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ports a class of vessels constructed mainly for speed, and whose ac-
knowledged mission is not to fight, but to rob, to burn, and to fly.
Although the smoke of burning ships has everywhere marked the
track of the ' Georgia ' and the ' Florida ' upon the ocean, they have
never sought a foe or fired a gun against an armed enemy. To dignify
such vessels with the name of ships-of-war seems to me, with defer-


euce, a misnomer. Whatever flag may fly from their masthead, or
whatever power may claim to own them, their conduct stamps them
as piratical. If vessels of war, even, they would by this conduct have
justly forfeited all courtesies in the ports of neutral nations. Manned
by foreign seamen, armed by foreign guns, entering no home port,
and waiting no judicial condemnation of prizes, they have already-
devastated and destroyed our commerce to an extent, as compared
with their number, beyond anything known in the records of pri-

When the question of recognizing the Southern Confederacy was
before Parliament, William E. Gladstone, who was forgiven for un-
kindness by America before he died, w r as Chancellor of the Ex-
chequer. He opposed recognition, but not on grounds calculated to
endear him to the American people. He told the House that " the
main result of the American contest is not, humanely speaking, in
any degree doubtful." He thought " there never was a war of more
destructive, more deplorable, more hopeless character." The contest,
in his judgment, was " a miserable one." " We do not," said he, " be-
lieve that the restoration of the American Union by force is attain-
able. I believe that the public opinion of this country is unanimous
upon that subject. It is not, therefore, from indifference, it is not
from any belief that this war is waged for any adequate or worthy
object on the part of the North, that I would venture to deprecate in
the strongest terms the adoption of the motion of the honorable and
learned gentleman." The " honorable and learned gentleman " was
Mr. Roebuck, who, in a debate in the House of Commons in 1864, de-
clared that " the whole proceedings in this American war are a blot
upon human nature; and when I am told that I should have sym-
pathy for the Northern States of America, I turn in absolute disgust
from their hypocrisy. If there is a sink of political iniquity, it is at
Washington. They are corrupt; they are base; they are cowardly;
they are cruel."

It was not until the eve of President Grant's inauguration that the
wrongs resulting from the unfriendly course of Great Britain were
put in train for settlement. Mr. Adams had proposed a friendly arbi-
tration of the Alabama claims to Earl Russell under instructions
from Secretary Seward, but the proposal was flatly and peremptorily
declined on the part of the British Government. Later Lord Stanley,
afterward Earl Derby, who succeeded Earl Russell in the Foreign
Office, as flatly and peremptorily refused a second proposal of like
character. When Reverdy Johnson succeeded Mr. Adams as Minister
to England in 1868, a third and more successful effort was made.
Mr. Gladstone had succeeded Mr. Disraeli as Prime Minister, and
Lord Clarendon was Foreign Secretary instead of Lord Stanley. With


Lord Clarendon Mr. Johnson negotiated a treaty, but when the terms
of this instrument were known it was found the American had been
completely outwitted by the Englishman. Mr. Johnson's success con-
sisted wholly in negotiating a treaty, such as it was. This treaty left
the great injury done to the United States as a nation by Great
Britain during the war entirely out of the case, and put the matter
upon the basis of a mere claims convention. It was promptly re-
jected. " The truth must be told not in anger, but in sadness," said
Mr. Sumner, in reporting the treaty to the Senate. " England has
done to the United States an injury most difficult to measure. Con-
sidering when it was done and in what complicity, it is most unac-
countable. At a great epoch of history, not less momentous than that
of the French Revolution or that of the Reformation, when civilization
was fighting a last battle w T ith slavery, England gave her influence,
her material resources, to the wicked cause, and flung a sword into
the scale with slavery."

The Johnson-Clarendon treaty was rejected a few weeks after
President Grant became the Chief Executive. The rejection left our
relations with Great Britain at the beginning of Grant's administra-
tion where they were before. In his first annual message, in Decem-
ber, 1809, the President spoke of the failure of the treaty and the
reason for its rejection. The message committed the Government of
the United States to the maintenance of a claim for National damages
as well as for individual losses. Grant had the great virtue of pa-
tience. He patiently waited, a year, but nothing was done. It was
evident that nothing would be done unless England was compelled
to act by a pressure that could not easily be evaded. The President's
second annual message in December, 1870, applied the pressure. The
President said that " the Cabinet at London does not appear willing
to concede that her Majesty's Government was guilty of any negli-
gence, or did or permitted any act of which the United States has just
cause of complaint "; and reasserted that " our firm and unalterable
convictions, are directly the reverse." In view of all this he asked 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 pri-
vate claims as well as the responsible control of all the demands
against Great Britain."

