Frederick William Holls.

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

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As to the results thus obtained as a whole regarding
arbitration, in view of all the circumstances and consid-
erations revealed during the sessions of the Conference,


it is our opinion tliat the "Plan for the Peaceful Adjust-
ment of International Differences," which was adopted by
the Conference, is better than that presented by any one
nation. We believe that, though it will doubtless be
found imperfect and will require modification as time
goes on, it will form a thoi;oughly practical beginning,
that it will produce valuable results from the outset, and
that it will be the germ out of which a better and better
system will be gradually evolved.

As to the question between compulsory and voluntary
arbitration, it was clearly seen, before we had been long
in session, that general compulsory arbitration of ques-
tions, really likely to produce war, could not be obtained ;
in fact, that not one of the nations represented at the Con-
ference was walling to embark in it so far as the more seri-
ous questions were concerned. Even as to questions of
less moment it was found to be impossible to secure agree-
ment except upon a voluntary basis. We ourselves felt
obliged to insist upon the omission from the Russian list
or proposed subjects for compulsory arbitration, inter-
national conventions relating to rivers, to inter-oceanic
canals, and to monetary matters. Even as so amended,
the plan was not acceptable to all. As a consequence,
the Convention prepared b}- the Conference provides for
voluntary arbitration only. It remains for public opin-
ion to make this system effective. As questions arise
threatening resort to arms, it may well be hoped that
public opinion in the nations concerned, seeing in this
great international court a means of escape from the in-
creasing horrors of war, will insist more and more that
the questions at issue be referred to it. As time goes on
such reference will probably more and more seem, to the
world at large, natural and normal, and we may hope that
recourse to the tribunal will finally, in the great majority
of serious differences between nations, become a popular


means of avoiding the resort to arms. Tliore will also be
another effect worthy of consideration. This is the build-
ing up of a bod}" of international law growing out of the
decisions handed down by the judges. The procedure of
the tribunal requires that reasons for such decisions shall
be given, and these decisions and reasons can hardly fail
to form additions of especial value to international juris-

It now remains to report the proceedings of the Con-
ference, as well as our own action, regarding the question
of the immunity of private property not contraband, from
seizure on the seas in time of war. From the very l)egin-
ning of our sessions it was constantly insisted by leading
representatives from nearly all the great Powers that the
action of the Conference should be strictly limited to the
matters specified in the Russian circular of December 30,
1898, and referred to in the invitation emanating from
the Netherlands ]\Iinistry of Foreign Affairs.

jNlany reasons for such a limitation were obvious. The
members of the Conference were, from the beginning, del-
uged with books, pamphlets, circulars, newspapers, broad-
sides, and private letters on a multitude of burning
questions in various parts of the world. Considerable
numbers of men and women devoted to urging these ques-
tions came to The Hague or gave notice of their coming.
It was very generally believed in the Conference that
the admission of any question not strictly within the
limits proposed by the two circulars above mentioned
would open the door to all those proposals above referred
to, and that this might lead to endless confusion, to
heated debate, perhaps even to the wreck of the Confer-
ence and consequently to a long postponement of the
objects which both those Avho sunnnoned it and those
who entered it had directly in view.

It was at first held by very many members of the Con-


ference that under the proper applicatio]i of the above
rule, the proposal made by the American Comiui.ssion
could not be received. It required much and earnest
argument on our part to change this view, but finally
the ■Memorial from our Commission, -which stated fully tlie
historical and actual relation of the United States to the
whole subject, was received, referred to the appropriate
committee, and finally brought b}' it before the Con-

In that body it was listened to with close attention and
the speech of the Chairman of the Committee, who is the
eminent President of the Venezuelan Arbitration Tribu-
nal now in session at Paris, paid a hearty tribute to the
historical adhesion of the United States to the great
principle concerned. He then moved that the subject be
referred to a future Conference. This motion Ave ac-
cepted and seconded, taking occasion in doing so to restate
the American doctrine on the subject, with its claims on
all the nations represented at the Conference,

The Commission was thus, as we believe, faithful to one
of the oldest of American traditions, and was able at least
to keep the subject before the world. The way is paved
also for a future careful consideration of the subject in
all its bearings and under more propitious circumstances.

