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Life, letters, and diaries of Sir Stafford Northcote, First Earl of Iddesleigh (Volume 2) online

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LIFE OF THE



EAEL OF IDDESLEIGH




'SIR STAFFORD H.NORTHCOTE BAR T (aed65)



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LIFE, LETTERS, AND
DIARIES



OF



SIE STAFFOKD NOKTHCOTE
FIRST EAEL OF IDDESLEIGH



BY

ANDREW LANG



IN TWO VOLUMES
VOL. II.



WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS

EDINBURGH AND LONDON

MDCCCXC



All Rights reserved



CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME,



CHAPTER XII.

THE ALABAMA CLAIMS AND THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON.

PAGE

Asked to join the Commission in Washington Purpose of Com-
mission American political motives conjectured Sir Stafford
to Mr Disraeli Early meetings of Commission The indirect
claims Misunderstanding Speech at Exeter Letters to Lord
Derby and Mr Fish Diary of the Commission Interference by
Home Government The treaty signed Letter to Mr Disraeli
Social amusements, and trips near Washington Poem to a lady
Return home Friendly Societies Commission Objections to
the Bill Appreciation of it by members of societies, . . 1



CHAPTER XIII. .

CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER.

Charges of " frittering away " Mr Gladstone's surplus considered
Sir Stafford's financial principles How to use the surplus
Letter to Mr Disraeli Budget speech Scheme for reducing
National Debt Mr Gladstone's criticisms " Pitch-and-toss "
and " Neevie-nick-nack " Savings banks Mr PlimsolPs affair
The purchase of Suez Canal shares Letter to Mr Disraeli
Later Budgets Lean years Foreign troubles Mr Glad-
stone's criticisms The defeat of 1880, . . .52



332044



ILLUSTRATIONS IN SECOND VOLUME.



PORTRAIT OP SIR STAFFORD H. NORTHCOTE, BART.,

AT THE AGE OF SIXTY-FIVE, . . Frontispiece.

(From the Picture by Edwin Long, E.A.}

VIEW OF PYNES, FAMILY SEAT OF THE EARL OF

IDDESLEIGH, ..... Page 296



LIFE OF THE EAEL OF IDDESLEIGH.



CHAPTEE XII.

THE ALABAMA CLAIMS AND THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON.

ASKED TO JOIN THE COMMISSION IN WASHINGTON PURPOSE OF

COMMISSION AMERICAN POLITICAL MOTIVES CONJECTURED

SIR STAFFORD TO MR DISRAELI EARLY MEETINGS OF COM-
MISSION THE INDIRECT CLAIMS MISUNDERSTANDING

SPEECH AT EXETER LETTERS TO LORD DERBY AND MR

FISH DIARY OF THE COMMISSION INTERFERENCE BY HOME

GOVERNMENT THE TREATY SIGNED LETTER TO MR DISRAELI

SOCIAL AMUSEMENTS, AND TRIPS NEAR WASHINGTON

POEM TO A LADY RETURN HOME FRIENDLY SOCIETIES

COMMISSION OBJECTIONS TO THE BILL APPRECIATION OF

IT BY MEMBERS OF SOCIETIES.

ON Monday, 13th February 1871, Lord John Manners met
Sir Stafford as he was leaving the House of Commons,
and told him that he was being looked for in the lobby
by Lord Granville. Sir Stafford went back, and was asked
whether he would join the Commission which had already

VOL. II. A



2 ALABAMA CLAIMS AND TREATY OF WASHINGTON. [l87l.

set sail for America to arrange the Treaty of Washington.
In five days Sir Stafford, with his sons Henry and John,
was on board the Eussia a Cunard steamer. On March
1 they reached New York, and were greeted by the usual
imaginative emissary of the 'New York Herald.' They
went straight on to Washington, where Sir Stafford joined
the other British Commissioners Lord de Grey, Lord
Tenterden, Sir E. Thornton our Ambassador, Mr Mon-
tague Bernard of All Souls, and the Canadian Commis-
sioner, Sir John A. Macdonald.

