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University of Illinois Library

L161 1141


Other Books by David Jayne Hill

A History of Diplomacy in the In-
ternational Development of Europe.

Vol. I The Struggle for Universal
Empire. With 5 Colored Maps,
Chronological Tables, List of
Treaties and Index. Pp. XXIII-
481. $5.00.

Vol^ II The Establishment of Ter-
ritorial Sovereignty. With 4 Col-
ored Maps, Tables, etc. Pp.
XXIV-688. $5.00.

Vol. Ill The Diplomacy of the Age
of Absolutism. With 5 Colored
Maps, Tables, etc. Pp. XXVI-
706. $6.00.

World Organization, as Affected by
the Nature of the Modern State.

Pp. IX-2I4. $1.50.
Translated also into French and German.

The People's Government.

Pp. X-288. $1.25 net.

Americanism What It Is.

Pp. XV-283. $1.25 net.








Copyright, 1917, by

Published October, 1917



The world is passing through the birth pangs
of a new historic period. Europe, because it con-
trols the destiny of the greater part of the earth,
was the first to feel these convulsions, but the
transformation taking place is essentially a world

The struggle now going on has been variously
called "a trade war," a contest regarding "the
destiny of the smaller states," "a war for democ-
racy," and "a war for principles." No one of
these expressions quite definitely conveys the real
significance of the Great War, because no one of
them adequately presents to the mind its relation
to the changes in political thought that have oc-
curred during the last few decades.

What has been most completely overlooked is
the fact that the Great War was not in its begin-
ning, and is not now, so much a struggle between
different forms of government as it is a question
regarding the p -pose and spirit of all govern-




ments. The Austrian-Serbian-Russian conflict,
promoted by Germany with ulterior designs, did
not in any way involve forms of government. All
the participants were monarchies, and no issue
for or against democracy was presented. When
France and England, acting as their interests and
obligations required, were afterward forced into
the fray, even then there was no question of the in-
ternal organization of governments, but it was
seen to be a war for the salvation of Europe as
a society of independent states. It has never
become a war for democracy in the sense that
there is an attempt by any nation to universalize
a democratic form of government. That would
be a doubtful venture, inconsistent with the true
nature of democracy.

The truth is that the Great War is a revolution
against the alleged rights of arbitrary force, ren-
dered necessary by the failure to reach the goal
of a secure international organization by an evo-
lutionary process.

Modern nations have succeeded, with a few
exceptions, in developing constitutional govern-
ments in which ideas of justice have been em-
bodied in systems of law, but they have also in-


herited international traditions that were orig-
inated in an age when military force was the basis
of state existence. These traditions are embodied
in the following four propositions:

(1) The essence of a state is "sovereignty,"
defined as "supreme power."

(2) A sovereign state has the right to declare
war upon any other sovereign state for any rea-
son that seems to it sufficient.

(3) An act of conquest by the exercise of
superior military force entitles the conqueror to
the possession of the conquered territory.

(4) The population goes with the land and
becomes subject to the will of the conqueror.

Such monstrous doctrines as these would never
have been invented by any jurist or statesman un-
der the constitutional regime, yet they are the
postulates that underlie all the great European
settlements, and have never been repudiated by
any European international congress, not even by
the conferences held at The Hague in 1899 and
1907. On the contrary, these propositions were
tacitly assumed as composing the unwritten con-
stitution of the European system of sovereign
states, and virtually all the powers there repre-


sented had at some time, and in some cases
habitually, put them into practice.

What gave to the Hague conferences their great
interest for the public generally was the hope
that there would come out of them some new
enunciation of international law that would put
an end to war and conquest. This was the strong
human current that circled about the conferences,
but among the delegates it was well understood
that a direct blow aimed at any one of the four
propositions just stated would mean the dissolu-
tion of the conference, and, if insisted upon, would
involve a general war, for there were still na-
tional ambitions which war alone could satisfy.

Peace, it was hoped, might be prolonged by
reliance upon the old see-saw, "The balance of
power," fortified by increased armaments. Sup-
plementary to this was the pious wish, which in
the clearer heads never amounted to faith, that
no nation would be guilty of dishonor by an
abuse of power, although its freedom to do so was
undisputed. Gently and timidly, restrictions
upon the too barbarous exercise of the state's
traditionally recognized prerogatives were pro-
posed in the form of conventions about war on


land and war on the sea, with provisions for an
honorable settlement of differences if any nation
desired to be just; but even these measures were
long contested, and the more important of them
persistently opposed by certain powers.

