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IT is now almost forty years since the Tribunal of Arbitration at Geneva happily disposed of the famous “Alabama Claims,” that had at one time threatened to bring on a war between the United States and Great Britain. The loser paid with a good grace the sum of fifteen millions five hundred thousand dollars in gold, as indemnity; and the two countries ever after have been all the firmer friends. As Secretary to Mr. Caleb Cushing, senior American Counsel, I did my share of clerical work, at Paris, in the preparation of our Counter-Case and Argument; and, going to Geneva, I was present at the sessions of the Tribunal open to Agents and Counsel. I thus gained at first hand a store of information; and moreover, made the acquaintance of all the actors in this great, international drama. Incidents fell under my observation that have not heretofore been made public, and yet they are not without value in throwing light upon the record of what was accomplished during that memorable summer in Switzerland. For some time I have been minded to tell the story of Geneva in the form of Personal Recollections. But no sooner did I enter upon the project than I discovered that, in order to impart to a new generation a correct idea of these proceedings, it was
needful first to explain the origin of the “Alabama Claims,” and point out the reasons why, for a certain period, they had assumed an importance so overshadowing; and further to set forth the grounds upon which we maintained that Great Britain had become responsible to us for damages. To do this meant something more than to jot down notes of one's own personal experience. It was to furnish at least the outlines of a history. In the following pages an attempt has been made to combine the easy and familiar terms of personal reminiscence with that more sober delineation of events, and that graver tone of reflection, which are demanded of a work professedly historical. To kindly disposed friends and correspondents, both here and abroad, who have given me aid and encouragement, I return a most grateful acknowledgment. I may not estimate the extent of my obligations to the late Honorable John Chandler Bancroft Davis. If the praise accorded by me to this distinguished man shall seem to go beyond bounds, I can only say that I am not conscious that in a single instance has my judgment been affected by that warm attachment with which he long ago inspired me. Nor can I sufficiently thank the accomplished wife who has survived him. Her remarkably full and exact knowledge of what took place at Washington, at London, at Paris, and at Geneva, is equalled only by the keenness with which she interpreted its diplomatic significance. The assistance rendered by Mrs. Bancroft Davis has been invaluable. The work of the Tribunal of Arbitration of 1872 stands as a great landmark of the nineteenth century. Time cannot lessen the interest with which the statesman must look back upon it. If what I have written shall afford to the reader a somewhat clearer vision of the meaning and the lasting effect of what was wrought out at Geneva, together with a just estimate of the services of each eminent personage, American or English, Italian, Swiss, or Brazilian, who contributed to bring about that splendid victory for peace, I shall feel that my labors have indeed been well rewarded.