Page images
PDF
EPUB

With all the energy of his youthful mind, Dr. Wurm attached himself to the classical literature of Greece and Rome-the ancient historians, poets, and orators, became his favourite companions; he acquired, at the same time, the knowledge of Hebrew-a language perfectly understood by his learned father. It seemed that our future publicist was destined to cultivate philology and history. But it was not so decreed. During his travels in Switzerland he made the acquaintance of an intelligent Englishman, Mr. Greaves, who persuaded him to go to this country, and gave him his aid in obtaining the place of tutor in a private school at Epsom. His residence in England gave another direction to the studies, and changed the ideas, of Wurm. He saw before him a practical people, endowed in the highest degree with the instinct of self-government, and enjoying the blessings of freedom. Political questions acquired now great interest in his eyes, and he returned to Hamburgh quite another man. One of his first duties was to acquaint the Germans with the social life, with the institutions, and with the literature of England. For that purpose he conducted a periodical—the Hamburgh Reporter. Some years since was undertaken by him another publication in the German language, under the name of "Critical Additions to the Hamburgh commercial paper (Borsenhalle).” During this period of his life occurred the revolution of July, in France. Its influence was felt through all the continent, and produced great excitement in the minds of the German people. The fear of a general war, and the retrograde tendencies of governments, more and more directed all the attention of Dr. Wurm to questions of public and international law, He was led to their study almost against his will, by the force of circumstances; and became attached to them, not by sudden caprice or by ambition, but by the growing importance of the subject. His position at Hamburgh gave him the best qualification, and the best opportunities, of performing the difficult task of an international jurist. In fact, it is hardly possible for an intelligent man to be indifferent to the interests of peace, of general commerce, and of navigation, after naturalizing himself in that Hanseatic city. The prosperity of Hamburgh as a free and commercial town is closely connected with the liberty of Europe, and with the stability of international law. Only in this cause can we find the explanation of a singular phenomenon, that at Hamburgh have flourished so many distinguished publicists in the 18th and 19th centuries. All these men were faithful supporters of free trade, and friends of the liberal principles of neutral commerce. Here, at Hamburgh,' appeared some sixty years ago, the curious pamphlets of “Old Busch" (as he is called) against the arbitrary prize decisions of Dr. Marriott, the piratical decrees of the French Directory, and the continental system of the Emperor Napoleon. This remarkable man, seeing the oppression of commerce during the endless revolutionary wars, consecrated all his life to the defence of international law from the tyranny of maritime powers. The Hamburgh people, in the simplicity of their merchant souls, could not appreciate the generous instinct from which the learned old man took to his heart this subject; they were surprised, and sometimes angry, at seeing his intervention in their affairs, and rendered him justice only after his death. The testimonial of their thanks is the modest monument erected to his memory at Hamburgh. Dr. Wurm was a great admirer of Professor Busch, and became one of his ardent followers. Both in the same degree, and with the same devotion to their cause, fought for freedom of commerce, contributed to the prosperity of Hamburgh, and, as far as they could, promoted its interests. There is, however, some difference between them. Generally speaking, Busch was less prepared for the duties of a publicist: in his pamphlets appear rather the qualities of a generous patriot than of an historian or a diplomatist. On the contrary, the works of Dr. Wurm exhibit the most thorough comprehension of European policy, and a vast erudition. In reading these works we come to the conclusion that the author had the talents of a great statesman. His knowledge of the diplomatic history of Europe can hardly be equalled; he surpassed in it many, if not all the publicists of our age. No important precedent escaped his careful research; he observed the fuc

[ocr errors]

tuations of international policy with wonderful accuracy and attention. If he was deficient in abstract reasoning, he excelled on the other side in practical sense, and in appreciation of facts. It would be difficult to sustain with him a polemic on this field.

