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hope for mankind. Again and again had the demon of war been cast out of the house of the peoples and the house swept clean by a treaty of peace; only to prepare a time when he would enter in again with spirits worse than himself. The house must now be given a tenant who could hold it against all such. Convenient, indeed indispensable, as statesmen found the newly planned League of Nations to be for the execution of present plans of peace and reparation, they saw it in a new aspect before their work was finished. They saw it as the main object of the peace, as the only thing that could complete it or make it worth while. They saw it as the hope of the world, and that hope they did not dare to disappoint. Shall we or any other free people hesitate to accept this great duty? Dare we reject it and break the heart of the world?
LETTER OF HONORABLE ELIHU ROOT TO HONORABLE WILL H. HAYS
REGARDING THE COVENANT OF THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS
NEW YORK, March 29, 1919. The Honorable Will H. Hays,
Chairman, etc. DEAR SIR: I have received your letter of March 24 and I give you herewith at perhaps inordinate length my views regarding the proposed convention for a League of Nations.
I am sure that all of us earnestly desire that there shall be an effective international organization to preserve the peace of the world, and that our country shall do its full share toward the establishment and maintenance of such an organization. I do not see much real controversy about that among the American people, either between parties, or within parties, or otherwise.
There is, however, a serious question whether the particular proposed agreement which is now under discussion by the Peace Conference in Paris under the title a “Constitution of a League of Nations" will accomplish that end in its present form, and whether it cannot be made more effective and free from objection. A careful study of the paper under the urging of intense interest in the subject has led me to the conclusion that a large part of its provisions will be of great value, but that it has very serious faults, which may lead to the ultimate failure of the whole scheme unless they are remedied, and some faults which unnecessarily and without any benefit whatever to the project tend to embarrass and hinder the United States in giving its full support to the scheme.
I think there should be several very important amendments to the agreement.
This seems to be the general view. Mr. Taft, who joined the President in advocating the agreement, says it ought to be amended, almost as strongly as his former Secretary of State, Senator Knox, says the same thing. When Mr. Lodge and Mr. Lowell had their great debate in Boston both said the agreement ought to be amended.
A discussion of the merits and faults of the scheme with a view to amendment is now the regular order of business. It was to give an opportunity for such a discussion that the paper was reported to the Paris Conference and made public by the committee that prepared it.
At the time of the report, Lord Robert Cecil, who represented Great Britain in the committee, said: “I rejoice very much that the course which has been taken this afternoon has been pursued. It seems to me a good omen for the great project in which we are engaged that before its final completion it should have been published to the world and laid before all its people for their service and for their criticism.”
Signor Orlando, who represented Italy, said: “We all expect from the discussion and development of the present act a renewal of the whole world, but, as the present debate has for its object to bring the whole scheme before the public opinion of the world, I wish to bring to that debate my personal contribution."
M. Leon Bourgeois, who represented France in the committee, said: “Lord Robert Cecil has said we now present to the Conference and to the world the result of our work, but we do not present it as something that is final, but only as the result of an honest effort to be discussed and to be examined not only by this Conference, but the public opinion of the world.”
At that very time M. Bourgeois suggested an amendment about which I shall say something presently, and he went on to say: “The observations we have made on some points will, we hope, be of some value in the further discussions, since we are at the beginning of the examination of the whole plan.”
These gentlemen represented all the great Allies by whose side we have been fighting in Europe, and it is plain that they expected and wished that the scheme which they had reported should be subjected to. public discussion and criticism in their own countries and in ours. It is also plain that they saw no reason why the proposed agreement should be rushed through in such haste that there would not be an opportunity for public discussion and criticism and for communicating the results to the Conference.
Under our Constitution it is the business of the Senate to take the lead in such a discussion, to compare the different opinions expressed in the several States and to draft in proper form the amendments which the public judgment seems to call for. It is unfortunate that the Senate has not been permitted to perform that duty in this case. It seems to me that the Senate ought to have been convened for that purpose immediately after the 4th of March. In addition to the regular and extra sessions of Congress the Senate has been convened separately in special session forty-two times since it was first organized, ordinarily to confirm a few appointments or pass on unimportant treaties, never for any reason more important than exists now.
There is a special reason why the Senate should consider this proposed agreement. Ordinarily treaties are negotiated by ambassadors, ministers, or delegates, and their work is supervised and corrected if need be by the President and Secretary of State at Washington, who from their different points of view frequently see things the actual negotiators overlook. In this case, since the President himself is negotiating the treaty in Paris, there is no one in Washington to supervise the negotiation, and there is no one with authority to give the negotiators the benefit of independent official judgment, unless the Senate is to perform that function.
This situation throws upon the people of the country the duty to answer the expectations of the Conference by studying and discussing and expressing their opinions on the various provisions of the proposed agreement, and to make their expressions of opinion heard the best way they can.
The avowed object of the agreement is to prevent future wars. That is what interests us. We are not trying to get anything for ourselves from the Paris Conference. We are not asking any help from the other nations who are in the Conference, but we would like to do our part toward preventing future wars. How does the proposed scheme undertake to do that?
To answer that question one must call to mind the conditions to which the scheme is to be applied.
All the causes of war fall in two distinct classes.
One class consists of controversies about rights under the law of nations and under treaties. In a general way these are described as justiciable or judicial questions. They are similar to the questions between individuals which courts are all the time deciding. They cover by far the greater number of questions upon which controversies between nations arise.
For more than half a century the American Government has been urging upon the world the settlement of all such questions by arbitration. Presidents Grant, Arthur, Harrison, Cleveland, McKinley, Roosevelt and Taft strongly approved the establishment of a system of arbitration in their messages to Congress. Thirty years ago our Congress adopted a resolution requesting the President to invite negotiations with every other Government “to the end that any differences or disputes arising between the two Governments which cannot be adjusted by diplomatic agency may be referred to arbitration and be peaceably adjusted by such means."
President McKinley in his first inaugural declared: “The adjustment of difficulties by judicial methods rather than force of arms has been recognized as the leading feature of our foreign policy throughout our entire national history.”
We have illustrated the benefits of this method of settling disputes by the Alabama arbitration in 1872, the Bering Sea arbitration in 1893, the Alaska boundary tribunal in 1903, the North Atlantic fisheries arbitration in 1910.
The two great international conferences at The Hague in 1899 and in 1907 established a permanent court of arbitration and rules of procedure. They also made great progress in agreeing upon and codifying the rules of international law which this court was to administer.
There was a weakness in the system devised by The Hague Conference. It was that arbitration of these justiciable questions was not made obligatory, so that no nation could bring another before the court unless the defendant was willing to come, and there was no way to enforce a judgment.