Charles Francis Adams.

Before and after the Treaty of Washington : the American Civil War and the war in the Transvaal : an address delivered before the New York Historical Society on its ninety-seventh anniversary, Tuesday, November 19, 1901 online

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BEFORE AND AFTER THE TREATY OF

WASHINGTON : THE AMERICAN

CIVIL WAR AND THE WAR

IN THE TRANSVAAL



A: A i J



Kl.l\ KKKI HKKORE T U K



NEW



iiiSTORlCAL SOCIETY




L9, 1901



CRARLES FR/vNCIS ADAMS, LL.D,

Presuit nt i>f the Massachusetts Historical Society.






NEW YORK:

PRINTED FOR THE SOCIKTV
190- .



BEFORE AND AFTER THE TREATY OF

WASHINGTON : THE AMERICAN

CIVIL WAR AND TffE WAR

IN THE TRANSVAAL -



AN ADDRESS



DELIVERED BEFORE THE

NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY

ON ITS

NINETY-SEVENTH ANNIVERSARY,

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1901,



BY



CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, LL.D.

President of the Massachusetts Historical Society.




NEW YORK:

PRINTED FOR THE SOCIETY
1902.



U. T /




OFFICERS OF THE SOCIETY, 1901



PRESIDENT,

THE VERY REV. EUGENE A. HOFFMAN,

D.D. (OXON.), LL.D. , D. C. L.
FIRST VICE-PRESIDENT,

J. P1ERPONT MORGAN.

SECOND VICE-PRESIDENT,

JOHN S. KENNEDY.

FOREIGN CORRESPONDING SECRETARY,

NICHOLAS FISH.

DOMESTIC CORRESPONDING SECRETARY,

FREDERIC WENDELL JACKSON.

RECORDING SECRETARY,

SYDNEY H. CARNEY, JR., M.D.

TREASURER,

CHARLES A. SHERMAN.

LIBRARIAN,

ROBERT H. KELBY.



9621 52



EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE.



FIRST CLASS FOR ONE YEAR, ENDING 1902.

F. ROBERT SCHELL, DANIEL PARISH, JR.,

FREDERIC WENDELL JACKSON.

SECOND CLASS FOR TWO YEARS, ENDING 1903.

NICHOLAS FISH, ISAAC J. GREENWOOD,

CHARLES FREDERICK HOFFMAN, JR.

THIRD CLASS FOR THREE YEARS, ENDING 1904.

JOHN S. KENNEDY, GEORGE W. VANDERBILT,

CHARLES ISHAM.

FOURTH CLASS FOR FOUR YEARS, ENDING 1905.

J. PIERPONT MORGAN, JOHN J. TUCKER.

JOHN J. TUCKER, Chairman,
DANIEL PARISH, JR., Secretary.

[The President, Recording Secretary, Treasurer, and Librarian
are members, ex-officio, of the Executive Committee.]



AT a meeting of the NEW YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY,
held in its Hall on Tuesday evening, November iQth,
1901, to celebrate the Ninety-seventh Anniversary of the
founding of the Society, Charles Francis Adams, LL.D.,
President of the Massachusetts Historical Society, de
livered the address, entitled : " Before and After the Treaty
of Washington: The American Civil War and the War in
the Transvaal."

Upon its conclusion Mr. A. V. W. Van Vechten sub
mitted, with remarks, the following resolution :

Resolved, That the thanks of the Society be presented
to Mr. Adams for his instructive and interesting address
before the Society this evening, and that a copy be re
quested for publication.

The resolution was seconded by Mr. William P. Prentice.

The resolution was then adopted unanimously.
Extract from the minutes,

SYDNEY H. CARNEY, JR.,

Recording Secretary.



BEFORE AND AFTER THE., TREATY
OF WASHINGTON: THE /"-AMERICAN
CIVIL WAR AND THE
TRANSVAAL.



NEGOTIATED during the spring of 1871, and
signed on the 8th of May of that year, the Treaty of
Washington not only put to rest questions of differ
ence of long standing, big with danger, between
the two leading maritime nations of the world, but
it incorporated new principles of the first importance
into the body of established International Law.
The degree, moreover, to which that treaty has in
fluenced, and is now influencing, the course of hu
man affairs and historical evolution in both hemi
spheres is, I think, little appreciated. To that
subject I propose this evening to address myself.

