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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ALLIANCE. The nation being but the family enlarged, what is applicable to the one may nearly always be applied to the other, with a few modifications. We shall discover, therefore, in the development of the relations between individuals, the history and origin of the international relations called political alliances.


—They have both been subjected to the action of time. They have been modified, transformed, and complicated, keeping pace with the evolution of humanity and the progress of society; but in every epoch we discover, as their essential bases, the constituent principles of the earliest human society. Affinities of blood, the power of passion, community of interests; these are the forces which in all ages have brought individuals, as well as nations, together. We shall adopt these three great divisions in our study of political alliances, keeping always in view the subdivisions which each of them admits of, for they correspond to three great phases in the history of all humanity, and, at the same time, show the permanency and the successive combinations of the constituent principles of which we have just spoken.


—Affinity of blood was the formative principle of the first human groups; solidarity of interests has an ever increasing tendency to govern in the making of modern alliances; and yet it is demonstrable that material interests not unfrequently played a part in the most remote antiquity, even where consanguinity and race exercised the most decisive influence, just as certain family alliances have stifled the voice of interest in recent times and in countries in which the principles of political economy have long been the guiding rules of diplomacy.


—There are three chief classes of political alliances: alliances of blood alliances of ideas or principles, and alliances of interest. There are conditions of existence and duration peculiar to each kind of alliance. Some are temporary, others of indeterminate duration; some have a special object in view, others are universal in their character. There are alliances for common defense, and alliances at once offensive and defensive. The peculiar character of these alliances, the diversities resulting from the governments of different form between which they are contracted, become apparent from the study of the treaties which create these unions, and which constitute the law of nations. Conventions are for nations what contracts are in the case of individuals.


—I. ALLIANCES OF BLOOD. There are blood alliances of peoples of common origin, and there are those due to the union of sovereigns. This double species of alliance predominated at the first grouping together of nomad tribes. The patriarchate which preceded royalty introduced family alliances. The laws of agglomeration are everywhere identical Families of a common stock come together and form a tribe; the tribes unite and form the nation; sovereigns, through their alliances, complete and extend the work begun by the heads of families and the members of the tribe. In the vedas, the bible, and the Scandinavian sagas, the illustrations of this are the same, and abound to such a degree that it would be superfluous to cite any. Although the alliance of blood and race becomes less important in international affairs as we advance into historic time, the part it plays is still great in the annals of nations. It was the ties of consanguinity that grouped the princes of Asia around the ravisher of Helen; it was the solidarity of race which gave avengers to the outraged Menelaus. We find in the immortal epic of Homer, on the narrow boundary between fable and primitive history, an example of the alliance of blood and race as it was developed during centuries of barbarism and ignorance.


—During the period of the great migrations of peoples, and the wars of conquest and religion, alliances of blood played a less important part. They governed, however, in the formation of those numberless hordes which rolled westward like so many avalanches, from the lofty plains of Asia and the icy fastnesses of northern Europe. When men thought to stem the torrent it was through alliances of blood that resistance to it was organized. Such alliances it was that brought order out of chaos, light out of darkness, and did away with violence, and established peace. Such alliances it was that gave Clotbilda to Clovis and Helen to Constantine. After the fruitless efforts of Charlemagne and his emulators to revive the empire of the west, the sovereignty of the world was divided among several. The age of feudalism was an age of violence, but it was also an age of grace and beauty. The souvenirs of chivalry show clearly enough what the influence of woman was during all that period. Her influence found expression and strength in marriage contracts. Through marriage all the great houses and lasting fortunes of modern times were founded. The fortune of war is variable. Defeat takes away what victory gave; but much is handed down which survives the reverses of war. The ties of blood resist the trials of adversity. While conquerors disappear like brilliant meteors, fortunes which last for centuries attest the force and vitality of family alliances. It was by these latter that the French monarchy was established. The fruits of the greater part of French conquests have been taken away from France. The dowries of French queens have remained. The house of Bourbon, whose destiny has been so closely allied to that of France, owed its greatness to the skill with which its alliances were formed more than to anything else. These verses inspired by the matrimonial successes of the house of Austria are well known: Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria, nube.


