David Jayne Hill.

The rebuilding of Europe : a survey of forces and conditions online

. (page 2 of 15)
Online LibraryDavid Jayne HillThe rebuilding of Europe : a survey of forces and conditions → online text (page 2 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

very nature charged with mutual rights and

Here is pictured no irresponsible autocrat
clothed with supreme power, but a responsible
member of a family of nations, fitted to unite with
other members of that family in extending over
the whole earth the reign of law and justice, but
above all required by the very nature and pur-
pose of its authority to conduct itself in all its
relations, outward and inward, in accordance with
the principles from which its authority as an
organ of justice is derived. Founded upon the
inherent rights of persons, and existing for their
protection, a state in this sense can arrogate to it-
self no sovereign right of conquest, whatever its
power may be. The only authority it can claim
is authority to defend the rights and interests thus
committed to its guardianship. As a moral en-
tity for this is what Althusius taught that a
state founded on rights necessarily is it should
be ready to apply the principles of justice and
equity in its dealings with other states.

Thus understood, sovereignty is not merely a


name for supreme power. It is a right inherent
in a free and independent group of human beings,
possessing a definite territory, to form and main-
tain a government. Reduced to its simplest
terms, it is the right of a free community to pro-
vide for self -regulation and to maintain its own
existence. Whatever is necessary to that, and
nothing more, is included in this conception of the
state. Only in an incidental manner does it be-
long to the category of might. In its essential
attributes it belongs to the category of right.

Were this conception of sovereignty generally
accepted, justice and equity would not halt at the
frontiers of a nation. The right of war would
exist, but it would not be, as the old Europe has
universally recognized it to be, a virtually unlim-
ited right. There could be, under this conception,
no permanently subject peoples. There could be
no world dominion. There could be no legal
schemes of conquest. War would mean the pun-
ishment of offenders against the law of nations,
the suppression of anarchy and brigandage, re-
sistance to the ambitions of the conqueror.

But the old Europe has never been disposed to
give to sovereignty that meaning. It could not


do so while it was identified with royal legitimacy.
That principle triumphed a hundred years ago in
the Congress of Vienna, which strove to neutralize
the effects of the French Revolution by ending
forever the sovereignty of the people. Then fol-
lowed the effort to establish Europe firmly upon
the principles of absolutism by crushing out all
constitutional aspirations. To accomplish this
the unlimited right of war was necessary, for
without armed intervention by the allied sover-
eigns the task was hopeless. Legitimacy was to
be everywhere sustained by the Holy Alliance.
Wherever a state adopted a constitution, the pow-
ers bound themselves at the Conference of Trop-
pau, "if need be by arms, to bring back the
guilty state into the bosom of the Alliance."

The unlimited right of a sovereign state to make
war for any reason it considered sufficient, or for
no reason at all, thus seemed to be written into
the public law of Europe. That was the un-
hallowed inheritance which even modern democ-
racies have received from absolutism. Being
entitled to all the prerogatives of sovereignty as
historically understood, they have not repudiated
the heritage. And thus they have tacitly ac-


cepted the evil principle of the despotisms against
whose iniquities they have rebelled, and whose
pernicious influence they were struggling to throw

In the call for the first Hague Conference "all
questions concerning the political relation of
states" were expressly excluded from the deliber-
ations of the conference. In that, and in the
second conference, rules were laid down regard-
ing the manner of conducting war, both on land
and sea, but nowhere were any regulations pre-
scribed regarding the causes or conditions of
declaring war that were to be considered legal or
illegal, just or unjust. As one of the best ac-
credited authorities on the subject says:

Theoretically, international law ought to determine the
causes for which war can be justly undertaken; in other
words, it ought to mark out as plainly as municipal law
what constitutes a wrong for which a remedy may be
sought at law. It might also not unreasonably go on to
discourage the commission of wrongs by investing a state
seeking redress with special rights, and by subjecting a
wrong-doer to special disabilities.

In fact, however, it does nothing of the kind.
The reason is not merely that there would be no


means except war for enforcing such rules, for
that would apply equally to the regulations con-
cerning the manner of conducting war that have
been explicitly laid down, but because no sov-
ereign state has thus far been disposed to pledge
itself not to engage in war except under condi-
tions that in harmony with its own principles
of legislation would be considered just. "Hence
both parties in every war are regarded as being in
an identical position, and consequently possessed
of equal rights." Aggressor and victim alike, tri-
umphant force and helpless innocence, these are
held in equal honor by the public law of Europe
as it now stands, and this law has been tacitly
accepted by the whole "family of nations" !

