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Hague Peace Conferences

Hague Peace Conferences (1899, 1907) were the largest diplomatic conferences between the Congress of Vienna and the outbreak of World War I. Czar Nicholas II of Russia, calling for limitation of armaments, proposed the first conference (1899) at the Dutch seat of government. Representatives of twenty‐six governments attended. President Theodore Roosevelt, responding to wishes of peace movement leaders, in 1904 proposed a second conference, and the czar officially called the 1907 conference. Forty‐four governments attended.

The Russians originally proposed discussion only of limitation of armaments at the 1899 conference, but expanded the agenda to include the laws of war on land; extension of the 1864 Geneva Conventions to the sea; and international arbitration. These topics made the conference acceptable to governments determined to oppose arms limitation. At the same time, peace movement leaders and some journalists, who labeled the proposed meeting a “Peace Conference,” welcomed addition of arbitration to the agenda. The 1899 conference accomplished little in regards to armaments. The German delegates opposed limits on armies; the British on navies. U.S. naval delegate Capt. Alfred T. Mahan, famed historian of seapower, made clear his opposition to limiting armaments. The Russians proposed bans on new firearms, submarines, and ships with rams, and prohibitions against throwing projectiles or explosives from balloons or “similar means.” The conference did nothing about new firearms or submarines but negotiated declarations against expanding (“dumdum”) bullets, poison gas, and the aerial use of explosives from balloons. Renewal of the balloon declaration was the only arms limitation of the 1907 conference. German opposition convinced the Russians that limitation should not appear on the 1907 program; an Anglo‐American resolution recognizing the seriousness of the arms race was only a gesture.

The Hague conferences made important advances in codification of the laws of land warfare. General Orders No. 100, The Union army code announced in 1863 strongly influenced the unratified Declaration of Brussels (1874). The 1899 conference concluded a comprehensive convention based on that declaration, which proved its worth during the Boer and Russo‐Japanese Wars. The 1907 conference revised that convention and concluded two related conventions: one concerned neutral rights and duties on land; the other required formal declarations before beginning hostilities. Angry over the surprise Japanese attack on Port Arthur, Manchuria, in 1904, the Russians urged agreement on this convention. Generally respected during World War I, this convention was often disregarded thereafter, notably by the Japanese when they attacked on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The 1899 conference achieved little for the laws of war at sea. The Russian program called for extension of the 1864 Geneva convention which protected victims of war on land to the sea, and this was done; but there was little discussion of larger matters. An American proposal that the conference consider immunity of private property at sea from capture—a traditional U.S. principle—was blocked by the British.

The 1907 conference, however, dealt seriously with war at sea, for the Russo‐Japanese War had presented neutrals with numerous maritime problems. The conference concluded a new convention about the Geneva rules at sea and conventions about the status of merchant ships at the beginning of hostilities, conversion of such vessels into warships, submarine mines, and the maritime rights and duties of neutrals. British, German, and American delegates obtained Convention XII, which provided for an international prize court, but there was general recognition that the restrictions on capture in Convention XI were inadequate for decisions by the proposed court. The British called a special conference to consider blockades and contraband. The result was the Declaration of London (1909), a careful statement of prize law; but when the British House of Lords blocked ratification, other governments also delayed action. During the first months of World War I, American efforts to secure the adherence of the belligerents failed, largely because of British objections. The project for an international prize court was soon forgotten.

International arbitration agreements were major achievements of the Hague conferences. The 1899 conference framed a convention setting forth principles and procedures. British and American proposals resulted in the Permanent Court of Arbitration—a list of judges named by signatory powers from which parties to an arbitration could select a panel of judges. U.S. delegates at the 1907 conference called for a worldwide agreement to make arbitration obligatory in a very limited sense and a Court of Arbitral Justice that would have had a few judges sitting continuously. The Germans defeated agreement on obligatory arbitration; several small nations, particularly in Latin America, defeated the court proposal by insisting upon equal representation for all member governments. The United States, however, secured a convention requiring that no nation use force to collect debts unless arbitration had been offered and refused.

