Charles Francis Adams.

Charles Francis Adams, 1835-1915; an autobiography; online

. (page 20 of 21)
Online LibraryCharles Francis AdamsCharles Francis Adams, 1835-1915; an autobiography; → online text (page 20 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

to review, to weigh and to measure. As a result of that pro-
cess, I feel I have no cause of complaint with the world. I
have been a remarkably, an exceptionally, fortunate man.
I have had health, absence of death, of dissipation and worth-
lessness in my family, with no overwhelming calamity to face

Public Service and History 209

and subside under; and the world has taken me for all I was
fairly worth. Looking back, and above all, in reading that
destroyed diary of mine, I see with tolerable clearness my
own limitations. I was by no means what I in youth sup-
posed myself to be. As to opportunity, mine seems to have
been infinite. No man could ask for better chances. In a lit-
erary way, financially, politically, I might have been any-
thing, had being it only been in me. The capacity, not the
occasion, has been wanting. It was so in the army; it was so
in railroads, in politics and in business; it was so in literature
and history. In one and all my limitations made themselves
felt; most of all, in the Law. On the other hand my abilities,
as ability goes in this world, have been considerable; never
first-rate, but more than respectable. They have enabled me
to accomplish what I have accomplished; and I have accom-
plished something.

Six years ago, on its fiftieth year from graduation, my
class delegated me to speak for them at the Commencement
dinner. I did so, and then gave expression to something
autobiographic in a way, and from which now I am not
disposed greatly to dissent. I had said that Dr. Jacob
Bigelow, of the class of 1806, whom, I well remembered, had
in his life accomplished the greatest feat given any man to
accomplish, in that he left his chosen calling other and better
than he found it — elevated through him. And I then went
on : " So now, looking back over these fifty years — their vic-
tories and their defeats, their accomplishments and their fail-
ures to accomplish — I have of late often thought how I would
have had it go could I have shaped events in my own case
so as now to please me most. As the shadows grow long,
the forms things assume are very different from those once

2 1 o Charles Francis Adams

imagined. The dreams of ambition are transformed. It so
chances I have had to do with varied callings; but now,
looking back, I find I would not have greatly cared for su-
preme professional success, to have been a great physician,
or divine, or judge. I served in the army once; but military
rank and fame now seem to me a little empty. As to politics,
it is a game; art, science, literature — we know how fashions
change! None of the prizes to be won in those fields now
tempt me greatly; nor do I feel much regret at my failure
to win them. What I now find I would really have liked
is something quite different. I would like to have accumu-
lated — and ample and frequent opportunity for so doing
was offered me — one of those vast fortunes of the present
day rising up into the tens and scores of millions — what is
vulgarly known as * money to burn.' But I do not want it for
myself; for my personal needs I have all I crave, and for my
children I know, without being reminded of the fact, that
excessive wealth is a curse. What I would now like the sur-
plus tens of millions for would be to give them to Harvard.
Could I then at this moment — and I say it reflectively —
select for myself the result of the life I have lived which I
would most desire, it would be to find myself in position to
use my remaining years in perfecting, and developing to an
equality with all modern requirements the institution John
Harvard founded. I would like to be the nineteenth-century
John Harvard — the John Harvard-of-the-Money-Bags, if
you will. I would rather be that than be Historian or
General or President." To be this, and to do this, was not
given to me. In other directions also I have, perhaps, accom-
plished nothing considerable, compared with what my three
immediate ancestors accomplished; but, on the other hand,

Public Service and History


I have done some things better than they ever did ; and, what
is more and most of all, I have had a much better time in
life — got more enjoyment out of it. In this respect I would
not change with any of them.

