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If the latter may not decide their own case, and wreak vengeance at will on the objects of their displeasure, why should the former be allowed to do so? Why should nations be indulged in principles of action that would in individuals outrage common sense, trample on all law, and subvert the very foundations of society?
Let us quote from the great masters of international law, Grotius
says, war should never be declared until all other means of redress have been faithfully tried ;” and Vattel asserts, that “the law of nature, which recommends peace, concord and charity, obliges nations to attempt the mildest methods of terminating their differences.—Nature gives us no right to have recourse to force, but where mild and pacific methods are ineffectual.—When sovereigns cannot agree about their pretensions, they sometimes trust the decision of their disputes to arbitrators. This method is very reasonable, and very conformable to the law of nature. Though the strict right may be mistaken by the arbitrator, it is still more to be feared that it will be overwhelmed by the fate of arms.”
On this point, Vattel adduces a series of striking examples. 4 The kings of Denmark formerly condescended by solemn treaty to refer to those of Sweden the differences that might arise between them and their Senate; and the kings of Sweden did the same with regard to those of Denmark. The princes and states of West Friesland, and the burgesses of Embden in the same manner constituted the republic of the United Provinces the judge of their differences. The princes of Neufchatel established in 1406 the canton of Berne the judge and perpetual arbitrator of their disputes. The Swiss have had the precaution, in all their alliances among themselves, and even in those they have contracted with the neighboring powers, to agree beforehand on the manner in which their disputes were to be submitted to arbitrators, in case they could not themselves adjust them in an amicable manner. This wise precaution has not a little contributed to maintain the Helvetic Republic in that flourishing state which secures its liberty, and renders it respectable throughout Europe."
Such was the law of nations on this point centuries ago; but within the last twenty or thirty years, the principle has come into still higher repute, and more general use. Often has it been employed by the leading cabinets of Europe for the adjustment of their differences; and we ourselves have in several instances resorted to it with a degree of success calculated to encourage its general adoption. A question relative to the interpretation of our last treaty of peace with Great Britain, was referred to the Emperor of Russia, and decided to mutual satisfaction in our favor. The dispute con
cerning our north-eastern boundary, we submitted to the King of the Netherlands; and, though his award, being a compromise not authorized by the terms of reference, failed to satisfy either England or ourselves, yet it doubtless served to prevent for the time a resort to arms, and to secure in the end a settlement very nearly resembling that award, and satisfactory to both parties. Our difficulties with Mexico had brought us to the brink of war; but the danger was instantly averted by a reference of the points in dispute to the King of Prus
Thus is the practice of enlightened and powerful nations strongly tending to establish this principle as a most important part of international law. Already is it a favorite antidote or remedy for war, a substitute proved by actual experience to be far better than the sword; and all we now ask, is the formal incorporation of this principle in every treaty between nations as the last resort for the adjustment of their difficulties.
The voice of public opinion, that mistress of the civilized world, is also coming to demand this substitute for war. The people, whose treasures and blood have been so recklessly wasted in the quarrels of rulers, are already in favor of the plan, and may be expected ere-long to become clamorous for its general adoption. They begin to learn that rulers can settle their disputes without the butchery of their subjects, and will one day insist that they shall. That day is coming on apace; and, when it does come, no congress, no cabinet, no despot in Christendom will be able to withstand the united, inflexible demand of the whole people for the adjustment of national difficulties without the shedding of their blood.
We speak not at random; the popular will has already expressed itself on this point in ways not to be misunderstood. There is not in Christendom any intelligent community, scarce a solitary press, or respectable writer, that would not favor the adoption of our principle as a substitute for war.
The question has been fairly submitted to some of them. A friend of peace in Massachusetts, some fifteen years after the fall of Napoleon, brought it before a large number of persons in several States, and readily obtained from men of every rank, profession and employment,--from farmers and mechanics, from merchants, lawyers and physicians, from judges, governors and Christian ministers of every name, --some thousands of signatures in favor of having all national disputes settled by amicable reference. The principle commends itself at once to every man; and, if fully understood, not one in a thousand of the people but would instantly prefer it to the blind and brutal arbitrament of the sword.
To this voice of the people some of our legislators have
already given a partial response. The late_accomplished Legare, in his report from the Committee on Foreign Relations, says “ they heartily concur in recommending a reference to a third power of all such controversies as can safely be confided to any tribunal unknown to the constitution of our own country.” The legislature of Massachusetts had previously gone still further, and passed resolves, with perfect unanimity in the House, and with only two dissenting votes in the Senate, recommending not only " the practice of arbitration as an occasional substitute for war, but a Congress and Court of Nations as a permanent system to carry the principle into effect.”. In 1844, they adopted still stronger resolutions in favor of both these modes of reference; nor would any legislature, when fully informed on the subject, refuse their sanction to principles so obviously reasonable and salutary.