The conclusions of the Peace Conference at The Hague
took complete and definite shape in the final act laid be-
fore the Delegates on July 29th, for their signature.
This Act embodied three Conventions, three Declarations,
and seven Resolutions as follows : —

First, a Convention for the peaceful adjustment of inter-
national differences. This was signed by sixteen Delega-
tions, including that of the United States of x\merica, there
being adjoined to our signatures a reference to our declara-
tion above referred to, made in open Conference on July
25, and recorded in the proceedings of that day.


Second, a Convention concerning tlie laws and customs
of war on land. This was signed by fifteen Delegations.
The United States Delegation refer the matter to the Gov-
ernment at Washington with the recommendation that it
be there signed.

Third, a Convention for the adaptation to maritime
warfare of the principles of the (leneva Conference of
1864. This was signed by fifteen Delegations. The
United States representatives refer it, without recommen-
dation, to the Government at Washington.

The three Declarations were as follows : —

First : a Declaration prohibiting the throwing of pro-
jectiles and explosives from balloons or by other new
analogous means, such prohibition to be effective during
five years. This was signed by seventeen Delegations as
follows : Belgium, Denmark, Spain, The United States
of America, Mexico, France, Greece, Montenegro, The
Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Roumania, Russia, Siam,
Sweden and Norway, Turkey, and Ijulgaria.

Second, a Declaration prohibiting the use of projectiles
having as their sole object the diffusion of asphyxiating
or deleterious gases. This, for reasons given in the
accom[)anying documents, the American Delegation did
not sign. It was signed by sixteen Delegations as fol-
lows : Belgium, Denmark, Spain, iNIexico, France, Greece,
Montenegro, The Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Rou-
mania, Russia, Siam, Sweden and Norwa}^' Turkey, and

Third, a Declaration prohibiting the use of bullets
which expand or flatten easily in the human body, as
illustrated by certain given details of construction.
This for technical reasons, also fully stated in the report,
the American Delegation did not sign. It was signed by
fifteen Delegations as follows : Belgium, Denmark, Spain,
Mexico, France, Greece, Montenegro, The Netherlands,


Persia, Ivoviinania, Russia, Siam, Sweden and Norway,
Turkey, and Bulgaria.

The seven Resolutions were as follows : —

First, a Resolution that the limitation of the military
charges which at })resent so oppress the world is greatly
to be desired, for the increase of the material and moi-al
welfare of mankind.

This ended the action of the Conference in relation to
matters considered by it upon their merits. In addition
the Conference passed the following Resolutions, for all
of which the United States Delegation voted, referring
various matters to the consideration of the Powers or to
future Conferences. Upon the last five resolutions a few
powers abstained from voting.

The Second Resolution was as follows : The Conference
taking into consideration the preliminary steps taken by
the federal government of Switzerland for the revision of
the Convention of Geneva, expresses the wish that there
should be in a short time a meeting of a special confer-
ence having for its object the revision of that Convention.

This Resolution was voted unanimously.

Third : The Conference expresses the wish that the
question of rights and duties of neutrals should be con-
sidered at another Conference.

Fourth : The Conference expresses the wish that ques-
tions relative to muskets and marine artillery, such as
have been examined by it, should be made the subject of
study on the part of the governments with a view of
arriving at an agreement concerning the adoption of new
types and calibres.

Fifth : The Conference expresses the wish that the
governments, taking into account all the propositions'
made at this Conference, should study the possibility of
an agreement concerning the limitation of armed forces
on land and sea and of war buderets.


