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The Problems and Progress
International Organization

Edward R, Stettinius, Jr.j Professor
o f Government and Foreign Affairs
University o f Virginia


T h e Question of Practical Attainability

T h e Question of Theoretical Validity
Suggested Readings

19 International Organization and W orld Order

T h e Progress of International Organization
T h e Prospects of International Organization
Suggested Readings

Appendix I T h e Covenant of the League of Nations
Appendix I I T h e Charter of the United Nations
Appendix I I I The North Atlantic Treaty
Appendix IV T h e M em bers of the United Nations
Appendix V Costs of the United Nations System


One W orld is in some respects an ideal and an aspiration, born of

modern interpretations of ancient moral insights and of rational estimates
of the requirements for human survival; it is in other respects a pressing
reality, an actual condition of mankind, produced by a century of change
that has tied all the peoples of the earth together in an unprecedented
intimacy of contact, interdependence of welfare, and mutuality of vulner
ability. W hether or not we obey the religious injunction to behave like
brothers, or attain the ethical objective of a peaceful world community,
we human beings cannot escape the hard fact that all of us are, as John
Donne put it, involved in Mankinde. Given the existence of One W orld
defined as a set of objective conditions, disaster may be the price of failure
to achieve One W orld defined in term s of a moral and political ideal.
Sincere and sensible men may differ as to how much and what kind
of world unity is possible and desirable, how it can or should be achieved,
and how quickly it is likely to be or ought to be attempted. These are
important questions, and some attention will be devoted to them in this
book. However, we are not simply confronted with a debate about hypo
thetical possibilities for the future. The growing complexity of interna
tional relations has already produced international organizations; the
world is engaged in the process of organizing. This process has a past
which is not very long, as historians measure time, but which is nonethe
less significant. It has a present which is confused and troubled, but which
is not for that reason less important as an object of study. And, it may be
confidently asserted, if man has a future, so has the process of interna
tional organization.


T h e present state of international organization, representing an at

tem pt to adapt the institutions, procedures, and rules of international
relations to the conditions of international interdependence, is far from
satisfactory. But though much is lacking in international organizations,
there is no lack o f such agencies. Public international organizations,
having states as their members, exist by the scores, and private interna
tional associations, not officially sponsored by or connected with govern
ments, exist by the hundreds. T he population explosion of our time
extends not only to human beings and to states but also to international
agencies, as a cursory review of successive editions of the Y e a r b o o k o f
In tern a tio n a l O rgan ization s, published by the Union of International
Associations in Brussels, will indicate. International agencies vary greatly
in size and scope, in structure, in the nature of the subject m atter with
which they deal, and in the ambitiousness of the activities that they
undertake to perform. They are global and regional, specialized and
multipurpose; their concerns range from the great issues of war and
peace to the technical problems of highway construction. In a given week
the activities of international bodies may run from disarmament nego
tiations to discussions of the microbiology of wine. It cannot be empha
sized too strongly that the organization of international affairs is not
just a gleam in the eyes of idealists, to be judged in terms of its accepta
bility or feasibility as an ideal, but it is a process under way, to be
studied with a view to understanding its causes and effects, its progress
and limitations, its problems and prospects.
International org an iz atio n is a process; international organ ization s
are representative aspects of the phase of that process which has been
reached at a given time. This is a book about international organization,
based primarily upon an analysis of the organizational efforts in which
1 governments participate as the official agencies of states. Thus, the realm
occupied by nongovernmental organizations is largely excluded from its
scope. It is a selective study, not a comprehensive digest, but its time
range includes past, present, and possible future developments. It is writ
ten in the conviction that international organizations, as institutions, have
a double significance; they are important, though not decisively important,
factors in contemporary world affairs; and they are significant expres
sions of, and contributors to, the process of international organization,
which may ultimately prove to be the most significant dynamic element
in th e developing reality of international relations.


T he study of international organization involves certain difficulties that

are traceable to the relative newness of the field, both as an aspect of
reality and as a focus of scholarly attention. W e are confronted with a

complex and constantly changing subject matter, an ever-increasing

mass of documentation that frequently fails to yield the whole truth and
nothing but the truth, and the proliferating output of a scholarship that,
for all its valuable contributions, is still in the stage of fum bling uncer
tainly with the problem of finding the real meaning and significance of
events and developments in the field of international organization. These
may be regarded as normal difficulties, but there are abnorm al ones as
wellspecial problems inherent in the subject that com plicate the task
of developing objective understanding and appraisal of international
The heart of the matter is the widespread tendency for international
organizationparticularly, in our time, the United Nationsto b e treated
as an ideological issue. It arouses hopes and fears of a fundam ental sort,
and its students may find themselves lost among its champions and
critics. For many the United Nations presents an issue of faith and t
morals: do you believe in the United Nations? On the one hand, the
establishment and development of this organization are regarded as
central elements of a noble crusade for peace, justice, and human
brotherhood, so that being for the United Nations is the crucial test
of a decent person. On the other, the creation of such agencies appears
* as a plot to undermine the values of nationalism and sovereignty, an
external threat to the integrity of ones own state that the true patriot
must denounce and resist.
This ideological dichotomy does not provide the m ost favorable
context for careful, dispassionate study of the United Nations or other
international bodies. The very posing of the "for or against question
betrays a basic immaturity in our approach to international institutions.
W e shall have achieved the maturity of outlook essential for the proper
study of international organization when we find it as inappropriate to
ask Do you believe in the United Nations? as to ask whether one
believes in and supports the United States Congress or his state highway
department or local school board. The point is that international organi
zations are neither sacred nor diabolical ideological inventions, but a part
of the political and administrative apparatus of human society made
necessary by the complexity and interdependence of that society. The
appropriate questions relate not to their status as objects of reverence or
the reverse, but to their utility and to ones approval or disapproval of
the policies that they serve. W hat the United Nations needs most is not
to attract a larger array of avid supporters, but to begin to be taken
> for grantedto be regarded not as an idealistic scheme on trial, b u t as a
political institution within which everyone expects to suffer defeats as
well as to win victories and which no one can conceive as a dispensable
part of the machinery for the management of international affairs.
The development of this perspective is dependent upon an under
6 Introduction

standing of the history of international organization. W hat is needed is

not simply a know ledge of the facts concerning its origins and evolu
tion, b u t a sense of history, a feel for the significance of the emergence
of international organization in the historical context. To understand
that international agencies are products not of the aspirations of idealists
standing outside of and above international politics, but of the necessities
felt by statesm en operating within the arena of international politics, is
to sense the fa ct that international organization is a functional response!
to the com plexities of the modern state system, an organic development
rooted in the realities o f the system rather than an optional experiment
fastened upon it. F o r one who grasps this fact, the issue of whether we
should have international organization is no more meaningful than the
issue o f w hether urbanization should result in the provision of more exten
sive pu blic services and the imposition of more elaborate governmental
regulations. O ne recognizes international organization as a distinctive
modern aspect o f world politics, a relatively recent growth, but an estab
lished trend. P articular organizations may come and go, but interna
tional organization as a generic phenomenon is here to stay. T h e collapse
o f th e L eag u e of Nations led almost automatically to consideration of
the nature of its replacem ent, and similar failure by the United Nations
m ight b e expected to produce the same reaction. A sense of history pro
vides th e basis for the understanding that international organization has
becom e a necessary part of the system for dealing with international
problem s, and that to organize or not to organize is no longer an open
question fo r statesm en or a useful one for students of international
M oreover, an understanding of the historical development of political
institutions in general and of international organizations in particular
should establish th e point that ideological preconceptions provide a
most unsatisfactory basis for attitudes toward such agencies as the United
Nations. Founding fathers are among the most frustrated and double-
crossed heroes of history; they can state the purposes of the institutions
that they create, but they cannot determine those purposes or control
the course of developm ent of those institutions. To change the figure,
they can only launch the institutional ships, which are then tossed on the
seas of history, driven by the winds of political forces, and steered by a
succession of men who have their own ideas about where they want to
go. P olitical institutions evolve, not along lines rigidly set by their crea
tors and definitively stated in constitutional documents, but in response
to a dynam ic process that com bines the propulsive and directive impulses
of trends running through the political context and of purposes injected
by participants in their operations. T h e potentialities of institutions are
lim ited in some m easure by the characteristics originally impressed upon
them , bu t the probabilities of their development derive from contin
Introduction 7

gencies beyond the power of their founders to anticipate. Even the oper
ators of a political agency at any given time are restricted in their
capacity to control its evolution; the course of the development of an
international organization may be determined less by the consciously
adopted plans of the governments that participate in its decisions or of
the officials who serve it than by the cumulative influence of day-to-day
pressures and case-by-case decisions. The unpredictable history of the
future, no less than the ineradicable history of the past, as- a factor in
the shaping of political institutions.
To adopt this perspective is to acknowledge that it makes as little
sense to base ones attitude toward the United Nations upon ones
appraisal of the purposes proclaimed in its Charter as to base ones
attitude toward the Nixon Administration upon a reading of the Pre
amble of the Constitution of the United States. One ought not to take
too literally the formally stated purposes of any political institution. The
United Nations Charter gives expression to a set of lofty purposes
including the m aintenance of peace and security, the development of
friendly international relations, and the promotion of cooperative solu
tions to basic problems of human welfare and human rights. This is not
to say that the governments responsible for formulating the Charter
were, in fact, unanimously devoted to the realization of these purposes
or determined to use the new organization exclusively for their realiza
tion. W e can say with assurance only that they were all willing to make
this formal assertion of the ends appropriate to the United Nations. In
practice, statesmen use, or compete for the capacity to use, the United
Nations for a variety of purposes, some of which are not mentioned in
the Charter and may even be among those customarily regarded as
unmentionable by the drafters of the constitutions of international
organizations. In a very real sense the United Nations has no fixed
purposes, either as to what it shall do or as to what it shall become; its
functional objectives and developmental directions are set and shifted
by the operation of its political process, in which the clash and consensus
of the aims of member states determine the choices made among the
possibilities provided by the general state of the international system
at a given point in time.
Equipped with this understanding, one is confronted not with the
question of b elie v in g in the United Nations as a sacred cause, but with
the necessity of recog n izin g th a t the United Nations is an agency subject
to utilization by states for such purposes as they may jointly decide to
pursue or com petitively succeed in imposing upon it. The issue of
w hether the organization is destined to confirm ones hopes or ones
fears by becoming a world government is supplanted by consideration
of how and by whom and toward what result it is being shaped and
may be shaped in the future; evaluation of seminal potentialities gives way
8 Introduction

to analysis of political process and appraisal of political possibilities.

The for or against question is discarded in favor of what, how, and
who questions pertinent to the task of political analysis rather than to
the determ ination of ideological commitment. This is the point at which
serious study of international organization can begin.


The student of the United Nations and of the other international bodies
clustered about it requires some standard for the evaluation of perform
ance and development, some pattern with which international agencies
can be compared, some criterion of effectiveness against which actual
achievem ent can be measured. Unfortunately, there is no ready-made and
easily available instrum ent for these purposes. W e see the consequence
of this lack in the qualitative deficiency of much of the casual ( and some
of the not-so-casual) commentary about the United Nations to which we
are exposed. People express disappointment at what the organization has
not proved able to do, hope as to what it may be able to do, or fear
concerning what it might do, all too often without relating the actions
in question to any well-founded conception of what capacity the United
Nations might reasonably b e considered to have. Just as no sane farmer
would express disappointment because his cow did not lay eggs or
hope that his cow might be induced to lay eggs, an intelligent observer
should b e expected to refrain from critical or hortatory discussion of the
functional capacity of the United Nations that is uninformed by an
accurate understanding of the realistic possibilities. W e have no warrant
for being hopeful, disillusioned, cynical, or fearful of the United Nations,
unless the expectations that enter into our judgment bear some sensible
relationship to the nature of the organization and the limitations set by
the political context within which it operates.
T h e problem is to achieve and then to use a set of educated expec
tations concerning the international organizations of our time. This is no
simple matter, for the capacities and incapacities of international bodies
are not as clearly established, as fixed, or as uniform as those of cows
(w hich may, presumably, be expected to maintain for all time their
extrem ely minimal propensity for laying eg g s), and one may find the
stated ambitions of founding fathers and the promises and pretensions
of charters and constitutions misleading rather than helpful. Moreover,
such an organizational complex as the United Nations system (a term
that I use to include the Specialized Agencies along with the United
Nations proper) is a m ultifaceted thing, incapable of being captured by
a single definition or of being fully portrayed by one image. Rather than
to adopt a single conception of the nature and potentiality of the United
Introduction 9

Nations or of any other international agency, it behooves us to examine

the full range of available images, educating ourselves as to which
aspects of reality can be seen from each of several vantage points and
thus establishing our levels of expectation and refining our standards
of evaluation.

