Archibald Chisholm.

Labour's Magna charta; a critical study of the labour clauses of the Peace treaty and of the draft conventions and recommendations of the Washington International Labour Conference online

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First Edition, February IQ2I
Second ,, September 1Q21





On June 5, 1215, King John signed, in presence of
£2 his barons, the Charter which we still regard as the basis
«* of our liberties. Some may doubt the wisdom of calling
j2 the Labour Clauses of the Peace Treaty by a name which
Si recalls the Great Charter of seven hundred years ago;
3 an endeavour is here made to estimate the significance
of these clauses, to examine the principles on which they
are based, and at the same time to indicate the dangers
attached to a too ruthless application of some of them.
The problems of to-day can be solved only by inter-
national action. Although chief attention is paid to
conditions in Great Britain, it has been found necessary
to examine also conditions in other countries. India
where the strike spirit has manifested itself even among
golf-caddies, and Japan where the workers pursue a
ca' canny policy because strikes are illegal, are calling

^ out for the solutions which we ourselves so much


~ require.

^ The organizations created by the Peace Treaty will

£> not in themselves bring about the desired results. A

O spirit of selfishness is abroad which will nullify the best

schemes even as it has involved our present social

system in many apparent but not ineradicable defects.

A new spirit is required. We must have faith in our

fellow-men; we must believe that the human race is

capable of unselfishness; and we must strengthen the

forces which make for true religion.

The book is based on lectures which the author gave

at Glasgow University in the spring of 1919 to officers

|§ and men of the United States Army who were then

gj studying in the Department of Political Economy.

£ A. c.

February 1921.



The second edition contains a few additions and
(•! erections. The developments of the last few months
have considerably enhanced the prestige of the Inter-
national Labour Organizations of the League of Nations,
and one looks forward with increasing hopefulness to
the outcome of their future labours. The British
Government ratified four of the six Washington Con-
ventions. The fourth, fifth and sixth Conventions dealing
with the employment of women during the night, the
minimum age for the admission of children to industrial
employment and the night-work of young persons,
have been ratified and the conditions covered by the
\\ ' 'men, Young Persons and Children (Employment)
Act, 1920. The second Convention which deals with
unemployment is already practically covered by legisla-
tion. The Government did not ratify the other two
Conventions. At the Washington Conference, Mr.
Barnes voted against the Maternity Convention and
thus gave a warning to all the other members of the
Conference that Great Britain was not prepared to
accept it. The Government did not ratify the Con-
vention regarding the forty-eight-hours week, but
n !< in (I the matter to a special Conference of the
Internationa] Labour Organization in the hope that
arrangements more suitable to British conditions might
be agreed upon.

In addition to the six Conventions there were six
Recommendations. Of the four articles which con-
stitute tin first Recommendation, Mr. Barnes indi-
cated thai the British attitude to the first two



was unfavourable. These two relate to fee-charging
employment agencies, and will not be ratified ; but the
third and fourth articles of the first Recommendation,
which are already covered by our Unemployment
Insurance Scheme, have been ratified. The third
Recommendation dealing with anthrax, the fourth
dealing with the protection of women and children
against lead poisoning, and the sixth dealing with the
use of white phosphorous in the manufacture of
matches, since they are covered respectively by the
Anthrax Prevention Act, 1919, the Women and Young
Children (Employment in Lead Processes) Act, 1920,
and the White Phosphorous Matches Protection Act,
1908, are to be ratified. The second Recommendation
is not refused ratification. It deals with the reciprocity
of treatment of foreign workers, and while the British
standard of treatment of foreign workers is recognized
as being up to the standard of the Recommendation,
the Government is awaiting the report of the Inter-
national Commission on Emigration before it makes any

On the Agenda of the next International Conference,
the Constitution of the Governing Body finds an im-
portant place. On the Governing Body of the Inter-
national Labour Organization the eight chief industrial
powers are represented. The Organizing Committee
of the Washington Labour Conference was given the
task of selecting these eight powers and did not include
India. The Second Committee of the First Assembly
was asked to examine the complaint which had been
lodged by the Government of India in this connection,
and decided that in view of Article 393 of the treaty,
the final decision on this matter must rest with the
Council. Sir William Meyer asked why Switzerland
and Denmark were chosen in preference to India, which
had nearly twenty-eight million agricultural industrials.
India appeared in the first clause in the list of assessees
and contributed more to the funds of the League than


Belgium and Switzerland which were in the third class,
and Denmark which was in the fourth. Apart from
the fact that in proportion to numbers and assessment
India's claim seems justified, the representation of
India on the Governing Body would be of great value
in giving greater place in its deliberations to Eastern

A. C.

September 1921.


