The process of peaceful evolution toward in-
ternational justice having failed to throw off the
thraldom imposed upon Europe by the tradition
of absolute sovereignty and its corollaries, it re-
quired no special clairvoyance to see that a revolu-
tion would some day come born of blood and fire.
It has come. Great powers, appealing to the in-
famous dogma of unlimited right on the part of
the state, have placed their wicked "necessities"
above all law, above all morality, above all hu-
nanity, and have plunged Europe and a great part
of the world into a yawning gulf of death and
devastation. To resist that arrogance and to end
not only this war, but any war based on these
assumptions, is the aim of the resisting powers.
It is the making of a new world ; but there can be
no new world until there is a new Europe in which
the dogma that the state is a licensed brigand is
smitten dead.

It is the purpose of this volume to show that


this dogma, and not any particular form of mere
state organization, is the real enemy that must be
destroyed. The incidents of the Great War are
well known and require no mention here. It is
to the deeper problems that attention should be
directed. Nor is it the intention of this little
book to add to the array of purely subjective
solutions of these problems, for the true solu-
tion can be found only by the united efforts of a
preponderance of the great powers, but rather
to point out what are the really fundamental is-
sues involved in the Great War, and to take ac-
count of the forces and conditions which may aid
or hinder the solution.

Six of the chapters contained in this volume
were, in substance, first presented to the public
last March in the form of lectures on the Schouler
Foundation at the Johns Hopkins University;
five of them were in part printed in the CENTURY
MAGAZINE for May, June, July, September, and
October of the present year.













INDEX . 283




IN the retrospect of future historians the year
1914 may have a place not less important
than the year 1453, which has been accepted as
marking the dividing line between medieval and
modern history. The fall of Constantinople and
the establishment of the Ottoman Turks in Eu-
rope revealed the insufficiency of the bond that
had held Christendom together. In like man-
ner the present European War reveals the in-
adequacy of purely national conceptions for the
complete organization of mankind; for as Chris-
tendom failed to unite the whole world by faith,
so civilization has failed to maintain itself by a
mere balance of forces.

The great tragedy of history has been the con-


flict between the universal humanism that Rome
endeavored to establish, first by law and after-
ward by faith, and the tribalism of the primitive
European races. In the fifteenth century tribal-
ism triumphed. The moral unity of Europe,
which Rome had vainly tried to secure, wholly
disappeared. Both the empire and the papacy,
in which great minds had placed implicit faith,
proved unable, in the face of racial conflicts,
either to rule the world or to preserve the co-
herence of Christendom. All that had given
grandeur to Rome seemed to have ended in failure
when the Greek Empire, the last bulwark of
Roman imperialism, already long and bitterly
alienated from the Roman Curia, paid the pen-
alty of separatism, and fell before the Ottoman as-
sault. With it the splendid postulates of the
Roman imperial idea the essential unity of man-
kind, the supremacy of law based upon reason
and divine command, the moral solidarity of all
who accepted the formulae of faith, and the ef-
fective organization of peace as a condition of
human happiness suffered a fatal catastrophe.
In place of the Pax Romano, , Faustrecht, the right
of the mailed fist, widely prevailed within the


confines of Christendom. Slowly dying during
a thousand years, the traditions of the ancient
world, which the Greek Empire had endeavored
to preserve long after they had been undermined
by tribalism in the West, were now definitively
abandoned. The future was seen to belong to
the separate nations, which alone possessed a
strong sense of unity. The disparity of races, the
spirit of local independence, the conflict between
the spiritual and the temporal forms of obedience,
combined to render possible the development of
powerful national monarchies, and dynastic am-
bition was eager to make use of them for its own

There was, indeed, an element of progress in
this reassertion of the tribal spirit. The rule of
Rome had destroyed the balance between law and
liberty. The vital energies of the primitive races
could not be thus suppressed. All the rich vari-
ety of human diversity pressed the issue of na-
tionality. In order to give to law its complete
authority, it was necessary that it should be de-
veloped out of experience rather than imposed as
a dominant system. Each nation must arrive


at the common destination by pursuing its own
path and under its own leadership. The forma-
tion of nation-states was, therefore, morally in-
evitable. It was essential to the full development
of human capacities.

The defect in this process of evolution lay in
the cruelty and ignorance of the barbarians out
of whom these nation-states were formed. The
procedure was of necessity a work of force rather
than a work of intelligence. On the part of the
masses of the population the instinct of avoiding
danger gave to any efficient protector a vast au-
thority. On the part of natural leaders the in-
stinct of domination became the shaping power of
the state. As a result, the nation-state, slowly
evolving from the feudal state, became a dynastic
creation, in which race, the natural basis of na-
tionality, played a subordinate role. Conquest
seldom proceeded along strictly ethnic lines.
The task was primarily geographic expansion and
strategic security. Once conquered, the differ-
ent races gradually coalesced with their conquer-
ors to form distinct national units in which blood
yielded supremacy to national traditions, and the
most opposite diversities of race, language, and


religious belief were thus finally compounded into
the substance of the nation-states.

