« AnteriorContinuar »
INTERNATIONAL ASPECTS OF THE SPANISH
By 0. A. HowLAND, Barrister, Toronto, Ontario.
The conflict between the United States and Spain, now being waged to an effective conclusion, may be more important in its incidental than in its direct consequences.
Every great modern war between members of the family of nations is productive of effects in several directions. It may lead to territorial re-adjustments and dispositions, in which others in the society of nations may be disposed to claim a voice. It adds new developments to the science and rules of war. It contributes to the body of precedents which form international law. More lasting and often most important of all, it has reflex effects upon
the internal constitution, character and future history of the nations : concerned.
The causes of the disturbances in Cuba have been long impending; and the existing rebellion is less substantial, I might say, less respectable, than others which have occurred in Cuban history. It did not originate in towns or thickly settled districts. It had not the principal native Cubans in its ranks. It was not, like the great rebellion which ended in 1878, substantially a rising of the Cuban people of European descent. There is much probability that it was largely recruited from the negro labourers thrown out of work by depression on the sugar estates. Organized under the respectable name of rebels, they were not disappointed in their hope of obtaining support from foreign sympathizers.
Spanish corruption is probably the true cause of the intolerable prolongation of the process of suppressing this never really formidable insurrection. The implication of designed negligence, inspired by corrupt interest on the part of local authorities, in prolonging the war, is unfortunately only too consistent with Spanish
--- --- ---
--- -Colonial traditions. The misconduct of the Spanish military authorities ended at length in exciting a real and wide-spread intolerance of Spanish domination throughout Cuba. Then came suspicion and hostility on the part of the authorities, ending in the horrible resort to ruthless deportation, or “concentration," of the inhabitants, and a general devastation of the country, in the name of saving it from the banditti. What may be permissible by laws of war in the case of hostile military operations, is not defensible when exercised on such an immense and disastrous scale, towards the mass of a subject population, which it is the duty of the Government to protect. It was an admission of incompetence in the work of defence; or it was a declaration of hostility towards the whole people of the Island. In either case it was an insufferable breach of the parental duty of a Government. A Government which can only maintain order by ruining and destroying its people has abdicated its position and assumed that of a mere foreign oppressor.
Nevertheless, this situation did not come under any of the rules of international law as a justification for interference. International law has a great respect for the rights of force. Force, however brutally exercised upon lawful subjects, is not interfered with, provided these three conditions are present: (1) That the acts are done by the legally constituted Government in the assertion of its authority. (2) That they are regular military or penal n:easures for the suppression of insurrection. (3) That the Government is powerful enough to make them effective. The measures of the Spanish Government, even if construed as acts of hostility, directed against the whole Cuban people, were technically permissible, because the Government had the power to make them effective. The Government had in fact by these means, to a great extent, “pacified” the island. It had made a desolation and called it peace.
While the grounds of interference in the affairs of an adjoining state were so strictly limited by international law as not to reach the case of Cuba, the Anglo-Saxon common sense of the United States people called for the application of the same device by which an early English Parliament delivered English jurisprudence from the narrow fetters of the common lawyers. If no precisely similar writ was to be found, let one be made to suit the case.
The American revolution was an economic protest more than a political revolt. Had the assertion of British Parliamentary
dominion not taken the form of tributes and monopolies, for the benefit of traders and ship-masters across the sea, the abstract principle, unconstitutional as it was, would not, at all events until a later date, have encountered such fierce and universal resistance. The evils wrought by economic wrongs extend beyond the borders of the state where they are inflicted. The depression of local industry and enterprise, through the discouragements imposed by arbitrary misgovernment, the consequent locking up of fertile lands from free development, the burdening of production with unreasonable tributes and exactions, all tend to make the products of the country scarcer and more costly to all the consuming world. To the consuming world, therefore, there is a general economic injury from local misgovernment. If it is not a wrong recognized in international jurisprudence, it is one felt by the people of all states, and of which the people are likely to take more notice in the future than their Governments have done in the past. In the vindication of economic rights against every form of oppression, the people will be more and more inclined to make common cause, bearing in mind that in fact they eventually bear one anothers' burdens.
