Page images
PDF
EPUB

performance of the duties of international law being compelled by moral sanctions only, by fear on the part of nations of provok

less than twenty years came near involving us in the wars of the French revolution, and laid the foundation of heavy claims upon Congress, not extinguished to the present day. It is a significant coincidence, that the particular provision of the alliance which occasioned those evils, was that under which France called upon us to aid her in defending her West India possessions against England..

" But the President has a graver objection to entering into the proposed convention. He has no wish to disguise the feeling that the compact, although equal in its terms, would be very unequal in substance. France and England, by entering into it, would disable themselves from obtaining possession of an island remote from their seats of government, belonging to another European power, whose natural right to possess it must always be as good as their own — a distant island in another hemisphere, and one which by no ordinary or peaceful course could ever belong to either of them. . . . The United States, on the other hand, would, by the proposed convention, disable themselves from making an acquisition which might take place without any disturbance of existing foreign relations, and in the natural order of things. The island of Cuba lies at our doors. It commands the approach to the Gulf of Mexico, which washes the shores of five of our States. It bars the entrance of that great river which drains half the North American continent, and with its tributaries forms the largest system of internal water communication in the world. It keeps watch at the door-way of our intercourse with California by the Isthmus route. If an island like Cuba, belonging to the Spanish crown, guarded the entrance of the Thames and the Seine, and the United States should propose a convention like this to France and England, those powers would assuredly feel that the disability assumed by ourselves was far less serious than that which we asked them to assume.” “Even now the President cannot doubt that both France and England would prefer any change in the condition of Cuba to that which is most to be apprehended, viz., an internal convulsion which should renew the horrors and the fate of San Domingo.” Mr. Everett thus intimates a final objection to the convention : “M. de Turgot and Lord Malmesbury put forward, as the reason for entering into such a compact, “the attacks which have lately been made on the island of Cuba by lawless bands of adventurers from the United States, with the avowed design of taking possession of that island.' The President is convinced that the conclusion of such a treaty, instead of putting a stop to these lawless proceedings, would give a new and powerful impulse to them. It would strike a death blow to the conservative policy hitherto pursued in this country towards Cuba. No administration of this government, however strong in public confidence in other respects, could stand a day under the odium of having stipulated with the great powers of Europe, that in no future time, under no change of circumstances, by no amicable arrangement with Spain, by no act of lawful war, (should that calamity unfortunately occur,) by no consent of the inhabitants of the island, should they, like the possessions of Spain on the American continent, succeed in rendering themselves independent; in fine, by no overruling necessity of self-preservation should the United States ever make the acquisition of Cuba.” Cong. Doc. 32 Cong. 2 Sess. Senate, Ex. Doc. No. 13.]

ing general hostility, and incurring its probable evils in case they. should violate this law; an apprehension of the possible consequences of the undue aggrandizement of any one nation upon the independence and the safety of others, has induced the States of modern Europe to observe, with systematic vigilance, every material disturbance in the equilibrium of their respective forces. This preventive policy has been the pretext of the most bloody and destructive wars waged in modern times, some of which have certainly originated in well-founded apprehensions of peril to the independence of weaker States, but the greater part have been founded upon insufficient reasons, disguising the real motives by which princes and cabinets have been influenced. Wherever the spirit of encroachment has really threatened the general security, it has commonly broken out in such overt acts as not only plainly indicated the ambitious purpose, but also furnished substantive grounds in themselves sufficient to justify a resort to arms by other nations. Such were the Wars of grounds of the confederacies created, and the wars mation. undertaken to check the aggrandizement of Spain and the house of Austria, under Charles V. and his successors; — an object finally accomplished by the treaty of Westphalia, which so long constituted the written public law of Europe. The long and violent struggle between the religious parties engendered by the Reformation in Germany, spread throughout Europe, and became closely connected with political interests and ambition. The great Catholic and Protestant powers mutually protected the adherents of their own faith in the bosom of rival States. The repeated interference of Austria and Spain in favor of the Catholic faction in France, Germany, and England, and of the Protestant powers to protect their persecuted brethren in Germany, France, and the Netherlands, gave a peculiar coloring to the political transactions of the age. This was still more heightened by the conduct of Catholic France under the ministry of Cardinal Richelieu, in sustaining, by a singular refinement of policy, the Protestant princes and people of Germany against the house of Austria, whilst she was persecuting with unrelenting severity her own subjects of the reformed faith. The balance of power adjusted by the peace of Westphalia was once more disturbed by the ambition of Louis XIV., which compelled the Protestant States of Europe to unite with the house of Aus

tria against the encroachments of France herself, and induced the allies to patronize the English Revolution of 1688, whilst the French monarch interfered to support the pretensions of the Stuarts. These great transactions furnished numerous examples of interference by the European States in the affairs of each other, where the interest and security of the interfering powers were supposed to be seriously affected by the domestic transactions of other nations, which can hardly be referred to any fixed and definite principle of international law, or furnish a general rule fit to be observed in other apparently analogous cases.1

84. Wars The same remarks will apply to the more recent, but of the not less important events, growing out of the French Revolution. Revolution. They furnish a strong admonition against attempting to reduce to a rule, and to incorporate into the code of nations, a principle so indefinite, and so peculiarly liable to abuse, in its practical application. The successive coalitions formed by the great. European monarchies against France subsequent to her first revolution of 1789, were avowedly designed to check the progress of her revolutionary principles, and the extension of her military power. Such was the principle of intervention in the internal affairs of France, avowed by the Allied Courts, and by the publicists who sustained their cause. France, on her side, relying on the independence of nations,

Alliance contended for non-intervention as a right. The efforts great Euro- of these coalitions ultimately resulted in the formation

pow- of an alliance, intended to be permanent, between the four great powers of Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Great Britain, to which France subsequently acceded, at the Congress of Aixla-Chapelle, in 1818, constituting a sort of superintending author. ity in these powers over the international affairs of Europe, the precise extent and objects of which were never very accurately defined. As interpreted by those of the contracting powers, who were also the original parties to the compact called the Holy Alliance, this union was intended to form a perpetual system of intervention among the European States, adapted to prevent any such change in the internal forms of their respective governments, as might endanger the existence of the monarchical institutions

of the five

ers.

1 Wheaton, Hist. Law of Nations, Pt. I. $S 2, 3, pp. 80-88.

which had been reëstablished under the legitimate dynasties of their respective reigning houses. This general right of interference was sometimes defined so as to be applicable to every case of popular revolution, where the change in the form of government did not proceed from the voluntary concession of the reigning sovereign, or was not confirmed by his sanction, given under such circumstances as to remove all doubt of his having freely consented. At other times, it was extended to every revolutionary movement pronounced by these powers to endanger, in its consequences, immediate or remote, the social order of Europe, or the particular safety of neighboring States.

The events, which followed the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, prove the inefficacy of all the attempts that have been made to establish a general and invariable principle on the subject of intervention. It is, in fact, impossible to lay down an absolute rule on this subject; and every rule that wants that quality must necessarily be vague, and subject to the abuses to which human passions will give rise, in its practical application.

[ocr errors]

ropi

The measures adopted by Austria, Russia, and Prus

65. Consia, at the Congress of Troppau and Laybach, in respect gress of

Aix-lato the Neapolitan Revolution of 1820, were founded Chapelle, upon principles adapted to give the great powers of and of Laythe European continent a perpetual pretext for interfer- bach. ing in the internal concerns of its different States. The British government expressly dissented from these principles, not only upon the ground of their being, if reciprocally acted on, contrary to the fundamental laws of Great Britain, but such as could not safely be admitted as part of a system of international law. In the circular despatch, addressed on this occasion to all its diplomatic agents, it was stated that, though no government could be more prepared than the British government was to uphold the right of any State or States to interfere, where their own immediate security or essential interests are seriously endangered by the internal transactions of another State, it regarded the assumption of such a right as only to be justified by the strongest necessity, and to be limited and regulated thereby; and did not admit that it could receive a general and indiscriminate application to all revolutionary movements, without reference to their immediate bearing upon some particular State or States, or

that it .could be made, prospectively, the basis of an alliance. The British government regarded its exercise as an exception to general principles of the greatest value and importance, and as one that only properly grows out of the special cir. cumstances of the case; but it at the same time considered, that exceptions of this description never can, without the utmost danger, be so far reduced to rule, as to be incorporated into the ordinary diplomacy of States, or into the institutes of the Law of Nations.

$ 6. Con- The British government also declined being a party Verona. to the proceedings of the Congress held at Verona, in 1822, which ultimately led to an armed interference by France, under the sanction of Austria, Russia, and Prussia, in the internal affairs of Spain, and the overthrow of the Spanish Constitution of the Cortes. The British government disclaimed for itself, and denied to other powers, the right of requiring any changes in the internal institutions of independent States, with the menace of hostile attack in case of refusal. It did not consider the Spanish Revolution as affording a case of that direct and imminent danger to the safety and interests of other States, which might justify a forcible interference. The original alliance between Great Britain and the other principal European powers, was specifically designed for the reconquest and liberation of the European continent from the military dominion of France; and, having subverted that dominion, it took the state of possession, . as established by the peace, under the joint protection of the alliance. It never was, however, intended as an union for the government of the world, or for the superintendence of the internal affairs of other States. No proof had been produced to the British government of any design, on the part of Spain, to invade the territory of France; of any attempt to introduce disaffection among her soldiery; or of any project to undermine her political institutions; and, so long as the struggles and disturbances of Spain should be confined within the circle of her own territory, they could not be admitted by the British govern

| Lord Castlereagh's Circular Dispatch, Jan. 19, 1821. Annual Register, vol. lxii. Part II. p. 737.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »