Classic History Books

The Path of Empire. A Chronicle of the United States as a World Power
by Carl Russell Fish

Another but less elaborate tribunal was to decide all other claims which had arisen out of the Civil War.
Still another arbitration commission was to assess the amount which the United States was to pay by way

of compensation for certain privileges connected with the fisheries. The vexed question of the possession

of the San Juan Islands was to be left to the decision of the Emperor of Germany. A series of articles

provided for the amicable settlement of border questions between the United States and Canada. Never

before in history had such important controversies been submitted voluntarily to arbitration and judicial


The tribunal which met at Geneva in December was a body of distinguished men who proved fully equal
to the gravity of their task. Charles Francis Adams was appointed to represent the United States; Sir

Alexander Cockburn, to represent Great Britain; the commissioners from neutral States were also men of

distinction. J. C. Bancroft Davis was agent for the United States, and William M. Evarts, Caleb Cushing,

and Morrison R. Waite acted as counsel. The case for the United States was not presented in a manner

worthy of the occasion. According to Adams the American contentions "were advanced with an

aggressiveness of tone and attorneylike smartness, more appropriate to the wranglings of a

quarter-sessions court than to pleadings before a grave international tribunal." The American counsel

were instructed to insist not, indeed, on indemnity for the cost of two years of war, but on compensation

because of the transfer of our commerce to the British merchant marine, by virtue of the clause of the

treaty which read "acts committed by the several vessels which have given rise to the claims generally

known as the 'Alabama Claims.'" British public opinion considered this contention an act of bad faith.

Excitement in England rose to a high pitch and the Gladstone Ministry proposed to withdraw from the


That the tribunal of arbitration did not end in utter failure was due to the wisdom and courage of Adams.
At his suggestion the five arbitrators announced on June 19, 1872, that they would not consider claims

for indirect damages, because such claims did "not constitute, upon the principles of international law

applicable to such cases, good foundation for an award of compensation, or computations of damages

between nations." These claims dismissed, the arbitrators entered into an examination of the direct

American claims and on September 14, 1872, decided upon an award of fifteen and a half million dollars

to the United States. The Treaty of Washington and the Geneva Tribunal constituted the longest step thus

far taken by any two nations toward the settlement of their disputes by judicial process.


CHAPTER III. Alaska And Its Problems


The impulse for expansion upon which Buchanan floated his political raft into the presidency was not a
party affair. It was felt by men of all party creeds, and it seemed for a moment to be the dominant

national ideal. Slaveholders and other men who had special interests sought to make use of it, but the

fundamental feeling did not rest on their support. American democracy, now confident of its growing

strength, believed that the happiness of the people and the success of the institutions of the United States

would prove a loadstone which would bring under the flag all peoples of the New World, while those of

the Old World would strike off their shackles and remold their governments on the American pattern.

Attraction, not compulsion, was the method to be used, and none of the paeans of American prophets in

the editorials or the fervid orations of the fifties proposed an additional battleship or regiment.

No one saw this bright vision more clearly than did William H. Seward, who became Secretary of State


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