As long ago as my college days I came across the closet
memorandum of the Calif Abdalrahman, in Gibbon's Decline
and Fall, and it made an impression upon me — an impres-
sion so deep, that, since, I have not wearied of referring
to it. It is in Gibbon's fifty-second chapter, and reads as
follows: "I have now reigned above fifty years in victory
or peace; beloved by my subjects, dreaded by my enemies,
and respected by my allies. Riches and honours, power and
pleasure, have waited on my call, nor does any earthly
blessing appear to have been wanting to my felicity. In this
situation I have diligently numbered the days of pure and
genuine happiness which have fallen to my lot: they amount
to Fourteen: — O man! place not thy confidence in this
present world!" I cannot undertake to number my days of
"pure and genuine happiness"; and such days vary greatly
with mortals. Obviously, they are a matter largely of indi-
vidual disposition and temperament, much affected in their
greater or less frequency by the very commonplace factor
of digestion, or the presence or absence in one's system of
uric acid. Were I, however, to undertake, in my own case,
to guess whether the number of those days had been more
or less than "fourteen," I might hesitate in so doing; but,
more or less, I am very confident they exceed in number
those of any one of my forbears.

Finished, at Washington, Wednesday, March 27, 1912;
8.45 A.M.


Charles Francis Adams

The story of the last years is soon told. Much occupied
by a desire to complete the Lije of his father, which had been
begun more than fifteen years before, and was practically in
definite shape up to the time of his appointment as United
States Minister to Great Britain, Mr. Adams seriously bent
himself to preparing this, the most important, portion of
the work. A series of preliminary studies on the more
vital incidents of the father's service in England was pre-
pared and printed in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts
Historical Society. The Trent Afair appeared in November,
1912,^ with a number of letters and papers drawn from the
papers of Charles Francis Adams, Sr.; and the Negotiation
of 1861 relating to the Declaratio7i of Paris of 18^6, in October,
1914.^ Seward's foreign policy was described more at large,
and in doing this Mr. Adams came, somewhat reluctantly,
to the conclusion that his earlier estimate of Seward's
measure for the situation in which he was placed required
some modification not favorable to the Secretary of State.
The reluctance arose from Seward's known admiration for
and open imitation of the grandfather, John Quincy Adams,
and from his long friendship for the father, Charles Francis
Adams. The deeper he went in his investigation of this
period the stronger became his conviction that no relation
would be complete or even satisfactory without a knowledge
of what the records, public and private, in England and
France contained. Never having approached such an inves-
tigation of the foreign or European side of the questions in-
volved in his father's diplomatic career, he came to realize
that in spite of the abundance of material collected from
American sources the story would be told in a one-sided

1 Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, xlv. 35-148. ^ lb., XLVI. 23-81.

Public Service and History 2 1 3

and partial manner. The broader aspects, and the full
extent of the great victories won in England by his father,
could only be developed by a study of the documents in the
foreign office archives and in the carefully guarded private
correspondence of ministers of foreign affairs and their agents
in France and Great Britain. Without such a study he felt
that the accomplishment of his task could result only in a
conclusion unsatisfying to his own ideas of the possible
and inherently defective from the standpoint of history. In
printing the lives and correspondence of their public char-
acters Englishmen passed over the American connection as
of secondary interest, giving only a glimpse of what a col-
lection contained on American questions. It was to develop
this wealth that Mr. Adams desired to go abroad.

An opportunity came to accomplish in part this desire.
Invited to deliver a course of lectures on American institu-
tions at Oxford University, in succession to Mr. James Ford
Rhodes, he accepted and sailed for England in March, 191 3.
He has given an account of his experience at Oxford, and
the impressions left upon his mind by that experience. The
conferences then being held in London on the situation in
the Balkan States naturally overshadowed all other political
interests. They emphasized the fact that historically Great
Britain turned towards the East, and the history of America
was not looked upon as a profitable field for study.^ He
framed his four lectures to meet this condition, selecting
certain dramatic features in the War of Secession which
might awaken interest and further investigation. He wished
to "impress such as may study my Oxford course with a
sense not only of the importance of our American history in

1 Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, XLVi. 435.

2 14 Charles Francis Adams

connection with that of Europe, but of the far-reaching
world-wide influence it both has exerted and is hereafter
destined to exert, from which Great Britain as a community
has perhaps not least of all been exempt." This resulted in
a volume containing the lectures in a somewhat expanded
form. Transatlantic Historical Solidarity (Clarendon Press,
1913), and a renewal of his association with many of his
English friends and correspondents.

