David Jayne Hill.

Present problems in foreign policy online

. (page 2 of 17)
Online LibraryDavid Jayne HillPresent problems in foreign policy → online text (page 2 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

their Government. Thousands of our young
men went to Canada and to France, in order
to help in defeating Germany before any
"sovereign will" had expressed itself in the
United States. There is the explanation of
conscription. It was, indeed, based on a
"principle" ; but the principle was not a gov-
ernmental enunciation, it was a deep-seated
and almost universal declaration of the
national mind.

It took England, Mr. Harrison says, "two
years to adopt conscription, because English
democracy does not accept its oligarchy."
In the result the advantage is with England.



It took us much more than two years to pre-
pare for war, because our oligarchy did not
appeal to its democracy.

The error of this brilliant writer regarding
our "oligarchy" and its influence has led him
more seriously astray on some other points.
Without our intervention, he thinks, the
Great War would have had to be settled on
the principle of "the balance of power," a
peace without a victory; and from this he
argues that "the message of America is
democracy, her mission is union." America
is thus held responsible for proposing a
"League of Nations." We have been fight-
ing, he thinks, "not Germany; not, in the his-
torical sense, the Germans ; but the German
idea of mastery, the German feudal system,
the Kultur of imperial and dynastic ambi-
tion. America is thus fighting against the
attitude of the balance of power."

This is a total misapprehension, which
proves how inadequately British perception
has comprehended our real motives as a peo-
ple, and how insufficiently we have thus far
expressed them. It assumes that we have



been fighting for "fourteen points" of Euro-
pean and world reconstruction ; and that the
success of those, including a "League of
Nations," was what we have had in mind.
There is probably not one soldier or even one
officer in the American Army, either in the
field or at home, who ever thought for a mo-
ment that he, or his country, was carrying
on this war "against the attitude of the bal-
ance of power," or to establish a "League of
Nations." Not one in a hundred thousand
ever dreamed that the war had anything to
do with "the balance of power"; and few
would have known what it meant if it were
suggested to them. They were fighting the
Germans, because the Germans were brutal-
izing mankind, violating International Law,
and destroying people's homes. And there
is not a man of them who would not fight
again for the same reason. ) 1 1 ^ 7 ^^iifc
We do not wish to be misunderstood in
Europe by the representation that we went
into this war with the purpose, or for the
end, of creating a "League of Nations." We
have not, as a people, studied the project.



We do not all even know what it is. There
are many full-fledged and very ingenious
schemes for a "League of Nations" which
palpably contradict one another. Of one
thing some of us are sure, we do not wish,
or intend, to be bound in the dark, or to be
controlled by abstract terms that would
make us shrink from keeping our obligations
in a concrete way; and we know that noth-
ing is more illusive than the requirements
of a treaty, unless it is very precise and treats
of matters clearly and definitely known.
We, as a people, went into this war to pre-
vent Germany from throttling the world,
our own country included, as she had done
to Belgium, and Serbia, and whoever else
opposed or did not aid her. It was not to
secure for her a place of equality in a so-
ciety whose laws and whose material inter-
ests she had deliberately planned to destroy,
that two million peaceful American citizens
put on their uniforms and went to Europe
over seas in whose waters torpedoes lurked
and mines floated. It was to render this
savagery impossible.



We have not, however, to read far before
we discover that it is not a league in the sense
of a mere legal compact, with minutely spe-
cified obligations, that Mr. Austin Harrison
has in mind. "The real problem in a League
of Nations is, to my mind," he says, "not the
sanction that the soldiers will see to on
their return not the machinery, not the tri-
bunal, not the immediate dispensation of
justice, but the creation of a regularized co-
operation capable of the necessary flexibil-
ity and progressiveness, which alone can give
it the life of durability." In brief, it is not
a treaty signed by diplomatists, but a union
of consciences in a common cause of jus-
tice that is to save the world. Of this no
American soldier, I think, would need to be
convinced. It was a consciousness of this in
his own understanding that made him ac-
cept gladly his marching orders.

