International Arbitration, from Athens to Locarno

By Jackson H. Ralston | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE LAW OF INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNALS

1. Natural law as applied to international situations . -- By way of preface and as conducive to a broader understanding of the subjectmatter which we design to treat, it seems well to make a few observations of a general character as to the nature of law, and particularly of law as applied by international tribunals.

Of late years we have been assured by many writers that there is no such thing as natural law, and in a sense often given the term it will be recognized, save by a very small minority, that natural law has no existence. Thus if we mean by natural law that in each instance a special providential interference determines the course of events, the vast majority of intelligent people will reject the idea. If, on the other hand, by the term we mean that certain governing principles which control the action of men in their individual relations still rule when they are aggregated into nations, the evidence in its favor seems overwhelming.

We find that in the material world all nature is under the control of law. The universe is built up by and through the laws of nature. It is argued that when we pass from the material world into the world of relations between human beings and unities of them known as nations, natural law no longer has any effect and that to speak of it stamps one as hopelessly medieval. Nevertheless, we find books regarded as sensible treating of human qualities and of the effects of their display by one human being upon another. We are taught that such display almost inevitably brings about certain reactions. These reactions are so universal as to indicate a law governing them. If this be true as to individuals considered singly or in small groups, at what point does it cease to be true as the groups enlarge their numbers? The fact is that so long as human beings are human beings, and governments and nations represent but aggregations of human beings, the whole cannot lose the basic human qualities of the units; and just as the individual is controlled by laws governing the consequences of the display of his characteristics, so are governments likewise limited.

From the beneficial or harmful results to the man or to his associates of the actions of the individual we deduce that such actions should be treated either as commendable and to be encouraged by us as in conformity with law, or injurious and to be so recognized by our declara

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