Frederick William Holls.

The peace conference at The Hague, and its bearings on international law and policy online

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Diplomatic nature of the Peace Conference



Differences between it and the Congresses of Vienna, Paris, and
Berlin .......

Fixation of European boundaries

A stable ecjuilibriuni .....

No impainnent of national defence

The Magna Charta of International Law

A peaceable method of procedure

The voluntary feature of the Treaty .

The force of public opinion ....

Ultimate effects independent of temporary or local conditions
Code of Neutrality .....

The theory of the Conference on war and peace

The true definition of Peace

International punitive justice

The struggle for power at the opening of the new

Justification of aggression ....

Negation of conception of war as a positive good
The federation of the world for justice
Development of the ideas of the Holy Alliance
Stability of the new system . . . .

Effect on perils confronting modern states .
The future of diplomacy ....

A higher development on traditional lines .
What remains to be done ....

The governments in advance of public opinion
The Institute of International Law
Keasons for encouragement ....


Appendix I .
Appendix II .
Appendix III
Index .








Without attempting to forestall the judgment
of history, it may perhaps be taken for granted
that the year 1898 will be chiefly remembered on
account of three notable events, — the Spanish- Three notable
American War, the death of Prince Bismarck, and 1^93/^°
the circular letter of Count Mouravieff, by direc-
tion of His Majesty the Emperor of Russia, calling
the International Peace Conference. While these
three events had no causal connection whatever, it
seems indisputable that the timeliness of the third
was strikingly dependent upon the other two.

The Spanish-American War, both in its inception The Spanish-
and its results, revealed to the world wliat had long ^var!^^*^"
been known to a comparatively small number of
thoughtful observers ; namely, the existence of a
great and mighty power in the New AYorld, with
unlimited reserve force, which needed only to be-
come interested in questions of foreign policy to
make it at once a factor of the very first impor-
tance. The wise warning of Washington against
entangling alliances with foreign nations had been
followed by the United States to a degree hardly
foreseen or intended by its author ; and standing
apart in the world in more or less selfish isolation,

B 1


Chapter I the great Republic of the West had ahiiost become
a negligible quantity in the calculations of European
The changed Tliis is not tlic occasion to discuss the wisdom of
iS*d°sfates!this policy, or of its modification. It is sufficient
to emphasize the fact, as well as the momentous
and permanent change which occurred when the
people of the United States, with singular unanimity
and zeal, but still with grave and serious purpose,
drew the sword to put an end to an intolerable situa-
tion in Cuba. It was a war of aggression — but the
American people felt that it was aggression for a
high and noble object ; and the fact that the great
Republic was capable of such idealism — the spec-
tacle of hundreds of thousands of volunteers crowd-
ing to enlist in a cause offering absolutely no
material inducements — served to deepen the im-
pression made upon the rest of the world. The
campaign, both on land and sea, was perhaps more
remarkable for the hidden possibilities which it
revealed than for actual demonstrations. The gen-
eral expectation, however, of many continental
critics, that the American army and navy would
first encounter defeats which might perhaps be
retrieved ultimately by the mere force of physical
and numerical preponderance, was doomed to disap-
pointment, and gave way, on the part of observers
not blinded by jealousy or prejudice, to expres-
sions of sincere respect for American prowess and

The revelation of the fundamental solidarity, in


both feelings and interest, on the part of the two Chapter i
great branches of the Anglo-Saxon race was beyond The solidarity
doubt the most important incidental result of the saxou vlco!'
war. The people of the British Empire stood almost
alone in their unwavering belief in the sincerity and
unselfishness of the avowed purposes of the United
States, and consequently in their warm sympathy
and hope for American success. Without a formal
alliance, without anything even in the nature of a
diplomatic understanding, the world was surprised
to observe that the two great English-speaking
peoples of the world appeared to think and feel
in unison ; that all minor differences and causes
of misunderstanding seemed to be forgotten, and
that the feeling of kinship — free from all hos-
tility against any other power, and without the
slightest impairment of national independence or
separate interests, but still strong and true — domi-
nated public and private opinion on both sides of
the Atlantic. It is needless to add that this fact
opened up to the continental statesman vistas of
which he had never dreamed before, and that it
necessitated a more or less complete revision of
previous calculations, plans, and combinations.

The death of Prince Bismarck was the outward The death of
sign of the end of a period of European history, ^^^"^'^^
justly called, after its dominant figure and his
motto, the Bismarckian Epoch, or that of Blood
and Iron. For more than a hinnan generation the
titanic mind of the Iron Chancellor had dominated
the international policy of Europe, and so potent


Chapter I

Bismarck a
friend of

had liis ideas become, in Germany, that they had
compelled even Science to bend to their support
the masterly but " barrack-trained " minds of men
like Treitschke and his pupils. The attempt was
made, not entirely without success, to give a scien-
tific and even a systematized philosophical basis to
the policy of the most consistent and reckless realist
and opportunist since Napoleon. There is probably
little danger that this school of political science and
philosophy will long outlive its mighty creator, but
its very existence bears witness to the stupendous
force of a master mind which could hold sway, even
in a realm hitherto sacred to absolute freedom of
thought and of teaching.

History cannot fairly question the great Chan-
cellor's right to be known as a sincere friend of
peace. The problems which demanded solution at
the outset of his career could not have been settled,
humanly speaking, otherwise than with blood and

Germany at that time was little more than a
geographical expression, and, at the threshold of the
stupendous industrial and commercial development
of the last fifty years, the German people were two
centuries behind other Western nations politically
and economically. The vastly greater part of the
nation had no legal access to the sea, and the entire
country bade fair to become an object of barter or
division among powerful surrounding states, whose
designs were but imperfectly concealed. The rivalry
of Austria and Prussia had become too acute for


longer continuance, and both tlie unity and indepen- chapter i
dence of the German nation could no longer be saved
except by a triumphant display of force. Questions
of national independence or unification such as these,
and the similar ones which confronted Italy forty
years ago, demanded the stern arbitrament of war, by
which alone the right to independence or to national
unity can be vindicated, — but when these achieve-
ments had once been confirmed, the one end of Prince
Bismarck's policy was the maintenance of peace in
Europe. In this he was successful, so far as the ;

entire continent, with the exception of the Balkan '<

peninsula, was concerned. His domination has given
to Europe, with this one exception, thirty years of i

unbroken peace — the longest period of repose in '

modern history.

But the basis of his policy was avowedly not so The basis of
much a love of peace for its own sake, as, on the '^'^ ^°^'''^"
contrary, the fear of the consequences of war, and
his method was the simplest imaginable, — a con-
sistent and continually increasing preparation for
war by universal military service, and the avowed |

determination to be ready to strike the first blow,
wdien necessary, with greater swiftness and effec-
tiveness than any possible opponent. After the
peace of Frankfort, the conviction was well-nigh
unanimous in the German Empire, that what had
been won by the sword would ere long have to be
defended hy the sword ; and the trend of public dis-
cussion in France has even yet hardly been calcu-
lated to remove that impression. It was, therefore.


Chapter I Comparatively easy, in the first flush of national exul-
tation, to establish the system of the utmost possible
preparation for war, as practically the only guarantee
of peace so far as the German Empire was concerned.
Advantases of Nor is it fair, even from a cosmopolitan or philo-
miiitrrv^ sopliical poiut of vicw, wholly to condemn the system
service. q£ ^niivcrsal military service, as it was first estab-

lished in Prussia and is now in vogue in continen-
tal Europe. That it is a great school of manliness
and discipline may readily be admitted, and the un-
doubted democratic element which its absolute impar-
tiality introduces into a military monarchy is deeply
significant and of far-reaching importance. During
the continuance of Prince Bismarck in office the
slightest criticism, even of the details of this system,
seemed almost sacrilegious. Had he died in office,
the force of tradition would probably have upheld his
ideas almost, if not quite, up to the economic break-
ing point. The retirement of the great Chancellor
eight years before his death must be considered in
many respects one of the most fortunate occurrences
for the German people. It afforded a period of tran-
sition of incalculable value. The reduction of the
term of service from three years to two^ is the out-
ward sign of a change which would have been diffi-

