A Celebration of Women Writers

"International Arbitration." by Miss Eleanor Louisa Lord (1866-).
Publication: Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 281-285.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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Apropos of such disturbances of the national equanimity as the New Orleans lynching affair or the Behring Sea difficulties occasioned, the subject of international relations becomes one of sudden and special interest to the general public. Of all the multitudinous problems that confront the present generation, the war problem has been, perhaps, the slowest to awaken popular feeling to anything like rebellion against warfare and its consequences. The speculations of theorists have been confined in their influence to very narrow circles; and the possibility of the abolition of war, and of the downfall of the standing army, has scarcely dawned upon the world at large. The experiences of recent years, however, have here and there afforded opportunities for theories of peaceful arbitration to be put to the test of practice; and the time cannot be far distant when public opinion will be called upon to declare the final verdict of success or failure for international arbitration as a working system.

As it is understood today, international arbitration is limited in meaning, implying: (1) The participation of sovereign states of acknowledged independence and autonomy; (2) a formal agreement on the part of the litigants to submit their difficulties to the decision of an arbitrating body or individual; (3) the consent of the latter to undertake such decision and to render an award after a thorough and impartial examination of the facts in the case; (4) an agreement on the part of the contracting parties to accept the decision as final and conclusive.

Before passing to the application of pacific principles to international relations in the present century, it may be well to review briefly changes which the last nineteen hundred years have witnessed in the attitude of civilized nations toward war. The Christian religion, as taught by its Founder and His disciples, placed especial emphasis on the principles of brotherly love, forbearance, forgiveness of enemies, and peace and good will toward all men. All the records of the early church which have come down to us of the first two centuries of its existence would seem to show that the inconsistency of warfare with the tenets of the new religion had made a strong impression upon the sect. There is a saying current among the early fathers that Jesus, in disarming Peter, disarmed all soldiers; and it is a remarkable fact that so large a number of Christians refused to serve in the armies of Rome. It is to be remembered, however, that comparatively few individuals experienced anything like "conversion," [Page 282]  in the sense of a readjustment of themselves to a new standard of life and thought. When whole armies were converted en masse, as in the days of Clovis, there seems to have been no question of exchanging their arms for the weapons of spiritual warfare. It was the church, as an organization, that throughout the Middle Ages uttered the sole remonstrance against the practice of private war. When in France the atrocities of feudal warfare became so great as to threaten the very foundations of society, it was the church that came to the rescue with the "Peace of God," and, five years later, the "Truce of God," by which fighting was forbidden from Thursday morning to Monday morning of each week, on all feast days and in Lent, leaving, practically, about eighty days in the year when war was allowable. During the eleventh and twelfth centuries numerous associations were formed, which were the prototypes, on a small scale, of modern peace societies. There was not as yet, however, any conception of international peace. The word international could hardly have had any meaning.

To the Pope, the head of the church, the world looked for judgment in political quarrels. Although the sacredness of their high position would seem to have peculiarly fitted them for the position of universal arbiters, the Popes lacked one indispensible qualification of an umpire – impartiality.

Mediæval methods of grappling with the war problem ended then in practical failure; and the cause of universal peace was forgotten in the horrors of the Inquisition and the bloodthirsty wars of the Reformation. The conception of Henry IV. of France, of a grand Christian Republic of fifteen states, and his scheme of international arbitration were too far in advance of his time not to have been regarded either as the dreams of a visionary fanatic or as a subtile attempt at the aggrandizement of France. Here it will be observed that the character of the peace movement has changed. It is no longer religious, but political in its aims. Efforts toward reconciliation no longer originate with the church, but with monarchs and statesmen. The opening of the nineteenth century brought with it a return to the religious point of view, and to the primitive notion that Christianity is the basis of all international law. Europe entered upon the century worn out with conflict, and in desperate need of peace. Russia, Austria and Prussia accordingly in 1815 formed what is known as the Holy Alliance, agreeing by sacred compact to respect the great principles of right and justice, and to repress violence – promises which fell far short of fulfilment.

In 1818, at the conference held at Aix-la-Chapelle, the four nations that had conquered Napoleon, joined later by France, formed themselves into the Great Pentarchy, in the interests of permanent peace. The Holy Alliance forms a link between the peace policy of the past and that of the present. The unsatisfactory results of the Grand Alliance dealt the death blow to the theory of the balance of power as an efficient and practicable system. Henceforth all efforts toward amicable adjustment of international affairs are to be based upon other principles. The work of the nineteenth century in view of this end takes on three forms:

1. The organization and work of peace conferences and associations for the promotion of arbitration. 2. Legislation favoring arbitration. 3. The practicable application of the principle.

