Chapter 3: The Death and Resurrection of FRUS, 1868–1876

Although for two years after the Civil War the Department of State continued to publish Foreign Relations in the same manner, the annual appearance of foreign policy correspondence in bound volumes had not necessarily become a permanent executive branch function. Some critics considered FRUS an artifact of the Secretary of State’s outsized ego—in effect, Seward’s other folly. It was not clear whether the volumes would outlive his tenure. The legislative branch continued to value the publication. In 1866 Congress fixed the minimum print run of every FRUS volume at 2,000 copies for the Senate, 4,000 for the House of Representatives, and 2,500 for the Department of State, a law that remained on the books for 30 years.1

Yet the Grant administration attempted to discontinue FRUS, both as a measure to reduce an overworked Department staff and in an attempt to assert executive branch prerogatives. President Ulysses S. Grant and his Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish, however, ultimately reinstated an annual compilation of the Department’s activities. FRUS became a permanent, regular fixture of government operations only in 1870 when an insistent Congress refused to surrender its constitutionally-mandated oversight responsibilities through the timely examination of foreign policy documents.

The Demise of FRUS

In 1868 the Foreign Relations volumes became caught up in partisan conflict and jurisdictional struggles between the executive and legislative branches. President Andrew Johnson battled with Congress from February, when the House of Representatives impeached him, until May, when the Senate acquitted him by one vote. Secretary Seward supported Johnson, who did not transmit a volume of diplomatic documents with his last annual message to Congress.2

When Hamilton Fish assumed the position of Secretary in March 1869, he found the Department’s recordkeeping in disarray. Seward left a massive backlog of communications that had to be processed.3 Additionally, in December 1867 the Senate called for the Department to provide all correspondence pertaining to the Alabama claims case, but Seward’s staff had completed no work on that project by the following March.4 Finally, nothing had been done to prepare an 1868 FRUS volume.5

Consequently, the Department spent nearly two years playing catch-up. Completing the Alabama correspondence, which ran to five volumes totaling 4,000 pages, took first priority. Remarkably, Fish submitted one volume three weeks after taking office. His staff produced the others over the course of 1869–1870.6 No doubt much effort during that period also went into organizing the records backlog for the daily work of the Department. The Clerks who normally would have compiled Foreign Relations had their hands full with immediate issues. The Department eventually produced a two-volume compilation of Foreign Relations 1868, but not until December 1869, a full year behind the normal release date.

When he took office on March 17, 1869, Fish also confronted political-constitutional quandaries. Grant had neglected to consult with the powerful chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Charles Sumner (R–MA), whose arrogance the president abhorred, before appointing Fish. In return, Sumner became an implacable opponent of Grant’s foreign policy and insinuated himself and his committee into Department business whenever possible. By year’s end, Fish was disgusted with what he considered the Senate’s blatant overstepping of its prerogatives. “The Senate, in fact Congress, but especially the Senate, [has] encroached largely beyond the former line of demarcation between their powers and those of the Executive,” Fish complained. “They still claim the same extent of power; they wish, practically, to dictate nominations, not merely to ‘advise and consult.’ The constitutional power of the Senate is limited to yea or nay upon the names submitted to them.”7 Although on cordial personal terms with Sumner, Fish had no intention of giving Congress any more information about foreign affairs than he deemed absolutely necessary. Fish worked with Grant to include general statements about U.S. foreign policy in the President’s December 1869 annual message to Congress, but for the second consecutive year, no diplomatic correspondence accompanied the chief executive’s address to the legislative branch. Congress, and by extension the nation’s citizens, would have to accept the President’s unsubstantiated appraisal of the nation’s foreign policy and international prospects.

Fish always maintained that staff cuts and the reshuffling of ministers occasioned by a new administration precluded preparation of a Foreign Relations volume for 1869. On December 6 (the date of the President’s message), instead of submitting a FRUS volume, Fish responded to a nine-month old congressional request for a report on the clerical force in the Department. Fish reminded Speaker of the House James G. Blaine (R–ME) that during the prior year Congress slashed the number of Department employees from 48 to 31. “No [further] reduction in the number or compensation of the clerks now employed is compatible with the public interests,” Fish told Blaine, adding pointedly, “With so large a reduction the business of the Department is already seriously embarrassed.”8 Congressional parsimony came at a cost. Three years later, when House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Nathaniel P. Banks (R–MA) asked him why there had been no Foreign Relations 1869, Fish reminded him “that the period alluded to embraces that in which many changes in the diplomatic agents of the government were made. The clerical force in the Department was small and much occupied at the close of the year, and for these reasons no publication was made.”9

Although some in the press welcomed the absence of 1869 diplomatic correspondence as an unnecessary extravagance,10 Congress wanted much more than Grant’s bare-bones recounting of foreign-policy priorities contained in his annual message, particularly about Cuba. On December 8, 1869, the Senate requested—with the usual caveat “if not incompatible with the public interest”—any information about “the progress of the revolution and the political and civil condition of the island [of Cuba].”11 Five days later, the House requested all Department correspondence on Cuba between Secretary Fish and U.S. Minister to Spain Daniel Sickles, including instructions to Sickles, and all correspondence between the U.S. and Spanish governments. Fish tried to pigeonhole the resolution. The day after the House passed the resolution, Fish wrote Grant that “It is not deemed advisable at this time to comply with the request contained in the resolution.”12 Pressure on Fish to respond rapidly reached a crescendo. Not accepting Fish’s claim that transmission of the records would be “prejudicial to the public interests,” the influential—and hostile—New York Herald enjoined Congress to demand that Fish produce the Cuba correspondence.13 On December 17, Sumner sent Fish a terse request for Sickles’s correspondence, and in early February the House passed a second resolution calling for the Cuba documentation.14

Fish reluctantly yielded to these multiple requests. Rather than answer Sumner himself, he took the unusual step of having the Assistant Secretary of State, J. C. Bancroft Davis, send Sumner the documents requested in the Senator’s December 17 letter with the unusual caveat that they were for the “private and confidential use” of the Foreign Relations Committee only.15 While Davis handled Sumner’s letter confidentially, Fish complied with the Senate’s formal December 8 resolution openly and promptly. On December 20, President Grant submitted to the Senate 75 documents totaling 113 pages and dating from the start of his administration through December 16.16 They were presented with the same “synoptical [sic] list of papers” that introduced annual Foreign Relations submissions, including a remarkably full summary of each document, considering that Department Clerks completed the job in just over a week. Finding himself cornered, Fish withheld nothing of importance.17 These submissions demonstrate that even during times of strained relations between the executive and legislative branches, the Department sometimes released sensitive instructions pertaining to ongoing negotiations about significant foreign policy matters.