It is upon this unlimited right to resort to war,
and the consequent general irresponsibility in in-
ternational relations, that the idea of neutrality
reposes; and yet neutrality is historically an im-
mense step forward in the path of progress when
compared with the Machiavellian doctrine that no
opportunity for gain from the quarrels of others
should be allowed to pass unutilized. In every
war, Machiavelli declares, one side or the other


will win, and the wise course for an intelligent
prince to pursue is to join at the proper moment
with the probable winner, whoever he may be, in
order to be able to share with him the spoils of

The modern doctrine of neutrality, which con-
siders war an unavoidable evil, is no doubt an
amelioration of Machiavelli's policy; for, instead
of widening the range of hostilities, its aims to
narrow the area of conflict. It is inspired, how-
ever, chiefly by the consideration that it is a na-
tional right to avoid the infection of a pestilence
which the neutral power has not caused and for
which it is not responsible. So long as the bel-
ligerents, who are conceded the privilege of mu-
tual destruction, but often with very unequal fa-
cilities for engaging in the conflict, do not too
deeply offend the neutral states by their activities,
powerful nations feel justified in standing silent
and inactive while weak states are crushed into
subjection and the laws of war, which they them-
selves have helped to make, are violated.

From a moral point of view this appears to be a
strange proceeding for a member of the "family
of nations"; but it must be considered that this


is a family of a very peculiar kind. In it each
member, by tacit consent, is believed to fulfil his
whole duty by looking solely after his own inter-
ests. Governments, it is held, are in each case re-
sponsible to their own constituents for the preser-
vation of the safety and well-being of the nations
intrusted to their care, and consequently they can-
not act with the freedom of a private person.
They may not, therefore, incontinently plunge
their people into war without reasons that involve
the national interests. Until there is a better or-
ganization of international relations, this condi-
tion must continue ; but it is rapidly coming to be
perceived that, if civilization is not to suffer ship-
wreck, a better organization must be sought.

Before attempting to find a basis for a revision
of international relations it is necessary to consider
how intimately national interests have become as-
sociated with war. For a long time, all the in-
terests of the state were regarded as personal to
the sovereign. All its territory was his territory.
All the property of the nation was his property,
of which the people enjoyed only the usufruct.
Even their persons and their lives were at his dis-


posal, for they were in all respects his subjects.

To-day the identity of the sovereign is changed,
but not the conception of sovereignty. The peo-
ple, standing in the place of the sovereign, claim
the right of succession to all the royal preroga-
tives. The national interests have become their
interests. The appeal to their patriotism rests
upon this ground. The power, gain, and glory
of the state are represented to be theirs. Even
where it has not entirely superseded the monarch,
the nation believes itself to have entered into part-
nership with him, and the people consider them-
selves shareholders in the vast enterprise of ex-
panding dominion. Even the beggar in the street
is assured that it is his country; and, though
ragged and hungry, he takes a pride in his pro-

It is the nation's territory, industry, commerce,
and prestige that are now in question. And gov-
ernment, even the government of the people, is no
longer merely protective. It enters into every
kind of business, owns railways, steamship lines,
manufactories, everything involving the life and
prosperity of the people. The state has become
an economic as well as a political organ of society.


The modern national state is, in fact, a stupend-
ous and autonomous business corporation, the
most portentous and the most lawless business
trust, and views other nations as its business
rivals, aiming at the control of foreign markets,
and of the sources of raw materials wherever
they may exist. And these vast economic entities,
with their vision fixed on gain, combine not only
the command of armies and navies, but absolute
freedom from effective legal restriction with im-
mensely concentrated wealth such as the kings
and emperors of the past never had at their dis-

Whatever, from an internal and social point of
view, the merits or defects of the extension of state
functions may be, they are bristling with possi-
bilities of war, and when modern nations engage
in it, it is no longer a dynastic adventure, but a
people's war. Commanding the strength and re-
sources of a whole people, and acting for its al-
leged interests, these great economic corporations
are fitted for aggression as well as for defense.
If they were subject to the usual laws of business
that prevail in the regulation of private enter-
prises within their own borders, in accordance


with the principles they apply at home, these
mailed and armed knights of trade might not be
dangerous to the world's peace; but they are not
subject to these, or to any such regulations. They
recognize no law which they feel themselves
obliged to obey. Inheriting by tradition from the
past alleged rights of absolute sovereignty, and
equipped with military forces on land and sea,
they are engaged in a struggle for supremacy
which they would not for a moment permit within
their own legal jurisdiction. Were a similar or-
ganization formed within their own borders,
adopting as its principles of action the privileges
usually claimed by sovereign states, it would be
promptly and ruthlessly suppressed as a danger-
ous outlaw.

This statement implies no reflection upon any
particular nation, for all to some extent share in
the responsibility. What is here condemned as
essentially unsocial and anarchic is the indiffer-
ence of these great national economic corporations
to one another's rights, and above all the absence
in the law of nations, as it is now understood, of
accepted regulations such as the lesser constituent
elements of the business world are required by


these very states to obey under their authority. If
civilization is to endure, and nations are not to
become privileged highway robbers on the land
and pirates on the sea, this part of the law of na-
tions must be revised not only as respects the
rules of war, but the rules of peace. In so far as
a nation is a business entity it should be governed
by the same principles in its dealings with other
nations as civilized states apply to business within
their own limits. But international law has not
yet leached the stage of formal development where
this is recognized. It is still under the influence
of the inherited customs of the past, the baneful
fiction of an absolute sovereign prerogative. Just
as Christendom found that it was not in fact so
organized as to restrain the Hun and the Tartar,
so we are discovering that civilization is not yet
so organized as to restrain their modern counter-
parts. So long as international business is con-
trolled by an absolute conception of sovereignty,
and sustained by military force, there will be no
prospect of either peace or equity in the world.

Let us not here undertake to speak of remedies.
We must first comprehend the nature of the situ-


ation. Nor should we here attempt to apportion
blame, which would only end in bitter controversy.
If the evil is in the system, then it is the system
that must be changed; and it will be time enough
to inquire how to change it and to pronounce
specific condemnations when we know what
change is required and who may refuse to par-
ticipate in making it.

Undoubtedly, we have all of us been cherishing
illusions. Let us, then, endeavor to dissipate

We have assumed that in some mystical manner
progress is inherent in society ; that it is necessarily
produced by natural laws ; that the mere duration
of time carries us forward to perfection ; and that
the older civilization becomes, the wiser it tends
to be. Trusting to these baseless generalities, we
have in a spirit of optimism forgotten that we have
duties to perform, renunciations to make, and
sacrifices to offer if the state, or the so-called
society of states, is to prosper. We have formed
the habit of looking to the state as a source of
personal benefit to ourselves, which calls for only
the smallest contributions from us in return. We
have made exorbitant demands upon it, as undis-


ciplined children extort privileges from over-in-
dulgent parents. We have wanted better wages,
better prices for our commodities, better oppor-
tunities of trade, better conditions of life, free
schools, free books, playgrounds, public provi-
sions of every kind at the expense of the state. In
order to obtain these benefits, some have desired
that the state should become omnipotent, seeking
to augment its resources by despoiling the rich
within its limits, and exploiting or even conquer-
ing foreign territory wrested from other peoples,
in the belief that this would render it easier to
satisfy their desires, and through its increased
power become the dispenser of happiness. When
for this purpose armies and navies have been re-
quired, it has usually been easy to obtain them;
for may not the state, being a sovereign power,
do all things necessary for its own interest?
Thus men's consciences have been put to rest.

This tendency of modem states and the sudden
revelation of its meaning have been forcibly ex-
pressed by a recent writer. He says:

A few more teasings, a few more pistols held at the
head of the state, and a scheme, we were expecting, would
be forthcoming that would render us all happy in spite


of ourselves. Then, one fine morning in August, there
came a rude awakening. We got a message from the
state couched in language we had never heard before. "I
require you," said the state, "to place your property and
your lives at my service. Now, and for some time to
come, I give nothing, but ask for everything. Arm your-
selves for my defense. Give me your sons, and be will-
ing that they should die for me. Repay what you owe
me. My turn has come."

And thus Europe is now called upon to pay the
debt its theory of the state and of the state's om-
nipotence has incurred.

We have also trusted blindly to the process of
social evolution. Industrialism and commerce,
we have assumed, will automatically bring in a
new era. Before it militarism, the grim relic of
the old regime, will disappear. There will soon
be no need for fighting. When all the world
turns to industry, as it will, wars will cease.
Commerce will cement the nations together and
create a perfect solidarity of interests.

But the present war has thrown a new light
on the relations of militarism and industry.
Forty years ago, Herbert Spencer, with his strong
proclivity for brilliant generalization, fancied
that the age of militarism was soon to be super-


seded by an age of universal industrialism. He
described their opposite polities, the conditions of
the gradual transition, and the final triumph of
industry over militancy. But what do we now
behold? Has militarism diminished with the
growth of industry? Has not militarism simply
become more titanic and even more demoniacal by
the aid of industry, until war has become the most
stupendous problem of modern mechanics ? And
now we see militarism wholly absorbing industry,
claiming all its resources, and even organizing
and commanding it.

And why is this? It is because the state as a
business corporation is employing military force
as its advance agent, struggling for the control of
markets and resources, and the command of new
peoples who are to feed and move the awful en-
ginery of war.