—We might say the same of the house of Savoy, which owes six or seven centuries of constant aggrandizement to its continued formation of useful alliances. We have said enough to describe the classes of alliances with which we are here concerned. To show what was their influence in peace and war would be to rewrite all history. We will, therefore, add but two examples to those already cited. The union of the house of France with that of Spain, ending in the war of succession under Louis XIV., and which gave rise to English mistrust under Louis Philippe, is one of those historical episodes in which the inconveniences and advantages of family alliances are strikingly shown. Formerly, in the organization of the ";Holy Roman Empire of the German nation,"; of the Germanic Confederation, and latterly of the German Empire, we find a no less striking instance of race alliances.


—The motive cause of family alliances is almost always the ambition of sovereigns, the instinct of conquest, or the desire of political preponderance. They are, therefore, most frequently aggressive. Alliances of race, on the contrary, are generally defensive. They are formed for the protection of interests, which would be imperiled by isolation from other interests. The menaces of Persia gave rise to the amphictyonic league. The gigantic development of the Russian empire, and the formation of France into a powerful unit, gave birth to the diet of Frankfort, which led to the complete unification of Germany.


—II. ALLIANCES OF IDEAS OR PRINCIPLES. We do not wish to conceal the vagueness and insufficiency of this caption, yet we have been unable to find a title more applicable to an alliance which is neither an alliance of race, of family, nor of interest.


—Hatred, vengeance, gratitude, friendship, ambition, faith, are feelings, passions, ideas, which have more than once determined peoples and sovereigns to contract alliances. It often happens that an idea is complicated with interests or with affinities of blood. We must not hope for strict unity in a subject which by its nature is complex and indeterminate.


—One of the most evident results of civilization is the substitution of interest for passion, in the management of human affairs. We must go far back in history to find an example of a people forming an alliance for objects of vengeance or hatred. Ambition itself scarcely ever avows its object now, and princes most greedy of glory disguise their passion under the mask of the general good. This was not always the case: The profound impression made by the invasions of the barbarians and the memory of the violence which prevailed under the territorial and political constitution of the world at the fall of the Roman empire, long sanctioned, among princes and nations, conventions regulating the most criminal projects, without scruple and without disguise. Antiquity had nothing similar to offer. Was not piracy the professed object of the alliance between the Barbary States? And when the Norman barons made a league with William to invade England, did they not stipulate beforehand the conditions of their assistance and the amount of booty they would demand in case of success? The hatreds and violence of the middle ages went as far as the formation of sacrilegious alliances. We can scarcely imagine the magnitude of the scandal, caused by the cross and the crescent fighting in the waters of Lepanto on the same side and for the same object. We are constrained to call attention to this scandal because it was an exceptional fact in flagrant contradiction with the customs and passions of the age. Faith, the religious sentiment, was really the ruling passion in politics until men's material interests began to rule supreme. From the schism of Arius to the peace of Utrecht, and the treaty of Westphalia, the question of religion occupies so large a place in all intervening conventions that diplomacy was saturated so to speak with theology.


—In the name of the Holy Trinity, and under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost international acts were drawn up. We need not add that it became necessary for religious formulæ to cover interests of another nature. However, there is an event among the most important of history in which alliances of religion appeared in all their purity, the event of the crusades. The crusades were followed by consequences unforeseen by their promoters, but faith was in the majority of cases the sincere and only motive of the crusaders. Side by side with this great fact are others of less importance which ought to be ranged in the same category; the alliance against the Albigenses and that of the leaguers with Spain; but, in both cases, the religious principle in which the alliance had its origin was combined with political elements which did not permit complete assimilation.


—The alliance of the United Provinces with the house of Orange, and the alliance of the Protestants of Germany with Gustavus Adolphus were essentially religious. They bore within them no doubt, the germs of political changes, which they were destined to bring about in Europe, but this can not detract from the purity of their origin. Religious sentiment will, perhaps, never again tower above material and political interests to such a degree.