This, in brief outline, is the history of vir-
tually all the nation-states of Europe. Not one
of them can boast of absolute purity of race. Not
one of them can establish a claim that its state-
hood is founded on ethnic homogeneity. Not
one of them can profess that it is the product of
conscious and voluntary adhesion to a predeter-
mined theory of what the state should be and who
should compose its substance.

And yet these nation-states are in no sense mere
accidents. However self-conscious some of them
may have become, they were originally the crea-
tions of dynastic purpose. The unity they now
possess was derived from the sense of community
that gradually grew up within them through close
contact, common interests, common sufferings,
and common triumphs ; but they are all in reality
creations of force, exercised chiefly by dominant
dynasties, under which in the process of time
they have arrived at a condition of national self-

This in some cases has been so intense that
the will of the nation has become more powerful


than the will of the dynasty; which, therefore, has
either been cast off entirely, as in France, which
exists by the will of the nation, or permitted to
survive as a mere symbol of national unity, as in
England. Only in a few instances does the
dynasty continue to exercise uncontrolled author-

In the process of forming the nation-state two
instruments have been employed for the realiza-
tion of dynastic purposes: war and marriage.
The territorial expansion obtained by the war-
like energies of a conquering tribe under the
leadership of a hereditary chief has been vastly
aided by the union of such tribes through the in-
termarriage of their chiefs and the process of in-
heritance, thus producing a tribe within a tribe.
Great empires have been formed by wedlock, as
mighty rivers are produced by the confluence of
many tributaries into one stream. The house
of Hapsburg, for example, owes more to Venus
than to Mars. In the course of its history whole
peoples, remote from one another in space and
still more remote in character, have been trans-
ferred to these foreign rulers by marriage con-
tracts. The nation-state has seldom been ruled


by the pure blood of even its own dominant tribe.
From the very beginning royalty has been in
some degree an international institution, a kind
of super-tribe destined to rule by the mere fact
of heredity, composed of kinsmen at the altar, but
of foemen in the field. And, notwithstanding the
devotion of monarchs to nationalism, there has
always existed a secret solidarity of royal inter-

Success in war always creates its own moral
standards, and dynasticism has not failed to do
so. Republican Rome took pride in never wag-
ing an unjust war, and had its college of fetials
to determine whether an action even against bar-
barians was just. This practice arose from a
supreme devotion to the idea of law and a rever-
ence for human reason as the source of law. The
founders and expanders of the nation-states have
entertained no such scruples. They have adopted
the motto that the will of the prince is law, and
that there is no binding law above it. The na-
tion-states, and, in truth, most others, have as-
sented to this dictum, the only question in de-
bate being who really possesses the authority of
the prince.


The "sovereign," whoever he is, being without
a law to govern him, an abstract attribute of the
ruler, called "sovereignty," has been generally
accepted as the substance of the state, and its
powers have been conceived to be, as those of
the absolute prince confessedly were, altogether
unlimited. Since Christendom was abolished,
and tribalism has prevailed, unlimited power has
been recognized, and is still recognized, in the
public law of Europe as the foundation of the

The most fundamental of all the questions
arising out of the Great War is, Can this open
repudiation of humanism in the interest of tribal-
ism be permitted to endure? Is it true that a
sovereign any sovereign, even the totality of the
so-called "sovereign people," of any tribe or na-
tion-state has a right to claim unlimited au-
thority or even authority limited only by the ex-
tent of its power ? Is there not a law for the con-
duct of states, written or unwritten, which all
sovereigns should be required to obey, wholly ir-
respective of the theoretical source or actual ex-
tent of their power? But if there is such a law,
recognized or unrecognized, the conception of


sovereignty as in its nature absolute and un-
limited is evidently false.

It was Machiavelli who expounded the tribal
theory of the state and the methods of securing
its advancement; and in this he was inventing no
system of his own, but merely stating in definite
terms the principles which successful monarchs
were already putting into practice. " 'The
Prince,' " declares Villari, "had a more direct ac-
tion on real life than any other book in the
world, and a larger share in emancipating Eu-
rope from the Middle Ages" ; but it would be more
exact to say that Machiavelli's work, written in
1513 and published in 1532, was the perfect ex-
pression of an emancipation from moral re-
straits far advanced. The Christian idealism of
the Middle Ages had already largely disap-
peared. The old grounds of obligation had been
swept away. Men looked for their safety to the
nation-state rather than to the solidarity of Chris-
tendom; and the state, as Machiavelli's gospel
proclaimed it, consisted in absolute and irrespon-
sible control exercised by one man who should em-
body its unity, strength, and authority.


Thus began the modern world. The concep-
tions of the Roman law, especially those of im-
perium and majestas, were partly revived in sup-
port of the royal dynasties in their struggle with
the residues of feudalism, which resulted in the
development of the national monarchies; but
they had lost their note of universality. Even
Christianity ceased to be ecumenical. There re-
mained, indeed, a traditional fellowship and fra-
ternity of kings, but it was virtually little more
than a code of formal etiquette.

