« PreviousContinue »
land, declared (in 1895) that, while the United States did not intend to help relieve any Latin-American state from its obligations under international law, and did not intend to prevent any European government, directly interested, from enforcing such obligations or inflicting punishment for a breach of them, it would not permit any European country or combination of countries to "forcibly deprive an American state of the right and power of self-government and of shaping for itself its own political fortunes and destinies." The strong stand taken by President Cleveland in this interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine kindled the war spirit; but fortunately the dispute was peaceably settled by arbitration. Again, in 1901, when Germany was about to bring force to bear upon Venezuela for the satisfaction of claims, President Roosevelt declared: "the Monroe Doctrine is a declaration that there must be no territorial aggrandizement by any non-American power at the expense of any American power on American soil. . . . We do not guarantee any state against punishment, if it misconducts itself, provided that punishment does not take the form of the aquisition of territory by any nonAmerican power."
Alongside this interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine as "the principle of the limitation of European power and influence in the western hemisphere" 1 has come a correlative doctrine that the United States must accept, to some degree, responsibility for the conduct of the Latin-American countries which are to be defended against European aggrandizement. This correlative principle President Roosevelt announced in 1904: "If a nation shows that it knows how to act with decency in industrial and political matters, if it keeps order and pays its obligations, then it need fear no interference from the United States. Brutal wrong-doing or impotence which results in the general loosening of the ties of civilized society may finally require intervention by some civilized nation, and in the western hemisphere the United States cannot ignore its duty." 12 This same view was taken by President Taft in his message of 1909: "With the changed circumstances of the United States and the republics to the south of us, most of which have great natural resources,
'J. B. Moore, American Diplomacy, p. 162.
Moore, op. cit., p. 165. See above, p. 197, for the Santo Domingo affair illustrating this point.
stable government, and progressive ideals, the apprehension which gave rise to the Monroe Doctrine may be said to have nearly disappeared, and neither the doctrine as it exists nor any other doctrine of American policy should be permitted to operate for the perpetuation of irresponsible government, the escape of just obligations or the insidious allegation of dominating ambitions on the part of the United States."
In other words, the Monroe Doctrine seems to mean that, while the United States will not permit any European power to seize new dominions in the western hemisphere, it will ordinarily allow all powers to safeguard property rights in any LatinAmerican country.
International Law and Peace
In common with the other civilized nations the United States recognizes international law as a part of its law. International law is a vast complex of rules and regulations governing the relations of nations in time of peace and in time of war - rules which are to be found in treaties and agreements, the statutes of various countries, the doctrines laid down by high judicial tribunals, in the principles enunciated by authoritative writers, and finally in the recognized practices of nations.
It is a mistake to regard international law as merely a body of amiable theories that may be broken at will by any nation. It is true that there is no world executive authority or judicial tribunal to enforce the practices of international law by punishing offending nations; and this has led many legists to deny even the name of "law" to the rules governing the intercourse of nations, on the ground that they have no sanction beyond the mere voluntary approval of individual nations. This view overlooks the fact that there are other sanctions than those of mere material force and that the very interests and necessities of each nation compel it to observe certain well-defined rules in the conduct of its business with other countries. The domestic law of every nation is constantly being violated, notwithstanding the sanction of force upon which it rests. For instance, American citizens often violate with impunity the customs laws in spite of the penalties which may be imposed for the offence; but the United States would not think of seizing arbitrarily a British merchant vessel
in the harbor of New York and thus run the risk not only of serious commercial loss, but also of a costly war.
It is impossible, of course, in a treatise of this character to go into the content of international law at any length, but some notion of the principles which it embodies seems necessary to give definiteness and reality to the statement that international law is not a collection of theories and moral principles, but a substantial body of rules and regulations applicable to the conduct of intercourse between states. In international law we find laid down the principles defining what may be regarded as an independent state (which is the "person" or "subject" of international law); the fundamental rights and duties of states; the methods by which new states come into existence and are recognized; the character of the property of a state; methods of acquiring property; the territorial waters of a state; the privileges and immunities of diplomatic agents; the jurisdiction of a state over aliens within its borders; piracy; grounds and conditions upon which one state may interfere in the affairs of other states; principles of expatriation and naturalization; the making and abrogating of treaties; arbitration, mediation, and acts mitigating the rigors of war. These matters are treated under that branch of international law known as the law of peace.
