Essays for the Presidency
A Century's Worth of Candidates and Their Advisers Make Their Cases
Rebooting Republican Foreign Policy
Needed: Less Fox, More Foxes
Getting the GOP's Groove Back
How to Bridge the Republican Foreign Policy Divide
The Clinton Legacy
How Will History Judge the Soft-Power Secretary of State?
Renewing American Leadership
Rising to a New Generation of Global Challenges
Reengaging With the World
A Return to Moral Leadership
Toward a Realistic Peace
Defending Civilization and Defeating Terrorists by Making the International System Work
Security and Opportunity for the Twenty-first Century
An Enduring Peace Built on Freedom
Securing America's Future
A New Realism
A Realistic and Principled Foreign Policy
America's Priorities in the War on Terror
Islamists, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan
Bridges, Bombs, or Bluster?
A Strategy of Partnerships
Foreign Policy for a Democratic President
Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest
Campaign 2000: A Republican Foreign Policy
Campaign 2000: New World, New Deal: A Democratic Approach to Globalization
A Republican Looks at Foreign Policy
A Democrat Looks at Foreign Policy
America's First Post-Cold War President
A Republican Looks at Foreign Policy
A Democrat Looks at Foreign Policy
The 1988 Election: U.S. Foreign Policy at a Watershed
American Foreign Policy: The Bush Agenda
The 1988 Election
Foreign Policy and the American Character
After the Election: Foreign Policy Under Reagan II
The First Term: From Carter to Reagan
The First Term: Four More Years: Diplomacy Restored?
The First Term: The Reagan Road to Détente
Beyond Détente: Toward International Economic Security
For a New Policy Balance
The End of Either/Or
Asia After Viet Nam
Policy and the People
The Presidency and the Peace
Two Years of the Peace Corps
U.S. Policy in Latin America
A Democrat Looks at Foreign Policy
Putting First Things First
A Democratic View
The Senate in Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy in Presidential Campaigns
Korea in Perspective
November 1952: Imperatives of Foreign Policy
The Challenge to Americans
The Foreign Policy of the American Communist Party
The Promise of Human Rights
Our Sovereignty: Shall We Use It?
European Legislation for Industrial Peace
Labor Under the Nazis
The Permanent Bases of American Foreign Policy
Political Factors in American Foreign Policy
Some Foreign Problems of the Next Administration
Our Foreign Policy
A Republican View
Our Foreign Policy
A Democratic View
The Senate and Our Foreign Relations
Foreign Relations of the United States, 1921-1924
American Foreign Policy: a Democratic View
American Foreign Policy: a Republican View
American Foreign Policy: a Progressive View
After the Election
WITH the assembling of Congress at Washington, speculation is rife concerning the foreign policy which shall be recommended by President Coolidge and adopted by Congress; or rather, by the Senate, for the latter body since the consideration and rejection of the Peace Treaty of Versailles practically has assumed to control not merely the ratification but even the negotiation of treaties. This control, although in defiance of the practice and the declared principles of a century or more of constitutional government, was acquiesced in by President Harding's administration. Apparently the whole policy of the Department of State since March, 1921, has been dominated by the general desire not only to avoid any action which might invite adverse criticism on the part of the Senate, but studiously to avoid any act or expression which might indicate either sympathy or cooperation with that great international organization for the preservation of world peace, the League of Nations, which is anathema to certain Senatorial minds. This undoubtedly was a counsel of prudence. But it inevitably led to the abandonment of the highest avowed ideals with which the administration assumed control of the government.
Mr. George Harvey, in his farewell address recently delivered in London, after stating that his earlier declaration before a similar audience that it was no part of his official task to formulate policies "was a joke," thereupon proceeded to declare that "the national American foreign policy is to have no foreign policy." One cannot but wonder if President Coolidge or Mr. Hughes had commissioned the Ambassador to make such a statement as a part of the American Government's joint pronouncement with the British Government regarding possible methods of dealing with present European conditions.
