restricted access Chapter III - Of the Dignity and Equality of Nations,— of Titles,—and other Marks of Honour
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chapter iii 281 chapter iii Of the Dignity and Equality of Nations,— of Titles,—and other Marks of Honour. Every nation, every sovereign and independent state, deserves consideration and respect, because it makes an immediate figure in the grand society of the human race, is independent of all earthly power, and is an assemblage of a great number of men, which is, doubtless, moreconsiderable than any individual. Thesovereignrepresentshiswholenation; he unites in his person all its majesty. No individual, though ever so free and independent, can be placed in competition with a sovereign; this would be putting a single person upon an equality with an united multitude of his equals. Nations and sovereigns are therefore under an obligation , and at the same time have a right, to maintain their dignity, and to cause it to be respected, as being of the utmost importance to their safety and tranquillity. We have already observed (Prelim. §18) that nature has established a perfect equality of rights between independent nations. Consequently none can naturally lay claim to any superior prerogative: for, whatever privileges any one of them derives from freedom and sovereignty, the others equally derive the same from the same source. And since precedency or pre-eminence of rank is a prerogative, no nation, no sovereign, can naturally claim it as a right. Why should nations , that are not dependent on him, give up any point to him against their will? However, as a powerful and extensive state is much more considerable in universal society, than a small state, it is reasonable that the latter should yield totheformer,onoccasionswhereonemustnecessarily yield to the other, as in an assembly,—and should pay it those mere ceremonial deferences, which do not in fact destroy their equality, and only shew a priority of order, a first place among equals. Other nations will naturally assign the first place to the more powerful state; and it would be equally useless as ridiculous for the weaker one obstinately tocontend about it. Theantiquityof thestateentersalsointoconsiderationonthese§35. Dignity of nations or sovereign states.§36. Their equality.§37. Precedency , 282 book ii: nations in relation to other states occasions: a new-comer cannot dispossess any one of thehonours he has enjoyed; and he must produce very strong reasons, before he can obtain a preference. The form of government is naturally foreign to this question. The dignity, the majesty, resides originally in the body of the state; that of the sovereign is derived from his representing the nation. And can it be imagined that a state possesses more or less dignity according as it is governed by a single person, or by many? At present kings claim a superiority of rank over republics: but this pretension has noothersupport than the superiority of their strength. Formerly, the Roman republic considered all kings as very far beneath them: but the monarchs of Europe , finding none but feeble republics to oppose them, have disdained to admit them to an equality. The republic of Venice, and that of the United Provinces, have obtained the honours of crowned heads; but their ambassadors yield precedency to those of kings. In consequence of what we have just established, if the form of government in a nation happens to be changed, she will still preserve the same honours and rank of which she was before in possession. When England had abolished royalty,10 Cromwell would suffer no abatement of the honours that had been paid to the crown, or to the nation; and he every-where maintained theEnglishambassadorsintheranktheyhad always possessed. If the grades of precedency have been settled by treaties, or by long custom founded on tacit consent, it is necessary to conform to the established rule. To dispute with a prince the rank he has acquired in this manner, is doing him an injury, inasmuch as it is an expression of contempt for him, or a violation of engagements that secure to him a right. Thus, by the injudicious partition between the sons of Charlemagne,11 the elder having obtained the empire, the younger, who received the 10. Charles I of England was beheaded on January 30, 1649, after which the state was governed by the Rump Parliament and Oliver Cromwell’s Protectorate (1653– 58). 11. Divisio Regnorum, 806.§38. The form of government is foreign to this question.§39. A state ought to keep its rank, notwithstanding any changes in the form of its government.§40. In this respect, treaties and established customs ought to be observed. chapter iii 283 kingdom of...


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Subject Headings

  • International law.
  • War (International law).
  • Natural law.
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