In another article in the same Review,
Austin Harrison, to illustrate his meaning,
cites the words of the President of the
United States uttered on September 27th,
1918: "It is the peculiarity of this great



war that, while statesmen have seemed to
cast about for definitions of their purpose
and have sometimes seemed to shift their
ground and point of view, the thought of
the mass of men, whom statesmen are sup-
posed to instruct and lead, has grown more
and more unclouded, more and more cer-
tain of what it is they are fighting for. Na-
tional purposes have fallen more and more
into the background, and the common pur-
pose of enlightened mankind has taken their
place. The counsels of plain men have be-
come on all hands more simple and straight-
forward and more unified than the counsels
of sophisticated men of affairs, who still re-
tain the impression that they are playing a
game of power and playing for high stakes.
That is why I have said that this is a peo-
ple's war, not a statesman's. Statesmen
must follow the clarified common thought
or be broken."

These are words as true as they were no-
bly spoken. They have given to the man
who uttered them an unprecedented pres-
tige. In words equally true and noble, Mr.


Harrison expresses the expectations which
they inspire. "In place of diplomacy acting
in secrecy for purely selfish or national mo-
tives, Europe is bidden to regard the oppor-
tunity of the whole, bidden to the law of a
commonwealth." This is assumed to be the
message of America that is to save Europe.

'Unfortunately, this message is enveloped
in a nebula shot through with seeming con-
tradictions. "It is not," Mr. Harrison con-
tinues, "a question of juridical form and
formula. Its sanction must be inborn, in-
duced the evolution of harmony. Peace
can never be established on a durable basis
through the organization of international
councils of control; by police machinery;
still less by penal or constrictive impositions.
That is the old the Napoleonic, the Ger-
man way. . . . All must go to the table of
peace ready to give and to give up ; to found
a charter of international rights based not on
force, but on the sanction of free peoples."

This might well be the message of Amer-
ica; though perhaps rather puzzling to the
members of the League to Enforce Peace.


But what is the authority for it? Who has
been charged to deliver America's message?
Who has formulated it? Who has explained

In glowing words, Mr. Harrison reiter-
ates the thought that Europe is to be some-
how saved by America. "Either an attempt
to restart Europe on some accepted law or
morality of cooperative utility instead of
competitive force with the object of remov-
ing the causes of war, or we shall achieve
nothing permanent," he declares. And it is
America that is to give the start. And he
tells us in what manner. "I can only re-
peat," he says, "what I have urged again
and again, that national conferences should
be convened, charged to offer their con-
certed advice upon the problems of the sub-
ject peoples; that these conferences should
consider concurrently a common agenda;
that the proceedings of all these conferences
should be made public, and that they should
be in daily telegraphic communication with
one another. Something of the kind has
been done in France, but here (in England)


we have heard of no such assembly of in-
tellect. A Declaration of Rights can hard-
ly issue from a bureaucracy; it must come
from the clash of the best minds of democ-
racy, thinking aloud. . . . For the problems
are not only international, they are also na-
tional, and the danger to the constitution of
the new fabric of laws will be found in their
application. That is why the collective wis-
dom emanating from these National Confer-
ences would seem the indispensable condi-
tion of the success of any permanent Inter-
national Law. . . . Now the antecedent con-
dition to such a Law of Nations must be a
Declaration of Rights."
, What progress had we, the American peo-
ple, made in this direction when the Peace
Conference met at Paris? We are assumed
to have felt, we are said even to have im-
parted to Europe, the impulse toward a
better international adjustment; but what
channel for its expression, what mechanism
for its effective operation, had been deliber-
ately even discussed either by or before the
people? "The voice of the people must


make itself felt, directing the voice of the
Conference," we are told; "for only so can
there be any 'demonstration' of the new
thought essential to release, or any manifes-
tation of sacrifice." What an opportunity
then has been missed, to say openly what
sacrifices are expected of us? What obliga-
tions are to be incurred by us? What legal
forms are to be accepted by us, in the great
process of creating an international govern-
ment which, in important matters, will su-
persede our own? for that is what is implied
in a "League of Nations."