—Political principles have not been without influence on alliances. We may cite among others those which were based upon the ultra conservative principles of the Holy Alliance to which we devote a special article. Unity of liberal ideas has drawn France and England together, and, in conformity to a law, the effects of which are frequently visible in nature, that contraries attract, we have seen the Russia of Nicholas I. manifest a weakness for the American republic. Alliances based upon political ideas are not more numerous because men have less inclination to argument or reasoning than to sentiments or interest.


—III. ALLIANCES OF INTEREST. The policy of interest prevails everywhere. If, therefore, we were to take up at random the alliances concluded since the beginning of this century, we should find that they are all connected either with a material or a political interest; but we have a more serious object in view. The present must be explained by the past. So long as nations were under the tutelage of princes, that is in their minority, so to speak, the will of the sovereign decided the fate of the nation. The country had no policy but that of the prince's ambition, it had no interests but those of his dignity and his dynasty. We must go rather far back in the annals of monarchy to find treaties of commerce and international conventions in which the least thought is given to the economical principles which rule the modern world. Commercial enterprises and industrial undertakings were then so many monopolies. Some princes might be named to whom agriculture, commerce, and industry are indebted for valuable encouragement, but the distance is great between this and an alliance of interest, such as we understand by the term to-day. We must not, therefore, look for alliances based on commercial interests, except in a few small states in which the commerce of the ancient world had become centralized, until we reach modern times We are not yet cured of the prejudice which causes us to put the glory of arms and military greatness above all other. We should not be astonished, therefore, at the small account which has been made of industrial nations for so long a time by warlike peoples. Fidelity to engagements entered into with them was not considered necessary. Such nations were held in regard only in so far as they were feared by or useful to others. Industrial states were among nations what the Jew is yet in certain countries. Therefore, guided by their instinct and enlightened by experience they substituted the foundation of colonies for foreign alliances which could offer them no guarantee of reciprocity. Before the discovery of the route around the Cape the great highway of the world's commerce was the one which the steam engine has reopened and which has now been so much shortened by the cutting of the Isthmus of Suez. The products of India and the East arrived at the African coast and there awaited buyers from Europe. Hence along the coasts, the establishment of the flourishing emporiums of Tyre. Carthage, and of so many others. Between these states there was the closest of alliances, identity of origin and a permanent community of interests. On the opposite shore of the great lake, a similar work had been accomplished by the Phænicians and the Phoceans. The merchant marine had there its stations, and commerce had its centers from the Greek archipelago to Bayonue. Heavy interests and formidable powers sprang up there with which the proudest monarchies of Europe had to reckon, the Sultan as well as other Asiatic potentates. The alliances concluded by Venice and Genoa are those in which commercial interests were most strikingly represented. The commercial and industrial development of Flanders, Holland and Great Britain succeeded Mediterranean prosperity. Commerce had changed its route. It had increased. Up to this time the world had been indebted to it for great cities, it was not to form great nations.


—It is from this epoch that economic questions really take a place in the public law of Europe. In the treaties of Charles V. there are stipulations in favor of the good cities of Bruges and Ghent. Industrial states have greater need of independence and security than any others. Alliances of interest reached their full importance only when these interests themselves were admitted and represented in international conventions on a footing of equality.


—Our own generation will witness the solution of the problem. Navigation, protection, exchanges, so long forgotten or merely implied, are prominently mentioned now at the head of every treaty. And not only have material interests become the main foundation of all alliances, but no other alliances are possible. There is an explanation of this phenomenon which leads us to hope that it will be an enduring one. The preponderance of material interests keeps pace everywhere with liberty and the progress of civilization. It substitutes loyalty and truth for violence and cunning; what all want takes the place of a single will. Liberty displaces servitude and democracy enters into the possession of its rights.