Im a g es o f th e T h eater. For some reason, the vocabulary of the

theater has caught on in political science, as the ubiquity of the term
actor attests. This is no less true in the field of international relations
than in other sectors of the discipline, and with some justification, for
there is high dramaunfortunately, more often tragic than com ic, but
sometimes at the level of burlesquein this realm. H ence, it is not sur
prising that theatrical notions have acquired a place in the im agery of
international organization.
Perhaps the most standard, and surely one of the most accurate,
images of international organization is that of the stage, emphasizing
the provision of a place or setting for the action and interaction of per
formers. I f the image of the stage also suggests that the cast of ch arac
ters may include stars, prima donnas, and bit players, and that a
considerable element of stylization and even of artificiality tends to mark
their performance, no valid objection can be made. T h e variant notion
of the arena tends to suggest, not improperly, that the performers are
frequently engaged in wholly earnest competition with each other rather
than in make-believe. The blending of the notions of arena and stage may
contribute to accurate understanding, for both serious contention and
formal posturing enter into the typical proceedings of international
bodies. Both notions have the additional and important im plication that
an audience is centrally involvedthat the proceedings are a public per
formance, that a significant interrelation develops betw een actors and
audience as well as among the actors, and that playing to the audience,
seeking its applause, is a major feature of the perform ance. Devotees
of show business will not find the United Nations entirely alien to their
T he image of the stage assigns to international organizations only
a passive function, that of maintaining a locale for the playing of roles
by the actors who constitute the international cast. T h e question imme
diately arises as to whether such organizations may not be actors rather
than mere stages. Seeking to identify international organizations, should
we ask who rather than what? Are they participants in international
relations with a potentially important role to playnot merely facilities
for the interplay of states?
An affirmative assumption is suggested by the normal mode of dis
cussion of international organizations. W e say that the United Nations
supports national self-determination; we hope that it may solve the
10 Introduction

M iddle E astern crisis; vve regret that it did not, or could not, save
Czechoslovakia from Soviet intervention; we note that it opposes South
African apartheid; and we argue as to whether it improperly intrudes
upon the dom estic jurisdiction of some of its members. In all of this there
is an im plication that we regard the United Nations as an actor, playing
a role in international relations along with and in relation to such other
actors as the United States, Brazil, or India. In this view international
organizations appear not as suppliers of stages upon which states play,
but as m em bers of the cast of charactersunique in status and distinctive
in role, but nonetheless membersperforming upon the world stage.
How valid is this conception?
W e would do well to ponder the nature of the identity that we
ascribe to international organizations. W ho is this United Nations to
which we im pute action or inaction, capacity or incapacity, wisdom or
folly, courage or tim idity? In some cases the reference is obviously to
the m em ber states, considered collectively; a unanimously supported
proclam ation or a resolution approved by the requisite majority passes as
an expression of the will or judgment or intention of the United Nations.
For states included in the consensus or the majority, the United Nations
is simply a massive we and they, and its name is used as a shorthand
device for some such grouping as most o f the states of the world rather
than as the designation o f an independent actor, added to the interna
tional cast by the creative act of the San Francisco Conference of 1945.
Thus, to say that the United Nations is concerned to promote world
peace may not be m eant to imply anything more than that the states
o f the world have organized themselves to work toward that end.
In other instances, states, though they may be members, treat inter
national organizations as entities external to themselves, as foreign bodies.
W hen South A frica accuses the United Nations of illegal interference in
its dom estic affairs or the United States urges the U nited Nations to
approve its policy in the Cuban missile crisis, the organization is clearly
being conceived not as we and they but as they. Even so, the attri
bution of international personality to the United Nations is unlikely to
b e seriously intended or to be warranted. The reference is again to a
collection of states: those other states, or a majority of them, are to be
congratulated for the support that they gave us, or are to b e castigated
for the bias that they displayed against us. Again, the United Nations
turns out to be not a new kind of actor, but a collective name for the
traditional members of the international cast, the states.
A dm ittedly, the concept of collectivity may b e treated more seriously
and regarded more substantively than these observations imply. It may
be argued th at the numerous states into which the world is divided,
despite their separateness, constitute a whole that has acquired a cor
porate reality; while sovereignty symbolizes their individuality, interna-
Introduction 11

tional organization expresses their community. Is the forest a less

meaningful unit than the single tree within its bounds? From this point
of view the United Nations is virtually a synonym for the international
system. Its essence is that of a corporate entity rather than a collection
of component parts, and its acts, though they be determined by transient
combinations of member states, are to be interpreted as expressions of the
* will and policy of the collectivity.
This is a view of international organization that tends to arouse
varying reactions, linked to different and shifting appraisals of organiza
tional activity. Dominant majorities and defensive minorities are inclined
to indulge in conceptual inflation and deflation, respectively, of the
organizations in which they hold such status: when we win, the
organization that granted us victory looms as the community of m an
kind; but when we lose, it takes on the more prosaic appearance of a
gathering of states whose behavior is not notably improved by their
assembling under an organizational roof. It would have been surprising
if the United States had not regarded the United Nations of 1950 as the
embodiment of the international community, or if South Africa had not
regarded the United Nations of 1969 as a nefarious com bination of selfish,
hypocritical, and meddlesome states.
T h e subjectivity of the issue makes it extremely difficult to reach a
conclusive judgment concerning the validity of the actor concept of the
United Nations or any other international agency. Perhaps the critical
subjectivity is not that of winners and losers, but that of the great m ajor
ity of the participants in the political processes of international organiza
tions. D o they regard themselves, in ideal and in fact, as spokesmen for
national interests or as custodians of the interests of the larger entity
whose scope is determined by the membership roster of the organization
in which they serve? W e cannot easily d eterm in e with assured accuracy
the answer to this question, though we are probably on safe ground in
assuming that the former self-image is the normal starting point in inter
national organizations, that the shift toward the latter is more likely to
occur in some types of organization than in others, and that, in any case,
this shift is destined to take place slowly and unevenly. At the present
stage of development of most international organizations, it is doubtful
that the attribution of decisions, resolutions, or actions to collective enti
ties under their organizational labels can be properly regarded as much
more than a rhetorical cover for the reality of actions taken by states,
with varying degrees of consensus and contention, within the frameworks
or on the stagesprovided by international organizations.
W hen the United Nations or any other international organization is
conceived as an actor, neither the we and they nor the they im age is
as likely to be held in mind as the it image. This is to say that the
identity of the organization is frequently considered to lie in a component
12 Introduction

other than its com plement of member states; states are regarded as hav
ing created the organization, as supporting it in more or less generous
fashion, as being influenced, served, or otherwise affected by it, as being
involved in it, as having attitudes toward itbut not as b ein g it. It is not,
as in the they conception, all its member states save the one which at
a given moment sees itself as being judged or assisted or frustrated by
them , but it is none of them, something extraneous to all of them. The
it in this conception is the professional staff, and particularly the
secretary-general or other chief official together with his m ajor associates
in the bureaucracy. W hen one reads that the United Nations is negotiat
ing with the W orld Health Organization or has agreed to collaborate
with U N ESC O , this should not be taken to mean that the composite
formed by the member states of the United Nations is dealing with the
corresponding composites of the two other organizationsindeed, these
three agglomerations of states are largely, though not completely, identi
calbut that members of the international secretariats of the three organi
zations are engaged in activities on behalf of and in the name of those
organizations. More often than not the statem ent that T he United
Nations hopes . . . or The International Monetary Fund intends . . .
or T h e International L abor Organization plans . . . is best translated as
a reference to positions espoused by leading staff officers. W hen the
secretary-general of the United Nations deplores the tendency of most
or all members to neglect the organization and urges them to bolster its
finances, it is clear that the organization to which he refers is not the
states themselves in com bination, not the organization to which they
belong, but the organization to which h e belongs and which he heads,
which they have created and undertaken to maintain.
T here is nothing strange about this phenomenon. For many a
professor the American Association of University Professors is an it, a
headquarters group of salaried officials whose activities he helps to
finance, whose publications he reads, and whose services he enjoys; his
membership makes him not so much a segm ent of the organization as a
customer, a client, or one who subsidizes the organization because he
values what it does. Similar relationships may be found betw een mem
bers and organizations of every variety from political parties to churches.
This is not to say that such organizations are wholly autonomous or that
their members may not be, or become, significantly involved in them;
members may, in varying degrees, exercise direction and control over
them. I t is worthy of note, however, that in supporting, advising, crit
icizing, opposing, or otherwise seeking to influence an organization, the
active member tends to treat it as something external to him self; he acts
vis--vis the organization, rather than fo r it or a s it. Typically, he enters
into the more intim ate relationship of sharing in the identity of the
organization along with its staff only when he serves as an officer.
Introduction 13

International organizations tend, to a greater or lesser extent, to be

such entities as I have describedagencies called into being by states,
sustained by states, and actually or potentially directed by states, on
the supposition that their existence and operation may be useful to them
selves. This is rather clearly the status of such a service agency as the
Universal Postal Union; it is c o m p o s e d o f its staff and su p p o r te d b y its
members, who benefit from its activities. As we move up the scale of
political relevance to the United Nations, we should expect to find a
progressive reversal of this relationship between staff and mem ber states,
toward the point at which an organization may be described as being
composed of states and served by its staff. This reversal, however, is
never absolute. In some of its aspects even the United Nations has the
character that I have ascribed to the Universal Postal Union; though
the Security Council may be described as a group of states served by
the Secretariat, the United Nations Childrens Fund (U N IC E F ) or the
United Nations Institute for Training and Research (U N IT A R ) is more
properly regarded as a bureaucratic mechanism maintained by states. In
some respects the secretary-general is chief of an organization that exists
because states have seen fit to sponsor its creation and that is dependent
I upon, but essentially separate from, them. In other respects he is the
servant of an organization that consists of states and that employs a sup
porting staff.
An international organization is most clearly an actor when it is
most distinctly an it, an entity distinguishable from its member states.
Its real importance in international affairs, however, is not necessarily
linked to its achievem ent of this status. As an actor it may b e very useful,
but it can hardly b e expected to rank as a major participant in interna
tional affairs or even as an autonomous one, for its very survival is depend
ent upon the will of states, and its functional capacity and utilization are
ultimately subject to their determination. At best, the organization-as-
actor is likely to be valued as an instrument of states, not to b e accorded
a status and role equivalent to that of a state. The organization-as-stage
may have greater significance; in providing facilities for the interplay of
states and for the formulation and execution of such programs of joint
activity as they may agree to undertake, it may make its most substantial
contribution to international order. In short, the supplying of a stage for
the stars is conceivably more important than the sneaking of an addi
tional bit player into the cast.

Im ages o f P olitical S cien ce. Abandoning the imagery of the theater,

let us turn to the more prosaic conceptions of political science. As stu
dents of political science and simply as human beings whose experience
makes states and governments appear to be natural and inescapable
features of the sociopolitical realm, comparable to moon and stars as
14 Introdu ction

features of the celestial realm, we can hardly avoid the application to

international organizations of the analogy of the governmental apparatus
of the state. T hough we may and should b e intellectually aware of the
need for caution in this m atter, we inexorably find ourselves asking ques
tions about international agencies that betray the expectation of their
being in some m easure and manner comparable to the governments that
preside over states. This assumption of comparability, this belief in the
relevance o f the standard of stateliness, is evident even when we assert
negative expectations; if w e say that the United Nations has no prospect
of becom ing a world government, we express the view that it is appropri
ate to analyze the nature of the United Nations and to assess its pros
pective evolution in terms of the standard provided by our image of
government. T h e issue of the degree to which international organizations
are or m ay becom e government-like pervades our thinking. Even though
we may not b e able to escape from this style of approach to international
organization, we can and should develop a critical understanding of the
limits of its validity and an awareness of the pitfalls into which it may
lead us as students of international institutional development.
A fam iliar m anifestation of this way of thinking is the conception
of international organizations as inherently antagonists or rivals of states,
or as potential replacem ents for them. According to this view it is to be
expected ( or hoped or fe a re d ) that the normal course of development of
international organizations will make them elements of the governing
apparatus o f a society conceived as the state writ large. T h e role of the
national governm ent will be diminished as powers and functional respon
sibilities are increasingly assigned to, or assumed by, agencies having a
larger jurisdictional scope than that of a single state. International or
ganizations can be deemed successful in the degree to which their tasks
are expanded, their authority is strengthened, and their appeal to the
loyalties o f men is increasedall of this at the expense of the state, which
withers away in proportion to the flourishing of international bodies. In
this conception the growth of international organization is not only a
m atter of the developm ent of broader substitutes for jurisdictionally
lim ited states, bu t also a m atter of the emergence of superior entities,
gaining authority and effective capacity to regulate, direct, and restrain
th e behavior of governments. Thus, for example, strengthening the
U nited Nations is taken to mean the expansion of its theoretical compe
ten ce and actual ability to impose its will upon the governments of its
m em ber states, to function in effect as a government over governments.
In these term s international organization is conceived as a process of
creating collective agencies whose vitality is exhibited in the supplanting
and subordinating of the governments of their members. A zero-sum
gam e is thought to be in progress between states and international
Introduction 15

Is this an accurate characterization o f the essential relationship

betw een states and international organizations? Is it com patible with the
ideal of educated expectations to evaluate their progress by employing the
criterion of the downgrading of the national state in favor of entities with
wider span and higher status?
These questions do not lend themselves to simple and easy answers.
If we attempt to answer them in term s of the in ten tion s and hopes of the
official creators of and participants in international organizations, the
results are mixed and variable according to the organizations being con
sidered. Thus, the objective of the supersession and subordination of
member states figures more prominently among the motivations involved
in the establishment and development of the European Econom ic Com
munity than among the motivations behind the United Nations, though
it would be as great a mistake to assume that this objective has exclusive
status in the case of the former as to assume that it is nonexistent in the
case of the latter. It may make sense to adopt in teg ration as the measur
ing rod for the success of the E E C , but surely not for the United Nations
if we mean success in the realization of purposes dominant among
participants in the two organizations. Allowing for the facts that an
occasional statesman may em brace the ideal of elevating international
organizations to the superstate level and that an exceptional organiza
tion may be dominated by that ideal, we may yet conclude that the
history of international organization fails to confirm the view that it
represents a deliberate effort to accomplish such a revolutionary trans
formation of the international system. T h e international organization
movement has not been an antistate crusade in which statesmen have
somehow been induced, knowingly or unknowingly, to collaborate. By
and large international organizations have been the products of states
men whose purposes, however mixed and variable, have been confined
within the limits of com patibility with the conventional multistate system.
International organizations are, of course, no less subject than other
human institutions to the potentiality of moving in directions unwilled
and unanticipated by their founders or by any particular generation of
their operators. The estimation of prospects should not b e definitively
settled by the analysis of purposes; no one can say with assurance that
our present-day international organizations, or some of them, will not
evolve in such a way as to displace and dominate states. It is conceivable
that historical forces running beneath the level of the conscious motiva
tion of human beings are indeed pitting international organizations
against states in a zero-sum game.
Such speculation, however fascinating and attractive it may be, par
ticularly for a generation acutely sensitive to evidence of the inadequacy
and evils of the multistate system, provides an unsatisfactory basis for the
achievement of educated expectations concerning the perform ance and
16 Introdu ction

