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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1864

Wednesday 2d.

2 March 1864

Friday 5th

4 March 1864
3 March 1864
Thursday 3d.

On examination of the regular line of Despatches to be replied to this week I found that they would not require more than a formal acknowledgement. This came as a great relief for the amount of extra confidential writing looked appalling. I prepared a letter to Mr Seward reporting the substance of my conversation of Tuesday. My interruptions however were by no means few. Mr Bright came in, whom I had not seen for some time. We talked much of the state of things here and in America. He asked me what I thought of the prospect of the war. I answered that I was getting very sanguine as to its early termination. He spoke of Mr Lawley’s reports from Richmond as of the most decided character. I said Yes. I was well aware of it. Mr Lawley had evidently been a willing instrument to subserve a purpose here. He then went on to speak of a visit he had received from a Mr Yeatinan. He did not know who he was. The view he had taken was different. He said the Souther people were as if under the pressure of an exhausted receiver. He though their destruction inevitable under a continuation of the war. He hoped that he (Mr B) might be induced to seize some opportunity of suggesting to the people of the worth the wisdom of desisting from complete subjugation. I presume this is to be the same gentleman whom Mr Scott Russell represents. The drift is plain, to work out some aid in the north to his success in his project. Mr Forster came in soon afterwards and wanted ton enquire as to the foundation of some allegations in the speech of Lord Clavicard as the shake of American Consuls in enlistment in Ireland. I told him that he could not be too positive in disavowing or denying the truth of all such statements. He said that591 Mr Shaw Lefever, a new member was about to make a speech tomorrow night in the subject of the outfit of vessels, and he wished to give him correct information. They had not been long gone, when Mr Scott Russell came in with his revised proposal and a draught of a letter which is to accompany it. I read them over and signified my acquiescent in them both. He then went off with the understanding that he was to bring them to me tomorrow in season to go to America in my bag tomorrow. I then hurried to the Foreign Office to see Lord Russell. Read to him a portion of Mr Seward’s Despatch to me recapitulating very skillfully the growing difficulties of our condition. Then I went on with the substance of the verbal communication through Mr Vessey. His Lordship had been prepared for this overture by a long and strictly confidential Despatch from Lord Lyons, which he took out of his box and looked early in the war. Much consultation had been had upon it. The difficulty lay in the fact that the United States was abolishing ports of entry over which it had not in fact the control. Should British Vessels attempt to enter notwithstanding, as he thought it not unlikely that some would, another and a new question would ensue upon the attempt to seize or to prevent them. As it is, the validity of the blockade has been conceded. The right of capture, in case of an attempted violation had been thoroughly recognized. It seemed to him better not to unsettle these established ideas an substitute a new and untried one. I saw that he was looking at the condition of Parliament and of his own friends which is not propitious to the success of novel experiments, and therefore confined myself to argument that would end in nothing. The motives for the proposition were explained, at the same time that I suggested as an equivalent measure, the raising of the blockade of the whole coast with the exception of those ports which it was intended to shut up. He made no objection to this, but showed little interest in the change. I said I would report what had been said, with the understanding that the whole was confidential, and no record was to go in the archives, on either side. I seized the opportunity to speak of an application for the recognition of a consul which had been long made, and no answer yet given. He took a memorandum of it—and then592 referred to the case of Mr Cantwell at Dublin. On enquiry it had been represented that the house of this person was the headquarters of all the discontented ill affected Irish. The report of Sir George Grey had therefore been unfavorable. He mentioned it to me in order that I might communicate the matter privately to Mr Seward, if I liked. I promised to do so. This answer has not surprised me. The appointment was very ill judged. Whether prompted by the President’s moral obtuseness in the selection of men, or by Mr Seward’s foible in regard to the Irish population, I do not venture to decide. The Irish consulates have been a fruitful source of error from the first. Lord Russell moreover asked me to mention that they had received accounts of an organization in Ireland for the accomplishment of some unknown object, in which men were mustered in companies and regiments as if for military discipline. This was said to be prompted by persons coming from America. He did not intend to convey the smallest idea that the government knew any thing of this. All that he desired was that so far as they could, they would check and discourage it. I promised to write. Thus it appears that these people who find it consistent with their ideas of neutrality to tolerate all sorts of combinations of people here to carry on war over the ocean against us and our commerce, and to aid the rebels in every way possible, are not slow in calling for censure and restitution upon proceedings for less practically injurious, from America towards them. Having spent an hour with his Lordship I drove home in season only for a short walk, as we were to go out to dinner. Mrs Adams and I went to Mr and Mrs Harcourt Vernon. I remember when he was in America in company with his father who was I believe Archbishop of York. He is now old and rather effete. Of the guests I knew very few. Sir Minto Farquhar was presented to me whom I found a moderate conservative. He told me of a division that had taken place in the House which was carried by the Ministry only by one vote. The opposition certainly show an invigoration which betokens some trouble. My neighbor on my right was Mr Wynne whom I have met somewhere before. A considerable proportion of them were of the Tory side which always accounts for my want of acquaintance We got home by eleven o’clock. Charles got home from Yorkshire.593

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=DCA64d063