However that may be, as a matter of history, the foreign policy of the United States--at least until 1921--was not one of aimless opportunist drifting, as Mr. Harvey's statement suggests. We have had certain national foreign policies, in the sense of well-defined principles which have governed our international relations and have been respected by successive national administrations, even when dominated by different political parties. The most notable of these, of course, is the "Monroe policy." "Never for a moment," said Senator Root in addressing the American Society of International Law, in April, 1914, "have the responsible and instructed statesmen in charge of the foreign affairs of the United States failed to consider themselves bound to insist upon this policy . . . . Almost every President and Secretary of State has re-stated the doctrine with vigor and emphasis in the discussion of the diplomatic affairs of his day." Secretary Hughes is the latest of this line. In his address before the American Bar Association, in August last, he restated the Monroe policy as "a distinctively American policy." In that same address, the Secretary declared that the "establishment of a Permanent Court of International Justice, which might make available the facilities of a permanent tribunal (instead of the less satisfactory provision of temporary tribunals of arbitration) to governments desiring to submit their controversies to it, has been a distinct feature of the policy of the Government of the United States for many years." Evidently our recent Ambassador to Great Britain is not in accord, on this point at least, with the opinion of the Secretary of State.
Another American national policy, based upon Washington's farewell advice, has been to avoid "entangling alliances" with other nations. Surely, Mr. Harvey can hardly have forgotten the changes rung upon this policy by him and those with whom he was associated in the conduct of the campaign against membership in the League of Nations. The bogey of "entangling alliances" lurks in the corner of almost every treaty the Senate has had to consider in recent years. It was only by engrafting upon the resolution of ratification a declaration that "the United States understands that under the statement in the preamble or under the terms of this treaty there is no commitment to armed force, no alliance, no obligation to join in any defense," that enough votes were secured in the Senate to ratify the Four Power Pacific Pact in February, 1922. The proposal to accept membership in the League of Nations clearly was a departure from what had been for a century the policy of the United States. The entry of the United States into the World War entailed many departures from what previously had been American policy. The most notable of such departures was the adoption of a universal conscription law. The struggle over the League of Nations was between those who, on the one hand, desired to adhere to the old policy, and those who, on the other hand, maintained that our participation in the war entailed certain responsibilities which we could not in honor disregard, among them the duty to aid in restoring and maintaining the peace of the world, that this could be done only by cooperation with our associates in the war, and that such association must be continuous in order to be effective.
The opposition to this departure from previous American policy prevailed, partly by reason of the bitter partisan attitude of certain Republican Senators, partly by reason of the stubborn unwillingness of President Wilson to yield anything of what he had formulated in order to secure favorable action by the Senate.
The rejection of the Treaty of Versailles was followed by the adoption, a few months after the advent of the new administration, of a joint resolution of Congress declaring the state of war with Germany at an end; and on August 25, 1921, there was signed a separate treaty of peace between the United States and Germany which was ratified by the Senate on October 18, 1921. By this treaty it was sought to secure to the United States all the benefits which would have been derived from the Versailles treaty, without assuming any of its obligations. This was expressed on the face of the document, which, after the general provision referred to, specified the parts of the Versailles treaty under which the United States should retain the same rights and privileges it would have possessed had it ratified that treaty. The parts so indicated were those dealing with the German Colonies (Part IV); Military, Naval and Air matters (Part V); Prisoners of War and Graves (Part VI); Reparations (Part VIII); Financial Matters (Part IX); Economic Matters (Part X); Aerial Navigation (Part XI); Ports, Waterways and Railways (Part XII); Guarantees (Part XIV); and Miscellaneous Matters (Part XV).
Almost every one of these Parts provided for the appointment of a commission of representatives of the Principal Allied and Associated Powers to supervise its execution. But while stipulating with Germany that the United States should retain the benefit of all of these provisions, the Senate made its ratification of the separate treaty subject to the understanding "that the United States shall not be represented or participate in any body, agency or commission, nor shall any person represent the United States as a member of any body, agency or commission in which the United States is authorized to participate by this treaty, unless and until an act of Congress of the United States shall provide for such representation or participation."
A similar separate treaty of peace with Austria containing similar provisions was negotiated and ratified at the same time as the German treaty.
