Frederick William Holls.

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

. (page 6 of 39)
Online LibraryFrederick William HollsThe peace conference at The Hague, and its bearings on international law and policy → online text (page 6 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

each Committee. The Delegates, representing the
Governments, may take part in all the meetings of
the Committees. Technical and scientific Delegates
may take part in the full meetings of the Confer-
ence. The Committees shall appoint their own
ofticers and regulate the order of their labors."

tions to the

Summary of
the sessions
of the

These propositions of the President were unani-
mously adopted.

At the same meeting the President and the Bureau
were authorized to communicate to the members of
the press a summary of the proceedings of each Com-
mittee, it being understood that in other respects the
rule of secrecy should be maintained.

At its subsequent sessions the Conference adopted
the reports presented by its various Committees, and
an account of its work will be found in the following
chapters under the appropriate heads.

In the interest of historical and chronological
accuracy it should however be stated that the Con-
ference held ten sessions in all, of which the first
two, on May 18 and 20, have been described above.
At the third session. May 23, the various Committees
were announced. At the fourth session, June 20,
the report of the Second Committee on tlie Extension
of the Geneva Rules to naA\al warfare was adopted,


and the Committee on the Final Act was appointed. Chapter ii
At the fifth session, July 5, the report of the Second
Committee on the Laws and Customs of War was
adopted, and the subject of the immunity of })rivate
property on the high seas, introduced by the American
representatives, was referred to a future conference.
At the sixth session, July 21, the report of the First
Committee on Disarmament and on the employment
of certain instruments of warfare was agreed to, and
at the seventh session, July 25, the report of the
Third Committee on the peaceful adjustment of in-
ternational differences was adopted, subject to the
declaration of the United States of America regarding
the Monroe Doctrine. The eighth and ninth sessions,
July 27 and 28, were devoted to a discussion of the
Final Act, and the placing upon record of various
formal declarations ; and an account of the tenth or
final session, July 29, w^ill be found in a subsequent



Limitation of Armaments

Misconception TiiE fiiture historian of the Peace Conference will
of the o ject ^.gg^^j,^ ^|-^g £^(.{. i\^^\^ i\iiq gathering was, almost from
Conference, ^^le first, named the "Disarmament Conference," as
a most significant circumstance, throwing a peculiar
light upon the condition of public oj)inion, especially
with reference to the institution of universal military
service. The word. " disarmament " does not occur
in any of the official documents of the Conference,
but the idea was immediately seized upon almost
unconsciously by the public at large, as the ultimate
goal toward Avhich the entire movement must inevi-
tably tend. The immediate result of this misconcep-
tion was perhaps unfortunate, in that it led directly
to the widespread impression of the "failure" of the
Conference, when it became apparent that disarma-
ment was a subject which could not even be seriously
considered. It is a matter of history that immediately
after the adjournment of the Conference this alleged
failure to agree, even upon a limitation of present
armaments, was made the text of innumerable unfa-
vorable observations upon the Conference as a whole,
and its positive results in other directions, far reach-
ing and momentous as they are, were almost entirely



forgotten, or mentioned only with patronizing conde- Chapter ni
scension. Fortnnately tlie results attained by the
Peace Conference did not depend, for their nltimate
realization, npon public opinion in any country, except
the United States of America, where a two-thirds
majority of the Senate Avas required for the ratifica-
tion of the treaty. That ratification was happily se-
cured without difficulty. It is hardly doubtful that
before long the petulant disappointment of puljlic
opinion over the failure of an idea which must be
regarded as premature, if not Utopian, will give way
to a careful examination of the work actually done,
and the fundamental truth will once more be clearly-
seen that until an acceptable substitute for war is
provided, the ancient proverb has lost but little of its
force : " Si vis j^ctcan, para helium.''''