Yet Fish’s compliance with the congressional resolutions on Cuba reflected no softening in his sentiments about executive branch prerogatives. On the contrary, he hardened his determination to give Congress no more than it specifically requested and to invoke the “incompatible with the public interest” reservation to deny certain legislative branch requests. The combination of budget cuts leading to staff shortages and overwork, Fish’s clashes with Sumner, and the Secretary’s disdain for an obstructionist and overreaching legislative branch caused him to terminate the FRUS series in late December 1869 or early January 1870. Although he did not announce his decision publicly, in a private letter he confided that, “The publication of the Diplomatic Correspondence has been discontinued.”18 President Grant concurred. In late March he told Fish “not to communicate to Sumner any confidential or important information received at the Department.”19

FRUS Revived

But Fish soon discovered that defying Congress and refusing to abide by long-established transparency expectations incurred significant costs. Given the tardy arrival of the 1868 volumes and the absence of an annual volume for 1869, Congress called for an unprecedented amount of diplomatic correspondence during 1869–1870.20 Fish pigeonholed a January 31, 1870 Senate resolution calling for the correspondence of former Minister to China J. Ross Browne that deprived legislators of an important analysis of East Asian politics and U.S. policy.21 Undeterred, beginning in February 1870, Congress besieged Fish with requests. In late February, the Department responded to a House query, sending 130 documents totaling 193 pages on Cuba, including 46 letters between Sickles and Fish not included among those sent earlier to the Senate, as well as 8 letters regarding consular issues. He provided Congress with correspondence on American citizen Fenians imprisoned in Great Britain. He also submitted to the Senate correspondence pertaining to a dispute between citizens of the Dakota Territory and the governor of the Northwest Territory of Canada. In March, Fish acceded to a House resolution calling for correspondence relating to another vexing issue, that of claims of U.S. citizen creditors against Venezuela for nonpayment of debt that Caracas had agreed to remit four years earlier.22 In April, Fish invoked the “public interest” caveat to deny a House call for information regarding ongoing negotiations regarding a potential treaty with San Domingo,23 but during the summer of 1870 he complied with two additional requests for Cuba-related documents as well for correspondence on “questions pending” between the United States and Great Britain.24 As the year progressed, so too did the drumbeat of congressional calls for correspondence; Congress gave every indication that its prerogatives included the continued release of foreign policy documents. By year’s end, Fish found it necessary to release, in piecemeal fashion, 444 documents totaling 686 pages. Congress published all of it; when aggregated, the releases equaled the size of a typical Foreign Relations volume.25

After two years of executive branch efforts to alter longstanding governmental call-and-response practices, and no doubt concluding that a more regularized release of documents would reduce the burden on his overworked staff, Fish resumed publishing the series in December 1870. Although neither Fish’s diary of his tenure as Secretary of State nor his personal papers reveals his reasons for resuming the annual transmittal to Congress of diplomatic correspondence with Grant’s annual message, the persistent congressional demands of 1869–1870 undoubtedly comprised the deciding factor.26 The Grant administration’s attempt to overturn precedents established in the 18th century failed. The executive branch maintained the right to withhold certain information to protect the public interest, and cabinet records, personal papers, and Presidential documents remained outside the purview of congressional examination, but the legislative branch insisted on its prerogative to obtain the documentation necessary to assess the president’s conduct of foreign affairs. The Contemporaneous FRUS—remarkably timely (by modern standards), minimally redacted, and substantially comprehensive given its 19th century context—became an accepted part of governmental practice for the subsequent four decades.

Calibrating FRUS

Even after Fish reinstated the volumes as a serial publication that became a central element of U.S. political practice, much remained to be determined about the potential uses for FRUS. During the remainder of his tenure, Secretary Fish experimented with how the series might be utilized. He manipulated the volumes for domestic political purposes, deployed FRUS in the service of immediate diplomatic objectives, and attempted to reduce the problems caused by the rapid release of foreign policy records. None of those initiatives succeeded; the consequences of toying with the official documentary record proved unpredictable and the costs unacceptably high.

The Marsh Affair (1870–1873)

Among the most able and respected American diplomats of the day,27 Minister to Italy George P. Marsh was nevertheless vulnerable to partisan intrigue at home. An old-time Whig who no longer involved himself in domestic politics, Marsh owed his 1861 appointment to President Abraham Lincoln; by 1870 any residual support accrued from the slain president’s selection had dissipated. President Grant’s close political ally, Congressman John A. Bingham (R–OH), feared he would not win in the 1870 mid-term elections and signaled his desire to take Marsh’s position.28

At this same moment, the Italian political scene erupted in turmoil. For nearly two decades, Emperor Napoleon III had supported the Papal States as a way to ensure a divided and subservient Italy on France’s southeastern border. But Italian nationalists chipped away at the French and papal domain until only Rome and the province of Latium remained. In August 1870, Napoleon III recalled the French garrison from Rome to reinforce his army for war against the German states. Abandoned by his French ally, Pope Pius IX and his papal guard stood alone against the tide of Italian opinion, which demanded that the Italian government relocate from Florence to the historic capital of Rome—by force if necessary. Even as popular agitation for an end to the temporal power of the pope grew, indecision gripped the Italian government. Not until the resounding French defeat at Sedan and the Prussian capture of Napoleon III on September 1 did the Italian government decide to act, and then it did so haltingly. Italian King Victor Emmanuel II offered Pius IX a face-saving proposal that would have allowed the Italian army to enter Rome peacefully under the guise of protecting the Pope, but Pius remained intransigent. On September 10, Italy declared war on the Papal States. The Italian army crossed the Papal frontier the next day, but was slow to move on Rome. Finally, after brushing aside token resistance on September 20, the Italian army entered the city. Pope Pius IX declared himself a prisoner in the Vatican, and the Italian government again vacillated, not moving the capital from Florence to Rome until July 1871.

Minister Marsh tried to make sense of the confused events of the first days of September and report his interpretation to Secretary Fish. With the Italian government not knowing where it stood from one day to the next, Marsh was bound to err—and to grow frustrated. Both his errors and frustration were made manifest in four despatches he sent Fish between September 1 and the fall of Rome on September 20. Marsh’s September 9 note retracted the hurried assessment he initially offered on September 6.29 On September 12, he penned a despatch labeled “Confidential” and transmitted in cipher (thereby implying a greater degree of sensitivity) that characterized both his previous reports as premature. Marsh then provided a frank and scathing appraisal of Italian policy:

The Italian government has long hesitated in the adoption of a decided policy, and in fact it has been so constantly in the habit of blindly following the dictation of the Emperor of France in the conduct of all its foreign relations, without attempting to mark out a policy for itself, that since the downfall of the empire silenced its oracle the ministry has been completely bewildered and quite unable to arrive at a conclusion of any subject until forced by the fear of popular violence to decide upon the military occupation of the Papal territory.

Its future course in this matter, unless controlled by external forces, will be characterized by vacillation, tergiversation, and duplicity, as it has always been since 1864, and I see no reason to hope that any measures originated by this or any probable future cabinet will tend to settle the question upon any terms which ought to be acceptable to the Italian people.

The combat deaths of 53 Italian soldiers within a week of that message hardly constituted a policy of “vacillation,” so Marsh hastened to report in a fourth, confidential despatch the day after Rome fell: “the purposes, or at least professions, of the ministry have changed very suddenly, although . . . the minister of foreign affairs only last week declared in the most explicit manner to eminent statesmen opposed to the movement that the Italian troops could never enter Rome, and that they would simply occupy strategic points, none of which would probably be within twenty miles of the city.”30

Taken together, these four communications could be construed as casting doubt upon Marsh’s judgment and effectiveness. Unfriendly readers might conclude Marsh lacked access to the upper ranks of the Italian Government (only one additional document from Marsh appeared in Foreign Relations, 1870–1871). Bingham narrowly won reelection to Congress in November 1870, but his seat was far from secure, and he continued to hope for a diplomatic post. Bingham subsequently lost the November 1872 election, and a month later he renewed his quest for Marsh’s job.

