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of Venezuela, he proposed to seize the occasion, “suggested by the events that have taken place," to set forth “some considerations with reference to the forcible collection of public debts.” He did so; and what he advocated, or is supposed to have advocated, gave rise to the so-called “ Drago Doctrine."
In his instruction, Dr. Drago omitted to mention that Germany in July, 1901, had invited Venezuela to arbitrate the claims of her subjects in dispute, and that Venezuela had replied: “You insist that Germany shall participate in the examination of the claims, and Venezuela, on behalf of her sovereignty and by virtue of her domestic legislation, maintains that such participation is wholly inadmissible.” Dr. Drago also omitted to mention that on December 7, 1902, the British Government called the attention of Venezuela to the claims of British subjects, including therein“ an arrangement of the foreign debt,” and requested that the justice of all these claims be at once admitted in principle, that some of them should be immediately paid, and that for the others Venezuela should “consent to accept the decisions of a mixed commission with respect to the amount and the guaranty for payment." Dr. Drago failed to note, also, in his instruction, that Venezuela, in replying to the British ultimatum, had made no reference to the employment of a mixed commission to determine the claims in dispute, but had contented herself by insisting on the adequacy and finality of her national laws and by stating that “ the so-called foreign debt ought not to be and never had been a matter of discussion beyond the legal guaranties found in the law of Venezuela on the public debt.” Likewise, Dr. Drago failed to mention that Italy, the third blockading Power, had on December 11, 1902, requested Venezuela to “ be good enough to declare itself disposed to give to the claims of her subjects the attention which may put an end to further discussion, accepting the opinion of a mixed commission,” and finally that Venezuela had answered this note in the same fashion she had those of Germany and Great Britain by ignoring the proffer of arbitration and insisting that her national laws were conclusive of the merits of the claims in controversy.
What Dr. Drago did in his famous instruction was to point out
certain special considerations in respect to “the external debt” of states (the public bonds "floated” abroad) which ought to induce the adoption by the states of the American continents of a policy to this effect: “The public debt of an American state can not occasion armed intervention, nor in any wise the actual occupation of the territory of the American nations, by a European power.” He contended that “the collection of loans by force implies territorial occupation to make it effective; that territorial occupation means the suppression of the governments of the countries on which it is imposed;” that there was considerable European expression in favor of establishing colonies in South America; and that, he feared, under the guise of “ financial interventions,” the yearnings, evidenced by that expression, might be suddenly stimulated and gratified. His point, as he himself has since stated, was “ before and above all a statement of policy” which he wished to see adopted by the states of North and South America; it was something that should be supplementary to, if not a further definition of, the Monroe Doctrine.
How far the particular claims based on “the external debt" of Venezuela played a part in prompting the three blockading Powers to resort to armed force is difficult to determine. It is likely that their importance as an active cause for the armed intervention has been vastly over-emphasized. However, each of the treaties, which the blockading Powers made with Venezuela, as a condition to raising the blockade, contained a stipulation that the Venezuelan Government "undertakes to enter into a fresh arrangement respecting the external debt of Venezuela with a view to the satisfaction of the claims of the bond-holders. This arrangement shall include a definition of the sources from which the necessary payments are to be provided.” As a consequence of these special stipulations respecting the public bonds of Venezuela, only four claims arising from bonds were presented to the ten international arbitration tribunals which sat at Caracas in the summer of 1903 to decide the private claims of ten Powers against Venezuela. Of these only two were allowed.
Belgium presented one such claim in the case of the Compagnie Générale des Eaux de Caracas v. Venezuela. The umpire took juris
diction of the claim of this Belgian corporation to whom Venezuela had delivered bonds payable to bearer, notwithstanding that some of the stockholders of the corporation were not Belgians, and also that the present ownership of all the bonds was not shown to be Belgian. The award was for 10,565,199.44 bolivars, or something more than two million dollars. The claim of Ballistini v. Venezuela, presented by France, was disallowed, first, because the claimant was unable to produce the " original bonds or any part of them ? and, secondly, because they were “nothing else but bonds of a public debt of the Venezuelan State of Guayana ” for the recovery of which “ Ballistini, like any other holder of the internal debt of the State of Guayana, is obliged to submit himself to the laws or decrees which govern the extinguishment of the said debt.” first reason being sufficient for the disallowance of the claim, the second must be taken as a dictum of Dr. Paul, the Venezuelan commissioner. This latter point appears to have come up in the claim of Boccardo v. Venezuela, presented by Italy. It was decided by the umpire, Mr. Ralston, without an opinion, though as a reporter Mr. Ralston states with respect to this claim: “ Judgment was given on internal bonds on the authority of Aspinwall Case, Moore, page 3616.” It is understood from the umpire that the bonds of Boccardo were national in character; they were delivered to him in payment of a debt, and, though payable to bearer, were never transferred by him. Boccardo was allowed 267,480.82 bolivars, or about fifty thousand dollars. The fourth bond claim, arbitrated at Caracas in 1903, was presented by the United States in behalf of one Jarvis. The bonds in this case were issued by a temporary ruler of Venezuela in payment for service and supplies rendered several years before to an unsuccessful revolution which he had led. The commission decided that the fact that the l'nited States had not recognized the legal character of the Government of Venezuela at the time the bonds were issued was conclusive upon its own citizens,” and the claim was disallowed.