Sixth : Tlie Conference expresses tlic wish that a
proposition liavhig for its object the decLiration of im-
munity of private property in war on the higli seas,
should be referred for examination to another Con-

Seventh : The Conference expresses the wish that the
proposition of reguhiting the question of bombardment
of ports, cities, or villages by a naval force, should be
referred for examination to another Conference.

It will be observed that the conditions upon which
Powers not represented at the Conference can adhere to
the Convention for the Peaceful Regulation of Inter-
national Conflicts is to " form the subject of a later agree-
ment between the Contracting Powers." This provision
reflects the outcome of a three days' debate in the Draft-
ing Committee as to whether this Convention should be
absolutely open, or open only Avith the consent of the
Contracting Powers. England and Italy strenuously
supported the latter view. It soon became apparent that,
under the guise of general propositions, the Committee
was discussing political questions, of great importance at
least to certain Powers. Under these circumstances the
representatives of the United States took no part in the
discussion, but supported by their vote the view that
the Convention, in its nature, involved reciprocal obliga-
tions ; and also tlie conclusion that i)olitical questions
had no j^lace in the Conference, and must be left to be
decided by the competent authorities of the Powers
represented there.

It is to be regretted that this action excludes from
immediate adherence to this Convention our sister
Republics of Central and Soutli i\merica, with whom the
United States is already in similar relations by the Pan-
American Treaty. It is hoped that an arrangement will
soon be made which Avill enable these States, if they so


desire, to enter into the same relations as ourselves with
the I'owers re})resentc(l at the Conference.

This report should not be closed without an acknowd-
edg'nient of the great and constant courtesy of the Gov-
ernment of the Netherlands and all its representatives to
the American Comnnssion as well as to all the members
of the Conference. In every way they have sought to
aid us in our work and to make our stay agreeable to us.
The accommodations they have provided for the Confer-
ence have enhanced its dignity and increased its

It may also be well to put on record that from the
entire Conference, without exception, we have constantly
received marks of kindness, and that although so many
nations with different interests were rej)resented, there
has not been in any session, whether of the Conference or
of any of the committees or sub-committees, anything
other than calm and courteous debate.

The text of tlie Final Act of the various Conventions
and Declarations referred to therein, is appended to this

All of which is most respectfully submitted : —

Andrew D. White, President.

Seth Low^

Stanford Newel.

A. T. Mahan.

William Crozier.

Frederick W. Holls, Secretary.



The Hague, July 31, 1899.

America to the International Conference
AT The Hague

Gentlemen: — I beg to make the following report
concerning the deliberations and conclnsions of the Peace
Conference on the questions of disarmament, and the
limitations to be placed upon the development of the
weapons of war, so far as navies are concerned.

Three questions were embraced in the first four articles of
the Russian Letter of December 30, 1898, and were by the
Conference referred to a Committee, known as the First
Connnittee. The latter was divided into two sub-com-
mittees, which dealt with Articles 2, 3, and 4, as they
touched naval or military subjects, res])ectively. The
general drift of these three Articles was to suggest limi-
tations, present and prospective, upon the development
of the material of war, either by increase of power, and of
consequent destructive effect, in weapons now existing,
or by new inventions. Article 1, which proposed to
place limits upon the augmentation of numbers in the
personnel of armed forces, and upon increase of expendi-
ture in the budgets, was reserved for the subsequent con-
sideration of the full Committee.

