Charles Francis Adams Quotes

"This Is War"

Context: As United States minister to England during the Civil War, Charles Francis Adams exerted strenuous diplomatic efforts to keep England neutral. Having learned that two ironclad rams were being constructed by the British firm of Laird Brothers for use by the Confederacy in breaking the Federal blockade of Confederate ports, Adams determined to do what he could to prevent the rams from leaving England. Upon reception of a notice that one of the rams was preparing to depart, he sent Lord Russell, the foreign secretary, a strong note on September 4, 1863, warning of the danger involved. An answering note informed him that "the government could find no evidence to proceed in stopping the vessel." As Adams' son writes in the biography of his father, he then sent an even stronger note. Three days later Adams learned that he had succeeded. A note from Lord Russell informed him that the government would prevent the departure of the rams. They were detained on September 9 and were seized by the British government on October 9, 1863. The biographer describes the writing of the note as follows:

The following day it was that, after a night of anxious reflection over what yet might by possibility be done, he wrote and forwarded to Earl Russell, then in Scotland, the dispatch of September 5th, which contains his single utterance since borne in memory. It was the dispatch in which he used the expression afterwards famous: "It would be superfluous in me to point out to your lordship that this is war."