Courtesy Reuters

Trusteeship Aspirations

THE conception that more advanced Powers have a special duty for the welfare of backward peoples is very old. It has been evolving since the end of the fifteenth century, when Queen Isabella of Spain spoke out on behalf of exploited Indians in Central and South America. In 1783, Edmund Burke, shocked by tales of tyranny and corruption in India, defined the power which British traders had acquired there as a "trust," to be exercised for the welfare of the Indian people. During the past 150 years, that objective, sometimes obscured, has been often reaffirmed, and India is now at the threshold of nationhood.

Britain is supremely indebted to America for the painful lesson of the War of Independence which quickened to birth the new imperial doctrine of moral responsibility, stimulated the abolition of the slave trade, and roused men's consciences to the rights of colonial peoples. The United States again set the banner forward when, in 1900, the Philippine Islands were described as "an unsought trust which should be unselfishly discharged." The first phase of that great undertaking came to an end with the proclamation of the Philippines Republic and the inauguration of a partnership between the two countries, based on treaty.

The mandates system, set up by Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant after the First World War, for the first time imposed external limitation on the sovereign powers of national states holding responsibility for backward peoples under the League. Enthusiasm for the "self-determination" principle, embodied in President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points, undoubtedly gave much impulse to the establishment of the new system.

The mandates system was not a great success. Attacks were soon launched against the principles on which it was based, and in particular against the idea of self-determination. There were many, however, who held that the system did not go far enough; that noble aims and high ideals for the liberation of slave races had been frustrated at the council table; that the "race equality" principle, valiantly advocated

Loading, please wait...

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.