Article I

The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.

Article II

The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.

BY a record making vote -- 85 ayes, 1 nay, 9 absent -- the Senate on January 15, 1929, did advise and consent to the United States Government's execution of the multilateral treaty for the renunciation of war, of which the essence is contained in the two articles standing at the head of this page. This result came at the close of a discussion distinguished by an obvious desire to make it clear that while the body yielded to an imperative public demand for the approval of the treaty, many of those who voted for it believed that it was a futile and even a foolish gesture, which could have no practical value. The fact that, immediately following the vote, the Senate proceeded to the consideration of a bill authorizing the construction of fifteen cruisers, to which a large number of Senators obviously were committed, accentuated their lack of conviction in the reality of the peace treaty, and a willingness that that august body should appear like the temple of Janus, with two heads -- one contemplating peace and the other smiling at war!

THE DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENCE

As it reached the Senate, the treaty -- known colloquially as the Briand-Kellogg Peace Treaty, or, more tersely, as the Pact of Paris -- was the product of the highest idealism of the Coolidge Administration. Its germ was contained in an offer by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. Briand, on the part of his Government, to enter into a treaty with the United States condemning recourse to war, renouncing it as an instrument of their national policy towards each other, and agreeing to submit every question of whatsoever character which might arise between them to determination by peaceful means.

Several months passed before the American Government replied to the French proposal. When it did, its counter offer went far beyond anything in M. Briand's contemplation. Mr. Kellogg wrote that it had occurred to him that the two Governments, instead of contenting themselves with a bilateral declaration of the nature suggested by M. Briand, might make a more signal contribution to world peace by joining in an effort to obtain the adherence of all the principal Powers of the world to a declaration renouncing war as an instrument of national policy. Such a declaration, if executed by the principal world Powers, could not but be an impressive example to all the other nations of the world, and might conceivably lead such nations to subscribe in their turn to the same instrument, thus perfecting among all the Powers of the world an arrangement heretofore suggested only as between France and the United States.[i]

This bold proposal astonished not only the French Foreign Minister, but the greater number of statesmen in our own country. At first, many thought the proposal a clever ruse to evade acceptance of M. Briand's pacifist move. Any such idea was soon dissipated, as with unyielding steadfastness of purpose Mr. Kellogg pursued his object to a successful issue.

At the outset, the French Government was hesitant in accepting Mr. Kellogg's proposal in its full scope; they expressed their willingness to accept it as applied to aggressive war. Mr. Kellogg objected to the restriction. M. Briand then explained that France was bound by the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Locarno Treaties, as well as by certain treaties of neutrality, and he feared this proposed agreement might conflict with her obligations under those conventions. The Secretary replied that the Covenant constrained none of the members of the League to make war against its will, and that the Locarno Treaties were purely defensive. He proposed that all the parties to the latter be brought in as original signatories to the new treaty, as well as any of the other states with whom France had neutrality agreements, pointing out that if any party to those agreements should make war in violation of their terms, such act would be at the same time a contravention of the peace treaty, and would free the offended Power from its obligations and leave it at liberty to defend itself.

By an identic note dated April 13, 1928, the Secretary of State transmitted the two forms of treaty proposed by himself and by M. Briand respectively, together with the correspondence which had passed between them, to the Governments of Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Japan, stating that the discussions had reached the point where it seems essential, if ultimate success is to be attained, that the British, German, Italian and Japanese Governments should each have an opportunity formally to decide to what extent, if any, any existing commitments constitute a bar to its participation with the United States in an unqualified renunciation of war.

The replies from all four Governments evidenced a willingness to accept the American proposal. The German Government expressed the belief that the binding obligation not to use war as an instrument of national policy could only serve to strengthen the fundamental idea of the Covenant of the League of Nations and of the Rhine (Locarno) Pact.

The Japanese Government understood the proposal of the United States to contain nothing that would refuse to independent states the right of self-defense, and nothing which is incompatible with the obligations of agreements guaranteeing the public peace, such as are embodied in the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Treaties of Locarno.

On her part Italy welcomed with lively sympathy this initiative and offers very willingly her cordial coöperation towards reaching an agreement.

