United States. Dept. of State.

Correspondence concerning claims against Great Britain : transmitted to the Senate of the United States in answer to the resolutions of December 4 and 10, 1867, and of May 27, 1868 online

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Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of StateCorrespondence concerning claims against Great Britain : transmitted to the Senate of the United States in answer to the resolutions of December 4 and 10, 1867, and of May 27, 1868 → online text (page 88 of 108)
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ante ; and the following will appear in their proper order in this di-

9. Mr. Adams to the Earl of Clarendon, I^Tovember 18, 1865.

11. Mr. Adams to the Earl of Clarendon, l^ovember 21, 1865.

12. The Earl of Clarendon to Mr. Adams, December 2, 1865.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams.

Department op State,

Washington, February 14, 186^.

SiK : Your confidential letter of the 21st of December arrived here at
a time when I was abroad on a short excursion for health to the West
Indies. Accumulated correspondence has delayed the attention which
I should have been pleased to have given to your letters at an earlier
day since my return. I give to this paper, which has been submitted
to the President, the form of a confidential reply, upon which you will act
in every case in your own consideration. There is not one member of this
government, and, so far as I know, not one citizen of the United States,
who expects that this country will waive, in any case, the demands that
we have heretofore made upon the British government for the redress
of wrongs committed in violation of international law. I think that
the country would be equally unanimous in declining every form of
negotiation that should have in view merely prospective regulations of
national intercourse, so long as the justice of our existing claims for
indemnity is denied by her Majesty's government, and those claims are
refused to be made subject of friendly but impartial examination.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Chaelbs Fkancis Adams, Esq., <&c., &o., &c.

Mr. Adams to Mr. Seward.

No. 1151.] Legation op the United States,

London, Febriiary 15, 1866.
Sib : On a closer examination of the contents of the parliamentary
document containing the correspondence relative to the Shenandoah,
than I had been able to give at the moment when I transmitted copies
to you last week, I find, to my surprise, that Lord Clarendon, immedi-
ately after my conversation with him of the 20th of December last,
reported by me to you partly in my dispatch ISTo. 1112, of the 21st of
the same month, and partly in a confidential letter, sent to Sir Frederick
Bruce, in a dispatch dated the 28th* of that month, instructions formally
to submit to you the same proposition which he had presented to me in
that conference, and which I had then suggested to him not to offer in
that way. The objection to this course, as necessitating you at the out-
set to bring forward the obstacle presented in the impossibility of aban-
doning our claims, and in their absolute rejection of them, was so obvi-
ous that I saw no method of reaching any useful result excepting

* This date is wrong ; it is printed under the date of December 26, 1865, ante.


through an informal preliminary tentative process, absolutely commit-
ting neither party, by which, some notion might be reached of the pre-
cise extent to which each was willing publicly to go in order to
reach some common ground of negotiation. From a few words that
dropped from his lordship in our conversation, I rather inferred that he
had in his mind the possibility of making concessions of some sort from
the position taken by Lord EusseU, provided they should not appear
derogatory to the national dignity. This was the only thing that gave
me the smallest hope of making something out of his overture. Bu^i
that hope appears to be entirely destroyed by the course now resorted
to. The language of his letter to Sir F. Bruce clearly imphes that
recurrence to the past makes no part of his plan. If this be the true
meaning, then the British government will have done nothing to emerge
from its former awkward position of soUciting protection for itself in
certain future emergencies against the hazard of a retort of its own past
policy, without conceding that it had failed in any of its own obligations
heretofore. We are expected to abandon the whole ground of the justice
of our complaints at the same time that we shut ourselves off from all
future chance of profiting by their own policy, thus conceded to have
been permissible under the existing state of international law. The
public presentation of such an overture, if attended with no private
explanation, would seem, therefore, only like inviting a formal reply,
which would more completely than ever block up the last avenue to