developm ent of international organizations. Moving beyond the pro

claim ed promises of charters and constitutions and the articulated pur
poses of official participants in the work of international organizations,
we find the best evidence as to what can reasonably and realistically be
expected of international organizations not in the mystical realm of his
torical undercurrents, but in the more prosaic record of how interna
tional agencies have been and are being used. W hat they are "supposed
to be or to do should be determined not by our wishes as to what they
m ight be or do, but by our understanding of the possibilities that appear
in the situation in which they are embedded and of the probabilities
that are revealed by the patterns of utilization established by states, their
ultim ate owners and operators.
This test, provides overwhelming evidence that, with rare and un
certain exceptions, international organizations are treated as agencies
for the improvement of the multistate system, suppliers of modernized
equipm ent for the use of states in the management of their relationships
and the pursuit of their objectives within that system. They have been
fashioned by states as instruments for their own use, and the measure of
their flourishing is in the degree to which states find them usable and
useful for their purposes. T he dualism of conflictual and cooperative
relationships in the international system is reflected in the efforts of
states to use collective devices both against each other and with each
other. T h e typical state-serving, state-supplementing, and state-assisting
uses of international organizations have been brought to a focus in the
era of decolonization; with respect to the new members of the interna
tional system, the state-building function has emerged as the major pre
occupation of the United Nations and of many other components of the
worlds organizational network. Given this emphasis, the evaluation of
contemporary international organizations in terms of their contributions
to the shrinkage of the significance of states would be as inappropriate as
the evaluation of schools in terms of their success in promoting illiteracy.
There is, of course, a state-restraining objective which persistently
occupies a prominent place among the concerns of international organi
zations, an essential corollary of the state-protecting function. The states
basic urge for security has been transmuted into an acknowledgment of
the necessity for world order; consequently, the central agenda of inter
national organization has included the development of controls and the
imposition of requirements upon states, designed to foster peace and
stability in international relations. In a sense, then, international organi
zations such as the United Nations are validly conceived as state-
I regulatory enterprises. T he essence of the matter, however, is that such
enterprises represent the efforts of states to enhance their interests by
collaborating in acceptance of restraint and responsibility and in the
development of mechanisms that may assist them in making the m ulti
Introduction 17

state system com patible with and conducive to the minimal order that
their survival requires. In these terms the United Nations and other inter
national organizations operating in the security sphere are more properly
regarded as instruments of states, considered collectively as well as
individually, than as competitors of states. I f they succeed in producing
a reliable world order, this success will be attributable not to the domi
nance of agencies that stand above states, but to the capacity of states,
coordinating their efforts, to discipline themselves and each other; and
its consequence will be not the destruction, but the salvation, of the
multistate system.
The progressive development of international organization involves
the increasing domestication of international relationsthe introduction
of features more characteristic of intrastate than of traditional interstate
relationships. This is a process of reform and modernization of the
system, not a revolutionary reaction against the system. F or b etter or
for worse, this is the sort of enterprise in which the states of the world
are heavily engaged. Given the nature of the enterprise, the appropriate
question to ask concerning international organizations is not whether
they are succeeding in putting states out of business and taking that
business for themselves, but whether they are contributing to the
\ capacity of states to stay in business.

of Contemporary
The Development of
International Organization
in the
Nineteenth Century

International organizationwhich ought, strictly speaking, to be called

in terstate organizationis a phenomenon of the multistate system. There
are, in fact, four prerequisites for the development of international organi
zation. The first two relate to the existence of objective facts or conditions:
the world must be divided into a number of states which function as
I independent political units, and a substantial measure of contact must
' exist betw een these subdivisions. The other requirements are subjective in
nature: the states must develop an awareness of the problems which
arise out of their coexistence, and, on this basis, come to recognize the
i need for creation of institutional devices and systematic methods for
regulating their relations with each other. Thus, the setting of the stage
for international organization involves the development of the fa c ts of
division and interdependence in the external world and of the m o o d s of
anxiety and dissatisfaction, coupled with hopeful determ ination and
creative imagination, in the minds of men.

22 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C ontem p ,y International O rganization

It was in the nineteenth century that these four prerequisites were

satisfied in sufficient measure and in proper combination to bring about
the birth of modern international organization. T h e multistate system can
b e traced back to the earlier breakup of the unity of medieval European
Christendom, and historical reference may be made to such significant
landm arks in its developm ent as the Peace of W estphalia in 1648 and the
Treaty o f U trecht in 1713. However, it remained for the nineteenth cen
tury to bring about the com bination of the continuing proliferation and
solidification of states, particularly under the impact of growing national
ism, and the em ergence of a pattern of technologically based contacts,
unprecedented in range and intensity, which made the world situation
ready for international organization.
At the same tim e men were becoming ready for international organi
zation, although their psychological preparation was much less complete
than the preparation which had taken place in the conditions of the exter
nal world. T h e problem of war forced its way to the forefront of mens at
tention. It becam e increasingly apparent that military activity could no
longer be regarded as a kind of professional sport, sponsored by royal
patrons, but that it had becom e a menace to the welfare and happiness of
humanity. It was also evident that the conditions of interdependence,
growing out of phenom enal advances in transport, communication, and
industrialism, had created complex problems which could not be solved
and great new possibilities which could not be realized without changes
in the m anagem ent of international affairs.
Recognition of the complication of problems, the intensification of
evils, and the attainability of unparalleled benefits was a necessary step
toward awareness of the inadequacies of the established principles and
methods of international relations. T he multistate system, as it had de
veloped up to the nineteenth century, was characterized by the doctrinal
principle of sovereignty and the correlative institutional principle of
Sovereignty has m eant many things to many men, and it has been the
subject of much learned discourse and disputation and of a great deal of
hair-splitting, whos-got-the-thim ble, how-many-angels-on-the-point-of-a-
needle type of analysis. It suffices here to describe sovereignty as a princi
ple of irresponsibility. Cervantes described it as well as legal or political
philosophers when he had Don Quixote ask:

w ho w as that jolt-head that did subscribe or ratify a warrant fo r the attach

ing o f such a knight as 1 am? W ho was he that knows not how knights-errant
are ex em p ted from all tribunals? and how that their sword is the law, their
valour th e bench, and their wills the statutes o f their courts? I say again,
w hat m adm an was he that knows not how that no privilege o f gentry enjoys
so many preem inences, immunities, and exemptions as that w hich a knight-
The Development of international Organization in the Nineteenth Century 23

errant acquires the day wherein he is d u bb ed and undertakes the rigorous

exercise o f arms?1

In its original context sovereignty denoted the authority without ac

countability which was the attribute of monarchs; its locus was shifted,
but its essential nature was not altered, when monarchy began to share
the international stage with republicanism, and abstract entities called
national states appeared with the claim to act with a free hand in both
internal affairs and external relations. T h e theoretical pfetensions of
sovereignty were seldom absolute. Doctrines of international legal obliga
tion developed simultaneously with notions of sovereign irresponsibility,
and the nineteenth century inherited a system of international law to
which sovereigns, whether they were personal rulers or impersonal
states, were presumably subject. B ut there was a joker in the pack; the
international law which was to control sovereigns was itself controlled
by them. The law was by no means com pletely ineffective in civilizing
the relations of sovereign entities, insofar as they recognized common
interests and reciprocal obligations, but it tended primarily to reflect
their preoccupation with their own rights and status and dignity. I t was
not surprising that an international legal system, shaped and controlled
by sovereigns, should have served the m ajor function of ratifying the
1 concept of sovereignty, sanctifying the rights of sovereigns, and legiti
mizing the irresponsibility of sovereigns. T he m ajor defect o f the inter
national legal system was not that it failed to enforce the obligations of
sovereign states, but that it conceded too much to their pretensions and
claims of rights and privileges.
T he traditional system of international relations translated the
theoretical concept of sovereignty into the institutional principle of
decentralization. In the operation of the system, the key word was se lf:
self-limitation, self-judgment, self-help of states. T he community had no
central g ov ern in g institutions and no authority to impose central direction
or control upon sovereign states. The law consisted of obligations which
states imposed upon themselves; states served as judges in their own
causes; states enjoyed a legal right to the arbitrary use of force. T he the-
i oretical predominance of sovereignty meant the operative predominance
] of unilateralism, qualified primarily by the techniques of diplomacy.
It was this sort of multistate system which was recognized as inade
quate under the conditions of international life as they developed in the
nineteenth century. The movement toward international organization re
flected the conviction that it had become necessary and possible to modify
the free-wheeling irresponsibility of sovereign states to a greater extent

1 D on Q uixote o f th e M ancha, Thomas Shelton ( t r .), in Charles W. Eliot ( ed.), T he

H arvard Classics (New York: Collier, V J09), XIV, 457.
24 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C ontem pord^ ^ n tern aticm al O rganization

than had been done under traditional international law and to remedy the
international institutional vacuum by creating and putting to work some
agencies which would serve the community of states as a whole.
This is not to say that drastic revision of the international system was
contem plated or accomplished during the nineteenth century. No icono
clastic reaction to the sacred principle of sovereignty developed, and no
concerted effort to substitute a fully elaborated and authoritative set of
community institutions for the decentralized system of international rela
tions was envisaged. It was true that the nineteenth century inherited,
and added to, a venerable tradition of speculative projects for peace and
order through unity on a world or European scale, produced by such
.m en as D ante, Pierre Dubois, E m eric Cruc, the Duc de Sully, W illiam
Penn, the Abb de Saint-Pierre, Rousseau, Bentham , and Kant.2 These
various utopian schemes, which had appeared in a Steady procession from
the fourteenth century, had never reflected or appealed to a strong sense
of current need, nor did they in the nineteenth century. F ar from repudi
ating the principle of separate and independent sovereignties, the world
of the nineteenth century continued the glorification of that concept and
insisted upon its eternal rightness, while it reacted to the awareness of
new necessities by undertaking to achieve working restraints and fu nc
tional innovations through the initiative, consent, and collaboration of
sovereign states. International organization was thus brought into being
not so much by prophets who saw it as the legitim ate successor to sover
eign states, as by statesmen who sought new arrangements and devices
whereby the sovereign units of the old system could pursue their interests
and manage their affairs in the altered circumstances of the age of
communication and industrialism.


The first of the three m ajor streams of development whose rise may be
traced to the nineteenth century is the system of m ultilateral, high-level,
political conferences.
D iplom acy, the traditional technique for conduct of international a f
fairs, was essentially a bilateral phenomenon, involving occasional consul
tation and negotiation betw een two sovereigns or their representatives.
Larger-scale gatherings of the managers of foreign relations were not un
known before the nineteenth century, and the idea of such conferences
had a respectable age. Thus, Hugo Grotius, the so-called father of inter
national law, opined in 1625 that:

2 See S. I- Hemleben, Plans fo r W orld P eace T hrou gh Six C enturies (Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1943).
The Development cf 'ernational Organization in the Nineteenth Century 25
V ,/'

It would be advantageous, indeed in a degree necessary, to hold certain

conferences of Christian powers, w here those who have no interest at stake
may settle the disputes of others, and where, in fact, steps may b e taken
to com pel parties to accept p eace on fair terms. '

However, the Congress of Vienna in 1815 initiated a series of develop

ments which made it possible to speak of a nineteenth-century confer-
1 ence sy stem without precedent in the modern world.
The dazzling assemblage at Vienna was convoked to lay the diplo
m atic foundations for a new European order upon the ruins which had
been created by the disastrous Napoleonic Wars. I t was conceived by its
I leading participants as the forerunner of a series of regular consultations
among the great powers which would serve as board meetings for the
European community of nations. This ambitious concept quickly faded;
four major conferences between 1815 and 1822 sufficed to reveal differ
ences in policy and objective among the great powers, which made it
impossible for them to collaborate in the operation of such a systematic
I scheme for the management of Europe. Nevertheless, the techniques of
<diplomacy had been irrevocably changed. Europe was not ready for insti
tutionalized management, but in practice the leaders of the m ajor states
, constituted themselves a Concert of Europe, which met sporadically,
' some thirty times in the course of the century, to deal with pressing
political issues. The diplomatic history of this era is studded with such
landmarks as the Congress of Paris in 1856, the London Conferences of
1871 and 1912-1913, the Berlin Congresses of 1878 and 1884-1885, and
the Algeciras Conference of 1906. Diplomacy by conference becam e an
established fact of life in the nineteenth century.
This development involved a great deal more than the mere m ultipli
cation of multilateral convocations. A major feature of the unsystematic
I system was the frank assumption of special status and responsibility by
/ the most powerful states; the term great power took on a definite m ean
ing and becam e something like a formally established category after
1815. The Concert of Europe was an exclusive club for great powers, v
whose members were self-appointed guardians of the European commu
nity and executive directors of its affairs. They sometimes admitted
European small fry to their Splendid Presence and occasionally failed to
dominate the scene as completely as they wished, but they left no room
for doubt that the Concert of Europe was in fact a Concert of the G reat
This hegemony of the powerful had its seamy side, as all d ictator
ships must. If it is true of individuals, it is surely even more true of states,

3 Cited in H. Lauterpaeht, The Function o f L aw in the Intern ation al C om m unity

(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 19.33), p. 7, n. 2.
26 H istorical B ackgrou n ds of C ontem porary International O rganization

that possession of extraordinary power and authority leads to abuse and

selfish exploitation. In the case of this directorate, however, mutual
jealousies tended to limit the misuse of power for the purposes of either
corporate or individual selfishness. But what is more important for our
purposes than the e ffe c ts o f great power predominance is the fact that
the existence of a board of directors implied the existence of a corpora
tion. I f great power becam e a more concretely meaningful expression,
so did E urope. T h e T reaty of Paris in 1815, establishing the Quadruple
Alliance, contained a reference to the function of the great powers to
take measures for the m aintenance of the Peace of Europe.1 A concep-
! tion of European solidarity, of a community of nations, took root in the
nineteenth century and found its expression in the operative agency of
the Concert of Europe.
The great powers gave evidence in various ways o f their assumption
. that E urope was a political community as well as a geographical cate-
! gory. T h e C oncert decided on the admission of new members to Europe,
as when it accepted G reece and Belgium as independent states in 1830
, and when it declared that non-Christian Turkey was entitled to full status
* in the European system in 1856. It undertook, from the conclusion of the
Treaty o f Chaum ont in 1814, to maintain the equilibrium of Europe,5
and in pursuance of this aim, intervened in such matters as the Russo-
Turkish conflicts of the 1850s with a view to preventing the disruption of
the balance of power upon which European order was deemed to depend.
It assumed the responsibility of formulating certain standards of E uro
pean public policy, as when it insisted at the Congress of Berlin in 1878
that Serbia could enter the European family" only if it recognized the
religious liberty of its subjects, described as one of the principles which
are the basis of social organization in all States of Europe. The Concert
system was the m anifestation of a rudimentary, but growing, sense of
interdependence and community of interest among the states of Europe.
T h e functions which the Concert presumed to exercise on behalf of
E urope point to another major aspect of the developing nineteenth-
century system. M ultilateral conferences became something more than
p eace conferences in the traditional sensemeetings of statesmen to
conclude wars and agree upon treaties of peace. The occasions and pur-
^ poses of consultation and the subject matter of international discussion
' becam e m ore varied. T h e numerous conferences which were held in the

