Edgar returned from college; arrived at midnight. Greetings full, hearty, and cordial this morning. For a week preparations for the festival have been going on. Though a joyful anniversary, the day in these later years always brings sad memories. The glad faces and loving childish voices that cheered our household with “Merry Christmas” in years gone by are silent on earth forever.
Sumner tells me that France is still wrong-headed, or, more properly speaking, the Emperor is. Mercier is going home on leave, and goes with a bad spirit. S. and M. had a long interview a few days since, when S. drew M. out. Mercier said the Emperor was kindly disposed and at the proper time would tender kind offices to close hostilities, but that a division of the Union is inevitable. Sumner said he snapped his fingers at him and told him he knew not our case.
Sumner also tells me of a communication made to him by Bayard Taylor, who last summer had an interview with the elder Saxe-Coburg. The latter told Taylor that Louis Napoleon was our enemy, — that the Emperor said to him (Saxe-Coburg), “There will be war between England and America” — slapping his hands — “and I can then do as I please.”
There is no doubt that both France and England have expected certain disunion and have thought there might be war between us and one or more of the European powers. But England has latterly held back, and is becoming more disinclined to get in difficulty with us. A war would be depressing to us, but it would be, perhaps, as injurious to England. Palmerston and Louis Napoleon are the two bad men in this matter. The latter is quite belligerent in his feelings, but fears to be insolent towards us unless England is also engaged.
SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 494-5