Frederick William Holls.

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

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and the gray of the South are alike strewn with flowers.
Surely I may claim for my countrymen that, whatever


other shortcomings and faults may be imputed to them,
they have shown themselves influenced by those feelings
of mercy and humanity which Grotius, more than any
other, brought into the modern world.

"In the presence of this great body of eminent jurists
from the Courts, the Cabinets, and the Universities of all
nations, I will not presume to attempt any full develop-
ment of the principles of Grotius or to estimate his work;
but I will briefly present a few considerations regarding
his life and work which occur to one who lias contem-
plated them from another and distant country.

" There are, of course, vast advantages in the study of
so great a man from the nearest point of view ; from his
own land, and by those who from their actual experience
must best know his environment. But a more distant
point of view is not without its uses. Those who culti-
vate the slopes of some vast mountain know it best ; yet
those who view it from a distance may sometimes see it
brought into new relations and invested with new glories.

" Separated thus from the native land of (jrotius by the
Atlantic, and perhaps by a yet broader ocean of custom-
ary thinking ; unbiassed by any of that patriotism so
excusable and indeed so laudable in the land where he
was born ; an American jurist naturally sees, first, the
relations of Grotius to the writers who preceded him.
He sees other and lesser mountain peaks of thought
emerging from the clouds of earlier history, and he
acknowledges a debt to such men as Isidore of Seville,
Suarez, Ayala, and Gentilis. But, when all this is
acknowledged, he clearly sees Grotius, while standing
among these men, grandly towering above them. He
sees in Grotius the first man who brought the main prin-
ciples of those earlier thinkers to bear upon modern times;
— increasing them from his own creative mind, strength-
ening them from the vast stores of his knowledge, en-


ricliing them from his imagination, glorifying them witli
his genius.

" His great mind brooded over that earlier chaos of
opinion, and from his heart and brain, more than from
those of any other, came a revelation to the modern world
of new and better paths toward mercy and peace. But
his agency was more tlian that. His coming was like
the rising of the sun out of the primeval abyss : his work
was both creative and illuminative. We may reverently
insist that, in the domain of International Law, Grotius
said ' Let there be light,' and there was light.

" The light he thus gave has blessed the earth for these
three centuries past, and it will go on through many cen-
turies to come, illuminating them ever more and more.

" I need hardly remind you that it was mainly unheeded
at first. Catholics and Protestants alike failed to recog-
nize it — 'The light shone in the darkness, and the dark-
ness comprehended it not.' By Calvinists in Holland
and France, and by Lutherans in Germany, his great work
was disregarded if not opposed ; and at Rome it was
placed on the Index of books forbidden to be read by

" The book, as 3'ou know, was published amid the hor-
rors of the Thirty Years' War ; the great Gustavus is
said to have carried it with him always, and he evidently
at all times bore its principles in his heart. But he alone
amongf all the grreat commanders of his time stood for
mercy. All the cogent arguments of Grotius could not
prevent the fearful destruction of ^Magdeburg, or dimin-
ish, so far as Ave can now see, any of the atrocities of that
fearful period.

" Grotius himself may well have been discouraged ; he
may well liave repeated the words attributed to the great
Swedisli Chancellor, whose Ambassador he afterward
became, ' Go forth, my son, and see with how little


wisdom the world is governed.' He may well have de-
spaired as he reflected that throughout his whole life he
had never known his native land save in perpetual, heart-
rending war ; nay, he may well liave been excused for
thinking that all his work for humanity had been in vain,
when there came to his deathbed no sign of any ending
of the terrible war of thirty years.

" For not until three years after he was laid in this tomb
did the Plenipotentiaries sign the Treaty of Miinster.
All this disappointment and sorrow and life-long martyr-
dom invests him, in the minds of Americans, as doubtless
in your minds, with an atmosphere of sympathy, venera-
tion, and love.