Marsh’s four despatches, which had passed without domestic or international notice when published in December 1870, suddenly came to the attention of the Italian press in January 1872. The very day an Italian newspaper printed excerpts from the correspondence, Marsh dined with Italian foreign minister Emilio Visconti-Venosta. Instead of demanding Marsh’s recall, however, Venosta greeted him warmly. He understood that Marsh had “but done his duty in thus reporting events, unpleasing as that report was.” Former Prime Minister Bettino Ricasoli, who also was present, strode across the room to “salute Mr. Marsh in a most marked manner, as if to say, ‘You told the truth.’”31 Despite the private assurances of Venosta and Ricasoli that Marsh had nothing to fear, the affair simmered for nearly six months in the Italian press and parliament, and scattered speculation that the Italian government would demand his recall continued in the U.S. press until December 1872.32 The affair played hard on Marsh. In April 1872 he fell “seriously ill” with what the press described on as a fever, and in June he took two months leave.33

Marsh’s predicament elicited wide sympathy in the American press, demonstrating how 19th century Americans calculated the value of openness in government. Far from welcoming the release of confidential correspondence of such recent vintage, newspapers unanimously condemned the action, noting the larger ramifications for American diplomacy. Many who came to Marsh’s support suspected either a leak for political purposes or general Departmental incompetence (or both) because the key despatches were communicated in cipher.34 The reaction of the Lowell [Massachusetts] Daily Citizen and News was typical. “Honorable George P. Marsh, our able and accomplished Minister to Italy, sent a despatch to our State Department some time ago, in which he discussed the personal aspects of Italian politics with the freedom which was perfectly proper in a confidential communication,” the paper editorialized. “But his letter was printed—through some unpardonable mismanagement in the Department—and he finds himself seriously compromised in consequence.” The Boston Journal concurred that “it was Mr. Marsh’s duty to report his opinions on the subject he discussed faithfully and explicitly [and] it was the duty of [the] government to shield its faithful minister and save his future usefulness by keeping his despatches in its own archives.” The Springfield [Massachusetts] Republican complained of the “blundering publication of a letter that he intended to have kept private in the state department.” Prominent New York clergyman Reverend T. E. Vermilyen wrote directly to Fish, “I have read with great regret the unpleasant position in which Mr. Marsh is placed by his letter from Florence recently made public,” Vermilyen told Fish. “The letter was probably right enough, as a private communication to his government, but its publication certainly was not fortunate. Do not let him be disturbed, or his feelings or reputation suffer.”35

The uproar surrounding publication of the Marsh despatches eventually subsided. Fish initiated an investigation of sorts, but nothing came of it; no Department officers took responsibility and no Clerks were dismissed.36 President Grant named Bingham minister to Japan in June 1873, where he served with distinction for 12 years.37 Marsh remained at his post in Rome until his death in 1882.

Although the evidence is not conclusive that Hamilton Fish manipulated FRUS for partisan purposes, the Marsh Affair illustrated one of the dangerous attractions that the volumes presented government officials. The temptation to advance domestic political interests, on occasion, proved irresistible. Yet the public reaction to the Marsh episode indicates the potentially high cost of attempts to the skew the record. Then as now, the credibility of government transparency lies in the judicious, nonpartisan, disinterested character of the process by which documents are released. The Congress, the press, and the public expected FRUS to be “honest.”

“A Surprising Manifestation of Backbone”: Letter of Instruction No. 270 (1872–1873)

The timely nature of the Contemporaneous FRUS also tempted Fish to employ the volumes as vehicles for current diplomacy, and Cuba presented the most vexing foreign policy issue of the postbellum era. By October 1872 the savage rebellion against Spanish authority in Cuba had dragged on for four years, with no end in sight. Although personally sympathetic to the rebels’ cause, Secretary Fish never considered them sufficiently powerful to warrant recognition. Tensions increased as the Spanish government raised tariffs on U.S. imports and expropriated American estates on the island, rumors abounded of pro-Cuban filibustering expeditions launched from U.S. soil, and the press excoriated Fish for “blundering mismanagement” of the situation.38 Fish decided to act before Congress reconvened in December, adopting a tough line to forestall legislative action and further press agitation. Without consulting Grant, on October 29, 1872 the Secretary of State instructed U.S. Minister to Spain Daniel Sickles to warn Madrid that American forbearance was running out. Fish biographer Alan Nevins called the message, which the Department entered into its records as Letter of Instruction No. 270, “the most menacing document . . . from the State Department during the Grant Administration.”39

Fish reviewed for Sickles Spain’s poor record of reform, its failure to abolish slavery in Cuba, and the American response. Acknowledging that emancipation “may be a difficult task” because Spanish slaveholders had been able to block enactment of such legislation in 1870, he questioned Spanish sovereignty over the island. “If Spain permits her authority to be virtually and practically defied in that island by a refusal or neglect to carry into effect acts of the home government of a humane tendency, is not this tantamount to an acknowledgment of inability to control?” The Grant administration had repeatedly prevented “reckless adventurers . . . and other partisans of the insurgents” residing in the United States from embarking on “hostile expeditions” against the colonial government. In “discharging those duties . . . we are conscious of no neglect,” wrote Fish, “but the trial to our impartiality by the want of success on the part of Spain in suppressing the revolt is necessarily so severe that unless she shall soon be more successful it will force upon this Government the consideration of the question, whether duty to itself and to the commercial interests of its citizens may not demand some change in the line of action it has thus far pursued.” Turning next to the “causeless seizure in violation of treaty obligations” of American estates, Fish reminded Sickles that “there will readily occur to you several cases which have been referred backward and forward between Madrid and Havana to the very verge of the exhaustion of all patience.” And then came the menacing instructions:

It is hoped that you will present the views above set forth, and the present grievances of which this Government so justly complains . . . in a way which, without giving offence, will leave a conviction that we are in earnest in the expression of those views, and that we expect redress, and that if it should not soon be afforded Spain must not be surprised to find, as the inevitable result of delay, a marked change in the feeling and in the temper of the people and of the Government of the United States.40

Fish’s démarche created a very delicate situation that ultimately failed to resolve the issue. On November 24, the day after Sickles received Instruction No. 270, Spanish Minister of State Cristino Martos y Balbi confidentially shared with him a soon-to-be-promulgated cabinet agreement that would abolish slavery and institute sweeping reforms in Puerto Rico by executive decree, but that rejected a change of course in Cuba until the insurgents surrendered. Sickles then delivered his instructions orally to Martos. Five days later, Sickles read them again to Martos, who copied the paragraph containing the thinly veiled threat.41 Anticipating President Grant’s December message to Congress, Martos feared that “anything like a hostile demonstration coming from the United States at this moment would greatly embarrass Spain by depriving her concession of that spontaneous character so essential to her independence and dignity.” But, Martos added, the Spanish Government could not inaugurate reforms in Cuba until it had pacified the island.42