IThe purpose of the Commission was to settle terms of
agreement about the Alabama and similar claims, about
the Canadian fisherie'sTUbout San Juan, and other matters
terms which might be referred to a court of arbitration.
As to the whole subject of arbitration in national disputes,
Judge Hoar, one of the American Commissioners, told a
story which illustrates the general opinion. " A man came

into court and called the judge a d d fool. The judge

threatened to commit him for contempt of court. The
man begged to refer the question to the arbitrament of
the jury. The judge consented ; whereon the jury decided

that his referring to them proved he was a d d fool, and

gave their award accordingly." The Geneva arbitrators
also gave their award accordingly when the time came.
This being a foregone conclusion, it may be asked how
Englishmen could be induced to sit on such a Commis-
sion ? The answer is, I fear, that necessity knows no law.
England is a country which practically cannot fight on



1871.] NO SUCH ALTEENATIVE AS WAK. 3

points of honour and delicacy. In regard to America,
especially, she would have to fight a most powerful people
which is at home, while she is at an immense distance
from her base. She has to fight with a vast undefended
and indefensible flank the whole frontier of Canada. She
has to fight the country by whose corn her own huge
and agriculturally unproductive population is nourished.
Though she might do the States a good deal of harm, she
could not cripple them nor dream of subduing them.
" We shall have to give you a beating," said an English-
man once to an American. " What ! again ? " said the
other. The question was an answer. With starvation
and probable rebellion at home, with certain loss abroad,
is it likely that England will fight America if she can
possibly evade the war? It is needless to add reflec-
tions on the horror of such a strife between peoples
of the same language, proud of the same literature,
and united by a thousand private ties of friendship and
kindliness.

As to there being no alternative at that moment but
war on one hand or apology and arbitration on the other,
Sir Stafford wrote to Mr Disraeli (January 24, 1873):
" Our work has not been made more palatable by persons
who have spoken as though the alternative had been war.
There was no such alternative ; and if it had been present
to the Government, they ought to have taken a totally
different tone, and doubtless would." The real alterna-
tive was an eternal hostility of feeling.



4 ALABAMA CLAIMS AND TREATY OF WASHINGTON. [1871.

Judging by Sir Stafford's letters and diary, the Presi-
dential election was the mainspring of the whole machine
of the Commission. Was General Grant to be re-elected ?
Much appeared to depend on the successful American
conduct of the Commission. I gather (these are private
inferences) that the American Government wanted as con-
siderable a triumph as possible, as conspicuous a defeat of
England, without the disturbance and discomfort of actual
hostilities. Mr Charles Sumner, who had just been re-
moved from the American Committee of Foreign Eelations,
was regarded as the great anti-Englishman. It is only
fair to say that, during the sitting of the Commission, his
attitude was friendly and genial. Foibles he had, caused
or increased by the long excitement of the war against
slavery ; and, it may be, by the cowardly assault on him
several years before, by a Southern planter and politician.
Despite these foibles, his relations with the Commissioners
were distinctly friendly.

Before entering on the social and diplomatic adventures
at Washington, it may be well to note what intentions and
ideas Sir Stafford, for his part, had in his mind. He con-
ceived, as he wrote to Lord Beaconsfield, that here was a
chance /for neutral, maritime, and commercial nations to
come to an understanding as to the rights and duties of
neutrals. I England and America might give the effect of
an international agreement to those parts of their muni-
cipal law which were common to both countries. They
might agree on a definition of contraband of war, and



1871.] EARLY MEETINGS OF COMMISSION. 5

might sketch a tribunal to settle disputed points. Other
Powers might accede to the treaty, and be represented on
the tribunal. A mode of settling the claims and counter-
claims arising out of the late war might be devised " with-
out admitting any inconvenient pretensions." " These
ideas," he adds, "are rough-hewn."

The Commissioners of either side, at Washington, had
some private intercourse, and euchre, before business regu-
larly began. At this semi-official euchre they seem to
have played " for love." On March 8, Mr Fish, for the
Americans, opened the Alabama claims, proposing that
they should try to agree to certain principles of inter-
national law, to be applied by themselves, or by the
arbitrators. On March 9, the English produced their
counter-proposals ; " another long wrangle, and ex-
hibits great powers of twaddling." It may be said that
this Commissioner was not of our party. On the former
day (March 8) the Protocol XXXVI. sets forth, in the
words of the American Commissioners, how, owing to
the Alabama and other ships, " extensive direct losses had
arisen in the capture and destruction of a large number
of vessels with their cargoes, and in the heavy national
expenditure in pursuit of the cruisers ; and indirect injury "
(the italics are mine) in a transfer of a large part of the
American commercial marine to the British flag, in the
enhanced payment of insurances, in the prolongation of
the war, and in the addition of a large sum to the cost of
the war, and the suppression of the rebellion. And they