In the second object of his journey he attained a great,
yet, as it seemed to him, a partial success. To break through
strict regulations, and to enjoy privileges refused to all
others, offered no mean difficulties in a land where bureau
methods prevail. But Mr. Adams had a special right as well
as reason in his favor, and this was recognized by the state
officials. With courtesy his application for access to special
records was considered, and with generosity the rules were
suspended. The Public Records, however, contained only a
part of what was necessary; for it has long been the practice
in the British diplomatic service to employ a private or
personal correspondence between the ambassador and the
Foreign Secretary in addition to the official dispatches. The
greater freedom employed in this personal correspondence
gives it a distinct historical value, for it includes many
rumors, interpretations, conversations and incidents, trivial
at the time, but later of value in illustrating characters and
influences. These letters are looked upon as personal to the
Foreign Secretary, and do not become part of the official
records. To secure access to family papers of so recent a
period offered even greater difficulties than to obtain privi-
leges in the public records. The first approach, however,
was fortunate. Hon. Rollo Russell, son of Earl Russell, the


Public Service and History 2 1 5

holder of the Russell Papers, met his request with singular
generosity; not only showing great interest in his under-
taking, but placing at his disposal whatever in the Russell
Papers could serve his purpose. An examination of the
American correspondence proved the richness of the ma-

Returning to the United States in June, Mr. Adams, on
receiving a part of the Russell transcripts, saw more clearly
than ever that his English researches must be extended, so
as to include other collections like that of Earl Russell. He
determined upon a second visit to England, and in August
was again in London. He had in mind also locating hitherto
unknown Winthrop material, in view of the Society's pro-
posed re-issue of the History. The search, no longer confined
to London, took him far afield, and he visited many houses
where papers were to be found, going twice over the Win-
throp region in the neighborhood of Groton. He had the
aid of friends, like Viscount Bryce, who were thoroughly in
sy-mpathy with his objects, and everywhere he was success-
ful in overcoming the reticence natural to possessors of
papers believed still to possess diplomatic possibilities. A
welcome guest, rarely informed on public questions, and
vital in his opinions, his tact, social qualities and intelligent
inquiries were recognized, and his success should offer at
least some moderation of the severe self-judgment he records
in this "autobiography."

He visited Hardwick House, where his host, Mr. George
Milner-Gibson Cullom, told him of traces of Winthrop ma-
terial, and gave him the opportunity to meet the Suffolk
Archaeological Society, then assembled for one of its historical
pilgrimages. There resulted the appeal sent out to that

2 1 6 Charles Francis Adams

Society for aid in the Winthrop problems.^ Oxford Univer-
sity conferred upon him the degree of Litt.D. He renewed
his friendly relations with Hon. Rollo Russell, who again
gave him what he wanted from his father's papers.^ One
after another of the more important collections were thrown
open to him, and he gained, under certain perfectly justi-
fiable restrictions, more than he had deemed possible, and
at last became himself somewhat impressed by the great
mass of material to be digested for his volumes. The field
seemed without limit, and he resolved to cut short the accu-
mulation and, returning to Washington, to await another
opportunity to complete his English research, and to plan a
similar visit to French archives.

He now confidently expected to take up the Lije of his
father and complete it within two years, and in this expecta-
tion he called in the aid of others to reduce the new material
to usable proportion, and to direct the study of printed
sources. But other undertakings crowded upon him, which
he did not feel inclined to set aside. At the urgent request
of Johns Hopkins University he repeated in Baltimore his
Oxford lectures, but rewritten in a much amplified form. He
prepared an elaborate study of one incident in his father's
career — the final defeat in the British Cabinet of foreign
mediation between North and South in 1862 ^ — and in-
tended to proceed in further studies as rapidly as his occa-
sions would permit. The outbreak of the great European war
aroused such interest in him and so engrossed his thoughts
as to make concentration on the events of the past irksome

1 Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, XLVil. 56.