With the dissolution of the feudal organiza-
tion through the predominance of the national
monarchies disappeared that sense of mutual ob-
ligation which under the feudal regime had con-
stituted an ethical bond between the different or-
ders of society. What remained was the bare
conception of irresponsible "sovereignty" consid-
ered as a divinely implanted, absolute, unlimited,
and indivisible prerogative of personal rule, the
charter right of each dynasty to seek its own ag-
grandizement, preponderance, and glory regard-
less of all considerations of race, reason, or re-

With such a conception of the nature of the


state, the whole system of international relations
was necessarily based upon military force. Cas-
ually formed customs, usually the expression of
superior power or of temporary expediency, sup-
plemented by transitory alliances and enforced
conventions, supplied the only rules that obtained
general recognition. Until Grotius appealed to
the ethical motive, and the treaties of Westphalia
recognized the de jure rights of territorial sover-
eignty, there was among the nations of Europe
no semblance of public law which jurisprudence
could recognize. But even after the Peace of
Westphalia, the so-called "law of nations" was
little more than a theoretical acceptance of the
equal rights of autonomous sovereigns, each of
whom could work his will without interference
within his own domains, leaving to each ruler the
unquestioned prerogative of dictating the religion
of his own subjects, of taxing them, of arming
them, and of making war with their united forces
for his own advantage. In effect, the Peace of
Westphalia, by rendering even petty princes abso-
lute, permitted more than three hundred and sixty
independent rulers to carry on the sanguinary
game of war for plunder or conquest without re-


straint; and all, left free to destroy one another,
were thus entitled by public law, through war and
diplomacy, to seek their fortunes with complete
autonomy. Sovereignty, denned as "supreme
power," regardless of any principle of right, was
conceived to be the very essence of the state. It
remained simply to discover by a trial of strength
which power was in reality supreme.

When in its moral awakening the Europe of
the latter part of the eighteenth and early part of
the nineteenth century began to think for itself,
or at least to follow the thinking of Locke, Mon-
tesquieu, Rousseau, Kant, and others who sought
to find the true foundations of the state in the
conception of law based upon the nature and ne-
cessities of men rather than upon dynastic power,
Europe found itself under the incubus of this
sinister inheritance.

Without a convulsion that would shake the
whole of Europe to its foundations it was power-
less to throw it off. Rousseau had in "Le contrat
social" merely transferred the idea of sovereignty
from the monarch to the people, but he had not
essentially altered its character. It was still "su-
preme power," still the "absolute, indivisible, and


perpetual" thing which Jean Bodin, seeking to
give royalty a philosophical pedestal to stand
upon, had said it was. Inherent in the people, it
was still the personification of all the public pow-
ers ; and the volonte generate, the general will, re-
gardless of its moral qualities, was for each sep-
arate state, the unlimited, irresponsible source of

When the French Revolution judged and con-
demned the king, it was done as a sovereign act;
and was, therefore, not permitted to be questioned
by the rest of Europe. Was not sovereignty ab-
solute ? Then it belonged to France. Was it not
indivisible? Then it belonged to the French
people. Was it not perpetual ? Who, then, could
ever take it away or in any way dispute it? And
thus the volonte generate of one nation, in the per-
son of the residuary legatee of the Revolution, Na-
poleon Bonaparte, made emperor by the assent of
the volonte generate of France, assumed to act as
sovereign over the whole of Europe.

There was no moment during the whole revolu-
tionary period when sovereignty ceased to be con-
ceived as unlimited supreme power. And thus
the malign inheritance of Europe, in so far as it


was affected by the Revolution, was essentially un-
changed. Monarchy and democracy alike, with-
out distinction, have regarded sovereignty merely
as "supreme power," "absolute, indivisible, and
perpetual." Thus it stands in the text-books of
the law of nations. So many sovereignties, so
many absolute autocrats. Being the sole sources
of law, how can they be subject to law? And
there being no law which they may not set aside,
since it is but their creature, sovereign nations
are irresponsible, and have no more to do with
moral right or wrong than so many untamed ani-
mals seeking to satisfy their appetites. The right
to make war at will and to be answerable to no
one, that was, and is, the accepted doctrine of the
old Europe, which merely asserted itself anew in

This does not signify that it has never been
contested. More than three hundred years ago,
a now almost forgotten German jurist, though
recognizing sovereignty as the foundation of the
state, defined it as an attribute, not of the people
as an unorganized mass, but of a "body politic"
organized for the promotion of justice, deriving its
authority as a moral entity from the rights of its


constituent members, whom it is organized to
protect against wrong, and therefore from its

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Online LibraryDavid Jayne HillThe rebuilding of Europe : a survey of forces and conditions → online text (page 1 of 15)