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The subject of the address this evening is, "What the United States has Done for Arbitration," to be delivered by the Hon. John W. Foster, lawyer, historian, diplomat, statesman, whom I now have the pleasure of introducing to you. (Applause.)
Hon. John W. Foster:
WHAT THE UNITED STATES HAS DONE FOR INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION.
The subject which I have chosen for discussion, in response to the invitation to address your Association, is one which I have been the more free to select because of the marked interest which has been given to the general topic in your past deliberations. The gratifying progress which has been made in international arbitration in the past few years is due in no inconsiderable measure to the efforts of the New York State Bar Association. I recall the fact that some years before The Hague Conference was even suggested, an able committee of this Association after much careful study evolved a plan for a "Permanent International Tribunal;" that a committee of this body visited Washington, laid the plan before the President of the United States and asked his consideration of its provisions; and that within less than a year after this visit the Secretary of State negotiated with the British representative a convention for arbitration embodying some of its features. It was this Association which so promptly congratulated the Emperor of Russia upon the convocation of The Hague Peace Conference, and in its respectful memorial urged that his influence be exerted upon the conference soon thereafter to assemble, in order that a general scheme for international arbitra
tion might be devised by the representatives of the nations.
This Association has worthily earned the commendation of the world for its influential part in the creation of The Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration, and every lawyer in the other States of the Union honors his professional brethren of the Empire State for this conspicuous service to the cause of justice and peace. The lawyer's life is passed in the Courts where reason takes the place of force and violence in the adjustment of controversies between individuals, and it is natural that he should favor the same method in the settlement of controversies between nations; but it is especially to the credit of the profession in this State that it has made its Association such an efficient instrument in promoting the establishment of the International Tribunal at The Hague.
When we come to consider what the United States has done for international arbitration we are carried back to the period in history when the United States entered the family of nations. At that date there was a marked contrast between the state of law which controlled the rights and intercourse of nations and that which enforced the rights and duties of the inhabitants of the respective nations. The civl law, which was in force in most of the countries of Continental Europe and their colonies, was the accepted product of the ripened experience of many centuries of Roman jurisprudence. The common law which prevailed in England and its colonies had been brought into an established system through the careful study and practical application of successive generations. of renowned jurists. But the law of nations was then in its infancy. Only one century had passed since Grotius, who has been styled the father of international law, had compiled his treatise on the "Rights of War and Peace;"
and Vattel had but recently published his "Law of Nations," and the principles he enumerated were far from being an accepted Code.
International law was still in a formative state when our country began its career. It had scarcely entered upon its organized life when the wars consequent upon the French Revolution forced it to consider its rights and duties as a neutral power. It soon learned that there were no established principles which warring nations respected. Its first effort towards the maintenance of international rules of conduct was in President Washington's neutrality proclamation, which within less than a generation brought about a complete change on this important subject. From the beginning it stood as the champion of a freer commerce, of respect for private and neutral property in war, and of the most advanced ideas of national rights and justice.
In the defense of these principles it did not hesitate, even in its youth and feebleness, to challenge the prowess of the Mother Country. After years of remonstrance, it declared war against Great Britain in resistance to the right of search and impressment, of paper blockades, and in support of free ships and free goods. That war did not vindicate these claims, but by persistence in their advocacy this young Nation has seen the principles for which it contended finally recognized, not only by England, but by all the nations of the world. After the recognition came, a Secretary of State of the United States, in a letter to the British Minister for Foreign Affairs, referring to that period said: "From the breaking out of the wars of the French Revolution to the year 1812, the United States knew the law of nations only as the victim of its systematic violation by the great maritime powers of Europe."