Page images

rocal commerce a clear right and duty of every nation. A free interchange of commodities by all nations is essential to their happiness and prosperity. Hence the moral law of nations enjoins upon the whole family of nations to observe this duty. As savage nations produce few articles of trade, are poor and ignorant, it becomes the duty as well as interest of all Christian nations to Christianize and civilize them as fast as possible, to extend commerce and free trade throughout the republic of humanity. Our republic is in favor of free trade and universal civilization.


We have shown above that entire impartiality and avoidance of all hostile interference between belligerents are an imperative obligation upon neutral states. President Washington's proclamation of neutrality of 1793, our acts of Congress of June 5th, 1794, of April 20th, 1818, and of March 10th, 1838, enforce neutrality. These, the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, and the uniform course of our government show the fixed policy of our republic.


The balance of power has occupied the attention of European statesman since 1688. It was not perceived that the great and unchangable law of variety and inequality that was written by celestial light upon the fixed stars, upon the comets, upon our sun and planets with their moons, and upon every star that emblazons the firmament, was also found as an intrinsic quality of national condition. Experience had not taught the possibility of equalizing states and empires. Nor has the history of Europe, since 1688, shown the possibility of reducing nations to a common standard of power. After the many wars for this purpose, we find the disparity among European nations greater than it was in 1688. Great Britain, Holland, Spain, Russia, Prussia and France have greatly changed their relative weight and power since that era, and the only effect of all these wars has been to load Britain, Holland, France, Austria and Spain with great, oppressive national debts. This effort has failed because it is against the laws of our nature. Britain has attained her power by her superior industry and freedom, and if Russia, now rapidly advancing in internal improvements, shall adopt the Prussian general system of education, her power will soon overshadow Europe. This result must follow of necessity, for Nicholas will then unite great moral with great physical power. Increased liberty flowing from these causes will augment the power, increase the industry and consolidate the glory of Russia. All Europe, if disposed, could not stop this progress. Diversity of condition among nations as well as among individuals, is a fundamental law of our nature and cannot be prevented. By internalimprovements, by general, moral and intellectual education, by productive industry, and by pacific efforts, all nations may lawfully labor to extend their power and secure their happiness. But the employment of force to regulate a balance of power is not allowed by the moral law of nations. Grotius says: “The opinion is not to be tolerated, that the law of nations permits war for the purpose of preventing one nation from acquiring a dangerous predominance of power over others.” The peace and safety of nations will be found in the general education and thorough Christianization of the people of all nations producing an energetic sense of right and justice. This enlightened public opinion, speaking through diplomatic Congresses, and in other modes will then enforce peace and justice among nations.



All nations are bound to the observance of good faith and the sacred performance of every contract. The same rule that applies to an individual is equally applicable to a nation. A treaty, therefore, once duly made, though it may be suspended by war, in the view of right reason cannot be cancelled by it as to territorial rights and rights appurtenant or permanent. Our republic in 1818, in negotiation with Great Britain, asserted this doctrine as to the fisheries, though the treaty of Ghent was silent as to the right secured by the treaty of peace of 1783. Unjust and continued aggression may destroy, as well as war, all temporary provisions of treaties. But territorial and appurtenant rights, and permanent and perpetual provisions of treaties ought not to be affected even by war. The same rule applies to all rights guaranteed forever, as the navigation of the Mississippi by the treaty of 1783, the exemption of debts, stocks and bank shares by the 10th Article of Jay's treaty of 1794, from confiscation, and the fisheries by that of 1818. Such provision, are not annulled by wars. They are permanent. But a treaty obtained by coercion, or having an unlawful object, would be void upon the principles of the moral law of nations. The hard treaty made

by Ferdinand and Isabella with the captive Moorish King, making the kingdom of Granada tributary to them, is an example of a treaty void on account . of coercion. Such was the treaty of Madrid of 1526, made by Francis the 1st, while a prisoner with the Emperor Charles the 5th. The transfer of the sovereignty of Spain to Napoleon by Charles the 4th and Ferdinand the 7th of Spain, were void for the same reason. They were in all these cases void for the further reason that they purported to grant away the sovereignty of Granada, Burgundy and other French territory and Spain, which resided in the Moorish, French and Spanish nations respectively, and not in their kings. So a treaty obtained by bribing the executive or treaty-making power, would be void for the reason that corruption vitiates a contract. The secret treaty of King Charles the 2d, of England, to betray and oppress English liberty for French gold, is of this class. A remarkable secret treaty of our day having an immoral object, and therefore not obligatory, is found in the treaty of Verona of November 22d, 1822, made and signed by the ministers of Russia, Austria, Prussia and France. The 1st Article stipulated for the suppression of representative governments in Europe as incompatible with the existence of monarchy, and that the allies would

« PreviousContinue »