Of course, I write without knowledge of any instructions that may
have accompanied this letter to Sir Frederick Bruce. Hence, there may
be something unseen by me to soften the character of this transaction.
But from my point of view I am at a loss to explain the reasons for it
excepting in one way. It may be that the cabinet were unwiUing to
meet the -new Parliament without having something or other to show in
quaUflcation of the absolute and abrupt stopper put upon the whole
matter by Lord EusseU. That step is very generally felt to have been a
mistake. It may be that this is the mode chosen by which to appear to
retract it, and at the same time to throw upon us an absolute necessity
of assuming the same position. It is scarcely possible to believe, after
their experience of the last four years, they could imagine us not in
earnest in maintaining the stand we had chosen to take, anduotlikely to
abandon it from the force of opposition. Hence the answer to a propo-
sition publicly made in the form chosen by Lord Clarendon could scarcely
have been expected to be other than an equally formal negative.
Consequently the end sought must have been that what odium might
attach in this country to the fact of shutting off the last avenue to a
settlement of existing difftculties would be shifted from them to us.

The idea is now started in private circles here, that, after all, the ques-
tions raised in the late controversy are not susceptible of arrangement
excepting through a general conference of representatives of the mari-
time powers. Hence, it is not impossible that some proposition of the
kind may be started from other quarters, but in the interest of this
country, as the only remaining mode of disposing of the matter.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Sewabd,

Secretary of State.


Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams.

No. 1700.] Depaetment op State,

Washington, March 5, 1866,

Sir : I have to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch of the 15th
of February, No. 1151. I have taken pains to recur to the dispatch in
the Blue Book of Lord Clarendon to Sir Frederick Bruce, to which you
have now referred me. I find that in that publication it bears the date
of December 26, not December 28, as you have described it. Either Sir
Frederick has, in the exercise of his discretion, refrained altogether from
bringing the dispatch to my notice, or else he has done so only in so
purely a conversational and informal manner as to leave no real impres-
sion upon my mind. Whatever I may have said upon the matter to him
has been in exactly the same terms in which I treated the same sugges-
tion now found in the aforesaid dispatch when it was presented by you
in your confidential note. I see now no reason for apprehending that
we shall at any time or under any circumstances be willing to negotiate
for future contingencies without having first due regard paid to our past
injuries and damages. I shall make Sir Frederick Bruce acquainted
with the contents of this paper. He is frank and honorable, while he is
discreet and devoted to his government.

I will not anticipate the possibility of extreme suggestions by other
maritime powers for consultation. Such proceedings have a certain
attraction for minds of a doctrinal character. The idea of a congress of
the maritime powers held a considerable preoccupation of a portion of
the press last summer, but exhausted itself then, and has not since

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Chaeles Francis Adams, Esq., <S;c., <&c., &c.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams,

No. 1798.] Department op State,

Washington, July 7, 1866.

Sir: Tour dispatch of the 21st of June, No. 1219, has been received.
We wait with considerable interest the reorganization of the British
ministry, which seems now to have become imminent.

In view of many unsettled questions at home and abroad, the public
here,in December last, seemed to be content that the government should
wait patiently for some new political conjuncture in which to reassert
our claims for indemnities for the neglect and violation of neutrality
permitted by her Majesty's ministers during the recent civil war. * *

Under the influence of these cheerful expectations, it is not unnatural
that the people of the United States should now again, and more earn-
estly than heretofore, fix their attention upon the important question of
the before-mentioned claims, which her Majesty's government have hith-
erto preferred to leave to be adjourned in a condition productive of end-
less discontent and irritation. In regard to these, you are well aware
that the opinions and sentiments of the administration are entirely those
of the American people.


****** It would seem desirable that lier Majesty's
government, if they should think fit, shovild initiate such discussions as
have become necessary. If, however, they shall omit to do so, it is
expected to become the duty of this department to convey to you soon
the President's instructions thereupon.

