Mr. Winchester to Mr. Bayard.
Berne, February 1, 1889. (Received February 12.)
Sir: The conferences held at Berne in 1885 and 1886 for the purpose of establishing an international union for the protection of literary and artistic property, to which I was accredited as a consultative delegate on the part of my Government, first led me to consider the peculiar and advantageous position of the neutral State of Switzerland with regard to all such unions. Several international unions have their seat in Berne; the number is gradually increasing, and it is conferring upon Switzerland, in the eyes of the world, a peculiar position of honor, distinction, and usefulness. It may not be uninteresting to give a short summary of the history of the rise and progress of these international unions.
The neutrality of Switzerland was guarantied by the powers represented at the Congress of Vienna. The object of this guaranty was primarily strategical. It was felt to be essential that steps should be taken to prevent any one power from gaining possession of the line of the Alps upon the breaking out of a fresh war, and as to Switzerland herself, it was considered she could not come under any suspicion of political ambition or territorial aggrandizement. She was thus mapped out to be a neutral state, and the neutrality then acquired, and her central position in Europe, were in themselves sufficient to recommend her, when occasion offered, to be selected as the seat of an international union of any kind. Convenience of communication with the principal European capitals, and a reasonably presumed freedom from the fear of untoward complications or “entangling alliances,” resulting from war or foreign occupation, are distinct and all-important advantages enjoyed by Berne.
Again, besides their neutral position, the Swiss possess perhaps the most marked genius of any people for the administration of an office. The Swiss Federal Government itself is surely the most laborious, the least pretentious, the most economical, yet as systematic and thorough as any that can be named. The same sobriety of demeanor, conscientious discharge of duty and painstaking, patient labor at their desks pervade the entire Swiss bureaucracy.
In 1863 the first step was taken which has since resulted in a general consensus as to the superior inducements presented by Switzerland for international bureaus. In that year a private committee, the members of which belonged to different nationalities, assembled at Geneva and [Page 694] drew up a plan for the protection of the wounded in battle, the inadequacy of official means to meet the humane requirements of sick and wounded soldiers in great wars having long been felt. It will always redound to the honor of Switzerland that upon her soil the first international conference was held with a view to the mitigation of some of the horrors of war. On that occasion the institution of national aid societies was established, and a few Swiss gentlemen were formed into an international committee for the purpose of acting on their neutral territory as a link between the aid societies of all countries. This committee then requested the Federal Council, as the central government of the country in which they had held their sittings, to propose to the other governments that a, diplomatic conference should be held in Switzerland in order further to discuss and formulate this humane and important question. The Federal Council accepted the task; the appeal was made, and met with a generous response. Many powers accepted the invitation and sent delegates to a conference which was held in Geneva the following year, which was brought to a successful conclusion by the signing of the memorable “Geneva Convention of the 22d August, 1864,” by the representatives of sixteen governments. Within four months it was signed by eight European states, and at the present time it has been accepted by thirty-three states. The treaty embraces a wide field of practical philanthropy, being designed to remove soldiers, when sick or wounded, from the category of combatants, and to afford them relief and protection without regard to nationality. This protection is also extended to all persons officially attached to hospitals or ambulances, and to all houses, so long as they contain invalid soldiers. Inhabitants of a country occupied by a belligerent army, and who may be engaged in the care of the sick and wounded, enjoy the same privileges. Provision is also made for the return of invalid soldiers to their respective homes, The gun-carriage bears its death-dealing burden across the battle-field, but in the ruts which rushing artillery wheels have torn up follow promptly the ambulance wagons supplied by this Christian brotherhood, bringing hope and succor to the wounded. The distinctive mark of hospitals and ambulances is the Swiss flag with its colors reversed, a red cross on a white ground, and individuals wear a white armlet with a red cross, and every red-cross flag must be accompanied in time of war by the national flag of those using it. It is one of the wisest and best systems of philanthropic work, a grand educator, embodying the best principles of social science, and that true spirit of charity which counts it a sacred privilege to serve one’s fellow-men in time of trouble. To supply material wants is only a small part of its ministry. It seeks to carry to men’s hearts the message of universal brotherhood and unite the links with “Peace on earth, good will to men,” as its ensign. Certainly it is no mean distinction for the Swiss Confederation that the national emblem has been so intimately and exclusively associated with a most conspicuous work of charity and humanity. The United States Government gave its adherence to the treaty in July, 1882, and in the international conventions held since that date, among the large number of delegates composed of royalties, nobilities, and military and scientific celebrities, no one commanded more attention and wielded a greater influence than a lone American woman who was accredited as a delegate from her country. Clara Barton, whose name is known the world over in connection with the burning cross on a white ground, the only feminine delegate in the assemblage, carried resolutions and amendments that materially enlarged the scope of red-cross activities and tended to assimilate its workings in Europe to plans [Page 695] already put in execution in the United States. She had been chiefly instrumental in the conception and practical application of these plans, having done good service during our civil war, and subsequently, during the Franco-German war, followed the German army into Paris, working faithfully in French and German camps. She then came home, resolved to do her best to have the United States put alongside other civilized-nations, which, largely due to her influence, was accomplished, as above stated, in 1882.
