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Charles Francis Adams

Adams, Charles Francis, 1807–86, American public official, minister to Great Britain (1861–68), b. Boston; son of John Quincy Adams. After a boyhood spent in various European capitals, he was graduated (1825) from Harvard and studied law under Daniel Webster. He practiced in Boston, looked after his father's business affairs, and wrote articles on American history for the North American Review. Adams served (1840–45) in both branches of the Massachusetts legislature. He founded and edited the Boston Whig and became a leader of the Conscience Whigs. In 1848 he was the Free-Soil party candidate for the vice presidency. He represented (1858–61) his father's old district in Congress and assumed prominence as a Republican leader.

On Seward's advice, Lincoln appointed Adams minister to Great Britain. In the face of English sympathy for the Confederacy, he maintained the Northern cause with wisdom and a bold dignity that won British respect, particularly in the serious Trent and Alabama incidents. He is credited with preventing British recognition of the Confederacy and with averting Britain's possible entry into the Civil War on the Confederate side, thus contributing much to the Union victory. He later represented the United States in the settlement of the Alabama claims. He published many political pamphlets and addresses and was an editor of the works (10 vol., 1850–56) of his grandfather, John Adams, and of his father's diary (12 vol., 1874–77).

See biography by M. B. Duberman (1961); W. C. Ford, ed., A Cycle of Adams Letters, 1861–1865 (1920); J. T. Adams, The Adams Family (1930); R. Brookhiser, America's First Dynasty: The Adamses, 1735–1918 (2002).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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