Even the practices of war are regulated by well-accepted rules. The law of war, for example, governs such topics as the declaration of war, non-combatants, privateering, the prisoners of war and their treatment, the instruments of war and bombardment of towns, and the use of explosives; the effect of war upon the property of belligerent states, their subjects and the subjects of neutral states; the effect of military occupation upon property on land; the rights and duties of neutrals; contraband of war; blockade; right of search; and prize courts.
On all of these topics of international law definite information is to be secured from decisions of courts, treaties, statutes, official documents, and authoritative writers; and while a variety of opinions may be entertained by the legists of different nations, it must be remembered that lawyers and courts are by no means always agreed as to what the domestic law is on any particular point.1
1 The student will do well to refer at this point to the monumental collection of material on international law prepared by Professor J. B. Moore,
Strictly speaking, international law is not a body of worldlaw, but a body of rules which is recognized by each civilized power as a part of its domestic law. "International law," said Mr. Justice Gray of the Supreme Court of the United States, in an opinion, "is part of our law,2 and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction as often as questions of right depending upon it are duly presented for their determination. For this purpose, where there is no treaty and no controlling executive or legislative act or judicial decision, resort must be had to the customs and usages of civilized nations; and as an evidence of these to the works of jurists and commentators who by years of labor, research, and experience have made themselves peculiarly well acquainted with the subjects of which they treat. Such works are resorted to by judicial tribunals, not for the speculations of their authors concerning what the law ought to be, but for trustworthy evidence of what the law really is."
An international tribunal independent of the governments of particular states, enforcing principles of international law, and adjudicating disputes between different nations, is as yet an unrealized dream of those who hope for the establishment of world peace. Nevertheless, it is contended that we have made gigantic strides in that direction, although the complete ideal may never be attained. From time to time during the nineteenth century, the United States has resorted to the practice of arbitration for the purpose of adjusting controversies with foreign countries. The first treaty signed with Great Britain in 1794 after the conclusion of peace provided for three tribunals or commissions to arbitrate certain questions which threatened to bring on a new conflict between the two countries; and many irritating controversies over the boundaries between the United States and Canada and the fishing rights of the respective countries have been adjusted by way of arbitration.
International Law Digest (8 vols., Government Printing Office). Even though making no attempt to go into the technicalities of these subjects, the teacher should impress upon the student the notion that international law is not merely a body of theories elaborated by the enthusiasts for international peace.
'175 U. S. R., 677.
'The Constitution recognizes the law of nations by authorizing Congress to define offences against it.
The most famous case of arbitration in American history was that of "the Alabama Claims," which grew out of depredations committed upon American merchant vessels during the Civil War by ships which Great Britain allowed to be constructed in British ports which were used as a base of operations for the Confederate government. After a good deal of angry dispute, the two countries agreed by a treaty of 1871 to submit the whole matter to a tribunal composed of one citizen of the United States, one British subject, and three other members, named by the King of Italy, the President of Switzerland, and the Emperor of Brazil, respectively. This tribunal met in Geneva, and after prolonged sessions it came to the conclusion that with regard to certain vessels the British government had violated or neglected its duties as a neutral power; and an award of damages aggregating $15,500,000 was rendered in favor of the United States, and paid, in spite of the protest of the British member of the tribunal, and some feeling of resentment in Great Britain.1
The United States, therefore, had had a long experience in the peaceful adjustment of controversies, when it was invited, in 1898, in common with the other powers of the world, by the Tsar Nicholas II, of Russia, to participate in a conference at the Hague for the purpose of discussing the subject of reducing excessive armaments. The first Hague conference, which met in 1899, was unable to come to an agreement on the main question, and merely recommended the nations to examine the possibility of limiting armed forces by land and sea. The powers however, agreed to recognize the right of any nation, without prejudice, to offer its services to countries at war with one another, as an aid in friendly mediation. The first conference, furthermore, recommended parties unable to come to an agreement by negotiation to submit matters not involving national honor or vital interests to an investigation by an impartial com
1In addition to resorting to arbitration in a large number of cases, the government of the United States has been instrumental in preventing war, and in restoring peace, by offering to countries on the eve of war or already at war its services in settling the dispute or in terminating the armed conflict. For example, in 1871, it tendered its good offices in a war between Spain and certain South American republics, and secured an agreement to an armistice which eventually resulted in a treaty of peace. In 1905 President Roosevelt was instrumental in bringing the Russo-Japanese war to a close.