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Not Like His Fathers Before Him

June 27, 2018

Abraham Lincoln was elected President the same year Charles Francis Adams was re-elected to Congress.  Since Lincoln was also a Republican and had served with Adams’s father in the 30th U.S. Congress, Charles hoped to be appointed to an important position in the executive branch.  He couldn’t expect to be appointed Secretary of State because William Seward was the obvious choice for that office.  However, Seward was an old friend of the Adamses and had Lincoln’s ear.  Given the advantages of sentiment, politics, and breeding, Adams hoped to become a member of Lincoln’s Cabinet.  But it was not to be.

It seemed as though Adams would not be appointed to any office in the executive branch.  He returned to Massachusetts disappointed.  His father had once served the entire nation as President and then served his neighbors as their Representative in Congress.  Charles had been elected to represent the same Congressional district in 1858.  He had just been re-elected and would have to be content with serving his neighbors as well.

One morning in March 1861 his breakfast was interrupted by a telegram from Washington, D.C.  He had been appointed minister to England.  Adams was not pleased with the news.  Still, he must respond to the call of duty.  He would accept his appointment in person and discuss some of the issues with Lincoln.  Besides, both his father and grandfather had served in that office.  He must assure Lincoln that he would do just as well.

But Lincoln did not want to discuss foreign policy when Adams appeared to receive his portfolio.  He informed Adams that he had chosen him as a political favor to Seward.  Then Lincoln put his feet on the desk, turned to Seward, and changed the subject.  Adams was mortified.  What sort of leader was this?  Obviously, Lincoln was not like Adams’s father and grandfather, men who had preceded Lincoln as President.








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