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A CHAPTER FROM THE HISTORY
North American & South American States,
FREDERICK WAYMOUTH GIBBS, C. B.
THE object of these pages is to give an account, at greater length than is possible in a Treatise on International Law, of the two cases, in which the principles have been most fully discussed that govern the Recognition, as a Sovereign State by other States, of a province or colony which has revolted from its parent State, and has erected itself into a separate community.
The first of these cases is that of the Recognition of the Independence of the United States by France in 1778; the second, that of the Recognition of the Independence of the States of Spanish America by the United States in 1822, and by England in 1825. They are the leading cases of International Law on the subject of Recognition. The first has found a place in the Causes Célèbres of Martens; the documents illustrating the second have not been collected in a separate form. In their circumstances they are widely different : but each has an interest of its own; each marks an epoch in history; and a comparison of the two will enable us to trace the progress of International Law, till its principles and practice on the subject of Recognition may be considered to have become settled. Taken together, these two cases make up a chapter from the history of the North American and South American States containing an account of the foundation of their independence, an angry correspondence and “models and master-pieces of diplomatic composition,” and the worst precedent and the best precedent of Recognition.
America is at this moment furnishing International Law with a third leading case on the same subject. The secession—for secession under a claim of constitutional right, if
resisted by the parent State, is, as far as other nations are concerned, revolt — the secession of the Confederate States has forced the question of their recognition as an independent State upon our consideration; and the consideration of that question has already produced so much discussion on the principles of Recognition, that nothing really new remains to be said. Both the precedents mentioned above have been again and again referred to. Still, though nothing new be said, the subject will continue to be discussed until—for we cannot suppose any other termination—the actual recognition of the Confederate States. Many are called upon to form an opinion, who have not access to the treatises, in which the maxims now acknowledged among nations as their guides, are stated; and still less to the sources from which those maxims are drawn. My wish is, to be of use to those who are anxious to consult the original authorities for the principles of International Law on the subject, and to learn the past policy of this country, but who have not leisure or opportunity to search the volumes of the State Papers published by the Foreign Office, Martens' Recueil, or the other sources of reference. With this view, I have put the notes of my own reading in a form available for others. They consist chiefly of passages from original documents, especially from the documents relating to the recognition of Spanish America. Should the passages appear long, it must be remembered that a passage imperfectly quoted is worse than useless as a reference. My own experience is, that there is more often reason to complain of the shortness than of the length of a quotation.
It is not for a moment supposed that precedents from the past will prove infallible guides for the future. A subsequent case seldom occurs precisely similar to a previous one. But by examining the precedents, we shall find the principles that have been established; and there can be but one opinion as to the importance of adhering strictly to those principles in practice. The influence of a country in its foreign relations depends almost wholly upon the clearness of the principles which it adopts, and the consistency with which it is known to carry them out.
Recognition is a chapter of International Law of comparatively recent introduction. The subject has grown in importtance with the expansion of the Rights and Duties of Neutrals. Consequently, the earlier text writers contain but little upon it. Recognition was in their time a step towards, or a kind of, Intervention. The measure can obviously be adopted with this view, and cannot then be distinguished from intervention. It must be interpreted according to the intention shown by the surrounding circumstances. The recognition of the revolted province may be made in such a manner, and under such circumstances, as actually to have the character of a hostile act to the mother country. Such was the recognition of the United States by France, in 1778. Again, without going so far, it may be a moral intervention. The recognition may be intended to show the sympathies of the country recognising, in favour of the revolted provinces, and thus to afford whatever moral help this expression may carry with it towards the establishment of their independence. A judgment on the merits of the dispute between the province and the mother country may thus be given, which may wound the susceptibilities of the latter, without amounting to an act of hostility. But neither of these courses can be called absolute neutrality.
The discussions of the earlier writers took the direction thus mentioned, because their attention was turned to the circumstances which justify intervention. The precedents before them were those of actual or moral intervention. Vattel wrote with · the example of William of Orange before his eyes. His remarks, from which subsequent writers have borrowed, are not very clear or consistent; but they show the degree of distinctness which the law had attained, and the propositions established at the time of the publication of his book. In the first place, he states the conditions justifying intervention, and adds
“ Whenever, therefore, matters are carried so far as to produce “ a civil war, foreign powers may assist that party which appears “ to them to have justice on its side. He who assists an odious
tyrant,-he who declares for an unjust and rebellious people, “ violates his duty. But when the bands of the political society