Popular Science Monthly/Volume 69/August 1906/The World State

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IN the last decade certain disconnected movements have accomplished something in the way of bringing about a world state, and other movements are on foot to bring about a completion of this general movement. The Hague Peace Conference (1899) brought about the establishment of a permanent international court of arbitration or the international department of justice; the Interparliamentary Union is trying to effect the establishment of a world parliament or congress, or legislative department, and if possible a world executive department. The purpose of this article will be to deal with the history and nature of each of these movements, to point out the reasons why the present movement ought theoretically to succeed and to discuss the obstacles to a successful realization of such plans.

1. The Hague Peace Conference and the Hague Tribunal.—In the summer of 1898 the Tsar invited all the principal states of the civilized world to send delegates to discuss concerted action for the maintenance of a general peace and the amelioration of the hardships of war and to plan for the possible reduction of the military and naval armaments of the world. This conference met May 18 to July 29, 1899. It was composed of one hundred delegates representing states having standing armies and navies; twenty-six nations in all were represented. The Papacy, the Transvaal Republic, and the states of Central and South America were not represented. The results of the conference were twofold: (1) Certain arrangements concerning warfare were made and (2) a permanent court of arbitration was established.

The arrangements concerning warfare need not occupy our attention; suffice it to say that a number of resolutions were adopted which tend to make war less brutal and have in view the ultimate reduction of military and naval armaments. Besides these humanitarian efforts of the conference, it accomplished what will be historically much more important, namely, the establishment of a permanent international court of arbitration. The powers agreed to submit all serious cases of international dispute for decision to an international tribunal. The conference provides for the selection of persons who shall constitute a permanent tribunal for six years. Each power can choose not more than four members, who must be learned in international law. If a dispute occurs the disputants select two of these four from each country, or others not permanent members. These parties choose an umpire, and the settlement is to progress according to stipulated arrangements of procedure. So by this conference a world tribunal was established.

Strange to say, the nations did not submit any cases for arbitration in this court until the year 1902. To the present time five cases have been submitted. The first was the Pious Fund Case, 1902. This concerned a dispute over the disposition of a fund created for the support of certain missions in Mexico. In 1697 the Jesuits in Mexico had collected a fund for their monastic and missionary enterprises. After the abolition of the order of Jesuits in 1768, the government seized the property of the Pious Fund, but distributed its income among the missions concerned. After California became a part of the United States, these annual payments were not made to the missions in California. Our government protested on the part of the missions concerned, but to no avail. Finally, both departments of state concluded to let the matter be judged by the Hague Tribunal, and there the award was given to the claimants of the United States. Mexico was asked to pay the arrears and to continue the regular annual payments. Another case was between Venezuela, on the one hand, and a number of European countries and the United States, on the other. The chief facts of the case are the following: Owing to numerous revolutions in Venezuela, the government was heavily in debt and was unable to meet its financial obligations to European and American creditors. Venezuela disagreed as to the amount to be paid and wanted time to reorganize her finances. Several of the European countries brought pressure to bear on Venezuela with little success. Finally, it was decided to arbitrate the claims at The Hague. This was accomplished in February, 1904. The claims in the aggregate did not amount to very much, but the precedent was very important. Decisions in the other three cases have not yet been rendered.

Fully as important as the cases which have been submitted to the Hague Tribunal is the recent agreement of Norway and Sweden. In drawing up the final terms which provided for the peaceful separation of Norway and Sweden, those two powers agreed for a period of ten years to submit to the Hague Tribunal all matters of dispute, except those which affect the independence, integrity and vital interests of either. Similar treaties of arbitration have been drawn up by the other powers, but this treaty differs from the others in one important respect. In the other treaties either party decides whether the point in dispute is of vital interest or not. In the case of Norway and Sweden, the Hague Tribunal decides whether the point in dispute is of such vital importance as can not be decided justly by the tribunal.

So we see that the newly created department of justice has had very little to do—but the fact that it has had any disputes at all to decide is a very hopeful sign. The tendency will undoubtedly be to have more cases submitted. The example of Norway and Sweden may be followed by other states. A more valuable precedent would be a similar arrangement by two first-class powers.