It was evident from this proposition that the Administration in-
tended to press the matter as a grave international question. It in-
dicated not only a distinct and vigorous diplomatic policy, but a


policy iii accord with the impulses and traditions of the Republican
party. The credit of it has always been attributed jointly to the
President and the Secretary of State. It certainly partook of the
characteristics of both. In its simplicity, directness, and vigor it
reveals the soldier. In its guarded effectiveness it was the work of a
trained statesman. From that time until the end was reached
through the Treaty of Washington the negotiations were guided by
the skillful hand of Hamilton Fish.

Mr. Fish was not in President Grant's Cabinet as it was originally
announced. When Grant took office the State Department was given
to E. B. Washburne. It was understood, however, that Mr. Wash-
burne would soon retire to accept the French Mission. This arrange-
ment was carried out, and Mr. Fish became Secretary of State. This
selection was the most surprising of all of Grant's appointments, but
it turned out to be the most fortunate. As a
young man Mr. Fish had been prominent in
New York politics. After serving in the New
York Legislature, he was a member of Con-
gress, 1843-5. He became Governor of New
York in 1849, and a Senator in Congress in
1851. For more than ten years he had taken
no active part in politics. Although only sixty
j-ears of age, the politicians thought him su-
perannuated. But he brought to the Depart-
ment the peculiar gifts that were needed for
its successful administration, especially at
that time. He was a man of high character
for probity and honor, of fine culture, exten-
sive acquirements, and distinguished family. It was soon found that
he had kept fully abreast with the times in the knowledge of the for-
eign relations of the United States, and was in all respects the equal of
any of his predecessors as a Foreign Secretary. His great wealth and
recognized social position enabled him, aided by his accomplished
wife, to dispense an unostentatious but generous and elegant hos-
pitality, that gave character to his diplomacy and the Administra-
tion. For once the croakers made a mistake when they complained
of the selection of Hamilton Fish for the first place in Grant's

President Grant's message made a profound impression in London.
The situation in Europe was such that the course he proposed became
exceedingly embarrassing for Great Britain. The Franco-Prussian
war had rendered the relations of the Great Powers uncertain, if not
threatening. In a war between England and Russia the traditional


friendship between the great empire of the East and the great repub-
lic of the West would count for much a neutrality like that to which
Great Britain had subjected the United States would count for more.
British commerce could be swept from the seas by armed vessels that
escaped from American ports after the manner of the escape of the
" Alabama " and other Confederate vessels from British ports during
our Civil War. Under the circumstances, immediate war with the
United States would have been preferable to the American policy
that meant a menace for Great Britain in the hour of danger. It was
now Great Britain's turn to become eager for a settlement, because
the United States showed their purpose to gather in the outstanding
claims, post their books, and wait!

A Washington correspondent, when asked who created the Joint High
Commission and the Geneva Tribunal, said: u Morton, Rose & Co. for
Great Britain, and Morton, Bliss & Co. for the United States." The
initiative was taken by Sir John Rose, the London partner of Levi P.
Morton, the New York banker, afterward Vice-President of the
United States. The result of Sir John's visit to Washington was a
letter from Sir Edward Thornton, the British Minister, to Secretary
Fish, January 26, 1871, communicating instructions from Lord Gran-
ville 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. Sir Edward was authorized
by his Government to propose the creation of a Joint High Commis-
sion, the members to be named by each Government, w r hich 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

The tone of his answer shows that the proposal was not a surprise
to Mr. Fish. He said in reply that " in the opinion of the President
the removal of differences which arose during the rebellion in the
United States, and which had 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

The Treaty of Washington was remarkable for the celerity with
which it was negotiated. Sir Edward Thornton only waited long
enough to hear from Lord Granville by cable before sending his an-
swer to Secretary Fish. Within two months after President Grant's
message went to Congress the preliminary steps w T ere taken, and the
Joint High Commission appointed. The Commissioners on behalf of
Great Britain were the Earl de Grey and Ripon, president of the


Queen's Council; Sir Stafford Northcote, late Chancellor of the Ex-
chequer; Sir Edward Thornton, British Minister at Washington; Sir
John Maedouald, 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 they were Hamilton Fish, Secre-
tary of State; Kobert C. Schenck, who had just been appointed Min-
ister to Great Britain; Samuel Nelson, Justice of the Supreme Court;
E. Kockwood 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

