January 01, 2020

The Sixth Minister

The Sixth Minister
George W. Campbell

George Washington Campbell was born in Scotland, emigrated with his family to North Carolina in 1772 (when he was 3), and went on to have a distinguished career as a member of the House and Senate representing Tennessee, and also served as Secretary of the Treasury. He was appointed by President James Monroe to be the sixth American minister to Russia on April 18, 1818. He served there until June of 1820. He kept a diary of his service that offers a very intimate and at times tragic look at the very human side of diplomatic life in the eighteenth century. (Dates given are Old Style.)


September 5

Thursday Morning – Went on Shore – at Cronstadt – visited the Mole – where Shipping are moored… Visited the Admiral Muller – being also Military Governor of the place – a respectable looking old gentleman… went with us, myself & Capt. Maconaugh, to See the Dry-docks – for making & repairing men of war – in which there were Seven – Ships of the line – 74s & of larger Size – to be repaired – heavy-looking bulky vessels, in bad repair – & condition – Some of them built at ArchAngel – & brought round the coast of Norway and up the Sound – visited the Town – the houses generally very mean-looking hovels – few persons of respectability live in the town – Exclusive of the Military, & Marine, the inhabitants are estimated not to exceed 10,000 – The Batterie are very Strong, & appear to be kept in find order –– Those designed for the defence of Cronstadt, & the mouth of the Neva mount 3,000 guns of various calliber… About 2 Oclock got into the Steam-boat which came along Side the Ship, & proceeded to St. Petersburg – where we arrived about 6 O’clock in the evening – landed and proceeded to the Hotel d l’Europe – where we took Lodgings…

September 8

The weather very fine, as it has been Since my arrival – Carriage engaged yesterday arrives, & I visit Some parts of the City in it – but not before proceeding 2 versts, one fo the wheels break – & we walk home – Mr. Pinkney recvd. [Charles Pinkney, Charge d’Affaires] from Monsieur d’Oubril, [acting Minister of Foreign Affairs] an answer to his note assigning Tuesday for an audience etc–

September 9

Monday – a fine day – mild & pleasant – Visit Some parts of the City – Mrs. C continues unwell –

September 17

Tuesday – a fine day – Ingaged a house – in the evening removed to it – Prince – a black Servant – came to Serve at the rate of 50 Ro. A month – So long only as I should want him –

September 19

Thursday Contracted a Severe cold – which affected me much last night – Had a Son born about ½ past 11 Oclock.

September 30

The weather mild & foggy – This day examined the prices of – Sword – Chapeau – lous – bucles [sic] etc etc – which I am directed to provide for a court dress – and found all of them extremely high – The Sword – belt etc will cost nearly 200 Ro.


January 26

Sunday – … was this day presented to the Emperor etc.

February 16

Sunday – …was this day at 2 Oclock presented to the Grand Duke Nicholas, & the Grand Duchess his wife, daughter of the king of Prussia – a very fine handsome woman – rather tall – fair complexion – delicate in her form, & Soft & elegant in her manners – The Duke himself is a very good-looking man – a plain honest & tolerably intelligent face – & a pleasant countenance. The presentation of Mrs. Campbell to their Imperial Majesties & the Grand Duchess assigned for this day was postponed on acct of her indisposition –

March 19

Wednesday – … George [Campbell’s oldest child] became Sick with a Severe fever on [last] Sunday – and continues So Still – with a Sore throat – Somewhat Swelled –

March 29

Saturday – On this fatal day about 7 Oclock in the evening departed this life my second Son Benjamin Stoddert Campbell – of a violent fever, which he took Monday, in Some degree, but complained little of it until Tuesday – He died as he had lived like an angel – calm & without a Struggle – George continues very weak – but has no fever.

March 30

…George is no better – continues to get weaker – is removed into the parlour – Doctor Galloway is called in in aid of Doctor Leighton – but did no come until next morning – at night the Symptoms of his disease becomes to me more alarming – The Doctor, however thought he was not in  more danger – I sat up with, & watched George, myself – it was the last fatal night of his existence –

March 31

Monday – about 7 Oclock this morning, Monday… my first Son George Washington departed this life – Having been afflicted with a Severe fever, as above Stated – which attacked him two weeks & one day before his death – He died as he lived, like an angel – calm & without a Struggle – possessing Sensibility in a degree for this world – perhaps it is best that he had thus early gone to a better one –

April 1

Tuesday – This day is cloudy & overcast – (as it Should be), but not So much as my Soul, which can Scarcely find a gleam of hope in this world to cheer it – but no more!!! – Grief & Sorrow like mine are not to be expressed – The world never Saw Such a boy as George, but himself – and Seldom, if ever one equal to Benjamin in all respects – Perhaps I ought to gather Some consolation – (a melancholy [sic] one it must be however) from the happiness enjoyed from Georges company for five years, Seven months & twelve days –

This day about 1 oclock the bodies of our two dear little boys – were conveyed from our house to the English Church where the funeral ceremony was performed over them by the Rev. Wm. Randolph – & from thence they were conveyed to the grave yard of Smolemski & placed in a vault – to be finally put in leaden coffins in order to be conveyed to America – Nashville –

April 14

Wednesday – Elizabeth, who became Sick on Thursday last, is worse today – her fever appears to increase – & resembles that which carried off her two brothers… Sir James Wyly, the Emperors personal – Physician, attended likewise,  – by the direction of the Emperor, as well as from his own inclination…

