President Harding to the Senate

To the Senate: There has been established at The Hague a Permanent Court of International Justice for the trial and decision of international causes by judicial methods, now effective through the ratification by the signatory powers of a special protocol. It is organized and functioning. The United States is a competent suitor in the court, through provision of the statute creating it, but that relation is not sufficient for a Nation long committed to the peaceful settlement of international controversies. Indeed, our Nation had a conspicuous place in the advocacy of such an agency of peace and [Page 18] international adjustment, and our deliberate public opinion of to-day is overwhelmingly in favor of our full participation, and the attending obligations of maintenance and the furtherance of its prestige. It is for this reason that I am now asking for the consent of the Senate to our adhesion to the protocol.

With this request I am sending to the Senate a copy of the letter addressed to me by the Secretary of State,13 in which he presents in detail the history of the establishment of the court, takes note of the objection to our adherence because of the court’s organization under the auspices of the League of Nations, and its relation thereto, and indicates how, with certain reservations, we may fully adhere and participate, and remain wholly free from any legal relation to the league or assumption of obligation under the covenant of the league.

I forbear repeating the presentation made by the Secretary of State, but there is one phase of the matter not covered in his letter with which I choose frankly to acquaint the Senate. For a long period, indeed, ever since the International Conference on the Limitation of Armament, the consideration of plans under which we might adhere to the protocol has been under way. We were unwilling to adhere unless we could participate in the selection of judges; we could not hope to participate with an American accord if adherence involved any legal relation to the league. These conditions, there is good reason to believe, will be acceptable to the signatory powers, though nothing definitely can be done until the United States tenders adhesion with these reservations. Manifestly the Executive can not make this tender until the Senate has spoken its approval. Therefore, I most earnestly urge your favorable advice and consent. I would rejoice if some action could be taken, even in the short period which remains of the present session.

It is not a new problem in international relationship, it is wholly a question of accepting an established institution of high character, and making effective all the fine things which have been said by us in favor of such an agency of advanced civilization. It would be well worth the while of the Senate to make such special effort as is becoming to record its approval. Such action would add to our own consciousness of participation in the fortunate advancement of international relationship, and remind the world anew that we are ready for our proper part in furthering peace and adding to stability in world affairs.

Warren G. Harding
  1. Letter of Feb. 17, supra.