4 See the excerpt in Gerard J, Manyone, A Short History of International O rganization

(New York: McGraw-Hill, 1 9 5 4 ), p. 64.
5 See Article XVI of the Treats' of Ghaumont, in Frederick H. Hartmann ( eel. ), Basic
D ocu m en ts <>i in tern ation al R elations (New York: McGraw-Hill, 195 1 ), p. 3.
6 Oscar I. Janowskv, N ation alities and N ational M inorities (New York: Macmillan,
1 9 4 5 ), p. 180.
T he Development of "International Organization in the Nineteenth Century 27

decades after the Congress of Vienna were concerned with the m ainte
nance of existing peaceful conditions, the substitution of pacific for violent
methods of manipulating the distribution of power, the agreem ent upon
ground rules for playing the com petitive game of imperialism, and the
formulation of general international legislation applicable to the ordinary
relations of states. The Concert system gave Europe, for the first time
since the rise of national states, something im perfectly resem bling an
international parliament, which undertook to deal by collective action
with current problems ranging from the regulation of international traffic
on the great rivers of the Continent to the adjustment of relations betw een
belligerent and neutral states, an d fro m th e redivision of Balkan territories
to the carving up of Africa.
Not only was the principle of joint consultation established and the
expectation of collective diplom atic treatm ent of m ajor international
issues normalized, but important progress was made in developing the
techniques and creating the psychological prerequisites of successful
m ultilateral negotiation. It should be emphasized that international
cooperation requires a great deal more than good intentions. W hen the
bachelor and the spinster get married, being in love will help them get
along with each other, but they will find that they both have habits
appropriate to single bliss rather than to matrimony, and they are con
fronted with a problem of learning to live together which is more a
problem of the head than of the heart. T he analogy applies to the rela
tionships of states; it is no simple problem for sovereigns to develop
the devices which are essential for the efficient conduct of multilateral
conferences and to adopt the attitudes which are necessary for harmoni
ous consultation.
Before the nineteenth century the rulers of Europe were so preoccu
pied with their Sovereign Dignity that th e y w e r e virtually unable to do
anything more at international conferences than argue about questions of
precedence and prestige. In planning for a peaceful European order, W il
liam Penn felt compelled to stipulate that sovereigns should meet in a
round room with many doors, so that substantive discussions should not
be delayed by long arguments about who should have the privilege of
entering first into the room! Rousseau described international conferences
as places where we deliberate in common council whether the table will
be round or square, whether the hall will have more doors or less, whether
such and such a plenipotentiary will have his face or back turned toward
the window.7
No subsequent developments have com pletely eliminated such seem
ingly trivial matters from the list of obstacles to effective international

7 Cited in F. S. Dunn, T h e P ractice an d P rocedu re o f International C on feren ces

(Baltim ore: Johns Hopkins, 192 9 ), pp. 78-79.
28 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C o n t e m ^ J j International O rganization

cooperation, but the experience gained and the procedural innovations

1 adopted in the great conferences of the nineteenth century contributed
notably to the facilitation of serious consideration of problems by the
representatives or rulers of sovereign states. Statesmen learned something
about the arrangements and procedures and becam e imbued with some
of the temperamental attributes which make possible the give and take
of genuine multilateral negotiation.
Sound evaluation of the nineteenth-century political conference
system requires caution against exaggerating its contribution to the
development of international organization. It did not produce perma-
I nently functioning institutions for handling the problems of high politics
' and security. Conferences were sporadic rather than periodic; they were,
in Sir Alfred Zimmerns phrase, "the m edicine of Europe rather than its
daily bread.8 Collaboration was improvised, not regularized, and it rested
upon the basis of the authority which the great powers arrogated to
themselves rather than upon clearly established legal foundations.
T he conference system did not inaugurate a rule of law or produce
an im partial agency politically superior to national states and capable of
upholding the moral standards of a larger community. It was a system
of de facto great power hegemony, and the fact that its arrangements
frequently resulted in collective or international decisions did not mean
that those decisions were necessarily wise or just. Indeed, the beginning
of wisdom for the student o f international organizationa start which
can very well be made in the study of the Concert of Europeis to learn
to avoid the illusion that decisions made by many states, whether they be
small or great powers, are, simply because of their collective origin, almost
autom atically superior in wisdom and righteousness to decisions made
by individual states. Sitting around a conference table does not trans
form selfish nationalists and arrogant power politicians into a collegium
of world-minded, justice-oriented statesmen of humanity.
W hen all is said and done, the political conference system contrib-
ju ted more to awareness of the problems of international collaboration
! than to their solution and more to opening up the possibilities of m ulti
lateral diplomacy than to realizing them. But it produced the prototype
of a major organ of modern international organizationthe executive
council of the great powers.


A new sort of international conclave was instituted at the Hague in 1899

and 1907. T h e conscious construction of a distinctive Hague System of
international relations was interrupted all too soon by the outbreak of

8 T he L ea g u e o f N ations an d the B uie o f L aw , 1918-1935 (London: Macmillan, 1936),

p. 78.
T he Development o f i^ Jrnational Organization in the Nineteenth Century 29

W orld W ar I, but the beginning that had been made was significant
enough to figure as one of the major contributions of the nineteenth
century to present-day world organization.
The two International Peace Conferences held at the Hague, under
the initial impetus provided by Czar Nicholas II of Russia, were notable
as major diplom atic gatherings convoked in time of peace to deal with a
variety of subjects involved in the business of international relations.
Although the original motivations behind the Hague Confrences were
questionable (it has been alleged that the Czar was actuated less by
sincere desire to promote peace than by worry about Russias financial
disadvantage in the armaments com petition), and their im m ediate results
were not universally regarded as promising (th e London Tim es held that
the conference of 1907 was a sham, and has brought forth a progeny of
shams, because it was founded on a sham9), it is clear that the H ague
meetings were envisaged as steps toward a more adequate organization
of the state system; and it is from that point of view that they will be
discussed here.
A leading feature of the Hague System was its approach toward uni
versality. W hereas the first conference was attended by only twenty-six
states and was preponderantly European in composition, the second
\involved representatives of forty-four states, including the bulk of the
L atin American republics. Thus, the world achieved in 1907 its first
General Assembly; as the president of that conference put it, This is the
first time that the representatives of all constituted States have been
gathered together to discuss interests which they have in common and
which contem plate the good of all mankind.10 This was a significant
step toward broadening the focus of international diplom acy, toward
escaping the increasingly unrealistic European-fixation, and toward defin
ing more accurately th e boundaries of the community o f nations w ith
whose problems statesmen had to deal.
Universality had another implication than inclusion of non-European
states; it meant the acceptance at major diplomatic assemblies of the
small states on equal terms with the great powers. I f the Concert of
Europe had been a Board of Directors of the European corporation, the
Hague System, particularly in 1907, was a Stockholders M eeting of a
much more extensive corporation. At the Hague the small states got a
strong taste of independence and equality. The results w ere not u n i
formly good; there were some accusations that this first draught produced
intoxication, evidenced by undue self-assertion and unseemly self

9 Cited in I- B. Scott (e d .), Am erican A ddresses at th e S econ d H agu e P ea ce C o n feren ce

(Boston: Ginn, 1 9 1 0 ), p. xiii.
101- B. Scott (e d .), T h e R eports to the H ague C on feren ces o f 1899 a n d 1907 (O xford:
Humphrey Milford, 1 9 1 7 ), p. 201.
30 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C ontem porary International O rganization

im portance on the part of small power representatives, and angry mutter-

ings were heard that the small states were incapable of holding the liquor f
of equal diplom atic status. Nevertheless, it was a foretaste of things to
come. International organization got its first taste of the difficulties of
solving th e conflict betw een great and small states as to their relative
status and function in the business of managing international affairs.
T h e era of the C oncert had been the period, p a r ex c e llen c e, of great
power hegem ony; the H ague Conferences ushered in the heyday of the
small states.
T hese conferences marked a new peak in the development of collec
tive activity for the purpose of general, permanent reform of the system
of international relations, as distinguished from the purpose of dealing
with specific, temporary situations. More conspicuously than the Concert
of Europe, the H ague System was divorced from the immediate problems
iraised by particular wars or disputes and was concerned with interna-
f tional problem s in the abstract. In an important sense this statement
justifies the contention that the conferences were a sham. T h e powers
consented to m eet largely because the original Russian initiative could
not b e spurned without diplom atic embarrassment and pacifistic public
opinion could not be ignored without domestic embarrassment. Their
willingness to consider general principles was but the reverse side of
their unwillingness to subm it specific issues, which were the real com
ponents o f the contem porary problem of peace, to the judgment of a
conference. In political terms the conferences involved a considerable
degree of m ultilateral insincerity and met in an atmosphere heavy with
unreality. Nevertheless, the statesmen of the Hague, for whatever
reasons, contributed to the establishment of the precedent that collective
diplom acy should be oriented toward such matters as the codification
and further developm ent of important branches of international law, the
form ulation of standing procedures for the peaceful settlem ent of dis
putes, and the promotion of the principle that pacific solutions should be
sought by disputants and might properly be urged and facilitated by
disinterested states.
T h e Hague concepts were not revolutionary; they pointed toward
encouragem ent of avoidance of war and mitigation of the evils and
barbarities of w arfare rath er than revision of the legal right of states to
m ake war, and toward the evolution of tolerable conditions of interna
tional life within the m ultistate system rather than drastic transformation
of the system itself. But the business of the Hague was clearly the reform
of the rules and methods of the system, rather than the solution of the
problem s arising out of particular cases of conflict within the system.
This aspect of the H ague Conferences was emphasized by the atten
tion which was given to the task of institution building. F or our purposes
the primary historical im portance of the meetings oi lb99 and 1907 lies in
The Development of International Organization in the Nineteenth Century 31

the fact that a m ajor concern of the participants was to create devices
and agencies which would be permanently at the disposal of states.
The urge toward institutionalization was expressed first in regard to
the Hague Conferences themselves. At the 1907 assembly the view clearly
predominated that there should be not simply Hague Conferences, but a
Hague System. The concept of regular, periodic international conferences,
which had received acceptance only from 1815 to 1822 as a basic plank
in the platform of the Concert of Europe, was reintroducedr T h e interval
between the two Hague Conferences had been eight years, and the
American representatives in 1907 favored the establishment of machinery
by which future conferences would be regularly convened without the
necessity of initiatory action by any state. This proposal was not fully
accepted, but the se co n d c o n fe r e n c e d id recommend the assembly of a
Third Peace Conference, which might be held within a period corre
sponding to that which has elapsed since the preceding Conference, at a
date to be fixed by common agreem ent betw een the Powers. . . This
action led Joseph H. Choate, a member of the American delegation, to

Friends o f peace, friends o f arbitration, may now d ep en d upon it that every

seven or eight years there will b e a similar conference, and that w here the
last conference left the w ork unfinished the new conference will take it up,
and so progress from time to time b e steadily m ade. . . ,12

T h e hope for a reunion at the Hague in 1915 was dashed by the outbreak
of a general war, but the revitalization of the idea of a regular assembly
of the nations was to prove a more significant event than the gentlemen
of 1907 could have imagined.
In other important respects the Hague Conferences tended toward
systematization. Their very size conduced to the adoption of innovations
in conference technique. Experim ental use was made of the apparatus of
chairmen, committees, and roll calls, even though It seemed extraordi
nary to those not accustomed to it to see Governments, as ordinary
individuals, responding to a roll-call.13 Although the rule of unanimity
formally prevailed, this traditional practice, resting upon the fundamental
respect for sovereignty which characterized international law, was miti
gated to the extent that v oeu x, or recommendations of the conference,
were passed by a mere majority vote. Most significantly of all, the 1907
assembly anticipated the future by proposing that a preparatory com
m ittee should be established to collect and study suggested items of
business and prepare an agenda for the next m eeting and to put forward

11 Ib id ., p. 216.
12 Scott, A m erican A ddresses, p. xxv.
1? Scott, R eports, p. xxxi.
32 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C o n tem p oS ^ ^ in tem ation al Organization

a system of organization and procedure for adoption by the Third Hague

Conference.14 The statesmen gathered at the Hague, looking forward to
the completion of a permanent home for their meetings, which had been
promised by Andrew Carnegie, clearly believed that they were favored
to b e the founding fathers of a permanently functioning, efficiently
organized mechanism for the maintenance of world peace.
The Hague efforts at institutional creativity extended also to the
erection of agencies which would be available for use by states involved
in particular quarrels. In 1899 a Convention for the Pacific Settlem ent of
International Disputes was adopted, containing provisions for the estab
lishment and functioning of ad hoc International Commissions of Inquiry,
at the option f the disputing parties, and for the creation of the Perma
nent Court of Arbitration. T h e latter body was misnamed, since it in fact
consisted of a standing list of persons who might be selected as arbitra
tors whenever states wished to avail themselves of their services. Never
theless, it was permanent in the sense that it was equipped with a
standing professional staff and diplomatic board of control and with a
set o f rules for the process of arbitration. The establishment of this
agency did not satisfy the ambitions of the Hague statesmen; they
expended great energy in the effort to create two full-fledged judicial
institutions, a Court of Arbitral Justice and an International Prize Court.
These projects did not reach fruition, but the Hague Conferences never
theless represented the climax of a century of development in which
attention shifted more and more to the possibilities of international insti
tutions as instruments of world peace.
The Hague Conferences were notable events in the history of inter-
^national organization not so much because of their actual accomplish-
' ments as because of the conceptions to which they gave expression, the
hopes which they dramatized, the proposals which they largely failed to
put into effect, and the problems which they failed to solve but succeeded
in exposing.
The abortive system of the Hague called attention to the emerging
reality of a global, rather than a merely European, state system; the
demands of small states for participation in the management of that
system; and the need for institutionalized procedures, as well as impro
vised settlements, in the conduct of international relations.
T h e Hague approach to the problem of peace was distinctly ration
a lis tic and legalistic. The focus on the peaceful settlement of disputes
was a clear indication of the underlying assumption that war was a
product of misunderstandings and emotional flurries that could be elim
inated by elucidation of the facts in dispute, clarification of the applic