2. The Interparliamentary Union, or the attempt to establish a world congress or legislature. At present there is in existence an organization called the Interparliamentary Union; it is composed of members of the various legislative bodies of Europe and America; its object is to have conferences periodically to discuss the means of bringing about an international legislative body—a world congress or parliament. This union was founded in 1888 in Paris as a result of the work of William Randall Cremer, M.P., an English carpenter and labor unionist. In 1889 the first regular conference was held in Paris, and since then meetings have been held at most European capitals and in some other important European cities and in St. Louis. It now has more than two thousand members, all of whom fill seats in some national parliament. There are two hundred from the United States. Membership is voluntary and lasts as long as the members retain seats in their respective parliaments or legislatures. In discussing this union we shall note its accomplishments to 1901, the work of the meeting at St. Louis in that year and its most recent efforts to create a world parliament.

The achievements to 1901 are rather difficult to state. The movement has grown gradually; it has had practical statesmen as organizers, leaders and members; their influence has been great in creating and stimulating a sentiment in favor of universal peace and the means of attaining that peace. From the beginning the conferences have attempted to bring about international arbitration, and it is interesting to note that at the Hague meeting in 1891 the conference declared in favor of a permanent court of arbitration, and a commission of six men was appointed to draw up plans for such. Thus it should be remarked that this conference anticipated the Hague Peace Conference by five years, and that the main work of the Hague Peace Conference was due in no small degree to the work of the Interparliamentary Peace Conference.

One of the most prominent leaders, at least the most prominent American leader, at present is Richard Bartholdt, congressman from St. Louis. It was due to his influence at the 1903 meeting at Vienna that the union held its conference at St. Louis in 1901. At St. Louis the famous St. Louis resolution was drawn up by Bartholdt and adopted unanimously by the conference. It declared in favor of the following things: (]) There should be a conference of nations to consider the universal execution of treaties of arbitration; (2) a congress of nations should be created in which every nation shall have representatives. Such sentiments had been expressed before; but this seemed to be greeted with more enthusiasm than any other similar proposal of the past. After having closed the session at St. Louis, the members of the conference visited Washington and requested President Roosevelt to invite the governments of the world to send delegates to a Second International Peace Conference. This he did. All of the powers replied favorably except Russia and Japan; their refusal was owing to the prosecution of the Russo-Japanese War. When hostilities ceased it was thought that Roosevelt would ask the Belgian government to issue a formal invitation to all powers concerned. But during the Portsmouth Peace Conference the Tsar, through his diplomatic representatives, expressed his desire to have the privilege of calling the Second Peace Conference, since he had called the first. Roosevelt gladly consented. Just recently the Tsar summoned the conference to meet in the fall of 1906.

Hitherto the work of the Interparliamentary Union has been merely preliminary, working up an organization, creating a desire for an international congress. In the past year important steps have been taken. In August, 1905, the union held its thirteenth annual meeting at Brussels. Here two things of importance were accomplished. In the first place, the South American and Central American republics were invited to send delegates to the next annual meeting of the union. Up to that time the Latin American states had not been asked to participate in this movement. Secondly, a commission of seven members was appointed to draw up a plan for an international congress. Mr. Bartholdt was the American member of the commission, which met in Paris in November, 1905. The plan of the commission provides: That an international legislature of two houses shall be established; that the lower house, or popular branch, shall represent the various legislatures of the world; that the upper house, or senate, shall be appointed by the various governments; and that this legislature shall meet periodically, probably at the Hague. This plan of the commission will be the basis of discussion at the next meeting of the union.

So far the Interparliamentary Union has merely created an organization which has been given no legal status or official recognition by the various governments. It has had no appreciable influence on international relations. Nevertheless, its work to the present time has been of considerable value and importance. It has secured the membership and earnest support of the highest-minded and most capable legislators of the world. Through its members and its own influence it has created and stimulated feelings in favor of universal peace, and is ready to contribute what is perhaps a very satisfactory means of maintaining this much-desired universal peace.

3. The World Executive.—To the present time no definite plan for a world executive has been proposed; no movement to establish this has been put on foot. Provisions for this department will no doubt be made later as the occasion requires. No one knows what form it will take. It will hardly be delegated to one man, or even a few men. The international parliament may appoint a committee for all necessary administrative work; this may be divided into a number of bureaus having charge of the various kinds of administration. If any armed coercion is necessary to enforce international laws, the combined fleets of a number of powers may be used, as has been the case in the last century when the powers coerced Turkey.

4. The Purpose of the World State.—We have been discussing the origin, organization and characteristics of the proposed world state—now a few words as to its purpose and the place it will fill. Its purpose will be: (1) To provide a definite recognized code of international law; (2) to establish a tribunal which will apply this law, which will arbitrate disputes arising between nations and prevent the disagreeable and disastrous clashes between the peoples of the civilized world. International law at the present time is unsatisfactory. It does not have the force of law as does municipal law; it is not uniform. There is need of a legally constituted body to weed out inconsistencies, to bring in uniformity, to make new laws for the numerous points which are still undecided and which are bound to appear as the intercourse of nations becomes more and more extensive. No one will dispute that the world state will fill a definite place.

5. Why the Present Movement for a World State ought to succeed.—A proposal to establish a world state will naturally have its critics—many will doubt the success of such an undertaking. But there are a number of reasons why success can be hoped for some time in the future. Immanuel Kant in his 'Perpetual Peace'[1] declares that the following things are necessary for a world state: (1) All nations should have representative government; (2) successful systems of federal government must have been established in part of the world; (3) there must be a moral force to support the effort. This statement is mere opinion, but the opinion of this writer may well be cited as worth consideration. It seems to us that these things are essentials. To what extent are these requirements fulfilled at the present time?

Representative government has been attained by all the christian states of Europe except Russia; and undoubtedly the Russian people will also secure some measure of political liberty before the present disturbances are permanently allayed. All important nations and communities outside of Europe have their affairs settled by representatives of the people—the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan. Even China has recently appointed a commission to travel in Europe and America to inspect the best forms of representative government. Federal government has been successfully tried in a number of cases—the United States, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and Australia. The moral sentiment which will support such a movement has been increased very noticeably in the nineteenth century. The idea of the brotherhood of man has gained great strength; there is a growing idea that moral law is fully as binding on nations as on individuals; there is an ever increasing number who think it is just as wrong to kill a man in battle as to commit murder. Then along with these forces there is the so-called 'Welt-Geist,' a cosmopolitan spirit, the idea of world-citizenship.

The hope that the powers may some time unite to establish a permanent international legislative body does not seem unreasonable. The past century produced what is called the Concert of European Powers. They have met at irregular intervals to discuss affairs of mutual interest; the enactments of some of these congresses have become recognized international law. A few examples will suffice. The Congress of Vienna (1814-1815) rearranged the map of Europe and undid much of the work of the revolutionary era. The Near Eastern Question has frequently occasioned united action on the part of the great powers of Europe. The navigation of the Rhine, the Elbe and the Danube has been regulated by European congresses, held at various times. In 1856, at Paris, the powers drew up rules concerning privateers, neutral goods, goods contraband of war and blockades; and these rules are a part of recognized international law to-day. In 1888 the Suez Canal was neutralized. In 1881 and 1885 the powers assembled in order to partition Africa peaceably and to make definite regulations concerning African affairs. In 1874, at Berne, was established the Universal Postal Union, whereby most of the nations of the world have secured a more adequate foreign-mail service. In the past few months the conference of Algeciras met to discuss international interests in Morocco. These facts show that in the past and present century the nations, not only of Europe, but of the whole world, have successfully cooperated in affairs of mutual interest. If they can meet irregularly for special purposes, it is not at all fanciful to think that at some future time they may meet periodically to make laws concerning all affairs of international polity.

