Page images

to shake conviction in the truth of these principles, while on the other hand they are confirmed by the consideration of events which, unconnected with the present war, have happened during the interval mentioned.

[ocr errors]

There always have been, and always will be, a class of persons who deride the notion of International Law, who delight in scoffing at the jurisprudence which supports it, and who hold in supreme contempt the position that a moral principle lies at its root.

The proposition that, in their mutual intercourse, States are bound to recognize the external obligations of justice apart from considerations of immediate expediency, they deem stupid and ridiculous pedantry. They point triumphantly to the instances in which the law has been broken (b), in which might has been substituted for right, and ask if Providence is not always on the side of the strongest battalions.

But in truth these objections are as old as they are shallow; they leave untouched the fact that there is, after all, a law to which States, in peace and war, appeal for the justification of their acts; that there are writers whose exposition of that law has been stamped as impartial and just by the great family of States, that they are only slighted by those upon whose crimes they have by anticipation passed sentence; that Municipal as well as International Law is often evaded and trampled down, but exists nevertheless, and that States cannot, without danger as well as disgrace, depart in practice from doctrines

(b) "Sed nimirum historiæ non tantum quæ juste, sed et quæ inique, iracunde, impotenter facta sunt memorant."-Grotius, De J. B. 1. 2 e. xviii. s. vii.

which they have professed in theory to be the guide of their relations with the commonwealth of Christendom.

The axiom "populus jura naturæ gentiumque "violans suæ quoque tranquillitatis in posterum "rescindit munimenta" remains as true to-day as when it was written by its great author two centuries ago. The precedents of crime no more disprove the existence of International than of Civil Law (c).

II. In the chapter on INTERVENTION (d) the doctrine of what is known as the Balance of Power is considered.

The preservation of this balance is placed under the head of Self-defence, and upon this ground the intervention of a third State, in the adjustment of the relations between other States, must be principally justified. The doctrine has of late years been attacked and ridiculed. It certainly is liable to great abuse, but fairly explained means no more than the right of timely prevention of a probable danger.

As a matter of fact it has been directly recognized as a principle to be maintained by the great European Powers in recent conventions of great importance.

It will be seen, to pass by other instances, that the principle occupies an important place in the Protocol of 1831, which preceded the establishment of the independent kingdom of Belgium, and in the Treaty of Stockholm in 1855 (e). Whatever may be the value

(c) See, also, concluding remarks of the third volume. (d) See Pt. iv. ch. i. of this volume.

(e) "The Queen of England, the Emperor of the French, and the King of Sweden and Norway, being anxious to avert any complication which might disturb the existing balance of power in Europe, have resolved to come to an understanding with a view to secure the integrity of the united kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, and have named as their

of this principle, so recently and so solemnly recognized, it has never been more rudely "disturbed" than by the aggressions of Austria and Prussia upon Denmark in 1865, and of Prussia alone, in 1866, upon her weaker neighbours. It is indeed a melancholy repetition of history. We see in these acts of violence the same lust for aggrandisement, the same contempt for the weakness of the State whose territory is coveted, which animated the partitioners of Poland (f) and the rulers of Revolutionary and Imperial France.

Nevertheless, though right be thus dethroned by might for a season, justice, "the common concern of "mankind," is the only true policy of all States, and the precedents of wrong sooner or later recoil on the wrongdoer. It is some satisfaction to an English writer that England neither directly nor indirectly gave countenance to these acts of violence. In 1864, Earl Russell expressed the opinion of the Government and people of England as follows :—

"Her Majesty's Government would have preferred "a total silence instead of the task of commenting on "the conditions of peace. Challenged, however, by

Plenipotentiaries to conclude a Treaty for that purpose," &c.—Ann. Reg. 1856, p. 323.

(f) "The principle of maintaining a balance of power, which for two centuries had distinguished Europe above other societies of nations, was now, for the first time, sacrificed; three great military Powers, instead of preventing each other's aggrandisement, conspired to share the spoils of a neighbour. The feebleness and turbulence of Poland furnished them with a strong temptation and with some pretext, and the Governments of France and England, the first influenced by the weakness of the Court, and the second influenced by the division of the people, betrayed their duty to Europe, and suffered the crime to be consummated. From that moment the security of all nations was destroyed."-Life of Sir J. Mackintosh, vol. ii. p. 158,


"M. de Bismarck's invitation to admit the moderation "and forbearance of the great German Governments, "Her Majesty's Government feel bound not to disguise their own sentiments upon these matters. "Her Majesty's Government have indeed, from time "to time, as events took place, repeatedly declared their opinion that the aggression of Austria and "Prussia upon Denmark was unjust, and that the "war, as waged by Germany against Denmark, had "not for its groundwork either that justice or that necessity which are the only bases on which war ought to be undertaken.




"Considering the war, therefore, to have been wholly unnecessary on the part of Germany, they deeply "lament that the advantages acquired by successful "hostilities should have been used by Austria and "Prussia to dismember the Danish Monarchy, which "it was the object of the Treaty of 1852 to preserve "entire" (g).

It is worthy of consideration whether a State which can and does not intervene for the protection of another unjustly attacked does really provide for its own safety or secure that peace which it so justly prizes; whether there are not cases in which both national honour and national interests are best consulted by recognizing the international obligations of succouring an oppressed member of the commonwealth of civilized States; whether the conduct of a State may not be selfish, as well as that of an individual, and be attended with the like consequences. may apply, with a slight alteration, the language of

(g) Ann. Reg. 1864, p. 237.


our present Prime Minister as to the rights of individual men to property and religious freedom, to the aggregates of men or States, and say, "The rights of "each State are the rights of his neighbour: he that "defends one is the defender of all; and he that

trespasses on one assails all" (h). It may safely be affirmed that in the present war (1870) France was the aggressor, that the immediate reason which she assigned for beginning it was neither true nor adequate. The choice by the Spaniards of a Hohenzollern, by whomsoever suggested, for the throne of Spain was not an act which disturbed the balance of power, and neither threatened the general liberties of Europe nor endangered the safety of France. But is it not most probable, or indeed morally certain, that if France had not refused to cooperate with England and assist Denmark in her noble war of self-defence in 1865, or had aided the minor States whom Prussia absorbed in 1866, the present war, which bids fair to be at least as disgraceful to Christendom as any in which Christian States have ever been engaged, would not have taken place? Let those who deride the notion that a State has International duties weigh well the following words of M. Prevost-Paradol, uttered but two years ago:— "Le démembrement du Danemark, toléré par nous, malgré les offres formelles de concours que nous faisait alors l'Angleterre pour empêcher une iniquité si dangereuse, les encouragements que la "Prusse a reçus de nous dans ses desseins déclarés "contre l'Autriche, le secours qu'avec notre aveu, "The rights of


[ocr errors]


(h) Letter to the Bishop of Aberdeen in 1852, p. 14. each man."

« PreviousContinue »