The Constitution provides that not only the Constitution and the laws of the United States made in pursuance thereof, but "all treaties made or which shall be made under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land." But this provision relates to those matters which are the proper subjects of international compact and no precedent has been found to warrant the Senate in assuming to control executive action with respect to the execution of treaty provisions, by means of a reservation added by the Senate to the resolution of advice and consent to the execution of a treaty. The provisions of the treaty being a part of the supreme law of the land, their execution becomes the duty of the President. The Constitution declares that the President--not the Senate--"shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed." By what authority the Senate assumes to tell the President he shall not discharge a constitutional duty until authorized by act of Congress has not been revealed.
The reservation contained in the ratification of the German and Austrian peace treaties was an unconstitutional invasion of the executive power by the Senate. Its adoption was one of the significant steps recently taken by the Senate in assuming an extra-constitutional control of our international relations.
The making of the separate peace treaties with Germany and Austria did not allay the widespread feeling in the minds of the people that an obligation was incumbent upon the American nation to take some definite step towards the future security of the world.
The League of Nations had been rejected, but was there nothing else that could be proposed? All of President Harding's utterances at this time showed that he was troubled with this thought. He yearned to bring about some effective measure which would fulfill the promises of the party platform and of his own messages and speeches.
Not very long before his death, Mr. Harding wrote to Bishop Gailor of the Protestant Episcopal Church, recalling an observation he had made some days previously to his newspaper callers, "that I did not believe any man could confront the responsibility of a President of the United States and yet adhere to the idea that it was possible for our country to maintain an attitude of isolation and aloofness in the world." He stated it to be his concern that there should be an effective recognition of this fact, so that those who because of their position were earliest compelled to realize this situation might be assured of the understanding and sympathetic support of the great intelligent public opinion of our country. Mr. Harding added: "After much thought and study and conference I reached the conclusion that our adherence to the program of the International Court represented a compliance with these conditions. It is a longer step than some would wish us to take in this direction. On the other hand, it is a less advance than some others would wish us to take. But to me it seems to meet the requirements of our peculiar situation, and permits us to say to the world that we are ready for our part in furthering peace and stability without entanglements or surrender of cherished policy to which we are long and strongly committed."
Thus the sorely tried and harassed President, buffeted between the "isolationist" party leaders, on the one hand, and on the other his deep conscientious appreciation of the obligations of America to make an effective move towards the maintenance of world peace, came at last to the World Court as the one tangible accomplishment to which he might adhere without danger of the reproach of inviting "entangling alliances."
"It is one thing to talk about the ideals of peace," President Harding said at the time of the Conference on Naval Disarmament, "but the bigger thing is to seek the actuality." His nomination for the presidency followed a bitter partisan contest between President Wilson and his followers and the exasperated Republican Senators, which had resulted in the rejection of the Treaty of Versailles. The treaty carried down with it the Covenant of the League of Nations, so far as the Senate as then composed was concerned. But in the platform of the Republican party adopted at Chicago in June, 1920, it was deemed necessary to placate a recognized pro-League sentiment then existing.
The platform declared that the Republican Party stands for agreement among the nations to preserve the peace of the world. "We believe," it said, "that such an international association must be based upon international justice and must provide methods which shall maintain the rule of public right by the development of law and the decision of impartial courts and which shall secure instant and general international conference whenever peace shall be threatened by political action, so that the nations, pledged to do and insist upon what is just and fair, may exercise their influence and power for the prevention of war."
Mr. Harding, in his speech of acceptance, interpreted this as the "Republican committal for an Association of Nations, cooperating in sublime accord, to attain and preserve peace through justice rather than force, determined to add to security through international law, so clarified that no misconstruction can be possible without affronting world honor." No effort ever was made by the Harding Administration, so far as public knowledge goes, either to form such an Association, or to bring about a modification of the League of Nations which would fit the requirements of such an Association. The reason for such a reaction lay in the known opposition of the Senate to any such movement.