In 1865, one year after the signing the treaty of the Red Cross, the birth was witnessed of the International Telegraph Union through the signature of the Convention of Paris. For a short time the Union dispensed with a central administration, but the urgency of the need soon asserted itself and found expression at the second conference, which was held at Vienna in 1868. It was then agreed that there should be a permanent seat of administration, and the Swiss Confederation was requested to give it shelter. The office of the International Union, the first of its kind, was formed at Berne without delay, the staff for the first year consisting of a director, one secretary, and a clerk. Correspondence was at once opened with thirty-seven telegraph administrations, twenty-six of which belonged to the contracting states, and eleven to private companies. The expenses for the first twelve months did not reach 29,000 francs, or less than $6,000. The last report from the bureau director shows the total number of state administrations corresponding with the central office to be forty; in addition to these are ten cable, or submarine, and eleven (land) telegraphic private companies. The budget for 1888 estimated the total expense at 84,000 francs, or about $16,500, not a large sum for so complicated and extensive an organization. The bureau issues an official journal, a monthly publication known as “Le Journal Télégraphique.”
Next came the Postal Union, in 1874, and immediately upon the exchange of ratifications of the convention, a year later, the central office of this Union was likewise constituted at Berne. It comprised a director, two secretaries, two clerks, and a translator. Correspondence opened with twenty-one postal administrations and an annual expense of 62,000 francs ($12,500). From the report of the director for 1888, it appears that fifty-seven administrations and groups of administration had acceded to the Union, with an annual expense of 78,959 francs ($15,700), and the contributive share of a first-class State, 3,375 francs ($650), a most valuable and efficient service at a remarkably small cost. A journal in three languages, English, German, and French, called’” L’Union Postale,” is conducted by the bureau and has quite a large circulation.
Passing mention may be made here of two more limited but very important international conventions concluded in Switzerland, the one against Phylloxera and the other for the regulation of the transport of goods by railway. The first took its origin at a conference of persons interested in the culture of the vine, held at Lausanne in 1877, and a convention to establish it was signed at Berne in 1878 by several states, with the object of promoting joint protection against a disease which had already been the cause of such serious losses to wine-growers. Berne was agreed upon as the seat of future meetings, and this union, which has obtained further adhesions, continues in steady and beneficial operation. The Railway Transport Union is from the nature and difficulty of the questions involved, one of slow evolution, but conferences are still held and will ultimately result in the text of a convention with a central bureau at Berne. Its interests will be confined in great part to continental states.[Page 696]
The next important event was the union for the protection of industrial property, which after ten years’ negotiation was concluded at Paris in 1883, with a supplemental protocol signed at Rome in 1886. Under the terms of the convention, Switzerland became liable for the management of the central administration, and the bureau joins the others at Berne. There are sixteen states in the union, the last accession being that of the United States on the 30th May, 1887.
The last international union and one very properly following the protection of industrial property, was the union for the protection of literary and artistic property, concluded at Berne in 1886. Ratifications were exchanged and the treaty put into force on 5th December, 1887, with ten states in the union. It was also placed under the high authority of the Swiss Confederation, and acts under its supervision with the central bureau in Berne. Like the others this bureau publishes a valuable monthly journal “Le Droit d’Auteur.” The failure of the United States to join this union was regarded as depriving the convention of much of its value. Let us hope that so just a cause as that of international copyright may be within measurable distance of triumph in our country and that it will not be long before the reproach will be removed by the request that a place be made for us in the union.
It must be borne in mind that these international offices are practically the only ones which the world has to show; for the Bureau “du Mètre,” established near Paris, the only institution in another country partaking of an international character, can not be reckoned in the same category, and is moreover scientific and not commercial. It is difficult when passing through the quiet streets of Berne to realize the extent and importance of the operations which are being so unobtrusively carried on, or the world-wide scope of the interests involved. Yet it can not be doubted that these interests form a more effectual guaranty for the preservation of Switzerland as an independent state than any other that could be devised. This position she has gained by the study of the conveniences of mankind, or, in other words by making herself useful to every one while offending none. It is noteworthy as evidence of the high consideration paid to these international unions by the Swiss public men, that the directorship of the central postal-office was from the outset accepted by an eminent member of the federal council, who thus resigned his political career, together with the certainty of succeeding to the Presidency of the Confederation, in order to undertake this laborious duty; with a very moderate salary; and the name of one of the most distinguished members of the present federal council is associated with the directorship of another union. The acquisition by a single state of these great unions, which can not fail to be productive of a progressively improving understanding among those states joining; enabling their several systems to be compared, useful discoveries shared, legislations simplified and assimilated, the science of statistics accelerated, and efforts not merely for the development of commercial but also of the intellectual needs of their respective people wisely directed and stimulated; such beneficent and far-reaching results can but prove a real and solid advantage to the state furnishing the safe and common ground upon which they can be peaceably and harmoniously prosecuted, and elevate her to an exceptional position of importance and security, commanding the gratitude of posterity in every country.
