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they ever did before, international law, after an
orgy of violence and atrocity, appeals with new
strength to the reason of mankind as something


that possesses an inherent claim upon our re-
spect and obedience.

Although criminally violated, it is an error
to suppose that international law has been wholly
disregarded in the great European conflict. On
the contrary, it has been recognized and appealed
to as never before in human history. Never in
any previous war have such efforts been put
forth by belligerents to justify their own conduct,
and to prove that their enemies have openly dis-
regarded the principles of justice as well as the
merely technical rules of warfare. The volumi-
nous white, red, yellow, and other books published
by the governments are eloquent tributes to the
authority of international law, which they con-
stantly accuse their enemies of violating, and
profess to appeal to as a body of rules that ought
to be obeyed. In truth, the approval and dis-
approval of their acts by the neutral nations are
based almost entirely upon the conclusiveness or
inconclusiveness of the evidence that these accusa-
tions are true, and the weight of public condem-
nation corresponds with the preponderance of
guilt resulting from intentional disregard of the
principles of justice.


How trivial it is, then, to speak of interna-
tional law as being of slight importance, and es-
pecially to treat it as if it had no claims to the
title of binding law because it does not have an
immediate external sanction ! An ultimate sanc-
tion it unquestionably has. If it were generally
disregarded, it would involve the complete ruin
of civilization. If, on the other hand, it were
generally obeyed, if all the great powers, not to
speak of the smaller ones, earnestly sought to
carry out in all their relations with one another
the principles for which they profess to stand, and
which they endeavor to enforce within their own
jurisdictions and demand that other governments
should observe in respect to themselves, it would
seem like a different world.

Is it then not idle to pretend that international
law has no sanction when obedience or disobedi-
ence of its precepts carries such far-reaching con-
sequences to mankind? In the present condi-
tion of the world, as the rain falls alike on the
just and on the unjust, even under municipal law
the victims of unprovoked aggression often suf-
fer while the guilty escape the penalty the state
would impose upon them; but we do not on this


account deny the existence of the law. Nor can
it be said that no penalty is attached to the viola-
tion of the law of nations. In general, besides
its direct consequence of resentment and hostility
on the part of the nation wronged, it should in-
volve the general reprobation of mankind. And,
in fact, the penalties for violations of interna-
tional law are far more specifically apportioned
and executed than we sometimes imagine. The
perpetration of injustice by one state upon another
invariably deteriorates its own citizenship and
destroys within the body politic itself values far
more precious than those obtained by an unjust
war. "A state," it has been well said, "can do
no wrong to another which is not equally, and
even more, a wrong to itself." Regarded from
a historical point of view, there are few projects
of international depredation that have not brought
terrific retributions; and, although law-abiding
states have sometimes been subjected to infam-
ous encroachments, it is a fact supported by sta-
tistics that many small and inoffensive states, like
Switzerland and Holland, demand lower taxes
and borrow money at lower rates of interest than
the imperial powers that have from time to time


attempted to subjugate their neighbors, thereby
sowing dragon's teeth of reprisal and revenge
that exhaust populations and burden them with
public debt. The cost of overgrown armies and
navies and the far heavier cost of young life
offered as a sacrifice to national pride and na-
tional greed are not these a penalty for dis-
regarding a law of life written in the reason and
the conscience of man?

What, then, is law, if not that principle of self-
regulation by which a being realizes the true end
of its existence? Our statements of it may vary
from time to time, for the perception of it de-
pends upon the development of our intelligence.
But it does not depend upon our will. It is in-
herent in our being. It is manifested through our
reason. It is confirmed through our experience.
There is a law of nations as well as a law of in-
dividual life, which we have only partly discov-
ered, because we have not sought the highest
good of all, but only the highest good of a limited
number. But nature deals in universals. So
long, therefore, as all nations, or even some na-
tions, insist upon a right of territorial expansion
at the expense of others; so long as they fail to


recognize that, irrespective of size and strength,
they are members of a community of jural equals ;
so long as they claim that their will is law, so
long war will be the ratio ultima, and prepara-
tion for it the highest wisdom of statesmanship.
If it is impossible to place confidence in leagues
of peace, it is still less possible to confide our
destinies to a league to enforce peace, if it is to
be composed of powers that need themselves to be
placed under guardians. The only league that
could be trusted effectually to enforce peace would
be one composed exclusively of states that are
disposed to recognize the obligations of interna-
tional law, and voluntarily to pledge themselves to
protect and obey it.