Sir Austen Chamberlain, writing for His Majesty's Government in considerable detail, expressed the opinion, (1) that after studying the wording of Article 1 of the United States draft he did not feel that its terms excluded action which a state might be forced to take in self-defense; (2) that while he was not satisfied that if the treaty stood alone the addition of some such provision as the French note suggested, namely, an article to the effect that violation of the treaty by one of the parties should release the others from their obligations under it toward that party, would not be necessary, Mr. Kellogg's speech delivered before the American Society of International Law on April 28, 1928, had showed that he put forward for acceptance the text of the proposed treaty upon the understanding that violation of the undertaking by one party would free the remaining parties from the obligation to observe its terms in respect of the treaty-breaking state; that if it was agreed that this was the principle to apply to the case of this particular treaty, the British Government were satisfied, and would not ask for the insertion of any amendment. He said:

Means can no doubt be found without difficulty of placing this understanding on record in some appropriate manner so that it may have equal value with the terms of the Treaty itself.

Sir Austen pointed out that the point was of some importance, because of its bearing upon the obligations of the British Government under the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Locarno Treaties; that the machinery of those obligations goes somewhat further than a renunciation of war as a policy, in that they provide certain sanctions in case of a breach. Mr. Kellogg, he noted, had made it clear in the speech referred to that he had no intention that the new treaty should prevent parties to the Covenant or the Locarno Treaties from fulfilling their obligations. He made the following additional statement:

The language of Article 1, as to the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, renders it desirable that I should remind Your Excellency that there are certain regions of the world the welfare and the integrity of which constitute a special and vital interest for our peace and safety. His Majesty's Government have been at pains to make it clear in the past that interference with those regions cannot be suffered. Their protection against attack is to the British Empire a measure of self-defense. It must be clearly understood that His Majesty's Government in Great Britain accept the new treaty upon the distinct understanding that it does not prejudice their freedom of action in this respect. The Government of the United States have comparable interests any disregard of which by a foreign power they have declared that they would regard as an unfriendly act. His Majesty's Government believe, therefore, that in defining their position they are expressing the intention and meaning of the United States Government.

After these observations, Sir Austen said that his Government found nothing in their existing commitments which would prevent their hearty coöperation in this movement for strengthening the foundations of peace.

After considering this correspondence, Mr. Kellogg, on June 23, 1928, addressed an identic note to the Governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Irish Free State, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland and South Africa, reviewing the above history and recalling the fact that on April 28, 1928, he had delivered before the American Society of International Law an address in which he explained fully the construction placed by his Government upon the treaty proposed, by referring to six major considerations emphasized by France in its alternative draft treaty and prior diplomatic correspondence had with the American Government. The points so dealt with were succinctly as follows:

1. As to self-defense, the Secretary stated there was nothing in the American draft which restricted or impaired in any way the right of self-defense, a right which, he said, "is inherent in every sovereign state and is implicit in every treaty. Every nation is free at all times and regardless of treaty provisions to defend its territory from attack or invasion and it alone is competent to decide whether circumstances require recourse to war in self-defense."

2. The Secretary expressed the opinion that there is no necessary inconsistency between the Covenant and the idea of an unqualified renunciation of war.

3. As to the Treaties of Locarno, the Secretary suggested that if all the parties to these treaties became parties to the multilateral treaty there would be a double assurance that the former would not be violated by recourse to arms.

4. As to the treaties of neutrality, which had been referred to by France, the Secretary again proposed that all states parties to them be made parties to the anti-war treaty, saying that if this were done no party to the latter could attack a neutralized state without violating the treaty, and thereby automatically freeing France and the other Powers, in respect of the treaty-breaking state, from the obligations of the anti-war treaty.

5. Concerning the relations with the treaty-breaking state, the Secretary said he had already pointed out there could be no question as a matter of law "that violation of the multilateral anti-war treaty through resort to war by one party thereto would automatically release the other parties from their obligation to the treaty-breaking state."

6. As to universality, the Secretary stated that it had been the hope of the United States that the new treaty should be world wide in its application, and appropriate provision therefor was made in the draft submitted to the other Governments on April 13; that from a practical standpoint it was preferable not to postpone the coming into force of the treaty until all the nations of the world could agree upon its text and cause it to be ratified; that the coming into force among the six Great Powers of an effective antiwar treaty, and their observance thereof, would be a practical guarantee against a second world war.