Peace societies began to be established early in the century. Their object was to unite all the advocates of peace for concerted action. Conferences have been held from time to time at London, Brussels, Geneva, Paris and elsewhere, for the interchange of sympathy and the discussion of plans.

About 1873 efforts were made to bring the subject of arbitration before the legislative bodies of the different countries. Signor Mancini presented a similar resolution to the Italian Parliament the same year. From time to time petitions and memorials have been presented to the various governments of Europe and America.

More attractive to the practical observer is the record of actual cases of settlement by arbitration during the present century. Their number is surprising. I have carefully examined the records of seventy-five cases, and there are half a dozen more of which I have hitherto been unable to find more than a statement of the dates and [Page 283]  participants. The questions which have proved susceptible of arbitration fall under five main heads: 1. Boundary disputes. 2. Unlawful seizure of vessels or other property. 3. Claims for damage for the destruction of life or property. 4. Disputed possession of territory. 5. The interpretation of treaties.

The most noteworthy cases of arbitration are two or three of special character, which hardly come under the five heads named above. The first is the Luxembourg question, which was settled in 1867. The jealousy manifested by France toward Prussia during the peace negotiations which terminated the Austro-Prussian war, found expression in Napoleon's demand for territorial recompense to reconcile France to the changes in Europe effected by the peace of Prague. Prussia was now in possession of military strength equal to that of France herself, and her recent exploits and successes were looked upon by France as the precursor of efforts toward self-aggrandizement. Napoleon's eye fell upon the grand duchy of Luxembourg, which was under the sovereignty of the King of Holland, but a member of the German confederation until the dissolution of the latter in 1866. The fortress of Luxembourg was still occupied by the Prussian troops. The negotiations begun by Napoleon with the King of Holland for the annexation of the duchy to France failed on account of the objection of Prussia, whereupon France demanded the evacuation of the fortress by Prussia. A warm dispute ensued, and, as the excitement spread through Europe, war seemed inevitable. The Queen of England, however, offered her services as arbitrator, in accordance with Article VII. of the Treaty of Paris, 1856. It was finally agreed that the question be settled by a conference of the great powers of Europe. This conference met at London May 11, 1867, and decided that the fortress should be dismantled and its neutrality guaranteed by the signatories of the Treaty of Paris. The duchy became the property of the House of Orange. War was averted for three years only; the jealousy of France found its outlet in the Franco-Prussian war.

A rebellion of the Island of Crete (then under the rule of the Turks) occurring in the same year, resulted in an uninterrupted struggle of two years. The great powers of Europe pursued, for the most part, the policy of non-intervention. But Greece manifested a friendly interest in her neighbor's welfare, and some sympathy with the cause of the oppressed Cretans. Incensed at what was deemed the instigation of Turkish subjects to revolt, the Porte launched at Greece an ultimatum charging her with aiding and abetting the rebellion. The Greek minister replied haughtily, and diplomatic relations were broken off. A threatened engagement between a Turkish and a Greek vessel was prevented by the French minister in Greece, but the incident brought matters to a crisis, and roused the attention of all Europe. The Prussian government proposed to France to call a conference of the powers at London. After much diplomatic correspondence the plan was adopted and the conference met January 9, 1869, but it barely escaped disintegration at the outset. Turkey, as a signatory of the Treaty of Paris, was admitted, with deliberative powers. Greece claimed the same privilege, but was refused in spite of indignant remonstrance. After several sessions, a declaration was drawn up in favor of Turkey. This conference has been variously judged, some blaming its members for assuming the functions of judges when they had merely been invited to deliberate and advise; others praising with much warmth the work of the conference in averting a war which might have involved all the powers of Europe. Both criticisms are just in part. This much may be safely said: Although its results were important, the conference can hardly be held up as a type of a well-managed commission of arbitration.

The circumstances which led to the famous "Alabama" case are too familiar to need rehearsal here. The apathy of Great Britain toward the depredations of the Confederate cruiser gave great offense to the United States government, which pronounced England responsible for all these acts, and guilty of a breach of neutrality. Diplomatic correspondence became more and more bitter, complicating rather than clearing up the matter. After four years of weary, fruitless negotiation, settlement by joint commission was suggested by Mr. Reverdy Johnson. The proposition was [Page 284]  accepted by the British minister, but failed to pass the United States Senate. The conditions of the protocol were pronounced insufficient to secure just reparation to the United States. It was probably only the strong aversion to war by both the litigants that prevented an outbreak. When, in 1871, it was finally agreed to submit the vexed question to arbitration, owing to the insufficiency and vagueness of international laws, much time was wasted in the discussion of legal points. That the temper of two nations so high-spirited as Great Britain and the United States stood the test of a long and irritating negotiation until the vexed question was finally settled, is worthy of high commendation. These three arbitrations, involving as they do questions of national honor, are instructive precedents.