44 Ibid ., pp. 216-217.

The Development o:V^,irnational Organization in the Nineteenth Century 33

able law, and invocation of the calmness and self-possession of reasonable

men. This reliance upon rational prudence and the judicial tem per may
have been excessive. Postponing evaluation, let it be said here that it
was, for better or for worse, a leading characteristic of the Hague
approach, which was transmitted to subsequent conferences on in ter
national organization and is today a significant elem ent in the operative
theory of international organization. The Hague ideal of rationally self
restrained states submitting to a kind of Olympian judgm ent has not
been realized, but neither has it been abandoned.
The conferences of 1899 and 1907 also anticipated tw entieth-century
international organization in the measure of their concern for peace in
the abstract. They were devoted to building a peaceful system and pre
s e n tin g or controlling war in general, rather than to m aintaining peace
/'in a particular crisis or liquidating a specific war. Such an emphasis, in
some degree, must characterize any system of international organization.
It marks the inherent differences between systems and organizations, on
the one hand, and expedients and improvisations, on the other. Never
theless, it points to one of the standing difficulties and problems of b a l
ance in international organization.
Almost everyone is for peace in the abstract and is likely to b e for
war in certain specific situations; thus, international organization is
likely to attract a volume of enthusiastic verbal support from public
opinion when it works against w ar which may prove to be meaningless
and ephemeral when it throws its influence against w ars. On th e other
hand, experience shows that statesmen are unlikely to develop deep
interest in the process of international organization, conceived as an
approach to problems of peace in the abstract. T he leaders o f govern
ments are almost by definition men who are preoccupied with the crises
of the moment and the interests of their particular states; when there is
a conflict between their concern for finding solutions to the problems
immediately affecting their states and their com mitment to improving
the general workings and altering the basic characteristics of the inter
national system, their emphasis tends to center upon the former. This
problem cannot be solved simply by avowing that statesm en are selfish
and short-sighted and should become world-minded and far-seeing. Some
change in that direction is essential, but it is equally necessary for inter
national organization to achieve a proper balance betw een the projects
t of building a world system and of solving current international difficulties,
1 betw een transforming international relations in the long run and saving
international peace in the short run. This persistent problem of inter
national organization was foreshadowed at the H ague Conferences.
The Hague System rendered valuable service in calling attention to
the fact that there are difficult problems of international organization
itselfinstrumental problemswhich must be solved in some degree
34 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C ontem porary Intern ation al Organization

before th e problem s of international relationssubstantive problems

can usefully be tackled by international organization. Its most significant
contribution to the future of international organization lay perhaps in
its identification of some of the most basic of these instrumental prob
lems. Cham pions of a b etter world order might well reflect on the lesson
o f the H aguethat the most valuable support may not be enthusiastic
advocacy w hich minimizes difficulties, but sober analysis which con
tributes to fuller understanding of the problems that lie ahead.


T h e third m ajor stream of development in the organization of interna

tional life arose from the creation of public international unionsagencies
concerned with problem s in various essentially nonpolitical fields. W hereas
both th e C oncert and the Hague reflected the significance of the quest for
security and the im portance of high political issues, this third phenomenon
was a m anifestation of the increasing complexity of the economic, social,
technical, and cultural interconnections of the peoples of the modem
In the nineteenth century, particularly after 1850, a new type of
organizational effort emerged as the response of governments to the
difficulties posed and the opportunities offered by the unprecedented
international flow of com m erce in goods, services, people, ideas, germs,
and social evils. This was truly a revolutionary era; only a short while
b efore the national state had been too large to serve'as the appropriate
adm inistrative unit for many of the affairs of men in society; now it had
becom e too small. T h e first products of the groping of states to create a
rough correspondence betw een the area of administration and the new
scope o f the affairs requiring administration were the various interna
tional river commissions of Europe, the International Telegraphic Union
(1 8 6 5 ), and the Universal Postal Union (1 8 7 4 ). The process of interna
tional organization, thus begun, quickly resulted in the establishment
o f a profusion of agencies whose terms of reference touched upon such
diverse fields as health, agriculture, tariffs, railroads, standards of weight
and m easurem ent, patents and copyrights, narcotic drugs, and prison
This trend, it should be emphasized, was not the product so much
'o f proposals as of facts, conditions, and needs. It represented adaptation,
not innovation; it was less the work of idealists with schemes to advance
than of realists with problem s to handle. This is not to say that idea men
played no part in the process. It was a typical historical development in
th at the im aginative initiative of individuals and groups sparked a process
of conscious social contrivance to meet the requirements formulated by
circum stances. Yet tin' essentially organic character of this trend in
The Development of International Organization in the Nineteenth Century 35

international affairs may be buttressed by reference to parallel trends

within individual countries. In the nations most affected by the techno
logical and industrial revolution, central governments were gaining in
importance, compared with local and provincial governments, as agencies
of administrative regulation; and they were expanding their administra
tive jurisdiction to cover aspects of economic and social life which had
for some time been regarded as outside the province of government. In
the international realm the development of public international unions
represented fundamentally similar patterns of evolution: the creation of
international bodies to supplement the administrative work of national
governments with narrowly limited territorial spheres of com petence, and
the notable expansion of the subject matter of international relations to
include m an y problems which had been outside the scope of traditional
It has often been asserted that these national trends were produced,
in more or less conspiratorial fashion, by mysteriously powerful statists
and socialists, and the analogous international trends by similarly potent
and devious internationalists and world governmentalists. A much less
romantic theory seems valid: that the world has witnessed appropriately
similar and simultaneous national and international adaptations to new
conditions of complexity, which necessitate the redefinition of jurisdic
tional boundaries to correspond with the expanding territorial scope of
problems requiring solution, and the redefinition of the functional respon
sibility of governmental institutions to correspond with the expanding
area of subject matter requiring regulation.
T h e nineteenth-century international organizations represented at
most the initiation, not the consummation, of a trend toward international
control of the subjects with which they were concerned. Although the
national and international developments which have been pointed out
were fundamentally similar in terms of directional tendencies, they were
profoundly different in terms of immediate results; domestically, the
agencies of expanded territorial and functional jurisdiction were instru
ments of authoritative government; internationally, the corresponding
agencies were instruments of voluntary cooperation among states. Public
international unions were not segments of governmental apparatus, draw
ing power from the circuits of a preestablished dynamo of sovereignty,
but rudimentary pieces of a system of intergovernmental collaboration,
dependent for their operation upon such power as could be generated in
the new and drastically incomplete plant of international authority.
These agencies engaged in a range of activities which was something
new under the international sun. Most importantly they served as collec
tion points and clearing houses for information, centers for discussion of
common problems b y govern m en ts, instrum ents fo r a c h iev in g th e c o o r d i
n ation b y agreement of nation al policies and practices, and a g en cies fo r
p ro m otin g th e form u lation an d a c c e p ta n c e o f uniform o r m in im u m stan d-
36 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C o n t e m p i n t e r r i c t i c m a I O rganization

ards in the fields of their concern. To a lesser extent some of them had
functions of actual regulation and administration in limited spheres and
of arbitration or conciliation in cases of conflict among states. On the
whole, however, this was a system for the provision of services to gov-
fem m ents and the facilitation of cooperative relations among govern-
; ments, not for the management of affairs or the government of people.
I t is obvious that, judged by such criteria as the possession of legis
lative com petence, power of taxation, and executive authority, the public
international unions of the nineteenth century were vastly inferior to
those institutions which we call governments. However, the clue to their
significance may be found not in the observation that they were less th an
governments, but in the observation that they were d iffe ren t fr o m govern
ments. It is perhaps less than absolutely self-evident that the necessary
and proper approach to world order consists simply of the mimicry of the
devices and methods of national government. In any event, the founders
of these agencies did not set out to create supranational governmental
I institutions and end up by creating incredibly inadequate ones; rather,
they undertook to establish international mechanisms for doing a kind of
job that had never been done before, and they succeeded in stimulating
an experimental development of functional innovations in international
relations, which has not yet begun to reach the limits of its potential
historical significance.
Turning from function to form, we find that the nonpolitical interna
tional bodies of the nineteenth century produced organizational inven
tions which were of fundamental importance for the future. T he first
genuinely permanent international machinery was the product and
property of these agencies. The Bureau of the International Telegraphic
\Union, established in 1868, was the prototype of the secretariat, the vital
'core of any modern international organization. This development of a
permanent staff to give continuity to the organization, to carry out func
tions of research, correspondence, and publication, and to prepare the
business and make arrangements for future conferences, was the crucial
step in the transformation of international organizations from sequences
of disconnected conferences into genuine institutions. In addition to
establishing bureaus, the public international unions of the nineteenth
century introduced the dichotomy between the general policy-making
conference of all the member states and the council, or governing body,
consisting of representatives of a few selected members and functioning
as a policy directorate on behalf of the organization in the intervals
betw een general conferences. Thus was established the structural pattern
of bureau, council, and conference which, with many elaborations but
few deviations, serves as the blueprint of international organization today.
Modest, but significant, advances in the techniques of international
collaboration and breaches in the rigidity of principles impeding the
The Development oi-^^rnational Organization in the Nineteenth Century 37

development of collective action were brought about by public interna

tional unions. Valuable experience was gained in handling the myriad
problems of language, documentation, internal organization, and pro
cedure of large-scale international gatherings. T h e treaty, traditionally
an agreement negotiated by the representatives of two or a few states
for the establishment of particular legal rights and duties pertaining to
themselves, was given the form of the multilateral convention, hammered
out in committee and conference of many states, voted upon as if it
were a legislative bill, and adopted to serve as a joint legislative enact
ment. Such a convention might relate to any one of a thousand subjects,
ranging from the handling of international postal com munications to the
control of epidemic diseases, which were for the most part utterly foreign
to the subject matter traditionally dealt with by treaties. Technically,
multilateral conventions were still treaties, despite their unusual subject
matter, the quasi-parliamentary nature of the proceedings leading to
their formulation, and the fact that their participants resem bled a con
gregation more than a partnership; this meant that each state was equally
entitled to have a voice in their formation and to consider itself unaffected
by them unless it consented to be bound by their terms. However, some
minor revisions appeared even in regard to these sacrosanct implications
of sovereignty. Arrangements for the unequal distribution of voting
power were made in several unions, and the rules of unanimity and no
treaty obligation without ratification were pushed aside, formally in
the International Telegraphic Union and informally in the Universal
Postal Union, to permit the easier adoption of generally applicable rules
on essentially noncontroversial and technical matters. T h e m ultilateral
convention was, and still is, a clumsy and inadequate device for inter
national legislation, but the creation of this instrument out of the old
materials of the treaty device was nevertheless a m ajor triumph of
nineteenth-century nonpolitical organizations.
This phase of the development of international organization was
marked by the emergence of wholly new groups of participants in the I
business of international affairs, which had hitherto been virtually a
monopoly of diplomats, foreign ministers, and other statesmen accus
tomed to wearing the mantle of sovereignty. T h e result could hardly
have been otherwise when international relations began to include such
matters as public health, telegraphic codes, and plant diseases, along
with wars, alliances, and boundaries. The intruders included all manner
of professional specialists and technical experts, members of the em bry
onic body of international civil servants, private interest-group and
humanitarian organizations, and governmental officials and ministers
outside the foreign offices. Many of the new agencies owed their creation
to nondiplomats; for instance, David Lubin, a Sacram ento merchant,
was the instigator of the movement that produced the International
38 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C ontem porary Intern ation al O rganization

Institute o f A griculture,lr' and American and German postal officials

initiated th e form ation of the Universal Postal Union. Some international
unions began as organizations of private associations, and were later
transform ed by the substitution of governmental for unofficial delega
tions; in a few cases they remained mixed, private and public, in charac
ter. In operation, public international unions relied heavily upon the
work of experts, and governments tended to entrust the representative
function at conferences to subject-m atter specialists from appropriate
departm ents rather than, or in addition to, professional diplomats. This
tendency for everyone to get in on the international act was not an
unmixed blessing, but it was clearly a novel phenomenon and another
of the nineteenth-century portents of things to come.
In the final analysis the most significant contribution of the early
pu blic international unions to the evolution of international organiza
tion was a cluster of ideas and attitudes. The most important of these
was a derivative of the expanded concept of the subject m atter of inter
national relations: the implication that there is an area of international
affairs within which sovereign states have a common interest in coopera
tive endeavor. I f we conceive international relations narrowly enough,
we can m aintain the simple proposition that they are reducible to the terms
of conflicting-intercst relationships. I f we conceive them broadly enough
to em brace their total reality, our neat picture is rudely com plicated by
the necessity of recognizing that they also partake of the character of
com m on-interest relationships. This was the lesson of the nonpolitical
organizational system of the nineteenth century. The Concert stood for
com prom ise; the H ague stood for regulation; the public international
unions stood for cooperation. The cooperative concept is not essentially
idealistic or altruistic. Its focus is on the satisfaction of needs, which
demands not so much the sacrifice of sovereignty as the utilization of the
resources of sovereignty to create institutions and methods capable of
supplem enting the functional activity of national governments. The
creation of public international unions was indicative of the recognition
of, and of a groping after compensation for, the functional inadequacy
of sovereignty.


