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The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars marked somewhat of a reaction in the treatment of noncombatants, but the long period of peace which followed, the industrial revolution which resulted from the great inventions, and the spread of the doctrines of free trade and the brotherhood of man gave rise to dreams of a perpetual peace, and, when war actually came, to substantial modification of some of its rules. By the Declaration of Paris of 1856 privateering was abolished, and the principle that “free ships make free goods” established. This was followed by the Red Cross Convention of 1864 for the better care of the sick and wounded. In 1874 the first official attempt to draw up an international war code was made in the Declaration of Brussels. This failed of ratification through the opposition of Great Britain, but it served as the basis of the Regulations Respecting the Laws and Cus. toms of War on Land adopted at the Peace Conference of 1899, which, as modified in some details by the second Peace Conference, form the bulk of our present code for land warfare.
The Hague Regulations forbid the bombardment of undefended towns; require that the commander of an attacking force, before commencing a bombardment, except in case of an assault, to do all he can to warn the authorities; direct that all necessary steps be taken to spare as far as possible the buildings devoted to religion, art, science, and charity, his. toric monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected, which should be marked by some special sign; and prohibit the pillage of a town or place even when taken by assault.
The principles of these regulations were applied as far as conditions would permit to bombardments by naval forces by the second Peace Conference. The prohibition against bombarding undefended towns in the Naval Convention is not extended to military works, military or naval establishments, depots of arms or war materials, workshops, or plants, which could he utilized for the needs of the hostile fleet or army or ships of war in the harbour. In such a case the commander must take all due measures in order that the town may suffer as little harm as possible. Undefended towns may also be bombarded by naval forces, if the local authorities, on a formal summons being made to them, decline to eomply with requisitions for provisions or supplies necessary for the immediate use of the naval force before the place in question. But the bombardment of an undefended town by naval forces for the non-payment of money contribution is forbidden. Provision is also made that the signs used to indicate buildings devoted to religion, art, etc., shall consist of large stiff rectangular panels divided diagonally into two-colored triangular portions, the upper portion black, the lower portion white. In neither the Regulations nor the Naval Convention is anything said of the bombardment of the residential sections of defended towns. This is not because the matter has been overlooked by international conferences. The town of Antwerp petitioned the Brussels Conference of 1874 to adopt the principle that when a fortified town was bombarded the fire of the artillery should be directed solely against the forts, and not against private houses belonging to inoffensive citizens. The subject was not one on which there was likely to be general agreement, and as the object of the Conference was to crystalize the rules on which there was general agreement, rather than to settle controverted points, the committee which considered the petition placed it on record, but held out what comfort it might in the declaration of the general principles of the immunity of noncombatants and of respect for private property; voiced the hope that these principles would in the future bring about a realization of the desire of the citizens of Antwerp.; and expressed confidence that every commander of civilized armies “would always consider it a sacred duty to employ every means in his power, in the case of a siege of a fortified town, to cause private property belonging to inoffensive citizens to be respected as far as local circumstances and the necessities of war will admit.” “Local circumstances and the necessities of war” may cover a multitude of sins, and it is not likely that a commander bent on bombarding the residential section of a town would find this expression of confidence a serious check on his actions, but it may well cause a commander who would otherwise be inclined to take action of this kind, to think twice before taking it. The hope of the committee has not been realized in any international agreement, although the provision in the Naval Convention that when a naval force destroys military supplies or establishments in an undefended town it shall do as little damage as possible, leans in that direction. Nor has it been realized in international practice. Leaving out of consideration the cases where the injury to private homes has been unavoidable or accidental, the number of cases where the resi. dent portions of besieged towns have been deliberately bombarded in recent wars is not inconsiderable. It seems to have been part of the deliberate policy of the Germans in the Franco-German War. When Strasburg surrendered, “448 private houses had been destroyed completely, nearly 3,000 (out of a total of 5,150) were more or less injured, 1,700 civi. lians had been killed or wounded, and 10,000 persons were made homeless. The total damage done to the city was esti. mated at nearly £8,000,000.” The practice is objected to on principle, on the ground that it is an attempt to bring pressure to bear on the other belligerents through the suffering and fears of noncombatants. G. F. de Martens is authority for the statement that during our Revolutionary War, Great Britain laid down the fol. lowing proposition as a recognized rule of war: “When, in war, one is not able to destroy the adverse party or to lead him to reason without reducing his country to distress, it is permitted to carry distress into his country.” Whether any such rule was ever formally enunciated by Great Britain, there was much in her conduct of the war, as for instance the raids by Benedict Arnold, to give colour to de Marten's state. ment. General Sherman wrote to General Halleck in a similar strain from Savannah, December 24, 1864. He said: “I attach more importance to these deep incisions into the enemy's country, because this war differs from European wars in this particular, we are not only fighting hostile armies, but a hostile people, and must make old and young, rich and poor, feel the hard hand of war, as well as their organized armies.” And so, General Sheridan: “I do not hold war to mean simply that lines of men shall engage each other in battle, and material interests be ignored. This is but a duel, in which one combatant seeks the other's life; war means much more, and is far worse than this. Those who rest at home in peace and plenty see but little of the horrors attending such a duel, and even grow indifferent to them as the struggle goes on, contenting themselves with encouraging all who are ablebodied to enlist in the cause to fill up the shattered ranks as death thins them. It is another matter, however, when privation and suffering are brought to their own doors. Then the case appears much graver, for the loss of property weighs heavy with the most of mankind, heavier often than the sacrifices made on the field of battle. Death is popularly considered the maximum of punishment in war, but it is not; reduction to poverty brings prayers for peace more surely and more quickly than does the destruction of human life,
* Spaight, War Rights on Land, pp. 161 et seq. * Precis, Bk. VIII. chap. IV, $ 2SO. * Rebellion Records, series IV., vol. pp. 1094 et seq.
