No. 9.

Extract from the 36th Protocol of the Conferences of the Joint High Commission.

At the conference held on the 8th of March the American Commissioners stated that the people and Government of the United States felt that they had sustained a great wrong, and that great injuries and losses were inflicted upon their commerce and their material interests by the course and conduct of Great Britain during the recent rebellion in the United States; that what had occurred in Great Britain and her colonies i during that period had given rise to feelings in the United States which the people of the United States did not desire to cherish toward Great Britain; that the history of the Alabama, and other cruisers, which had been fitted out, or armed, or equipped, or which had received augmentation of force in Great Britain, or in her colonies, and of the operations of those vessels, showed extensive direct losses in the capture and destruction of a large number of vessels, with their cargoes, and in the heavy national expenditures in the pursuit of the cruisers, and indirect injury in the transfer of a large part of the American commercial marine to the British flag, in the enhanced payments of insurance, in the prolongation of the war, and in the addition of a large sum to the cost of the war and the suppression of the rebellion, and also showed that Great Britain, by reason of failure in the proper observance of her duties as a neutral, had become justly liable for the acts of those cruisers and of their tenders; that the claims for the loss and destruction of private . property which had thus far been presented amounted to about fourteen millions of dollars, without interest, which amount was liable to be greatly increased by claims which had not been presented; that the cost to which the Government had been put in the pursuit of cruisers could easily be ascertained by certificates of Government accounting officers £ that in the hope of an amicable settlement, no estimate was made of the indirect losses, without prejudice, however, to the right to indemnification on their account in the event of no such settlement being made.

The American Commissioners further stated that they hoped that the British Commissioners would be able to place upon record an expression of regret by Her Majesty’s Government for the depredations committed by the vessels whose acts were now under discussion. They also proposed that the Joint High Commission should agree upon a sum which [Page 602] should be paid by Great Britain to the United States in satisfaction of the claims and the interest thereon.

The British Commissioners replied that Her Majesty’s Government could not admit that Great Britain had failed to discharge toward the United States the duties imposed on her by the rules of international law, or that she was justly liable to make good to the United States the losses occasioned by the acts of the cruisers to which the American Commissioners had referred. They reminded the American Commissioners that several vessels, suspected of being designed to cruise against the United States, including two iron-clads, had been arrested or detained by the British Government, and that that Government had in some instances not confined itself to the discharge of international obligations, however widely construed, as, for instance, when it acquired, at a great cost to the country, the control of the Anglo-Chinese flotilla, which, it was apprehended, might be used against the United States.

They added that although Great Britain had, from the beginning, disavowed any responsibility for the acts of the Alabama and the other vessels, she had already shown her willingness, for the sake of the maintenance of friendly relations with the United States, to adopt the principle of arbitration, provided that a fitting Arbitrator could be found, and that an agreement could be come to as to the points to which arbitration should apply. They would, therefore, abstain from replying in detail to the statement of the American Commissioners, in the hope that the necessity for entering upon a lengthened controversy might be obviated by the adoption of so fair a mode of settlement as that which they were instructed to propose; and they had now to repeat, on behalf of their Government, the offer of arbitration.

The American Commissioners expressed their regret at this decision of the British Commissioners, and said further that they could not consent to submit the question of the liability of Her Majesty’s Government to arbitration unless the principles which should govern the Arbitrator in the consideration of the facts could be first agreed upon.

The British Commissioners replied that they had no authority to agree to a submission of these claims to an Arbitrator with instructions as to the principles which should govern him in the consideration of them. They said that they should be willing to consider what principles should be adopted for observance in future; but that they were of opinion that the best mode of conducting an arbitration was to submit the facts to the Arbitrator, and leave him free to decide upon them after hearing such arguments as might be necessary.

The American Commissioners replied that they were willing to consider what principles should be laid down for observance in similar cases in future, with the understanding that any principles that should be agreed upon should be held to be applicable to the facts in respect to the Alabama claims.

The British Commissioners replied that they could not admit that there had been any violation of existing principles of international law, and that their instructions did not authorize them to accede to a proposal for laying down rules for the guidance of the Arbitrator; but that they would make known to their Government the views of the American Commissioners on the subject.

At the respective conferences on March 9, March 10, March 13, and March 14, the Joint High Commission considered the form of the declaration of principles or rules which the American Commissioners desired to see adopted for the instruction of the Arbitrators, and laid down for observance by two Governments in future.

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At the close of the conference of the 14th of March the British Com. missioners reserved several questions for the consideration of their Government.

Note.—This Proctocol contains the only statement with respect to the “indirect losses “made by the American Commissioners. (See also No. X, extract of Marquis of Ripon’s speech.) It was officially published, both in Great Britain and in the United States, nearly a year before the meeting of the Exeter Chamber of Commerce, of May 17, having been laid before both Houses of Parliament about the 3d June, 1871, and printed in British Parliamentary Papers, North America, No. 3, 1871, which was received at the Department of State June 20, 1871.