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Chief-Justice Marshall, in a famous decision, significantly declared: “No principle is more universally acknowledged than the perfect equality of nations. Russia and Geneva have equal rights.” International law has no more fundamental principle, and this view is sustained by such authorities as Grotius and Vattel.

The motive which inspired the Declaration of Independence was the desire for freedom from foreign political and commercial control, and for individual freedom. It was declared that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were the “ inalienable rights ” off individual men. As these rights were to be guaranteed to men as individuals, so could they be claimed for states as independent units in the society of nations.

The principles which gave to our early statesmen the inspiration of domestic policy soon found expression in our foreign relations. The most fundamental one was that of “non-intervention.” As our foremost principle of foreign policy, it bears a close relation to the rights of the individual as a basis for relations within the state, and to the principle of the equality of nations as the foundation of sound international intercourse. In effect, the principle of non-intervention prevented interference in the internal affairs of other nations, and reserved to each state the right to choose its own form of government and to control its political destiny. Moreover, it required abstention from the political arrangements of other governments, and more especially of Europe.


It has been my purpose to set forth the history and development of this, the cardinal principle of our foreign policy, which is so typical of our political ideals and institutions. This embraces not only a discussion of its origin and adoption by our statesmen as a definite principle of foreign policy, but also the extension of that principle so as to apply to the independent states of America in a special sense. This phase of the policy of non-intervention, commonly called the “ Monroe Doctrine,” was designed to preserve the Western hemisphere from the territorial and political control of foreign powers.

Moreover, it has been my purpose to discuss and explain departures from the principle of non-intervention by the United States. The capital instances of departure were in Cuba and in Panama Our interventions in these cases sustained a direct relation to the establishment of Cuba and Panama as independent states. They also led to arrangements under which the United States guarantees their independence. These interventions rest upon the ground that the principle of non-intervention is subject to excep tions, and that each case must rest upon its own merits.

I have, therefore, limited my discussions of departures from the principle of non-intervention to the cases of Cuba and Panama, and shall reserve for the future publication a discussion of special situations which have come to prevail in Santo Domingo, Nicaragua and Haiti, and which involve a degree of supervision which non-American powers would be forbidden to exercise in these countries. Unlike the interventions in Cuba and Panama, our interventions in these states have not contributed to the establishment of their independence. These steps have been taken, first, to arrange for the settlement of claims of citizens of foreign states, thus preventing intervention for this purpose by other powers; and, secondly, to restore and preserve order and Such measures of control have been exercised in Santo Domingo since 1905, when a modus vivendi was concluded by President Roosevelt which provided for the collection of Dominican customs by an American citizen designated by the President of the United States, and for the payment of the government's obligations. This supervision was continued under the treaty concluded with Santo Domingo in 1907. In 1913, commissioners were sent to supervise the Dominican elections in the capacity of " friendly observers." In June, 1916, American forces were landed to restore order under the supervision of the United States.

Events leading to intervention in Nicaragua occurred in 1909, when the American government refused to recognize further the Zelaya government. In 1912, marines were landed to restore order, and in 1914, a treaty was signed with Nicaragua, giving the United States exclusive right to build a canal along the Nicaragua route, together with leases of sites for naval stations and a naval base. For these concessions, the United States agreed to pay $3,000,000.

This tendency of departure has been manifested in Haiti. Certain European governments demanded a settlement of claims. Revolutionary disturbances followed, and in 1915, American forces were landed. In 1916, a treaty was approved by the Senate, under which the United States agreed to supervise the collection and administration of customs and the training of a native constabulary. Haiti agreed to enter into no engagements which would impair her independence.

These special situations, whether conventional or de facto in character, are manifestations of a tendency the permanency of which remains to be tested. It is my purpose hereafter to treat the more recent interventions, some of which are now pending. While it is a matter of prediction as to the direction which these departures will take, it is unlikely that the development will ignore altogether the purposes and limits of the principle which has so distinguished the foreign policy of the United States.

I am indebted to Professor Edward Elliott of the University of California, who first directed my interests into the field of international law; and to Professor John Bassett Moore of Columbia University, for guidance and counsel in all phases of my work.


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