« PreviousContinue »
whether they came here 300 years ago, in what I am afraid must have been the uncomfortably overcrowded ship the “Mayflower,” or later, left England because they despaired of its victory there. But even there it ultimately conquered just as it has maintained itself here. Nowadays it gets at least lip service from peoples who have never shown the slightest capacity for understanding it.
We can now define the idea of government which constitutes the precious heritage for which you and we are the co-trustees. It is first that the revelation of the divine will is made to man through the understanding of all men, second that this can be expressed in laws made by the people for the governance of the executive officers whom they appoint, as well as for the maintenance of national discipline among themselves.
I suppose that there is no man in this room who does not in his heart at least vaguely believe that what Lincoln best epitomized as government of the people, by the people and for the people is the best form of government that the human race has been able to devise in the long millenniums of its existence, but I wonder how many realize what a tremendous revolution this relatively new idea is producing in all human relationships, or even how new the idea itself is and how little it has been tested. Nor is that all, only a trifling minority of the peoples of the world understand it. I doubt if even in Europe there is a majority which suports it, certainly there is not a majority which understands it. I would like to be convinced that there was a majority really understandingly in favor of it in the British Isles. If the idea is to continue without a serious setback, we who believe in it will have to stand firmly together, for there are powerful forces opposed to it. So far as we know, the millions of Asia have opposed the idea throughout all their history, although a small number of Asiatics are now loud in its support. Islam necessarily is opposed to it. The Bolsheviki are naturally violently opposed to it. So too is every one in every land who has what he regards as a big idea or great principle of incalculable good which he or she wishes to force upon the people whether they wish it or no. So too in all countries are many of those who have great possessions. So of course is every one who makes the demand that he is outside the law. I do not mean that all these people are conscious of their fundamental hostility to the Democratic idea. I
have listened to a labor leader with the mentality of a medieval robber baron argue in the same breath that might was right and that his union should be outside the law and that the voice of the people must prevail, though I could not help suspecting him of mentally spelling people with a capital “P.”
But let us state this idea again in different ways so that we may see it in some of its bearings and see if we really are wholehearted supporters of it ourselves.
First the easy question: “Is the power of a government, whether it be an individual or a committee of some sort-a cabinet-derived directly from God or indirectly through the will of the people ? " We can all answer that.
Do we believe that the laws of a nation interpreted by its judges constitute the supreme earthly power over man's conduct and that before the law governors and governed are equal, subject to its provisions, controlled by its statutes ? And believing, do we all so conduct ourselves ?
Do we believe that neither wealth nor fame nor influence nor social position diminishes the utter subordination of their happy owners to the law ?
Do we believe that neither poverty nor weakness nor friendlessness increases the unfortunate's subjection to the law ?
Do we believe that knowingly to break the law is the great crime against society?
Or again can we say this?
The State is truly the commonwealth. If its service so requires my house and lands, my wealth, my life are now and always freely at its disposal.
Except through the law I have nothing; except through the law I am nothing.
Can we go further and say the law marks merely the line which separates conduct which may be good or bad from conduct which is so bad that society has to take active steps to discipline offenders, that merely not to break the law is not the whole duty of man to the society which protects and nurtures him from the cradle to the grave?
If we believe all these things and practise them we are moving on in the direction which I believe to be the only hopeful one
the direction in which humanity must pass to escape from the hopeless treadmill of the millenniums with their wearying repetition of struggles, some prosperity, war, slaughter, chaos and struggle again.
Theocracy and autocracy, forceful application of the big idea, inevitably lead to inequality before the law and so to tyranny, revolution and chaos or to decadence, conquest and chaos. That way lies no hope. Let the Bolsheviki and their supporters in all lands prate as they will of reactionaries and imperialists. They themselves are the reactionaries. Their admitted doctrine is to establish a privileged class which they call the proletariat but they mean by that term a select body of their own supporters. Their whole creed is to force on society a Great Idea which has been revealed to them and to them alone and, like it or dislike it, society is to swallow it whole—and that is nothing but pure theocracy. But remember that in the theocratic theory might is right because it is divine and apply that remembrance to the position of affairs today.
But let us not forget that though the Bolshevik creed is one of reaction, there are others who in their hearts believe almost exactly what the Bolsheviki believe though they pass as good democrats—people who claim privilege on account of birth or wealth.
We have in fact to maintain the heritage of freedom against assault from within and without, the priceless heritage of a great idea conceived by the Nordic people and slowly and painfully brought into practice in workable form in England, then brought here and developed and strengthened, then passed to British Dominions, then transplanted into countries that never have understood it, and though at each transplantation it has been modified, its original catchwords have spread far and wide. Its superficial glamour has dazzled many misunderstanding eyes. It is now in danger from its popularity. Even its enemies try to conceal their actions behind its phrases.
Whatever difficulties might arise between our nations, I believe that nothing is more important than this: that you and we stand together to defend the hard-won hope of mankind that through law, made by the people for their own disciplining, man will at last escape from the toils that have snared the feet of his
ancestors and will have taken a great stride towards the solution of the problem of how he with his physical weaknesses and his mental strengths shall live in communities in peace and ordered freedom one with the other.
Our nations are co-trustees for humanity that the theory and practice of democracy shall not suffer distortion or diminution in spite of avalanches of assaults loosed upon it by its enemies, by all who desire to benefit humanity through some great idea or incalculable good, by all who as individuals seek for themselves privileges over their fellows and deny the equality of man before the law.
But let us also remember that in a real democracy the law merely marks the line at which society must forcibly punish to save itself from disintegration, and that democratically made laws can never hope to set the standard of life at which citizens must aim. Each must find his star within the recesses of his own being, for it is the great strength of the democratic practice of government that it sets no bounds to upward movement, it lays down no code of morals, it guarantees freedom to each though it says sternly to the wreckers: “ Transgress and you will be punished.” The spring of the upward movement in democracy is in religion, not in law, and that must ever be, for “ The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.”
THE FUTURE OF INTERNATIONAL LAW.
LORD JUSTICE OF APPEAL. There are no questions which more deeply concern our race than these,—what in days to come are to be the precepts by which the dread ordeal of war shall, if possible, be avoided, or (if that be impossible) shall be regulated ? By what sanctions are those precepts to be guarded and enforced? We have to look this matter in the face and to learn (if it may be) where in truth we stand and what action we can and ought to take. No sentiment, no rhetoric, no effusive and nebulous talk about humanity or progress, is worth a row of pins in that hard school. We had talk enough before 1914; and it ended in the shattering of the forts of Liége, the desperate wrestle on the Marne, the long agony of the trenches, and the death grip at Verdun and on the Hindenburg line.
Let us be wise now and sit down and think things out. For such a task what instrument could be more suitable than an, assembly representative of our profession? A barrister has, or ought to have, a cool head and equable temper, the habit of reasoning fairly and of seeing all sides. He has, or should have, that concentration of thought by which alone a sound conclusion is reached, and that clarity of speech by which it can be made plain to others. And lastly, the Bar all the world over is solid for order, for freedom and for peace.
Where then today stands international law,—the code of the nations? Its growth, which is a matter of a few centuries only,-and during that time it has suffered more than one retardation,reminds us somewhat of the growth of individual or municipal law. That law too had its beginnings and its stages of growth. The lawlessness of uncivilized man was checked first by the coercion of parent or master or priest, and then by the discipline of the community through its magistracy and police; and it is only in its later stages that the power of the law is reinforced by the sanction