Economic Foreign Policy of the United States

By Benjamin H. Williams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE DUE PROCESS DOCTRINE

Within recent years the protests of the Department of State against laws which have an allegedly confiscatory effect upon American holdings have given promise of the development of a doctrine of great importance in the relations between the United States and the countries of Latin America. The statement that American property should not be confiscated is so simple in itself and so apparently just that it would present little opportunity for comment were it not for the fact that the doctrine is capable of much interpretation and expansion under precedents which are amply furnished in American jurisprudence. The clearest parallel to the anti-confiscation doctrine is to be found in the clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States which, respectively, prohibit the federal and state governments from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The significance of the "due process" clauses lies in their enormous expansibility which has enabled the courts to apply them to legislation which affects property adversely and, in the eyes of the court, unreasonably, even if such applications were. infinitely remote from the conception in the minds of those who placed the clauses in the Constitution. The Department of State, in determining the question of what is confiscation of American property, will find many analogies in American judicial decisions and will, accordingly, discover in such decisions a bountiful array of precedents for interpretative expansion. The doctrine is now in the earliest stages of what may ultimately become a grand Fourteenth Amendment for Latin America.1

____________________
1
For articles discussing the difficulty of imposing the above-described doctrine upon other nations see BORCHARD E. M. "How Far Must We Protect Our Citizens Abroad?" New Republic, Apr. 13, 1927, p.214; LIPPMANN WALTER "Vested Rights and Nationalism in Latin America," Foreign Affairs, April, 1927, p. 353; WARREN CHARLES "What is Confiscation?" Atlantic Monthly, August, 1927, p. 246; BULLINGTON JOHN P., "Problems of International Law in the Mexican Constitution of 1917," Am. Jour. International Law, October, 1927, p. 685.

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