achieved each his highest elevation at about the same time.
The British Premier went into office in December, 1868, the American President
in March, 1869.
The elections which gave them place occurred within a few weeks of each other.
There was even a further parallel.
had grown into the position of a Liberal by successive conversions, while Grant
, from a man without pronounced political preferences, had gradually become a decided Republican.
The new Government in England
looked to the new people in America
as likely to become allies.
was known personally to the prominent members of the Liberal party, and Motley
from his literary reputation was welcome to the cultivated classes.
There was, it is true, a shade of distrust because of Sumner
's speech delivered only a month before Motley
's appointment; still the reception of the new Minister was more than friendly; there seemed a feeling that now was the time to begin a new era and cultivate a sincerer amity.
I remember in my own conversations with Forster
, Lord Halifax, and other prominent Liberals, a very decided effort on their part to prove that the action of the British Government
during the war had not been so hostile as Americans
They especially claimed that the recognition of belligerency had not the significance attached to it on this side of the ocean.
Doubtless their eagerness was partly because they knew the stress Motley
had laid upon the
recognition in his communications with Lord Clarendon—stress in which, as I have already shown, he exceeded his instructions.
The speedy interruption of negotiations after Motley
's insubordination became known was doubtless remarked by the British Cabinet
, and in the autumn, when I returned to Washington
, I received a letter from Lord Halifax, so full of significance that I laid it before the President
and Mr. Fish
It was followed by others all breathing the kindest spirit on the part of the English
My answers were submitted to the President
, and when I returned to England
the next year I told Lord Halifax that I had shown his letters to General Grant
He admitted having written them with the hope that they would be seen by the President
and his Government.
About this time also I wrote an article on ‘Our Relations with England
,’ which appeared simultaneously in Harpers' Magazine
in New York and McMillan's
This paper, bearing the signature of an officer at the Executive Mansion
who had so recently served in the American Legation
, was recognized as sanctioned by the Administration.
It was of course read in advance by both the President
and the Secretary of State
, and was intended to indicate the good feeling of Grant
's Government and its desire for amicable relations with England
It had now become very desirable that this feeling should be generally known, both because of the rejection of the Clarendon-Johnson
treaty in April, and the effect of Mr. Sumner
's speech demanding consequential damages; as well as because of what only those in interior circles knew, the purport of Motley
's first communication to the British
It was also important to neutralize the outgivings in society, for word had been brought from several sources to the State Department that the tone of the Minister
's conversations was at variance with his instructions.
In the first months of Grant
's Administration Sir John Rose
, then the Canadian Premier
, was in Washington
acting as commissioner under a previous treaty to settle certain disputed points between the United States
; and in this international character he often met the Secretary of State
Fish from the first had conceived the idea of an arrangement between the two countries almost identical with that which in the end was arrived at. On this account, perhaps, he was all the more dissatisfied with Motley
's course, though he bore with him until it became indispensable to appoint a successor.
In conversation with Rose, who was a shrewd, longheaded man, the idea was thrown out that an accommodation between the two countries was practicable.
said that England
had on two occasions shown great tact, and even wisdom, in sending special envoys to negotiate with the United States
; that the Americans
had been pleased with the compliment and especially gratified by the selection of Lord Ashburton and Lord Elgin as plenipotentiaries.
Not, he said, that Americans
thought more of lords than of other men, but they knew that the English
did, and that therefore it was a compliment for the English Government
to send a peer to Washington
Rose took the idea at once; and then Fish
developed the points on which he thought the two Administrations might agree.
He said he was sure that an expression of regret on the part of England
for the escape of the Alabama
would be indispensable.
He was the last man, he declared, who would consent to the humiliation of his own country, and the last to ask of another statesman what he would himself refuse under similar circumstances; but this he thought England
might fairly concede, and the weight of the concession in the subsequent discussions would be enormous.
He also suggested arbitration, and indicated the line on which he thought negotiations might proceed.
Rose left for England
shortly afterward and soon returned armed with
authority to discuss more definitely the informal propositions he had conveyed.
He was in America
in the autumn and early winter of 1870 for this purpose.
At first negotiations went on without the apparent intervention of Thornton
, the accredited British Minister.
Rose, it is true, communicated to the Minister
all that occurred; but the preliminaries were purposely contrived so that the Governments should not be compromised if the matter fell through.
Nothing would necessarily appear on the records of the Legation.
But when all was arranged, and Rose
's course had been approved by telegraph from London
went to the State Department officially.
