Mr. Seward to Mr. Adams

No. 2118.]

Sir: Your dispatch of the 24th of December, No. 1503, has been received You were quite right in saying to Lord Stanley that the negotiation in regard to the so-called Alabama claims is now considered by this government to have been closed without a prospect of its being reopened. With reference to the conversation which occurred between yourself and his lordship on the subject of a recent despatch of Mr. Ford, in which Mr. Ford gave an account of a conversation which he had with me, it would perhaps be sufficient to say that Mr. Ford submitted no report of that conversation, nor did he inform me what he proposed to write to Lord Stanley. I may add that either Mr. Ford or Lord Stanley, or both, have misapprehended the full scope of what is reported by Mr. Ford as a suggestion on my part.

Both of these gentlemen seem to have understood me as referring only to mutual pecuniary war claims of citizens and subjects of the two countries, which have lately been extensively discussed. Lord Stanley seems to have resolved that the so-called Alabama claims shall be treated so exclusively as a pecuniary commercial claim as to insist on altogether excluding the proceedings of her Majesty’s government in regard to the war from consideration in the arbitration which he proposed.

On the other hand, I have been singularly unfortunate in my correspondence if I have not given it to be clearly understood that a violation of neutrality by the Queen’s proclamation and kindred proceedings of the British government is regarded as a national wrong and injury to the United States; and that the lowest form of satisfaction for that national injury that the United States could accept would be found in an indemnity, without reservation or compromise, by the British government to those citizens of the United States who had suffered individual injury and damages by the vessels of war unlawfully built, equipped, manned, fitted out, or entertained and protected in the British ports and harbors in consequence of a failure of the British government to preserve its neutrality.

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Besides this question there exist also other open questions. There is a divided occupation of the island of San Juan, in the Pacific, which ought to be settled soon; there is the assumption of Great Britain to hold naturalized citizens of the United States, if they were born in Great Britain, amenable for offenses under laws and before tribunals which are not and cannot be applied to native-born citizens of the United States.

A grave question arose during the recent rebellion upon the treaty arrangements between the two countries for extradition of criminals. There is a deferred question between the two countries in regard to the fisheries in the north Atlantic waters.

Any one of these questions may at any moment become a subject of exciting controversy. The naturalization question is already working in that way.

It was in view of all these existing sources of controversy that the thought occurred to me that her Majesty’s government, if desirous to lay a broad foundation for friendly and satisfactory relations, might possibly think it expedient to suggest a conference, in which all the matters referred to might be considered together, and so a comprehensive settlement might be attempted without exciting the sensibilities which are understood to have caused that government to insist upon a limited arbitration in the case of the Alabama claims.

These explanations may be given informally, if you think proper, to Lord Stanley, but with the distinct understanding that the United States are not to be assumed as proposing to open a new negotiation in regard to the questions referred to, or any of them.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,


Charles Francis Adams, Esq., &c., &c., &c.