6 ALABAMA CLAIMS AND TREATY OF WASHINGTON. [1871.

also showed that Great Britain, " by reason of failure in
the proper observance of her duties as a neutral, had
become justly liable for the acts of these cruisers and of
their tenders ; that the claims for the loss and destruc-
tion of private property which -had thus far been presented
amounted to about fourteen millions of dollars, without
interest, which amount was liable to be greatly increased
by claims which had not been presented ; that the cost to
which the Government had been put in pursuit of cruisers
could be easily ascertained by certificates of Govern-
ment accounting officers ; that in the hope of an amicable
settlement, no estimate was made of the indirect losses,
without prejudice, however, to the right to indemnification
on their account, in the case of no such settlement being
made." x

All this passage is particularly important to the history
of Sir Stafford's own conduct in the mission. Without
entering into the long international controversy which
followed a matter for legists one may say that a person
of ordinary wjits could understand the text quoted in only
one way. In the hope of an amicable settlement, the
indirect claims were not estimated, nor, of course, pre-
sented to the arbitrators, though the right to present
them, failing an amicable settlement, was reserved. An
" amicable settlement " was made, as I understand (com-
pare, however, Sir Stafford's letter to Mr Fish, p. 10),
and yet the Americans revived the indirect claims.

1 The italics are mine throughout.



1871.] MISUNDERSTANDING. 7

However, it is no part of our duty to discuss the rights
or wrongs of all this, nor to revive an ancient dispute.
As may be seen, all turned on an " understanding " differ-
ently understood, and doubtless blamelessly, by the persons
engaged. What we have to note is the conduct of Sir
Stafford Northcote in the matter. On May 19, 1872, he
delivered a speech at Exeter, in which he touched on the
question of the " indirect claims." " Two questions have
been raised," he said : " one the personal question as to
what was the understanding between the Commissioners
at all events, and perhaps between the two Governments,
at the time the treaty was concluded ; the other, as to the
general merits of the question which has been raised with
regard to what are called consequential damages, or the
indirect claims. Now, with regard to the personal question
I will only say this that we, the Commissioners, were dis-
tinctly responsible for having represented to the Government
that we understood a promise to be given that these claims
were not to lie put forward, and were not to be submitted to
arbitration. That being so, we are, of course, brought into
painful relations with, and painful questions arise between
ourselves and our American colleagues upon that Commis-
sion. It would have been most unjustifiable if, while the
matter was under discussion, we had allowed any desire
to make out our own case in this matter to interfere with
a great international settlement going on. Whether the
time will ever come for speaking fully upon the matter
I do not know, and I comparatively little care." Though



8 ALABAMA CLAIMS AND TKEATY OF WASHINGTON. [1871.

these events are distant, it seems needless to add to Sir
Stafford's statement.

In consequence of these remarks, made in a public
speech, one of the American Commissioners, Mr Fish,
complained that Sir Stafford was " seeking aliunde outside
of the treaty or of the protocol to establish a meaning, or
to explain its terms," and that this had the anticipated
effect of raising "a personal question." Mr Fish then
denied that " such a promise as Sir Stafford stated that
the British Commissioners represented to their Govern-
ment as having been understood by them to have been
made by the American Commissioners was in fact ever
made." *

Sir Stafford explained himself thus in a letter to Lord

Derby :

"86 HABLEY STREET, W., June 5, 1872.

"DEAR LORD DERBY, I observe that, in your speech
in the House of Lords last night, you referred to a recent
statement of mine with regard to the negotiations at
Washington in a manner which shows me that you, as
well as many other persons, have misunderstood my
meaning.

" It has been supposed, and you seem to have supposed,
that I said that an understanding existed between the
British and the American negotiators that the claims for
indirect losses should not be brought forward ; and it has

1 ' The American Commissioners,' &c. Washington Government Print-
ing Office. 1872. P. 11.



1871.] LETTER TO LORD- DERBY. 9

been inferred from this that we, relying upon that under-
standing, were less careful in framing the treaty than we
should otherwise have been.