On the other hand, other efforts at international agreement for particular purposes were undertaken, the most notable of them being the Naval Limitation Conference which opened at Washington November 12, 1921. The treaties there negotiated met with robust opposition from some of those Republican Senators who had most strongly opposed the ratification of the Versailles treaty. The tact and foresight shown by the President in appointing leading Senators of both political parties as Commissioners to the Conference undoubtedly greatly helped to secure ratification of the treaties. As it was, however, the crucial treaty of the set--the so-called "Four Power Pacific Pact"--as already stated, was approved by but four votes more than the requisite two thirds, and its ratification only was secured by placating the "alliance" bogey. This treaty contained an agreement by the signatory powers to respect each other's rights in relation to their insular possessions and insular dominions in the region of the Pacific Ocean, and provided that in case any controversy arises involving such rights, which is not satisfactorily settled by diplomacy and which is likely to disturb the harmonious accord subsisting between them, they shall invite the other parties to the treaty to a joint conference to which the whole subject will be referred for consideration and adjustment. It was further provided that if said rights are threatened by the aggression of any other power, the parties to the treaty shall communicate with each other fully and frankly in order to arrive at an understanding as to the most efficient measures to be taken to meet the exigencies of the particular situation.
These provisions were attacked as being open to the same objections as those successfully urged against the League of Nations. Conference and the exchange of views suggested the purposes of the League. Senator Borah saw in this treaty the same danger to American sovereignty that lurked in the Covenant of the League. It was to overcome such objections that, in reporting the treaty to the Senate, the President cried out:
"Frankly, Senators, if nations may not safely agree to respect each others rights, and may not agree to confer if one party to the compact threatens trespass, or may not agree to advise if one party to the pact is threatened by an outside power, then all concerted efforts to tranquilize the world and stabilize peace must be flung to the winds. Either these treaties must have your cordial sanction, or every proclaimed desire to promote peace and prevent war becomes a hollow mockery."
The vision expressed in the Republican platform of 1920 of an "international association . . . based upon international justice," "coöperating in sublime accord," and providing methods to maintain the rule of public right and to secure instant and general international conference whenever peace should be threatened, had, by the spring of 1922, wholly faded from the eyes of certain Republican Senators, and those who opposed ratification of the Four Power Pacific Pact apparently were quite willing that "every proclaimed desire to promote peace and prevent war should become a hollow mockery."
After the execution of the treaties formulated at the Naval Limitation Conference, no further move toward international cooperation to aid in the restoration of normal conditions in Europe was made by the administration until February 24, 1923, when, without previous warning, the President transmitted to the Senate, with a recommendation that it be adopted, a proposal from the Secretary of State that the United States give its adhesion to the Permanent Court of International Justice established pursuant to the provisions of Article 14 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. The President pointed out that by adopting the proposed agreement the United States would not become a member of the League of Nations. He said there was good reason to believe that the conditions proposed for American participation would be acceptable to the signatory powers, "though nothing definite can be done until the United States tenders adhesion with these reservations." Manifestly, he said, the Executive could not make this tender without the approval of the Senate. Therefore he earnestly urged favorable advice and consent.
"It is not a new problem in international relationship," he pointed out, "it is wholly a question of accepting an established institution of high character, and making effective all the fine things which have been said by us in favor of such an agency of advanced civilization." He therefore earnestly urged the favorable advice and consent of the Senate. "I would rejoice," he added, "if some action could be taken even in the short period which remains of the present session."
But the Senate was in no mood to facilitate such rejoicing. The Permanent Court was the creation of the League of Nations. Therefore let it be anathema! Mr. Root declared that it was the fulfilment of twenty-five years of Republican advocacy. What was that fact to Senators who agree with Mr. Harvey that the United States never had a foreign policy and therefore that neither the party nor the nation was committed by past custom to any line of action! The President's proposal was left as unfinished business in the hands of the Senate when it adjourned on March 4, 1923.
Secretary Hughes had made plain in the communication to the President, which the latter transmitted to the Senate with his hearty recommendation on February 24, 1923, that the organization of the Court and the method provided for the selection of its judges by making use of the machinery of the League of Nations avoided the objections which had prevented the adoption of the proposals for such a court made by the United States to the Second Hague Conference in 1907. The method proposed by Mr. Hughes for adherence to the Court by the United States secured to it a voice in the selection of the judges--without which, Mr. Hughes pointed out, the United States could not accept the Court,--as fully as though it were a member of the League of Nations, while carefully avoiding the acceptance of membership in the League.