The British Commissioners arrived in Washington before the close
of February, 1871, and the Treaty was concluded on the 8th day of
May. This was something unprecedented in British diplomacy. The
treaty took cognizance of four questions at issue between the two
countries, and it was agreed that the Alabama Claims should be ad-
justed at Geneva, Switzerland, by arbitration; that all other claims
for damages sustained by citizens of the United States and subjects
of Great Britain, between 1801 and 1865, should be determined by a
commission to meet at Washington; that the San Juan dispute should
be referred to the Emperor of Germany as umpire, and that the ques-
tion in regard to the fisheries should be settled by a commission to
meet at Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Geneva award was for |15,500,000,
an amount, as it was afterward ascertained, that was in excess of the
actual damages sustained by citizens of the United States in conse-
quence of the depredations of the rebel cruiser. All the other ques-
tions in dispute were settled to the satisfaction of both countries. But
the greatest triumph of Mr. Fish's diplomacy, and the one that gives
him a high place as a statesman, was the agreement upon the three
rules of international law T by which, as neutrals, the two countries
were to be bound in time of war. These rules were:

" 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 is 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 belligerant 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."

While Mr. Fish's diplomacy was more successful in dealing with
Great Britain than the effort of Mr. Seward, the purchase of Alaska


by President Johnson's Administration succeeded, but President
Grant's negotiations for the acquisition of San Domingo failed. The
purchase of Alaska from Russia was effected by the treaty of March
30, 1867, and completed by the appropriation of the purchase money,
$7,200,000 in gold, July 27, 1868. If it had not been for the tradi-
tional friendship of Kussia for the United States this purchase would
have failed, even after it w r as made. The American people had no
appreciation of the real value of the territory ceded to them it was
only a " lump of ice," and the popular branch of Congress was no
better informed. In the Senate the opposition was not so marked,
and the treaty w r as ratified with comparatively little difficulty. In
the House many leading Republicans opposed the appropriation. C.
C. Washburu, of Wisconsin, took the lead in opposition. He said of
the treaty that nobody asked for it; that it was secretly negotiated
so that the opposition to it could not be heard; that we were to be put
to never-ending expense in governing a nation of savages, and that
the country was absolutely without value. General Butler thought
that if we were to pay for the friendship of Russia it would be cheaper
to give the Czar the cash and let him keep Alaska. The men who
knew the least about the Territory were the most pronounced in de-
claring it to be entirely worthless. Mr. Peters, of Maine, said it was
"intrinsically valueless"; Mr. Price, of Iowa, Mr. Shellabarger, of
Ohio, and Mr. McCarthy, of New T York, were among those who
argued against the purchase. In its favor were Mr. Stevens
and Mr. L. Myers, of Pennsylvania; Mr. Spalding, of Ohio,
and Mr. Higby, of California. The principal champion of the
measure in the House was General Banks, chairman of the Committee
on Foreign Affairs. His speech was very able, and in regard to the
friendship of Russia for the United States exceedingly interesting.
" In the darkest hour of our peril during the rebellion," he said,
" when we were enacting a history which no man yet thoroughly
comprehends, when France and England were contemplating the
recognition of the Confederacy, the whole world was thrilled by the
appearance in San Francisco of a fleet of Russian war vessels, and
nearly at the same time, whether by accident or design, a second Rus-
sian fleet appeared in the harbor of New York. Who knew how many
more there w r ere on their voyage here? From that hour France, on
one hand, and England, on the other, receded, and the American
Government regained its position and its power. . . . Now, shall
we flout the Russian Government in every court in Europe for her
friendship? Whoever of the Representatives of the American people
in this House, on this question, turns his back, not only upon his duty,
but upon the friends of his country, upon the Constitution of his


Government, and the honor of his generation, can not long remain in

An effort was made by the House to share in the treaty-making
power of the Senate, but a compromise was effected in conference,
and the necessary appropriation was made. Mr. Seward was less for-
tunate in his attempted purchase of the Danish Island of St. Thomas,
in the West Indies, but President Grant's effort to acquire San Do-
mingo, in 1870, met with even more marked disfavor. The reasons
for the acquisition of the Dominican Republic were very strong, but
they were not understood by Congress or the country. The circum-
stances attending the negotiations were not fortunate. The agent
sent to San Domingo by the President was General O. E. Babcock,
who had been a member of General Grant's staff during the war. It
did not appear that he had been authorized by the State Department
to negotiate a treaty, but he came back with not only a convention
for the lease of the bay and peninsula of Samana, but with a treaty of
annexation. When the treaty was sent to the Senate it was soon
developed that some of the leading Senators were not only opposed
to the scheme, but ready to antagonize the President. This was
especially the case with Senator Sumner, who was offended because,
as Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, he had not been
consulted in the negotiations. He opposed its ratification with great
bitterness, in a speech unworthy of the orator, and needlessly hostile
to the President. In his arraignment of the Administration he went
out of his way to beseech the Vice-President " as a friend of General
Grant to counsel him not to follow the examples of Franklin Pierce,
of James Buchanan, and of Andrew Johnson."

