AMERICAN DIPLOMACY. It may be justly claimed that the United States, in its brief existence as a nation, has exercised a greater influence in the same period in molding international law than any other nation ; and it has done much to raise the standard of diplo matic practice. From the beginning it has stood as the champion of a freer commerce, of respect for neutral and private property in war and of the most elevated ideas of national rights and justice.
When the .United States entered the family of nations, there existed a marked contrast be tween the state of law which controlled the rights and intercourse of nations and that which enforced the rights and duties of the individual inhabitants of the respective nations. The civil law, which was in force in most of the countries of continental Europe and their colonies, was the accepted product of the ripened experience of many centuries of Roman jurisprudence. The common law which prevailed in England and its colonies had been brought into an estab lished system through the careful study and practical application of successive generations of renowned jurists. But the law of nations was then in its infancy. Only one century had passed since Grotius, who has been styled the father of international law, had compiled his treatise on the 'Rights of War and Peace' ; and • Vattel had but recently published his of Nations,' and the principles he enumerated were far from being an accepted code. Inter national law was still in a formative state when the United States began its career. The latter had scarcely entered upon its organized life when the wars consequent upon the French Revolution forced it to consider its rights and duties as a neutral power. It soon learned that there were no established principles which warring nations respected. In referring to its early history, a Secretary of State in 1853 said to the British Minister of Foreign Affairs: aFrom the breaking out of the wars of the French Revolution to the year 1812, the United States knew the law of nations only as the victim of its systematic violation by the great maritime powers of Europe." The first effort on its part toward the main tenance of international rules of conduct was in President Washington's neutrality proclama tion of 1793, which, within less than a genera tion, brought about a complete change on this important subject. The proclamation was a
simple announcement of the neutral attitude of the government, and a warning to American citizens to observe it. But the significance of the act was in the strict impartiality of its enforcement, and the resulting legislation of Congress, which became a model for all other nations.
The power of the President to issue such a proclamation based solely upon the principles of international law, without any domestic leg islation respecting offenses against neutrality, was seriously questioned, and in 1794 an act was passed defining what were offenses against neu trality and affixing penalties therefor. During the revolt of the Spanish-American colonies so much trouble was occasioned thereby to the United States authorities that the law was care fully revised in 1818, and it has since practically remained unaltered. Hall, one of the latest English authorities on international law, says: ((The policy of the United States in 1793 con stitutes an epoch in the development of the usages of neutrality. . . . It represented by far the most advanced existing opinions as to what the obligations [of neutrality] were. . . . In the main it is identical with the standard of conduct which is now adopted by the com munity of nations." The American colonies, in assuming their independence, established a diplomatic service similar to that of the European countries and it has continued to be so maintained. But the question has often been raised in and out of Congress whether, in the existing conditions of the world, the system is necessary and its util ity justifies its expense. With many in the country the diplomatic service is regarded as a purely ornamental branch of the government and its maintenance a useless expenditure of public money. But whenever the question has been made the subject of inquiry by Congress, the various Presidents and Secretaries of State have given their opinions in favor of the utility and necessity of the service, and Congress has continued to authorize it ; and it has come to he accepted as a permanent branch of the gov ernment.