INTERNATIONAL LAW is divided into public international law and private inter national law. 1. Public International Law, or the law of nations, consists of those rules which independent nations agree among themselves to be just and fair in regulating their dealings with each other in times of war and peace. The mode in which tkey arrive at this common understanding of what is just and fair, is by comparing the opinions of text-writers who profess to set forth and collect the general opinion of civilized nations, for all these writers appeal ultimately to the principles of natural reason and common sense, as the test of what they profess to be the proper rule. Treaties of peace, alliance, and commerce also define and modify the existing international law as between the contracting parties. The decisions of prize-courts, which profess to proceed on principles of natural justice, of universal application, are also declarations of this inter national -law. The leading doctrines thus adopted are as follows: A sovereign state is one which governs itself independently of foreign powers. In the event of a civil war in one nation, other nations may remain indifferent spectators, and treat the ancient government as sovereign, and the government de facto as entitled to the rights of war against its enemy. If the foreign state profess neutrality, it is bound to allow impartially to both belligerent parties the free exercise of those rights which war gives to piddle enemies against each other, such as the right of blockade, and of capturing contraband and enemy's property. Where a colony or province asserts its independence, and has shown its ability to maintain this independence, the recognition of its sovereignty by other foreign states is a question of policy and prudence only; but until acknowledged, courts of justice and private individuals are bound to consider the ancient state of things as remaining unaltered. When a change occurs in the person of the sovereign, or in the internal constitution of a state, all treaties made by such state which were not personal to the former sovereign, continue to be binding on the succeeding sovereign.
All sovereign states arc, in the eye of international_ law, on is footing of equality. Each state has the right to require the military service of its own people for purposes of self-defense, and to develop all its resources in the manner it thinks fit, so long as it does not interfere with the same equal rights of other nations. When, however, one state unduly aggrandizes itself, and augments its military and naval forces beyond what all the other states consider proportioned to its position, then those other states have some ground to interfere. This, however, is considered a delicate business, and not to be attempted rashly; and it is difficult to define what is a just ground of interference. The
acquisition of colonies and dependencies has never been considered a just motive for such interference. According to Wheaton (International Law, 88, 6th ed.), interferences to preserve the balance of power have been generally confined to prevent a sovereign, already powerful, from incorporating conquered provinces into his territory, or increas ing a dictatorial influence over the councils and conduct of•other independent states. Trie aversion to interference has no doubt in modern times, become stronger and stronger; and it may he taken to be now almost an axiom, that no foreign state has any just ground of interfering in what is merely an internal revolution of a state, or a mode of readjusting its own constitution; in short, each state ought to be allowed to manage its own internal affairs, and to choose whatever form of government best suits the people, for the exercise of this right can, in general, nowise affect other states.
Each state has the natural right to make its own laws regulating the property and status of all the subjects within its territory. On the high seas, both the public and private vessels of every nation are subject to the jurisdiction of the state to which they belong. Offenses there committed against its own municipal laws give to the state to which the vessels belong jurisdiction; but no right of visitation and search belongs to a nation in time of peace, though piracy and other offenses against the law of nations. being crimes not against any particular nation, but against all mankind, may be punished by any state in which the offenders can be found. The traffic in slaves is, however, not clas4ed with piracy by the law of nations, though nations may declare it to be so as, regards their own subjects; and they may also enter into a compact as to that matter, as has been done by Great Britain with other nations. With regard to crimes and their punishment, though each state will punish all crimes by whomsoever committed, if committed within its own territory, and also all crimes committed in its public and private vessels on the high seas, or in a foreign port; likewise all crimes, wherever com mitted. by one of its own subjects, yet it cannot arrest one of its own citizens if he is within the territory of another state; to do so would be an invasion of the municipal law of that state; hence it can 'only arrest its criminals in foreign states by the leave of such state, and such state is not bound to accede to such a request. Hence arises the expe diency of two states entering into an extradition treaty, by which they bind themselves to give up to each other criminals who have committed certain specified offenses.