" Yet we see that the great light streaming from his
heart and mind continued to shine ; that it developed
and fructified human thought ; that it warmed into life
new and glorious growths of right reason as to interna-
tional relations ; and we recognize the fact that, from
his day to ours, the progress of reason in theory, and of
mercy in practice, has been constant, on both sides of the

" It may be objected that this good growth, so far as
theory was concerned, was sometimes anarchic, and that
many of its developments were very different from any
that Grotius intended or would have welcomed. For if
Puffendorff swerved much from the teachings of his great
master in one direction, others swerved even more in
other directions; — and all created systems more or less
antagonistic. Yet we can now see that all these contrib-
uted to a most beneficent result, — to the growth of a
practice ever improving, ever deepening, ever widening,
ever diminishing bad faith in time of peace and cruelty
in time of war.

" It has also been urged that the system which Grotius
gave to the world has been utterly left behind as the


world has gone on ; that the great writers on Interna-
tional Law in the present day do not aecept it ; that Gro-
tius developed ev^ery thing out of an idea of natural law
which was merely the creation of his own mind, and
based everything on an origin of jural rights and duties
which never had any real being ; that he deduced his
principles from a divinely planted instinct which many
thinkers are now persuaded never existed, acting in a
way contrary to everything revealed by modern discov-
eries in the realm of history.

" It is at the same time insisted against Grotius that he
did not give sufficient recognition to the main basis of
the work of modern international jurists ; to positive law,
slowly built on the principles and practice of various na-
tions in accordance with their definite agreements and

"^ In these charges there is certainly truth ; but I trust
that you will allow one from a distant country to venture
an opinion that, so far from being to the discredit of
Grotius, this fact is to his eternal honor.

" For there was not and there could not be at that period,
anything like a body of positive International Law ade-
quate to the new time. The spirit which most thoroughly
permeated the whole world, whether in war or peace,
when Grotius wrote, was the spirit of Machiavelli —
unmoral : immoral. It had been dominant for more than
a hundred years. To measure the service rendered by
the theory of Grotius, we have only to compare Machia-
velli's ' Prince ' with Grotius's 'De Jure Belli ac Pacis.'
Grant that Grotius's basis of International Law was, in
the main, a theory of natural law which is no longer held :
grant that he made no sufficient recognition of positive
law ; we must nevertheless acknowledge that his system,
at the time he presented it, was the only one which could
ennoble men's theories or reform their practice.



" From his own conception of the attitude of the
Divine Mind toward all the falsities of his time grew
a theory of international morals which supplanted the
principles of Machiavelli : from his conception of the
attitude of the Divine Mind toward all the cruelties
which he had himself known in the Seventy Years' War
of the Netherlands, and toward all those of which tidings
were constantly coming from the German Thirty Years'
War, came inspiration to promote a better practice in

"To one, then, looking at Grotius from afar, as doubt-
less to many among yourselves, the theory which Grotius
adopted seems the only one which, in his time, could
bring any results for good to mankind.

" I am also aware that one of the most deservedly emi-
nent historians and publicists of the Netherlands, during
our own time, has censured Grotius as the main source
of the doctrine which founds human rights upon an early
social compact, and, therefore, as one who proposed the
doctrines which have borne fruit in the writings of Rous-
seau, and in various modern revolutions.

" I might take issue with this statement ; or I might fall
back upon the claim that Grotius's theory has proved, at
least, a serviceable provisional hypothesis ; but this is
neither the time nor the place to go fully into so great a
question. Yet I may at least say that it would ill become
me, as a representative of the United States, to impute
to Grotius as a fault, a theory out of Avhich sprang the
nationality of my country : a doctrine embodied in that
Declaration of Independence which is this day read to
thousands on thousands of assemblies in all parts of the
United States, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from
the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico.

" But however the Old World may differ from the New
on this subject, may we not all agree that, whatever


Grotius's responsibility for this doctrine may be, its evils
would have been infinitely reduced could tlie men who
developed it have caught his spirit . . . his spirit of
broad toleration, of wide sympath}', of wise moderation,
of contempt for 'the folly of extremes,' of search for the
great principles which unite men rather than for the petty
differences which separate them ?

