255. All the members of mankind naturally constitute one universal society (No. 198), of which God Himself is the founder, ruler, lawgiver, and judge. In this universal society a great variety of rights and duties has place. Thus far we have considered those of individuals (Book II.), those of domestic society (Book III., C. II.), and those which arise in civil society (C. III.). Lastly, we are to examine the rights and duties which issue from the relations of independent civil societies to one another. These rights and duties are regulated by international law.
256. International law is defined by James Madison, fourth President of the United States, as "Consisting of those rules which reason deduces as consonant to justice, from the nature of the society existing among independent nations; with such definitions and modifications as may be established by general consent" (Wheaton's Elements of International Law, C. I.). As a distinct code, it is of modern origin; for within recent times intercourse, chiefly commercial, between the nations of the earth has attained such proportions and is become so intricate that regulations governing it have assumed vast importance.
Formerly international law constituted in Philosophy a branch of what was called jus gentium, the law of nations, defined by Suarez as "That which is laid down by reason among all mankind and is observed by nearly all nations:" it treated of both civil and international right.
257. As now understood, international law comprises two parts, indicated in Madison's definition, namely:
1. What reason requires, i. e., the natural rights, and
2. Such definitions and modifications of this as may be established by general consent, i. e., acquired or conventional rights. The latter may be determined explicitly, by contracts among the nations, or implicitly, by custom so well established as to be considered binding on all civilized countries.
258. By a nation we here mean an independent civil government; the several States of the Union, though sovereign States -- possessed of the right of the sword and other attributes of sovereignty -- are, nevertheless, not so many nations, because not independent in many respects; but all together constitute one nation, represented by our central national government. Evidently a nation here does not mean a race, as it does when we speak of the Celtic nation. Nor does it mean a geographical division; for this may contain various nations, e. g., Spain and Portugal. Again, one nation may be made up of diverse races, as is the case in Austria or Great Britain; and one race may be divided among various nations or governments, as is exemplified in the Teutonic race.
259. The principles underlying all international law are the following:
1. That every man must love all other men (Nos. 149, 198).
2. That every independent civil society is a moral person, and, as such, possessed of definite rights, which must be respected by all other persons, physical and moral. For a person is properly a complete substance endowed with intellect (Mental Philosophy, No. 55), a being, therefore, capable of having rights and duties. Civil society, inasmuch as it is complete and independent in its own line, and is a collection of intellectual units, is called a moral person; as such it is the embodiment of all the private rights pertaining to its members. Besides, since civil society is natural to man, it has a natural right to exist and to use whatever just means are necessary for attaining its end.
260. Since the rights of a nation flow from its essence as a complete civil society, all nations stand on an equal footing with regard to natural rights. Hence, the greater powers have no more natural right to lord it over less potent nations than strong men have a right to neglect and abuse the rights of infants. In particular:
1. No nation may enter the territory of another nation without the consent of the latter.
2. One nation has no right to interfere with the internal workings of another government. Hence, foreign powers have no right to encourage or assist subjects rebelling against legitimate authority.
3. Yet one nation has a right to assist another nation if the latter asks such assistance. The principle of non-intervention, in the sense that one nation is not allowed to render the aid requested by another nation in distress, is unjust. In effect, this principle allows a robber nation to despoil its victim, and helps rebel subjects to oppose lawfully established authority.
261. The natural rights of a nation, which all are obliged to respect, are chiefly as follows:
1. The right of preserving its existence as a nation. Such existence implies four conditions: union among the citizens, legitimate authority, independence, the dignity of a moral person invested with sovereignty.
2. The right to maintain civil order among its members. This implies: the dependence of the subjects on their rulers, a just administration of the commonwealth, concord among the citizens.
3. The right to acquire new territory, whether by treaty or by first occupancy, etc., provided no prior rights be violated.
4. The right of dominion over its water-courses, which include such an extent of the adjacent seas as is necessary for the security and prosperity of its citizens. Conflicting claims must be settled by treaties, customs, etc.
5. The right to honorable recognition by other nations and by men generally. This implies the sacredness of embassies, etc., a right which has always been acknowledged by all civilized nations.
6. The right to develop its resources, material and intellectual, and generally the right to promote all that tends to public and private prosperity without prejudice to private rights.
7. Lastly, the right to manage its own affairs; hence, to determine changes in its manner of administration, and to settle difficulties with its own subjects without interference or contradiction on the part of other States.
262. Nature has established no human authority superior to that of national governments; hence, there is no higher human power to enforce the observance of the moral law by nations and to decide conflicting international claims. A universal arbiter to decide contests between nations were indeed desirable. Such the Supreme Pontiff was among Christian nations in the ages of Faith. In special cases, he has lately been called upon to act in a similar capacity, to the great advantage of justice, peace, and civilization.
263. When arbitration cannot be agreed upon by contesting nations, recourse is had to war, to which, as a last resort, they have an undoubted right. That a war may be justifiable, these conditions are required:
1. That a nation's claims are just, important, moderate, and certain.
2. That every reasonable effort has been made in vain to settle the dispute by peaceable means.
3. That war offers a fair prospect of success; for no one is justified in choosing the greater of two evils; least of all can those in authority do so, for they are the gnardians of their subjects' rights.
4. That war be undertaken, as Cicero says, only as a means to bring about a just peace.
264. The manner of waging war should be conformable to the approved usages of civilized nations. To be effective, it necessitates destruction of life and property, confiscations, sieges, blockades, battles, bombardments, and all the horrors unavoidably connected with such measures. But it does not justify:
1. Any useless or wanton violence or destruction by which the final settlement is not furthered; for instance, the direct killing or ill-treating of non-combatants, such as women and children.
2. The killing of prisoners or wounded soldiers who have no more power to injure.
3. The use of means universally execrated as unnecessarily cruel, such as envenomed weapons, poisoned wells, etc.
4. The use of means that are in themselves unjust, such as lying, perjury, and solicitations to treason.
5. The continuation of hostilities when a settlement has been made possible.
265. The victorious nation has the right:
1. To possess the object for which the war was waged, and to which it had all along a just claim.
2. To exact compensation for the damages sustained in the war.
3. To provide for its future security against a dangerous foe. This may even necessitate the permanent subjection of the defeated nation. Moderation, justice, and humanity must ever prevail.
266. It is the tendency of Christian civilization to cultivate universal good-will and forbearance, not only among Christian nations, but towards all mankind. It has gradually removed the most revolting usages of warfare -- the useless slaughter of the vanquished, the enslaving of the conquered, with their wives and childrea, the wanton destruction of property, the lawless plundering and sacking of cities, the inhuman treatment of the weak, the aged and the young. Thus it has limited, as far as is possible, the horrors of war to those actually in arms. This same tendency has introduced tender care of the wounded, respectful burial of the dead, a chivalrous treatment of all parties in the midst of hostilities, and has lessened ill-feeling after the re-establishment of peace. Its greatest triumph has been the prevention of active hostilities; so that war is now an exceptional occurrence, whereas it used to be the common occupation of nations. We may hope that the still wider prevalence of Christian principles and of correct views on the purposes and duties of civil society will gradually enable the nations to dispense with war altogether, by deferring all international contests to the arbitration of the most worthy personage on earth, the Vicar of the Prince of Peace.
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