The limitation of armaments to their present "^'ai"e of the

, , , . , , . . discussion on

strengtli, both m numbers and m equipment, by the Limitation
international agreement, was an idea which was^gnts"^"
seriously proposed and discussed at the Peace Con-
ference, but the realization of which was unanimously
decided to be premature at the present time. That
such a limitation will ever be the result of an inter-
national agreement may well be doubted, owing to
the inherent difficulties of the scheme. It cannot,
however, be denied that the practical discussion of
the question, by the representatives of powers sup-
posed to have conflicting or hostile interests, Avas in
itself of value, and that the light thrown upon the
subject during these discussions will be of service


Chapter III The subject was referred to the First Committee
of the Conference, and the discussion was opened on
June 23 by M. Beernaert of Belgium, the president
of the committee, who spoke as follows : —

Speech of " Gentlemen : We have now reached the serious

eernaert. pj^^]-,] g j^-^ wliicli tlic Russiau Government has first
raised, in terms which have already engaged the
attention of all the world. Faithful to the traditions
^ of his predecessors, and notably of Alexander I.,
who, in 1816, attempted to found Eternal Peace,
through Disarmament, Emperor Nicholas urges a
reduction of military expenses, or at least a limita-
tion of their increase. He has done this in terms,
the gravity and importance of which can hardly be
exaggerated. For once it is a great Sovereign who
thinks that the enormous charges which, since 1871,
have resulted in the state of armed peace, now to be
seen in Europe, are of a nature to undermine and
paralyze public prosperity, and that their ever in-
creasing progress upward will produce a heavy load,
which the peoples will carry with greater and greater
difficulty. It is for this evil that he wishes Europe
to find a remedy.

" The circular of Count Mouravieff defines the
problem with greater jDrecision in presenting it in
its double aspect : What are the means of setting
a limit to the progressive increase of armaments ?
Can the nations agree by common accord not to
increase them, or even to reduce them? But it is
for me rather to indicate the problem than to pro-
pose a solution, and I believe that this latter should


be formulated most clearly and precisely. The sub- chapter iii
ject is difficult, and it would be impossible to exag-
gerate its importance, for the question of armed
peace is not only bound closely to that of public
wealth and of the highest form of progress, but also
to the question of social peace. This is one more
reason why we should give to our discussions clear
and formal bases. Hence, for example, we should
ask whether the agreement should provide for the
number of the effective forces or for the amount of
the Ijudget of military expenses, or for both of these
points. How should the numbers be fixed and veri-
fied ? Should the armies of to-day be taken as the
basis for the designation ? Are naval forces to be
treated the same as armies ? What shall be done
about the defence of colonies ?

" I hope that our eminent President, His Excel-
lency M. de Staal, who will now address us, \\W\
enlighten us on all these different points."

M. de Staal thereupon spoke as follows : —
" Mr. President : I wish to add a few words to speech of
the eloquent remarks which you have just made.
I should like to state precisely the thought by which
the Russian Government has been inspired, and to
indicate at the same time the different stages through
which the question which now occupies us, has
passed. Since the month of August, 1898, the Rus-
sian Government has invited the Powers to seek by
the aid of international discussion the most effica-
cious means of setting a limit to the progressive


Chapter III develoi)ment of armaments. A cordial and sympa-
speechof tlictic wclcomB was given to the request of the
Imperial Government by all the Powers who are
here represented. At the same time, notwithstand-
ing the enthusiasm with which this proposition was
received, the Russian Government considered it neces-
sary to gather more definite information from the
various Cabinets for the purpose of deciding whether
the time was really favorable for the convocation
of a Conference, of which the first object would
properly be this restriction of armaments. The re-
sponses which were given to us, the acceptance of
the programme sketched in the Circular of December
30, 1898, and in which the first point looked to the
non-augmentation, for a fixed term, of the existing
armies, led us to decide in favor of taking the initia-
tive in the Peace Conference. It is thus, gentlemen,
that we find ourselves united at The Hague, animated
by a spirit of conciliation, in which our good will
confronts a common work to be accomplished.

