Page images
PDF
EPUB

such time United States' notes shall be convertible into coin at the option of the holder, or unless at such time bonds of the United States being at a lower rate of interest than the bonds to be redeemed can be sold at par in coin; and the United States shall also solemnly pledge its faith to make provision at the earliest practicable period for the redemption of United States' notes in coin."

Shortly afterwards the Senate, by a majority of 37 against 15 votes, passed a Bill for modifying the Tenure of Office Act which had been enacted by Congress during the presidency of Mr. Johnson, and which placed absolutely in the power of the Senate all the great offices of the Executive except that of President. The Bill as ultimately passed was a compromise, and provided that civil officers shall hold office for the terms for which they were appointed, "unless sooner removed by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, or by the appointment with the like advice and consent of a successor," excepting in cases thereafter provided. The exceptions gave the President power during the recess of the Senate to suspend any officer, except Judges of the Courts, until the end of the next session of the Senate, and to designate some suitable person to perform the duties of the suspended officer. The President, however, must within thirty days after the commencement of each session of the Senate, except for any office which, in his opinion, ought not to be filled, nominate persons to fill all vacancies in office which existed at the meeting of the Senate, whether temporarily filled or not, and also in the place of all officers suspended; and

"If the Senate during such session shall refuse to advise and consent to an appointment in the place of any suspended officer, and shall also refuse by vote to assent to his suspension, then, and not otherwise, such officer at the end of the session shall be entitled to assume the possession of the office from which he was suspended, and afterwards discharge its duties and receive its emoluments as though no such suspension had taken place."

The session of Congress closed on the 10th of April, on which day a resolution was passed by the House of Representatives by a majority of 98 against 25 votes, declaring its sympathy with the Cuban insurgents, and promising its support to the President whenever he shall think it right to recognize their independence.

A convention for settling all claims between the two countries, including what are called the "Alabama claims," was signed in London, on the 14th of January, by the Earl of Clarendon, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, on behalf of her Majesty, and Mr. Reverdy Johnson, the American Minister at the British Court, on behalf of the President. The following were its material provisions:

"ARTICLE I.

"The high contracting parties agree that all claims on the part of subjects of her Britannic Majesty upon the Govern

ment of the United States, and all claims on the part of citizens of the United States upon the Government of her Britannic Majesty, including the so-called 'Alabama' claims, which may have been presented to either Government for its interposition with the other since the 26th of July, 1853, the day of the exchange of the ratifications of the Convention concluded between Great Britain and the United States of America at London, on the 8th of February, 1853, and which yet remain unsettled; as well as any other such claims which may be presented within the time specified in Article III. of this Convention, whether or not arising out of the late civil war in the United States, shall be referred to four Commissioners, to be appointed in the following manner, that is to say, two Commissioners shall be named by her Britannic Majesty, and two by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. In case of the death, absence, or incapacity of any Commissioner, or in the event of any Commissioner omitting, or declining, or ceasing to act as such, her Britannic Majesty, or the President of the United States, as the case may be, shall forthwith name another person to act as Commissioner in the place or stead of the Commissioner originally named.

"The Commissioners so named shall meet at Washington at the earliest convenient period after they shall have been respectively named, and shall, before proceeding to any business, make and subscribe a solemn declaration that they will impartially and carefully examine and decide, to the best of their judgment and according to justice and equity, without fear, favour, or affection to their own country, upon all such claims as shall be laid before them on the part of the Governments of her Britannic Majesty and of the United States respectively; and such declaration shall be entered on the record of their proceedings.

"The Commissioners shall then, and before proceeding to any other business, name some person to act as an arbitrator or umpire, to whose final decision shall be referred any claim upon which they may not be able to come to a decision. If they should not be able to agree upon an arbitrator or umpire, the Commissioners on either side shall name a person as arbitrator or umpire; and in each and every case in which the Commissioners may not be able to come to a decision, the Commissioners shall determine by lot which of the two persons so named shall be the arbitrator or umpire in that particular case. The person or persons to be so chosen as arbitrator or umpire shall, before proceeding to act as such in any case, make and subscribe a solemn declaration, in a form similar to that made and subscribed by the Commissioners, which shall be entered on the record of their proceedings. In the event of the death, absence, or incapacity of such person or persons, or of his or their omitting, or declining, or ceasing to act as such arbitrator or umpire, another person shall be named, in the same manner as the person originally named, to act as arbitrator or umpire in his place and stead, and shall make and subscribe such declaration as aforesaid.

"ARTICLE II.

"The Commissioners shall then forthwith proceed to the investigation of the claims which shall be presented to their notice. They shall investigate and decide upon such claims in such order and in such manner as they may think proper, but upon such evidence or information only as shall be furnished by or on behalf of their respective Governments. The official correspondence which has taken place between the two Governments respecting any claims shall be laid before the Commissioners, and they shall, moreover, be bound to receive and peruse all other written documents or statements which may be presented to them by or on behalf of the respective Governments, in support of or in answer to any claim, and to hear, if required, one person on each side on behalf of each Government, as counsel or agent for such Government, on each and every separate claim. Should they fail to decide by a majority upon any individual claim, they shall call to their assistance the arbitrator or umpire whom they may have agreed upon, or who may be determined by lot, as the case may be; and such arbitrator or umpire, after having examined the official correspondence which has taken place between the two Governments, and the evidence adduced for and against the claim, and after having heard, if required, one person on each side as aforesaid, and consulted with the Commissioners, shall decide thereupon finally and without appeal.