The note further stated that as it appeared that by modifying the draft treaty in form, though not in substance, the points raised by other Governments could be satisfactorily met and general agreement upon the text promptly reached, the Government of the United States had decided to submit a revised draft to the fourteen other Governments now concerned in the negotiations. This draft was identical with that proposed by the United States on April 13, except that the new preamble provided that the British Dominions, India, and all parties to the Treaties of Locarno should be included among the Powers called upon to sign the treaty in the first instance, and the preamble had been revised by giving express recognition to the principle that if a state resorts to war in violation of the treaty, the other contracting parties are released from their obligations to that state under the treaty, and provision also had been made for participation in the treaty by all parties to the Treaties of Locarno, thus making it certain that resort to war in violation of these treaties would also violate the proposed treaty, and release, not only the other signatories of the Locarno Treaties, but all the other signatories to the anti-war treaty, from their obligations to the treaty-breaking state.

This communication met with cordial acceptance by all the governments addressed. Some of them took pains to express their understanding of the treaty. The Government of Canada stated that it

regards the League, with all its limitations, as an indispensable and continuing agency of international understanding and would not desire to enter upon any course which would prejudice its effectiveness --

but it hastened to add that it was

convinced that there is no conflict either in the letter, or in the spirit, between the Covenant and the multilateral pact, or between the obligations assumed under each.

The Government of the Union of South Africa, in expressing its willingness to become a party to the treaty, said it took it for granted

(a) That it is not intended to deprive any party to the proposed treaty of any of its natural right of legitimate self-defense;

(b) That a violation of any one of the parties of any of the provisions of the proposed treaty will free the other parties from obligation to observe its terms in respect of the party committing such violation; and

(c) That provision will be made for rendering it quite clear that it is not intended that the Union of South Africa by becoming a party to the proposed treaty would be precluded from fulfilling as a member of the League of Nations its obligations towards the other members thereof under the provisions of the Covenant of the League.

The Government of Belgium "noted with satisfaction" the explanations and interpretations contained in Mr. Kellogg's letter, adding that it was pleased to note that the proposed pact will maintain unimpaired the rights and obligations arising from the Covenant of the League of Nations and from the Locarno agreements, which constitute for Belgium fundamental guaranties of security.

The Governments of Poland, Australia and Czechoslovakia noted the explanations and interpretations expressed in Mr. Kellogg's letters and speech, accepted them, and stated their willingness to sign the treaty.

Sir Austen Chamberlain, writing for the British Government, expressed its satisfaction with the revised treaty, but said:

As regards the passage in my note of the 19th May relating to certain regions of which the welfare and integrity constitute a special and vital interest for our peace and safety, I need only repeat that His Majesty's Government in Great Britain accept the new treaty upon the understanding that it does not prejudice their freedom of action in this respect.

It was "in the light of the foregoing explanations," he said, that his Government was glad to join with the United States and all other governments similarly disposed, in signing the definitive treaty for the renunciation of war, in the form transmitted on June 29 by Secretary Kellogg.

But in none of Mr. Kellogg's letters, nor in his address before the American Society of International Law, was any reference made to Sir Austen's explicit reservation of British interests "in certain regions."

IN THE SENATE

The treaty in the revised form, thus commented upon and approved, was signed by the representatives of the sixteen nations in the city of Paris on August 27, 1928, and was transmitted to the Senate by President Coolidge on December 4, 1928, with the expression of his hope that it might come into force with the least possible delay. He would be pleased, he said, if the Senate would take action during the present session to enable the United States to ratify the treaty before the expiration of his term of office. In his annual message to Congress, transmitted on the same day, the President said of this treaty:

It is the most solemn declaration against war, the most positive adherence to peace, that it is possible for sovereign nations to make. It does not supersede our inalienable sovereign right and duty of national defense, or undertake to commit us before the event to any mode of action which the Congress might decide to be wise if the treaty should be broken. But it is a new standard in the world around which can rally the informed enlightened opinion of nations to prevent their Governments from being forced into hostile action by the temporary outbreak of international animosities. The observance of this covenant, so simple and so straightforward, promises more for the peace of the world than any other agreement ever negotiated among the nations.

Very few of the Senators expressed opinions in accord with the President's views. Senator Swanson said during the debate that the treaty "is a friendly gesture for peace, that as a peace pact it will be found ineffective and disappointing." Senator Fess announced that he would vote for the treaty, but he never would believe that it is a guarantee against war. The greatest result to be hoped from it, he thought, was "the augmentation of the spirit of peace as against that of war." Senator Carter Glass gave utterance to the most cynical of all expressions in connection with the matter, when he said: "I may say I intend to vote for the peace pact, but I am not willing anybody in Virginia shall think I am simple enough to suppose that it is worth a postage stamp in the direction of accomplishing permanent international peace."

The principal discussion over the treaty and most of the opposition expressed to it arose out of the correspondence between the Secretary of State and the representatives of the other Governments. Particular emphasis was laid upon the points made by Sir Austen Chamberlain in his two letters, and the absence of any reply or observation on the subject by our Department of State.

Senator Bruce attacked the treaty because of its lack of sanctions; he thought that whatever its face value might be, it had been largely destroyed by the interpretative notes that accompanied it. Yet he finally said he intended to vote for the treaty because its tendency is to substitute a peace psychology for a war psychology, to strengthen the disposition of our people to enter into closer working relations with the other peoples of the world for the preservation of international peace, and to make it easier for us than it has been in the past to devise with those other peoples proper measures for that purpose . . . because it measurably tends to draw us into the World Court and the League.

There was much discussion over the extent to which the right of self-defense -- which Secretary Kellogg had maintained was inherent in every sovereign state and implicit in every treaty -- would enable the United States to take such action as it might at any time consider necessary under the Monroe Doctrine.

Senator Swanson, referring to Mr. Kellogg's position that each Government is alone competent to decide whether circumstances require recourse to war in self-defense, said:

It should be noted that this question of self-defense is not limited to territory, but includes anything that any nation may determine is vital for its protection and self-defense. The wars excluded from the operations of this treaty by this interpretation are as limitless as the imagination or the ambition of nations may desire. . . . This interpretation, given by the Secretary of State and acquiesced in by all the signatories, permits governments desirous of engaging in war to be unrestrained by this treaty, because all they will have to do is to claim it is a war of self-defense, and the interpretations of the treaty make them alone the judge of this question.

Senator Borah, who was in charge of the measure, met this criticism by contending that the notes of the various Powers added nothing to the treaty and took nothing from it, but simply placed upon it a construction which necessarily would arise from the treaty itself. Yet he admitted, in reply to an inquiry by Senator Blaine, that if we adhered to the treaty, that action -- in the light of the British note -- would be a recognition of Great Britain's right to construe the doctrine of self-defense to apply to any territory which she conceives it necessary for her to apply it to as a matter of her own protection. He added:

We have got to leave it to each signatory to the treaty to determine for itself what is self-defense. It may construe the treaty out of all reason, and there is no one to censure it, except the public opinion of the world. I know of no way to curtail that right.

Mr. Borah might have contrasted this non possumus with the provisions in the Treaty of Mutual Guaranty, initialed at Locarno October 16, 1925. Article 5 of that Treaty provides:

Where one of the Powers referred to in Article 3, without committing a violation of Article 2 of the present treaty [the stipulation whereby each party agrees in no case to attack or invade each other or resort to war against each other] . . . refuses to submit a dispute to peaceful settlement or to comply with an arbitral or judicial decision, the other party shall bring the matter before the Council of the League of Nations, and the Council shall propose what steps shall be taken; the high contracting parties shall comply with these proposals.

In other words, by the Locarno Treaties, every contingency is envisaged. The effectiveness of the treaty does not rest upon so vague and unsubstantial a basis as that every party to it is at liberty to construe it at will, and to carry it out or not in accordance with its own sense of justice. In advance of the arising of any controversy, machinery is created for the peaceful settlement in one form or another of any character of dispute: arbitration; submission to judicial decision; conciliation; or a determination by the Council of the League of Nations; and all parties solemnly pledge themselves by the treaty to abide by the decision reached by one or the other of these means. Until the United States is prepared to buttress its covenants by agreements of this kind, even so promising and important a treaty as the Paris Pact will rest upon a somewhat unsubstantial foundation, and no one can say, except in the language of hyperbole, that such an agreement "promises more for the peace of the world than any other agreement ever negotiated among the nations."

Senator Bingham, who spoke frequently during the debate over the treaty, said that never before in his short experience in the Senate had there been such violent differences of opinion with regard to two brief paragraphs as there were with regard to the articles of this treaty, and he urged that in view of this difference of opinion it was incumbent on the body to know what the treaty really meant. There were three ways in which this could be made manifest: (1) By reservation or amendment; (2) by a resolution expressing the meaning; and (3) by having the Foreign Relations Committee present a report as to what they believed was the meaning of this treaty which they asked the Senate to ratify.

Other Senators pressed for some form of interpretative resolution or report. Senator Borah strenuously resisted this demand upon the ground that the right of self-defense, which was implicit in the treaty, and of which each nation was its own judge, was so plain as to render unnecessary any interpretative resolution or report; that the letters from the various Governments did not change the treaty in any respect, nor did they give the nations writing the letters any additional right, privilege or advantage other than that which they would have under the treaty if they had never written them. He declared the fundamental principle in the treaty to be

a solemn pledge upon the part of the nations representing now practically all the inhabitants of the earth that they will not seek other methods than peaceful methods for the settlement of their controversies. It may be said that it is not much. I think it is a stupendous fact.

Despite these views, which were shared by some of the other Senators, ratification could not be secured until Senator Borah had laid before the Senate a report from the Committee on Foreign Relations, running as follows:

The Committee reports the above treaty with the understanding that the right of self-defense is in no way curtailed or impaired by the terms or conditions of the treaty. Each nation is free at all times and regardless of the treaty provisions to defend itself, and is the sole judge of what constitutes the right of self-defense and the necessity and extent of the same.

The United States regards the Monroe Doctrine as a part of its national security and defense. Under the right of self-defense allowed by the treaty must necessarily be included the right to maintain the Monroe Doctrine, which is a part of our system of national defense.

There follows a series of quotations from Presidents Monroe and Cleveland, and others, concerning the nature of the Monroe Doctrine. After this, comes a disclaimer of the treaty committing the United States to any affirmative binding agreement which any other nation has a right to hold it to perform, in the following language:

The Committee further understands the treaty does not provide sanctions, express or implied. Should any signatory to the treaty or any nations adhering to the treaty violate the terms of the same, there is no obligation or commitment, express or implied, upon the part of any of the other signers of the treaty to engage in punitive or coercive measures as against the nation violating the treaty. The effect of the violation of the treaty is to relieve the other signers of the treaty from any obligation under it with the nation thus violating the same.

In other words, the treaty does not, either expressly or impliedly, contemplate the use of force or coercive measures for its enforcement as against any nation violating it. It is a voluntary pledge upon the part of each nation that it will not have recourse to war except in self-defense, and that it will not seek settlement of its international controversies except through pacific means. And if a nation sees proper to disregard the treaty and violate the same, the effect of such action is to take it from under the benefits of the treaty and to relieve the other nations from any treaty relationship with the said Power.

In other words, the offending nation is to be dismissed as Dogberry advised the Watch to treat a resisting offender, with the observation, "Thank God, you are rid of a villain!"

The report continues:

This treaty in no respect changes or qualifies our present position or relation to any pact or treaty existing between other nations or governments.

Having thus done their best, by explaining their understanding of the agreement which they wished to have ratified, to reduce it to the confines of a pious wish, the Committee added:

This report is made solely for the purpose of putting upon record what your Committee understands to be the true interpretation of the treaty, and not in any sense for the purpose or with the design of modifying or changing the treaty in any way or effectuating a reservation or reservations to the same.

The effect of such a report was the subject of some discussion. Senator Robinson, of Indiana, stated that he would regard it as in the nature of a reservation -- "but not such a reservation as would necessarily need to be submitted to the other signatories"!! He thought, however, that it might have the effect of a reservation as a legal proposition. "I think it would certainly be considered as the meaning placed upon the treaty by the Senate."

