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CASE OF THE UNITED STATES.
In the spring of the present year (1871) five Meeting of the
Joint High ComCommissioners on the part of Great Britain and mission at Wash
ington. five Commissioners on the part of the United States of America met at Washington in a body, which, when organized, was known as the Joint High Commission, in order to discuss, and, if possible, to arrange for, the adjustment of several causes of difference between the two Powers.
Among the subjects which were brought before that body by the United States were “the differ
" ences which arose during the rebellion in the United States, and which have existed since then, growing out of the acts committed by the several vessels, which have given rise to the claims generically known as the Alabama Claims."1
The sessions of the Joint High Commission were many in number, and were largely devoted to the consideration of the differences referred to in Mr. Fish's letter to Sir Edward Thornton, from
Mr. Fish to Sir Edward Thornton, Jannary 30, 1871, Vol. VI, page 16.
conferences as to
Meeting of the which the above-cited quotation is made. The Joint High Commission at Waslı- High Commissioners, in the protocol of their
thirty-sixth conference, caused to be recorded a statement of their negotiations on this subject, in
the following language : Protocol of the “At the conference held on the 8th of March the tho Alabama American Commissioners stated that the people
and Government of the United States felt that they had sustained a great wrong, and that great injuries and losses were inflicted
their commerce and their material interests by the course and conduct of Great Britain during the recent rebellion in the United States; that what had occurred in Great Britain and her colonies during that period had given rise to feelings in the United States which the people of the United States did not desire to cherish toward Great Britain; that the history of the Alabama and other cruisers, which had been fitted out, or armed, or equipped, or which had received augmentation of force in Great Britain or in her colonies, and of the operations of those vessels, showed extensive direct losses in the capture and destruction of a large number of vessels, with their cargoes, and in the heavy national expenditures in the pursuit of the cruisers, and indirect injury in the transfer of a large part of the American commercial marine to the British flag, in the enhanced payments of insurance, in the prolongation of the war, and in
Protocol of tho conferences as to
the addition of a large sum to the cost of the war and the suppression of the rebellion; and also the Alabama showed that Great Britain, by reason of failure in the proper observance of her duties as a neutral, had become justly liable for the acts of those cruisers and of their tenders; that the claims for the loss and destruction of private property which had thus far been presented amounted to about fourteen millions of dollars, without interest, which amount was liable to be greatly increased by claims which had not been presented; that the cost to which the Government had been put in the pursuit of cruisers could easily be ascertained by certificates of Government accounting officers; that, in the hope of an amicable settlement, no estimate was made of the indirect losses, without prejudice, however, to the right to indemnification on their account in the event of no such settlement being made.
“The American Commissioners further stated : that they hoped that the British Commissioners would be able to place upon record an expression of regret by Her Majesty's Government for the depredations committed by the vessels whose acts were now under discussion. They also proposed that the Joint High Commission should agree upon a sum which should be paid by Great Britain to the United States, in satisfaction of all the claims and the interest thereon.
Protocol of the conferences as to
“The British Commissioners replied that Her them. A la ba ma Majesty's Government could not admit that Great
Britain had failed to discharge toward the United
“They added that, although Great Britain had,
Protocol of the conferences as to
They would, therefore, abstain from replying in detail to the statement of the American Commis- the Alabam a sioners, in the hope that the necessity for entering upon a lengthened controversy might be obviated by the adoption of so fair a mode of settlement as that which they were instructed to propose; and they had now to repeat, on behalf of their Government, the offer of arbitration.
“ The American Commissioners expressed their regret at this decision of the British Commissioners, and said further that they could not consent to submit the question of the liability of Her Majesty's Government to arbitration unless the principles which should govern the Arbitrator in the consideration of the facts could be first agreed upon.
“ The British Commissioners replied that they had no authority to agree to a submission of these claims to an Arbitrator with instructions as to the principles which should govern him in the consideration of them. They said that they should be willing to consider what principles should be adopted for observance in future ; but that they were of opinion that the best mode of conducting an arbitration was to submit the facts to the Arbitrator, and leave him free to decide
them after hearing such arguments as might be necessary.
“The American Commissioners replied that they