Finding that No. 270 had not succeeded, Fish decided to apply more tangible pressure. He persuaded Grant to include in his annual message a recommendation for high discriminatory duties upon goods from slaveholding countries—Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Brazil. This would satisfy Cuba sympathizers in Congress without exciting jingoism; it also would ruin Spanish sugar growers, upon whose profits the slave trade flourished. Fish intimated to Spanish minister Admiral Luis Polo that a heavy blow was about to fall on Cuban sugar interests. Polo, in turn, arrived at Fish’s doorstep the day before Grant’s message was to go forward with a promise from his government to “concede to Cuba” what it was about to offer to Puerto Rico.43

Doubting Madrid’s sincerity, Fish opted for a middle course that exemplified how 19th century Secretaries of State sometimes used FRUS to advance policy. He removed the tariff threat from Grant’s draft but in its place inserted Instruction No. 270 into the diplomatic correspondence for publication in Foreign Relations, 1872.44

Fish’s fears proved well-founded, and Congress began to move in ways that threatened to curtail his options. A bill calling for immediate emancipation in Puerto Rico sailed through the Spanish Senate in late December, but Martos retracted Polo’s pledge to Fish about Cuba. Meanwhile, in the U.S. Congress, Senator Frank P. Blair (D–MO) had introduced a resolution endorsing a Colombian circular proposing that Latin American republics ask the United States to unite with them in urging Spain to grant Cuba independence. House Foreign Affairs Chair Nathaniel P. Banks indicated his intention to propose a resolution demanding Grant take firm action to protect American interests in Cuba.45

When Foreign Relations, 1872 was published on January 8, 1873, the press reacted to Instruction No. 270 with a mix of wonder, admiration, skepticism, and fear. This “surprising manifestation of backbone” on the part of Secretary Fish, said the New York Herald, was “a plain hint that a new line of action will be adopted.” The next day, however, the Herald expressed more skepticism. “Since [No. 270] was written, the State department appears to have relapsed into a state of indifference, being satisfied, we suppose, with having made the usual red-tape demonstration . . . making this great Republic appear ridiculous in the eyes of the world and creating disgust in the minds of the American people.” But the Cincinnati Commercial worried that Fish’s “ominous” despatch might lead to war. “We can not help thinking that the language of Secretary Fish must have amazed the Spanish government. It is not often that such language is used in diplomatic despatches unless it be meant as a prelude to hostilities.”46 The London Times entered the fray on behalf of the United States, reminding its readers that for two years both the Grant administration and Her Majesty’s Government had exercised a “gentle pressure” on behalf of Puerto Rican independence and that the Spanish government “have all along been pledged to emancipation in Puerto Rico instantly, and in Cuba as soon as peace may be restored.”47

An element of mockery injected itself into press commentary after the Spanish government denied that it “had received any note from Secretary Fish upon the slavery question.” The Herald wondered, “In whose mouth lives the diplomatic lie?”48 The New York Tribune withdrew its endorsement of Fish’s course. In a scolding editorial titled, “A Dispatch which failed to Arrive,” the Tribune said,

the dispatches of yesterday morning from Madrid bring the astonishing news that the president of the council, in a speech in the Cortes, positively and categorically denied that any correspondence had passed between the two governments on [slavery and Cuba]. . . .The dilemma has no favorable horn. If Mr. Fish knew his instructions had not been carried out in Madrid, there is an apparent disingenuousness in printing this note. . . . If he did not know this, the discipline of the Department is extraordinarily lax, and the publication was a piece of reckless thoughtlessness.

In any event, the effect of the incident cannot but be unfortunate. We may not by strict diplomatic rules have the right to question the Radical government of Senor Ruiz Zorrilla in relation to a communication made by him to the legislative body in Spain. But the whole country read yesterday the words in which he indirectly accuses our government of a deception practiced upon our own people. It is highly desirable that this should be explained.49

The Cortes also demanded an explanation. Brandishing a copy of Foreign Relations, 1872, on January 16, 1873, Senator Felix Suarez Inclan, leader of a coalition of Conservatives opposed to emancipation in the Spanish colonies, called upon the government to follow the American example and provide the Cortes with its diplomatic correspondence on Cuba. He dismissed the government’s claim not to have received No. 270, and joined other reactionaries in declaring the ruling Radical party’s emancipation of Puerto Rico a “cowardly attempt to conciliate America,” an act that “could only strengthen the hands of the rebels in Cuba.” Several days of acrimonious debate raged in the Spanish Senate.50

Fish’s attempt to use FRUS for current policy goals placed him in a bind. Unable to disavow No. 270 since it appeared in an official government publication, he offered convoluted explanations to avoid becoming trapped by his own maneuver. Trying to limit the damage domestically, bring Spain into line, and avoid a war that his own message intimated, the Secretary told the press that the Spanish Government had not, strictly speaking, received his note. Fish had written it to Sickles, and Sickles had read it to the Spanish Minister of State. “No copy would be furnished unless asked for, and none was asked for,” averred Fish, “so that, diplomatically speaking, the government has received no such communication; but the Spanish government has full knowledge of the latest views of this government on the subject of slavery in the Spanish West Indian possessions, whatever they may say in the Cortes.” Fish’s explanation left the New York Herald cold. “We would suggest that the American people had quite sufficient of this diplomatic humbug . . . and they would like now a little plain, intelligible language. We have had enough intrigue, deception, and underhanded influence in all our recent transactions with the Spanish government. Now let us know where the responsibility rests.”51 Privately, Fish told Spanish Minister Polo that he had done Spain a favor in publishing No. 270 and related correspondence. “The publication of the letters submitted with the president’s December 2 message to Congress was necessary,” Fish insisted, “to satisfy Congress that the administration had the subject in hand; that the danger has been and is one of the question of Congressional debate, which would give occasion to the utterance of many hard things and would agitate the public mind.” Fish implored Polo to ask his government to desist from further denials or controversial statements on the matter.52

Whatever Fish’s original intent, he clearly did not have “the subject in hand.” American opinion was hardening toward intervention in Cuba. The press expected Grant to take a firm stand in his March 4, 1873 inaugural address. On February 3, Banks reported out a resolution asking Grant to talk informally with European governments about joint measures to protect non-combatants in Cuba, hasten emancipation, and promote peace.

Fish escaped the dilemma when, on February 9, Spain declared for a republic. The well-meaning but ineffectual King Amadeus abdicated, and the two chambers of the Cortes coalesced into a National Assembly. Fish telegraphed Sickles to recognize the republican government as soon as it was fully established. Sickles apparently exceeded his instructions and announced that the United States had “determined to cooperate as far as it depends upon them in bringing the insurrection in Cuba to an end.” Not even the interventionists objected. Most Americans rejoiced at the birth of a new republic in the monarchical Old World.53

The publication of Instruction No. 270 unleashed forces that Fish could not control. Although Fish’s diplomatic high-wire act succeeded—he managed to pressure Spain, defend American commercial interests, prevent congressional action, placate domestic opponents, and avoid war—employing FRUS for public “message sending” threatened the delicate balance among persuasion, compromise, coercion, and face-saving upon which diplomacy depends. Moreover, attempts to manipulate the volumes’ content brought into question the integrity of the series, which never sat well with Congress, the press, or the public. With the spectacular additional cautionary example provided by James G. Blaine discussed in the next chapter, the Marsh Affair and the No. 270 imbroglio persuaded Secretary Fish and his successors to avoid overtly manipulating the series for immediate political or diplomatic purposes.

