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In an ordinary community violence and bloodshed are prevented, and the rights of individuals so far as is possible secured to them, by legal institutions. Laws, and executive arrangements under the sanction of laws, are made for the protection of person and property ; tribunals are erected, some for the trial of persons charged with offences against those laws, others for the settlement of disputes and conflicting claims which cannot be amicably arranged ; and means are provided to prevent any attempt at a violent solution of such differences. These institutions depend for their efficacy mainly upon their fulfilment of two conditions,-first, that the tribunals thus created are impartial, that is, that they are composed of men who have no personal interest in the result of their decisions; and, secondly, that the community has at its disposal such an amount of physical force as precludes all chance of successful resistance to their decrees. If the first condition were wanting, such measures might prevent violence and bloodshed, but they would do so at the cost of justice, while they would entirely fail to afford security for just dealing as between the members of the community. If the second condition were wanting, they would accomplish neither one nor the other of these objects.
In a community composed of nations no such institutions are possible. Tri
bunals might indeed be established, consisting of one or more states, for the settlement of disputes and claims which did not admit of amicable adjustment, and for the trial of offences against the recognised rights of property or sovereignty resident in each state; but such tribunals would be inefficacious, because it would be in the power of any nation, unless to an exceptional degree deficient in physical force, to resist their decisions with more or less probability of success, and because the condition of international relations is such that, in almost every case brought before a state thus armed with judicial authority, its own interests would in some way or other be concerned. Thus the first of the conditions above mentioned, that of impartiality, as well as the second, that of sufficient coercive power, would be absent from such authorities. Regular executive arrangements for the preservation of order and the prompt suppression of violence are for the same reasons impracticable in such a society. Its members may, and do, agree among themselves, tacitly or explicitly, that certain proceedings on the part of one towards another, analogous to outrages upon person and property in an individual community, are crimes, and if possible to repress them; and they may agree, and have agreed, with a view to the general welfare, upon rules for the settlement of certain questions of inter
national equity which experience has Now it is obvious that there are many shown to be constantly arising in their cases in which a nation may, as it would dealings with each other whether in ordinarily be expressed, have the "right" peace or war. But even these arrange- to intervene, but in which it may be ments, expressed or understood, which deterred from doing so by the considerare dignified with the name of “ Inter- ation that intervention could only be national law," and which, if enforced successful either at the cost to itself of without resistance, would mitigate only irresistible armaments, or at the cost to to a small extent the evils consequent itself and to the world at large of actual on the absence of legal institutions, they war. In order therefore to determine have no absolute power to enforce. Any whether, in a given state of affairs, not nation may, if it pleases, resist to the requiring action on account of its own utmost the application of such regula- rights or interests, a nation ought to tions to itself; and even in the event intervene, it is necessary to inquire, of a combination of powerful states to first, whether the case is one in which enforce them, which international jea- it might properly intervene supposing lousies make difficult and rare, an ex- that it could do so without expense to pensive and calamitous war might be itself, and without actual war; and, necessary for the purpose.
secondly, if so, how far it is justified in The community of nations, then, is a intervening, if one or both of these evils community in which law, in the ordi- must be the consequence of the measure. nary sense of the term,—the sense in If the distinction between these two which it subsists and is effectual in an questions had been borne in mind, much ordinary society,-has no existence. The confusion of thought and misapprehennatural consequences of anarchy follow. sion on this subject would have been The military power possessed by each avoided. It is objected, for instance, nation being its only means of defence to the supporters of non-intervention, against aggression or insult, and of ob- that they are advocating a “selfish” taining that to which it considers itself policy. It is clear, however, that the entitled, or which, without any such objection cannot possibly apply to an consideration, it is resolved to obtain, advocacy of it which is based upon the blood will from time to time be shed, ground that a negative answer must be and acts of injustice will be committed given to the first of these questions. It or contemplated, either by means of is only where non-intervention is the successful war, or, where there is a great result of considerations such as those to superiority of force, without any dis- which the second question relates, that turbance of the peace of the world. Is any pretext whatever is afforded for imit, then, or is it not, the right or the puting selfishness to the policy. How duty of a nation, besides providing for far such an imputation would be wellthe defence of its own territory and for founded we shall presently have occasion the maintenance of its own rights and to consider. interests, to interfere by force with the First, then, what are the cases in proceedings of one state towards another, which a nation would have a right to or between two parties in the same state, intervene, supposing that it could do so for the purpose either of preventing without expense to itself, and without bloodshed, or of securing justice, or for having recourse to war ? It seems proboth these objects combined ? Such is the bable that, in the general opinion, there question which the more powerful nations would, on such a supposition, be scarcely are perpetually called upon to solve, but any limit to that right, at least as beof which, though it has become the battle- tween distinct nations. Yet it is certain ground of conflicting opinions whose that in a large class even of international Watchwords are “ intervention ” and dissensions no such right would exist. “non-intervention,” very little attempt The disputes or conflicts in which any has yet been made at a scientific solution. two nations may engage are, many of