But, to speak plainly, peace is not in itself a
human ideal. As long as it leaves unsolved the
problems of justice, it is not even a desirable as-
piration. It may even be repugnant to the moral
sentiments of an enlightened conscience. It is
to be desired only when it is the concomitant of
realized social good, for it is in no sense an end in
itself. Yet the word is not to be set aside as rep-
resenting a mere negation, as if it were simply the


absence of strife. Peace on earth would mean the
liberation of human faculties for the highest and
noblest achievements of which human nature is
capable. It would mean a splendid efflorescence
of art, literature, science, philosophy, and religion,
in short, culture in its best sense, as the spon-
taneous unfolding of the powers of personality.

And when we consider what an absolutist state
might do to repress human spontaneity, destroy
the sense of personality, and render its own dog-
mas definitive, we see what an incubus upon civi-
lization it is capable of becoming. If the tend-
ency to monopolize and direct for its own purposes
all human energies in channels of its own devising
were unrestrained, we should eventually have an
official art, an official science, and an official
literature that would be like iron shackles to the
human mind.

These things, being human, are essentially cos-
mopolitan, and thrive best where international
intercourse is least restrained. If, as the absolut-
ist theory of the state assumes, a particular gov-
ernment did, in reality, embody the indwelling
absolute, the source and shaper of all intelligent
existence, as Hegel would have it, would it even


then have the right to dictate what language
should be employed, what arts should be encour-
aged, what forms they should take, and what
purposes they should serve? What a narrow
view it is to assume that any merely national
culture is a world culture or that it has a right to
impose itself upon recalcitrant peoples who have
a culture of their own! Such an assumption is
not only unphilosophical ; it is unhistorical.
" Culture is not, and never can be, an inherent
quality peculiar to a particular nation or lan-
guage. It is the heritage of the whole human
race, cherished, enriched, and transmitted by one
generation to another, from one corner of the
earth to another. Human languages are the ves-
sels in which culture resides. No language has
been a culture-language from the beginning, and
none is incapable of becoming such in the end."
Culture, in any true sense, cannot be made a na-
tional monopoly. It is an affair of the human
soul, and any vehicle of repression against which
the soul is in revolt is doomed to defeat, or cul-
ture will perish in the struggle.

Here speak with voices that cannot be silenced
and with pleadings that must be heard the sup-


pressed nationalities, whole peoples smitten with
the sword, torn up from their historic roots, and
made to serve the narrow selfish purposes of
dominant dynasties. It is useless to speak of
peace while these enormities exist. How can peo-
ples who, through mere numerical superiority
and military power, have overwhelmed subject
races, and by tht menace of the sword forbid the
use of native languages and the retention of his-
toric memories, speak seriously of superior cul-
ture? It is only by the power of persistence un-
der conditions of perfect liberty that the superior-
ity of a form of culture can vindicate itself, for
that is for each nation the highest which is best
suited to its powers of achievements; and when
a dynastic ruler by violence strips a subject race
of its spiritual inheritance, it reverses and de-
stroys the process by which true culture is de-
veloped. There is no people in the world who
would not resist it if this procedure were prac-
tised upon itself.

