The Government of the United States had steadily protested during the continuance of the Civil War against the unfriendly and unlawful course of England, and it was determined that compensation should be demanded upon the return of peace. Mr. Adams,2 under instructions from Secretary Seward, had presented and ably argued the American case. He proposed a friendly arbitration of the Alabama claims, but was met by a flat refusal from Earl Russell, who declined on the part of the British Government either to make reparation or compensation, or permit a reference to any foreign State friendly to both parties.

In the autumn succeeding the close of the war, Mr. Seward notified the British Government that no further effort would be made for arbitration, and in the following August (1866) he transmitted a list of individual claims based upon the destruction caused by the Alabama. Lord Stanley (the present Earl of Derby) had succeeded Earl Russell in the Foreign Office, and declined to recognize the claims of this Government in as decisive a tone as that employed by Earl Russell. Of opposite parties, Earl Russell and Lord Stanley were supposed to represent the aggregate, if not indeed the unanimous, public opinion of England; so that the refusal to accede to the demands of the United States was popularly accepted as conclusive. Mr. Adams retired from his mission, in which his services to the country had been zealous and useful, without effecting the negotiations which he had urged upon the attention of the British Government. He took his formal leave in May, 1868, and was succeeded the following month by Mr. Reverdy Johnson.

The new Minister carried with him the respect and confidence of his fellow citizens. Appointed directly after the Impeachment trial of President Johnson, he was among the few statesmen of the Democratic party who could have secured the ready confirmation of the Senate for a mission which demanded in its incumbent a talent for diplomacy and a thorough knowledge of international law. The only objection seriously mentioned at the time against Mr. Johnson's appointment was the fact that he was in his seventy-third year, and might not therefore be equal to the exacting duties which his mission involved.

Before Mr. Johnson could open his negotiation, the British Minister was changed—Mr. Disraeli giving way to Mr. Gladstone as Premier, and Lord Stanley being succeeded by Lord Clarendon as Minister of Foreign Affairs. With the latter Mr. Johnson very promptly agreed upon a treaty, which reached the United States in the month of February, 1869. It purported to be a settlement of the questions in dispute between the two countries. There was great curiosity to learn its provisions. Much was hoped from it, because it was known to have been approved by Mr. Seward at the various stages of the negotiation—a constant and confidential correspondence having been maintained by cable, between the State Department and the American Legation in London, on every phase of the treaty.

Mr. Seward had earned approbation so hearty and general by his diplomatic correspondence with Great Britain during the war and in the years immediately succeeding, that no one was prepared for the disappointment and chagrin experienced in the United States when the Johnson-Clarendon treaty was made public. It gave almost personal offense to the mass of people in the loyal States. It overlooked, and yet by cunning phrase condoned, every unfriendly act of England during our Civil War. It affected to class the injuries inflicted upon the nation as mere private claims, to be offset by private claims of British subjects—the whole to be referred to a joint commission, after the ordinary and constantly recurring method of adjusting claims of private individuals that may have become matter of diplomatic interposition. . . .

Mr. Johnson and Lord Clarendon had concluded a treaty which practically admitted that the complaints of the United States, as a government, against the conduct of Great Britain, as a government, had been mere rant and bravado on the part of the United States, and were not to be insisted on before any international tribunal, but to be merged in an ordinary claims convention, by whose award a certain amount in dollars and cents might be paid to American claimants and a certain amount in pounds, shillings, and pence might be paid to British claimants. The text of the treaty did not indicate in any manner whatever that either nation was more at fault than the other touching the matters to be arbitrated.

The treaty had short life in the Senate. The Committee on Foreign Relations, after examination of its provisions, reported that it should "be rejected." Mr. Sumner, who made the report, said it was the first time since he had entered the Senate that such a report had been made concerning, any treaty. Amendments, he said, were some times suggested, and sometimes a treaty had been reported without any recommendation; but the hostility to the entire spirit and to every detail of the Johnson-Clarendon treaty was so intense that the committee had made the positive recommendation that it be rejected. This action was taken in the month of April, 1869, a few weeks after President Grant had entered upon his office. It was accompanied by a speech from Mr. Sumner, made in executive session, but by direction of the Senate given to the public, in which the reasons for the action of the Senate were stated with great directness, precision and force. . . .

The rejection of the Johnson-Clarendon treaty was formally announced to the British Government through Mr. Motley,3 who succeeded Mr. Johnson as Minister at London. Mr. Fish,4 in his letter of instructions, suggested to Mr. Motley the propriety of suspending negotiations for the present on the whole question. At the same time he committed the Government of the United States anew to the maintenance of the claim for national damages, as well as for the losses of individual citizens. And thus the matter was allowed to rest. The United States, tho deeply aggrieved, did not desire to urge the negotiation in a spirit of hostility that implied readiness to go to war upon the issue, and simply trusted that a returning sense of justice in the British Government would lead to a renewal of negotiations and a friendly adjustment of all differences between the two governments.