There are also some practical reasons why the movement can and ought to succeed. The first is economic. The establishment of a world state will tend to secure peaceful intercourse between nations; there will be less and less occasion for war; international relations will be more definitely defined; more and more disputes will be settled by arbitration in the court of the world. Such a state will receive the undivided support of the commercial interests of the world, for commerce thrives best in times of peace. Since this is an industrial and commercial age, the business interests ought and will support a movement to bring about and preserve peace. The practical or mechanical obstacles to the establishment of a world state are fewer now than ever before; in fact, one might almost say they do not exist any longer. By means of past inventions and discoveries the world is more closely united, more thoroughly bound together, than ever before. Steam railways, steamships, the telegraph, telephone and wireless telegraphy and scores of other inventions have annihilated distance. The formation of a world union is easier than ever before.

6. Obstacles to the Success of the Movement.—Unfortunately such a movement as we are considering will have a number of serious obstacles to meet and overcome. Perhaps the most potent hindrance to the speedy establishment of a world state will be the existence of strong national feelings, the antipathy of the nations of Europe and the local patriotism on the American continent. It will be a long time before race hatred and national enmity will be allayed; it will probably be centuries before 'jingoism' and local patriotism will be supplanted by reason and a cosmopolitan spirit. But in connection with this obstacle, one ought to note that a great amount of this cosmopolitan spirit does exist now and will continue to grow. Happily this spirit or feeling is not to be found solely among the upper and educated classes, but among the working classes also, and especially among the working classes of Europe. With them, however, the feeling is not necessarily an end in view, but a concomitant of their great struggle. The workingmen of Europe, organized under the banners of labor organizations and socialism, declare that their fight against capitalism is an international struggle, that the capitalistic regime is omnipresent and everywhere opposed to labor.

Another obstacle to the establishment of a world state is the hostile attitude of the monarchical governments o"f Europe. Most of them are more or less jealous of their sovereignty and hate to have it curtailed in any way; they scorn being forced to arbitrate their disputes instead of fighting them out. This is not a mere assertion and can best be illustrated by the attitude of Germany. At the Hague Peace Conference in 1899, the German delegates declared that arbitration was incompatible with the divine right of kings to rule. The Emperor William has openly manifested his opposition to a permanent court of arbitration. When it was proposed that the German-Venezuelan question be submitted to the Hague Court, William II. proposed that the matter be left to President Roosevelt as arbitrator. But Roosevelt declined and advised recourse to The Hague. A world state implies republican government; it will necessarily be representative, not of monarchs, but of nations and peoples; this is not in harmony with the divine right of kings. But this opposition of the monarchs will not be insurmountable. If a strong sentiment in favor of arbitration or federation be manifested, the monarchs will very discreetly give way, as has been their wont in the past century.

7. Conclusion.—This article has been merely an attempt to give an account of a tendency, its history and characteristics. The information available is exceedingly scarce; what is available is rather scattered and isolated; the status and force of the movement at any given time are difficult to estimate; the very nature of the movement itself is vague and visionary, it seems too fantastic to be practical, the attempt seems premature; it is the work of idealists, of optimists; their efforts are naturally looked upon with suspicion and discredit by conservatives and realists. Nevertheless, idealists prepare the way for movements which quicken the pulse of humanity and which bring about reforms both small and great.-No person living to-day may ever see the establishment of a world state with power to execute its laws. However, we have seen that part of the machinery of a world state has been constructed and that other parts are in the process of construction. It may take decades before this world state will exercise any influence. But it seems no small accomplishment for an age to create the machinery of a world state which mankind will use to good advantage when there exists a sufficiently strong feeling of the need for and desirability of such an organization.

Too much must not be expected of this movement. The world state will not bring about immediate disarmament, but if it succeeds it will bring about compulsory arbitration; it will establish a state of law among the nations. The more disputes settled by arbitration, by judicial decision in accordance with laws passed by a world congress, the fewer will be the occasions for war. If the need for war is decreased, armaments will be less necessary and possibly may be abandoned. Inasmuch as an object so worthy may ultimately be attained by this now rather visionary movement, it at least merits our attention and sincere hopes for its ultimate success.

  1. 'Saemmtliche Werke' Vol. VI., pp. 416-427.