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CONGRESS OF NATIONS.*
SECTION 1.—Its GENERAL PRINCIPLE. THERE are only two ways of settling disputes either between individuals or communities-one by amicable agree ment between the parties themselves, and the other by reference to a third party. In the intercourse of nations, the former is called negotiation ; but the latter principle is applied either by the interposition of a friendly power as mediator, by reference to an umpire mutually chosen, or by some international tribunal resembling more or less our courts of law for the adjustment of difficulties between individuals. Mediation and arbitration are only different modes of reference; and a congress of nations, like our statute-books and civil courts, would merely embody both principles in a permanent form.
All writers on international law consider nations as moral agents subject to the same obligations as individuals. Here is the clue to all our plans and arguments for an international tribunal that shall, like our codes and courts of law for individuals, regulate their intercourse, and settle their disputes, vindicate their rights, and redress their wrongs, without the effusion of blood. We wish nations to treat each other as individuals are required to do, and to provide, in a code and court of nations, essentially the same system for an equitable, peaceful adjustment of their difficulties, that every civilized, well-regulated community has for its own members.
Sect. 2.-PLAN OF THE PROPOSED CONGRESS. We shall not enter into the details of a plan for a congress of nations. We are not sticklers for any particular plan or name, but propose merely to incorporate the grand principle of reference in some standing tribunal for the peaceful adjustment of all international difficulties. How it shall be constituted or controlled ; what shall be the number or qualifications of its members; in what way, or for what term, they shall be
* This synopsis is furnished mainly to prompt the reader to a more thorough investigation of the subject in the Prize Essays on a Congress of Nations, published by the American Peace Society; a volume of great ability and research, that well deserves to be carefully studied by every intelligent Christian, philanthropist and patriot.
P. T. NO, XXX.
5. Its sanctions should never include or involve a resort to the sword. Its decrees should be enforced only by moral or peaceful means. Penalties there might be; but they should all be pacific, and consist in the recoil of public opinion, in the withdrawal of friendly intercourse, or the curtailment of commercial and other privileges.
These outlines should be constantly borne in mind; for they obviate most of the objections hitherto brought against the project of a congress of nations, and would at least render such a tribunal perfectly harmless. If it did no good, it certainly could do no evil.
SECT. 3.- OBJECTS SOUGHT. The measure we propose, aims at a variety of results, each highly important to the welfare of nations. It would seek mainly to preserve peace without the sword; but this purpose, however prominent and sublime, is only one among the multitude of its appropriate objects. It would be not only the peace-maker of nations, but the regulator of their entire intercourse, and the guardian of all their common interests. It would perform for the kingdoms associated no small part of the services that our own Congress does for the different members of our republic, and would thus have three distinct departments of duty-to settle and complete the law of nations, to adjust all disputes between them without an appeal to the sword, and direct their intercourse and combined energies in ways best adapted to the improvement, prosperity and happiness of the whole human race.
Few are aware how unsettled and imperfect is the present law of nations. We have in truth no such law; and what passes under the name, is of recent origin, and insufficient authority. This code, scarcely recognized at all by Greece or Rome, and little heeded or known in Christendom itself till after the Reformation, owes more to Grotius than to all other writers put together. He was its grand architect. He found it a chaos of clashing precedents and principles; but his learning, and his powers of analysis and combination, reduced its heterogeneous materials to a system which has won universal admiration, and exerted a benign influence over the intercourse of all civilized nations. Still, neither Grotius nor his commentators have furnished a code of international law. They possessed not the requisite authority, and have given us only a compilation of precedents, opinions and arguments. It is the work, not of legislators, but of scholars; no law-making power was ever concerned in enacting any of its statutes; and all its authority has resulted from the deference spontaneously paid to the genius, erudition and wisdom of its compilers. It is not law, but argument; not decrees, but rules; hot a code, but a treatise; and the nations are at liberty, except from the force of custom and public opinion, to adopt or reject it as they please. A code of international law is still a desideratum ; to supply this deneleney would be one of the first and highest duties of the tribunal we propose ; and a mere glance at the subjects which would thus come before it, muat sunce to show its necessity and vast mportance.
