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with which these United States will go forth in the memory of future ages, if, by their friendly counsel, by their moral influence, by the power of argument and persuasion alone, they can prevail upon the American Nations at Panama, to stipulate, by general agreement among themselves, and so far as any of them may be concerned, the perpetual abolition of private war upon the ocean. And, if we cannot yet flatter ourselves that this may be accomplished, as advances towards it, the establishment of the principle that the friendly flag shall cover the cargo, the curtailment of contraband of war, and the proscription of fictitious paper blockades, engagements which we may reasonably hope will not prove impracticable, will, if successfully inculcated, redound proportionally to our honor, and drain the fountain of many a future sanguinary war.” *
The international bodies, which have hitherto existed under the denomination of Congresses, have differed, in some important respects, from that prospective assembly, to which the attention of the friends of peace has been called. In the first place, they have not been of a permanent character; they have been called into existence in connection with particular emergencies ; and have terminated, as soon as the circumstances, which called them into being, would permit. Again, being created for particular occasions, they have generally been limited to a few nations, those which were particularly interested, and have not embraced the great body of European and civilized States. Their influence accordingly has been more limited, than it would otherwise be. Furthermore, they have been, in their design and in their operations, remedial rather than preventive. They have been summoned together, in order to heal the wounds, which have been inflicted, to shut the foun
* American State Papers, 1825-6.
tains of wretchedness, which war has opened ; rather than by antecedent measures to prevent wars taking place. The Congress, which the friends of peace contemplate, differs essentially ; it is meant to include every civilized nation ; it is designed to be a perinanent assembly, in order to meet the cases of misunderstanding and difficulty, which are constantly arising. At the same time, it is not intended to be legislative, but purely diplomatic and consultative; a sort of High Court of reference and advice, employed in forming treaties and conventions, in adjusting on the principles of equity those conflicting claims of its members, which they may see fit to refer to it; and in settling the doubtful principles of the public Code. And in all these measures, its great object, that for which it is primarily and particularly proposed, is the preservation of universal peace. The mere suggestion of the existence of such an assembly is enough to excite interest ; that it is one of the things within the range of possibility, cannot be doubted ; and the mere possibility, not to say, probability, of its being called into existence, cannot fail to call forth thought, discussion, and effort.
OBJECTS OF ATTENTION.
It is undoubtedly the case with some persons, that they do not clearly perceive what objects would occupy the attention of a Congress of Nations. And in order to make them understand the importance of such an assembly, it is necessary to indicate distinctly some of the topics, to which its deliberations would be likely to be called. The idea of a large permanent assembly, supported at the public expense, with no great objects before them requiring their attention, would meet with but little favor. It will be the object of this Chapter briefly to refer to some of those subjects or heads of subjects, which, it is reasonable to suppose, would from time to time receive notice ; premising, however, that we do not undertake to give a complete enumeration. Other subjects, connected with some peculiar and unforeseen state of things, would occasionally solicit attention.
1,INALIENABLE RIGHTS, -There are some rights, which belong to man as man; they are inseparable from his nature ; they cling to him under all changes of situation, and amid all the diversities of political regulation. Such as the right to personal safety, the right to improve and perfect the powers our Creator has given us, the right to equal and impartial justice, and the rights of con
science. It is important for the welfare of mankind, that fundamental rights of this description should be understood ; that they should be placed upon clear and irrefragable grounds; and that they should be announced with the utmost solemnity. This is particularly true of rights of conscience. With all the light and liberty of the nineteenth Century, there is far from being a full, free, and perfect toleration of religious opinions. And all announcements and stipulations in favor of rights of conscience cannot be too highly valued, because they are made in support of the inalienable claims of humanity. Whatever are proper subjects for treaty stipulations would be suitable topics for the deliberations of an International assembly; and it is well known, that rights of conscience have, in repeated instances, been secured by treaties. And it is worthy of remark, that this view of things was announced to the national Legislature by the President of the United States, as a reason for uniting in the proposed Congress of Panama. The passage, to which we refer, is as follows." The Congress of Panama is believed to present a fair occasion for urging upon all the new nations of the South, the just and liberal principles of religious liberty. Not by any interference whatever, in their internal concerns, but by claiming for our citizens, whose occupations or interests may call them to occasional residence in their territories, the inestimable privilege of worshiping their Creator according to the dictates of their own consciences. This privilege, sanctioned by the customary law of nations, and secured by treaty stipulations in numerous national compacts; secured even to our own citizens in the treaties with Columbia, and with the Federation of Central America, is yet to be obtained in the other South American States and Mexico. Existing prejudices are still struggling against it, which may perhaps be more successfully com
batted at this general meeting, than at the separate seats of Government of each Republic.”
II, CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY. - Among these are infanticide, human sacrifices, the burning of widows on the funeral pile of their husbands, the practice of the torture, excessive and revolting punishments, the slave trade, and other crimes of a like character. The attention of a Congress of Nations ought to be seriously directed to evils of this kind, because they involve the interests of human nature as such; they are crimes, in view of which not only civilization, but humanity revolts ; they are offences, not merely against a local government, but against all mankind. It was for a long time the practice in certain provinces of India, for widows at the death of their husbands, to burn themselves on the funeral pile. Although other nations, in a case of this kind, have no right to interfere by violence, it is obviously their duty to interfere, so far as there is a prospect of doing any good, by imparting instruction, and by earnest rémonstrances. And if such provinces are under the control of civilized and Christian nations, it is the duty of such nations, to the perforinance of which they may properly be excited and urged by other Christian States, to terminate the practice in question by express and direct interdictions.
III, -IMPROVEMENTS IN THE LAW OF NATIONS. From what has been said in the Second Part of this Work, it cannot be doubted, that the Law of nations is open to improvements. Nor is it less evident, that a Congress of nations would be a peculiarly suitable body to suggest such improvements, both in consequence of being able to judge of their necessity and of possessing a weight of authority, which would be likely to secure their entire recognition. It is not necessary to enumerate the questions which remain unsettled; some of which