Frederick William Holls.

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

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that object by the great Powers, there has been a
constant tendency on the part of almost every nation
to increase its armed force, and to add to an already
vast expenditure on the appliances of war. The
perfection of the instruments thus brought into use,
their extreme costliness, and the horrible carnage and
destruction which would ensue from their employ-
ment on a large scale, have acted no doubt as a
serious deterrent from W' ar. But the burdens imposed
by this process on the populations affected must, if
prolonged, produce a feeling of unrest and discontent
menacing both to internal and external tranquillity.

" Her Majesty's Government will gladly cooperate
in the proposed effort to provide a remedy for this
evil ; and if, in any degree, it succeeds, they feel that
the Sovereign to whose suggestion it is due will have
richly earned the gratitude of the world at large.


Chapter I " Your Excelleiicy is, therefore, authorized to assure

Count Mouravieff that the Emperor's proposal is
willingly accepted by Her Majesty's Government,
and that the Queen will have pleasure in delegating
a Representative to take part in the Conference
whenever an invitation is received. Her Majestj^'s
Government hope that the invitation may be accom-
panied l)y some indication of the special points to
which the attention of the Conference is to be
directed, as a guide for the selection of the British
Representative, and of the assistants by whom he
should be accompanied.

" You will read this despatch to the Minister for
Foreign Affairs, and leave him a copy of it."

Despatch On Novcmbcr 9, Mr. Herbert H. D. Peirce, Charge

unheli'states cl'Affaircs of the United States to Russia, reported
Charge hig obscrvatious ou the spot uT)on the proposed Con-

d Affaires. ^ ^ _ ^ ^ _

ference to the Secretary of State in a most interest-
ing and valuable despatch, which is here quoted
almost in its entirety : —

" The question presents two broad phases : —
" 1. The humanitarian aspect, looking toward a
future universal peace, which, while it has long been
the di-eam of philanthropists, has never before, I
believe, been recognized as an attainable end, even
in the distant future, in the materialism which gov-
erns State policies and international relations.

" 2. The purely economic question of the absorp-
tion of men and resources for purely military purposes,
to the detriment of national wealth and prosperity.


" While both aspects of the question are clearly set chapter i
forth as actuating the Imperial Government in Count
Mouravieff's circular, I am convinced that the gravity
of its economic side is not lost sight of or obscured
by any undue enthusiasm over its humanitarian

" It is, perhaps, at first blush a little disappointing
that this great proposition of the Emperor's does not
meet with warmer enthusiasm among the Russians
themselves. But it should be remembered that the
idea that a vast army is anything but a glory and a
blessing is not only new^, but is contrary to the tradi-
tions instilled into the Russian mind and careful!}'
fostered ever since the time of Peter the Great. T<j
expect them now to at once respond with enthusiasm
to a proposition which involves the belief that this
great military establishment, hitherto held up as the
bulwark and safety of the nation, is in fact but a
drain upon the resources of the country and wdiich
threatens to paralyze its development, w^ould be to
require an elasticity of temperament which the
national character does not possess. Nor does the
humanitarian aspect especially appeal to the ordinary
Russian mind. The semi-oriental influences and tra-
ditions of the people have bred in them a slight
regard for the value of human life and an apathetic
fatalism which does not admit of the same point of
view as exists in Western peoples. But furthermore,
as this is essentially a military centre, in which the
greater part of society has some near individual
interest in the army, an}' proposition looking to a


Chapter I reduction of the army suggests the possibility of
Despatch affectiuo; personal interests which could not be com-

from the ° ^

United States placcutly regarded.

d'^Afaires. " -^^ the Same time I do not wish to be understood

as implying that there are not large numbers of
people, both among the highly educated and among
the merchant classes, who enter with enthusiasm
into the views promulgated by the Emperor. These
there are, and they regard the action with exultant
pride in the sovereign, but they do not constitute the

" That the Russian press is silent on the subject is
due to the fact that the newspapers have been for-
bidden to discuss the matter. Naturally ofhcials of
the Government are unwilling to give free expression
to any opinions they may hold on the subject. But
whatever may be the state of public opinion on the
question, it is safe to say that it will not in any way
sway the policy of the Emperor.

