Inquiry files

Mr. Walter Lippmann to Colonel E. M. House

International Law

In plotting out the field of international law so far as it is likely to affect the peace conference it has become perfectly clear that there are a great number of questions for which the State Department alone could be responsible, and in order to avoid the duplication which might result from our doing ineffectively what the State Department is already in a position to do effectively, I am sending you a list of the subjects which seem to us outside our sphere:

The existing laws of war on land. The procedure for determining violation of the laws which may give rise to claims for the punishment of guilty persons, or to claims for damages and reparation on behalf of belligerent governments as well as innocent noncombatants.
The status of enemy merchant ships.
Questions of neutrality and the duties of neutral states, such as:
The use of neutral ports by belligerent ships.
The supplying of munitions to belligerents.
Censorship questions, etc.
All questions relating to the existing blockade.
All questions relating to enemy trade during this war.
All questions relating to the custodianship of enemy property.

In general, these comprise the legal questions involved in the waging of the war.

If these questions are taken over by the State Department we should confine ourselves to special studies in international law, with one object in mind—the working out of proposals for the future. Naturally this will involve a good deal of study of the present experience, but it would not involve our making ourselves expert on the legal negotiations now in progress. We should then want to consider merely legal aspects of such problems as a possible league of nations, the internationalization of the Dardanelles, the protection of racial minorities in the Balkans, Turkey, and Austria-Hungary, access to the sea for land-locked states, the internationalization of certain railroads, rivers, and ports, the “freedom of the seas,” the reduction of armaments. In general one might say that our interest would be in those questions of international law which are involved in future political relations rather than in the immediate negotiations now in progress.