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ITS ORIGIN AND PRESENT SCOPE.
In the development of human institutions, the direction in which progress is least rapid is that of politics. Progress in moral sciences is not achieved through discoveries or inventions, but by the slow development of the human intellect and by the gradual transformation of those ideas which govern human actions. In practical politics, more especially, the ever conflicting interests and ambitions of nations, the violent antagonism of popular passions and class prejudices, the keen competition of individual politicians for power or preponderance, necessarily retard the prevalence of moral considerations. To his system of politics Aristotle associated a rule of coordinate ethics; and this principle has been followed by those who have since theorised on the subject. But in practice, it may fairly be said that it is only within this century that the observance of a certain moral rule, though yet insufficiently defined, has been recognised as an indispensable condition in international relations. Of late years this tendency has found its most salient expression in the steadily increasing number of instances in which the solution of differences between nations has been sought in arbitration.
The number as well as the individual importance of the cases thus dealt with, during the last quarter of a century, has been growing so rapidly, that this remarkable extension of a practice sanctioned by very ancient though rare precedents, must be traceable to some active and powerful agencies. And, therefore, no consideration of the limits within which arbitration may prove practicable and beneficial is possible without a preliminary effort to ascertain the causes which have already favoured its more frequent adoption.
The succinct historical survey, upon which we shall presently enter, establishes the fact that the memorable treaties by virtue
of which arbitration was solemnly recognised as a great principle in international politics, synchronise, on the one hand, with an unprecedented activity of civilising agencies, intellectual enlightenment, moral culture, and material wellbeing-in all classes of the community throughout the Western world ; and, on the other, with the appalling results of great wars, the stupendous increase of armaments, and the invention of more and more destructive engines of war. But the determining factor must be sought in those altruistic tendencies which have influenced so powerfully the recent development of society* and which are leavening political life with a growing sense of justice, fairness, and charity.
The conditions under which war is now carried on have completely altered its character and its effects.
From single combats it grew into encounters confined to bodies of men who made war their profession. It now consists in pitting against each other entire armed nations. Napoleon himself could dispose only of his chair à canon. But, as it has been truly remarked, maintenant on fait la guerre à fond.
It is true that the constant tendency of modern times has been to humanise war, to codify its usages, to check cruelty and prevent unnecessary suffering.
no longer sacked, nor non - combatants shot down, nor prisoners slaughtered in cold blood. And although war has not yet come to be considered as an anachronism, hostilities are no longer carried on in the ruthless manner of times when all sense of compassion disappeared in war, every instinct of mercy, every kindly impulse became extinct.
Nevertheless war is still the greatest calamity that can befall a civilised country, and the conditions which necessarily govern it are now such, that it assumes more and more the aspect of a life and death struggle between nations. Its consequences are so overwhelming that they may entail the very existence of a whole people. Even in the least redoubtable circumstances, a European war must entail a loss of life so appalling, as to reduce to insignificance all previous records of slaughter. Consequently, a war declared on a slight provocation
* This topic is treated very fully in Mr. B. Kidd's remarkable work on Social Evolution.
or without exhausting all possible means of prevention, is justly looked upon as the greatest of crimes. War cannot now be undertaken with a light heart.
Nor does its arbitrament rest any longer with sovereigns or heads of Government exclusively. In former times a declaration of war depended, both in form and in substance, mostly upon the will of irresponsible rulers. It can now take place only as the outcome of the conviction, more or less clearly expressed, of an entire nation, that a recourse to arms is unavoidable and imperative. L'état, c'est moi, was a perfectly true expression of the conditions in which armies, recruited from the dregs of the population, were moved as mute and unreasoning machines, at the pleasure of a master. But armies in which every class is fully represented, can only be effectively put in motion, when the nation itself has become imbued with the belief, that the sacrifices it is called upon to make are absolutely necessary for the maintenance of its interests and its honour.
This tendency to individual inquiry and ascertainment of cause and effect is due, not merely to the gradual prevalence of liberal institutions, to universal suffrage. The spread of education, the facilities of travel, the rapidity of communications by steam and electricity, have contributed to a love of peace, because of a better understanding of other nations and a more accurate conception of the evils of war. And public opinion is now a powerful factor in the government of the world.
