Frederick William Holls.

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

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the belligerent and his operations for certain laudable pur-
poses : why not for the time assume the belligerent's flag ?
The reasoning of the opposition was that such vessels
should be considered in the same light as national vessels,
and that to require them to hoist a foreign flag would be
derogator}' Qjorferait atteinte) to the sovereignty of the
State to which they belonged. This view jirevailed.

The first three meetings of the Sub-Committee, May 25,
30, and June 1, were occupied in a general discussion of
the Additional Articles of 1868, suggested by the Russian
letter of December 30, 1898, as the basis of the adaptation
to naval wars of the Geneva Convention of 1864. In this dis-
cussion was also embraced Article 6 of the Russian letter,
relating to the neutralization of boats engaged in rescuing
the shipwrecked Qnauf rages), that is, men overboard for
any cause during, or after, naval battles.

At the close of the second meeting it was decided that
the president of the Sub-Committee should appoint the
Comite de Redaction before mentioned. As linally con-
stituted, this Comite de Redaction contained a representa-
tive from Creat Britain, from Germany, from Russia, and


from France. At the close of its third session the Sub-Com-
mittee was adjourned to await the report of the Comite de
Redaction. It again assembled and received the report of
June 13 ; this being the fourth meeting of the Sub-Com-

Tlie Comite de Redaction embodied in ten articles the
conclusions of the Sub-Committee. The articles were jire-
ceded by a lucid or comprehensive report, the work chiefly
of AI. Renault, the French member of the Comite de Re-
daction. This report embraces the reasoning upon which
the adoption of the articles is supported. A copy of the
report and of the articles (marked A) accompanies this

Upon receiving the report and the articles, I pointed
out to one of the members of the Comite de Redaction,
that no adequate provision was made to meet the case of
men who, by accident connected with a naval engagement,
such, for instance, as the sinking of their ship, were picked
up by a neutral vessel. The omission was one likely to
occur to an American, old enough to remember the very
concrete and pertinent instance of the British yacht Deer-
liound saving the men of the Alabama., including her
captain, who were then held to be under the protection of-^
the neutral flag. It requires no flight of imagination to
realize that a hostile commander-in-chief, whom it has
always been a chief object of naval warfare to capture, as
well as other valuable officers, might thus escape the hands
of a victor.

At the meeting of the Sub-Committee on June 16,
I drew attention to this omission when the vote was
reached on Article 6, which provides that neutral vessels
of various classes, carrying sick, wounded, or shipwrecked
(naufrages^ belligerents, cannot be captured for the mere
fact of this transportation ; but that they do remain
exposed to capture for violation of neutrality which they


may liave ooinmitted. I had then — unaccountably now
to myself — overlooked tlie fact that there Avas an equal
lack of satisfactory provision in the case of the hospital
ships under neutral flags, whose presence on a scene of
naval warfare is contemplated and authorized by Article 3.
It was agreed that I should appear before the ComitS
de Redaction^ prior to their final revision of the report
and articles. This I did ; but after two hours, more or
less, of discussion, I failed to obtain any modification in
the report or the articles. When, therefore, on the 15th
of June, the matter came before the full Second Com-
mission, I contented myself — as the articles were voted
only ad referendum — subject to the approval of the
Governments — with registering our regret that no suitable
provision of the kind advocated had been made.

The matter was yet to come before the full Committee.
Before it did so, I had recognized that the difficulty I had
noted concerning neutral vessels other than hospital ships
might arise equally as regards the latter, the presence of
which was contemplated and authorized, whereas that
of other neutral ships might very well be merely acci-
dental. I accordingly drew up and submitted to the United
States (commission, three additional articles, preceding
these with a brief summary of the conditions which might
readily occasion the contingency against which I sought
to provide. This paper (annexed and marked B) having
received the approval of the Delegation, was read, and the
articles submitted to the Second Committee in a full ses-
sion, held June 20, immediately prior to the session of
the Conference, at 4 p.m. the same day, to ratify the
work of the Committee. The three additional articles
were referred to the Comite de Redaction with instruc-
tions to report to the full Committee. The ten articles
were then reported to the Conference and passed without
opposition, under the reserve that the articles submitted


by the United States Delegation were still to be

Here matters rested for some time, owing, as I under-
stand, to certain doubtful points arising in connection
with the three proposed articles, which necessitated refer-
ence to home governments by one or more of the delega-
tions. Finally, I was informed that not only was there
no possibility of a favorable report, nor, consequently, of
the three proposed articles passing, but also that, if
pressed to a full discussion, there could scarcely fail to be
developed such difference of opinion upon the construc-
tion of the ten articles already adopted as would imperil
the unanimity with which they had before been received.
This information was conveyed by me to the United
States Commission, and after full consideration I was by
it instructed to withdraw the articles. This was accord-
ingly done immediately by letter, on July 18, to Vice-
Admiral Sir John Fisher, Chairman of the Comite de
Redaction, and through him to the President of the
Second Commission.

