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ROBERT S. HALE, Esq.,
AGENT AND COUNSEL OF
THE UNITED STATES
COMMISSION ON CLAIMS OF CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES AGAINST
STATES AND GREAT BRITAIN.
LETTER OF MR. HALE TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE.
OFFICE OF THE AGENT OF THE
ON AMERICAN AND BRITISH CLAIMS,
Washington, D. C., November 30, 1873. SIR: In submitting the accompanying report of the proceedings and results of the mixed commission under the twelfth article of the treaty between the United States and Great Britain of May 8, 1871, I beg to express my profound sense of obligation to yourself for the uniform kindness and consideration I have experienced from you during the whole existence of the commission. .
The two years and more of my connection with the commission were years of severe and unremitting labor. The nearly five hundred claims presented to and passed on by the commission involved an immense range of investigation, proofs, and arguments. The transactions out of which they grew extended through four years of time, and involved not only inquiries into the whole history of the late war in its operations on land, but also a large extent of maritime operations, warlike and commercial, and extensive inquiries into the transactions between the late so-called Confederate States and subjects of the neutral nations of Europe.
The proofs on the part of the claimants and of the defence, respectively, were sought through the archives of all the Departments of our own Government, as well as those of the late confederate government in our hands. Testimony of witnesses was taken on notice, and either on written interrogatories or on oral examinations by counsel attending in person, in almost every State and Territory of the United States, in all the British provinces of North America, in Mexico, in several of the West India Islands, in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and in Egypt This testimony was taken, in all the cases of British claims against the United States, either by special counsel sent under my instructions from Washington, or by local counsel employed in the vicinity where testi. mony was to be taken. In each of these cases counsel acted under written instructions from myself, as full and specific as a careful examination of each case could enable me to give.
The few cases of American claims against Great Britain were managed in regard to testimony and arguments, by the private counsel of the claimants, I rendering only a general aid and supervision, but not assuming the responsibility either of taking the proofs or preparing the arguments.
But in the claims of British subjects against the United States, involving about 90 per cent. in amount of the entire claims before the commission, the sole control and responsibility rested upon me.
These claims involved about $96,000,000, ranging through an almost infinite variety of facts and circumstances involved in the support of or defence against the claims. The claim as presented by the claimant in his memorial and proofs often gave the first and only information to the Government of the existence even of the claim, and involved an inquiry into the facts of the case through very circuitous and difficult channels, In such cases the Government always stands at a great disadvantage as against private claimants, who have full knowledge of all the circumstances of their own claims, when actual and bona fide, and of the proofs by which they may be established, and who, in the case of fraudulent, simulated, or excessive claims, have facilities in the manufacture of evidence often very difficult to be exposed or rebutted by the agents charged with the defence of the Government, and acting through secondary agents often at remote and almost inaccessible points.
In view of the number and amount of the claims presented, and the importance of the questions to be determined, the time limited by the treaty for their examination and decision was very short. Two years for the complete examination, trial, and decision of all these cases, nine months of which time was allowed (six absolutely, and three under limitation) for the presentation of the claims by the claimant, constituted a shorter time than should have been taken for the thorough and satisfactory examination of all the cases.
The fact that in this scanty time the Goverument was enabled to make the examination and trial of the cases as thorough as it was made, and to arrive at results so satisfactory, is certainly a subject of congrat. ulation, the awards made by the commission against the United States amounting to only about two per cent. of the claims presented to the commission against them.
The entire expense of the commission incurred by the United States, including compensation of commissioners and officers of the commission, of the agent and counsel before the commission and his assistants and clerks, of counsel, agents, commissioners, witnesses, &c., in taking íestimony, and also printing and incidental expenses, has been about $300,000, of which amount about $50,000 will be re-imbursed by the deduction from the amount of the awards, pursuant to article XVI of the treaty. All the memorials, evidence, and arguments were printed for the use of the commission, the expense of printing being borne jointly and equally by the two goveruments. The entire printed matter thus submitted, and now collated and bound, makes up seventy-four octavo volumes, averaging about 800 pages each.
In an early case before the commission, involving the question of the effect of domicile within the United States upon subjects of Great Britain, by paramount allegiance, domiciled within the United States,