"Nevertheless, if the Commissioners, or any two of them, shall think it desirable that a Sovereign or head of a friendly State should be arbitrator or umpire in case of any claim, the Commissioners shall report to that effect to their respective Governments, who shall thereupon, within six months, agree upon some Sovereign or head of a friendly State, who shall be invited to decide upon such claim, and before whom shall be laid the official correspondence which has taken place between the two Governments, and the other written documents or statements which may have been presented to the Commissioners in respect of such claims.

"The decision of the Commissioners, and of the arbitrator or umpire, shall be given upon each claim in writing, and shall be signed by them respectively, and dated.

"In the event of a decision involving a question of compensation to be paid being arrived at by a special arbitrator or umpire, the amount of such compensation shall be referred back to the Commissioners for adjudication; and in the event of their not being able to come to a decision, it shall then be decided by the arbitrator or umpire appointed by them, or who shall have been determined by lot.

"It shall be competent for each Government to name one person to attend the Commissioners as agent on its behalf, to present and support claims on its behalf, and to answer claims made upon it, and to represent it generally in all matters connected with the investigation and decision thereof..

[ocr errors]

It will be observed that by this Convention Great Britain conceded the principle that all claims between the two Governments, "including the 'Alabama' claims," should be submitted to and determined by an independent tribunal, which was to have before it the whole of the official correspondence that had taken place on the subjeet. It is difficult to conceive any thing fairer than this, and it was much more than the English Government had at first been disposed to yield, or which, in our opinion, it was called upon to grant.

But by the Constitution of the United States no treaty is binding which is not ratified by the Senate, and on the 13th of April that body unanimously, with the exception of one vote, rejected the Convention which Lord Clarendon and Mr. Reverdy Johnson had concluded. Inasmuch as that Convention went far beyond what the Government of this country was disposed to yield, and conceded all the objections which had been taken to the Convention signed by Lord Stanley and Mr. Johnson in November, last year, it is difficult to understand by what reasons the rejection of it could be justified; but so far as we do understand them, they seem to be,

1. That the "Alabama" claims are mentioned only as it were parenthetically in the Convention, and not put forward with the importance they deserve.

2. That no recognition is there made of the "national wrong and injury to the United States" resulting from the Queen's proclamation of neutrality, and its styling the Confederate States "belligerents."

Upon the subject of these claims on the part of the United States a very important correspondence was published at the latter part of the present year. Before, however, examining it, we should mention that Mr. Reverdy Johnson was recalled by President Grant, and Mr. Motley, the accomplished author of the "Rise of the Dutch Republic," was appointed Minister to Great Britain in his stead. His instructions were to explain to the British Government the circumstances attending the rejection of the "Alabama" Treaty, without committing his own to any particular policy. He was not to propose any settlement of claims, but to secure the temporary postponement of the question, in the hope that, the present excitement subsided, England would invite renewed negotiations. He was not authorized to announce the readiness of the United States to make any propositions, or to demand the payment of claims, but to assure the British Government of the sincere desire of the United States to have the dispute adjusted on terms honourable and satisfactory to both nations. He was also instructed to state that the Neutrality Proclamation was not in itself a cause for demanding compensation, or a separate ground of complaint, but that, taken with subsequent acts, it was unfriendly, as showing a feeling of hostility to America during the late war, and resulting in losses requiring reparation.

Mr. Motley had an interview with the Earl of Clarendon on the 10th of June, when he said that the chief reasons which led to the

rejection of the Claims Convention of January, 1869, by the Senate, were that the time at which it was signed was thought most inopportune, as the late President and his Government were then virtually out of office, and their successors could not be consulted on the question. It was further objected to because it embraced only the claims of individuals, and had no reference to those of the two Governments on each other; and, lastly, that it settled no question, and laid down no principle.

On the 25th of September Mr. Fish, the American Secretary of State, addressed a despatch to Mr. Motley, which he read to Lord Clarendon, on the subject of the claims. This was a long and laboured catalogue of all the alleged grievances of the United States against Great Britain in connexion with the late civil war. Mr. Fish said,—

[ocr errors]

"The President does not deny-on the contrary, he maintainsthat every Sovereign Power decides for itself, on its responsibility, the question whether or not it will at a given time accord the status of belligerency to the insurgent subjects of another Power; as also the larger question of the independence of such subjects, and their accession to the family of sovereign States." But he characterized the declaration of the Queen's Government as “precipitate and "premature," as having been determined upon on the 6th of May, four days prior to the arrival in London of any official knowledge of the President's Proclamation of the 19th of April, 1861. He alleged also that the word "hostilities," used in the Proclamation, showed that it was not pretended that "war" existed in America, but only a "contest." "Hence the United States felt constrained at the time to regard this Proclamation as the sign of a purpose of unfriendliness to them and of friendliness to the insurgents, which purpose could not fail to aggravate all the evils of the pending contest; to strengthen the insurgents, and to embarrass the legitimate Government. And so it proved; for as time went on, as the insurrection from political came at length to be military, as the sectional controversy in the United States proceeded to exhibit itself in the organization of great armies and fleets, and in the prosecution of hostilities on a scale of gigantic magnitude, then it was that the spirit of the Queen's Proclamation showed itself in the event, seeing that, in virtue of the Proclamation, maritime enterprises in the ports of Great Britain, which would otherwise have been piratical, were rendered lawful, and thus Great Britain became, and to the end continued to be, the arsenal, the navy-yard, and the treasury of the insurgent confederacy."

With respect to the assertion that the Queen's Government was hampered by the municipal law of its own country, and could not act in seizing the "Alabama" without sufficient evidence of the purpose for which she was destined, Mr. Fish said, "We hold that the international duty of the Queen's Government in this respect was above and independent of the municipal laws of England. It was a sovereign duty attaching to Great Britain as a sovereign Power.

« PreviousContinue »