"It has also been urged against Grotius that his inter-
pretation of the words jus goitium was a mistake, and
that other mistakes have flowed from this. Grant it ;
yet we, at a distance, l)elieve that we see in it one of
the happiest mistakes ever made ; a mistake comparal)le in
its fortunate results to that made by Columbus when he
interpreted a statement in our sacred books regarding the
extent of the sea as compared with the land, to indicate
that the western continent could not be far from Spain, —
a mistake which probably more than anything else encour-
aged him to sail for the New World.

" It is also not unfrequently urged by eminent European
Avriters that Grotius dwelt too little on wdiat International
Law really was, and too much on what, in his opinion, it
ought to be. This is but another form of an argument
against him already stated. Bat is it certain after all
that Grotius was so far wrong in this as some excellent
jurists have thought him ? May it not be that, in the
not distant future. International Law, while mainly bas-
ing its doctrines upon wdiat nations have slowly developed
in practice, may also draw inspiration, more and more,
from ' That Power in the Universe not ourselves, which
makes for Righteousness.'

"An American, recalling that greatest of all arbitrations
yet known, the Geneva Arbitration of 1872, naturally
attributes force to the reast)ning of Grotius. The heavy
damasfes which tlie United States asked at that time and
which Great Britain honorably paid were justified mainly,


if not wholly, not on the practice of nations then existing,
but upon what it was claimed ought to be the practice ; not
upon positive law, but upon natural justice ; and that
decision forms one of the happiest landmarks in modern
times ; it ended all quarrel between the two nations
concerned, and bound them together more firmly than

" But while there may be things in the life and work of
Grotius which reveal themselves differently to those who
study him from a near point of view and to those who
behold him from afar, there are thoughts on which we may
all unite, lessons which we may learn alike, and encour-
agements which may strengthen us all for the duties of
this present hour.

"For as we now stand before these monuments, there
come to us not only glimpses of the irony of history, but
a full view of the rewards of history. Resounding under
these arches and echoing among these columns, prayer and
praise have been heard for five hundred years. Hither
came, in hours of defeat and hours of victory, that mighty
hero whose remains rest in yonder shrine and whose fame
is part of the world's fairest heritage. But when, just
after William the Silent had been laid in the vaults be-
neath our feet, Huig de Groot, as a child, gazed with won-
der on this grave of the father of his country, and when,
in his boyhood, he here joined in prayer and praise, and
caught inspiration from the mighty dead, no man knew
that in this beautiful boy — opening his eyes upon these
scenes which we now behold — not only the Netherlands,
but the whole human race, had cause for the greatest of

" And when, in perhaps the darkest hour of modern
Europe, in 1625, his great book was born, yonder organ
might well have pealed forth a most triumphant Te
Deum ; — but no man recocfnized the blessino^ which in


that hour had been vouchsafed to mankind : no voice of
thanksgiving was heard.

" But if the dead, as we fondly hope, live beyond the
grave : if, undisturbed by earthly distractions, they are
all the more observant of human affairs : if, freed from
earthly trammels, their view of life in our lower world is
illumined by that infinite light which streams from the
source of all that is true and beautiful and good, may we
not piously believe that the mighty and beneficent shade
of William of Orange i-ecognized with joy the birth-hour
of Grotius as that of a compatriot who was to give the
Netherlands a lasting glory ? May not that great and
glorious spirit have also looked lovingly upon Grotius, as
a boy, lingering on this spot where we now stand, and rec-
ognized him as one whose work was to go on adding in
every age new glory to the nation which the mighty
Prince of the House of Orange had, by the blessing of
God, founded and saved ; may not, indeed, that great
mind have foreseen, in that divine light, another glory not
then known to mortal ken ? Who shall say that in the
effluence of divine knowledge he may not have beheld
Grotius, in his full manhood, penning the pregnant words
of the ' De Jure Belli ac Pacis,' and that he may not have
foreseen — as largely resulting from it — what we behold
to-day, as an honor to the August iNIonarch who convoked
it, to the Netherlands who have given it splendid hospi-
tality, and to all modern states here represented : the first
Conference of the entire world ever held ; and that Con-
ference assembled to increase the securities for peace and
to diminish the horrors of war.