As regards the development of material, in the direc-
tion of power to inflict injury, there was unanimous assent
to the proposition that injury should not be in excess of
that clearly required to produce decisive results ; but in
tlie attempt to specify limitations in detail, insurmount-


able obstacles were encountered. This was due, partly
to an apparent failure, beforehand, to give to the problem
submitted that " etude prealahle technique,'''' a wisli for
which, expressed by the Conference to the Governments
represented, was almost the only tangible result of the

Three propositions were, however, adopted : one, unani-
mously, forbidding, during a term of five years, the throw-
ing of projectiles, or explosives, from balloons, or by other
analogous methods. Of the two others, one, forbidding
the use of projectiles the sole purpose of which was, on
bursting, to spread asphyxiating or deleterious gases,
was discussed mainly in the naval sub-committee. It
received in that, and afterward in the full Committee, the
negative vote of the United States naval delegate alone,
although of the affirmative votes several were given sub-
ject to unanimity of acceptance. In the final reference
to the Conference, in full session, of the question of recom-
mending the adoption of such a prohibition, the Delega-
tion of Great Britian voted " No," as did that of the
United States.

As a certain disposition has been observed to attach
odium to the view adopted by this Commission in this
matter, it seems proper to state, fully and explicitly, for
the information of the Government, that on the first
occasion of the subject arising in Sub-Committee, and
subsequently at various times in full Committee, and
before the Conference, the United States naval delegate
did not cast his vote silently, but gave the reasons, which
at his demand were inserted in the reports of the day's
proceedings. These reasons were, briefly : 1. That no
shell emitting such gases is as yet in practical use, or has
undergone adequate experiment ; consequently, a vote
taken now would be taken in ignorance of the facts as to
whether the results would be of a decisive character, or


whether injury in excess of that necessary to attain the
end of warfare, the immediate disabling of the enemy,
woukl be inflicted. 2. That the reproach of cruelty and
perfidy, addressed against these supposed shells, was
equally uttered formerly against tire-arms and torpedoes,
both of which are now employed without scruple. Until
we knew the effects of such asphyxiating shells, there was
no saying whether they would be more or less merciful
than missiles now permitted. 3. That it was illogical,
and not demonstrably humane, to be tender about asphyx-
iating men with gas, when all were prepared to admit
that it was allowable to blow the bottom out of an iron-
clad at midnight, throwing four or five hundred into the
sea, to be choked by water, with scarcely the remotest
chance of escape. If, and when, a shell emitting asphj^xi-
ating gases alone has been successfully produced, then,
and not before, men will be able to vote intelligently on
the subject.

The question of limiting armaments and budgets, mili-
tary and naval, likewise resulted in failure to reach an
agreement, owing to the extensive and complicated con-
siderations involved. A general wish was emitted that
the subject in its various relations might in the future
receive an attentive study on the part of the various
Governments : and there was adopted without dissent a
resolution proposed in the First Committee, in full session,
by M. Bourgeois, the First Delegate of France, as follows :
" The Committee consider that the limitation of the mili-
tary expenditures which now weigh upon the world is
greatly to be desired, for the increase of the moral and
material Avelfare of humanity." This sentiment received
the assent of the Conference also.

The military and naval delegates of the United States
Commission bore a part in all the proceedings in Sub- and
Full Committee ; but, while joining freely in the discus-


sion of questions relating to the development of material,
reserve was maintained in treating the subject of disarma-
ment and of limitation of budgets, as being more properly
of Euro})ean concern alone. To avoid the possibility of
misapprehension of the position of the United States on
this matter, the following statement, drawn u}) by the
Commission, was read at the final meeting of the First
Committee, Jul}^ 17, when the report to be presented to
the Conference was under consideration : —

" The Delegation of the United States of America have
concurred in the conclusions upon the first clause of
the Russian Letter of December 80, 1898, presented to the
Conference by the First Commission, namely : that
the proposals of the Russian representatives, for fixing the
amounts of effective forces and of budgets, militarj^ and
naval, for periods of five and three 3'ears, cannot now be
accepted, and that a more profound study on the part of
each State concerned is to be desired. But, while thus
supporting what seemed to be the only practicable solu-
tion of a question submitted to the Conference by the
Russian letter, the Delegation wishes to place upon the
Record that the United States, in so doing, does not
express any opinion as to the course to be taken by the
States of Europe.