—To believe in this upward course of humanity is to believe in the system of alliances born and destined to develop with it. We have seen by what a logical chain of events this system came to be substituted for the systems which preceded it, but its superiority over them consists in its satisfying man's multifarious wants. It results from this that alliances of interest take part in all the complications of modern life, and that they are never more important than when they compromise with the prejudices of race or with religious sentiment. This new law of international conventions destroys nothing; it transforms the past, it assimilates and absorbs it. It will be the lasting honor of Switzerland to have pointed out by its example, before all other peoples, the solution of the question. No matter how noble or how lofty the problem, it was interest that united together the old cantons, and this same interest has been so broadly understood, so wisely nursed that through the most violent European crises, in the midst of perils of every kind, it has held together to our day in a close and prosperous union three races, three languages and religions which were everywhere else at war—Another nation which may be cited as the most marvelous example of prosperity due to an alliance of interest is the American Union. If the alliance of the northern and southern states was imperiled by the war of secession, it was because the republic had inherited from the past a legacy irreconcilable with the economic laws and morals of the future—slavery. There is a lesson to be learned from the fearful crisis through which the Union passed. It is this that the sanction of justice and morality is needed in alliances of interest more than in any other.


—IV. LAW OF NATIONS Like all international relations alliances are governed by the law of nations. Accepting the definition of authors, who see in states moral persons, we may compare treaties between states to contracts between individuals.


—The acknowledged necessity of waging war under certain circumstances has established a two-fold relation among nations: 1st. A relation to the power with which they form an alliance. 2nd. Toward the power against which they employ their forces. Alliances bind the contracting parties to make war in common against third powers, or to furnish aid as auxiliaries to one of the principal belligerents. They are offensive or defensive according to the circumstances which determine them. In most cases offensive alliances are temporary and special, for they have a special and determinate aim. This attained they cease to nave any raison d'être. Two nations may, however, unite their destinies for a purpose so complex and lasting that their alliance would lose the ordinary character of an offensive alliance. France and Spain afford us an example of these exceptions in the treaties of 1761 and 1796.


—Defensive alliances have a character of permanence and generality in keeping with the object they have in view. Side by side with the full and complete alliance we may mention the simple subsidy treaty by which a state enters into no other obligation than to loan a body of its troops to another power which is to pay them. Besides the many examples furnished by antiquity and the middle ages we know how frequently during the wars of the empire, England bound herself by subsidy treaties with the continental powers; and we may add here, that this species of contract has often served as a pretext for more general and intimate alliances.


—Treaties of alliance provide for the cases in which the aid of the contracting parties is to be invoked and the measure of their participation. When the contingencies provided for have happened, it has first of all to be decided whether the casus fæderis exists, that is to say whether the parties to the treaty are in the position contemplated by it. It often happens that when the time has come to carry out the terms of the treaty, one of the powers recedes from the fulfillment of its obligations. We do not wish to recount the almost infinite number of pretexts which bad faith has been able to suggest under such circumstances. It has sometimes happened that a treaty of alliance left unexecuted has become a cause of war. The difficulties are still more numerous in carrying out the conditions of certain treaties, in regulating the sacrifices made or the advantages gained. Here, again, we find in Heffter a confirmation of the position we have taken. He says, paragraph 116: ";In such cases the rule of partnership has to be followed, in accordance with which the profits and losses fall to each party in proportion to the amount he has invested in the business. Have we not here the laws of common morality, and the rules of private business? We find the same doctrine on this matter in Wheaton's Elements of International Law, vol. I., p. 259, etc. Although it is considered almost impossible to specify all the cases in which the refusal of aid may be proper before the commencement of war, and to foresee all the disputes which may follow the conclusion of peace, Martens has noted four cases in which an alliance may be broken, even during the course of a common war: 1st. Cases of necessity. 2nd. Cases in which an ally was the first to break faith with his ally. 3rd. When the object of the alliance can no longer be attained. 4th. When the ally refuses peace offered on proper terms. We are very far from wishing to approve the opinion of Martens. As to conventions concerning subsidies and auxiliaries we shall limit ourselves to a few essential generalities. Most frequently after fixing the number and conditions of the first contingent they provide for the additions which may become necessary. They reserve the civil rights in their own country of the men who go to serve on a foreign soil and under a foreign flag. They stipulate for the reward as compensation which shall follow success or defeat. They establish the differences existing between the ally and the auxiliary, between the auxiliary and the power which simply furnishes a subsidy. These differences impose restrictions on the rights of war. An anterior treaty may engage a nation to assist another in an anticipated war, without the nation which fulfills this engagement being considered in a state of hostility with the power against which it bears arms involuntarily and accidentally.


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