Pauncefote, Julian (DNB12)

PAUNCEFOTE, Sir JULIAN, first Baron Pauncefote of Preston (1828–1902), lawyer and diplomatist, born at Munich on 13 Sept. 1828, was second son of Robert Pauncefote (formerly Smith) of Preston Court, Gloucestershire (1788-1843), by his wife Emma (d. 1853), daughter of R. Smith. His paternal grandfather, Thomas Smith, of Gedling, Nottinghamshire, and Foel Allt, Wales, was first cousin of Robert Smith, first baron Carrington. Educated partly at Marlborough College, partly at Paris and Geneva, Julian was called to the bar as a member of the Inner Temple on 4 May 1852. He was private secretary to Sir William Molesworth, eighth baronet [q. v.], during the latter's short term of office as secretary of state for the colonies in 1855. On Molesworth's death he returned to the bar and practised as a conveyancer. In 1862 he went to Hong Kong, where there was an opening for a barrister, and three years afterwards he received the appointment of attorney-general in that colony. This office he held for seven years, acting for the chief justice of the supreme court when the latter was absent on leave, and preparing 'The Hong Kong Code of Civil Procedure.'

In 1872 he was appointed chief justice of the Leeward Islands, which had recently been amalgamated in one colony. On quitting Hong Kong he was formally thanked for his services by the executive and legislative councils, and received the honour of knighthood. He took up his new appointment in 1874, opened the new federal court, and put the administration of justice into working order. Towards the end of the year he returned to England and succeeded Sir Henry Holland, now Viscount Knutsford, as legal assistant under-secretary in the colonial office. In 1876, on the recommendation of a committee of the House of Commons, a similar post was created at the foreign office, and was bestowed by Lord Derby, then foreign secretary, on Pauncefote, who was specially qualified for it by his knowledge of French. His services were recognised by the bestowal on him of the K.C.M.G. in Jan. 1880, and of the C.B. three months later. After doing much political work in addition to his normal duties, owing to the long illness of Charles Stuart Aubrey Abbott, third baron Tenterden [q. v.], the permanent under-secretary of state, and the infirm health of other members of the staff, Pauncefote, on Lord Tenterden's death in 1882, was appointed by Earl Granville, then foreign secretary, to the vacant place, while he continued to superintend the legal work. In 1885 he and Sir Charles Rivers Wilson took part in the international commission at Paris concerning the free navigation of the Suez Canal, and were largely concerned in the draft settlement on which was based the convention of Constantinople (29 Oct. 1888). He was created G.C.M.G. at the close of 1885, and K.C.B. in 1888.

On 2 April 1889 Pauncefote was appointed envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the United States; Lord Salisbury had left the office vacant for some months after the abrupt dismissal of Lord Sackville [q. v. Suppl. II]. At Washington, Pauncefote by his personal influence contributed materially to the solution of the various differences, some of them sufficiently acute, which arose between the two countries, and rendered invaluable service in producing a more friendly feeling towards Great Britain in the United States. His patience, urbanity, and habits of complete and impartial study of complicated details combined with his legal training greatly to assist him in dealing with American politicians and officials, most of whom were lawyers. Among the most critical questions with which he had to deal were the claim of the United States to prevent pelagic sealing by Canadian vessels in the Behring Sea, a question which, after passing through some menacing phases, was eventually referred to the decision of an arbitral tribimal at Paris in February 1892; an arrangement was concluded for a modus vivendi pending the award. A second question, which concerned the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana, was taken up by the United States government in 1895, and the unusual tenour and wording of President Cleveland's message to Congress on the subject, in December, threatened at one moment serious complications. The matter was referred in February 1897 to an arbitral tribunal at Paris, which in October 1899 decided substantially in favour of the British claim. In the discussions and negotiations which preceded the outbreak of war between the United States and Spain, in April 1898, Pauncefote tactfully sought with the representatives of the great European powers to secure a pacific arrangement without suggesting any indifference to freedom and good government in Cuba. Pauncefote's prudence through- out the period of the war did much to establish a lasting friendship between England and the United States.

In 1893, after it had been ascertained that such a step would be agreeable to the United States government, the British representative at Washington was raised from the rank of envoy to that of am- bassador. Other great powers followed suit, and Pauncefote, as the senior ambassador, was of much service in settling various questions of precedence and etiquette-consequent on the change.

In 1897, after prolonged negotiations, he concluded a convention with the United States for the settlement by arbitration of differences between the two countries. The convention, however, was not approved by the senate, and remained unratified.

In 1899 Pauncefote was appointed senior British delegate at the first Hague conference which met to devise means for the limitation of armaments and the pacific settlement of international differences. Pauncefote here rendered his most important service to the cause of peace. Insuperable obstacles were soon apparent to the general acceptance of any binding obligation to reduce armaments or to submit disputes to arbitration. Pauncefote, therefore, ably assisted the president, M. de Staël, in setting the conference to work, as the best alternative, on establishing a suitable permanent tribunal of arbitration, to which voluntary recourse could at any time be readily had, and which other powers might bind themselves to recommend to disputants. In framing the needful machinery Pauncefote gave unostentatious but most efficient assistance, and shared with the president the credit of the success attained. On his return to England, after the termination of the conference, he was raised to the peerage on 18 Aug. 1898. The remaining years of his life were spent as British ambassador in the United States. In February 1900 he signed with Mr. John Hay, the United States secretary of state, a convention designed to replace the provisions of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty of 19 April 1850 with regard to the construction of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. The convention, however, failed to secure confirmation by the senate, and was not ratified. A second convention ('the Hay-Pauncefote treaty') signed by him on 18 Nov. 1901 was more fortunate. By its provisions the ships of all nations passing through the canal were placed on an equal footing, and the United States government precluded itself from imposing preferential dues. Nevertheless, and in spite of the protests of the British government, the United States government passed in Aug. 1912 a law allowing free passage through the canal to American coasting vessels.

Growing years, the climate of Washington, the constant strain of work, and sedentary habits had by 1901 seriously impaired Pauncefote's naturally vigorous constitution, and he died at Washington, of a prolonged attack of gout, on 24 May 1902. He had been made Hon. LL.D. of Harvard and Columbia Universities in 1900. His death called forth unprecedented expressions of public regret in the United States; the funeral ceremony in Washington was attended by the president and by the leading authorities, and the United States government, with the assent of the British government, conveyed the body to England in a United States vessel of war. The burial took place at St. Oswald's Church, Stoke near Newark. A fine monument, executed in bronze by Greorge Wade, has been placed at the head of the grave in the churchyard by his widow and daughters.

Pauncefote married on 14 Sept. 1859 Selina Fitzgerald, daughter of Major William Cubitt, of Catfield, Norfolk. By her he had one son, who died in infancy, and four daughters.

An excellent portrait by Benjamin Constant is in the possession of Lady Pauncefote, and a copy is at Marlborough College. A cartoon portrait appeared in Vanity Fair' in 1883.

[The Times, 26, 27, 30 May 1902; Foreign Office List, 1902, p. 194; Papers laid before Parliament.]