No. 7.
Letter of General Schenck in answer to Mr. Fish’s letter of June 3.

My Dear Mr. Fish: I have your letter of the 3d instant, calling my attention to the statement made by Sir Stafford Northcote in a speech at Exeter last month. He took occasion then and there to declare that he and the other British Commissioners, in the negotiations which resulted in the Treaty of Washington, “understood a promise to be given” that what have been known as the indirect claims of the United States were not to be put forward or submitted to arbitration, and that they had so represented to their Government.

I did not fail to note with surprise this statement of Sir Stafford when it was first announced, and still more the manner of it. That you may better understand this, I send you, from the Times, a fuller report of his remarks than is contained in the extract you have inclosed me from the Pall Mall Gazette.

In reply to your appeal to me on the subject, I have no hesitation in saying distinctly and emphatically, as one of the American Commissioners, that if any promise of the kind mentioned by Sir Stafford Northcote was given, I had no knowledge of it whatever; nor do I believe that any such promise was made by my American colleagues of the Joint Commission, or by either of them, individually or collectively.

What might have been the “understanding” of the British Commissioners it is impossible for me to say. Their high character as honorable gentlemen forbids my doubting for a moment the assertion of either of them when he states that such an impression existed in his mind. The American Commissioners can only answer for what they themselves may have said or done to give just or sufficient occasion for any understanding of that sort.

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I would comment further on the language employed by Sip Stafford in connection with his statement, and on what that language, as Reported, seemed to imply; but a letter of his afterward addressed to Lord Derby, which it seems you could not have seen when you wrote to me, has been read in Parliament and published, giving quite a different view of the matter. It is not left now to be suspected that the British Commissioners were misled or deceived by some private communication made to them. In the letter to Lord Derby, a copy of which I send you herewith, Sir Stafford explains that the ground of his “understanding” was the statement made by the American Commissioners at the opening of the conference on the 8th of March, and which is set forth in the Protocol; but that he did not rely even upon that, or on anything outside of the Treaty itself, to support his conclusion.

How this opinion, founded on the terms of the Treaty and the words of the Proctocol, which are open for interpretation to all the world, should “bring the British Commissioners into painful relations with their American colleagues,” and cause “painful questions to arise between them,” I do not comprehend. It is enough to know that the proof of the “promise” is claimed now to be derived inferentially from the language of the Treaty and Proctocol; and I am sure that differences of opinion as to the meaning to be assigned to those documents ought to be and can be discussed without any need or danger of making the controversy a “personal question.”

I am, my dear sir, very sincerely and truly yours,