The power exercised by Senatorial opposition upon Mr. Harding's mind never was more strikingly exhibited than in his speech at St. Louis on June 21, 1923. After extolling the Permanent Court as a true judicial tribunal of the highest order, he adverted to the difficulties in the way of securing the Senate's approval of it. "I am not wedded irrevocably to any particular method," he said. "I would not assume for a moment that the readjustment of the existing arrangement which appears to my mind as feasible is the best, much less the only, one . . . . Granting the noteworthy excellence--of which I, for one, am fully convinced--of the Court as now constituted, why not proceed in the belief that it may be made self-perpetuating? This could be done in one of two ways: (1) by empowering the Court itself to fill any vacancy arising from the death of a member or retirement from whatever cause, without interposition from any other body; or (2) by continuing the existing authority of the Permanent Court of Arbitration to nominate, and by transferring the power to elect from the Council and Assembly of the League to the remaining members of the Court of Justice."
Thus the whole carefully worked out plan by which Senator Root had overcome the obstacles which in the past always had prevented acceptance of the Court idea by the small nations, and the method so ably formulated by Secretary Hughes to enable the United States to make use of the League machinery without membership in the League, were sacrificed to fear of Senatorial opposition, based upon Senatorial hostility to the League of Nations.
One could not but wonder what Mr. Root thought when he read this proposal, and what were Mr. Hughes' reflections when his well-conceived plan, considered during "a long period, indeed ever since the international Conference on the Limitation of Armament," as Mr. Harding had informed the Senate, was thus thrown overboard.
Probably no more extraordinary proposition ever was made by a President to the American people than that our Government should agree to submit questions of difference with other nations to a self-perpetuating judicial tribunal, and one in the selection of whose judges we had no voice. A moment's reflection upon the history of the Court--the fact that only through the machinery of the League, which secured a voice for great and small nations alike in the selection of the judges, had it been made a possibility--should have led the President to discard this plan for avoiding Senatorial opposition, no doubt suggested to him by some unofficial adviser, as wholly impracticable of acceptance by other nations, even if it could be assumed that our own Congress would approve such an unprecedented arrangement. It almost seems as if Mr. Harding might have meant the suggestion as the reductio ad absurdum of any plan for American adherence to the Court other than that formulated by Mr. Hughes. But if the suggestion were made seriously, it is impossible to believe that Mr. Harding, had he lived, would not have seen its impracticability and reverted to the original plan. The President had very deeply at heart the necessity of doing something tangible for the maintenance of international peace. But the imperious Senate haunted his dreams and troubled his will.
President Harding reverted to the subject in the address he prepared for delivery in San Francisco, which because of his illness was not delivered, but was made public by his secretary on August I, 1923. He said: "I would be insensible to duty and violate all the sentiments of my heart and all my convictions if I failed to urge American support of the Permanent Court of International Justice. I do not know that such a Court will be unfailing in the avoidance of war, but I know it is a step in the right direction, and will prove an advance toward international peace for which the reflective conscience of mankind is calling."
And yet there was the Senate!
"No matter what the critics may say," he continued, "we have the obligation of duly recognized and constituted authority, and I had rather have the Senate grant its support and have the United States whole heartedly favor the Permanent Court, than prolong a controversy and defeat the main purpose. As President, speaking for the United States, I am more interested in adherence to such a tribunal in the best form attainable than I am concerned about the triumph of Presidential insistence. The big thing is the firm establishment of the Court and our cordial adherence thereto. All else is mere detail."
But the trouble with this is that the question is not how a new Court shall be organized, but how the United States shall adopt an existing tribunal organized pursuant to an agreement to which forty odd nations are parties. What Mr. Harding called "mere detail" was the essential provision under which the United States might accept the Court, participate in the election of the judges and share in the expense, yet avoid membership in the League. Mr. Hughes had submitted a plan which he stated he had reason to believe would be accepted by these nations, and which had been for months under consideration. Is the Senate itself to negotiate a new plan, or is it likely that it will state in advance some new and better proposal which the nations will accept without modification?
The proposition to adhere to the Permanent Court of International Justice lies on the table of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs. Will President Coolidge urge that it be acted upon favorably and put the whole power and prestige of his office behind the recommendation, or will he content himself with a general approval of the plan and allow the Senate to kill it by some alternative suggestions which will be wholly impossible of acceptance by the nations parties to the agreement under which the Court exists?