I shall not attempt to enter here upon any
analysis of the various ingenious drafts of an
international constitution, as the fundamen-
tal law regulating the legislative, judicial,
and executive powers of such an internation-
al government, a government which, with-
in its sphere, will control the governments
of the nations that subscribe to it. One
thing, however, is plain, that to possess any
efficiency these powers must detract in im-
portant ways and in large degree from the
powers of the national governments and in-


volve a considerable sacrifice of their sov-
ereignty. It is true, on the one hand, that
sovereignty in what are called the "democ-
racies" has been gradually transferred from
a personal absolute monarch to the people,
or to some portion of them; and it is also
true, on the other hand, that the conception
of sovereignty in constitutional States has
been to some degree modified by the recog-
nized limitation of the irresponsible use of
force and the addition of ethical elements
in its exercise. In brief, no people can right-
ly claim to possess rights in proportion to
their power, and sovereignty cannot, in a
juristic sense, be longer regarded as strictly
absolute. In every State founded upon the
rights of persons, which is the basis claimed
by democracy, the rights of the whole peo-
ple cannot exceed what is necessary to the
maintenance of the right of each.

In proportion as they become republican,
as Kant contends, States may find it easier
to combine in federations than was the case
with absolute monarchies; still, even repub-
lics are jealous of their sovereign powers,



and they are not disposed lightly to surren-
der them. Every scheme for a League of
Nations requires this surrender in some de-
gree, for every such league creates in some
form a supernational body of control, to
which the members agree to submit. Mem-
bership in such a league, of necessity, im-
plies the renunciation of any independent
foreign policy.

In a world composed of nations varying
in culture, character, education, and honor,
as well as in numbers, strength, and military
traditions, such a renunciation cannot wisely
be made without unusual assurances, and it
cannot be universal. If made at all, it must
be made for the sake of advantages not oth-
erwise attainable, and for an association that
is beyond suspicion. A league which had
for its object to enforce peace, without spe-
cific foreknowledge of the occasions that
might call for its exercise of the war-making
power, could not be wisely created except
between nations of the highest moral respon-
sibility and mutual confidence, and could
never safely be allowed to include any nation



that could not be trusted to accept and obey
the decisions of a tribunal to which it might
consent to submit a difference.

A league professing to be composed only
of "free nations" would rest upon a basis of
an extremely ambiguous character. What
nations are to be classed as "free" ? Certain-
ly no nation that holds in subjection any
people not permitted to enjoy self-govern-
ment. And the mutability of nations must
not be overlooked. The expression "free na-
tions" is especially equivocal in a period of
revolution and transition, like the present.
Neither Russia, nor Austria- Hungary, nor
even Germany could claim a place in it, nor
could the fragments into which they may
possibly fall before the movements of revolt
or secession are completed. And what is to
be said of the suppressed nationalities which
are aspiring to independence but have not
yet attained it?

Is it not a little singular that the course of
events and the effort to control them by gen-
eral principles should have led men to claim
that the coming peace should include such


logical antinomies as a partial renunciation
of national sovereignty and the complete at-
tainment of self-determination?

The origin of the problem is more evident
than its solution. On the one hand, some
nations are regarded as too independent, too
powerful, and too aspiring, to be considered
safe for the rest of the world, unless they
are willing to have imposed upon them cer-
tain restraints w r hich equality seems to re-
quire; while, on the other, some nations are
too much oppressed, too feeble, and too sub-
missive, to assert the national rights which
even-handed justice would assign to them.