2 Mr. Russell has since died.

' A Crisis in Dozvnitig Street, in Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, XLVII. 372.

Public Service and History


to him. In view of what was passing before him, the War
of Secession became of secondary importance, and he con-
fessed to a sense of weariness in dealing with a subject which
had lost so much of its moment in the world's history. He
did complete a paper on the British Proclamation [of Neu-
trality] of May, 1S61, largely based upon his English ma-
terial, and printed it in January, 1915,1 but this formed his
last contribution in the long series of historical studies he
had made since 1876, a series as notable for its variety of
topic as for its originality in presentation. Each consti-
tuted a study of a certain event or problem in the diplomatic
history of the War of Secession; but it was "thinking aloud"
and did not give that. final conclusion which would have
made a chapter in his book. To the last he was working
over his material, recasting his sentences and moulding his
opinion, and thus to the last his mind remained acrive,
potent and creative. Exposure to cold overtaxed his body,
and after a few days of illness the end came on March 20,
1915, in Washington.^

W. C. F.

' A Crisis in Dozening Street, in Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, xlviii. 190.
2 Tributes to his memory are given in Mass. Hist. Soc. Proceedings, XLViir




Abdalrahman, Calif, on happy days, 211.

Adams family, unique quality, xiii; inherit-
ance, xvi; Lowell on, 30.

Adams, Abigail (Brooks), xvii; death of, 9.

Adams, Abigail (Smith), 9, 181.

Adams, Brooks, 9.

Adams, Charles Francis, Sr., xv; out-
door sports, XX, 11; Puritan quality, xx,
10, 11; measure of, xxi; Lodge on, xxii;
policy in i860, xxviii; in Boston, 5; at
Quincy, 10; nomination to Vice-Presi-
dency, 32; Seward's recognition of, 52;
policy in 1S61, 73, 87, 90, 109; on Lin-
coln, 77; English mission, 107; delay in
reaching post, iii; biography of, 206.

Adams, Charles Francis (1835-1915),
hereditary element, xiii; birth, xvii, 3;
early dislike of Boston, xviii; outdoor
sports, xix, 10; schooling and errors of
education, xxii, 13; Harvard College,
xxiv, 24; aptitude, xxv, xiii, 25; writing,
26; diary, 27, 1 10; associates, 28; shy-
ness, 30; first vote, 32; law study, xxvi,
38, 171; Atlantic article, 41; admitted to
Bar, 41; miUtia service, xxix, 43, 114; on
House of Representatives, 44; campaign-
ing with Seward, 52, 60; J. Q. Adams's
speeches, 55; meets Lincoln, 64; on
Southern unrest, 70; Washington, 1861,
72; on Sumner's attitude, 83; at Fort
Independence, 114, 116; on outbreak of
war, 115; on Bull Run, 122; hesitation,
123; applies for commission, 125; first
lieutenant, xxx, 128; service, xxxi, 130;
want of training, 130; leaves for the
front, 132, 139; war letters, 134; trying
experience, 136, 186; first engagement,
140; before Sumter, 143; ill health, xxxii,
143, 157, 162, 166; visits Europe, 149,
168; at Gettysburg, 149, 153; Antictam,
151; at headquarters, 156; Wilderness
campaign, 158; commended by Meade,
159; before Petersburg, 162; engagement
and marriage, 164, 168; an error of judg-
ment, 165; return to private life, 169;
railroad problem, xxxiii, IC7; commis-
sioner, 172; at Quincy, xxxvi, 6, 172;

town government, 177; Mill on Comte,
179; Weymouth address, 180; Three
Episodes, 182, 197; Vienna exposition,
xl, 183; Union Pacific R.R., xxxviii, 184,
191; parks and reservations, 185; busi-
ness ventures, 187; history, xiii, 195;
Massachusetts Historical Society, xlvi,
196, 208; Harvard Overseer, xli, 198,
200; crisis of 1893, 199; removes from
Quincy, 202; in Boston, 204; Life of
C. F. Adams, 206, 212; Lee's centennial,
206; last years, xlviii, 212; summary
of life, 208; investigations in England,
212, 214; Oxford lectures, 213; self-crit-
icism, 1; wide activities, li; not in public
life, li; individualism, liii, 17; political
parties, liv; questioning spirit, Ivii.

Adams, Henry, 76, 90; Education of, xvi,
xix, 46; estimate of father, xxi; at Har-
vard, 24; letter from London, 119.

Adams, John, 9.

Adams, John (1803-1834), 9.

Adams, John Quincy, 48; marriage of,
xvi; recollections of, 9; death, 31; Davis
on, 48; Calhoun and, 52, 58; speeches,
55; diary, 68; Russell, 155.

Adams, John Quincy (1833-1894), 12, 39,
40, 42, 58, 133; town of Quincy, xxxvii,
177; at Hingham, 16; Boston Latin
School, 22; popularity, 29; marriage,
III, 117.

Adams, Louisa Catherine (1831-1870), 11,

Adams, Louisa Catherine (Johnson), 9.

Adams, Mary (Hellen), 9.

Adams, Mary Louisa, 9.

Adams, Mary (Ogden), xxxii, 164.

Ames, Frederick Lothrop, 191.

Ancestry, xii.

Antictam campaign, 145, 151.

Aptitudes, 20.

Astor House columns, 4.

Bancroft, George, 16.
Bancroft, George, Jr., 16 n.
Bancroft, John Chandler, 16 n.
Bar, admission to, 41.



Barlow, Francis Charming, 29.

Beaufort, S. C, 139.

Belligerency, recognition of Southern, III.

Benjamin, Judah Philip, 94.

Benton, Thomas Hart, 58.

Bigelow, George Tyler, xxvii, 4I.

Bigelow, Jacob, 209.

Bigelow, John, 45.

Biography and history, x.

Blair, Montgomery, loi.

Blue Hills reservation, 185.

Boarding-schools, xxii, 16.

Boston, xviii; First Church, 14; society,

39, 205.
Boston Latin School, xxiii, 21.
Boston & Maine R.R., strike, 174.
Breckenridge, John Cabell, 94.
Briggs, Albert D., 173.
Brooks, Peter Chardon, 4, J.
Brooks, Phillips, 29.
Buchanan, James, 96.
Buffalo convention, 1848, 32.
Bull Run, battle of, 122.
Butler, Benjamin Franklin, misconduct,

159; proposed statue, 161.
Butterfield, Daniel, 161.

Calhoun, John Caldwell, 59; J. Q. Adams

and, 54, 58; disappointment, 58.
Campaign, presidential, i860, xxviii, 69.
Carlyle, Thomas, on history, x.
Chamberlain, Samuel Emery, 147, 155.
Chapters oj Erie, xxxv, xliii, 172, 196.
Chase, Samuel Portland, 74.
Chess, advantages of, 34.
Clay, Cassius Marcellus, 78.
Clay, Henry, 58, 59.
Cogswell, Aaron, 174.
College Fetich, 197.
Comet of 1 86 1, 120.
Concord muster, 43.
Cotton and the South, 41, 91.
Crane, Thomas, library, Quincy, xxxvii.
Crisis, financial, 1893, 199.
Crittenden, John Jordan, 88, 91.
Crowninshicld, Caspar, 122, 124, 133, 138.
Cullom, George Milner-Gibson, 215.
Curtis, Greeley, 146, 147.

Dalton, Edward Barr)-, 29; character of,

Dana, Richard Henry, 38; position at bar,

xxvi; life of, xlv, 198; voyage round the

world, 56; on Bull Run defeat, 122; on

Trent affair, 127.
Davis, Henry Winter, 46, 98.
Davis, Jefferson, 48, 105.

Davis, , 139.

Dayton, William Lewis, 107.

Denny, George Huchcson, 207.

Dexter, Arthur, 40, 78, 82, 99.

Dexter, Samuel, 78.

Dillon, Sidney, 192.

Dixwell, Epes Sargent, 22.

Douglas, Stephen Arnold, 47, lOO; calls on

Seward, 65.

