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The Integrity of China and the “ Open Door”
Johnson v. Browne...
La Proprieta Privata Nelle Guerre Marittime Secondo Il Diritto Inter-
to The Hague Conferences and Conventions and other General Inter-
THE NEED OF POPULAR UNDERSTANDING OF
The increase of popular control over national conduct, which marks the political development of our time, makes it constantly more important that the great body of the people in each country should have a just conception of their international rights and duties.
Governments do not make war nowadays unless assured of general and hearty support among their people; and it sometimes happens that governments are driven into war against their will by the pressure of strong popular feeling. It is not uncommon to see two governments striving in the most conciliatory and patient way to settle some matter of difference peaceably, while a large part of the people in both countries maintain an uncompromising and belligerent attitude, insisting upon the extreme and uttermost view of their own rights in a way which, if it were to control national action, would render peaceable settlement impossible.
One of the chief obstacles to the peaceable adjustment of international controversies is the fact that the negotiator or arbitrator who yields any part of the extreme claims of his own country and concedes the reasonableness of any argument of the other side is quite likely to be violently condemned by great numbers of his own countrymen who have never taken the pains to make themselves familiar with the merits of the controversy or have considered only the arguments on their own side. Sixty-four years have passed since the northeastern boundary between the United States and Canada was settled by the Webster-Ashburton treaty of 1842; yet to this day there are many people on our side of the line who condemn Mr. Webster for sacrificing our rights, and many people on the Canadian side of the line who blame Lord Ashburton for sacrificing their rights, in that treaty. Both sets of objectors cannot be right; it seems a fair inference that neither of them is right; yet both Mr. Webster and Lord Ashburton had to endure reproach and obloquy as the price of agreeing upon a settlement which has been worth to the peace and prosperity of each country a thousand times as much as the value of all the territory that was in dispute.
In the great business of settling international controversies without war, whether it be by negotiation or arbitration, essential conditions are reasonableness and good temper, a willingness to recognize facts and to weigh arguments which make against one's own country as well as those which make for one's own country; and it is very important that in every country the people whom negotiators represent and to whom arbitrators must return, shall be able to consider the controversy and judge the action of their representatives in this instructed and reasonable way.
One means to bring about this desirable condition is to increase the general public knowledge of international rights and duties and to promote a popular habit of reading and thinking about international affairs. The more clearly the people of a country understand their own international rights the less likely they are to take extreme and extravagant views of their rights and the less likely they are to be ready to fight for something to which they are not really entitled. The more clearly and universally the people of a country realize the international obligations and duties of their country, the less likely they will be to resent the just demands of other countries that those obligations and duties be observed. The more familiar the people of a country are with the rules and customs of self-restraint and courtesy between nations which long experience has shown to be indispensable for preserving the peace of the world, the greater will be the tendency to refrain from publicly discussing controversies with other countries in such a way as to hinder peaceful settlement by wounding sensibilities or arousing anger and prejudice on the other side.
In every civil community it is necessary to have courts to determine rights and officers to compel observance of the law; yet the true basis of the peace and order in which we live is not fear of the policeman; it is the self-restraint of the thousands of people who make up the community and their willingness to obey the law and regard the rights of others. The true basis of business is not the sheriff with a writ of execution; it is the voluntary observance of the rules and obligations of business life which are universally recognized as essential to business success. Just so while it is highly important to have controversies between nations settled by arbitration rather than by war, and the growth of sentiment in favor of that peaceable method of settlement is one of the great advances in civilization to the credit of this generation; yet the true basis of peace among men is to be found in a just and considerate spirit among the people who rule our modern democracies, in their regard for the rights of other countries, and in their desire to be fair and kindly in the treatment of the subjects which give rise to international controversies.
Of course it cannot be expected that the whole body of any people will study international law; but a sufficient number can readily become sufficiently familiar with it to lead and form public opinion in every community in our country upon all important international questions as they arise.
For these reasons it seems to me that the influence of the new American Society of International Law and the publication of its Quarterly will be of practical benefit to the people of the United States; and I commend the Association and the Quarterly to the support of thoughtful men and women who wish to help in promoting the cause of international justice and peace.