Other Senators desired to have the report in order that there be placed on record the interpretation which the Senate put upon the treaty, although they were unwilling to adopt either an amendment or a reservation to the treaty as executed.

Senator Walsh, of Massachusetts, expressed not only his own views but those of several others when he said that he would vote to ratify the treaty,

not because I am entirely certain that it is a real genuine movement that will materially advance the ending of war and the promotion of peace in the world, but because if the United States fail to ratify it now, in view of their participation in the international negotiations that have brought it into being, it would be misunderstood,

and the United States would be put in the position of an obstructionist to the peace movement.

So, with a wry face, the Senate yielded to the undoubted popular pressure in favor of the treaty, and authorized its execution by the President.

THE MEANING OF THE PACT

Is this simple, direct agreement, by which every state party to it renounces war as an instrument of national policy, and agrees never to seek the solution of any controversy arising between it and another signatory except by peaceable means, merely an idle gesture? Is it the mere expression of a yearning of the peoples of the earth for the unattainable? Or is it, as its language purports it to be, the most solemn of all possible undertakings to which the faith and honor of the American people are pledged?

The utterances of individual Senators and the course of the Senate in immediately after ratifying the peace treaty taking up and passing the bill for the construction of fifteen cruisers, rejecting furthermore the President's plea to require only five to be built at once, indicate that the Senate has not taken the treaty seriously. It is to be hoped they have builded better than they knew, and that as the people come to realize the extent and solemnity of the pledges made on their behalf, public opinion will assert itself and compel respect for the spirit, as well as the letter, of the Pact.

What is war as an instrument of national policy? It is the right which in the past was reserved to every nation, when it failed to achieve by peaceful means some object which it held to be necessary, or important for its happiness or prosperity, to resort to force of arms. This instrument was employed by the American Government in the war against Great Britain in 1812, to secure its freedom from encroachment upon its rights upon the high seas; it was used again in its war against Mexico, in 1846, for the extension of slave territory. Its use was threatened in the boundary dispute with England in 1842, as expressed in the slogan, "Fifty-four--forty, or fight." It was threatened again in the controversy with England over the Venezuela boundary matter in 1895. It was employed in the war against Spain in 1898, and in the Great War. The great significance of the Pact of Paris lies in the fact that we solemnly renounce war as an instrument of our national policy. It is no longer to remain in our national wardrobe, nor to be thought of as a means to the attainment of our national objectives.

It is hardly to be wondered at that Senators were insistent upon recording some interpretation of the treaty which should reserve for the United States as wide a latitude of action as Sir Austen Chamberlain had reserved for the British Government and which neither Secretary Kellogg nor any other representative of one of the negotiating governments had questioned. With all deference to Mr. Kellogg, it may well be doubted whether the terms of the treaty reasonably permit any such interpretation as that expressed in the Chamberlain notes. The policy of Great Britain towards "certain regions" and the Monroe Doctrine of the United States, are national policies of the respective nations. But the treaty renounces war as an instrument whereby such national policies may be secured or advanced. The British reservation and that implied in the report of the United States Senate, if accepted as qualifying or giving an interpretation to the treaty, plainly restrict its natural meaning and limit its effect. When there is added the claim emphasized by the Senate that each party to the treaty is the sole judge of what constitutes the right of self-defense and the necessity and extent of the same, the simple, direct pledges of the treaty are still further qualified. It was concession on these points that made the proponents of the agreement so weak in the Senatorial debate, and so seriously impaired the force of President Coolidge's statement that the observance of the treaty "promises more for the peace of the world than any other agreement ever negotiated among the nations." The Covenant of the League of Nations and the Locarno Treaties would seem far more directly to guarantee the peace of the world than the new treaty limited in its application by the "interpretations" referred to. One of the strongest objections to the Covenant made during and since the Senatorial debates in 1919, was that it did not prohibit war at all times. But as Secretary Kellogg said in his note to the Powers of June 23, 1928:

The Covenant imposed no affirmative primary obligations to go to war. The obligation, if any, is secondary, and attaches only when deliberately accepted by a state. . . . There is, in my opinion, no necessary inconsistency between the Covenant and the idea of an unqualified renunciation of war.

