No. 23.
Sir E. Thornton to Earl Granville.1


[From British Blue Book North America, No. 9, (1872,) p. 1.]

I called upon Mr. Fish at the State Department on the 25th instant, Thursday, the day of the week on which he requests that members of [Page 482] the Diplomatic Body may visit him. He informed me that he had received the day before a telegram from General Schenck, in which he stated that your Lordship had told him that, if Mr. Fish’s answer to your note of the 20th ultimo did not contain some satisfactory communication with regard to the claims for indirect damages, Her Majesty’s Government would be obliged to announce its intention of withdrawing entirely from the Arbitration at Geneva. Mr. Fish added that he should sincerely regret to hear of such an announcement being made, for that it could only be looked upon as a menace, and would destroy all hope of an understanding upon the subject. Mr. Fish then sent for the draught of Ms dispatch to General Schenck in answer to your Lordship’s note of the 20th ultimo, and read it to me. Your Lordship will probably have received a copy of it from General Schenck yesterday or to-day. Mr. Fish also read me part of the dispatch which he had sent to General Schenck on the 19th instant, and in which Mr. Fish expressed his surprise that Her Majesty’s Government should object so much to a decision by the Tribunal of Arbitration at Geneva on the matter of the indirect claims; for that it must be aware that the United States Government neither expected nor desired a money-award on account of those claims, and that the United States were quite as much interested as Great Britain in obtaining from the Tribunal a decision adverse to those claims. The tone of the dispatch was friendly and conciliatory, and was evidently intended to contribute to bringing about an agreement upon the question at issue. Indeed, I gathered that the part of the draught which was not read to me contained a distinct proposal upon the subject. I fear, however, that this dispatch will reach General Schenck too late for practical purposes.

Mr. Fish told me that Mr. Adams left Sew York for England on the 24th instant, and that, on his arrival there, he would convince your Lordship, though unofficially, that he was entirely opposed to the principle of claims for consequential damages.

But, during the whole conversation, Mr. Fish betrayed anxiety that the Treaty should not be allowed to break down, and frequently expressed his hope that your Lordship would suggest some means of disposing of the indirect claims, which would at the same time satisfy Her Majesty’s Government and would be possible for that of the United States; for he said that, even if the latter was not justified in ever having presentd those claims—which he could not admit—it was impossible for it now to recede or withdraw them, unless it should obtain a quid pro quo. If Her Majesty’s Government was really anxious that the provisions of the Treaty should be carried out, which I earnestly assured him certainly was the case, why, he asked, should not your Lordship, in your answer to his dispatch, now on its way, state that, as the United States Government had made it evident that it did not desire a money-award on account of the indirect claims, but merely a decision on their merits by the Tribunal, Her Majesty’s Government would consent never to present such indirect claims, under similar circumstances, when England might happen to be a belligerent, and would allow the abstract question to be decided for the benefit of both parties, if the United States Government would engage not to ask for a money-award on the indirect claims from the Tribunal at Geneva.

Mr. Fish asked my opinion upon this suggestion; but I replied that it was impossible for me to imagine what Her Majesty’s Government might think of such a mode of arrangement, which I had now heard from him for the first time, and upon which I could not possibly have received [Page 483] any instructions from your Lordship. Upon his urging, however, that I should let him know my private feeling on the subject, I said that, with some modifications, I thought it possible that it might form the basis of an arrangement, and that I would have no objection to telegraph the substance of his communication to your Lordship. But I asked whether the President would be able to agree to such an arrangement without receiving the sanction of the Senate to it. Mr. Fish replied with confidence that he could do so, for that it would be merely an agreement as to the regulation of the mode of reference to the Tribunal, which was entirely in the hands of the Executive.

Immediately after my interview with Mr. Fish on the 25th instant, I found, in the evening newspaper, allusions to what he had suggested, and coupled with it a statement that the President disagreed with Mr. Fish upon the subject. The latter paid me a visit on the afternoon of the 26th instant, and assured me that the President was entirely in accord with him as to the possibility of an arrangement on the basis to which he had alluded in his conversation of the previous day; and he begged me to assure you that he was fully supported by the President.

During this visit I pointed out to Mr. Fish that, in case the suggestions made by him were taken into consideration, the United States Government would probably be expected to engage on its part that it would never again make such claims, against England as a neutral as had recently been presented in its Case. Mr. Fish replied that, as a matter of course, it never would do so, but that to take a formal engagement to that effect would involve the necessity of an application to the Senate.

  1. The substance of this dispatch was received by telegraph on the 27th of April.