A year went by and nothing was done. The English Government was not disposed to go a step beyond the provisions of the Johnson-Clarendon treaty, and had indeed been somewhat offended by the promptness with which the Senate had rejected that agreement, especially by the emphasis which the speech of Mr. Sumner had given to the Senate's action. President Grant remained altogether patient and composed—feeling that postponement could not be a loss to the American Government, and would certainly prove no gain to the British Government. In his annual message to Congress of December, 1870, he assumed a position which proved embarrassing to England. He recognized the fact that "the Cabinet at London does not appear willing to concede that her Majesty's Government was guilty of any negligence, or did or permitted any act of which the United States has just cause of complaint;" and he reasserted with great deliberation and emphasis that "our firm and unalterable convictions are directly the reverse."

The President therefore recommended that Congress should "authorize the appointment of a commission to take proof of the amounts and the ownership of these several claims, on notice to the representative of her Majesty at Washington, and that authority be given for the settlement of these claims by the United States, so that the Government shall have the ownership of the private claims, as well as the responsible control of all the demands against Great Britain."

President Grant was evidently resolved that the Government of the United States should not allow the pressing need of private claimants to operate in any degree upon public opinion in the United States, so as to create a demand for settlement with England on any basis below that which national dignity required. He felt assured that Congress would respond favorably to his recommendation, and that with the individual claimants satisfied our Government could afford to wait the course of events. This position convinced the British Government that the President intended to raise the question in all its phases above the grade of private claims, and to make it purely an international affair. No more effective step could have been taken; and the President and his adviser, Secretary Fish, are entitled to the highest credit for thus elevating the character of the issue—an issue made all the more impressive from the quiet manner in which it was presented, and from the characteristic coolness and determination of the Chief Magistrate who stood behind it.

Meanwhile the sanguinary war between Germany and France had broken out, and was still flagrant when President Grant's recommendation for paying the Alabama claims from the National Treasury was sent to Congress. Tho the foreign conflict terminated without involving other nations, it forcibly reminded England of the situation in which she might be placed if she should be drawn into a European war, the United States being a neutral power. It would certainly be an unjust imputation upon the magnanimity and upon the courage of the people of the United States to represent them as waiting for an opportunity to inflict harm upon England for her conduct toward this Government in the hour of its calamity and its distress. It was not by indirection, or by stealthy blows, or by secret connivance with enemies, or by violations of international justice, that the United States would ever have sought to avenge herself on England for the wrongs she had received. If there had been a disposition among the American people impelling them to that course, it would assuredly have impelled them much farther.

But England was evidently aprehensive that if she should become involved in war, the United States would, as a neutral power, follow the precedent which the English Government had set in the war of the rebellion, and in this way inflict almost irreparable damage upon British shipping and British commerce. Piratical Alabamas might escape from the harbors and rivers of the United States, as easily as they had escaped from the harbors and rivers of England; and she might well fear that if a period of calamity should come to her, the people of the United States, with the neglect or connivance of their Government, would be as quick to add to her distress and embarrassment as the people of England, with the neglect or connivance of their Government, had added to the distress and embarrassment of the United States. Conscience does make cowards of us all; and Great Britain, foreseeing the possibility of being herself engaged in a European war, was in a position to dread lest her ill intentions and her misdeeds in the time of our civil struggle should return to plague her.

These facts and apprehensions seem to have wrought a great change in the disposition of the British Government, and led them to seek a reopening of the negotiation. In an apparently unofficial way Sir John Rose, a London banker (associated in business with Honorable L. P. Morton,5 a well-known banker and distinguished citizen of New York), came to this country on a secret mission early in January, 1871. President Grant's message had made a profound impression in London, the Franco-Prussian war had not yet ended, and her Majesty's ministers had reason to fear trouble with the Russian Government. Sir John's duty was to ascertain in an informal way the feeling of the American Government in regard to pending controversies between the two countries. He showed himself as clever in diplomacy as he was in finance, and important results followed in an incredibly short space of time. An understanding was reached, which on the surface exprest itself in a seemingly casual letter from Sir Edward Thornton to Secretary Fish of the 26th of January, 1871, communicating certain instructions from Lord Granville in regard to a better adjustment of the fishery question and all other matters affecting the relations of the United States to the British North American possessions. To settle this question Sir Edward was authorized by his government to propose the creation of a Joint High Commission, the members to be named by each government, which should meet in Washington and discuss the question of the fisheries and the relations of the United States to her Majesty's possessions in North America.

