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CHAPTER II.

ALABAMA CLAIMS.

CONDUCT OF GREAT BRITAIN TOWARD THE UNITED STATES

DURING THE LATE CIVIL WAR.

Ar the conclusion of the Civil War, intense feeling of indignation against Great Britain pervaded the minds of the Government and Congress of the United States, and of the people of those of the States which had devoted themselves to maintaining in arms the integrity of the Union against the hostile efforts of the Southern Confederation.

We charged and we believed that Great Britain and her Colonies had been the arsenal, the navy-yard, and the treasury of the Confederates.

We charged and we believed that Confederate cruisers, which had depredated largely on our shipping and maritime commerce, never could have taken and never held the sea, but for the partiality and gross negligence of the British Government.

We charged and we believed that but for the premature recognition of the belligerence of the Confederates by Great Britain, and the direct aid or supplies which were subsequently furnished to them in British ports, the insurrection in the Southern States never would have assumed, or could not have retained, those gigantic proportions, which served to render it so costly of blood and of treasure to the whole Union, and so specially disastrous to the Southern States themselves.

We charged and we believed that, in all this, Great Britain, through her Government, had disregarded the obligations of neutrality.imposed on her by the law of nations to such manifest degree as to have afforded to the United States just and ample cause of

war.

The United States, through all these events, with William H. Seward, as Secretary of State, and Charles Francis Adams, Minister at London, had not failed to address continual remonstrances to the British Gov. ernment, demanding reparation for past wrong and the cessation from continuous wrong: which remonstrances did, in fact, at length awaken the British Government to greater vigilance in the discharge of its international duties, but could not induce it to take any step toward reparation so long as Earl Rus- . sell [then Lord John Russell], by whose negligence or misjudgment the injuries had happened, remained in charge of the foreign affairs of the Government. That statesman, while, on more than one occasion, expressly admitting the wrong done to the United States, still persisted, with singular obtuseness or narrowness of mind, in maintaining that the honor of England would not permit her to make any reparation to the United States.

Never, in the history of nations, has an occasion existed where a powerful people, smarting under the consciousness of injury, manifested greater magnanim. ity than was displayed in that emergency by the United States.

We had on the sea hundreds of ships of war or of transport; we had on land hundreds of thousands of veteran soldiers under arms; we had officers of land and sea, the combatants in a hundred battles: all this vast force of war was in a condition to be launched as a thunderbolt at any enemy; and, in the present case, the possessions of that enemy, whether continental or insular, lay at our very door in tempting helplessness.

But neither the Government and people of the United States, nay, nor their laurel-crowned Generals and Admirals, desired war as a choice, nor would accept it but as a necessity; and they elected to con tinue to negotiate with Great Britain, and to do what no great European State has ever done under like circumstances,—that is, to disarm absolutely, and make thorough trial of the experiment of generous forbearance before having recourse to the dread extremity of vengeful hostilities against Great Britain.

NEGOTIATIONS BY MR. SEWARD. The event justified our conduct. To the prejudiced and impracticable Lord Russell, there succeeded in charge of the foreign affairs of the British Govern. ment, first, Lord Stanley [now the Earl of Derby], and then the Earl of Clarendon, who, more wise and just than he, successively entered upon negotiations with the United States on that very basis of arbitra

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tion which he had so peremptorily rejected, but which Mr. Seward persisted in asserting as wise in itself and honorable to both Governments.

Those negotiations failed. But the rejection by the Senate of the Clarendon-Johnson Treaty, with Mr. Sumner's commentary thereon, if it had the apparent effect, at first, of widening the breach between the two countries by the irritation it produced in England, yet ultimately had the opposite effect by forcing on public attention there a more general and clearer perception of the wrong which had been done to the United States.

POLICY OF PRESIDENT GRANT.

At this stage of the question, President Grant came into office; and he and his advisers seem to have well judged that it sufficed for him, after giving expression fully and distinctly to his own view of the questions at issue, there to pause and wait for the tranquillization of opinion in England, and the probable initiation of new negotiations by the British Government.

It happened as the President anticipated, and with attendant circumstances of peculiar interest to the United States.

During the late war between Germany and France, the condition of Europe was such as to induce the British Ministers to take into consideration the foreign relations of Great Britain; and, as Lord Granville, the British Minister of Foreign Affairs, has him. self stated in the House of Lords, they saw cause to look with solicitude on the uneasy relations of the British Government with the United States, and the inconvenience thereof in case of possible complications in Europe. Thus impelled, the Government dispatched to Washington a gentleman, who enjoyed the confidence of both Cabinets, Sir John Rose, to ascertain whether overtures for re-opening negotiations would be received by the President in spirit and terms acceptable to Great Britain.

It was the second time, in the present generation, that the foreign policy of England had been directed by a sense of the importance to her of maintaining good relations with the United States; for, by arguing from that point, France, at the opening of war with Prussia, induced the British Government to de. sist from those excessive belligerent pretensions to the prejudice of neutrals, which in former times had served to embroil her with both France and the Unit ed States.

There is another fact, which, in my opinion, powerfully contributed to induce this overture on the part of the British Government, although it was not spoken of in this connection by Lord Granville. I allude to the President's recommendation to Congress to appoint a commission to audit the claims of American citizens on Great Britain growing out of the acts of Confederate cruisers, in view of having them assumed by the Government of the United States. In this incident there was matter of grave and serious reflection to Great Britain.

On arriving at Washington, Sir John Rose found

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