“The Proper Selection of Despatches” (1874–1876)

Perhaps to spare ministers future embarrassment or to enhance their stake in the Foreign Relations series and thus minimize their complaints about its contents, in 1874 Hamilton Fish began soliciting input from the field in determining which documents might be too sensitive to publish.54 Although the Rutherford B. Hayes administration abandoned the experiment, this short-lived initiative illustrates the perennial tension between the value of openness and concerns to protect secrecy in a 19th century context. Ultimately, officials in Washington retained the authority to make such determinations.

“I enclose a list of despatches from [your] legation which it is proposed to submit to Congress for publication with the President’s annual message in December next,” Secretary Fish told ministers at the 37 American legations in a circular instruction bearing dates between September 2 and 16, 1874. “Should there be any papers or parts of papers covered by this list, the publication of which would be objectionable, I will thank you to specify them at your earliest convenience and to designate any others which have been omitted which you think should be published.” Fish gave ministers until October 15 to respond.55 Only six ministers replied to Fish’s offer, which suggests that the remainder either did not consider the prospect of publication sufficiently problematic to merit a response, or they were unable to meet the short due date (the content of Foreign Relations was normally completed by mid-November). The Department, moreover, explicitly reserved the final authority to determine which documents to publish.

The Department generally obliged those ministers whose requests arrived prior to the November cut-off date. Minister to China S. Wells Williams asked that all despatches on the “Japanese and Chinese imbroglio”56 be omitted from Foreign Relations, 1874 because “the affair is in such a state that their publication officially and perusal by the Chinese and Japanese, who will obtain them, will be in some respects disadvantageous.57 The Department not only accepted Williams’s recommendations, but also published no China despatches that postdated his request. Not surprisingly given his prior experience with Fish’s manipulation of FRUS, Minister to Italy George P. Marsh was among those who replied. He had no objection to the publication in full of the three Italy despatches that the Department had identified for release, and advised against publishing anything else he had submitted that year because the correspondence dealt with matters of less consequence. The Department followed his recommendations.58 Minister to Turkey George H. Boker asked that the Department withhold two despatches his predecessor had written. The first related the “designs and diplomatic character of H.E. the Russian Ambassador [which] would not be very acceptable reading to my distinguished colleague.” The second contained unflattering remarks about a prominent figure in the Ottoman Empire, publication of which, Boker said, could cause difficulties “if he were in quest of contemporary opinion as to himself, and he should unfortunately stumble upon the short but all sufficing characterization of his public qualities.” Second Assistant Secretary of State William Hunter, a key arbiter of Foreign Relations content, passed Boker’s communication to the chief of the diplomatic bureau, whose staff identified and recommended despatches for publication, with instructions for him to “take note” of what Boker had said. The offending material was omitted from Foreign Relations, 1874.59

On at least one occasion Congress permitted the Department to redact correspondence after its submission but before its publication. Undoubtedly with an eye toward hostile British journalists in Japan, Minister Bingham asked that significant portions of two despatches on the relations of the European “treaty powers” with Japan be omitted. Although Bingham’s request did not reach the Department until December 8, a week after the President’s annual message to Congress and submission of diplomatic correspondence, the excisions were made in Foreign Relations, 1874 precisely as Bingham had requested.60 After receiving a copy, he gratefully thanked Fish “for the care manifested in suppressing whatever in my despatches might possibility give offense, though not so intended by me.”61

In 1875 Fish granted ministers an even greater role in selecting contents of the annual Foreign Relations volume. To give them sufficient time to register their views, Fish sent the following circular instruction to the field in April:

With a view to the proper selection of the despatches to be submitted to Congress, for publication with the President’s annual message in December next, I will thank you to inform the Department so that the information may be received by the fifteenth of October, which of the despatches from your legation you would designate as those from among which selection may hereafter most properly be made by the Department, and especially which despatches or portions of despatches should in your opinion be excluded.

Should any despatch be addressed by you to the Department subsequent to the date of giving this information, which may be received in time to be also submitted to Congress, the whole or any portion of which should in your opinion be excluded and note published, I will thank you to state the fact at the time of forwarding the despatch, or to mark any objectionable passage.62

This missive elicited a more robust response than the year prior. Of the 37 ministers, 12 submitted lists of despatches they considered worthy (or at least safe) for publication. Several of the ministers also identified passages they wished to see omitted from the published record. In cases including China, France, Italy, Mexico, Russia, and Sweden, the Department published only those despatches that the ministers had recommended and excised all passages of concern to the ministers. The Department also took care not to publish potentially controversial despatches from these legations received subsequent to the ministers’ requests.63

But in several instances senior Department officials overruled ministers. Second Assistant Secretary Hunter directed that four despatches the minister to Chile recommended for publication not be released, one of which was a lengthy, self-congratulatory report about his success in uncovering pervasive malfeasance at the consulate in Valparaiso.64 Acting Secretary of State John Cadwalader declined to release a number of despatches that Minister to Great Britain Robert Schenck recommended for publication.65 Despite advice from the Minister to Turkey to the contrary, the Department not only published all despatches relating to the “Affair of Tripoli,” but also included little else from Constantinople in Foreign Relations, 1875 not pertaining to the subject.66 The Department rejected Minister Bingham’s strong request that “the whole of Despatch 98, with its enclosure, be published, which shows more fully than any other the action of China in regard to the Formosa Expedition.”67

Eleven ministers answered Fish’s solicitation of despatches for inclusion in Foreign Relations, 1876. In his letter to the field, Fish said, without elaborating on the reasons, that “it is found necessary to curtail the publication [of Foreign Relations], and no large number of despatches can be published from any one legation.” Perhaps the dysfunctional condition of the corruption-ridden Grant administration in its final months prompted Fish’s decision to shorten the volume.68

Minister to Great Britain Edward S. Pierrepont was happy to comply with Fish’s admonition to brevity: He wanted none of his despatches published. Noting that in the short time he had been at post the only subject of interest upon which he sent despatches related to differences with Great Britain on extradition matters. “As a new treaty may be negotiated,” wrote Pierrepont, “I would suggest that publication of the official correspondence at the present time might cause embarrassment.”69 In keeping with its general policy not to release correspondence pertaining to ongoing or anticipated negotiations, the Department concurred. The only correspondence from Pierrepont to appear in Foreign Relations, 1876 was two brief despatches that simply forwarded British newspaper articles on extradition.

