The average citizen pays little attention to International Law because it seems so remote from his day-by-day living. When he has given it a thought he has assumed that the State Department, our ambassadors or some alphabetical branch of the government made sure that we were conforming to International Law somewhat as a traffic policeman prevents left-hand turns at points of congestion or arrests a drunken driver for striking down a pedestrian. But when this same citizen reads that diving fighter planes deliberately turn machine guns on hospitals and refugees, he wonders what is wrong with International Law or if indeed there is such a thing. The statesman vainly appeals to what he thinks are its principles and teachings. The professor instructs his students as to happenings of the past, and, instead of treating them simply as events, declares that their existence shows what International Law is. His reliance is upon what is known as "positive" law and he denies the existence of "natural" law, usually without fully understanding the meaning of the term.
Confronting this state of confusion, existing eighteen years ago as now, the writer published "Democracy's International Law." This work was reprinted for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and, at the instance of Professor Édouard Lambert, of the University of Lyons, it was translated into French and published at Paris under the title of "Le Droit International de la Democratie." "Democracy's International Law" comprised a number of addresses delivered by the author before various Peace Societies and some other writings, with additions touching the general subject of International Law designed to connect up the different topics. In a general way the whole constituted an independent examination into the claims of International Law to be considered as a science. The conclusions then reached have broadened and deepened with reflection and the passage of years, and have now brought about the production of the present volume. Recent governmental actions, particularly but not exclusively of the totalitarian states, have obstructed a fair view of the bases of the laws governing the relations between national states. This obscurity cannot be more than momentary, historically speaking, and soon will arise a real necessity for determining the relations of nations upon a foundation of right. How settlement can be effected if peace is to be a permanent state, it is the purpose of this book to indicate, at least in part.
In the preparation of this book I am greatly indebted to Harry T. Newcomb, of New Preston, Conn., for valued criticism and suggestion, and at every point to the aid of my wife, Opal V. Ralston.
Palo Alto, Calif. JACKSON H. RALSTON.