Earl Granville to Her Majesty’s High
My Lord and Gentlemen: The Queen having been graciously pleased to appoint you to be Her Majesty’s high commissioners to proceed to Washington for the purpose of discussing in a friendly spirit with commissioners to be appointed by the Government of the United States the various questions on which, differences have arisen between Great Britain and that country, and of treating for an agreement as to the mode of their amicable settlement, I inclose the necessary full powers, and have the honor to convey to you the following instructions for your guidance.
It is the earnest desire of Her Majesty’s government that the important negotiation with which you are intrusted should be conducted in a mutually conciliatory disposition, and with unreserved frankness in your communications with the high commissioners or members of the Government of the United States with whom you may be placed in communication, and they believe that this object cannot be better attained than by leaving you full discretion as to the manner in which the subjects which may engage your attention should be discussed.
The principal subjects will probably be—
- The fisheries.
- The free navigation of the river St. Lawrence and privilege of passage through the Canadian canals.
- The transit of goods through Maine, and lumber trade down the river Saint John.
- The Manitoba boundary.
- The claims on account of the Alabama, Shenandoah, and certain other cruisers of the so-styled Confederate States.
- The San Juan water-boundary.
- The claims of British subjects arising out of the civil war.
- The claims of the people of Canada on account of the Fenian raids.
- The revision of the rules of maritime neutrality.
Copies of all the correspondence which have been presented to Parliament respecting these questions will be forwarded for your use.
1. The fisheries.
On the termination of the reciprocity treaty of the 5th of June, 1854, by the United States Government, the discussions respecting the rights of American fishermen under Article I of the convention of the 20th of October, 1818, which had been set at rest by the reciprocity treaty, were revived, and, although temporary measures were taken to avoid pressing with severity upon American fishermen by the adoption of a [Page 374] system of licenses, it has been found impracticable to continue that system indefinitely, and, on its withdrawal, much excitement has been occasioned among the coast population of the Eastern States of the Union by the capture of boats engaged in illegal fishing, contrary to the convention of 1818.
The correspondence will put you in possession of the facts of the several captures, and enable you to judge, and explain, if necessary, how far the pretensions of the American fishermen are exaggerated, and the leniency with which they have been treated under the directions of Her Majesty’s government and of the government of the Dominion by the officers charged with the protection of the British fisheries.
Irrespective, however, of the captures and confiscations of boats during the recent fishing season, there are, and have been for many years, differences of interpretation put upon the convention of 1818 by the respective governments, which might, at any time, rise into serious importance.
The two chief questions are: As to whether the expression “three marine miles of any of the coasts, bays, creeks, or harbors of His Britannic Majesty’s dominions “should be taken to mean a limit of three miles from the coast line, or a limit of three miles from a line drawn from headland to headland and whether the proviso that “the American fishermen shall be admitted to enter such bays or harbors for the purpose of shelter, and of repairing damages therein, of purchasing wood, and of obtaining water, and for no other purpose whatever, is intended to exclude American vessels from coming inshore to traffic, transship fish, purchase stores, hire seamen, &c.
Her Majesty’s government would be glad to learn that you were able to arrive at a conclusive understanding with the commissioners of the United States upon the disputed interpretation of the convention of 1818; but they fear that you will find it expedient that a settlement should be arrived at by some other means, in which case they will be prepared for the whole question of the relations between the United States and the British possessions in North America, as regards the fisheries, being referred for consideration and inquiry to an international commission, on which two commissioners, to be hereafter appointed, in consultation with the government of the Dominion, should be the British representatives.
Should the Government of the United States concur in this, it would be advisable that no time should be lost in appointing commissioners on their side, and in the commission commencing its labors; and, as it is scarcely probable that the commissioners will be able to report, and a treaty be framed, before the commencement of the next fishing season, it would be also desirable that you should agree upon some means, by license or otherwise, by which disputes may be avoided in the meanwhile.
2. Free navigation of the river Saint Lawrence and privilege of passing through the Canadian canals.
The President of the United States, in his message at the opening of Congress in December last, referred to the claim of free navigation of the river Saint Lawrence as being an occasion of difference between the two countries.
The fourth article of the reciprocity treaty provided that the citizens and inhabitants of the United States should be allowed to navigate the river Saint Lawrence and the canals of Canada; and Her Majesty’s government [Page 375] are not aware that any practical difficulty as to the free navigation of the Saint Lawrence has arisen since the abrogation of that treaty.
The exclusive right to the navigation of the Saint Lawrence was maintained by this country throughout the discussions between the two governments on the subject in 1824–’27, and has been acknowledged as existing by this article of the reciprocity treaty, under which the British government retained the right of suspending the privilege.
Her Majesty’s Government are, nevertheless, now willing to admit the principle of the navigation of the Saint Lawrence being free to the citizens of the United States, subject to such tolls and regulations as may be imposed equally on British subjects.
This, however, cannot extend, except as a special privilege to the passage through the canals constructed by Canadian enterprise through British territory, without which, from the strength of the current and dangerous rapids, the navigation of the Saint Lawrence cannot be profitably conducted; and the best course will probably be found to be to refer these questions for detailed examination and mutual arrangement in relation to the transit of goods in bond through Maine, Saint John River lumber trade, navigation of Lake Michigan, passage through the canals in United States territory, and other similar matters, to the commission to be appointed to consider and report upon the fisheries.