" For, my Honored Colleagues of the Peace Conference,
the germ of this work in which we are all so earnestly
engaged, lies in a single sentence of (xrotius's great book.
Others indeed had proposed plans for the peaceful settle-
ment of differences between nations, and the world re-


members tlieiii witli honor : to all of them, from Henry
IV and Kant and St. Pierre and Penn and Bentham, down
to the humblest writer in favor of peace, we may well feel
grateful ; but the germ of arbitration was planted in mod-
ern thought when Grotius, urging arbitration and media-
tion as preventing war, wrote these solemn words in the
*■ De Jure Belli ac Paeis' : '■ Maxime aufem chriHtiajii reges
et civitates tenentur hanc inire viam ad anna vitanda.'' ^

" jNIy Honored Colleagues and friends, more than once
I have come as a pilgrim to this sacred shrine. In my
young manhood, more tlian thirty years ago, and at vari-
ous times since, I have sat here and reflected upon what
these mighty men here entombed have done for the world,
and what, though dead, they yet speak to mankind. I
seem to hear them still.

" From this tomb of William the Silent comes, in this
hour, a voice bidding the Peace Conference be brave, and
true, and trustful in That Power in the Universe which
works for Righteousness.

" From this tomb of Grotius I seem to hear a voice
which says to us as the delegates of the Nations : ' Go on
with your mighty work : avoid, as you would avoid the
germs of pestilence, those exhalations of international
hatred Avhich take shape in monstrous fallacies and mor-
bid fictions regarding alleged antagonistic interests.
Guard well the treasures of civilization with which each
of you is intrusted ; but bear in mind that you hold
a mandate from humanity. Go on with your work.
Pseudo-philosophers will prophesy malignantly against
you : pessimists will laugh you to scorn : cynics will
sneer at you : zealots will abuse you for what you have
not done : sublimely unpractical thinkers will revile you
for what you have done : ephemeral critics will ridicule
you as dupes : enthusiasts, blind to tlie difficulties in

1 Grotius, '^De Jure Eelli ac Pacis," II, Cap. 23, II 3.


your patli and to eveiything outside their little circum-
scribed fields, will denounce you as traitors to liumanity.
Heed them not : go on with your work. Heed not the
clamor of zealots, or cynics, or pessimists, or pseudo-phi-
losophers, or enthusiasts, or fault-finders. Go on with the
work of strengthening- peace and humanizing war : give
greater scope and strength to provisions which will make
war less cruel : perfect those laws of war which diminish
the unmerited sufferings of populations : and, above all,
give to the world at least a beginning of an effective,
practicable scheme of arbitration.'

" These are the words which an American seems to
hear issuing from this shrine to-day ; and I seem also to
hear from it a prophecy. I seem to hear Grotius saying
to us : ' Fear neither opposition nor detraction. As my
own book, which grew out of the horrors of the Wars of
Seventy and the Thirty Years' War, contained the germ
from which your great Conference has grown, so your
work, which is demanded by a world bent almost to
breaking under the weight of ever increasing armaments,
shall be a germ from which future Conferences shall
evolve plans ever fuller, better, and nobler.' And I also
seem to hear a message from him to the jurists of the
great universities who honor us with their presence
to-day, including especially that renowned University of
Leyden which gave to Grotius his first knowledge of the
law ; and that eminent University of Konigsberg which
gave him his most philosophical disciple : to all of these
I seem to hear him say : ' Go on in your labor to search
out the facts and to develop the principles which shall
enable future Conferences to build more and more
broadly, more and more loftily for peace.'

