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Lecture on Military Government

Military government, or as it is frequently called, the law of hostile occupation, is the military power exercised by a belligerent over the inhabitants and property of an enemy's territory, occupied by him. This definition covers cases of rebellion as well as foreign wars.

Ceded Territory

When a conquered territory is ceded to the conqueror, military government continues until civil government is established by the new sovereign. The military government exercised by the United States in Porto Rico is an example of this.

Colonial Governments

Colonial governments have their beginnings in military government which frequently continues for many years. When the civil functions are turned over to a civil governor, viceroy, or a commission, the general principles of military government often continue to apply. Canada and Australia, while colonies, are in no sense under military government, but India, while it has thousands of civil officials, is as much under military government as it was one hundred years ago. The Philippines and Porto Rico have passed from the military to the practically self-governing stage. The study of colonial governments is exceedingly valuable to an officer intrusted with the duties of civil affairs. In such governments


after the period of rebellion has ceased, the laws of war no longer operate, but the general principles underlying military government remain.

Neutral States

Armies, operating in neutral or even allied countries, may be compelled to administer some of the functions of military government, especially the establishment of military tribunals. Japan, in the Russo-Japanese War, established a quasi-military government in Manchuria, a neutral country, and in Korea, an allied country. The United States, in the Great World War, exercised none of the functions of military government in France or Belgium, but did in Luxembourg, a neutral country.

The entire Army of Occupation, eight divisions, passed through the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and two more were billetted there. The display of force was so overpowering that any thought of opposition on the part of the inhabitants vanished, if it ever existed. The officials of the Grand Duchy co-operated in every way with the Americans. Offenders against the army were arrested by Luxembourg police, tried and punished by Luxembourg courts and all to the satisfaction of the army.

Claims for damages against our army were submitted to a board of Luxembourg officials before coming before our R. R. & C. Commissions.

Every request made upon the government of the Grand Duchy was complied with willingly, save one. The government had ordered a plebiscite to decide upon an economic alliance with either France or Belgium. The Peace Commission did not wish this election held until the peace had been agreed upon. The Minister of State declined to postpone the plebiscite until told that, if he did not, the American


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troops would stop the election. It was postponed indefinitely and the splendid feeling of good will and mutual respect that existed between the government of Luxembourg and the people on one side and the American Army on the other is a high testimonial alike to the good sense of the Luxembourgeoise and the American officers and soldiers.


Under the old Roman law mandates were instructions which the emperor addressed to public functionaries. Under the common law a mandate was a service performed gratuitously. The term is used in the Covenant of the League of Nations to denote the government to be exercised over "those colonies and territories which as a consequence of the late war have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them and which are inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world." (Article 22.)

Reservation No. 4 to the Treaty of Versailles provides that:

"No mandate shall be accepted by the United States under Article 22, Part 1, or any other provision of the treaty of peace with Germany, except by action of the Congress of the United States."

In every case the mandatory shall make an annual report to the Council of the League and the degree of control, authority or administration to be exercised shall be explicitly defined by the council, if not previously agreed upon by the members of the league.


Military government is a branch of international law, and its sanctions are the sanctions of that law.


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