President Coolidge's initial message to Congress will probably have answered this question before this article appears. The writer indulges in the hope that Mr. Coolidge will speak in no uncertain terms in support of the Hughes plan.
The conduct of foreign relations will be almost impossible of satisfactory direction if the Senate shall continue in future to interfere with and hamper the Executive as it has done the last four years.
A striking example of that fact is furnished by the negotiations at present going forward concerning the settlement of the reparations obligations of Germany. Mr. Hughes has accepted the prohibition, imposed by the Senate in the reservation to the ratification of the separate peace treaties with Germany and Austria, against appointing a representative of the United States upon the Reparation Commission or of uniting with any other international body to deal with economic conditions in Europe. In his speech at New Haven in December last he referred to the limitations imposed upon his freedom to act. In his recent communication to the British Government, he says "that the Government of the United States is not in position to appoint a member of the Reparation Commission, inasmuch as such an appointment cannot be made without the consent of Congress." After this avowal of executive impotence, the best he can offer is the belief "that competent American citizens would be willing to participate in an economic inquiry for the purposes stated, through an advisory body appointed by the Reparation Commission to make recommendations, in case that course after further consideration should be deemed advisable."
Without minimizing in any degree the broad statesmanship and adroit handling of a most difficult international question by the Secretary of State, it is none the less a subject of criticism and regret that the Senate should so tie the hands of the Executive in dealing with a matter of vast importance to America and to the world that the President does not feel free to appoint commissioners to act even as an advisory body to the Reparation Commission, and that the best that can be done is to suggest that the Reparation Commission itself shall select a number of American citizens, whose personnel undoubtedly will be satisfactory to the Secretary of State, but who will have no official relation to the United States Government. This is one of the results of Senatorial interference with the executive function not within the contemplation of the Constitution.
In still one other important field has the legislative power interfered with executive action, namely, regarding the settlement of the debts of the European powers, lately our associates in the Great War.
Pursuant to acts of Congress passed shortly after the United States entered the war against Germany, the Secretary of the Treasury, with the approval of the President, was authorized, "for the purpose of more effectually providing for the national security and defense and prosecuting the war," to establish credits in the United States for "the foreign governments then engaged in war with the enemies of the United States." These credits were opened and amounts advanced which were expended within the United States for the purchase of supplies and war material. The advances so made aggregate several billion dollars.
On February 9, 1922, Congress passed an act creating a "World War Foreign Debt Commission" of five members, including the Secretary of the Treasury, for the purpose of refunding, converting or extending the time of payment of obligations of foreign governments to the United States, but restricting the authority of the committee to extend the time of such payment beyond June 15, 1947, or to fix the rate of interest below 4¼ per cent. It further provided that the act should not be construed to authorize the exchange of bonds or other obligations of any foreign government for those of any other foreign government, or the cancellation of any part of such indebtedness, except through payment thereof. The President appointed as members of this commission, besides the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Commerce, Senator Smoot, Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Senate, and Mr. Burton, a member of the House of Representatives.
This commission negotiated an agreement with Great Britain under which the amount of its indebtedness was settled at $4,600,000,000, the time of payment being extended over a period of sixty-two years and the rate of interest reduced to 3 per cent for the first ten years and 3½ per cent thereafter. These departures from the original authority were authorized by an amending act of Congress passed February 28, 1923.
These modifications, however, only were approved in the case of the settlement of the British debt. With respect to the other debtor nations the limitations imposed by the act of February 9, 1922, remain.
The ability of France and Italy to pay their debts to the United States depends largely, if not wholly, upon the amount they shall recover from Germany in reparation for the destruction of their property during the war. But our Government has steadily refused to consider this circumstance as affecting our demands for a settlement of the debts. In the recent note of the Secretary of State he reiterates this position, while adding that "the Government of the United States has no desire to be oppressive or to refuse to make reasonable settlements as to time and terms of payment in full consideration of the circumstances of the Allied debtors"--which does not seem a lavish offer, when it is remembered that these debts were incurred, in the language of Congress, "for the purpose of more effectually providing for the national security and defense and prosecuting the war" by the nations "then engaged in war with the enemies of the United States." But in view of the provisions of the acts creating the World War Foreign Debt Commission, the Secretary of State could make no more generous suggestion of American action. Even that much was merely the expression of a personal opinion. based upon the precedent of the terms approved by Congress in the funding of the British debt.
