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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1861

Sunday 3d

3 March 1861

Tuesday 5th

5 March 1861
4 March 1861
Monday 4th



At last the long expected day dawned upon us. It was mild and clear—not so warm as it had been but comfortable. At nine o’clock I started for the capitol, so that I got to the House in time for the opening. Not much done. Every body packing up the things left in the desks and sending them home. A few attempts to pass private bills which come to nothing. Presently the noise was hushed and the speaker made his closing address. It was hearty but not happy. He declared himself in favor of the report of the Committee of thirty three and of compromise with the seceding states. The members listened but there was little feeling. Exactly at noon, he declared the House dissolved. We then rushed in without order or ceremony to the Senate, where the new Vice president, Mr Hamlin, was already in the chair. On the one side was the Senate and the House, on the other, the corps Diplomatique in full dress. Presently, the Justices of the Supreme Court came in, and after some delay, the President out going, and the incoming completed the spectacle. It was rather interesting to witness here pretty much all of the official talent of the country assembled within these walls. Mr Buchanan looked old and worn out, whilst Mr Lincoln looked awkward and out of place. Shortly, a new procession was formed, and we all transferred ourselves to the Eastern portico where seats had been set and a small platform for the ceremony. An immense multitude stood in front, covering the whole area as far as the trees on the north. By a singular anomaly of western manners Colonel Baker of California announced the President to them as if about to86 make a speech from the stump. Mr Lincoln then rose and proceeded to read his address in a clear, distinct voice which was heard by every body. The substance of it was an argument to prove that he intended no war, but that his duty was by his oath to see the laws were faithfully executed, rather feebly he recommended a Convention and disapproved all Amendment to the Constitution excepting that which passed Congress. In truth the Senate by an extra effort stimulated as was whispered by a hint from him had passed the amendment by just the requisite proportion of votes. The close was hearty and said with feeling. It was well received by the dense mass, who proceeded forthwith to disperse. This is the first inauguration I think, that I ever saw. It is grand in its simplicity. As a whole the composition was well timed, and raised my opinion of the man. It was fortunate in pleasing both wings of the party, and bringing all to stand upon a common ground. Of all people I had the greatest occasion to be gratified, as the amendment which was the main point in the policy which goes by my name has thus been fully justified in the face of the country by the head of the nation as well as of the republican party. This estopps all party denunciation of me, and places those who voted on the other side, in my delegation, rather under the necessity of defending themselves. Thus ends this most trying period of our history. To me it has been a moral trial of my carnage and of my firmness. Yet I never in my life felt more serene and clear and confident. It has seemed as if I was inspired by a power above me, and supported without effort of my own. I should be fortunate if I closed my political career now. I have gained all that I can for myself, and I shall never have such another opportunity to benefit my country. Would that I could withdraw now, instead of having to look forward to trials and tribulations in the coming conflicts. Such were my reflections as I walked quietly home through the crowd which lined the avenue. The struggles of political life shew human nature under such painful shapes, and rouse all the worst passions so far that I look with dread at a continuation of this existence, brilliant as it seems to the gaze of the outer world. The whole family assembled87 at dinner where we celebrated the successful inauguration. From this day the country is put upon a new course. Whilst I am not quite clear about the future, and especially doubt the consistency of this organization of a Cabinet, I yet feel that the crisis of the slave question is passing off with less of confusion and disorder than might reasonably be anticipated. The people are on the whole sound and at heart attached to each other. The leaders are most of them, on the slave side, corrupted in morals and desperate in politics, and the struggle will be to overthrow their influence. In the evening, we all went to the Inauguration ball which was held in the City Hall and a ball room behind it erected for the purpose. It was very large and quite pretty, and every body expected it would be densely crowded. But the fact was quite otherwise. The numbers were just sufficient to give no appearance of nakedness, and to furnish all the facilities to the young people for dancing. The new President and his Wife came in quite late— They are evidently wanting in all the arts to grace their position. He is simple, awkward and hearty. She is more artificial and pretentious. I took my daughter Mary up to him as she desired it. We came among others, and he did not at all recollect me. Indeed I had doubts whether hew was thinking whose hand he was shaking. Were it any body but a Western man I should have construed it as an intentional slight. But we cannot measure such a free and easy people by the standard of courtly civilization. Not many of the Senators and Representatives were present—four of the cabinet officers as understood to be selected and very few of the city people. Evidently, as a social Revolution this thing is in a bad way. But time and patience will conquer all things. I have done what I could to pave the way for it during the past two years. And something has been effected. Hitherto the labor has been cheerfully desolved upon us. But the case is now otherwise. And I begin to foresee complication next winter which may prove embarrassing. I walked home after midnight.88

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=DCA61d063