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becaine, under Spanish names, the furnishers of the American colonists. 18
Moreover, the question lost much of its ancient interest with the progressive adoption by the government of Madrid of a more liberal colonial policy. Insensibly, after the accession of Charles III, the ports of the peninsula were open to American commerce; the auxiliaries of foreigners, without, however, proclaiming commercial liberty between Europe and America, ceased to be so systematically refused. The Assientos, deprived of their international character, lost their political aspect and no longer raised any but economic questions relative to the distribution of manual labor, to the development of the poorest countries, and were finally lost in the general liberty of commerce and of the slave-trade when physiocratic ideas had gained the minds of the rulers in the Iberian peninsula. It was already only a memory when humanitarian ideas, which were to lead to the abolition of the slave-trade and the condemnation of slavery, triumphed.
Since that time, the slave-trade has been prohibited by the voice of civilized nations and slave-traders classed with freebooters and pirates. Colonizing peoples have resumed, more or less humanely, the exploitation of black labor in the improvement of their domains. Diplomatic history has related the disputes to which the counterclaims of France and England have given place in affairs of searching vessels, suspected of being engaged in the slave-trade, and international law pays scarcely any attention to it except to ascertain the bearing and the results of the Brussels Conference. It is some what curious, however, that the institution does not appear to have deserved the attention of historians until after it had received its death blow, and that one should be so little interested in the means by which a whole race of men (twenty millions of individuals at the lowest estimate) should be enslaved and decimated in the course of three centuries of official and administrative slave-trade.
In terminating this study, which touches throughout the diplomatic history of Europe, the relations of which are so closely connected with the economic history of the New World, there seems to us nothing better than to recall with bold strokes the scope of that administrative and international institution which has ceased to exist and which was the Assiento of slaves.
18 Consult for the history of the last Assientos, the work of A. Saco. Historica de la raza Africana en el nuevo Mundo, and Vol. III of the author's work.
This institution, sprung from a favor of Charles Fifth to one of his courtiers, has successively become an element of the financial administrative organization of the Spanish monarchy, then, a factor in international negotiations, lastly, an essential element of the diplomatic life of the naritime powers of the eighteenth century. It takes up more particularly public international law and general colonial history. Its study alone clearly demonstrates the arbitrariness and absurdity of the celebrated doctrine of colonial compact and reciprocal exclusivism. Thanks to England, which alone was able fully to realize what Holland, Portugal, and France had tried before, the narrow and selfish legal regulation which bound the Castilian Indies to the mother-country became only a fiction. Much more even than that of the liberal economists, it is the proof furnished by smuggling vessels which decided the conversion of the Spaniards to ideas of commercial liberty.
And yet, by a curious contrast, the Assiento, which, on one hand, undermined and destroved insensibly all the efficacy of the SpanishAmerican colonial compact, appears indeed, on the other hand, to have determined the possibility of its maintenance. The duration of this political and economic delusion seems in fact improbable. If it is possible to conceive of the establishment of reciprocal exclusivism, when it is a question of a few islands, as the French Antilles, subject to the rule of a strong, productive and rich mothercountry, and if it is necessary, even under these conditions, to state undeniably its disadvantages and to note the inevitable derogations and the continual defeats which were inflicted on it, one asks with astonishment how nearly the whole of two continents has been able to endure the commercial and economic burden imposed upon them by Spain. More and more feeble, poorly armed, engaged beyond her strength in continual European enterprises, this monarchy would have been in no condition, and realized it very well, to repress a general rebellion nor perhaps a local revolt. On the other hand, it was absolutely impossible for her to supply the needs of her vassals beyond sea, and yet she claimed the right to impose upon them a purely passive attitude, to forbid them all business with the foreigner whom she made, with regret and very inadequately, the selfish and grasping medium, by way of Cadiz. If the dogma of colonial exclusivism had been worked out with a strict method, and if, not satisfied with prohibiting Americans from all manufacturing production, they had still succeeded in oppressing them completely in their trade and their exchanges, all liberality of life, all comforts, all riches would have been refused to them for the sole benefit of the corporation of merchants of Andalusia. There is no doubt, therefore, that the secession of the Spanish-American colonies would have been brought about long before the nineteenth century.
The Assiento was the safety valve; through it America could share, thanks it is true to great pecuniary sacrifices, in the progress of Europe, receive it products, develop in part its aptitudes. The Assiento, by weakening the Colonial Compact, by preventing it from developing its extreme results, permitted it to live, and guarded it from sinking in the midst of some violent crisis as quickly as it would otherwise have done.
BOARD OF EDITORS OF THE AMERICAN JOURNAL
OF INTERNATIONAL LAW
CHANDLER P. ANDERSON, New York City.
Editor in Chief
In international law, forms of government are indifferent and the possession of sovereignty is the requisite of statehood; independence and equality its corollary. An empire becomes a republic or a republic is converted into an empire without affecting the international personality of the state; the president changes, the emperor passes away, but the state whereof he is the organ undergoes no perceptible change in international law. International relations as distinct from the legal nature of the state are profoundly affected by the change of rulers and the accession of one monarch or the death of another is often an international event of the utmost significance.
The death of Edward VII has plunged the vast British Empire into mourning and the expressions of grief, sympathy and regret are not confined to the English speaking peoples, for the late king had not only used his constitutional power with wisdom, moderation and tact in domestic affairs, but had so conducted himself in delicate matters of foreign policy as profoundly to influence international relations.
His long novitiate as Prince of Wales, where he represented the crown on all important occasions, fitted him to perform with ease and dignity the duties of his nine years of kingship from 1901 to 1910; his wide personal acquaintance with all classes of his fellow countrymen; his knowledge of the strength and weakness of English character; his sympathy as generous as it was profound and outspoken, with all movements tending to improve conditions, assured him the confidence of his subjects from the moment of his accession to the throne and inclined them to judge kindly, if not wholly to overlook, the misdeeds of one peculiarly exposed to temptation. An average Englishman himself, he understood the average Englislıman and he truly represented on the throne the Englishmen throughout the kingdom and the empire. It is thus easy to understand how he succeeded in pleasing the average Briton.
But King Edward was equally successful in the domain of foreign affairs and for like reasons. The foreigner he knew and appreciated as the Englishman; he spoke the foreign languages; he travelled widely and mingled freely with all classes of society, so that the ambitious hopes and prejudices of the foreigner were well-nigh as familiar to him as the peculiar traits of his fellow countrymen. Familiarity engendered clear understanding, not contempt, and a sympathy for the neighbors and associates of the British people, a respect for their good qualities, and a desire to administer to their prosperity, disarmed oppositiou abroad just as it created an affectionate regard for him at home.
It is well known that Edward was opposed to extreme measures against the Boers of South Africa ; that he facilitated the settlement of the Soutli African question upon terms acceptable to the victor and the conquered, that he was unwilling to be crowned while the Empire was at war; that he favored the grant of self-government to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony, and it is a pity that his days were not prolonged to see the fruition of a liberal policy in the appointment of General Botha, formerly commander-in-chief of the Transvaal forces, who took his oath as prime minister of the South African Confederation on June 1, 1910.
His accession found the rivalry between Great Britain and France as pronounced as in past generations; his death found the two countries friends and allies in a common progress by an entente cordiale that had