Professor Wurm never undertook to write a comprehensive work on international law. All his contributions to this science consist of essays or treatises on various subjects, written chiefly for German periodicals. They embrace many important questions of peace and war, and give the most valuable information on the state of international law in the present century. I will enumerate here the principal or the best of them, and indicate where they are to be found, because, unfortunately, they are not yet collected. He contributed to the Political Dictionary (Staatslexicon) of Rotteck and Welcker, two essays on prize law and reprisals; to the Political Review of Tübingen university (Zeitschrift für die gesammte Staatswissenschaft), a series of articles on the state and application of international law during the war between Denmark and Germany, and an essay on the rank and precedence of diplomatic agents; to the German Quarterly Review (Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift), a treatise on international commerce, his last work on special reprisals (September, 1858), and many others. Of the pamphlets published by him separately, the most remarkable are on the Sound dues and Stade dues, which essays are published in the blue books of the House of Commons; two series of letters on the Danubian question (1855, 1858, Leipzig), the diplomatic history of the TurcoRussian war, and the memoirs or letters addressed to Lord John Russell on the law of neutral commerce, and to Lord Palmerston on the Schleswig-Holstein question. I do not mention here his numerous works on German affairs, as they have a more local importance.

From this enumeration we see what a laborious life was his ; the learned professor never ceased to work; even during his illness, not being able to write, he dictated to his wife. Many valuable works he left unfinished, and among them a history of England from 1815, a sketch of the treaties relating to the

a

K

slavetrade, an essay on mediation and arbitration, and per-. haps others. It would be worth while to publish all these posthumous papers ; undigested as they are, they would be of great use for future inquirers, and particularly for an historian of international law, to whom they would furnish a precious collection of facts and precedents.

It would be too long to give a detailed account of each of the works of Professor Wurm. I have no intention to criticise them here ; but I should add a few words to their general characteristics, given before. I have said that the chief merit of Dr. Wurm consisted in his knowledge of diplomatic history. This knowledge served him as the best guide in treating international law. He gave no peculiar attention to theory ; his illustrations are eminently practical. We can say, without exaggeration, that he gave the initiative and a great impulse to the study of state papers, and laid the foundation of a modern school of publicists different from the former. In another paper, read before this society, I treated of the works of Professor Martens, and said what influence they had on international jurisprudence. The method of Martens degenerated in process of time into the mere compilation of treaties, and led to the decay of the scientific spirit. Professor Wurm, by his works, accomplished a great and beneficial change in this respect, and, we may say, restored to the science its former dignity. Standing on practical ground, he never contented himself, like the successors of Martens, with the statement of facts, but appreciated their historical value with critical judgment. It is true that he seldom arrived at philosophical results, but this circumstance cannot diminish his merits in our eyes. If he did not lay down principles, he certainly aided in elaborating them. Thus he solved a part of the scientific problem, and left the other to political philosophers.

As I said before, Dr. Wurm possessed the qualities of an eminent publicist, and was better prepared for his task than many others of the same profession. With profound erudition in history and general literature, he combined great knowledge of European languages - English, Dutch, and

French were quite familiar to him ; he read with facility Italian, Spanish, Danish, and Swedish books. In his library I found almost all valuable publications upon international law, diplomatic documents, pamphlets, and some manuscripts of historical value; in a word, his library was as an international observatory, from which he observed with wonderful impartiality and acuteness all the phenomena of diplomacy, all the events and occurrences of the world. His correspondence with some statesmen gave him useful information from many countries. He followed the movements of cabinets, and knew some secrets and intrigues hardly known to any other publicist. I was struck by his energy and vigilance ; he knew no fatigue, and watched carefully the interests of Europe and of civilisation.

Professor Wurm contributed to the science of international law, not only by his works, but also by his lectures. He selected every year some important subject of European policy, and delivered his opinions upon it before the Hamburgh public. I attended several of these lectures, and feel it my duty to say that they were as instructive as full of interest. The oratorical powers of Dr. Wurm were very considerable; it is true that his voice was not strong; but it is no less true that he spoke with talent and with animation. His style was as clear in speech as in writing. During the last the subject of his lectures was the history of British domination in India.

i could speak a longer time of this remarkable man. His talents were so great, his knowledge was so extensive, the charm of his conversation so uncommon, that we can apply to him the words of the poet-" Age could not wither him, nor custom stale his infinite variety."

But as I proposed to myself to give but a short sketch of his scientific life, and to render justice to his eminent works on international law, I shall conclude with a few remarks. Io studying the biography of almost all the men who have given a great impulse to this science, we find that they were less appreciated by their contemporaries than they deserved, and often were persecuted for their opinions. Even pos

year,

« EelmineJätka »