Our limits will hardly allow us even to name these subjects-articles contraband of war-protection of neutral commerce ;-security of private property u war the rignts and rules of blockade ;-right of search and impressment protection of noit-combatanis ;-property in navigable rivers, the armed urterpositiuit vf one macun in the domestic affairs or another right of liiterference Wim a nation at war: passage of belligerents through a neutral territory ;-surrender of fugitives from justice or oppression :- various meliorations of war-measures for the entire exunction of the custom the settlement of national boundaries: the regulation of car tels, and flags of truce;-the rules and rates of salvage ;-the mprovement and expansion of commerce ;--the auoption of some common standard of weights and measures ;-the interpretation of treaties by definite and estabiished rules ;-the naturaiization of foreigners, and the transier of their alle.. giance :--the determination of what shall be deemed the inallenable rights of man, such as lite, liberty of conscience. and the lise of his own powers: the reconcilement of laws that come into connict in the intercourse of nations, such as those respecting contracts, majority, evidence, and the law of domicil ;--improvements in various parts of the international code - measures in common for the relier of nations, as in the case of Greece, or the Cape de Verd Islands, and for the suppression or punishment of such practices as torture, intanticide, luman sacrifices, the slave-trade, and similar outrages upon humanity.
This enuneration includes only a part of the subjects that would come before a congress of nations ; but, for the sake of a brief illustration, just glance at a few of the topics we have mentioned. Take the question of blockade. The law of nations is very loose on this subject; the practice of belligerents has taken a still wider license; and the exigeneies of the case call aloud for some means to prevent the repetition of such outrages. Some writers have questioned the propriety, under any circumstances, of blockade against neutrals; but, right or wrong, it ougnt certainly to be restrained from that immense sweep of mischiet to which it has so oiten as pired in modern times. All the ports of a nation, most of
those skirting an entire continent, have, by a mere stroke of the pen, been closed against all neutral vessels. England once declared the whole coast of France to be under blockade, and Napoleon in return did the same to all England, without a fleet in either case sufficient to enforce a tenth part of the blockade. It was a mere scare-crow, a blockade only on paper, a shallow pretence for licensing a species of wholesale piracy; yet did an English admiral, in the late war between Great Britain and ourselves, declare our whole coast, two thousand miles in extent, under blockade, without a twentieth part of the ships requisite to enforce a blockade so extensive. The evils of such a practice must be immense; for the blockade of a single port might cripple the commerce of the world. The blockade of Canton by the English (1840) injured the United States alone at the rate of some ten million dollars in a single year.
Glance next at the conflict of laws in the intercourse of nations. A man is legally of age in the United States at twentyone, but in France, we will suppose, not till twenty-five; and, consequently, should a Frenchman, only twenty-one years old, purchase goods in this country, he would not there be bound in law by the bargain, because deemed incapable of making such a contract. A man, making his will according to our laws, but not in accordance with those of Holland, would, by removing to that country, and dying there without any change in the instrument, render it null and void. In the same way might a marriage contract be nullified, and a man's whole family be disinherited and disgraced.
Look, also, at articles contraband of war. On this point the opinions of writers, the decisions of courts, and the practice of nations, have been extremely variant; and this diversity or collision has been a prolific source of irritation, disputes and wars. Each party condemns as contraband nearly every thing it pleases; and hence have come not only vast losses to commerce, but fierce and bloody conflicts. The door is open to almost interminable disputes; and the most trifling articles of trade have thus become bones of protracted contention between some of the first states in Christendom. Vessels have been condemned for having on board a barrel of tar, a keg of white lead, or even a single gross of buttons ! and two considerable nations were actually plunged into a long and bloody war by the paltry question, whether a bar of iron is, or is not, contraband of war!! • There is, moreover, the question of private property in war. Such property on land is now secured in a time of war; but shall the same guaranty be extended to the ocean? Shall the law of nations spread its broad ægis over the property of non