" This declaration is not meant to indicate mere indiffer-
ence to a difficult problem, because it does not affect the
United States immediately, but expresses a determination
to refrain from enunciating opinions upon matters into
wliich, as concerning Europe alone, the United States has
no claim to enter. The words drawn up by M. Bour-
geois, and adopted by the First Commission, received also
the hearty concurrence of this Delegation because, in so
doing, it expresses the cordial interest and sympathy with
which the United States, while carefully abstaining from
anything that might resemble interference, regards all


movements tliat are thought to tend to the welfare of
Europe. The military and naval armaments of the
United States are at present so small, relatively, to the
extent of territory and to the nundjer of the population,
as Avell as in eom[)arison with those of other nations, that
their size can entail no additional burden of expense upon
the latter, nor can even form a subject for profitable
mutual discussion."
I have the honor to be

Your obedient servant,

A. T. Mahan,
Captain U. S. Navy and Delegate.






The Hague, July 31, 1899.

To THE Commission op the United States of
Ameuica to the International Conference at
The Hague

Grentlemen: — I have tlie honor to submit to the Com-
mission the following report, which I believe to be in
sufficient detail, of the general proceedings, and of the
conclusions reached by the Second Committee of the Con-
ference, in relation to Articles 5 and (5 of the Russian
Circular Letter of December 30, 1898.

In the original distribution of labor of the Conference,
Articles 5, 6, and 7, of the said letter, were attributed to
the Second Committee. The latter was divided into two
Sub-Committees, to one of which was assigned the Arti-
cles 5 and 6, as both related to naval nnitters. Of this


Sub-Coniniitt('(! I was a meinl)er, and it has fallen to me
especially, among the United States Delegates, to follow
the fortunes of the two articles named in their progress
through the Sub-Committee, and through the full Com-
mittee ; hut not through the smaller special Committee,
the Comite de Redaction, to which the Sub-Committee
intrusted the formulation of its views. Of that Comite
de Redaction I was not a member.
These two articles are as follows : —

5. Adaptation to naval wars of the stipulations of the
Geneva Convention of 18G4, on the base of the Additional
Articles of 1868.

6. Neutralization, for tlie same reason, of boats or
launches employed in the rescue of the shipwrecked dur-
ing or after naval battles.

The general desirability of giving to hospital vessels
the utmost immunity, consistent with the vigorous prose-
cution of war, was generally conceded, and met, in fact,
Avith no opposition ; but it was justly remarked at the out-
set, that measures must be taken to put under efficient
control of the belligerents all hospital ships fitted out by
private benevolence, or by neutrals, whether associations
or individuals. It is evident tliat unless such control is
explicitly affirmed, and unless tlie various cases that
may arise, in wliicli it may be needed, are, as far as
possible, foreseen and provided for, incidents may well
occur which will Ijring into inevitable discredit the whole
system of neutral vessels, hospital or others, devoted to
the benevolent assistance of the sufferers in war.

The first suggestion, offered almost immediately, was
that the simplest method of avoiding sucli inconvenience
would be for the said neutral vessels, being engaged in
service identical with that of belligerent hospital vessels
to which it was proposed to extend the utmost possible
immunity, should frankly enter the belligerent service by


hoisting the flag of the belligerent to whieh it offered-
its services. This being permitted by general consent,
and for purposes purely humanitarian, would constitute no
breach of neutrality, while the control of either belliger-
ent, Avhen in presence, could be exercised without rais-
ing those vexed questions of neutral rights which the ex-
perience of maritime warfare shows to be among the most
difficult and delicate problems that belligerents have to

This proposition was supported by me, as being the
surest mode of avoiding difficulties easy to be foreseen,
and which in my judgment are wholly unprovided for by
the articles adopted by the Conference. The neutral ship
is, by common consent, permitted to identify itself with

Online LibraryFrederick William HollsThe peace conference at The Hague, and its bearings on international law and policy → online text (page 33 of 39)