" This is incorrect. What I said was, that we had
represented to our Government that we understood a
promise to have been given that no claims for indirect
losses should be brought forward. In so saying, I referred
to the statement voluntarily and formally made ~by the,
American Commissioners at the opening of the conference
of the 8th of March, which I, for one, understood to amount
to an engagement that the claims in question should not
be put forward in the event of a treaty being agreed on.

" I will not enter into a discussion of the grounds
upon which I came to that conclusion, but will simply
say that we never for a moment thought of relying upon it,
or upon any other matter outside of the treaty itself. We
thought, as I still think, that the language of the treaty
was sufficient, according to the ordinary rules of inter-
pretation, to exclude the claims for indirect losses. At
all events, we certainly meant to make it so. I remain,
yours very faithfully, STAFFORD H. NORTHCOTE.

" The Earl of Derby.

" Perhaps you will kindly read this in the House of
Lords to-morrow."

The conclusion of the matter then, is, that neither Lord
de Grey nor the other Commissioners had the faintest



10 ALABAMA CLAIMS AND TREATY OF WASHINGTON. [1871.

intention of using language which admitted the indirect
claims. 1 But what Sir Stafford meant, in his Exeter
speech, by saying " whether the time will ever come for
speaking fully upon the matter, I do not know," is a
question which may still puzzle us. His letter refers

1 This letter to Mr Fish explains Sir Stafford's position :

"MY DEAR MB FISH, I had hoped that it would be unnecessary for
me to refer again to the vexed question of the understanding upon which
the Treaty of Washington was negotiated ; but the correspondence on the
subject of my ' statement ' before the Exeter Chamber of Commerce last
May, which has just been published by the United States Government,
appears to call for some notice on my part. I write now, as I spoke then,
solely on my own responsibility, and without communication with my
Government or my late colleagues on the Commission.

" When I said that we, the British Commissioners, were responsible for
having represented to our Government that we understood a promise to
have been given that what are called the indirect claims were not to be
put forward by the United States, I meant to convey to my audience that
I thought that our Government must have inferred from our communica-
tions with them that we understood such a promise to have been made
by the American Commissioners. I did not think it right at that time to
go further into particulars ; but subsequently, in my letter to Lord Derby
of the 5th June, which is included in your correspondence, I explained
that the occasion to which I referred, as that on which I supposed the
promise to have been made, was the conference of the 8th March 1871.

"You say, and all our American colleagues on the late Commission say
with you, that no such promise was made on that occasion. I of course
unhesitatingly accept your assurance that it was not your intention to
make one, and that you did not consider that you had made one. I can-
not, however, admit that there was anything unreasonable in the precisely
opposite inference which I, at all events, drew from what passed on that
day, confirmed as that inference was by our proceedings on several subse-
quent days.

" You will remember that it had been arranged that on the 8th March
the American Commissioners should state their case with respect to the
Alabama and the other vessels. This you did in a written paper, which
you read out to us, but which you did not hand in as part of the proceed-
ings. It was to the effect that, besides the direct losses occasioned by the



1871.] LETTEK TO ME FISH. 11

to the protocol only to what did his speech refer ?
Apparently to some more " personal question," which
neither his diary nor his correspondence elucidates. He
says in a letter from Washington to Mr Disraeli, " I
wish I had some of your power of reading character

cruisers, and the cost incurred in their pursuit and capture, it was be-
lieved by the United States Government that they had also a good and
equitable claim for indirect or constructive losses. These latter, however,
you did not prefer ; and you stated that your not doing so must be re-
garded as a great concession. You then proceeded, still reading from the
paper, to propose that the Commissioners should endeavour to agree upon
a gross sum, to be paid by Great Britain in discharge of the claims of the
United States ; and you went on to say, still reading from the same paper,
that, should the Commissioners be unable to arrive at an understanding
for such a payment, the American Commissioners would be willing to
refer the liability of Great Britain to some competent tribunal which
should be empowered to assess damages. You added, however, that they
would at the same time expect that certain principles of international
law should be laid down, to be applied to the decision of the claims of the
United States, whether those claims were considered by the Commission
or by such a tribunal as had been mentioned ; and you propounded four
articles containing the principles which you desired us to adopt. Of those
four articles you gave us a copy, and we then retired for the purpose of
considering your proposal in both its branches.