" Let us examine the essential point which has
been referred to this committee, — it is the question
of the limitation of budgets and of actual armaments.
It seems to me indispensably necessary to insist that
this important question should be made the subject
of a most profound study, constituting, as it does,
the first purpose for which we are here united, that
of alleviating, as far as possible, the dreadful burden
which weighs upon the peoples, and which hinders
their material and even moral development. The
forces of human activity are absorbed in an increas-


ing proportion by the expenses of the military and Chapter in
naval budgets. As General Den Beer Poortngael has
said so eloquently, it is the most important functions
of civilized governments which are paralyzed by this
state of affairs, and which are thus relegated to the
second place. Armed peace to-day causes more con-
siderable expense than the most burdensome war of
former times. If one of our great committees has
been charged with the duty of alleviating or mitigating
the horrors of war, it is to you, gentlemen, that the
equally grand task has been assigned to alleviate the
burdens of peace, especially those which result from
incessant competition in the way of armaments. I
may be permitted to hope that on this point, at least,
the desires of anxious populations who are following
our labors with a constant interest shall not be balked.
The disappointment would be cruel. It is for this
reason that I ask you to give all of your attention to
the proposition which the technical delegates of Russia
will present to you. You will see that these propo-
sitions constitute in very truth a minimum. Is it
necessary for me to declare that we are not speaking
of Utopias or chimerical measures ? We are not con-
sidering disarmament. What we are hoping for, is to
attain a limitation — a halt in the ascending; course
of armaments and expenses. We propose this with
the conviction that if such an a<2i:reement is estab-
lished, progress in other directions will be made —
slowly perhaps, but surely. Immobility is an impos-
sibility in history, and if we shall onl}^ be able for
some years to provide for a certain stability, every-


Chapteriii tiling poiiits to tliG belief that a tendency toward a
diminution of military charges will be able to grow
and to develop. Such a movement would correspond
entirely to the ideas which have inspired the Russian
circulars. But we have not yet attained to this point.
For the moment we aspire to the attainment of sta-
bility for a fixed limitation of the number of effec-
tives and of military budgets."

General Den Beer Poortugael of Holland followed in
a most eloquent and brilliant address, which was in
the nature of a general exhortation and an elabora-
tion of the ideas expressed by M. de Staal ; where-
upon Colonel Gilinsky of Russia presented the text
of the two proposals submitted on behalf of the
Russian Government, as follows : —

Russian ''I. As to armics : —

proposals. ^^ -j^ ^^ international agreement for the term of

five years, stipulating for the non-augmentation
of the present number of troops kept in time of

" 2. The determination, in case of such an agree-
ment, if it is possible, of the number of troops to be
kept in time of peace by all of the Powers, not
including Colonial troops.

u q


The maintenance, for the term of five years,
of the amount of the military budget in force at the
present time.

" II. As regards navies : —

" I. The acceptance in principle of fixing for a
term of three years the amount of the naval budget.


and an agreement not to increase the total amount chapter ni
for this triennial period, and the obligation to pub-
lish during this period, in advance : —

" («) The total tonnage of men-of-war which it is
proposed to construct, without giving in detail the
types of ships.

"(6) The number of officers and crews in the

" (c) The expenses of coast fortifications, includ-
ing fortresses, docks, arsenals, etc."

Colonel Gilinsky said that the programme of the Speecii of
Russian Government had in view two objects, — the Gmnsky of
first was humanitarian, diminishing the possibility ^"^^'^"
of war, and as far as possible its evils and calami- ^
ties ; the second was founded upon economic con-
siderations, namely : to diminish so far as possible
the enormous weight of pecuniary charges which
all the nations are obliged to supply for the support
of their armies in time of peace.

With regard to the first object, the committees
to which have been referred the questions of arbitra-
tion, good offices, the laws and usages of war, and
the adaptation of the principles of the Geneva Con-
vention to naval warfare, were now busily engaged ;
but Colonel Gilinsky, while hoping that their labors
Avould be crowned with great success, asked wdiether
the peoples represented at the Conference would be
entirely satisfied if nothing whatever was done at
the Conference to lift this heavy load which they
were bearing in time of peace, and which was so
enormous that open war had been considered almost



Chapter III preferable to tlie indefinite continuance of sncli

sppocii of inibearable conditions.

Giiiiisky of Colonel Gilinsky proceeded to examine the argu-

ment that the expenditure of money for the support
of the army was a benefit to the country because
the money was kept in the country ; and he pointed
out the difficulty of setting a limit to continued
increase of armaments on the part of any country
which considered itself in danger, except by A'irtue
of an international agreement. He claimed that the
Russian proposals were not in themselves novel, since
they simply extended over the entire world principles
which had l^een accepted in many of the countries
here represented. In Germany the strength of the
army was fixed every seven years : in Russia the
military budget was fixed for a term of five years.
The term might be shorter if the Conference so

" We suggest nothing new," he remarked, " except
the decision and the courage to ascertain the facts,
and to say that the time has come to call a halt.
Russia proposes this to you : she invites you to set
a limit to the further increase of military forces at a
moment when she herself is far from having attained
the maximum in this development, for we Russians
do not call upon more than twenty-six to twenty-
nine and one-half per cent of our young men to enter
the ranks, whereas other States require twice as great
a percentage or even more. There is thus no selfish
interest in the Russian proposal. It is a purely
humanitarian idea, and a proposition with an eco-


nomic feature wliich you can entertain and discuss chapter ni
in absolute confidence."

Colonel Gilinsky called attention to the fact that
the Russian proposition was the only one upon the
subject which had been su):)mitted to the Conference,
but assured all the members that any alternative
proposition, modification, or suggestion for amend-
ment coming from any other country would l)e most
welcome. He hoped the question would be care-
fully and freely discussed. As for disarmament, he
repeated that it was neither practicable nor desirable
to discuss that question until an agreement had been
reached regarding a limitation of present armaments.
He closed as follows : —

" The idea of the Emperor of Russia is grand and
generous. Misunderstood at first, it now commands
the approval of all peoples, for the people have at
last understood that this idea has in view nothing but
peace and the prosperity of all. The seed has fallen
into fruitful soil — the human mind is aroused —
it is working to make it germinate, and soon I am
sure this seed will bear beautiful fruit. H not this
first Conference, it will be a future Conference which
will accept the idea, for it responds to the wants of
the nations. We are here, gentlemen, to cultivate
this idea, to solve this problem. Do not let us yield
the honor to others. Let us make a supreme effort,
and with good-will and confidence, I hope we shall
arrive at the very agreement so ardently desired by
all nations."

At the next meetimi; of the First Committee on


Chapter III June 27, Colonel Gilinsky gave a few additional
explanations of the Russian proposal, the most
important being, that, while Russia had no colonies
in tlie strict sense of the term, she owned territories
at a very great distance from Europe, and he con-
sequently proposed to treat troops serving in the
Central Asia and the Amur districts like the col-
onial troops of other Powers ; that is to say, to
place no limitation upon their numbers.

General Gross von Schwarzhoff of Germany there-
upon spoke as follows : —
Speech of '^ Gextlemen : Our lionorcd colleague, Colonel

Schwarzhoff. GiHusky, lias requested us not to vote, but to discuss
the propositions which have been formulated in his
report on the first point of the Circular of Count
Mouravieff. I feel constrained to comply with this
request, and to express my opinion, and I shall do so
with perfect frankness, and without any reservation.
In the meanwhile, however, I should like to say a
few w^ords in reply to General Den Beer Poortugael,
who made himself the warm defender of these propo-
sitions even before they had been submitted to us.
He did so in very elevated and picturesque language,
for which I envy him, and of which we all recognize
the high eloquence. But I am unable to agree with
all the ideas which he has expressed. There is a
Latin proverb which says, '■Quis taeet consentire vide-
atur,' and I should not like to have my silence taken
as consent. I can hardly believe that among my
honored colleagues there is a single one ready to
state that his Sovereign, his Government, is engaged


