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summoned. Arbitration has, indeed, begun to supply the need; but its field is still narrow, and it is hardly possible in the case of the graver and more difficult disputes to find an arbiter of sufficient impartiality and moral authority to give a finally binding decision. And even if he were found his decision has no force behind it save that of public opinion. From which Mr. Bradley concludes, not that the duty of the aggrieved nation must be war, but that “
you cannot find its duty by examining the duties of an individual.” (Pp. 61f.)
This last statement is certainly true ; and yet is not the identity here
more fundamental than the difference? In face of the imperfect and partial character of international law, and of the lack of any external power to secure its observance, we still believe that nations have duties, however hard they may sometimes be to define. The indeterminateness of the Law of Nations on many points, and the absence of an effective material sanction, only throw into stronger relief the conviction, which is as old as the Stoics and the Jewish prophets, that the nations are “under Law." The difficulties of determining that law and securing that it be obeyed are, as we sadly feel to-day, almost immeasurable ; but they seem to be mainly practical. In principle, the very recognition that all nations have duties to one another implies the existence of the “impartial spectator” postulated in another connection by Adam Smith, or of the Divine Law acknowledged by moralists older and greater than he.
The other difference brings us nearer to our immediate subject. Mr. Bradley points out that the individual is often called on to injure his special interests, to leave certain of his capacities undeveloped, to shorten his life for some worthy object, or even to throw it away for the life of another. “ Asked to justify your conduct, you might answer perhaps that your life is but one of forty million English lives, that what you lose others gain, and
that there are plenty to take your place. But England, your State, is forty million lives. For it to surrender its interest, to make itself poor, weak, or maimed, is to do that to forty millions, many of them children. How then can it have the same duty that you have ; and how can its normal primary duty help being its duty to itself?” Further, the State is a trustee, and that not merely for the welfare of its present inhabitants. “ Its honour is the honour of its countless dead, and both its honour and its welfare are those of its innumerable sons and daughters yet to be.” Finally, it is a trustee for the world interests committed to its keeping, and for the work-in the case of a great State no negligible element, which it is doing or may do for the world at large. (Pp. 62f.)
It is this question of trusteeship which lies at the very root of our problem and constitutes its gravest difficulty. The State, through its organ the Government, is responsible for the well-being of its inhabitants. We cannot accept the extreme Prussian theory that the individual has no rights against the State, but is a mere instrument for the fulfilment of its purposes ; but in rejecting this, do we not commit every government which regards the welfare of its individual citizens as the object of its constant and especial care to set that welfare above every claim of other peoples on its forbearance or its help? Nay, may not the function of a trustee be said to begin and end with his service to the beneficiaries of the trust?
Even if we answer the last question in the negative, we must admit that trustees are strictly bound by the terms and objects of the trust, and that in accepting office they necessarily relinquish the perfect freedom of moral action which, ideally at least, belongs to the individual. They do not escape from the universal rules of veracity and justice, but the higher law of generosity and selfsacrifice has no application to them ; for it is always held that to be generous with the property of others, which one is charged to administer temporarily and on their
behalf, is the very reverse of a virtue. So, if the State is a trustee on an immense scale for all its citizens, then the moral freedom of its Government will be thus limited. Freedom is indeed thus limited, and duties are modified, whenever men are bound together in families, or associations of any kind, and have to act, one on behalf
But the difficulty and the possible conflict of duties, which run through all social morality, are especially great for those on whom is laid the vast responsibility of acting for a whole people.
We may test the real nature of this difficulty by considering how far three of the chief types of DutyTruthfulness, Generosity, Self-sacrifice-are modified in the case of nations.
(1) Truthfulness and Fidelity to Obligations. – To the ordinary conscience this appears the most definite of duties, and that in which the standard of action for nations and for individuals should most closely and constantly correspond. But history is strewn with the wreckage of broken engagements, and they have often been broken by statesmen who in other ways claim our gratitude and respect. Of late we have become familiar with a reasoned and deliberate defence of this disregard of international promises. “ If States,” says Treitschke, “ conclude treaties with one another, their completeness as powers is to some extent restricted. But that does not invalidate the rule, for every treaty is a voluntary limitation of individual power, and all international treaties are written with the stipulation : rebus sic stantibus. A State cannot possibly bind its will for the future in respect to another State. The State has no higher judge above it, and will therefore conclude all its treaties with that silent reservation." *
Now we have already rejected the argument that the State has no higher judge to consider ; but is there any force in the other argument that the State-or the Government
Selections from Treitschke's Lectures on Politics (tr. Gowans), p. 15.
as trustee for the people, future as well as presentcannot bind its will for the future? It is indeed true that the complexity of the issues involved in an important treaty, the fact that it is meant to continue in force for decades or even centuries, and the probability of great changes during its currency, all make it desirable that great deliberation should be exercised in entering into such engagements, and great care taken to promise nothing which, within the scope of ordinary human foresight, is likely to be incapable of fulfilment. This duty of forethought in undertaking engagements is not confined to statesmen alone : we blame the individual who lightly promises that which he might have recognized to be beyond his power to perform. Moralists have emphasized the duty of fulfilling promises more than the duty of promising only that which we may reasonably hope to accomplish; yet when a rash promise is broken, a portion of the fault may well lie with the thoughtlessness which gave it. So, in the case of nations as of individuals, the Government which gives an undertaking as an easy way out of a tight corner deserves its share of censure if the promise is finally broken.
An instance in point is the repeated assurance given by Great Britain that her occupation of Egypt was only a temporary expedient. At first the undertaking to depart when order had been established was doubtless sincerely given ; yet it was a convenient and politic declaration at the time, and it was renewed after it must have been quite apparent that both our imperial interest and our moral responsibility for the good government of Egypt itself made an early evacuation well-nigh impossible. Finally, in 1904, the British and French Governments in the first “public articles ” of their Convention stated that they had “no intention of altering the political status” of Egypt and Morocco respectively; but in the first “secret article ” of the same treaty they proceeded to arrange on what terms changes should be made “in the event of either Government finding itself constrained, by the force of circumstance, to modify the policy in respect to Egypt or Morocco." * Thus an undertaking, which originally was only at the worst somewhat rashly entered into, led in the course of twenty years to something not unlike deliberate evasion.
Nations are no more exempt than individuals from the conflict of duties which sometimes arises between the claim of a promise given and that of some other task or good which can only be achieved through the cancelling of the engagement.
And there are times when it is right that the promise should be broken. But, as has already appeared, in these cases the fault may often lie as much in the inception of the undertaking as in its final breach. Nor can we well deny that this conflict may be more frequent in the case of promises between nations because of the complexities of the issues of international policy ; yet, if the complementary duty of wisdom in concluding engagements is kept in mind, there remains a very definite obligation to observe them. Nor can the appeal to the fact that the State is trustee for its citizens be upheld as a valid reason for the disregard of treaties in the interest of military or commercial gain. Why, we may well ask,
. should a citizen condone or applaud in his country a degree of equivocation which he would scorn to practise himself ? He has an interest in her honour as well as her prosperity. If his love of country is that which calls out the best in his nature and awakens his greatest devotion and power of sacrifice, can he wish the Government through which she speaks to the world to be content with a lower standard of honour than his own ?
But even on lower and utilitarian grounds the theory that any national pledge or treaty may be broken on the plea of “reasons of State” or public interest is open to
" serious criticism. If the idea of obligation in such cases is removed, and only that of convenience or expediency
* See Hobson ; Towards International Government, pp. 68f.