Eames, Fanny (Campbell), 91, 103.
Education, defect of system, 20.
Eliot, Charles William, 36.
Ellis, George Edward, 208.
Emancipation under war power, 56.
Equality, social, 15.
Europe, influence of, 19.

Families, generations of distinction, xiii.

Family influence, 170.

Felton, Cornelius Conway, 26.

Fessenden, William Pitt, 47.

Fink, Albert, 191.

Fish, Hamilton, 58.

Fort Independence, garrison service, 114,

Fort Sumter, Seward on, 106.
France in 1866, 169.
Frothingham, Nathaniel Langdon, 14.
Furness, Horace Howard, 29.

Gardiner, Sir Christopher, 197.
Gettysburg campaign, 147, 153; Sedg-
wick's march, 149.
Giddings, Joshua Reed, 48, 55.
Gordon, George Henn,', 121.
Gould, Benjamin Apthorp, 21.
Grant, Ulysses Simpson, 157.
Greek, teaching of, 26.
Greenleaf, Daniel, 12.

Hancock, Winfield Scott, 157.

Harvard University, class of '57, 24; elec-
tive, 34; defect of system, 35, 200; am-
bition for, 210.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 51; on Salem, 202.

Heritage, burden of, xv.

Hicks, Thomas Holliday, 78.



Higginson, Henr>' Lee, 140, 146, 147.

Higginson, Thomas Wcntworth, 38, 146.

Hilton Head, S. C, 139, I43-

Hingham, school days, 16.

History, beginnings of, ix.

Hodson, William Stephen Raikes, 144.

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, on education, xiii.

Hooker, Joseph, 160.

House of Representatives, national, in

1859, 43.
Hughes, Thomas, Hodson, 144.
Humphreys, Andrew Atkinson, xxxi, 136,

165; character, 157.
Humphreys, James, 180.
Hunter, Robert Mercer Taliaferro, 106.

James Island, 140.

Johnson, Andrew, 78; impressions of, 79;

conversation with, 92.
Johnson, Francis M., 173.
Johnston, Harriet (Lane), 49.

Kansas, visit to, 63.

Kansas City development, 187.

Kimball, David Pulsifer, 22.

King, Austin Augustus, 95.

Kuhn Louisa Catherine (Adams), 164.

Lamar, Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus, 46.

Lane, Harriet, 49.

Lane, Joseph, 94.

La Tremoille, family of, xiv.

Lee, Agnes, 91.

Lee, Henr>% on cavalry regiment, 146.

Lee, Robert Edward, 90; centennial ad-
dress, 206.

Lee, William Henrj' Fitzhugh, 91 n.

Legislation, excessive, 175.

Life of R. H. Dana, xlv.

Lincoln, Abraham, 73; campaign of i860,
xxviii, 61; meeting with Seward, 63; in
1861, 7S; vein of sentiment, 96; inau-
guration, 1 861, 96; reception by, 100;
Seward and, 104.

Lincoln, Mary (Todd), 103.

Lodge, Henry Cabot, memorial address,
ix; on C. F. Adams, Sr., xxii.

Lowell, Charles, 162.

Lowell, James Russell, on the Adams fam-
ily, 30; editor Atlantic, 41.

Lunt, William Parsons, 14, 32.
Lyman, Theodore, 135, 154.

Macaulay's History, 25.

Mason, James Murray, 47, 106; seized by

Wilkes, 127.
Massachusetts; railroad commission,
xxxiv, 172; park system, xl; cavalry, ist
regiment, 137, 146; parks and reserva-
tions, 185; street railways, 186.

Massachusetts Historical Society, Mr.
Adams's services, xlvi, 196, 208.

Meade, George Gordon, 154, 157, 158.

Memory, Montaigne on, 20.

Mendelian law of heredity, xvi.

Merrymount Park, Quincj-, xxxvii.

Middlesex Fells, 185.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20

Online LibraryCharles Francis AdamsCharles Francis Adams, 1835-1915; an autobiography; → online text (page 20 of 21)