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pretation only when there is any ambiguity in the wording of the instrument and not when the meaning is clear. As Vattel says:
It is not allowable to interpret what has no need of interpretation. When its (of a deed) meaning is evident, and leads to no absurd conclusion, there can be no reason for refusing to admit the meaning which such deed naturally presents. To go elsewhere in search of conjectures, in order to restrict or extend it, is but an attempt to elude it. If this dangerous method be once admitted, there will be no deed which it will not render useless. However luminous such a clause may be, however clear and precise the terms in which the deed is couched, all this will be of no avail, if it be allowed to go in quest of extraneous arguments, to prove that it is not to be understood in the sense which it naturally presents. 40
And further "the equity of this rule is glaringly obvious, and its necessity is not less evident. There will be no security in conventions, if they may be rendered nugatory by subsequent limitations, which ought to have been originally specified in the deed, if they were in the contemplation of the contracting parties." 41
From the above summary of the views of the authorities on international law, it is evident that the primordial principle governing the interpretation or construction of diplomatic instruments is that the contracting parties should avoid subtilties and adhere to the letter of the instrument whenever the meaning of it is clear and distinct, or to the spirit whenever there is any doubt or obscurity in the meaning of a word or expression, the dominant feature in both cases being uberrime fides.
Both the letter and spirit of the Greco-Serbian Treaty of Alliance and the Military Convention indicate that the two states undertook to assist each other in case of armed conflict between one or both of them and a third Power, and particularly Bulgaria - provided there was no provocation on the part of either of the contracting parties and they were on the defensive. The incidents and events preceding the conclusion of the dual alliance attest that Constantine, in refusing to go to the aid of Serbia when the assistance of Greece was invoked, deliberately violated both the letter and the spirit of the alliance and in doing so he simply indorsed and adopted the
40 Vattel, II, translated by J. Chitty (1883), p. 244.
41 Ibid., p. 245.
Prussian or Teutonic theory of the obligations resulting from treaties. The ex-king evidently forgot the sacred words of the Delphic Oracle on persons who violate their oaths.42
Be that what it may, the sanctity of treaties has been solemnly vindicated in Greece after the expulsion from the country of the exalted person who had attempted to drag Hellas to infamy, by the adoption of the following resolution by the representatives of the Greek nation on August 25, 1917:
The Boulé, declaring that international agreements have a sacred character and likewise the obligations of the alliance of Greece towards Serbia, conveying a brotherly greeting to the heroic Serbian nation, and convinced that the entire nation is ready for every sacrifice so that by her participation on the side of the Allied States in the world war for the liberty of the people she may reëstablish the national honor, recover the lost territories, and in general safeguard the national interests, approves the answer to the royal speech of the majority of the committee ad hoc and expresses its full confidence in the Government.43
At last the participation of Greece in the war on the side of her ally Serbia in order to fulfill her treaty obligations and those due to her protecting Powers, to whom the Greek nation owes so much has, much to the joy and satisfaction of the friends of justice and the lovers of Hellas, wiped out the stain of dishonor and ingratitude which would have been otherwise impressed upon the Hellenic people.
THEODORE P. ION.
42 Yet hath the Oath God a son who is nameless, footless and handless; mighty in strength he approaches to vengeance, and whelms in destruction all who belong to the race or the house of the man who is perjured. But oath-keeping men leave behind them a flourishing offspring. Herodotus, Book V., Erato. Pythoness to Glaucus. Translation of G. Rawlinson, Vol. III, p. 168.
43 Supplement to Patris, etc., etc., 1917, p. 212.
INTERNATIONAL LAW AND THE WAR
MEETING OF THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL
Pursuant to the notice sent to the members to that effect, the annual meeting of the Society was omitted this year, but instead, there was a meeting of the Executive Council of the Society held in Washington, on Saturday, April 27, at which the following were present:
HONORABLE ELIHU Root, President of the Society.
sador to Germany, and a Vice President of the Society.
ment of State, Treasurer of the Society.
of the United States, Corresponding Secretary of the Society.
tary of the Society.