as the selfishness of man has demonstrated in more than one
Apparently neither General Sherman nor General Sheridan would see much that was objectionable on principle in the bombardment of the residential districts of besieged towns, but the greatness of their names must not blind us to the substantial progress that has been made in the conduct of warfare since they fought. The improved treatment of prisoners of war and of the sick and wounded since the Civil War refute the heresy that war cannot be refined. No such declaration as that attributed to Great Britain in the Revolutionary War would be tolerated in civilized warfare to-day, and it is not likely that either General Sherman or General Sheridan would have gone to the extremes that their words indicate. They were refuting a doctrine that would make war a duel between the military and naval forces of the two belligerents, and this was a great service.
The doctrine that they were combating has as its text the famous dictum of Rousseau, that war “ is not a relation of man to man, but a relation of state to state, in which individuals are enemies only accidentally, not as men, nor even as citizens, but as soldiers; not as members of the country, but as its defenders.” This doctrine has been used, on the one hand, to stamp as illegal the spontaneous uprisings of the population in occupied territory, and, on the other, to condemn the capture of private property at sea. Each of these matters should be considered on its own merits. It is not axiomatic that no pressure should be brought to bear on the other belligerent save through his armed forces. If effective pressure can be brought to bear upon him through an attack on his commerce, there are strong reasons for allowing the attack to be made. “It takes no lives, sheds no blood, imperils no households; has its field on the ocean, which is a common highway; and deals only with persons and property voluntarily embarked in the chances of war, for the purpose of gain, and with the protection of insurance.” The danger to commerce in war has also been one of the powerful preventives of war. To prejudice such a question by a catch phrase such as that of Rousseau would be mischievous. Equally mischievous would it be to condemn spontaneous uprisings in occupied territory on any such a priori grounds. At the Brussels Conference the smaller powers bitterly resented the attempt of the great miltary powers to incorporate into the text of the Declaration language making such upris. ings illegal. They felt that their very life was at stake. Gen. eral Sherman and General Sheridan did a useful service, therefore, in combating a mischievous theory, and their words must be read in the light of that fact.
* Sheridan's Memoirs, vol. I, p. 486. ' Du Contrat Social, L. I, chap. IV.
About as helpful a generalization as can be made to test the rightfulness of conduct in warfare is that comparatively useless injury is to be condemned. Not vengeance on the enemy, but advantage to one's self, is the end to be kept in view. And the advantage should be weighed in the balance with the injury that would accompany it. Tested by this principle, is the bombardment of residential sections of besieged towns justified ? It may well be doubted. It is said that the inhabitants of Strasburg were in perfeet accord with the commander, and that if in their opinion he erred at all it was in capitulating prematurely.”
Probably most of the injuries to private residences from bombardments in recent wars have been unavoidable or accidental, due to the fact that the town was practically a walled camp. The tendency to-day is to build fortifications at some distance from the place they are to protect. This is likely to lead to the elimination of the unavoidable and accidental injuries to private residences from bombardments, and to make apparent the intentional character of any such injuries in the future. This, it is believed, will be an effective cause in the practical elimination of the bombardment of residential districts. Though Italy's protest be in advance of the usage of the recent past, it is in line with modern progress, and will perhaps serve as a fresh instance of the progressive character of the law of war.
* Dana's Wheaton, p. 401. * Spaight, p. 164.