At the subsequent meeting of the full Conference, July
20, the withdrawal being communicated by the Presi-
dent of the Second Committee, it Avas explained that this
Commission, while accepting the ten Articles, and with-
drawing its own suggested additions, must be understood
to do so, not because of any change of opinion as to the
necessity of the latter, but in order to facilitate the con-
clusion of the labors of the Conference ; that the Com-
mission were so seriously impressed with the defects of
the ten Articles, in the respects indicated, that it could
sign them only with the most explicit understanding that
the doubts expressed before the Second Committee would
be fully conveyed to the United States Government, and
the liberty of action of the latter wholly reserved, as to
accepting the ten Articles.


By this course the ten Articles, which else might ulti-
mately have failed of unanimous adoption, have been pre-
served intact, with several valuable stipulations embodied
in them. But wliile there is much that is valuable, it
seems necessary to point out to the Commission that to
the hospital ships under neutral flags, mentioned in Arti-
cle 3, and to neutral vessels in certain emplo3nnents, under
Article 6, are conceded a status and immunities hitherto
unknown. While this is the case, there is not, in my
opinion, in the Articles any clear and adequate provision
to meet such cases as were meant to be met by the three
Articles proposed by the Commission, and which are per-
fectly conceivable and possible. Upon reflection I am
satisfied that no necessity exists for the authorization of
hospital vessels under a neutral flag upon the scene of
naval war, and that the adhesion of our Government to
such a scheme may be withheld without injury to any
one. As regards Article 6, conceding immunities hereto-
fore not allowed to neutral vessels — for the transport of
belligerents has heretofore been a violation of neutrality,
without reservation in favor of the sick and wounded
— it appears to me objectionable and premature, unless
accompanied by reservations in favor of the belligerent
rights of capture and recapture. These the Articles fail
to provide explicitly. For these reasons it is my per-
sonal opinion that Articles 3 and 6 should not be accepted
by the Government of the United States. If the Delega-
tion concur in this view, I recommend that such opinion
be expressed in the general report.

I have the honor to be

Your obedient servant,

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


ENCE ON JUNE 20, 1899

It is known to the members of the Sub-Committee, by
which these Articles were accepted, that I have heretofore
stated that there was an important omission, which I
desired to rectify in an additional article or articles. The
omission was to provide against the case of a neutral vessel,
such as is mentioned in Article 6, picking up naufrages
on the scene of a naval battle, and carrying them away,
either accidentally or intentionally. What, I asked, is
the status of such comhattants nauf rages?

]\Iy attention being absorbed by the case of vessels
under Article 6, it was not until last night that I noticed
that there was equally an omission to provide for the
status of comhattants naufrages^ picked u]3 by hospital
ships. In order that non-professional men, men not
naval officers, may certainly comprehend this point, allow
me to develop it. On a field of naval battle the ships are
constantly in movement ; not merely the movement of a
land battle, but a movement of progress, of translation
from place to place more or less rapid. The scene is here
one moment ; a half-hour later it may be five miles dis-
tant. In such a battle it happens that a ship sinks ; her
crew become naufrages ; the place of action shifts; it is
no longer where these men are struggling for life ; the
light cruisers of their own side come to help, but they are
not enough ; the hospital ships with neutral flag come to
help ; neutral ships other than hospital also arrive ; a cer-
tain number of comhattants naufrages are saved on board
neutral ships. To which belligerent do these men belong?
It may happen that the neutral vessel, hospital or other-
wise, has been with the fleet opposed to the sunken ship.


After fulfilling her work of mercy, she naturally returns
to that fleet. The comhattants naufrages fall into the
power of the enemy, altliough it is quite probable that
the fleet to which they belong may have had the ad-

I maintain that unless some provision is made to meet
this difficulty, much recrimination will arise. A few
private seamen, more or less, a few sub-oliicers, may not
matter, but it is possible that a distinguished general
officer, or valuable officers of lower grade may be affected.
This will tend to bring into discredit the whole system
for hospital ships ; but further, while hospital ships,
being regularly commissioned by their own Government,
may be supposed to act with perfect impartiality, such
presupposition is not permissible in the case of vessels
named in Article 6. Unless the status of coynhattants 7iau-
frages saved by them is defined, the grossest irregulari-
ties may be expected — the notoriety of which will fully
repay the class of men who would perpetrate them.

As many cases may arise, all of which it is impossible
to meet specifically, I propose the following additional
articles based upon the single general principle that com-
hattants naufrages^ being ipso facto combatants hors de
combat, are incapable of serving again during the war,
unless recaptured or until duly exchanged.