Mr. Fish replied in a tone which indicated that Sir Edward was really serious in his proposition to organize so imposing a tribunal to discuss the fishery question. He informed Sir Edward that "in the opinion of the President the removal of differences which arose during the rebellion in the United States, and which have existed since then, growing out of the acts committed by several vessels, which have given rise to the claims generally known as the Alabama Claims, will also be essential to the restoration of cordial and amicable relations between the two governments." Sir Edward waited just long enough to hear from Lord Granville by cable, and on the day after the receipt of Mr. Fish's note assented in writing to his suggestion, adding a request that "all other claims of the citizens of either country, arising out of the acts committed during the recent Civil War in the United States, might be taken into consideration by the Commission." To this Mr. Fish readily assented in turn.

The question which for six years had been treated with easy indifference if not with contempt by the British Foreign Office had in a day become exigent and urgent, and the diplomatic details which ordinarily would have required months to adjust were now settled by cable in an hour. The first proposal for a Joint High Commission was made by Sir Edward Thornton on the 26th of January, 1871; and the course of events was so rapid that in twenty-seven days thereafter the British Commissioners landed in New York en route to Washington. They sailed without their commissions, which were signed by the Queen at the castle of Windsor on the sixteenth day of February and forwarded to them by special messenger. This was extraordinary and almost undignified haste, altho unusual with plenipotentiaries of Great Britain. It was laughingly said at the time that the Commissioners were dispatched from London "so hurriedly that they came with portmanteaus, leaving their servants behind to pack their trunks and follow." For this change of view in the British Cabinet and this courier-like speed among British diplomatists, there was a double cause—the warning of the Franco-Prussian war, and President Grant's proposition to pay the Alabama claims from the Treasury of the United States—and wait. Assuredly the President did not wait long!

The gentlemen constituting the Joint High Commission were well known in their respective countries, and enjoyed the fullest measure of public confidence, thus insuring in advance the acceptance of whatever settlement they might agree upon.6 The result of their deliberations was the Treaty of Washington, concluded on the 8th day of May, 1871. It took cognizance of the four questions at issue between the two countries, and provided for the settlement of each. The Alabama claims were to be adjusted by a commission to meet at Geneva, in Switzerland; all other claims for loss or damage of any kind, between 1861 and 1865, by subjects of Great Britain or citizens of the United States, were to be adjusted by a commission to meet in Washington; the San Juan question was to be referred for settlement to the Emperor of Germany, as umpire; and the dispute in regard to the fisheries was to be settled by a commission to meet at Halifax, Nova Scotia.

The basis for adjusting the Alabama claims was promptly agreed upon. This question stood in the forefront of the treaty, taking its proper rank as the principal dispute between the two countries. Her Britannic Majesty had authorized her high commissioners and plenipotentiaries "to express in a friendly spirit the regret felt by her Majesty's Government for the escape, under whatever circumstances, of the Alabama and other vessels from British ports, and for the depredations committed by those vessels." And with the expression of this regret her Britannic Majesty agreed, through her commissioners, that all the claims growing out of acts committed by the aforesaid vessels, and generally known as the Alabama claims, "shall be referred to a tribunal of arbitration, to be composed of five arbitrators—one to be named by the President of the United States, one by the Queen of England, one by the King of Italy, one by the president of the Swiss Confederation, and one by the Emperor of Brazil." This was a great step beyond the Johnson-Clarendon treaty, which did not in any way concede the responsibility of England to the Government of the United States. It was a still greater step beyond the flat refusal, first of Earl Russell and then of Lord Stanley, to refer the claims to the ruler of a friendly state.

But England was willing to go still farther. She agreed that "in deciding the matters submitted to the arbitrators, they shall be governed by three rules, which are agreed upon by the high contracting parties as rules to be taken as applicable to the case; and by such principles of international law, not inconsistent therewith, as the arbitrators shall determine to have been applicable to the case.7 Her Britannic Majesty had commanded her High Commissioners to declare that "Her Majesty's Government cannot assent to these rules as a statement of the principles of international law which were in force at the time when the claims arose; but that her Majesty's Government, in order to evince its desire of strengthening the friendly relations between the two countries, and of making satisfactory provision for the future, agrees that in deciding the questions between the two countries arising out of those claims, the arbitrators shall assume that her Majesty's Government had undertaken to act upon the principles set forth in these rules."

Her Majesty's Government had needlessly lost six years in coming to a settlement which was entirely satisfactory to the Government and people of the United States. Indeed a settlement at the close of the war could have been made with even less concession on the part of Great Britain, and perhaps if it had been longer postponed the demands of the Government of the United States might have increased. Wars have grown out of less aggravation and dispute between nations; but the Government of the United States had never anticipated such a result as possible, and felt assured that in the end Great Britain would not refuse to make the reparation honorably due.