them, of a kind in which a third nation, not itself concerned in the result, has no sort of qualification for passing judgment, and therefore no right whatever to interpose. In general, it may be said that, where the subject matter of the quarrel is one which, fairly considered, admits of dispute,—where the proceed ing which it is proposed to prevent is one of which the criminality or injustice is matter of question,-in other words, where the case is such as, if brought before a legal tribunal, would be decided upon, not as presenting no sort of doubt or difficulty, but only after discussion or deliberation, -- " intervention” is not justifiable. In such circumstances neither of the two nations concerned can be expected, or ought to be compelled, to accept the decision of a third, which is neither invested by common consent with judicial authority, nor is possessed of any qualities entitling it to decide. The tribunals by which, in an ordinary community, such differences are settled are deliberately selected by the society itself, and are supposed to be endowed with information or intelligence peculiarly fitting them for the purpose in view, and to be wholly free from personal interests in the questions submitted to them ; in all of which qualifications (in two of them invariably, and in the third very frequently) an intervening state is deficient. As regards intelligence, not only is there no special qualification, but the dense ignorance which exists in all countries as to the political condition of others, and as to the views, opinions, and modes of thought prevalent in them, and the apparent impossibility which pervades a body-politic of looking at international questions from any point of view but its own, constitute a positive disqualification for judicial power. As regards impartiality, there is, by the supposition, no such direct interest in the issue as could be supposed to justify intervention ; but the circumstances of the case are almost always such as to ensure a very decided bias in the judgment formed of them in a third country. Considerations as to the manner in which its own
trade will be affected, jealousy of the growing wealth and power of other states, historical associations, dynastic alliances, antipathies of race, and prejudices of education, as well as other causes, operate with nearly absolute certainty, where there is any doubt as to the justice of the case, to preclude impartial judgment. Accordingly, we find that the verdicts pronounced by nations upon the conduct of their neighbours have, in by far the greater number of such instances, been wrong. “In the “large volume of human folly there is “no page longer or more discreditable " than that which contains the judgments “ of nations upon each other.”l Even if this were not the case, the enforcement of such judgments would be indefensible, the objection to it being not only that they are frequently or generally wrong, but also that those against whom they are directed cannot fairly be expected to accept them. It may be said that, since the community of nations is one in which law, as ordinarily understood, does not exist, the world must be content with the best substitute that can be found for it, and that it is better that the peace should be preserved by the self-constituted authority of any one or more states, to whatever objection on the score of justice this may be liable, than that it should be perpetually broken for the purpose of deciding questions otherwise insoluble. But this argument proceeds upon a wrong estimate of the comparative value of justice and of peace. It is true that the question at issue is as likely to receive an unjust solution when it is settled by a trial of strength between the disputants, as when it is settled by the fiat of an authority incompetent to decide. But in the former case the nation which, being in the right, is compelled to yield, has at least had the opportunity of using its best efforts for the satisfaction of its claims, and the chance of successfully asserting them ; in the other, it is allowed no voice whatever in the matter. In the one case there is the single injustice of
i Sir G. C. Lewis. “Dialogue on the Best Form of Government."
a wrong solution ; in the other there is of states, but, if that was impossible, the double injustice of a wrong solution, any one state, would have the right, on and of its enforcement by an unqualified the present hypothesis, to compel obediauthority.
ence to a rule which had been made It is, of course, possible to conceive a by all of them for the general good. condition of affairs in which the rule The want of those attributes (regular here contended for must be exception- constitution, special intelligence, and ally disregarded. A war, for instance, impartiality) which, as already observed, carried on with unusual ferocity, pro justify the coercive action of legal tracted beyond all ordinary duration, authorities, does not in this class of and of which the termination seemed cases, as it did in the former, disqualify still distant, might be an instance of the a nation from acting as a substitute kind; for the necessity of putting an for such authorities. There being no end to such a war might have become reasonable doubt that the crime is being paramount to all other considerations committed or is contemplated, and none But, in order that a particular event at all as to the identity of the criminal, may be entitled to such exceptional there is no question here of misjudgtreatment, it must possess strongly ment either owing to ignorance, or marked features distinguishing it clearly to bias arising from personal interest from almost every recorded occurrence for or against the accused. The deof a similar kind.