We are here confronted with the indis-
putable fact of the natural inequality of na-
tions, and this disparity extends to every cir-
cumstance of national life, except one. Ju-
ristically, all independent and responsible
States, whether large or, small, have equal
abstract rights to existence, self-preserva-
tion, self-defense, and self-determination;
but culturally, economically, and potentially
they are, and must remain, unequal. If they
enter a "League of Nations," they must en-


ter it upon terms which the strong are dis-
posed to grant to the weak and which the
weak are obliged to accept from the strong.
It is evident who will make the laws. But
if self-determination is a right, and its real-
ization is possible only through the exercise
of force, who shall say that a suppressed na-
tion may not plan and achieve its own devel-
opment, as the greater States have done?
Shall the great empires impose upon the
world an unchangeable status of their own
devising; or shall the Balkan States, for ex-
ample, agree upon their own boundaries and

The problem of adjustment is further
complicated by the fact that the modern na-
tion is no longer a merely juristic entity,
having for its only object the maintenance
of order and justice among its own inhabi-
tants. *It has become an economic entity, a
business corporation, looking for markets
for its commodities and for raw material
from which to manufacture them. The
State owns mines, railways, steamships,
colonies, and uses them as means of increas-


ing its own power of control over the prod-
ucts and the markets of the world. Will it
open its house to the passer-by, invite him to
its banquet-board, and share with him its ac-
cumulated treasures?

This is a question which time will answer.
And a very short time has sufficed for a par-
tial response. Every one of the Powers is
now planning how it may increase its trade,
and how it may extend its control over
natural resources.

In so far as the object of a "League of
Nations" is to prevent this rivalry from be-
coming dangerously acute, its purpose is no
doubt commendable; but the danger it in-
volves is, that, in striving to enforce a legal
compulsion, it may be felt to be oppressive,
a new type of multiplex imperialism in
place of the old. In one respect, at least,
this danger is imminent. If a "League of
Nations" proves to be a device to compel in-
dependent nations to make economic sacri-
fices for the benefit of others, and establishes
a central control of resources which becomes
a dispenser of benefits which the beneficiaries


have not aided in creating, then the League
will prove a bondage that will he resented,
and will not be endured. It is very appeal-
ing to our better natures to inform us, that
the future is to be "a life of service," in which
we must perform a generous part. If this is
voluntary, the call may well be a spur to
action. But if the "League of Nations"
aims to obtain these sacrifices, not by such
voluntary action as the associated nations
have freely offered to one another during the
period of war, by supplies of food, loans of
money, free medical service, and gifts of a
magnitude which the world has never before
known, but by the enforced operation of a
legal contract, the call is different. The
policy underlying a "League" is that the
world's supplies, the world's credit, and the
world's military strength, in the name of
"equal economic opportunity," together with
the "freedom of the seas," whatever that may
mean, are to be placed under the control of
a central authority, an International Coun-
cil whose decisions shall be paramount and
final in the great questions of trade and war.



If nations had not developed into business
corporations, and had confined their activi-
ties to the realm of protecting the rights of
their individual citizens, a "League of
Nations" might have meant something quite
different from this. Laws of a universal
character might have been readily assented
to for the uniform protection of individual
persons which it is now difficult for sovereign
Powers to accept as applying to themselves.
This is particularly true when international
restraints are directed against perfect free-
dom in national fiscal policy. No nation
whose citizens are required by their habits
and climate to maintain a high standard of
living, or suffer deterioration by lowering it,
can afford to bind itself to grant equal terms
to imports, especially manufactured articles,
from all countries alike. They would soon
find their working classes reduced to starva-
tion wages accompanied by the total paraly-
sis of many lines of industry as a conse-
quence of an enforced competition with lower
races, living in climates and under condi-
tions where the customary standard of life


can be maintained at a trifling cost, while for-
eign employers were reaping rich harvests
of profit by exploiting practically subject

