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An Age of Neutrals

An Age of Neutrals provides a pioneering history of the role of neutrality in the international system
between the Congress of Vienna and the outbreak of the First World War. The long nineteenth
century (18151914) was an era of limited war. It was a century of industrialisation, imperialism and
globalisation; one which witnessed the economic and political hegemony of the great powers across
the world. Dr Maartje Abbenhuis explores the ways in which neutrality reinforced these
developments. She argues that a passive conception of neutrality has thus far prevented historians
from understanding the high regard with which neutrality, as a tool of diplomacy and statecraft, was
held by states and governments during this era. This is a compelling, new history in which neutrality
is exposed as a vibrant and essential part of the international system; a powerful instrument with
which to solve disputes, stabilise international relations and promote European interests worldwide.
MAARTJE ABBENHUISis Senior Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of
Auckland in New Zealand, where she has worked since 2003.
An Age of Neutrals

Great power politics, 18151914

Maartje Abbenhuis
University of Auckland, New Zealand
University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom

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Maartje Abbenhuis 2014
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First published 2014


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For Gord
Contents
Acknowledgements
Note to readers

Introduction: it is not the neutrals or lukewarms that make history


1 Neutrality on the eve of the industrial age
2 Neutrality, neutralisation and the Concert of Europe
3 The neutrals war: Britain and the global implications of the Crimean War, 18531856
4 How to be neutral: negotiating neutrality in the wars of nationhood, 18591871
5 Neutrality as an international and patriotic ideal
6 Regulating neutrality from The Hague to The Hague, 18991907
7 Neutral no more: neutrality and the origins of the First World War
Conclusion: international laws finest and most fragile flower

Bibliography
Index
Acknowledgements

There are many wonderful people whom I would like to thank for making this book so much better
than it would have been without their direct and indirect input and support. Sitting absolutely at the
top of that list is my amazing husband and most ardent supporter, Gordon Morrell, who has one of the
finest historical brains around and talked with me ad nauseum about all this neutrality stuff, which,
frankly, cannot be anywhere near as interesting to him as his own fields of expertise. I also want to
thank my friends, colleagues and ex-colleagues in the Department of History at the University of
Auckland, especially Felicity Barnes, Sara Buttsworth and Hugh Laracy. Others on the list include
Maarten van Ginderachter, Wim Klinkert, Jan Lemnitzer, Roman Rossfeld, Jakob Tanner, Antoon
Vrints, Jay Winter, Susanne Wolf and Neville Wylie, as well as my postgraduate students,
particularly those who worked with me on research projects relating to this book: Brody Adamson,
Philip Arnold, Chris Barber, Ren Bester, James (Hemi) David, Karl Goddard, Annelise Higgins,
Michael Moon, Thomas Munro, Leon Ostick, Helen Robinson, Richard Steedman, Alanna Sullivan-
Vaughn, Wang Shuo and my HISTORY 715 and 780 students, to whom I wax lyrical about the
absence of neutrality in studies of nineteenth-century international history. Thank you for taking this
history as seriously as I do. I would like to extend a very grateful thanks to the University of Auckland
for its financial and sabbatical support, without which this book would not have come about, and to
my Head of Department, Jonathan Scott, for accommodating my writing needs in our departments
busy teaching schedule.
I visited some wonderful archives and libraries as part of my research. My favourite among them
is the (British) National Archives in Kew, London, followed closely by the Nationaal Archief in The
Hague. Also important were the Peace Palace Library and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague,
the Koninklijke Bibliotheek van Belgi/Bibliotheque royale de Belgique in Brussels, the Institute for
Social History in and the Belasting en Douane Museum in Rotterdam. The internet is a great and
noble thing, as is the digitisation of newspapers, pamphlets and treatises, particularly in the
Bibliotheque Nationale de France (their nineteenth-century Gallica collection is astounding), the
Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague and the extensive digitised newspaper resources available to
me at the University of Auckland library. My only regret is that it was impossible for me to scan
through, let alone analyse, all 8,000 published documents relating to neutrality in the period 1815
1914 available on Gallica and the more than 7,000 references to neutrality made in The Times
(London) between 1859 and 1872.
The greatest debt of gratitude goes out to the many members of my extended family who looked
after me and my research needs, including Jacintha and Harry Abbenhuis, Wiesje and Tristan
Steevensz-Abbenhuis, and Marianne, Fried and Liselotte Hesp. Lastly, and most importantly, thank
you Gord, Joseph and Helena for keeping me grounded in the only time period that really matters, the
here and now.
Note to readers

For ease of reference, I use Great Britain or Britain to refer to the islands we now call the United
Kingdom (including Ireland) and which during the nineteenth century were referred to as England,
Scotland, Wales and so forth. Likewise, I use the term Britons to refer to citizens and subjects of the
English crown in that same period. I use Prussia to refer to the pre-1871 Prussian state and
Germany to the post-1871 unified state. The Habsburg monarchy refers both to Austria before
Ausgleich with Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Empire after 1867. Where possible, I have
identified the full names and formal titles and positions of individuals, but I have not always been
able to do so. All the translations are my own, except where indicated differently.
Introduction: it is not the neutrals or lukewarms that make
history1

Neutrality a formal and internationally recognised status of non-belligerency in time of war is not
a modern concept . The desire to keep out of a war is a natural response to conflict and as old as war
itself, even if, as Robert Fisk so daintily puts it, neutrality in war has never been regarded as an act
of much honour.2 Through the ages, the desire for non-belligerency has been voiced and exercised in
a variety of ways and with varying levels of success. Whenever there has been war, there have been
neutrals. Scholars usually look to Ancient Greece to chart the first uses of neutrality as agreements
made to keep certain city-states from becoming embroiled in the frequent wars of their neighbours .3
Of course, where there were neutrals, there was controversy. In the fifteenth century, for example,
Machiavelli famously espoused that neutrality was a false policy for a Prince to undertake, for

if you do not declare yourself [in favour of one party against the other], you will invariably fall
prey to the conqueror, to the pleasure and satisfaction of him who has been conquered, and you
will have no reasons to offer, nor anything to protect or to shelter you. Because he who conquers
does not want doubtful friends who will not aid him in the time of trial; and he who loses will
not harbour you because you did not willingly, sword in hand, court his fate .4

With the birth of international law , neutrality became a debated topic within the European just war
canon, in which it was largely demonised as an immoral act. As the father of international law and the
proponent of the just war cause, Hugo Grotius explained in 1625, it is the duty of those who keep
out of war to do nothing whereby he who supports a wicked cause may be rendered more powerful.5
Yet neutrals were a common feature of the early modern period. With the growth of Enlightenment
ideas, neutrality also lost many of its moralised overtones, which were replaced by the competing
logic of scholars to define the rights and duties of states in times of war and peace .
Neutralitys golden age in international law and international esteem came in the long nineteenth
century, which stretched from the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) to the outbreak of the First
World War (1914). In that century, which forms the topic of this book, neutrality developed into a
permanent feature of the international system . It was a much lauded, used and promoted policy by
great and small powers alike. It helped to sustain the balance of power that kept the great powers
from going to war with one another. It helped to protect the power and growth of the British Empire .
It was a tool that enabled globalisation and underpinned many free-trade liberal policies. It also
became a defining feature of popular conceptions of internationalism and humanitarianism . In the
long nineteenth century, at least, neutrality was an important and active idea in international law,
international politics and international idealism. On all three counts, it stood in direct contrast to the
concept of neutrality that dominated the mid-to-late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Today, the word neutrality implies passivity and inaction . It is a soft word, defined by the
modern Oxford English Dictionary as an absence of decided views, expression or strong feeling.6
In ascribing the term neutrality to certain countries, at one level at least, we taint them with the
passivity of its meaning. By nature of the word, neutrals are removed from the world of action,
agency and activity. It is perhaps not surprising then that they are often invisible to the writing of
modern history as well at least to the history that charts the actions of states, their wars,
international posturing and Realpolitik. Neutrals rarely achieve prominence in the historical
narratives of war written after 1945. If they appear, it is usually not until the moment when they
become a belligerent or when their non-belligerency is seriously compromised .
This is not to say neutrals and neutrality do not feature in the writing of history . In the history of
international law , for example, neutrality holds a prominent place . The historian Stephen Neff charts
developments in the adoption of the rights and duties attached to neutrality over the centuries since
Grotiuss time.7 H. J. Morgenthau , furthermore, argues that the nineteenth century witnessed a golden
age of neutrality, an age in which neutrals were protected and the laws of neutrality were stipulated
and universally implemented.8 Morgenthaus work sits within a wider historiographical genre that
argues that the 1800s were a golden age for international law. 9 Such narratives tend to culminate in
the 1907 Hague Conventions on neutrality, which remain in force today and are the basis of our
modern understanding of neutral rights and duties. The conventions recognised that neutrality was,
first and foremost, a status in international law a status that a country maintained by behaving in a
certain manner when others were at war. 10 They highlighted that a countrys neutrality ended as soon
as it was invaded, failed to act according to the requirements of international law or had its rights
seriously violated. The conventions also outlined the basic requirements of a neutral state, namely
that it act impartially towards belligerents, refrain from favouring one or another side with military
support and protect its sovereign territory from foreign military incursions. In return, it obtained the
right to trade unhindered with belligerents and other neutrals, except in contraband (goods of war) or
when breaching a blockade .
The writing of the history of neutrality in international law is also connected to the economic
history of warfare, where it deals mainly with issues of maritime warfare . Obviously, belligerents
concerned themselves with the trade and supply of their enemies, including that obtained from
neutrals. Issues of trade and exchange in time of war were particularly contentious on the open seas ,
outside the limits of sovereign territory. From the early modern period on, the commercial success of
states relied in large part on their maintaining successful trade relationships across those seas.11 As a
result, the rules that applied to piracy , privateering and prize law preoccupied belligerents and non-
belligerents alike. Neutrality also features in the history of economic warfare in more recent times:
the history of British neutrality violations in the United States Civil War is well known, for example,
as are the ramifications for neutrals of Germanys declaration of unrestricted U-boat warfare in 1917
.
The other major foci for the writing of neutrality history are the national histories of countries that
have become defined in some way by their historical status of neutrality . The Netherlands , Sweden
and the Italian states feature as important early modern examples of prominent neutrals, while
Switzerland , Sweden and Belgium are probably the most familiar modern representatives.12 Of
course, the United States should be included on both of these lists. Significantly, and quite in contrast
to the history of the early modern neutrals, the national histories of the modern neutrals are often
endowed with twentieth-and early twenty-first-century understandings of neutrality . Their depictions
tend to foreground passivity and morality rather than international agency. Where the histories of
neutrals in the early modern era look to the centrality of these states in the international environment ,
the histories of the modern neutrals tend to highlight their peripheral status and their uniqueness as
outliers in the international system. We tend to identify these countries as small or weak states .
Neutral Switzerland epitomises present-day conceptions of neutrality best. In 1815, the great
powers neutralised the Swiss cantons at the Congress of Vienna . Since 1848 , when its permanent
neutrality became embedded in the Swiss political constitution, neutrality has become a defining
feature of Switzerlands international position.13 Unlike other long-term neutrals of the same era,
including Belgium and the United States, Switzerlands neutrality endured both the world wars of the
twentieth century and was sustained throughout the Cold War and into the postCold War era . Today,
Switzerland comes across to outsiders as a small, relatively weak country that survived the ages by
dint of its historic neutrality, its geographic isolation amidst the mountainous Alps and its function as
the banking centre of Europe. In popular depictions, Switzerland is often represented as a placid
nation lacking agency, heroism or heart. In Graham Greenes 1949 film The Third Man, for example,
the character Harry Lime (played by Orson Welles ) describes the land-locked country as follows:

In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed but they
produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had
brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo
clock.14

There is very little historical accuracy in the quote the cuckoo clock is not Swiss, for one but it
depicts the implied permanence of the idea of Swiss neutrality very well alongside its supposed
stifled creativity. Likewise, in an episode of the popular 1990s television series Ally McBeal ,
Calista Flockharts character entertains the idea that she might move to Switzerland in order to avoid
the real world because as she sees it:

everything is neutral in Switzerland. People are even emotionally neutral in Switzerland. All
they do is drink hot chocolate, work in banks, nobody gets hurt and they get to lead nice lives
right up until the point where they shoot themselves.15

Even the shipwrecked Swiss Family Robinson espouses, in the glorious 1960 Disney adaptation of
Johann David Wysss 1812 book, that we are ready to fight but were not too proud to hide.16 More
recently, Rowan Atkinsons secret-agent character in the spoof film Johnny English Reborn (2011),
when faced with the possibility of being shot by Swiss guards, pleads dear God, please dont let me
die at the hands of the Swiss! By implication, death at the hands of any other adversary would be
more worthy than this ignoble and neutral end.17
Contrary to these popular and foreign constructions of Switzerland, many Swiss have come to
embrace their neutrality as a sacred part of their national identity: that which protects them in the
world but also sets them apart from that world. In doing so, they stress the longevity of their
neutrality, implying that it has been a constant feature of Switzerlands identity since early-modern
times.18 When Switzerland appears in the writing of the political history of the world, however,
historians usually only introduce it at the point where its national history became tainted and its
neutrality corrupted. Obviously, Switzerlands conduct during the Second World War features
prominently in such accounts. The story of Swiss behaviour in and before the First World War is now
also under historical scrutiny using a similar moral compass, as attested to by Max Mittlers 982-
page volume, Der Weg zum Ersten Weltkrieg. Wie neutral war die Schweiz? (The way to the First
World War. How neutral were the Swiss?), which was published in 2003 .19
Another small country whose citizens have grappled with the implications of their neutrality is the
Netherlands. Until the end of the twentieth century at least, historians of the Netherlands tended to
ignore its neutral past, and when they did analyse it, it was often to explain how short-sighted and
nave was the countrys return to neutrality in the late 1930s . The experiences of the Second World
War and Nazi occupation overshadowed any genuine understanding of the viability of neutrality in the
First World War, let alone during the hundred years or so before 1914 when neutrality was an
established (and celebrated) part of the Dutch national psyche.20 Johan den Hertog recently published
an important analysis of Dutch foreign policy in the 190040 period, in which he argues that the
traditional historiographical take on Dutch foreign policy in the inter-bellum period, which fixates on
the idea of zelfstandigheidspolitiek (policy of independence), attempts to differentiate Dutch
neutrality (often read as passive by other historians) during the war from its League of Nationsera
equivalent.21 Den Hertog shows that even before 1914, the Dutch were active neutrals and used
neutrality as a means of promoting their sovereign independence in a tense world. He successfully
takes neutrality out of its presentist compass linked to defeat, inaction and immorality and returns
it to its rightful historical place, namely the context of its time .22
Of course, not all national histories of neutrals fixate on the small and weak . For nearly a century
and a half after its birth as an independent nation, the United States was an avowed neutral in world
affairs. Historians credit the United States with the honour of developing the modern concept of
impartial neutrality. 23 Yet, at the same time, most international historians treat the neutrality of the
United States as an isolated development, as something uniquely American and, therefore, as
something mainly of concern to historians of the United States. Importantly, in isolating the United
States from the world, these international historians acknowledge that it was not a genuine world
power while it remained a neutral and avoided involvement in European great power affairs. As
such, the United States rarely appears in general histories of the First World War until the
Zimmermann telegram and the sinking of the Lusitania .24 In the history of the following global
conflagration, it tends to feature only after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Such depictions imply that
the United States had the potential to become a great power at the end of the First World War because
of its belligerency in that conflict but that it failed to live up to this promise by returning to its
traditional isolationist position. If one argues along the same trajectory, the United States only became
a super power when it finally accepted its responsibility to defeat both Nazi Germany and Japan in
1941.
Another national history that is imbued with the morality and passivity of our modern
understanding of neutrality is that of poor but brave little Belgium, facing the German hordes in
1914. Here, the supposed navet and powerlessness of the Belgians stood both as a useful
propaganda message for the Entente partners and their empires during the war and as a historical
example of the weakness of neutrality after its conclusion.25 Heightened by a sense of emasculation,
because its neutrality was not of its own making but imposed by others in 1831, Belgian nation-
building myths focus on the many impediments the country faced in attaining a genuine sense of
nationhood. Today, Belgium is deemed a failed nation on the road to national disintegration, 26 and
its historical neutrality plays a part in explaining why it failed. In this depiction, Ernst Renans
nineteenth-century dictum the essential condition for a successful nation is to have common glories
in the past and to have a common will in the present; to have performed great deeds together, to wish
to perform still more forms an essential thread. 27 Belgium could not become a true nation for, as a
permanent neutral, it could not go to war and thereby missed out on undertaking any of Renans great
nation-building deeds .
Such passive renderings of neutrality are furthered by the general histories of twentieth-century
neutrality that focus on its decline or death through the course of two global and total wars . 28 The
First and Second World Wars changed the international environment and ensured that neutrality
became illegal in 1945, as per Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter , a feat that the League of
Nations had previously attempted but failed to enact in 1919.29 During the Cold War , the countries
that were allowed to remain neutralised in a world that was split between the might of the United
States and the Soviet Union namely Switzerland , Sweden , Turkey , Ireland and Austria did so as
anomalies.30 Against the backdrop of total war and genocide , in an era of collective security and
internationalism , and facing the prospect of global nuclear annihilation , no state could be genuinely
neutral or impartial. As the international lawyer Hersch Lauterpacht astutely observed in 1936, it is
true to say that collective security and neutrality are mutually exclusive. The more there is of one the
less there is of the other.31 In other words, in the mid-to-late-twentieth-century world, neutrality
became largely irrelevant in the stakes for international power .
As a result, our contemporary image of the neutral is of passivity and inaction. It is also a
decidedly vexed one. As an example, consider the moral indignation surrounding Switzerlands
conduct in the Second World War , a war in which this neutral countrys banks were actively
involved in laundering Nazi loot and gold, much of which originated from the victims of the
Holocaust .32 In the same vein, in 1991, the historian M. P. Bethius questioned Swedens neutrality
by asking whether the moral price for amoral self-interest [in the Second World War] was too
high.33 That Switzerland and Sweden complied with the international legal obligations of neutrality
in the war which, on the whole, they did has become a secondary matter to their humanitarian
conduct.34 Similarly, historians and other commentators often write about Irelands neutrality during
and after this same war and present it in ethical terms.35 In other words, what stands out most
prominently in late-twentieth- and early-twenty-first-century discussions around neutrality is the
moral overtones ascribed to neutrals and their neutrality.
Quite understandably, in the context of total war and genocide, impartiality is not laudable but
rather despicable. How can a modern state and its citizens remain neutral in the face of a
humanitarian crisis, like the Dutch peacekeepers at Srebrenica in 1995, who watched on helplessly as
thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys were massacred by Serbian militants and their supporters
for fear of overstepping their brief as impartial observers and peacekeepers? As the United Nations
Ambassador at Large for War Crimes, David J. Scheffer , explained in 1998, Neutrality in the face
of genocide is unacceptable and must never be used to cripple or delay our collective response.36
Not surprisingly, in public perception, there could be no place for neutrals in or after the Manichean
struggle that was the Second World War . At any rate, given that all the belligerents neglected or
rejected the international laws that applied to neutrality, it was by principles rather than laws that the
conduct of neutrals came to be judged . And, according to the standards of international morality after
1945, a neutral could only be classified as truly neutral if it behaved according to a code of conduct
that rejected militarism , profiteering and self-preservation in favour of humanitarianism and
universal aid. In other words, the legal parameters that defined the status of neutrals and the available
parameters for their conduct were, after 1945, largely overshadowed by generic perceptions of
right and wrong .
In their excellent edited collection, Neutrality in twentieth-century Europe (2012), Rebecka
Lettevall , Geert Somsen and Sven Widmalm posit that through the course of the First World War ,
two almost oppositional ideas of neutrality developed: one promoted by the great powers, the other
by the neutrals . Both depictions revolved around the ethics of neutrality in a new age of great-power
politics. Where one was positive, however, the other was entirely negative.37 The Dutch, Danes and
Swedes promoted models of international existence and co-operation that focussed on peace,
rationality and fairness, in which they could take on the role of moral great powers in a world gone
awry.38 In contrast, the great powers depiction focussed on the declining relevance of neutrality in an
age of collective security and a world filled with the power-hungry. 39 It is the great powers
depiction that has remained the most enduring.
Moralising about neutrality became a common feature of popular perception in the First World
War era as well, a time when the international laws regulating neutrality were much more widely
accepted than they would be in the Second World War . 40 For example, Luigi Carnovales pamphlets
on neutrality written during and in the immediate aftermath of the war held that the only means by
which war can be prevented is by abolishing the neutrality of nations, that neutrality corresponds
exactly to selfishness.41 Less adversarial in his perspective and certainly writing with more
eloquence and grace than Carnovale, the pre-eminent Dutch author Louis Couperus explained in 1914
that one feels so bleakly neutral [weemoedig neutraal] in this war. He questioned what does a
novel, a novella, a play, a poem mean in this terrible hell on earth! in which he will try to live my
normal lifeI try. I cant.42 A year later, the Swiss intellectual Carl Spitteler exclaimed that neutrals
were indifferent people in a house of mourning to countries engaged in war.43
Of course, the links between neutrality and the ethical dilemmas surrounding war have many
historical antecedents to which the preceding quotes by Grotius and Machiavelli and recent scholars
like Christine Agius alert us.44 For many centuries, in keeping with the just war ideal, neutrals were
deemed weak, dishonourable and immoral. So when in the 1930s Adolf Hitler espoused it is not the
neutrals or lukewarms who make history, he was voicing a long-established opinion laced with
religious overtones: because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my
mouth.45 In the process, he placed neutrality within a familiar passive and Christian moral compass.
According to this conception, neutrals like those angels in Dante who choose neither God nor the
Devil live in a damnable place on the doorstep of Hell, a purgatory for cowards and profiteers.46 It
is in this sense that we must, then, also read the great Dutch historian Johan Huizingas explanation to
his readers at the outset of the Second World War that it was impossible for there to be any neutrals
of conscience in this conflict that has confounded and wrecked the world.47
Today, we tend to filter our conceptions of neutrality through the lens of the two world wars and
the Cold War . We also flavour its meaning with the lingering taste of a just war tradition.
Neutrality in this twentieth-and early-twenty-first-century form is a term reserved to describe
particular kinds of state: states that are removed from world affairs, that remain impartial in the face
of international crisis and that do not take sides in time of war. Such neutrality describes not only a
legal position of non-belligerency in time of war but also an ongoing position of non-involvement in
world affairs in time of peace. In the words of Martin Wright, their [the neutrals] hope is to lie low
and escape notice .48
One of the contentions of this book is that such passive conceptions of neutrality have spoiled our
historical understanding of the nineteenth-century foundations of modern neutrality. They have also
skewed our understanding of the high regard with which neutrality was held as a tool of diplomacy
and statecraft in that century . The following seven chapters argue that in the hundred years or so
between the signing of the Congress of Vienna (1815) and the outbreak of the First World War
(1914), neutrality was a vibrant and essential part of the international system that was presided over
by the European great powers. It was of particular value to the greatest power of them all, Great
Britain , and played a key role in keeping Europe at peace and its empires flourishing . In other
words, in the long nineteenth century at least, neutrality was not cast as an immoral concept, nor
was it a foreign policy open only to the small and weak. Rather, it played an integral part in
stabilising European affairs and in maintaining Europes place in the wider world.
In this book, I am returning to an interpretation of neutralitys place in the world that was very
familiar to international jurists of the interwar period. Until the outbreak of the Second World War,
neutrality history formed part of a much-debated field among international lawyers and scholars
fuelled largely by the United States return to isolationism in those years. Many of the contours of this
book were inspired by the insightful and intellectually challenging analyses of neutrality published
between 1918 and 1940 by academic giants such as Philip C. Jessup and Quincy Wright . In his
magisterial multi-volume study, Neutrality: its history, economics and law, published between 1935
and 1936, for example, Jessup navigates the many complexities and layers of neutrality through
history and concludes that in the nineteenth century, neutral power greatly exceeded belligerent
power and that might can strengthen right.49 Quincy Wright , on the other hand, succinctly charts
how Great Britain used neutrality as a cornerstone of its foreign affairs in an essential article for any
neutrality historian: The present status of neutrality, which was published in 1940.50 However,
these two American lawyers were not the only ones to have understood the value of nineteenth-
century neutrality. Even the controversial Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt acknowledges that neutrality aided
the British and French empires in the nineteenth-century era of limited war , as it allowed amity
lines to appear between the great powers within and outside the continent. According to Schmitt,
traditional neutrality as practised in the nineteenth century was incompatible with the concept of just
war; and, according to Schmitt at least, the concept of just war did not apply to European affairs
between 1815 and 1914 .51
It is the contrast between these inter-bellum perspectives on neutrality history and the more recent
historical takes on this same past that is so telling. Where Jessup , Wright and Schmitt situate
neutrality within the complex international environment of the long nineteenth century, historians
during and after the Cold War have tended to place neutrality within a much more restrictive
framework of national histories or the regulation of international law . Others seek to find the origins
of the decline of neutrality in the late 1800s or early 1900s, or argue backwards from the collapse of
neutrality in the era of total war. They embed their analysis within a narrative of failure. For example,
in his massive study on the contours of twentieth-century neutrality, Pl Wrange contends that it was
the generally peaceful character of the nineteenth century that hid the inherent weaknesses of
neutrality. He cites scholars like J. L. Brierly , who holds that cracks in neutrality were visible by
1900, to make his case.52 Such approaches take a teleological approach to the writing of neutrality
history. They tend to use the knowledge of the coming of the First World War as a starting point for
their explanations of nineteenth-century neutrality. In so doing, they miss or ignore the role played by
neutrality in the nineteenth-century world. Of course, their interpretations fit within a much wider
historiographical tradition that explains the origins of the First World War in terms of the collapse of
the nineteenth-century international system and highlights the fractures, tensions and crises in
international relations, rather than its stabilising and peaceful features.
Likewise, historians who study nineteenth-century European warfare rarely discuss neutrality . For
example, Geoffrey Wawros well-received history of the Franco-Prussian War makes merely one
mention of neutrals, when he suggests that [o]nly the United States announced strict neutrality in the
conflict.53 He thereby ignores the acknowledged and declared neutrality of all of Europe, including
Great Britain . As Chapter 4 will show, it was only through remaining neutral and promoting the laws
of neutrality that the European powers, great and small, kept the Franco-Prussian War a limited affair.
Similarly, when historians reference British isolationism in this same period, they often, although not
always, do so in terms of military weakness.54 For example, Richard Millman argues that Britains
unwillingness to take a strong diplomatic and military stand in the lead-up to the Franco-Prussian War
implied Britains insignificance in Europe.55 He further suggests that [a]bstention had become
temporarily popular56 among Britons and echoes G. M. Youngs scathing assessment of British
isolationism as being born out of an ignorant pride which forgot that Prussia had an army.57 By
implication, both Wawro and Millman betray a twentieth-century prejudice towards the concept of
neutrality and the principle that waging war implies agency and agency implies power . According to
the former, Britain could not be a strict neutral because it was a great power and because it was
diplomatically active in the Franco-Prussian War. According to the latter, Britain was not a neutral
but a weak isolationist power that forgot its international responsibilities to be active and strong at a
time when its agency could have kept Germany in its place. Both perspectives apply anachronistic
conceptions of neutrality and power to the nineteenth-century past, a time in which British
isolationism was founded on strict and legally defined principles of neutrality and on a nuanced
understanding of the complexities of the European balance of power and Britains place in the world.
More recently, international historians have begun to move away from these steps to war
explanations. They highlight the restraints built into the international system and ask questions as to
why there were more than forty years of relative peace in Europe between 1871 and 1914.58 Even
these scholars, however, pay little attention to neutrality in their histories .59
This book takes up where Jessup and Wright left off in the 1930s. It writes neutrality back into the
history of Europe in the nineteenth century, highlighting not only how essential and common neutrality
was as a foreign-policy option for governments but also how fundamental it was as a tool by which
the great powers and Great Britain in particular could promote their interests around the world. It
asks for a re-examination of the flexibility built in to the Congress system and for acceptance that
between 1815 and 1914, at least, European wars were intended to be limited affairs. This did not
mean that the nineteenth century was a century of peace . Michael Geyer and Charles Brights work
confirms that the 1800s were beset with wars and that these wars in turn reflected a world in
turmoil.60 What it does do is foreground the fact that there were always more neutrals than
belligerents in the wars of the world and that in every war, several of these neutrals were major
powers. In other words, it attempts to turn on its head J. H. W. Verzijls assertion that because there
were fewer belligerents, there were fewer challenges to neutrality, 61 instead promoting the thesis that
because there were so many neutrals, there was a concerted investment in regulating and stabilising
the conditions of neutrality .
There were three types of neutral state in the nineteenth-century world: permanent or guaranteed
neutrals , long-term voluntary neutrals 62 and occasional neutrals .63 Permanent neutrals were
countries like Belgium and Switzerland , which had their neutrality imposed on them by the collective
agreement of the great powers. Their neutrality existed more often to safeguard the general interests of
the international community, and especially those of the great powers , than their own specific
interests.64 In theory, if a permanent neutral country was invaded, the guarantor powers were to offer
military assistance and come to its aid. Obviously, permanent neutrals were restricted in terms of
their international behaviour. They had to present an impartial face to the world and tread carefully
between potentially competing demands in times of peace and war. They certainly could not declare
war on another sovereign state, although permanent neutrality did not stop the Belgians from pursuing
an overseas empire. In contrast, long-term voluntary neutrals like the Netherlands , the United States
and Denmark adopted neutrality as a long-term foreign-policy position and aimed to act in an
appropriately neutral manner in terms of world events. In theory, and in direct contrast to permanent
neutrals, there was nothing stopping voluntary neutrals from ending their neutrality. Formally, their
neutrality only applied in time of war. In practice, these voluntary neutrals had every reason to
promote their neutral position in peacetime, thereby raising their impartial profile in the international
system.
When we think of neutrality today, it is usually along the lines of permanent or long-term voluntary
neutrality. However, by far the most common use of neutrality in the long nineteenth century and
(incidentally) the least studied was that of occasional neutrals . Occasional neutrals were countries
that chose to adopt neutrality at the outbreak of a conflict and whose neutrality lasted only as long as
the conflict did. Roderick Ogley prefers the label ad hoc neutrals to describe occasional neutrals. 65
To a lay reader, Ogleys term might suggest that there was something haphazard about occasional
neutrality, almost implying a lack of planning to the use of neutrality by such states. In turn, this may
feed a myth that occasional neutrality was not a carefully adopted foreign-policy strategy and that it
was irrelevant to the larger context of foreign affairs. Nils rvik invokes a similar idea when he
refers to large states with key interests in the world as unnatural neutrals.66 In contrast, I argue that
nineteenth-century governments were well aware of the value of staying out of wars and planned for
neutrality as readily as for the alternative of going to war. In this sense, there was nothing haphazard
or unnatural about their use or application of occasional neutrality.
Rather, if we accept that the nineteenth century was an era in which the Clausewitzian principle
that war was a continuation of policy by other means 67 applied to all governments, then the option
not to go to war was equally Clausewitzian and legitimate . In fact, neutrality was the only alternative
to war. That is to say, the adoption of impartial neutrality was the only option available to states that
wished to remain non-belligerent. Most countries issued formal neutrality declarations to signal that
status at the outbreak of a war. 68 Obviously, by dint of their status, the permanent neutrals needed no
such declaration.69 It should be no surprise, then, to find that the archives of the foreign offices of all
European countries are filled with neutrality declarations from all over the globe. Furthermore, as
will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter 5, by the late 1800s, most literate Europeans understood
what neutrality was and had at least some conception of how it applied to their nation in time of war.
Neutrality, then, was much more than a promise or declaration of non-belligerency. It operated and
had an important role to play at all levels of international and world society, using Ian Clarks
terminology, including at a systemic level . 70 Neutrality was a tool of international power politics,
utilised with alacrity by great and small powers alike. It also involved national interests , geo-
strategic planning and commercial considerations . It formed a central part of international legal
developments and was a much-studied and considered international ideal with acknowledged
pacifist, internationalist and humanitarian potential.
Significantly, in terms of international law, there were no formal distinctions made between
permanent or long-term voluntary neutral states and those that adopted neutrality occasionally , even
if the international legal experts of the nineteenth century exhausted many a volume on explaining the
distinctions.71 This is a vital point because neutrality only existed as a formal category of
international law in time of war. Neutrality also came with a set of obligations, namely that it had to
be protected and protectable. In other words, the acknowledgement of the long-term neutrality of
Denmark or the Netherlands, or the permanent neutrality of Belgium or Switzerland, formally meant
very little until there was a war. At that point, these neutrals conduct had to be on a par with others
in terms of their relationship with the belligerents. Of course, informally the distinctions between the
types of neutral were vital to understanding the power dynamics between states, great and small . The
key point here is that when it came to negotiating the international laws surrounding neutral rights,
they applied equally to all neutrals regardless of their size or the permanence of their neutrality. More
than anything else, the uniformity in the application of international law to neutrals explains why by
1900 the great powers had a vested interest in defining and fine-tuning the laws of neutrality. They
were all occasional neutrals , after all.
By implication, it is necessary to rethink the historiography that argues that the origins of the
death of modern neutrality lie in the events of the turn of the nineteenth century. In line with John
Coogans excellent monograph on the subject of BritishAmerican maritime relations in the period
18991915, this book contends that until the outbreak of the First World War , neutrality was
accepted as an important part of international affairs and a policy that the British government (as well
as many of the other great powers) wanted to protect and safeguard.72 This is not to say that they
always agreed on the parameters of neutrality or that they did not interfere in the affairs of other
neutrals. They certainly looked to influence how neutrality was regulated, defined and applied. But it
does highlight that neutrality was not a policy for the weak alone and underscores that none of these
states can be accurately described as nave. It was very much a policy used by the great powers,
and it offered them genuine options to deal with international crises.
There were several reasons why the great powers, Great Britain in particular, valued neutrality
when their neighbours and sometimes their friends and allies went to war. Most importantly, it kept
them from engaging in costly and unnecessary conflicts and helped to maintain the balance of power
among them. If anything, the Napoleonic Wars had shown the leaders of Europe that the outbreak of
war was treacherous, costly and potentially disastrous. They also recognised that keeping wars
limited affairs aided the security and well-being of all states and promoted the general peace of
Europe , which was an ideal that held universal appeal. As a result, the nineteenth century was an era
of limited war, book-ended by the global and total conflagrations of the Napoleonic and First World
Wars. By its very nature, the era of limited warfare was also an age of neutrals.
By avoiding going to war in Europe, the great (and not so great) powers could focus their attention
outside the Continent on the formal and informal expansion of their influence. The nineteenth century
was also an era of globalisation , industrialisation and imperialism , and it witnessed an
unprecedented migration of European peoples, goods and ideas around the world. The prosperity of
Europe, and especially of industrialising Europe, relied on ready access to stable markets and global
trade networks. By 1900, the success of formal and informal empire depended on steady supplies of
raw materials, foods and fuels and ongoing access to coaling stations, trading posts, commercial ports
and reliable communication networks , including telegraph cables and postal services. For the world
economy to function, the worlds seas had to remain open for business. Any war involving a naval
power could risk the viability of those open seas. Therefore, neutrality not only protected a nation
from having to go to war but also safeguarded its economic and imperial enterprises while others
were at war. If enough neutrals and belligerents agreed, it could ensure that the conditions of a
conflict favoured the flow of international trade and shipping. In time of war, neutrality offered only
advantages, and, as this book will show, not only to the neutrals. In an age of Weltpolitik (world
politics), as turn-of-the-century Germans so proudly defined the policies that promoted their place in
the sun, neutrality helped to protect the interests of states that relied on the consistency of their global
connections when war and conflict threatened disruption.73
The limited-war practices of nineteenth-century Europe stood in direct contrast to the total-war
ethos that evolved during the First World War . Between 1815 and 1914, as Chapter 3 argues, limited
war aided belligerents and neutrals alike. As C. H. Stockton explained in 1920, it created the strange
anomaly wherein a countrys armed status a military war could be differentiated from its
economic arrangements a commercial peace.74 Britains proclamation of a business as usual
policy despite being at war with Germany in 1914 is one of the best examples, and certainly one of
the last expressions, of this same sentiment.75 It is thus not very surprising that the First World War
witnessed a decline in the applicability of neutrality. In time of total war, the limited-war practices of
the nineteenth century were no longer viable. Significantly, the war years also spelled the beginning
of the end of Europes global imperial network .
This book charts the contours of neutralitys functions and roles in European affairs between the
collapse of Napoleonic France in 1815 and the start of the First World War in 1914. It is by no means
intended as a comprehensive history; few overview histories ever achieve that ambitious claim. More
modestly, it offers a different lens through which to view the international environment of European
political and economic affairs. It asks new kinds of questions of that environment and suggests a
number of fruitful approaches that may inspire more in-depth research. As such, the following seven
chapters provide both a narrative of neutrality history and a thematic framework by which to assess
its relevance. Chapter 1 chronicles the history of neutrality until 1815 and highlights a number of
early-modern roots of nineteenth-century neutrality practices. Chapter 2 looks to the Congress of
Vienna to explain the uses made by the great powers of neutralisation as a means of stabilising the
international system . It highlights how the practice applied to all manner of small states and contested
territories throughout the century. The focus of Chapter 3 is the Crimean War and Britains growing
realisation that neutrality offered greater guarantees for the ongoing welfare of the country and its
empire than did belligerency. Chapter 4 concentrates on the pivotal years between 1859 and 1871.
During the many wars of this time, all European countries practised at being neutral. Some of the
popular and cultural implications of neutrality are brought out in Chapter 5, which also shows that by
the 1880s, neutrality was understood as a complex and nuanced term. Chapter 6 considers the
importance of the regulation of neutrality in international law at the two Hague Peace Conferences
(1899, 1907) and places them in the context of contemporary wars. Chapter 7 highlights the fragility
of neutrality and the international arena more generally on the eve of the First World War .
Collectively, the chapters argue that neutrality was an essential part of nineteenth-century
international affairs and made important contributions to all levels of international society. At the
systemic level, neutrality underpinned the Congress system , helped to stabilise the European balance
of power and fomented an era of restraint and limited war . Through the formal adoption of neutrality,
the great powers helped to avoid the spread of war and created the conditions through which they
could negotiate and mediate conflicts and crises. At the level of international politics, neutrality was
an oft-used, pragmatic and generally reliable foreign-policy tool used for the promotion of the
national interests of great and small European states. Furthermore, it was a particularly useful tool for
the centurys super power, Great Britain , both in upholding and increasing its global economic and
imperial power and in protecting its economic and military security at home and abroad. Because of
its centrality to the international system , neutrality was also a dominant element of world society. It
featured prominently in the development of international law and in the plans of internationalist
movements, and it was read about and engaged with by many educated Europeans . Altogether, it is
impossible to separate neutrality from the functioning of European international politics during the
nineteenth century. As such, the period between 1815 and 1914 was an age of neutrals and one in
which the neutrals and lukewarms did make history.

1 Adolf Hitler , as quoted by N. Wylie, Introduction in N. Wylie, ed., European neutrals and non-
belligerents during the Second World War . Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 8. Cf C.Steding,
Das Reich und die Neutralen. Hamburg, Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1941.

2 R. Fisk, In time of war: Ireland, Ulster and the price of neutrality. Dublin, Gill and MacMillan,
1983, p. ix.

3 R. A. Bauslaugh, The concept of neutrality in Classical Greece. Los Angeles, University of


California Press, 1991.

4 N. Machiavelli, The prince. Chapter 21, 1515. Available at


www.constitution.org/mac/prince21.htm.

5 Hugo Grotius, extracts from On the law of war and peace (1625), as quoted by R. Ogley, The
theory and practice of neutrality in the twentieth century. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul,
1970, p. 34.

6 Oxford Dictionaries online, oxforddictionaries.com/definition/neutrality. Also: R. Lettevall, G.


Somsen, S. Widmalm, Introduction in R. Lettevall, G. Somsen, S. Widmalm, eds, Neutrality in
twentieth-century Europe. Intersections of science, culture, and politics after the First World War.
New York, Routledge, 2012, pp. 67; F. W. Dame, Continuity and change in Swiss neutrality from
1815 to 1890. An analysis. PhD, Saarbrcken, 1981, p. 148; D. Tswettcoff, De la situation
juridique des etats neutraliss en temps de paix. Geneva, W. Kndig & Fils, 1895, p. 3.

7 S. C. Neff, The rights and duties of neutrals. A general history. Manchester University Press,
2000.

8 H. J. Morgenthau, Dilemmas of politics. University of Chicago Press, 1958, in C. Agius, The


social construction of Swedish neutrality. Challenges to Swedish identity and sovereignty.
Manchester University Press, 2006, p. 16; Neff, Rights and duties, p. 86.

9 For example: P. Lyon, The great globe itself: continuity and change in E. F. Penrose, P. Lyon, E.
Penrose, eds, New orientations. Essays in international relations. London, Routledge, 1970, p. 15.

10 J. W. Coogan, Wilsonian diplomacy in war and peace in G. Martel, ed., American foreign
relations reconsidered 18901993. London, Routledge, 1994, p. 78.

11 For three very good histories of neutrality and sea power: N. Tracy, ed., Sea power and the
control of trade. Belligerent rights from the Russian War to the Beira Patrol, 18541970.
Aldershot, Ashgate and Navy Records Society, 2005; L. E.Davis, S. E. Engerman, Naval blockades
in peace and war. An economic history since 1750. Cambridge University Press, 2006; A. Alimento,
ed., War, trade and neutrality. Europe and the Mediterranean in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries. Milan, FrancoAngeli, 2011.

12 F. Angeolini, From the neutrality of the port to the neutrality of the state: projects, debates and
laws in Habsburg-Lorraine Tuscany, and K. Stapelbroek, The emergence of Dutch neutrality. Trade,
treaty politics and the peace of the Republic, both in Alimento, War, trade; G. M. Welling, The prize
of neutrality. Trade relations between Amsterdam and North America 17711817. Historisch
Seminarium van de Universiteit van Amsterdam, 1998; Agius, Swedish neutrality.

13 O. Zimmer, A contested nation. History, memory and nationalism in Switzerland 17611891.


Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 144.

14 C. Reed (dir.), G. Greene (writer), The Third Man. Carol Reeds Productions, London Film
Productions, 1949.
15 S. Smolan (dir.), David E. Kelley (writer), The blame game, Season 1, Episode 13, Ally
McBeal. 20th Century Fox Television, David E. Kelley Productions, 1998.