" The general consensus of opinion among the
members of the Diplomatic Corps now present
appears to be that the proposition is visionary and
Utopian, if not partaking of Quixotism. Little of
value is expected to result from the Conference, and
indeed every diplomatic officer with whom I have
talked seems to regard the proposition with that
technical scepticism which great measures of reform
usually encounter. This is perhaps an argument in
support of an opinion which has been advanced in
certain journals that, diplomatic training and tradi-
tions being wholly opposed to the objects in view,


diplomatic officers would be unsuitable representa- chapter i
tives for such a Conference.

" You are doubtless already well informed as to the
attitude of the European press on the subject, and
as the Russian journals contribute nothing to its
literature I hesitate to attempt any sunmiary, but
yet a few observations concerning what has come
under my notice may not be deemed amiss. Here
also, in the absence of any other modus vivendi than
droit de force, scepticism as to the possibility of
arriving at any results characterizes the greater part
of the utterances, although nearly all unite in paying
high tribute to the philanthropic motives of the
Emperor in calling the Conference. A few, chiefly
of the less serious journals, referring to the recent
increase in Russia's army and naval strength, as
well as to her attitude in China, cast insinua-
tions upon the good faith of his alleged benevolent

" Many of the French papers bring up the old bone
of contention between France and Germany over
Alsace-Lorraine as an insurmountable impediment to
any halt, on the part of France, in her military
progress, while others suggest that a compromise on
this question which would forever end it might be
reached by Germany's surrendering Lorraine. Nearly
all apply some point or other of international politics
to the question, pointing to it as an obstacle to be
overcome before anything approaching disarmament
can be considered, even when grave results are
admitted as an inevitable end to a continuance of


Chapter I tlie present progress in aj)plicd military science and
Despatch development.

from the „ . . , • i • • i i i

United States '' Ccrtam joumals, considermg more particularly the
(TAffaires. Gconomic sidc of the question, point to Italy as a
State ruined by the military development of the age.
Statistical facts are brought forward to show the
enormous sum expended annually by the various
States for military purposes and the vast numljers of
men kept out of nseful employment, while, on the
other side, is given some idea of what could be
accomplished, in the way of material wealth, by the
employment of the same men and money ]orod ac-
tively, giving rise to the reflection that possibly the
increased wealth and resources so gained would be
as powerful an agent in holding back aggression as
are the present standing armies of Europe. Our own
recent war has been an object lesson to all the world
in the power of material wealth in time of national

"Many German newspapers have, while eulogizing
the Emperor's humanitarian benevolence, argued that
the expenditure of money and employment of men
for military purposes is not impoverishing the State,
since the money is expended and redistributed
through the country^ while the men find employment
which they could not otherwise obtain. It is need-
less to say that these writers are not disciples of John
Stuart Mill.

'^The English newspapers have generally treated
the subject more abstractly than the continental
press, admitting the truth of the broad principles


involved, but wliile less ready to find specific objec- Chapter i
tions and obstacles are still not free from scepticism
as to the possibilities.

^' But few suggestions for the accomplishment of
the desired result have been made, though there have
been some, as for instance the proposal that the
minor powers should disarm, the peace of Europe to
be guaranteed by the Great Powers, a measure which,
while doubtless beneficial to the smaller States,
would leave the guaranteeing Powers where they

"Count Lansdorff informs me that the Imperial
Government has as yet formulated no further pro-
gramme regarding the conference than that given in
the Embassy's No. 141 of September ord, nor has it
an}^ definite policy in the matter, the purpose of the
Conference being tentative and to open discussion as
to the best means to brmg about the desired result, if
it be possible of attainment at all. I do not thnik that
it is the expectation of any one in the Imperial Gov-
ernment that the end in view can even approxunately
be reached at an early day. The difficulties standing
in the way are full}- realized, but what is hoped for
is that, by opening the discussion, Avays to meet these
difficulties may suggest themselves.

" In a conversation which I have recently had on
the subject with a very eminent authority on inter-
national law of world-wide reputation, the following
views were expressed. Droit cle force, being, in effect,
the modus vivendi under which nations now maintain
their respective claims, if the very essence of that


Chapter I vioclus vivcndi is to be swept away, as must be the
Despatch case if aiij restriction is laid upon the employment
uuite.i states by a nation of any part of its resources at its own
d'Atfhires. cliscrctiou in military development, a new modus
vivendl must be found adequate to the new condi-
tions. Every nation, as every individual, is unal-
terably justified in defending its own rights against
all encroachments by such means as, within accepted
usage, lie within its grasp, and to repel force by
force. In civilized comnnniities the law undertakes
to protect the individual in his rights in lieu of
his maintenance of them vi et armis. But there is
among nations no equivalent to the laws of civilized
communities, for, however highly the principles of
so-called international law, as enunciated by the
various eminent authorities on the subject, may be
regarded, they have not the sanctioning force of law,
except in so far as certain of them are incorporated
into treaties. In our own relations with Russia we
have recently had an illustration of the absence of
binding force of generally accepted jDrinciples of
international law. I refer to the case of the James
Ham^ilton Lewis and the reply of the Russian Gov-
ernment referred to in the Embassy's No. 177 of the
11th instant, in which the Russian Government, find-
ing that the generally accepted principle of a juris-
diction extending three miles out to sea is inadequate
to the defence of its case, claims that the limit of
marine jurisdiction should be considered, in view of
modern conditions, as extending to at least five miles
from shore.


" The proposal of the Emperor would seem to Chapter i
make the time auspicious for tlie consideration of
the question of compiling a code of international
principles having, by acceptance by treaty among the
Powers, the sanctioning force of law. While it is
not to be pretended that such a code wouhl be the
universal panacea for all international difficulties
and disputes, any more than the civil law cures all
private quarrels, it would at least be a great stride
in advance in international relations, and might form
the basis of a modus vivendi among the Powers which
would take the place of droit deforce.

" It may be argued that, given such a code, there
would still be lacking either police or judicial tribunal
to make it effective. But the same argument might
be applied to treaties, and yet experience shows that
the agreement of nations by treaty, while it does not
prevent warfare, diminishes it and improves inter-
national relations.

" If it is admitted that the existence of such a code
be a gain in international relations, it might perhaps
be pertinent to consider a further extension of the
same idea in the establishment of a permanent inter-
national congress, having legislative powers, subject
to the ratification of the respective Governments,
whose functions should be to so amend, from time
to time, the international statutes as to meet new or
unforeseen conditions." ^

The next official communication, with reference
to the Conference, is the circular letter of Count

^ MSS. State Department.


Chapter I Mouravieff, dated St. Petersburg, January 11, 1899

(December 30, 1898, old style), as follows : —
Text of tiu> "• When, in the month of August last, my August

circular of Mastcr iustructcd me to propose to the Governments
]\i('mravieff, wliicli liavc Representatives in St. Petersbiu^g the
r)ec.3o 189S, meetinsr of a Conference with the obiect of seekino;

Jau. 11, ISit'.t. '^ _ .

the most efficacious means for assuring to all peo-
ples the blessings of real and lasting peace, and,
above all, in order to put a stop to the progressive
development of the present armaments, there ap-
peared to be no obstacle in the way of the reali-
zation, at no distant date, of this humanitarian

" The cordial reception accorded by nearly all the
Powers to the step taken by the Imperial Govern-
ment could not fail to strengthen this expectation.
While highly appreciating the sympathetic terms in
wdiich the adhesions of most of the Powers were
expressed, the Imperial Cabinet has been also able to
collect, with lively satisfaction, evidence of the
warmest approval which has reached it, and con-
tinues to be received, from all classes of society in
various parts of the globe.

