Page images
[ocr errors][merged small]

We have, in the preliminary chapters, endeavored to prove that the moral laws of God, prescribed for the regulation of human conduct, form the elements of our being, and are as fixed and certain as the laws of physical nature. We have shown that nations, by the law of their existence, are bound to peace, equity and humanity, and that suffering or destruction have uniformly arisen from violation of this benign, this celestial principle. For the purpose of accounting for the recent atrocities in war of the most cultivated nations of Europe, we have sought to establish the fact that Christianity is but partially known, and less regarded by the governments of that continent. The example of our republic has been presented to exhibit the results of the conjoint action of free Christianity, a free press and free government; with suggestions of a practical mode of adopting American principles to the monarchies of Europe. The law of nations we derive from the fountain of all law, from God the Creator. The very idea of creative power implies an authority to prescribe the elements of their existence to mind and matter, a power to impress upon them the law of their being. Hence mental and physical laws originally enacted by the Creator of the universe, are in their nature unchangeable, irresistable and irreversible. As no man can arrest the rotation of the earth on its axis, or stay the planets in their sublime flight around the sun impelled by gravity, so in our view of the past we have discovered fixed moral laws, making national crimes yield invariably national punishment. We have seen offending nations from the days of Abraham, age after age, wrecked upon the immovable rock of Jehovah's law, and their fragments floating on the stream of time. Having ascertained the certainty of a moral law of nations invariably and necessarily inflicting punishment for all violations of its high and holy enactments, we shall not seek for the sanction of international law in the contradictory customs of warring states and empires, which in every age, and even in the nineteenth century, have disgraced humanity. Our law of nations we derive from heaven's high chancery, from the Lord Almighty, maker of all things, and we shall unfold it as the high and Holy One hath enacted it, revealed it in the Gospel, and interwoven it in the nature of man. We read it written by a heavenly hand upon the tablets of the human mind, upon the records of history, and in divine revelation. These all are manifestations of one and the same law of the king of kings, prescribing peace, equity and benevolence. It comes from the Lord of lords, before whom all nations are as the small dust of the balance. The Christian system of justice, benevolence and good will to man, worthy of its divine author, until the seventeenth century, exerted but a partial influence on the Christian nations of Europe. Until 1500 years from the birth of Christ, there existed no European law of nations, and during this unenlightened period, shipwrecked strangers were often seized and sold as slaves, prisoners of war were devoted to death or slavery, as suited the caprice or interest of the conqueror; good faith was often disregarded by princes, statesmen and generals; reprisals and private war were an established feudal custom ; embassies were violated, hostages murdered, guests imprisoned, foreign travelers arrested and compelled to pay ransom for the restoration of their liberty, foreign princes and subjects were seized and tried for acts done beyond the inhospitable jurisdiction, and the right of killing prisoners of war, enslaving them, or ex

[ocr errors]

acting ransom for their liberation, was constantly practiced. During this long period the observance of faith with Turks, infidels or heretics, was not esteemed a virtue or a duty; all nations practiced extortion as opportunity offered, and brute force gave the law. In the seventeenth century the distinguished Grotius found war, though in some degree mitigated by Christianity, still carried on with horrid cruelty, and that it was a received opinion that the rulers of nations were not bound to observe good faith, equity, and benevolence in international transactions. This atrocious doctrine illustrates our proposition, and accounts for the disregard by European nations of the international duties enjoined as well by the natural as the revealed law of God. From the sixteenth century down to the nineteenth, the diffusion of knowledge by printing, the awakening and liberating the human mind by the spirit of God moving upon the souls of men at the reformation, the rapid progress of the arts and sciences since that era, creating, invigorating and sustaining each other, all these causes have concurred to advance international law beyond the most liberal views of Grotius the father and founder of this noble science. Though this sacred and blessed alliance of Christianity, and the printing press, has firmly established the moral responsia bility of states and empires to the divine law, and

the eternal principles of peace, equity, and mercy, it must be admitted that the modern practices of the most cultivated and powerful nations of Europe have often violated these enactments prescribed by God for the government of man in every relation. In Europe and America, with the exception of the Ottoman Empire, the doctrines of the Gospel of Jesus are conceded to be obligatory upon nations as well as individuals. Instead, therefore, of following the track of the many distinguished writers upon the law of nations, who have based its obligation partly upon the law of nature, and partly on national recognition, we shall ascend-to the fountain of all law, to God, the Supreme Law-Giver and Judge. Reading his law of nations in sacred and profane history, as well as in the nature of man, we propose to apply it in a plain, simple and natural way for the ascertainment of the rights and duties of nations in all international transactions.


All mankind will admit that every member of the human family is bound by the elementary principles of our being to live peaceably as far as possible with all men, to observe good faith, to deal justly and to love mercy. Confucius and

« PreviousContinue »