authorities at Richmond, and to those in the various States, where he should make it his business to secure an equally generally assent. Upon this I observed to him that although such proceeding gave earnest of sincerity here, yet that it must be obvious to him I could proceed only according to the extent to which my government would go— And this could not be learned for a fortnight yet. The interval might be passed in preparation, but there could be no certainly that my government would listen to it a moment. He said he was aware of that. Still he hoped for the best. I had incidentally alluded to the possibility that the Administration might regard the danger of disturbing the election as very serious. He admitted the force of that consideration in carrying on a war. But the whole process was necessarily so slow that a position issue would hardly be watched before the election should be over. He hoped that an armistice could be obtained, during which work could be matured soon after the election, and then the restoration could be made by the incoming administration. I made no objection to this, though clearly impractical view because I saw no good in discussing the matter at this stage. There was likewise much talk upon the subject of emancipation, whether immediate or graduated, which I do not commit to paper for the same reason. To tell the truth I am not very sanguine562 of any absolute result from this venture. It may however lead to some path that in the end would prove practicable. Mr R said that if his friend were to go back on his errand, the difficulty might arise of his losing the already favored channel of communication through me, and being unable to make another at home. Did I suppose that the government would arrange one there? I replied, that where there was a will, it generally proved itself able to strike out a way. I had no doubt, of the satisfactory settlement of mere detail, the very moment that the great principles upon which the restoration was to take place should be agreed on. All I could do at this moment be to wait. In two of three weeks it might be that I should know more. If so, I would let him known. He then took his leave, having spent two or three hours in this colloquy, which really brought us no nearer. I was disappointed in getting to a sale of coins which I meant to attend. Brooks returned to school at Twickenham. My usual walk and quiet evening. Read a little of Vanity Fair.

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=DCA64d032