[Letter of Mr. Hale to the Secretary of State]
Sir: In submitting the accompanying report of the proceedings and results of the mixed commission under the twelfth article of the treaty between the United States and Great Britain of May 8, 1871, I beg to express my profound sense of obligation to yourself for the uniform kindness and consideration I have experienced from you during the whole existence of the commission.
The two years and more of my connection with the commission were years of severe and unremitting labor. The nearly five hundred claims presented to and passed on by the commission involved an immense range of investigation, proofs, and arguments. The transactions out of which they grew extended through four years of time, and involved not only inquiries into the whole history of the late war in its operations on land, but also a large extent of maritime operations, warlike and commercial, and extensive inquiries into the transactions between the late so-called Confederate States and subjects of the neutral nations of Europe.
The proofs on the part of the claimants and of the defence, respectively, were sought through the archives of all the Departments of our own Government, as well as those of the late confederate government in our hands. Testimony of witnesses was taken on notice, and either on written interrogatories or on oral examinations by counsel attending in person, in almost every State and Territory of the United States, in all the British provinces of North America, in Mexico, in several of the West India Islands, in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and in Egypt. This testimony was taken, in all the cases of British claims against the United States, either by special counsel sent under my instructions from Washington, or by local counsel employed in the vicinity where testimony was to be taken. In each of these cases counsel acted under written instructions from myself, as full and specific as a careful examination of each case could enable me to give.
The few cases of American claims against Great Britain were managed in regard to testimony and arguments, by the private counsel of the claimants, I rendering only a general aid and supervision, but not assuming the responsibility either of taking the proofs or preparing the arguments.[Page 4]
But in the claims of British subjects against the United States, involving about 90 per cent, in amount of the entire claims before the commission, the sole control and responsibility rested upon me.
These claims involved about $96,000,000, ranging through an almost infinite variety of facts and circumstances involved in the support of or defence against the claims. The claim as presented by the claimant in his memorial and proofs often gave the first and only information to the Government of the existence even of the claim, and involved an inquiry into the facts of the case through very circuitous and difficult channels. In such cases the Government always stands at a great disadvantage as against private claimants, who have full knowledge of all the circumstances of their own claims, when actual and bona fide, and of the proofs by which they may be established, and who, in the case of fraudulent, simulated, or excessive claims, have facilities in the manufacture of evidence often very difficult to be exposed or rebutted by the agents charged with the defence of the Government, and acting through secondary agents often at remote and almost inaccessible points.
In view of the number and amount of the claims presented, and the importance of the questions to be determined, the time limited by the treaty for their examination and decision was very short. Two years for the complete examination, trial, and decision of all these cases, nine months of which time was allowed (six absolutely, and three under limitation) for the presentation of the claims by the claimant, constituted a shorter time than should have been taken for the thorough and satisfactory examination of all the cases.
The fact that in this scanty time the Government was enabled to make the examination and trial of the cases as thorough as it was made, and to arrive at results so satisfactory, is certainly a subject of congratulation, the awards made by the commission against the United States amounting to only about two per cent, of the claims presented to the commission against them.
The entire expense of the commission incurred by the United States, including compensation of commissioners and officers of the commission, of the agent and counsel before the commission and his assistants and clerks, of counsel, agents, commissioners, witnesses, &c, in taking testimony, and also printing and incidental expenses, has been about $300,000, of which amount about $50,000 will be reimbursed by the deduction from the amount of the awards, pursuant to article XVI of the treaty. All the memorials, evidence, and arguments were printed for the use of the commission, the expense of printing being borne jointly and equally by the two governments. The entire printed matter thus submitted, and now collated and bound, makes up seventy-four octavo volumes, averaging about 800 pages each.
In an early case before the commission, involving the question of the effect of domicile within the United States upon subjects of Great Britain, by paramount allegiance, domiciled within the United States, [Page 5] Hon. Ebenezer Rock wood Hoar, of Massachusetts, was retained by the Government at my request as associate counsel, and filed a very learned and valuable argument. In a few other cases, not exceeding fifty in all, I was assisted in the preparation of arguments by Gen. Benjamin S. Roberts and by Messrs. Edwin L. Stanton and A. S. Worthington, of Washington, whose services were faithfully rendered and were very valuable. With these exceptions the arguments in all the British cases were prepared solely by myself.
In the taking of testimony a large number of counsel and agents were employed, under my supervision, in the localities where testimony was taken as above related. Among those who have rendered faithful and efficient service in this way, I deem it not invidious to mention Messrs. Kortrecht, Graft & Scales, of Memphis, Tenn.; Messrs. M. A. Dooley and William G. Hale, of New Orleans, La.; Franklin H. Churchill, esq., of New York City,- Hon. D. H. Chamberlain, of Columbia, S. C; Marcus Doherty, esq., of Montreal, P. Q., Canada; Hon. Andrew Sloan, of Savannah, Ga.; Horatio D. Wood, esq., of Saint Louis, Mo.) Frederick C. Hale, esq., of Chicago, Ill.; Messrs. Speed & Buckner, of Louisville, Ky.; Messrs. Bradley & Peabody, of Nashville, Tenn.; and General H. B. Titus, of Washington, D. C.
Thomas H. Dudley, esq., late consul of the United States, at Liverpool, and Joseph N. Tunn, esq., United States vice consul-general at London, also contributed largely, by their knowledge of the different cases, and their diligence and assiduity in inquiry and report upon the claims, to the successful defense of the United States against many of the prize cases.
In this connection, too, I should not fail to make mention of the diligence, skill, and assiduity of Mr. Edward Hayes, my stenographic clerk, during the whole period of my agency.
In conclusion, I cannot forbear the expression of my great satisfaction with the working of the commission, its performance of its arduous duties, and the result of its labors. The thanks of both governments will undoubtedly be fully expressed to the individual commissioners.
My personal acknowledgments are especially due to his excellency Count Corti, the presiding commissioner, for the marked and unfailing courtesy, kindness, and consideration which I, in common with every other person connected with the commission, received from him throughout the whole period of our official intercourse. The wide knowledge of public law, the sterling good sense and judgment in its application to the facts of individual cases, the untiring labor bestowed in the investigation alike of facts and principles, and the able, diligent, and conscientious application of his powers, attainments, and labors to the examination and decision of the cases before the commission, merit recognition and acknowledgment from the governments so largely indebted to him for the satisfactory disposition of the numerous vexed questions between [Page 6] them submitted to the arbitrament of himself and his colleagues, to an extent to which, these expressions of mine do scant and feeble justice.
Mr. Justice Frazer, the commissioner named by the President of the United States, by his ability, impartiality, urbanity, and diligence, fully justified the wisdom of the President’s selection and the expectations of those previously acquainted with his judicial abilities and career.
I beg, also, to express my profound appreciation of the diligence, faithfulness, and ability exhibited by Mr. Howard, Her Majesty’s agent, and by Mr. Carlisle, Her Majesty’s counsel, in the management of the cases before the commission on behalf of the British government, and to acknowledge my personal obligations to each of those gentlemen for their unfailing courtesy and fairness.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Agent of the United States, &c.
Hon. Hamilton Fish,
Secretary of State.