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Peace conference, universal

Count Mouravieff, the Russian minister for foreign affairs, on Aug. 24, 1898, suggested a conference of the powers with a view to the maintenance of universal peace, and the limiting of excessive armaments. As the suggestion met with general favor, the Emperor of Russia, on Jan. 11, 1899, proposed a congress to be held at The Hague, May 18, 1899, in which each power, whatever the number of its delegates, would have only one vote. The subjects to be submitted for international discussion at the congress could be summarized as follows:

1. An understanding not to increase for a fixed period the present effective of the armed military and naval forces, and at the same time not to increase the budgets pertaining thereto; and a preliminary examination of the means by which a reduction might even be effected in future in the forces and budgets abovementioned.

2. To prohibit the use in the armies and fleets of any new kind of fire-arms whatever and of new explosives, or any powders more powerful than those now in use either for rifles or cannon.

3. To restrict the use in military warfare of the formidable explosives already existing, and to prohibit the throwing of projectiles or explosives of any kind from balloons or by any similar means.

4. To prohibit the use in naval warfare of submarine torpedo-boats or plungers, or other similar engines of destruction; to give an undertaking not to construct vessels with rams in the future.

5. To apply to naval warfare the stipulations of the Geneva Convention of 1864, on the basis of the Additional Articles of 1868.

6. To neutralize ships and boats employed in saving those overboard during or after an engagement.

7. To revise the declaration concerning the laws and customs of war elaborated in 1874 by the conference of Brussels, which has remained unratified to the present day.

8. To accept in principle the employment of good offices, of mediation and facultative arbitration in cases lending themselves thereto, with the object of preventing armed conflicts between nations; to come to an understanding with respect to the mode of applying these good offices, and to establish a uniform practice in using them.

The following governments were [100] represented: Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Bulgaria, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Rumania, Russia, Servia, Siam, Spain, Sweden and Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States of America.

The United States were represented by the lion. Andrew D. White, ambassador to Berlin; the Hon. Seth Low, president of Columbia University; the Hon. Stanford Newel, minister to The Hague; Capt. Alfred T. Mahan, U. S. N.; Capt. William Crozier, U. S. A., and the Hon. Frederick W. Holls, of New York.

At the opening of the conference, May 18, M. de Staal, the Russian ambassador, was elected President.

The subjects suggested in the Russian circular of Jan. 11 were referred to three committees, the reports of which were submitted July 29 and signed by all. Accompanying the report were the following proposed conventions:

I. Convention for the pacific settlement of international conflicts.

II. Convention regarding the laws and customs of war by land.

III. Convention for the adaptation to maritime warfare of the principles of the Geneva Convention of Aug. 22, 1864.

Added to the convention relative to laws and customs of war were three declarations, separately signed as follows:

1. The contracting powers agree to prohibit, for a term of five years, the launching of projectiles and explosives from balloons, or by other new methods of a similar nature.

2. The contracting parties agree to abstain from the use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope which does not entirely cover the core, or is pierced with incisions.

3. The contracting parties agree to abstain from the use of projectiles the object of which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases.

The United States signed the first of these declarations, but declined to sign the second, on the ground that the declaration was unsatisfactory since it limited the prohibition to details of construction which only included a single ease, and left all others out of consideration. The United States declined to sign the third declaration upon the ground that the use of asphyxiating shells was far less inhuman and cruel than the employment of submarine boats, which had not been interdicted. See arbitration, international.

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Andrew Dickson White (1)
M. Staal (1)
Stanford Newel (1)
N. V. Mouravieff (1)
Alfred Taylor Mahan (1)
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Frederick W. Holls (1)
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