The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography

By Henry Adams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI

THE BATTLE OF THE RAMS (1863)

MINISTER ADAMS troubled himself little about what he did not see of an enemy. His son, a nervous animal, made life a terror by seeing too much. Minister Adams played his hand as it came, and seldom credited his opponents with greater intelligence than his own. Earl Russell suited him; perhaps a certain personal sympathy united them; and indeed Henry Adams never saw Russell without being amused by his droll likeness to John Quincy Adams. Apart from this shadowy personal relation, no doubt the Minister was diplomatically right; he had nothing to lose and everything to gain by making a friend of the Foreign Secretary, and whether Russell were true or false mattered less, because, in either case, the American Legation could act only as though he were false. Had the Minister known Russell's determined effort to betray and ruin him in October, 1862, he could have scarcely used stronger expressions than he did in 1863. Russell must have been greatly annoyed by Sir Robert Collier's hint of collusion with the rebel agents in the Alabama Case, but he hardened himself to hear the same innuendo repeated in nearly every note from the Legation. As time went on, Russell was compelled, though slowly, to treat the American Minister as serious. He admitted nothing so unwillingly, for the nullity or fatuity of the Washington Government was his idée fixe; but after the failure of his last effort for joint intervention on November 12, 1862, only one week elapsed before he received a note from Minister Adams repeating his charges about the Alabama, and asking in very plain language for redress. Perhaps Russell's mind was naturally slow to understand the force of sudden attack, or perhaps age had affected it; this was one of the points that greatly interested a student, but young men have

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