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right of belligerent vessels to take on enough provisions to reach a home port, they were allowed to use British ports as bases for their operations.
On October 23, 1863, the detention of the Laird rams haying shown that the British government had changed its Futile negotia- practice with regard to the building of hostile
warships, Adams offered to submit to arbitration our claims for damages caused by those already built. Lord Russell said that the construction of British statutes could never be submitted to arbitration, that the question involved the honor of the country and so was not appropriate for arbitration. It was, of course, obvious that the question was not the construction of British statutes, but the adequacy of those statutes, as interpreted by the British courts, to the maintenance of neutrality; but the negotiation dropped. It was renewed under Russell's successor, Lord Stanley, but agreement was at first prevented by the question as to the limits of the arbitration,
whether it should be confined to claims for damages directly inflicted, or should be extended to include those suffered indirectly, such as insurance, cost of pursuit, and the commercial loss of our merchant marine.
In 1868 Reverdy Johnson, who succeeded Adams, arranged a convention with Lord Stanley dealing with this
and other subjects. It gave up our claims for Johnson
indirect damages, and so was not entirely satisconvention
factory to Seward; nevertheless it was submitted to the Senate. February 10, 1869, Seward wrote to Johnson: “The confused light of the incoming administration is already spreading itself over the country. ... With your experience in legislative life, you will be able to judge for yourself of the prospects of definite action upon the treaties during the remainder of the present session.”
The confused light broke in a lightening flash when, on April 13, 1869, Sumner reported the convention unfavorably from the committee on foreign affairs. In one of his most
carefully prepared orations he denounced the agreement and proclaimed his policy. Our direct claims, he contended, were no compensation for our losses; the in- Sumner's direct claims, particularly those based on the policy substitution of the British merchant marine for our own, were greater and must be made good. Fundamentally, however, our grievance against Great Britain rested on the fact that by her premature and injurious proclamation of belligerency she had prolonged the war for at least two years; and for the cost she should pay. Sumner's total bill amounted to two and a half billion dollars. “Whatever may be the final settlement of these great accounts,” he declared, “such must be the judgment in any chancery which consults the simple equity of the case.
The explanation of this preposterous demand is revealed in a memorandum of Sumner's of January 17, 1871: "The greatest trouble, if not peril, being a constant source of anxiety and disturbance, is from the Fenians, which is excited by the proximity of the British flag in Canada. Therefore the withdrawal of the British flag cannot be abandoned as a condition preliminary of such a settlement as is now proposed. To make the settlement complete the withdrawal should be from this hemisphere, including provinces and islands.” As Adams had purchased Florida and Polk New Mexico with our claims, as Jackson had proposed to buy Texas, so Sumner would purchase all British America.
Fantastic as was his proposition, it was the result of thought, it rested on facts, and to its execution he devoted his utmost skill; as much may be said of any Sumner's viconscientiously constructed house of cards. He knew that his English friends, many of them highly placed and whom he regarded as the real men of that country, believed colonies to be a burden, that they would in time become free, 'that Canada would ultimately become part of the United States. Cobden had written to him in 1849: “I agree with you that nature has decided that Canada and the United States must become one for all purposes of intercommunication. Whether they also shall be united in the same Federal Government must depend upon the two parties to the union. I can assure you that there will be no repetition of the policy of 1776, on our part, to prevent our North American colonies from pursuing their interests in their own way.
1 Sumner, Works, Boston, 1874–1883, 53-93.
If the people of Canada are tolerably unanimous in wishing to sever the very slight thread which now binds them to this country, I see no reason why, if good faith and ordinary temper be observed, it should not be done amicably.” As a matter of fact, Gladstone, who became prime minister in 1869, fifteen years later surrendered British authority in the Transvaal and withdrew from the Soudan. Sumner's plan to remove all causes for dispute with Great Britain, to take another step in our inevitable expansion over the continent without a drop of blood, to assure the dominance in the United States of northern views by thus adding to the northern element, was fitted together from the best thought of his generation.