fect of self-constitution is the only It appears, then, that there is a large one of the three from which the interclass of international dissensions in vening authority, if it consisted not of which a state not directly interested a general congress, but only of one or in their issue could not, under any two or a minority of the whole body, circumstances, justifiably interpose. would suffer ; but this must be conBut there is another class of them in sidered as a defect of little importance which the interposition of such a state when set against the object of tho would, apart from all consideration of intervention. For the same reasons, its cost in money and in human life, the decided and obvious breach of any not only be justifiable, but desirable. great principle of international justice A clear and unquestionable breach of sanctioned by the moral sense of manany of the well-understood and generally kind, or the violation of any of those recognised rules of international law axioms of right and wrong, which, not (including among them the obligation falling within any positive rule of interof such treaties or diplomatic compacts national law, are yet fully established as have not been invalidated by sub- and unhesitatingly appealed to by sequent events or by the mere progress nations in their intercourse with each of civilization 1) would be one ground other, or which, though they may not for such interposition. The reasons be accepted by all governments, are which we have found to exist against so by the majority of educated men, it, where the point at issue was one would afford another ground on which admitting of doubt and argument on intervention might be justifiable. The the score of legality or justice, are here wholly unprovoked aggression of one inapplicable. Not only a combination state upon another, or the seizure of
its territory without anything like a i Contingencies in which any nation is re
fair or rational excuse for doing so, quired by the stipulations of a treaty, either
would be obvious instances of such missingly or with other countries, to interpose (among which some of the proceedings recently
conduct. The French occupation of taken by Germany towards Denmark in refer Rome-one of the most lawless acts ence to Schleswig-Holstein must, it would
ever committed by a nation and the appear, be classed) are not here in question. The intervention considered in this paper is
suppression in 1849 by a Russian that to which nations are not bound by any
army of the Hungarian insurrection, special and explicit obligation.
are clear examples of it; for, in what
ever cases interference in the civil dissensions of foreign states may be justifiable, it is certain that to assist a government in crushing the liberties of the people over whom it rules is an act of flagrant immorality. The two latter instances are of value as illustrating with singular force the distinction between the two questions now under consideration ; for they are of a kind in which, as regards the part to be taken by this or any other country, the duty of intervention considered apart from the price to be paid for it, and the duty of non-intervention in the actual state of the case, are equally clear.
Thus far with respect to “ intervention" as regards the proceedings of one state towards another. Take next the contingency of a contest between two parties in the same state. It is easy to see that in this case the objections to intervention are far more cogent and comprehensive than when the quarrel is between distinct nations. The general body of states has obviously far less concern with the internal affairs of one of its members than with the proceedings of its members towards one another. The principle which in an ordinary community is fully recognised, that each of the individuals comprising it ought to be allowed to regulate his own concerns as he thinks fit, so long as he abstains from injuring others, holds good also for the community of nations; and this principle, superadded to the reasons which we have found to exist as against the right of interference in a large class of international transactions, tends to confine that right within the very narrowest limits as regards civil contests. Such interference is, as we have seen, justifiable, even as between distinct nations, only when some universally admitted rule of international law, or some great principle of justice or humanity, has obviously and undeni. ably been infringed. As between two parties in the same state, international law does not apply; and, as regards the great principles of justice or humanity, it is obvious that the case is very dif
ferent when they are contravened by a member of the community, not as against other members of it, but as against itself. Take the frequent instance of a people rising against tyrannical rulers. On which side justice lies does not admit of a doubt. Yet even in this case foreign intervention cannot be justified, and that for these reasons : Firstly, That the wrong done is not done to any individual of the society of which the interposing state is a member, and as a member of which, and as such only, it has any right to interfere ; and, secondly, because such intervention would violate the wholesome rule which, apart from all question whether it is on the right or the wrong side, condemns the interference of one state in the internal concerns of another. The justification of this rule as applicable to the contingency now under consideration is sufficiently evident. For a people which owes its freedom to foreign bayonets, and not to such a sense of the value of the possession as would give it courage and endurance sufficient to ensure the ultimate success of its efforts, will neither enjoy nor preserve it.
It appears, then, that, except in those rare and extreme cases in which, in political as in other sciences, it is sometimes necessary to set aside established laws, intervention in the civil differences of foreign states is, irrespectively of all question as to the amount of resistance with which it will be met, unjustifiable. The conditions of the question are altered when one of the parties to the contest is of a distinct race, or has preserved a separate nationality, as, for instance, in the struggle of Belgium with Holland, of Poland with Russia, or of Italy with Austria. In so far as such conflicts are not between a people and its native rulers, but of a people against the superior power of foreign rulers, they fall within the rules which we have found to be applicable to quarrels between distinct nations. In so far then as they are of this character, whenever the justice of the case is palpably and wholly on one side, so that, by the conduct of the opposite party,