The time to make use of unpublished material
bearing on this period material not found in news
papers, public archives or memoirs which have
already seen the light has, moreover, come. So
far as any considerable political or diplomatic result
can be said to be the work of one man, the Treaty
of Washington was the work of Hamilton Fish.
Mr. Fish died in September, 1893 now over eight
years ago. When the treaty was negotiated Gen
eral Grant was President ; and General Grant has
been dead more than sixteen years. In speaking



8 Before and After the Treaty of Washington:

of this treaty, and describing the complications
which led up to it and to which it incidentally
gave rise, frequent reference must be made to
Charles Sumner and John Lothrop Motley ; and,
while Mr. Sumner died nearly twenty-eight years
t?, Mr.; Motley followed him by a little more
than three years only. Thus between the iith of
:Mkrclv i$?4* A*?d jthe 7th of September, 1893, all
those I have named prominent actors in the
drama I am to describe passed from the stage.
They belonged to a generation that is gone. Other
public characters have since come forward ; new
issues have presented themselves. The once fa
mous Alabama claims are now "ancient history,"
and the average man of to-day hardly knows what
is referred to when allusion is made to " Conse
quential Damages " or " National Injuries " in con
nection therewith ; indeed, why should he, for
when, in May, 1872, that issue was finally put to
rest, he who is now (1901) President of the United
States was a boy in his fourteenth year. None the
less, as the Treaty of Washington was a very mem
orable historical event, so President Grant, Secre
tary Fish, Senator Sumner and Minister Motley
are great historic figures. Their achievements and
dissensions have already been much discussed, and
will be more discussed hereafter ; and to that dis
cussion I propose now to contribute something.
My theme ^includes the closing scene of a great
drama ; a scene in the development of which the
striking play of individual character will long retain
an interest.

History aside, moreover, the Treaty of Washing
ton itself is a living, and it may even be said a con-



American Civil War and War in the Transvaal. 9

trolling factor in the international situation of to
day :

11 And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action."

That treaty was signed on the 8th of May, 1871 ;
the battle of Majuba Hill took place nine years from
the following 27th of February. The two events
occurred on different sides of the equator and of the
Atlantic ocean ; they apparently had as little bear
ing on each other as it was possible for two inci
dents to have ; and yet the logical outcome of the
latter event was included and forestalled in the set
tlement effected through the earlier.

I

Between 1861 and 1865 the United States was
engaged in a struggle which called for the exertion
of all the force at its command ; as, to a lesser ex
tent, Great Britain is now. The similarity between
the war in South Africa and the Confederate War
in this country early attracted the attention of
English writers, and one of the most thoughtful of
their civil and military critics has put on record a
detailed comparison of the two.* " Each of these
conflicts," this authority asserts, " had its origin in
conditions of long and gradual growth, rendering
an ultimate explosion inevitable. Each of them
deeply affected the whole existence of the com
munities which found themselves in antagonism.

o

In each case, therefore, the energy and the duration
of the fighting far exceeded the expectations of

* Spenser Wilkinson, War and Policy (1891), pp. 419-36.



io Before and After the Treaty of Washington:

most of those who might have seemed to be in a
position to judge." To the same effect, another
author* refers to the " striking resemblance " be
tween the two struggles. " The analogy," he says,
"like any other historical analogy, must not be
pressed too far, but there is a remarkable parallel
ism in the general character of the political issues, in
the course of negotiations preceding war, and in the
actual conduct of the campaigns, a parallelism which
sometimes comes out in the most insignificant de
tails." This analogy the writer might advanta
geously have carried into his discussion of the effect
of both wars on foreign opinion at the time of each.
He correctly enough admits that, during the strug
gle in South Africa " The whole of Europe almost
was against us, not so much from any consideration
of the merits of the case, as from the dislike and jeal
ousy of England which have developed so enor
mously in the last decade " ; but he significantly adds
" In the United States sympathies were much di
vided." In fact, during our Civil War the entire
sympathies and hearty good-will of the great body of
those composing what are known as the governing
and influential classes throughout Europe west of
the Vistula, were enlisted on the side of the Con
federacy. In these classes would be included all
those of rank, members of the learned professions,
the commercial, financial and banking circles, and
officers of the two services, the Army and the Navy.
And, then also as in the case of the South African
war, this instructive accord arose, not " from any
consideration of the merits of the case," but from
"dislike and jealousy"; the dislike and jealousy
* The Times s History of the War in South Africa.



