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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1864

Monday 22d.

22 February 1864

Wednesday 24th

24 February 1864
23 February 1864
Tuesday 23d.

Light snow and general appearance of winter. I completed my ordinary work at an early hour, and went down to Sotheby’s rooms, to look at a collection of coins about to be sold at that place on Thursday and Friday, the two worst days of the week for me. On my return I found that Mr Scott Russell had been already twice here, and would call again. Accordingly he came in shortly. His object was to show me a proposal which he intimated had been already drawn up prior to the receipt of my reply from Mr Seward, but which had been since submitted to his friend from the Southern States, and had received his modifications. He now offered me a copy, to read, and to make my suggestions in addition. We then proceeded to read the articles seriatim and the proposed additions and modifications of the other party, to which I made comments of assent or otherwise; after which we again read over the articles, in order to get my suggestions. The first laid down the broad principle emancipation. The next applied it so far as to do away with the sale of human beings. The third provided a species of serfdom for a limited period to the classes within a certain age. The fourth, declared all children born absolutely free. There came the money questions. The funded debt and the cotton loan were to be recognized. Relief from taxation for the debt incurred by the United States was to be given. The slaveholders were to be compensated by the creation of a stock to pay for their loss by emancipation at £25 a head. Mortgages of plantations and slaves were not to be foreclosed by reason of the diminshed security in the loss of slaves. The amendments proposed on the other hand were that the States were to return with a disavowal of the right of secession. The confiscations were to be rescinded. The amnesty to be extended. On my side I suggested that my directions were explicit to recognize no debt whatever incurred in carrying on the war. These provisions must be therefore expunged. With regard to the graduated features of the labor system I could only consent to accept it as a proposal to be submitted, without in any way expressing any opinion as to its adoption. As to its relief from taxation I could not see how legislation could be made other than uniform over the whole country. It might indeed be that in reviewing the commodities subject to tax, some consideration could be had of the depressed condition of the Southern people and their transition state from slave to free labor, by bearing581 lightly upon those products which are peculiar to their section, such as cotton and tobacco and sugar. It seemed to me that a proper regard to the restoration of their ability to meet taxation in other forms would prompt this policy, on mere economical grounds. In reference to the liability for debts previously contracted, there might two questions raised. One involving creditors within the Slave States. The other, those living abroad. As to the former the legislation of the respective States might interpose with effect. As to the latter the case was more difficult. I could not but remember the state of feeling which had followed the Treat of 1783, by virtue of which the English creditors before the war were entitled to prosecute their claims against a wretchedly impoverished people. I could readily perceive how difficult a reconciliation might be made now by the premature prosecution of claims for old debts by the creditors of the north. Yet though believing some interposition to give delay quite expedient, I was not prepared to specify any practicable mode to apply it. On the other points I had no remarks to offer. The payment proposed for the slaves would probably meet with much resistance from a portion of the north. It might be that such a step would need greater powers than those vested by the Constitution. In my opinion, it is cheaper to agree to it if practicable, than to carry on another year of war. I did not say this however to him. Having in this manner gone over the whole ground, Mr Russell said he should take his paper home and remodel it s far as to incorporate the respective suggestions of the two parties, as nearly as they could be reconciled. He should then present it anew for their approbation, after which, should they acquiesce he should address an identical note to each, for the purpose of more precisely defining the extent to which that assent was to be understood as affecting the proceeding prior to the submission of the plan to the principals. Mr Russell then went on the other point—the authority of his southern adviser. He had this to say, that he was attached to the personal staff of Jefferson Davis, and to his knowledge, was possessed of his entire confidence. He had come here to take charge of the duties originally confided to Mr Mason, though, owing to the circumstances attending that gentleman’s withdrawal, he had never seen Lord Russell. He was farther justified by the entire approval of all the parties connected with Richmond, both here and582 in Paris. If any project was agreed on, this gentleman could be ready to go out at once to the South, to submit it not merely to Mr Davis, but to the authorities of the respective States. He could go with the warmest letters of approval from all these parties. He intimated that he was a Massachusetts man, and ha a wife now there with whom he still corresponded on the most affectionate terms, though she had entirely broken off from him on this political issue. He therefore might be supposed to have private as well as public motives for bringing about a reconciliation. If I could be satisfied in these respects, would it be practicable to facilitate his access to the South? He would go to Halifax in the next Onward Steamer. From thence could he get from me a pass through the lines? I replied that I should be obliged to reflect upon that before I gave an answer. Laughing, I added that I had already got into a scrape by giving one note, which made me very cautious about repeating it. This made him laugh too—and so we parted. I went with Mrs Adams to dine with Mr and Mrs Lampson. The company consisted of Mr Mrs and Miss Jackson, Mrs and Miss Potter, Mr and Mrs Martefiore and Mr Somerby. Mr Henry Lampson and his Wife and Miss Bethune made up the list. We got away in good season and came directly home.

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=DCA64d054