Such were the claims against Venezuela arising from the “public debt" due to the subjects of ten Powers, excepting, of course, those of the three blockading Powers, which were specially arranged for and that,
in the peace treaties. Judging from the character of these bond claims, Venezuela might well have accepted the proffer of arbitration, or even have proposed it, instead of writing long, evasive replies to the repeated requests of the three blockading Powers that she should give heed to the claims of their respective subjects. Instead of manifesting“ surprise each time that they had not assented to her arguments regarding the finality of her national law in such matters and going on to rehearse afresh those arguments, Venezuela might better, it would seem, have proposed arbitration by an impartial tribunal; for this can be set down as certain : sooner or later the powerful states are bound to insist upon the consideration of the claims of their subjects against a debtor state.
The debtor states would do well to remember that though international law postulates the equal independence of states and the equality of their rights and obligations under its rules, it has, as yet, developed no formal superior judicial or administrative authority,
as a consequence, to every state is accorded the right to determine for itself whether its international rights have been invaded. According to both practice and principle every state which considers itself aggrieved enjoys the sole right to decide the redress which it shall exact and, also, whether in a given case it has exhausted all the peaceful remedies it should pursue in order to secure redress. The use of force is a recognized legal remedy by which may
settle their differences. The debtor states should remember that states, like individuals, are entitled to maintain a reputable existence and to protect themselves from debilitation and destruction; that their dignity and reputation, their economic and social welfare, are so intimately bound up in the maintenance of the person
property of their subjects that they are compelled to guard jealously every invasion of the international rights to which their
as nationals of a sovereign state, are entitled. The proposition of Dr. Drago, which the Secretary of State, Mr. Hay, characterized as “ably expounded,” attracted considerable attention during the years 1903–1905 and was supposed to have been given a place on the program of the Third Pan-American Conference held at Rio de Janeiro in July, 1906. As scheduled for the consideration of the conference it read:
A resolution recommending that the Second Peace Conference at The Hague be requested to consider whether and, if at all, to what extent the use of force for the collection of public debts is admissible.
Dr. Drago has said that his proposal was “above all a statement of policy” for the states of the American continents to adopt. The resolution prepared for discussion at Rio de Janeiro proposed the question whether or not there should be submitted to the Second Hague Conference a question of law to which there was but one answer. For there is not the slightest doubt that as a matter of legal right, based on the practice and the principles applicable to the question proposed, each state determines for itself both the conditions under which it is justified in using force, and the extent to which it will go in the use of force, to collect the " public debts" due its subjects by another state. The Third Pan-American Conference in committee discussed the topic of its program and as a result of its deliberations formally resolved:
To recommend to the governments represented therein that they consider the point of inviting the Second Peace Conference at The Hague to consider the question of the compulsory collection of public debts; and, in general, means tending to diminish between nations conflicts having an exclusively pecuniary origin.
As a consequence of the action taken at Rio de Janeiro in 1906, the United States reserved the right to introduce to the consideration of the Second Hague Conference, as an addition to the regular program prepared by Russia, the question of an “ agreement to observe certain limitations in the use of force in collecting public debts accruing from contracts."
The history of the subject in the Second Hague Conference has some interest. It was originally submitted to the conference in the following form:
Dans le but d'éviter entre nations des conflits armés d'une originie purement pécuniaire, provenant de dettes contractuelles, réclamées comme dues aux su jets ou citoyens d'une pays, par le gouvernement d'un autre pays et afin de garantir que toutes les dettes contractuelles de cette nature qui n'auraient pu être réglées à l'amible par voie diplomatique, seront soumises à l'arbitrage, il est convenu qu’um recours à aucune mesure coercitive impliquant l'emploi de forces militaires ou