Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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DECLARATION OF WAR. As a rule the transition from a state of peace to war is not a sudden one. In such transition certain usages have been adopted and are followed. It has been pretended, in our opinion wrongly, that to justify war no declaration of war is necessary, that there is needed no communication whatever by which the injured state announces that it is preparing to assert its rights by means of war. We are of opinion that a declaration of war is always morally obligatory. It matters little what the form of this declaration, provided the passage from the state of peace to the state of war be publicly announced.


—The custom of making a declaration of war, properly so called, formerly prevalent in Europe, has been frequently neglected since the middle of the seventeenth century. This custom was borrowed from the nations of antiquity, who declared war by heralds of arms. In our days a simpler measure is frequently substituted for this ancient form. It consists in proclaiming war by public manifestoes. But, leaving the form followed and the name employed out of consideration, it is clear that, at bottom, the same end is had in view. What is intended is, that the state of war should be known to all. So true is this, that the attention of foreign governments is regularly called to these manifestoes; and in such documents it is frequently sought to show the justice of the motives which determined the country to have resort to arms. So necessary is the declaration of war considered, that the justice of all military operations preceding it has been contested. "Moreover," says Klüber, "although it does not decide in all cases the moment of the beginning of hostilities, it always exerts a legal influence on the intercourse of individuals. For all these reasons the proclamation of war, or rather the declaration of war, is a general custom among all the nations of Europe."


—The proclamation of war is of importance to the subjects of the state, because, since the war establishes relations of enmity between the entire nation and its enemy, every individual is threatened, if not in his person, at least sometimes in his goods. Declarations of war are very short and simple, like that made to Prussia July 19, 1870, in the name of France, or the reasons and motives which justify them, called in international law claregatio, are stated in them in detail.


—Generally the belligerent powers regulate, by special edicts or decrees, the conduct which their subjects or vassals shall maintain after the declaration of war.


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