A people, therefore, cannot fit itself for inter-
national society or realize its own normal de-
velopment as a state until it is ready to recognize
the claims of personality. Where mixed races


compose the population, and nationality is iden-
tified with a dominant race, there can be no true
national unity, because there is no spirit of co-
operation. On the other hand, it has been shown
by the experience of Switzerland and the United
States that different races may coexist in the same
nation without in the slightest degree destroying
their personal freedom, and that they may co-
operate together successfully in the organization
of liberty. Many nations may still be unripe for
this higher development of nationality, and the
contests for race segregation and race domina-
tion may still continue; but the obstacle to har-
mony does not proceed from the essential nature
of the state. It consists rather in the arrest of
political evolution at a stage where true state-
hood has not yet been achieved; for a nation
organized merely for power, for conquest, for
world dominion, and not for justice, is not yet
a state in the proper meaning of the word, but
an unsocial and anarchical survival of primi-
tive despotism.

The complete realization of international
ideals must, therefore, wait on further political
evolution. But they are not wholly dependent


on purely speculative thought. They are closely
intertwined with practical experience. They
gain new strength from every new disillusion-
ment regarding the value and expediency of
schemes of conquest and the effort to secure so-
cial prosperity by military force. We have,
therefore, to take into account existing realities.
No more than the old will the new Europe be
a mere structure of thought. It is materially
shaping itself now before our eyes. It is being
forged and fashioned amid the smoke and flame
and torture of battle. It is to be determined not
only by what men love and desire, but also by
what they hate and by what they recoil from in
horror. Its battle-cry is: "Never again!
Never again!" Thrones may be shaken or they
may endure; but out of the anguish, the disil-
lusionment, and the fading of iridescent dreams
the new Europe will come forth chastened, re-
constituted, and redeemed.


IN" the discussion of international questions it
is a common oversight to lay the principal
stress on political organization, to the neglect of
economic facts and aspirations. It is evident
that if all nations were living under a truly con-
stitutional regime and were disposed to apply the
principles of constitutional states in their deal-
ings with one another, it would not be difficult to
establish a world organization with a settled code
of law, a court of arbitral justice, and perhaps a
council of conciliation to propose methods of ad-
justing controversies arising from a conflict of
national policies. But such an organization
would provide only a set of institutions. It would
not reach the national motives that move the
world to action.

Among the causes of conflict the most diffi-
cult to control are the economic motives; for it is



these that are at present the most influential in
determining the ambitions of nations, which are
not merely "bodies politic," but economic cor-
porations, seeking to acquire and possess the
resources of the world. Regarded from this
point of view, the external aim of national exist-
ence is efficiency rather than justice. Its pur-
pose is not alone the protection of rights, but
the augmentation of power. As long as the em-
ployment of military force as an auxiliary of in-
dustry and trade seems to the great powers more
advantageous than peaceable cooperation in the
utilization of the earth's resources, war will ap-
pear to be a natural, and to some a justifiable,
method of national development.

Modern imperialism is, in fact, far more ac-
tuated by economic than by political motives.
Politically, imperialism is merely a dynastic in-
terest; but economically, it is made to appear
that territorial expansion and extended domina-
tion are in the people's interest. In this repre-
sentation there are, however, two abuses of the
people's confidence: for, while a few special inter-
ests may profit by an imperial policy, the aver-
age person is not rendered richer or happier by


imperial triumphs; and, if he were, it would still
be a criminal act to seduce a people into partner-
ship in a policy of plunder on the ground that
advantages may be obtained for them through
the power of the state which could not be pro-
cured by private means. When a government
embarks upon a policy of imperial aggression,
it virtually says to the nation, "Provide us with
the necessary power, and we shall win for you in-
creased advantages in which you will all share."
A people thus deluded are the victims not only
of deception, but of corruption. By becoming
shareholders in a joint-stock operation, the ob-
ject of which is illicit gain, they furnish the cap-
ital for a predatory enterprise, only to discover in
the end that they do not share in its fruits even
when these are obtained by conquests and annexa-
tions. On the contrary, they find themselves
burdened with public debt, impoverished by the
neglect of their business, and saddened by the
loss of their sons killed or maimed in battle. It
may well be doubted if, when the balance is
struck, the average person in any nation, though
victorious in war, has on the whole been to any
important extent enriched by imperial aggres-


sion. New territory may have been obtained, new
accessions may have been made to the mass of
the population, wider political control may have
been acquired, but rarely, if ever, has the sum
of happiness been thus increased.

