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men united together," it is plain that, if there be such a thing as the “law of nature,” which men as individuals are bound to obey, that law is also obligatory on the “societies ” made up of men thus “united."
Hobbes divides the law of nature into that of man and that of States, saying, “ The maxims of each of these laws are precisely the same; but as States, once established, assume personal properties, that which is termed the natural law when we speak of the duties of individuals is called the law of nations when applied to whole nations or States.” The Emperor Justinian said, “The law of nations is common to the whole human race.
Grotius draws the distinction between the law of nature and the law of nations thus: “When several persons at different times and in various places maintain the same thing as certain, such coincidence of sentiment must be attributed to some general cause.
Now, in the questions before us, that cause must necessarily be one or the other of these two—either a just consequence drawn from natural principles, or a universal consent; the former discovers to us the law of nature, and the latter the law of nations."
Vattel defines the “necessary law of nations” to be the “application of the law of nature to nations.” He says: “It is ' necessary,' because nations are absolutely bound to observe it. This law contains the precepts prescribed by the law of nature to States, on whom that law is not less obligatory than on individuals; since States are composed of men, their resolutions are taken by men, and the law of nations is binding on all men, under whatever relation they act. This is the law which Grotius, and those who follow him, call the Internal Law of Nations, on account of its being obligatory on nations in the point of conscience.”
Vattel says again : "Nations being composed of men naturally free and independent, and who before the establishment of
civil societies lived together in the state of nature, nations or sovereign States are to be considered as so many free persons iiving together in the state of nature.”
And again : “Since men are naturally equal, and a perfect equality prevails in their right and obligations as equally proceeding from nature, nations composed of men, and considered as so many free persons living together in the state of nature, are naturally equal, and inherit from nature the same obligations and rights. Power or weakness does not in this respect produce any difference. A dwarf is as much a man as a giant; a small republic no less a sovereign State than the most powerful kingdom."
In these two last sentences is touched the key-note of the true law of nations, as well as of the true law for individualsjustice. There is among some of the later writers on jurisprudence a certain fashion of condescending speech in their quotations from Vattel. As years have gone on, and States have grown more powerful, and their relations more complicated by reason of selfishness and riches, less and less has been said about the law of nature as a component and unalterable part of the law of nations. Fine subtleties of definition, of limitation have been attempted. Hundreds of pages are full of apparently learned discriminations between the parts of that law which are based on the law of nature and the parts which are based on the consent and usage of nations. But the two cannot be separated. No amount of legality of phrase can do away with the inalienable truth underlying it. Wheaton and President Woolsey to-day say, in effect, the same thing which Grotius said in 1615, and Vattel in 1758.
Says Wheaton: “International law, as understood among civilized nations, may be defined as consisting of those rules of conduct which reason deduces as consonant to justice from the nature of the society existing among independent nations."
President Woolsey says: “International law, in a wide and
abstract sense, would embrace those rules of intercourse between nations which are deduced from their rights and moral clairns; or, in other words, it is the expression of the jural and moral relations of States to one another.
“If international law were not made up of rules for which reasons could be given satisfactory to man's intellectual and moral nature, if it were not built on principles of right, it would be even less of a science than is the code which governs the actions of polite society."
It is evident, therefore, that the one fundamental right, of which the “law of nations” is at once the expression and the guardian, is the right of every nation to just treatment from other nations, the right of even the smallest republic equally with “the most powerful kingdom.” Just as the one fundamental right, of which civil law is the expression and guardian, is the right of each individual to just treatment from every other individual : a right indefeasible, inalienable, in nowise lessened by weakness or strengthened by power—as majestic in the person of “the dwarf” as in that of “the giant.”
Of justice, Vattel says: “Justice is the basis of all society, the sure bond of all commerce.
“All nations are under a strict obligation to cultivate justice toward each other, to observe it scrupulously and carefully, to abstain from anything that may violate it. ***
“The right of refusing to submit to injustice, of resisting injustice by force if necessary, is part of the law of nature, and as such recognized by the law of nations.
“In vain would Nature give us a right to refuse submitting to injustice, in vain would she oblige others to be just in their dealings with us, if we could not lawfully make use of force when they refused to discharge this duty. The just would lie at the mercy of avarice and injustice, and all their rights would soon become useless. From the foregoing right arise, as two distinct branches, first, the right of a just defence, which be
longs to every nation, or the right of making war against whoever attacks her and her rights; and this is the foundation of defensive war. Secondly, the right to obtain justice by force, if we cannot obtain it otherwise, or to pursue our right by force of árins.
This is the foundation of offensive war.” Justice is pledged by men to each other by means of promises or contracts; what promises and contracts are between men, treaties are between nations.
Président Woolsey says: “A contract is one of the highest acts of human free-will: it is the will binding itself in regard to the future, and surrendering its right to change a certain expressed intention, so that it becoines, morally and jurally, a wrong to act otherwise.
“National contracts are even more solemn and sacred than private ones, on account of the great interests involved; of the deliberateness with which the obligations are assumed; of the permanence and generality of the obligations, measured by the national life, and including thousands of particular cases; and of each nation's calling, under God, to be a teacher of right to all, within and without its borders."
Vattel says: “It is a settled point in natural law that he who has made a promise to any one has conferred upon him a real right to require the thing promised; and, consequently, that the breach of a perfect promise is a violation of another person's right, and as evidently an act of injustice as it would be to rob a man of his property.
“There would no longer be any security, no longer any commerce between mankind, if they did not think themselves obliged to keep faith with each other, and to perform their promises.”
It is evident that the whole weight of the recognized and accepted law of nations is thrown on the side of justice between nation and nation, and is the recognized and accepted standard of the obligation involved in compacts between nation and nation.
We must look, then, among the accepted declarations of the law of nations for the just and incontrovertible measure of the shame of breaking national compacts, and of the wickedness of the nations that dare to do it.
We shall go back to the earliest days of the world, and find no dissent from, no qualification of the verdict of the infamy of such acts. Livy says of leagues : "Leagues are such agreements as are made by the command of the supreme power, and whereby the whole nation is made liable to the wrath of God if they infringe it.” Grotius
opens his “ Admonition,” in conclusion of the third book of his famous “Rights of War and Peace," as follows: “For it is by faith,' saith Cicero, 'that not commonwealths only, but that grand society of nations is maintained.' "Take away this,' saith Aristotle, and all human commerce fails.' It is, therefore, an execrable thing to break faith on which so many lives depend. “It is,' saith Seneca, “the best ornament wherewith God hath beautified the rational soul; the strongest support of human society, which ought so much the more inviolably to be kept by sovereign princes by how much they may sin with greater license and impunity than other men. Wherefore take away faith, and men are more fierce and cruel than savage beasts, whose
rage all men do horribly dread. Justice, indeed, in all other of her parts hath something that is obscure; but that whereunto we engage our faith is of itself clear and evident; yea, and to this very end do men pawn their faith, that in their negotiations one with another all doubts may be taken away, and every scruple removed. How much more, then, doth it concern kings to keep their faith inviolate, as well for conscience' sake as in regard to their honor and reputation, wherein consists the authority of a kingdom.'
“ Treaties are no better than empty words, if nations do not consider them as respectable engagements, as