« PreviousContinue »
institutional resemblance, a co-operative tendency, a closeness of relation between citizen and foreigner, not seen before since the division of the Roman empire.
In creating this new condition of things, steam and electricity have played a great part. So have wiser philosophies of religion ; higher standards of ethics; a wider diffusion of education; a fairer administration of justice by the courts. But had it not been for the actual meetings, of an international character, face to face and hand to hand, of those interested in working out the same world problems, it is safe to say that progress would have been much more slow.
Most of the questions that arise between nations may, no doubt, be best settled through diplomatic representations or correspondence. Many advances have so been made that owe nothing to congresses of powers. The general adoption of uniform rules of ocean navigation is one of these. A mere“ Trinity House” order, made in 1840,
, for the better prevention of collisions, with the aid of acts of Parliament passed in 1851 and 1862, and orders in council of January 9, 1863, and August 14, 1879, has furnished an acceptable basis on which most of the powers have successfully united by separate and independent legislation. But had the “Revised International Rules and Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea " originated in a maritime congress, it would not have taken nearly half a century to write them into the law of the world.11
It is not the least function of an international congress, dealing with economic questions, whether it be public or private, to inform its members — and through them the world -- of the governing facts.
Waldeck-Rousseau a few years since referred to the long succession of such gatherings in the nineteenth century as having dressé le bilan de l'avancement de toutes les sciences, et mis en commun entre tous les peuples les archives modernes du progrès social.
There is no nation to which these gatherings have brought more good than to the United States. The late Edwin L. Godkin described us, a dozen years ago, as an immense democracy, mostly ignorant, and completely secluded from foreign influences, and without any knowledge of other states of society.
1 The United States did not accede to them until the Act of Congress of March 3, 1885; 23 U. S. Stat. at Large, 438.
This is a caricature of the American people, even as they were when he first knew them, thirty years earlier; but it was sketched from life. Our environment is unfavorable to any close acquaintance with foreign nations, or their institutions and modes of thought. We have needed precisely the kind of means for giving such an acquaintance with them which international congresses and conferences offer. Nor have we failed to make good use of them. From the days when Elihu Burritt, sixty years ago, was organizing peace congresses in Europe, to those in which the United States is proposing in co-operation with Great Britain and Spain to bring the question of a concerted reduction of armaments before a congress of the civilized world at The Hague, Americans have been among those most interested in promoting discussion of international interests in international assemblies.
There is comparatively little in the approaches towards the solidarity of the world, achieved during the last century, which makes in the direction of political union. While governmental association for administrative purposes has been occasionally set up in limited fields, the strength of the movement has been towards a regulation of the management of each particular country by its own public officials, in accordance with rules previously established by international agreement.
(The Hague conferences on Private International Law have not sought to declare the true rules on which all controversies of a private character, between nations and individuals, or individuals of different nationalities, or concerning foreign transactions, ought to be decided. They were content to mark out which of several possible rules should be applied in certain particular cases. The
) Montevideo congress adopted a different policy, but with less happy results.
In comparing the work of public and private international congresses, two things are to be remarked.
The public congress is naturally under the domination of more particularistic influences. It was a true saying of Renan that depuis le commencement du monde, on n'a pas encore vu une amiable nation.
(It is the business of a nation to be selfish. Altruism is for individuals. It must ever be prompted by the voice of conscience or sentiment; not by that of law. This is intrinsically necessary. A government represents all and speaks for all who owe it allegiance. It can rightfully compel them all to promote its welfare. It cannot rightfully compel them all to promote the good of other nations, except so far as it may gain something from this for itself. Those who wish to engage in foreign missionary enterprises must not, though a majority in number, sweep into the current, by force of law, an unwilling minority. It is the duty of every man to love his neighbor, be that neighbor a fellow citizen or a foreigner, Israelite or Samaritan. It is not the duty of a nation to love any other nation. It is its duty to deal fairly with other nations and respect their rights. Policy may lead to closer relations with some of them; but it will always, at root, be a selfish policy.)
(A selfish policy may dictate, and often has dictated, co-operation between nations in the interests of humanity and civilization.) But when it does, we shall commonly find that the initiative has been found in individual action, prompted by considerations sometimes commercial, sometimes scientific or philosophic, sometimes altruistic. So, and for similar reasons, it has often been found that the public congress of moment to the world has been the immediate consequence of a private congress. In that manner came the Red Cross conventions; first an international conference of private individuals at Geneva in 1863, and then, at its instance, an official call for the diplomatic conference held there in 1864.
The empire of Germany is more the fruit of the Zollverein of 1833 than of any of the political confederations by which it was preceded; and the Zollverein itself might never have spread so far, had it not been for the sentiment of nationalism so passionately voiced by the gathering of the Burschenschaft at Eisenach, only ten years after the congress of Vienna. The lofty monument now marking the spot where men from so many German universities pledged themselves to work for German unity, is an enduring testimony to the strength of public feeling in shaping the relations of neighboring states, so as to make for unity of purpose if not of administration.
The French physiocrats of the eighteenth century asserted it as a fundamental principle, that the natural laws of society are the universal laws of natural or physical order, applied to social relations. They may have carried their metaphysics too far, in working towards practical results in legislation; but there was sound truth at the bottom of it. It is the universal order of things to which all particular orders of things tend to conform, and against which, if found in opposition to it, they dash only to disintegrate and disappear.
The order of the physical universe in which separate planets and constellations move on in their different courses in such general harmony does not simply illustrate to separate nations the possibilities of social co-ordination. It furnishes an impulse towards such co-ordination; bringing before all men not only an intelligible principle, but something that appeals to each individual as the principle of his own world; of his own being.
This impulse will be felt as a cosmic force in precise proportion to the psychological contact of nation with nation. Until the days of steam transportation, there were few in any country, even among its leaders, who ever went far from their own land. The seventeenth century had indeed established the practice of maintaining permanent legations (legationes assiduas) for diplomatic intercourse; but it was an intercourse limited to official circles. Modern facilities for travel, modern uses of electricity, and the modern press have put the world, and even the embassy, on a different footing. There is no place left that is safe enough to hide state secrets. The telegraph and telephone have conquered time and space. The newspaper gives
. daily to every one for two cents, what a hundred years ago all the governments in the world could not have commanded in a year.
Nations have been brought together by material forces, starting into action greater immaterial forces. Electricity is finishing what steam began. Men come close together who breathe a common intellectual atmosphere; who are fed daily by the same currents of thought; who hear simultaneously of the same events; who are eager to disclose to each other whatever new thing, coming to the knowledge of any, is worthy the notice of all. It is from these conditions of human society that international congresses and conferences have come to assume so large an importance; and it is an importance that must steadily increase rather than lessen, unless these conditions essentially change.*
SIMEON E. BALDWIN.
* A list of memorable international conferences, congresses, or associations of official representatives of governments, exclusive of those mainly concerned in dealing with the results of a particular war, forms part of this article and is printed in the Appendix at page 808 of this JOURNAL.