As construed by the British Government and by the United States Senate, the new treaty is far from being "an unqualified renunciation of war." The Covenant of the League of Nations outlaws all wars, except those sanctioned by the League Council against a State which violates the guarantees of the Covenant.

In the Locarno Treaty of Mutual Guarantee, between Germany, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Italy, there is an exception expressed to the mutual undertaking of each not to resort to war against the others, in the case of "the exercise of the right of self-defense," which is expressly defined as "resistance to a violation of the undertaking contained in" the paragraphs agreeing to maintain the status quo of the frontiers fixed by the Treaty of Versailles, and then only "if such breach constitutes an unprovoked act of aggression and by reason of the assembly of armed forces in the demilitarized zone immediate action is necessary."

In other words, the right of self-defense, by that definition, is limited to resistance to an actual or immediately threatened military attack. The possible extension of that right, by sophistical reasoning or chauvinistic assertions such as were made during the debate in the United States Senate, would be entirely removed by such a provision.

But the question remains whether the notes and the Senate report mentioned do qualify the treaty. That they should do so was undoubtedly the intention of both the British Secretary of State and of the Senators who insisted upon a Committee report. That that correspondence and the report would be read by any tribunal called upon to interpret the obligations of a party to the treaty, is beyond doubt. True, it is not what one party understands, but what all parties understood to be the matters agreed upon, which must be ascertained, and the text of the agreement when unambiguous necessarily controls. Yet, the correspondence which was submitted to and considered by all the primary parties to the treaty, and the report which was required before the necessary majority could be secured in the United States Senate, would be reviewed to show the circumstances out of which the treaty was made, and the understanding of the parties to the meaning of the convention. The greatest objection to the correspondence and the report is that they would afford popular justification to any Power bent on making war in violation of the Pact, and claiming that it was acting in self-defense.

This weakness in the Briand-Kellogg treaty accentuates the importance of strengthening and improving the existing machinery for preventing international misunderstanding and for the peaceful determination of international controversies. The two most effective agencies for that purpose are the League of Nations and the Permanent Court of International Justice; of these, incomparably the best ever devised for the purpose, as Mr. Elihu Root has testified, is the League. Senator Borah in an interview with Kirby Page, published some months ago in the New York Times, said the object of the proposed treaty was to let all of the peace machinery work and the League accomplish its beneficent purposes. In closing the debate on the treaty in the Senate, Mr. Borah again expressed this thought: "Its great purpose is to let the peace machinery of all peace plans work to realize the everlasting real aspiration of the human family."

The principal objection made to American participation in the League in the past has been that through it we might become involved in wars with which we had no actual concern. But the Pact of Paris has ruled war (except wars of defense) out of the question. The problem now is how all nations may avoid any possible violation of their sacred pledges. The great gap left by the Chamberlain notes and the Senate report can only be closed through the League of Nations. Frequent and regular conferences between the representatives of the nations, such as the League Covenant requires, afford the best means of avoiding misunderstanding. When disagreements arise, processes of conciliation, arbitration, and submission to judicial decision, are available. If the United States is to live up to the spirit as well as to the letter of the great covenant to which it has invited the world to adhere, it must be through generous and unsuspicious coöperation with other nations. This would reverse utterly the attitude of the past ten years. It cannot be expected at once. The blatant nationalism of legislators cannot be stilled merely by signing a convention which few of its members take seriously. Change will come only as the result of an informed and imperative public opinion. The American people must realize the full meaning of the treaty and compel its representatives in Congress assembled to respect and enforce it.

On the occasion of the signing of the Pact in Paris, M. Briand referred to it as the awakening of a great hope. "It will be a sacred duty for us henceforth to do everything possible and necessary," he added, "that that hope shall not be delusive. Peace proclaimed is good; it is much. But it must be organized. For solutions by force judicial solutions must be organized. That is the work of the future."

If the American people realize the full scope of the covenant that has been entered into in their name, they will visit with political infamy those who would deride their faith and violate their honor by making a mockery of its real import.

[i] For full text of pact and diplomatic correspondence see "The General Pact for the Renunciation of War," U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1928; 71 pp., 15 cents.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • GEORGE W. WICKERSHAM, former Attorney-General of the United States; member of the Commission on the Progressive Codification of International Law
  • More By George W. Wickersham