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"In the course of the last twenty years the aspirations for a general pacification have become strongly impressed upon the minds of civilized nations. The preservation of peace has been set up as the end of international politics; it is in its name that the great powers have formed powerful alliances with one another; it is for the better guarantee of peace that they have developed, to proportions hitherto unknown, their military forces, and that they shall continue to augment them without hesitating on account of any sacrifice whatever. "All these efforts have not, however, yet accomplished the beneficent results of the much-wished-for pacification.
The ever-increasing financial expense touches public prosperity at its very source; the intellectual and physical powers of the people, labor and capital, are, in a great measure, turned aside from their natural functions and consumed unproductively. Hundreds of millions are used in acquiring fearful engines of destruction, which, to-day considered as the highest triumph of science, are destined to-morrow to lose all their value because of some new discovery in this sphere.
“It is true also that as the armaments of each power increase in size they succeed less and less in accomplishing the result which is aimed at by the governments. Economic crises, due in great part to the existence of excessive armaments, and the constant dangers which result from this accumulation of war material, makes of the armed peace of our day an overwhelming burden which it is more and more difficult for the people to bear. It therefore seems evident that, if this state of affairs continues it will inevitably lead to that very cataclysm which we are trying to avoid, and the horrors of which are fearful to human thought.
"To put an end to these increasing armaments, and to find means for avoiding the calamities which menace the entire world, that is the supreme duty which to-day lies upon all nations.
"Impressed with this sentiment, His Majesty the Emperor has deigned to command me to propose to all the governments who have duly accredited representatives at the imperial court the holding of a conference to consider this grave problem.
"This conference will be, with the help of God, a happy augury for the century which is about to open. It will gather together into a powerful unit the efforts of all the powers which are sincerely desirous of making triumphant the conception of a universal peace. It will at the same time strengthen their mutual harmony by a common consideration of the principles of equity and right, upon which rest the security of states and the well-being of nations. "CTE. MOURAVIEFF.
"ST. PETERSBURG, August 12, 1898.
"(New style August 24.)"
Translation of a circular note, a copy of which was handed by Count
The contents of the note were summarized by Mr. Hitchcock in a telegram
"ST. PETERSBURG, December 30, 1898. "MR. AMBASSADOR: When, during the month of August last, my August Master ordered me to propose to the governments who had accredited representatives in St. Petersburg the meeting of a conference for the purpose of seeking the most efficient means of assuring to all peoples the benefits of a real and lasting peace, and above all to place a limit upon the progressive development of existing armaments, nothing seemed opposed to the realization in the comparatively near future of this humanitarian project.
"The welcome reception accorded to the measure of the Imperial Government by almost all the powers can but justify this hope. Appreciating fully the sympathetic manner in which the adhesion of almost all the governments has been expressed, the imperial cabinet has at the same time received with the liveliest satisfaction the evidences of hearty assent which have been addressed to it, and which do not cease to arrive from all classes of society of the different parts of the world.
"Notwithstanding the great current of opinion which has been produced in favor of a general pacification, the political horizon has sensibly changed in its aspect recently. Several powers have proceeded with new armaments, enforcing additional increase of their military forces, and in the presence of this uncertain situation one might be led to ask whether the present moment is opportune for an international discussion of the ideas set forth in the circular of August 12-24.
"Hoping, however, that the elements of trouble which agitate the political world will soon give place to a calmer order of things and one of a nature to encourage the success of the proposed conference, the Imperial Government for its part is of the opinion that it will be possible to proceed at once with a preliminary exchange of ideas among the powers with a view
"(a) Of seeking without delay for means of placing a limit upon the progressive increase of land and naval armaments, a question
which plainly is becoming more and more urgent in view of the new increase of these armaments; and
“(b) To prepare the way for a discussion of the questions relating to the possibility of preventing armed conflicts by the pacific means at the disposition of international diplomacy.
“In case the powers consider the present moment favorable for the meeting of a conference on these bases, it certainly will be useful for the cabinets to agree among themselves upon the subject of a programme of its work.
"The themes to submit to an international discussion at the actual conference might generally be summed up in the following manner:
"1. An understanding stipulating the nonincrease for a fixed term of the present effectives of land and naval forces, as well as of the war budgets relating thereto; a preliminary study of the manner in which there might be even realized in the future a reduction of the effectives and the budgets above mentioned.
"2. Interdiction of the putting into use in armies and navies of any new firearms whatever, and of new explosives, as well as more powerful powders than those now adopted, as well for guns as for cannon. "3. Limitation of the use in land campaigns of explosives of great power already in existence, and the prohibition against the throwing of all projectiles and explosives from balloons, or by similar means.
4. The interdiction of the use in naval wariare of submarine torpedo boats or plungers, or other engines of destruction of the same nature; engagement not to build in the future war vessels with rams.