5. The Manitoba boundary.
The President has already intimated to Congress that he is of opinion that the survey of the boundary along the forty-ninth parallel, which has only been carried out across the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Georgia, should be completed from the Lake of the Woods to the foot of the Rocky Mountains.
In this Her Majesty’s government concur, and will be ready to appoint a commission for the purpose whenever the United States Government think fit.
5. The Alabama, Shenandoah, &c., claims.
Under this head are comprised the claims against Great Britain for damages sustained by the depredations of the, Alabama, Shenandoah, and Georgia, the vessels which were furnished on account of the so-styled Confederate States and armed outside of British jurisdiction, and of the Florida, which, though built in England, was armed and equipped in the port of Mobile.
The history of these vessels is so fully explained in the long correspondence which has taken place with regard to them, that it is unnecessary for me now to do more than point out that the claims which have been preferred on account of the Alabama stand on a different footing to those arising from the captures made by the other cruisers; in so far as the Alabama escaped from Liverpool after evidence had been supplied by the United States minister of the service for which she was intended.
Her Majesty’s government adhere to the principle of arbitration for the settlement of these claims, which was recognized and adopted in the convention signed by Lord Clarendon and Mr. Reverdy Johnson as being, in their opinion, the most appropriate mode of settling this question and, should arbitration be adopted, Her Majesty’s government would concur, if the United States Government proposed it, in jurists [Page 376] properly selected being made the arbitrators instead of a sovereign or state, as provided in the late convention.
Although, however, Her Majesty’s government are of opinion that arbitration is the most appropriate mode of settlement, you are at liberty to transmit for their consideration any other proposal which may be suggested for determining and closing the question of these claims.
For the escape of the Alabama and consequent injury to the commerce of the United States, Her Majesty’s government authorize you to express their regret in such terms as would be agreeable to the Government of the United States and not inconsistent with the position hitherto maintained by Her Majesty’s government as to the international obligations of neutral nations.
6. The San Juan water-boundary.
The line of water-boundary under the first article of the treaty of June 15, 1846, upon which the British and American commissioners appointed for its demarkation differed, was proposed by Lord Russell as a fit subject for arbitration in 1859; but, owing to the civil war, the negotiations then instituted were not brought to a conclusion, and it was not until the 14th of January, 1869, that a convention was signed between Lord Clarendon and Mr. Reverdy Johnson for referring the matter to an arbitrator; the president of the Swiss confederation being selected at the instance of the Government of the United States.
Although this convention was recommended by the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs for ratification,* it has not been brought before the Senate, and the period within which its ratification should have taken place has now expired.
This delay has been accounted for by the United States Government as having been occasioned by the delay, necessarily unavoidable, in carrying through the Imperial Parliament the measures required for enabling the naturalization treaty to be concluded; the two treaties having been in the first instance included in the same negotiation under the protocol of the 10th of November, 1868, upon which the treaty of the 14th of January, 1869, was framed.
The naturalization treaty having been ratified some months ago, Her Majesty’s government trust that the Government of the United States will no longer hesitate to act upon the water-boundary treaty, which should in that case be appended to and form part of the general treaty for the mode of settlement of all outstanding differences which you are empowered to sign.
Should, however, a form of arbitration admitting of more free discussion be preferred, Her Majesty’s government would assent to such a proposal.
7. The claims of British subjects.
Through the negotiations on the Alabama, Shenandoah, &c., claims, Her Majesty’s government have always urged that any satisfactory settlement of those claims must be accompanied by a simultaneous settlement of the claims of British subjects arising out of the civil war, and provision was made for this purpose in the claims convention.
Her Majesty’s government would expect that the Government of the United States would readily consent to all claims of British subjects against the United States, or of United States citizens against Great [Page 377] Britain, being referred to a mixed commission, formed of one commissioner for each country and an umpire, as was done under the convention of the 8th of February, 1853.
8. The claims of the people of Canada on account of the Fenian raids.
In connection with the claims of British subjects there is a claim on the part of the people of the Dominion of Canada for losses in life and property and expenditure, occasioned by the filibustering raids on the Canadian frontier, carried on from the territory of the United States in the years 1866 and 1870.
The government of the Dominion having solicited Her Majesty’s government to bring this claim before the Government of the United States, were requested some time ago to prepare a statement to be submitted to that Government, but it has not yet been received.
In the meanwhile the accompanying account of the Fenian brotherhood, which has been drawn up by Lord Tenterden, will supply you with full information as to the encouragement and support rendered in the United States to this and other Irish-American revolutionary societies.
9. Revision of rules of maritime neutrality.
It would be desirable to take this opportunity to consider whether it might not be the interest of both Great Britain and the United States to lay down certain rules of international comity in regard to the obligations of maritime neutrality, not only to be acknowledged for observance in their future relations, but to be recommended for adoption to the other maritime powers.
I have thus touched briefly upon the subjects likely, principally, to engage your attention, and have indicated the manner in which they may be possibly treated; but Her Majesty’s government wish you to understand that you are not thereby precluded from entertaining the consideration of other questions or making any suggestions you may think proper for their settlement.
Her Majesty’s government request, however, that if the mode of dealing with any particular matter which you may be disposed to agree to should vary materially from the manner of settlement to which I have informed you Her Majesty’s government are prepared at once to assent, or, in case of any disagreement of importance occurring between yourselves and the American High Commissioners, you should at once report by telegraph, and await further instructions.
I am, &c.,
- See North America, No. 1, (1869,) p. 44.↩