The High Contracting Parties " recognize that differences of
climate, hcibits, and customs, and economic opportunity and industrial
tradition, make strict uniformity in the conditions of labour difficult
of immediate attainment. But, holding as they do, that labour
should not be regarded merely as an article of commerce, they think
there are methods and principles for regulating labour conditions
which all industrial communities should endeavour to apply, so far
as their special circumstances will permit.'''' (Peace Treaty : Art.

Prematurity is one of the most fatal weaknesses of
any political institution. The most worthy institutions
may fail if created before the time when men, having
realized the need for them, are prepared to utilize them
aright. For many centuries, endeavours have been made
to introduce some agency by which the world will be saved
from the ravages of war ; thoughtful men have constantly
referred to the need for such an organization, but men
were never so keenly alive to the need as to-day. In
1888 one thinker wrote that if the condition of affairs
did not improve, and if men did not show greater unity
of spirit, " it were better to put an end by common
consent to the life of mankind and appoint an official day
of universal suicide." * To-day all thinking men are
united in the demand that some way should be found of
securing the world against future wars. If ever such
an institution was premature, that time has now passed,
and the League of Nations has set forth upon its tasks,
with the good wishes of all true men, and with the
anxious fears of not a few.

Grave and difficult problems face the League of

1 Quoted in Rudolf Steiner : The Threefold Slate, p. 186.


Nations at its very beginning, and some of the greatest
problems arc connected with the conditions of the
Peace Treaty in which the constitution of the League
is incorporated. These problems arise largely from
reservations, which during the Peace Conference were
regarded as necessary in the interests of various nations.
M. Bourgeois, President of the French Society of the
League of Nations, speaking on November 10, 1918,
declared that " Reservations (re Honour and vital
interests) must not be made between members of the
International League ; they render the obligatory nature
of arbitration illusory, in the most serious disputes —
that is, in the very disputes which may involve the risk
of war." x The Peace Treaty, however, contains many
important reservations. From a brief consideration of
some of these political reservations, important lessons
may be derived which will be of value in a con-
m< It rat ion of the tasks of the Labour Commission of the

In the Fourteen Points of President Wilson, reference
was made to the " Freedom of the Seas." If the success
of the League of Nations had been guaranteed the
British attitude on this point might have been different,
but under existing conditions our leaders felt that
reservations in this matter were essential. We are not
to imagine that the proposal regarding the Freedom of
the Seas was intended to be against British interests.
Colonel House asserted that he believed the proposal
to be in the interests of Great Britain. On January 22,
11)17, after having communicated the terms of the speech
to all foreign Governments, President Wilson addressed
the Senate on the subject of a lasting guarantee of peace,
and after emphasizing that every great people should
have a direct outlet to the sea, he declared that "the
paths of the sea must alike in law and in fact be free.
The freedom of the seas is a sine qua non of peace,
equality and co-operation." In the Pope's Peace Note
of August 1, 11)17, we find the hope expressed that
1 Paiafa : The "Nations <in<l the League, p. 61.


" the true freedom and common enjoyment of the seas
will be guaranteed by definite rules." In the German
reply to the Papal Peace Note we find this phrase quoted
with approval, but Erzberger and others clearly recog-
nized that the policy was not likely to be approved
by Great Britain. Erzberger stated that anyone who
observed President Wilson's attitude in the matter of
Freedom of the Seas would see " the opposition between
his attitude and that of England." x

How did Germany interpret the demand for Freedom
of the Seas ? Count Hertling, replying on January 24,
1918, to the Fourteen Points, declared that " it would
be of very great importance to the freedom of naviga-
tion in future if strongly fortified naval bases on the
international trade routes, such as England maintains
at Gibraltar, Aden, Hong-Kong, and in the Falkland
Islands, and many other places, could be given up."
Erzberger would include in the Freedom of the Seas
the protection of all enemy property on the high seas.
In time of peace the high seas are quite free, but in
time of war he desiderates unhindered liberty of com-
mercial intercourse and the suspension of the right of
capture and the right of blockade. He argues that in
the regulation of war by land, enemy private property
is protected by international law; if private property
of the enemy is taken indemnities have to be paid;
but while this prevails on land, he holds that we have
piracy at sea. 2 He further advocates the abandonment
of the law of contraband, and maintains that the prime
necessities of life should be secured in time of war for
women and children. He regards Britain's possession of
naval resources as an instance of " menace and privi-
lege." He holds that the most important trade routes
should be internationalized, but while he advocates
this policy for the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal,

1 Erzberger : League of Nations, p. 17.

2 The translator of Erzberger' s book rightly points out that
private property at sea is not to be compared with private
property on land, but only to goods in transit by road, or rail,
over which an enemy naturally claims control.