As Calhoun in his absorption over the Texas question failed to see the fallacy in his syllogistic argument for annexaSumner's mad- tion, so Sumner, rapt in his vision, utterly
failed to take cognizance of human nature. To inaugurate an era of brotherly love and lavish exchanges of brotherly favors by presenting a bill for two billion and a half dollars, was not tactful. To suppose that his friends in England would coöperate in fixing everlasting stigma upon the name of Great Britain by acknowledging that she had injured us to that extent, was to lose sight of realities. To imagine that a people strong and dominant as the English would leave those friends in power one minute after they made such a proposition was to display inexcusable ignorance. The only palliation of Sumner's conduct was that he lived in a generation which saw such visions, and that even the more conservative often yielded to them, as Seward had
done when he evolved his foreign-war panacea at the opening of the Civil war. One would more readily grant him excuse if he had not regarded with such self-righteous horror others who had been or were endeavoring to carry out such visions, as Jackson, Calhoun, Polk, and Grant.
The importance of Sumner's speech was enhanced by its popular reception and by the fact that it might be presumed to voice the sentiments of the new administra- Closing of netion. The Johnson-Clarendon convention was
gotiations rejected by a vote of 54 to 1; Grant, the new President, being a military hero, was expected by many to favor an aggressive policy; and Motley was sent to England as distinctly of Sumner's choice. When the latter, in his first interview, told Lord Clarendon that the belligerency proclamation was "the fountain head” of all the woes caused “to the American people, both individually and collectively, by the hands of Englishmen," the British government concluded that we would insist on Sumner's views, and put an end to the negotiation.
This result was unfortunate, for as a matter of fact the two governments were just approaching an understanding. Not only was the Gladstone ministry friendly
Friendly attito the United States, but British public senti- tude of the two
governments ment was beginning to perceive that it was advantageous for Great Britain to yield. Sir Thomas Baring, inheriting the friendly sentiments of his house, argued that Great Britain, with her immense commerce and her prepared navy, was the last power to admit the extemporizing of commerce-destroyers in neutral ports. In time of war, even with a land-girt power, every neutral harbor, he urged, would be a safe lurking-place for her enemies; the only method of prevention would be universal war. The American administration, also, was inclined to agreement. The new secretary of state, Hamilton Fish, had actually instructed Motley to speak of the belligerency proclamation merely as
1 John Morley, Life of Gladstone, 3 vols., London, etc., 1903.
indicating “the beginning and the animus of that course of conduct which resulted so disastrously to the United States;” and even this clause was inserted only because of the violent insistence of Sumner.
In spite of this approach in the views of the two governments, it was a delicate task to reopen the negotiation as Reopening of
neither government wished to take the first negotiations
step. Fortunately it happened that Caleb Cushing, for the United States, and John Rose, for Great Britain, two able and accomplished diplomats, were in Washington negotiating in regard to certain claims of the Hudson Bay Company recognized by the treaty of 1846 and by a convention of 1867. Finding by informal conversations that the ground was secure, Rose on January 11, 1871, presented a memorandum suggesting that all questions in dispute be made the subject of a general negotiation and treaty. It was at this time that Sumner, being invited as chairman of the committee on foreign affairs to read Rose's note, revealed his plan for securing Canada. It was obvious that he stood in the way of any settlement. Grant had already been incensed by Motley's disregard of his instructions and by Sumner's opposition to his own favorite project, the annexation of Santo Domingo, an irritation which became mutual when Grant requested Motley to resign, and, on his refusal, removed him. The climax was now reached, and Grant successfully used his influence with the Senate to secure Sumner's removal from his chairmanship. The ground was ready for another of our great clearing-house agreements with Great Britain.1
The negotiation was conducted at Washington by a commission of marked distinction. On the American side were Fish, secretary of state, Schenck, minister to Great Britain,
1 This whole negotiation has been the subject of much controversy. In addition to Moore's Arbitrations and the forthcoming life of C. F. Adams, see D. H. Chamberlain, Charles Sumner and the Treaty of Washington, Cambridge, Mass., 1902; Caleb Cushing, The Treaty of Washington, New York, 1873; and Rhodes, United States, vi. 337-368.