14. Peace Abroad
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329 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 14 PEACE ABROAD In the spring of 1871, while the Grant administration and Congress IRUJHGWKHWRROVWRÀJKWWKH.X.OX[.ODQQHJRWLDWLRQVSURFHHGHGWR resolve the $ODEDPD claims and other pending issues with Great Britain . During January Hamilton Fish and John Rose reached an informal agreement sanctioned by both governments to submit all the questions to a Joint High Commission comprising representatives of the two nations who would pursue formal talks in Washington. Fish knew that he ZDV´GHDOLQJZLWK¶SHUÀGLRXV$OELRQ·µEXWKH³DQGWKH$PHULFDQSXElic —welcomed a movement toward settling the vexing issues. Rose’s American banking partner, New York Republican Levi Morton, assured *UDQW WKDW D VXFFHVVIXO RXWFRPH ZRXOG DͿRUG KLP DV PXFK ´ODVWLQJ fame as the Military events of the past.”1 In selecting the American commissioners, Grant and the cabinet considered legal prowess, though not necessarily familiarity with the issues in dispute. Fish would head the group, joined by Robert Schenck, the new minister to London; former attorney general Rockwood Hoar; and George Williams, who would later become attorney general. Fish suggested the importance of including a Democrat, and Grant settled on seventy-eight-year-old Justice Samuel Nelson, who had expertise in maritime law and, as a member of the Supreme Court, would likely refrain from being overtly political. Assistant Secretary of State J. C. Bancroft Davis would serve as secretary to the American commissioners. CHAPTER 14 330 Fish suggested George Bemis as a possible assistant secretary, but when Boutwell observed that Bemis “will do whatever Sumner wants,” Grant rejected him outright. Sumner tried to get the nominations of the commissioners referred to the Foreign Relations Committee (which he then still chaired), but the Senate blocked this maneuver and approved the nominees.2 The British selected a strong set of commissioners with international experience deeper than that of the Americans. Edward Thornton’s long familiarity with the issues plus his close acquaintance with Fish made him indispensable. Heading the group was Earl de Grey and Ripon, Lord President of the Privy Council in William Gladstone’s Liberal govHUQPHQW 6WDͿRUG1RUWKFRWHDOHDGLQJPHPEHURI3DUOLDPHQWUHSUHsented the opposing Conservative Party. John MacDonald, prime minister of the Dominion of Canada, spoke for Canadian interests. Gladstone also tapped Montague Bernard, an Oxford professor of international law who had just published a book upholding Britain’s professed neutrality during the Civil War. For secretary, the British chose Lord Tenterden , who had written the British memorandum roundly criticizing Fish’s position in his September 25, 1869, instruction to Motley.3 2Q)HEUXDU\*UDQWKRVWHGDQR΀FLDOZHOFRPHIRUWKH%ULWish commissioners. Thornton reported to foreign secretary Lord Granville , “The President was most friendly and cordial in his manner to Lord de Grey, and conversed with him for nearly an hour, and I have reason to believe that his Lordship made a very good impression on the President.” Northcote, who was not present for that initial greeting, met Grant a few days later and concluded, “Never was there a man who set one less at one’s ease, or impressed one less with an idea of dignity.” Like others who mistook Grant’s shyness with strangers for something vaguely sinister, Northcote thought he “looked as if he had been caught picking a pocket and was afraid of a row.” But the Englishman found the president “a little more conversable” and “in better spirits” the next time they met—the same day the Senate’s Committee on Committees axed Sumner from Foreign Relations. As for the Massachusetts senator, Northcote saw “a touch of wildness in his eye which suggests the possibility that he may go out of his mind. It is said that he is now haunted with the idea that somebody is dogging him and meaning to attack him.” During the Britons’ months-long sojourn, Americans in and out of government treated them to a rich social life, including a champagnefueled , hoked-up fox hunt during which Northcote claimed he had´QHYHUVXͿHUHGVRPXFKIURPVXSSUHVVHGODXJKWHUµ4 PEACE ABROAD 331 The visitors were on their best behavior with Sumner, who, notwithstanding the loss of his chairmanship shortly after their arrival, still had potential to spark “a great deal of bad feeling” in America about a prospective agreement. “He is very anxious to stand well with England ,” Northcote observed, “but, on the other hand, he would dearly like to have a slap at Grant.” No believer that domestic politics...


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