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If this be a fair statement of the scientific position, as held in the higher institutions of learning, we may have little doubt that when we descend to popular opinion the opinion is general, except of course among the Social Democrats, - a very considerable, but as yet politically uncontrolling exception, – that the King and Kaiser does rule by a divine delegation of authority.
We come now to the final point which I wish to discuss in this paper, which is this: Granting that there exists in Prussia the character of monarchical government which I have described, What concern is this to the peoples of other States? And, in view of the generally acknowledged principle of international law, that one nation is not presumed to have the right to bring pressure to bear upon another State to compel it to change the form of government, with what right or justice are the Entente Powers now demanding, as a condition of permanent peace, that Prussia shall effect a radical change in her scheme of political rule, or at least in the principles upon which it is founded, and upon which, in the past, it has been operated?
The answer to this question, shortly stated, is this:
As regards the particular monarch now reigning, it has appeared that he and the advisers by whom he has seen fit to surround himself have no respect for their own covenanted word and no regard for the rights of other peoples as sanctioned by long-established rules of international law. For the sake of securing his own end he has shown no compunction in visiting upon wholly innocent persons — the Belgians, for example — immeasurable and irremediable injuries. This he has justified to himself as an agent of the Almighty, and, acquiescing in this claim, the people of Germany have been led to support him. Giving motive force to his acts has, of course, been the assumption that he is the legislative mouthpiece and the executive arm of a transcendent being, the National State of Germany, which has for its aim and mission to spread throughout the world that Kultur which it has itself created.
When thus conceived it is clear that the Prussian conception of monarchy assumes a significance which leaves it no longer a matter with which only the Germans themselves are concerned. Until this doctrine is discredited there can be no possible security to other peoples.
It is, therefore, a matter of the merest precaution and self-defense that the Entente Powers and the United States should demand of the German people that, if they wish to continue to be monarchically governed, they should eliminate from their political philosophy and from their constitutional practice the features which have made possible the policies which their government has adopted.
The demand, therefore, of the Allied Powers that Prussian autocracy be overthrown is not based upon a claim upon their part that they have a right to impose their own political ideas upon the Germans, for if this were so they would subject themselves to one of the chief indictments which they have brought against the Prussians. Rather, their contention is compacted of two convictions: That only thus can they obtain treaty agreements the binding force of which they can have an assurance will be respected; and that only thus will it be possible to prevent a continued acceptance by the German people of political principles and of national policies which not only furnish a constant menace to international peace and comity, but threaten to destroy civilization itself. As it now appears to the United States and to the Entente Powers, but two alternatives appear tolerable. Either the political power of Germany must be so weakened that it can no longer endanger the world, or it must be taken out of the autocratic control of those who have so misused it.
Stated in other words, the conviction of the Entente Powers is that this much at least may be said of democracy: That released from false teaching imposed upon them from above, and left free to form and express their own judgments regarding matters of public policy and of public morality, no intellectually enlightened people will adopt or support such policies as have been framed by the autocratic rulers of Germany and sought to be executed as divine commands. This, then, is the real meaning of the demand that the world must be made safe for democracy. Never again must it be possible for a few men intoxicated with their own power and demented by a belief in the divine origin of their own authority to plunge a whole world into an abyss of horror and suffering.
W. W. WILLOUGHBY.
WHAT IS MEANT BY THE FREEDOM OF THE
FREEDOM is a relative term. It involves limitations as well as rights. There is no such thing as absolute freedom of any kind. A man is free only when his neighbors are limited. The matter is one of adjustment. As to the seas, the question is not one of “whether," but of "how much.” It is, therefore, not surprising that there is a wide divergence of opinion as to what the term "freedom of the seas” means.
Each world Power has certain major and certain minor interests, and it is from this point of view that each fixes its definition of terms. Possibly peace will come about through an agreement on phrases, the divergences of opinion appearing only on conference; but when this country speaks of the "freedom of the seas” as a necessary peace term, it states nothing more definite than if it had said, we want peace with honor."
Freedom of the seas in time of peace is so generally acknowledged that it is hard to realize it was not so very long ago, as the course of history runs, that America fought for this principle. For a long time it was strenuously asserted that the cruisers of one nation might lawfully search merchant vessels of another nation in time of peace. Algiers, Tripoli, Tunis, and Morocco, in the early part of the last century, supported themselves by tribute levied on commerce as an alternative to piratical depredations. America's first military excursion to Europe put a stop to this practice.
Since the freedom of the seas in time of peace is now questioned by no one, this can not be the intent of the term today. Neither does it mean that all countries shall have free access to the seas, or that tariffs and other restraints upon commerce over the seas shall be removed, or that canals, straits, and other waterways shall be
unfortified and internationalized. While the security or freedom of commerce of various nations might depend to a large extent upon conclusions reached on these subjects, yet they are problems other than are included in the term under consideration.
In our note to Great Britain of December 26, 1914, this country said it "confidently awaited amendment to a course of action which denied to neutral commerce the freedom to which it was entitled by the law of nations." In our note to Germany of July 21, 1915, we insisted that Germany and ourselves were “both contending for the freedom of the seas.” The only questions involved were those of commerce in time of war on the open seas.
Had international law been strictly observed by belligerents, neutral commerce might have been carried on during this war with little substantial interference; but the illogical compromises in international law, involved in subtlety and technicality, made the claims of belligerents seem sound, and the demands of neutrals, in the words of Mr. Asquith, a web of "juridical niceties." A belligerent had & right to visit and search a neutral ship and if, upon examination, the vessel was found to be engaged in unneutral service or to be carrying contraband of war intended for the enemy government or armed forces, he had the further right to capture and condemn. A belligerent had the right to blockade, not an enemy country, but merely enemy ports, and to capture and condemn any vessel trying to break such blockade. These were the only exceptions to universal equality of right upon the seas. Enemy vessels were subject to capture, but enemy goods (except contraband) under a neutral flag were safe.
In actual practice, had the law been regarded, very little opportunity would have been left to interfere with enemy trade. If the original commercial transaction had ended in a neutral country, a new contract could have been made to sell to a belligerent and there would have been no right of interference even with contraband. Visit and search would merely have indicated that the merchandise was intended for a neutral country, and the transaction could have been so framed that this would unquestionably have been the fact. The right to blockade an enemy's ports and coasts was of considerable
i Note of Department of State to British Government, March 30, 1915.
importance when there was great difficulty of shipment and of transshipment. It means little in view of present transportation opportunities, particularly where a country is practically surrounded by neutrals. Under international law as it existed prior to the war, belligerent rights were so circumscribed that for all practical purposes neutrals might have traded almost as freely as if private property (except enemy vessels) had been immune from capture.
Secretary of State Lansing requested the American Institute of International Law, meeting at Havana on January 22, 1917, to consider a code of neutrality. The code presented was the private work of one of the members of the Institute and was referred to the national societies of international law for consideration and future action. While not authoritative, yet it may be regarded as representing the American point of view. The code contained a declaration that private property at sea was inviolable, but “if (ships carry] contraband, this may be confiscated or destroyed by the captor."
The historical American demand (and in the light of this, one must determine what we mean by freedom of the seas) was contained in the instructions to the American Delegation to the First Hague Conference:
As the United States has for many years advocated the exemption of all private property not contraband of war from hostile treatment, you are authorized to propose to the Conference the principle of extending to strictly private property at sea the immunity from destruction or capture by belligerent Powers which such property already enjoys on land as worthy of being incorporated into the permanent law of civilized nations.
The rule respecting private property on land was framed by the Peace Conference of 1907. Article 46 stated:— "Private property ... must be respected" and "can not be confiscated.” But by Article 53 an army of occupation might seize the same class of goods as we regard as contraband, subject to restoration and compensation, on the conclusion of peace.
We therefore propose that the seas be free for everything except contraband. That is our kind of freedom – not perhaps so idealistic as a more unlimited freedom, but perhaps more practical.