he will not favour its application to the Kiel Canal.
" There must be no interference with the Kiel Canal,
whose banks both lie in the hands of one State, or
of the Corinth Canal. This is inadmissible, because it
would be tampering with the international sovereignty
of the nation." We thus find the demand of the Dutch
jurists of the seventeenth century, and of the French
writers of the time of the Napoleonic wars, repeated by
those who in our day grudge Great Britain her naval
supremacy. Heedless of the fact that Freedom of the
Seas would not have been a reality in time of peace
had it not been for the fact that British naval power
was so largely instrumental in suppressing piracy,
writers unfriendly to British interests suggest that in
time of war limitations should be imposed on the power
of the strongest weapon which we have at our disposal
in support of our national interests. One cannot wonder
that our representatives, although prepared to go a
considerable distance in the matter of general conces-
sions had the success of the League been guaranteed,
were opposed to the application in the form outlined
above of the principle of Freedom of the Seas. This
reservation was therefore insisted upon.

Although we have dealt first with Britain's chief
reservation, we are not to imagine that Britain was the
first nation, in point of time, to introduce reservations.
America could not enter the League without one definite
reservation. The Monroe doctrine of the United States
involves that country in an attempt to free herself as
much as possible from European influence, and has led
America in her development to go further and further
west, but the more surely America cuts herself off from
Kii rope the more surely does she draw near to Asia and
Europe, since the world is round, and America pressing
westward has had to meet the peoples of the East as
they pressed eastward. On one side of the Pacific we
have America with a very meagre population in parts ;
on the other side we have lands occupied by densely
crowded populations. In the great cities of America


important questions arise through the mingling of races,
and the problems connected with Chinatown in all
American cities are reflections of the greater problems
which constantly face America.

The American representatives were perfectly definite
in their insistence that the Monroe doctrine could not be
given up, and in the Peace Treaty we find it stated that
nothing therein contained is " to affect the validity of
international engagements, such as Treaties of Arbitra-
tion or regional understandings like the Monroe doctrine."
The Monroe doctrine, as Sefior Corronza, the titular
President of Mexico, pointed out recently, makes the
United States " practically controller of foreign policy
over Mexico, Brazil and many other parts." In the
original statement of the doctrine, as formulated when
the Holy Alliance decided to aid Spain to reduce the
Spanish colonies which had revolted, it was declared that
" any attempt on the part of European Powers to extend
their system to any part of this hemisphere is dangerous
to our peace and safety." As occasions arose for the
application of the policy, its form developed. During
the administration of Andrew Johnston we find Mexico
heavily indebted to subjects of Great Britain, France
and Spain. Napoleon desired to keep Mexico, in
opposition to the wishes of France and Great Britain.
In accordance with the Monroe doctrine, America pro-
tested against European troops being in Mexico, and
the British and Spanish forces withdrew, but France
did not withdraw until the advent of General Sheridan.
Later, in Roosevelt's time, when Mexico was very deeply
in debt, Germany sent a fleet to collect the debt, but
Roosevelt interpreted this as a breach of the doctrine,
and America collected the debts on behalf of the creditors.
The American reservation thus involves very consider-
able control on the part of America of all the territories
in that part of the world, and we can understand how
the Italian Press has asked why America, under a
League of Nations, should insist on these reservations,
and why, if a dispute arises between the United States


and Brazil or Mexico, or if the United States ill-treats
either of these countries, no one has any right to
interfere ?

The French reservations need not be considered at
length, but when we find two leading nations entering
the League, each with an important reservation, one
can understand that France felt entitled to an equal
privilege. In the interests of France it was felt that the
Austrians must not be allowed to coalesce with their
brethren, and so the principle of self-determination was
not applied in their ease. While the principle was
applied in the case of Finland, Esthonia, Latavia, and
Georgia, which were delivered from the Slav power
through self-determination, Alsace-Lorraine was given
to France without a test. Japan, again, desired to have
the terms of a former treaty ratified, and Shantung was
placed under Japan without any application of the
principle of self-determination; what really happened
was that something like a Monroe doctrine was instituted
among the nations of the East, Japan leading the Orient,
even as America claimed a similar power over the
territories adjoining. The necessity for reconsideration
of this decision need not be elaborated. It must be
revised in the light of the whole Eastern question. We
speak of the Yellow Peril, but it is interesting to find the
people of the East speaking of the White Peril. Japan,
according to some observers, is eager to become the
director of the Eastern world, and is endeavouring to
form a great League comprising Japan, China, the Malays
and other peoples, in order to fight against this power
of the White. 1