^ This proposal was adopted in 1896, and seems to have given
general satisfaction, but the mere suggestion of such a change was
denounced under Bismarck with a fury which, according to Georg von
Bunsen, one of the noblest and most attractive of modern Germans,
envenomed and wasted the best years of a life full of the brightest
promise. See Marie von Bunsen, Georg von Bunsen, p. 182.


cult, if not impossible, under a continuance of his Chapter i

With his death, on July 30, 1898, his own country-
men as well as the world at large felt that an im-
portant chapter of European history had closed.
The system of "Blood and Iron" had accomplished
its work. A generation had grown to manhood who An outlived
had never seen a g-reat European war, and whose ''^'


knowledge of problems which permitted of none but
a bloody solution was derived solely from study and
tradition. The insecure, burdensome, and wasteful
character of the existing so-called " guarantees of
peace " could no longer escape discussion and unan-
swerable demonstration.^ The first manifestations of
a Far Eastern problem of world-wide significance
threw a specially lurid light upon the useless and
dangerous divisions with which the civilized powers

1 The most important example of this fact is the remarkable
volume of Dr. Eugen Sclilief, Der Friede in Europa, eine volkerrecht-
Uche Studie, published in 1892. Combining profound learning with
sound judgment and common sense, the author of this book, to which
reference will repeatedly be made hereafter, not only demonstrates
the practical)ility of substituting an International Federation for
Justice, for the unstable equilibrium of universal armaments, but
almost prophetically forecasts the calling and, to a great extent, the
results of the Peace Conference. He even suggests (p. 490) the initi-
ative of Russia, and his discussion of the political problems involved
shows statesmanlike insight and diplomatic tact.

The remarkable speech of the Emperor Francis .Joseph of Austria-
Hungary to the Delegations, in November, 1891, quoted in Schlief's
book, p. 134, may also be cited as an expression which would hardly
have been made during Prince Bismarck's continuance in power,
and which was in direct contradiction to the "barracks-philosophy"
referred to abov^e.


Chapter I Were confroiitino- a situation frang;ht with o;rave

In seemingly hopeless darkness the world anxiously
awaited a sign of the dawn of another and a better
era, and in the fulness of time it came.

The Rescript op the Russian Emperor

At the regular weekly reception of the diplomatic
representatives accredited to the Court of St. Peters-
burg, held at the Foreign Office in that city on
Wednesday, August 24 (12th, old style), 1898, each
visitor was surprised to receive from Count Moura-
vieff, the Russian Foreign Minister, a lithographed
communication, which read as follows : —
Text of the " The maintenance of general peace, and a possible

reduction of the excessive armaments which weigh
upon all nations, present themselves in the existing
condition of the whole world, as the ideal towards
which the endeavors of all Governments should be

" The humanitarian and magnanimous ideas of His
Majesty the Emperor, my August Master, have been
won over to this view. In the conviction that this
lofty aim is in conformity with the most essential
interests and the legitimate views of all Powers, the
Imperial Government thinks that the present moment
would be very favorable for seeking, by means of
international discussion, the most effectual means
of insuring to all peoples the benefits of a real
and durable peace, and, above all, of putting an



end to the progressive development of the present Chapter i
armaments. Text of the


" In the course of the last twenty years the
longings for a general appeasement have become
especially pronounced in the consciences of civil-
ized nations. The preservation of peace has been
put forward as the object of international policy ;
in its name great States have concluded between
themselves powerful alliances ; it is the better to
guarantee peace that they have developed, in propor-
tions hitherto unprecedented, their military forces,
and still continue to increase them without shrinking
from any sacrifice.

