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PREFACE. The present study of the neutrality laws of the United States has a threefold object in view: to show the traditional policy of the United States with respect to neutrality laws, to state the precise scope of those laws, and to criticise them according to the standard of international law. As an introduction to the study it was thought advisable to show the position which neutrality laws hold in the general field of international law. It is not an uncommon error to confuse municipal neutrality laws with the international law of neutrality, to mistake the legislation by which a state gives effect to its international obligations for the obligations themselves. This error has been particularly noticeable in the recent discussion concerning a resolution of Congress empowering the President to prevent the export of arms and ammunition from the United States to Mexico. The historical sketch of the several neutrality acts passed by Congress, and of the neutrality proclamations issued in accordance with them, is presented with the object of showing at once the traditional policy of the United States in framing legislation to meet its international obligations, and the changes in the law which have been brought about by the necessity of adapting it to existing conditions. The succeeding chapter states the authoritative interpretation of the present neutrality laws as determined mainly by judicial, and in part by executive, construction. In consideration of the special object in view in the preparation of this study, it was thought advisable to separate the statement of the actual restrictions imposed by the present laws from the criticism of the deficiencies of those laws, in spite of the fact that this has necessitated repetition to some slight extent. Following the criticism of the present neutrality laws is a draft of a new neutrality code embodying the results of the investigation, and introducing amendments intended to meet the deficiencies of the existing law and to bring it more in accord with the recognized obligations of the United States.
While the study is therefore, by its purpose, largely technical in character, the subject with which it deals is one of such great interest and importance as to commend itself to the attention of the general public. The neutrality laws of the United States hold a significant place in the legal and political history of the country; controversies have ranged around them, and they have more than once been the subject of sharp diplomatic discussions, while not a few of the important decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States have been based upon violations of the several neutrality acts.
Moreover, with the exception of Great Britain, no other country has enacted similar municipal legislation of so comprehensive a character, in the interest of enforcing upon its citizens and others within its jurisdiction, the observance of the duties of neutrality. Most of the continental countries have adopted certain general provisions against foreign enlistment and against acts which may compromise the neutrality of the state; but they have not thus far seen the need of enacting penal legislation of the definite and precise character of that adopted by the United States and Great Britain. It is true that in the case of the latter countries special circumstances formed the proximate occasion for the adoption of their neutrality acts; but, on the other hand, it can hardly be denied that municipal neutrality legislation, as a means of giving effect to international obligations, has been greatly neglected. In consequence of the rules relating to the rights and duties of neutral powers in land and maritime war, adopted at the Second Hague Conference of 1907 (Conventions V and XIII), it is all the more imperative that the states of the world should amend their neutrality legislation so as to enable them to meet the obligations which they have thus defined for themselves. In view of this fact, the experience of the United States may not only be of interest, but of service as well, to states contemplating the adoption of new or the amendment of existing neutrality laws.
C. G. F.
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