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Studies in the Problem of Sovereignty. By Harold J. Laski, New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1918, pp. 297.
In this well printed and clearly written volume the author seeks to probe the essential character of the modern state. Sovereignty in the body politic would seem, in Mr. Laski's view, to be necessarily limited by a right to self-determination inherently possessed by various aggregations within the state whose group-wills may each, within its appropriate sphere, claim immunity, in the last resort, from the general state control. “How, then," says he at page 11, "it will be asked, is the will of the State to be made manifest? If the State is but one of the groups to which the individual belongs, there is no thought of unity in his allegiance. The answer to that is the sufficiently simple answer that our allegiance is not as a fact unified. Then, it will be protested, you will abolish what lawyers mean by sovereignty. You justify resistance to the State." The author's conception of sovereignty is accurately defined at page 17 where he tells
When you come to think of it, the sovereignty of legal theory is far too simple to admit of acceptance. The sovereign is the person in the State who can get his will accepted, who so dominates over his fellows as to blend their wills with his. Clearly there is nothing absolute and unqualified about it. It is a matter of degree and not of kind that the State should find for its decrees more usual acceptance than those of any other association. It is not because of the force that lies behind its will, but because men know that the group could not endure if every disagreement meant a secession, that they agree to accept its will as made manifest for the most part in its law.
The conception here laid down is termed pluralistic, as opposed to a monist theory.
It recognizes the validity of all wills to exist, and argues no more than that in their conflict men should give their allegiance to that which is possessed of superior moral purpose. It is in fact an individualistic theory of the State no pluralistic attitude can avoid that. But it is individualistic only in so far as
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it asks of man that he should be a social being. In the monist theory of the State there seems no guarantee that man will have any being at all. His personality, for him the most real of all things, is sacrificed to an idol which the merest knowledge of history would prove to have feet of clay.
Mr. Laski illustrates his theme, and in a most thorough manner, by an examination of the history of the Scotch Church, the Oxford Movement and the Catholic Revival in England, and also examines with much clarity of detail the influence of Joseph de Maistre, the celebrated exponent of Papal absolutism, on the one hand, and Bismarck and the Kulturkampf on the other. The chapters dealing with these subjects contain much of value to the historical student. At page 208 Mr. Laski clearly characterizes his view of the importance to his subject of a consideration of certain phases of ecclesiastical history and theory:
The problem of Church and State is in reality, as Mr. Figgis has so ably argued, but part of the larger problem of the nature of civil society. To distrust the old theory of sovereignty is to strive towards a greater freedom. We have been perhaps too frankly worshippers of the State. Before it we have prostrated ourselves in speechless admiration, deeming its nature matter, for the most part, beyond our concern. The result has been the implicit acceptance of a certain grim Hegelianism which has swept us unprotestingly on into the vortex of a great All which is more than ourselves. Its goodness we might not deny. We live, so we are told, but for its sake and in its life and are otherwise non-existent. So the State has become a kind of modern Baal to which the citizen must bow a heedless knee. It has not been seen, that the death of argument lies in genuflexion.
At the close of his book, Appendix A and Appendix B (pp. 267285), exhibit short studies of sovereignty, federalism and centralization. Touching these, Mr. Laski says:
Had he commented with any fullness upon it, the Constitution of the United States would doubtless have provoked the vehement derision of John Austin, for nowhere, either in theory or in practice, has it chosen to erect an instrument of sovereign power. We do not know who rules. Certainly the president is not absolute. Neither to Congress nor to the Supreme Court is unlimited power decreed. And, as if to make confusion worse confounded, there cut athwart this dubiousness certain sovereign rights possessed by the States alone. . . . The second method of approach is more constructive. It is the result of the view that sovereignty, rightly regarded, ought not to be defined as omnicompetence at all. Sovereignty is, in the exercise, an act of will, whether to do or to refrain from doing. It is an exercise of will behind which there is such power as to make the expectation of obedience reasonable. Now it does not seem valuable to urge that a certain group, the State, can theoretically secure obedience to all its acts, because we know that practically to be absurd. This granted, it is clear that the sovereignty of the State does not in reality differ from the power exer: cised by a Church or a trade union. The obedience the Church or trade union will secure depends simply on what measure of resistance the command inspires. So that, on this view, when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, when a Church issues a new doctrinal order, when a trade union proclaims a strike, all are exercising a power that differs only in degree, not in kind, from that of the State. Analyzed into its elements sovereignty is, after all, not such a very formidable thing. It is the obvious accompaniment of personality, and the main characteristic of personality is the power to will. Sometimes wills, whether individual or corporate, conflict, and only submission or trial of strength can decide which is superior. The force of a command from the State is not, therefore, bound to triumph, and no theory is of value which would make it so. Certain local groups have a life of their own that is not merely delegated to them by the State. They are capable of directing their own concerns. Their interest in themselves is revivified and inspired by the responsibility for such direction. When New York wants a new Constitution it can apply itself to that manufacture. . If Wisconsin wants an income tax it can obtain one by winning the assent of its citizens.