" The negotiation for annexation," Sumner said, u began with a
political jockey named Buenaventura Baez; and he had about him
two other political jockeys, Casneau and Fabens. These three to-
gether, a precious co-partnership, seduced into their firm a young-
officer of ours, who entitles himself aide-de-camp to the President of
the United States. Together they got up what was entitled a pro-
tocol, in which the young officer, entitling himself aide-de-camp to
the President, proceeded to make certain promises for the President.
I desire to say that there is not one word showing that at the time
this aide-de-camp, as he called himself, had any title or instruction
to take this step. If he has, that title and that instruction have been
withheld. No inquiry had been able to penetrate it. ... I ask
you " (addressing the Vice-President), " do you know any such officer
in our Government as * aide-de-camp ' to His Excellency the President
of the United States? Does his name appear in the Constitution, in
any statute, in the history of this country anywhere? If it does, then


your information is much beyond mine. . . . However, he as-
sumed his title, and it doubtless produced a great effect with Baez,
Casneau, and Fabens, the three confederates. They were doubtless
pleased with the distinction. It helped on the plan they were en-
gineering. The young aide-de-camp pledged the President as follows:
' His Excellency, General Grant, President of the United States,
promises privately to use all his influence in order that the idea of
annexing the Dominican Republic to the United States may acquire
such a degree of popularity among members of Congress as will be
necessary for its accomplishment.' Shall I read the rest of the docu-
ment? It is somewhat of the same tenor. There are questions of
money in it, cash down, all of which must have been particularly
agreeable to the three confederates."

The speech led to a complete break in the personal relations of
these two great men, and it was not long until Sumner was as vigor-
ously opposing Grant's Administration as he had opposed the policy
of Andrew Johnson. As a result of the quarrel Sumner was dropped
from the chairmanship of the Committee on Foreign Relations, and
General Cameron was given the place. Sumner's friends charged this
indignity, as they chose to regard it, to Grant, but as the Senator was
no longer in sympathy with the majority in the Senate, or with the
Republican party, he had no just cause for complaint. Forbearance
with Sumner would have been a heroic virtue, for it was one in which
he never indulged himself toward others. As a matter of fact, Sum-
ner never was a Republican in the party sense, and his deposition
was not a wrong on the part of the Republican majority in the Senate
to a party associate. It was not true, as Mr. Elaine afterward as-
serted, that the action of the Senate was in effect notice to the whole
world that Mr. Sumner was to have no further connection with a
great international question, the relations of Britain and the United
States, to which he had given more attention than any other person
connected with the Government. Mr. Edmunds was nearer the true
ground when he declared that the question was " whether the Senate
of the United States and the Republican party are quite ready to
sacrifice their sense of duty to the whims of one single man, whether
he comes from New England, or from Missouri, or from Illinois, or
from anywhere else." Mr. Sumner, on his part, was not so magnani-
mous toward Mr. Blaine, for when Blaine charged him at a later
period with being recreant to the party, he retorted that " with so
many others devoted to the cause I have always served I had not
missed you until you reported your absence."

The San Domingo treaty was beaten in the Senate by a tie vote 28
to 28 but President Grant, with characteristic tenacity, clung to a


hope of its final success. He discussed the question in his annual mes-
sage in December, 1870, and asked that " by joint resolution of the two
Houses of Congress, the Executive be authorized to appoint a com-
mission to negotiate a treaty with the authorities of San Domingo
for the acquisition of that island, and that an appropriation be made
to defray the expenses of such commission." All that he could obtain
was the appointment of commissioners to proceed to San Domingo
to make inquiries into the political condition of the island and its
agricultural and commercial value. The Commissioners were Ben-
jamin F. Wade, of Ohio; Andrew D. White, of New York, and Samuel
O. Howe, of Massachusetts, all men of high character. They reported
in favor of the policy recommended by the President, but without re-
sult. President Grant regarded the report as a vindication of the
attempt to secure the annexation of the Dominican Republic, and he
never ceased to regret the failure of the scheme. Twenty-eight years
later the war with Spain demonstrated the wisdom of his policy.

" If Simmer's conduct in the San Domingo business failed to please
the Administration," wrote one of the biographers of the Massachu-
setts Senator, " it did not fail to please the Republic of Hayti, who,
grateful to the defender of her independence, presented him with a

Online LibraryGeorge Oberkirsh SeilhamerHistory of the Republican party (Volume 1) → online text (page 30 of 61)