The four letters stipulating for a Joint High Commission, which were afterward published with the treaty, were drawn up and signed by him and Fish
They were dated so as to give the appearance of the compact having been made in the usual way, between the envoy and the State Department, but the arrangements made were in reality those of Fish
It was at this time that Fish
, and the Senator
laid down the impossible but indispensable stipulation that England
should withdraw her flag from this continent as a preliminary to any further negotiation.
Needless to say no such proviso appeared in the compact or was ever proposed to any British representative.
Rose returned to England
, and immediately afterward Lord de Grey
, Sir Stafford Northcote
, and Professor Mountague Bernard
, of Oxford University, together with Sir John MacDonald
, at that time Canadian Premier, and Sir Edward Thornton
were appointed commissioners on the part of Great Britain
to settle all outstanding difficulties with the United States
had suggested that Rose should be one of the commissioners, but Rose thought he could do better service in London
It was also at one time proposed that John Bright should join the British
representation, but to this Fish
objected, because he said Bright was so committed to the
American view that his action would have less weight in England
Lord de Grey
, afterwards Lord Ripon, was a member of Gladstone
's cabinet, and Northcote
, afterward Lord Iddesleigh, belonged to the opposition.
The American commissioners were the Secretary of State
, General Schenck
, the newly appointed Minister to England
, Judge Nelson
of the Supreme Court (a Democrat), ex-Attorney-General Hoar
, and the actual law officer of the Government
, Attorney-General Williams
It was at this juncture that the Administration requested its friends in the Senate to select another chairman for the Committee
on Foreign Affairs, as Sumner
's impracticable doctrines, as well as his refusal to speak to either the President
or the Secretary of State
made the treaty an impossibility if he remained in the place.
was removed, and the negotiations proceeded successfully.
In less than two months the British
commissioners returned to London
, carrying the treaty with them.
I had been sent to Spain
by the State Department during this winter, and it was while I was absent from London
that the British Commissioners
started for America
's removal there was no American Minister in London
should arrive, but the Secretary
of Legation, Mr. Moran
, was acting Charge d'affaires.
My own position was that of Consul-General
, entirely without diplomatic functions, and without any right to know the secrets of the Legation.
, therefore, though my personal friend, very properly did not communicate to me what was going on; but as soon as I returned from Spain
Lord Halifax called on me and told me of the negotiations.
He asked me to his country house and afterward made a dinner in town that I might have an opportunity of meeting Mr. Gladstone
The Prime Minister then communicated to me his views on several of the points at issue.
He particularly desired to indicate his anxiety for the success of the negotiations and his intention to do all in his power to further this end. He talked at
length and confidentially, and with the expectation that I would make known his opinions to the President
Of course I wrote them out that night and forwarded them to Washington
also communicated to me very fully their views, all of which I duly transmitted either to the President
or the Secretary of State
, or sometimes to the Assistant Secretary
, Bancroft Davis
, with whom, as well as with his two superiors, I was in close and constant correspondence.
If nothing more, the messages I sent served to show how anxious Gladstone
and his colleagues were to arrive at a happy understanding with America
The treaty was promptly ratified by the Senate.
Its stipulations provided that the principal points at issue should be submitted to a Tribunal of Arbitration composed of five members of different nationalities, to sit at Geneva
In December, 1871, the Tribunal met, and the parties to the dispute put in their statements.
was the agent of the United States
. William M. Evarts
, Caleb Cushing
, and Morrison R. Waite
were counsel on the American
In the American
‘case’ the question of consequential damages was proposed.
The claims were not elaborately maintained, but the inquiry was made whether they could not be considered.
At first their presentation met no disapproval in England
The claims themselves were scouted, and Sumner
's original advocacy of them in the Senate had almost cost him the acquaintance of his warmest English friends; but it was supposed that they would be thrown out as a matter of course, and for nearly two months after the presentation of the ‘case’ the English
people and Government offered no objection to the consideration of the claims.
But after a while the Opposition party discovered that a weapon might be made of them against the Government
, and the Tories set themselves diligently to work to injure the Administration by representing that it had yielded to outrageous Yankee insolence and ‘bluff.’
The press took up the cry and the whole
English nation soon fell into one of the most absurd and hysterical fits of passion that sober John Bull
ever suffered from.
The Liberals became frightened at the hubbub, and when Parliament met the Government
felt that its fate was trembling.
The press proclaimed that arbitration must not go on unless the claims were withdrawn, and such a storm was raised that the Government
It was ‘On to Richmond
’ over again.
But there were two parties to the question.
The American Government held that the English
had agreed to submit all the points at issue to the arbitrators.
There was a solemn treaty which had been ratified and confirmed by the contending parties.
If the English
should now withdraw from the arbitration, America would hold that they had violated the treaty, and war might be the consequence.
