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Diary of Charles Francis Adams, 1861

Monday 18th

18 March 1861

Wednesday 20th

20 March 1861
19 March 1861
Tuesday 19th



Snow. The winter seems to be just setting in. On opening the morning’s newspaper before breakfast I found a telegraphic despatch announcing that I had yesterday been nominated to the Senate by the President as Minister to Great Britain. After the conversation last held with Mr Seward I had made up my mind that this result was not very likely. It has been in fact effected by the sacrifice of Colonel Tremont whom Mr Lincoln had intended to send to France, and by the transfer of Mr Dayton to his place. It rather indicates the growth of Mr Seward’s influence, which is a favorable sign. I know not exactly whether I ought to feel elated or depressed by this distinction. In one sense it flatters my pride that I make the third in lineal descent in my family, on whom that honor has been conferred by his country, an unprecedented case in American annals. On the other hand it imposes new and untried duties, and responsibilities of a grave character at this crisis which I may fail to meet. My own inclinations would have been rather to continue in service in my present position, which by the retirement of other prominent men from the House leaves me in possession of a wide field of usefulness. It has always98 seen my doctrine that he place where a man of real power could most effectively wield it for the benefit of the nation, is in the popular and not in the aristocratic branch of the Legislature. Here my father has most memorably developed his great abilities. Here both Mr Clay and Mr Webster had laid the foundation of their political fortunes. Here it was that I had had the boldness to conceive of a cancer which under providence might have stood on the record by the side of any of them. The last two years were but the instruments for resting a superstructure for the future. I had succeeded so far beyond my utmost expectation—and little new was left to be done but a discreet use of my advantages. All these my visions now vanish into thin air. And I go into comparative retirement on the other side of the water, with no object excepting to sustain, so far as I can, the honor of the country in the midst of its mortifying embarrassments. There is on the whole less of apparent hazard in this, and also the compensation of a prospect of earlier retirement from the public service, so that I must content myself with submission to a higher law than my own will. Wherever I may be, one thing is certain, that no solicitation of mine has ever been the means of placing me there, and that no aspiration tends to any end which does not embrace the good of the whole country. Turning from this to merely domestic questions, this event involves great changes in our household which I dare scarcely look in the face. An abandonment of all my pursuits at home, of my literary labors, and perhaps of my duty to my father’s memory. I turn my eyes away from these prospects of green fields and shady pastures, and strive to remember that I owe a duty to my own age and country too. My time until one o’clock was again absorbed by an incessant stream of applicants for place. I then went down to my son’s office where I met with more. Almost every man I meet seems to regard himself as particularly called to serve his country for a consideration. Mr Butler came in99 and dined with us. He talked wildly and extravagantly about the sentiment entertained of my cause and of my speech. He has always been a very enthusiastic friend, and so far as I know a very disinterested one. I tried gently to damp his ardor for some public demonstration in my favor in this city. Some hints of the kind have been dropped from various quarters, but I have uniformly deprecated every attempt to draw me from retirement. After dinner I was busy in drawing up papers for the different Departments. In the evening we had visitors Mr Horace Gray and several others visiters in the evening who staid late. Mr J C Parker among the number.

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=DCA61d078