We shall be obliged if, in the meantime, you sound the principal sec-
retary of state for foreign affairs, and give us your opinion in regard to
the probability, if any, that her Britannic Majesty's government may
voluntarily direct its attention to the subject of our claims which arose
during the civil war, without waiting a direct reminder on our part.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Charles Francis Adams, Esq., <fec., (fee, cfcc.

Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams.

'So. 1801.J Department op State,

Washington, July 14, 1866.

Sib: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch of the 28th
of June, ]^o. 1223, in which you announce the resignation of Earl Eus-
sell's government.

It pleases us to have your opinion that the change of ministers will
not materially affect the diplomatic interests of the XTnited States. Of
course we shaU expect you to wait, with entire respect and kindness,
the organization of the new government before pressing upon it the mat-
ters upon which you have lately received special instructions.

I think it necessary, however, to add that it is deemed highly import-
ant here that the earliest possible attention of the incoming ministry
shall be recalled to the points relating to our matters in Ireland, nor is
it less important to have as prompt a reply as you can enable yourself
to make to my No. 1798. #»*###

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Charles Francis Adams, Esq., (&c., &c., &g.

Mr. Adams to Mr. Seward.

No. 1244.] Legation op the United States,

London, July 26, 1866.
Sir : I have to acknowledge the reception of dispatches from the
department, numbered from 1796 to 1800, inclusive.

****** The gov-

ernment is now fuUy reorganized, and although its durability liiay be
reasonably doubted, there is no cause in my mind why its disposition to
reconsider the course of its predecessor should not be tested whilst it
lasts. In connection with this, I transmit a report of what was said in
the House of Commons by Lord Stanley, on Monday night, in reply to


a question proposed by Mr. WMte, the member for Brighton, who has
always been friendly to America. Although carefully guarded, it seems
to me that the idea of a reopening of the topic is implied as well in his
langTiage as in the investigation which has been set on foot.

it had been my intention yesterday, on a casual visit to the Foreig:n
Office for a different purpose, to obtain a moment's interview with his
lordship, in order to sound him on this point, and perhaps to communi-
cate to him the substance of your dispatch, but, uuluckily, he had just
left to go to the House of Commons. This will render it necessary to
apply for a conference, which I propose to do to-day.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,

Hon. William H. Sbwaed,

Secretary of State.

[For inclosure see Parliamentary and Judicial Appendix, No. 25.J

Mr, Seward to Mr, Adams,


IJTo. 1819.] Depaetment t)F State,

Washington, July 30, 1866.

Sir: I have your dispatch of the 12th instant, No. 1235. it gives us
pleasure to learn that you find Lord Stanley exhibiting a friendly
spirit with regard to the relations between the United States and Great

Sir Frederick Bruce, the British representative here, is, I think,
deeply impressed with the necessity of arriving, by some means, at a
better understanding than has hitherto existed concerning the claims of
our citizens for indemnities for injuries sustained during the war.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

Charles Francis Adams, Esq., tfec, &c. &c.

Mr, Seward to Mr. Adams,

No. 1835.] Department op State,

Washington, August 27, 1866.
Sir : Tou will herewith receive a summary of claims of citizens of
the United States against Great Britain for damages which were suf-
fered by them during the period of our late civil war, and some months
thereafter, by means of depredations upon our commercial marine, com-
mitted on the high seas by the Sumter, the Alabama, the Florida,, the
Shenandoah, and other ships of war, which were built, manned, armed,
equipi)ed, and fitted out in British ports, and dispatched therefrom by
or through the agency of British subjects, and which were harbored,
sheltered, providedj and furnished as occasion required, during their
devastating career, in ports of the realm, or in ports of British colonies
in nearly all parts of the globe.