" And now. Your Excellencies, Mr. Burgomaster, and
Honored Deans of the various Universities of the Nether-
lands, a simple duty remains to me. In accordance with


instructions from the President and on behalf of the Peo-
ple of the United States of America, the American Com-
mission at the Peace Conference, by my hand, lays on the
Tomb of Grotius this simple tribute. It combines the
oak, symbolical of civic virtue, with the laurel, symbolical
of victory. It bears the following inscription: ' To the
Memory of Hugo Grotius / In Reverence and Gratitude /
From the United States of America/ On the Occasion of
the International Peace Conference at The Hague / July
4, 1899,' / and it encloses two shields, one bearing the
arms of the House of Orange and of the Netherlands,
the other bearing the arms of the United States of Amer-
ica ; and both these shields are bound firmly together.
They represent the gratitude of our country, one of the
youngest among the nations of the earth, to this old and
honored Commonwealth ; gratitude for great services in
days gone by, gratitude for recent courtesies and kind-
nesses ; and, above all, they represent, to all time, a union
of hearts and minds, in both lands, for peace between the

At the conclusion of Mr. White's address, the box in
which the wreath had been enclosed, and which was on a
table immediately in front of the speaker, was opened, and
Mr. AVliite, taking the wreath, attached it to the tomb of

The choir then sang the Dutch national anthem
" Wilhelmus van Nassouwe," the audience standing.

The Chairman thereupon introduced His Excellency,
W. H. de Beaufort, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the
Government of the Netherlands, who spoke as follows : —

" The Queen's government has conferred on me the
honorable task of expressing its sincere gratitude to the
American Delegates and the Government of the United


States which tliey represent, for phicing a wreatli on tlie
tomb of Hugo de Groot.

" The ceremony of to-tlay will, I am sure, make a deep
impression throughout our whole country. We Holland-
ers are proud of our glorious history, and the memory
of our great men in ])ast centuries is dear to us all. We
are pleased to see them appreciated 1)y foreigners, and
especially when these foreigners are citizens of a coun-
try for which we feel so much respect and regard. We
have been closely connected by historical traditions with
America. The first settlers on the banks of the Hudson
River were Hollanders, and we alwa3's remember, not
without a certain pride, that it was a Dutch captain who
was the first to salute the stars and stripes. To-day we
salute your star-spangled banner in our own country, and
while celebrating with you your Independence Day, we
beg you to accept our best wishes for the welfare of j-our

" Your country is one of the largest of the world, and
ours is one of the smallest, but we have one thing in com-
mon, which is that we both have won our country and its
independence by our own valor.

" We have had the advantage in the last weeks of
extending hospitality to some of the most eminent men
of the United States, who came here to give their valua-
ble aid for the realization of the noble designs framed by
the Emperor of Russia and applauded by the whole civil-
ized world, of founding international law on the basis of
justice and peace. It is a matter of course that, having
in mind this noble task, our thoughts have ])een called
back to the great man who found his last resting place
under the vaults of this church, and who has always been
venerated as the founder of the science of international

" When he wrote his admirable work ' De Jure Belli ac


Pacis,' America was still a great wilderness with a few
scattered European settlements. Still, he knew America
and took an interest in it, for he wrote a small and very
remarkable tract on the antipathy of the original inhabi-
tants of America.

" More than two centuries and a half have since elapsed,
and if Grotius came back into this world and stood in the
midst of us, how great would be his astonishment when
hearing that the inhabitants of America had come here
to pay homage to his memory ; but at the same time he
would express his joy and his satisfaction when learning
that the noble and generous principles he advocated
during his lifetime had taken root throughout the whole
Avorld, and I am sure he would exclaim, ^ Thanks to God,
I have not lived in vain.'

" For the purpose of acknowledging the great merits of
Grotius, a wreath has been placed, by order of the Ameri-
can Government, on his tomb. I sincerely hope that this
fine and precious work of art will remain forever on the
place where it it is now fixed. May the numerous visit-
ors of this church look on it with a sentiment of grati-
tude and admiration. May it act as a stimulus for future
generations in their exertions in behalf of still further
reforms in the practice of international law, and, last not
least, may this wreath be an everlasting emblem of the
friendly relations between America and Holland, and a
guarantee for the unbroken continuance of that historical
friendship of which America gives us on this memorable
day such a splendid and highly valued testimony."

The Chairman then announced that a message had been
received from His Majesty, the King of Sweden and Nor-
way, representing the country in whose service Grotius

Online LibraryFrederick William HollsThe peace conference at The Hague, and its bearings on international law and policy → online text (page 37 of 39)