American Civil War and War in tJie Transvaal. 1 1

of American democracy, which "had developed so
enormously in the course " of the decade or two im
mediately preceding the outbreak of 1861. Espe
cially was this true of England ; there "sympathies
were much divided," but the line of cleavage was
horizontal, not perpendicular. The poor, the lowly
and the conscientious instinctively sympathized with
the Union and the North ; while of the privileged
and the moneyed, the commercial and manufactur
ing classes, it may safely be asserted that nine out
of ten were heart and soul on the side of the rebel
and slaveholder. It is only necessary for me fur
ther to premise that as respects foreign govern
ments, and the principles of international law and
amity relating to the concession of belligerent rights,
the recognition of nationality, neutrality, and par
ticipation of neutrals, direct and indirect, in the oper
ations of war, the position of the Confederacy and
of the two South African republics were in essen
tials the same. The latter, it is true, were not mari
time countries, so that no questions of blockade,
and comparatively few of contraband, arose; but,
on the other hand, while the Confederates were, as
respects foreign nations, insurgents pure and sim
ple, the South African republics had governments
de jure as well as de facto. Great Britain claimed
over them a species of suzerainty only, undefined
at best, and plainly questionable by any power dis
inclined to recognize it. This the British authori
ties * deplore, and try to explain away ; but the
fact is not denied.

So far, therefore, as the status of those in arms
against a government claiming sovereignty is of

* The Times s History, vol. i., chap. 4.



12 Before and After tJie Treaty of Washington:

moment, the position of the South African republics
was, in 1900, far stronger with all nations on terms
of amity with Great Britain than was the position
of the Confederacy in 1861-62 with nations then at
amity with the United States. It consequently
followed that any precedent created, or rule laid
down, by a neutral for its own guidance in inter
national relations during the first struggle was ap
plicable in the second, except in so far as such rule
or precedent had been modified or set aside by
mutual agreement of the parties concerned during
the intervening years. What then were these
rules and precedents established by Great Britain
in its dealings with the United States in 1861-5,
which, unless altered by mutual consent during the
intervening time, would have been applicable by
the United States to Great Britain in 1899-1901 ?

In the opening pages of his account of the do
ings of the agents of the Confederacy in Europe
during our Civil war, Captain James A. Bulloch,
of the Confederate States Navy, the most trusted
and efficient of those agents, says that " the Con
federate government made great efforts to organize
a naval force abroad " ; and he adds, truly enough,
" that the naval operations of the Confederate
States which were [thus] organized abroad, pos
sess an importance and attraction greater than
their relative effect upon the issue of the struggle."
Captain Bulloch might well have gone further. He
might have added that, in connection with those
operations, the public men, high officials, courts of
law and colonial authorities of Great Britain more
especially, supported by the press and general
public opinion of that country, labored conjointly



American Civil War and War in the Transvaal. 13

and strenuously, blindly and successfully, to build
up a structure of rules and precedents, not less
complete and solid than well calculated, whenever
the turn of Great Britain might come, as come in
time it surely would, to work the downfall of the
Empire. As that record carries in it a lesson of
deep significance to all entrusted with the tempo
rary administration of national affairs, it should
neither be forgotten nor ignored. It is well that
statesmen, also, should occasionally be reminded
that, with nations as with individuals, there is a
to-morrow, and the whirligig of time ever brings on
its revenges. "All things come to him who waits" ;
and the motto of the House of Ravenswood was
" I bide my time."

When hostilities broke out in April, 1861, the
so-called Confederate States of America did not
have within their own limits any of the essentials
to a maritime warfare. With a long coast line and
numerous harbors, in itself and by itself, so far as
aggressive action was concerned, it could not be,
or be made, a base of naval operations. It had no
machine-shops nor yards ; no ship-wrights, and no
collection of material for ship-building or the equip
ment of ships. In the days when rebellion was
as yet only incipient, it was correctly deemed of
prime importance to get cruisers ; but a diligent
search throughout the ports of the Confederacy
disclosed but one small steamer at all adapted for
a cruising service. Under these circumstances the
minds of those composing the as yet embryotic
government at Montgomery turned naturally to
Europe; and, in the early days of May, 1861, im
mediately after the reduction of Fort Sumter, a



14 Before and After the Treaty of Washington:

scheme was matured for making Great Britain the
base of Confederate naval operations against the
United States. The nature and cope of the Brit
ish statutes had been looked into ; the probability
of the early issuance of a proclamation of neutral
ity by the government of Great Britain was con
sidered, and the officials of the Confederate Naval
Department were already confident that the Mont
gomery government would be recognized by Eu
ropean powers as a de facto organization. To it,
as such, belligerent rights would be conceded ; and,
in such case, the maritime shelter and privileges
common to belligerents under the amity of nations,
would be granted to its regularly commissioned
cruisers.