" Notwithstanding the strong current of opinion
which exists in favor of the ideas of general pacifica-
tion, the political horizon has recently undergone a
decided change. Several Powers have undertaken
fresh armaments, striving to increase further their
military forces, and in the presence of this uncertain
situation, it might be asked whether the Powers con-
sidered the present moment opportune for the inter-


national discussion of the ideas set forth in the chapter i
Circular of August 12 (24, 0. S.).

" In the hope, however, that the elements of trouble
agitating political centres will soon give place to a
calmer disposition of a nature to favor the success
of the proposed Conference, the Imperial Govern-
ment is of opinion that it would be possible to pro-
ceed forthwith to a preliminary exchange of ideas
between the Powers, with the object : —

" {a) Of seeking without delay means for putting
a limit to the progressive increase of military and
naval armaments, a question the solution of which
becomes evidently more and more urgent in view of
the fresh extension given to these armaments ; and

" {h) Of preparing the way for a discussion of the
questions relating to the possibility of preventing
armed conflicts by the pacific means at the disposal
of international diplomacy.

" In the event of the Powers considering the pres-
ent moment favorable for the meeting of a Conference
on these bases, it would certainly be useful for the
Cabinets to come to an understanding on the subject
of the programme of their labors.

" The subjects to be submitted for international
discussion at the Conference could, in general terms,
be summarized as follows : —

" 1. An understandino; not to increase for a fixed
period the present effective of the armed military and
naval forces, and at the same time not to increase
the Budgets pertaining thereto ; and a preliminary
examination of the means by which a reduction


Chapter I might eveu be effected in futvuv in the forces and
Text of the Biulgets above mentioned.

rircuiarof '"2. To prohibit the use in the armies and fleets of

M.mravieff, ^^^J ^^^w kind of fire-amis whatever, and of new ex-
jan u 1899' ploslvcs, or any powders more powerful than those
now in use, either for rifles or cannon.

formidable explosives already existing, and to pro-
hibit the throwing of projectiles or explosives of any
kind from l^alloons or by any similar means.

'' 4. To prohibit the use, in naval warfare, of sub-
marine torpedo-boats or plungers, or other similar
eno'ines of destruction ; to give an undertaking not
to construct, in the future, ^'essels with rams.

'• 5. To apply to naval warfare the stipulations of
the Geneva Convention of 1864, on the basis of the
additional Articles of 1808.

•' 6. To neutralize ships and boats employed in sav-
ing those overboard durino; or after an engagement.

" 7. To revise the Declaration concerning the laws
and customs of war elaborated in 1874 by the Con-
ference of Brussels, which has remained unratified
to the present day.

'•8. To accept in principle the employment of good
offices, of mediation and facultative arbitration in
cases lending themselves thereto, with the object of
preventing armed conflicts between nations ; to come
to an understanding with respect to the mode of
applying these good offices, and to establish a uni-
form practice in using them.

" It is well understood that all questions concern-


ing the political relations of States, and the order of Chapter i
things established by Treaties, as in general all (jues-
tions which do not directly fall within the programme
adopted b}^ the Cabinets, must be absolutely excluded
from the deliberations of the Conference.

" In requesting you, Sir, to be good enough to apply
to your Government for instructions on the subject
of my present communication, I ])eg you at the same
time to inform it that, in the interest of the great
cause which my August Master has so much at heart.
His Imperial Majesty considers it advisable that the
Conference should not sit in the capital of one of the
Great Powers, where so many ^^olitical interests are
centred which might, j)erhaps, impede the progress
of a work in which all the countries of the universe
are equally interested.

" I have, etc.,

(Signed) '' Comte Mouravieff."

In communicating this circular note to Lord Sal is- Despatch
biu-y, Sir Charles Scott, the British Ambassador at British'''
St. Petersburg, in a despatch dated January 12, :^'»'"»ssaaor
1899, and printed in the British Blue Book, mis- Petersburg,
cellaneous, No. 1, 1899, states: —

" It will be observed that, in this note, after
acknowledging the sympathetic reception wdiich the
Emperor's original suggestion has met with on the
part of most of the foreign Governments and nations,
the Russian Government refers to the cliange which
has since been remarked in the aspect of the i)oliti-
cal horizon, and to increased armaments by certain


'Chapter I Powers Jis liaviiig possil)ly suggested a doubt whether
Despatcii the present moment was an opportune one for hold-

froiu tlie . ri, c TT- T»T •

British mg sucli a Lonierence as His Majesty had con-

Ambassador , 1 J 1
i„ St. templated.