Nothing has worked more effectually in this sense, than the freedom and enterprise of the press. Newspapers now carry their readers to the battlefield itself, so to say, and there lay before them an unadorned and vivid picture of the horrors of war. The Napoleonic legend survived, in spite of the terrible demands which the wars of the first Empire made upon France, because only a limited portion of the population realised the sufferings they entailed. The glowing accounts given by the bulletins of the Grand Army, of victories dated from all the capitals of Europe, more than counteracted the impressions created by disaster. The effects of those misleading reports still survived at a later time, and rendered possible the boast, that a nation would make war
for an idea. But the modern war correspondent, who faithfully records the scenes of carnage and devastation amid which he writes, destroys such illusions, and thus becomes a more effective preacher of peace, than the most zealous and eloquent of philanthropists.
Furthermore, the increasing sense of the value of human life is a distinct evidence of the prevalence of morals, and serves as an infallible index of the degree of advancement in civilisation. In like manner, the more active participation of woman in education and social reform, exercises as decisive an influence in favour of peace, as the abnegation of mothers, sisters, and wives strengthens and encourages a nation when embarking on a just and inevitable war.
Finally, the mechanism of modern civilisation is so complex and so delicate, commercial and financial relations have attained to such a degree of development, the amount of public and private wealth, exposed to the ravages of war, is of such magnitude, the expenditure and loss entailed by the outbreak of hostilities is so gigantic, that it is doubtful whether even the victor would find it possible to recoup himself sufficiently for his sacrifices—whether a successful war would pay.
Let us not forget that, for these same reasons, the losses arising out of war cannot, nowadays, be confined to the belligerents themselves. Commercial panics, depreciation of property, interruption of communications, must affect materially the interests of neutrals also.
The public conscience, therefore, has, in recent times, been gravitating steadily towards the belief that the hazards of war can no longer be regarded as the only possible solution of international problems and disputes. Men have begun to look for better, simpler, and cheaper methods. And hence the more general adoption of arbitration, and its gradual recognition as a great principle in the relations of civilised nations.*
* In Mr. Henry Richard's Recent Progress of International Arbitration (London, 1884, page 25) it is stated that in the decade ending with 1820 only one dispute between England and a foreign Power was referred to arbitration; one also in each of the decades of 1830, 1840, 1850, and 1860. But between 1870 and 1880 no less than seven disputes were thus settled. Professor J. B. Moore, of Columbia College, computes that the United States have entered into forty-seven agreements for international arbitration, and that they have erected thirteen ribunals under their own laws to determine the validity of international claims.
II. Space will not here permit even of a cursory review of the growth of arbitration, from the constitution of the Amphictyonic Council--the first recorded embodiment of that ideaon through Roman times, when the sword of Rome was the only means of solving international disputes, to the middle ages, when the power of the Popes established for a time what was practically a permanent court of arbitration ;an office to the forgotten utility of which Prince Bismarck had recourse, a few years ago, in disposing of the dispute with Spain anent the Caroline Islands. The Holy Roman Empire succeeded for a while to the assumed prerogative of the Papacy. And there are a few instances of arbitration in later times.
But arbitration, as an admitted and established mode of dealing with international differences within this century, had its beginning, as it has since found its most important developments, in the relations of the two great branches of the AngloSaxon race ; and that at the very point where they parted, each to enter upon a distinct political existence. It is the outcome of their more advanced state of moral civilisation, and it will abide as a monument of their superior political sagacity.
By the treaty with England, in 1793, the north-eastern frontier of the United States was to follow the line of the River Sainte-Croix ; but, doubts having arisen, whether it was not intended so to designate the course of the Schoodic river, a supplementary treaty was signed on November 19, 1794, known as the Jay Treaty, which constituted a board of three commissioners charged with determining the new boundary. Two more commissioners were appointed to fix the compensations due to British subjects, and to decide upon certain other questions affecting the rights of neutrals, contraband of war, and prize courts.
So novel was the mode of procedure adopted, that it was viewed with great suspicion in the United States, and was fiercely denounced and opposed as a surrender to Great Britain and as a violation of national honour. The treaty failed ; principally, as the Americans contend, because of the overbearing tone of the British Commissioner, Mr. McDonald;