The 1907 conference called for a third conference in 1915, but the outbreak of war in 1914 prevented that meeting. Much of the work of the Hague conferences survived. The League of Nations in 1920 adopted a world court statute based on the 1907 court project. The United States never adhered to that statute but in 1945 accepted the United Nations version. The Hague conventions on warfare were of large importance during the two world wars and other wars. Since World War I, the Hague idea of limiting armaments through multinational negotiations has often inspired the calling of large international conferences.
[See also Arms Control and Disarmament; Internationalism; Neutrality; Peace and Antiwar Movements.]

Bibliography

Merze Tate , The Disarmament Illusion: The Movement for a Limitation of Armaments to 1907, 1930.
Calvin D. Davis , The United States and the First Hague Peace Conference, 1962.
Warren F. Kuehl , Seeking World Order: The United States and International Organization to 1920, 1969.
Calvin D. Davis , The United States and the Second Hague Peace Conference: American Diplomacy and International Organization 1899–1914, 1976.

Calvin D. Davis

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Hague Peace Conferences

HAGUE PEACE CONFERENCES

HAGUE PEACE CONFERENCES (1899, 1907), which met at the Hague in the Netherlands, reflected a contemporary peace movement, alarm over the growing alliance system and arms race, early agitation for some type of world organization, and desires to codify international law. The first conference was prompted by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, who in a rescript issued on 24 April 1898 sought "the progressive development of the present armaments" and "the most effective means of insuring to all peoples the benefits of a real and durable peace."

Delegates from twenty-six states, including the United States and Mexico from the Western Hemisphere, assembled for the first conference from 18 May to 29 July 1899. The U.S. delegation was headed by Andrew D. White, the U.S. minister to Russia and former president of Cornell University. The conference reached modest agreement on rules of land and maritime warfare. The agreements outlawed three innovations in weapons (asphyxiating gases, expanding or "dumdum" bullets, and projectiles or explosives from balloons), but the conferees failed to make headway on limiting arms. On 29 July every participating nation agreed to the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes, which advanced the concept of resolving differences through mediation by a third party, international commissions, or the international tribunal at the Hague. It was stipulated, however, that the arbitration was not compulsory and did not extend to questions involving national honor or integrity. The U.S. delegation insisted on a reservation concerning disputes involving application of the Monroe Doctrine. To facilitate arbitration, the delegates created the Permanent Court of Arbitration, essentially a list of judges from which powers could select a panel if the need arose.

The second conference met from 15 June to 18 October 1907. In 1904, fifteen representatives of the Inter-parliamentary Union, an association of legislators from various nations, had met in St. Louis, Missouri. Under the leadership of Representative Richard Barthold (Republican from Missouri), the legislators agreed to work toward a second conference. In his 1904 annual message, President Theodore Roosevelt proposed the meeting but graciously allowed the tsar to take credit. Forty-four governments sent delegates, this time including nineteen from the Americas. Joseph H. Choate, a former ambassador to Great Britain, headed the U.S. delegation. Armament discussions again failed, but conventions developed on laws of war, naval warfare, and neutrality, plus one renouncing the right to use force to collect debts. The 1907 convention renewed the declaration prohibiting the charge of projectiles from balloons but did not reaffirm the declarations concerning gas and bullets. A revised Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes included a provision for an International Court of Prize, which served as a court of appeal in case neutral ships were captured in wartime. Delegates could not agree on how to create a court of arbitral justice, something strongly supported by the United States, but the relevant commission unanimously adopted a resolution supporting "the principle of obligatory arbitration." The conference adopted a revised version of the Drago Doctrine, formulated on 29 December 1902 by Louis M. Drago, the foreign minister of Argentina. That doctrine specified that European powers must not use armed force to collect national debts owed by American nations to foreign creditors.

Peace workers anticipated a third conference in 1915, because the delegates in 1907 had believed periodic meetings were the best way to handle international problems. Although World War I ended that hope, suggestions for another assembly appeared well into the 1930s. The assumptions implicit in such thinking, plus the precedents of 1899 and 1907 in the form of conventions, declarations, and stated desires, contributed substantially to later and more fully developed international institutions, including the League of Nations, the United Nations, and international courts of justice.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Davis, Calvin D. The United States and the First Hague Peace Conference. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1962.

———. The United States and the Second Hague Peace Conference: American Diplomacy and International Organization, 1899–1914. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1975.

Kuehl, Warren F. Seeking World Order: The United States and International Organization to 1920. Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt University Press, 1969.

Justus D.Doenecke

Warren F.Kuehl

See alsoInternational Court of Justice ; International Law ; Peace Conferences .

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Hague Peace Conferences

HAGUE PEACE CONFERENCES

Tsar Nicholas II summoned peace conferences at The Hague in the Netherlands in 1899 and 1907. His gestures appealed to pacifist sentiments in the West, but his primary motives were quite pragmatic. He hoped the 1899 conference would ban the rapid-fire artillery being developed by Austria-Hungary, Russia's rival in the Balkans. Russia could neither develop nor purchase such weapons except at great expense. Finance Minister Serge Witte urged that such money be spent instead on modernizing Russia's economy. Having called the conference, the Imperial government found itself tied in knots. Its war minister warned that Russia would need more and better arms to achieve its goals in the Far East against Japan and in the Black Sea region against Ottoman Turkey. Russia's major ally, France, objected to any limitations because it sought new arms to cope with Germany. Before the conference even opened, St. Petersburg assured Paris that no disarmament measures would be adopted.

The 1899 Hague Conference did not limit arms, but it did refine the laws of war, including the rights of neutrals. It also established an international panel of arbiters available to hear cases put before it by disputing nations.

A second Hague conference was planned five years after the first, but did not convene then because Russia was fighting Japan. Nicholas did summon the meeting in 1907, after Russia began to recover from its defeat by Japan and from its own 1905 revolution. It was during the 1905 upheaval that Vladimir Ilich Lenin first articulated his view on disarmament. The revolutionary task, he said, is not to talk about disarmament (razoruzhenie ) but to disarm (obezoruzhit' ) the ruling classes.

The Russian delegation in 1907 proposed less sweeping limits on armaments than in 1899. However, when some governments proposed a five-year ban on dirigibles, Russia called for a permanent ban. Nothing came of these proposals, and the second Hague conference managed only to add to refinements to the laws of war.

See also: lenin, vladimir ilich; nicholas ii

bibliography

Clemens, Walter C., Jr. "Nicholas II to SALT II: Change and Continuity in East-West Diplomacy." International Affairs 3 (July 1973):385-401.

Rosenne, Shabtai, comp. (2001). The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907 and International Arbitration: Reports and Documents. The Hague: T.M.C. Asser.

Van den Dungen, Peter. (1983) The Making of Peace: Jean de Bloch and the First Hague Peace Conference. Los Angeles: Center for the Study of Armament and Disarmament, California State University.

Walter C. Clemens, Jr.

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Hague Conferences

Hague Conferences, term for the International Peace Conference of 1899 (First Hague Conference) and the Second International Peace Conference of 1907 (Second Hague Conference). Both were called by Russia and met at The Hague, the Netherlands. Neither succeeded in the main announced purpose of effecting a reduction in armaments, but a number of declarations and conventions respecting the laws of war were adopted and were later ratified by many states. Ratified prohibitions of aerial bombardment and of the use of submarine mines and poison gas proved ineffective, but more heed was given to conventions respecting the rights of neutral shipping (particularly respecting contraband) and the protection of noncombatants. A substantial achievement was the founding by the First Hague Conference of the Permanent Court of Arbitration, popularly called the Hague Tribunal. However, at the second conference the United States failed in its effort to secure the establishment of a world court. A third conference, scheduled for 1916, was canceled because of World War I. In the attempt to formulate certain rules of international law, the Hague Conferences furnished an example for both the League of Nations and the United Nations.

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