To most civilized peoples the thought of ag-
gressive war for purposes of gain, involving as
it necessarily does every variety of crime, rob-
bery, murder, outrage, and sacrilege, is revolt-
ing to the conscience and repellent to intelligence ;
but, in reality, imperial aspirations are never so
repulsively presented to the mind. They are in-
variably disguised for the great mass of the peo-
ple under a mask of virtuous pretenses. Alleged
defense against intended invasion, the undoing
of historic wrongs, the attainment of "natural
boundaries," the unification of divided peoples,
the restoration of suppressed nationalities, the ex-
tension of the benefits of a higher culture to
lower races all these are the reasons set forth
in public proclamations and diplomatic apologies
for schemes of aggression, while the advantages
to be gained are represented as incidental con-
comitants of these lofty purposes.

It would, of course, be unreasonable to deny


that long-obstructed national aspirations and a
desire for equality of privilege with other nations
may be perfectly legitimate, as for example, the
unification of Germany and of Italy, or a deter-
mination to put an end to exclusion from markets
and waterways over which unfair monopolies
have been established. In cases where whole
peoples have by force been rendered economically
dependent there may be, no doubt, just grounds
for demanding changes ; but in the main these are
fit subjects for negotiation and transaction, in
accordance with legitimate business methods,
rather than for the exercise of military force. In
the past, resort to violence for the attainment of
national ends has not only been customary, but
it has seemed to follow as a logical corollary from
the absolutist theory of the state. If that theory
is still to be maintained, then there is no escape
from the perfect legitimacy of wholesale con-
quest, limited only by the power of a state to
attain its ends by force. Every existing empire
in the world has, in fact, been created by mili-
tary power. To those who accept the absolutist
theory of the state there is nothing reprehensible
in the spirit of conquest and imperial domination.


Why should any nation holding this theory re-
frain from extending its power as far as possi-
ble? It is, in truth, certain that it will not re-
frain; and it follows with logical necessity that
as long as this theory is held the conflict of nations
will continue.

The whole future of civilization turns upon
the decision whether the state is to be henceforth
a creation of force or a creation of law. If it is
to be considered merely a creation of force, then
preparation for war is the only wisdom; for only
the strong state can survive, and it must be at all
times ready to fight for its existence. But if, on
the other hand, the state is rightly to be con-
ceived as a creation of law, then all states ac-
cepting this theory are menaced by the existence
of strong embodiments of power which refuse
to be governed by the rules of law. As long as
they exist, as long as they arm themselves for ag-
gression, as long as they devise and entertain
schemes of conquest, so long the truly constitu-
tional states must be prepared to defend them-
selves and even to defend one another.

Considered by itself, merely dynastic impe-
rialism is not at present a menace to the world's


peace. There is probably no nation so devoted to
a dynasty and to the dynastic conception of gov-
ernment as to endanger the peace of its neighbors
for purely dynastic reasons. Mankind has
passed that point. But territorial expansion, the
extension of political control for economic rea-
sons, the lust for markets, the quest for resources,
the command of great waterways, supremacy on
the sea these are the driving and compelling
forces that make imperialism a terror in the
world. In the hands of an efficient, irresponsible,
and remorseless great power, these ambitions
would render this planet a place of unending tor-
ture to every law-respecting people.