Tw entieth-century international organization is very largely the product

of the convergence of these three streams of development which arose in
the nineteenth century. T o a limited extent international agencies estab
lished in the early form ative period of international organization have
simply continued to exist; the most notable instances are those of the

15 Mangone, op . cit., pp. 8889.

The Development of International Organization in the Nineteenth Century 39

Universal Postal Union and th e International Telegraphic Union, now

transformed into the International Telecom munication Union. To a much
greater degree the past century has influenced the present by providing
the broad outlines of a general system of international organization, com-
I bining great power councils, universal conferences, specialized functional
units, and permanent staffs. Current international organization owes
much to the earlier period of experimentation in the elaboration of func
tions, the devising of structural patterns, and the invention .of procedures
for multilateral agencies. Most basically the nineteenth century con-
. tributed a broadening concept of the nature and subject matter of inter
national relations, an evolving sense of the need for joint decisions and
actions by states, a growing recognition of the potential usefulness of
/international machinery, and an increasingly clear awareness of the
* problems of achieving effective international organization.
T he question must be faced as to whether the nineteenth century
did not leave us an inheritance more harmful than helpful to our endeav
ors for saving the world from chaos and our nations from destruction.
The power politician might say that we were bequeathed a potentially
fatal delusion which has diverted our attention from literally vital efforts
to comprehend the grim reality of international relations and to master
the arts of national survival in the international jungle. T h e world fed
eralist might say that the nineteenth century set us off on the wrong foot;
it encouraged us to attempt the impossible task of reforming the opera
tions of the multistate system, when we should have been repudiating that
system altogether and adopting a world government. W hether these criti
cisms are valid or not, it is clear that one part of the legacy was an
ambiguity which is a persistent bane of the existence of international
organization. Men and nations want the benefits of international organi
zation, but they also want to retain the privileges of sov ereig n ty , which
are inseparable from international disorganization. T he development of
international organization has been plagued by the failure of human
beings to think logically and realistically about the inexorable relation
ships betw een the purchase and the price, between the having and the
eating of the cake. The discrepancies among the objective need for inter
national organization, the subjective awareness of that need, and the sub
jective capacity of men to create and maintain the organizational structure
appropriate to that need are a part of the established tradition of interna
tional organization.

Choate, Joseph H. The Two Hague Conferences. Princeton: Princeton Univer
sity Press, 1913.
40 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C o n tem p o ^ '^ in tern ation al O rganization

Mangone, Gerard J. A Short History o f International Organization. New York:

McGraw-Hill, 1954.
Mitrany, David. T he Progress o f International Government. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1933.
Phillips, Walter Alison. The C onfederation o f Europe, 2nd ed. London: Long
mans, Green, 1920.
Reinsch, Paul S. Public International Unions. Boston: Ginn, 1911.
Webster, C. K. T h e Congress o f Vienna. New York; Oxford University Press,
Woolf, L. S. International Government. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1916.
3 ^ -

The Establishment of
the League of Nations

It is useful to consider the nineteenth century as the era of p r e p a r a tio n fo r

international organization, and, for this purpose, to treat 1815, the year
of theTCongress of Vienna, and 1914, the year of the outbreak of W orld
W ar I, as its chronological boundaries. Starting thus, we establish the
years winch have , passed since the momentous events of 1914 as the
' era of estab lish m en t o/international organization, which, in these terms,
comes to be regarded as a phenomenon of the twentieth century. T h ere is
an element of artificiality in this scheme, as in all efforts to divide history
into distinct periods, but it is nevertheless a serviceable device for the
study of the process of organizing international relations.
Clearly, the establishment of the League of Nations was an event of
fundamental importance, worthy of being considered a decisive forward
step in that evolutionary process. To change the figure, nineteenth-century
institutions provided the ancestry, but the League of Nations provided the
parentage, of international organization as we know it today.
T h e purpose of this chapter is to analyze the creation of the League,
with particular emphasis upon the sources from which the new organiza
tion derived and the nature with which it was invested. T h e legal and
structural pattern and operational experience of the League will be dealt
with in segmental fashion in subsequent parts of this book. It suffices at
this point to treat the establishment of the League as one of the great

42 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C ontem porary International O rganization

flurries of creativity in the historical development of international



T h e im m ediate origins of the League of Nations are to be found in the

developm ent of both private and public schemes during th e W ar of 1914-
1918, particularly in the United States and Great . Britain, an d -in .the
negotiations w hich took place at Paris as a part of the diplom atic enter-
prise of bringing the war to a formal conclusion. Unofficial consideration
of the possibility of making a great new experiment in international
organization flourished during the years of hostilities, under the leadership
of such groups of prom inent and influential citizens as those who united
in the L ea g u e to E n force Peace in the United States and the League of
Nations Society in Britain.
G overnm ental leaders were not far behind. Lord Robert Cecil
devoted him self to advocacy of a postwar organizational effort in the
B ritish C ab in et, w ith the result that a com mittee was established under
Lord Phillim ore to draft definite proposals. The French Government set
up a sim ilar planning body, headed by Lon Bourgeois. In the United
States President W ilson gave public support to the concept of a League of
} Nations as early as 1916. In his address of April 2, 1917, invoking a formal
Congressional declaration of war upon Germany, he asserted the national
purpose of fighting for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of
free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the
world itself at last free,1 and he later included an even more explicit
com m itm ent to the form ation of a general association of nations as the
clim actic point in his famous list of war aims known as The Fourteen
' Points. W ilson and his trusted adviser, Colonel House, undertook the
preparation of Am erican blueprints for the proposed organization. Finally,
a pam phlet, T h e , L e a g u e . oi_ N a tio n s: A P ractical JSuggestian,.by. the
distinguished statesman of South Africa and the British Empire, Jan
Christiaan Smuts, provided perhaps the most significant example of
governm ental thinking about international organization submitted to the
p eace conference.
T h e actual form ulation of the^Covenant of the League of Nations was
the work of a special com m ittee established by the Paris P eace-Confer-
; ence, w hich .began-its.scssi.ons in January 1919. The committee,.consisted
I of representatives of the five great powersBritain, Fran cev the_United

1 Ray S. Baker and William E. Dodd (ed s.), T h e P ublic Papers o f W oodrow W ilson,
W ar a n d P e a c e ( New York: Harper, n.d.. ), , 16.
2 Ib id ., p. 161.
The Establishment of the League of Nations 43

States, Italy, and Jap an and of at first five, then nine, of the smaller states.
W ilson served as chairman, and the great powers effectively dominated
the proceedings. More precisely, the drafting of the Covenant becam e a
predominantly Anglo-American enterprise; the Hurst-M iller draft, a com
bination of British and American plans, was used as the basic working
paper, and Wilson, Cecil, and Sm uts earned the title of Fathers of the
Presented to the plenary conference on April 28, 1919; th e Covenant
becam e an integral part of the Treaty of Versailles and assumed formal
effectiveness on January 10, 1920. I t was, in terms of its direct derivations,
the product of specific wartime planning and postwar negotiations; in a
more fundamental sense, however, it was a product of history, of con
temporary circum stances, and of an emergent trend in international life.
W e have already sketched, in Chapter 2, the preliminary develop
ments in the field of international organization which contributed to the
shaping of the Covenant. The formation of the League was in part a
process of imitation of the organizational forms and types of the nine
teenth century. But strict imitation was not so much in evidence as
completion, elaboration, and progressive adaptation of the primitive
prototypes of international organization. T he Council of the League was a
new edition of the Concert of Europe; but it was a significantly r e v is e d /
edition, incorporating the principles of legal definition of authority and
terms of reference, institutional continuity, regularity of session, and
balanced composition of great and small power representatives. T he
Assembly represented the realization of the hopes and plans of the Hague
statesmen for a general conference of the nations, meeting periodically
without dependence upon the initiative of a single state and equipped to
develop standing rules of procedure. The Secretariat was an institutional
flowering of the seminal concept of the international bureau which had
been found in the earlier unions. The Permanent Court of International ,
Justice which _was anticipated in Article 14 of the Covenant3 but not
definitively established until its Statute received ratification by a majority
of the members of the League on August 20, 1921, constituted the full-
fledged international judicial organ which the Hague Conferences, dis
satisfied with the primitive Permanent Court of Arbitration, had vainly
tried to create. T h e International Labor Organization, a partially
autonomous agency but one closely related to The League, was the lineal
descendant of the system of specialized functional organizations of the
nineteenth century, The Covenant provided for some institutional innova
tions, such as a standing body to advise the Council on armaments and
military matters and the Permanent M andates Commission, but it repre

3 See the text of the Covenant in Appendix I.

44 H istorical B ackgrounds o f C o n tem p & ^ ^ In tern ation al O rganization

sented primarily the continuation and evolution of organizational achieve

ments and the realization of frustrated organizational hopes of the past
T h e creation of the League may also be regarded as a rationalization,
localization, and consolidation of previous organizational developments.
T h e League was a composite of the institutional descendants of
nineteenth-century agencies; it pulled together the separate lines of
development into a coherent system. Although it never fully achieved the
comprehensive control of international cooperative activities which was
envisaged in Article 24 of the Covenant, the League did serve generally to
< convcrt organizations into organs of an organization. It provided what has
been variously referred to as a hub or a ro o f element, giving the
modern world its first taste of institutional centralization.
The League was also the product of nineteenth-century beginnings
in the sense that it picked up the ideas, adopted the assumptions, and
reacted to the awarenesses which had been emergent in that earlier
period. It was a more mature response to the recognition of the need for,
and the challenge of the possibilities of, international organization. Smuts
showed an appreciation of the lessons of the past as well as a vision of
the future when he wrote in 1918:
It is not sufficient for the L eag u e m erely to he a sort o f deus ex machina,
called in in very grave em ergencies w hen the spectre o f war appears; if it
is to last, it must b e much more. It must becom e part and parcel o f the
common international life o f States, it must be an ever visible, living, w ork
ing organ o f the polity o f civilization. It must function so strongly in the
ordinary p eacefu l intercourse o f States that it becom es irresistible in their
disputes; its p eace activity must be the foundation and guarantee o f its war

More immediate historical events also contributed to the shaping of

the new organization; the Leaguej&as.. in important respects, the product
of W orld W ar I.
In the first place, it was a response to the realization, now more
widespread and intense than ever before, of the vital need- touprevent
wars. It is difficult for us, living in the second half of the twentieth
century, to comprehend the optimism and blissful obliviousness to the
problem of war which had characterized the pre-1914 generation. Gilbert
Murray has given us an illuminating description of the mood of that era:

the mass o f edu cated p eop le did not think much about the danger which
actually brought the age to disaster the international anarchy which led
to the War. . . .

1 Cited in F . P. Walters, A History o f the L eag u e o f Nations (London: Oxford

University Press, 1952), I, 59.
The Establishment C;_ ,i League of Nations 45

Things w ere safe, and improving. And none o f the critics seriously
diagnosed the one real danger. They prophesied revolution, and all sorts
o f terrors which never came. But they did not see that the international
anarchy of a world administered by some sixty sovereign independent states
with no authority over them, admitting no reciprocal duties and nursing
unlimited national ambitions, was a disease carrying the seed s o f death.
M. Seignobos, the French historian, wrote two articles in 1913 to explain
that he considered a European war no longer a danger to he reckon ed with.
Mr. Brailsford said the same in his book The War of Steel and Gold, p u b
lished in 1914. I am pretty sure I thought the same. T h e Cosmos, strong in
self-confidence, vigorous in self-criticism, was not much trou bled by
thoughts o f the precipice towards which it was actually movingA

T h e G reat W ar changed all this; it produced a fresh awareness of the

horrors of war, a rather bewildered admission that modern European civ
ilization was not immune from the destructive forces of military conflict,
and a distressed feeling that it must not happen again.
This emotional reaction produced the intellectual conviction that the
war had been a horrible accident, resulting from stupid and indefensible
negligence. Arthur Sweetser took a position which he correctly attributed
also to Sir Edward Grey, British Foreign Minister in 1914, when he wrote
soon after the end of the conflict:

the war cam e into being largely by default, because the forces of negotia
tion and peaceful settlement marshalled against it suddenly collapsed . . .
the world in 1914 got itself into a blind alley w here all doors w ere closed
except that to war. . . .
The catastrophe began without a single conference. T h e nations w ere
plunged into war by a handful of telegrams tvhich in their portentous offi
cial phraseology are even today not fully understood. One false step led to
another until the vicious circle was com plete. No m eeting ground was
available, no obligation for discussion existent. T h e m adm en w ho had
w orked for war could generate it without a pretence of discussion, without
the simple human act of meeting their opponents fa c e to face, without
asking yea or nay of their peoplesA

The League was based on reaction against the blind vagrant way in
which'TLe'various publics blundered into hostilities in 1914.7 T h e con-
cept of the Accidental W ar underlay the system of prudent precautions i
which was outlined in the Covenant, providing guarantees that peoples
and governments should have and utilize opportunities for cooling off,
facing facts, and reaching decent settlements in any future crisis. This

