CHAPTER V. THE DECLARATION OF PARIS NEGOTIATION
If regarded merely from the view-point of strict chronology there accompanied Seward's "foreign war" policy a negotiation with Great Britain which was of importance as the first effort of the American Secretary of State to bring European nations to a definite support of the Northern cause. It was also the first negotiation undertaken by Adams in London, and as a man new to the diplomatic service he attached to it an unusual importance, even, seemingly, to the extent of permitting personal chagrin at the ultimate failure of the negotiation to distort his usually cool and fair judgment. The matter in question was the offer of the United States to accede by a convention to the Declaration of Paris of 1856, establishing certain international rules for the conduct of maritime warfare.
This negotiation has received scant attention in history. It failed to result in a treaty, therefore it has appeared to be negligible. Yet it was at the time of very great importance in affecting the attitude toward each other of Great Britain and the United States, and of the men who spoke for their respective countries. The bald facts of the negotiation appear with exactness in Moore's Digest of International Law, but without comment as to motives, and, more briefly, in Bernard's Neutrality of Great Britain during the American Civil War , at the conclusion of which the author writes, with sarcasm, "I refrain from any comment on this negotiation." Nicolay and Hay's Lincoln, and Rhodes' United States, give the matter but passing and inadequate treatment. It was reviewed in some detail in the American argument before the Geneva court of arbitration in the case of the Alabama, but was there presented merely as a part of the general American complaint of British neutrality. In fact, but three historical students, so far as the present writer has been able to discover, have examined this negotiation in detail and presented their conclusions as to purposes and motives - so important to an understanding of British intentions at the moment when the flames of civil war were rapidly spreading in America.
These three, each with an established historical reputation, exhibit decided differences in interpretation of diplomatic incidents and documents. The first careful analysis was presented by Henry Adams, son of the American Minister in London during the Civil War, and then acting as his private secretary, in his Historical Essays, published in 1891; the second study is by Bancroft, in his Life of Seward, 1900; while the third is by Charles Francis Adams (also son of the American Minister), who, in his Life of his father, published 1900, gave a chapter to the subject and treated it on lines similar to those laid down by his brother Henry, but who, in 1912, came to the conclusion, through further study, that he had earlier been in error and developed a very different view in a monograph entitled, "Seward and the Declaration of Paris."
If these historiographic details seem unduly minute, partaking as they do of the nature of a foot-note, in a work otherwise general in treatment, the author's answer is that the personality of two of the writers mentioned and their intimate knowledge of the effect of the negotiation upon the mind of the American Minister in London are themselves important historical data; a further answer is the fact that the materials now available from the British Foreign Office archives throw much new light both on the course of the negotiation and on British purposes. It is here planned, therefore, first to review the main facts as previously known; second, to summarize the arguments and conclusions of the three historians; third, to re-examine the negotiation in the light of the new material; and, finally, to express an opinion on its conduct and conclusions as an evidence of British policy.
In 1854, during the Crimean War, Great Britain and France, the chief maritime belligerents engaged against Russia, voluntarily agreed to respect neutral commerce under either the neutral's or the enemy's flag. This was a distinct step forward in the practice of maritime warfare, the accepted international rules of which had not been formally altered since the Napoleonic period. The action of Great Britain was due in part, according to a later statement in Parliament by Palmerston, March 18, 1862, to a fear that unless a greater respect were paid than formerly to neutral rights, the Allies would quickly win the ill-will of the United States, then the most powerful maritime neutral, and would run the danger of forcing that country into belligerent alliance with Russia. No doubt there were other reasons, also, for the barbarous rules and practices of maritime warfare in earlier times were by now regarded as semi-civilized by the writers of all nations. Certainly the action of the belligerents in 1854 met with general approval and in the result was written into international law at the Congress of Paris in 1856, where, at the conclusion of the war, the belligerents and some leading neutrals were gathered.
The Declaration of Paris on maritime warfare covered four points:
"1. Privateering is, and remains, abolished.