It is difficult to analyze the present situation of the world as to peace and war. The history-making events of today will not be properly understood until they have been looked at in perspective. In spite of the progress of arbitration during the last half century, to venture an opinion one must carefully have studied the general trend of social revolution. The character of warfare and its causes have greatly changed. The brutal struggle for self-preservation is no more. Wars of conquest belong to the days of Cæsar and Alexander. Wars undertaken for the gratification of personal ambition have hardly been possible since the First Napoleon. With the change from unlimited to constitutional monarchy, the people have too strong a voice to allow a war to be undertaken merely for the aggrandizement of an ambitious monarch; the populace of today does not clamor for war unless under strong provocation. Broadly speaking, we may infer that wars arising from trivial disputes tend to become less and less frequent. On the other hand, the great underlying causes of strife tend to become fewer, but far more deep-seated, reaching to the very vitals of national life. Whether war will finally vanish from off the face of the earth, no man can tell. It seems probable that conflicts will become fewer and more intense; but not until the deep-lying causes of strife are removed will the evil be banished forever.

Fifteen years ago much was said about the establishment of an International tribunal or of a court of arbitration. According to recent reports of the Peace Associations, the present aim of the movement is to persuade the nations to sign arbitration treaties.

The most serious obstacle to the introduction of international arbitration as a permanent institution has been the indecision of its advocates as to the method of conducting cases. The most popular and successful plan has been the appointment of a mixed commission, small enough to be easily managed, large enough to work rapidly and systematically, unhampered by diplomatic "red tape." Still, such a commission is temporary – unsuited to a scheme of permanent arbitration. A permanent mixed tribunal would insure impartiality. Such a scheme would imply the abolition of standing armies or a uniform reduction in their numbers. The question has been raised by doubters, how will such a tribunal be able to enforce its decisions if the army be banished? Some have suggested that each nation furnish its quota of soldiers to form a kind of international police. Such an institution, however, would seem an inconsistency, if a tribunal, aiming to substitute reason and justice for the sword and bayonet, be obliged to use them in the execution of its decrees.

There is apparently some confusion in the public mind between an International Court and a Permanent Commission of Arbitration. The former should mean a Court of International Law, and to be effective, should be composed of the most eminent jurists and statesmen of whom the world can boast, men who know the laws of nations as they now exist, and who are capable of interpreting and codifying these laws. There is urgent need of a complete and precise code of International Law. A Court of International Law would find its authority in the majesty of the law, and the moral support of the nations ought to be a sufficient guarantee for the acceptance of its decrees. Any government which refused to abide by the decisions of so august a body would suffer eternal disgrace in the eyes of the world, to say nothing of the material loss of commercial good-will. The expense of such a court, shared by the participating nations, would be comparatively light. [Page 285] 

When a dispute arose the plaintiff would at once carry the case to this great Court of Appeals, which would investigate the said case on a purely legal basis. This would take the place of special arbitration, but should any question not susceptible of legal interpretation arise, a Commission of Arbitration could easily be formed from the panel of the international jury.

There might still remain a few great questions incapable of pacific solution until the moral consciousness of the nations becomes much more highly developed than it is today. Is there no solution but the standing army? The question is largely economic in character, and its discussion would occupy a much larger space than can be spared here.

The peace question is only one of the many tangled problems with which this generation has to deal. It may not be solved by the next generation or the next. Whatever is done, the world looks to America for leadership. "Nothing impressed the delegates sent from the United States to the late Peace Congress at Paris more seriously," says the secretary of the American Peace Society in his annual report, "than the sentiments of various European countries that it is the duty of the Great Republic of the West not only to keep abreast with the world's endeavor to abolish war, out to lead the nations in the better way of Universal Peace."

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Miss Eleanor Louisa Lord is a native of Salem, Mass. She was born July 27th, 1866. Her parents were Henry Clay Lord and Katherine Holland Lord. She was educated at the public grammar and high school, of Malden, Mass., at Smith College (Class of '87), Fellow in History Bryn Mawr College, 1888-89. She is a woman of wide culture and commanding appearance. Her special work has been in the interest of history and economics. Her profession is instructor in history in Smith College, Massachusetts. Miss Lord is a member of the Congregational Church. Her postoffice address is No. 46 Auburn Street, Malden, Mass.

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* Published by permission of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Mary Mark Ockerbloom.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom