Served as United States Minister to
Great Britain and is largely
responsible for Great Britain and
France's failure to recognize the
Confederacy. Charles was the son of
John Quincy Adams.
Both the son and the grandson of Presidents, Charles Francis Adams possessed the political gene that drove him into public service. He was born on August 18, 1807, in Boston, Massachusetts. The young Adams traveled to St. Petersburg, Russia, with his parents, where his father was the U. S. Minister to Russia for the Madison administration. In 1825, Charles Francis graduated from Harvard University, after which he entered the legal profession, being admitted to the bar in early 1829. In 1831, Adams was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and later to the State Senate where he served from 1835 until 1840. In 1846, Adams founded the Boston Whig Party. In 1848, he was the Vice-presidential running mate with Martin Van Buren on the Free-Soil ticket, coming in third behind Zachary Taylor (Whig) and Lewis Call (Democrat).
Adams was elected to Congress in 1858 and again in 1860, but in May 1861 he resigned his seat to become Abraham Lincoln’s Minister to England, in which capacity he served until May 1868. While in England, he became entangled in the Trent Affair, when the U. S. Navy vessel San Jacinto, commanded by Captain Charles Wilkes, violated British neutrality by taking two Confederate commissioners, John Slidell and James M. Mason, off the Trent. After the Trent Affair was resolved, Adams spent his time looking for any instances where the British might be violating their neutrality by aiding the Confederates. He believed that Britain did violate her neutrality by building ships and providing arms for the Confederate Navy, and he vehemently opposed Britain’s aid, real and perceived, to Rafael Semmes and the CSS Alabama. Adams stayed in England until 1868 when he returned home. He died on November 21, 1886, and is buried in the Mount Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, Massachusetts.
One of Adams’s sons, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., served as an officer in the Union Army during the Civil War.