It will not do to close this summary of international organizations and movements in Switzerland without a reference to the first great international court of arbitration which had its seat in Geneva under the treaty of Washington in 1872 to settle the Alabama claims. Over this [Page 697] most memorable court a Swiss was called to preside. Since that time the Swiss high federal council has been frequently addressed and its aid solicited in promoting a permanent international high court of arbitration, a court permanently established for the settlement of international disputes, to take its place beside the other highly useful and successful international courts established at Berne. That the realization of this aspiration and hope would be of almost incalculable benefit must be allowed on all hands. It is a project that must commend itself to every publicist. It may be true that grave difficulties stand in the way, yet the project of independent nations submitting their disputes to some body of impartial arbitrators for decision and denouncing the arbitrament of war is not a new one. It is as old as history. As a principle it has received the approval of sovereigns and statesmen, parliaments, and congresses. The chief powers of Europe gave their sanction to it by the treaty of Paris in 1856. but unfortunately have permitted it to remain a dead letter. Our own Government has upon more than one occasion given its approval to measures having for their object the establishment of arbitration as a permanent means of settling international controversies. And there is a peculiar fitness in the United States taking the initiative in such a movement. From their location, sentiments, traditions, and interests they do not excite the jealous apprehension of the other powers by the advocacy of such a measure. Their international relations are universally pacific, their policy non -aggressive. The relation of the several States to each other, under the General Government, is of itself a living attestation of the possibility of governments independent of each other to a great extent yielding the right of settling controversies between themselves to a body of arbitrators outside of themselves, without in any way detracting from their dignity or their prosperity. A civilized people fights because it can not help it, not because it likes it. Barbarians and early people fight because they like it, as the chivalrous Maoris did, and the Norsemen, and the ancient Greeks. The romance and poetry of such people are all about war; it is their sport, their industry, their occupation. There is no other way to wealth and the heart of woman. The ancient Teutonic regarded war as a great international lawsuit, and victory as the judgment of God in favor of the victor. But there is a growing consciousness that, considered in the abstract, and unconnected with all views of the cause for which it may be undertaken, war is an evil, and no one but a misanthrope could fail to rejoice in the day when it shall yield to a procedure for settling international differences, more just and more worthy of an advanced humanity. For though war has its great conquests, its pomps, its proud associations and heroic memories, there is murder in its march, and humanity and civilization and genius were things to blush for, if progress can not be accomplished by some nobler means. The trend of events is towards a better understanding between nations. National temperaments are now being leveled by the ease of intercourse and by increased knowledge of languages. The world is more and more assimilating to a condition like that of a great family, in which the individual nations, as members, are linked together by interests which quarrels resulting in wars only impair and can not benefit. They are so dependent upon each other for commercial prosperity that a condition of war is a serious blow to that prosperity. Unconquerable time itself works on increasingly bringing the nations nearer to one another in the natural and orderly development of close international intercourse, awakening the universal consciousness of the community of mankind. Numerous new means of [Page 698] communication serve this end, and none more so than international conventions and unions. The whole science of modern times follows this impulse, and the hindrances and barriers that lay between nations are gradually but certainly disappearing. Even at the present day every part of the civilized world feels any disturbance in a particular state as an evil in which it has to suffer, and what happens at the extremest limits immediately awakens universal interest. The spirit of modern times turns its regards to the circuit of the globe and to an aspiration in which international law and relation will attain a higher form and a more assured existence, with no purpose to interfere with particular states and oppress nations, but the better to secure the peace of the one and the freedom of the other. The best political arrangements can not completely insure the world against civil war. Justice never attains its ideal, but in the best cases only approximates it.
Whilst it would be vain to look for the political millennium; for the day when the “only battle-field will be the market open to commerce and the mind opening to new ideas 5 “when nations shall enjoy the boundless blessings offered them in the perfect freedom of human industry, and in the establishment of a perpetual peace—
When the war-drum throbs no longer, and the battle-nags are furled
In the parliament of man, the federation of the world,—
we must be content if a stronger organization of international law and a better regulation of international differences makes war rarer.
I am, etc.,
P. S.—In converting francs into our currency, no attempt has been made at exactness, but the sums are given approximately in round numbers.