The table is not supposed to be complete, but it presents such, a reca-
pitulation of the claims as the evidence thus far received in this depart-
ment enables me to furnish. Deficiencies win be supplied hereafter.
Most of the claims have been from time to time brought by yourself, as
the President directed, to the notice of her Majesty's government, and
made the subject of earnest and continued appeal. That appeal was
intermitted only when her Majesty's government, after elaborate discus-
sions, refused either to allow the claims, or to refer them to a joint claims
commission, or to submit the question of liability therein to any form of
arbitration. The United States, on the other hand, have all the time in-
sisted upon the claims as just and valid. This attitude has been, and
doubtless continues to be, well understood by her Majesty's govern-
ment. The considerations which inclined this government to suspend
for a time the pressure of the claims upon the attention of Great Britain
were these:

The political excitements in Great Britain, which arose during the
progress of the war, and which did not immediately subside at its
conclusion, seemed to render that period somewhat unfavorable to a
deliberate examination of the very grave questions which the claims

. The attention of this government was, during the same period, largely
engrossed by questions at home or abroad of peculiar interest and
urgency. The British goA-ernment has seemed to us to have been simi-
larly engaged. These circumstances have now passed away, and a time
has arrived when it is believed that the subject may receive just atten-
tion in both countries.

The principles upon which the claims are asserted by the United
States have been explained by yourself in an elaborate correspondence
with Earl Eussell and Lord Clarendon.. In this respect, there seems to
be no deficiency to be supplied by this department. Thus, if it should
be the pleasure of her Majesty's government to revert to the subject in
a friendly spirit, the materials for any new discussion on your part will
be found in the records of your legation, properly and duly prepared for
use by your own hand. It is the President's desire that you now call
the attention of Lord Stanley to the claims in a respectful but earnest
manner, and inform him that, in the President's judgment, a settlement
of them has become urgently necessary to a re-establishment of entirely
friendly relations between the United States and Great Britain.

This government, while it thus insists upon these particular claims,
is neither desirous nor willing to assume an attitude unkind or unconcil-
iatory towards Great Britain. If on her part there are claims, either of
a commercial character, or of boundarx, or of commercial or judicial
regulation, which her Majesty's government esteem important to bring
under examination at the present time, the United States would, in such
case, be not unwilling to take them into consideration in connection with
the claims which are now presented on their part, and with a view to
remove at one time, and by one comprehensive settlement, all existing
causes of misunderstanding.

In asking an early attention to the subject, it is supposed that you
may, with propriety, dwell upon some of its important features, which,
although they have heretofore been indicated by you, may nevertheless
not hitherto have sufficiently engaged the attention of the British gov-

In the beginning of the year 1861, the people of the United States
had, by means of commercial enterprise at home and abroad, buUt up
and realized the enjoyment of a foreign trade second only among the


nations, and but little inferior to that of Great Britain. They had habit-
ually refrained from wars, and especially from intervention in the polit-
ical affairs of other nations. Mutual recollections of ancient conflicts
which for three-fourths of a century had held the two countries in a
state of partial alienation and irritation had subsided, and what was
supposed to be a lasting friendship had been established between the
United States and Great Britain ; at this moment a domestic disturb-
ance rose in our country, which, although it had severe peculiarities,
yet was in fact only such a seditious insurrection as is incidental to
national progress in every state.

In its incipient stage, it was foreseen here that the insurgents would,
as in all cases insurgents must, appeal to foreign states for intervention.
It was supposed that their appeal, if successful anywhere, would be success-
ful in Great Britain, popularlyregardedinboth countries in one sense as a
kindred nation, in another sense as a rival, and in a third, by reason of
the great expansion of manufacture, a dependent upon the cotton-plant-
ing interest of the southern States, which were to become the theater of
the insurrection. It was foreseen that British intervention even,
though stopping many degrees short of actual alliance, or even of recog-
nition of the insurgents as a political power, must nevertheless inevita-
bly protract the apprehended civil war, and aggravate its evils and suf-
ferings on the land, while it must materially injure, if not altogether de-
stroy our national commerce.