We are not here dealing with the justice or injustice
of any of the decisions ; we simply emphasize the fact
that, owing to certain considerations, the principles
originally laid down were not applied. To introduce
such reservations is bound to cause dissatisfaction.
Belgium, for example, which suffered, in October 1916,
because the Scheldt had been closed against her warships,
1 Demangcon : Le Ddclin tie V Europe (1920), p. 107.


and again in November 1918, when a German army of
70,000 eluded pursuit by escaping through Limburg,
had cherished hopes with regard to the Scheldt and
Limburg, and was disappointed when these hopes were
not realized. Thus it happens that some of the problems
which face the League are new problems arising directly
from the Peace Conference. It is easy to criticize, and
many have failed to do justice to the difficulty of the
tasks which devolved upon our representatives at the
Conference ; but most will agree with M. Bourgeois that
in the Peace Treaty, there should have been as few
reservations as possible. If we remember, however,
that no nation dared to trust the League too far, and
that all felt that the prospects of the future without the
League were an " unfavourable certainty," and that
with the League they were at most a " favourable
uncertainty," x we can understand how desirable these
reservations seemed.

Although our leaders cherished many hopes for the
League, they rightly realized that they had to safeguard
the interests of Imperial unity. A famous French writer
has said that colonies are like fruits ; they cling to the
mother country until they are ripe. Too often in the
history of the development of great nations has this
proved true. We do not require to think of a country
like Spain, which having bled her colonies ruthlessly for
gold during three centuries, found that her colonies were
eager to break the ties which bound them to the mother
country. The story of the declaration of American
Independence affords food for thought. Britain was
exhausted, suffering from the rude and paralyzing shock
of a long war. America had enjoyed under Britain
greater privileges than any other land had ever given
to her colonies. She had never been forced to provide
an army to fight the battles of the motherland. To
some it seemed that the matter of dispute was an affair
of taxation, but the amount of the tax was slight, and

1 W. R. Scott : Economic Problems of Peace after War, 2nd
Series, p. 40.


the money was to be used for the good of the colony.
Others blamed the lack of wisdom on the part of the
British Government of that day ; America felt that she
had little say in the appointment of those who were
to rule her judicially, and she desired some measure of
autonomy. For eleven years there was argument ; and
then for seven years war, resulting in the declaration of
American Independence. It is true that Great Britain
has recognized for long that she does not " possess "
her colonics ; Sir John Seeley wisely objected to the
use of the phrase " British Possessions."

Is the statement of the French writer already men-
tioned to prove true ? In these days when our colonies
are growing in strength, are they becoming like ripe fruit
ready to fall from the tree of the motherland? With
all its defects, the British Empire as it stands rs really
a great Federation of peoples, and the subject of our
relationship to our colonies has to be considered while
the attempt is being made to establish a still greater
Federation, a League of Nations. While our representa-
tives at the Peace Conference hoped that the League
of Nations would be given as fair a chance as possible
of fulfilling the functions for which it is intended, they
realized that none of the nations would at first place too
great trust in the activities of the League, and it was
natural that they should sedulously avoid anything that
was likely to lessen its prestige. Although they were
ready to support the ideals of the League in every way,
they felt that in the interests of the Empire they had
to maintain certain reservations, and other nations
insisted on similar reservations, and the ultimate results
were none too satisfactory. Many years ago a member
of the German Reichstag in speaking of the condition
of Alsace-Lorraine said that the peace which prevailed
there was *' a peace of cemeteries." The terms of the
Peace Treaty arc undoubtedly weighing heavily upon
certain countries, but there is within the League of
Nations administrative power, adequate to deal with all
existing hardships. More than half of the recognized


Governments of the earth have solemnly pledged them-
selves to decide their differences in accordance with
principles which should make for world peace. It has
been estimated that 1,228,560,000 people, representing
a territory of 35,081,000 square miles, are now under
the League. 1 Other states will enter in the course of
time, but a League which comprises 74 per cent, of the
population of the world, and 63 per cent, of the area of
the world, is capable of great achievements.

If the League rises to the height of its opportunity
and secures at the earliest possible date the real conditions
of an abiding peace, it will have justified completely its
existence, and will gain the confidence of all who wish
for world peace. The results of the first meeting of the
Assembly of the League are very gratifying. Within a
remarkably short space of time, the Assembly admitted
six new members (including Austria and Bulgaria) ;
determined its own rules of procedure and the relation
between the Assembly and the Council ; fixed the pro-
cedure required to make amendments to the Covenant ;
determined on what principles an economic blockade
might, when necessary, be applied; laid a permanent
financial basis for the League; created important
technical organizations to deal with health, transit and

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