5 From th e L ea g u e to U.N. (London: Oxford University Press, 1 9 4 8 ), pp. 18, 22.

6 T h e L ea g u e o f N ations at W ork (New York: Macmillan, 1 9 2 0 ), pp. 5, 8-9.
7 Ib id ., p. 58.
46 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C ontem porary International Organization

principle of a moratorium on violent expression of intemperate passions,

designed to exploit the assumed avoidability of war, was preeminently a
British contribution to the Covenant.
T h e L eag u es dedication to the provision of safeguards against acci
dental and unnecessary war was illustrative of what is perhaps a general
tendency for international organizations to exhibit a retrospective men
tality. Such a tendency is no monopoly of international organizations; if
the L eagu e was created _to_ prey en L the outbreak of World__War_,I. the
FrencH M aginot L ine was also built to win the Battles of W orld W ar I.
B ut it is significant that the great organizational endeavors of the modern
world have b een parts of the afterm ath of great wars, and it is possible
to argue that they have tended to produce instruments better adapted to
preventing the recently concluded tragedy than to dealing with the
momentous issues of the future. The League, established to prevent the
] accidental war, was unable to cope with Hitlers deliberately .plotted
cam paign o f cohqlfesffiis we shall see later, the United Nations m ay w ith
some justice b e described as a device for nipping W orld W ar, II, rather
than W orld W ar I I I , in the bud, and some of its activities may b e inter
preted as post-mortem resistance to Hitler. There is a real danger that
newly created international organizations may not be simply too little and
too late, b u t also already out of date. The fundamental problem of m odem
man, not yet adequately appreciated, is to learn how to build his inter
national organizations on the basis of a wise understanding of the lessons
of history a n d a perceptive estimate of the issues and forces which will
challenge his survival and welfare in the future.
W orld W ar I not only aroused the nations to their responsibility for
taking urgent measures to prevent the recurrence of wars disastrous
effects, but it also stim ulated them to ponder the lessons of the coopera
tive potentialities w hich it revealed. T he beginning of wisdom about
modern war is to recognize its dual character: it is a phenomenon of
conflict, and it is a phenomenon of cooperation. In the realm of individual
relations its functional significance from a moral and psychological point
of view is that it calls for tire expression of both uninhibited hostility and
uncommon devotion to a community of effort and purpose; if it operates
prim arily to release aggressive instincts in some men, it also imposes
unparalleled demands upon the cooperative instincts of other men. In the
realm of international relations a similar dualism characterizes war. It
reveals the awful potentialities of international conflict, but it also
stimulates the extraordinary development, and demonstrates unsuspected
possibilities, of the capacity of nations for collaboration. W orld W ar I
served to convince men that there existed great resources of international
cooperation which had not previously been tapped.
T h e experience of wartime cooperation among the members of the
victorious coalition inspired peoples to meet the m oral challengejaf, prov
ing that they could cooperate as readily to promote the values of peace
The Establishment ot the League of Nations 47

and avoid the catastrophe of war as they had done to bring the: war to a
successfO'concluFid/This mood had a retrospective aspect; the chastise
ment of war had been visited upon nations which had been too sover-
i eignly stiff-necked, too stubbornly uncooperative, to achieve in peacetim e
the creation of elementary devices for peaceful settlement of disputes.
Allied collaboration had caused a shift of emphasis away from the
sacrifice of sovereignty, the surrender of freedom of action, to the positive
valuesfrom the price to the rewardof united action by nations. Thus,
the enterprise of the League reflected the ideal of continuing the collabo
ration which had produced victory. Alliance for war had laid the
psychological foundations of alliance for peace.
Moreover, the conduct of the war had made a tangible contribution
to the body of experience in creation and operation of m ultilateral agen
cies which was available to the founders of the League. Great Britain,
France, and Italy, ultimately joined by the United States, had improvised
an impressive network of joint bodies, including a Supreme W ar Council,
a Revictualling Commission, an Allied M aritime Transport Council, and a
Blockade Council. These agencies had proved invaluable in facilitating
the complicated task of fighting together. They had seemed to prove that
effective international cooperation could be achieved, without the neces
sity of creating an authoritative decision-making body to issue orders to
national governments, by bringing together responsible officials of govern
ments to get to know and trust each other, to confront the full and true
facts of the situation together, and to harmonize their national policies on
|the basis of respect for the facts, and appreciation of the positions of the
various governments. There was some disappointment that the machinery
of economic cooperation was dismantled at the end of the war, on the
insistence of the United States. W hile the swords and spears were not
themselves converted into plowshares and pruninghooks, the instruments
of joint military effort nevertheless made an important addition to the
stock of organizational models and techniques, and to the fund of
optimism concerning the feasibility of cooperative achievement, which
facilitated the creation of instruments of peaceful collaboration.
T he coalition machinery also contributed to the future of interna-
tionaL organization by aiding in the creation of a new breed of mena
group of officials and experts who had learned the techniques, acquired
the attitudes, and developed the affirmative faith in international cooper
ation which are essential to its success. International organization depends
heavily upon the work of such men, serving as national representatives
and international officials. Since 1914 the modern world has produced
its first generation of pioneers in international organization, men who
have made their careers in the new professions of multilateral diplomacy
and international administration. An outstanding example of this develop
ment is the career of Jean Monnet, a Frenchman who learned the skills of
international service and statesmanship in the wartime coalition machin-
50 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C ontem porary International Organization

A countervailing fact of the politics of Paris was the resurgence of

the snniir s ta te s;'tin 1' world turned out to be a singularly reluctant and
recalcitrant oyster of the great powers. T h e small states were multiplying
in numbers as the great multinational empires of Europe disintegrated
under the im pact of defeat and separatistic nationalism. They still cherished
th taste of sovereign equality which they had had at the second Hague
Conference, and a peculiar combination of factors supported their claims
to play more than a modest and subservient role in the system of the
future. They had_tlie_moi:al sympathy of W ilson, who had made the
doctrine of national self-determination and the rights o f~ sm iirnations
m ajor ingredients, .in-A llied propaganda. They wr" in a position to
capitalize upon the determination of France to safeguard and enhance
its position of Continental primacy by creating a bloc of European units
oriented toward acceptance of French leadership. They benefited from
the traditional concern of Britain to maintain the European configuration
required by balance-of-power considerations and from Britains sus
ceptibility to the pro-small-state influence of its Dominions. These factors
gave the small states a measure of bargaining power, which was utilized
to extract such concessions from the great powers__as four seats on the
Council of the League, provision for equal participation of all members
in the Assembly, and the general grant of an indiscriminate veto power
in all the arrangements for voting in the new organization.
T h e small states hardly had a determining voice at Paris. They were
r still mainly objects of policy rather than makers of policy, but the general
interest in preserving fragmentation as a fact of the world political
system enabled them to bring their influence to bear upon the shaping of
the provisions of the Covenant.
The negotiations which produced the League of Nations were further
marked by significant divergencies among the interests and policies of the
great powers. Moreover, the complexity of the political pattern was
increased by the fact that contradictory pressures emanated from indi
vidual powers. Thus, not only were compromises effected betw een British
and American, and Anglo-American and French, conceptions of a world
organization, but concessions were made to both W ilsonian idealism and
Senatorial conservatism on the American side, and to both Lon
Bourgeois demand for an ambitious international military system and
Clem enceaus skepticism concerning newfangled devices and methods
on th e French side. Political conflicts within the great powers, among the
great powers, and betw een great and small power blocs all played a part
in determ ining the powers and limitations of the League and the distribu
tion of power within the League.
Finally, the League was a product of the ideological clim ate of the
time. Its sources inchldedbiof brilyThe heritage of .pastjnstitutional inven
tions and the political realities of the present, but also the aspirations for
The Establishment oVne League of Nations 51

the future which were embodied in current thinking. L ik e all great phe
nomena of human society, the establishment of the League derived from a
combination of facts and ideas, circumstances and purposes, objective
conditions and subjective conceptions. T h e new system reflected the phil-
! osophical assumptions and normative ideals which characterized the con-
'. temporary approach to international relations. T hese factors w ere not
dominant, but they were important.
T h e figure of Woodrow W ilson dominated the ideological scene. H e
appeared as the prophet of a new era, making a dram atic appeal to peo
ples and governments; he symbolized the idea that the anarchy of power
politics should b e ended by the injection into international relations of
the highest values evolved by political man. Sitting at the conference
table, he had more than American power behind him; he was backed by
the enthusiasm of masses of people in W estern Europe who w ere newly
conscious of international relations and conspicuously insistent that the
lamb of peace not b e devoured by the wolves of cynical diplomacy.
The scheme for a League o^Nations adoptcd at Paris was, in ideo
logical "Terms, an expression on the international level of nineteenth-
century liberalism. It represented not so much a new set of ideas as a new
area of expression, for old ideas. W hile it was not, of course, a pure
ideological product, the Covenant was predominantly liberal in tone.
This meant, first of all, that the League was intim ately related to the
assumptions and values of democratic theory. W ilson, follow ing the thesis
laid down more than a hundred years earlier by Im m anuel K ant in his
essay on P erp etu al P ea c e (Zum ew ig en F ried en ), believed that world
peace could b e established.only by a compact among dem ocratically gov
erned nations. Although the self-governing qualification for new mem
bers specified in Article 1 of the Covenant was in practice interpreted to
mean only that approximate independence was the standard of eligibility
for League membership, Wilson made it clear that he believed and
intended that this provision should define the League as an organization
of free peoples, enjoying the right of democratic self-governm ent in their

Only the fr e e peop les o f the world [ Wilson asserted] can join th e L eagu e
o f Nations. No nation is adm itted to the L eagu e o f Nations that cannot
show that it has the institutions which we call free. No autocratic govern
ment can com e into its membership, no government which is not controlled
hy the will and vote o f its p eop le.10

This Kantian-W ilsonian position rested upon the assumption that \

democracies, in contrast to autocracies, are inherently peaceful; only a

10 Hamilton Foley, W oodrow W ilson s Case fo r th e L eag u e o f N ations (Princeton,

N .J.: Princeton University Press, 1923), p. 64.
48 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f Contemj. International O rganization

ery, transferred his energies later to the League, and has most recently
played an outstanding role in the creation and operation of European
institutions. It would be easy to formulate a plausible Great Man Theory
of international organization, emphasizing the role of the relatively small
group of individuals whose names appear over and over again in the
annals of tw entieth-century international agencies as founding fathers,
prom inent participants on behalf of governments, and leading adminis
trative officials. Resisting this temptation, we can at least recognize that
the contributions of this group have been indispensable, particularly in
view of the fact that the most throughly state-oriented professional groups
involved in the m anagem ent of international affairs along more orthodox
linesthe diplomats, Foreign Office officials, and military specialists
have tended to show coolness, if not resistance, to the development of the
new fangled ways and means of international organization. T h e rise of
international organization to a place of vital importance in international
life depends ultim ately upon the support and participation of these latter
groups, but it is clear that the preliminary development of a special class
of experts in collaboration within the machinery of the W orld W ar I
coalition was a phenom enon of real significance.
W a rtim e experien ce in the jo in t and .coordinated, use of the economic
weapon against Germ any implanted in the minds of Allied statesmen the
'I new concept of nonmilitary sanctions, the economic squ eeze, jis an instru
m ent for use by international organization to maintain world peace. This
was one of the m ajor contributions of W orld W ar I to the stock f ideas
upon which the L eagu e was based. - ~
In short. W orld W ar I influenced the creation of the League by stim
ulating efforts of the victorious powers to do in peacetim e the things that
should have been done before the war in order to prevent it, and to con
tinue doing the things which they had found it possible to do during the
war in order to win it.
Another cluster of factors affecting the formulation of the Covenant
inhered in the general political situation existing in 1919. International
organizations are never simply the products of creative planning and
institutional evolution; they find their sources deep in the context of
national interests and the power configuration of the international setting
out of w hich they arise. Understanding of the nature of the League
erected at the Paris Peace Conference requires analysis of the determina
tive political realities of the time.
A p rim ajy feature of the .situation was the existence of a victorious
m ilitary coalition. T h e international atmosphere was still reeking with
the fum es.of war and still more or less dominated by the military spirit. R

8 Ray S. Baker, W o o d ro w W ilson and the W orld Settlem ent (Garden City, N.Y.:
Doubleday, 1 9 2 2 ), I, 165.
The Establishment oiv League of Nations 49

The psychology of conflict had merged into the mood of victory, and more
than a trace of vindictiveness appeared in the proceedings at Paris. This
points to a persistent dilemma of international organization: great organi
zational enterprises are dependent upon great wars to demonstrate their
urgent necessity and to stimulate recognition of their feasibility, yet post
war periods are most inauspicious times for such undertakings, in the
sense that they tend to be dominated by a temper of hatred, suspicion,
and arrogant nationalism which bodes ill for the establishment of just
foundations for a new world order. The world has not solved the problem i
of com bining postwar psychological readiness to organize with peacetim e
psychological fitness to organize.
In 1919 the triumphant Allies desired to harvest the fruits of victory,
to keep the spoils which they had gained, to establish and uphold a new
status quo reflecting the shift in power relations which military events had
produced, a n d jo jn a in ta in their, coalition to keep .Germany in a posture of
defe a t. In these terms the function envisaged for the League was not so
much to keep 'peace, but to keep a ^ sp ecific p e a c e to legitimize and
\ stabilize a particular world settlement based upon victory. W oodrow W il
son perhaps wished to incorporate the Covenant into the peace treaties in
order to make certain that the League should be established while the
psychological iron was hot,9 but it is clear that some other Allied states
men approved this incorporation because they wished to symbolize the
mission of the League as custodian of the architecture of the settlement
' imposed by victors upon vanquished.
2. h A second determinative fact was the dominant position of the Prin
cipal Allied and Associated Powers; the world seemed^to b e the oyster of
1 the" great powers. T h e basic reality was not simply that Germany had
been defeated,' but that the great powers had done the job. Having won
the war, they had the power, the prestige, and the inclination to deter
mine the shape of the new regime.
This hegemony of the powerful few was strongly reflected in the
preliminary planning for the Teague. Their nostalgic recollections focused
oh'tKe^Concert of Europe, not on the Hague Conferences. By and large,
the great powers ran the show in 1919, and their conception of a world
organization effectively under oligarchical direction and control was
reflected in the Covenant provision for permanent membership of five
great powers in the nine-power Council, and the clearly expressed
expectation that the Assembly might meet only at four- or five-year
intervals and would humbly play second fiddle to the Council in the
new Concert. The m ajor Allies asserted the right to make the settlement
and assumed the responsibility to dominate the future course of events.

9 Of. Walters, op. cit., I, 31.

54 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C on tem p o,u iy International O rganization

the seventeenth century Hobbes had postulated a social conflict so pro

found that peace and order could b e achieved only under the iron rule of
an all-powerful Leviathan, while Locke had believed in a natural social
order so nearly perfect that it required only a government with minimal
powers and functions to remedy its inconveniences. It represented agree
ment with the eighteenth-century position of Adam Smith, who had relied
mainly upon an invisible hand of nature and only secondarily upon the
artificial contrivances of government to bring about harmonious relations
among autonomous econom ic entrepreneurs. In the domestic sphere
liberalism had come to mean a limited government, performing important,
but minor, functions and supplementing, but not interfering with, the
natural harmonies which were assumed to exist in a society of self-
interested, but reasonable and decent, men. In the international sphere
liberalism as embodied in the League m eant a limited collective agency,
i supplying the relatively modest requirements of a system of free peoples,
enjoying national self-realization and dem ocratic self-government, for
central direction and control.
The liberal ideal called for a government of law, in which might
should not make right but should be tamed and subordinated to collective
conceptions of right embodied in rules of law. The League represented an
attempt to realize this ideal in international relationsto establish the
principle that force should be used only in accordance with, and in
support of, a legal order designed to make justice and peace prevail in the
In short, all the basic concepts of nineteenth-century liberalism
democracy, nationalism, natural harmony, law, limited government,
rationalism, discussion, consentmade their imprint upon the Covenant
of the League of Nations.