It is an interesting fact that in the case of the
states of Europe which were at one time engaged
in a struggle for empire, but have since abandoned
it, there has been an impressive diminution in the
proportion of time during which they have been
occupied with war. Denmark, for example, dur-
ing the period of its struggle for supremacy in
the Baltic, in the sixteenth century devoted 32.5
years, and in the seventeenth century 30.5 years,
to war; but in the eighteenth and nineteenth cen-


turies, when the kingdom had ceased to enter-
tain imperial ambitions, the average time de-
voted to war, in which it was involved chiefly
through its alliances, was only about 13 per cent,
of the whole period. In the sixteenth and seven-
teenth centuries, Sweden, while aiming to be the
seat of empire in the North by dominating Poland,
North Germany, and Denmark, was engaged in
war more than 50 per cent, of the time; but in
the nineteenth century after the Swedish impe-
rial ambitions had become extinct, although forced
into war in self-defense during the Napoleonic
period, warlike activities occupied only 6.5 per
cent, of the time, and since 1815 the kingdom has
been at peace. Holland, also, during the period
of colonial expansion was involved in war during
62 per cent, of the time, but in the last half cen-
tury has been exempt from warfare. Spain, in
the full tide of colonial expansion, was engaged
in war during 82 per cent, of the time; but in the
nineteenth century, with the exception *of the
Napoleonic period, the wars of Spain, until the
short conflict with the United States over Cuba,
were mere domestic insurrections against abso-


If now we turn to the great powers, we find
that they have been almost constantly engaged
in war or preparation for it and that it has grown
almost entirely out of their imperial aspirations.
Austria, in the period of imperial consolidation
from 1500 to 1650, was engaged in war 75.5 per
cent, of the entire time. After the Peace of West-
phalia there was a marked diminution of warlike
activities. During the eighteenth century the
proportion fell to 48 per cent., and in the nine-
teenth to 13.5 per cent. During the whole period
from 1100 down to the beginning of the nine-
teenth century France has been engaged in war
about one half the time, and during the last cen-
tury 35 per cent, of the time. During four cen-
turies Russia has been 60 per cent, of the time
occupied with war. Since 1500, England has
been involved nearly 52 per cent, of the time in
foreign wars.

Many of the wars included in these estimates
were, it is true, of an unimportant character, and
certainly no one of them, not even the Napoleonic
wars, could compare in magnitude with the great
European conflict now raging; but the greater
part of them were, on one side or the other, im-


perial wars, and proceeded upon the principle
that the right of possession belongs to the power
that can take and hold. There may have been
differences in the treatment of the vanquished
after the struggle was ended, and in the charac-
ter of the civilization imposed by the conqueror;
but in the past no great power has doubted that
it had a perfect right to subjugate a weaker race
or dismember a defenseless state whenever it was
to its material advantage to do so, and there is no
great power that has not acted in this way.

Down to the invasion of Belgium in 1914, the
most odious crime ever committed against a civi-
lized people was, no doubt, the first partition of
Poland; yet at the time not a voice was raised
against it. Louis XV was "infinitely displeased,"
but did not even reply to the King of Poland's
appeal for help. George III coolly answered that
"justice ought to be the invariable rule of sover-
eigns"; but concluded, "I fear, however, misfor-
tunes have reached the point where redress can
be had from the hand of the Almighty alone."
Catherine II thought justice satisfied when "every
one takes something." Frederick II wrote to his
brother, "The partition will unite the three re-


ligions, Greek, Catholic, and Calvinist; for we
would take our communion from the same conse-
crated body, which is Poland." Only Maria
Theresa felt a twinge of conscience. She took,
but she felt the shame of it. She wrote:

We have by our moderation and fidelity to our engage-
ments acquired the confidence, I may venture to say the
admiration, of Europe. . . . One year has lost it all. I
confess, it is difficult to endure it, and that nothing in the
world has cost me more than the loss of our good name.

It is a strange phenomenon that in matters
where the unsophisticated human conscience so
promptly pronounces judgment and spontane-

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Online LibraryDavid Jayne HillThe rebuilding of Europe : a survey of forces and conditions → online text (page 4 of 15)