Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Charles Francis Adams, Jr., to his father

Charles Francis Adams, Jr., to his father

January 30, 2015

Adams Family Civil War letters; US Minister to the UK and his sons.

Boston, January 30, 1865

The more I think of the matter [national finances] the more persuaded I feel that my original impressions were correct and all my inquiries among business men here confirm my opinions. The Government is on the wrong track and the sooner it retraces its steps the better. I agree with you that this cannot be done at once, but I also believe that the new policy can be announced at once and that our future efforts should be directed through means distinctly avowed to the proposed end. The time has come for at least the enunciation of correct principles. A return to a specie basis for our expenditure is of course the end sought for. The means must be increased taxation and reduction of expenditure. Navy estimates could be reduced, bounties cut off, and, if we could get back to gold, all pay of officials cut down. In gold, the cost of the war is not now more than seven hundred millions a year. All authorities tell me that the letting loose of a comparatively small amount of cotton would turn exchange in our favor, and I am also assured that wealthy individuals here now hold large amounts of gold or its equivalents in Europe — out of danger, as it were. In the light of recent successes, symptoms of a return to sound financial principles would again recall this capital.

If these facts are as stated, the end and the means to the end could at least be set before the country and effort could be directed in correct channels. We should no longer financially be drifting. The very enunciation of correct principles would probably tumble gold down prodigiously, and any day after gold once approximates paper, a lucky find of cotton and one big, staggering effort might enable the Government to resume payment in specie. This even attempted, and our borrowing brought within bounds, would so restore confidence in our credit that the very attempt would be half the victory. I may be all wrong, but as yet the experiment has not been tried. Fessenden, having done us immense injury by doing nothing in the very crisis of our fate, is soon going out. Who is to succeed him? The very naming of his successor will go far to tell us whether we are to emerge from revolution through bankruptcy, or are to prove equal to the emergency.

They are discussing in Congress the question of retaliation of ill usage upon our prisoners of war. In the last Army and Navy Journal (that of the 28th) you will find my views on this subject in a communication signed by my initials. I hope you will look it up and let me know how it strikes you. I think the views will stand the test of humanity. If the rebels will feed our prisoners on turtle-soup, theirs should be fed on the same. If they give them a pint of meal a day, theirs should have no more, man for man. In a word the rebels should hereafter regulate wholly the treatment of prisoners.

Since I sat down to write this letter all my future prospects have undergone a change. As I was growling over the irregularity of mails, the door bell rang and Hull Adams rushed in in a tremendous hurry and then rushed out again, the bearer of an important message. Major General Humphreys, who now commands the Second, Hancock’s old Corps, had, in a roundabout way in lack of a better, sent through Mr. Campbell and Hull a message to me to the effect that he will be glad to have me on his staff as Assistant Inspector General of his Corps. General Humphreys was Meade’s Chief of Staff while I was at army headquarters, and is kind enough to say that he took a fancy to me, etc., etc. At any rate he has paid me a very high compliment. The position of Assistant Inspector General is generally considered the highest on the Staff — in a Corps it carries with it the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and my predecessor under Hancock was also Chief of Staff and made Brigadier General. It is a position which I formerly greatly coveted. I shall accept this offer, at least for a time and return to a new and more influential life nearer Head Quarters. General Humphreys you must have heard of. He impresses me as one of the few able men I have met in the Army, and he is somewhat notorious as a tough old fighter. The whole matter is, of course, perfectly crude as yet, as I have neither answered, nor fully considered the proposition. . . .

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