Page images
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

those growing out of the acts of the cruisers, of whose proceedings complaint was made, consequentially and not immediately.

The English “ Case,” which was submitted to the Arbitrators appointed under the Treaty in January of this year, contained no reference whatever to this inopportune and, as it subsequently turned out, unnecessary difficulty. Its contents were briefly and accurately summarized in the newspapers :

“The Case sets out by expressly limiting the subject in dispute. According to the views which we present to the Arbitrators, the claims referred to the tribunal are claims 'growing out of the aets' of certain vessels in respect of which the Government of the United States alleges that Great Britain has failed to perform some international duty. The tribunal is reminded that these vessels have not been designated by name, but are only indicated by reference to a particular class of claims, which are assumed in the Treaty to have become familiar to both Governments. The only vessels in respect of the acts of which any claims have been made by the Government of the United States up to the present time are the * Alabama,' the Florida,' the Georgia,' and the 'Shenandoah.' On one occasion since the war mention was indeed made in an American despatch of a vessel called the “Sumter'-but no claims in respect of this vessel were made then or since. The Queen's Government therefore assumes, as the basis of the proceedings, that the only question for the Arbitrators is, whether and how far England has been guilty of a breach of international law with respect to these four vessels, and is liable to the claims growing out of their acts ?'

“ This position, if sanctioned by the Arbitrators, reduces the case to certain definite issues, on which evidence may be presented for or against. But as the nature of the war, the belligerent character of both the parties to it, and the law of nations with respect to the export of warlike material and the non-liability of the neutral for the acts of individual citizens who engage at their own risk in such a practice as blockade running, may be elements in a proper consideration of our dealings with these four vessels, the British Case makes an introductory statement of events which attended and followed the commencement of the Civil War, and of the course pursued in relation to it by Great Britain and other naval Powers.

“It is urged that what the United States Government now calls an 'insurrection,' was really a war between two States of vast geographical area, of great resources, and unflinching determination; that the armies of the North were overthrown in Virginia, and only succeeded in reconquering the territory of the Confederate States after a conflict of four years; that the North did, in fact, recognize the conflict as a war by the proclamation of blockade, by the seizure and condemnation of neutral ships, the number of vessels captured or destroyed by vessels of the United States during the war, for breach of blockade or in battle, exceeding 1200. To these facts the British Government applies the following general


propositions, which it believes to be in accordance with the principles of international law and the practice of nations :--That it is the duty of a neutral Government, in all matters relating to war, to act impartially towards the belligerent Powers; that this duty, inasmuch as it flows directly from the conception of neutrality, attends the relation of neutrality wherever it exists, and is not affected by considerations arising from the political relation which before the war the belligerents may have sustained to one another; that in maritime war a neutral Power is bound to recognize, in matters relating to the war, commissions issued and captures made by each belligerent; and, lastly, that where either belligerent is a community or body of persons not recognized by the neutral Power as constituting a sovereign State, commissions issued by such belligerent are recognized as acts emanating, not, indeed, from a sovereign Government, but from a person or persons exercising de facto, in relation to the war, the powers of a sovereign Government."

The publication of the American “ Case” in answer, which soon became known through the newspapers, first created the untoward embarrassment of which we have spoken. Mr. Bancroft Davis, the American counsel, has in popular opinion the creditwhether justly or otherwise we know not--of having brought into the arena a class of pretensions which in the belief at least of our diplomatists) had been discussed, and waived, at Washington. And the British public certainly entertained no notion whatever that they were about to be revived. The principal claims of the "indirect class thus put forward included the national loss incurred through the transfer of much of the American commercial marine to the British flag, the enhancement of insurance, and the prolongation of the war; and the addition of a large sum to the cost of the war and suppression of the rebellion.

In the American Congress, however, the question of the Indirect Claims was early agitated. The speech in the Senate of Senator Edmunds, of Vermont (Feb. 5), may be taken as affording a fair view of the light in which the politicians of that side of the water regarded it. The English Government, said the Senator, were reported to be prepared to repudiate the Treaty, if these claims were urged on the part of the States. To see whether this pretension is well founded, Senator Edmunds made copious extracts from the American Case, in which are cited the Protocols of the Joint High Commission and the words of the Treaty itself. He laid especial stress on the following words of the Treaty :

“Now, in order to remove, and adjust all complaints and claims on the part of the United States, and to provide for the speedy settlement of such claims which are not admitted by Her Britannic Majesty's Government, the high contracting parties agree that all the said claims growing out of acts committed by the aforesaid vessels, and generally known as the Alabama Claims, shall be referred to a Tribunal of Arbitration.”

let us

This, Senator Edmunds argued, was in the express language of the Treaty itself a statement that all the American complaints and claims set up as growing out of the acts of those cruisers—that is, the necessary and natural consequences of them as well as the acts themselves-not only the acts of the cruisers themselves, but growing out of those acts as consequences,--should be submitted to this Tribunal of Arbitration, and be decided upon the principles fixed for their decision. He also argued that it was a matter of public history that the claims so covered embraced all damages and losses arising from the necessary and natural consequences of the wrongful acts and omissions of the British Government. That claim had been stated by Senator Sumner in a speech on the preceding Treaty, and it was as well, if not better, known in England than here. For years the British Government had notice that these damages were a part of the American claim for reimbursement, and that the American people thought them a just and proper ground. The outcry in England, he thought, "looked almost like a pretext for revoking the Treaty, or a contrivance to exert an external influence upon the Arbitrators prejudicial to the American Case before them, if the Government or Parliament of England were to assume the attitude imputed to them by the press reports. If this be the fact,

say “Amen," and enter into no more Treaties with Powers so ready and willing to break them, and be ready at the proper time to vindicate the honour' and enforce the just claims of our country.”