To the reviewer, however, the criticism or doubts of the essential unity and strength of sovereignty and its incontestable claims to obedience reflected in Mr. Laski's pages would appear to be more applicable to the Prussian State than to any political organization on this side of the Atlantic. The Constitution of the United States objectifies the political will of the American people, and while it does not erect an instrument of sovereign power, it recognizes an ultimate and irresistible source of power in a people's unified will. With the Prussian state theory it has no kinship. But it does rest securely upon the respect for law which forms so essential an element of American political consciousness. And this law is, in the last analysis, supported by a force sufficient to fully realize itself. We may well admit that if Wisconsin wants an income tax—a state income tax-it may have it; though it is equally true that whether or no it may want a federal income tax, it has it because such a measure is part of the amended national Constitution and is the supreme law of the land, and as such will be enforced.
In the days through which we are now passing, it would appear of the last importance to emphasize the unity and all-compelling force of national will directed to the purposes expressed in the national Constitution and obviously inseparable from the welfare of every citizen and the preservation of the government under which we live.
GORDON E. SHERMAN.
The Foreign Trade of China. By Chong Su See, New York: Colum
bia University, 1919, pp. 451.
In the “Studies in History, Economics and Public Law” published by Columbia University, there have appeared a dozen or more valuable monographs dealing with conditions in, or relations with, China. The latest addition to this list is the substantial volume by Mr. Chong Su See dealing with the foreign trade of China.
The subject is considered historically, the first part of the volume being devoted to the period prior to 1860, and the second part to the years since that date. The year 1860 is selected as marking the end of the first period because then became effective the important Tientsin treaties of 1858 and the British and French conventions signed at Peking in 1860. In consequence of three unsuccessful wars which she had fought with the Western Powers, China now found herself bound hand and foot by treaties which not only granted extraterritorial rights within her borders to the nationals of the Treaty Powers, but placed beyond her own control the customs dues that she might levy on exports and imports. Mr. See does not state the situation too strongly when he says:
She [China] had been forced to learn the long and painful lesson that might makes right or at least enforces it, and that her independence could not be maintained save by employing the mailed fist. Up to 1834 China was the mistress of her own house; she dictated, as it was her sovereign right, the conditions on which external trade within her dominions was to be carried on. But from 1860 to the present day the whole situation has undergone a complete transformation. Since that date it has been the foreign Powers, and not China, that prescribe the terms for the regulation of the Chinese commerce-some have done it by resorting to force, and others by means of crooked diplomacy, while one has recently made use of the "friendly” ultimatum (p. 178).
The years from 1891 to 1901 were the bad years, politically, for China, but the “Break-up” which then seemed pending has thus far been averted, but no one familiar with conditions in China can escape from the conclusion that the present situation in that country is a very bad one. Indeed, the domestic demoralization has so increased that already it has reached a point where radical improvement can be hoped for only if affirmative and truly friendly aid be extended by the Treaty Powers. The issues are thus placed squarely before the Powers: Are they sufficiently concerned with China's continued sovereignty-in substance as well as in form-to extend this aid? If this be answered in the affirmative, can a program be devised which will satisfy the interests and wishes of Japan!
Mr. See's volume covers the years so excellently traversed by Mr. Morse in his three volumes on “The International Relations of the Chinese Empire," but the interest of Mr. See is, of course, primarily with matters of commerce. Inasmuch, however, as a very considerable proportion of China's foreign relations have dealt with, or grown out of matters of commerce, Mr. See has been obliged to work over again many of the topics that Mr. Morse has satisfactorily treated. Mr. See's book, however, gives much information, statistical and descriptive, regarding China's commerce which is not contained in Mr. Morse's volumes. And, furthermore, Mr. See covers the important years since 1911, which are not treated by Mr. Morse.
W. W. WILLOUGHBY.
Experiments in International Administration. By Francis Bowes
Sayre. New York and London: Harper & Bros., 1919, pp. 201.
The subject of international administration has been growing in importance for several years, but was never so much before the public as it is to-day when the plan of the League of Nations, which has administrative features and contemplates the concentration of various administrative unions at Geneva as the world capital, is up for discussion and in process of acceptance. The appearance of the book of Dr. Francis Bowes Sayre is therefore opportune. Although we were not without exact information on this topic before this, there was difficulty in getting quickly at the salient points of the subject; and there has always been a tendency on the part of writers in dealing with it to give mere lists of conventions, commissions, and conferences, without adding enough detail to enable the reader to understand their character and aims. For instance, one was often reminded of the Universal Postal Union, but was told very little about it. And again,