The arbitrators met in the ensuing December at Geneva, Switzerland, and after a hearing of nine months agreed upon an award, made public on the 14th of September, 1872. The judgment was that "the sum of $15,500,000 in gold be paid by Great Britain to the United States for the satisfaction of all the claims referred to the consideration of the tribunal." Sir Alexander Cockburn, the British Commissioner, dissented in a somewhat ungracious manner from the judgment of his associates; but as the majority had been specially empowered to make an award, the refusal of England's representative to join in it did not in the least degree affect its validity.8 . . .

Following the provision for arbitration of the Alabama claims, the Treaty of Washington provided for a commission to adjust "all claims on the part of corporations, companies or private individuals, citizens of the United States, upon the government of her Britannic Majesty; and on the part of corporations, companies or private individuals, subjects of her Britannic Majesty, upon the Government of the United States." These were claims arising out of acts committed against the persons or property of citizens of either country by the other, during the period between the 13th of April, 1861, and the 9th of April, 1865, inclusive—being simply the damages inflicted during the war. The tribunal to which all such claims were referred was constituted of three commisioners; one to be named by the President of the United States, one by her Britannic Majesty, and the third by the two conjointly.

The commission was organized at Washington on the 26th of September, 1871, and made its final award at Newport, Rhode Island, on the 25th of September, 1873. The claims presented by American citizens before the commission were only nineteen in number, amounting in the aggregate to a little less than a million of dollars. These claims were all rejected by the commission—no responsibility of the British Government having been established. The subjects of her Majesty presented 478 claims which, with interest reckoned by the rule allowed by the commission, amounted to $96,000,000. Of this number 181 awards were made in favor of the claimants, amounting in the aggregate to $1,929,819, or only two per cent. of the amount claimed. The amount awarded was appropriated by Congress and paid by the United States to the British Government. All claims accruing between 1861 and 1865 for injuries resulting in any way from the war were thereafter barred.9

1 From Blaine's "Twenty Years of Congress." By permission of Mrs. Walter Damrosch and James G. Blaine, Jr., owners of the copyright. Copyright, 1884.
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2 Charles Francis Adams, the elder, son of John Quincy Adams.
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3 John Lothrop Motley, the historian.
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4 Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State.
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5 Levi P. Morton, afterward Governor of New York, and Vice-President. He is still living (December, 1911).
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6 The commissioners on behalf of Great Britain were the Earl de Grey and Ripon, President of the Queen's Counsel; Sir Stafford Northcote, late Chancellor of the Exchequer; Sir Edward Thornton, British Minister at Washington; Sir John Macdonald, Premier of the Dominion of Canada; and Montague Bernard, Professor of International Law in the University of Oxford. On the part of the United States the commissioners were Hamilton Fish, Secretary of State; Robert C. Schenck, who had just been appointed Minister to Great Britain; Samuel Nelson, Justice of the Supreme Court; E. Rockwood Hoar, late Attorney-General; and George H. Williams, late Senator of the United States from Oregon. The secretaries were Lord Tenterden, Under Secretary of the British Foreign Office, and J. C. Bancroft Davis, Assistant Secretary of State of the United States.
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7 The following are the three rules agreed upon:

"A neutral government is bound—

"First, to use due diligence to prevent the fitting out, arming, or equipping, within its jurisdiction, of any vessel which it has reasonable ground to believe is intended to cruise or to carry on war against a power with which it in at peace; and also to use like diligence to prevent the departure from its jurisdiction of any vessel intended to cruise or carry on war as above, such vessel having been specially adapted, in whole or in part, within such jurisdiction, to warlike use.

"Secondly, not to permit or suffer either belligerent to make use of its ports or waters as the base of naval operations against the other; or for the purpose of the renewal or augmentation of military supplies or arms, or the recruitment of men.

"Thirdly, to exercise due diligence in its own ports and waters, and, as to all persons within its jurisdiction, to prevent any violation of the foregoing obligations and duties."
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8 The arbitrators who met at Geneva were as follows: Great Britain appointed Sir Alexander Cockburn; the United States appointed Mr. Charles Francis Adams; the King of Italy named Count Frederick Sclopis; the President of the Swiss Confederation named Mr. Jacob Stæmpfli; the Emperor of Brazil named the Baron d'Itajubá. Mr. J. C. Bancroft Davis was appointed Agent of the United States; and Lord Tenterden was the Agent of Great Britain.
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9 The commissioners were the following: Right Hon. Russell Gurney, M.P., English Commissioner; Hon. James S. Fraser, of Indiana, Commissioner for the United States; Count Louis Corti (Minister from Italy to the United States), third Commissioner. Hon. Robert S. Hale, of the bar of New York and a representative in Congress, was appointed Agent of the United States; and Mr. Henry Howard, one of the British secretaries of legation in Washington, was Agent of Her Majesty's Government.
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