At the other extreme, Minister to Sweden C. C. Andrews understood the utility of Foreign Relations as a public diplomacy tool. Andrews implored Fish to include in the 1876 volume two lengthy reports he had written on the subjects of pauperism and civil service reform in Sweden, both of which reflected well on the Scandinavian country. He also asked Fish to print 300 extra copies of each separately for his own use, and to provide him extra copies of Foreign Relations, 1876 to distribute to Swedish universities. It is not known whether the Department printed the reports separately as Andrews asked, but they did appear in Foreign Relations, 1876. Andrews was delighted. He gave his counterpart a copy of the volume. The Swedish Government translated Andrews’ report on the civil service and published it in their official journal. “As I have never before known of such a proceeding by the Foreign Office, I could not but feel flattered at the notice,” he wrote.70

In assembling Foreign Relations, 1876 the Department proved less receptive to the counsel of its ministers than it had been in 1875. Minister to Turkey Horace Maynard advised that “selections should be made only from those which relate to the condition of Turkey and to the stirring events which will make the present year memorable in the annals of the Empire” such as despatches dealing with famine in Asia Minor, financial affairs of Turkey, and a massacre at Salonica (omitting personal observations from the reporting U.S. Consular Agent and “the attitude of Russian and British ambassadors, which is intended for official eyes only).” For whatever reason, the Department chose not to include despatches on the famine and Turkish financial affairs.71 Contrary to the wishes of the minister to Ecuador that nothing on domestic political affairs be published because they were “rather unsettled,” the Department printed a revealing despatch on revolutionary activity in Guayaquil.72

The U.S. Minister to Colombia exhorted the Department to omit a sensitive reference to the machinations of foreign embassies encouraging Colombia to employ British and French engineers for a proposed interoceanic canal:

This project has been all the more favorably received by the Colombians, by reason of the general belief that the US commission has made a final report in favor of the Nicaraguan route. And what is perhaps an object of more surprise, the scheme is quietly encouraged by one of the foreign legations here, while some of the British naval officers, as if acting in concert therewith, have been writing letters to parties here denouncing the Nicaraguan route as practically impossible, and pointedly insinuating that the surveys of the Atrato and Panama routes by the United States commission amount to a farce, if nothing more serious.73

Although the Department normally excised comments on the dealings of foreign representatives, Assistant Secretary Hunter authorized the release of this paragraph. Perhaps the intent was to feed sentiment against British meddling on the isthmus. Minister to China George F. Seward also saw himself overruled. He strongly urged that nothing on Chinese immigration be published “as the subject has become one of a specially delicate nature.” The Department saw the matter otherwise. No doubt to put its position on record with California representatives, for whom the issue was an explosive one, the Department published several despatches on the topic from Peking, including a “long and frank” discussion Seward had with the Chinese Foreign Minister.74

The 19th century experiment in soliciting legation input to Foreign Relations ended with the Grant administration. No protest arose from the field. In 1877, only two ministers took it upon themselves to make known their druthers on Foreign Relations content,75 and a single request arrived in 1878.76 From 1879 onward, diplomats at post confined themselves to occasional grumbling over unwelcome Foreign Relations content after publication.

Although the extant records do not indicate the motivations for Fish’s experiment in soliciting input from the field, nor why the practice was discontinued, this episode highlights a widespread commitment to openness despite the difficulties inherent in publishing potentially sensitive foreign policy documents of recent vintage. Undoubtedly Fish’s invitations to participate in the decision making process were meant to give ministers a stake in FRUS. In the final analysis, however, it appears the value of transparency played a key role in continuing the series. Despite the difficulties that publication of Foreign Relations volumes could cause, even the diplomats most directly affected rarely argued against the principle that the American people had a right to know as much as possible about the conduct of the nation’s overseas affairs.

Although publishing recent diplomatic correspondence could cause problems, the utility of FRUS to placate Congress, inform the public, influence key constituencies, and send messages to foreign governments strongly mitigated in favor of continuing the series. Fish’s attempts to overcome the precedents of the past failed. His subsequent episodic use of the volumes for nonstandard purposes demonstrated the potential benefits and likely risks inherent in venturing outside the transparency paradigm developed over the preceding eight decades. The nation expected FRUS to be “honest” and with few exceptions, his successors took heed.

