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submitted to arbitration upon the instance of one of the parties, the arbitrators in such case being two or three impartial governments. This provision is of great interest in that it represents the first enactment by public authority of the requirement of compulsory arbitration. Restricted as it is in its sphere of application, it nevertheless contains the complete principle of compulsory arbitration without abatement, and therefore may well be cited as a notable precedent in the future development of that method of procedure.
In the Railway Union the central bureau is charged, at the demand of the parties to the controversy, to pronounce arbitral sentences in disputes between different railway administrations. The suggestion made in 1904 that this power should be extended to controversies between railway administrations and private persons was not adopted by the conference. We have already seen that the determination of facts made by the Sugar Commission may be considered as quasijudicial in their nature; but in addition to this duty, the commission is charged to give advice on disputed questions at the request of the governments or their delegates. The convention for the regulation of wireless telegraphy also provides for the arbitration of controversies by disinterested parties. Up to 1907, in the Postal Union, twelve cases had been submitted to the bureau for advisory arbitration, and three had been decided definitely by arbitrators.
The most common function of the international bureaus is that of furnishing reliable and adequate information concerning the particular interest in question. This is the main function of such bureaus as that of Industrial and Literary Property, the American Republics, Customs Tariffs, Labor, Sugar, Agriculture, Hygiene, and the Slave Trade (Brussels). It was as purely informational agencies that most of these bureaus came into being. This apparently innocent function was the entering wedge for other and more important international attributes, but even considered entirely by itself it is by no means of small importance. As a basis for national legislation, impartial and reliable information about the subjectmatter involved, from the abundant sources of international experience, may best be furnished through the central service of the various bureaus. A direction toward greater unity and rationalness may
thus be imparted to national legislation, so that it may avoid the difficulties and drawbacks of local variations and local ignorance of the broader conditions of legislative problems. World-wide information is the only sound basis for a growing uniformity of law. The administrative side of governments will, however, find the informational function of the international bureaus of even more constant and general advantage. An administrative office is reluctant to send letters of inquiry to a foreign government. It may prefer, out of political modesty or for other reasons, to rely upon private sources of information — limited, partial, and in many ways inadequate. A thoroughly effective international service of information ought to justify itself primarily through active assistance to administrative offices in the various treaty states. The publications which have from time to time or at regular periods been issued by the international bureaus have in most cases been of unquestioned advantage to governments and to the public.
Closely allied to the function of furnishing general and specific information is that of preparing matters for the conferences of the unions, a function which is intrusted to many of the international bureaus. The bureau of the Institute of Agriculture, for instance, is instructed to propose measures for the protection of the common interests of agriculture. The bureau of the International Union of American Republics has been directed to make special investigations of topics proposed for action by the International American Confer
Such reports must be prepared at a sufficient time in advance of the conference in order that the individual governments may examine the matter with a view of instructing their delegates on the basis of the facts set forth. Preparatory work of this kind is done also by the Railway Bureau and by the bureau of the Sugar Union.
As we consider the totality of administrative activities centered in the international unions, we again note the extreme reluctance which nations have hitherto felt toward endowing these organs with positive powers. It is very common to exaggerate the functions of these international institutions. The International Railway Bureau, for instance, is sometimes portrayed as in a measure controlling the vari. ons European railway administrations. In order not to receive a
mistaken impression, it is necessary to remember that these institutions are primarily organs of information and communication. Other functions, as we have seen, have occasionally been granted, but they are thus far exceptional rather than normal. They point to future possibilities of development rather than to general present achievements. We need only look at the small budgets of these international institutions in order to understand how unprepared are the national governments to give them a powerful backing and support. On an annual allowance of from 60,000 to 125,000 francs, such as the Swiss bureaus enjoy, a complicated administration can not be developed. It is the more remarkable, however, what has actually been accomplished with such limited means. Notwithstanding the limitation in functions and resources, it is unquestioned that the international bureaus have succeeded in making for themselves a prominent place in the modern civilized world, a place which they owe partly to the circumspection and wisdom with which their affairs have been managed; partly, however, also to the future importance which the intelligent public of the civilized world is beginning to attribute to the international organizations which these organs represent
PAUL S. REINSCH.
CONCERNING THE INTERPRETATION OF TREATIES 1
The interpretation of treaties is a part of the procedure of carrying out or realizing the act of contracting. This work would not be necessary if agreements between states were bare expressions of international good-will, like the arrangements of friendly monarchs to interchange visits. Because, however, treaties are deemed capable of realization and performance, the process is essential.2
The method of interpretation consists in finding out the connection made by the parties to an agreement, between the terms of their contract and the objects to which it is to be applied. This involves two steps. One is to ascertain what has been called the “standard of interpretation;” that is, the sense in which various terms are employed. The other is to learn what are the sources of interpretation; this is, to find out where one may turn for evidence of that
As various standards of interpretation are available, it is obviously necessary to ascertain which one the contracting states may have adopted. A treaty may, for example, prohibit the citizens of one state from fishing within a specified distance of the bays of another state. To ascertain in what waters fishing is not permitted it is necessary to determine in what sense the term bays ployed; whether in the literal sense, according to the definition given in approved dictionaries, or in a sense, if there be one, peculiar to international law, or in one known only to the parties to the agreement. While contracting states may avail themselves of any standard of interpretation convenient to their purpose, no party to a
1 This article embodies a small section of a treatise on International Law which is in preparation for publication by Messrs. Little, Brown & Company, Boston.
2 See Wigmore, Evidence, IV, 3470.
treaty can rightly invoke one known only to itself. It is the signification which the several parties to an agreement may be regarded as having attached to their words which is alone the subject of investigation.*
In order to ascertain the sense in which a word or clause is employed in a treaty it becomes necessary to search for sources of interpretation. For this purpose recourse may be had to extrinsic circumstances. The effort of search is not fettered by many prohibitive rules, which the common law, for example, applies when the same undertaking concerns the contracts of individual men. As Professor Westlake says:
The important point is to get at the real intention of the parties, and that inquiry is not to be shackled by any rule of interpretation which may exist in a particular national jurisprudence, but is not generally accepted in the civilized world."
It is important to bear in mind that the final purpose of seeking to learn the intentions of contracting states is to ascertain the sense in which terms are employed. It is the contract which is the subject of interpretation, not the volition of the parties thereto. It may
be clearly established that while certain expressions are used in a par
3 The common law does not permit such latitude in the interpretation of legal acts. The rule prohibiting reliance on a sense disturbing a clear meaning ” of a term is an illustration. See Wigmore, Evidence, IV, 3476.
4“When a treaty is executed in more than one language, each language being that of a contracting party, each document, so signed and attested, is to be regarded as an original, and the sense of the treaty is to be drawn from them collectively.” Moore, Int. L. Dig., V, 252, citing United States v. Arredondo, 6 Pet. 691, 710; also Mr. Hay, Secretary of State, to Mr. Beaupré, No. 331, Nov. 16, 1900, MS. Inst. Columbia, XIX, 123.
5 Int. Law, I, 282.
“Once freed from the primitive formalism which views the document as self-contained and self-operative formula, we can fully appreciate the modern principle that the words of a document are never anything but indices to extrinsic things, and that therefore all the circumstances must be considered which go to make clear the sense of the words that is, their associations with things.” Wigmore, Evidence, IV, 3499.
Among the systems of rules formulated for the interpretation of treaties, those of Vattel, Book II, Chap. XVII; Phillimore, II, 94-125; Hall (5th ed.), 335–343; and Woolsey, 173–174, have been frequently cited.