" Whether I was technically right in speaking of the declaration thus
made as ' a promise ' is a question which I will not discuss. I can only
say that my impression at the time was, that you were proposing to us
two alternative methods of settling the direct claims, coupling your pro-
posal with the announcement that if either of the alternatives were adopt-
ed, the indirect claims would not be preferred. If this was not the mean-
ing of the statement, I am at a loss to understand why the expression
with regard to those claims was used at all. Of one thing I feel perfectly
confident, that there was nothing in your proposal which could lead us to
suppose that the indirect claims were to be waived in case of the adoption
of one of your alternatives, and not in case of the adoption of the other.
The proposal was made as a whole, without our interposing a word, and
the four rules, which you handed to us, were stated by you to be rules
which were to govern the decision equally, whichever mode of settlement



12 ALABAMA CLAIMS AND TREATY OF WASHINGTON. [1871.

just now." Perhaps in this case he read character or
circumstances wrongly, though his power of seeing what
was passing in people's minds was among his most useful
qualities.

In an enterprise like that of the British Commissioners,
political and social functions are so blended that it is diffi-
cult to keep their descriptions distinct. Dinner-parties,
dances, receptions, and a queer kind of fox-hunt, with
picnics and expeditions in the beautiful Virginia country,
alternated with serious business and grave discussion.
The Commissioners of either nation sat on opposite sides
of a long table, and had each their private room, where
they withdrew, on occasion, to deliberate among them-
selves. The English were fighting a triangular or even

was adopted. I do not think that it is correct to say that you first made
one proposal, and that, when that had been rejected by us, you made
another, to which the conditions of the first did not apply. Whether such
an inference can be drawn from the terms of the protocol is a question
upon which I will not enter ; but I am quite sure that it would not be a
correct account of what actually took place. Both the alternatives the
one which we rejected and the one which we in substance accepted were
laid before us at one and the same time, in one and the same proposal,
originating entirely with the American side of the Commission. It is
true that they were not discussed together. After we had taken them
into consideration, we declined altogether, under the instructions of our
Government, your proposal that a sum should be assessed by the Commis-
sioners, and we urged you to agree to a simple arbitration, unaccompanied
by any limitations. It was not till after the discussion had proceeded for
a considerable time that the question of your second alternative was taken
up and discussed in its turn. But I repeat that this alternative had
formed part of the original proposal ; and that neither was there anything
in the statement you read to us which showed that the declaration with
regard to the non-presentation of the indirect claims (whatever it meant)
was confined to the case of the acceptance of the first alternative alone,



1871.] INTEKFERENCE BY HOME GOVERNMENT. 13

quadrilateral duel. They had to hold their own not
merely with the Americans, but with the Home Govern-
ment, and the representative of Canada. Of Lord de
Grey Sir Stafford wrote

" The U.S. Commissioners give him some trouble ;

He don't blame them for that it's their duty, you know ;
And his Cabinet colleagues, they give almost double,
They do it from love, and he likes it so, so ! "

The Home Government kept putting in their oar, and
once for which much may by literary persons be forgiven
them they telegraphed that, in the treaty, they would
not endure adverbs between " to " (the sign of the infini-
tive) and the verb. The purity of the English language
they nobly and courageously defended.

nor did you, after we had manifested our inclination to accept the second
alternative, give us any intimation that the declaration in question did
not apply to that case.

" I might go on to show, by reference to several portions of our subse-
quent conferences, that we acted throughout the negotiation on the as-
sumption that the indirect claims were not to be presented, that we used
arguments at certain stages of the discussion which rested entirely on that
assumption, and that you never gave us a hint that the assumption was
unfounded. This, and much more, I might say if I were writing for the
purpose of justifying the course of our British Commissioners in the
negotiation. But I think it better, now that the matter has been set at
rest for practical purposes, to confine myself to the explanation I have
given of my words at Exeter ; and I will conclude by expressing my earn-
est hope that the misunderstandings which have caused such painful
controversies as those of this last spring may not be allowed to mar the
good feeling which ought to subsist between our two nations, or to make
us personally forgetful of the many acts of kindness and courtesy for
which we had to be grateful to our American friends, and notably to
yourself, during our sojourn at Washington."



Online LibraryAndrew LangLife, letters, and diaries of Sir Stafford Northcote, First Earl of Iddesleigh (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 25)