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

Diary of George Mifflin Dallas, United States Minister to England 1856 to 1861

At the Court of St. James

1861. May 1.—The America brought me a note from Mr. Adams. He quits Boston to-day. I may, therefore, look for him at farthest on the 15th inst.

The President’s Proclamation against the seceding States as insurrectionary follows quickly upon the fall of Fort Sumter, and firmly accepts the challenge of war involved in that belligerent attack. It calls out seventy-five thousand militia, and will no doubt be enthusiastically responded to in men and money. Thus, then, has sectional hatred achieved its usual consummation,—civil war! Virginia hesitates, but she will join the Confederacy, as will also, finally, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Maryland. My poor country can henceforward know no security or peace until the passions of the two factions have covered her hills and valleys with blood and exhausted the strength of an entire generation of her sons. All Europe is watching with amazement this terrible tragedy.


1861. April 28.—I have repeatedly observed on the utter impossibility of keeping a diary without long chasms. More than a month has gone by, and an eventful one, too, without my dotting a single item! I must brush up and try to preserve the features of my few days for remaining in this great country, which, while commanding my highest admiration, I find, after five years of trial, I do not and cannot like.

I went last night to Cambridge House. Lord Palmerston has emerged from the tortures of the gout, and is in admirable looks and spirits. He looks upon the extraordinary report of the bombardment for forty hours of and from Fort Sumter, without any one being hurt, as an absurdity which further news will clear up. Nothing else engaged the conversation of the whole company. Italy, Poland, Hungary, and Holstein all yield in interest to the drama thought to be now formally inaugurated in America. One gentleman confidently predicted that the Southerners would capture Washington and give the Northerners the severest thrashing they have ever had. Motley has worked himself into such a fever at the prospect that he says he can neither read nor write, and must go home.

1861. March 20.—Dr. Hitchcock, of California, the surgeon of General Taylor at the battle of Buena Vista, who saved the life of Jeff. Davis by extracting from the wound he received a piece of steel of a spur and part of its leather strap, brought me direct from Secretary Black a despatch instructing me to oppose any recognition by this Government of a Minister from the Confederate States. . . I immediately asked an interview with Lord John Russell. As this despatch relates to high questions of domestic politics, and is dated as late as the 28th of February, only three days before the Inauguration, it suggests the possibility of its having been sanctioned by Mr. Lincoln, for his inaugural speaks to the same effect.

Macaulay’s fifth volume, edited by Lady Trevelyan, is just out, and is a brilliant specimen of picturesque history. His sketch of Peter the Great and his development of the rival pretensions to the Spanish succession are admirable in every way.

1861. March 17. —A long and interesting telegram by the America. The Inauguration on the 4th had gone off without disturbance of any kind, in the presence of some thirty thousand persons. Mr. Lincoln’s address was both firm and mild,—firm against the constitutionality of secession, mild in assurances and language. Nothing in the telegram about convening the new Congress, nor about the new Tariff bill, though he noticed the passage of Corwin’s resolution to amend the Constitution by expressly prohibiting Congress from meddling with slavery in the States, and approved it.

1861. March 12.—Letters and newspapers, both in abundance, from home are gloomier than ever. We may yet pass through a convulsion only less frightful than the revolution of 1789 in France.

1861. March 7.—Dined with Lampson, for the time being a resident in a capital house at the farthest end of Eaton Square. Went at eleven to Lord Chelmsford’s for fifteen minutes. A youthful dance.

The news from home a shade more promising. A word of meditated coercion in the inaugural of the 4th instant may be the last nail in the Union’s coffin.

1861. February 28.—….By the arrival of the Anglo-Saxon at Londonderry, a telegram announces the fact that the Committee of the Peace Convention had reported a plan for adjustment, made up of Crittenden’s, Guthrie’s, and the Border States’ proposal. If this be approved, the great body of the Union may be saved; with a reasonable prospect of reattracting the eight States which have seceded, and are now embodied as “The Confederated States of America.” General Jefferson Davis and A. H. Stephens were inaugurated as President and Vice-President on the 18th instant. Query: Were they chosen by popular election, or by the Convention only at Montgomery? Perhaps they are provisional only, and for a limited time.

1861. February 17.—Mr. Reuter sends me a telegram from Queenstown of the American news. 1. The conference invited by Virginia met on the 4th, and re-assembled with closed doors on the 5th at Washington. 2. Slidell and Benjamin have withdrawn. 3. A truce between Lieutenant Slemmer and State forces at Pensacola Navy-Yard, followed by surrender to latter. 4. North Carolina resolves unanimously to go with the other slave States if adjustment fail. 5. United States revenue cutter Lewis Cass treacherously surrendered to Alabama. 6. Fifty thousand people starving in Kansas. 7. Secession of Texas definitive. 8. The President has refused to surrender Fort Sumter on Colonel Hayne’s demand; an attack expected. 9. Attempt on Fort Pickens abandoned. No blood yet spilt.

1861. February 12.—Yesterday’s news from home a shade more promising. The President’s message to Congress on the mediatorial propositions from Virginia is calmly and judiciously written. It looks to that State for the preservation of the Union. The Convention of the Border States, free as well as slave, assembled on the 30th of January, and we ought now to have its first movements. There will be a collection of distinguished men at it,—Rives, Tyler, Reverdy Johnson, etc. I fear, however, they are rather effete celebrities than fit for the moment.

A curious sort of intermediate public counsel, not employed by either plaintiff or defendant, but seeming to act and argue as a Judge-Advocate at a Court-Martial, has addressed an admirable argument to the Bench in “Betsey Bonaparte’s” case at Paris. He seems a representative “pro bono publico.” His name is Duvignaux. Another singular feature of this trial was in allowing a presumptuous American called Gould to intrude his written notions as to what was general opinion about the marriage of Jerome and Betsey with our eminent lawyers in 1803! How completely this could have been exploded by the production of my father’s written and elaborate view of the whole matter given to old Mr. Paterson at the time. I have the rough draft among his relics.

1861. February 6.—Parliament was opened yesterday by the Queen in person. The military parade, turnout of royal equipages, and assemblage of Peers, Peeresses, Bishops, and Judges, were unusually imposing. The speech was fuller and clearer than common. The paragraph devoted to the United States was uttered as if really felt, though I certainly did not do what some of the newspapers allege,—nod my head with an expression of misgiving as to a “satisfactory adjustment.”

“Serious differences have arisen among the States of the North American Union. It is impossible for me not to look with great concern upon any events which can affect the happiness and welfare of a people nearly allied to my subjects by descent, and closely connected with them by the most intimate and friendly relations. My heartfelt wish is that these differences may be susceptible of a satisfactory adjustment.

“The interest which I take in the well-being of the people of the United States cannot but be increased by the kind and cordial reception given by them to the Prince of Wales during his recent visit to the continent of America.”

Went to the Commons at eight o’clock, and witnessed the first scene of what I cannot but regard, for the existing government, as an inauspicious breach, on reform, between Lord John Russell and Mr. Bright. The motion was to amend the reply to the speech by a clause as to the omission of that topic. Forty-six, in a thin house, voted for it.