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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1864

Sunday 20th

20 March 1864

Tuesday 22d.

22 March 1864
21 March 1864
Monday 21st

My morning was much interrupted by visits. Dr Black came to talk to me about plans of emigration. The subject has long engaged his attention, and he had initiated some system to facilitate information several years since. The difficulty in America had been to find persons to cooperate who had no porjects of land interest connected with their labors. I told him what I had done with the Society at Derby, and the organization in Boston. He said that the main thing was to embody in a convenient form, information which could be depended on as true and to circulate it among people of small property. Whilst he was talking, Mr Scott Russell came in. His object was to let me know the progress made by Mr Yeatman. He had not been able yet to get away, but he was going on Saturday. Meanwhile the papers had been taken in by one of his friends last week. He had in the interval received a reply from Richmond to his first communications respecting the project as formed upon my instructions from Washington. I said that this was important—for after the receipt by the President of my final papers, it was plain that no step could be taken until the prospect of acceptance on the other side could be clearly seen. Mr R assented to this view. It was to that end he had come to say that Mr Yeatman had been notified by Mr Davis, that there were no positive objections to any of the features of the project—Furthermore of the respective States. The Richmond Enquirer would be at his service, and every effort made to gain him a hearing by the Governor of Georgia, Mr Brown. Last of all, Mr Davis would not himself stand in the way of the project, but would acquiesce in the sacrifice, if necessary, of himself. At once I observed, that if this was the case, the whole affair immediately assumed in my eyes infinitely greater proportions. Of course I should make a report to Washington. The effect must be to shift the responsibility of declining such an overture on the government there. The rubbish being all clearly away, the next step in the path would be to establish a line of communication. Mr R, said that that was what his friend had been trying to arrange. It was indispensable for each side to keep clear of the suspicion of playing false to its own friends. He had been asked to suggest some Englishman who could go and act as the bearer of communications. He knew of none608 competent to so delicate a duty. Mr Yeatman had mentioned a Mr Bonaparte at Baltimore, whom the government had already permitted to go forward and back between the places. I presume this to be my old college acquaintance. I suggested Judge Wayne or Judge Catron of the Supreme Court as persons through whom the messages might by conveyed to Mr Seward. I knew nothing of the estimation in which they were held in the South—but they belonged to it, had the strongest interest to bring about a reconciliation, and had in no way appeared offensively during the struggle. He took down their names—and said he would see me again about it before the end of the week. I remarked that my son was about to go in this same Steamer. He might see and communicate with Mr Yeatman on board, if desirable. As he would return to his duty in the army, through Washington. I though of making him the bearer of my report in writing, as well as of much more to communicate verbally to Mr Seward. My notion was that where the will existed, the medium of expression could not long be wanting. These proceedings could not go much further without risk of paralyzing the military operations. If this were to happen equally to both sides, no great harm would come of it. Mr R said that on the weaker part would fall the greatest danger. In the mean time much exertion must be made. There would be a strong minority at least, in the South to be overcome. On the other hand, there would be an equally strong resistance in the North. Time would be necessary for removing these obstructions. I assented, remarking at the same time that I did not see how that was likely to be given. For the very suggestion would start the whole country from end to end, and thus put at hazard every existing arrangement. This would inevitably put a damper on all military operations. For in view of a possible restoration it would be criminal to persevere in shedding blood. He assented to this, and left me, promising to return on Wednesday. I felt for some time afterwards as if I could not grasp the importance of what was going on around me. Possibly the salvation of a great country, and the happiness of uncounted millions of the human race is hanging on the delicate thread which has been woven by our few fingers in my little room. Will it snap and all come to nothing? That609 is a question long to remain torturing us with suspense. It may be that the action of the government will fail in guiding the movement safely and we shall be played into worse confusion than ever for the experiment. My own opinion is that it has but one course to take. Should the reflex of the National sentiment to take a clear direction towards reconciliation, it should embark at once on the voyage and the steer firmly to the goal. In view of the coming Presidential election there is no safety in taking an issue for the continuance of an unnecessary war. May God so dispose the minds of our chiefs that we may be enabled to crown a fearful strife with a glorious moral result. With emancipation secured, the cost of the blood and treasure expended to gain it will not have been too heavy. I took a long walk musing on these ideas, and heeding little the placards of unfavorable news from America which I saw be so preponderant in the field as to remove the desire to conciliate the other by sacrifice. I called to see Mr Bates, but he was lying down. I saw Mr Van de Weyer, and gathered from his manner that the physicians gave little hope. I have myself had more since I first saw him in December. Yet he may rally again many times. I also left my card on the Duke of New Castle who was taken with a fit on Saturday. The report was that he had slept and was Mrs Mildmay, the lady whom we saw at Ampthill. A small house and therefore a small table. Sir Erskine and Lady Perry, Mr Wortley, Mr Peel, and a young man whose name I lost. Rather a lively party in the course of which the political state of things was much discussed. The probability of a change of Ministry at Easter seemed to conceded all round. Young Peel whose father expects to go to the War Office seemed to entertain no doubt of it. He said that a full count of the Commons gave but tree majority to Ministers. The only question was whether Palmerston would dissolve Parliament. He thought not. For in any event they would carry a majority. I came not prepared to believe this of the old minister. If he can make a good issue he will go to the people. We shall soon know.610

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=DCA64d081