Petersburg. u ^g j ^^,.^^ readmg this paragraph of the note,
Count Mouravieff remarked that Great Britain had
been one of the Powers which had been recently
arming. I replied that I had seen this stated in
irresponsible organs of the public press, but that I
Avas not aware that any unusual or alarming mili-
tary preparations or armaments had been made in
England, and that I thought that all such reports
should be received with a considerable amount of

" The note goes on to state the Emperor's opinion,
that, if the Powers agree, an exchange of views
might at once take place between the Governments
on the subject of a programme for the deliberations
of a Conference, the aims of which should be two-
fold : —

"1. To check the progressive increase of military
and naval armaments, and study any possible means
of effectino; their eventual reduction.

" 2. To devise means for averting armed conflicts
between States by the employment of pacific methods
of international diplomacy.

" With this object, the note suggests several themes
as possibly suitable for discussion, and Count Moura-
vieff begged me to observe that the various points
Arhich the note enumerates are not to be regarded
as put forward by the Russian Government, as prop-


ositions to which they are definitely committed, as chapter i
they might possibly find themselves unable to sup-
port some of them in the Conference, but as mere
indications of the class of subjects on which an
exchange of views is invited.

"While requesting me to seek the instructions of The place of
Her Majesty's Government on tliis communication,
the note adds that, in the Emperor's opinion, the
proposed Conference should not be held in the capi-
tal of any of the Great Powers.

" On this point. Count Mouravieff said, in reply
to my inquiry, that the Emperor had no particular
capital of a smaller Power in view^, but that a sug-
gestion might be made later on, if the Powers shared
His Majesty's view of the unsuitableness of a capi-
tal where large political interests might be unavoid-
ably influenced by the presence of the Conference.
In any case, he said, it was not desired that the
Conference should be held in St. Petersburg."

The reply of Lord Salisbury to this despatch is
dated London, February 14, 1899 (Blue Book, p. 4),
as follows : —

" FoREiGX Office, February 14, 1899.

" Sir : — I have duly laid before the Queen your Despatch
Excellency's despatch of the 12th ultimo, forward- saiisbmy in
ing copy of a further note from the Russian Minister JpJ.on<i" ^^^
for Foreign Affairs with regard to the Conference circular,
proposed by His Majesty the Emperor of Russia to
consider the means of insuring the general 2')eace
and of putting a limit to the progressive increase
of armaments.



Chapter I

from Lord
Salisbury in
reply to the

'' Her Majesty's Government have learnt with sat-
isfaction that the Russian Government persevere in
tlieir efforts towards this desira1)le object. It is
undoubtedly true, as stated in Count Mouravieff's
note, that since the first proposal made on this sub-
ject, in August, 1808, there has been some increase
in the armament of several Powers, but this increase,
in which, unless Her Majesty's Government are
erroneously informed, the Russian Government have
themselves in some degree participated, has, in their
opinion, been more of a precautionary than of an
aggressive nature, and need not l^e considered as
indicating any diminution of the general interest
and sympathy with which the Emperor's first pro-
posal was received.

" Her Majesty's Government will, therefore, gladly
accept the invitation which Count Mouravieft" con-
templates for a Conference to discuss the best
methods of attaining the two objects specified in
his Excellency's note, namely : the diminution of
armaments ])y land and sea, and the prevention of
armed conflicts by pacific, diplomatic procedure.
With regard to the eight points enumerated by
Count Mouravieff as proper subjects for discussion
by the Conference, Her Majesty's Government would
prefer for the present to abstain from expressing
any definite opinion. They note that Count Moura-

Online LibraryFrederick William HollsThe peace conference at The Hague, and its bearings on international law and policy → online text (page 3 of 39)