" All these efforts nevertheless have not yet been
able to brino; about the beneficent results of the
desired pacification. The financial charges following
an upward march strike at the public prosperity at
its very source.

" The intellectual and physical strength of the
nations, la])or and capital, are for the major part
diverted from their natural application, and unpro-
ductively consumed. Hundreds of millions are
devoted to acquiring terrible engines of destruction,
which, though to-day regarded as the last word of
science, are destined to-morrow to lose all value in
consequence of some fresh discovery in the same

" National culture, economic progress, and the pro-
duction of wealth are either paralyzed or checked in
their development. Moreover, in proportion as the
armaments of each Power increase so do they less

10 nil': PI': ACE confehknce at the hague

Chapter I aiicl less fulfill the object which the Governments
Text of the liavc Hct before themselves,
escript. ^i rpi^^ economic crises, clue in great part to the

system of armaments a Voutrance, and the continual
danger which lies in this massing of. war material,
are transforming the armed peace of our days into a
crushing burden, which the peoples have more and
more difficulty in bearing. It appears evident, then,
that if this state of things were prolonged, it would
inevitably lead to the very cataclysm which it is
desired to avert, and the horrors of wdiich make
every thinking man shudder in advance.

" To put an end to these incessant armaments and
to seek the means of warding off the calamities
which are threatening the whole world, — such is the
supreme duty which is to-day imposed on all States.

" Filled with this idea. His Majesty has been
pleased to order me to propose to all the Govern-
ments whose representatives are accredited to the
Imperial Court, the meeting of a conference which
would have to occupy itself with this grave problem.

" This conference should be, by the help of God, a
happy presage for the century which is about to
open. It would converge in one powerful focus the
efforts of all States which are sincerely seeking to
make the great idea of universal peace triumph over
the elements of trouble and discord.

" It would, at the same time, confirm their agree-
ment by the solemn establishment of the principles
of justice and right, upon which repose the security
of States and the welfare of peoples."


Among the representatives who received this com- Chapter i
munication on that day was Sir Charles Scott, Her Report of the
iiritannic Majesty s Ambassador m hi. reters burg, Ambassador.
who in his despatch to Lord Salisbury, dated the
following day, gives the following substance of the
remarks of Count Mouravieff made at the time : —

" Count Mouraviett" begged me to remark that this
eloquent appeal, which he had drawn w^ at the
dictation of the Emperor, did not invite a general
disarmament, as such a .proposal Avould not have
been likely to be generally accepted as a practical
one at present, nor did His Imperial Majesty look for
an immediate realization of the aims he had so much
at heart, Init desired to initiate an effort, the effects
of which could only be gradual.

" His Excellency thought that the fact that the
initiative of this peaceful effort was being taken
by the Sovereign of the largest military Power, with
resources for increasing its military strength unre-
stricted by Constitutional and Parliamentary limita-
tions, would appeal to the hearts and intelligence of
a very large section of the civilized world, and show
the discontented and disturbing classes of society that
powerful military Governments were in sympathy
with their desire to see the wealth of their countries
utilized for productive purposes, rather than exhausted
in a ruinous and, to a great extent, useless competi-
tion for increasing the powers of destruction.

" I observed, in reply, that it would be difficult to
remain insensible to the noble sentiments which had
inspired this remarkable document, which I w^ould


Chapter I forward at once to your lordship, and I felt sure that
it would create a profound impression in England."

Despatch On August 30, Mr. Balfour, then temporarily in

B^iToun charge of the Foreign Office, replied to Sir Charles
Scott as follows : —

" As the Prime Minister is abroad and the Cabinet
scattered, it is impossible for me at present to give
any reply, but I feel confident that I am only express-
ing the sentiments of my colleagues when I say that
Her Majesty's Government most warmly sympathize
"wdth and approve the pacific and economic objects
which His Imperial Majesty has in view^"

Acceptance of Tlic United States of America accepted the invita-
states!^ tion contained in Count Mouravieff's circular at once,

and the Ambassador at St. Petersburg was instructed
to do so orally in the most cordial terms.