  1. U.S. Code, Section 2, 14 Stat. L. 305 (July 27, 1866).
  2. In a manner typical of his predecessors, Johnson did touch upon a number of foreign policy issues in his December 9, 1868 address. He also apparently submitted a few pages of documentation on two minor issues. See American Presidency Project website,
  3. The backlog included over 9,000 manuscript pages of unrecorded outgoing instructions, more than 24,000 unindexed despatches, instructions, and letters, and 388 volumes of correspondence that required arrangement and binding. Fish also had to assign one Clerk to six weeks of full-time work compiling an immigration report that should have been prepared under Seward.
  4. The most pressing and potentially explosive diplomatic issue of the day, the Alabama claims case pitted the United States against Great Britain in a dispute over the British Government’s liability for losses to Union merchant vessels suffered at the hands of the British-built Confederate commerce raider Alabama during the Civil War.
  5. Chief Clerk R. S. Chew to Fish, June 27, 1871, NARA, RG 59, M800, Reports of Clerks and Bureau Officers of the Department of State, Roll 5.
  6. Correspondence Concerning Claims against Great Britain, 41st Cong. 1st Sess. SED 11. The Government Printing Office printed Vols. 1 (Ser. 1394) and 4 (Ser. 1397) in 1869 and Vols. 2 (Ser. 1395), 3 (Ser. 1396) and 5 (Ser. 1398) in 1870.
  7. Quote from Fish to close friend and New York political benefactor J. Watson Webb, January 1, 1870, LCM, Fish Papers, Container 309, January 1870. See also Michael J. Devine, “Hamilton Fish,” in Edward S. Mihalkanin, ed., American Statesmen: Secretaries of State from John Jay to Colin Powell (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2004), pp. 192–195.
  8. Fish to James G. Blaine, December 6, 1869, p. 198 in NARA, RG 59, Reports of the Secretary of State to the President and Congress, 1790–1906, Report Book 10; Clerks in the State Department, 41st Cong. 2nd Sess., HED 9 (Ser. 1416), pp. 1–2.
  9. Although Fish added that “The correspondence will however, be reviewed if practicable, during the recess of Congress, with a view to the selection of such as may be proper to furnish,“ the Department never produced an 1869 volume. Fish to Nathaniel P. Banks, May 18, 1872, NARA, RG 59, Reports of the Secretary of State to the President and Congress, 1790–1906, Report Book 11. Department officials had made a good faith effort to present a respectable record. In addition to the diplomatic correspondence for that year, the 1868 Foreign Relations volume contained despatches on the Alabama Claims case and the imprisonment of U.S. citizen “Fenians” in Great Britain through the end of the Johnson administration in March 1869. This was the only 19th century instance in which an annual Foreign Relations volume contained documents from a succeeding year.
  10. “A Small Reform,” The Patriot (Harrisburg, PA), December 7, 1869.
  11. Normally Congress simply requested any correspondence that the Department might have on a subject; in this case the request was directed to Fish personally.
  12. Fish to Grant, December 14, 1869, p. 208 in NARA, RG 59, Reports of the Secretary of State to the President and Congress, 1790–1906, Vol. 10, Report Book 10.
  13. New York Herald, December 17 and 19, 1869.
  14. J. C. Bancroft Davis to Sumner, December 20, 1869, NARA, RG 59, Reports of the Secretary of State to the President and Congress, 1790–1906, Report Book 10; Congressional Globe, 41st Cong. 2nd Sess., February 7, 1870, p. 1089.
  15. Davis to Sumner, December 20, 1869, NARA, RG 59, Reports of the Secretary of State to the President and Congress, 1790–1906, Report Book 10.
  16. The President always formally transmitted the Department’s response to calls for documents with a brief cover letter.
  17. Two letters in particular clearly demonstrated the Grant administration’s evolving policy on Cuba. On April 16, 1869, Fish had written the Spanish Minister to assure him that, unlike many European countries, Spain included, which had rushed to grant the Confederacy belligerent rights in 1861, the United States would not do so in the case of Cuba. Reflecting his growing impatience with the stalemate on the island, Fish told the minister on October 13 that “the present state cannot be indefinitely prolonged,” and that the Grant administration reserved the “right of future action.” The correspondence was published as The Revolution in Cuba, 41st Cong. 2nd Sess., SED 7 (Ser. 1405).
  18. Fish to John Jay, Jr., January 17, 1870, LCM, Fish Papers, Container 67.
  19. Fish diary, March 30, 1870, LCM, Fish Papers, Reel 3 (Container 280). Grant specifically noted that Sumner had misrepresented Fish’s views with regard to the Santo Domingo treaty, but the admonition to withhold information applied generally.
  20. In addition to the two 1868 volumes and the 1870 volume eventually produced, the Department transmitted 1,015 pages of documents during 1869–1870, the largest number of records released in any biennium until the Blaine imbroglio delayed the 1881 volume (see chapter 4 and appendix C).
  21. Paul H. Clyde, ed. United States Policy toward China, Diplomatic and Public Documents, 1839–1939 (Durham: Duke University Press, 1940), p. 95–103.
  22. American Citizens Prisoners in Great Britain, 41st Cong., 2nd Sess., HED 170 (Ser. 1418); Affairs on the Red River (Presidential message on presence of Hon. William McDougall . . . ), 41st Cong., 2nd Sess., SED 33 (Ser. 1405); Claims of American Citizens against Venezuela, 41st Cong., 2nd Sess., HD 176 (Ser. 1418).
  23. Fish to Grant, April 5, 1870, pp. 326–327 in NARA, RG 59, Reports of the Secretary of State to the President and Congress, 1790–1906, Report Book 10.
  24. Seizure of American Vessels and Injuries to American Citizens during Hostilities in Cuba, 41st Cong., 2nd Sess., SED 108 (Ser. 1407); Correspondence between the United States and Great Britain Concerning Questions Pending between the Two Countries, 41st Cong., 2nd sess., SED 114 (Ser. 1407); The Emancipation of Slaves in Cuba, 41st Cong., 2nd Sess., SED 113 (Ser. 1407).
  25. The 1870 volume included a few documents from 1869 and a smattering of correspondence from early 1870, but most of the records dated from the second half of the year.
  26. Fish’s correspondence with Sumner in the Charles Sumner Papers at Harvard University reveal no additional documentation. Department Historical Adviser Tyler Dennett said Fish “was forced by the necessities of the case to resume it under the name with which it is now familiar to us,” but does not elaborate. See Tyler Dennett, “Governmental Publications for the Study of International Law,” Proceedings of the American Society of International Law at Its Annual Meeting 23 (April 24–27, 1929): p. 56.
  27. Fluent in six European languages, he was also preeminent among the world’s philologists. His varied writings included a compendium of Icelandic grammar, a book on the habits and uses of camels, and Man and Nature, an important early work of ecology. David Lowenthal, George Perkins Marsh, Versatile Vermonter (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958).
  28. Lowell Daily Citizen and News, June 21, 1870; Boston Daily Advertiser, June 20, 1870; Erving E. Beauregard, Bingham of the Hills, Politician and Diplomat Extraordinary (New York: Peter Lang, 1989), p. 137.
  29. Foreign Relations, 1870, pp. 448–449.
  30. Foreign Relations, 1870–1871, pp. 450–452. See also George W. Wurts to Catherine C. Marsh, October 1, 1884, University of Vermont, George P. Marsh Papers.
  31. Wurts to Caroline Crane Marsh, October 1, 1884, University of Vermont, George P. Marsh Papers; Lowenthal, Marsh, pp. 288–289.
  32. William T. Sherman to George Perkins Marsh, March 28, 1872, University of Vermont, George P. Marsh Papers; Middletown (Connecticut) Daily Constitution, December 31, 1872.
  33. St. Albans Daily Messenger (Vermont), April 9, 1872; New York Herald, April 19, 1872; William T. Sherman to George P. Marsh, November 20, 1872, University of Vermont, George P. Marsh Papers.
  34. Both Marsh and his aide, George W. Wurts, believed Fish orchestrated the publication to edge Marsh out. Charles P. Marsh to John Bigelow, March 25, 1872, in Bigelow, Retrospections of an Active Life, 6 vols. (New York: Doubleday, Page and Company, 1913), Vol. 5, pp. 19–20; Wurts to Catherine. C. Marsh, October 1, 1884, University of Vermont, George P. Marsh Papers.
  35. Boston (Morning) Journal, March 4, 1872; Lowell Daily Citizen and News, March 11, 1872; Springfield Republican, April 13, 1872; “European Complications,” The Sun (New York), March 2, 1872; T. E. Vermilyen to Hamilton Fish, March 5, 1872, LCM, Fish Papers, Container 86.
  36. Moreover, in January-February 1872, Fish offered Marsh the more prestigious post of Madrid, at the same time that rumors circulated in the press that Fish wanted to remove the current U.S. minister, Daniel Sickles. Marsh declined the offer. Davis to Fish, January 24, 1872, LCM, Fish Papers, Box 312, Bancroft Davis to Hamilton Fish Sept. 26(?), 1871 to Dec. 30, 1872; Charles Marsh to George Perkins Marsh, January 30, February 12, and February 17, 1872, University of Vermont, George P. Marsh Papers; Cincinnati Daily Gazette, February 26, 1872. Register of the Department of State, Containing a List of Persons Employed in the Department and in the Diplomatic and Consular Service of the United States (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1872 and 1873).
