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Special Message

February 24, 1873

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

In my annual message to Congress at the opening of the second session of the present Congress, in December, 1871, I recommended the legislation necessary on the part of the United States to bring into operation the articles of the treaty of Washington of May 8, 1871, relative to the fisheries and to other matters touching the relations of the United States toward the British North American possessions, to become operative so soon as the proper legislation should be had on the part of Great Britain and its possessions. That legislation on the part of Great Britain and its possessions had not then been had.

Having, prior to the meeting of Congress in December last, received official information of the consideration by Great Britain and its possessions of the legislation necessary on their part to bring those articles into operation, I communicated that fact to Congress in my annual message at the opening of the present session, and renewed the recommendation for your early adoption of the legislation in the same direction necessary on the part of this Government.

The near approach of the end of the session induces me again to urgently call your attention to the importance of this legislation on the part of Congress.

It will be remembered that the treaty of Washington resulted from an overture on the part of Great Britain to treat with reference to the fisheries on the coast of Her Majesty's possessions in North America and other questions between them affecting the relations of the United States toward these possessions. To this overture a reply was made on the part of this Government that while appreciating the importance of a friendly and complete understanding between the two Governments with reference to the subject specially suggested by the British Government, it was thought that the removal of the differences growing out of what were generically known as the Alabama claims was essential to the restoration of cordial and amicable relations between the two Governments, and the assent of this Government to treat on the subject of the fisheries was made dependent on the assent of Great Britain to allow the joint commission which it had prepared on the questions suggested by that Government to treat also and settle the differences growing out of the Alabama claims.

Great Britain assented to this, and the treaty of Washington proposed a settlement of both classes of questions.

Those relating to the Alabama claims and to the northwestern water boundary, commonly known as the San Juan question, have been disposed of in pursuance of the terms of the treaty.

Those relating to the fisheries were made by the terms of the treaty to depend upon the legislation which the constitutions of the respective Governments made necessary to carry those provisions into effect.

Great Britain and her possessions have on their part enacted the necessary legislation.

This Government is now enjoying the advantages of those provisions of the treaty which were the result of the condition of its assent to treat upon the questions which Great Britain had submitted.

The tribunal at Geneva has made an award in favor of the United States on the Alabama claims, and His Majesty the Emperor of Germany has decided in favor of the contention of the United States on the northwestern boundary line.

I can not urge too strongly the importance of your early consideration of the legislation that may be necessary on the part of this Government.

In addition to the claim that Great Britain may have upon the good faith of this Government to consider the legislation necessary in connection with the questions which that Government presented as the subject of a negotiation which has resulted so favorably to this Government upon the other questions in which the United States felt so much interest, it is of importance that the rights of the American fishermen, as provided for under the treaty, should be determined before the now approaching fishing season opens, and that the serious difficulties to the fishing interests and the grave questions between the two Governments that may arise therefrom be averted.


Ulysses S. Grant, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/203584

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