When the insurrection began, the United States believed themselves
to hold a position and prestige equal in consideration and influence to
that of any other nation ; and it was foreseen that foreign intervention
in behalf of the insurgents, even to the extent only of recognizing them
as a belligerent, must directly,' and more or less completely,, derogate
from the just and habitual influence of the republic. It was foreseen that,
should the insurgents receive countenance, aid, and support, in any de-
gree, from Great Britain, the insurrection might be ripened under such
influences into a social war, which would involve the Mfe of the nation
itself. The United States did not fail to give warning to her Majesty's
government that the American people could not be expected to submit
without resistance to the endurance of any of these great evils, through
the means of any failure of Great Britain to preserve the established
relations of peace, amity, and good neighborhood with the United

The earnest remonstrances thus made seem to the United States to
have failed to receive just and adequate consideration. While as yet
the civil war was undeveloped, and the insurgents were without any or-
ganized military force or a treasury, and long before they pretended to
have a flag, or to put either an armed ship or even a merchant vessel
upon the sea, her Majesty's government, acting precipitately, as we have
always complained, proclaimed the insurgents a belligerent power, and
conceded to them the advantages and privileges of that character, and
thus raised them in regard to the prosecution of an unlawful armed in-
surrection to an equality with the United States. This government has
not denied that it was within the sovereign authority of Grea.t Britain
to assume this attitude ; but, on the other hand, it insisted in the be-
ginniug, and has continually insisted, that the assumption of that atti-
tude, unnecessarily and prematurely, would be an injurious proceeding
for which Great Britain would immediately come under a full responsi-
bility to justify it, or to render redress and indemnity. The United States
remain of the opinion that the proclamation referred to has not been jus-
tified on any ground of either necessity or moral right, and that, there-


fore, it ■vras an act of wrongful intervention, a departure from the obli-
gations of existing treaties, and without sanction of the law of nations.

Upon a candid review of the history of the rebellion, it is believed
that Great Britain will not deny that a very large number of the Queen's
subjects combined themselves and operated as active allies with the in-
surgents, aided them with supplies, arms,"munitions, men, and many
ships of war. The chief reply which her Majesty's government has made
to this complaint has been that they apprehended inconveniences, from
being involved in the contest, unless they should declare themselves
neutrals ; and, further, that they did, in fact, put forth aU the efforts to
prevent such aggressions by British subjects which the laws of Great
Britain permitted.

Without descending on this occasion so far as to insist, as we always
have insisted, that there was a deficiency of energy in the respect ad-
verted to, you may remind Lord Stanley that, in the view which we have ,
taken of the subject, the misconduct of the aggressors was a direct and
legitimate fruit of the premature and injurious proclamation of belli-
gerency, against which we had protested, and that the failure of her
Majesty's government to prevent or counteract the aggressions of Brit-
ish subjects was equally traceable to the same unfortunate cause.

When the municipal laws of Great Britain proved in practical appli-
cation to be inadequate to the emergency, the British nation omitted,
for various reasons, which seemed to us iasuflcient, to revise these laws,
and the United States were left to maintain a conflict with a domestic
enemy which British sympathy, aid, and assistance had rendered formid-
able, and in which British subjects continued throughout to be active al-
lies, without any effective interposition by her Majesty's government.

The claims upon which we insist are of large amoant. They affect
the interest of many thousand citizens of the United States in various
parts of the republic. The justice of the claims is sustained by the uni-
versal sentiment of the people of the United States. Her Majesty's
government, we think, cannot reasonably expect that the government of
the United States can consent, under such circumstances, to forego their
prosecution to some reasonable and satisfactory conclusion. This as-
pect of the case is, however, less serious than that which I have next to
present. A disregard of the obligations of treaties, and of international
law, manifested by one state, so injurious to another as to awaken a
general spirit of discontent and dissatisfaction among its people, is sure,
sooner or later, to oblige that people, in a spirit of self-defense, if not of
retaliation, in the absence of any other remedy, to conform their own
principles and policy, in conducting their intercourse with the offend-

Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of StateCorrespondence concerning claims against Great Britain : transmitted to the Senate of the United States in answer to the resolutions of December 4 and 10, 1867, and of May 27, 1868 → online text (page 88 of 108)