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claims, running back to 1853, boldly raise their heads and challenge a hearing, it is only in a secondary and subordinate capacity, introduced by the phrase, which most writers would have been likely to enclose in brackets, e. g. (" including the so-called ' Alabama'claims”), that the American grievance is permitted to present itself at all for arbitration. I believe the reader will not regret an opportunity of seeing this for himself in the actual document, though at the cost of a few moments’ delay. I shall not have occasion, by any means, to cite the entire instrument.
The preamble to the convention runs as follows: [I quote from the parliamentary copy, p. 36.]
Whereas claims have at various times since the exchange of the ratifications of the Convention between Great Britain and the United States of America, signed at London on the 8th of February, 1853, been made upon the Government of Her Britannic Majesty on the part of citizens of the United States, and upon the Government of the United States on the part of subjects on Her Britannic Majesty; and whereas some of such claims are still pending, and remain unsettled, Her Majesty, the Queen, &c., and the President, &c., being of opinion that a speedy and equitable settlement of all such clainis will contribute much to the maintenance of the friendly feelings which subsist between the two countries, have resolved to make arrangements for that purpose by means of a Convention, and have named as their plenipotentiaries to confer and agree thereupon, viz. : [The Earl of Clarendon on the part of Great Britain, and Reverdy Johnson, Esq., on the part of the United States.] Who, after having communicated to each other their respective full powers, found in good and due form, have agreed as follows:
[Then follows Article I., from which I need only cite a few lines to make good my purpose.]
ARTICLE I.—The high contracting parties agree, that all claims on the part of subjects of Her Britannic Majesty upon the Government 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 (that is, two years from the first sitting of the Commissioners), 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, &c.
This is all the introduction to the Commissioners' notice which the Alabama” claims could secure throughout the document, at Messrs. Johuson and Seward's hands; and I leave it to the candid reader's judgment, whether such a mention by the way-side and in a parenthesis, as it were, of reclamations so important to the individual sufferers, and to the American people at large, looks either manly or statesmanly. I say nothing about defining what “so-called Alabama' claims" is intended to embrace; whether, for instance, it takes in devastations by the “ Florida,” the “ Shenandoah,” and other similar vessels; though one would think that if it is so intended, it should not have been left to the generosity of our opponents to concede it, at the hearing. But what a shuffling evasion and shame faced dodging of the main issue to be tried, thus to treat it as if it were a matter not to be named; or, rather, naming it the “ so-called " Alabama' claims.” Were not the grievances sustained by the United States and its citizens during the four long years' practice of British Neutrality and Rebel Equality worth but four words in the treaty of final settlement? Or, shall we call this another case of “ wisely omitting any specification of the question to be decided ” ?
So far as Mr. Reverdy Johnson had any agency in providing for this lame and impotent statement of the American grievance, I think the spirit which inspired his diplomacy is well illustrated by a short extract from one of his dispatches to the Secretary of State, written after Mr. Johnson had entered upon the negotiation of the second convention with Lord Clarendon. The dispatch bears date December 24, 1868, and was dictated at a time when the Minister had digested his irritation at Mr. Seward's telegraphic repudiation of his first treaty, and when he had begun to indulge in hopeful visions of suc. cessfully negotiating a second. I quote only a short extract, which, however, will fairly bear separation from the context :
[Johnson to Seward, December 24, N. Y. Times, ut sup.) I am perfectly satisfied that every member of the Cabinet is most anxious to bring the controversy in regard to the “ Alabama” claims to a satisfactory termination, and I trust, therefore, that you will be able to concur substantially in the propositions which will be made in the dispatch to Mr. Thornton.
I can get the Alabama” claims specifically mentioned as among the claims to be subinitted to the Commissioners; AND THIS I THINK MOST IMPORTANT.
Wonderful! The representative of his country's rights can even get the American claims “ mentioned” in that submission which he is about to make in perpetual foreclosure of their further prosecution ! And “this he thinks most important.” He does not purpose on this occasion to " altogether omit any specification of the question to be decided ;" but he is so fortunate as to hope for a mention of his case in the Commissioners' hearing. Fortunate Minister! Could ambassadorial courage dare more! Could diplomatic finesse achieve a greater triumph!
More seriously, did Mr. Reverdy Johnson believe the " so-called • Alabama' claims" a sham and a humbug? Or was he attempting to cajole his countrymen by taking such official care of their interests,
as the above, and then proclaiming to the world, in his numerous after-dinner speeches, that the “ Alabama” question was settled once for all, and the good understanding of the two countries henceforth irrevocably secured ?
In the second place—to continue my comments on Mr. Johnson's second convention—if the critic of this convention looks for any recognition in it, much more for any satisfaction likely to grow out of it, of that “national wrong and injury to the United States," resulting from “ the violation of neutrality by the Queen's proclamation and kindred proceedings of the British Government,” which we have seen was insisted upon by Mr. Seward, as late as January 13, 1868, he will find himself equally disappointed as in regard to the earlier convention of November 10th. If Mr. Johnson had never so much as heard that the United States “exacted anything on its own account”—to quote again his own language in the letter of the 17th of February (which it should be said, again, in his favor, Mr. Seward calls “an able and elaborate paper ")—how could he be expected to do otherwise than keep silence upon this head? To be sure, he says in this very same letter, that if it (the Recognition of Rebel Belligerence] was not justified, as I confidently believe was the case, the act is one which bears materially upon the question, whether the Government is not bound to indemnify for the losses occasioned by the “Alabama," [and] "upon this ground, independent of the question of proper diligence, the obligation of Great Britain to meet the losses seems to me to be most apparent.” If so very apparent, would it not have been worth at least a casual mention, say, for instance, as good as the parenthetical allusion to the “ so-called 'Alabama' claims”—in a treaty which was to discharge the two countries of all shadow of animosity against each other forever ?
