It is commonly asserted that the law of neutrality as it is now known is one of the comparatively recent developments of international law. It is true that it represents one of the most interesting examples of the growth of the law of nations, but its roots are deep and its basis is found in elementary principles.
In tracing its origins, one must bear in mind a limitation applicable to the history of all rules of international law. The modern international legal system is based on the theory of the coexistence of equal nations, each enjoying a wide freedom of action nebulously known as sovereignty, but each subject to international law. Before the existence of a family of equal nations there could be no international law in the present sense of the term. Altho it is necessarily arbitrary, the new régime is commonly dated from the year 1648, with its great international gatherings at Osnabrück and Münster, the Peace of Westphalia ending the Thirty Years' war, where states Catholic and Protestant, republics and monarchies, met on equal terms.
Taking 1648 as indicating a period rather than a year, we may say that in the previous centuries the international political situation negatived the possibility of an international law. This was due to the supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire, of Pope or of Emperor, the____________________