No. 2.

sir stafford northcote on the alabama negotiations.

We gave a brief telegraphic summary in the Times of Saturday of a speech delivered by Sir Stafford Northcote at Exeter. The right honorable gentleman spoke on several topics of interest, the chief of which was the question of the Alabama claims. We subjoin a fuller report of this portion of his speech. “I need not tell you,” he said, “that this has been a year of great anxiety and of great trouble to us all connected with the questions raised under that Washington Treaty. And perhaps you will forgive my saying that to myself personally the time we have been going through has been of very considerable anxiety, [hear, hear;] not the less so because until within the last day or two I have felt myself in a position, and we who were the Commissioners last year have felt ourselves in a position in which it was our duty to hold our tongues. And though holding one’s tongue is often very agreeable and very right, there are occasions on which it [Page 594] imposes and involves considerable sacrifice. But I think the country has generally appreciated the motives which have led to our silence. [Hear, hear.], We have felt that it was far better that we should submit even to misrepresentation, or at all events to suspicion, which, we think, we could have cleared away if we could speak, than that we should say anything which could by any possibility mar the settlement to which we are anxiously looking. [Hear, hear.] But the matter has now, this week, passed into a stage which places us in a somewhat different position. It does hot, indeed, absolve us from the necessity of great caution in speaking of anything of a personal character; but it does place us in a position in which we may speak with freedom in reference to the great international interests concerned. Why I say our position personally has been one of great delicacy and embarrassment is this: Two questions have been raised, one the personal question as to what was the understanding between the Commissioners at all events, and perhaps between the two Governments, at the time the Treaty was concluded; the other, as to the general merits of the question which has been raised with regard to what are called consequential damages, or the indirect claims. Now with regard to the personal question I will only say this—that we, the Commissioners, were distinctly responsible for having represented to the Government that we understood a promise to be given that these claims were riot to be put forward, and were not to be submitted to arbitration. That being so, we are, of course, brought into painful relations with, and painful questions arise between ourselves and our American colleagues upon that Commission. It would have been most unjustifiable if, while the matter was under discussion, we had allowed any desire to make out our own case in this matter to interfere with a great international settlement going on. Whether the time will ever come for speaking fully upon the matter, I do not know, and I comparatively little care. What I am anxious for is that a reasonable arrangement should be come to which shall secure to both countries—and I will go as far as to say to the world at large—the advantages which we promised ourselves in the conclusion of that Treaty. Now, while the question was one merely between the two Governments it was very difficult to treat it without entering on that personal question, but we now see it has passed beyond the two Governments. An arrangement has been provisionally come to, I think we may say, between the two Governments, which is now awaiting its sanction by the Senate of the United States, and which, if accepted by them, must come before the Parliament and the people of this country, with a view to its ratification by us also, and I therefore speak with some litle freedom, because I feel that I can do so without raising the other class of question to which I refer. Nothing can be more satisfactory, I think, than the attitude which the people—I speak of the great public of both countries—have taken since the difficulty has arisen. There was very great satisfaction in America, and I believe that on the whole I may say there was great satisfaction in England also, when this Treaty was concluded last year. At all events, both countries believed that a settlement of the troublesome question had been arrived at; that principles were agreed upon that were likely to be of very great importance for the future. Suddenly, and most unexpectedly to the people of this country, and, as I am perfectly convinced, equally unexpectedly to the people of the United States, a difficulty was raised which seemed likely to overthrow the whole of the settlement. Nothing, I think, can have been more honorable to the public of both countries than the manner in which, in the face of that great disappointment, they have behaved. [Page 595] There has been no disposition to irritate, there has been no disposition to embarrass the question; on the contrary, there has been an anxious desire shown on both sides to endeavor, if possible, to undo this knot and to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. And though I do not wish to take credit to the late Commission for what may not belong to them, still one cannot help thinking that the manner in which the negotiation was conducted on the part of our Government, and the manner in which it was conducted on the other side, has had something to do in bringing about a better feeling between the two countries than previously existed. I firmly believe that the natural irritation which pervaded a large proportion of the United States immediately after the terrible civil war through which they had passed was greatly allayed by the proceedings of last year, and even if, which I trust may not be the case, those arrangements should unhappily fall through, I believe that the disposition which has been shown toward a friendly settlement will not be without its fruits. But with regard to the prospects of a settlement, I wish only to say this—that I have great confidence that the spirit which has animated both peoples will animate the authorities also. [Hear, hear.] The Treaty of last year was arrived at under circumstances of great difficulty, arising from the peculiar relation of the United States Senate to the Government; and those difficulties were enhanced by the fact that the Treaty embraced several distinct matters, and also by the consideration that the Senate had, on former occasions, rejected a Treaty for the settlement of the Alabama claims. All this made the negotiation extremely difficult and delicate. I am bound to say the spirit in which those difficulties were dealt with by the people, by the Government, and by the Senate of the United States was a spirit very encouraging, as if they were disposed to prefer great international considerations to the smaller and more personal considerations to which I have referred. And they dealt with this question in a broad and statesmanlike manner, which, I trust, augurs well for the future settlement of this question. It must be felt by us all that it is of the highest importance to the interests, not only of commerce, but of peace and tranquillity throughout the world, that these questions which have been raised should receive a satisfactory solution; that minor questions, such as national delicacy and national pride, even—although I am the last who would wish to see national honor in the least degree tainted or weakened—should not be allowed altogether to put out of our sight those very great, broad, inter-, national questions which are concerned in a settlement of this kind. And my firm belief is, whether we arrive at a settlement now, or whether this matter should be postponed, and it should be for the future to take it up again under happier auspices, that we have now arrived at a stage at which both countries are prepared to give proper weight to those great questions to which I have referred, and in which no petty considerations will be allowed to interfere with the settlement. [Hear, hear.] I do not speak—you would not expect me to speak—of the particular arrangement now proposed; but I do believe, if the matter is treated by the Senate in the same spirit as they dealt with our negotiations last year, we shall, before long, see such a settlement of it as will secure to the world those fruits which we had so earnestly hoped and so confidently believed we had secured by our negotiations of last year.” [Applause.]