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TREATY OF WASHINGTON.
THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON, whether it be regarded in the light of its general spirit and object, of its particular stipulations, or of its relation to the high contracting parties, constitutes one of the most notable and interesting of all the great diplomatic acts of the present age.
It disposes, in forty-three articles, of five differenty, subjects of controversy between Great Britain and the United States, two of them European or imperial, three American or colonial, and some of them of such nature as most imminently to imperil the precious peace of the two great English-speaking nations.
Indeed, several of these objects of controversy are questions coeval with the national existence of the United States, and which, if lost sight of occasionally in the midst of other pre-occupations of peace or war, yet continually came to the surface again from time
to time to vex and disturb the good understanding of both Governments. Others of the questions, although of more modern date, incidents of our late Civil War, were all the more irritating, as being fresh wounds to the sensibility of the people of the United States.
If, to all these considerations, be added the fact that negotiation after negotiation respecting these questions had failed to resolve them in a satisfactory manner, it will be readily seen how great was the diplomatic triumph achieved by the Treaty of Wash. ington.
It required peculiar inducements and agencies to accomplish this great result. Prominent
the inducements were the pacific spirit of the President of the United States and the Queen of Great Britain, and of their respective Cabinets, and the sincere and heartfelt desire of a great majority of the people of both countries that no shadow of offense should be allowed any longer to linger on the face of their international relations.
Great Britain, it is but just to her to say, if not confessedly conscious of wrong, yet, as being the party to whom wrong was imputed, did honorably and wisely make the decisive advance toward reconciliation, by consenting to dispatch five Commissioners to Wash. ington, there, under the eye of the President, to treat with five Commissioners on behalf of the United States.
Diplomatic congresses have assembled on previous occasions to terminate the great wars of Europe, or
to maintain and consolidate peace in America. And conferences, like those of Vienna, of Aix-la-Chapelle, of Paris, may have embraced the representation and settled the interests of a larger number of nations; but they did not consist of higher personages, nor did they treat of larger matters than did the conference of Washington.
On the part of the United States were five persons, -Hamilton Fish, Robert C. Schenck, Samuel Nelson, Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar, and George H. Williams,eminently fit representatives of the diplomacy, the bench, the bar, and the legislature of the United States : on the part of Great Britain, Earl De Grey and Ripon, President of the Queen's Council; Sir Staf. ford Northcote, ex-Minister and actual Member of the House of Commons; Sir Edward Thornton, the universally respected British Minister at Washington; Sir John Macdonald, the able and eloquent Premier of the Canadian Dominion; and, in revival of the good old time, when learning was equal to any other title of public honor, the Universities in the person of Professor Mountague Bernard.
With persons of such distinction and character, it was morally impossible that the negotiation should fail: the negotiators were bound to succeed. Their reputations, not less than the honor of their respective countries, were at stake. The circumstances involved moral coercion, more potent than physical force. The issues of peace and of war were in the hands of those ten personages. They were to illustrate the eternal truth that, out of the differences of nations, competent
statesmen evolve peace; and that it is only by the incompetency of statesmen of one side or the other,— that is, their ignorance, their passion, their prejudice, their want of forecast, or their willfully aggressive ambition,—that the unspeakable calamities of war are ever thrust on the suffering world. Neither Mr. Fish nor Earl De Grey, nor their respective associates, could afford to take on their consciences the responsibility, or on their characters the shame, of the nonsuccess on this occasion of a last effort to renovate and re-establish in perpetuity relations of cordial friendship between Great Britain and the United States. And, if they needed other impulse to right conclusion, that was given by the wise and firm direction of the President, here in person, and of the Queen, here in effect through the means of daily telegraphic communication.
Happily for the peace of the two countries and for the welfare of the world, the negotiators proved equal to the emergency,
in courage as well as in statesmanship. The Government and the people of Great Britain had learned to regret sincerely the occurrence of the acts or facts which had given such deep offense, and which had done such serious injury, to the United States; and, moreover, the Government and people of this country had come to desire, with equal sincerity, that some honorable solution of the existing difficulties might be found, so as to leave room for the unobstructed action here of the prevailing natural tendency toward unreserved intellectual and commercial association with Great Britain. Material interests,
social sentiments, incidental circumstances, all invited both nations to cordial reunion.
. In the face of many difficulties, the Commissioners, on the 8th of May, 1871, completed a treaty, which received the prompt approval of their respective Governments; which has passed unscathed through. the severest ordeal of a temporary misunderstanding between the two Governments respecting the construction of some of its provisions; which has already attained the dignity of a monumental act in the estimation of mankind; and which is destined to occupy hereafter a lofty place in the history of the diplomacy and the international jurisprudence of Europe and America.
Coming now to the analysis of this treaty, we find that Articles I. to XI. inclusive make provisions for the settlement by arbitration of the injuries alleged to have been suffered by the United States in consequence of the fitting out, arming, or equipping, in the ports of Great Britain, of Confederate cruisers to make war on the United States.
Articles XII. to XVII. inclusive make provision to settle, by means of a mixed Commission, all claims on either side for injuries by either Government to the citizens of the other during the late Civil War, other than claims growing out of the acts of Confederate cruisers disposed of by the previous articles of the Treaty.
Articles XVIII. to XXV. inclusive contain provisions for the permanent regulation of the coast fisheries on the Atlantic shores of the United States and of the British Provinces of Quebec, Nova Scotia, and