The European press having to a great extent mis-
understood or misconstrued the meaning of the cir-
cular, the following official communication appeared
in the Journal de St. Petershurcj, on Sunday, Sep-
tember 4 : —
Russian " All tlic uttcranccs of the foreign press regarding

the Res^cHpt° ^lic Circular of the 24 ult. agree in testifying to the
and its object, gyj-j-^p^^j^y witli wliicli the actiou of the Russian Gov-
ernment has been received by the whole world. A
high tribute of acknowledgment is paid to the noble
and magnanimous conception which originated this
great act. The unanimity of "welcome proves in the
most strikinar manner to what a deo;ree the reflec-


tions, which lay at the root of the Russian proposal, chapter i
correspond with the innermost feelings of all nations
and their dearest wishes.

" On all sides people had come to the conclusion
that continuous armaments were a crushing burden
to all nations, and that they constituted a bar to
public prosperity. The most ardent wish of the
nations is to be able to give themselves up to peace-
ful lalwr, looking calmly to the future, and they per-
ceive clearly that the present system of armed peace
is in its tendency peaceful only in name.

"It is to the excesses of this system that Russia
desires to put an end. The question to be settled is
without doubt a very complicated one, and some
organs of public opinion have already touched on the
difficulties which stand in the way of a practical
realization. Nobody can conceal from himself the
difficulties, but they must be courageously confronted.

" The intention of the Circular is precisely to pro-
vide for a full and searching investigation of this
question by an international exchange of views.
Certain other questions difficult of solution but of
not less moment have already been settled in this
century in a manner which has done justice to the
great interests of humanity and civilization. The
results which in this connection have been obtained
at international conferences, particularly at the Con-
gresses of Vienna and Paris, prove what the united
endeavors of Governments can achieve when they
proceed in harmony with public opinion and the
needs of civilization.



Chapter I " The Russiaii proposal calls all States to greater

effort than ever before, Ijiit it will redound to the
honor of humanity at the dawn of the twentieth
century to have set resolutely about this work that
the nations may enjoy the benefits of peace, relieved
of the overwhelming burdens which impede their
economic and moral development."

from Lord

All of the States invited to the Conference accepted
the invitation, the last formal acceptance to be received
being that of Great Britain on October 24. Lord
Salisbury wrote as follows to the British Ambassador
at St. Petersburg : —

'" Her Majesty's Government have given their care-
ful consideration to the memorandum which was
placed in your hands on August 24 last by the
Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs, containing a
proposal of His Majesty the Emperor of Russia for
the meeting of a conference to discuss the most
effective methods of securing the continuance of
general peace and of putting some limit on the con-
stant increase of armaments.

" Your Excellency was instructed at the time by
Mr. Balfour, in my absence from England, to explain
the reasons which would cause some delay before a
formal reply could be returned to this important
communication, and, in the meanwhile, to assure the
Russian Government of the cordial sympathy of Her
Majesty's Government with the objects and inten-
tions of His Imperial Majesty. That this sympathy
is not confined to the Government, but is equally


shared by popular opinion in this country, lias been chapter i
strikingly manifested since the Emperor's proposal
has been made generally known by the very numer-
ous resolutions passed by public meetings and socie-
ties in the United Kingdom. There are, indeed, few
nations, if any, which, both on grounds of feeling
and interest, are more concerned in the maintenance
of general peace than is Great Britain.

" The statements Avhich constitute the ^rounds of
the Emperor's proposal are but too well justified.
It is unfortunately true that while the desire for the
maintenance of peace is generally professed, and
while, in fact, serious and successful efforts have
on more than one recent occasion been made with

Online LibraryFrederick William HollsThe peace conference at The Hague, and its bearings on international law and policy → online text (page 2 of 39)