Charles Francis Adams
Charles Francis Adams, a prominent Bostonian and Harvard graduate, was the son of 6th United States President John Quincy Adams and grandson of 2nd President John Adams. He entered the US Senate as a Republican in 1859, but just two years later was appointed by Lincoln to serve as the US Minister to London. Adams’ appointment was a wise decision, as both his father and grandfather had previously held the same position, and so he had spent some of his formative years in London developing a strong knowledge of the British people.
Adams’ role was a most crucial one in the Union war effort – ambassador to a country which generally distrusted the United States, the newly-formed Republican Party, the Union war effort (which many British tended to view as one of ‘violent conquest’), Lincoln, and Secretary of State William H. Seward, who had a reputation for being staunchly Anglophobic.
Seward’s role as Secretary of State was to correspond with other countries’ governments, and in London it was Adams’ role to present his communications to the British Foreign Secretary, Lord John Russell. Adams’ great talent of conveying Seward’s harsh lines in amiable ways played a most crucial role in preventing the tense, and often strained, Anglo-American relations from boiling over.
One of Adams’ greatest frustrations whilst serving as Minister to London was reporting the construction and fitting of Confederate navy vessels in Liverpool, Birkenhead, and Glasgow with the intention of convincing Lord Palmerston’s Government to prevent them from leaving the Rivers Mersey and Clyde to prey on the US merchant fleet, including the Alabama, Florida, and Shenandoah, all of which managed to escape detainment. He was successful, however, in preventing the ironclad Laird Rams from departing, instead being confiscated by British authorities.
The US Minister was accompanied to London by his son and secretary, Henry Adams. Both returned to the United States in 1868.