The officers in question next looked about for
some competent Confederate sympathizer, who
might be despatched to Europe and there be a
species of Secretary in parti bus. They decided
upon James A. Bulloch, at the time a lieutenant in
the United States Navy detailed by the Govern
ment for the command of the Bienville, a privately
owned mail steamer running between New York
and New Orleans. A Georgian by birth and ap
pointment, Lieutenant Bulloch went with his State,
and at once after Georgia seceded put himself at
the disposal of the Confederate government. He
was requested forthwith to report at Montgomery ;
and there, on the 8th and Qth of May he received
from S. K. Mallory, the Confederate Naval Secre
tary, verbal instructions covering all essential points
of procedure. On the night of the pth of May,
Bulloch left Montgomery for Liverpool, his duly
designated seat of operations. Arriving there on



American Civil War and War in the Transvaal. 15

the 4th of June, Secretary Mallory s assistant at
once entered on his duties, not only purchasing
naval supplies, but, before the close of the month
he had contracted with a Liverpool ship-builder for
the construction of a cruiser, and it was already
partly in frame. The Queen s proclamation of
neutrality had then been issued some six weeks.
The vessel now on the stocks was at first called
the Oreto ; afterwards it attained an international
celebrity as the Florida. Acting with an energy
which quite justified his selection for the work of
the Confederacy then in hand to be done, Captain
Bulloch on the first of the following August entered
into another contract, this time with the Messrs.
Laird, under which the keel of a second cruiser
was immediately afterwards laid in the yards of
that firm at Birkenhead. The purpose of the Con
federate government was well defined. It was not
merely to buy or build single vessels of war in
British ports and dockyards, but it was proposed
to maintain in Liverpool a permanent representa
tive of its Navy Department, a species of branch
office, or bureau, with a deputy secretary at its
head, and, through him, using the ports of the
Mersey, the Clyde and the Thames as arsenals, to
construct ships, and secure naval supplies, so long
as the war might last. No real hindrance was
anticipated. In other words, Great Britain was to
be made the base of an organized maritime war
fare against the United States, the Confederacy
itself being confessedly unable to conduct such a
warfare from within its own limits. The single
question was Would Great Britain permit itself
to be thus used as a naval base and arsenal for the



1 6 Before and After the Treaty of Washington:

construction, equipment and despatch of commerce-
destroyers and battle ships intended to be used
against a nation with which it was at peace ?

Excepting only the good faith, friendly purpose
and apparently obvious self-interest of a civilized
government in the last half of the nineteenth cen
tury, the provisions of the British Foreign Enlist
ment Act of 1819 constituted the only barrier in
the way of the consummation of this extraordinary
project, a project which all will now agree was
tantamount to a proposal that, so far as commerce-
destroyers were concerned, the first maritime na
tion of the world should become an accomplice in
piracy before the fact. As the date of its enact
ment (1819) implies, the British Foreign Enlist
ment Act was passed at the time of the troubles
incident to the separation of its American depend
encies from Spain, and was designed to prevent
the fitting out in British ports of piratical expedi
tions against Spanish commerce, under cover of
letters-of-marque, &c., issued by South American
insurrectionary governments. Owing to the long
peace which ensued on its passage, the Act had
slept innocuously on the statute book, no case in
volving a forfeiture ever having been brought to
trial under it. It was an instance of desuetude,
covering more than forty years.

