Collection Description & Arrangement
This collection consists of over one hundred letters concerning the Alabama claims cases. Written to William Crapo between 1870 and 1876, the letters provide a detailed view of the lawyers' legal and political efforts to secure restitution for their clients. Crapo's principal correspondents were lawyers Barling and Davis who wrote him over fifty letters between December of 1870 and February of 1873. Of particular interest are the letters written in late 1872 regarding the lawyers' efforts to influence members of the administration and Congress to ensure that the full award went to the claimants. The names of George Boutwell, Caleb Cushing, Bancroft Davis, William Evarts, Hamilton Fish, Ulysses Grant, among others, appear in their letters to Crapo. Additional correspondents include other lawyers working on similar cases, bankers, insurance officials, and individuals, some poor and poorly educated, who had suffered great losses.
Biographical & Historical Information
After the Civil War the United States sought restitution from Great Britain which, despite its neutrality, had allowed Confederate cruisers bent on destroying U.S. commerce to come and go from its ports during the war. The U.S. government and private citizens claimed millions of dollars of damage and loss at the hand of these cruisers. The Treaty of Washington, signed by the U.S. and Britain in early 1871, among other things, provided for arbitration of these claims. In the fall of that year, representatives of the two countries went to Geneva to argue their cases before an international arbitration tribunal, the first of its kind. The United States' case was argued by former Assistant Secretary of State Bancroft Davis, along with lawyers Caleb Cushing, William M. Evarts, and Morrison R. Waite, under the direction of Secretary of State Hamilton Fish and Secretary of Treasury George Boutwell. On the tribunal were Charles Francis Adams representing the U.S., Chief Justice Sir Alexander Cockburn of Great Britain, along with arbitrators from Brazil, Italy, and Switzerland. At the conclusion, Great Britain agreed to pay the U.S. the $15,500,000 (£3,200,00) awarded by the tribunal to cover the depredations of the cruisers Alabama, Florida,and Shenandoah.
Bancroft Davis and members of the cabinet had originally hoped to recover far more from Great Britain than the amount of loss directly attributable to the cruisers. They had wanted to hold the British liable for losses in commerce, hikes in insurance rates, and even the general costs of a protracted war. The tribunal was not sympathetic to this side of the U.S. case, and subsequently, individual claimants feared that the government would try to withhold some of the award for the ailing treasury. Congress, however, favored the claimants and, soon after the arbitration award was made, established a Court of Commissioners of Alabama Claims in Washington to handle individuals' cases.
The letters in this collection were written to William W. Crapo, a lawyer in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Crapo, educated at Yale College and Harvard Law School, began practicing law when he was twenty-five. That same year he became city solicitor and the following year, representative to the General Court. He was also active in politics, serving three terms in Congress and running unsuccessfully several times as the Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts. By Crapo's fortieth year, 1870, when this correspondence begins, he was a prominent figure in legal, business, and political circles in his state. Along with other New Bedford lawyers Charles R. Tucker and George C. Crocker, Crapo was beginning to prepare claims for a number of New England "Sufferers," principally whalers, who had lost property to or incurred damage because of the Confederate cruisers' actions. In addition Crapo worked closely with New York lawyers Henry A. Barling and A. H. Davis, who were partners, as well as Charles C. Beaman, Jr.
Beaman, formerly private secretary to Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, published The National and Private "Alabama Claims: and Their "Final and Amicable Settlement""in March of 1871, and early the following year was sent to Geneva to assist Bancroft Davis in arguing the U.S. case by gathering and presenting evidence of the claims. The association of Crapo, Barling and Davis with Beaman was critical to the preparation of their clients' claims, as well as to their tactical lobbying efforts in Washington between the time of the award and the creation of the Claims Commission.
|Donor Information||The Law Library purchased this collection from Bob Rubin in January of 1998.|
- Barling & Davis to William W. Crapo (WWC) 1870-1873, 46 ALS, 8 handwritten telegrams
- C[harles] C[oatsworth]Beaman to WWC 1872 Jan. 13-14, 3 handwritten telegrams
- J. Buffinton to WWC 1872 Dec. 4, 1 ALS
- William P. Chadwick to WWC 1871 Oct. 26, 1 ALS
- W.C. Codman to WWC 1872 Jan. 13, 1 ALS
- William Cogswell to WWC 1872 Jul. 27, 1 ALS
- Edward S. Davis to WWC 1871 Sep. 11, 20, 22, 3 ALS
- Edward S. Davis to Mr. Howland 1871 Sep. 1, 1 ALS
- John Davis to WWC 1876 Mar. 22, 29, 2 ALS
- Dennis & Scott to Marston and Crapo 1872 Oct. 31, 1873 Jan. 5
- Allen Gannett to Mr. Cobb 1871 Oct. 20, 1 ALS
- Allen Gannett to WWC 1871 Oct. 18, Dec. 2, 19, 3 ALS
- Glidden & Williams to WWC; WWC to Glidden & Williams 1871 Oct. 7; 1872 Feb. 20, 26, 4 ALS
- Edward R. Hall to WWC 1871 Nov. 24, 1 ALS
- William H. Haskins to WWC 1872 Jan. 30, 1 ALS
- Williams Haven & Co. to WWC 1871 Sep. 14, Oct. 7, 2 ALS, 1 handwritten telegram
- Lawson & Walker to WWC 1872 Jan. 9, 1 ALS
- S. Osborn Jr. to WWC 1871 Sept. 6, 1873 Jan. 15, 2 ALS
- A.B. Otis to WWC 1871, 1 ALS
- Page, Richardson & Co. to WWC 1871 Nov. 11, 1 ALS with copy
- Elijah F. Perry to Crapo and Marston 1872 Aug. 1, 1 ALS
- Ross to "William" 1872 Oct. 4, 1 ALS
- Chas F. Simpson to WWC 1871 Nov. 24, Dec. 8, 2 ALS
- Geo. O. Shattuck to WWC. 1872 Jan. 4, 1873 Jan. 8, 14, Mar. 8, 2 ALS, 2 handwritten telegrams
- John H. Swain to WWC 1872 Feb. 26, 1 ALS
- C.R. Tucker to WWC 1872 Oct. 26, 29, Nov. 2, 3 ALS
- John S. Tyler to WWC 1871 Jan. 5, Oct. 28, Nov. 24, 1874 Nov. 19, 3 ALS, 1 handwritten agreement
- Thomas G. Young to WWC 1871 Jul. 8, Aug. 14, Sept. 8, 3 ALS
- Document Fragments n.d., 2 items
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Correspondence of William W. Crapo Concerning the Alabama Claims Cases, 1870-1876, MSS-98-3, University of Virginia School of Law Library Special Collections
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