The experience in the cases above referred to would indicate that the only practical means of securing any treaty or international agreement between the United States and a foreign nation under present conditions is through a conference or commission in which one or more Senators, preferably one from each political party, shall be members, which shall meet in Washington, keeping closely in touch with other influential members of the Senate, and which shall not commit itself to any agreement until it has been canvassed with enough members of the Senate to make its approval reasonably certain.
Mr. John W. Davis, in his recent address at Minneapolis as President of the American Bar Association, dwelt upon the destructive effect of the constitutional provision requiring a two-thirds vote in the Senate to the ratification of treaties, and observed: "Nor does it contribute to national influence or prestige or safety that the process of ratifying or rejecting treaties should degenerate into an effort to discover some qualifying formula acceptable to a minority. There is grave danger in forgetting that, whether in matters domestic or foreign, the business of government is to govern."
The League of Nations furnishes adequate and instantly available machinery for the discussion and consideration of questions affecting the peace and stability of the world. But the Senate rejected it.
The Permanent Court of International Justice provides a tribunal of impeccable dignity and independence for the determination of questions between nations susceptible of judicial decision. It is not a substitute for either the League of Nations, such as President Wilson conceived, or for an Association of Nations, such as President Harding conceived. A court provides no machinery for conference and the cooperation of nations "in sublime accord to attain and preserve peace through justice rather than force." A court exists to determine controversies, which have proved incapable of adjustment by diplomatic methods, by the application of rules of law. The purpose of the League of Nations is to provide machinery for averting controversy, through conference and by the force of informed opinion acting upon nations involved in differences. But the adoption of the Permanent Court by the United States will be an earnest of its willingness to take some effective step towards a continuous effort to maintain peace by providing a method of settling judicially questions which otherwise might result in war. It is to be hoped that President Coolidge may press the Senate to act and use all the great influence of his office to secure approval of Secretary Hughes' plan for American adhesion to the Court.
The assumption by the Senate of powers of original negotiation of agreements with foreign nations must increasingly interfere with the discharge by the Executive of the powers invested in him by the Constitution.
The practice has been growing. The first significant step was taken in 1871, when Secretary of State Hamilton Fish submitted a proposed treaty with Great Britain to Mr. Sumner, then Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, and asked his opinion concerning it. At the close of the Spanish War, in 1898, President McKinley appointed five Commissioners to negotiate a treaty of peace with Spain, three of whom were members of the Senate and of its Committee on Foreign Affairs, a procedure which Mr. Crandall in his work on Treaties says was without precedent.
As above stated, President Harding appointed as members of the Commission to negotiate the refunding, conversion or extension of time of payment of the obligations of foreign governments to the United States, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and a prominent member of the House of Representatives. He also appointed as members of the Commission to negotiate the treaties relating to the limitation of naval armament and the problems of the Pacific, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and the leading Democratic member of the Senate.
Despite such conciliatory efforts as the appointment of leading Senators to membership in commissions created to negotiate treaties, as Lord Bryce says in "The American Commonwealth," "the Senate increasingly has exercised its power by refusing to approve treaties negotiated by the President, unless amended as it has prescribed, or with 'reservations' stating its understanding with respect to provisions in the agreement."
The fact is, that the treaty-making machinery of the United States has become so complicated as to be almost unworkable. Only by the exercise of great powers of conciliation or of domination by the President, or by awakening and directing upon the Senate a vigorous public opinion, can any progress be made in international relations. A body of ninety-six men of such diverse characteristics and opinions as the members of the Senate is almost hopeless as an executive force. But it is ideal for purposes of obstruction. If the United States is to move forward in helpful cooperation with the other nations of the world towards the attainment of international peace, it will only be through the expression of a widespread and strongly expressed public opinion, which the Senate may apprehend is to be translated into votes.