The Emperor Sent one of his aide de Camps Genl. Davidoff, to enquire, as to the cause of the childrens illness – & our health – The Empress also sent a gentleman of her house-hold, to make like enquiries – which enquiries were continued from day to day –

April 2

Thursday – Little Elizabeth continues to grow – worse – The Physicians, attend and apply every remedy, & use every means in their power of the medial art for her recovery –

April 5

Saturday – Elizabeth’s disease, becomes desparate and about 12 oclock – our lovely innocent dear daughter departs this life, yielding up her last breath, with the calm Sweetness of an angel, & gliding into eternity without a Struggle – The grim messenger of death can now do us little more harmed – our three children are Swept away in one dreadfull Short week – The fever – Sated by Doctor Leighton to be of the nature of a nervous, Typhus – The head particularly affected – Not to be usual – or peculiar to this climate…

We still have one child left – in Seeming good health – (6) months – and our own health is not more impaired than might have been expected…

It is not, by any means certain, that the death of our children is particularly to be ascribed to th climate of this place – It might equally occurred elsewhere – They had previously to taking the fever, generally, enjoyed good health, with the exception of occasional colds – not more frequent, than usual.

April 9

Wednesday – This day Mr. Narysehin, Grand Master of Ceremonies, called in the name of their Imperial Majesties, the Reigning Empress & the Empress mother – to express their Sincere condolence for our loss – to inquire respecting the health of Mrs. C. & mine, & also that of the child – which he did in the most tender & affectionate manner –

April 15

Tuesday – Still we are lonesome – & almost comfortless – but all lamentation is unavailing – our children cannot be recalled – We have duties Still to perform – We must therefore nerve ourselves against the beating Storm, & endeavor to act that part that becomes us under existing circumstances – This is necessary, even to do justice to the memory of our departed children – Surely a Strong motive – Let our lamentations therefore be restrained – our tears cannot avail us –

May 26

Wednesday – This day went to Tsarsko-Selo, – 22 versts from St. Petersbug – visited the large & finely laid out Gardens & pleasure grounds there – The Summer or country Palace – of Tsarsko-Selo – one of the largest & most Splendid in the world… The town of Tsarsko-Selo – is much handsomer [than Pavlovsk] – the houses, though Small, & generally only one Story are neat – look clean, & handsome – The Streets are kept very clean – The appearance of the whole – is cheering – interesting – & Seems as if the place was in a State of improvement…

Alexandra Fyodorovna
Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna
(born Charlotte, Princess of Persia)
July 3

Thursday – … This Day went with Messrs. Lorman & Bremner – & Mr. Py to see Manoevers performed by the Russian troops near Crassnulo – 22 versts from this – a Sham engagement took place – with about 6 or 10 thousand men – not very interesting.

August 8

Friday – This day attended at Pavlovsky on account of the birth of a daughter of the Grand Duke Nicoli – or Nicholas – a Te deum – and afterwards a Splendid Court – after which the Diplomatic corps dines at the Same table with the two Empresses – the entertainment was handsome, but not remarkable for richness or Splendor – The wines – indifferent – & complained of – The young Empress [Alexandra, Nicholas’ wife], particularly by her fine figure, graceful deportment, & fascinating, Soft manner of addressing those to whom She Spoke… attracted much attention & very general admiration – Her modest aspect, & demeanor, ad much to the effect produced by her other engaging qualities – Her face is interesting – plain – rather than Striking – & though not handsome – the features are fairly drawn & pretty well arranged. The old Empress [Elizaveta], more masculine – with Strong traits of character – more pompous – fonder of Spice – & Splendor, is however less interesting – and less beloved by the people…


January 1

Thursday – There was a court, today at 12 which I attended – and a grand bal masque, in the evening º– with a Supper in the Hermitage, at which I was also present – Mrs. Campbell, though Specially invited to the ball was prevented from attending by both the delicate State of her health, & the domestic calamity we had experiences in the Spring – and a conviction that my official duty required it, alone induced me to attend – the number that attended the masquerade, who all attended in dominacs, was very great – Said to be 10,000… The Exhibition was very splendid – The theatre, belonging to the Hermitage, when the Supper as Served, was lighted up in the most Splendid manner – and the whole presented a most Striking effect –

Elizaveta Alexeyevna
Empress Elizaveta Alexeyevna
(born Princess Louis of Baden)
January 7

Wednesday – … Yesterday, I attended at the palace to witness the ceremony of blessing the waters – being the Fete of Epiphany – celebrated this year in this manner – The Emperor, & when the cold is not too severe, the Empresses, proceed on foot from the Palace, with a numerous procession of Priests & Grand officers – to a temple erected for the purpose on the ice, near the bank of the Neva, where archbishop bestows his benedictions on the waters etc – There is usually a grand parade on this day – the order for it yesterday, however was counter manded on account of the cold – which was 25 to 26 – of Reaumur –

June 24

… We are today ready to take our departure – but the wind being contrary – the vessel cannot get out –

June 26

…about ½ past 3 Oclock, reached Cronstadt, & embarked on board the Ferriby – Captn. Rosindale – which vessel we engaged to convey us to London – We got under way about 4 Oclock with a fair wind – and proceeded on our voyage – that Same evening. Mrs. Campbell & myself became Sea-Sick as did our two female Servants – and we continued So the whole night – The vessel continues her course with a fair wind. –

The End. Or just the beginning?

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See Also

The First Ambassador

The First Ambassador

America sent its first ambassador to Russia 200 years ago. He would go on to become the sixth U.S. president.

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