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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1864

Tuesday 27th

27 December 1864

Thursday 29th

29 December 1864
28 December 1864
Wednesday 28th

The weather is relaxing and the chill of the vacant house is gradually passing off. Mrs Adams came in from Walton, leaving the children there. Her report concerning Mary is not yet as favorable as we may hope. The surgeon is evidently baffled. I went out and paid a visit to Lord Lyons who has just returned from America. He was not at home. On getting back I received the news from America of General Sherman’s having succeeded in establishing his connection with our naval force at Savannah, and of the defeat of General Hood by Thomas. These two event go far towards the close of the war. There was a report of the capture of Savannah which needs confirmation. A note from Lord Russell in answer to my application for an interview came fixing it at a quarter past four o’clock. So I went at once. My main object was to place to his hands some further evidence received from Washington of the proceedings of the rebel emissaries in Canada. Before I began on that subject however, I communicated to his Lordship the substance of Mr Seward’s message expressing regret tat the departure of Lord Lyons, and of his hope that he might return. His Lordship said that he was much gratified by this message; that Lord Lyons had been obliged to leave on account of his health; had not until he found himself positively breaking down did he decided upon it. Of course his return must be made to depend on his prospect of recovery. I referred incidentally to the note which Mr Seward had addressed to him on leaving, which I presumed he had seen. He replied that he had seen Lord Lyons only once, and then he made no mention of it. Probably his modesty had prevented him from showing it. I asked if his Lordship would like a copy of it. Upon his answer in the affirmative, I promised to send him one. I then addressed myself to my main subject—spoke of the increasing complications in Canada, and of the number of Despatches I had lately received directing me to make representations about them. At first I had thought of committing them to paper and addressing notes to him. But inasmuch as I had already received169 so strong an assurance of the intention of Her Majesty’s government to do every thing in its power to prevent these abuses, it seemed to me that to multiply urgency afterwards might leave open a suspicion of doubting its good faith, which I was very far from seeking to do. I therefore preferred the course of presenting him with copies of all the papers accompanying my Despatches, which seem as cumulative proof of the fact that the rebel agents were actually employed by their principals at Richmond in concocting atrocious expeditions from Canada into the United States. His Lordship took the chief paper, which was the intercepted despatch from C. C. Clay Jr at S to Mr Benjamin at Richmond. giving a narrative of Young’s attempt on St Ablan’s, and urging it upon the authority there to make a claim for his release on the ground that he was holding a commission as an officer of the army and authorized to do the act, and read it slowly, now and then making a comment on a passage as he went. The chief one was that were the Richmond authority to do as the writer desired, the effect could be to admite the fact of its using a neutral territory as a basis for carrying on war, in the face of Her Majesty’s proclamation forbidding all such enterprises. It was the opinion of the Law Officers of the crown that this was a high misdemeanor for which all parties engaged in it could be prosecuted & punished. His Lordship then explained the legal dilemma through which the parties in the St Alban’s raid were enabled to escape from the requisition under the Treaty. He said he regretted it But the Legislature of Canada was about to be called together, and it would undoubtedly supply the proper legislation to remedy this evil. The truth is that this supplies another instance of the loose, sluggish movement of this much overpraised system of government. All these difficulties might have been anticipated by a steady and prompt declaration of a repressive policy at the outset of the war. In such case no American would have thought of establishing himself in British territory for the purpose of making war on the United States. Instead of this, the first thing the Ministry do is to recognize these people as belli­170gerents, thus giving them a full entry into their territory—and the next is, to set their faces resolutely against believing that they could be guilty of violating their neutrality more than we did ourselves. The impartiality affected was so very rigid that it had the effect to encourage any species of hostile enterprise against us. It took more than two years and a very close approximation to a rupture of our relations to cure them of this illusion. But even then they were as far off ever from the necessary energy to put a stop to the evils they had thus been cherishing. And now that these appear in all their magnitude, threatening no little danger to their unprotected colony, they are just setting about an agitation of the question of prevention. I said nothing of this to His Lordship however—but confined myself to an allusion to the news received from America today of a stringent order from General Dix directing the pursuit of any of these plunderers without regard to the boundary lines. If this was correctly reported I could account of it only through the extent of the popular indignation on account of the release of these men. His Lordship remarked that this was a grave step and might lead to very painful complications. He could understand the pursuit of men over the boundary in the heat of passion, but a deliberate order of an officer to do the thing was a difficult affair. I said I knew General Dix too well to believe for a moment that he had any desire to magnify difficulties That he should have resort to such a measure could only spring from a consciousness of the force of the popular opinion which demanded protection against this abuse at any hazard. His Lordship referred to the remark often made, and latterly by the President, that the main object of all this was to bring about a rupture between the two countries. I assented, and added that in proportion as these people grew despairing of any other resource, they would more eagerly clutch at this. I then took my leave. He concluded by expressing a hope that as we had heretofore passed through so many troubles during this war, so we might safely get over this one. I walked home and spent a quiet evening with Mrs Adams.171

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=DCA64d363