Mahan: The Life and Work of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, U.S.N.

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter XLIII Armaments and Arbitration

IN December, 1910, President Taft made an after-dinner speech which had far-reaching consequences: "If we can negotiate and put through a positive agreement with some great nation to abide the adjudication of an international arbitral court in every issue which cannot be settled by negotiation, no matter what it involves, whether honor, territory or money, we shall have made a long step forward." Sir Edward Grey made a friendly response to this suggestion in March, 1911, and negotiations for arbitration treaties were opened with Great Britain and France.

During the ensuing fight against ratification of the treaties, Lodge, Roosevelt, and Mahan were again drawn together as they had so often been before. Senator Lodge bore the brunt of the fight, for he was the only one in an official position. Mahan furnished him with arguments; and wrote a series of articles for the North American Review to prove that "neither Arbitration in a general sense nor Arbitration in the more specific form of a judicial decision can always take the place either practically or beneficially of the processes and results obtained by the free play of natural forces." He thought that there were fundamental fallacies in the belief in universal arbitration, chief among them the "looking upon war as a cause rather than an effect." People failed to recognize "the fact that force, under one form or another, underlies law itself, and that there are necessities which transcend law"; they assumed that "individual man had surrendered unreservedly his freedom of action to the commands of the law." Mahan recalled that some of the most law-abiding Americans refused to obey the Fugitive Slave Law, and he cited the

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