in working for the inevitable rnin, the slow but sure Chapter in
annihilation of his country. I have no mandate to
speak for my honored colleagues, but so far as Ger-
many is concerned, I am able to completely reassure
her friends and to relieve all well-meant anxiety.
The German people is not crushed under the weight
of charges and taxes, — it is not hanging on the brink
of an abyss ; it is not approaching exhaustion and
ruin. Quite the contrary; public and private wealth
is increasing, the general welfare and standard of
life is being raised from one year to another. So far
as compulsory military service is concerned, which is
so closely connected with those questions, the Ger-
man does not regard this as a heavy burden, but as a
sacred and patriotic duty to which he owes his coun-
try's existence, its prosperity, and its future.

" I return to the propositions of Colonel Gilinsky,
and to the arguments which have been advanced, and
which to my mind are not quite consistent with each
other. On the one hand, it is feared that excessive
armaments may bring about war ; on the other, that
the exhaustion of national wealth will make war im-
possible. As for me, I have too much confidence in
the wisdom of sovereigns and nations to share such
fears. On the one hand, it is pretended that noth-
ing is asked but things which have existed for a long
time in some countries, and which therefore present
no technical difficulties; on the other hand, it is said
that this is truly a very difficult question, the solu-
tion of which would require a supreme effort. I am
entirely of the latter opinion. We shall encounter


Chapter III insiirmoTintable obstacles — those which may be called
Speech of technical in a somewhat wider sense of tlie term. I

(xeneral Vdii

Schwarzhoff. bclieve that the question of effectives cannot be
regarded by itself alone, disconnected from a number
of other questions to which it is quite subordinated.
Such questions, for instance, as the state of public
instruction, the length of time of active military ser-
vice, the number of established regiments, the effec-
tives of each army unit, the number and duration of
the drills or military obligations of the reserves, the
location of the different army corps, the railway sys-
tem, the number and situation of fortified places. In
a modern army all of these belong together and form
the national defence which each people has organized
according to its character, its history, and its tradi-
tions, taking into account its economical resources,
its geographical situation, and the duties incumbent
upon it. I believe that it would be very difficult to
substitute for such an eminently national task an
international convention. It would be impossible to
determine the extent and the force of one single
portion of this complicated mechanism. It is impos-
sible to speak of effectives without taking into account
the other elements which I have enumerated in a
most incomj)lete manner. Furthermore, mention has
been made only of troops stationed in the larger
cities, and with this Colonel Gilinsky agrees ; but
there is territory which may not be a part of the par-
ticular country, but which may be so near that troops
stationed there would certainly participate in a con-
tinental war. And the countries over sea — how


could they ever admit a limitation of their armies chapter iii
if colonial troops, which alone menace them, are not
to be affected by this convention ?

" Gentlemen : I have simply indicated from a
general point of view some of the reasons which,
according to my view, prevent the realization of the
desire which is surely shared by us all, to arrive at
an agreement on the question before us. Permit me
to add a few words regarding the special situation of
the country which I have the honor to represent in
this body. In Germany the number of effectives is
fixed by an agreement between the Government and
the Reichstag, and in order not to repeat every year
the same debates, the number was fixed for seven and
later for five years. This is one of the arguments
advanced by Colonel Gilinsky when he declared that
he asks of us nothing new. At first sight, gentle-
men, it would seem that such an arrangement might
facilitate our adhesion to a similar proposition : but
apart from the fact that there is a great difference
between a municipal law and an international con-
vention, it is precisely our ' quinquennate ' which
prevents us from making the proposed agreement.
There are two reasons against it : first, the interna-
tional period of five years would not synchronize
with our national period, and this would be a grave
obstacle; furthermore, the military law which is
to-day in force does not fix a specified number of
effectives, but on the contrary it provides for a con-
tinuous increase up to 1902 or 1903, in which year the

Online LibraryFrederick William HollsThe peace conference at The Hague, and its bearings on international law and policy → online text (page 6 of 39)