« PreviousContinue »
revealed it in the Gospel, and interwoven it in the nature of man. We read it written by a heaven. ly hand upon the tablets of the human mind, upon the records of history, and in divine revelation. These all are manifestations of one and the same law of the king of kings, prescribing peace, equity and benevolence. It comes from the Lord of lords, before whom all nations are as the small dust of the balance.
The Christian system of justice, benevolence and good will to man, worthy of its divine author, until the seventeenth century, exerted but a partial influence on the Christian nations of Europe. Until 1500 years from the birth of Christ, there existed no European law of nations, and during this unenlightened period, shipwrecked strangers were often seized and sold as slaves, prisoners of war were devoted to death or slavery, as suited. the caprice or interest of the conqueror; good faith was often disregarded by princes, statesmen and generals; reprisals and private war were an established feudal custom; embassies were violated, hostages murdered, guests imprisoned, foreign travelers arrested and compelled to pay ransom for the restoration of their liberty, foreign princes and subjects were seized and tried for acts done beyond the inhospitable jurisdiction, and the right of killing prisoners of war, enslaving them, or ex.
acting ransom for their liberation, was constantly practiced. During this long period the observance of faith with Turks, infidels or heretics, was not esteemed a virtue or a duty; all nations practiced extortion as opportunity offered, and brute force gave the law. In the seventeenth century the distinguished Grotius found war, though in some degree mitigated by Christianity, still carried on with horrid cruelty, and that it was a received opinion that the rulers of nations were not bound to observe good faith, equity, and benevolence in international transactions. This atrocious doctrine illustrates our proposition, and accounts for the disregard by European nations of the international duties enjoined as well by the natural as the revealed law of God.
From the sixteenth century down to the nineteenth, the diffusion of knowledge by printing, the awakening and liberating the human mind by the spirit of God moving upon the souls of men at the reformation, the rapid progress of the arts and sciences since that era, creating, invigorating and sustaining each other, all these causes have concurred to advance international law beyond the most liberal views of Grotius the father and found. er of this noble science. Though this sacred and blessed alliance of Christianity, and the printing press, has firmly established the moral responsi
bility of states and empires to the divine law, and the eternal principles of peace, equity, and mercy, it must be admitted that the modern practices of the most cultivated and powerful nations of Europe have often violated these enactments prescribed by God for the government of man in every relation. In Europe and Amerida, with the exception of the Ottoman Empire, the doctrines of the Gospel of Jesus are conceded to be obligatory upon nations as well as individuals. Instead, therefore, of following the track of the many distinguished writers upon the law of nations, who have based its obligation partly upon the law of nature, and partly on national recognition, we shall ascend to the fountain of all law, to God, the Supreme Law-Giver and Judge. Reading his law of nations in sacred and profane history, as well as in the nature of man, we propose to apply it in a plain, simple and natural way for the ascertainment of the rights and duties of nations in all international transactions.
All mankind will admit that every member of the human family is bound by the elementary principles of our being to live peaceably as far as possible with all men, to observe good faith, to deal justly and to love mercy. Confucius and
Socrates agreed to this proposition, and the latter by a sublime conception proclaimed the duty of man to practice the justice and benevolence of the Deity. As every individual of every nation is under these moral obligations, it follows that every nation is subject to them and bound to observe them. They are imposed by God for the regulation of the conduct of all men, and the penalty of misery attaches of necessity to the violation of these laws by states as well as by individuals. The Emperor Alexander, the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia, in their celebrated Declaration of September 26th, 1815, laid down this doctrine as the basis of the Holy Alliance, affirming the Gospel to be the true rule of international as well as of municipal law. The high authority of Washington also sanctions this doctrine. In his solemn Farewell Address to the people of the United States, when he was about to retire from the office of President of the Union, he enjoined the national duties of peace, justice and benevolence in these words : “ Observe,"
66 says he, "good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoins this conduct, and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it ?" (See the Appendix for the compact of the Holy Alliance and part of the Farewell Address.) The,
duty of a nation is manifestly the same as that of every individual composing it. And it is a self-evident proposition that an act or omission of an individual, whether moral or immoral, is the same when done or omitted by a State, as the moral quality of every action or omission does not depend on the number of persons concurring in it, but on the motive and the thing done or omitted. To illustrate this by examples, it will be conceded to be unjust that a robber should stop me on the highway and take my property, or that a pirate should enter my ship at sea and seize the vessel and cargo, or any part of it, or take away some of the crew, or passengers, or ill treat them; or that a neighboring farmer should invade my plantation with armed men, burn my house, carry off my cattle and crops, and devastate my estate by fire and sword; or that, if my ships were wrecked on a foreign shore, the men of the coast should seize my goods to their use and rob and ill treat my mariners; or, that, if three merchants were trading promiscuously together, and a controversy were to arise between two of them, for one or both of the belligerents to forbid the friendly neutral merchant to trade with the other belligerent, though he abstained from all participation in the quarrel. In these cases all mankind would condemn the robber, the pirate, the violent