1. In the case of neutral vessels of any kind, hospital
ships or others, being on the scene of a naval engagement,
which may, as an act of humanity, save men in peril of
drowning, from the results of the engagement, such neutral
vessels shall not be considered as having violated their
neutrality by that fact alone. They will, however, in so
doing, act at their own risk and peril.


2. Men tlius rescued shall not be considered under the
cover of the neutral flag, in case a demand for their sur-
render is by a ship of war of either belligerent. They
are open thus to capture, or to recapture. If such de-
mand is made, the men so rescued must be given up, and
shall then have the same status as though they had not
been under a neutral flag.

3. In case no such demand is made by a belligerent
ship, the men so rescued, having been delivered from the
consequences of the figlit by neutral interposition, are to
be considered hors de combat, not to serve for the rest of
the war, unless duly exchanged. The Contracting Gov-
ernments engage to prevent, as far as possible, such j)er-
sons from serving: until discharsfed.


The Hague, July 31, 1899.

The Co:MMrssiox of the United States of Amer-
ica TO the International Conference at The

Gentlemen: — I have the honor of submitting a resume
of the work of the First Committee of the Conference
and of its First Sub-Committee, which was the military
subdivision, concerning the following subjects, which
are mentioned in the second and third numbered articles
of the circular of Count Mouravieff of December
30, 1898 (January 11, 1899), namely : powders, ex-
plosives, field guns, balloons, and muskets ; also the


subject of bullets which, although uot mentioned in
either of the above designated articles of Count IMoura-
vieff's circular, were considered by this Committee, not-
withstanding that it would have appeared more logical to
consider them under the seventh numbered article of
the circular, referring to the declaration concerning the
laws and customs of war made by the Brussels Confer-
ence in 1874.

The Russian representative on the First Committee
Avas Colonel Gilinsky, and the propositions for discussion
were for the most part presented by him in the name of
the Russian Government, and upon him generally de-
volved the duty of explaining the proposals and of sup-
porting them in the first instance.


By this term was meant the propelling charge of pro-
jectiles, as distinguished from the bursting charge. The
proposition presented was that which is contained in the
second article of the circular, namely : an agreement not
to make use of any more powerful })ow'ders than those
now employed, both for field guns and muskets. There
was little discussion on the proposition ; in fact, the
remarks of the United States Delegate were the only ones
made upon the subject, and the proposition was unani-
mously rejected.


By this term was meant the bursting charges of pro-
jectiles. Two propositions were made. The first Avas
not to make use of mining shells (obus brisants on d
fougasses) for field artillery. After a short discussion
the proposition was decided in the negative by a vote of
eleven to ten. The second proposition was not to make


use of any new explosives, or of any of the class known
as high explosives for the bursting charges of projectiles.
This proposition was also, after a short discussion, lost
by a vote of twelve to nine.


The proposition on this subject was for the Powers to
agree that no field material should be adopted of a model
superior to the best material now in use in any country,
— those countries having inferior material to the best now
in use to have the privilege of adopting such best mate-
rial. During the discussion, which was extended to some
length, the question divided itself into two parts, and two
votes were taken upon it. The first was as to whether, in
case improvements in field artiller}" should be forbidden,
this interdiction should nevertheless permit everybody to
adopt the most perfect material now in use anywhere. The
vote upon this question was so accompanied by reserva-
tions and explanations, that it was impossible to state
what the result of it was, — the only thing evident being
that the question was not entirely understood by the vot-
ing delegates. Consequently, a second vote was taken
upon the question whether the Powers should agree not
to make use, for a fixed period, of any new invention in
field artillery. This question was decided in the negative
by a unanimous vote, with the exception of Russia and
Bulgaria, which abstained from voting. The Russian
Delegate, at a later period, explained that his abstention
was due to the fact that the question had taken such a form
that its decision in the affirmative would have prevented
the adoption of rapid fire field guns, which, in the view
that these were of an existing type, he desired to retain
for his Government the privilege of adopting.



The Sub-Committee first voted a perpetual proliil)ition
of the use of ))anoons or siniihir new machines for throw-
ing projectiles or explosives. In the full Committee, this
subject was brouglit up for reconsideration by the United
States Delegate and the prohibition was, by unanimous
vote, limited to cover a period of live years only. The
action taken was for humanitarian reasons alone, and was
founded upon the opinion that balloons, as they now exist,
form such an uncertain means of injury that they cannot
be used with any accuracy ; that the persons or objects
injured by throwing explosives from them may be entirely
disconnected from any conflict which may be in process,
and such tliat their injury or destruction would be of no
practical advantage to the party making use of tlie
machines. The limitation of the interdiction of five
years' operation preserves liberty of action under changed
circumstances which may be produced by the progress
of invention.


The proposition presented under this head was that no
Power should change their existing type of small arm.
It Avill be observed that this proposition differed from
that in regard to field guns, which permitted all Powers
to adopt the most perfect material now in existence, —
the reason for the difference being explained by the Rus-
sian delegate to be that, whereas there was a great differ-
ence in the excellence of field artillery material in use in
different countries, they have all adopted substantially
the same musket, and being on an equal footing, the pres-
ent would be a good time to cease making changes. The
object of the proposition was stated to be purely eco-
nomic. It was explained that the prohibition to adopt a
new type of musket would not be intended to prevent the


improvement of existing- types ; wherenpon there immedi-
ately arose a discnssion as to what constituted a type and
what improvements might be made without falling under
the prohibition of not clianging it. Efforts were made
to effect a concord of views by specifying details, such as
initial velocity, weight of projectile, etc., also by the prop-
osition to limit the time for which the prohibition should
hold, but no agreement could be secured. The United
States delegate stated early in the discussion, on the atti-
tude of the United States toward questions of this class,
that our Government did not consider limitations in re-
gard to the use of military inventions to be conducive to
the peace of the world, and for that reason such limita-
tion would in general not be supported by the American

A separate vote was taken upon the question whether
the Powers should agree not to make use of automatic
muskets, and as this ma}^ be taken as a fair example of the
class of improvements which, although they may have
reached such a stage as to be fairly before the world, have
not yet been adopted by any nation, an analysis of the vote
taken upon it may be interesting as showing the attitude
of the different Powers in regard to such questions. The
States voting in favor of the j)rohibition were Belgium,
Denmark, Spain, Holland, Persia, Russia, Siam, Switzer-
land, and Bulgaria, (nine). Those voting against it were
Germany, The United States, Austria-Hungar}^, Great
Britian, Italy, Sweden and Norway, (six). And those
abstaining were France, Japan, Portugal, Roumania, Servia,
and Turkey, (six). From this statement it may be seen
that none of the great Powers of the world, except Russia,
was willing to accept restrictions in regard to military im-
provements when the question of increase of efficiency
was involved, and that one great Power (France) ab-
stained from expressing an opinion upon tlie subject.


In the Full Committee, after another effort to secure
some action in the line of the proposition liad failed, it
was agreed that the subject should be regarded as open
for the future consideration of the different (xovernments.

A question was also raised as to whether there should
be any agreement in regard to the use of new means of
destruction, which might possibly have a tendency to come
into vogue, such as those depending upon electricity or
chemistry. After a short discussion, in which the Russian
representative declared his Government to be in favor of
prohibiting the use of all such new instrumentalities be-
cause of their view that tlie means of destruction at present
employed Avere quite sufficient, the question was also put
aside as one for future consideration on the part of the
different Powers.

The United States representative made no objection to
these questions being considered as remaining open upon
the general ground of not offering o^^position to desired
freedom of discussion, the attitude of the United States
in regard to them having, however, been made known by
his statement already given.


This subject gave rise to more active debate and to
more decided differences of view than any other considered
by the Sub-Committee. A formula was adopted as
follows, " The use of bullets which expand or flatten
easily in the human body, such as jacketed bullets of
which the jacket does not entirely cover the core or has
incisions in it, should be forbidden."

When this subject came up in the Full Committee the
British representative, Major-General Sir John Ardagh,
made a declaration of the position of his Government on
the subject, in which he described their Dum Duin bullet


as one liaviiio- a very small portion of the jacket removed
from the point, so as to leave uncovered a portion of the
core of about tlie size of a pin-head. He said that this
bullet did not expand in such manner as to produce
wounds (jf exceptional cruelt}^ but that on the contrary
the wounds produced by it were in general less severe
than those produced by the Snider, jNlartini-Henry, and
other rifles of the period immediately preceding that of the
adoption of the present small Ijore. He ascribed the bad
reputation of the Dum Dum bullet to some experiments
made at Tiibingen in Germany with a bullet from the
forward part of which the jacket, to a distance of more
than a diameter, was removed. The wounds produced by
this bullet Avere of a frightful character, and the bullets
being generally supposed to be similar to the Dum Dum
in construction, had probably given rise to the unfounded
prejudice against the latter.

The United States representative here for the first time
took part in the discussion, advocating the abandonment
of the attempt to cover the principle of prohil)ition of
bullets producing unnecessarily cruel wounds by the speci-
fication of details of construction of the bullet, and pro-
posing the following formula : —

"The use of bullets which inflict wounds of useless
cruelty, such as explosive bullets and in general every
kind of bullet which exceeds the limit necessary for
placing a man immediately liors de combat, should be

The Committee, however, adhered to the original prop-
osition, which it voted without acting on the substitute

Online LibraryFrederick William HollsThe peace conference at The Hague, and its bearings on international law and policy → online text (page 34 of 39)