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PHILOSOPHY OF GOVERNMENT
AND ITS EFFECT ON INTERNATIONAL
Reprinted from “The American Journal of International Law,"
TNTIL quite recent times, it would have been un
profitable, in the case of most nations, to in
quire what the philosophy of government held by the people was, or what effect it had on the foreign relations of the nation, or on international relations generally. There were few nations in which the people were so enlightened and expressed themselves so fully that it was possible to distinguish and define the particular philosophy of government held by them; and even if it had been possible to do so, it would have been of little use to try to discover what effect this philosophy had on international relations, since the fact was that it had little or no effect. The people of each nation, ignorant of foreign affairs by reason of the difficulties of travel and communication, allowed the executive to control the foreign relations under the advice of a council in the selection of which they had no voice, and representing privileged classes of persons who used the power of the nation as means to accomplish such ends as they thought desirable.
So long as this condition of things was general, the rights of nations occupied the attention of writers. The rights of man, the rights of peoples, and the rights of society in general were ignored, as were the responsibilities which necessarily accompany all rights. Each nation sought to aggrandize itself by conquering and pillaging others, and the only restraint on one nation trespassing upon another was that all the so-called civilized nations were gradually forced, by the pressure of circumstances, to enter into the playing of a military game of forcible checks and balances, called “the balance of power” or “the political equilibrium.”
The principle of this game was very simple, though, like most other games, the rules for playing it were very intricate. When any nation, for the purpose of direct gain by pillage of its neighbors or by despoilment of the natives of barbarous regions, or for the purpose of indirect gain by destroying its competitors in trade or opening up new trading points, desired to conquer adjacent or distant regions—thereby increasing its military and navai strength and paving the way for further expansion—the surrounding nations combined their military and naval strength by alliances until the proposed expansion was balanced and checked, or until the opposing nations, or all the nations concerned, were "compensated” by partitioning between them some weak country which had been crushed in the course of the war.
Thus what was called the status quo or the “political equilibrium” was maintained.
So long as the people of each nation remained unenlightened and were without full power to express their ideas through representative institutions, the war-game of “the balance of power” ruled international politics, and international disputes were disputes concerning the "rights of nations,” and particularly on points of “national honor." The citizens of each nation had only partial and indefinite rights at home, and citizens of one nation had no rights in another nation or against a foreign government. A person abroad had only certain privileges, and these usually were based on treaty. Breaches of treaty were considered to involve the national honor not of the nation breaking the treaty, but of the other nation, and led to war or to a new disposition of alliances according to the rules of the war-ganie.
As the people became more enlightened, and obtained an increasing participation in their own government by representation and by compelling their governments to be responsible to them, there gradually arose in each nation a popular philosophy of government, in which the rights of individuals, of peoples, and of human society in general, were distinguished from the rights of nations. The houses of representative legislatures, and particularly the houses directly representing the people of the nation, as their members became increasingly better informed concerning foreign affairs through increased facilities for travel and intercourse, insisted with greater and greater force that the philosophy held by the people should have its effect upon foreign relations as well as upon domestic affairs. The war-game of the balance of power everywhere came under criticism. At the present time its principles are beginning to be known, and there is a growing understanding of its intricate rules. The classes and interests which have heretofore had the monopoly of this knowledge, and which in all sorts of secret ways were able to use the nation and determine its moves, are being haled into the daylight and exposed to the destructive power of publicity. Indeed the danger at the present time is. that in the control by the people of each nation over national and international affairs, the just rights of nations to live and protect themselves, and to be the guardians of the rights of individuals, of peoples and
of society at large, will be ignored, and that the whole structure of organized society will be weakened, to the detriment of individual liberty.
It becomes, therefore, important to consider the philosophy of government held by the people of each nation, and particularly of those which have advanced farthest along the path of popular government, for the purpose of ascertaining how this philosophy is likely to affect international relations. It is particularly desirable to consider the philosophy held by the people of the United States, and extended to its annexed countries, since this is one of the two great philosophies of popular government now prevailing in the world; the other being that held by the people of Great Britain, which has extended more or less completely to the selfgoverning states of the British Empire, and to the nations of the Continent of Europe.
Every philosophy of popular government tends to the establishment and enlargement of the rights of the individual. When we speak of “popular rights,"we mean the rights of the individual. It is true we may speak of the rights of one people against another, or the rights of society against peoples, but these are figurative expressions. They all come down, in the last analysis, to the rights of the individual. The important thing, therefore, in examining a philosophy of government held by the people of a nation is, to reach a definite idea concerning what the rights of the individual are under this philosophy, into what classes and grades they are divided, how they are considered to arise, whether they are considered to be against the government or against all governments as well as against other individuals, and how it is considered they ought to be safeguarded.
The crux of the whole matter is, however, whether the individual, according to the philosophy of govern
ment held by the people of the nation has rights against the government, and, if so, why and to what extent? It is particularly important to inquire whether they base the rights of the individual against the government on grounds which logically require them to hold that all individuals have rights against all governments. If the people of a nation do hold that there are rights of individuals against governments, and particularly if they hold this idea for reasons which, logically followed out, require them to hold that all individuals have rights against all governments, this philosophy is bound to have an effect upon international relations.
There can be no doubt but that the proposition that there are certain rights of the individual against the government does form the most fundamental part of the American philosophy of government. We are accustomed to see every branch of our government carefully scrutinizing every governmental action lest it may be found to infringe certain rights of the individual. Every governmental agency, from the Congress and the President downwards throughout the United States, and from the Legislature and Governor downwards throughout the States, is bound by certain express constitutional prohibitions which are designed for the protection of these rights, and if these constitutional prohibitions are infringed by governmental action, the action is nullified by the Supreme Court of the United States or by the court of final jurisdiction in the State. Thus the conception that there are certain rights of the individual against governments, which no government can infringe except upon penalty of having its act nullified, is a very living one among the people of the United States.
If the people of the United States held that these rights were merely rights which they thought it expe