Under such a regime, the people of the
United States would suffer more than any
others, for the reason that their standard of
living is the highest in the world. It is on
this account that by voluntary sacrifice the
United States has been able to rescue from
starvation and to supply with needed com-
modities the impoverished nations of the
world. This has been one of their chief con-
tributions to the Great Understanding, the
Entente of Free Nations, in saving from
ruin the countries overridden by centralized
economic power. It has been possible be-
cause personal initiative and enterprise, pro-
tected and left free to achieve its own devel-
opment without absorption by the State, had
accumulated forces and agencies which, be-
ing free, were in reality the most efficient in
the world. Without that freedom and with-
out that protection, the contribution of
America in the war would have been impos-


sible. Our country would have been in a
state of colonial dependence upon the great
manufacturing centers of the European

Our interest and our policy are, therefore,
plain: first of all, to hold fast to our free-
dom ; and, next, to prevent from falling into
desuetude that unwritten charter of union
which constitutes the Entente of Free
Nations, cherishing its unity of purpose as
the most precious of human achievements. It
is a moral, not a legal unity, that has given
us the victory. Uncovenanted armies have
gathered from every quarter of the globe to
assert the determination of the free nations
that the rule of arbitrary force shall be ended.
Our sons and brothers have been among
them. Together they have faced death and
have shed their blood, and men of many
nations sleep in common graves. It is the
most splendid assurance for the peace of the
world and the rule of justice that can be im-
agined. The sense of comradeship in a holy
cause cannot perish. A new Brotherhood of
Men has come into being. Let us not mar its


simplicity by distrust or controversy, or try
to force upon any of our co-belligerents any
untried theory of legal union which might be
honestly rejected, or accepted with doubt
and reluctance. The battle has been fought
in the name of freedom. Let us remain free
in the hour of victory.

But in our freedom there are certain prin-
ciples which must not and will not be for-
gotten. They will control the practice of
the Entente of Free Nations, which must
continue with its present provisions for con-
ference, discussion, and united action. A
marked step of advancement has been taken
in the recognition of the principle that all in-
ternational engagements and undertakings
must be justified by the moral law and must
have publicity. A formal covenant in this
sense may be found possible, and it may take
a solemn legal form; but, whether this be
the case or not, the war has established a few
precepts that will, undoubtedly, be admit-
ted to a permanent place in the code of in-
ternational right. No treaty between nations
should be considered binding unless it is pub-


lished when it is made. No negotiations af-
fecting the destinies of peoples should be
conducted without their knowledge of the
fact and of the obligations to which they are
to be committed. No war should be begun
without a public statement of the reasons
for it and an opportunity for public media-
tion between the disputants, which should
never be considered an offense. No territory
occupied in war should be claimed by right
of conquest without a public hearing of all
who are affected by it.

The attempt to state these, or any, definite
principles, illustrates how inadequate a
strictly documentary form of engagement of
necessity must be. It is, however, the spirit,
not the form, that mustf be depended upon
for the security which a formal treaty of al-
liance or an understanding can afford. The
whole structure of international peace and
justice rests upon the character of the
peoples who form the Society of Nations.
The Great War has subjected the combat-
ants to a fiery test. It cannot well be doubt-
ed that the Entente of Free Nations will


stand also the test of peace. A solidarity
that has been only strengthened by the
dangers of battle will certainly not be broken
in the attempt to revise the Law of Nations,
to make it the basis of clearer understand-
ings, and to increase the confidence with
which the co -partners in victory will bring
before the judgment bar of reason the dif-
ferences that may tend to divide them. But
the perfection of this understanding is a mat-
ter of growth and of gradual adjustment.
What cannot be accomplished by a stroke of
the pen at a given moment of time may
prove an easy task if the spirit of the En-
tente, and especially the sense of freedom
which brought it into being, can be retained
and matured. But this can be done only by
a renunciation of the desire to force any

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryDavid Jayne HillPresent problems in foreign policy → online text (page 2 of 17)