The greatest anxiety prevailed among those who knew how imminent the danger was. I was still in London
and on intimate terms with the Minister
, General Schenck
, and I suppose as much in his confidence as it was proper I should be. How hard he worked to avert a war, how fertile he was in invention, how faithful to his country's interest, how dignified yet courteous in his attitude toward England
, how anxious to discover some means of avoiding a rupture, nobody living knows better than I.
No finer diplomatic services were ever rendered the United States
; not even those of Adams
during the Rebellion
were more arduous or indispensable.
A single false step, a maladroit expression, an ill-tempered or insufficient act, might have precipitated war.
For the feeling in England
ran very high.
At times it was positively offensive to Americans
, especially official ones.
More than once at clubs and dinners I had to resent remarks that no good American could listen to in silence, and yet I, too, in my sphere was bound to be courteous and reserved.
But we had our friends.
The members of the Government
were as loyal as they dared to be; they were driven to bay
by their enemies, charged with deserting their own country, but they did not give up; they desired as earnestly as the Americans
to avoid a war, and were undoubtedly anxious to fulfill the stipulations of the treaty.
, to his credit be it said, did not one thing, uttered not one word to distress or embarrass the Government
or to precipitate a rupture.
He passed no harsh strictures on America
just as he had refrained during the Rebellion
itself from injurious or offensive utterances; in this more self-contained and politic than his great rival.
In the Government
, if one may say so, Lady Waldegrave
, whose husband, then Mr. Chichester Fortescue
, had a seat in the Cabinet
, carried herself manfully.
She would not abandon hope when everybody else said hope was gone.
She went about in society purposely to excite an influence favorable to peace, and her cleverness was great as well as her social influence.
I remember more than once her language at her Sunday afternoons in Carlton Gardens, where the ablest and most distinguished men in London
used to congregate; how she insisted that a way out of the difficulty could and must be found; that England
must not differ seriously.
I doubt whether Americans
except in Government circles knew how near we were to a tremendous conflict.
The Government, of course, was greatly concerned, Grant
especially so; for their glory would be lessened by the failure of arbitration.
They were incessant in their efforts and anxieties.
The labor, however, fell particularly on the State Department, and the Secretary of State
at this time performed a patriotic service even greater than when he proposed and negotiated the treaty.
He did not yield one iota of his country's dignity, and yet he skillfully piloted the ship of State among dangers such as it had not more than once incurred since America
had been a nation.
For surely there could be no greater evil to either country than for England
to go to war. The contest would have been bitterer and longer after, than during, the Rebellion
Perhaps with the South
on our hands we could not have coped with England
; but with the South
as our partners the conflict would have been one of the most stupendous that the world has seen.
This danger was avoided with dignity and credit by the skill and sagacity of the State Department and its servants, and the steady support and judgment of the President
Arbitration went on. Some ingenious brain suggested that the arbitrators should decide without consulting England
that the consequential claims were out of court, so that neither nation need recede from its contention; this proposition was adopted, and the firebrand lighted by Sumner
was quenched before it kindled one of the mightiest conflagrations of modern times.
Then all proceeded peacefully.
The arbitrators awarded damages to America
for what direct injuries the Alabama
and her consorts had inflicted; England
had already expressed her regret; a new proviso was inserted in the code of international law between England
, and the two nations were friends.
Years afterward when Grant
visited England Gladstone
was out of power and it fell to the Tories to entertain the ex-President
They did it with good taste and ungrudging cordiality; but it was hard that the man who had made it possible for Grant
to receive these honors in England
should have no share in extending them.
Everywhere the English
people greeted Grant
as the statesman who had initiated arbitration, as the warrior who preferred peace with England
to war. Addresses teemed with plaudits on this account, and orators vied with each other in their enthusiastic comments; but Gladstone
, who as much as Grant
was entitled to the credit of arbitration, was in disfavor then; his enemies invited him to none of the banquets to the American
soldier, and I do not remember that the ex-President
and the ex-Premier ever
met except at the reception given to Grant
at the house of the American Minister
There the crowd was so great that no especial conversation was possible, so that Grant
never got a chance to see much of his great English compeer.
's highest claims to honor hereafter will be the fact that he avoided war with America
by consenting to atone for a national wrong, while the glory of settling peacefully a tremendous difference with to us at least the most important of modern nations will be Grant
's greatest proof of statesmanship.
For given all the honor they deserve to Fish
and Bancroft Davis
—and no other Americans
have earned equal credit in our day for any single act of civil life—still Grant
was the head; it was for him always to decide.
If he had been backward or uncertain, if he had failed in judgment or nerve or sagacity or decision—the achievement would have been impossible.
If there were no other measure of his Administration worthy of praise, this one makes it well for America