But since Mr. Johnson is so confident that the Government of the United States “ never exacted anything on its own account,” and, as he says elsewhere in his letter of February 17th, “the depredations of the Alabama were of property in which our nation had no direct pecuniary interest,” I should like to be informed if he never heard that one of the ships sunk by the Alabama was the United States ship of war the Hatteras--a gunboat of considerable size, seventeen of whose officers and crew were killed and drowned, and a hundred and upward of whom were made prisoners. Pray, has the United States no interest, pecuniary or national, in that act of war or piracy? Did it not cost a naval engagement also with the "Kearsarge," and the wounding of several of our seamen, to finally give the quietus to the “ Alabama's” depredations? And, if the question is of direct pecuniary dam. age nationally, did not the chase of that marauding sea-rover and her kindred consorts cost the United States millions of dollars of expense, without reckoning the more remote destruction of that private commerce whose value Mr. Reverdy Johnson finds it so difficult to estimate?
Whether it is below the dignity of a great nation to make a reclamation for its governmental losses, such as those just named, sustained by the United States in its national capacity, is one thing; but that a substantial national claim on that score exists pecuniarily, should it once be thought worth while by the United States to enforce it, is as certain as that some of those destructive corsairs were negligently allowed to escape in violation of British municipal law, and that all of them were afterward treated with unneutral hospitality in British outports, in violation of the public law of nations.
But returning to Mr. Reverdy Johnson's masterly inactivity in negotiating, or rather in not negotiating, for a hearing of the points of belligerent recognition and national indemnity, I must not overlook an extraordinary admission of his, connected with his attempt to get them included in the second treaty, by way of a supplementary commission, as already referred to, which is reported by Lord Clarendon to the British Minister at Washington. In a dispatch to Mr. Thornton, dated March 22d (Blue Book, ut swp., p. 45), Lord Clarendon writes as follows:
Mr. Reverdy Johnson called upon me to-day to propose that an amendment, of which I inclose a copy, should be made to Article I. of the convention, as he thought it would satisfactorily meet the objections entertained by the Senate to the convention, and would secure its ratification by that body.
I remarked to Mr. Johnson that his proposal would introduce an entirely new feature into the convention, which was for the settlement of claims between the subjects and citizens of Great Britain and the United States; but that the two Governments not having put forward any claims on each other, I could only suppose that his object was to favor the introduction of some claim by the Government of the United States for injury sustained on account of the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government.
Mr. Reverdy Johnson did not object to this interpretation of this amendment, but said that if claims to compensation on account of the recognition by the British Government of the belligerent rights of the Confederates were brought forward by the Government of the United States, the British Government might, on its part, bring forward claims to compensation for damages done to British subjects by American blockades, which, if the Confederates were not belligerents, were illegally enforced against them.
That is to say—“ If you, Lord Clarendon, will be so good as to let governmental claims into the scope of the treaty, to satisfy those unreasonable United States Senators, I, Reverdy Johnson, minister ple. nipotentiary and envoy extraordinary of the United States of America, will give my consent that the British Government may come upon the United States for damages for an illegal blockade of the Southern ports, in case the Confederates were not made lawful belligerents by President Lincoln's two blockade proclamations."
The same proposition, in effect, was more formally repeated by Mr. Johnson to Lord Clarendon, three days later, in writing. (Parliamentary Blue Book, ut sup., p. 46, Johnson to Clarendon, March 25.)
Pray, what could the American Minister have been thinking of in thus suggesting arguments against his Government? Had he forgotten which nation he represented ? and was he all the while supposing himself a British envoy? Or shall we say that such conduct is quite in keeping with his retorting against his Government, by way of retaliation for undervaluing his services, that it never had any case to begin with, and that it had obtained all that it had ever asked for ? Is not the latest suggestion—that made to Lord Clarendon—the worst of the two ? For while the former might in some degree have been palliated by wounded vanity, the latter seems a gratuitous going out of his way to furnish weapons against the nation whose interests it was his duty to protect.
And yet can the reader credit it, that when Lord Clarendon, a fortnight later, was inquiring with particularity into Mr. Johnson's authority to amend the convention, as we have already had occasion to notice in another connection, Mr. Johnson could have said about this proposition of his (which of course drew after it the apologetic suggestion of the United States being thereby made liable for all the consequences of an illegal blockade) as he did ?-“I felt myself entirely justified in making it by my instructions from the late Administration of my Government.” (Johnson to Clarendon, April 9, 1869, Blue Book, ut sup., p. 48.)
As one of Mr. Reverdy Johnson's American constituents, I challinge the production of a single line of instructions for any such uncalled for concession as this, even from the administration of Andrew Johnson itself. That he cannot bring forward so much as a syllable to that effect from President Grant's administration, which alone he undertook to speak for on the 22d and 25th of March last, I venture to affirm with all possible positiveness short of actual knowledge; and until the American Minister can justify himself by some such anthorization from the Executive then in office; what else can be said of his extraordinary “ official” communication to the British Government, except that he had lost his head, or was intentionally abusing