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The New International Encyclopædia/Adams, Charles Francis

ADAMS, Charles Francis (1807-86). An American diplomat and statesman, the son of President J. Q. Adams. He was born in Boston; spent the years 1809 to 1817 with his father in Europe, chiefly in Russia and England; prepared for college at the Boston Latin School, and graduated at Harvard in 1825. He then spent several years in Washington, and later studied law in the office of Daniel Webster (at Boston) from November, 1828, to January, 1829, when he was admitted to the bar, though he never practiced. During the next ten years he devoted himself chiefly to literary pursuits, contributing many papers to magazines, writing an able political pamphlet entitled, An Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs (Boston, 1835), and editing the Letters of Abigail and John Adams (1840-41). From 1841 to 1840 he was a member of the State Legislature, serving three years in the House and two in the Senate; and from 1846 to 1848 he was editor of the Boston Whig, and as such was the leader of that wing of his party called the “Conscience Whigs.” In 1848 he presided over the Free Soil Convention at Buffalo, and was unanimously nominated for vice-president, but after the election retired to Quincy, Mass., and spent several years in editing the Works of John Adams (10 volumes, 1850-56). In 1858 he was elected to Congress as a Republican, and served with marked ability until May, 1861, when he was sent as United States Minister to England. Here he remained for seven years, and during the Civil War rendered invaluable services to his government. In face of the pronounced sympathy for the South manifested by the aristocracy and the upper social classes generally and of the favoritism at times of the British government itself, he preserved throughout a dignified demeanor and performed his duties with such ability as to earn for himself a place second only to that of Franklin in the history of American diplomacy. Indeed, many years later Lowell said: “None of our generals in the field, not Grant himself, did us better or more trying service than he in his forlorn outpost in London.” He returned to America in 1868, and was elected to the presidency of Harvard in the following year, but declined to serve. In 1872 he barely failed of a nomination to the presidency at the hands of the Liberal Republicans. He was the arbitrator for the United States at Geneva in 1871 and 1872 (see Alabama Claims), and to him is due in great part the credit for the successful settlement of all difficulties with England growing out of the controversy of the Civil War. On his return he was engaged for several years in editing the Diary of John Quincy Adams (12 volumes, 1874-77). Both in politics and diplomacy Mr. Adams was austere, dignified, eminently sincere, and independent to a fault. As an authoritative biography consult C. F. Adams, Jr., Life of Charles Francis Adams (Boston, 1900), in the American Statesmen Series.