  37. Middletown Daily Constitution (Connecticut), December 31, 1872; Beauregard, Bingham of the Hills, pp. 147–177.
  38. New York Herald, October 24, 1872; Charles S. Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations, 1865–1900 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), pp. 53–56; James W. Cortada, Two Nations over Time, Spain and the United States, 1776–1977 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978), pp. 92–93.
  39. Allan Nevins, Hamilton Fish, The Inner History of the Grant Administration (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1936), p. 625; Fish to Henry C. Hall, October 25, 1872, LCM, Fish Papers, Container 313, July–December 1872; Fish Diary, November 4, 1872 and January 23, 1873 in LCM, Fish Papers, Reel 4 (Container 283).
  40. Foreign Relations, 1872, pp. 580–584.
  41. Daniel Sickles to Fish, January 28, 1873, NARA, RG 59, M31, Despatches From U.S. Ministers to Spain, 1792–1906, Roll 56.
  42. Sickles to Fish, November 24, 1872, NARA, RG 59, M31, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Spain, Roll 55.
  43. Nevins, Fish, pp. 628–630.
  44. Fish diary, January 23, 1873, LCM, Fish Papers, Reel 4 (Container 283).
  45. Nevins, Fish, pp. 631–632.
  46. New York Herald, January 10 and 11, 1873; Cincinnati Commercial, January 17, 1873.
  47. The Times (London), January 14, 1873.
  48. New York Herald, January 17, 1873.
  49. New York Tribune, January 17, 1873.
  50. Sickles to Fish, January 28, 1873, NARA, RG 59, M31, Despatches From U.S. Ministers to Spain, 1792–1906, Roll 56; La Gaceta de Madrid, January 16 and 21, 1873; The Times (London), January 12 and 14, 1873; Daily News (London), January 15, 1873.
  51. New York Herald, January 19, 1873.
  52. Fish diary, January 23, 1873, LCM, Fish Papers, Reel 4 (Container 283); Nevins, Fish, p. 632.
  53. Quote from Nevins, Fish, p. 634. See also Campbell, Transformation, p. 59.
  54. Two years before he joined the Department of State as chief historical adviser, in his book Americans in East Asia (New York: MacMillan, 1922), pp. 687–688, Tyler Dennett asserted without attribution that complaints from Peking and Tokyo in the early 1870s about Foreign Relations content led to a Department policy to permit ministers to choose which despatches from their legations were printed in Foreign Relations. Subsequent works have repeated this claim, along with Dennett’s implication that this policy remained in place. This section demonstrates that the practice existed only from 1874–1876. See for instance Leopold, “The Foreign Relations Series,” pp. 597–598, and William Francis Sheppard, “A History and Evaluation of Foreign Relations,” (master’s thesis, California State College, Fullerton, 1967), p. 27. There is no evidence that reaction from Peking and Tokyo precipitated the policy, although such interventions probably contributed to Fish’s decision to conduct the experiment.
  55. Fish to James B. Partridge, September 18, 1874, NARA, RG 59, Diplomatic Instructions of the Department of State, 1801–1906, Brazil, Microfilm M77, Roll 24.
  56. A reference to Japan’s punitive expedition against Taiwanese tribesmen, ostensibly for the murder three years earlier of 54 Ryukyuan sailors, but in reality to test the strength of Chinese suzerainty over the Ryukyuan islands, which Japan also claimed, and over Taiwan. China’s feeble response was an invitation to foreign encroachment on her disputed possessions and further confirmed the weakness of the Qing Dynasty.
  57. S. Wells Williams to Fish, September 17, 1874, NARA, RG 59, M92, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to China, 1843–1906, Roll 38.
  58. George P. Marsh to Fish, October 20, 1874, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to the Italian States, 1832–1906, NARA, RG 59, M90, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to the Italian States, 1832–1906, Roll 16.
  59. Boker to Fish, October 15, 1874, NARA, RG 59, M46, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Turkey, Roll 27. For an additional example see Eugene Schuyler (charge de affaires in Russia) to Fish, October 6, 1874, NARA, RG 59, M35, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Russia, 1808–1906, Roll 27. The request of Minister to Brazil James R. Partridge, sent on October 23, arrived on November 21, too late to be included because the volume had already gone to press. See Partridge to Fish, October 23, 1874, NARA, RG 59, M121, Despatches From U.S. Ministers to Brazil, 1809–1906, Roll 43.
  60. John A. Bingham to Fish, November 2, 1874, NARA, RG 59, M133, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Japan, 1855–1906, Roll 29.
  61. Bingham to Fish, February 12, 1875, NARA, RG 59, M133, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Japan, 1855–1906, Roll 29.
  62. Fish’s message is filed on April 12, 1875, in NARA, RG 59, M77, Diplomatic Instructions of the Department of State, 1801–1906, Argentine Republic, Roll 11, with the annotation “sent to all countries.” It is important to note that Fish did not grant ministers any voice in the selection of correspondence sent to Congress in response to the many requests for diplomatic correspondence that we have termed Supplemental FRUS Submissions.
  63. B. P. Avery to Fish, July 31, 1875, NARA, RG 59, M92, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to China, 1843–1906, Roll 39; Elihu Washburne to Fish, September 22, 1875, NARA, RG 59, M34, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to France, Roll T80; George P. Marsh to Fish, July 22, 1875, NARA, RG 59, M90, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to the Italian States, 1832–1906, Roll 16; John W. Foster to Fish, September 1, 1875, NARA, RG 59, M97, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Mexico, 1823–1906, Roll 52; Eugene Schuyler to Hamilton Fish, July 23, 1875, NARA, RG 59, M35, Despatches of U.S. Ministers to Russia, Roll 28; C. C. Andrews to Fish, September 10, 1875, NARA, RG 59, M45, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Sweden and Norway, 1813–1906, Roll 16.
  64. See the notation about Hunter’s directions written in the bottom margin on the first page of C. A. Logan to Fish, July 27, 1875, NARA, RG 59, M10, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Chile, Roll 28.
  65. Robert C. Schenck to Fish, September 10, 1875, NARA, RG 59, M30, Despatches From U.S. Ministers to Great Britain, 1791–1906, Roll 124.
  66. The so-called Affair of Tripoli referred to the dispatching of an American warship to that city after some locals had “insulted” the U.S. consul and his wife. Horace Maynard to Fish, September 28, 1875, NARA, RG 59, M46, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Turkey, 1818–1906, Roll 29; Maynard had suggested that “the more important despatches relating to . . . the affair of Tripoli you will probably not think best to make public until results should have been reached.” Because both British press and local press had reported on the affair, the Department probably felt compelled to put something on record. For press coverage of the affair see especially the Daily Levant Herald, September 20 and 25, 1875, enclosed with Maynard’s correspondence.
  67. Bingham to Fish, September 9, 1875, NARA, RG 59, M133, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Japan, 1855–1906, Roll 30.
  68. Fish to Thomas O. Osborne, July 21, 1876, NARA, RG 59, M77, Diplomatic Instructions of the Department of State, 1801–1906, Roll 11. Foreign Relations, 1876 totaled 648 pages, down from 1,399 pages contained in the two-volume Foreign Relations, 1875. Foreign Relations, 1874 comprised 1,238 pages.
  69. Edward S. Pierrepont to Fish, September 30, 1876, NARA, RG 59, M30, Despatches From U.S. Ministers to Great Britain, 1791–1906, Roll 127.
  70. C. C. Andrews to Fish, October 12, 1876 and quote from February 24, 1877, NARA, RG 59, M45, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Sweden and Norway, Roll 17.
  71. Horace Maynard to Fish, September 20, 1876, NARA, RG 59, M46, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Turkey, 1818–1906, Roll 31.
  72. Christian N. Wullweber to Fish, August 28, 1876, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Ecuador, NARA, RG 59, T50, Despatches From U.S. Ministers to Ecuador, 1848–1906, Roll 14.
  73. George F. Seward to Fish, September 7, 1876, NARA, RG 59, M92, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to China, 1843–1906, Roll 43. See, for example, Seward to Fish, June 29, 1876, in Foreign Relations, 1876, pp. 57–58.
  74. William L. Scruggs to Fish, October 3, 1876, NARA, RG 59, T33, Despatches From U.S. Ministers to Colombia, 1820–1906, Roll 31.
  75. Foster to Frederick W. Seward, August 15, 1877, NARA, RG 59, M97, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Mexico, 1823–1906, Roll 57; Washburne to William M. Evarts, October 16, 1877, NARA, RG 59, M34, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to France, Roll T85.
  76. Bayard Taylor to Evarts, September 2, 1878, RG 59, M44, Despatches from U.S. Ministers to the German States and Germany, 1799–1801, 1835–1906, 1799–1906, Roll 42.