After the hearing of reports, the reëlection for the ensuing year of the officers and committees selected by the Council, and the transaction of other administrative matters, a full account of which will be printed and distributed to the members, the Council unanimously adopted the following statement:
The Executive Council of the American Society of International Law considers that the very existence of international law is now at issue. The Committee on Annual Meeting has therefore refrained from
calling the members of the Society from the active work on which most of them are engaged to meet for the discussion of questions of law. The only great question of international law today is whether that law shall continue to exist.
Upon that subject the American Society of International Law reaffirms the clear and unvarying support of the United States for the rule of law, expressed in the recognition of international law in the Federal Constitution, in the decisions of its highest court and in the utterances of its chief magistrates and statesmen.
Mr. Webster, while Secretary of State, made this announcement:
Every nation, on being received, at her own request, into the circle of civilized governments, must understand that she not only attains rights of sovereignty and the dignity of national character, but that she binds herself to the strict and faithful observance of all those principles, laws, and usages which have obtained currency among civilized states, and which have for their object the mitigation of the miseries
President Cleveland, in his special message of 1893, addressed to the Congress of the United States, said:
The law of nations is founded upon reason and justice, and the rules of conduct governing individual relations between citizens or subjects of civilized state are equally applicable as between enlightened nations. The considerations that international law is without a court for its enforcement and that obedience to its commands practically depends upon good faith instead of upon the mandate of a superior tribunal only give additional sanction to the law itself and brand any deliberate infraction of it not merely as a wrong, but as a disgrace. A man of true honor protects the unwritten word which binds his conscience more scrupulously, if possible, than he does the bond a breach of which subjects him to legal liabilities, and the United States, in aiming to maintain itself as one of the most enlightened nations, would do its citizens a gross injustice if it applied to its international relations any other than a high standard of honor and morality.
The Council would call attention to the fact that the entire diplomatic and consular service of all nations operates under the control and protection of international law. That therefore all the vast interests within the charge of these agencies must be left unserved and unadministered if the beneficent provisions of international law are abandoned or disregarded. They further venture to call attention to the fact that more than two-thirds of the surface of the globe is covered by the high seas, that no law is current thereon except international law, that noble branch of law which President Wilson, on April 2, 1917, addressing the Congress of the United States, declared had its "origin in the attempt to set up some law which would be respected and observed upon the seas, where no nation had right of dominion and where lay the free highways of the world." "By painful stage after stage,” he said, "has that law been built up with meager enough
results indeed after all was accomplished that could be accomplished, but always with a clear view at least of what the heart and conscience of mankind demanded."
To say no more than has been said as to international relations upon land if. this one law and common rule which guards the traffic of the seas is allowed to lapse in that vast and preponderant domain, no measure of right and justice, no rule of humanity or restraint will remain, only the desolating condition which the Vulgate ascribes to Hell, Ubi umbra mortis et nullus ordo sed sempiternus horror inhabitat.
Therefore, those just and wise doctrines by which international relations are guided, humanized, and controlled, can not be debilitated or abandoned. Therefore, they must be taught by our scholars, learned by our rising youth, declared and defined by our courts, announced by our Congress, enlarged by our treaties, and enforced by our Chief Executive.
Therefore, at need, our army upon the land and our navy upon the sea, with a spirit and devotion which have never declined, must maintain and defend them, not for the good of this nation or this time alone, but for the good of all nations and all men, now and forevermore.
REQUISITIONING OF DUTCH SHIPS BY THE UNITED STATES
On March 20, 1918, the President of the United States, in accordance with the Act of Congress of June 15, 1917, conferring upon him power to take possession of any vessel within the jurisdiction of the United States and to use or operate the same by the United States, "in accordance with international law and practice," and as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, issued a proclamation stating "that the imperative military needs of the United States require the immediate utilization of vessels of Netherlands registry, now lying within the territorial waters of the United States," and because of the authorization and of imperative military needs, the President authorized and empowered "the Secretary of the Navy to take over on behalf of the United States the possession of and to employ all such vessels of Netherlands registry as may be necessary for essential purposes connected with the prosecution of the war against the Imperial German Government.” The proclamation further stated that “The vessels shall be manned, equipped and operated by the Navy Department and the United States Shipping Board, as may be deemed expedient; and the United States Shipping Board shall make to the owners thereof full compensation, in accordance with the principles of international law.” By an executive order