A clumsy, cumbersome statute, the Foreign En
listment Act was, after the manner of English Acts
of Parliament, overloaded with a mass of phrases,
alike imprecise and confused, with so much of tedi
ous superfluity of immaterial circumstance " as to
suggest a suspicion that it must have been " spe
cially designed to give scope to bar chicanery, to



American Civil War and War in the Transvaal. 17

facilitate the escape of offenders, and to embarrass
and confound the officers of the government charged
with the administration of law. It was, in short,
one of those statutes in which the British Parlia
mentary draughtsman has prescriptively revelled,
and through the clauses of which judge and barris
ter love, as the phrase goes, to drive a coach-and-
six. But it so chanced that, in the present case,
the coach-and-six had, as passengers, the whole
British ministry, and, in it, they were doomed to
flounder pitifully along " in the flat morass of [a]
meaningless verbosity and confused circumlocu
tion." * Upon the proper construction of this not
able act, the Confederate representatives at once
sought the opinion of counsel ; and they were pres
ently advised that, under its provisions, it would be
an offense for a British subject to build, arm and
equip a vessel to cruise against the commerce of a
friendly state ; but the mere building of a ship,
though with the full intent of so using her, was no
offense ; nor was it an offense to equip a vessel so
built, if it was without the intent so to use her.
To constitute an offense the two acts of building a
ship with intent of hostile use, and equipping the
same must be combined ; and the things must be
done in British waters. It hence followed that,
under the Act, it was lawful for an English firm to
build a ship in a British ship-yard designed pur
posely to prey on American commerce ; it was also
lawful to sell or buy the articles of necessary equip
ment for such vessel, from cordage to arms and
ammunition ; but the articles of equipment must
not go into the vessel, thus making of her a com-

* Geneva Arbitration ; Argument of the United States, p. 61.



1 8 Before and After the Treaty of Washington:

plete cruiser, within British maritime jurisdiction.
The final act of conjunction must be effected at
some distance greater than on league from where
a British writ ran. Assuming this construction of
the Foreign Enlistment Act to be correct, its eva
sion was simple. It could be enforced practically
only with a government strong enough to decline
to allow its international obligations to be trifled
with. If, however, those in office evinced the
slightest indifference respecting the enforcement of
international obligations, and much more if the
government was infected by any spirit of conni
vance, the act at once became a statute mockery.

In any large view of policy Great Britain then
was, as it now is, under strong inducement to insist
on the highest standard of international maritime
observance. As the foremost ocean-carrier of the
world, it ill became her to connive at commerce
destroying. But, in 1861, Great Britain had a
divided interest ; and British money-making in
stincts are well-developed. She was the arsenal
and ship-builder of the world, as well as its ocean-
carrier. Her artizans could launch from private
dock-yards vessels of any size, designed for any
purpose, thoroughly equipped whether for peace or
war; and all at the shortest possible notice. Un
der ordinary circumstances, this was a legitimate
branch of industry. It admitted, however, of easy
perversion ; and the question in 1861 was whether
the first of commercial nations would permit its
laws to be so construed as to establish the princi
ple that, in case of war, any neutral might convert
its ports into nurseries of corsairs for the use or in
jury of either belligerent, or of both. This was the



American Civil War and War in the Transvaal. 19

exact use the Confederacy in 1861 deliberately
designed to make of Great Britain. As its author
ized agent and representative twenty years later
expressed it, " The object of the Confederate
Government was not merely to buy or build a sin
gle ship, but it was to maintain a permanent repre
sentative of the Navy Department [in Great Brit
ain] and to get ships and naval supplies without
hindrance as long as the war lasted."*

It is now necessary briefly to recall a once famil
iar record showing the extent to which Great Brit
ain lent itself to this scheme, and the precedents it
created while so doing. All through the later sum
mer of 1 86 1 the months following the disgrace of
Bull Run and the incident of the Trent, the work
of Confederate naval construction was pushed vig
orously along in the Liverpool and Birkenhead
ship-yards. Hardly any concealment was attempted
of the purpose for which the Oreto and the " 290,"
as the two vessels were called or designated,
was designed. As the work on them progressed,
it was openly supervised by agents known to be in
the Confederate employ, while British government
officials, having free access to the yards, looked to
it that the empty letter of the law was observed.
Never was a solemn mockery more carefully en
acted ; never was there a more insulting pretence at
the observance of international obligations ; never
a more perfect instance of connivance at a contem
plated crime, though not so nominated in the bond.

The Florida, we are told by Captain Bulloch,
was the first regularly built war vessel of the Con-

* Bulloch, The Secret Service of the Confederate States in Europe,
vol. i, p. 65 ; vol. ii, p. 216.



2O Before and After the Treaty of Washington :

federate States Navy. " She has," he wrote at the


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Online LibraryCharles Francis AdamsBefore and after the Treaty of Washington : the American Civil War and the war in the Transvaal : an address delivered before the New York Historical Society on its ninety-seventh anniversary, Tuesday, November 19, 1901 → online text (page 1 of 10)