Long ago did the fathers of our Republic cherish similar desires for some preventive of war. Jefferson says, “nations, like individuals, stand towards each other only in the relations of natural right; and might they not, like them, be peaceably punished for violence and wrong ?-Wonderful has been the progress of human improvement in other respects ; let us hope that the law of nature will in time influence the proceedings of nations as well as of individuals, and that we shall at length be sensible, that war is an instrument entirely inefficient towards redressing wrong, and multiplies instead of indemnifying losses.” Franklin, who used so often to repeat his favorite maxim, “there never was a good war, or a bad peace,” said, “ we daily make great improvements in natural philosophy; there is one I wish to see in moral—the discovery of a plan that would induce and oblige nations to settle their disputes without first cutting one another's throats. When will human reason be sufficiently improved to see the advantage of this ? When will men be convinced, that even successful wars become at length misfortunes to the victorious themselves ?
The time for which Franklin and Jefferson thus longed, is well nigh come. Already are the people in this country, if not in others, sufficiently prepared for such a measure as we propose; and, should rulers adopt it as a permanent substitute for war, we doubt not they would find themselves at once sustained and applauded by the popular voice. The general sentiment of Christendom would soon ratify the act as a glorious era in the history of the world; and countless millions yet unborn would bless the wisdom, patriotism and philanthropy which had thus stayed the stream of blood, and left nations at liberty to start anew upon a career of unexampled prosperity and happiness.
In favor of our scheme, we might marshal a host of arguments and motives. Should it utterly fail, there is no possibility of its doing any harm; but, should it succeed according to our hopes, how many evils would it prevent, how many blessings confer! What myriads of treasure, what rivers of blood, what numberless forms of crime and wo, would it save! How many wives would it rescue from widowhood; how many children from orphanage; how many families from ruin; how many provinces from plunder and devastation; how many cities from fire and sword; how many countries from all the nameless calamities of war! It would give the world a jubilee hitherto unknown. Free from the dangers of war, its teeming myriads could gird themselves, with new zeal and hope, to every enterprise for their own or the general good. Millions of warriors, no longer drones fed from the public crib, might return to the arts of peace, and contribute their share to the common weal. Population would swarm anew; agriculture would spread its golden harvests over hill and vale; the various mechanic arts would ply afresh their thousand forms of improved machinery ; commerce without fear would unfurl its canvass on every sea, and barter its commodities in every port; learning, and philanthropy, and religion would pass without obstruction from land to land, and ere-long cover the globe with their blessings. Every interest of man calls aloud for such a policy. The prosperity of our own country, the welfare of Christendom, the happiness of the world; patriotism, humanity and religion; the great and glorious movements of the age; all, all demand it.
And what excuse can we plead for refusing a demand so reasonable ? Is it impossible to bring nations into the measure? We have seen that the people are even now ready for it; and why should rulers object or hesitate ? What interest or claim of theirs would it sacrifice or endanger? Would it cripple their power, or interfere with any of their rightful prerogatives? No; it would rather confirm them all, and ere-long endear itself both to rulers and subjects, as a most effectual safeguard of their respective rights and interests. War is the enemy, and peace the friend of them both.
But is arbitration inconsistent with the dignity of governments? If so, why and how? We deem it honorable for individuals to refer their disputes to competent, impartial umpires ; and why should it be dishonorable for nations to do the same? When a dispute arises between two of our towns or counties, they appeal to the courts of the State, and when between two States, to the supreme court of the United States,
as their last resort, without a suspicion in either case of its being disreputable for them thus to settle their difficulties; and, as some of our States contain more inhabitants than many a nation both in ancient and modern times, we see not what should make it inconsistent with the dignity of the latter to adjust their differences in the same way. It is now shameful for individuals to fight like bull-dogs about any matters in dispute between them; and, when public opinion becomes what it should be, and is likely ere-long to be, it will be equally dishonorable, a deep, everlasting disgrace, for nations to butcher one another for the adjustment of their difficulties, or to employ for the purpose any other means than those of amicable agreement, or mutual reference. "But governments may
be reluctant to pledge themselves in advance to this or any other mode of settling their disputes.'— Such a plea is more plausible than sound; for it would, if carried out, forbid all agreement between nations. Every treaty binds them in advance; and, if we discard such pledges, we must abjure all treaties; but, if nations may consistently pledge themselves on one point, they may on another, and agree beforehand to the settlement of their disputes by reference, just as well as they now agree to a reciprocity of trade, or a mutual surrender of fugitives from justice. The principle is the same; nor is there any more dishonor or inconsistency in one case than in the other. Nay, a pledge in advance is the very thing we need, to prevent a sudden rush to arms under the blind and reckless impulses of passion or prejudice. It is a dictate of common sense; and often do we find shrewd, sensible men forestalling the evils of litigation by mutual promise to adjust their affairs in the last resort by arbitration. It might not be safe to wait for the hour of trial; for nations it is even less so than for individuals; and hence we deem it especially desirable for them, while both parties are calm and candid, to agree beforehand upon the mode of settling whatever difficulties may arise between them.
But it may be said, "we can take care of ourselves, and decide our own controversies.'—Be it so; but how will you do it? Is your will to be law ? Is no voice but your own to be heard in the case? A dispute implies at least two parties; and can one decide it without consulting the other? Would you concede to your antagonist such a claim ? If not, you must both unite in settling the dispute ; and, if you cannot agree between yourselves, no method remains but some form of reference.—Tell us not, you rely on your sword. Your antagonist may say the same; but will both, or either, be satisfied with the decision of such an arbiter ? Can there be, in the murderous enginery of war, any logic likely to satisfy