Charles Francis Adams "Minister To England" August 18, 1807 - November 21, 1886
Charles Francis Adams served throughout the Civil War as President Lincoln's minister to England. His efforts there have been compared to many military victories.
Adams began his political career in 1844 as a moderate Whig. An opponent of both slavery and hard-line abolitionism, he became a leader of his party's antislavery faction. When the Whig party split in 1848, the Free-Soil party nominated Adams as vice president on their ticket; the Democrats won the election. Adams subsequently became a member of the new Republican party.
Arriving in London in May 1861, at a time when English sentiments favored the South, Adams's mission was to prevent England from recognizing the Confederacy as a legally constituted independent nation. He also needed to convince British officials that selling arms to Confederate agents was a violation of England's neutrality.
By convincing British Foreign Minister Lord John Russell that the United States would consider further interviews with Southern agents as hostile, Adams ended formal meetings between British and Confederate officials. During the Trent affair, he played an important role in persuading Secretary of State William Seward to allow the release of Confederate commissioners James Mason and John Slidell, whose detention had enraged the British public. To the extent that Adams, with his reasonable and skilled diplomacy, helped move Britain toward supporting the Union cause, he also helped keep the rest of Europe in a neutral role.
After the war's end, Charles Francis Adams stayed on in England until mid-1868, and began negotiations regarding Britain's reimbursing the United States for losses inflicted on Northern commerce by Confederate ships that had come out of England. Later, Adams played a vital role in the treaty and arbitration that settled these so-called Alabama claims.
Fascinating Fact: Charles Francis Adams was the son and grandson of two former U.S. presidents: John Quincy Adams and John Adams.
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