A short extract from an article by the well-known and intelligent French public writer, M. John Lemoinne, in the Débats of Feb. 17, may serve to show the view of the subject of debate which suggested itself, at this point of the negotiation, to an impartial neutral:

“ The principal fact is, that there has been between the two Governments a complete misunderstanding as to the functions of the Arbitrators, or at least as to the points in dispute which are to be submitted to them. The English Government understood that the Arbitrators would only have to consider the question of direct damage caused to the United States' marine by Southern cruisers, armed and fitted out in English ports, while the American Government seeks to submit to the Arbitration Court all cases of indirect losses which were the consequence of the prolongation of the war. England--and here we speak not solely of the Government, but also of the nation will not tolerate that interpretation; it is categorically rejected. Without reproducing here all the notes which are daily interchanged by means of the Atlantic cable, it is sufficient to say that the United States Government maintains its right to interpret the Treaty in their own way, and to submit such and such questions to the Arbitrators; while, upon its side, the English Government declares that there has been an essential misunderstanding with respect to the Arbitration, and that the two parties having understood in a totally different manner that which was to be considered and determined, the Treaty must be considered no longer as existing. That is how the question stands at present. The English have shown themselves so unconcerned in all that related to us that we cannot do better than imitate that indifference in what concerns them. We will say, therefore, with the utmost impartiality, that there are faults on both sides. The Government of the United States is attempting to introduce into international law an inadmissible doctrine—that is, of requiring the cost of a war from Powers which are not responsible for it, and who even have been in their interests its first victims. We perfectly understand that we must not accept seriously the pecuniary demands which are presented by the Americans in respect of the prolongation of the war, for the advanced rates of insurance, and other pretexts equally elastic and impossible to estimate-demands which reach a higher amount even than the milliards which we are indebted to our conquering enemies. The Americans themselves know quite well the value of these claims, and have not the least intention of enforcing payment of them. But, at the same time, they maintain, and with a certain degree of reason, their right to interpret the Treaty; and here it is that it must be acknowledged the English Government has entered into engagements with an imprudence and carelessness which may possibly before long recoil upon them.” a

In the debate on the Queen's Speech in the British Parliament, which we have elsewhere analyzed, this unpleasing question of the “ Indirect Claims” occupied of course a predominant place. In the House of Lords, the Earl of Derby accused the British negotiators of carelessness in not explicitly excluding them, the Americans, of “a good degree of acuteness- I will not call it by a harsher name,” in contriving to prevent them from being absolutely barred, Lord Granville was cautious in his answer; but Mr. Gladstone, in the Commons, took higher ground, and was reported to have declared not only that he and his colleagues had uniformly spoken and acted on the supposition that these indirect claims were excluded by the limits of the reference, but that it was impos. sible for any reasonable person to understand the matter otherwise.

To a certain extent, Mr. Gladstone thought it advisable, a little afterwards, to modify the strength of the expressions which he had used in this debate, as appears from the following letter, which he addressed to the London Correspondent of the New York World :

"10, Downing-street, Whitehall, February 15. “Sir, I am much obliged by your courteous letter. Permit me to assure you it is an entire mistake to suppose I have ever said that every rational mind' must, see but one meaning in the Treaty of Washington. Nothing would have induced me to use such an expression. The limit of my assertion, stated briefly, was, and is, as follows:

“I believe the meaning of the Treaty to be clear and unambiguous, according to any legitimate test whatever which can be applied to it. This proposition I am, of course, ready to sustain in argument.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“But every other person is equally entitled to think, if he see cause, that what I hold to be clear and unambiguous is dark and doubtful; or, that it is clear and unambiguous in the sense contradictory to mine. What I trust is that others, upon a close examination, will not see cause to think any such thing. This point, a little time and patience cannot fail thoroughly to elucidate.

Setting aside the remark which I did not use, and which I think open to severe animadversion, I have always understood, and still understand, that any man is at liberty to hold and to state with the utmost confidence an opinion as to the meaning of a document (and this I have done), without being open to the charge of what I conceive to be a gross offence, namely, his presuming to restrain for others the liberty which he claims himself. Indeed, speaking according to the usages and habits of English public life, I feel as if the utterance of such a proposition were not so much a truth as a truism.

“If, however, this truth, or truism, be applicable to documents in general, it requires but a moderate share of modesty to adopt it in the case of documents such as a treaty and its protocols.--I have the honour to be, sir, your faithful servant,

«« W. E. GLADSTONE." The position of the two countries up to this point in the discussion cannot, perhaps, be more conveniently summed up than it was by the same impartial authority already cited, that of the Journal des Débats :

“ The claims of the American Cabinet start from the commencement of the Southern Secession, and may be summarized under five heads :-). The direct damage resulting from the destruction of vessels and cargoes by the Southern States' privateers ; 2. The losses occasioned by the transfer of the American shipping trade to the British flag; 3. The considerable expenses imposed on the United States by the necessity of chasing the privateers; 4. The losses from the increase of insurance premiums; 5. The enlarged war expenditure caused by the prolongation of hostilities.

“ The American case endeavours, by way of introduction, to show that even before the outbreak of hostilities, and during their whole course, England, or rather her Government, cherished evident hostile sentiments towards the Northern States and sympathy for the South ; and to prove this position they eite, among other testimony, a summary of an alleged conversation held by an English Consul at Charleston, quoted from an unpublished report in the State Department at Washington, without giving any proof of the authenticity of this paper, which may perhaps be only one of the apocryphal documents published so largely during the war by the Confederate press in the interest of their cause. They refer, also, as indicating the tone of the British feeling towards the Union, to certain speeches of Messrs. Bright and Cobden, and, instead of viewing these as so many testimonies of sympathy on the part of more than one Englishman with the North, they forge them into an engine to catch

« PreviousContinue »