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Document number: 10034
Date: 1871
Recipient: UNIDENTIFIED
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: Bodleian Library, Oxford - Fox Talbot Personal Archive
Collection number: FT10074
Last updated: 24th April 2015

[This is a draft in WHFT's hand, written huridly, apparently with some feeling. It was possibly directed to a particular politician, but also might have been a letter to an editor - its publication, if it occured, has not been traced.]

[The Treaty of Washington was the result of the American Civil War and is held to be the founding example of settling differences between nations by arbitration rather than by the sword. It centred on Britain's tacit support of the Confederacy, particularly in the building of ships, and especially the case of the CSS Alabama, which the British government allowed to be launched in spite of public opposition and specific warnings from the US legation. The US originally asked for two billion dollars in reparations (or the ceding of Canada!) but finally settled for $15,500,00 and a British apology, but one that included no admission of guilt. The preliminary negotitions had been carried out at the Maryland home of Samuel Taylor Suit, and Suitland now happens to be the artifact storage site for the Smithsonian Institution.]

[written upside down on notepaper imprinted "4, The Circus, Bath" - this was a Talbot family address from 1871-1879]

The A. claims.

Sir

When 1st it became known that we had mistkn each ors meang, a natural feeling of disapptmt pervaded both natns, & soon strong langge was used- But this phase of feeling has now passed, and [blank space] are desirous of finding some means of overcoming the difficulty.

In order to prejudge nothing, let us suppose that there is an equal chance of either natn bg right in its interpretn of the words of the treaty-

That bg so, wd it be disrespectful to the Arbitrator or to the Un. States, if the ab at the 1st meeting of the [blank space] at Geneva, the British were to be bound in present an objection, to that part of the American case at including consequentl damages, stating that it was never intended by Eng to submit such damage to arbitratn, & that if the arbs considd them to be included we are of an opposite opinn

Engd wd feel herself obliged to withdraw from the Arbitratn-.

The Arbitrators might reply at once that they considd it beyond their province the estmatn of such damages not to be in their province, & they [blank space] might reply at once, that they had undertaken to arbitrate upon the question abt Engld was liable or not for the direct damages by the Alabama, & that they shd decline to entertain the subject of conseql damages.

In that case the Arbitratn would proceed & harmony wd be restored Why shd we give up the chance of such a favorable solutn of the difficulty?

But if on the contrary the arbitrators replied,that in their view of the Treaty of Washington, the thing referred to them comprised all kinds of damages both direct and consequential, in that case England wd reply that she retired from the arbitratn- Would that be disrespectful to the Unit. States or to the Arbitrator? Would it be in any essential respect different from our now retiring from all abritratn

I believe tht the Arbitrators would agreeconcur in the English view of the questions, but if not, can there be any harm in asking the question

[expanded version:]

The American claims.

Sir

When first it became known that we had mistaken each other's meaning, a natural feeling of disappointment pervaded both nations, and soon strong language was used- But this phase of feeling has now passed, and [blank space] are desirous of finding some means of overcoming the difficulty.

In order to prejudge nothing, let us suppose that there is an equal chance of either nation being right in its interpretation of the words of the treaty-

That being so, would it be disrespectful to the Arbitrator or to the United States, if the arbitrator at the first meeting of the [blank space] at Geneva, the British were to be bound in present an objection, to that part of the American case about including consequential damages, stating that it was never intended by England to submit such damage to arbitration, and that if the arbitrator considered them to be included we are of an opposite opinion.

England would feel herself obliged to withdraw from the Arbitration-

The Arbitrators might reply at once that they considered it beyond their province the estimation of such damages not to be in their province, and they [blank space] might reply at once, that they had undertaken to arbitrate upon the question about England was liable or not for the direct damages by the Alabama, and that they should decline to entertain the subject of consequential damages.

In that case the Arbitratration would proceed and harmony would be restored Why should we give up the chance of such a favorable solution of the difficulty?

But if on the contrary the arbitrators replied,that in their view of the Treaty of Washington, the thing referred to them comprised all kinds of damages both direct and consequential, in that case England would reply that she retired from the arbitration- Would that be disrespectful to the United States or to the Arbitrator? Would it be in any essential respect different from our now retiring from all abritratn

I believe that the Arbitrators would agree concur in the English view of the questions, but if not, can there be any harm in asking the question

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