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MSS 98-3

Correspondence of William W. Crapo Concerning the Alabama Claims Cases


Collection of more than hundred letters related to the Alabama claims cases written to William W. Crapo, a lawyer in New Bedford, Massachusetts from 1870 - 1876. The correspondence provides a detailed view of the lawyers’ legal and political efforts to secure restitution for their clients.

1870 (1871-1872)-1876 [Bulk]
1 Cubic Feet

Scope & Contents

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.

Collection Description

    Physical Description

    This collection consists of 1 archival box of over one hundred letters.

    Conditions Governing Access

    There are no restrictions.

    Conditions Governing Use

    There are no restrictions.

    Preferred Citation

    Correspondence of William W. Crapo Concerning the Alabama Claims Cases, 1870-1876, MSS-98-3, University of Virginia Law Library, Charlottesville, VA 22903

    Biographical / Historical

    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<em>Alabama, Florida,</em>and<em>Shenandoah</em>.

    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 <em>The National and Private "Alabama Claims: and Their "Final and Amicable Settlement""</em>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.

fileBarling & Davis to William W. Crapo (WWC) 46 ALS, 8 handwritten telegrams, 1870-1873MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileC[harles] C[oatsworth]Beaman to WWC 3 handwritten telegrams, 1872 Jan. 13-14MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileJ. Buffinton to WWC 1 ALS , 1872 Dec. 4MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileWilliam P. Chadwick to WWC 1 ALS, 1871 Oct. 26MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileW.C. Codman to WWC 1 ALS, 1872 Jan. 13MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileWilliam Cogswell to WWC 1 ALS, 1872 Jul. 27MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileEdward S. Davis to WWC 3 ALS, 1871 Sep. 11, 20, 22MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileEdward S. Davis to Mr. Howland 1 ALS, 1871 Sep. 1MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileJohn Davis to WWC 2 ALS, 1876 Mar. 22, 29MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileDennis & Scott to Marston and Crapo, 1872 Oct. 31, 1873 Jan. 5MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileAllen Gannett to Mr. Cobb 1 ALS, 1871 Oct. 20MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileAllen Gannett to WWC 3 ALS, 1871 Oct. 18, Dec. 2, 19MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileGlidden & Williams to WWC; WWC to Glidden & Williams 4 ALS, 1871 Oct. 7; 1872 Feb. 20, 26MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileEdward R. Hall to WWC 1 ALS, 1871 Nov. 24MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileWilliam H. Haskins to WWC 1 ALS, 1872 Jan. 30MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileWilliams Haven & Co. to WWC 2 ALS, 1 handwritten telegram, 1871 Sep. 14, Oct. 7MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileLawson & Walker to WWC 1 ALS, 1872 Jan. 9MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileS. Osborn Jr. to WWC 2 ALS, 1871 Sept. 6, 1873 Jan. 15MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileA.B. Otis to WWC 1 ALS, 1871MSS 98-3, Box 1
filePage, Richardson & Co. to WWC 1 ALS with copy, 1871 Nov. 11MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileElijah F. Perry to Crapo and Marston 1 ALS, 1872 Aug. 1MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileRoss to "William" 1 ALS, 1872 Oct. 4MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileChas F. Simpson to WWC 2 ALS, 1871 Nov. 24, Dec. 8MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileGeo. O. Shattuck to WWC. 2 ALS, 2 handwritten telegrams, 1872 Jan. 4, 1873 Jan. 8, 14, Mar. 8MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileJohn H. Swain to WWC 1 ALS, 1872 Feb. 26MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileC.R. Tucker to WWC 3 ALS, 1872 Oct. 26, 29, Nov. 2MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileJohn S. Tyler to WWC 3 ALS, 1 handwritten agreement, 1871 Jan. 5, Oct. 28, Nov. 24, 1874 Nov. 19MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileThomas G. Young to WWC 3 ALS, 1871 Jul. 8, Aug. 14, Sept. 8MSS 98-3, Box 1
fileDocument Fragments 2 items, n.d.MSS 98-3, Box 1