And this condition of the world is the logical
outcome of the inherited theory of the state. This
fact is now beginning to be recognized, and re-
cently there has been much said regarding impe-
rialism and democracy, often assuming that the
mere internal form of government alone is re-
sponsible for the international situation in Eu-


rope. But it is not the form, it is the spirit, and
above all the postulates, of government that are
at fault. If democracies may act according to
their "good pleasure," if the mere power of ma-
jorities is to rule without restraint, if there are
no sacred and controlling principles of action, in
what respect is a multiple sovereign superior to a
single autocrat? If the private greed of a people
is sustained by the pretensions of absolutism in
international affairs, democracy itself becomes im-
perial, without accepting the principles of equity
which have sometimes given dignity to the im-
perial idea. In truth, the most dangerous con-
ceivable enemy to peace and justice would be a
group of competitive democracies delirious with
unsatisfied desires.

If there is to be a new Europe, it must not look
for new forms of organization so much as for a
new spirit of action. It must renounce altogether
its evil heritage. It must reconstruct its theory
of the state as an absolute autonomous entity.
If the state continues to be a business corporation,
as it probably in some sense will, then it must
abandon the conception of sovereignty as an un-


limited right to act in any way it pleases under
the cover of national interests and necessity. It
must consent to be governed by ethical principles.
It must not demand something for nothing, it must
not make its power the measure of its action, it
must not put its interests above its obligations.
It may plead them, it may argue them, and it may
use its business advantages justly to enforce them ;
but it may not threaten the life or appropriate the
property of its neighbors or insist upon controlling
them on its own terms. It may display its wares,
proclaim their excellence, fix its own prices, buy
and sell where it finds its advantage; but it must
not bring to bear a machine-gun as a means of
persuasion upon its rival across the street.

No one can make a thorough and impartial in-
quiry into the causes of the present European
conflict without perceiving that their roots run
deep into the soil of trade rivalry. Beneath the
apparent political antagonisms are the economic
aspirations that have produced them. In the
light of history we can no longer accept the doc-
trine that industrialism and commercialism by a
process of natural evolution automatically super-
sede militarism. On the contrary, we perceive


that militarism on the one hand, and industry
and commerce on the other, are at present part-
ners rather than antagonists. They are differ-
ent, but closely associated, activities of modern
business policy as conducted by the state. If
there were no economic questions involved, the
conflict of nationalities could soon be ended.
Modern wars are primarily trade wars. Modern
armies and navies are not maintained for the
purpose of ruthlessly taking human life or of
covering rulers with glory. They are, on the one
hand, armed guardians of economic advantages
already possessed; and, on the other, agents of
intended future depredation, gradually organ-
ized for purposes alleged to be innocent, and at
what is esteemed the auspicious moment des-
patched upon their mission of aggression. In-
ternational misunderstandings are readily ad-
justed where there is the will to adjust them ; but
against the deliberately formed policies of na-
tional business expansion the reaching out for
new territory, increased population, war indem-
nities, coaling stations, trade monopolies, control
of markets, supplies of raw materials, and advan-
tageous treaty privileges, to be procured under the


shadow of the sword there is no defense except
the power to thwart or obstruct them by armed

We must, then, definitely abandon the thesis
that industrialism is essentially pacific, and will
eventually automatically disband armies and
navies, and thus put an end to war. On the con-
trary, modern armies and navies are the result
of trade rivalry, and are justified to those who
support them on the ground that there are na-
tional interests to be defended or advantages to be
attained by their existence. So long as even one
powerful nation retains its heritage of evil and in-
sists that it may employ its armies or navies ag-
gressively as an agency in its national business;
so long, to put the matter directly, as the nations
must buy and sell, travel and exchange, negotiate
and deliver, with bayonets at their breasts, so
long defensive armies and navies will be neces-
sary, and the battle for civilization must go on.

Strange as it may seem, it is not the poorest
nations, but the richest, where discontent is deep-
est and most widespread. It is the great powers
that are most inclined to war, and are most fully
prepared to make it; and the reason is not diffi-


cult to discern. The greater the state the greater
its ambitions. It is easily within the grasp of
five or six great powers to secure the permanent
peace of the world, and, far more important than
that, to secure the observance of just laws by all
nations. But, unfortunately, governments, feel-
ing themselves charged with the duty of augment-
ing the resources of the state, find no limit to their
ambitions except in their powers of action, which
are great. The whole future of the world has in
the past virtually lain in the hands of a small
number of men, not all of them monarchs, but the
recognized leaders of public thought and action
in their respective nations.

This order of things is less likely to continue
in the future than at any time in the past. Far
less frequently than in former times will individ-
ual men shape the destinies of nations. And this
is an important augury for the new Europe.
Only a few men, and they but temporarily, framed
and executed the policies that have, for example,
created the British Empire. As the historian
Seeley said, "We have conquered half the world
in a fit of absence of mind." And in all this
process the British people have never been con-


suited, just as the German people were not con-
sulted in the two critical moments of their exist-
ence; for in the past peoples were seldom con-
sulted regarding their national destiny. But that

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

Online LibraryDavid Jayne HillThe rebuilding of Europe : a survey of forces and conditions → online text (page 2 of 15)