The international organization which derived from the institutional devel

opments of the nineteenth century, W orld W ar I, the resultant political
situation, and the prevalent ideological clim ate was not intended to be
a revolutionary organization. Its founders approved the basic principles
{ of the traditional multistate system; they accepted the independent sov-
i ereign state as the basic entity, the great powers as the predominant par-
| ticipants, and Europe as the central core of the world political system.
They felt no sense of failure or inadequacy when they created a League
which did not represent a fundamental alteration of the old system, since
they regarded that system as basically sound and workable. They experi
enced no uneasy sense of futility when they undertook to get new results
from an old system, for W orld W ar I was to them not an indication that
war is the typical and necessary result of the existence of sovereign states,
The Establishment ot the League of Nations 55

.but a warning that accidents can happen. T he task to w hich they set them-
V selves was that of creating safety devices to obviate the repetition of such
an unfortunate breakdown as had occurred in 1914. T h e L eagu e was the
manifestation of a reform movement, an effort to improve th e procedures
and assist the operation of the world political system.
D espite this essentially conservative attitude, a sense of pioneering,
of exhilarating adventurousness, accompanied the founding of th e League.
This enterprise reflected an ambiguity of purpose, a com bination of poli
ticians reaction to victory and desire to nail it down, with peoples reac
tion to war and desire to build a durable peace. Nevertheless, there was
a general enthusiasm about the modernization of the international system
which had been effected. For the first time a conscious effort had been
made to create a systematic structural pattern for the organization of
international relations; the multistate system had been equipped w ith a
central institutional instrument of unprecedented utility. T h e retention of
the traditional foundational principles was less striking than the introduc
tion of what might be decisive new developments in the conduct of
, international relations: organized consultation, publicized diplomacy,
I institutionalized pacific settlement, codified outlines of b asic principles of
international law and morality, collectivized security. International law
was to be imbued with higher normative standards and international
diplomacy to be provided with greatly improved methods. T h e era of
legally unrestricted right to resort to war, neutral indifference to aggres
sive use of force, rival alliances and competitive armaments, and cynical
manipulation of power relationships was past. In the new era war any
where would be everybodys business; discussion at th e bar of world
public opinion would supersede Machiavellian brow beating tactics; and
the security of nations would be a matter of collective responsibility.
The League, as designed at the Paris Peace Conference, com bined
much that was new with much that was old. The point is that it was
intended to introduce radical changes in the operation of the m ultistate
system rather than to accomplish, or even to presage, the replacem ent of
that system. It was established in the faith that the goals of peace and
security were to b e achieved not by the revolutionary repudiation of
I sovereignty, but by the fulfillment of the constructive and cooperative
J potential of sovereign, self-governing peoples.


Cecil, Lord Robert. A Great Experiment. New York: Oxford University Press,
52 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C on tem po : , in tern ation al O rganization

nation whose governm ent was its servant and not its master could be
trusted to preserve the p eace of the world.11 Common men are reason
able enough to abstain from rash hostilities which impose intolerable
suffering upon themselves, and decent enough to respect the rights and
interests of other nations. W ar is caused by the selfish irresponsibility of
rulers who can reap the benefits while they make their enslaved peoples
pay the b itter price o f war; when the people rule their nations, the
nations will live in peace.
This version of political liberalism called for external, as well as
internal,"dem ocracy. T h e League relied upon the beneficent im pact of
public opinion upon international relations. T he new era was to be
characterized by open diplomacy, the publication of treaties, the investi
gation arid dissem ination of the facts concerning international disputes,
and th e use o f th e L eagu e forum to submit grave issues to the moral
consciousness of free peoples. W ilson envisaged . the L e ague as the
court of public opinion in which the conscience of the world could
re n d e rlis verdict, the general judgment of the world as to what is right.

Nothing is going to k ee p this world fit to live in like exposing in public

every cro o ked thing that is going on. . . . A b ad cause will fare ill, but a
g o o d cause is bound to b e triumphant in such a forum. You dare not lay
a b a d cause b efo re m ankind.11

Through the dem ocratic process the peoples of the world would con
trol their governments and determine wise, peaceful, and cooperative pol
icies; through the L eagu e they would control the policies of other nations,
injectin g their wisdom and morality into international relations and saving
the peace of m ankind from the machinations of autocratic scoundrels.
Thus, the L eag u e rested upon two assumptions: that the age of

i dem ocracy had arrived, providing a sufficient number of soundly dem

cratic states to unite in an organization for maintaining world peace; an
jth a t the dem ocratic method of arriving at agreement by civilized discu
sion rather than coercive dictation could be applied to the relations of
dem ocratic states as well as to those of individuals. W ilson had fought
his war to m ake the world safe fo r democracy; he created his League to
i m ake the world safe by democracy.
T h e influence of nineteenth-century liberalism was evident, secondly,
in the emphasis upon .national self-determination wHich~chafacterized
W ilsons thinking about the organization of peace. This doctrine, so revo
lutionary in its im plications, was not by any means absolutely dominant
at the P eace Conference, and it received no formal expression in the

11 Ibid.
Ib id ., pp. 102, 106.
The Establishment o f League of Nations 53

words of the Covenant; but it was nevertheless a major tenet of the

W ilsonian faith. To the wartime President national self-determination
ranked as an essentialcorollary of dem ocracy.1'1 Ju st as the people had a
righrfo'goverh themselves within the national system, so the nations had
a right to govern themselves within the global system. T he League was
strongly imbued with the W ilsonian conviction that the nation is the
natural and proper unit of world .politics, and that the only , sound and
moral basis for international order is a settlement which enables peoples
to achieve autonomous existence within a system dedicated to the preser
vation of the independence and sovereignty of nations. Sovereignty was
not a naughty word for the League; it was a symbol of liberty in inter
national relations, comparable to democracy as a symbol of domestic
In the League philosophy the realization of the ideals of democracy
and self-determination was regarded as the essential means for minimizing
the element of conflict in international relations. Given the proper division
of the world into political units based upon considerations of nationality,
those units would tend to develop along dem ocratic lines. T h e diffusion of
democracy and the elimination of frustrations stemming from denial of
legitim ate aspirations for national self-determination would com bine to
make international relations reasonably harmonious. Assuming these con
ditions, international organization appeared to be at once possible and
almostbut not quiteunnecessary. T he postulated international har
mony was neither absolute nor automatic; there was enough harmony to
make the operation of the League feasible and sufficient need for harm o
nization to make its operation essential. The League would have to bolster
its own foundations by providing devices of peaceful change which
reasonable statesmen could use to perfect the realization of the ideal of
equal justice to all nations. It would have to provide facilities for peaceful
settlement of disputes and for effective restraints upon state behavior in
the exceptional cases when appeal to reason and popular decency would
not suffice. The League was to fill the international need for an accessible
common judge and a method of coping with occasional outlaws. But, by
and large, the J.e a gues function was to be that of providing a framewerk-
for the working out of possibilities of harmonious relations among fr e e ,
peoples, of holding the ring while offering facilities for such minimal
collaboration as national interests might impel states to undertake.
This theoretical scheme was a logical projection of liberal political
thought. It tied on not only to nineteenth-century liberalism, but also to
the liberal foundations which had been laid in the two preceding cen
turies. It represented a choice of John Locke over Thomas Hobbes. In

13 Alfred Cobban, N ational Self-D eterm ination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
n .d .), p. 20.
56 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C o n t e m p d ^ J ln te r n a t io n a l O rganization

Foley, Hamilton. W oodrow W ilsons Case for the L eag u e o f Nations. Princeton,
N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1923.
Salter, J. A. AUied Shipping Control: An Experim ent in International Adminis
tration. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1921.
Sweetser, Arthur. T he L eag u e o f Nations at W ork. New York: Macmillan, 1920.
Walters, F. P. A History o f the L eagu e of Nations. London: Oxford University
Press, 1952, vol. I, chaps. 1-5.
Zimmem, Alfred. T he L eag u e o f Nations and the Rule o f Law , 1 9 18-193S.
London: Macmillan, 1936.
T he Origins of the
United Nations System

;In the fall of 1939 Europe was the scene of the opening of hostilities
which were destined to engulf the world. Only twenty years after the
conclusion of a war to end war and to make the world safe for
democracy and the establishment of a League to keep the peace, the
forces of totalitarianism, international disorganization, and national
irresponsibility produced the greatest and most disastrous of conflicts
World W ar II.
This total collapse of world order produced not so much a sense of
the futility and hopelessness of international organization as a viyid-
awareness of the need for and a resolute determination to achieve an
improved system of internatiouallurgatilzairom it becam e clear th at the
modern world had developed the habit of responding to catastrophe
by intensifying its quest for effective organization.
T h e direct lines of origin of the United Nations may be traced to
^wartime declarations of intent to establish a postwar organizational
system. Early statements by anti-Axis leaders were marked by a studied
vagueness, but by O ctober 1943, at Moscow, the governments o f the
United States, Britain, the Soviet Union, and China were prepared to
issue a clear statem ent of resolve to create a general international organi
zation. Significant differences of approach to the problem remained, but
the basic issue was settled; after the Moscow Conference, there was no

58 H istorical B ackgrou n ds o f C ontem porary International O rganization

open questioning of the principle that a new organization should be

T h e war years were marked by an unprecedented volume of plans
and proposals for postwar international agencies. From nongovernmental
sources cam e suggestions ranging from the utopian blueprints of idealistic
dreamers to the carefully considered proposals of well-organized groups
of experts. Official consideration of the problems and possibilities of
postwar organization was seriously undertaken, particularly in the United
States and Britain. Secretary of State Hull initiated American preparatory
work alm ost im m ediately after the war began in Europe, and was
responsible for the most concentrated and elaborate study of international
organization eVer conducted by a government.1 Although draft plans had
been developed as early as July 1943, the American planning machinery
did not go into high gear until after the Big Four placed their order for
a general international organization at the Moscow Conference; in the
months that follow ed, intensive preparations were carried out.
T h e actual construction of some parts of the projected international
system took place during the period of blueprinting. A number of tem
porary agencies, most notably the United Nations Relief and R ehabilita-
i tion Administration, were set up in 1943 and subsequently, in order to
perform essential tasks related to the war and its immediate aftermath.
T h e process of establishing permanent bodies which would fit into the
general system of postwar organization began with the convening of the
U nited Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture at Hot Springs, V ir
g in ia , in M ay 194.3, w hich laid the foundations for the Food and Agricul
tu re O rganization. In 1944 the establishment of the International
M onetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and
D evelopm ent was initiated at the Bretton W oods Conference, and the
constitution of the International Civil Aviation Organization was drafted
at Chicago.
T h e decision to proceed piecemeal in the building of the postwar
system reflected the b elief th at governments were ready to commit them
selves in regard to econom ic, social, and technical matters, even though
they were not yet prepared to make permanent political arrangements,
and that the gravity of the economic and social problems which would
exist at the end of the w ar made it important to have agencies fully
established and ready to go to work on those problems without delay.
In addition, these organizational conferences were regarded as valuable
trial runs; a supreme effort to negotiate the basis of world order was
im pending, and it was felt that preliminary negotiations on relatively

1 T h e fascinating story of this enterprise is told in Postwar Foreign P olicy Preparation,

1 9 3 9 -1 9 4 5 , Department of State Publication 3580 (Washington, D .C .: Government
Printing OHict', 104 9 ).
The Origins of the United Nations System 59

noncontroversial matters would test the possibilities, reveal the difficul

ties, and facilitate the success of international cooperation in the creation
of a new organization for peace and security.2
T h e period of planning and experimental building of peripheral
agencies merged into the period of m ajor construction on August 21,
11944, when the Dum barton Oaks Conversations began in W ashington.
Representatives of the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United
Kingdom participated in the first and most important phase of these
talks, and China joined American and British delegations in the second
phase. In secret and informal negotiations at the technical level, the
great powers exchanged views, hammered out compromises, identified
differences which would require resolution at higher political levels, and
produced a set of proposals which described the major outlines of a world
organization for the future.3
Progress was made in filling the most notable gaps in the Dum barton
i Oaks Proposals at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, where
Churchill and Stalin accepted a text on voting arrangements in the
Security Council presented by Roosevelt, and the leaders of the Big
Three agreed on the basic principles which should characterize a
supplementary chapter on trusteeship. An embarrassing issu e which had
been left over from Dum barton Oaks, where the Soviets had dumbfounded
their fellow delegates by insisting that the sixteen constituent republics
of the U SSR should have separate voting rights in the projected organiza
tion, was resolved by an agreem ent that the United States and Britain
would support a Soviet request that two of them, the Ukraine and B yelo
russia, be granted this peculiar status. The B ig Three, considering that
the stage was set for the great organizational effort, agreed to summon
v a general conference of the anti-Axis coalition at San Francisco on April
25, 1945.
' Two additional conferences were important in preparing the way
for the meeting at San Francisco. In February and M arch 1945, the
United States consulted at M exico City with its fellow members of the
Inter-Am erican system, in order to gain support for the Dum barton Oaks
scheme and to promote the formulation of a general hem ispheric posi
tion on questions of international organization, especially those involving
the status of regional systems. A Committee of Jurists, representing vir
tually all the nations which were to participate in the San Francisco
Conference, met in W ashington in M arch and drafted a Statute for a
I judicial a g en cy to b e submitted to that Conference.

2 Ib id ., p. 143.
3 F or the text of the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals, see Postw ar F oreign P olicy P repara
tion, pp. 611-619.