The Interpretation of Treaties

The Interpretation of Treaties

The Interpretation of Treaties

The Interpretation of Treaties

Excerpt

As a birthday present from a friend the author once received a beautiful book, on the front page of which the following message was autographed as a word of encouragement and a token of regard: "If you want a bed of roses, plant rose-bushes." Pondering over the sense of such a well-chosen verse, he could not but reflect upon the problem of interpretation, which had interested him profoundly in his study of international law. Obviously the expression is a figure of speech, having nothing to do with roses and rose-bushes as the botanists or florists commonly understand them to be. It has a special connotation other than the literal meaning; it calls for the task of interpretation.

Similarly, in the contractual stipulations between states, words and sentences are often used in a sense other than and extrinsic to the ordinary descriptions imputed by dictionaries and grammars. What is more, the moral technique of old European diplomacy, with its jungle of finesse and obliquities, often ascribes so much "neo-Latin calculation" that even the most experienced negotiators of international agreements must needs be mindful of the seriousness of Bismarck's cynical remark that he always told the truth because none believed it. Such being the case, international ills-- wars and injustices--frequently become an inevitable harvest of the crop of treaty contentions; and diplomats are at times coerced into the intricacies and intrigues of treaty- making, as well as treaty-interpreting, by virtue of the sheer prevalence of dogmatic rules from the books of bygone publicists and on account of the lack of scientific search for the true principles of interpretation.

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