"5. The adaptation to naval warfare of the stipulations of the Geneva convention of 1864, upon the basis of the additional articles of 1868.
"6. Revision of the declaration in regard to the laws and customs of war, elaborated in 1874 by the Brussels conference and still remaining unratified.
7. The acceptance in principle of the usage of good offices, of mediation, and of optional arbitration for such cases as lend themselves to it, with a view of preventing armed conflicts between nations; an understanding upon the subject of their mode of application, and the establishment of a uniform code of practice in their use.
"It is clearly understood that all questions concerning the political relations of states, and of the established order of things by treaty, as, in general, all questions which do not enter directly into the programme adopted by the cabinets, ought to be absolutely excluded from the deliberations of the conference.
"In addressing to you, Mr. Ambassador, the request to have the goodness to obtain the instructions of your Government upon the subject of my present communication, I would ask you at the same time to bring to its notice that in the interest of the great cause
which lies so near the heart of my August Master, His Imperial Majesty considers that it would be well for the conference not to meet in the capital of one of the great powers, where there are concentrated so many political interests, which might perhaps react against the progress of a work in which are interested in a like degree all the countries of the world.
Circular note, handed by Count Mouravieff to Mr. Hitchcock, amb. to
The programme of The Hague conference, embodied in the Russian circular of Dec. 30, 1898, contained the following article:
"8. Acceptance, in principle, of the use of good offices, mediation, and voluntary arbitration, in cases where they are available, with the purpose of preventing armed conflicts between nations; understanding in relation to their mode of application and establishment of a uniform practice in employing them."
"The eighth article, which proposes the wider extension of good offices, mediation and arbitration, seems likely to open the most fruitful field for discussion and future action. The prevention of armed conflicts by pacific means,' to use the words of Count Mouravieff's circular of December 30, is a purpose well worthy of a great international convention, and its realization in an age of general enlightenment should not be impossible. The duty of sovereign states to promote international justice by all wise and effective means is only secondary to the fundamental necessity of preserving their own existence. Next in importance to their independence is the great fact of their interdependence. Nothing can secure for human government and for the authority of law which it represents so deep a respect and so firm a loyalty as the spectacle of sovereign and independent states, whose duty it is to prescribe the rules of justice and impose penalties upon the lawless, bowing with reverence before the august supremacy of those principles of right which give to law its eternal foundation.
"The proposed conference promises to offer an opportunity thus far unequaled in the history of the world for initiating a series of negotiations that may lead to important practical results. The longcontinued and widespread interest among the people of the United States in the establishment of an international court, as evidenced in the historical résumé attached to these instructions as Annex A, gives assurance that the proposal of a definite plan of procedure by this Government for the accomplishment of this end would express the desires and aspirations of this nation. The delegates are, therefore, enjoined to propose, at an opportune moment, the plan for an inter
national tribunal, hereunto attached as Annex B, and to use their influence in the conference in the most effective manner possible to procure the adoption of its substance or of resolutions directed to the same purpose. It is believed that the disposition and aims of the United States in relation to the other sovereign powers could not be expressed more truly or opportunely than by an effort of the delegates of this Government to concentrate the attention of the world upon a definite plan for the promotion of international justice.”
Instructions to the American delegates to The Hague Conference, April 18, 1899, For. Rel. 1899, 511, 512-513.
While much interest was shown in the discussions of the first great committee of the conference, and still more in those of the second, the main interest of the whole body centered more and more in the third. It was felt that a thorough provision for arbitration and its cognate subjects is the logical precursor of the limitation of standing armies and budgets, and that the true logical order is first arbitration and then disarmament.
"As to subsidiary agencies to arbitration, while our commission contributed much to the general work regarding good offices and mediation it contributed entirely, through Mr. Holls, the Plan for special mediation' which was adopted unanimously, first by the committee and finally by the conference.
"As to the 'Plan for international commissions of inquiry,' which emanated from the Russian delegation, our commission acknowledged its probable value and aided in elaborating it, but added to the safeguards against any possible abuse of it, as concerns the United States, by our declaration of July 25, to be mentioned hereafter.
"The functions of such commission are strictly limited to the ascertainment of facts, and it is hoped that both by giving time for passions to subside and by substituting truth for rumor they may prove useful at times in settling international disputes. The commission of inquiry may also form a useful auxiliary both in the exercise of good offices and arbitration.
"As to the next main subject, the most important of all under consideration by the third committee-the plan of a permanent court or tribunal-we were also able, in accordance with our instructions, to make contributions which we believe will aid in giving such a court dignity and efficiency.
"On the assembling of the conference the feeling regarding the establishment of an actual permanent tribunal was evidently chaotic, with little or no apparent tendency to crystallize into any satisfactory institution. The very elaborate and in the main excellent proposals relating to procedure before special and temporary tribunals, which were presented by the Russian delegation, did not at first con