It is possible that the retreat of the Spanish army of officials, following the Spanish military forces, which have till now protected it, might lead to the substitution of local officials equally venal and corrupt. Nevertheless, there is a substantial difference between the peculation of a succession of natives and tributary extortion through a succession of foreigners. The difference is not merely political but economic. When the plunderers are natives, the plunder, though circulating through foul channels, is not wholly lost to the country. The local accumulations are locally invested or re-distributed. But when the surplus wealth of a country is gathered by members of a favoured official class, who ultimately retire with their accumulations to their own country, niserable indeed is the state of the subject province. The springs of enterprise are sapped, the possibility of prosperity is withered in the bud. It is absentee landlordism on the hugest scale.
Struggling to keep within the lines of international precedent, the President of the United States was hindered from basing interference by the Government of the United States upon the grounds tliat really influenced the American people, and which were at least not less valid than the diplomatic pretexts. Absentee landlordism, resulting from private contract, may be modified, but cannot be abolished by national interference, unless by purchase. But absentee landlordism, impressed upon a European colony, by force of foreign arms, for the benefit of a distant foreign nation, is not law but violence. When it is maintained upon this continent, against the protest of the sufferers, it is a kind of oppression of an American nation, which falls within the spirit of the Monroe doctrine, although the letter may be limited to nations which have effectually declared their independence. A remedial movement, on the part of the United States, was already progressing in the form of irresistible moral pressure. Concession after concession liad been obtained. Successive advances were made towards local autonomy and freedom for the Cuban people. The bounds of nioral pressure might never have been passed, had not the destruction of the Maine occurred in the harbor of Havana.
Senor Du Bosc, in his recent lucid and able statement of the Spanish case, at Toronto, enumerated with some triumph the concessions made by Spain as covering every demand of the Cuban people, or of their sympathizers in the United States. In the sanie breath he complained of the United States Government having not only recently, but for a quarter of a century past, permitted incessant encouragement to be given to Cuban insurrections. Is there no connection between the two facts ? Was not the granting of the approved constitution expedited, if not wholly procured, by the pressure of the recurring insurrections ? If the United States in the last century would have been unable to successfully assert the same principles without the help of France and Spain, could the Cubans have hoped to effectually protest against their grievances without secret American assistance, backed by the impending sympathy of the United States as a nation ? If we approve of the end, can we altogether complain of the means which were perhaps indispensable to the bringing of it about ?
At length, however, the Spanish Parliament had conceded to thie Cuban people an autonomic constitution, whose first Parliament or Congress was opened, amid the echo of the bombardnient of Manila, and in the presence of the lowering circle of warships surrounding Havana. It is declared on behalf of Spain that this constitution is modelled on that of Canada. If the claim were correct, it would put the United States wholly in the wrong, becluse such a concession would have amounted to nothing less than a grant of independence. It is worth while to examine the justice of this representation.
A glance at the Canadian Confederation Act will reveal a wide interval that separates the two constitutions. The preamble of the British North American Act declares that the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick “ have expressed their desire to be federally united into one Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a constitution similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom.” “The Executive Government and authority of and over Canada is hereby declared to continue and be vested in the Queen. There shall be a Council to aid and advise in the government of Canada, to be styled the Queen's Privy Council for Canada; and the persons who are to be members of that Council shall be, from time to time, chosen and summoned by the Governor-General, and sworn in as Privy Councillors, and members thereof may be, from time to time, removed by the Governor-General. The provisions of this Act, referring to the Governor-General-in-Council, shall be construed as referring to the Governor-General acting by and with the advice of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada. There shall be one Parliament for Canada, consisting of the Queen, an Upper House, styled the Senate, and the House of Commons. The privileges, immunities, and powers to be held, enjoyed and exercised by the Senate and by the House of Commons and by the members thereof, respectively, shall be such as are from time to time defined by Act of Parliament of Canada, but so that any Act of the Parlianient of Canada defining such privileges, immunities and powers, shall not confer any privileges, immunities or powers exceeding those at the passing of such Act, held, enjoyed and exercised by the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and by the members thereof."
The golden line, which illuminates the whole of the statutory constitution, is the sentence in the preamble which incorporates the principles of the British Constitution. It causes us to read into the statutes the unwritten line which that constitution inscribes under the words Privy Council; namely, the essential understanding that the Queen's Privy Council, though in name chosen by the Queen, shall be a body really chosen by the people, the constituents of Parliament.
Our provincial constitutions, even before the Federal Union, had always implicitly, and in practice, been interpreted by this principle. Its incorporation has now been set down in express terms, solemnly recognized and registered by the British Parlia