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Charles Francis Adams is best remembered as the ambassador to England during the Civil War who helped keep England (and France) from recognizing the Confederacy. His father was John Quincy Adams. He was a Boston Whig very much opposed to slavery, though like Lincoln, he was willing to concede smaller issues to protect the larger ones (mainly the spread of slavery to incoming states). Adams was an austere man; it was said that when he entered a stuffy room, the temperature dropped 10 degrees. The most interesting events dealt with in this biography, written by his son, include:
the 1848 Presidential election, where Adams had presided over the Buffalo Convention which formed the Free Soil Party and saw the nomination of Martin Van Buren as President and himself as Vice-President;
the war with Mexico, a war Adams thought unjust and only an excuse for slave states to gain new territory;
the Trent Affair in 1861, when two Confederate commissioners were arrested aboard the "Trent" on their way to England, which almost caused war with that country; and
the launching of the "Alabama" in Liverpool, a British privateer that Adams tried but failed to prevent from sailing, and then held the British government responsible for for the destruction of American property caused by the ship.
Adams, Jr., tells his father's story in a robust, very readable style. It's informative and authoritative, and even after 100 years has the feel of definitiveness about it. Highly recommended.
I became interested in reading Charles Francis Adams' autobiography after reading a largely unsympathetic portrayal of the man in a new book by Richard White, "Railroaded" which examines the building and managmement of the transcontinental railroads following the Civil War. Adams served for six years as President of the Union Pacific Railroad before its 1890 bankruptcy and acquired the reputation of a reformer, which White finds mostly undeserved. In reading White's book, I had the impression that there was more to Adams than White wanted to admit.
Charles Francis Adams (1835 -- 1915) was the great grandson of John Adams and the grandson of John Quincy Adams. His father and namesake was the United States Ambassador to Great Britain during the Civil War and played a pivotal role in keeping Britain out of the conflict and in maintaining peace. Charles Francis Adams was also a strong presidential contender in his own right. Adams' younger brother Henry became famous as a historian and of the author of his own autobiography, "The Education of Henry Adams".
Charles Francis Adams, Jr. was faced with the pressure of living up to his famous forbearers, and it showed. The pressure is apparent throughout his Autobiography which he wrote in 1913 for the Massachusetts Historical Society of which he had long served as president. The autobiography was published in 1916 following Adams' death together with a lengthy Memorial Address delivered by Henry Cabot Lodge.
Although it has fallen into obscurity, perhaps due to the inevitable comparison with his brother's great book, Charles Adams' Autobiography is worth knowing. Adams tries honestly to reflect on his own life.Read more ›