Page images

transfer to a European power;" that is even by one European power to another. In fact, from 1823 to the present day the only violation of this principle has been Grant's corolthe unimportant cession of the island of Saint lary of the

Monroe DocBartholomew by Sweden to France in 1878.1 trine

1 Coolidge, The United States as a World Power, 113.




The resolution protesting against the formation of the Dominion of Canada was indicative of a feeling of hostility to Anti-British

Great Britain which was the most absorbing sentiment

factor in our diplomacy from 1865 until 1871. Based primarily upon our disappointment at England's lack of sympathy with the national government during that struggle, nourished by the frank unfriendliness of a large section of the English press and much of her literature, it found many substantial issues which gave occasion for its expression.

The direct loss that we sustained by the depredations of the Confederate commerce-destroyers, which Great Britain's

lax interpretation of neutrality allowed to Loss of the merchant range the ocean to the very end of the war,

was less than the indirect loss which they caused by imperilling all vessels bearing the American flag. Eight hundred thousand tons of American shipping were transferred to foreign flags, chiefly that of Great Britain, and what was left to us found itself hampered by almost prohibitory insurance rates. Both these sores were kept open and irritated by the failure of the American merchant marine to rise again. Its decline, which was due to a variety of causes unrelated to the war, had begun about 1857. The most important was the introduction of iron ships, which could be more cheaply constructed in Great Britain. To the natural advantages which that country possessed was added our protective tariff system, which increased the cost of our ship-building without being able to offer any compensatory protection to the ship-owners, engaged as they were in a free


international competition. Quite as important, too, was the terrific drain upon our resources of capital, credit, and labor produced by the era of internal expansion which the close of the war ushered in. The rewards coming from the development and exploitation of our own country were incomparably greater than those from any industry competing directly with that of foreign nations. The transfer of his fortune from shipping to railroads, made at this time by Commodore Vanderbilt, was the act of a far-seeing business man. His example was followed by many other Americans concerned in shipping, whether as owners or sailors, and few natives now embarked in the old profession.

These considerations, however, did not at the time sink into the national consciousness, which perceived merely that until the Civil war our merchant marine

Great Britain had been a leading American interest, and that held responsi

ble after it our flag had almost disappeared from competitive trade routes. The events of the war afforded a simple explanation, and anger was hot against Great Britain as the instrument of the change.

Other subjects of dispute naturally arose with a nation with which our connections were so numerous. It became a question, for instance, whether the main Boundary and channel of the strait of Juan de Fuca ran north the fisheries or south of the archipelago of San Juan, whether the islands fell to us or to Great Britain. The activities of the American and British representatives on the spot might at any time cause an explosion. Then, too, in 1866 Marcy's reciprocity treaty with Canada ran through its prescribed course, and we notified Great Britain that we did not care to continue it. This reopened the wasp's nest of the fisheries question in an atmosphere provoking irritation.


"W. L. Marvin, The American Merchant Marine, New York, 1902.

* This is one of the questions that might have afforded a basis for Seward's foreign-war panacea. See Mrs. G. E. Pickett's "Wartime Story of General Pickett,” Cosmopolitan, vol. lv, pp. 752–760.


To these problems was added that of the Fenian agitation. An Irish nationalistic and republican movement, its leaders Fenian move- planned to make the United States the basis

for their effort to invade Canada, spread terror in England, and force the independence of Ireland. Archbishop Hughes had visited Ireland during the Civil war, and had successfully stimulated the emigration of young men to the United States for the purpose of enlisting in the Union armies. As an additional motive he urged that they would secure military training that would prove useful for "ulterior” purposes. He meant the defence of the Papal States; but he was supposed to refer to the freeing of Ireland, and that was the hope that fired thousands of Irish volunteers. In 1866 the Fenians invaded Canada across the Niagara river, but accomplished nothing. In April of the same year an attempt was made to seize the island of Campo Bello, just across the New Brunswick border from Maine, to proclaim a republic, and to secure recognition from the United States; but this expedition also came to nothing. It is not without significance that in July the House of Representatives passed a bill to allow the sale of ships and munitions of war to foreign citizens and governments at peace with the United States though at war with other countries.

The chief danger of the Irish movement arose from the fact that many of the Fenians were naturalized American citizens,

and many were veterans of our Civil war. When Irish influence

they got into difficulties, therefore, they appealed to an American public sentiment already alert to take offence against the British government. The political influence of the Irish leaders, moreover, was so potent that few politicians dared oppose them. In 1868 the House passed by 104 to 4 a bill authorizing the President, in case American citizens were arrested for political reasons by a foreign power, to suspend commercial relations and detain a corresponding

1 John Rutherford, The Secret History of the Fenian Conspiracy, 2 vols. London, 1877.

Great Brit

number of the citizens of the offending government, indiscriminately selected. This bill Sumner succeeded in modifying in the Senate, but still it passed in good round terms. Seward, always on close terms with the Irish leaders, in this case found any temptation that he may have had to play up to them checked by the weightiest of balancing considerations. Just when we were urgently pressing upon Great Britain our claims for damages based on her failure to perform her neutral duties, we could not permit ourselves to be lax. The government, while protecting as far as possible the rights of American citizens, vigorously enforced the laws that prevented the use of our territory as a base of hostile operations.

The crux of the negotiations between the two governments was our demand for damages arising from what we claimed to be Great Britain's violation of neutrality. Her statutory provision for the ain's practice

of neutrality performance of her neutral duties was found in her foreign enlistment act of 1819. Although this forbade the fitting out of armed vessels, the Confederate commissioners were legally advised that the purchase of vessels and the purchase of arms were both legal, but that the two could not be combined in British waters. Acting on this advice, Captain Bullock, the Confederate naval representative, contracted for several vessels, of which the Florida, the Shenandoah, and most important, the Alabama got to sea in the manner suggested. Although in April, 1863, the British government prevented the Alexandria from being similarly handed over, the courts sustained the Confederate agents. In this latter case the lord chief baron instructed the jury: “If you think the object was to build a ship in obedience to an order, and in compliance with a contract, leaving those who bought it to make what use they thought fit of it, then it appears to me the Foreign enlistment act has not been in any degree broken.” The American claims for damages rested not only on the construction of these vessels, but also upon the fact that, by a liberal interpretation of the


« PreviousContinue »