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By the act of Congress of February 20, 1897, a provision was made for “revising, reindexing, and otherwise completing and perfecting by the aid of such documents as may be useful, the second edition of the Digest of the International Law of the United States.” The work thus referred to was the “Digest of the International Law of the United States," edited by Francis Wharton, LLD., which was published in three volumes in 1886, and of which a second issue, embracing about 160 pages of new matter, added to the third volume, was made in 1887. It was my fortune to have been to some extent connected, in a contributory capacity, with the preparation of that work. In a pamphlet submitted to Congress, before the printing of his work was authorized, Doctor Wharton was so good as to say: “I am indebted to John B. Moore, esq., of the Department of State, to whose great aid in other respects I am glad to acknowledge my obligations, for a compilation of the rulings of commissions established by the United States, in connection with other powers, for the settlement of points in international dispute.” In the preface to his Digest, the learned editor repeated this acknowledgment, but stated that the “ digest of the rulings of the international commissions” would “occupy a separate volume.” It proved, indeed, to be a longer and more laborious task than the work of which it was originally expected to form a part, and eventually grew into the “ History and Digest of International Arbitrations," in six volumes, which was published in 1898, by authority of Congress, as an independent work. My actual. contribution to the “ Digest of the International Law of the United States” embraced the decisions of the courts, the opinions of the Attorneys-General, the essential framework of the chapter on the fisheries, and certain minor matters.
Of the original conception of the plan of his Digest, and of the order and arrangement, the entire merit belongs to Doctor Wharton. He was an incessant and heroic worker, and the preparation of his Digest in the space of two years was, even with such secondary aid as he obtained from various other persons, a remarkable feat. But certain results were inevitable. In the performance of such a task time is an essential ingredient. Important records were left unex- , plored, or were only cursorily inspected; the significance of docu
ments was not always caught or correctly conveyed; and as the references to manuscripts were, except for the apparent dates, wholly indefinite, it was often impossible afterwards to trace and verify them.
Personal experience not only in the use of the International Law Digest, but also in the prosecution of researches for my History and Digest of International Arbitrations, had exceptionally familiarized me with these conditions, when in June, 1897, I undertook the work authorized by the act of the preceding February. But, as I proceeded with the task, I became more and more firmly convinced that, if it was to be performed properly, it must be carried out on a scale much larger than had apparently been contemplated. Not only was it evident that much of the new material that I was accumulating could not be classified under the titles of the previous work, but it was also found on investigation that in many instances the disposition of the old material should be changed. In these circumstances, the results of a mere revision must have been both inadequate and incongruous.
A revision, with supplementary sections, could hardly have been more satisfactory. A third course was to adopt a new and independent plan, comprehending the entire subject ; and this solution of the problem, although the most onerous, was believed to be the only one that was compatible with scientific principles.
In the execution of this design two points of capital importance have ever been borne in mind. One is that mere extracts from state papers or judicial decisions can not be safely relied on as guides to the law. They may indeed be positively misleading. Especially is this true of state papers, in which arguments are often contentiously put forth which by no means represent the eventual view of the government in whose behalf they were employed. Instead, therefore, of merely quoting extracts from particular documents, it has been my aim to give the history of the cases in which they were issued, and, by showing what was finally done, to disclose the opinion that in the end prevailed. In this way, too, the views of both sides are presented. It may be superfluous to say that there is, strictly speaking, no such thing as "the international law of the United States," or the “international law " of any other particular country. The phrase is itself a misnomer, and conveys an implication which the Government of the United States has always been the first to repel, for it has ever been the position of the United States that international law is a body of rules common to all civilized nations, equally binding upon all and impartially governing their mutual intercourse. It will also be observed that, while the work bears the name and the character of a digest, it also contains much that is of an expository nature, in a form suitable to a treatise.
The other point to which I have endeavored specially to attend is,
in dealing with manuscript records, to avoid giving brief glosses which convey no intimation of the question under consideration, but to follow and, wherever practicable, quote the text, and to give, besides, enough of the facts to render the application apparent. This I conceive to be of the essence of a digest, especially of unpublished papers which the reader can not himself consult. It will also be observed that I have given volume and page of manuscript citations so that the originals can immediately and certainly be reached. The documents were first found, read, and marked by myself personally, the figures of reference were then taken by my copyists, and these figures have all been verified and omissions supplied in the proofs.
Of the present work, the matter in Wharton's Digest, although it is in substance entirely preserved, and where textually retained is usually quoted, forms only a small part. Quotations from printed sources, which are accessible to the general reader, have usually been abridged and worked into the complete statement of the case, which it has been my object to furnish.
But in no instance, it is believed, has a quotation from manuscripts been curtailed. On the contrary it has been my rule to enlarge the quotations from such sources, with a view by this and other means to increase their scientific value. The quantity of the material dealt with, from all sources, has been very great. Owing to its heavy accu-s mulation and the necessity of prosecuting the work of analysis, classification, and digesting, I closed the systematic and minute gleaning of the manuscripts on July 1, 1901, down to which date I had carried it, beginning with the earliest records of the Department of State. Since that date I have drawn on the manuscripts only in the treatment of special questions or events of exceptional importance. The exploration of printed sources has been steadily carried on up to the time of printing. The total mass of the matter was much augmented by the great international transactions that have taken place since the beginning of the year 1898. In my fourth chapter, in particular, on the acquisition and loss of sovereignty, may be seen some of the contributions resulting from the conflict with Spain. I may also refer to the sections on guano islands, in the same chapter, for an illustration of the minute care which the preparation of the work, on the plan heretofore outlined, has often entailed. Even now, after the lapse of nearly nine years (one of which, however, was almost wholly given to the public service), I could scarcely have brought it to completion, but for the assistance derived from my previous labors on the History and Digest of International Arbitrations.
I desire to make acknowledgment of the energetic and efficient supervision by Mr. James T. DuBois of the proof reading of the five
last volumes of the text, as well as of the exact and intelligent care bestowed by Messrs. Henry B. Armes, Samuel B. Crandall, and Richard W. Flournoy, jr., all of the Department of State, on the comparison of proofs and the verification of references.
To Mr. Dudley Odell McGovney, at present fellow in international law in Columbia University, I wish to accord the credit for the index. It will, together with the table of cases and the list of documents cited, occupy a separate volume; and I doubt not that its great merits, including its fullness and orderly arrangement, will be generally recognized
I wish also to express my appreciation of the helpfulness of my secretary, Mr. Jacob H. Goetz, now a member of the New York bar, who, besides rendering stenographic and other aid, has prepared the table of cases and the list of documents cited.
After twenty years' experience with the Government Printing Office, I am glad to testify to the uniform courtesy, promptitude, and efficiency of the officials with whom my business has been conducted.
John B. MOORE. NEW YORK, May 21, 1906.