16 K. Annakin (dir.), Swiss Family Robinson. Walt Disney Productions, 1960.

17 O. Parker (dir.), Johnny English Reborn. Universal Pictures, 2011.

18 For the early-modern roots of Swiss neutrality: T. Maissen, A. Holenstein and A. Dafflons
chapters in J.-F. Chanet, C. Windler, eds, Les ressources des faibles. Neutralits, sauvegardes,
accommodements en temps de guerre (XVIeXVIIIe sicle). Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2009.

19 M. Mittler, Der Weg zum Ersten Weltkrieg. Wie neutral war die Schweiz? Zrich, Verlag Neue
Zrcher Zeitung, 2003.

20 Exceptions include: C. A. Tamse, Nederland en Belgi in Europa (18591871). De


zelfstandigheidspolitiek van twee kleine staten. The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1973; C. B.Wels,
Aloofness and neutrality. Studies on Dutch foreign relations and policy-making institutions.
Utrecht, Hes Publishers, 1982. For more: A. J.van der Peet, Belangen en prestige. Nederlandse
gunboat diplomacy omstreeks 1900. Amsterdam, De Bataafsche Leeuw, 1999, pp. 1112.

21 For example: D. Hellema, Neutraliteit en vrijhandel. De geschiedenis van de Nederlandse


buitenlandse betrekkingen. Utrecht, Het Spectrum, 2001, pp. 7880.

22 J. den Hertog, Zelfstandigheidspolitiek: de achtergrond van een cruciale term in het buitenlands
beleid van Nederland 19001940, Low Countries Historical Review 124, 2, 2009, pp. 16385.

23 E. Chadwick, Traditional neutrality revisited. Law, theory and case studies. The Hague,
Kluwer Law International, 2002, p. 7; N. rvik, The decline of neutrality 19141941. With special
reference to the United States and the northern neutrals. Oslo, Johan Grundt Tanum Forlag, 1953,
pp. 278; C. S. Hyneman, The first American neutrality. A study of the American understanding of
neutral obligation during the years 17921815. Chicago, University of Illinois, 1934.

24 For a lovely discussion of American neutrality in the context of the Lusitania sinking in 1915: D.
Reynolds, Too proud to fight, London Review of Books 24, 23, 28 November 2002, pp. 2931.

25 Wylie, Introduction, p. 2. Cf S. de Schaepdrijver, Champion or stillbirth? The symbolic uses of


Belgium in the Great War in How can one not be interested in Belgian history. War, language and
consensus in Belgium since 1830. Gent, Academia Press, 2005, pp. 5581; S. de Schaepdrijver, A
signal service: neutrality and the limits of sacrifice in World War One Belgium in M. de Keizer, I.
Tames, eds, Small nations. Crisis and confrontation in the 20th century. Zutphen, Netherlands
Institute of War Documentation and Walburg Pers, 2007, pp. 649.

26 H. van Goethem, Belgium and the monarchy. From national independence to national
disintegration. University Press Antwerp, 2010, p. 11; M. Conway, The sorrows of Belgium.
Liberation and political reconstruction 19441947. Oxford University Press, 2012.

27 E. Renan, What is a nation?, Sorbonne lecture, 1882. Available at


www.nationalismproject.org/what/renan.htm.

28 The best accounts of the decline of neutrality are P. C. Jessup, The birth, death and
reincarnation of neutrality, American Journal of International Law 26, 4, October 1932, pp. 789
93; rvik, Decline of neutrality; O. Riste, The neutral ally. Norways relations with belligerent
powers in the First World War. Oslo, Universitetsforlaget, 1965; J. W. Coogan, The end of
neutrality. The United States, Britain, and maritime rights, 18991915. Ithaca, NY, Cornell
University Press, 1981; L. Goetschel, Neutrality, a really dead concept? Cooperation and Conflict
34, 2, 1999, pp. 11539.

29 P. M. Norton, Between the ideology and the reality: the shadow of the law of neutrality,
Harvard International Law Journal 17, 2, Spring 1976, p. 250; Chadwick, Traditional neutrality,
pp. 4, 59; Ogley, Theory and practice, pp. 978; J. L. Kunz, Neutrality and the European War 1939
1940, Michigan Law Review 39, 19401, p. 720. Also: J. M. Gabriel, The American conception of
neutrality after 1941. Second edition. Houndsmills, Palgrave MacMillan, 2002.

30 Cold War neutralism and non-alignment were not the same as classical neutrality: Ogley, Theory
and practice, p. 22; G. Ginsburgs, The Soviet Union as a neutral, 19391941, Soviet Studies 10, 1,
July 1958, p. 12.

31 In Q. Wright, The present status of neutrality, American Journal of International Law 34, 3,
July 1940, p. 391, fn 4.

32 H. R. Regenbogin offers a useful overview of the historiography on Switzerlands immoral


neutrality in the Second World War: H. R. Regenbogin, Faces of neutrality. A comparative analysis
of the neutrality of Switzerland and other neutral nations during WWII. Berlin, Lit Verlag Dr. W.
Hopf, 2009, esp. pp. 1122.
33 In N. Andrn, On the meaning and uses of neutrality, Cooperation and Conflict. Nordic Journal
of International Studies 26, 2, 1991, p. 76. Also: S. J. Rubin, The Washington Accord fifty years
later: neutrality, morality, and international law, American University International Law Review 61,
19989, pp. 6182.

34 Cf D. F. Vagts, Editorial comment: Switzerland, international law and World War II, American
Journal of International Law 91, 3, July 1997, pp. 46675.

35 R. M. Smyllie, Unneutral neutral Eire, Foreign Affairs 24, 317, 19456, pp. 31726; Fisk, In
time of war; T. C. Salmon, Unneutral Ireland: an ambivalent and unique security policy. Oxford,
Clarendon Press, 1989. Also: C. Wills, That neutral island. A cultural history of Ireland during the
Second World War. Cambridge, MA, Belknap Press, 2007.

36 In E. Guttman, The concept of neutrality since the adoption and ratification of The Hague
Neutrality Convention of 1907, American University International Law Review 14, 19989, p. 57.

37 Lettevall et al., Introduction.

38 G. Somsen, Hollands calling. Dutch scientists self-fashioning as international mediators; S.


Widmalm, A superior type of universal civilization. Science as politics in Sweden 19171926;
H. Knudsen, H. Nielsen, Pursuing common cultural ideals. Niels Bohr, neutrality, and international
scientific collaboration during the interwar period; and P. Lundell, Legitimacy through neutrality.
Resources of journalism in the international press visit to Sweden in 1923, all in Lettevall et al.,
Neutrality.

39 Widmalm, Superior type, p. 66.

40 Lettevall et al., Introduction, p. 1.

41 L. Carnovale, Why Italy entered into the Great War. Chicago, Italian-American Publishing
Company, 1917; The disarmament conference at Washington will be a failure. Only by the
abolition of neutrality can war be quickly and forever prevented. Chicago, np, 1923.

42 L. Couperus, Brieven van een nutteloozen toeschouwer. Amsterdam, L. J. Veen, 1927, pp. 55,
68, 71.
43 Carl Spitteler, 1915, as quoted by Goetschel, Neutrality, p. 120.

44 Agius, Swedish neutrality, p. 13.

45 Revelations (3:16) in the King James Bible, available at http://biblehub.com/revelation/3-16.htm.

46 Cf Rubin, Washington Accord, p. 82.

47 J. Huizinga, Neutraliteit en vrijheid, waarheid en beschaving. Haarlem, H. D. Tjeenk Willink &


Zoon, 1939, p. 11.

48 In E. Karsh, Neutrality and small states. London, Routledge, 1988, p. 32.

49 Jessup, Birth, death and reincarnation, p. 791; Neutrality. Its history, economics and law. New
York, Columbia University Press, 19356. Jessup co-wrote Volume I in this series and was the sole
author of Volume IV.

50 Wright, Present status, pp. 391415.

51 C. Schmitt, Writings on war (translated and edited by T. Nunan). Cambridge, Polity Press, 2011,
pp. 656, 11617.

52 J. L. Brierly (1944) in P. Wrange, Impartial or uninvolved? The anatomy of 20th-century


doctrine on the law of neutrality. Pllingby, Elanders, 2007, p. 244.

53 G. Wawro, The Franco-Prussian War. The German conquest of France in 18701871.


Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 188.

54 Political scientists are even better at essentialising Realpolitik in this way. For example: Z. C.
Shirkeys uncontextualized chapter on the Franco-Prussian War in Is this a private fight or can
anybody join? Farnham, Ashgate, 2009, pp. 15978 (with thanks to Chris Barber).

55 R. Millman, British foreign policy and the coming of the Franco-Prussian War. Oxford,
Clarendon Press, 1965, p. 226.
56 Millman, British foreign policy, p. 227.

57 G. M. Young, Victorian England. Portrait of an age. London, Oxford University Press, 1936, as
referenced by Millman, British foreign policy, p. 228.

58 Foremost of these is W. Mulligan, The origins of the First World War. Cambridge University
Press, 2010. Also: J. M. Roberts, Europe 18801945. Third edition. London, Longman, 2001, p. 200.

59 One notable exception is the excellent study by T. G. Otte, The Foreign Office mind. The making
of British foreign policy 18651914. Cambridge University Press, 2011.

60 M. Geyer and C. Bright, Global violence and nationalizing wars in Eurasia and America: the
geopolitics of war in the mid-nineteenth century, Comparative Studies in Society and History 38, 4,
October 1996, pp. 6215.

61 J. H. W. Verzijl in Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, p. 27. Also M. Abbenhuis, Too good to be


true: European hopes for neutrality before 1914 in H. Amersfoort, W. Klinkert, eds, Small powers in
the age of total war, 19001940. Leiden, Brill, 2011, p. 32.

62 Ogley, Theory and practice, p. 3.

63 I have adopted here both Maurice Henrys distinction between la neutralit occasionnelle and la
neutralit perptuelle ou permanente (Les causes de la neutralit de la Suisse et son attitude
pendant la guerre de 19141918. Geneva, A. Jullien, 1934, p. 4) and George Perrins term neutre
occasionel (La neutralit permanente de la Suisse et les organisations internationales. Paris,
Heule, 1964, pp. 27, 40).

64 Tswettcoff, Situation, p. 6.

65 Ogley, Theory and practice, p. 3.

66 rvik, Decline of neutrality, p. 15.

67 C. von Clausewitz, On war. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1982, p. 119. Cf G. A. Craig, War,


politics and diplomacy. Selected essays. London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1966, p. 147.
68 J. H. W. Verzijl, International law in historical perspective. Volume X. Leiden, A. W. Sijthoff,
1968, pp. 1046; L. Oppenheim, International law. A treatise. Volume II. Disputes, war and
neutrality. Fifth edition (edited by H. Lauterpacht). London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1935, p. 520.

69 Although, as Paul Moeyes rightly points out, it could be in the best interest of a permanent neutral
state to declare its neutrality, as Switzerland did during the Franco-Prussian War of 18701 (Neutral
tones: the Netherlands and Switzerland and their interpretations of neutrality 19141918 in
Amersfoort and Klinkert, Small powers, pp. 589).

70 I. Clark, International legitimacy and world society. Oxford University Press, 2007.

71 Oppenheim, International law. Volume II, pp. 521, 5278; R. F. van Heeckeren van Wassenaer,
Nederlands plichten als neutrale mogendheid. Proefschrift ter verkrijging van den graad van
Doctor in de Staatswetenschappen aan de Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht. Utrecht, J. L. Beijers, 1891;
Tswettcoff, Situation.

72 Coogan, End of neutrality.

73 Cf S. Conrad, Globalisation and the nation in imperial Germany. Cambridge University Press,
2010, esp. pp. 426.

74 C. H. Stockton, The Declaration of Paris, American Journal of International Law 14, 1920, p.
357.

75 Cf N. A. Lambert, Planning for Armageddon. British economic warfare and the First World
War. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2012, pp. 45.
1 Neutrality on the eve of the industrial age

If the history of neutrality through the ages can tell us anything, it is that neutrality is first and foremost
a tool of diplomacy and statecraft. It is also an extraordinarily fragile and controversial foreign
policy because it comes into play in time of war. Obviously, a neutral state could only survive a war
as a neutral when the belligerents respected its non-belligerency. As the Swedish King Gustavus
Adolphus was said to have uttered about the matter during the Thirty Years War (161848): But
what is neutrality? I dont understand it. It means nothing.1 For the king, neutrality did not exist
because he chose for it to have no meaning either his neighbours were with him or they were against
him, in which case they became his enemies. Of course, the basic principles underpinning Realpolitik
namely, that in time of war, the ends justify any means and might makes right inevitably affect
the viability of the neutrality of non-belligerents. That the neutrality of a state could have a decisive
impact on the geo-strategic, economic and political course and conduct of a war was also a pressing
concern for neutrals and belligerents alike. Yet, there have been few wars that did not have their
share of neutrals. Furthermore, the success of neutrality has waxed and waned with alterations in
great-power dynamics and the course of great-power conflicts. As a result, neutrality has always been
a feature and product of the international system. Inevitably, as the system changed, so did the
parameters and utility of neutrality.
As neutrality became a regular feature of the early-modern world in the aftermath of the Thirty
Years War , its prominence grew in international law . That there were rules and regulations to cover
the conduct of neutrals was essential. Such rules were needed so that belligerents would have reasons
to respect a neutrals non-belligerency: Without defining the parameters of what a neutral could and
could not do with regard to an enemy, how could a belligerent trust or respect that neutrality? The
rules were also needed to give neutral states a modicum of security about their status. Much of the
history of neutrality since the Thirty Years War has, as a result, revolved around the wrangles that
ensued when diplomats, polemicists and lawyers, as well as military and naval strategists, offered
conflicting interpretations of the rights and duties of neutrals. It is out of this wrangling that an
international law of neutrality evolved. Until the mid-nineteenth century, with the signing of the
Declaration of Paris in 1856, in fact, the law was never more than a loose collection of precedents,
principles and practices that different states applied in different and frequently oppositional ways. As
a result, the history of neutrality is an elaborate story connecting international law, diplomatic and
economic practice, armed force and power, with a healthy mix of idealism thrown in. As Robert
Frank acknowledges: la neutralit nest pas seulement une affaire de droit, elle est aussi, et
surtout, une politique (neutrality is not only a legal concept, it is also, and always, political).2
International historians would do well to pay more attention to the uses and abuses of neutrality in
the past, as neutrality is a useful harbinger of the limits and excesses that operated in the world of
great-and small-power relations. Furthermore, neutrality can be used as a historical barometer to test
the nature of the international system at any moment in time. A suitable analogy for neutralitys
function in international history is Paul Schroeder s intermediaries.3 Schroeders concern is not
with the

driving forces in history, elements making for change, but with inhibitors in history, elements
controlling, limiting, and directing change. These are subtler, harder to detect, and hence
easily overlooked. But no historical explanation is complete or sound without them.4

Neutrality , likewise, can be seen as an element that controls, limits and directs change on the
international scene and does so at numerous levels of international affairs . It has systemic functions,
political functions, economic functions and societal functions. In other words, the study of neutrality
adds an important dimension to existing explanations about the ways in which princes, governments,
nations and states perceived, related and behaved towards each other.
In his comprehensive compendium of neutrality laws and precedents, J. H. W. Verzijl explains that
it is difficult to sketch an adequate picture of neutrality in past centuries because various usages of
neutrality have existed and because neutrality was frequently contentious and always complex.5
Robert Bauslaugh s study of neutrality in ancient Greece further shows how many of the concerns that
preoccupied neutrals and belligerents in modern times had parallels in the classical era. Even though
no concept of international law existed at the time, abstaining from war was a common, if
treacherous, feature of ancient Greek conflict. Likewise, Greek city-states entered into treaties
regulating the conduct of belligerents and non-belligerents when war broke out.6 The major difference
between ancient Greek neutrality and more modern examples was that the Greek states were rarely
interested in neutral trade . Their neutrality concerns revolved first and foremost around self-defence,
military matters and the safety of the city-state.7
Another common feature of ancient Greek neutrality was its frequent denunciation by the warring
parties.8 Christine Agius s work illustrates that from Antiquity until the late Middle Ages ,
discourses about neutrality were largely negative: Neutrality was seen as trickery and indecision
[and] signalled a refusal to defend certain values that held the unit or community together. 9 Within
the just war canon that was so prominent in Europe during the Middle Ages, neutrality was an
abhorrent and immoral concept . Nonetheless, in practice, as Stephen Neff rightly points out, most
princes had no desire to get involved in other peoples wars when there was no advantage in it for
them. The will to avoid war slowly and in an altogether piecemeal manner resulted in the evolution of
a body of customs that defined the parameters of non-belligerent activity. 10 Increasingly, these
practices focussed on military supply and trade and were written down in treaties between states. For
example, in 1303, England and France entered into an agreement not to supply each others enemy
with military materials .11 A few years earlier, the Hanse towns had agreed with France that they
could trade with England but not supply the English with warships.12 In both instances, the agreements
implied that the states involved would refrain from going to war with each other or with the others
enemies. Out of these early steps taken to regulate the conduct of non-belligerents, neutrality as an
international legal concept was born.
By the late thirteenth century , the Consolato del Mare rules created a common law for the
Mediterranean Sea , which stipulated that belligerents could capture enemy goods found on friendly
vessels.13 The Consolato del Mare rules brought into being a long-standing tradition of neutrality
regulation that focussed on sea-borne trade and shipping . Over the following centuries, various
belligerents invoked the spirit of the Consolato del Mare to deny neutrals the right to indemnity from
capture . In response, many neutrals advocated for a different maritime right, namely that of free
ships make free goods . According to this principle, the flag of a neutral state flown from a ship
protects not only the ship from capture but also all of the cargo found on board, regardless of its point
of origin or ultimate destination. In the age of sail, maritime warfare was based almost entirely on
the seizure of an enemys cargo and the vessels that carried it. 14 The right to avoid capture was a
valuable one for merchants flying the flag of a neutral port, but so was the right to seizure, a right
which made many governments and mercenary privateer owners extraordinarily wealthy. For
example, in the war fought between England and Spain in the 1580s and 1590s, an armada of
privateer vessels roamed the seas. This privatised war ensured immense riches for the British
crown, inspired a shipbuilding boom in England and saw the rise of a prosperous English merchant
class.15 It also ensured that England, as a naval power that liked to wage war, would be wedded to
the task of denying the rights claimed by neutral traders for many centuries to come.
During the 1600s , as shipping technology changed to make oceanic travel and trade more common
and as European powers spread their empires around the globe, the principle of the freedom of the
seas become standardised. Inevitably, this had consequences for maritime warfare. Because armed
conflict has always depended on economic and material concerns, finding ways to regulate trade in
wartime and on the open seas became a pressing issue for belligerents and non-belligerents alike.
Given that the open seas were outside the sovereign boundaries of kingdoms and principalities, it is
not surprising that such arrangements, as well as the inevitable disputes that they inspired, became
key parts of the developing international legal system. Where neutrals desired unrestricted access to
markets and ports, belligerents sought to prevent any advantage (material or otherwise) reaching their
enemys war effort. Rules and practices relating to piracy , privateering, blockade , contraband
(goods of war), prize courts , convoying and search-and-visit became common topics of diplomatic
exchanges among courts from the seventeenth century on.16 They were also at the heart of many
international crises.17
During the Thirty Years War , the just war principle still dominated statecraft and theory. As
such, it was easy for the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus to deny his neighbours a right to neutrality
and to ridicule it as a phoney policy. 18 However, these years of war also witnessed a change in the
understanding of state behaviour. Hugo Grotius was one of the first legal theoreticians to allow for
neutrality, but only when there was a just cause on both belligerent sides. If that rare situation arose,
Grotius and his contemporary Alberto Gentili admitted that neutrality then entailed the duty to abstain
from military activity and to act impartially towards the belligerents.19 Grotius further advocated for
the freedom of the seas and the right to access international waters for all.20 These principles formed
the foundation of international legal expectations relating to neutral conduct in time of war from this
point on, even if in practice the principles were infrequently enacted or exacted.
After the Treaty of Westphalia (1648), European diplomatic and economic practices became more
secular and Machiavellian .21 As a result, neutrality was freed from its moral and religious shackles
and became a serious option to be pursued in time of war. As Jeremy Black argues, the late
seventeenth to late eighteenth centuries were a volatile period in international relations, and the men
who were in charge of deciding the fate of countries and empires faced perilous situations both
domestically and diplomatically. 22 It is telling, then, that neutrality was pragmatically approached in
bilateral treaties and in the adoption of customary practices that both promoted and denied the rights
of neutrals to trade.
Economically, of course, the period was defined by the widespread adoption of the closed
economic system known as mercantilism . Mercantilist states sought to monopolise trade and
financial transactions within their imperial sphere and thereby cut off external competitors.
Inevitably, mercantilism made bitter rivals of the French , British and Dutch and was a deciding
factor in several wars that erupted between them.23 The combination of mercantilist and
Machiavellian opportunism ensured mixed results for neutrals in the period between the Thirty Years
War and the American War of Independence (177583 ). On the one hand, neutrals became very
wealthy when they carried the colonial trade of a belligerent party, as the Dutch and Danes repeatedly
found. On the other, the belligerent powers had no compunction about waging war on neutral trade
and showed almost no regard for neutral claims to trading rights. As a result, neutrality in the
eighteenth century was dominated by might, not right.24 Still, neutral states, of which there were many,
advocated loudly and strongly for particular definitions of neutral rights within international law in
order to protect the economic advantages that neutrality seemed to guarantee.
The Seven Years War (175663), which saw almost all of the European countries and their
empires take up arms against each other, was also a key conflict in terms of neutrality. The United
Provinces (the Netherlands) was one of the few countries not to go to war. Its neutrality offered its
merchants and all other merchants who chose to register their ships in neutral Dutch ports
considerable economic opportunity, which had an inevitably positive impact on the coffers of the
Dutch Republic as well.25 Ships flying the neutral Dutch flag took over much of the colonial trade of
Britains enemies, France and Spain , particularly in and around the West Indies and the American
seaboard. In turn, the Dutch Republic promoted the principle of free ships make free goods to
protect its merchants and their ships, sailors and cargo from capture. In doing so, the Dutch invoked
the position espoused by the Prussian King Frederick the Great in 1752, who declared, in support of
neutrals and against the hegemony of the British Royal Navy , that the sea was free and should remain
so to all neutral ships and neutral cargo.26 In response to the Dutch action and as a signal to all the
world, the British crown initiated a new ruling, the Rule of 1756 , which held that neutrals could only
trade freely in terms of their normal peacetime commerce and could not take over shipping routes or
access ports that were closed to them before the war broke out. On the grounds of the Rule of 1756,
the British felt well within their rights to capture neutral ships plying French and Spanish trade and to
issue letters of marque authorising privateers to do the same. Importantly, while the British campaign
against neutral traders had some impact, the neutrals continued to prosper. The British measures
provided incentive for neutral merchants to improve their fleet and to out-manoeuvre, outrun and
challenge their intending captors. In the process, the Dutch promoted their own right to armed
neutrality , the principle that neutrals could defend and protect their claimed rights against the
interference of belligerents.27
Neutrality was a haphazard international position during the Seven Years War in its lack of clear
definition of the rights and obligations attached to it. Nevertheless, neutrality existed both as a short-
term and a long-term strategy for many states. During this war, even the Iroquois and Acadians in
North America attempted to use neutrality to their advantage in navigating between French and British
demands.28 As such, neutrality was an active and flexible concept with widespread application. The
Dutch, Swedes , Tuscans and Danes , in turn, thrived through the mercantilist period by abstaining
from the wars of their European neighbours, at least as much as that was possible.29 Furthermore,
through their advocacy for neutral rights, neutrals made important steps towards attaining recognition
of their right to avoid war and to profit from their non-belligerency.30
The expectation, then, that neutrals and belligerents should be treated differently was widely
accepted after the Seven Years War , even if the types of right and duty that applied to each remained
highly contested. In fact, the first legal treatise that focussed exclusively on the law of neutrality
appeared in the aftermath of the Seven Years War. Martin Hbner s two-volume work, published in
1759, explained that neutrals and belligerents needed to abide by the laws created for them, without
defining what exactly those laws should be.31 Hbners treatise was one of many legal and
philosophical views on the regulation of neutrality that appeared at this time.32 It would take another
hundred years, until the Declaration of Paris after the Crimean War in 1856, before the first uniform
rules relating to neutral conduct in wartime would be universally accepted, however, and even then
the United States abstained from ratifying them.33
By the time of the American War of Independence, neutrals had started to protect their neutrality
by openly defending their ships from belligerent attack. The most successful example of armed neutral
agency came when the Russian Tsarina Catherine II formed the League of Armed Neutrals and
convinced first the Danes and Swedes and then the Dutch , Prussians , Austrians , Portuguese and
Sicilians to combine their strength in challenging the blockade , search-and-visit and seizure practices
of the warring British and, in theory, the other belligerents, France , Spain and the United States, as
well. The main function of the League of Armed Neutrals was to convoy merchant ships. By placing
merchant ships under naval protection, the League agreed to engage any British vessels that
intercepted them. The League was a remarkably successful example of armed neutrality at work.
Isabel de Madariaga s careful study on the topic shows that Catherine II gained personal prestige and
economic success for her country because of her decisive role in the League. Furthermore, the British
crown had little choice but to limit the Royal Navy s actions against the Leagues traders if it wished
to avoid going to war with all of the courts under whose flags they sailed. Although the British did not
rescind their rights to the Rule of 1756 , to search-and-visit or to hold up neutral convoys , in reality
their practices in exacting those rights were seriously curtailed.34 As de Madariaga explains, the
League was important for many reasons but most of all because it stands as an example of one of the
first collective peaceful actions in modern times to protect certain principles of international
agreement.35 Furthermore, the Leagues advocating of the principles of free ships make free goods ,
uninhibited voyage, clear contraband definition and effective blockades later formed the basis of
neutral trade rights through the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth . 36
While these successes were important, the League was fatal to the neutral Dutch . The United
Provinces membership in the League was the final incentive that the British crown needed to declare
war on the Dutch, whose merchants had taken over a sizeable proportion of French and American
trade in the West Indies and on the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans . Furthermore, because the Dutch
island of St Eustatius in the Caribbean declared itself an open port for all traders and supplied
armaments to the rebellious Americans, one of the first British acts in the ensuing Fourth Anglo-Dutch
War (1780 4) was to capture the island. 37 The war was disastrous for the United Provinces.
Neutrality had made the Dutch wealthy through the mercantilist era, but after their defeat in 1784 the
country never regained its position as one of the worlds premier merchant states. Even so, Dutch
merchants and ship-owners continued to ply the open seas through the course of the war by re-
registering their ships in other neutral ports and flying neutral flags .38 As such, neutrality was a very
useful international policy that aided private enterprise.
The French Revolutionary Wars of the 1790s showed how easily neutral states and their citizens
could profit from war. The neutral Danes , Swedes and Americans were particularly well off in this
respect and were censured by the belligerents for their profiteering.39 A letter sent in 1795 by the
English author Mary Wollstonecraft highlights some of the wider concerns about the conduct of
neutrals. She wrote:

I heard of some tricks practised by merchants, mis-called reputable, and certainly men of
property, during the present war, in which common honesty was violated: damaged goods, and
provisions, having been shipped for the express purpose of falling into the hands of the English ,
who had pledged themselves to reimburse neutral nations, for the cargoes they seizedMany
individuals have suffered by the seizure of their vessels; still I am persuaded that the English
government has been very much imposed upon in the charges made by merchants , who contrived
to get their ships taken.40

Earlier she had written:

neutral countries, obtaining a sudden influx of wealth, appear to be rendered flourishing by the
destruction which ravages the hapless nations who are sacrificed to the ambition of their
governors. I shall notdwell on the vices, though they be of the most contemptible and
embruting cast, to which a sudden accession of fortune gives birth.41

By 1805 , when the reputation of neutrals in Britain was at its lowest point, a London lawyer
published an immensely popular pamphlet entitled War in disguise. Or the frauds of neutral flag s,
in which he proclaimed that neutrals were aiding the enemy French in sustaining the war by illegally
supply ing them with war materials . He also chastised the neutrals for becoming extraordinarily
wealthy in the process. The pamphlet hardened British opinions of the neutral Americans
particularly.42
After the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 , which gave Britain clear naval supremacy over the French
in the Atlantic , the position of neutrals became more precarious. In 1806, the French imposed what
would become known as the Continental System , blocking all British trade with Europe. They
declared that neutral ships with a British destination or which allowed British search-and-visits
could now be captured by the French and judged in a French prize court . In retaliation, Britain
tightened its blockade of Napoleonic Europe by requiring that all ships with a European destination
visit a British port first. Effectively, neutral trade with the European continent came to a complete halt
after 1807, which was particularly fatal to the United States and crippled the great seaports of the
European continent, in several cases permanently.43
The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras illustrated that neutrality was a highly contested
concept with no firm legal basis for its usage. Countries that adopted it, among which the United
States is the most historically renowned, did so by promoting their understanding of neutrality and
looking to precedents set by other neutrals. But that did not mean that the belligerents accepted these
assertions of neutral rights. Both France and Britain rejected neutrality entirely when it suited them.
The neutrals, in turn, had no compunction towards fighting back when they were able, using the
principle of armed neutrality that had been so effective for the League of Armed Neutrals in 1780. For
example, the Jay Treaty (1794) signed between Great Britain, as a belligerent, and the United States,
as a neutral, angered France. In this treaty, the United States accepted the Rule of 1756 in return for a
guarantee that its neutral merchants could access British markets and that Britain would compensate
the merchants for any captures made of their vessels.44 In response to the treaty, the French
unilaterally seized American cargo and ships at sea on the basis that the United States was not trading
equally and impartially with all of the belligerents. In turn, the United States barred French ships from
American ports, which resulted in a French embargo on American trade. The American navy
subsequently apprehended French naval vessels and privateers that sought to take its merchants as
prizes. These exchanges brought the United States to the brink of war with France and it only
narrowly avoided this fate when both parties came to a new agreement, the Convention of
Montefontaine , in 1800, which re-established the principle of free ships make free goods .45
However, negotiations to replace the Jay Treaty failed in 1805 and 1806, which was one of the
contributing factors in the United States decision to go to war with Britain in 1812 .
Similarly, neutral Denmark faced protracted diplomatic negotiations with Britain after 1799 over
British demands for Denmark to end its practice of convoy ing ships. As Ole Feldbaek s incisive
study demonstrates, an initial demarche between the two countries developed because Britain could
not afford to go to war with the Danes and did not want Denmark to seek out Russia to re-establish
the League of Armed Neutrals . However, when the British engaged the Danish frigate Freya , which
was convoying six merchant vessels across the Mediterranean in July 1800, both countries came
close to declaring war. Conflict was avoided at the time, but the Second League of Armed Neutrals
was formed in response to the crisis. The League brought Denmark, Sweden , Russia and Prussia
together to combat British blockading actions at sea and to keep French ambitions for their territories
at bay.46
The reintroduction of the League of Armed Neutrals in 1800 resulted in a serious challenge to
Britain , both at sea and in Europe. Prussia, a non-naval power at the time, supported its League allies
by invading Hanover , which was ruled by the British King George III, in 1801. This act both
incensed the British and avoided a French occupation of the territory. It was ostensibly undertaken not
as a Prussian declaration of war on Britain but as an act of active armed neutrality , keeping Prussia
and much of northern Europe independent and free from war. When war resumed between France and
Britain in 1803, Prussia could not sustain its neutral zone nor extend its protection over Hanover,
offering an opportunity for the French to invade and occupy Hanover instead. Inevitably, the French
invasion of Hanover ensured that Prussia rescinded on its neutrality and declared war on the
French.47
The British fleet further refused to accept the proclaimed rights to free trade and shipping made by
the Second League of Armed Neutrals and attempted to break the League by sending a large naval
fleet into the Baltic Sea and declaring war on Denmark . The Royal Navy besieged Copenhagen in
April 1801. The battle witnessed the sinking of a large portion of the Danish fleet in port, killing
more than a thousand people in the process.48 After both the Prussians and the French invaded
Hanover in 1803, Britain feared a further French invasion of Denmark. In a pre-emptive attack to
ward off this development, Britain sent its navy back to Copenhagen to lay siege to the city in 1807.
After several days of bombardment, the Danes surrendered their navy and naval stores. In return, the
British left Copenhagen alone, but the DanishBritish war itself did not end and continued to be
fought mostly at sea by Danish gunboats engaging British ships until 1814.49
Neutrality and economic warfare were concomitant factors in the Napoleonic era . After 1806
particularly, neutrals claims to trading rights were completely ignored by Britain and France. The
French decrees of Berlin and Milan in 1806 and 1807 and British retaliatory measures increasingly
brought both countries into conflict with the neutral United States . The American government
attempted to promote armed neutrality by enforcing an embargo on its own merchants trading with
Britain, France and the rest of Europe.50 As Kathleen Burk so gloriously asserts, the unfortunately
named American Non-Intercourse Act was a thunderous failure. Not only was it hugely unpopular in
the United States, as it had a considerable economic impact on merchants and ship-owners (even if a
large amount of clandestine trade continued), but it also made the British-imposed blockade of
Europe even more effective.51 The embargo did, however, highlight how contentious and
interconnected issues of war, trade and neutrality were. Ultimately, the United States was unable to
achieve any real accommodation from the warring British or French of its demands for neutral
shipping and trading rights.
For Britain and France, the end result of their ongoing economic warfare and imposed restrictions
on the economic conduct of their neighbours was more war. Spain revolted against the French in
1808. Russia resumed its war with France in 1812 and the United States declared war on Britain that
same year. 52 The War of 1812 was first and foremost a war about neutral rights to trade, secondly
about sovereignty and British impressment of American sailors in American territory and thirdly an
opportunistic attempt by the United States to seize Canada from Britainat a time when its former
colonial ruler was particularly vulnerable.53 In the end, the war failed to achieve any of these aims
and no resolution was brought about between the United States and Great Britain over neutral rights
.54 Where the former upheld and advanced the rights of neutrals during the war, the latter sought only
protection for the rights of belligerents to use whatever means were at their disposal to impede the
enemy. Might again defined right.
On the basis of this history, it is easy to depict Great Britain as the neutrals bogeyman, preying on
rival shipping and indiscriminately pushing a might makes right policy. However, Britains ultra-
belligerent conduct at sea guaranteed its position as the pre-eminent world power and established its
primacy as an imperial power for the nineteenth century. 55 Importantly, through the nineteenth century
and right up until the outbreak of the First World War , Britain would promote the same ends
protection of its naval supremacy and control of the worlds shipping lanes and trade but would use
different means to attain them. After 1856, in fact, neutrality was no longer the thorn others used to
interfere in British imperial ambitions but rather a pragmatic tool the British themselves used to
promote and protect their domination.
On the eve of the Congress of Vienna , only the United States could claim any allegiance to
ongoing neutrality. But its neutrality was decidedly fragile. The War of 1812 had shown the
Americans that their demand for neutral rights would not be respected by others, especially not in a
world where might made right. Nevertheless, the previous century had seen important developments
in neutral rights that made American claims for neutrality all the stronger and formed the foundations
of changes in international law later in the nineteenth century . In combination with the Enlightenment
challenges to mercantilism promoted by theorists like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Adam Smith ,
neutrality would witness a new era from 1815 on.56 However, it would be wrong to claim that the
American ambition for neutrality from the outset was to promote a bold new world. As James Sofka
convincingly argues, American claims to neutrality in the late eighteenth century looked more to
protecting the newly formed republic in a world of mercantilist power than to revolutionary
idealism.57 American neutrality had everything to do with mirroring the commercial conduct of the
United Provinces , Sardinia , Denmark and Sweden and the armed neutrality policies of Catherine the
Great . As such, the early American Republic extended traditional eighteenth-century neutrality
practices rather than creating new ones.58
Furthermore, as William Casto shows, because the majority of Americans were decidedly pro-
French and anti-British during the French Revolutionary Wars of the 1790s, the Washington
administration needed to find a way of justifying its neutral position to the public. In 1793, Chief
Justice Jay spent much time working on a general address to the nation that promoted strict
impartiality and the requirement for all Americans to avoid materially or personally supporting the
war cause of a belligerent country. 59 As such, invoking the idealism of neutrality was a particular
useful means of obtaining support for the ongoing non-involvement of the United States in the war. It
is in this light that we must read then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson s beautiful assertion that

reason and usage had established that, when two nations go to war, those who choose to live in
peace retain their natural right to pursue their agriculture, manufactures, and other ordinary
vocations; to carry the produce of their industry, for exchange, to all nations, belligerent or
neutral, as usual; to go and come freely, without injury or molestation; and, in short, that the war
among others shall be, for them, as if it did not exist.60

Of course, the prime reason for the creation of the Foreign Enlistment Act (1794) and other laws that
made it a criminal offence to aid the belligerents was to avoid the American public dragging the
United States into a war that it could not afford to fight.61 As a result of these measures, the United
States developed one of the most advanced codes of neutral obligation in existence and one that was
binding on the state and its citizens . In implementing the act, the federal government prosecuted
citizens for serving on French naval ships, for example.62 Needless to say, the Foreign Enlistment Act
was a contentious and politically charged law. It nevertheless established an important legacy for the
expectation that neutrals had obligations to protect their neutrality as much as they had rights to profit
from it.
In combination, the United States neutrality in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars
and its conduct in the War of 1812 have resulted in the historical opinion that the United States was
the main voice for neutral rights at the time and for the coming century. 63 However, the United States
was not unique in adopting measures to enforce neutral behaviour on its citizens or to promote
international laws of neutral rights in the 1790s. It clearly followed the actions that other neutrals had
taken to declare and regulate their neutrality before, particularly during the American War of
Independence , and would take again during the Napoleonic era.64 Still, the United States was more
comprehensive in its approach to imposing neutral duties on its citizenry than any other neutral had
ever been. As one British publicist explained, there can be no doubt that it [American neutrality] was
intended and believed to give effect to the obligations then incumbent upon neutrals. But it
represented by far the most advanced existing opinions as to what those obligations were.65
It is also generally held that the rivalry between the United States and Great Britain over neutral
rights became entrenched after 1812. Scholars like Geoffrey Best , Herbert Regenbogin and Jrg
Martin Gabriel , for example, argue that Britain protected belligerent power (might makes right ) over
neutral rights from the 1790s through to the First World War . 66 Regenbogin explains that when the
second Hague Peace Conference created the international law of neutrality in 1907:

[n]eutral countries, among them the United States, welcomed the adoption of legislation
specifying the rights of neutrality. But other non-neutrals, such as Great Britain, considered the
establishment of legal neutrality a detriment. Britain had continually opposed the idea of
neutrality and as such at the outbreak of World War I in 1914 adopted a strict blockade policy
causing serious trade problems for neutral countries.67

Geoffrey Best makes similar assertions in Humanity in Warfare, in which he repeatedly draws
parallels between British ultra-belligerency and anti-neutral behaviour in the French Revolutionary
and Napoleonic eras and the First World War . In his words, modern neutralitys first protagonists
were American. Its most constant foes were, of course, the British.68 Neither Best nor Regenbogin
investigates the complexity of British international power between the end of one world war (1815)
and the start of another a century later. While Britain continued to be the worlds predominant naval
power across these years, its methods of protecting that supremacy altered as fundamentally as did its
relationship with the United States . As this book will show, Britain only reluctantly returned to
imposing protectionist and pro-belligerent measures during the First World War after many decades
of advocating for greater neutral rights. Furthermore, the rivalry over neutral rights between the
Americans and the British decreased substantially in the aftermath of the United States Civil War
(18615).
The history of neutrality is not about absolutes. It is not even only about abstentionism,
isolationism or idealism, although they played their part, much as they did in conceptualisations about
the closely related concepts of war and peace. Much more clearly, what the history of neutrality until
1815 shows us is that neutrality was about pragmatism . It was part of international conduct and, in
the eighteenth century and Napoleonic War period at least, it was a very important part of the
international arena . It helped to define the nature of many of the wars of the era and contributed to
diplomacy and international relations in fundamental ways. In this sense, the continuities between the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are most relevant because in 1815 neutrality was already
recognised as a credible tool of policy, even if its contours and its adoption were not always
considered valid or upheld as inviolable. The long nineteenth century would create an environment
in which these contours became more clearly defined and more widely accepted.

1 King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden to Georg Frederick, Elector of Brandenburg, 1630, as quoted
by Craig, War, p. 144, and Agius, Swedish neutrality, p. 10.

2 R. Frank, La neutralit: evolution historique dun concept in J. Nevakivi, ed., Neutrality in


history. Proceedings of the conference on the history of neutrality organized in Helsinki 912
September 1992 under the auspices of the Commission of History of International Relations.
Helsinki, Finnish Historical Society, 1993, p. 29.
3 P. W. Schroeder, The lost intermediaries. The impact of 1870 on the international system,
International History Review 6, 1, February 1984, pp. 127.

4 Schroeder, Lost intermediaries, p. 7.

5 Verzijl, International law, p. 46.

6 Bauslaugh, Neutrality in Classical Greece, p. 243.

7 Bauslaugh, Neutrality in Classical Greece, p. 73.

8 Bauslaugh, Neutrality in Classical Greece, pp. 35, 244.

9 Agius, Swedish neutrality, p. 13.

10 Neff, Rights and duties, pp. 78.

11 Neff, Rights and duties, p. 9.

12 Verzijl, International law, p. 87.

13 Agius, Swedish neutrality, p. 13; Neff, Rights and duties, p. 29.

14 Tracy, ed., Sea power, p. xiv.

15 K. Burk, Old world, new world. Great Britain and America from the beginning. New York,
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007, p. 25.

16 For a very good brief overview: Davis and Engerman, Naval blockades, pp. 68. Cf J. B.
Hattendorf, Maritime conflict in M. Howard, G. G. Andreopoulus, M. R. Shulman, eds, The laws of
war. Constraints on warfare in the western world. New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1994,
pp. 98115; C. Jacob, Maritime neutrality to 1780. A history of the main principles governing
neutrality and belligerency to 1780. Boston, Little Brown, 1936.
17 For examples: R. Pares, Colonial blockade and neutral rights 17391763. Oxford, Clarendon
Press, 1938.

18 Verzijl, International law, p. 13; Craig, War, pp. 1434.

19 A. S. Hershey, History of international law since the Peace of Westphalia, American Journal of
International Law 6, 1, January 1912, p. 31; Neff, Rights and duties, pp. 1014; E. Chadwick, The
impossibility of maritime neutrality during World War I, Netherlands International Law Review
54, 2007, p. 341.

20 Agius, Swedish neutrality, p. 14.

21 Agius, Swedish neutrality, p. 15; Chadwick, Maritime neutrality, p. 314; Hershey, History of
international law, p. 41.

22 J. Black, The rise of the European powers 16791793. London, Edward Arnold, 1989, p. xiv.

23 Burk, Old world, pp. 8891; I. Hont, Jealousy of trade. International competition and the
nation-state in historical perspective. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2005.

24 O. Feldbaek, DenmarkNorway 17201807: neutral principles and practice in R. Hobson, T.


Kristiansen, eds, Navies in northern waters 17212000. Portland, OR, Frank Cass, 2004, p. 60.

25 Welling, The prize, pp. 245.

26 G. Best, Humanity in warfare. The modern history of the international law of armed conflict.
London, Methuen, 1983, p. 72.

27 Carl J. Kulsrud has a useful chapter on the history of armed neutrality up to and including the
League of Armed Neutrals of 1780 (Maritime neutrality to 1780. A history of the main principles
governing neutrality and belligerency to 1780. Boston, Little Brown, 1936). Also: Pares, Colonial
blockade.

28 J. Parmenter, M. P. Robinson, The perils and possibilities of wartime neutrality on the edges of
empire: Iroquois and Acadians between the French and British in North America, 17441760,
Diplomatic History 31, 2, 2007, pp. 167206.

29 For Danish neutrality in the mercantilist era: Feldbaek, DenmarkNorway, pp. 5965; O.
Feldbaek, The Anglo-Danish convoy conflict of 1800. A study of small power policy and neutrality,
Scandinavian Journal of History 2, 1977, pp. 1612. For Dutch neutrality: Welling, The prize; A. C.
Carter, Neutrality or commitment. The evolution of Dutch foreign policy, 16671795. London,
Edward Arnold, 1975; Stapelbroek, The emergence. For Sweden: H. A.Barton, Sweden and the
War of American Independence, William and Mary Quarterly 23, 3, 1966, pp. 40830. For the
Italian states: Alimento, ed., War, trade.

30 Stephen C. Neff, Friends but no allies. Economic liberalism and the law of nations. New York,
Columbia University Press, 1990, pp. 335; A. C. Carter, The Dutch as neutrals in the Seven Years
War, International and Comparative Law Quarterly 12, 3, July 1963, p. 828.

31 M. Hbner, De la saise de btiments neutres, ou du droit quont les nations belligrantes


darrter les navires des peuples amis (1759) in Neff, Rights and duties, pp. 489, and in Verzijl,
International law, p. 7.

32 Carter, The Dutch as neutrals, p. 819; Neff, Rights and duties, pp. 4452. On Emerich de
Vattel, Le droit des gens ou principes de la loi naturelle (1758): E. Maxey, Growth of neutral
rights and duties, The American Lawyer 55, 1906, p. 56. Also: the excellent collection on maritime
neutrality edited by Antonella Alimento, War, trade , and especially Eric Schnakenbourg, From a
right of war to right of peace: Martin Hbners contribution to the reflection on neutrality in the
eighteenth century in the same (pp. 20316).

33 B. Ranft, Restraints on war at sea before 1945 in M. Howard, ed., Restraints on war. Oxford
University Press, 1979, p. 43.

34 I. de Madariaga, Britain, Russia and the armed neutrality of 1780. Sir James Harriss mission
to St Petersburg during the American revolution. New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1962.
Also: Barton, Sweden; H. Wheaton, Extract from History of the Law of Nations, giving a brief
history of the armed neutrality [1845] in Official documents bearing on the armed neutrality of
1780 and 1800. Washington, DC, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Division of
International Law, 1917, pp. 122, also pp. 248, 545; Verzijl, International law, pp. 501; H.
Ragsdale, Russian foreign policy, 17251815 in The Cambridge history of Russia. Volume 2
Imperial Russia 16891917. Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 512.

35 Madariaga, Armed neutrality, pp. 4456. Cf C. C. Hyde, International co-operation for


neutrality, University of Pennsylvania Law Review 85, 1937, pp. 244357.
36 Hershey, History of international law, pp. 423.

37 Welling, The prize, p. 192.

38 Welling, The prize, pp. 3, 28; Madariaga, Armed neutrality, p. 377.

39 F. Crouzet, Wars, blockade, and economic change in Europe, 17921815, Journal of Economic
History 24, 4, December 1964, p. 569; Feldbaek, Anglo-Danish convoy, p. 162; Welling, The
prize, pp. 24. For an effective study on how the Danish merchant house of Conick & Co. profited
from the French Revolutionary Wars by taking over the business of Dutch East India Company: O.
Feldbaek, Dutch Batavia trade via Copenhagen, 17951807. A study of colonial trade and
neutrality, Scandinavian Economic History Review 21, 1, 1973, pp. 4375.

40 Mary Wollstonecraft, Letter XIII, 1795, inLetters written during a short residence in Sweden,
Norway and Denmark. Wilmington, J. Wilson & Son, 1796, p. 216 (available in British and Irish
Womens Letters and Diaries electronic database).

41 Mary Wollstonecraft, Letter III, 1795, in Letters written during a short residence, p. 216.

42 J. Stephen, War in disguise. Or the frauds of neutral flags. Second American edition. London,
1806. For a discussion of its reception: Burk, Old world, pp. 21415.

43 For an account of the economic consequences of the Napoleonic Wars on the European ports:
Crouzet, Wars, blockade, pp. 56788.

44 C. Savage, Policy of the United States toward maritime commerce in war. Volume 1 , 1776
1914. Washington, DC, Government Printing Office, 1934, pp. 1115; Neff, Rights and duties, p. 75;
Burk, Old world, pp. 20110.

45 Neff, Rights and duties, pp. 723; Burk, Old world, p. 213.

46 Feldbaek, Anglo-Danish convoy; Feldbaek, Dutch Batavia;Official documents bearing on


armed neutrality, pp. 469, 15760, 199205.

47 For an account of the role of Hanover and Prussian neutrality in the Napoleonic wars: P. G.
Dwyer, Two definitions of neutrality: Prussia, the European states-system, and the French invasion
of Hanover in 1803, International History Review 19, 3, August 1997, pp. 52240. Also: G. S.
Ford, Hanover and Prussia 17951803. A study in neutrality. New York, Columbia University
Press, 1903; Ragsdale, Russian foreign policy, p. 517.

48 Ragsdale, Russian foreign policy, p. 519; Feldbaek, Dutch Batavia, p. 74. Also: B. Semmel,
Liberalism and naval strategy. Ideology, interest, and sea power during the Pax Britannica.
Boston, Allen & Unwin, pp. 201.

49 O. Feldbaek, Denmark in the Napoleonic Wars. A foreign policy survey, Scandinavian Journal
of History 26, 2001, pp. 89101; A. N. Ryan, The causes of the British attack upon Copenhagen in
1807, English Historical Review 68, 266, January 1953, pp. 3755; J. H. Rose, Canning and
Denmark in 1807, English Historical Review 11, 41, January 1896, pp. 8292; C. J. Kulsrud, The
seizure of the Danish fleet, 1807, American Journal of International Law 32, 2, April 1938, pp.
280311.

50 Neff, Rights and duties, p. 83.

51 Burk, Old world, p. 221. Also: J. Sofka, American neutral rights reappraised: identity or interest
in the foreign policy of the early Republic?, Review of International Studies 26, 2000, pp. 61618.
Cf Semmel, Liberalism, pp. 2830.

52 Tracy, ed., Sea power, p. xvi.

53 Wright, Present status, p. 409, fn 90. For the origins of the War of 1812: K. Caffrey, The lion
and the unicorn. The Anglo-American war 18121815. London, Andre Deutsch, 1978; Burk, Old
world, pp. 21221. For the economic nature of the War of 1812: W. G. Dudley, The flawed British
blockade, 181215 in B. A. Elleman, S. C. M. Paine, eds, Naval blockades and seapower.
Strategies and counterstrategies 18052005. New York, Routledge, 2006, pp. 345.

54 Burk, Old world, pp. 191, 242, 2478; Savage, Policy of the United States, p. 37; J. B.
Hattendorf, The US Navy and the freedom of the seas 17751917 in Hobson and Kristiansen,
Navies, p. 165; Coogan, End of neutrality, pp. 201.

55 Crouzet, Wars, blockade.

56 Neff, Friends, pp. 2839.


57 Sofka, American neutral rights. Cf M. Bukovansky, American identity and neutral rights from
independence to the War of 1812, International Organization 51, 2, Spring 1997, pp. 20937.

58 Sofka, American neutral rights, pp. 602, 6067.

59 W. R. Casto, Foreign affairs and the Constitution in the age of fighting sail. Columbia,
University of South Carolina Press, 2006, p. 84.

60 Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, 1793, in Chadwick,Traditional neutrality, p. 267; Best,


Humanity, p. 102.

61 For a list of American neutrality legislation: Verzijl, International law, pp. 526. Cf Maxey,
Growth of neutral rights, pp. 567.

62 Casto, Foreign affairs, pp. 91102.

63 Karsh, Neutrality, p. 17.

64 For examples: Verzijl, International law, pp. 4750.

65 In Maxey, Growth of neutral rights, p. 56. Also: Hyneman, First American neutrality.

66 Gabriel, American conception, pp. 1441; Best, Humanity; Regenbogin, Faces of neutrality.

67 Regenbogin, Faces of neutrality, p. 24.

68 Best, Humanity, p. 69.


2 Neutrality, neutralisation and the Concert of Europe

The Concert of Europe evolved out of the ashes of the Napoleonic Wars . Over many months in 1814
and 1815, and interrupted only by the 100-days return of Napoleon, Europes ruling elite met in the
Habsburg capital of Vienna . They brought the devastating Napoleonic Wars to an end and
reorganised the continent in such a way as to advantage the pre-existing monarchies, France included.
Amidst much strife and negotiation, the overarching goal of the Congress of Vienna was to find a way
to protect the great powers from revolutionary forces at home and to settle their international relations
so as to minimise future conflict between them. The conferences key negotiators did not seek a
punitive peace to cripple France (much) but rather a pragmatic settlement that would reorganise
Europe into a stable entity.1 In so doing, as Paul Schroeders magisterial tome on the subject shows,
the great powers transformed the international system and set the tone for a century of limited war .2
Within the atmosphere of what came to be known as the Restoration Period , a term that belies a
complex environment,3 the avoidance of conflict between the great European states was deemed
essential in order to protect the system from collapse and to prevent adverse risk that could endanger
them all.
The desire to keep great-power conflict limited made neutrality an essential element of European
politics for the next 100 years . In fact, as the Russian jurist Fyodor de Martens explained in the
1880s, through the course of the nineteenth century neutrality became insparable de la notion de la
communaut internationale (inseparable from the idea of the international community).4 There is,
therefore, much to be said for Schroeders argument that the Congress of Vienna was one of the most
successful peace settlements of all time. For while the European states initiated and were involved in
numerous wars and conflicts around the globe between 1815 and 1914, at no stage did any of these
conflagrations turn into a Europe-wide affair. The nineteenth-century international system relied in
large part on the willingness of states, great and small , to adopt neutrality both informally, as a
promise of non-involvement in case of a war, and formally, as a declared position with international
responsibilities defined by international law at the outbreak of a conflict. Neutrality was also the
means by which great-power governments could notify the conflicting parties of their intentions to
refrain from too much interference and offer their good services for mediation and resolution.
If anything, the Napoleonic Wars had shown that general war was costly and dangerous for princes
and their empires. At one level, then, the Congress of Vienna was a deeply conservative enterprise
that looked to prevent or quell revolutionary developments within states. It also hoped to prevent the
rise of another Napoleon . Yet, at another level, the Congress was not a restorative exercise at all. It
aimed to avoid the pitfalls of eighteenth-century power politics and, in so doing, replace them with
the expectation that the great powers would act in concert to resolve international crises. It signalled
an acceptance that it was in the best interests of all European states to protect the stability of the
international system.5
Essentially, the Concert of Europe, or the Congress system as some historians call it,6 was a
flexible and loosely defined principle that the major powers (namely, Great Britain , Russia , France ,
Austria and Prussia ) would take collective responsibility for international events. This is not to
suggest that they were not also great rivals with conflicting interests nor to advocate that these
rivalries were always or necessarily seconded to collective agreement. Rather, what the Congress of
Vienna initiated was acceptance among the great powers of the need to establish a balance of power
or, to use Schroeders preferred term, a political equilibrium in Europe that would prevent the rise
of a Napoleon-like hegemony and offer greater predictability for them all.7 In this sense, the Congress
system set limits on their national aspirations.8 This is also not to suggest that the wielding of power
military, economic, diplomatic or otherwise by these states stopped or changed significantly when
compared to the past, only that such behaviour tended to take into account its impact on the system as
a whole. In no sense were the great powers obliged to yield to the collective, but they did accept the
Concert, in the words of Charles Depius (1909), as

a fortunate expedient, capable of resolving on occasion difficulties or problems which affected


the interests of all, an intermittent syndicate, discussing the conditions of an understanding, when
an understanding seemed preferable to a contest.9

Thus, the Congress systems strength was predicated on two interconnected expectations. Initially, it
depended on the determination to stabilise the existing power dynamic between the strongest states
Great Britain and Russia on the peripheries of the continent and the slightly weaker great powers
France, Austria and Prussia in its centre. Subsequently, when that power dynamic came under threat
after the Crimean War (1856) and then teetered dangerously with the rise of Germany from 1870 on,
it relied on the recognition that all of the great powers (Germany included) took responsibility for
maintaining the balance when settling disputes. Effectively, every international event that affected
Europe, however small or divisive, was understood to be the responsibility of the great powers. They
were, and self-consciously held themselves to be, accountable for mediating , restraining and
organising solutions to benefit both the system and themselves. In other words, to use Hedley Bulls
terminology, the great powers acted as custodians of the system and of its weaker players and took
their custodial duties very seriously indeed.10 Furthermore, the Congress system thrived as long as a
tone of moderation dominated European affairs. Fortunately, for much of the long nineteenth century,
it did.11
Above all, the Concert of Europe was not a fixed idea or process,12 and this is where historians
who argue that the Congress system died in 1822 after the failed Congress of Verona miss the point.13
Even though after 1822 there were no more large summits among the leaders of Europe in the form
that the Congresses of Vienna, Aix-la-Chappelle (1818), Troppau (1820), Laibach (1821) and Verona
had taken, the expectation that the great powers would continue to negotiate in concert and would take
responsibility for international crises was regularised on a smaller scale in the form of ambassadorial
meetings and multi-lateral negotiations on specific issues.14 Representatives of the five powers
convened when the need arose, often at the end of a limited war or to alleviate a specific crisis. Many
of the treaties signed through the century were the outcome of such concert-like discussions, including
the Treaty of London (1831) that settled on Belgiums independence, the Declaration of Paris (1856)
that brought the Crimean War to an end, the Treaty of London (1867) that neutralised Luxembourg and
the Brussels Convention (1874) that established, among other things, workable international laws
relating to the treatment of interned soldiers and prisoners of war . The Hague Peace Conferences of
1899 and 1907 should be seen as the height of concert politics, even if most of the great-power
participants were sceptical of their purpose and wary of the involvement of other states in them.
Between 1822 and 1914, there were twenty-six conferences attended by all of the great powers, the
last of which was in London in 1909.15 Even after genuine systemic changes were brought about by
the Crimean War, the rise of new imperialism (from 1880 on) and the First World War , the ideal of
collectively negotiating the impact of international events continued to influence great-power
diplomacy.16 In so many ways, then, the Concert of Europes means of negotiating set the tone for
modern diplomacy.
As such, the Concert of Europe was a fluid process imbued with pragmatic purpose and with a
realistic understanding of the possibilities and limitations of diplomacy between powerful rivals. In
its flexibility lay the foundation of its success. This form of international organisation allowed
Realpolitik to thrive, yet it also accepted pragmatic limitations to the means by which states achieved
their goals. Ralph Menning sums up this connection best when he defines nineteenth-century
Realpolitik as

an awareness by its practitioners of the constraints acting on them; the pursuit of the attainable,
hence limited goals; an appreciation that political fortunes can change at barely a moments
notice.17

It is also worth repeating Mennings view that it was the Congress of Vienna s architecture, based
not on hard-and-fast principles but rather on finding pragmatic solutions to complicated concerns
while abiding by a general understanding that if the great powers did not find agreement, things would
certainly get worse, that helped Europe to remain relatively peaceful for the coming century.18
In many different guises, neutrality sustained the Concert of Europe and was a common feature of
the international landscape through the long nineteenth century . It was also frequently referred to in
public and diplomatic discussions. For example, when Louis Napoleon took over power in France
amidst the revolutions of 1848, he announced that he was determined to adopt the great system of
neutrality towards foreign countries, provided that system should be strictly kept by the other
cabinets.19 Two years later, during the crisis between Prussia and Austria over the fate of
Schleswig-Holstein , both France and Britain proclaimed their desire to observe the strictest
neutrality. In the words of Louis Napoleon, Frances neutrality would be maintained as long as the
French interest and the equilibrium of Europe are not compromised, while Britains neutrality
existed to keep England at peace, and promote, to the utmost of its friendly means, the continuance of
peace between all foreign nations.20
During the subsequent Crimean War , both Austria and Prussia chose neutrality as well. Standard
historical interpretations stress that their non-belligerency was self-serving, if ultimately disastrous,
for the Austrians and a means of currying favour with the Russians , British and French . One might
say, of course it was self-serving that is the point of such decisions. When both Austria and Prussia
declared their neutrality at the outbreak of the war, however, they did so not only with the
encouragement of the belligerents but also because it served their interests and the perceived interests
of the stability of Europe. In the lead-up to the war, even the pro-belligerent and conservative press in
Britain presented Austrian and Prussian neutrality in a positive light. The Illustrated London News ,
for example, which would adopt a bellicose and anti-neutral position once war broke out, in October
1853 still praised these countries wise discretion. For, according to the newspaper, neutrality is
in fact a good auguryit will prevent the war should war arise from becoming a general one and
will thus be useful for themselves, and may be highly beneficial to Europe especially because the
Austrians and Prussians could then mediate between the prospective warring states.21
British and Prussian neutrality was promoted in a similar vein during the Austro-French War of
1859 . As Le Nord reported, the grand news of the day is the resolve on the part of the Cabinets of
London and Berlin to maintain a strict neutrality.The war no longer threatens to embrace the rest of
the continent, and its duration will be all the shorter.22 The key here is that occasional neutrality did
not imply a lack of involvement, interest or the right to have a say. Rather, the use of neutrality by the
great powers was an active means of stabilising and sustaining what was in the best interest of the
nation that adopted it, but also had benefits for the wider international environment . As such,
occasional neutrality was an oft-used diplomatic strategy employed in anticipation of conflict and
crisis. Obviously, it was a potentially risky strategy to apply, but all great-power acts involved a
measure of risk, and declaring war was deemed in such moments to carry greater risks and fewer
rewards.
The Concert of Europe also relied on the willingness of the powers to interfere and to adopt a
mediating disinterested role when necessary. For mediation to work, of course, the mediating state
had to be recognised as neutral or, rather, potentially neutral if crisis turned to war. Of course, no
great power was ever indifferent to the outcomes of international events, but the point is not that true
disinterest was impossible but rather that such states promoted the resolution of a crisis rather than
agitating it to unmanageable levels. Mediation was a key element of nineteenth-century statecraft, as
can be seen by numerous events. For example, Germany took on a leading role to mediate the crises
in the Balkans during the Berlin treaty negotiations of 1878.23 Britain had undertaken a similar
function in solving the crisis over Luxembourg at negotiations held in London in 1867 , while during
the Crimean War the Austrians attempted to bring the conflict to an early resolution in 1855.
Mediation and neutrality were closely connected nineteenth-century practices that lasted well into the
First World War . The Spanish King Alfonso XIII , for example, sought to increase his diplomatic
status during this conflict by offering to mediate between the belligerents, while other neutrals,
including the Vatican , were equally active in promoting their good offices in this manner.24
In part, the peace of Europe through the nineteenth century was built on the restraint that the great
powers exercised towards each other and the understanding that any limited or short-term gains were
not necessarily worth the risk of general war . Furthermore, the Congress system recognised that the
affairs of small states were far too important to leave alone. Hence, the formal neutralisation of
contested regions became a common feature of nineteenth-century diplomacy. The Congress system
was thus founded on three versions of neutrality: the willingness and readiness to adopt occasional
neutrality by the great powers vis--vis each other, the imposition of guaranteed (permanent)
neutrality to neutralise key territories and regions from great-power competition and the ready
support by the great powers of the voluntary long-term neutrality of weaker states .
The remainder of this chapter is dedicated to explaining the uses made by the great powers of
neutralising regions and countries by formal agreement. The delegates at the Congress of Vienna
redrew the map of Europe and oversaw the redistribution of its territory. The main principle guiding
the reorganisation, other than to re-establish traditional monarchical boundaries, was to avoid
agitating tensions between the major powers. One tool for the stabilisation of power was the creation
of buffer zones separating rival states. Hence, Britains representative at the conference, Lord
Castlereagh , pushed for the establishment of an enlarged Kingdom of the Netherlands (including
present-day Belgium and Luxembourg ) that would keep Prussia from France but also secure the
Channel and North Sea and thereby help to protect the British Isles fromFrench attack. Another way
to buffer states from each other was to mutually guarantee the security of a particular region. By
neutralising the Swiss cantons in 1815, for example, the potency of their existence in the political
equilibrium could be tempered. Importantly, great-power guarantees were not limited to
neutralisation. That is to say, the independence of some weaker states could be protected by one or
more power without forcing neutrality on those states. This was the case for some Balkan countries at
the Treaty of Paris in 1856, which were territorially guaranteed by the signatory powers.25 In all
cases, the existence of great-power guarantees illustrates how seriously they took their custodial
duties.26
Neutralisation was a new feature of the nineteenth-century international system that set it apart
from earlier centuries, although neutralisation itself was not new. J. H. W. Verzijl catalogues a whole
series of neutralised cities, seas, rivers and regions from the seventeenth century on, including
Mnster and Osnabrck (16438); Nijmegen (1675 and 1679); the Baltic Sea (1759); Moroccos
ports (1760); Hamburg (1762); the West Indian islands of St Vincent, Dominique, Tobago and St
Lucia (1763); Genoa a year later; the boundary rivers between Spain and Portugal in South America
(1777); Tuscany (1795); and Warsaw (1809). 27 Malbone Watson Graham further discusses the
principality of Lige (Luik ) in the sixteenth century, the neutralisation of the Channel Islands at
various times when, in his words, the whole political alignment of Europe was in flux and the
attempts to enforce neutrality on Malta at the Treaty of Amiens (1801).28 Still, as Graham also
astutely asserts, before the meeting of the Congress of Vienna , no far-reaching application of the
idea had been made.29
Neutralisation was never an easy solution or necessarily an ideal one but remained workable
when the commitment was there to enact it in the moment. At the very least, the great powers used
neutralisation as a pragmatic solution injected with the hope of long-term viability. A negative
reading of neutralisation would be to see it as a delaying tactic, namely as a means of avoiding a
conflict that would nonetheless inevitably come. It is easy to read the neutralisation of the Black Sea
in 1856 by France and Britain in this way.30 As victors in the war, they could enforce the
neutralisation on their defeated enemy. Needless to say, the act caused ongoing tension and forced a
crisis of its own in the 1870s when Russia manoeuvred to have the neutralisation overturned. Yet, as
F. H. Hinsley reminds us, even though the neutralisation of the Black Sea took the device of
international neutralisation further thanhad previously been applied, Britain and France did so in
the belief that they were adapting a tried solution to what had been a vexed problem.31 A more
positive reading of neutralisation sees in its adoption a means of sustaining the balance of power and
avoiding unnecessary conflict. Guaranteed neutrality could (and did) keep particularly tense
international issues from becoming unmanageable . As such, it was an available option in an array of
diplomatic tools that helped European decision-makers navigate the complexities of international
events. More often than not, when embedded in effective agreements, neutralisation was remarkably
successful.
The most famous instance of neutralisation , principally because of its durability, is that of
Switzerland . Well before the Congress of Vienna neutralised the Swiss cantons and loosely
connected them together into the Swiss federation, the various Swiss regions had a long history of
neutrality.32 They certainly sought great-power protection of their neutrality in 1815, even if the great
powers were somewhat wary of these Swiss declarations, given the cantons irregular behaviour
towards France during the Napoleonic Wars .33 In terms of their geo-strategic value, situated as they
were at the crossroads of central Europe, and because they were known as a hotbed for revolutionary
and liberal tendencies, the cantons were generally understood to be volatile. Nevertheless, even
though complicated and full of intrigue, as Charles Webster so eloquently put it, the neutralisation of
Switzerland

may be considered as one of the most important results of the period, for the Great Powers had
definitely recognised that their own interests, as well as those of all Europe, were best served
by the exclusion of a small State from participation in future conflicts.34

Each canton was also subject to the influence, hegemony and sometimes sovereignty of neighbouring
states. While neutralising the cantons heightened the complexities of inter-cantonal politics, it could
also complicate the Concert of Europe .
The most contentious element of the neutralisation of Switzerland for the Concert of Europe was
the means by which the Swiss federal government attempted to assert its sovereignty over the
domestic affairs of each canton. This was particularly of issue in Neuchtel , which was both a
principality of the kingdom of Prussia and firmly ensconced within the Swiss federation. During the
civil war of 1847 , which pitted the liberal federal government against seven of the twenty-two
cantons, Neuchtels anti-federal position threatened to spread the unrest beyond Swiss borders. The
Prussian king, Friedrich Wilhelm IV , hoping to keep control over the region and to protect his people
from what he saw as a revolutionary war, advocated for Neuchtels neutrality. The Swiss federal
government, quite understandably, held firm that as part of the confederation, Neuchtel must comply
with its wishes and support its military campaigns. It was willing to declare war on Neuchtel if it
did not comply. As the Prussian Minister in London, Chevalier Bunsen , explained to Lord
Palmerston , neutrality could not by international law and European inclination be accepted as a
cause for war, as aggressive warfare and neutrality are absolutely contradictory terms. 35 Britain
agreed and pushed this point on the Swiss. Friedrich Wilhelm IV, however, was very willing to post
his forces in Neuchtel to defend his people and their neutrality from the military actions of the Swiss
state. He had the tacit support of the Austrians and Russians , who had already removed their
diplomats from Bern and stationed them in Neuchtel instead.36 Even though the revolutionary unrest
ended in 1848 and Neuchtel was not forced into the conflict, it took until 1852 for an international
protocol to be signed that accepted Prussias ongoing rights to Neuchtel, albeit with a proviso that
Prussia would not attempt to re-establish monarchical power there.37 The canton remained part of the
Swiss federation.
Nevertheless, four years later, in the aftermath of the Crimean War , the Prussian royal family
inspired several hundred royalists in Neuchtel to stage an uprising. The counter-revolutionaries
imprisoned the cantons president and several members of the council of state before local militia
supported by the Swiss federal council fought off the monarchists, killing or wounding several of
them and imprisoning many more. These events sparked a serious international crisis that saw the
diplomatic heads of legations in Paris, London, Vienna and throughout Switzerland placed on high
alert.38 The British were at pains to avoid Prussian reprisals and urged leniency on the Swiss
government with regard to the royalist prisoners, who were due to go on trial for high treason.
Although they were less inclined to accommodate Prussia , the French urged an amnesty for the
prisoners. The Austrians attempted to mediate by advocating for a multi-nation conference . France
and Britain rejected the Austrian proposal because a conference would offer Prussia too much
legitimacy in the affair. In the end, the Prussian king mobilised his soldiers reputedly 120,000 of
them secured a right of passage through neighbouring Bavaria and threatened war by deed, if not
word. Britains response was to remind Friedrich Wilhelm IV that the consequences of one of the
Great Monarchies of Europe marching to attack a small but free state for putting on trial persons who
acted against a legitimate government could be disastrous and certainly called into action the
guarantees of Swiss neutrality made at the Congress of Vienna .39 Switzerland subsequently mobilised
30,000 troops, and the great powers met under urgency with Prussia and Switzerland to mediate a
compromise: Friedrich Wilhelm IV renounced his sovereignty over the canton, and the prisoners
were extradited to Prussia.40 Aside from the ongoing fears about revolutionary events that affected all
European leaders at the time, the Neuchtel incident also illustrates how central Swiss security was
to the interests of Europe, how mediation by the great powers was key (the Swiss government even
requested the good offices of the French and British to find a solution)41 and how the principles of
the Congress of Vienna and of subsequent treaties were invoked by the great powers to remind each
other of the wider consequences at stake for European stability.
The neutrality of Switzerland came into question again in 1860 when Sardinia ceded the region of
North Savoy (including Chablais and Faucigny) to France as payment for French support in
Sardinias war against Austria. North Savoy had been offered to Sardinia at the Congress of Vienna
but, because it was geographically cut off from Sardinia, Switzerland held responsibility for its
defence, with the primary aim of offsetting against possible French expansion. As a result, North
Savoy was neutralised like the rest of Switzerland, with the added proviso that only the Swiss could
station troops there or transit them through it.42 Despite its neutralisation, North Savoy was not part of
the Swiss federation. The wars in Italy in 1859 and 1860 exposed the security of Savoy, and Europe
feared what might happen if France invaded the region.43 In fact, Britain deemed the threat posed by
Frances acquisition of Savoy as so severe that the Economist warned that the case between Savoy
and Switzerland is more immediately and obviously, if not more certainly, more menacing to the
peace of Europe than the situation in Italy.44 Of course, Frances acquisition of Savoy brought the
regions neutrality into question, as well as that of the rest of Switzerland, which in itself threatened
to destabilise the already strained relationships between the other European powers as well. Initially,
Switzerland refused to recognise Frances sovereignty over North Savoy and would not let any
French troops cross its borders.45 In the end, as a way of avoiding the spread of war, France accepted
Switzerlands terms of non-occupation but nevertheless took over the administration of the
province.46 Importantly, the French upheld the terms of North Savoys ongoing neutralisation. Even
during the Franco-Prussian War (18701), France did not question Switzerlands right to defend and
protect the region from French occupation .47 North Savoys and Switzerlands neutrality remained
intact and they helped to sustain the stability of central Europe.
Most telling in reviewing the challenges to Swiss security and neutrality during the long
nineteenth century between the Napoleonic and First World Wars is that Britain, of all the great
powers, gave the most support to Switzerland and its neutrality. As Ann Imlah argues, even though
Prussia , Austria and France were wedded to Swiss security and independence, at certain times they
were also willing to risk its neutrality to advance their own interests. In these crises, among which the
years 1847/8, 1856 and 1860 loom particularly large, it was the British who often provided the
essential element48 to sustaining Swiss security. Here, Britains role as protector of the small and
neutralised state was very important, as was its role in supporting the other permanently and
voluntarily neutral states, including Belgium , the Netherlands and Sweden . Another equally telling
element of Switzerlands neutralisation is that it heightened the countrys importance in the
international system. Switzerland was monitored and managed by all of the great powers. They all
had legations in its capital, Bern , and often in the other cantons as well. As Ann Imlah so ably
explains:

when the issue [relating to Switzerland] involved a serious threat to the European peace, it was
dealt with. When the peace was not endangered, in other words, when Swiss independence was
judged to be secure, the powers would pay little heed to Swiss complaints.49

The same proved to be true of Belgium after 1831.


The Congress of Viennas neutralisation of Switzerland began a long line of neutralisation
measures undertaken by the great powers, often in concert. An almost forgotten example is that of the
tiny area of Moresnet (present-day Kelmis, in Belgium). In 1806, the Vieille Montagne zinc mine
opened in Moresnet.50 When the Kingdom of the Netherlands was created in 1815, the Moresnet mine
caused issues for the Dutch and Prussian monarchies, for both wanted control over it.51 In order to
prevent an unnecessary conflict breaking out between them, a small region, no more than 3.37 square
kilometres in size, housing at most 260 inhabitants and the mine, was neutralised .52 In effect, both
monarchies administered neutral Moresnet, although neither could enact any regulations without the
agreement of the other. 53 When Belgium split from the Netherlands in the 1830s, it took over
responsibility for Moresnet as well. Moresnets citizens were effectively stateless. Many moved to
the Netherlands, Belgium or Prussia /Germany to naturalize themselves.54 Furthermore, its affairs
were notorious. Moresnet offered a haven for smugglers and convicts. By the early twentieth century,
the territory housed more than sixty cafes and pubs, four gin distilleries and its own casino.55 By this
time, its population had increased more than 3,000 as well. It had some immensely colourful local
politicians, although it may in the end only be remembered for its status as the international
headquarters for the Esperanto language.56 That Moresnet existed at all is highly relevant. Its
neutralisation occurred only because the zinc mine was deemed too valuable to fall in the economic
sphere of either the Dutch or the Prussians. When the mine closed in 1884, the reason for neutral
Moresnets existence died with it.57 The Germans marched through the area as part of their invasion
of Belgium in the First World War .
The Congress of Vienna also neutralised the city of Cracow (Poland ), under protection of the
Russians, Prussians and Austrians, who all had ongoing interests in the municipality and its environs.
A condition of neutrality imposed on Cracow in 1815 was that it could not offer refuge to dissidents
from neighbouring states.58 The monarchies feared that, like Switzerland, Cracow might become a
sanctuary for revolutionaries and a haven for fermenting anti-royalist unrest. In the end, amidst the
revolutions that swept through the continent in 1847 and 1848 and with the tacit consent of the three
guaranteeing powers, Cracow lost its independence and was incorporated into the Habsburg
Empire.59 The French and British protested the act, but neither power was in any shape to enforce the
Congress agreement.60 Cracow features as the first failed act of neutralisation in the nineteenth
century. The abrogation of the neutrality of the Black Sea in 1871 would be the second and the
German invasion of Belgium, Luxembourg and neutral Moresnet in August 1914, the third.
The neutralisation of Cracow and Moresnet show us something very important about the tools the
great powers used to alleviate the stresses of some of their geo-strategic rivalries. For similar
reasons, other tension-laden regions were neutralised and demilitarised , including a section of the
Oslo Fjord separating Sweden and Norway (1905), an area in the Upper Mekong (Indochina )
contested by France and Britain (1893), Walvis Bay in south-west Africa (1888), the Grand Lac in
Siam Cambodia (1870), Doumeira Island off the coast of Somalia , which plagued French Italian
relations (1900), and the railway that ran from La Paz in Bolivia to Arica in Peru in 1904.61 The
ClaytonBulwer Treaty of 1850 further neutralised the isthmus canal at Techuatepec , ensuring all
merchant traffic could use it without qualification.62 With a similar end in mind, the railway crossing
Honduras was neutralised and placed under British protection in 185663; Honduras itself would be
neutralised in 1907.64 Ultimately, and despite the protests and stalling tactics of the British
government, the newly dug Suez Canal (1869) was neutralised for all traffic in 1888, but only after
Britain had occupied Egypt (1882) and could exercise greater control over the waterway.65 Like the
Suez before it, the proposed Panama Canal was also declared to forever be open and free to all
maritime traffic in 1901.66 These acts of neutralisation resonated with the terms of the Treaty of Paris
(1856) that stipulated the free navigation of the mouths of the Danube River.67
In 1863, the Ionian Islands , off the coast of Greece , were also permanently neutralised by great-
power decree. This followed a series of serious international events affecting the region that pitted
the much-maligned Ottoman Empire against its European rivals, particularly Austria and Russia . In
1815, at the Congress of Vienna , the Ionian Islands were deemed too strategically significant to be
left to fend for themselves. The great powers subsequently recognised the islands independence and
placed their security under British protection. They chose Britain because of its supposedly more
disinterested position in the region and its ability to send naval support to the islands if they came
under attack. During the wars for Greek independence in the 1820s, which saw liberals and
revolutionaries around the continent flock to the Greek cause,68 Britain played a significant role in
sustaining the islands neutrality. 69 When Greece became an independent state with its own monarch
in the 1860s, the risks posed by the incorporation of the Ionian Islands into the Greek state caused
another series of anxious communications among the great powers. Austria, Russia and the Ottoman
Empire feared that Greece would not be able to protect its territorial waters , which led to the all-
important Dardanelles Straits , and sought guarantees of the islands ongoing neutrality.70 In the end,
the islands were declared perpetually neutral and the Greeks agreed to uphold that neutrality.71 The
agreements over these islands from the 1820s through the 1860s clearly make Ren Albrecht-Carri
s point about how willing the great powers were to avoid complications and certainly war in the
region.72 They also highlight what George Canning , Britains Foreign Minister, explained to the
parliament of Greek Deputies in 1825: that the peace of the world rests upon general treaties
between the powers of Europe of which the primary and pervading stipulation is that no one of the
powers, parties to them, shall aggrandise himself at the expense of the others.73 Hence, Ionian
independence, and thus Ionian neutrality, was an essential part of the success story of the Concert of
Europe. It stabilised what was, in all other respects, a highly volatile and contentious region.
Another story of remarkable achievement was the creation of an independent and permanently
neutralised Belgium. Due to its ignoble end in 1914, the history of Belgian neutrality is often read in
terms of failure. M. S. Anderson , however, calls the creation of Belgium in the 1830s a triumph of
the concert ideal ,74 and Schroeder hails it as an astonishing success.75 Both echo Albrecht-Carri
s earlier assertion that the Treaty of London (1831) was a good example of the precise meaning and
capabilities of the Concert: once an equilibrium of forces and interests had been established the
preference for peace prevailed.76 The Belgian revolt occurred in the immediate aftermath of a
revolution in France , revolutionary uprisings in Poland and rising unrest in Italy, all events that might
provoke an end to European co-operation. Despite the context, the great powers nevertheless met in
London in 1830 to negotiate a collective response to the Belgian crisis.77 Rather than support the
Dutch monarch in his military campaign against the Belgian rebels which Willem I , at least,
expected from the other monarchies78 the great powers recognised that an independent Belgium,
with its own king and guarantees of independence and neutrality, might better stabilise this part of
Europe. If the Belgian region could not remain part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, as had been
the intention of the Congress of Vienna , it was preferable to stabilise it by other means.
In the 1830s, the neutralisation of Belgium was contentious. Many even deemed it unnatural. A
century later, William E. Lingelbach would exclaim that

a neutral Belgium is a logical political response to the physical and economic geography of the
country, for the very reason that its strategic location and topography have marked it as the
natural arena for the wars of north-western Europe. It lies at the crossroads of two of Europes
most important international highways, the route between England and the Rhine Valley on the
one hand, and that connecting Paris with northern Europe on the other. Belgium is the center of
the most populous, the most intensely industrialized, and the richest region of the Western
World.As a consequence, the Belgian section of the Low Countries has been the scene of
continual struggle.Again and again powerful neighbours have sought to annex it.79

At the time it occurred, however, neutralisation was hotly debated. A Belgian parliamentarian called
neutrality a vain word, a convention useless in peace, derisory in the day of combat.80 A similar
sentiment permeated through political commentaries around the continent.81 Unsurprisingly, the
negotiations over what to do about Belgium were fraught and complicated, and none of the great
powers expected the London agreement to last.82 It took until 1839, after many years of war, for the
Dutch to accept the terms of the treaty.83 From this point on, however, the Netherlands adopted its
own form of long-term voluntary neutrality . In the process, it profited from the barrier a neutral
Belgium offered it in the region.84
Nevertheless, the fact that Belgium survived unharmed until 1914 is a signal of the inherent respect
that the great powers had for international agreements and of the active support they showed for
Belgian independence.85 Great Britain was particularly active in this respect. Like it did for
Switzerland , Britain devoted a considerable amount of time and energy to promoting and defending
the rights of Belgium as a neutral state. This was particularly at issue during the crises over Egypt
(183941), when France threatened Belgium86; during the debates about whether Belgium could join
in a customs union with France in the 1840s87; and during the Crimean and Franco-Prussian Wars .88
Belgians also grew to appreciate the value of their neutrality, as witnessed by the countrys resilience
to revolutionary forces in 1848 and its collective response to the perceived threat of a French
invasion after Louis Napoleon s coup dtat in 1851.89 Significantly, in 1852, Prussia , Russia ,
Austria and Britain met and signed the Four Power Plan to protect Belgium against possible French
aggression. At the time, the Prussians, Russians and Austrians sought similar protection for
Switzerland , Sardinia (including the Savoy ) and the smaller Rhine states. Britain, with an eye to
avoiding a general European war as well as toning down the reactionary responses of the European
monarchies, only agreed to protect Belgium.90 In the end, Napoleon III was true to his word and did
not attempt to expand into Belgium, Sardinia, the Rhineland or Switzerland, at least not until the
Crimean War brought him closer to Britain.91
Historians who explain the demise of European affairs and the origins of the First World War are
right to focus on the volatility of Belgium. As any cursory look at European affairs from the 1860s on
shows, the question of what to do about Belgium increasingly divided the great powers . Time and
time again, the country was courted, supported and undermined to advance the interests of Britain ,
France or Prussia/Germany. Maintaining its neutrality was certainly not easy and required the
vigilance of all three. As a result, like Switzerland, Belgium hosted legations of all of the great
powers.92 Brussels became a central hub for international diplomacy, information gathering and
negotiation. It was a key cog in international diplomacy throughout the long nineteenth century.
Furthermore, the willingness, or rather lack of willingness, of the Germans, Russians, French and
British to sustain the independent existence of Belgium from 1900 on should also be seen as an
important feature of the period. As Schroeder explains, Belgium was perceived as the cockpit of
Europe,93 capable of bringing war to all , which explains why its neutralisation was such a significant
achievement and why its neglect in the early twentieth century made war among the great powers
more likely. This also explains why we can turn on its head the notion that there was anything weak or
nave about Belgian neutrality before 1914. Rather, it was a central element upholding the fabric of
the international system.
Perhaps the greatest nineteenth-century threat to the stability of north-western Europe and the
security of Belgium occurred during the Luxembourg crisis of 1866 and 1867. Since 1815,
Luxembourg had existed as an independent duchy that formed part of the German Confederation but
was ruled by the Dutch monarch. After the Netherlands finally acknowledged Belgiums
independence in 1839, the great powers guaranteed Luxembourg s independent existence without
requiring its neutrality. 94 However, within the context of the collapse of the German Confederation
and aggressive Franco-Prussian posturing in the 1860s, Luxembourgs existence was at stake. At one
stage, the French sought to purchase Luxembourg from Willem III , which would have removed the
duchy from Prussia s sphere of influence, something Willem III was also keen to achieve.95 When the
Prussians refused to approve the Franco-Dutch terms of transfer, the French requested the removal of
Prussian troops and influence from Luxembourg. An outburst of national sentiment in Prussia kept
Bismarck from severing the North German Confederations ties with the tiny principality.96 At this
stage, Belgium offered to include the duchy within its national borders, a solution the Dutch (and
others) strongly opposed.97 There is no doubt that these tensions threatened general war so much so
that Queen Victoria pushed her ministers to action to protect Belgium against French or Prussian
aggression:

England MUST show the World thatshe is determined to fulfil her obligations, and (even
singlehanded if need be) to defend the Independence of Belgium with the whole strength of the
British Empire.98

In the end, however, neither Bismarck nor Napoleon III wanted to go to war over Luxembourg and so,
quoting Daniel Thomass exhaustive study, eventually the Concert of Europe ideal prevailed and the
powers met in London in 1867 to neutralise the duchy.99 Where Luxembourgs neutralisation differed
substantially from that of Belgium , however, was that its guarantee of independence was watered
down: the great powers only had to act in concert to defend the duchy, where Belgiums
independence was guaranteed by them individually. In other words, the neutrality of Luxembourg only
held as long as all the guarantor powers agreed to uphold it. In Belgiums case, any breach of
neutrality required the active involvement of each guarantor. In Luxembourgs case, Willem III was
also required to dismantle its fortifications and guarantee that he would keep the territory
demilitarised.100 It is Luxembourgs demilitarisation that made the duchys position so very difficult
during the Franco-Prussian War , as Chapter 4 will show.
Importantly, there were numerous other international events that saw the neutralisation of a region
or territory posited as a useful solution for international problems. During the Egyptian crises in the
late 1830s and early 1840s, for example, a French pamphlet advocated for the creation of a
permanently neutral state in Egypt, along the lines of Belgium, to reduce the growing tension between
the competing British and French interests there.101 As another example, during the Crimean War ,
Britain openly flirted with the idea of neutralising the Danubian provinces , which were temporarily
freed from Ottoman rule but remained perilously situated between the might of Russia , Austria and
the Ottomans. In 1855, Benjamin Disraeli extolled the virtues of neutralisation because it had
achieved so much for Switzerland and Belgium and the peace of Europe. In response, Prime Minister
Lord Palmerston exclaimed in a subsequently much-quoted speech:

I am not disposed to attach very much importance to such arrangements [as guaranteed
neutrality], for the history of the world shows that when a quarrel arises, and a nation makes
war, and thinks it advantageous to traverse with its army such neutral territory, the declarations
of neutrality are not apt to be very religiously respected.102

Palmerston, of course, was quite right to be wary of situations in which guarantors of neutrality would
be less committed to protecting the security of a neutralised region. He also recognised the folly of
Britain entering the very strained fray between the Ottoman, Russian and Hapsburg Empires with a
long-term commitment to the permanent neutrality of one of the Balkan states. Merely throwing
neutrality at the region would not be enough. Any guarantee of neutrality by the great powers in the
Balkans would require a commitment to protect it and thus could quickly accelerate war between
them all. In the end, even though none of the Danubian principalities were formally neutralised at the
conclusion of the Crimean War , the region was nevertheless stabilised by great-power guarantees.
Serbia was neutralised in all but name at the Treaty of Paris (1856) in terms of its freedom of action
in international affairs . It took the Treaty of Berlin (1878) to liberate Serbia from these restrictions,
only for similar limitations on diplomatic and military action to be imposed on the Lower Danube and
Bulgaria .103
The formal neutralisation of all manner of states and territories could help to avoid and limit the
spread of war if the signatories accepted its terms and were in a position to actively defend the
agreements if necessary. For example, in 1849, as a means of halting the hostilities between Prussia
and Denmark over the contested province of Schleswig , a neutral peacekeeping force of 2,000
Swedish soldiers agreed to garrison Schleswig to protect it against attack from the Danes or
Prussians. Until the AustrianPrussian conflicts over Schleswig-Holstein in the 1860s, the province
was ruled by three commissioners, a Dane, a Prussian and a neutral agent appointed by Britain s
Queen Victoria .104 Significantly, the great powers also used neutrality and neutralisation as a means
of avoiding war in their pursuit of empire . Hence, the Berlin Conference of 1885 saw the great
powers agree to the neutralisation of the Congo Basin. They also established the right of freedom of
commerce there.105 The Congo neutrality agreement stated that whichever European country
controlled the region would have to maintain a strict neutrality there, even if it were at war in Europe.
Once Belgium annexed the Congo in 1908, it attempted to persuade the French , British and Germans
to neutralise their central African holdings as well.106 On a different note entirely was the promotion
of neutrality by the European powers to protect their trading interests in China during the Taiping
Rebellion (185064). At the height of the conflict, the British even sent a steam sloop, HM Hermes ,
up the Yangtsze River to explain to the locals that the Europeans would not take sides in the conflict
and were there only to protect their citizens and trading interests.107
An equally intriguing case of the use of neutralisation occurred in the vast Pacific Ocean in the
zone formed by the island territories of Tonga , Samoa and Niu . In 1886, the British and Germans
agreed to view this zone as a neutral region in which neither power would seek to aggravate the
interests of the other. 108 This came after many years of rivalry, gunboat diplomacy and open hostility
between them and the United States over who controlled the Kingdom of Samoa. In Samoa, however,
avoiding war and keeping to the terms of the 1886 treaty were not easily achieved. In 1887, rival
local factions vying for control of the Samoan monarchy re-ignited the civil war that had been
brewing on and off for ten years. Each faction sought the protection and support of the imperial
powers. By agreement of the European powers, the port town of Apia was declared neutral and the
Neutral Territory and Municipal Board was set up to protect its residents and the international ships
that used it as a port of call. Effectively, the Board formed a constabulary to disarm anyone found in
town carrying weapons. Nevertheless, much as they had done before 1886, the Germans became
heavily involved on the side of one of the warring factions, supplied it with weapons and ammunition
and fired on villages and boats, killing and wounding locals and European residents alike. After
Germany occupied Apia, deposed the reigning king, crowned his replacement, dismantled the Neutral
Territory and Municipal Board and continued to lay siege to rival villages, the British government
declared its neutrality in December of 1887, while the Americans sent a gunboat to Samoa. Bismarck
further proclaimed that Germany would respect the rights of neutral traders in Samoa but expected the
other powers to keep out of German affairs. In the end, neither Britain nor the United States was
willing to allow for the unilateral takeover of the Samoan Islands by the Germans. They met in Berlin
in 1889 and established Samoa as a politically independent and perpetually neutral kingdom under
mutual protection of the three guaranteeing powers.109 This enforced neutrality lasted until 1899,
when Samoa was split into two countries, one ruled by the Germans and the other by the Americans.
The British received dominion over the neighbouring island group of Tonga in return for relinquishing
their claims on Samoa .110
Significantly, the neutralisation of disputed imperial zones was a common strategy applied by the
European powers throughout Africa and Asia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as
well. The Times , for example, reported on such neutral zones at various junctures, including in
1899 when the French became agitated when Siamese troops entered the neutralised Banborden
region and Britain and Germany discussed the status of the neutral zone in west and south-west
Africa.111 Furthermore, in 1907, as part of their Entente Cordiale discussions, the British and
Russians neutralised central Persia in order to remove a potential source of friction between them.112
The Korean Emperor Kojong , on the other hand, actively advocated for the permanent neutralisation
of his embattled country from 1885 on. He repeatedly sent emissaries to Europe to advocate for
Koreas independence in the face of Japanese and Russian rivalry over the territory. He hoped it
could be neutralised like Belgium was in Europe. That way, Korea would not only be protected from
invasion but also become a legitimate nation-state within the international political system.113
It is clear that the neutralisation of states and areas often came with challenges and problems, both
for the great powers and the countries or territories affected by such acts. Neutralisation always had
positive and negative effects. Yet, the readiness with which neutralisation was adopted and promoted
is also a signal of the changes and challenges that existed within the balance of power and reflects the
respect many European leaders had for maintaining the status quo. As such, neutralisation was both a
tool of power and diplomacy and a means of avoiding war more generally. 114 When considered
together, the arguments presented here are not about absolutes but rather about systemic nuances and
the accommodation of change as it happened. They share many of the implications that are present in
Schroeders work on the South German states.115 Like Schroeders lost intermediaries, the
neutralisation of small-and medium-sized countries in Europe gave them an important role in
buffering and mediating between the rivalries of the great powers.116 It is then highly relevant that
France sought the neutralisation of the Rhenish states in 1864 as a means of keeping the potential
unification of Germany from threatening the European power dynamic and Frances specific security
interests.117 It is even more relevant to consider German historian Georg Gottfried Gervinus s
exclamation in 1871 that the entire German Confederation was established in 1815 for the very
purpose of forming in the centre of Europe a neutral state which would by its federal organization
guarantee peace.118 Obviously, that guarantee of peace was undermined by the Prussian-led
unification of most of those states as part of the Franco-Prussian War .
Furthermore, the respect awarded to permanently neutral countries like Switzerland and Belgium
by the great powers helps to explain why there were so many voluntary long-term neutrals, such as the
Netherlands , Denmark and Sweden . These countries opted for neutrality not for eighteenth-century-
style arguments relating to economic wealth although the economic potential of neutrality was not
insignificant but more to protect themselves in a world ruled by those more powerful than
themselves. They also recognised that they might play a useful role in the international system, even
if, as C. M. Tamse so ably explains, they understood their second-tier status all too well.119
That neutrality and neutralisation were deemed effective and important for smaller states is most
evident from the discussions held in Scandinavia from the late nineteenth century on about obtaining
great-power agreement to neutralise Denmark, Sweden and Norway (after its secession in 1905).120
Similar debates also occurred in the Netherlands, especially after a prominent Dutch politician railed
against the North Sea Convention in 1908 in favour of an agreement to neutralise the country.121 In the
Dutch debates, the question of whether the great powers would respect the permanent neutrality of the
Netherlands played only a marginal role. The emphasis seemed to be more on whether the country
would lose its sovereign independence, a capitis deminutio (loss of status) as the Minister of
Foreign Affairs, W. H. de Beaufort , claimed in 1907.122 At least one advocate of permanent
neutrality held that neutralising the Netherlands would not only help the great-power system by
stabilising the strategic situation in north-west Europe but also offer the Dutch an opportunity to look
less to defence and security threats and more to prosperity at home and within their empire .123
Furthermore, because the country was the seat of key international institutions, including the
Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), and had hosted the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and
1907, it could offer essential services to further international stability, law and governance. 124 From
this perspective, neutrality would promote the Netherlands importance in the world and allow it to
retain its valuable position in the international system .
Of all the great powers, Great Britain had the most to gain from sustaining the Concert of Europe
and the neutrality of European small states . It is unsurprising, then, to see Britain actively involved in
helping the permanent neutrals sustain their position in the world. However, Britain also supported
the voluntary neutrals. The history of Dutch foreign policy through the long nineteenth century is
usually written in terms of Britains implicit support for its independence and involvement in the
maintenance of the Dutch empire.125 Britain similarly sustained the sovereignty of Sweden and
Denmark . During the Crimean War , for example, the British Foreign Office informed its diplomat in
Stockholm that he could tell the Swedish government that it may rely upon our firm determination to
respect the neutrality of Sweden, and to aid her in maintaining it. They may feel equally certain of the
moral support of England in the event of any embarrassment arising between Sweden and [Britains
enemy] Russia .126 In so many ways, as the next chapter will also show, Britain and neutrality were
intimately entwined.

1 What Andreas Osiander refers to as a system-wide consensus and system-consciousness ( The


states system of Europe 16401990. Peacemaking and the conditions of international stability.
Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1994, pp. 173, 186).

2 P. W. Schroeder, The transformation of European politics 17631848. Oxford, Clarendon Press,


1994, particularly from p. 477. Also: P. W. Schroeder, International politics, peace, and war, 1815
1914 in T. C. W. Blanning, ed., The nineteenth century. Europe 17891914. Oxford University
Press, 2000, pp. 158209.

3 M. Lyons, Post-revolutionary Europe 18151856. Houndsmills, Palgrave MacMillan, 2006, esp.


pp. 121. Schroeder, Transformation, pp. 57980, 58693.

4 Fyodor de Martens as cited by Tswettcoff, Situation, p. 9.


5 Schroeder, Transformation, pp. 57982.

6 For a short history of the term: C. Holbraad, The Concert of Europe. A study in German and
British international theory. London, Longman, 1970, pp. 36; H. Duchhardt, Concert of Europe in
Publikationsportal Europische Friedensvertrge, hrsg. vom Institut fr Europische Geschichte.
Mainz, 2009. Available at www.ieg-mainz.de/publikationsportal/duchhardt07200901/index.html
(last accessed 2013).

7 Schroeder, Transformation, p. 578. For a useful discussion of Schroeders terminology: T. C. W.


Blanning, Paul W. Schroeders Concert of Europe, International History Review 16, 4, November
1994, pp. 70114.

8 M. S. Anderson talks of the Congress idea blunting the ambition of states until the outbreak of the
Crimean War (The ascendancy of Europe 18151914. Third edition. London, Longman, 2003, p. 14).

9 C. Depius, Le principe dquilibre et le concert europen de la paix Westphalie la


dAlgeciras. 1909. As quoted by R. Albrecht-Carri, The Concert of Europe 18151914. New York,
Harper and Row, 1968, p. 21.

10 H. Bull, Order vs. justice in international society, Political Studies. 19, 3, September 1971, pp.
26983.

11 With thanks to Chris Barber.

12 Cf [The Concert of Europe] was more than a practice which developed into an institution. It was
also an idea (Holbraad, Concert, p. 3); F. H. Hinsley, Power and the pursuit of peace. Theory and
practice in the history of relations between states. Cambridge University Press, 1963, pp. 21314.

13 For example, C. J. Bartlett argues that the Congress system was only an intermittent feature of
European diplomacy [from 1822] until 1913 (Peace, war and the European powers, 18141914.
New York, St Martins Press, 1996, p. 15) and holds that after the Crimean War, the Concert of
Europe was largely irrelevant (p. 71), although he also suggests that none of the great powers wanted
to go to war with more than one of the others (p. 72).

14 Anderson, Ascendancy, p. 5.
15 F. R. Bridge, R. Bullen, The great powers and the European state system 18141914. Second
edition. Harlow, Pearson, 2005, p. 4.

16 Schroeder, International politics. Cf Hinsley, Power, pp. 23871.

17 R. R. Menning, The art of the possible. Documents on great power diplomacy 18141914. New
York, McGraw-Hill Companies, 1996, p. 141.

18 Menning, Art, p. 2.

19 As reported in the Economist 279, 30 December 1848, p. 1476.

20 Both quoted in the Economist 377, 16 November 1850, p. 1271, and 30 November 1850, p. 1322.

21 Illustrated London News, 22 October 1853, p. 354.

22 As translated by and quoted in the Illustrated London News, 14 May 1859, p. 463.

23 M. Glenny, The Balkans 18041999. Nationalism, war and the great powers. London, Penguin,
2000, p. 136.

24 J. Ponce, Spanish neutrality during the First World War in J. den Hertog, S. Kruizinga, eds,
Caught in the middle. Neutrals, neutrality and the First World War. Amsterdam University Press,
2011, pp. 5365.

25 M. W. Graham, Neutralization as a movement in international law, The American Journal of


International Law 21, 1, January 1923, p. 90; D. H. Thomas, The guarantee of Belgian
independence and neutrality in European diplomacy, 1830s1930s. Kingston, RI, D. H. Thomas
Publishing, 1983, p. 47.

26 Cf M. Schultz, Did norms matter in nineteenth-century international relations? Progress and


decline in the culture of peace before World War I in H. Afflerbach, D. Stevenson, eds., An
improbable war. The outbreak of World War I and European political culture before 1914 .
Providence, RI, Berghahn Books, 2007, p. 47.
27 Verzijl, International law, pp. 234.

28 Graham, Neutralization, pp. 812 (the quote is on p. 82). On Lige, also: Thomas,Belgian
independence, p. 9.

29 Graham, Neutralization, p. 82.

30 Turkey no. 16 (1878). Treaties and other documents relating to the Black Sea, the Dardanelles,
and the Bospharus 15351877, House of Commons Parliamentary Papers 1878 (C.1953)
LXXXIII.151 [to be cited asHCPP]. W. E. Mosse, The end of the Crimean system. England, Russia
and the neutrality of the Black Sea, 18701, Historical Journal 4, 2, 1961, p. 164; Hinsley, Power,
pp. 22931.

31 Hinsley, Power, p. 231.

32 Perrin, Neutralit permanente, p. 15.

33 Dame, Continuity, p. 97; Schroeder, Transformation, p. 571.

34 C. Webster, The Congress of Vienna. London, Thames and Hudson, 1963, p. 153.

35 Chevalier Bunsen, Prussian Minister in London, to Viscount Palmerston, British Foreign Minister,
28 November 1847, in Correspondence relative to the affairs of Switzerland, HCPP 184748
LXV.353.

36 A. G. Imlah, Britain and Switzerland 184560. London, Longmans, 1966, p. 32.

37 Imlah, Britain and Switzerland, p. 55. Also: H. K. Meier, The United States and Switzerland in
the nineteenth century. The Hague, Mouton & Co., 1963, pp. 4957; F. R. Bridge, The Habsburg
monarchy among the great powers 18151918. New York, Berg, 1990, pp. 645.

38 The British Foreign Office archives contain a 329-page dossier on these events: PRUSSIA &
SWITZERLAND: Papers. Affairs of Neuchtel. Part 1. 1856. Reference FO881/598, Nationa
Archives, Kew, London [to be cited as PROFO881/598].
39 Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Earl of Clarendon, to British Minister to Prussia, Lord
Bloomfield, 31 December 1856 in PROFO881/598.

40 Imlah, Britain and Switzerland, p. 148.

41 Mr Gordon to the Earl of Clarendon, 3 October 1856, in PROFO881/598.

42 Dame, Continuity, p. 143.

43 For more on the neutrality of the Savoy and the 1859 crisis: A. B. Bozeman, Regional conflicts
around Geneva. An inquiry into the origin, nature, and implications of the neutralized zone of
Savoy and the customs-free zones of Gex and Upper Savoy. Stanford University Press, 1949, pp.
177226.

44 Economist 7 April 1860, p. 362.

45 E. Hertslet, Memorandum on the guarantee of the neutrality of Chablais, Faucigny, and part of
Savoy, 22 March 1878, in PRO FRANCE & ITALY & SWITZERLAND. Reference FO881/3557.

46 Part IV. Correspondence relating to the affairs of Italy, Savoy & Switzerland, HCPP 1860
LXVII.251.

47 E. Hertslet, Memorandum on the guarantee of the neutrality of Chablais, Faucigny, and part of
Savoy, 22 March 1878, in PROFO881/3557. Also: Bozeman,Regional conflicts, pp. 22633;
Mittler, Der Weg, pp. 1438.

48 Imlah, Britain and Switzerland, p. 179.

49 Imlah, Britain and Switzerland, p. 179.

50 For more on the zinc mine: A. Maugendre, Societ anonyme de Mines et Fonderies de Zinc de la
Vieille Montagne. N.p., 18501; L. Malvoz, Het neutral gebied van Moresnet (18161919).
Gemeindekredit, 1991, p. 69.
51 W. Meulenkamp, Het vierde land. Neutraal-Moresnet, vondeling van Europa Maatstaf.
Maandblad voor Letteren 2, 1986, p. 67.

52 Meulenkamp, Neutraal-Moresnet, pp. 689; Malvoz, Moresnet, pp. 701.

53 Verzijl, International law, p. 19, Malvoz, Moresnet, pp. 758.

54 Malvoz, Moresnet, p. 84; M. Leichsenring, Neutral-Moresnet, seine Entstehung und


vlkerrechtliche Natur. Leipzig, Robert Noske, 1911.

55 The Times, 25 August 1903, p. 4, 28 August 1903, p. 3, 1 April 1904, p. 7, 4 January 1908, p. 5
(with thanks to Annalise Higgins).

56 Meulenkamp, Neutraal-Moresnet, pp. 713; P. Germain, Rigardo al Neutrala Moresnet. Blick


auf Neutral-Moresnet, 18161919. Oostende, n.p., 1990.

57 Meulenkamp, Neutraal-Moresnet, p. 73.

58 H. Wheaton, Elements of international law. Third edition. Philadelphia, PA, Lea and Blanchard,
1846, pp. 45960. For the text of the final act of the Congress of Vienna that neutralised Cracow in
1815: Menning, Art, p. 22.

59 Bartlett, Peace, p. 43; C. Seignobos, A political history of contemporary Europe since 1814.
London, William Heineman, 1901.

60 PRO GENERAL: Memo. Demolition of Fortifications of Huningen, Military Maritime Arsenal


in Black Sea, Neutrality of Switzerland, Cracow, and Belgium, April 24, 1867. Reference
FO881/1517.

61 For these and other examples: Verzijl, International law, pp. 1926.

62 United States No. 1 (1900) Convention between H.M. and the United States of America
supplementary to the establishment of a communication by ship-canal between the Atlantic and
Pacific Ocean. Washington February 5 1900, HCPP 1900 CV.901; Economist 24 August 1850, p.
938.
63 Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 44.

64 Neff, Rights and duties, p. 101.

65 HCPP 1877(C1766) LXXXVIII.393, 1888 CX.1, 1889 LXXXVII.801; Menning,


Art, pp. 117,
207; Wassenaer, Nederlands plichten, p. 9.

66 Article 5, ClaytonBulwer Treaty, 19 April 1850 in The Avalon Project. Documents in law,
history and diplomacy. avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/br1850.asp.

67 S. I. Kaplan, Great Britain and the first Hague conference. An episode in internationalism. PhD,
City University of New York, 1973, p. 10.

68 R. Hamilton, The European wars 18151914 in R. F. Hamilton, H. H. Herwig, eds, The origins
of World War I. Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 59; P. E. Lekas, The Greek war of
independence from the perspective of historical sociology, Historical Review 2, 2005, pp. 1614; E.
Glasgow, Anglo-Greek relations 18001832, Contemporary Review 216, 1251, April 1970, p.
186.

69 For more: T. Maitland, Substance of Sir Thom. Maitlands address to the legislative assembly
on the Ionian Islands. London, 1822; Note from the Earl of Aberdeen to the Prince of Lieven, 30
September 1828 in B. Papers relative to the affairs of Greece. Protocols of conferences held at
Constantinople, HCPP 1830 XXXII.333. For the definitive work in English on Ionian neutrality: W.
D. Wrigley, The diplomatic significance of Ionian neutrality, 182131. London, Peter Lang, 1988;
W. D. Wrigley, The neutrality of Ionian shipping and its enforcement during the Greek revolution
(18211831), Mariners Mirror 73, 3, August 1987, pp. 34560.

70 E. Hertslet, Memorandum on the perpetual neutrality of the Ionian Islands, 17 July 1880, in PRO
GREECE: Memo. Reference FO881/4267.

71 Act containing the accession of the Sultan to the treaty concluded 29 March 1864 for the union of
the Ionian Islands to the kingdom of Greece; and the acceptance of that accession, HCPP 1865
LVII.531. Also: Q. Wright, The neutralization of Corfu, American Journal of International Law 18,
1, January 1924, pp. 1045.

72 Albrecht-Carri, Concert, p. 12
73 Report of meeting between the Greek Deputies and George Canning, 29 September 1825 in PRO
Stratford Canning Papers. CORRESPONDENCE AND PAPERS. 2nd Mission to Turkey
Reference FO352/11/3.

74 Anderson, Ascendancy, p. 14.

75 Schroeder, Transformation, p. 564.

76 Albrecht-Carri, Concert, pp. 1112 (my italics). Also: M. Rendall, A qualified success for
collective security. The Concert of Europe and the Belgian crisis, 1831, Diplomacy and Statecraft
18, 2007, pp. 27195.

77 Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 1516; Schroeder, Transformation, pp. 5634, 678; R.
Coolsaet, Belgi en zijn buitenlandse politiek 18302000. Revised edition. Leuven, Uitgeverij van
Halewyck, 2001, pp. 2747; J. S. Fishman, Diplomacy and revolutions. The London Conference of
1830 and the Belgian revolt. Amsterdam, Chev, 1988.

78 Kamerstuk tweede kamer 18311832 VI, 5. Available at www.statengeneraaldigitaal.nl.

79 W. E. Lingelbach, Neutrality versus alliances. Belgium and the revolution in international


politics, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 79, 4, 1938, p. 610.

80 Eugge Defacqz of Ath in Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 39.

81 E. Banning, Les origins & les phases de la neutralit belge. Brussels, Librairie Albert DeWit,
1927, pp. 4750. Cf La neutralite belge et les crises europennes. Paris, E. Dentu, 1859.

82 For the definitive account of the negotiations and their aftermath: Thomas, Belgian independence.
Also: W. E. Lingelbach, Belgian neutrality. Its origins and interpretation, American Historical
Review 39, 1, October 1933, pp. 4872; Lingelbach, Neutrality versus alliances.

83 Menning, Art, p. 42.

84 R. van Diepen, Voor volkenbond en vrede. Nederland en het streven naar een nieuwe
wereldorde, 19191946. Amsterdam, Bert Bakker, 1999, p. 31; N. van Sas, Between the devil and
the deep blue sea. The logic of neutrality in B. Moore, H. van Nierop, eds., Colonial empires
compared. Britain and the Netherlands, 17501850. Papers delivered to the fourteenth Anglo-
Dutch historical conference, 2000. Aldershot, Ashgate, 2003, p. 44; Tamse, Nederland en Belgi, p.
104.

85 Lingelbach, Neutrality versus alliances; Lingelbach, Belgian neutrality. Cf Thomas,Belgian


independence.

86 Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 7181; Coolsaet, Belgi, pp. 746.

87 Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 8295; Banning, Les origins, pp. 6779; Coolsaet, Belgi,
pp. 734, 7781.

88 For an excellent overview of Belgian foreign policy and international crises: Coolsaet, Belgi.

89 Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 95120. For more on Belgium and 1848: A. de Ridder, ed.,
La crise de la neutralit belge de 1848. Le dossier diplomatique. Brussels, Librairie Kiessling,
1928; Coolsaet, Belgi, pp. 8991.

90 Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 11418.

91 Lingelbach, Belgian neutrality, pp. 637.

92 Alexander I of Russia took until 1852 to establish full diplomatic relations with Belgium, in
protest of Belgium recruiting Polish officers to support its wars against the Dutch in the 1830s
(Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 59).

93 Schroeder, Transformation, p. 564.

94 M. Juno, Die Neutralitt des Grossherzogtums Luxemburg. Luxembourg, Joseph Beffort, 1951,
p. 25.

95 B. P. Hoppenbrouwer, De Nederlandse mobilisatie van 1870 in W. Klinkert, J. W. M. Schulten,


L. de Vos , eds, Mobilisatie in Nederland en Belgi, 187019141939. Amsterdam, De Bataafsche
Leeuw, 1991, p. 9.
96 Menning, Art, pp. 1623; Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 189209; A. Vandenbosch, Dutch
foreign policy since 1815. A study in small power politics. The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1959, pp.
609.

97 For Belgian advocates for this plan: A. Foucher de Careil, Le Luxembourg la Belgique. Paris,
E. Dentu, 1867, and Neutralisation du Grande-Duch de Luxembourg. Solution Belge, 1867, both in
Charles Rogier (17941911) inventory number I 124, 468, Algemeen Rijksarchief/Archives de
ltat en Belgique, Brussels [to be cited as ARAB]; Coolsaet,Belgi, pp. 1256; H. Lademacher,
Die belgische Neutralitt als Problem der europischen Politik 18301914. Bonn, Ludwig
Rhrscheid Verlag, 1971, pp. 21321.

98 Queen Victoria to Prime Minister, Lord Derby, 19 April 1866, as quoted in Thomas, Belgian
independence, p. 194 (emphases in the original). For a British perspective on the Luxembourg
situation in 18667: E. Hertslet, Memorandum respecting supposed negotiations between Prussia
and France for acquisition of territory, 26 July 1870, in PRO FRANCE: Memo. Reference
FO881/1781.

99 Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 198.

100Luxembourg. Treaty relative to the grand duchy of Luxembourg, HCPP 1867 LXXIV.415;
Memorandum regarding the neutralization of territory, 1867, in PROFO881/1517.

101 M. de Flassan, Solution de la question dOrient, et neutralit perptuelle de lgypte. Paris,


Chez Dentu et Ledoyen, 1840.

102 Lord Palmerston, 1855, as quoted in Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 135; also in Lingelbach,
Belgian neutrality, p. 67.

103 Graham, Neutralization, p. 83.

104 Economist 308, 21 July 1849, p. 804.

105 J. B. Scott, The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907. A series of lectures delivered
before the Johns Hopkins University in the year 1908. Volume 1 Conferences. Baltimore, MD,
Johns Hopkins Press, 1909, p. 24.
106 J. E. Helmreich, The end of Congo neutrality, Historian 28, 4, August 1966, pp. 61011; M.
Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer of nations. The rise and fall of international law 18701960.
Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 1217; Coolsaet, Belgi, pp. 1478.

107 Sir George Bonham to Commander Fishbourne, 11 April 1853, in Papers respecting the civil
war in China, HCPP 18523 LXIX.647.

108 Declaration between the Governments of Great Britain and the German Empire relating to the
demarcation of the British and German spheres of influence in the Western Pacific, Berlin, 6 April
1886, in Miscellaneous No. 2 (1898) Treaties containing guarantees or engagements by Great Britain
in regard to the territory or government of other countries, HCPP 1899 CIX.1.

109 Details of the Samoan civil war can be found in: Samoa No. 1 (1899). Correspondence
respecting the affairs of Samoa, 188589, HCPP 1889 LXXXVI.295. Also: P. M.Kennedy, The
Samoan tangle. A study in Anglo-German-American relations, 18781900. Dublin, Irish University
Press, 1974; R. P. Gilson, Samoa 18301900: the politics of a multicultural community.
Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1970. With grateful thanks to Hugh Laracy.

110 Menning, Art, p. 281.

111 The Times, 5 January 1899, pp. 3, 7; 6 January 1899, p. 5; 7 January 1899, p. 6; 14 January
1899, p. 7; 8 March 1899, p. 7; 24 March 1899, p. 5; 30 March 1899, p. 3.

112 K. Robbins, Britain and Europe 17892005. London, Hodder Arnold, 2005, p. 186; R. L.
Greaves, Some aspects of the Anglo-Russian convention and its working in Persia, 19071914,
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Sutides 31, 1, 1968, pp. 6991.

113 K. de Ceuster, Success and failure of the Korean delegation at the Second Hague Peace
Conference (in Korean), Hanguksa hakpo 30, 2008, pp. 31316. With grateful thanks to Michael
Moon for the reference and the translation.

114 Cf the opinion that the neutralisation of Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg reminds us that a
status of permanent neutrality was once a significant means of managing power in the international
system (C. E. Black, R. A. Falk, K. Knorr, O. R. Young, Neutralization and world politics.
Princeton University Press, 1968, p. v).

115 Schroeder, Lost intermediaries.


116 For Belgian and Dutch ideas on acting as a buffer between the great powers: Tamse, Nederland
en Belgi, p. 911.

117 Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 163.

118 Georg Gottfried Gervinus, 1871, as quote by W. N. Medlicott, Bismarck, Gladstone and the
concert of Europe. University of London the Athlone Press, 1956, p. 11.

119 C. A. Tamse, The role of small countries in the international politics of the 1860s. The
Netherlands and Belgium in Europe, Acta Neerlandicae 9, 1976, p. 145.

120 S. E. Cooper, Patriotic pacifism. Waging war on war in Europe 18151914. Oxford University
Press, 1991, p. 56. Finland also sought permanent neutralization in 1863 and 1885: J. Nevakivi,
Finnish neutrality in Nevakivi, ed., Neutrality in history, p. 33; P. Luntinen, Neutrality in northern
Europe before the First World War in Nevakivi, ed., Neutrality in history, p. 108.

121 H. van der Mandere, W. T. C. van Doorn, Pro en contra. Betreffende vraagstukken van
algemeen belang. Neutraliteit van Nederland. Baarn, Hollandia-Drukkerij, 1911; James John Porter,
Dutch neutrality in two world wars. PhD, Boston University, 1980, p. 79; C.Smit, Nederland en de
eerste wereldoorlog. Volume 1. Groningen, Wolters-Noordhoff, 1971, pp. 15372. Debate about the
neutralisation of the Netherlands already existed in the 1860s: Tamse, Nederland en Belgi, p. 106;
Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, 22 July 1866, p. 2.

122 Mandere, Pro en contra, p. 18.

123 Mandere, Pro en contra, pp. 117.

124 Mandere, Pro en contra, p. 16.

125 For examples: N. C. F. van Sas, The Dutch and the British umbrella, 18131870 in N.Ashton,
D. Hellema, eds, Unspoken allies. Anglo-Dutch relations since 1780. Amsterdam University Press,
2001, pp. 3342; J. J. C. Voorhoeve, Peace, profits and principles. A study of Dutch foreign policy.
The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1979, p. 48; Vandenbosch, Dutch foreign policy, pp. 2, 58; Hellema,
Neutraliteit, pp. 367, 46; J. A. de Moor, A very unpleasant relationship. Trade and strategy in the
Eastern seas. Anglo-Dutch relations in the nineteenth century from a colonial perspective in G. J. A.
Raven, N. A. M. Rodger, eds, Navies and armies. The Anglo-Dutch relationship in war and peace
16881988. Edinburgh, John Donald Publishers, 1990, p. 67.
126 British Foreign Office instructions, probably from the Earl of Clarendon, to Mr William Grey,
British representative in Stockholm, 4 January 1854, in PRO General Correspondence before 1906,
Sweden (later incorporating Norway). Mr. Grey and Mr. Magenis, Drafts. 1854. Reference
FO73/259.
3 The neutrals war: Britain and the global implications of the
Crimean War, 18531856

By the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, Britain was clearly the major global benefactor of
France s defeat. Over the following four decades, Britain s formal and informal hold over the rest
of the world only increased. Even taking into account the loss of the American colonies , Britain
remained the strongest, wealthiest and most important European imperial power for the next 100
years. For much of that time, it only felt genuinely threatened by the other major benefactor of the
Napoleonic Wars, Russia .1 As the nineteenth century progressed, British global dominance
deepened, due in part to the modernisation of Britain and the wider Anglo world,2 in part to its ability
to capitalise on its pre-existing supremacy in terms of global economic, financial, commercial and
imperial power and in part to its ongoing ability to control, to some extent at least, which people,
goods, ships, military might and ideas moved across the open seas .3 Importantly, scholars of British
imperialism stress that there was no co-ordinated policy that drove overseas expansion. British
imperialism was multi-faceted, largely unplanned and, in most cases, opportunistic.4 Some historians
even argue that liberal-thinking Britons eschewed the term empire for much of the Victorian era.5
But even without using the term or understanding the wider implications of their global connections,6
the British state and its citizens spread their influence, financial investments, goods, armies and
beings far and wide, and in such a way as to warrant Phillippa Levine s claim that we might
fruitfullysee the entire nineteenth century as one of imperial gain and aggrandisement.7
In their expansionism, Britons benefitted from the flexibility and security that Great Britains
powerful position in the international system offered them. Most of all, they benefitted from extended
periods of international peace. Keeping Europe from war , and especially staying out of the wars of
its European rivals, aided Britains multifarious imperial projects. Thus, the British Empire gained
from neutrality in two main ways: first, as shown in the previous chapter, because neutrality
supported the guiding principles of the Congress system and helped to keep Europe from war; and,
second, because Britain almost always adopted a policy of neutrality when war broke out between
other states. In fact, the only major war Britain involved itself in during the long nineteenth century
was the one it had a large hand in bringing about, namely, the Crimean War. This chapter investigates
the place that this major conflict had in solidifying Britains commitment to neutrality by highlighting
the challenges it posed to the countrys economic well-being and international position. It argues that
as belligerents, Britons came to realise the potential costs of war to their economic and imperial
strength and that the neutrals in the war, of which there were many (including the United States ,
Prussia and Austria ), gained from their neutrality whereas Britains own merchants, financiers,
subjects and citizenry did not.
The Crimean War witnessed an almost complete volte face in Britains traditional naval-warfare
strategies, namely, away from upholding protectionist belligerent rights at sea to allowing, if not quite
embracing, liberal neutral rights. As we saw in Chapter 1, we can explain why Britain remained such
a strong proponent of belligerent rights (and against neutral rights) until 1815 in terms of its oceanic
power, naval strength and commitment to mercantilism . However, in the period 181553, Britons
helped to forge a fundamental shift in international economics, away from the mercantilist and
protectionist principles that dominated the Enlightenment era to the free-trade market ideals of Adam
Smith , Francis Hutcheson , Jeremy Bentham , William Huskisson and Richard Cobden . By the start
of the Crimean War, Britain had an industrialising free-trade economy that profited from the countrys
place at the centre of a network of imperial and commercial connections that stretched across the
world. This massive shift in economic focus necessitated a re-adjustment of British priorities in terms
of the waging of military and naval conflict. As Anthony Howe expresses, in essence, the adoption of
free-trade liberalism by the 1850s required the state itself to recognize that trade, not military
prowess, was the basis of British greatness.8
By 1853, British merchants and settlers and the British state had profited from nearly forty years of
uninterrupted peace. Free trade, as the liberal ideologues of the time rarely tired of proclaiming,
thrived on peace. As such, Britain s active involvement in the Crimean War challenged the advances
and advantages gained by these four decades of unfettered access to the worlds seas and oceans.
Unsurprisingly, what to do about the neutrals and what to do about belligerent rights at sea,
particularly vis--vis neutral traders, were key considerations for the wartime cabinets of the Lords
Aberdeen and Palmerston. Vitally, they overturned many of the powers of belligerency that their
predecessors had jealously guarded during the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 in favour of
accepting more liberal interpretations of neutral rights. They did so as much to protect their own
traders, merchants and financiers from the adverse impact of the Crimean War as to acknowledge
that, in the future, Britons, and Britain s global interests more generally, would benefit more from
neutrality than belligerency.
In other words, the means by which Britain sought to protect its global power had changed
fundamentally by 1853, and this became glaringly obvious during the war itself. This conflict
witnessed a fundamental change in the way Britain waged war at sea and how it conducted itself
towards non-belligerents. Its global and imperial power had, of course, always been intimately tied
up with its ability to control the seas. In the mercantilist era , sustaining the empire was about
preventing competitors from accessing rival ports and markets, particularly in time of war. In the era
of free trade, which was firmly established with the Anti-Corn Laws in 1846 and the Navigation Acts
in 1849,9 opening up those seas to competition was deemed healthy and opportune, if only to
guarantee that there would be few impediments to continuing British dominance upon them. By 1856,
it was clear that neutrality might aid economic liberalism and Britains wider imperial projects. As
such, Daniel Headrick s claim that Britain was the nineteenth centurys only truly global
thalassocracy, a nation whose fleet and merchant marine were dominant on almost all the seas of the
world is key. 10 The Crimean War highlighted how Britain s global economic and imperial power
relied on continued access to the seas and the modes of communication and trade that crossed them.
Upholding a particular version of neutral rights offered a means of protecting that access and, with it,
Britain s imperial success. Neutrality helped to set the agenda for the Pax Britannica policies of the
post-1856 era, which relied heavily on Britains ability to avoid war with Europe and the United
States.
Even if the origins of the Crimean War cannot be explained by a formula,11 on the face of it, they
are relatively easy to understand: the military conflict evolved out of French and British desires to
keep Russia s influence in the Ottoman Empire at bay.12 As the doorstep to East Asia, keeping the
Ottoman Empire in Ottoman hands was essential to both French and British interests, the latter
seeking particularly to protect their access to India. In this sense, for the British, the Crimean War
was clearly about curbing Russian global power and protecting their own. The steps to war,
however, were complex. At one level, they developed out of a dispute between the French, the
Russians and the Ottoman sultan over the protection of Christian holy sites in the Ottoman Empire. As
Orlando Figes argues, we should not underestimate the power of religion in explaining the context of
the war.13 At another level, the war grew out of Russian interference in the fate of the two Danubian
principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia . These were part of the Ottoman Empire bordering the
Austrian Habsburg Empire, but their Christiansubjects were under the protection of the Russian tsar.
When Russia occupied these principalities in July 1853, to protest against the Ottoman sultans
acceptance of French protection guarantees for Jerusalem , the French, British, Prussians and
Austrians met in Vienna to negotiate a compromise.14 In the end, the sultan refused to accept the terms
of the compromise and declared war on Russia in October.15 When Russia did not vacate Moldavia
and Wallachia, Britain and France declared war on it in March 1854, becoming active allies of the
Ottomans. Sardinia (Piedmont) also joined the conflict in January 1855.16
From the start, the diplomatic negotiations surrounding the Russo-Ottoman conflict depended on
issues of restraint .17 While the British government understood the need to go to war with Russia in
the winter of 18534, and aimed to undermine Habsburg influence in Europe as well,18 it also wanted
to restrict the spread of this war. Keeping the conflict limited and out of Europe proper was a key
part of Britains diplomatic strategy, as it was for many of the other European powers.19 The Times
advocated for mediation by neutrals as late as December 1853, and in January 1854, explained to its
readers that the foreign history of the last twelve months records little beyond the unavailing efforts
of all the neutral Powers [including Britain] to avert this calamity [the pending declaration of war by
the Ottomans on Russia].20 Avoiding a Europe-wide war was also the primary motivation behind
bringing the neutral powers together in Vienna after the Ottoman declaration of war to discuss a
possible diplomatic solution.21
For the Prussians, the Russo-Ottoman war posed a dilemma. Their desire for neutrality was
pragmatic and opportunistic. Neutrality guaranteed trade with all of the belligerents, which was of
particular value to middle-class Prussians, who were making their fortunes in investing in their
countrys rising industrial and global economy. It also promised favourable political and economic
relations with Russia. Still, neutrality came with a price. As a relative newcomer to the world of
great-power affairs, the Prussian government feared losing prestige and diplomatic clout. Prussian
politicians argued repeatedly about the potential costs to Prussias international status if it remained a
non-belligerent. Furthermore, the Prussian Russophiles and Anglophiles in power did not see eye-to-
eye on priorities.22 Pragmatically speaking, Prussia s neutrality favoured the Russians. As a neutral,
Prussia protected a large swathe of the Russian border from military attack and facilitated the flow of
a steady supply of goods to the Russians, both legally and clandestinely begot. Prussian neutrality did
not favour, in any strategic or economic terms, the French or British cause and the French and
British understood that all too well.
The coming conflict was more vexing and dangerous for the Austrians .23 Where Russia expected
more loyalty than it received from the Habsburg Empire, mainly because of the substantial military
support it had given the Habsburgs during the 1848 9 revolutions,24 in 1853, the Austrians worried
about Russian motives towards the Ottoman Empire and the Danubian principalities. The Austrian
Empire did not want, and certainly could not afford, to go to war with Russia.25 Instead, its
government aimed for peaceful compromise, the stabilisation of the European balance of power and,
when that failed, the upholding of a foreign policy of armed and active neutrality.26 Initially, it refused
to declare whether it would remain neutral if Russia went to war with the Ottomans, but when war
came it used its non-belligerency to push for advantages and a speedy end to the conflict. For
example, it sent neutral peacekeepers into Moldovia and Wallachia , with secret approval of
Russias enemies, to keep Russia from holding on to them.27 By May 1854, with Russias retreat out
of the Danubian principalities , Austria courted Prussia and the two states signed the Treaty of Berlin
, effectively creating a neutral alliance . The treaty invoked the language of the Congress system and
claimed to seek an end to the war by offering the two countries neutral mediation services to the
belligerents. Their own pro-neutral propaganda presented the alliance as a vital arrangement in
avoiding the proliferation of war into the continental mainland and as a deterrent to Russian attack.
The two neutrals presented themselves as agents of peace, reasonableness and restraint .28 The
conservative Dutch politician and self-made historian Guillaume Groen van Prinsterer praised
Prussian neutrality in similar tones:

During this entire East-European affair, Prussia has never looked to its own advantage, but only
to the maintenance of peace and societal order and the safeguarding of Europe against self-
mutilation and self-destructionThat is how Prussia has secured the peace; how the war that
could have become general has been avoided, the conflict was confined to the sea-coasts of
Russia , how the complete severance of the bond between Russia, Austria and Prussia has been
avoided. That is how French ascendancy has not increased.29

According to such depictions, Prussian and Austrian neutrality served Europe first and their own
interests second.
By 1855, however, the French and British came to see Prussian and Austrian neutrality as a burden
rather than an aid. As the conservative and belligerent Illustrated London News explained to its
readers in April of that year, Prussian and Austrian neutrality is not only a dereliction of duty, but an
abdication of their position in Europe.30 Furthermore, Austrian shilly-shallying upon the brink of the
great war left all the burdens of fighting with the western allies and all the gain in its and Russias
court.31 At the very least, so the newspaper argued the following month, [t]hose States in Central
Europe who still indulge in dolce far niente hopes of neutrality must necessarily, and ere long, be
roused from self-imposed delusions.32 The Morning Chronicle likewise condemned the Austrians
and Prussians: they have no right to assume a position that carries with it all the veils without the
counteracting risks of hostility, and which permits her to strike underhand, and in the dark as it were,
and plead neutrality as a safeguard against retaliation.33 The Scottish Caledonia Mercury
condemned Prussian neutrality even more fervently as something monstrous, hateful, and
contemptible.The day must come soon in which hollow neutrality will be stript [sic.] of its
pretences, and have to disgorge its odious gains.34 Even the decidedly more liberal and even-handed
Economist magazine, which had in September of the previous year refused to chastise Austria for its
neutrality because [w]e have preferred her dawdling and imperfect neutrality to the possibility of
actual hostility,35 in April 1855 reported that while at the start of the war [w]e then fancied the
signed treaties that secured the actual neutrality of Prussia :- we now find that neutrality is as hollow
and as false as ever and likely to remain so.36
Whereas the neutrality of the central European powers favoured Russia , the neutrality of the
Scandinavian states offered advantages to the British and French . Of particular importance to the
western allies was the ability to coal and refit their warships in Sweden on their way to blockade
Russian ports. The Russian government complained bitterly to the Swedes about the claimed
impartiality of their behaviour as it gave undue advantage to its enemies. Sweden responded by
insisting that allowing ships to coal in their ports and sail through their waters were privileges they
offered to all of the belligerents regardless of geography. 37 They had officially declared these rights
at the outbreak of the hostilities and, as such, they conformed to the international expectations
belligerents could have of neutrals. Significantly, Britains envoys in Sweden did much to curry
favour at the Swedish court during the war, including extending an offer of British protection to
Sweden if Russia retaliated with armed force.38 If anything, Britains support of Sweden allowed that
state to break free from Russias yoke, and the declaration of the free use of its ports for coaling and
refitting obviously aimed at improving Swedens relationship with Britain.39 The neutrality of
Denmark was more conservative and fearful of Russia than was Swedens.40 Nevertheless, the
country aligned its neutrality declaration with Swedens and recognised that its neutrality served well
the Scandinavians and the war causes of the British and French.
The maintenance of the neutrality of certain European states during the Crimean War says much
about the management of the balance of power and the relative military strengths of the belligerents.
Unsurprisingly, the belligerents pressured the neutrals to join their war effort at various junctures,
especially during the tense months of 1855, after the death of Tsar Nicholas I (2 March), when the
French and British armies failed to make progress on the Crimean Peninsula (Sevastopol did not fall
until September) and as a result of the much maligned Viennese peace negotiations (March to June).41
There was no doubt in anyones mind that the conflict had the potential to become a great war of
Napoleonic proportions and bring in several of the neutrals, Austria and Prussia foremost among
them. Diplomatic correspondence and newspaper reporting around Europe reflect this shift in
expectation. After Sardinia declared war on Russia in January 1855, for example, the Dutch Minister
in London wrote to The Hague that he was certain that the British and French would put more
pressure on other second-tier states to join them. He knew the Belgian representative in Paris had
certainly discussed it with the French government.42 Denmark rebuffed similar advances from France,
while the French military hero General F. C. Canrobert travelled to both Sweden and Denmark to
court their favour. 43 In the lead-up to the talks in Vienna, the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad
exclaimed its concerns about the prospect of continent-wide conflict. In an article boldly titled
NEUTRALITY, it argued that if the Vienna negotiations failed, more would need to be done to
achieve agreement among the great powers about neutral rights in order to best guarantee the security
of small states when not if the war spread.44
That the war did not spread deserves attention. The restraint shown by the powers, and perhaps
most importantly by Austria, as Paul Schroeder so forcefully argues,45 helped to keep the Crimean
War limited and sustained Austrian and Prussian neutrality, as well as that of the Scandinavian
states.46 The existence of the neutrals and their actions towards the belligerents illustrate, however,
that from the start, the fate of the non-belligerents helped to dictate the course of the conflict. The
Crimean War was in so many ways the neutrals war.
Keeping the war limited also had the obvious result of creating a world filled with neutral
countries: states that wanted to continue their peacetime relations with each other and with the
belligerents and which saw opportunity in the war situation for profit, trade and the expansion of their
economic influence. Prussian trade with Russia , for example, was impressive.47 The United States
also gained economically from its most favoured status with the Russian Empire. Its sizeable
merchant marine further benefitted from access to all of the worlds major ports barring the
blockaded ones and carried a substantial amount of belligerent cargo for the Russians, British and
French . The European neutrals, especially those with sea harbours and sizeable merchant marines,
including Sweden , Denmark , the Netherlands , Belgium , Spain , Portugal and the German Hanse
towns of Hamburg , Bremen and L beck, benefitted from supplying the belligerents with trade,
offering the use of their ships for the transport of belligerent goods and making their port facilities
available for the transit of belligerent goods, as well as accommodating private business transactions
among the enemies.48 The Belgians, for example, maintained a large trading relationship with France,
Britain and Russia, including in armaments .49 That there were costs and benefits to accepting the
existence and rights of neutrals to such transactions was very clear to the British public . As the
Economist reported in June 1855, the system of neutrality has indeed certain advantages, as it
permits trade to be carried without apprehending the invasion of armies. But it may, at the same time,
prolong the war.50
Unsurprisingly, the belligerents diplomatic relations with the neutrals occupied much of their time
during the war. Neutrality issues also mesmerised their citizenry. Even before the British and French
declarations of war, their respective presses were filled with reports and debates over the role and
function of neutrals , as well as what to do about neutral rights at sea.51 The preoccupation with
neutrals continued through the war itself. British newspapers reported frequently and in detail on the
affairs of neutrals from Switzerland to the Hanse towns, from Persia to the Netherlands and Belgium,
from Scandinavia to the United States. The British reading public was certainly confronted with a
vast array of opinions about neutrality politics and the impact thereof on the war and its progress.
Most of the opinion was nuanced and well informed about the complexities of the international
situation and the particulars in question. The Times condemnation of Tsar Nicholas I s response to
Britain and France s declaration of war in 1854 is a case in point. Its editorial declared:

The neutral States have certainly not been subjected to the pressure of a formidable alliance,
which, alternately employs its caresses and threats [as the tsar decreed] for the whole conduct
of the neutral States has been, and still is, free and independent.we rely on the support of the
neutral States on the justice of our cause, on the uprightness of our intentions, and on the
universal interest of mankind in the speedy restoration of peace.52

This statement invokes the same principles of restraint, international cooperation and civilised
discourse as any of the neutrals propaganda on similar points.
In her masterful A liberal state at war (1967), Olive Anderson describes the contours of British
politics during the Crimean War. She explains how a major component of the governments wartime
strategy relied on dealing with the neutrals. For example, Britain needed the benevolent neutrality of
the Scandinavians for coaling ports, while it feared what the neutral Americans might do for Russia
and to protect their own neutrality. Britain knew that the Russians had traditionally been much more
accommodating of neutral rights than it had, a legacy of Catherine the Great s time.53 According to
Anderson, accommodating the neutrals was first and foremost about winning the war and keeping it
militarily manageable. Anderson explains that British conduct during the Crimean War was no
different than it had been for more than a century. 54 As we saw in Chapter 1, dealing with neutrals
was a key part of eighteenth-century warfare. However, the world in 1853 was not the same as it had
been fifty years earlier. The major difference was that during the Crimean War, winning meant
currying favour with the neutrals , whereas in the early 1800s, it generally had not. As a mercantilist
power, Britain had overruled almost all neutral claims to the rights to trade and to the open seas. It
even went to war with the United States in 1812 to protect those rights. As a liberal economic power
in the 1850s, Britain did the exact opposite.
According to Anderson, the Crimean War was no free trade war, nor did it witness a triumph of
political economy.55 She pegs the actions of the Aberdeen (until January 1855) and subsequently the
Palmerston governments against the understanding that it was a great war that failed to
materialize,56 and Britons, on the whole, were very glad of that fact.57 At no stage was it a war about
one thing, and neither was British popular opinion united in its focus or direction. As such, she
explains, there was no dogmatism or real novelty in the British conduct of the Crimean War.58
Andersons analysis is meticulous and wide-ranging. She is right to emphasise that warfare in the
mid-1850s was determined by the same principles as warfare had always been: military success and
economic security. There was also widespread and frequently vitriolic debate among Britons about
the war and their countrys conduct in it.59 Many Britons were not free traders at any rate. However,
at another level, Anderson misses the wider relevance of the willingness shown by the Aberdeen and
Palmerston governments to accommodate the existence of neutral states and to promote the advantages
of neutral rights. Allowing for neutral rights was not only about managing the immediate conduct of
the war and keeping certain powers out of the conflict, as she stresses. It was as much about
protecting access to the open seas and Britains economic and naval supremacy on them as a long-
term strategy. Keeping access to the seas was registered throughout Britain, both within and outside
government circles, as essential.60 The process of achieving this, however, was vexed and
contentious. This is clear from the debates surrounding the rules of conduct of warfare at sea with
regard to privateering , blockade , search-and-visit, and the neutral carriage of belligerent materials
and contraband .
For centuries, how to define relations among states and their subjects on the seas, particularly in
time of war, dominated the development of international law , mainly because the worlds oceans
existed outside sovereign territorial boundaries and, in theory at least, could be accessed by all. This
basic premise did not change in the nineteenth century. What did change was Britains position on
international maritime law. Within a month of declaring war, in April 1854, the British government
accepted a host of rights that most of the neutrals had already announced in their neutrality
declarations61 but Britain had previously denied, including the principle that free ships make free
goods (i.e., that a neutral flag protects any belligerent cargo on board the vessel) except when
carrying contraband , that neutral cargo on board an enemy ship is free from capture except for
contraband and that privateering should be abolished.62 Defining contraband was of some concern but
was managed by the British government conceding that it would include coal but not other non-
military goods.63 It was also willing to accept that a blockade could only be declared if it was
effectively maintained; in other words, a blockaded port would have to be physically cut off by
enemy ships. All of these developments ensured that for all intents and purposes, there were few
impediments to neutral trade during the Crimean War, except for ships coming out of or going into a
blockaded harbour.
However, Britains acceptance of these neutral rights came with two important provisos; namely,
that its right to search and visit ships was upheld, as was its right as a belligerent to define what
constituted contraband. Both of these principles were essential for a naval power at war: it could
prevent essential supplies getting to the enemy and continue to dominate as a police force of the seas,
if and when needed. Many Britons deemed the latter right particularly essential if they were to
continue in mounting effective campaigns against the illegal trade of slaves from Africa to the
Americas .64 Still, during the war itself, Britain only exercised its right to search-and-visit at the
blockaded ports, and there were not that many of them. The blockade rule notwithstanding, Britain in
fact operated an imperfect blockading system of the Russian ports. It managed to blockade only a few
harbours in the Baltic and Black Seas , most notably Odessa , and blockade running was rife.65 In all
respects, Britains economic-warfare campaign against Russia was limited, and Russia continued
much of its normal commercial activity with all but its enemies and, even then, the use of neutral
intermediaries kept goods and money flowing between Britain, France and Russia.66 The rule of 1756
had not only been overturned, it had been superseded by a different mode of economic warfare.
There is no question that the acceptance of neutral rights, even with the previously mentioned
exceptions, was a major and controversial step. Not all Britons were in favour of them. Although
many accepted privateering as a barbaric practice and welcomed its abolition,67 there was genuine
concern about abandoning the right to seize enemy goods on neutral ships and to restrict blockading
practices to effective blockades only . Above all, as the detractors of the free ships make free goods
principle explained, allowing for liberal neutral rights undermined British naval power. It limited the
ability of the Royal Navy to prevent neutrals from trading with their enemy and further prevented
Britain doing maximum damage to Russia s war effort. As the Conservative MP for Leominster, Mr
J. G. Phillimore , explained in a lengthy address to the House of Commons on 4 July 1855, in which
he cited international legal precedents and customs going back to Grotius s time, the principle of
free ships make free goods made war the harvest of neutral nations and gave them a very real
interest in prolonging the conflict. From his point of view, it was a mistaken humanity to suppose that
a nation could carry on a maritime war, and at the same time allow their enemy the advantages of
peace. He proposed a motion that would protect Britains future right to seize neutral goods on
enemy ships.68 In response, the ever-intellectual, conscientious and decidedly radical Sir William
Molesworth attacked Phillimores reasoning by recounting, in minute detail, every instance of free
ships make free goods as practised around the world since the early seventeenth century and
explained that free ships make free goods was already an established rule of international law and
one from which only England deviated.69 He was supported in his challenge to Phillimores motion
by the Liberal MP Mr George Bowyer , who explained that the laws of war were determined by
customary practice and that it was a great humanitarian advance that had been shown by his
government, which had so begun, he firmly believed, a new era in the law of nations.70
Nevertheless, it was not on ideological grounds alone that the government overruled Phillimore
and the other Conservatives stand on the free ships make free goods principle . The pragmatics of
conducting a war and the complexities of global diplomacy played major roles as well. Most
pressingly, Britain needed to co-ordinate effective economic and naval strategies with its ally, and
erstwhile enemy, France .71 On the issue of privateering , Britain and France found firm agreement.
One of the easiest ways to mitigate the risk of the spread of naval warfare was to put an end to
countries issuing letters of marque to privately armed ships, which could then capture enemy
vessels and goods. Abolishing privateering would not only protect the British and French merchant
marine from seizure by legal pirates but would also reduce the risk of the French and British having
to declare war on neutral countries whose citizens took up such Russian licences.72 On the other
issues, it was much more difficult to find agreement. Historically, France had a more generous
position on neutrality, and it certainly did not favour the Rule of 1756 . It freely accepted the free
ships make free goods rule, although it also advocated that an enemy prize made all goods on board
open to capture, regardless of their point of origin or final destination. In the end, it was through
compromise Britain adopted free ships make free goods and France accepted that neutral goods
captured on an enemy vessel would be restored to the neutral that the two allies could present a
united front in the war.73 The compromise was, of course, key. As Sir William Molesworth explained
in the same meeting to the House of Commons cited previously:

The rules of maritime war of the two nations are now the same. We can cordially act together
against the common enemy, and neutral states have no grounds of complaint against us. Russia
has imitated our example. May that example be followed by future belligerents in future wars!
For if the precedent set by this war should lead to the abolition of private war on the ocean, and
to the establishment of the maritime rights of neutrals on the firm and solid basis of reason and
justice, whatever other results this war may bring forth, it would be noted for these results in the
history of nations as a step in civilisation, and as a benefit to the human race.74

Significantly, the language promoting neutral rights at sea echoed the language in support of the right
of neutrals to remain neutral on the continent itself. Neutrality, according to its many promoters during
the Crimean War, made the world more civilised and less barbarous.
The British governments ready accommodation of neutral rights in 1854 also came out of its
perceived need to avoid quarrels with the neutral states, including the Scandinavians , the Prussians
and especially the Americans.75 The United States ongoing close relationship with Russia was of
grave concern, particularly because Russia had a history of pro-neutral advocacy.76 The Russian
government actively courted the United States during the war and hoped to persuade its friend to join
the conflict on its side.77 British and French acceptance and promotion of neutral trade went some
way to ameliorating the United States concerns about the impact of the war on its global interests.78
The United States had a much more radical position on neutral trade and rights at sea than its former
colonial ruler. Ever since 1794, it had advocated not only for the abolition of privateering and the
maintenance of effective blockades but also for immunity for all private property at sea (whether
vessels or their cargo) and the end of search-and-visit and the taking of prizes.79 During the Crimean
War , it recognised the value of its neutrality in both economic and diplomatic terms. Needless to say,
it staunchly opposed Britains partial accommodation of neutrality and recruited Russia to support
its case.80 It refused to accept the abolition of privateering if it was not accompanied by a declaration
that all private property at sea was freed from seizure, except for contraband .81 This opposition
carried into the negotiations at the Declaration of Paris at the end of the conflict.
In accommodating neutral rights, however, there was more at stake than free-trade idealism or
Britains relationship with the belligerents and neutrals. The British government also recognised the
wars potential impact on the countrys commercial, colonial and imperial interests. Even a
rudimentary reading of British newspapers early in 1854, before the adoption of the new rules,
highlights the concerns of the British public about the economic impact of the coming war as well as
the legalities of their ongoing commercial activities. For example, in March 1854, The Times quoted
an official dispatch from the Foreign Minister, the Earl of Clarendon , to the British consul in the
Russian -controlled Baltic port of Riga explaining the existing international law of shipping in
wartime. As the dispatch clarified, in keeping with the Rule of 1756 , neutral flags did not protect
belligerent goods, which could, if a neutral ship was intercepted, be captured as prizes .82 The article
caused a flurry of correspondence about the legalities and uses of the Rule, as well as reporting on
the debates in the House of Commons about the impact of blockades on neutral trade going to Britain
and elsewhere.83 One member of parliament, Mr Milner Gibson , took the liberty of chastising the
government for not communicating its intentions on how it would deal with commerce once the
country went to war. He warned that the result would be the financial ruin of many merchants and
investors. He urged the adoption of the free ships make free goods rule to both avoid war with the
United States and alleviate the suffering of British merchants.84 Soon after, The Times reassured its
readers that the government would not interfere with bona fide British trade with Russia that was
conducted through neutral ports. The newspaper also reiterated that there would have to be a re-
adjustment by the mercantile body after 40 years of peace to the conditions of war, when it
came.85 For the governments legal advisors, the abolition of the Rule of 1756 in April 1854 made
working life particularly difficult. When the Queens Advocate, Sir John D. Harding , realised that
his government was about to overturn a century of precedent, he stridently told the Foreign Office that
all of the advice that he and his colleagues had given to merchants so far would be incorrect and
might cause them further and greater distress.86 From his viewpoint, certainty, not expediency, was
called for.
Like the Queens Advocate, Britons who made their living from international trade, transportation
and investment also sought predictability in terms of the regulations guiding their wartime commercial
activities. Unlike Harding, however, they preferred the freedoms promised by the new rules to the
restrictions of the Rule of 1756 . The need for clarity resulted in a thriving publishing business on
topics relating to neutrals, blockade , privateering and the laws of war. The Economist reviewed one
such book entitled The laws of war affecting commerce and shipping in May 1854 as essential and
a great help for merchants. 87 Similar advertisements appeared in The Times , including one
recommending the Merchants Magazine of Saturday last for full information on privateering,
neutral states and the law of blockade, which would interest Members of Parliament, merchants,
shippers, and all interested in our seaborne trade.88 Other books advertised in 1854 included the
Earl of Liverpool s On the conduct of the Government of Great Britain in respect to neutral
nations, John Hosack s The rights of British and neutral commerce and William Adam Loch s A
practical legal guide for sailors and merchants during the war. 89 A similar wealth of publications
on neutrality appeared in France as well.90
Even with lenient restrictions on trade with the enemy and neutrals, the principal remaining
concern for most merchants and traders revolved around the issue of blockade. Once blockaded, a
Russian port would be inaccessible to merchants and private seafarers. In May 1854, so The Times
reported, a deputation of concerned Dutch merchants arrived in London to negotiate the fate of a large
shipment of Russian rye that had been ordered and paid for before the declaration of war and which
they wished to convey to Britain and elsewhere. Their question for the British government was:
Would the Royal Navy prevent the shipment leaving Russia?91 The newspaper report prompted
several letters to the editor and further investigation. A correspondent in the neutral Prussian port of
Rostock declared that if the Baltic ports were blockaded, British and neutral merchants located there
with goods destined for Riga and St Petersburg will be ruined.92 A letter to the editor warned that
while the cost to such merchants was regrettable, Britain should avoid giving pecuniary advantage to
the Russians. A respondent replied that Russia would benefit anyway because most of the goods had
already been paid for. 93 Later that month, The Times reported that great complaints are made by
firms in London over the uncertainty connected to the Baltic trade and whether or not a blockade
would be declared there. It warned of possible blockades in the Baltic and Black Seas , although it
also assured its readers that the port of Archangel (in the White Sea ) would remain open because
there were too many London interests at stake there.94 A few days later, the readers of The Times
learned that the allied blockade of Odessa was lax and that neutral ships were entering and leaving
the port with tacit approval of the Admirals.95 Similar announcements appeared from other ports as
well, so much so that by May 1855, Sir John Harding urged the government to take sterner action
against the Danes for flagrantly ignoring blockades and carrying a disproportionate amount of Russian
trade out of the country. 96 The Times further explained that the consequence of the ineffective
blockade of Russian ports has been in many instances serious loss and inconvenience to our traders
and manufacturers, and an extensive and important branch of commerce monopolized by subjects of
neutral Powers.97
Anderson charts the course of the complexities and ambivalences of British blockading practices
during the war. She shows that the allies inability to uphold effective blockades was caused in part
by France s unwillingness to undertake blockades or to curb its own citizens trade with Russia.98
She argues that while the British government was annoyed by Frances stand and, where possible,
pressured neutrals not to trade impartially or to breach contraband restrictions, ultimately the war for
the neutralsoverrode all other economic considerations.99 As Harding explained in September
1855, in response to reports that companies in the United States were supplying Russia with weapons
and ammunition, if Britain wished to use its right to search and visit neutral ships it suspected of
carrying contraband, I need scarcely add that inasmuch as no United States vessel has been captured
during the present war, the captors should bear in mind the peculiar sensitivities of the United States
as to neutral rights, and should observe the utmost caution in their conduct and demeanour.100 At any
rate, as the government also recognised, if it were lenient in its blockading practice and did not
exercise its right to search-and-visit universally, contraband would get to Russia. As Harding had
already warned in March 1854, if arms were allowed to be exported at all to places which trade
with the enemy, they will reach him. 101 That the Prussians purpose-built a railway line from their
seaport in Danzig to the Russian border in itself illustrates how lucrative and important the neutral
ports were to circumventing the British blockades that did operate.102
Of course, the British government was concerned about the impact of its economic war with
Russia. It managed to get concessions from neutrals at key junctures to advance its wartime needs,
including revoking the status of the aland Islands in the Baltic Sea , which had dogged Swedish
Russian relations since 1815 and made blockading Russia difficult during the war.103 At the Paris
Peace Conference the following year, the islands were neutralised permanently to prevent Russia
from hosting a fleet in the port, thereby helping to protect the future security of Stockholm as well.104
Likewise, through 1855, the British improved on their policing of blockade-runners over the northern
ice to Russia. They also pressured many neutral governments to become more exacting in their export
regulations to the belligerents. In January 1856, they put enough pressure on the Prussians to force
Friedrich Wilhelm IV to warn the tsar that Russia could not rely on his ongoing neutrality.105
Nevertheless, from the start of the war, the government also realised that if Britain continued to
receive Russian produce and allowed its subjects to pursue commercial relationships with Russians
(even if conducted through neutral ports), it could not do much to pressure the neutrals to restrict their
trade with Russia.106
The British state at war was also concerned about avoiding global uncertainty and international
economic malaise and recognised the value of restricting the geographic spread of the conflict. For
one, the government did not want its war with Russia to expand into its empire unwieldy as it was
and neither did it want the conflict to interfere too greatly in the use of the seas . A telling example of
the intention to contain the war comes from the combined request of the British Hudsons Bay
Company and Russian American Company in March 1854. Since 1837, the Hudsons Bay Company
had leased a large part of mainland Alaska from the Russian American Company.107 In order to avoid
conflict and sustain the commercial advantages gained from the lease, the rival enterprises asked that
a state of reciprocal neutrality should exist with reference to the two companies, which all of the
belligerents would respect. The British government, for its part, was willing to recognise the request
in terms of the companies activities on land. When it came to the enterprises of the Russian
American Company at sea, however, it maintained that all Russian vessels and associated property
remained liable for capture by the Royal Navy .108 In practice, however, Britain did little to intercept
any shipping to and from Alaska, while Russia soon recognised that Alaska would be militarily
indefensible in a future war. 109 This incident was one of many during the Crimean War that signalled
that Europes interests were global and that the Pacific Ocean could easily become a theatre of
European warfare.110
Significantly, Britain increased its connections with the secluded Japanese Empire during the war
in an attempt to offset the possibility that Russia or the United States would attain exclusive access to
its harbours, which could become essential neutral bases , providing a place to resupply navies and
take refuge from attack, as well as offering lucrative economic advantages.111 That the war had the
potential to complicate travel, transport and communications on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans is
also evident from numerous advertisements in the British press suggesting the safety and security of
neutral carriers operating from Britains major ports. As one advertisement put it, a neutral ship was
not at risk of capture.112 Nonetheless, that settler migration flows from Britain to its colonies in
Canada , Australia , New Zealand and elsewhere remained largely unaffected by the war illustrates
that the seas, for the most part, remained open and Britains colonial empire thrived in the 1850s.113
In all of these respects, the contrasts with the Napoleonic War period could not be more marked.
At the end of the war, to the general consternation of conservative Britons, by signing the
Declaration of Paris, the British government readily promoted and adopted a new set of international
rules of economic warfare. The Declaration overturned not only the Rule of 1756 but also the long-
defended idea that Britain should jealously guard its rights to control the seas by aggressive naval
means. The Declaration of Paris established four principles in international law : privateering was
abolished; free ships made free goods , excepting contraband ; neutral goods on enemy ships were
free from capture, excepting contraband; and for a blockade to be binding, it had to be effectively
maintained.114 In the end, more than forty states signed the Declaration, including all the major
powers bar the United States .115 The United States government argued consistently that if
privateering was abolished, then so must be all warfare against private property ; otherwise, smaller
neutrals would be at the mercy of larger navies.116 It is noteworthy, as C. I. Hamilton argues, that the
British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston , favoured the United States amendment. He even gave a
public speech in Liverpool in December 1856 recommending an end to the targeting of private trade
in wartime, which the locals received heartily. However, on the advice of the Royal Navy , the
government recognised this would cost too much in belligerent power, particularly if it were ever to
go to war with the United States.117 Thus, it was a very British interpretation that determined the
neutral freedoms offered by the Declaration of Paris.
Even though initiated by Tsar Alexander II , without Britain the Declaration of Paris would not
have eventuated.118 Its creation confirmed that Britain had come a very long way since the
Napoleonic War era, in which the ever-eloquent William Pitt the Younger had exclaimed: We must
wrap ourselves in our own flag, and sink to our grave in the ocean sooner than admit the currency of
such [liberal maritime] principles in the Law of Nations.119 At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, there
was no question of Britain entertaining any discussion or negotiation on maritime rights. As Lord
Castlereagh explained to the British Ambassador in St Petersburg in 1813, in response to a Russian
offer of mediation in the war between the United States and Britain: the [Russian] tender of
mediation , which, on a question of maritime right cannot be listened to by Great Britainis still less
a question that we could consent to discuss in a general Congress.120 As such, Britains conduct
during the Crimean War and its subsequent promotion of the Declaration of Paris of 1856 present
historians with a watershed .
Olav Riste , a prominent historian of neutrality, calls the Declaration of Paris the most remarkable
of the milestones that marked the progress of neutrality because of its relevance in the development
of international law .121 Neutrality was not a static concept and never had been. As we saw in the
previous chapters, it was a legal principle relating directly to the conduct of non-belligerents in time
of war, but one that had been strongly contested for centuries. The Declaration of Paris created a
degree of clarity and uniformity in the application of neutrality at least to the laws that governed
economic warfare at sea that had never previously existed. The Declaration also augured an era of
growth in neutrality law, which lasted until the outbreak of the First World War . Significantly, it was
the same period (18561914) that legal historians identify as the golden age of international law.122
The Declaration also created a precedent for future negotiations over the parameters on which the
laws regulating neutrality were predicated, including impartial conduct towards belligerents; the sale,
supply and outfitting of belligerent ships in neutral ports; the internment of belligerent soldiers in
neutral countries; the recruitment of soldiers in and the transit of troops and belligerent goods through
neutral territory; and the medical treatment by neutrals of the victims of war. Moreover, the definition
of the term contraband would remain a hotly debated issue through the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. The negotiations over maritime rights in Paris in 1856 marked the start of many
decades of diplomatic negotiation over the rights and duties of neutrals, which were codified in a
series of agreements and treaties, including the Geneva Conference of 1864, the Washington
Declaration of 1871, the Brussels Convention of 1874 and, most important, the Hague Peace
Conferences of 1899 and 1907. Britain played a leading role in these negotiations, although a role
that was tempered by the ambitions and diplomacies of all of the great powers, the United States
included.
The key question remains: Why did the Palmerston government formalise its adoption of these
maritime rights in the Declaration of 1856? Why did it not adopt, as the many conservatives hoped it
would, a flexible approach to naval warfare, keeping open the option to re-impose the Rule of 1756 ?
The answer lies in part in the intricacy of the diplomacy conducted in Paris and, especially, in
Britains relationships with France and the United States.123 At another level, Britains promotion of
the Declaration illustrates how important it was for the British government to remain in control of the
rules that governed the use of the seas, particularly because so many countries had a stake in them. In
part, the creation of the Declaration of Paris also reflects the British governments acceptance of the
value of the economic-warfare strategies undertaken during the Crimean War itself.124 That a Liberal
government was in charge of Britain in 1856 is also significant. As free traders , most Liberals
supported developments that removed impediments to the free exchange of goods and finance and
presented commerce in an idealised light as the white-winged peace maker.125 The historian
Bernard Semmel certainly argues that free-trade radicals, particularly those in the Manchester School
, advocated for the restructuring of British naval strategy even before the Crimean War broke out.126
However, part of the answer also lies in the wider context of Britains changing place in the world.
By the 1850s, London operated as the heart of a global network of interests, which can be loosely
termed imperial . For the British Empire in all of its complexity to thrive, the seas that connected
the outposts of empire back to mother England, let alone to each other, needed protection. War
risked the security of transportation and communication routes and endangered the movement of
people, goods, money and ideas. Even economic nationalists , as most conservatives were, saw merit
in keeping the seas open and protected.127 By creating and signing the Declaration of Paris, the
Liberal government aimed to achieve exactly that.
Through the Declaration of Paris, the British government also acknowledged that a great-power
war risked Britains hegemony over the world economy. As neutrals during the Crimean War , the
other industrialising states, particularly Prussia and the United States , stood to gain if Britain and
France failed to sustain their pre-war economic connections with the world. Throughout the war, the
two allies newspapers were filled with horror stories occasioned by the loss of access to the
Russian economy, and neither belligerent could afford to lose other markets to the neutrals as well.
Even with an imperfect blockading system and lax economic-warfare strategies, the economic costs
of the war with Russia were deemed considerable. As an editorial in The Times explained in
February 1855:

Hitherto, the greatest loss [in the Crimean War ] has been by the disturbance of trade and the
deviation of traffic from its ordinary channels into others more circuitous and expensive. We
have interrupted the traffic of the enemy as well as our own. Russia has had to send her exports
by land to neutral ports, and has thereby added to the cost of her produce, before it reaches us,
the expenses of land carriage and of the charge of conveyance. In what proportion the Russian
producer and the British consumer have had to divide this additional cost it would be difficult to
say.128
Furthermore, the risks of naval warfare meant British and French ship-owners faced the possibility of
capture and scuttling by the Russians and ensured that neutral ships, passenger-liners and postal
carriers attracted belligerent travellers and their goods. In other words, the Crimean War underlined
that war was a costly business, that conducting an effective economic war in a free-trade environment
was difficult and that, in so many respects, remaining neutral while others were at war would aid
Britains global interests much better.129 It also signalled that many Britons, although by no means all,
had come to appreciate the value of neutrality as a tool for peace, commercial success and global
expansion. Neutrality protected access to the lanes of communication, trade and exchange that crossed
the worlds seas and oceans. It was the ongoing dominance of these lanes that determined Britains
global power.130
Thus, even though it was controversial and would remain so for many decades to come, the signing
of the Declaration of Paris heralded a wider public acceptance of the idea that in a globalising world,
sustaining trade , communications and exchange was essential to the success of nations. It also
signalled that limiting the spread and impact of wars when they occurred was useful for the continued
effectiveness of the world economy , and certainly for Britain s role in it. As C. H. Stockton
reflected in 1920, the experiences of the Crimean War created the realisation within and outside
Britain that a countrys armed status a military war could be differentiated from its economic
arrangements a commercial peace.131 Here, he echoed the opinions of the Edinburgh Review in
1876 when it critiqued Robert Phillimore s four-volume work entitled Commentaries upon
International Law (1873), in which he, like his brother J. G. Phillimore cited previously, railed
against the Declaration of Paris. According to the review:

It is therefore of paramount importance to us that, in the event of war, whether we are neutrals or
belligerents, our commerce should be exposed to as little disruption, peril, and vexation as
possible.The essential condition of her [Britains] endurance and her power is that her
maritime trade should not be seriously interrupted and impaired.Protection of the neutral flag
means protection to the general interests of commerce; and without the neutral flag we very much
question whether maritime commerce can now be carried on at all in time of war.132

For years after 1856, conservative Britons critiqued the Declaration of Paris and the Liberal
government that had adopted it for abandoning the Rule of 1756 and relaxing the levers of naval
warfare , which were Britains most important lines of military defence. They were also strong and
vocal advocates against the free-trade movement and for protectionism .133 Very few of them,
however, contended that war offered economic advantages to the belligerents .
Of course, for Liberals, neutrality helped to promote Britains wider civilising mission: le
douceur de commerce134 kept the worlds markets open to all, and in time of war, neutrals had the
easiest access to them. According to Frank Trentham , the British Empire of the Victorian era was a
distinctly liberal one.135 Bill Nasson also argues that with the globalising tendencies of the free-trade
era, Britain lost its self-sufficiency. According to Nasson, the future and survival of imperial Britain
became tethered to the international system and it could not risk the loss of markets in that
system.136 Of course, the liberal image of peace and equity, an ethical link between a just and
peaceful domestic order and a pacific and prosperous global order was a British-centred one and
stood in sharp contrast to the reality of Britains oppressive, hegemonic and often violent domination
of large parts of the non-European world.137 Economic liberalism thrived by forcing the rest of the
world into a model of economic servitude to the powerful. One need look no further than the Opium
Wars in China or Britains gunboat diplomacy in Latin America to realise that Britains domination of
the world in the mid-nineteenth century was both economically and militarily coercive.138
Furthermore, Britains ready adoption of free-trade liberalism had everything to do with retaining its
competitive edge in an industrialising world. As early as 1841, Friedrich List argued that if others
failed to achieve industrial gains then they could not compete with Britain in a world that was tariff-
free.139 Lists claim offers one reason why free trade became a key part of British nation-building
idealism through the century and why when other states, including France and Germany, returned to
protectionism and economic nationalism after the Depression of the 1870s, Britain did not. It also
explains why the United States looked to curb the British interpretation of neutral rights at sea. The
power to blockade and the right to search-and-visit remained powerful tools by which to control the
trade of others, if needed .140
The Crimean War , then, presented a turning point for Britain . The country entered the conflict
seeking to control and undermine the power and influence of Russia and, no doubt, to undermine the
strength of the Holy Alliance . It came out of it understanding that warfare with any of the great
powers jeopardised its other major foreign-policy ambition, namely the maintenance of a stable
global economic imperium with London at its heart. According to Paul Schroeder , Britain and France
s actions during the Crimean War destroyed the Congress system , determined the collapse of
Habsburg power and destabilised Europe. He scathingly attacks Britain for dabbling without
commitment in European affairs, thereby undoing the strength of the international systemic order
brought into being at the Congress of Vienna .141 Elsewhere, he argues that Great Britain failed to
pick up Russias baton in the aftermath of the Crimean War, assert its position as the worlds only
super power and use it to promote a new liberal world order. He calls this the great missed
opportunity.142 However, rueing the seeming loss of agency shown by Britain after 1856 in not taking
the opportunity that its hegemony offered rather misses the point that it was precisely in order to
protect the foundation of its global power liberally and imperially defined that it conceived of its
postCrimean War isolationism.
Before the Crimean War, Britain understood the value of neutrality as a tool for the stabilisation of
international affairs . It sought out the neutralisation of key European territories and advanced
neutrality as a way to avoid unnecessary conflict between the European great powers as well. It
certainly profited from declaring its neutrality in the wars and conflicts that beset the continent from
1815 on. During the Crimean War, the value of neutrality took on even greater significance for the
British state. The affairs of neutral countries dominated Britains diplomacy between 1853 and 1856.
Furthermore, the situation of key neutrals, particularly Austria and Prussia , had a decisive influence
on the course and conduct of the war. Even though many Britons despaired at the impact the neutrals
had on their war effort, it is highly significant that the Crimean War did not transform into a continent-
wide conflagration. What the Crimean War did create, however, was a crisis in Britain itself. Even
before the country declared war on Russia, Britons fixated on the consequences of the conflict on
their global and economic affairs. The British Empire had thrived on forty years of relative peace.
The outbreak of war brought into sharp relief the potential impact of the conflict on Britons imperial
and global economic interests. That their government quickly negotiated a workable set of maritime
rules with its ally France in April 1854 has to be seen as a way of alleviating some of those economic
fears. Britain did not want and certainly could not afford for its war with Russia to turn into a
worldwide conflict that might threaten its control of the seas. Whereas, even a half-century earlier,
Britain controlled those seas by aggressive naval means, by curbing neutral shipping and justifying
the precedent set by the Rule of 1756 , in an era of free trade and open seas, it could not allow itself
to be alienated from any of the non-belligerents. In many ways, then, even before the war broke out,
the writing was on the wall for the Rule of 1756.
Thus, neutral maritime rights thrived during the Crimean War in large part because Britain
willingly gave up on many of its belligerent powers to control the flow of goods, people and money
into and out of its enemys country, empire and economy. It gave up these rights for many reasons,
among which its need to stay on good terms with its ally France and the neutrals should not be
discounted. However, it also did so because keeping the seas open to all traffic supported the health
of the world economy and thus the interests of its own people. Keeping the seas open could only
benefit a nation that already dominated those seas and relied on continued and unhindered access to
markets around the world. In signing the Declaration of Paris in 1856 , Britain further signalled that it
saw only advantages in sustaining those same conditions for the foreseeable future. That the
Declaration of Paris was immensely controversial at the time and subsequently is undeniable.143
Many feared the loss of British international power and prestige if its navy could not conduct
economic warfare against belligerent and neutral shipping in the future. However, despite the ongoing
controversy, Britain did not renege on its obligations under the Declaration of Paris and would not do
so until the First World War . Instead, it strengthened its commitment to the principles of neutral
maritime rights and neutrality in international law more generally in numerous international treaties,
the last of which was the London Declaration of 1909. In many ways, as the next chapters will show,
Britain embraced the advantages that neutrality could offer. It was the Crimean War that altered
Britains stand on neutral rights. It was the Crimean War that confirmed to many in Britain, whether
liberals or conservatives, that Britains future was better served by keeping out of continental affairs
and focussing on its global enterprises. As such, Britain was more than an isolationist power in the
post-1856 era. It was the occasional neutral power par excellence.

1 Anderson, Ascendancy, pp. 78, 273.

2 James Belich uses the term Anglo world to describe the spread of English-speaking influence
around the globe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Replenishing the earth. The settler
revolution and the rise of the Anglo-world, 17831939. Oxford University Press, 2009).

3 Sir Halford Mackinder (1907) in R. Hyam, Understanding the British Empire. Cambridge
University Press, 2010, p. 17. Cf J. Hevia, The imperial security state. British colonial knowledge
and empire-building in Asia. Cambridge University Press, 2012, p. 13; J. Black, The British
seaborne empire. New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 2004, p. 172.
4 J. Darwin, The empire project. The rise and fall of the British world-system 18301970.
Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 17; Hyam, Understanding, pp. 1821.

5 B. Porter, The absent-minded imperialists. Empire, society and culture in Britain. Oxford
University Press, 2006, p. 113.

6 Hyam, Understanding, p. 15. Cf U. S. Mehta, Liberalism and empire. A study in nineteenth-


century British liberal thought. University of Chicago Press, 1999.

7 P. Levine, The British empire. Sunrise to sunset. Harlow, Pearson, 2007, p. 85, cf 8284.

8 A. Howe, Restoring free trade: the British experience in D. Winch, P. K. OBrien, eds, The
political economy of British historical experience 16881914. British Academy for Oxford
University Press, 2002, p. 207. Also: A. Howe, Free trade and global order. The rise and fall of a
Victorian vision in D. Bell, ed., Victorian visions of global order. Empire and international
relations in nineteenth-century political thought. Cambridge University Press, 2007, pp. 2646.

9 Howe, Restoring free trade; Mulligan, Origins, p. 186; R. F. Spall Jr, Free trade, foreign
relations, and the Anti-Corn-Law League, International History Review 10, 3, August 1988, p. 407.
Cf J. Mokyr, The enlightened economy. An economic history of Britain 17001850. New Haven,
CT, Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 1504; J. V. Nye, The myths of free trade Britain and fortress
France: tariffs and trade in the nineteenth century. Working Paper #142, Department of Economics,
Washington University, January 1990.

10 D. R. Headrick, The tools of empire. Technology and European imperialism in the nineteenth
century. Oxford University Press, 1981, pp. 1745. For the implications of the geographic spread of
empire on the peacetime responsibilities of the Royal Navy: C. J. Bartlett, Great Britain and sea
power. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1963.

11 W. Baumgart, The peace of Paris 1856. Studies in war, diplomacy and peacemaking. Santa
Barbara, CA, ABC Clio, 1981, p. xv.

12 P. W. Schroeder, Austria, Great Britain and the Crimean War. The destruction of the European
concert. Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1972, p. xii; Hamilton, European wars, p. 67. For
more on the origins of the Crimean War: N. Rich, Why the Crimean War? A cautionary tale. New
York, McGraw-Hill, 1991 (1985). Cf M. S.Anderson, The eastern question 17741923. New York,
St Martins Press, 1966, p. 132.
13 O. Figes, Crimea. The last crusade. London, Allen Lane, 2010.

14 Bartlett, Peace, p. 59.

15 For the text of the Vienna agreement, 1853: M. S. Anderson, ed., The great powers and the Near
East 17741923. London, Edward Arnold, 1970, p. 78.

16 Hamilton, European wars, p. 68.

17 Cf W. Baumgart, The Crimean War 18531856. London, Arnold, 1999, pp. ix, 10.

18 Schroeder, Austria, p. xii.

19 Bartlett, Peace, pp. 625.

20 The Times, 2 January 1854, p. 6, 21 November 1853, 28 November 1853, 2 December 1853.

21 Baumgart, Crimean War, pp. 1314.

22 K. Borries, Preussen im Krimkrieg, 18531856. Stuttgart, W. Kohlhammer, 1930; Baumgart,


Crimean War, p. 37; The Times, 16 March 1854, p. 6; Illustrated London News, 15 April 1854, p.
334.

23 For a useful exposition of the issues at stake for the Austrians in the Crimean War: Bridge,
Habsburg monarchy, pp. 519.

24 Bartlett, Peace, p. 62.

25 K. Vocelka, Das Osmanische Reich und die Habsburgermonarchie in A. Wandruszka, P.


Ubanitsch, eds, Die Habsburgermonarchie 18481918. Band VI/2. Vienna, Verlag der
sterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1993, p. 253.

26 Baumgart, Peace of Paris, p. 17. For more on Austrias vexed position in the Crimean War:
Schroeder, Austria.

27 Hamilton, European wars, p. 68; Baumgart, Crimean War, p. 34.

28 E. Crampon, De la neutralit Autriche dans la guerre dOrient, par un europen. Paris, Amyot,
1854, p. 5.

29 G. van Prinsterer, Studin over Stahl (1862) in Bescheiden Groen van Prinsterer. Deel II,
18421876. GS 210, The Hague, Instituut voor Nederlandsche Geschiedenis, 1991, p. 408. Available
at www.inghist.nl/retroboeken/groen.

30 Illustrated London News, 1 April 1854, p. 285.

31 Illustrated London News, 21 April 1855, p. 369.

32 Illustrated London News, 5 May 1855, p. 434.

33 Morning Chronicle, 8 January 1855, np.

34 Calendonia Mercury, 18 December 1855, np.

35 Economist, 16 September 1854, p. 1006.

36 Economist, 14 April 1855, p. 390.

37 Foreign Office to Mr William Grey, British representative in Sweden, 9 February 1854, 11


February 1854, 5 April 1854, in PROFO73/259.

38 Sir Edmund Lyons, British envoy in Sweden, to Foreign Office, 25 August 1853, in PRO General
Correspondence before 1906, Sweden (later incorporating Norway). Reference FO73/254; Foreign
Office to Mr Grey, 5 April 1854, in PROFO73/259.

39 T. M. Petersen, The policy of 1812: Swedish foreign policy from the Congress of Vienna to the
outbreak of the Crimean War, Northern Studies 31, 1996, pp. 3755.

40 E. Halicz, Danish neutrality during the Crimean War (18531856). Denmark between the
hammer and the anvil. Odense University Press, 1977. Cf Feldbaek, DenmarkNorway, p. 61.

41 For the Vienna negotiations in 1855: Rich, Why the Crimean War?, pp. 14956.

42 Dutch Minister in London to Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heer van Hall, 24 January 1855
in NA, Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken, 18131896 archive 2.05.01, inventory 3185/567,
Nationaal Archief, The Hague [to be cited as NA2.05.01nr3185/567]. For contemporary French
opinion on the neutrality of Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Austria and Prussia: A. Fline, Guerre
dOrient. De la cooperation necessaire des puissances neutres. Paris, Charpentier, 1854, pp. 13
15.

43 L. B. Sather, Review of: Emanuel Halicz, Danish Neutrality during the Crimean War (1853
1856): Denmark between the Hammer and the Anvil, American Historical Review83, 5, December
1978, p. 1275. For Britains pressure on Sweden: Lord John Russell to Lord Clarendon, 3 August
1854, in G. P. Gooch, ed., The later correspondence of Lord John Russell 18401878. Volume 2,
London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1925, p. 169.

44 Algemeen Handelsblad, 17 February 1855, p. 1.

45 Schroeder, Austria, pp. 3989.

46 Cf Bartlett, Peace, pp. 625.

47 Baumgart, Crimean War, p. 40.

48 Baumgart, Crimean War, pp. 4359; G. W. T. Omond, The law of the sea. A short history of
some questions relating to neutral merchant shipping 17561916. New York, MacMillan, 1916, p.
43; G. B. Henderson, Crimean War diplomacy and other historical essays. Glasgow, Jackson Son &
Company, 1947, p. 228.

49 Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 131.


50 Economist, 16 June 1855, p. 649.

51 The French newspaper La Presse made forty-six references to neutrality in its reports about the
war situation between 1 January 1854 and Frances declaration of war in March 1854. In the same
period, The Times referred to neutrality 146 times.

52 The Times, 24 April 1854, p. 8.

53 O. Anderson, A liberal state at war. English politics and economics during the Crimean War.
New York, St Martins Press, 1967, pp. 1718.

54 Anderson, Liberal state, p. 186.

55 Anderson, Liberal state, pp. 185, 188.

56 Anderson, Liberal state, p. 26.

57 For more on the collapse of the Aberdeen government: O. Anderson, Economic warfare in the
Crimean War, Economic History Review 14, 1, 1961, pp. 423.

58 Anderson, Liberal state, p. 186.

59 Anderson, Liberal state, pp. 97100.

60 For an excellent study of the importance of the open seas to small British coastal communities: H.
Doe, The long reach of the small port: influences and connections in small English ports in the
nineteenth century in A. Gestrich, M. S. Beerbhl, eds, Cosmopolitan networks in commerce and
society. London, German Historical Institute, 2011, pp. 13350.

61 For a useful list of neutrality declarations and their contents in the Crimean War: Verzijl,
International law, pp. 10914.

62 These parameters had been recommended by Sir James Robert Graham, First Lord of the
Admiralty, to the Earl of Clarendon, Foreign Minister, 3 March 1854, in Tracy, ed., Sea power, pp.
1725.

63 Neff, Rights and duties, p. 97.

64 C. I. Hamilton, Anglo-French seapower and the Declaration of Paris, International History


Review 4, 2, May 1982, p. 170; Semmel, Liberalism, pp. 3150.

65 Baumgart, Crimean War, p. 171.

66 British representative in Berlin to the Earl of Clarendon, 2 March 1855, in PRO Lord John
Russell: Papers. The Vienna Mission: Correspondence etc.. Reference PRO 30/22/18.

67 Anderson, Liberal state, p. 16; Illustrated London News, 3 May 1856, p. 470.

68 Mr J. G. Phillimore, Naval Prizes Rights of Neutrals, House of Commons sitting 4 July 1855 in
House of Commons Hansard. Third Series, Volume 134 in HCPP. For more on Phillimore: A.
Gambles, Protection and politics. Conservative economic discourse. Woodbridge, Boydell Press,
1999, p. 194.

69 Sir William Molesworth, Naval Prizes Rights of Neutrals, House of Commons sitting 4 July
1855 in House of Commons Hansard. Third Series, Volume 134. For more on Molesworth: T.
Woollcombe, Notices of the late Sir William Molesworth, Bart., M.P., Secretary of State for the
Colonies. London, n.p., 1857.

70 Mr Bowyer, Naval Prizes Rights of Neutrals, House of Commons sitting 4 July 1855 inHouse
of Commons Hansard. Third Series, Volume 134.

71 Hamilton, Anglo-French seapower; Neff, Rights and duties, p. 97.

72 Sir James Robert Graham, First Lord of the Admiralty, to Earl of Clarendon, Secretary of State
Foreign Affairs, 3 March 1854, in Tracy, ed., Sea power, p. 10.

73 Tracy, ed., Sea power, p. xviii; Hamilton, Anglo-French seapower, p. 178.


74 Sir William Molesworth, Naval Prizes Rights of Neutrals, House of Commons sitting 4 July
1855 in House of Commons Hansard. Third Series, Volume 134.

75 Anderson, Liberal state, p. 251.

76 Savage, Policy of the United States, pp. 4052.

77 F. A. Golder, Russian-American relations during the Crimean War, American Historical


Review 31, 3, April 1923, pp. 46276; D. M. Goldfrank, Review of: V. N. Ponomarev, Krymskaia
voina i russko-amerikanskie otnosheniia [The Crimean War and Russo-American relations].
Moscow, no publisher, 1993, American Historical Review December 1996, p. 1583; A. Dowty, The
limits of American isolation. The United States and the Crimean War. New York University Press,
1971.

78 For more on Anglo-American relations during the Crimean War: K. Bourne, Lord Palmerstons
ginger-beer triumph, 1 July 1856 in K. Bourne, D. C. Watts, eds, Studies in international history.
London, Longmans, 1967, pp. 14571.

79 Gabriel, American conception, p. 22.

80 Dowty, Limits, p. 231.

81 William Learned Marcy, Department of State, Washington, to the Comte de Sartiges, French
Ambassador in Washington, 28 July 1856, in Tracy, ed., Sea power, pp. 336.

82 The Times, 10 March 1854, p. 10.

83 The Times, 14 March, 20 March 1854. Also: Rights of Neutrals Question, House of Commons
Sitting of Monday, 13 March 1854, and Friday, 17 March 1854, House of Commons Hansard. Third
Series, Volume 131.

84 Mr Milner Gibson, MP, in Rights of Neutrals Question, Commons Sitting of Monday, 13 March
1854, House of Commons Hansard. Third Series, Volume 131. Also: Economist, 25 March 1854, p.
313.
85 The Times, 20 March 1854, p. 6.

86 Sir J. D. Harding, Queens Advocate, to the Foreign Minister, the Earl of Clarendon, 15 March
1854, in PRO GENERAL & RUSSIA & TURKEY: Reports. Law Officers, on Questions Arising o
of the Crimean War, 18531856. Reference FO881/3576.

87 Review of H. Byerly Thomson, The laws of war affecting commerce and shipping, in the
Economist, 20 May 1854, p. 542.

88 The Times, 7 March 1854, p. 12.

89 The Times, 18 March 1854, p. 13; 27 June 1854, p. 1; 18 July 1854, p. 13.

90 For example: A.-G. Bellemare, Questions importantes dactualit. I. Droits des neutres en
matire de blocus et de prises maritimes, loccasion de la confiscation de proprits danglaises
captures pendant la blocus de Buenos-Ayres de 1847 1848 II. Dclaration de neutralit des
puissances maritimes. III.Questions de lettres de marque. Les corsaires et les agents de la russie
aux Etats-Unis. Notre recommande lattention des gouvernments de France et dAngleterre.
Pau, Imprimerie et Etnhographie . Vignancour, 1854; Fline, Guerre; P. Bravard-Veyrires, Manuel
de droit commercial . Paris, Cosse, 1855; Ncessit dun congress pour pacifier lEurope par un
homme dtat. Paris, Librairie de Firmin Didito Frres, 1855.

91 The Times, 2 May 1854, p. 10.

92 The Times, 13 May 1854, p. 10.

93 The Times, 13 May 1854, p. 6.

94 The Times, 29 May 1854, p. 10.

95 The Times, 31 May 1854, p. 10.

96 Sir J. D. Harding, Queens Advocate, to the Earl of Clarendon, 1 May 1855, in PROFO881/3576.
97 The Times, 4 January 1855, p. 8.

98 Anderson, Liberal state, pp. 2534; Anderson, Economic warfare, p. 37; Hamilton, Anglo-
French seapower, p. 176.

99 Anderson, Liberal state, p. 261.

100 Sir J. D. Harding, Queens Advocate, to the Earl of Clarendon, 17 September 1855, in
PROFO881/3576. Also: Illustrated London News, 17 November 1855, p. 595.

101 Sir J. D. Harding, 22 March 1854, as quoted in Anderson, Liberal state, p. 249.

102 Tracy, ed., Sea power, p. 3.

103 Anderson, Economic warfare, pp. 435; Baumgart, Peace of Paris, pp. 11213; H. Rotkirch,
The demilitarization and neutralization of the land Islands: a regime in European interests
withstanding changing circumstances, Journal of Peace Research 23, 4, December 1986, pp. 357
76.

104 Luntinen, Neutrality, p. 107; Petersen, Policy of 1812, p. 50.

105 Anderson, Liberal state, pp. 2668; Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 12937.

106 British representative in Berlin to Lord Clarendon, 2 March 1855, in PROPRO30/22/18.

107 C. I. Jackson, Fort Yukon: The Hudsons Bay Company in Russian America, The Hakluyt
Societ Annual Lecture 2005. London, The Hakluyt Society, 2005, p. 3.

108 Law Officers of the Crown to the Earl of Clarendon, 20 March 1854, in PROFO881/3576.

109 J. D. Grainger, The first pacific war. Britain and Russia, 185456. Woodbridge, Boydell Press,
2008 p. 191.
110 Grainger, First Pacific war, p. xi.

111 P. E. Eckel, The Crimean War and Japan, Far Eastern Quarterly 3, 2, February 1944, pp.
10918; Grainger, First Pacific war, p. 188.

112 The Times, 13 April 1854, p. 1.

113 Historians charting migration flows into the British colonies during the 1850s focus on the
steadiness of the flows and the large numbers of migrants. The Crimean War does not feature
specifically in their analyses: M. Harper, S. Constantine, Migration and Empire. Oxford University
Press, 2010, p. 2; W. D. Borrie, Immigration to New Zealand 18541938. Canberra, Demography
Program, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, 1938 (1991), pp. 13
18. Adam McKeown charts aggregated global migration patterns across the Atlantic as stable
between 1850 and 1860 (Global migration, 18461940, Journal of World History 15, 2, June
2004, p. 165), while Dudley Baines acknowledges that Emigration rates [from Europe] peaked in
1854 (Emigration from Europe 18151930. Houndsmills, MacMillan, 1991, p. 7). Also: A. G.
Kenwood, A. L. Lougheed, The growth of the international economy 18201990. An introductory
text. Third edition. London, Routledge, 1992, pp. 4459. With thanks to Felicity Barnes.

114 For the text of the Declaration of Paris: Menning, Art, p. 110. For government correspondence
leading to the Declaration: PROFO881/3576 and PRO GENERAL. Questions arising out of th
Crimean War, 18531856. Reference FO 834/2.

115 Ranft, Restraints, p. 45; Riste, Neutral ally, p. 18; Hinsley, Power, p. 233.

116 Neff, Rights and duties, p. 98; Hattendorf, US Navy, pp. 1656; Tracy, ed., Sea power, pp. xx,
4.

117 Hamilton, Anglo-French seapower, pp. 1824. For the perceived likelihood of war with the
United States: Bourne, Ginger beer, pp. 14571.

118 Tracy, ed., Sea power, p. xix.

119 William Pitt the Younger, Prime Minister in Britain, c. 1800, as quoted in Omond, Law of the
sea, p. 22.
120 Lord Castelreagh to Sir William Shaw Cathcart, British Ambassador in St Petersburg, 5 July
1813, in Menning, Art, pp. 89.

121 Riste, Neutral ally, p. 18. Cf Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, p. 8; G. Best, War and law
since 1945. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1994, p. 36.

122 H. J. Morgenthau (1958) in Agius, Swedish neutrality, p. 16; P. Lyon, Neutrality and the
emergence of the concept of neutralism, Review of Politics 22, 2, April 1960, p. 260; Lyon, Great
globe, p. 15; Salmon, Unneutral Ireland, pp. 910; Neff, Rights and duties, p. 86.

123 For example: Lord Cowley, British Ambassador in France, to Lord Clarendon, 28 March 1855,
in PROPRO30/22/18. For more on the negotiations at Paris: Hamilton, Anglo-French seapower
Baumgart, Peace of Paris; J. Lemnitzer, The 1856 Declaration of Paris and the abolition of
privateering: an international history. PhD, London School of Economics, 2010.

124 Hamilton, Anglo-French seapower, p. 190.

125 W. T. Stead, The united states of Europe on the eve of the parliament of peace. London, n.p.,
1899, p. 20.

126 Semmel, Liberalism, pp. 512. Also: Spall Jr, Free trade, p. 407; Bernard Semmel, The rise of
free trade imperialism. Classical political economy and empire of free trade and imperialism
17501850. Cambridge University Press, 1970.

127 D. Lieven, Empire. The Russian Empire and its rivals. New Haven, CT, Yale University Press,
2000, pp. 1921.

128 The Times, 14 February 1855, p. 6.

129 Anderson, Economic warfare, p. 34.

130 Geyer and Bright, Global violence, p. 651.

131Stockton, Declaration, p. 357; Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, p. 20, fn 9. Cf Tracy, ed., Sea
power, p. xvi; Anderson, Economic warfare, p. 34.
132 Edinburgh Review 144, 296, October 1876, pp. 358, 3667. Cf Semmel, Liberalism, pp. 545.

133 Illustrated London News, 3 May 1854, p. 470. Also: Mokyr, Enlightened economy, p. 154;
Anderson, Economic warfare, p. 39; Semmel, Liberalism, pp. 579.

134 Neff, Friends, p. 29.

135 F. Trentmann, Free trade nation. Oxford University Press, 2008.

136 B. Nasson, Britannias empire. Making a British world. Stroud, Tempus, 2004, p. 99.

137 Trentmann, Free trade, p. 21; M. Paris, Warrior nation. Images of war in British popular
culture, 18502000. London, Reaktion Books, 2000, p. 13.

138 Neff, Friends, pp. 589.

139 Friedrich List, National system of political economy (1841), as described in Neff, Friends, pp.
1213. Cf Lieven, Empire, pp. 1001.

140 Dowty, Limits, pp. 22830.

141 Schroeder, Austria, pp. 4223.

142 Schroeder, International politics, p. 171.

143 For example, in the 1860s, John Stuart Mill called the Declaration of Paris a national blunder
in Omond, Law of the sea, p. 45; T. G. Bowles, The Declaration of Paris of 1856 being an account
of the maritime rights of Great Britain; a consideration of their importance; a history of their
surrender by the signature of the Declaration of Paris; and an argument for their resumption by
the denunciation and repudiation of that declaration. London, Sampson, Low, Marston and
Company, 1900.
4 How to be neutral: negotiating neutrality in the wars of
nationhood, 18591871

The post-Crimean War period was one of unsettled European relations, tension, crisis and war. The
wars of Italian and German unification, the Polish insurrection in 1863, the Luxembourg crisis of
1867, the ongoing concerns over Greece, Russias unrelenting pressure to revoke the neutralisation of
the Black Sea, not to mention the global impact of the United States Civil War, all made the era
between 1859 and 1871 one of profound change. This was not an era of peace or tranquillity but
rather of wars of nationhood and the consolidation of national strength and power. Throughout,
Europe was on edge. Furthermore, by the end of the Franco-Prussian War, the map of Europe looked
nothing like its 1815 equivalent. Germany was fashioned out of the Prussia-initiated collapse of the
Confederation of German states, while Austria merged with Hungary to offer the Habsburg monarchy
an unstable future. The Italian territories and principalities also formed into a nation-state, if a rather
unpredictable one. The rise of Germany and the creation of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
fundamentally altered the European balance of power . Many historians see in these events the final
breakdown of the Congress system and the establishment of a new world order in which Germany
posed the greatest threat to continental peace. The steps to worldwide war in 1914, according to such
interpretations at least, began with the Franco-Prussian War. Certainly, the origins of the First World
War lay in the fractious relationships that developed among the European great powers after 1870.
Nevertheless, these same powers exercised an extraordinary amount of restraint towards each other
both in the years leading to the Franco-Prussian War and in its wake. The wars fought in Europe
between 1859 and 1871 were largely ones that formed or consolidated nation-states and, as such,
were instigated with limits and parameters in mind. There were a large number of such conflicts and
therefore there were also a large number of neutrals. The two greatest powers of the time, Russia and
Great Britain, were neutral in all of them. By foregrounding neutrality in the history of the period, the
relevance of restraint, peace and international cooperation can be shown to play an important
stabilising role in this otherwise uncertain period.
The years between 1856 and 1871 differed fundamentally from the Crimean War era. During the
Crimean conflict, neutrals derived numerous advantages and, with rare exceptions, encountered
almost no interference in their activities from the warring parties. As the previous chapter showed,
neutralbelligerent negotiations tended to focus on neutrals rights to trade with the enemy and their
access to the open seas. It was in the interest of most of the belligerents to allow for these neutral
shipping rights because they also protected their own maritime, economic and imperial power. After
1856, however, there was an intensification of conflict and, although most wars were of short
duration and involved only two or three belligerents, their almost constant eruption amplified the
importance of neutral rights. As a result, the practice of neutrality occupied the diplomatic affairs of
the continent for a much longer period of time and in the context of a wide variety of different types of
crisis. Many of these wars were also fought on the European continent and not, as was the case in the
Crimean War, on its peripheries. Unsurprisingly, in this context of continental warfare, the rights and
duties of neutrals extended well beyond issues of maritime trade and naval warfare (as had been
codified by the Declaration of Paris). The European neutrals prime concern in the wars of the 1860s
and early 1870s was determining the boundaries of their territorial sovereignty and responsibility. By
the end of the Franco-Prussian War, what was expected of a neutral was delineated not only by the
behaviour of the neutral state vis--vis the belligerents but also by its ability to police, monitor and
determine the actions of its subjects and citizens . In the era of the nation-state, neutrality came of age.
It was also nationalised.
In the post-Crimean War period, neutrality came of age in response to a number of factors. First,
and perhaps foremost, the great powers recognised that non-belligerency was a valuable tool for the
exercise of power politics. As a result, neutrality played a key role in sustaining the stability of the
international system . It provided the means by which states could avoid going to war and offered
incentives for them to do so. That states recognised each others right to neutrality also ensured
general recognition for the international rules that dictated the behaviour of neutrals. Defining exactly
how those rules applied, however, courted controversy. The interests of belligerents only rarely
matched those of neutrals and managing the expectations and behaviours of both played a key part in
any war. Although neutrality could offer benefits to the geo-strategic interests of belligerent states, for
example by keeping a war limited, removing the risk of invasion from a particular area or restricting
an enemys parameters of action, frequently neutrality also involved offering advantage to ones
enemy, for example through access to neutral trade . Balancing these competing interests strained
belligerentneutral relations. Most importantly, because there were so many wars and thus such a
variety of neutrals, finding workable means to be neutral when others were at war occupied the
day-to-day affairs of most European governments at one time or another between 1859 and 1871.
Pragmatism and past precedent usually determined a neutrals behaviour. At the start of a conflict,
a state declared its neutrality, either by way of a formal announcement or by notifying the belligerents
individually through diplomatic channels. Often, but by no means always, such declarations included
a list of rules and laws that the neutral state would apply to govern its conduct and the conduct of its
subjects. For their part, the belligerents usually acknowledged these declarations and held the
neutrals accountable to them, although they could, and frequently did, also issue their own
declarations of belligerent rights, for example by announcing blockades or determining which articles
they considered contraband and liable for capture when carried by neutrals to the enemy. Inevitable
tensions arose when neutrals breached either their own declarations or those of the belligerents, or
when either side interpreted these rules in different ways. Violations of neutrality were unavoidable
in large part because private individuals were wont to risk breaking the rules for personal gain. The
complexity in most neutrality cases came out of determining the level of responsibility that the
belligerent and neutral state had to the unneutral act in question and in ascertaining the extent of their
obligation to resolving its impact. The complexity was heightened when they disagreed about the
applicability of specific rules or when they invoked different interpretations of past precedents.
Between 1859 and 1871, belligerents and neutrals were involved in many complex, tendentious
and polarising arguments over the rights and obligations of neutral states. These arguments ranged
from the Alabama affair between Britain and the United States, to Belgiums rights to export military
materials in the Franco-Prussian War, to the ongoing controversies over what constituted contraband
and neutrals obligations regarding the carrying or export of contraband, to the implications of the
principle of continuous voyage, to the duties of neutrals to offer humanitarian and medical aid to
wounded soldiers and questions surrounding the internment of foreign soldiers on neutral soil. At one
level, these neutrality controversies shared many commonalities with the diplomatic wrangles that
neutrals and belligerents had waged through the ages about the application and interpretation of rules,
precedents and expectations. At another level, however, this era stood out because of the frequency of
wars and the high number of neutrals active in this period of belligerency. The combined effect of the
proliferation of limited wars and the increased number of neutrals heightened the perceived need to
clarify what was expected of neutrals and belligerents alike. As a result, by 1871 neutrality had
matured into a more stable form. It did so as an outcome of diplomatic and legal negotiations about its
limitations in theory and practice.
Through the 1860s and early 1870s, governments in Europe and the United States negotiated the
parameters of neutrality along three interconnected trajectories. First, they looked to international law
and precedent, including the application of international treaties, such as the Declaration of Paris
(1856), and to internationally recognised principles of neutrality, such as that of impartiality and the
requirement that belligerent prize courts determine the fate of neutral vessels captured at sea. Second,
they argued over the manner in which neutral governments exercised due diligence in upholding and
protecting their neutrality, as well as over the conduct of belligerents in respecting neutrals
territorial sovereignty . Third, they negotiated neutrality through what might loosely be termed power
politics, namely, through the role played by neutrals in charting the course of international events; for
example, by acting as mediators between rival states or by using an offer of neutrality to indirectly
mitigate or aid a belligerents cause. Neutrality was always a tool of power and diplomacy, for a
states neutrality survived only as long as belligerents recognised the states existence and respected
its neutrality or, failing that, if it could defend its sovereign independence and neutral face . The
maintenance of neutrality almost always had as much to do with the interests of the belligerents in
maintaining it as the ability of the neutral to uphold it.
Over more than a decade of staggered, if pernicious, warfare, the European states accepted
neutrality as a regular feature of the international environment . They all adopted neutrality at one
stage or another between 1856 and 1871. There is, therefore, no question that belligerents understood
that neutrals had rights and obligations. However, the answer to the question, How to be neutral?,
was problematic, especially when interpretations of the principles that applied to neutrality were
contested. Nevertheless, between the outbreak of the 1859 Italian war and the end of the Franco-
Prussian War in 1871, there was a substantial shift in understanding away from the loose conceptions
of neutrality that had been adopted during the Crimean War to more clearly defined ones. The
development of neutrality in this period came about as a result of diplomacy (managing the
belligerents demands and promoting the neutrals interests), the upholding of expectations concerning
appropriate neutral and belligerent behaviour (where they were known) and the creation of viable
ones (where they were not) and alleviation of the impact of neutrality violations when they occurred.
This chapter charts the events that shaped the maturation of neutrality through the wars of the
period the Italian and German wars of unification and the United States Civil War and brings out
its most prominent features. It emphasises the centrality of Britains commitment to neutrality. As one
of only two consistently neutral great powers of the time (the other was Russia ), Britain played a key
hand in keeping the multitude of wars that involved Europe and the United States to limited conflicts
that did not threaten the stability of the international system as a whole. Britain also played an
important role in protecting weaker neutrals from overly invasive belligerent demands, advocating
for the permanent neutrality of key states and regions and working to enact viable international laws
of neutrality and standardise their interpretation. Unavoidably, it was involved in disputes over
neutrality, especially with the United States during its civil war and with Prussia and France in the
Franco-Prussian War .
However, neutrality was not only a British preoccupation. It was also a European phenomenon. By
1871, all of the European states recognised that if they declared their neutrality, they had to act in
accordance with certain basic guidelines. Most of their governments also recognised the usefulness of
achieving greater clarity and predictability in neutrality matters. As a result, neutrality declarations
became more specific, as did the domestic laws that neutral countries used to enforce them. Although
neutrality was rarely without risk as Luxembourg and Belgiums situation during the Franco-
Prussian War will show it nevertheless proved a particularly durable element of the time. Overall,
the period between 1859 and 1871 saw great advances made in stabilising the obligations and rights
of neutrals in practice. In the following four decades and until the outbreak of the First World War,
the art of staying neutral would be formalised further in international law and practice, and states
would adopt it with ongoing regularity. Neutrality remained a defining, although never a predictable,
feature of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century international affairs .1
The first major European conflict fought in the aftermath of the Crimean War was the Second War
of Italian Unification (the First occurred in 1848, the Third in 1866), alternatively known as the
Franco-Austrian War, of 1859, which pitted France and its ally Sardinia (Piedmont) against the
Austrian Habsburg monarchy. Albeit a short conflict, it frightened most European heads of state, for it
risked much more than the unification of Italy, including the possibility of the spread of war around
the continent. Its origins lay in French and Sardinian plans to force Austria out of the Italian lands,
thereby extending Sardinian control over northern Italy and offering the French the annexation of Nice
and Savoy .2 It was a well-orchestrated event that relied on the neutrality of the rest of Europe,
particularly in terms of keeping the Russians, Prussians and British non-belligerents.3 In the end,
while the rest of Europe stayed neutral, French machinations, particularly after the deadly Battle of
Solferino, resulted in a separate peace signed by the French and Austrian emperors at Villafranca on
11 July 1859.4 Meanwhile, the war set in motion a series of violent events through the remaining
Italian lands that would result in their unification the following year (Venetia joined Italy in 1866).5
The Italian conflict of 1859 stands out in the history of neutrality for the determined neutrality
pursued by Russia and Britain and the armed neutrality of the Prussians. Both Britain and reformist
Russia sought peace and stability in Europe so they could focus on more pressing domestic and
imperial matters: Russia was in the midst of domestic reform, while, in Frank Coppas words,
Britains colonial and maritime venturescalled for continental peace.6 As The Times argued very
early on in the crisis:

it is possible, with impunity, to preach neutrality in England, where commerce asks for nothing
better, in order to avoid a crisis; but it would be impossible to saddle the nation with the
disgrace of an illiberal war.7

Both Britain and Russia pressured Prussia to uphold its neutrality.8 What all three great powers had
in common was not only the desire to localise the conflict but also the willingness to bring it to an end
as quickly as possible through mediation or by hosting an international congress .9 The Illustrated
London News idealised Britains role in the crisis as follows: while Europes rusty [diplomatic]
machinery croaks and groans, and refuses to do its work, Britain must take up the role of great
arbitress and create a new balance of power that shall not be within the means of any state great or
small, to disturb, without drawing upon itself the condign punishment of all the rest.10 The decidedly
more liberal Economist magazine advocated for a very similar stand from both Britain and Prussia:
it will be easy for usto be neutral. But this is not enough. To mediate and pacify with success,
we must be prepared and we must be powerful. We must have both fleets and armies in the
highest state of efficiency and readiness.11

In the end, Napoleon IIIs decision to ask the Austrians for an armistice came as much out of his fear
of Prussian entry into the war Prussia mobilised six of its army corps around the time of the
outbreak of the Battle of Solferino as it did his realisation that the war might last too long and
become increasingly unpopular in France .12 That none of the great powers actively mediated the
event and that no viable congress actually occurred takes little away from the fact that the three
neutral great powers were extraordinarily active in attempting to bring the war to a speedy end. The
1859 crisis was very much a Europe-wide affair and the great-power neutrals were active agents in
it.
In 1859, neutrality was universally popular in Britain .13 While most Britons supported the
unification of Italy, few believed it a cause worth going to war over, especially if it meant war with
either the French or the Austrians.14 Both liberals and conservatives advocated strongly for neutrality
and used noninterventionism as a platform in their parliamentary electioneering campaigns that year.15
There were obvious differences between their conceptions of British neutrality, however. The
liberals promoted neutrality as an aid to continental peace and British prosperity on the global arena.
As the Economist put it in June:

The long peace which we enjoyed in England from 1815 to 1854 was productive of enormous
advantages in a social and commercial sense to England, but in no way more than in the gradual
and at length complete development of free trade. Experience has taught us that it is in time of
peace only that the mind of nations is disposed to prosecute real substantial reforms; and this
consideration alone should constitute one of the strongest reasons for our persevering in a policy
of the strictest neutrality at the present time.16

The conservatives saw in neutrality an opportunity to keep the peace by keeping Britains military
and naval power on hand to interfere if required. As the Illustrated London News explained to its
readers in May: England fervently hopes that she may not be called upon to interfere in the war but,
if she does, she will come in all her gigantic power.17 It is in this combatant spirit that volunteer
rifle corps formed all over the country, a veritable nonintervention movement in favour of strict
neutrality on the part of England, which was neither the result of cowardice, indifference, nor
stupidity but rather a serious responsibility to act, if required, to pacify the continent.18
Historians usually cast British unwillingness to go to war in Europe from 1859 on as
isolationism, even if they acknowledge the imprecise nature of the term.19 However, the Pax
Britannica of the post-Crimean era was more neutral than isolationist in intent and execution. In his
book The limits of American isolation (1971), Alan Dowty argues that nineteenth-century American
foreign policy rested not on isolationism but on neutrality . He distinguishes between the two
concepts as follows: neutrality allowed for assertive foreign policies even when the United States
declared its non-belligerency in time of war, whereas isolationism implied a withdrawal from active
diplomacy. According to Dowty, at no time during the long nineteenth century was the United States
inactive on the worlds diplomatic stage. Rather, it was an active diplomatic agent with the intention
of avoiding going to war with other states.20 Similarly, using Dowtys distinction, it is clear that
Britain was also not an isolationist power in the mid-to late-Victorian era. Rather, it was an
occasional neutral of the first order. As the Edinburgh Review explained in 1876: the modern policy
of England is to maintain, as far as possible, a strict neutrality when war breaks out between foreign
States.21 One might even cast British neutrality as warrior neutrality . That is to say, Britains non-
belligerency in the wars of the time was always armed and powerful, albeit as a naval power, not a
land-based military one. As the greatest commercial and industrial power in the world, and
commanding its largest navy, Britain could not be a passive neutral. But its active neutrality, much
like that of the United States, was set up defensively, to avoid entanglement in unwanted foreign
wars.22
Where Great Britain differed from the United States, however, was that it did not announce its
neutrality as a permanent reality. Britain had no Monroe Doctrine and no official long-term neutral
position. The differentiation is a subtle but important one and contemporaries clearly understood it.
For example, in the aftermath of the 1859 Italian war, a group of Lancashire ship-owners complained
to their government that American ships were fast becoming the carriers of choice for merchants
around the world because the United States was recognised as a long-term neutral, while Britains
neutrality was always less reliable.23 The Economist picked up on a similar sentiment when it
proclaimed in 1860 that:

Neutrals enjoy a great advantage, amounting to an almost absolute preference, in time of war or
great danger of war; and permanent neutrals and our great commercial rival, America, may be
considered such has [sic.] a permanent advantage over us, which comes into play on every
occasion of alarm or disturbance in Europe. If France and Austria, Turkey and Russia quarrel,
the merchant in India knows that, before his cargo can reach England, England (or any other
European country) may be involved in war; and he sends home the English ship consigned to him
in ballast, forwarding his consignments to Europe by a non-European vessel.24

Where the magazine differed from the ship-owning Lancastrians, however, was in the recommended
solution to this neutral quandary: the Economist sought the universal adoption of the United States
exemption from capture for all private property at sea, while the ship-owners asked for the
abrogation of the Declaration of Paris . Either way, the interplay among neutrality, global economics
and perceived personal well-being was obvious. At the very least, the interplay between neutrality
and personal economic advantage guaranteed, as Jan Lemnitzer astutely comments, that in Britain and
throughout Europe, a steady stream of petitions, sent in the name of chambers of commerce or similar
bodies, ensured that the topic [of neutrality] was never forgotten long.25
The importance of Britains neutrality for the maintenance of its global interests and the security of
the open seas comes out equally well in a plea from The Times Melbourne correspondent on 14
September 1859:

During the Russian war [the Crimean War] very little anxiety was felt to the safety of this colony
[in Victoria, Australia ]. By the naval operations of England in the Baltic and the Black Sea and
the Sea of Azoft, Australia was effectively protected. Russia had no naval force at a distance,
and was not in a condition to detach any ships for distant conquest or plunder.But should
England in this war [in Italy ] be forced from her neutrality and have France for her enemy of
which I do not as yet see any probability our position will be one of extreme peril, and the
sinews of war, upon which England depends, may be crippled through us.26

Of course, by 1859, the ongoing colonisation of Australia and New Zealand, and in particular the
wealth brought by the Australian gold rushes, was of immense value to the British state and its empire
. Henry Reeves was similarly emphatic when he explained to readers of the Edinburgh Review in
1862 that Britain only gained from neutrality because in time of war with any maritime power,
Britains shipping to and from the Australian and Californian gold fields, not to mention its transport
of riches from India and China, would excite the vengeance of the enemy. He concluded that the
true interest of this country, beyond all others, is [safeguarding] the greatest freedom of the navigation
of the seas.27
Convinced of the need for neutrality and the value of the open seas, Britain practised at how to be
neutral in the 1859 conflict. It invoked the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1819 and spent quite some time
negotiating with the various Italian authorities over the fate of its citizens caught up in uprisings and
battles, including in the plunder of British property by Garibaldis Red Shirts on the island of Elba
and the capture of the British SS Orwell .28 British newspapers discussed the requirements of
neutrality at length. They debated whether the Queen should proffer a formal neutrality declaration
(which she subsequently did) and whether the Foreign Enlistment Act was sufficient to protect and
promote their neutrality. They also questioned the prudence of asking for greater clarity on contraband
definitions from the Sardinians, French and Austrians.29 Their editorials occasionally chastised the
government for risking Britains neutral face . For example, when certain members of the House of
Lords in July 1859 promoted a pro-Austrian stand in the war, the Economist argued that it would
wreak havoc on the belligerents expectations of Britains position in the war and dent foreign
respect for the countrys strict neutrality. 30 Likewise, The Times made sure to explain that when some
of its correspondents visited Garibaldi in Italy , their trip should not be considered a serious breach
of the neutrality of the nation.31
Nevertheless, in 1859, Britains responsibility to neutrality was mostly about taking opportunities.
There were no major crises with the belligerents over the interpretation of its neutral obligations,
even if there was some surprise that France bothered to declare coal as contraband in May. As The
Times explained at the time, Britain was Frances main supplier of coal and it was highly unlikely
that France sought to end that supply. At any rate, Austria had no navy of note and could not prevent
British coal getting to France whether or not it was contraband.32 The Economist further urged its
merchants to weigh the advantages of shipping contraband against the high unlikelihood of its
capture.33 The newspaper argued it was, after all, in line with the official British government position
on the matter, the responsibility of the belligerents to police neutrality violations.
Other neutral states took greater care in monitoring their neutrality than Britain and were much
more aware of their responsibility for upholding and protecting their neutrality as actively as
possible. Switzerland, for example, needed to be particularly vigilant in this respect because it
bordered Austria, France and Prussia and counted Sardinian-ruled Savoy as part of its security
responsibilities. It could not trust the French, Austrians or Sardinians not to breach its borders, march
troops through its territory or abuse its sovereignty in other ways. To protect its rights and show its
impartiality, the Swiss government issued an export prohibition on the sale of arms to the
belligerents; mobilised its army to patrol the borders; seized arms from deserters, travellers and
fugitives; and announced it would remove all military and civilian refugees inland and away from the
border regions.34 It apprehended and interned French and Sardinian troops found on Swiss soil in a
camp in Luzern and placed Austrians in Chur . These troops were only released at the cessation of
hostilities.35 In the end, none of the belligerents had any inclination to question the neutrality of
Switzerland, although once France absorbed Savoy in 1860, Swiss neutrality did excite serious
attention, as Chapter 2 has shown. Still, on the whole, the validity of Swiss neutrality in 1859 was
never in doubt. Even the open supply of arms to the belligerents by a number of other neutral states,
including Britain, Belgium, Bavaria, Saxony and Wrttemberg, did nothing to undermine the respect
of their neutrality in the eyes of the belligerents. Such placid belligerent behaviour was an echo of the
Crimean War . The belligerents of the 1860s and early 1870s would certainly not be as complacent or
lenient.
Nevertheless, despite the seeming permissiveness of the belligerents towards the neutrals, the
1859 conflict did much to energise debates about the maintenance of neutrality. 36 In the Netherlands,
for example, the Rotterdamsche Courant urged the government to consider mobilising troops to the
borders as Prussia and Switzerland had done, to protect its territory from incursions and to be seen as
armed and ready to defend its neutrality .37 A number of newspapers commented on the debates in the
Dutch Houses of Parliament about the merits of armed neutrality and the risks involved in mobilising
the army. 38 In part, the Netherlands situation was complicated by the fact that the province of
Limburg was a member of the German Confederation, which could threaten the countrys neutrality if
the Confederation went to war, much like Savoy complicated Swiss neutrality when France annexed
it in 1860.39 The expectation that armed defensive neutrality would be an effective means of
protecting the Netherlands and its international position nevertheless came out clearly in these
reports. As De Tijd explained in May, especially to stay neutral, we must arm ourselves,40 a
sentiment that also resonated in the Belgian press and government circles of the time.41
Neutrality, then, played a major role in the war of 1859 and its immediate aftermath. Even though
the belligerents did not bother too much about exacting appropriate behaviour from neutrals, many of
the neutrals debated not only the manner in which they should sustain their neutrality but also what the
formal requirements of neutrality were. As Verzijl explains, the 1859 war gave fresh impulse to the
activation of the rules of neutrality law42 and the 1860s would offer a tense environment to test them
further.
One of the few topics on which historians have written a substantial amount of neutrality history is
the civil war that erupted in the United States in 1861 after the secession of several southern states
from the Union. In strictly legal terms, as a civil war, the conflict need not have involved the
neutrality of other countries at all. According to established precedent, neutrality rules were only
binding in a conflict involving two separate sovereign states.43 However, when the Northern Union
declared the blockade of all of the Southern Confederacys Atlantic ports in April 1861, it invoked
the international laws applying to belligerents, which required appropriate responses from neutral
countries.44 Once the neutrals announced their neutrality, they thereby also recognised the sovereignty
of the Confederacy, whether they or the Union liked it or not.45 In this war, all of Europe was
officially neutral . Not all of Europe behaved alike towards the two warring factions, however, and
the conflict would see the erstwhile fervently neutral United States advocate for the belligerent rights
that international law allowed it. Most important from the Union governments perspective was the
supply of contraband and war machinery, including naval ships, to the Confederacy. The Unions
interpretation of the international laws brought it into heated disputes with several of the European
neutrals, Britain and France foremost among them. More than any other neutrality development of the
era, the disputes between the United States and Britain over neutrality established the precedent that
neutrals should take responsibility for their neutrality and police and prevent violations thereof.
As a belligerent in the Crimean War, Britain upheld the premise that neutral merchants should not
breach belligerent laws: they should not attempt to run a blockade, should allow for the search and
visit of their ships when suspected of carrying contraband and, if captured, should abide by the
belligerents prize-court rulings. From Britains perspective, it was the responsibility of the
belligerent to ensure neutral merchants abided by these rules: it had to mount effective blockades,
have an effective naval presence to intercept and police neutrals and have an effective prize-court
system in place. Of course, as the greatest naval power on Earth, Britain only gained from such a
system: as a neutral, its merchants had an advantage in wars involving weak naval powers, and as a
belligerent, it had the required naval strength to mount effective blockades and impose search-and-
visit. It is along this broad interpretation of belligerent rights that Britain invoked its neutrality in the
1859 Italian war and again in 1861 in the United States Civil War. It is this interpretation that brought
it into direct conflict with the Union government, which held that neutral states had a fundamental
responsibility to police potential violations of their neutrality from within and outside their borders
and, when they failed to do so adequately, that they should compensate the belligerents for that
failure. As Grosvernor P. Lowry explained to the American public in 1863, the sound maxim of the
law of nations [is] that a state is prima facie responsible for whatever is done within its jurisdiction;
he cited precedents of this position leading all the way back to the United States original neutrality
declarations in the 1790s.46
Historians have written much about Britains relationship with the United States during the civil
war, a substantial part of which argues either for or against the likelihood of British entry in the
war.47 At the time, there certainly were voices arguing for British intervention, which were
especially strong in the aftermath of the Trent affair in 1861, when the Union navy removed two
Confederate diplomats from the British mail ship, the RMSTrent. The Union claimed the diplomats
were contraband and therefore liable for removal from the neutral vessel. The British government,
correctly, countered that the act was a severe breach of the principles of the freedom of the seas and
of neutrality. The storm of protest that ensued included many ardent calls for Britain to go to war.48
Nevertheless, as Phillip E. Myers argues, in line with Frank J. Merli and Stuart L. Bernath before
him, both the British and Union governments main concern throughout the war (and at the time of the
Trent affair) was to avoid British involvement. Fortunately for them, the Confederacy was not very
good at conducting its wartime diplomacy and failed to turn the multitude of crises over British and
French neutrality into acts of interventionism or an Anglo-French war.49
For most European countries, the United States Civil War was an unwelcome development. It
affected the Atlantic economy and destabilised their understandings of global-power relationships.50
Not surprisingly, Britain, France and Russia attempted to intervene and mediate the conflict, although
with very little success, and in offering their services, they repeatedly offended the Union government
by not supporting its cause against what it saw as a rebellious and revolutionary uprising.51 From the
European powers perspective, however, if the civil war could not be solved, their own neutrality
was preferable to becoming directly involved. For some of the neutrals, and especially for the
British, neutrality offered particular economic benefits.
The Civil War reinvigorated the market for war materials in both the North and the South of the
United States, a boon for Europes neutral arms manufacturers, including in France, Prussia, Britain
and Belgium .52 Because the United States had not adopted the Declaration of Paris, the Confederacy
announced its intention to hound the mercantile shipping of the Union with a fleet of privateers and
issued letters of marque to foreign merchants willing to take up the offer. It did, however, accept all
of the other principles of the 1856 Declaration, including the principle that free ships make free
goods , and it promised that belligerent materials carried by neutral ships would be free from
capture as long as they did not carry contraband going to the Union .53 In other words, the
Confederacy as good as guaranteed that its privateers would only target ships flying the Union flag.
The Union government hoped that as signatories of the Declaration of Paris, Britain and France would
declare the Confederacys act as illegal and thus treat the Confederate privateer fleet as pirates.54
However, both Britain and France accepted the Confederacys right to privateering on the grounds
that the United States had never signed the Declaration of Paris and could therefore not be bound by
its terms. To placate the Union, they nevertheless announced that their subjects could not accept any
letters of marque, nor could the Confederacy (or any belligerent) bring captured prizes into neutral
ports. Most of the other European states made similar announcements.55 In so doing, they signalled
that the age of the privateer was just about over.56
From the neutrals perspective, that the Confederacy targeted Union shipping ensured the greater
safety of their own vessels and cargo along the Atlantic seaboard. Furthermore, it forced Union
merchants to transfer their cargo and passengers onto neutral ships . Britain took over a large amount
of the carriage of this American trade and bought up a considerable proportion of the American
mercantile and passenger fleet in the process: out of total sales of nearly $65 million in Union
merchant ships by July 1864, Britain bought $42 millions worth.57 In effect, Britain as a neutral
undertook what the United States and many of the other mercantile neutrals had done for decades, if
not centuries; namely, sustaining the day-to-day economies of the belligerents by transporting their
exports, imports, mail and people over the open seas. For the Union, the impact of the civil war on its
international economic situation was all too pressing. In turn, the Lancastrian ship-owners, who had
complained so loudly in 1860 about the dominance of the neutral Americans on the open seas, were
now smiling all the way to the bank, even if their compatriot mill owners and workers suffered from a
severe decline in cotton supply. In many ways, the profits made from the United States Civil War
through neutral shipping and the export of supplies ensured that the Confederacys hope of enticing
Europe into the war on the back of its embargo of king cotton would fail.58 At any rate, cotton could
be sourced from elsewhere and both Britain and France, which had substantial cotton manufacturing
industries to sustain, soon looked to alternative suppliers in India, China and Egypt .59
In military terms, then, the neutrality of Europe was essential for the Union . In economic terms,
however, the civil war was potentially crippling. Until 1861, the Atlantic Ocean had been a conduit
for an enormous amount of trade and economic interdependence among Britain, Europe and the United
States .60 The Crimean War had only increased the United States economic relevance for Britain and
Europe. The outbreak of the Civil War risked not only United States involvement in the carriage of
trans-Atlantic trade, even if neutral ships enabled it to continue sending out exports, but also the
viability of its other trans-oceanic financial connections. For the North, bringing the war to a quick
end was imperative and decimating the Confederacys war effort, both economically and militarily,
was essential. To that end, it could not and did not abide any of the neutrals offering their economic
and military services to the Confederacy.
The blockade of the Confederate ports was an essential part of the Unions war strategy. For the
Confederacy to have any chance of success in the Civil War, it needed a steady and reliable supply of
goods and military equipment from foreign suppliers. Most of that trade could only enter the South by
way of its blockaded ports and could only be obtained at an immense cost. The freight rates of neutral
blockade-runners alone were exponential when compared to their peace-time equivalents.61
However, blockading posed several challenges for the Union. First, a blockade had to be effective,
which meant that the Union navy had to be able to prevent ships from entering and leaving
Confederate harbours. If it could not do that effectively if it could maintain only a paper blockade
the neutrals could argue that they did not have to abide by the law and the Unions right to search
and visit their ships, not to mention its right to capture them as prizes, would end. That the blockade
was largely ineffective is clear from the large number of neutral blockade-runners that managed to
find their way into the Southern ports.62 However, the diplomacy waged over the issue was highly
sensitive. Britain and France were unwilling to disregard the validity of the Unions blockade. At any
rate, an ineffective blockade only aided their economic cause. It enabled their merchants to make
considerable profits by blockade-running. If they were caught, the neutral governments could avoid
any serious ramifications because it was the responsibility of the Unions prize courts to rule on such
matters. As Britains Foreign Secretary, Lord John Russell, explained to Britains ambassador in
Washington at the time: if British ships could not get through the Union blockade, smaller vessels
could easily run it out of Jamaica or the Bahamas, but, as he put it, it is not for Downing St. to
suggest such plans to Cheapside & Tooley St..63 Furthermore, entering into a quarrel with the Union
government over an essential element of its wartime strategy would only heighten tensions between
the belligerent and the neutrals; therefore, accepting the blockade declarations as legitimate was a
wiser path.
However, the concerns over the Union blockade heightened a number of other neutrality issues that
caused considerable stress in belligerentneutral relations during the Civil War. One of the ways in
which the Union attempted to maintain its blockade was to intercept shipping that it suspected of an
intention to break the blockade . It was especially concerned with goods leaving Union ports on
neutral ships, ostensibly destined for neutral destinations but ending up in the Southern ports instead.
It also policed shipping between neutral ports in the Caribbean . In turn, the neutrals and Britain
was foremost among them complained that the Union had no right to interfere in the legitimate and
peaceful trade between them.64 In so doing, they echoed the United States own long-standing position
on the continuous voyage provision in maritime law. The United States had declared any belligerent
interference with trade between two neutral ports unlawful as early as the Napoleonic Wars, and it
had reiterated that position during the Crimean War .65 In the end, however, Britain accepted the
Unions pronouncement of the belligerents right to ask for guarantees of the final destination for
goods carried on neutral ships as long as the belligerent did not enter a neutrals sovereign territory to
police it. Furthermore, Britain also accepted the Union governments request for the payment of bonds
for shipments leaving its harbours, to be repaid once the goods arrived safely in the neutral port of
destination.66 The British government even instructed the Royal Navy not to prevent the belligerent
capture of British merchant ships on the open seas. Within the three-mile sovereign zone of its
colonies, the navy could take action against American breaches of territorial neutrality, but even then
it acknowledged that it is H[er] M[ajesty]s Command that her Officers abstain from any act likely to
involve Great Britain in hostilities with the United States.67
That the sovereign territory of neutrals was inviolate was a key principle of international neutrality
law. Nevertheless, the Civil War witnessed a number of serious complaints by the British, Spanish,
Danes and Dutch about Union ships pursuing blockade-runners into neutral waters, at times even
sinking them. The sinking of the Spanish ship Blanche off the coast of Cuba in 1862, with British
goods on board, was particularly galling to neutral Europe.68 For Union naval captains, the handsome
prize money offered for captured blockade-runners ensured their ongoing reluctance to abide by the
international laws that the Union government readily accepted. In the end, the Union government had
to apologise for these violations and accept compensation demands from the neutrals .
As in any war, the belligerents were concerned about establishing a ready supply not only of
military materials but also of soldiers. It was the responsibility of neutrals, however, to prevent their
citizens from serving as mercenaries for any foreign power. The United States Foreign Enlistment
Act was created in 1794 for that very purpose, as was its British equivalent in 1819, after British
subjects offered to join the rebel armies in South America in their wars of independence against
Spain.69 Most of the European countries imposed similar domestic laws during the United States
Civil War. Prussian men of military age, for example, were refused passports to travel to the United
States if there was any suspicion that they might join an army there. Still, most governments could not
prevent the movement of their people, and large numbers of Europeans, as well as neutral Canadians,
did take up the call for arms that both the Union and the Confederacy made in their countries.70 At the
same time, many neutrals also advocated for their own citizens who had been drafted into the
American military forces. The Dutch Foreign Office, for example, was inundated with requests from
concerned family members of Dutch citizens residing in the United States. The Dutch ministry took up
most of these requests, albeit to little avail.71
Because the Confederacy did not have a navy, it used all manner of ingenious ways to acquire one
by buying ships, equipment and weaponry from neutrals. International law, however, proscribed the
sale and outfitting of warships by neutrals. Most neutrals included such restrictions in their neutrality
declarations and domestic laws . The British Foreign Enlistment Act, for example, did exactly that.
However, its provisions only applied to fully equipped naval ships, not to unarmed or partially built
vessels.72 As a result, even when the Union notified the British government of the sale to the
Confederacy of a potential warship in construction, the government felt unable to act to prevent the
transaction or the departure of the vessel out of its waters. The ship would leave Britain as an
unarmed neutral merchantman with a neutral crew and would obtain its arms (also manufactured in
Britain and transported separately) in another neutral port or on the open seas and then fly the
Confederate flag.73 Both the crew and the vessel would become belligerents while at sea. In this way,
British ship-builders and arms manufacturers sold several cruisers to the Confederacy, including the
Alexandria, Florida, Shenandoah and, most famously, the Alabama.74 These Confederate raiders
caused considerable damage to Union shipping and, unsurprisingly, were the reason for the Unions
strained diplomatic relationship with Britain during and after the war. French ship-builders also
supplied the Confederacy with such vessels. In 1864, however, the French government decided to
accept the Unions complaints as legitimate and tightened its domestic laws to police the breach of
neutrality more carefully. 75 Because France looked to United States neutrality in its war in Mexico,
the move to restrict the sale of warships was largely self-serving, but the end result remained the
same. From both the Unions and Frances point of view, neutral governments should take
responsibility for the actions of their citizens and for the maintenance of neutrality within their own
sovereign territory, especially when it came to the manufacture of sea-going vessels. In the end, many
of the French warships that had been intended for the Confederacy ended up in neutral Prussia
instead.76
It was not that the British government was unaware of its responsibility for preventing the sale of
warships. It was more that its instruments for policing that neutrality requirement were weak.77 The
Home Office certainly did keep an eye on ship-building activities, as it did on its subjects leaving
Britain and intending to sign up for military service in the United States.78 For the United States,
Britains claim that it was unable to effectively police the sale of potential warships was an
irrelevant defence: domestic law could be changed easily enough to enable the state to do what it
must to protect its neutral status.79 Britain did prevent the resale of a small naval fleet it had sold to
the Chinese, which China then sought to offload onto the Confederacy, by buying the ships back.80 It
also took to reprimanding the Confederacy for buying up ships that it knew were sold by neutral
citizens and against British law, as it did for the Rappahannock in December 1863.81 Nevertheless,
for the Union, the lack of decisive action by the British on the sale of the Alabama and similar vessels
created a major diplomatic impasse, which became a central issue in post-war relations between the
two powers.
The Anglo-American tensions over the Alabama highlight how easily a dispute about the
maintenance of appropriate neutrality standards could impact international affairs. From 1865 until
1872, Britain and the United States negotiated the terms of compensation and due acknowledgement
of responsibility for the Alabama. The Geneva Arbitration decision of 1872, which ruled on the
Alabama, simultaneously resolved several other Civil War neutrality violations as well, including
awarding compensation to Britain for the loss of British property and the violation of neutral
Canadian territory by the Union .82 Importantly, Britain had already initiated its own review of the
Foreign Enlistment Act in 1867.83 The Neutrality Commission inquiry ruled that the government could
do more to police its subjects unneutral behaviour and recommended a number of changes to the
Act, including on the sale and outfitting of potential warships to belligerents.84 The Commissioners
recommendations were in line with requests from British ship-owners, who, seeking to protect their
countrys neutrality during the Civil War, had urged a tightening of the provisions of the Foreign
Enlistment Act.85 At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, the government fast-tracked a
new Foreign Enlistment Act through Parliament to meet the needs of the neutral state in a new war.86
Perhaps the most significant step in the negotiations over the Alabama came with the signing of the
Treaty of Washington in May 1871. The Treaty was intended to renew and refresh the relationship
between Great Britain and the United States but also acknowledged the principle of a neutral states
responsibility to due diligence in exacting neutral standards of its subjects. 87 The treaty established
the maxim, as Edwin Maxey suggested in 1906, that neutrals were no longer free from blame.88
They had to ensure their citizens behaved appropriately and upheld the principles of impartiality and
territorial integrity in their dealings with the belligerents. The Economist described the obligation
very well in September 1872 when it explained that due diligence did not imply that neutral
governments had to do everything in their power to prevent subjects from acting unneutrally but
rather that

due diligence ought to be exercised by neutral Governments in exact proportion to the risks to
which either of the belligerents may be exposed from a failure to fulfil the obligations of
neutrality on their part.89

From the Economists perspective, the British government had taken no care with the Alabama and
some measure of liability should be attached to that lack of care.90
The Treaty of Washingtons tone was friendly and its implications important. In the words of a
contemporary Times editorial, it was, perhaps, the most valuable addition to international law ever
made.91 That the United States then pressed for heavy retribution against Britain for the Alabama and
its other Civil War infractions at the Geneva Court of Arbitration in 1872 came as a heavy blow and
caused much consternation in Britain.92 Nevertheless, at one level, the Geneva arbitration could be
seen as a success. It signalled that serious disputes between powerful states could be peacefully
negotiated through the means of an international arbitration tribunal, in this case presided over by
three neutral arbiters (from Italy, Switzerland and Brazil ) and one each from the two countries
concerned (Britain and the United States).93 It also signalled that neutrality was a respected element
of international affairs. Britain paid an unprecedented amount in compensation for the Alabama
violations to the United States ($15 million). It acknowledged, albeit ever so reluctantly, that although
due diligence had not been an accepted part of international law at the time the infractions occurred,
the principle of due diligence was important to the law of neutrality and needed formal recognition.
In turn, the United States paid Britain a much smaller amount for its share of neutrality infractions
during the war.94
Both the Treaty of Washington and the Geneva arbitration were key developments in the
formalisation of neutrality law and neutrality expectations in international law . For Britons, the
expectation that, as the Economist explained, it was not enough for a state to be nominally neutral in
time of war but that what was needed was for it to be really neutral had been signalled almost a
year before the Treaty of Washington was signed with the adoption of the new Foreign Enlistment Act
in 1870 .95 The Times too commented in great detail on the implications of the Foreign Enlistment
Act, highlighting how the revised law gave the government markedly improved powers to police the
export of contraband and ships. It cast, as one critic of the legislation asserted, a moral
responsibility on the Government, which will in many cases endanger our neutrality by giving
belligerents occasions to call us to account for the real or supposed neglect of our executive.96
Despite the critique, assigning moral responsibility to neutral governments to ensure their subjects
acted as neutrals should was precisely the point, and one that Britain reinforced in its negotiations
with the United States on the Treaty of Washington and accepted as inviolate in the Geneva
arbitration .
As Stuart L. Bernath describes it, during the Civil War , the Union required victory over the
Confederate States, peace with England, and a position supported by international law.Curiously,
Americas goals were in essence achieved.97 In line with Bernaths argument, it is important to note
that the Anglo-American arbitration process was not a struggle between belligerency and neutrality
but rather a balancing act between two principles that were valued equally by the international
community .98 In many ways, it would seem that the United States came out of the Civil War with its
interpretation of international law and neutrality confirmed and that it had made remarkable strides in
imposing those interpretations on Britain. However, both during and after the war, the United States
and Britain were very careful about setting precedents, keenly aware of the impact of their decisions
on the future use of neutrality by themselves and others. In the words of William H. Seward, United
States Secretary of State in 1863: It is also obvious that any belligerent claim which we make during
the existing war, will be urged against us as an unanswerable precedent when [we] may ourselves be
at peace.99 As such, it was to the future uses of both neutrality and belligerency that Britain and the
United States looked to define neutrality. That the British government accepted the Geneva arbitration
is a signal that it recognised the need for the obligation of due diligence.
Nevertheless, and much like the ongoing controversies about the Declaration of Paris, the terms of
the Treaty of Washington and the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1870 caused controversy among the
British newspaper-reading public. The new rules seemed to impose considerable duties on neutrals,
and ones that interfered with the largely unencumbered vision of neutrality most of these readers
preferred. The Times reflected general British opinion on the Alabama arbitration as follows:

we have lived to see many strange things, but, as yet, nothing stranger than a Court of
International Justice sitting in the Hotel de Ville of a Swiss town, convicting the British
Government of omission and neglect.100

Yet, the key point is that the British government accepted the Geneva judgement, which set a
precedent that it was happy to uphold for the future and to enforce on others.
That other neutrals understood the implications of the Alabama precedent is clear from how
closely they followed these events. As Edward Elliot acknowledged on the eve of the First World
War, after the Geneva arbitration, no nation would have pretended to be observing its neutral duties
while permitting such acts as took place in Great Britain during the Civil War .101 In the case of the
Netherlands, for example, the Dutch not only kept a very close watch on events in Washington and
Geneva but also instituted a review of their neutrality laws in 1872. They came to the conclusion that
the country did not need an equivalent of the British Foreign Enlistment Act but should continue to
remain exacting in its neutrality declarations and the use of domestic laws to police them.102 The
Swiss also reviewed the mechanisms by which they regulated their neutrality at the end of the Franco-
Prussian War , and some members of the federal government even suggested an international
conference to regulate neutrality more carefully. In the end, however, these initiatives failed to lead to
action due to dissension within the Swiss government about the fears that it would interfere with the
cantons internal authority. Like the Dutch, the Swiss held that their domestic laws were
comprehensive enough to accommodate international neutrality expectations.103 In Belgium, the Swiss
suggestions for an international conference were well received. Other Belgians, however, expressed
a fear that using an arbitration process to solve neutrality issues could see Belgium, as a permanent
neutral, face excessive and unrecoverable costs to belligerents in the future. By implication, due
diligence would weigh more heavily on it than other neutrals. 104 Nevertheless, as its conduct in the
Franco-Prussian War attested to, due diligence was exactly what it attempted to impose on its
subjects.
Obviously, there were always going to be practical limits as to what a neutral government could
do to protect its neutrality because unneutral private activity was difficult to identify, codify and
punish. A states responsibility to due diligence would, as a result, remain a complex element of
international neutrality law long after 1872. It complicated relationships not only between
belligerents and neutrals but also between the neutral state and its private subjects. That the
responsibility was taken with all the seriousness that it was due is clear from Denmarks neutrality
declaration in the SpanishAmerican War (1898), which stated that:

no proceedings should be taken by Danish subjects which could bring the neutrality of the State
into danger or could give foreign Powers cause for complaint against the Danish State as a
neutral.105

Even after the second Hague Peace Conference removed references to due diligence from
international neutrality law in 1907, the implications for how to police neutrality within domestic
law did not disappear. 106 In many ways, the art of staying neutral continued to revolve around the
ability of the neutral state to exact appropriately neutral behaviour from its subjects and to police the
integrity of its neutral territory and sovereignty.107 In the words of Bosanquet and Tangye in 1904:

The [neutral] State must in its collective capacity keep within those [international] rules, and
individual members, having regard to the power which they possess of compromising the
position of their country by unwise actions, should be careful in every particular to ascertain and
conform to the accepted laws of neutrality.108

In this way, neutrality was attached to nationality and the neutral nations burden was both a state-
based and an individual citizens one. For even though the international law of neutrality only applied
to the state, the neutral state now had an obligation to impose its acceptance of the international rules
on its subjects.109
That the United States Civil War and the Anglo-American wrangling over neutrality occurred
concurrently with the wars of German unification is highly significant. Both the United States and
Britain looked to apply their precedents to the situation in Europe. At any rate, the events in Europe
often overshadowed those of the Civil War in the perceptions of Europeans, particularly during the
Polish crisis in 1863 and during the war over the Danish regions of Schleswig and Holstein the
following year,110 which led to the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. The Franco-Prussian War (18701)
was the largest and most dangerous European war of the late nineteenth century and, importantly, also
posed the greatest threat to neutrals and neutrality. Crucially, this conflict witnessed the greatest
efforts to protect neutrality as well, and it is through this contextual lens that the wider implications of
the Geneva arbitration process must be viewed. As the Economist explained to its British readers in
August 1870:

We are doing as much for the Prussians as they did for us in the Crimean War; we are doing
more for the French than they ever did for us in any war, and we apply the same rules to both.
But it does not follow that we are doing all that we can or ought.111

Neutrals, so the magazine continued, had duties, and if the belligerents did not police those duties then
the neutral government must do so, because it was better to restrict commerce a little and to regulate
the export of contraband than it was to risk war. 112 Because neutrality was valuable, it needed to be
protected by the neutral state.
In terms of continental stability, the wars of German unification were extraordinarily important. As
any reading of the neutral press confirms, most of Europe watched the rise of Prussia in the 1860s
with an increasingly fearful gaze.113 The conflicts of the 1860s brought out the vulnerability of
Denmark, Luxembourg and Belgium particularly. More immediately at risk, however, was the
independence of the Third German states, including Hanover, Saxony, Baden, Bavaria, Karlsruhe,
Nassau, Frankfurt and Hesse-Kassel . Their attempts at maintaining a formally neutral position were
repeatedly thwarted by Prussia and Austria, first in 1864, then again in 1866.114 The Netherlands was
equally worried about the fate of Limburg, which formed a part of the German Confederation . Its
government even called up a volunteer corps in 1866 to protect the province from possible
occupation or attack .115
The Franco-Prussian War was the most important European conflict of the long nineteenth
century, for it reshaped the European balance of power and reconfigured the map of Europe in
fundamental ways. It was also the most important European conflict in terms of defining the rights and
obligations assigned to land-based neutrals . Furthermore, it was the first continental war that
seriously risked the viability of the permanent neutrality of Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg . In
the process, it threatened to undermine the use of neutrality as a stabilising mechanism in international
affairs, a concern that was particularly pressing for Great Britain . At its most basic level, the war
also highlighted the necessity of clarifying the laws of neutrality to meet the needs of belligerents and
neutrals alike. Nevertheless, despite the many risks posed to neutrality during the Franco-Prussian
War, by its end neutrality remained a valuable element of the international environment on a systemic,
diplomatic and geo-strategic level. In the wake of the war, the international law of neutrality was
codified more stringently in treaties and conventions, including at Brussels in 1874 and The Hague in
1899 and 1907. These codification developments reinforced the Geneva arbitration ruling of 1872
that neutrals had an obligation to protect their neutrality. As a result, the growth of neutrality in
international law cannot be seen as development stemming from Anglo-American relations alone but
was equally founded on the wartime practices of Europeans in the Franco-Prussian War. In
combination, the years 1870 to 1872 created the modern concept of neutrality, grounded in the
principles of territorial sovereignty, impartiality and neutrals exercise of due diligence .
At one level, the Franco-Prussian War illustrated how willing some of the great powers were to
forego the neutrality of key European states. The Benedetti Treaty proposal and the crises over
Belgian railways in the late 1860s, for example, suggested how prepared France and Prussia were to
give up on the independence of Belgium and Luxembourg to advance their own ends.116 Similarly,
Austria and Russia were increasingly reluctant to accept the terms of the Treaty of London (1830) and
come to the aid of Belgium if it should be attacked. As a result, Britains exertions in renewing
Prussian and French guarantees of Belgian neutrality in August and September 1870 and in obtaining
Russian and Austrian support for the same are highly significant.117 It is not enough to explain
Britains interference on behalf of Belgium as motivated by its own security concerns. It is easy to
cast British actions on behalf of Belgium in the Franco-Prussian War as self-protection: they kept
Britain and the British Channel safe from attack. However, there was much more at stake in 1870 than
Britains continental and domestic security. Britain realised all too well that if the Treaty of London
were to lapse, it risked not only the existence of Belgium and Luxembourg but also the reputation and
respect for neutrality more widely, as well as the value of the international treaty system that
underpinned the practice of neutralisation . From Britains and many of the smaller European states
perspective, the Franco-Prussian War was destabilising enough without also undermining some of the
key elements of constancy offered by neutrality and neutralisation.118 This is also a reason why the
reneging of the neutrality of the Black Sea in 1871 was so staunchly opposed by Britain. Of course,
the British government was concerned about Russias resurgent position in the world, the diplomatic
bonds it occasioned between Germany and Russia and its own loss of face in accepting the
revocation of a key element of the Paris negotiations of 1856. But it also feared that the act damaged
the perceived viability of neutralisations, neutrality and the strength of multi-lateral treaties more
generally.119
It is along this same interpretative line that we should cast Britains support for the ongoing
neutrality of Europes at-risk states in the Franco-Prussian War. The neutral countries of most
concern were those bordering or situated in close proximity to the new German nation. Most of these
neutrals, including Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium, came under
immense pressure from the Prussians to act more neutral during the war. The British governments
concern about the possible spread of war resulted in it issuing a telegram to all neutral governments
asking that they agree to consult with each other before voluntarily giving up their neutrality. 120 As the
Earl of Malmesbury implored his government in the House of Lords in July 1870:

Both the [French] Emperor and the [Prussian] King have said that this is a national war. It is a
trial of strength between two nations. Europe, in fact, was too small for these great potentates to
live quietly side by side.But besides an absolute neutrality on our part, we must insist as much
as possible upon an honest neutrality on the part of other nations now at peace. It is of the utmost
importance that we should speak plainly on this subject, and tell Denmark that she must remain
neutralit is most essential that Belgium and Holland should be told that they must remain
perfectly and honestly neutral.121

When in September 1870 there was some suspicion that if Prussia won the war it might annex
Denmark, which might then spur Russia to annex Sweden, the British envoy in Copenhagen was also
quick to call his government to action:

They [Denmark and Sweden] are both terrified at the coming dangers, and unless morally helped
and guided by advice, will probably blindly rush into the very dangers they seek to avoid To
save the independence of these ancient nations would be a good work, and the more so, as their
preservation tends to the maintenance of our present maritime greatness and power.122

For Britain, at least, neutrality was a key component of the effort to restrain and manage the
parameters of the continental conflict.
The war certainly strained the neutrality of many European countries, most significantly those in
Third Germany, which sought guarantees of their independence. Baden and Bavaria were
particularly vulnerable. Prussia garrisoned Baden and Wrttemberg early in July 1870 according to
the terms of a military alliance initiated by Bismarck in 1866, but mainly to prevent them declaring
their neutrality. 123 Similarly, the Bavarians only reluctantly agreed to fight alongside the Prussians
against the French. As the British envoy in Munich explained, the Bavarians were inthe unfortunate
position of having to fight with a Power [Prussia] which wishes to reduce them, and against one
[France] that wishes to aggrandize them.124 They preferred neutrality and independence but could not
avoid belligerency. 125 If war was unavoidable, however, they would rather fight on the side of the
Prussians than the French.126
The war also highlighted that there was no homogeneous version of being neutral . The politics
of neutrality around Europe offered a widely variable palette of ideas, behaviours and policies. For
example, the neutrality of the permanent neutrals Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg was most
at risk from outsiders, as the sensational release of the proposed terms of the Benedetti Treaty in July
1870 highlighted all too well.127 In their own ways, each permanent neutral took extra care to behave
as neutrally as possible and, as a result, imposed a range of obligations on themselves. The neutrality
of the Netherlands was less at risk, even if the Prussians were quick to admonish the Dutch for all
manner of real and supposed neutrality infractions. The Dutch were nevertheless pernickety about
presenting a neutral face to the world and their government agitated over its neutrality. 128 Quite in
contrast, Danish neutrality was most at risk from the inside. Most Danes were wary of Prussia but
also wished for the return of Prussian-controlled North Schleswig . Many Danish political groups
saw an opportunity in the war to regain the lost province. When it became clear that France could not
win the war, other Danes were willing to promote a Danish alliance with Prussia as the best means of
guaranteeing the nations security.129 Fearful of the rise of Prussia, both Britain and Russia advocated
for Denmarks neutrality. 130 In the end, Germany did not invade Denmark, even though there was
ample opportunity to do so. Bismarcks greatest concern was the stability of Germanys position in a
post-war Europe, and he could not endanger his relationship with his powerful eastern neighbour,
Russia, or the worlds foremost naval power, Britain. Their neutrality, at the very least, was sacred
to him.131
Less controversially, Swedens neutrality during the war was strictly maintained, albeit with a
wary eye kept on Russia . Austria-Hungary, in turn, announced its neutrality with the proviso that it
would maintain it as long as Russia stayed out of the war.132 Neutrality was universally popular on
both sides of the Dual Monarchy, albeit as long as the war remained localised.133 Furthermore,
neutrality avoided the complication of deciding which side to support if war did come. Austria-
Hungarys complicated domestic political environment supported a policy of peaceful relations with
the rest of Europe. The Pesti Napl worded the sentiment in a slogan: Neutrality, namely, neutrality
at peace.134 Much like Britain and Austria-Hungary, Russia used the language of restraint and peace
to advocate for its non-belligerent status and as a means of achieving its dearest policy objective, the
abrogation of the neutralisation of the Black Sea.135 It signed an agreement with Prussia at the
outbreak of war to that end: Russia would help to keep Austria-Hungary neutral if Prussia agreed to
rescind its support for the 1856 agreement over the Black Sea.136 Britain went into the war as a
staunch neutral, urging all states against interfering, and in October 1870 offered to organise an
international conference, with the neutrals acting as mediators .137 At various times, Austria-Hungary
and Russia also proposed mediation and international congresses to bring the conflict to an end.138
Meanwhile, Italy declared its neutrality at the outbreak of the war, with the proviso that its ongoing
non-belligerency depended on the localisation of the conflict. In the end, Garibaldis forces did
intercede after France removed its garrison from the Vatican for fear of breaching the papacys
neutrality in the war.139 Spain, whose succession crisis had ostensibly brought the war about in the
first place, acknowledged its vexed situation and proclaimed a strictly neutral position as well.140
The Ottoman Empire offered a more muted neutrality declaration, in which it raised concerns over the
future of the Danubian principalities and Russian diplomacy over the Black Sea .141
With the important exception of the states in the defunct German Confederation, Prussia and France
began the war with the intention of respecting the neutrality of their neighbours. However, sustaining
that neutrality was, in several cases, easier said than done. Luxembourg was particularly vulnerable.
But even in Luxembourgs case, tense diplomatic negotiations over the fate of the neutral did not
result in a declaration of war on the neutral or bring about the nullification of neutrality, even if
Bismarck declared in December 1870 that he no longer held to the terms of the Treaty of London that
guaranteed Luxembourgs neutrality. Ultimately, keeping the Franco-Prussian War a limited affair,
and therefore acknowledging the rights of neutrals, was in the interest of both the victorious Germans
and the much-reduced French.
What the war did do, however, was highlight how vital it was to stipulate what neutrals could and
could not do and what they should and should not allow in terms of their relationships with the
belligerents. The Franco-Prussian War asked new questions of neutrals. Of course, existing neutrality
issues about sea-borne trade, contraband (especially of coal and armaments ), effective blockade and
so forth continued to plague neutralbelligerent affairs during the war, although with less intensity
than the Anglo-American relations on those issues.142 As had happened in all recent wars, merchants,
financiers and ship-owners in Europe and Britain made frantic requests of their governments to find
out about the consequences of the conflict for their international commercial and financial dealings.143
Calls to overturn the Declaration of Paris in favour of an international declaration protecting all
private property at sea also came from various international quarters.144 For most continental
neutrals, however, a spate of new questions bearing on neutrality were far more pressing, some of
which related to technological developments, some to the territorial limitations and sovereignty
expectations of neutrals and some to the conduct of neutral citizens . These issues ensured that the
international law of neutrality had to deal with much more than the rights of trade and shipping or the
parameters of economic warfare at sea.
The Franco-Prussian War complicated the question of how to protect the territorial boundaries of
neutral states. According to the long-established precedent of neutral impartiality, neutrals should not
advantage one belligerent over another, especially in terms of military assistance. Their sovereign
territory should therefore also remain inviolate. Both the Prussians and the French carefully
monitored the clandestine abuses of their neighbours neutral borders. They judged the viability of
neutrality in terms of due diligence. It was in the best interest of neutrals bordering the warring
states, and especially those situated in close proximity to the war fronts, to patrol their borders, man
their fortifications and intercept people and goods leaving and entering their country. Belgium and
Switzerland were particularly fastidious in policing their frontiers. Switzerland even closed a section
of a railway line that crossed the Swiss border between Constance and Ble .145 As a permanently
unarmed neutral, however, Luxembourg could not follow suit. In the end, it was Luxembourgs
inability to protect its territory from neutrality violations that explains Bismarcks stark declaration in
December 1870 that he no longer considered the duchy neutralised .
The rise of new communication technologies also complicated the territorial inviolability of
neutrals in the war. While existing modes of cross-border communications, including postal services
and pigeon carriers, were regulated, and in the case of pigeons interdicted, in many neutral states the
question of what to do with telegraph communications was more difficult. Could belligerents use
telegraph lines that crossed neutral countries or were owned by neutral companies? The Belgians
certainly planned to cut telegraph cables crossing their frontier at the outbreak of war. 146 The
Americans and British, however, had particular interest in protecting their submerged telegraph
cables. In February 1871, the United States suggested an international convention neutralising the use
of submerged telegraph cables, thereby allowing their free use by belligerents and neutrals alike
without hindrance. The British were wary of losing sovereign control over communications and
acknowledged the great danger a neutral could get in if it failed to adequately monitor the uses made
of its communication channels to transmit and receive information.147 Furthermore, they feared the
damage done to the principle of the right to blockade . In other words, if belligerent messages (like
formal despatches) were deemed contraband then belligerents had the right to intercept the
contraband and cut any cables carrying it.148 Nevertheless, the British Law Offices remained unclear
on the best response to this novel neutrality concern. They were willing to accept the idea that
telegraph cables should be neutralised and exempt from belligerent attack, but at the same time
understood the right of belligerents to interfere with neutral cables if they transmitted enemy
messages.149 The issue was particularly complicated because the Royal Navy had already taken into
custody a French ship laying telegraph cables in the British Channel on the grounds that it breached
Britains territorial neutrality.150 The war failed to solve the quandary and it would take the Spanish
American War of 1898 to make telegraph cables an internationally recognised neutrality concern,
which the experiences of the Russo-Japanese War only reinforced. 151
Much more trying to neutrals and belligerents in the Franco-Prussian War was the use made of
neutral territory to smuggle contraband. Prussia was particularly adamant that neutrals should not
export contraband. Until the Franco-Prussian War, and with the notable exception of warships, most
European neutrals had not bothered to regulate the export of armaments. They argued that since the
goods were equally available to all belligerents, there was nothing impartial in continuing the trade.
However, in 1859, Switzerland set a precedent by imposing an export prohibition on contraband,
including weapons and horses . The European neutrals also understood the implications of the Anglo-
American deliberations over due diligence in 1870. Above all, they wished to avoid agitating
Prussia . As a result, the Austrians, Dutch, Danes, Belgians, Swiss, Swedes, Italians and Spanish all
imposed export prohibitions on notable contraband items, including military goods, horses, cattle and
coal .152 Britain, however, refused to succumb to Prussian pressure on the matter, arguing that it was
Prussias responsibility to intercept contraband shipments before they reached enemy ports.153 In the
words of the ever-patriotic Illustrated London News:

In the present instance, Englands impartial neutrality bears hard upon Germany, because
Germany has no sufficient power at sea to stop contraband trade. But really, England ought not to
be held responsible for that.In conformity with her canon of neutrality, she gives, it may be
said, an equal ration to each but if one has good teeth to make the best of it, and the other has
none that are presently serviceable, she ought not to be blamed for the inequality.154

Still, the issue was fervently debated among newspaper-reading Britons, some of who were happy to
forego the right to trade in contraband if it strengthened Britains neutrality. 155 At any rate, the Home
Office closely monitored all European exports and followed up any irregular shipments of known
contraband items.156 Prussia did not relent in its protests against Britains behaviour, which was
clearly out of line with the continental neutrals, although it did not make the same complaints against
the United States .157 After the war, in 1872, the Dutch promoted the idea that international law
needed to be more exacting about the requirement that neutrals not trade directly with belligerents in
ammunition and armaments.158
As one of the worlds most industrialised nations, with a thriving armaments and coal-mining
industry, Belgium stood to lose the most from the export prohibition on contraband.159 Nevertheless,
the Belgian government took its neutrality so seriously that it even issued import bans on contraband
items, thereby enabling it to monitor the movement of contraband goods before they reached the
smugglers who moved them on to Prussia and France .160 Switzerlands situation was also tricky. The
Prussians and French believed their own merchants used Switzerland as a route to move goods to the
enemy. As a result, both belligerents imposed comprehensive export prohibitions on military goods
and foodstuffs going to Switzerland, unless the Swiss guaranteed they would not re-export them.161
Until Switzerland accepted the re-export guarantee, the bans had a decisive impact on border
communities that relied on the supply of bread and other foodstuffs from suppliers located just across
the border. 162 Needless to say, and despite all of the good efforts of these neutral governments,
smuggling did not stop. This was in the interest of many, including the belligerents themselves, who
often gained from obtaining the smuggled materials. The key to maintaining a neutral face in the war,
however, was to be seen to be actively policing all potential violations .163
Another element of impartiality that adversely affected neutralbelligerent relationships in the
Franco-Prussian War more than in any previous conflict was the manner in which the neutral press
reported on the conflict. Both belligerent governments were adamant that neutrals should not openly
declare favour for or against them. Prussian newspapers were particularly good at chastising the
neutrals for publishing pointedly pro-French or anti-Prussian perspectives on the war. Prussian
diplomats complained loudly and frequently to their neutral counterparts about unneutral press
reports. They were especially sensitive about Belgium. Belgiums free and opinionated press had
caused serious diplomatic tensions in the past, but because the freedom of the press was
constitutionally guaranteed in Belgium, there was very little the Belgian government could do to
control publishers.164 Nevertheless, in October 1870, Bismarck urged the Belgian government to
interfere directly, accusing the Belgian press of overly pro-French sentiments and suggesting that such
sentiments might endanger Prussias respect for Belgian neutrality. The Belgian government heeded
the warning and set up a cross-parliamentary body to find new means of controlling the press in crisis
situations.165 Bismarck was never satisfied that Belgium did enough to promote genuinely neutral
perspectives on the war, however. At one stage, he even requested that the Belgians expel all French-
born editors of Belgian-published newspapers.166 Belgium attempted to counter some of these
demands. It mounted its own neutral propaganda campaign in Prussia, for example, including issuing
a pamphlet entitled Berufung Belgiens auf das ruhige und billige Urteil Deutschland (Belgian
appeal to the peace-loving and just opinion of Germans) that argued how ardently neutral Belgians
were and what actions the country and its subjects had taken to support their neutrality. According to
the British envoy in Brussels, however, the pamphlet made little impact on the opinions of Prussias
major newspapers or on the Prussian governments views of Belgian neutrality. 167
The Prussians, and to a lesser extent the French, also berated the Dutch, British and Swiss for
biased war reporting.168 The Swiss and Dutch governments urged their populations to promote
genuinely impartial opinions of the war. These pleas were heeded more carefully in the Netherlands
and Switzerland than in Belgium. Although supporting a healthy and diverse range of opinions of the
war, most Dutch took great pride in their neutrality. 169 For example, the Algemeen Dagblad was
proud to publish an article entitled How our neutrality is upheld by a lady. The article explained
how a Dutch housewife had hidden her husbands tourist medallions depicting Parisian scenes,
including one of Napoleon Is grave. She did not want him to wear them and present an
inappropriately unneutral demeanour on the streets of their town. 170 In contrast, the British
government did not interfere in its countrys newspaper reporting. Its consul in Brussels remarked that
it is evident from the language of the German press that what is expected of England is not the
reserve of a neutral but the sympathy and support of an ally.171 Obviously, the risk of Prussia forcing
Britains hand and declaring war was infinitesimally small. Britain could risk the ire of Prussia in
ways that the Dutch, Swiss and Belgians felt less able and were less willing to do.
It is important to recognise, however, that despite the British governments firm stand against
Prussia on the issue of press censorship, the British press was extraordinarily active in promoting the
countrys neutrality, as well as in debating the ways in which it should be sustained. This is not to say
that the British press did not have political leanings for and against the belligerents all newspapers
did within and outside neutral Europe172 but rather that neutrality was a clearly considered element
of their representation of the war. In a feature article entitled Neutrality, for example, the Illustrated
London News exhorted:

Neutral nations, as they follow the fortunes of the combatants, are very liable to get heated. The
temptation if indeed there is any, to choose our side and cast our lot with it will be best resisted
by a careful study and a resolute discharge of the special obligations arising out of our neutral
position.173

Similarly, The Times commented repeatedly on the implications of neutrality for British security, the
well-being of British merchants, the needs of the neutral state at war and the obligations neutrality
entailed. Its editorials were equally reflective of the implications of due diligence for Britain as a
neutral. Above all, the tone of the British press reflected an acceptance that neutrality required a
particular approach to international affairs that took into account the rights of belligerents to demand
appropriate and impartial conduct of neutrals.
Although it may not have implored neutrality of its press, the British government did advocate that
its public servants and government officials present a strictly neutral face to the world. As official
representatives of a neutral country, they were expected to behave appropriately neutral. They could
not voice favour for a belligerent, nor were they allowed to participate in any public festivities
celebrating Prussias victories in the war. 174 Most neutrals expected the same of their public servants
and some even expected it of their citizens . The Austro-Hungarian government, for example,
prohibited its German subjects from celebrating the fall of Paris or the signing of the Treaty of
Versailles in 1871. 175 In contrast, the Swiss were more lax and faced an embarrassing situation at
wars end. When the German inhabitants of Zrich held a public party in honour of the formation of
the new Germany, a contingent of French internees housed in the city attacked the feast and rioted in
the streets. The federal authorities were quick to act. They suppressed the upheaval, arrested the
French soldiers involved and initiated a commission of inquiry. 176
At another level of relevance, the Franco-Prussian War brought out the humanitarian
responsibilities of neutrals in new and important ways.177 As John F. Hutchinson explains, the war
presented a watershed in the history of the relationship between war and charity . 178 In large part
due to the signing of the Geneva Convention in 1864, humanitarianism played a key part in the
diplomacy and conduct of the war. Switzerland, for one, lobbied hard to ensure the French and
Prussians would abide by the protocols they had both signed. Switzerland also asked the other
neutrals to support the protocols and urge their use on the belligerents. Despite the fact that the French
took less care in applying them than the Prussians, both sets of belligerents recognised the right of
neutrals to send medical aid to the warfronts and mobilised their own aid societies to that end as
well.179 The war years also witnessed an extraordinary array of novel neutral practices in dealing
with the arrival of foreign soldiers and civilian refugees in neutral territory. Historically, neutral
countries often functioned as refuges from war, revolution and persecution. For example,
Switzerland, Belgium and Sardinia offered asylum to refugees escaping Louis Napoleon in 1851, and
a veritable colony of Russians exiled from France and Britain appeared in Belgium during the
Crimean War .180 Switzerland was a common country of exile for dissidents from around the
continent.181 As such, neutrality and humanitarianism were closely connected ideals. However,
allowing military and civilian refugees into a neutral country could complicate its relationship with
the belligerents and might occasion charges of impartial conduct.182 This was particularly at issue
when it came to soldiers. As a result, the ways in which neutrals exercised their humanitarianism
were part of a much larger understanding of the role of neutrality in wartime.
The Prussian invasion of northern France occasioned tens of thousands of locals to flee the
battlefronts. Many of these refugees ended up in Switzerland and Belgium.183 After the fall of Sedan
in September 1870, for example, 20,000 French refugees made their way into Belgium.184 During the
siege of Strasbourg that same month, Switzerland offered asylum to all of the towns residents, after
asking and receiving approval from both belligerents. More than 2,000 Strasbourgers took up the
offer and were housed with Swiss families who lived close to the border.185 Although it involved a
burden on local and national resources, offering a safe haven for refugees was one of the main ways
in which neutrals could alleviate some of the burdens of the war. It also heightened their humanitarian
purpose and function . It was not surprising that it was in terms of humanitarianism that many
Europeans understood and promoted the value of neutrality. Britains Illustrated London News, for
example, evocatively explained the connection as follows:

[the relief of the sick and wounded] is a topic which at the present moment ought to, and
doubtless does, above all others, take hold of the sympathies of the neutral neighbours of the
contending military Powers.For the future, we trust, aid to the wounded will be as carefully
organised by neutral nations as means and processes of destruction are by belligerents. The
wounded might be looked upon as clients of neutral nations.186

That Britain sent the HMSDefence to Rome in 1870 to offer refuge to the Pope from the invasion of
Garibaldis forces should be seen not only as a decision informed by the public opinion of Catholics
in Britain and a foreign policy supporting the consolidation of Italy, as Owain Wright suggests, but
also as a humanitarian act worthy of a strictly and proudly neutral nation in time of war.187
However, the value of humanitarian diplomacy could sour when it came to political refugees. The
revolution in Paris and overthrow of Napoleon III in October 1870 put considerable pressure on the
neutrals to take in political refugees. For example, the French Emperor and Empress found their
separate ways into Belgium that month. The Prussians accompanied Napoleon III through Belgium to
Wilhelmslohe after the Battle of Sedan. The Empress moved on to Britain after a short stay in
Brussels .188 Whether the Belgians liked it or not, Brussels became a veritable headquarters for
Bonapartists during the rest of the war, including a large number of members of the ex-imperial court,
along with their families, diplomats, loyal military personnel and other civil servants. These exiles
obviously hoped for the restoration of Napoleon III at the end of the war and bided their time.
According to the British envoy in the Belgian capital, they even expressed a hope of mobilising the
large number of interned French soldiers in Belgium to retake Paris from the revolutionaries.189 That
Bismarck manipulated this situation to his liking further complicated Belgiums position and meant it
did very little to officially restrict the French exiles.190 After the fall of the Paris Commune in May
1871, however, the Belgians were quick to close their borders to this new group of political refugees,
fearful that they might incite a revolution within Belgium. In contrast, neither the Swiss nor the British
closed their borders, although they did keep a close eye on any new arrivals. 191
In terms of medical care, the neutrals located closest to the military fronts were quick to send
medical help to the wounded, including Red Cross and other nursing units. The Swiss even
transported ice from their mountains to field hospitals in France .192 From a logistical and
humanitarian perspective, it also seemed to make sense to move wounded soldiers to neutral territory
for treatment and recovery. However, the humanity of the action had to be weighed against the
implications of the neutrality for the countries involved, let alone that of the Red Cross units.193 Much
correspondence passed between the neutrals and belligerents about the appropriateness of removing
belligerent soldiers from a field of battle without their consent and with no guarantee that they could
return on recovery. Several questions complicated the issue: Was the neutral interfering in the course
of the war if it removed wounded from the battlefronts? If it could move the wounded to neutral
territory for treatment, would it have to take equal numbers from both sides of the battlefield? Once
the soldiers were treated in a neutral country, were they to be interned along with all other foreign
military personnel? Could they be returned home? Furthermore, could the belligerents transport
wounded soldiers across neutral territory for treatment back home?194 In September 1870, Prussia
asked Belgium if it could send wounded soldiers from France back to Prussia using Belgian railway
lines. The Belgians initially denied the request, arguing that because France opposed the act, it would
be unneutral for them to comply. In the end, however, the Prussian transports went ahead. The
Belgian authorities ignored Frances disapproval on humanitarian grounds and recognised that the
French were in no position to enforce a different course of action. However, as the British envoy in
Brussels explained to his government, it was irregular behaviour for Belgium and the country might
be held to account for it in the future. He urged that once peace returned, an international conference
be held to ensure that humanitarian needs were better met within the international laws of war and
neutrality.195 In effect, the Brussels Convention of 1874 did that as much as it ruled on the internment
of foreign soldiers and the treatment of enemy prisoners of war. These same conditions were codified
further in the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907.196
Almost as perplexing as the treatment of wounded soldiers were the expectations placed on
neutrals in terms of interning foreign soldiers who crossed their borders, whether escaping from the
war, deserting, avoiding capture as enemy prisoners of war or accidentally, unaware of where the
border was situated. Because there was no international law on the matter, Switzerland invoked past
precedents. During the Polish uprising of 1831, for example, Prussia had interned Russian soldiers
who had crossed into Prussian territory and Austria had disarmed all foreigners found on its
sovereign territory.197 Similarly, the Ottomans interned Hungarian soldiers during the 1849 Hungarian
uprising,198 and Switzerland did the same to Italian revolutionaries in 1848, and again to all foreign
soldiers in the 1859 Italian war .199 In 1870, Belgium and Italy followed Switzerlands lead, thereby
confirming that in time of war, neutrals should disarm and intern foreign soldiers, who were to be
released and repatriated only at wars end.200 However, the simplest of rules had many complicated
implications, including: Who was going to pay for housing, feeding, guarding and entertaining the
internees? Could they be set to work? Were officers to be treated differently than enlisted men? How
were the neutral authorities going to ensure that enemy internees were kept apart? How were
internees to be kept from escaping? What was to be done with the interned military materials,
including horses, that came with the soldiers? What about the wounded among them? Were known
deserters to be treated as ordinary soldiers?201 These questions became particularly pressing when
80,000 French soldiers, bringing 10,000 horses with them, sought refuge in Switzerland in February
1871. The Swiss authorities consulted with the French authorities and signed a specific internment
agreement that included conditions on who would pay for their upkeep. 202
As in any war, wild stories about belligerent excesses and beastly conduct circulated in the
international press. One such narrated how four French prisoners of war escaped from Prussia, made
their way into the neutral Netherlands and, when apprehended by the Dutch authorities, were returned
to Prussia, where they were executed. The Netherlands government was quick to deny the story; at
least, it acknowledged that the escapees had arrived in the Netherlands but stated they had not been
returned to Prussia. Instead, they were kept in custody awaiting the outcome of an investigation.203
The story raised a series of important questions: What were the obligations of neutrals to escaped
prisoners of war? Could they return them to their captors? Could soldiers be given free passage
home? Similar humanitarian questions were raised when deserters, conscientious objectors and other
men avoiding conscription fled to a neutral country. For example, in 1871, Prussia entered into a
concerted negotiation with Denmark over the fate of 320 North Schleswig residents who had escaped
conscription in the Prussian army by crossing the border into Denmark. The Prussians demanded that
Denmark repatriate the conscripts, even though there was considerable debate between the military
and civilian authorities in Berlin on the legality of the demand.204 In the end, Denmark did not
comply. It could not do so on nationalistic and humanitarian grounds: the individuals involved would
face the charge of desertion and, if convicted, would be sentenced to death.205
Altogether, the Franco-Prussian War highlighted how in a military conflict involving the great
powers, neighbouring neutrals had no option but to actively monitor and police their neutrality.
Active neutrality implied mobilising their armed forces, patrolling their borders, initiating neutrality
decrees and acting in every way possible to protect the sovereignty of the state, the integrity of its
territorial boundaries and the preservation of an impartial demeanour towards the belligerents. The
neutrals did so in a tense environment, in which the belligerents placed extraordinary pressures on
them to behave appropriately neutrally and to avoid unnecessarily advantaging the enemy. The
Prussians were certainly more willing and active than the French in threatening and cajoling neutrals
into behaving strictly neutrally. Given the domestic turmoil and political instability in France during
the war years, this is not surprising. Needless to say, however, the Franco-Prussian War was a key
event in developing the modern understanding of the rights and duties of neutrals.
As mentioned previously, the greatest threat to neutrality during the Franco-Prussian War involved
the small principality of Luxembourg. From the start of the conflict, Luxembourg came under
suspicion for its porous borders. Because the 1867 neutralisation treaty prevented the neutral from
defending its neutrality at the outbreak of war in 1870, it even looked to destroy any remaining
fortifications it could also not defend or police its border regions.206 Hence, both the French and the
Prussians abused Luxembourgs unarmed neutrality by moving goods, the wounded and
occasionally armed soldiers through its territory. They each also bandied about accusations and
counter-accusations concerning the others neutrality violations. Britain became so concerned about
the future of Luxembourg that it posted an envoy there to gather information and keep an eye on
frontier matters.207 The Duke of Luxembourg, meanwhile, travelled from his home in the Netherlands
to Luxembourg in October 1870, with much public aplomb, to highlight the duchys independence and
commitment to neutrality. 208 Nevertheless, in December 1870, Bismarck declared that he no longer
recognised Luxembourgs neutrality because it had failed to prevent the movement of French supply
trains and soldiers through its sovereign territory .209 In Luxembourg, 40,000 locals signed a petition
pleading with Bismarck to respect their ongoing independence.210 Around Europe, many neutrals not
only sympathised with the Luxembourgers but also feared the implications of any Prussian retribution.
Significantly, and despite Prussias strident declaration against Luxembourg, it did not invade the
duchy. Neither did France . In turn, none of the great powers that had guaranteed Luxembourgs
neutrality in 1867 needed to come to its aid, although they did have to consider whether they would.
211 As a result, the Franco-Prussian War remained a localised conflict. That it did so is a key point.
Localisation ensured Prussias victory and guaranteed the unification of Germany. It also kept the rest
of Europe from war and heightened the perceived value of neutrality as a viable foreign-policy option
when great-power tension threatened war. Importantly, for the next four decades, until the outbreak of
the First World War, there would be no wars among the great powers, even though there were many
crises among them. As William Mulligan acknowledges, more than forty years of peace cannot be
seen merely as a run of good fortune.212 He argues that historians need to alert themselves more to
the flexibility in the international system . The attractions of neutrality as a means of protecting
national interests played a major part in sustaining that flexibility. The origins of the First World War
may lie in the alliances and power politics of the post-1870 era, but the overriding feature of that
same period was the ability of the great powers to avoid war. Peace, not war, was deemed very much
in the interest of the common good.
What the crisis over Luxembourg during the Franco-Prussian War further illustrates is that neither
the Germans nor the French were willing to allow for a lax reading of the rules . They exacted neutral
behaviour from their neighbours and complained loudly when they failed to act in a neutral capacity.
Above all, the relationships between neutrals and belligerents during the Franco-Prussian War
indicated that the loose interpretations of neutrality that had applied in the Crimean War era could not
be maintained in an era in which the benefits of limited war were carefully balanced against the costs
of the neutrality of others. The war did not signal the end of neutrality, however. To the contrary, it
signalled a growing willingness to make the rules that applied to neutrality more exact and more
consistent. As Roderick Ogley exclaims, the Franco-Prussian War was a triumph for the rule of law
against the rule of force.213 Furthermore, it illustrated that neutrals could sustain important
humanitarian functions in time of war. As the Swiss president declared to the countrys federal
parliament at the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War, a new era had dawned in Europe, one in
which the Swiss had to be more careful about their national security, but also one in which
Switzerland had successfully kept a profile of neutrality and humanity, which, in his view at least,
enhanced its international security and domestic tranquillity.214
In most standard historical accounts, the Franco-Prussian War is presented as a key moment that
changed the fate of Europe. It brought Germany into being, heightened great-power tensions and
brought greater instability, fear and inflexibility into the international system. There is much to be said
for this perspective. After 1871, there were fewer small states in Europe. Bismarcks ensuing
balance-of-power system was not based on flexibility but rather on more rigid alliances .
Furthermore, Britains global power was in relative decline from this point on, while the rest of
Europe caught up in terms of industrial production and imperial and commercial expansion.
Nevertheless, in this new era, neutrality continued to have ongoing relevance: it helped to protect
access to empires and global commerce, it offered choices in time of war and it provided a means of
avoiding conflict if that was necessary or desirable. As will become clear in the next chapter, after
1871 neutrality also became an increasingly important part of popular European understanding of the
global community and ones own nations place within it. Neutrality was not only a term of concern to
governments, lawyers and diplomats but also a culturally constructed idea that had wide circulation .

1 Cf M. M. Abbenhuis, The art of staying neutral. The Netherlands in the First World War 1914
1918. Amsterdam University Press, 2006.

2 Bridge, Habsburg monarchy, p. 66.

3 D. Beales, England and Italy 18591860. London, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1961, p. 64; A.
Blumberg, Russian policy and the Franco-Austrian War of 1859, Journal of Modern History 26, 2,
June 1954, pp. 13740; Baumgart, Peace of Paris, p. 191.

4 For more: Correspondence respecting the affairs of Italy, January to May 1859, HCPP 1859
Session 2 XXXII.1.
5 For more on the wars of Italian unification: F. Coppa, The Italian wars of independence. London,
Longman, 1992; J. Gooch, The unification of Italy. Florence, KY, Routledge, 1986; Bridge,
Habsburg monarchy, pp. 6573.

6 Coppa, Italian wars, p. 97. Also: Beales, England and Italy, pp. 3840.

7 The Times, 24 January 1859, p. 9. Also: Earl of Malmesbury to Lord Bloomfield, 4 May 1859, in
Correspondence respecting the affairs of Italy.

8 Prussia (neutrality). Copy of a dispatch addressed by HMs Principal Secretary of State of


Foreign Affairs to HMs Minister at Berlin, dated 22 June, with reference to the neutrality of Prussia
with regard to the war in Italy, HCPP 1859 Session 2 XXXII.559. Cf H. Hearder, Queen Victoria
and foreign policy. Royal intervention in the Italian question, 18591860 in Bourne and Watts, eds,
Studies, p. 177; Blumberg, Russian policy, p. 146.

9 The Times, 14 June 1859, p. 10; Blumberg, Russian policy, pp. 143, 1489.

10 Illustrated London News, 5 February 1859, p. 120.

11 Economist, 7 May 1859, p. 503, 25 June 1859, pp. 6989.

12 Coppa, Italian wars, p. 95; Bridge, Habsburg monarchy, pp. 689.

13 Beales, England and Italy, pp. 501, 63, 67; P. Scherer, The Benedetti draft treaty and British
neutrality in the Franco-Prussian War, International Review of History and Political Science 9, 1,
1972, p. 97; Illustrated London News, 11 July 1859, p. 554.

14 Gooch, Unification of Italy, p. 27.

15 For example: The Times, 3 April 1859, p. 8; 2 May 1859, p. 9; Illustrated London News, 30
April 1859, p. 414.

16 Economist, 4 June 1859, p. 617.


17 Illustrated London News, 7 May 1859, p. 439.

18 Illustrated London News, 25 May 1859, p. 510, and 21 May 1859, pp. 481, 490. Also: 9 July
1859, p. 25; The Times, 5 May 1859, p. 8; 21 May 1859, p. 12; 24 May 1859, p. 5; 30 May 1859, p.
12.

19 Millman, British foreign policy, p. 219.

20 Dowty, Limits, p. 6. Cf J. W. Rooney Jr, Belgian-American diplomatic and consular relations


18301850. Publications Universitaires de Louvain, 1969, esp. pp. viiix, 25, 11.

21 Edinburgh Review 144, 296, October 1876, p. 358.

22 Cf Beales, England and Italy, pp. 38, 1723.

23 Sir Edward Hertslet, report on the Declaration of Paris, Foreign Office Librarian, 9 February
1893, in Tracy, ed., Sea power, p. 92.

24 Economist, 4 February 1860, p. 117.

25 Lemnitzer, Declaration of Paris, p. 25.

26 The Times, 14 September 1859, p. 10.

27 Henry Reeve (attr.), Art. X-1. The law of nations considered as independent political
communities, Edinburgh Review 115, 233, pp. 264, 280. Cf A. H. Imlah, Economic elements in the
Pax Britannica. New York, Russell & Russell, 1958, pp. 1578, 172, 186.

28 Verzijl, International law, pp. 11415.

29 For example: Illustrated London News, 7 May 1859, pp. 4389; The Times, 20 May 1859, p. 7;
Economist, 21 May 1859, p. 571.
30 Economist, 9 July 1859, p. 755; 23 July 1859, p. 813.

31 The Times, 20 June 1859, p. 11.

32 The Times, 31 May 1859, p. 7.

33 Economist, 21 May 1859, p. 561. Also: The Times; 23 May 1859, p. 7.

34 The Times, 24 May 1859, p. 7.

35 M. Steiner, Die Internierung van Armeeangehrtigen kriegfhrender Mchte in neutralen


Staaten, inbesondere in der Schweiz whrend des Weltkrieges 1939/45. Zrich, Ernst Lang, 1947, p.
13; N. Salzburger, P. Stadler, Die Schweiz und die Donaumonarchie in Wandruszka and Ubanitsch,
eds, Habsburgermonarchie, p. 165.

36 Rotterdamsche Courant, 10 June 1859, p. 2; Utrechtse provincial en stads-courant, 27 May


1859, p. 3.

37 Rotterdamsche Courant, 7 May 1859, p. 2.

38 For example: De Tijd, 20 May 1859, p. 1; Rotterdamsche Courant, 31 May 1859, p. 1.

39 Hoppenbrouwer, Nederlandse mobilisatie, p. 8.

40 De Tijd, 20 May 1859, p. 1.

41 Den Denderbode, 1 May 1859, pp. 14; 3 July 1859, p. 1; 28 August 1859, pp. 12; Coolsaet,
Belgi, pp. 1201.

42 Verzijl, International law, p. 114.

43 Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, p. 187.


44 For more on the Union blockade: D. G. Surdam, The Union Navys blockade reconsidered in
Elleman and Paine, Naval blockades, pp. 609.

45 Lord John Russell, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to Richard Bickerton Pernell
Lyons, British Ambassador in Washington, 4 May 1861, in Tracy, ed., Sea power, p. 44; H. Jones,
Union in peril. The crisis of British intervention in the Civil War. Chapel Hill, University of North
Carolina Press, 1992, pp. 435; D. P. Crook, The north, the south, and the powers 18611865. New
York, John Wiley and Sons, 1974, pp. 4950, 79; L. M. Case, W. F. Spencer, The United States and
France. Civil War diplomacy. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1970, p. 590; W. V.
Harcourt Esq., The rights and duties of neutrals in time of war, Royal United Services Institution
Journal 9, 37, 1865, pp. 31328; Verzijl, International law, pp. 11516.

46 G. P. Lowry, English neutrality. Is the Alabama a British pirate? New York, Anson D. F.
Randolph, 1863, p. 15.

47 For example: B. J. Steele, Ontological security and the power of self-identity. British neutrality
and the American Civil War, Review of International Studies 31, 2005, pp. 51940; Crook, North,
south; Jones, Union in peril; M. Crawford, The Anglo-American crisis of the mid-nineteenth
century. The Times and America, 18501862. Athens, University of Georgia Press, 1987; S. L.
Bernath, Squall across the Atlantic. American Civil War prize cases and diplomacy. Los Angeles,
University of California Press, 1970; P. Thompson, The case of the missing hegemon: British
nonintervention in the American Civil War, Security Studies 16, 1, 2007, pp. 96132.

48 The Trent affair is one of the most thoroughly studied neutrality issues of the nineteenth century:
Tracy, Sea power, pp. xxi, 4953; J. P. Baxter, Papers relating to belligerent and neutral rights,
18611865, American Historical Review 35, 1, October 1928, pp. 847; Jones, Union in peril, pp.
8099; P. E. Myer, Caution and cooperation. The American Civil War in British-American
relations. Kent State University Press, 2008, pp. 3, 6488, 239; D. A.Campbell, English public
opinion and the American Civil War. Woodbridge, Royal Historical Society at the Boydell Press,
2003, pp. 807; Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, pp. 402; B. Montague, A historical account of
the neutrality of Great Britain during the American Civil War. London, Longmans, Green, Reader
and Dyer, 1870, pp. 188225; Reeve, Law of nations considered; F. J. Merli, The Alabama, British
neutrality and the American Civil War (edited by David M. Fahey). Bloomington, Indiana University
Press, 2004, pp. 1617; Case and Spencer, United States and France, pp. 190249; Crook, North,
south, pp. 10870; Notes of Austria, France and Prussia to the United States regarding theTrent
Affair, 1861, American Journal of International Law 10, 2, April 1916, pp. 6772.

49 Merli, The Alabama. Cf E. D. Steele, Palmerstons foreign policy and foreign secretaries 1855
1865 in K. Wilson, ed., British foreign secretaries and foreign policy. From Crimean War to First
World War. London, Croom Helm, 1987, pp. 5860.
50 Case and Spencer, United States and France, p. 592; Crook, North, south, pp. 49, 95, 207.

51 Jones, Union in peril, p. 5; Burk, Old world, pp. 2712; Crook, North, south, pp. 1389.

52 H. M. Adams, Prussian-American relations, 17751871. Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 1960


(1979), p. 82.

53 Confederate Consul Bunch to Lord Lyons, 16 August 1861, in Montague,Historical account, pp.
1825.

54 Jones, Union in peril, p. 41.

55 Verzijl, International law, p. 115; Adams, Prussian-American relations, p. 76; Jones, Union in
peril, p. 43. Also: Earl Russell, Foreign Office, to Sir George Grey, Home Office, 31 January 1862,
in PRO American Civil War: neutrality of England; rules to be observed, 1862. Reference HO
45/7261; Dutch Foreign Minister to Dutch representative in Washington, Koert van Limburg, 24 May
1865 in NA, Gezantschap Verenigde Staten/Legatie Washington, 18141946 2.05.13nr32.

56 With many thanks to Leon Ostick.

57 Myer, Caution and cooperation, p. 233; Bernath, Squall, p. 5.

58 Tracy, ed., Sea power, p. xxii.

59 Merli, The Alabama, p. 9.

60 Crawford, Anglo-American crisis, pp. 89.

61 Tracy, ed., Sea power, p. xxii; Bernath, Squall, p. 4.

62 Bernath, Squall, p. 11. Cf S. Anderson, 1861: blockade vs. closing the Confederate ports,
Military Affairs 41, 4, December 1977, pp. 1904.
63 Lord John Russell to Lord Lyons, 16 August 1861, in Tracy, ed., Sea power, p. 46.

64 For example: 1900 [Cd. 34] Miscellaneous. No. 1 (1900). Correspondence respecting the
seizure of the British vessels Springbok and Peterhoff by United States cruisers in 1863, HCPP
1900 CV.913.

65 Hattendorf, Maritime conflict, p. 109; Tracy, ed., Sea power, pp. xxxxi.

66 Bernath, Squall, pp. 1415.

67 Admiral Milne, Additional instructions [to the Royal Navy, North American Coast] 12
November 1861 in Baxter, Papers relating, p. 83. Also: J. P. Baxter, The British government and
neutral rights, 18611865, American Historical Review 34, 1, October 1928, pp. 1819; Neff,
Rights and duties, pp. 1201.

68 Stuart to Russell, 18 October 1862, in J. J.Barnes, P. B. Barnes, The American Civil War
through British eyes. Dispatches from British diplomats. Volume 2 April 1862 February 1863.
Kent State University Press, 2005, p. 214; Bernath, Squall, pp. 99107.

69 D. A. G. Waddell, British neutrality and Spanish-American independence. The problem of


foreign enlistment, Journal of Latin American Studies 19, 1, May 1987, pp. 118.

70 Adams, Prussian-American relations, p. 82; Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, p. 40.

71 NA2.05.13nr32.

72 Montague, Historical account, p. 391; M. Lobban, English approaches to international law in the
nineteenth century in M. Craven, M. Fitzmaurice, M. Vogiatzi, eds, Time, history and international
law. Leiden, Martinus Nijhoff, 2007, pp. 734.

73 For example: The Alabama. Copy of or extracts from the correspondence between the
Commissioners of Customs and the Custom House authorities at Liverpool, relating to the building,
fitting-out, and sailing of the vessel no. 290, since known as the Confederate cruiser, Alabama,
HCPP 1863 LXXII.637.
74 Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, p. 39.

75 Case and Spencer, United States and France, pp. 5956.

76 Adams, Prussian-American relations, p. 87.

77 Lord Stanley to Sir F. Bruce, 30 November 1866, in North America. No. 1. (1867).
Correspondence respecting British and American claims arising out of the late civil war in the United
States, HCPP 1867 LXXIV.1.

78 For examples: PROHO45/7261.

79 Mr Hamilton Fish, United States Department of State, to Mr Motley, United States Ambassador in
London, 25 September 1869, in 1870. North America. No. 1. (1870). Correspondence respecting the
Alabama claims: 18691870, HCPP 1870 LXIX.439.

80 Merli, The Alabama, pp. xviixviii.

81 Baxter, Papers relating, pp. 8891.

82 Earl of Clarendon to Mr Thornton, 10 June 1869, inHCPP 1870 LXIX.439. On the issue of
Canadian neutrality: PRO, Records created and inherited by the Foreign Office. General
Correspondence from Political and Other Departments. Foreign Office and predecessors: Political
and Other Departments: Supplements to General Correspondence before 1906. AMERICA, UNITED
STATES. Neutrality law, Canadian insurrection, 18371838 FO97/12.

83 For more on the Neutrality Laws Commission: PRO Records created or inherited by the Home
Office, Ministry of Home Security, and related bodies. General registers, registered papers, warrant
and entry books and correspondence; and records of General and E Departments, and wartime
departments (First World War). Home Office: Registered Papers. Registered Papers, c18411855,
18561871 HO45/8167.

84 Report of the Neutrality Laws Commissioners; together with an appendix containing reports from
foreign states and other documents, HCPP 186768, XXXII.265; Montague,Historical account, p.
405.
85 The Times, 16 May 1864, p. 7.

86 The Times, 9 August 1870, p. 6; Foreign enlistment. A bill [as amended in Committee] to prevent
the enlisting or engagement of Her Majestys subjects to serve in Foreign Service, and the building,
fitting out, or equipping, in Her Majestys dominions, vessels for war-like purposes, without Her
Majestys license, HCPP 1870 II.77.

87 Instructions to Her Majestys High Commissioners, and protocols of conferences held at


Washington between February 27 and May 6, 1871, HCPP 1871 LXX.25; Verzijl, International
law, p. 117; Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, pp. 4555; Myer, Caution and cooperation, p. 248;
Tracy, ed., Sea power, pp. 823.

88 Maxey, Growth of neutral rights, p. 57.

89 Economist, 21 September 1872, p. 1158.

90 Economist, 13 May 1871, p. 562.

91 The Times, 30 May 1871, p. 6 (with thanks to Philip Arnold); Myer, Caution and cooperation, p.
4.

92 Cf John Wraight, The Swiss and the British. London, Michael Russell, 1987, p. 260.

93 Verzijl, International law, p. 116; Raymond R. Probst, Good offices in the light of Swiss
international practice and experiences. The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1989, pp. 589; Geoffrey
Best, Peace conferences and the century of total war. The 1899 Hague Peace Conference and what
came after, International Affairs 75, 3, 1999, pp. 6289; Mittler, Der Weg, p. 359.

94 Myer, Caution and cooperation, p. 253.

95 Economist, 6 August 1870, p. 971.

96 George Bowyer in The Times, 8 July 1870, p. 6.


97 Bernath, Squall, p. 17.

98 Cf Baxter, British government, pp. 1213.

99 William H. Seward, Report on neutral mails to Washingtons Department of State, 24 April


1863, in Baxter, Papers relating, p. 87.

100 The Times, 19 September 1872, p. 9.

101 Edward Elliot, Neutral duties, California Law Review 19131914, p. 456.

102 Dutch representative in Washington to Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, 9 May 1871, in NA,
Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken: Geheime Rapporten en Kabinetsrapporten, 18681940,
2.05.19nr159; Consul General in London, C. van de Bylandt, to Dutch Minister Foreign Affairs, 14
June 1871, in NA2.05.19nr 61; Staatscommissie voor de samestelling van een Wetboek van
Strafrecht [State Commission for the creation of a Penal Code] to the Dutch Minister of Justice, 27
November 1872, in NA, Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken. A-dossiers, 18151940, 2.05.03nr174.

103 Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 31112.

104 M. de Laveleye in Independence Belge, as reported in the Economist, 16 March 1872, p. 324.

105 Denmark Notice 29 April 1898 in PRO GENERAL: Proclamations. Neutrality. Outbreak o
Hostilities between Spain and United States, 1898 FO881/7249X.

106 Elliot, Neutral duties, p. 456.

107 Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, pp. 6970.

108 S. R. C. Bosanquet, R. T. G. Tangye, The burden of neutrality. Notes for onlookers in time of
war. London, R. Brimley Johnson, 1904, p. 30.

109 Oppenheim, International law. Volume II. Fifth edition, p. 522.


110 Graham John Goss, British neutrality during the American Civil War. History Honours essay,
University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1965/66, p. 82; Crook, North, south, pp. 2847, 379.

111 Economist, 6 August 1870, p. 969.

112 Economist, 6 August 1870, pp. 96971. Cf H. Lauchterpacht in Chadwick, Traditional


neutrality, p. 55.

113 The Dutch press reported on the fate of the rest of neutral Europe in considerable detail in 1866.
For examples: Provinciale Overijsselsche en Zwolsche Courant, 4 April 1866, p. 1, 17 June 1866,
p. 1, 18 June 1866, p. 1; Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, 21 April 1866, p. 1, 28 April 1866, p. 1,
18 May 1866, p. 2; Rotterdamsche Courant, 18 May 1866, p. 2; De Noord-Brabanter, 7 May 1866,
p. 3; De Tijd, 12 May 1866, p. 3; Dagblad van Zuidholland en s Gravenhage, 2 June 1866, p. 3;
Bredasche Courant, 23 August 1866, p. 1.

114 Hoppenbrouwer, Nederlandse mobilisatie, p. 8; J. Heinz, The Guelph conspiracy. Hanover


as would-be intermediary in the European system, 18661870, International History Review 29, 2,
2010, pp. 25881.

115 Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, 23 June 1866, p. 4; Hoppenbrouwer, Nederlandse


mobilisatie, p. 9.

116 Lingelbach, Belgian neutrality, p. 63; Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 21371. For more
context on FrenchPrussian relations in the 1860s: E. A. Pottinger, Napoleon III and the German
crisis 18651866. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1966.

117 For the correspondence: PRO Belgium: General Correspondence. From Foreign Office, 1870
FO 123/140; Franco-Prussian War. No. 2. (1870). Further correspondence respecting the war
between France and Prussia, HCPP 1870 LXX.101,115; Treaty between Her Majesty and the
Emperor of the French, relative to the independence and neutrality of Belgium, HCPP 1871 LXX.75;
Treaty between Her Majesty and the King of the Prussians, relative to the independence and
neutrality of Belgium, HCPP 1871 LXX.81. For more: Thomas,Belgian independence, pp. 293
304; H. H. Hozier, The Franco-Prussian War. Its causes, incidents, and consequences. Volume 1.
London, William Mackenzie, 1873, p. 214.

118 For the perspectives of the British cabinet: PRO Bound volume of Cabinet letters, 1870.
Reference CAB41/2/34, 38 and 39.
119 E. Hertslet, Memorandum on the neutralization of states, 5 April 1887, in PRO Memo
FO881/5423. Cf Anderson, Eastern question, p. 173; A. Ramm, Granville in Wilson, British
foreign secretaries, pp. 912.

120 Telegram from Lord Granville to Admiral E. A. J. Harris, British legation in The Hague, 18
August 1870, in PRO Holland (later Netherlands) FO37/480.

121 House of Lords Hansard. Third Series, 203, 28 July 1870.

122 Sir C. L. Wykes, British legation in Copenhagen, to Lord Granville, 28 September 1870, in PRO
Denmark FO22/365.

123 Lord Lyons to Earl Granville, 19 July 1870, in PRO War between France and Prussia.
Correspondence Part II, 1870 Jul.Aug. FO425/96; W.Carr, The origins of the wars of German
unification. London, Longman, 1991, p. 167.

124 Sir H. Howard, British envoy in Munich, to Earl Granville, 17 July 1870 and 19 July 1870, both
in PROFO425/96.

125 Carr, Origins, pp. 1678.

126 Carr, Origins, pp. 172, 2067.

127 E. Hertslet, Memorandum of circumstances which led to the conclusion of separate conventions
with France and Prussia in August 1870 for the maintenance of the independence and neutrality of
Belgium, 8 April 1872, in PRO BELGIUM: Memo FO881/2156; Banning,Les origins, p. 240;
Scherer, Benedetti draft treaty, pp. 95108; Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 28090.

128 A. Doedens, Nederland en de Frans-Duitse oorlog. Enige aspecten van de buitenlandse politiek
en de binnenlandse verhoudingen van ons land omstreeks het jaar 1870. Proefschrift dissertatie,
Vrije Universiteit te Amsterdam, 1973.

129 Sir C. L. Wykes to Lord Granville, 3 August, 8 August, 7 September, 10 October, 8 November,
22 December 1870 in PROFO22/365.
130 Sir Charles Lennox Wykes, British legation in Copenhagen, to Lord Granville, 1 August 1870, in
PROFO22/365; Dutch Consul General in St Petersburg to Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, 4
February 1871, in NA2.05.19nr118; Sir A. Buchanan, British legation in St Petersburg, to Earl
Granville, 3 August 1870, in PROFO425/96; Mosse, End of the Crimean system, p. 165.

131 Cf Otte, Foreign Office mind, p. 48.

132 Dutch legation in Vienna, van Heeckeren, to Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Herwijnen, 2
February, 21 February 1871, in NA2.05.19nr158. For more on Austria-Hungary in the Franco-
Prussian War: J. Decsy, Prime Minister Gyula Andrssys influence on Habsburg foreign policy
during the Franco-Prussian War of 18701871. Boulder, CO, East European Quarterly, 1979, esp.
pp. 71116; I. Diszegi, sterreich-Ungarn und der franzsich-preuische Krieg 18701871.
Budapest, Akadmiai Kiad, 1974.

133 Decsy, Prime Minister, pp. 7783.

134 Pesti Napl 14 July 1870, as quoted in Decsy, Prime Minister, p. 81.

135 Mosse, End of the Crimean system, pp. 1656.

136 Copies of which found their way to the British: PROFO22/365.

137 Lord Granville to Lord Russell, 22 October 1870, in PRO Lord John Russell: Papers. Mainly
Political Correspondence, PRO30/22/16F; The Times, 30 August 1870, p. 10.

138 Lord R. Lytton, British legation in Vienna, to Lord Russell, 7 December 1870, in
PROPRO30/22/16F; Mosse, End of the Crimean system, p. 165.

139 Earl of Granville to Lord Lyons, 9 July 1870, in PROFO123/140; PRO Italy. Rome
Correspondence, 18701871, FO425/100; B. Vigezzi, La neutralit de lItalie en 1870, 1914, 1939
(et en 1948) in Nevakivi, ed., Neutrality in history, pp. 5985; O. Wright, British foreign policy
and the Italian occupation of Rome, 1870, International History Review 34, 1, March 2012, pp.
16176.

140 British legation in Madrid, Mr Layard to Earl Granville, 28 July 1870, in PROFO425/96
Verzijl, International law, p. 129.
141 Earl Granville to Lord Lyons, 30 July 1870, in PROFO425/96.

142 For example: Lemnitzer, Declaration of Paris.

143 For example: Dutch government to Dutch consul in Antwerp, 25 July 1870, in NA, Ministerie
van Buitenlandse Zaken: Consulaat Generaal te Antwerpen (Belgi), 2.05.110nr535.

144 For examples: Lord Bloomfield, British legation in Vienna, to Earl Granville, 20 July 1870, in
PROFO425/96; Dutch Minister of Justice to Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, 31 December 1872
in NA2.05.03nr174; Kamer van Koophandel en Fabrieken in Amsterdam to Dutch King, 27 January
1871, in NA2.05.03nr174; Dutch Consul General in London, C. van Bylandt, to Dutch Minister of
Foreign Affairs, Herwijnen, 20 June 1871, in NA2.05.19nr61.

145 Mr A. G. G. Bonar to Lord Granville, 18 July 1870, in PRO Switzerland, Series II


FO100/178.

146 Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 276.

147 Lord Clarendon to Lumley, 16 February 1871, in PROFO123/140.

148 Law Officers of the Crown to Earl Granville, 19 September 1870, in PRO War between United
States and Spain. Observance of Neutrality. Vol. 3, 1898 Apr. 29May 9, FO72/2093.

149 A. H. Oakes, Memorandum for the Colonial Office, 25 April 1898, in PRO War between United
States and Spain. Observance of Neutrality. Vol. 2, 1898 Apr. 2428, FO72/2092.

150 Dutch Minister in London, Van Landsberge, to Dutch Minister of War, General van Mulken, 2
January 1871, in NA2.05.19nr61.

151 A. S. de Bustamante, The Hague convention concerning the rights and duties of neutral powers
and persons in land warfare, American Journal of International Law 95, 1908, pp. 1012.

152 Banning, Les origins, p. 254; Wassenaer, Nederlands plichten , p. 41; Verzijl, International
law, p. 125.
153 Mr Lumley to Earl Granville, 31 July 1870, in PROFO425/96; Wassenaer,Nederlands
plichten, p. 40.

154 Illustrated London News, 15 September 1870, p. 390.

155 For examples: editorials in The Times and Economist from July to December 1870.

156 For examples: PRO, Registered Papers, c18411855, 18561871, HO45/8444.

157 For correspondence between Earl Granville, Lord A. Loftus, British legation in Berlin and
Prussian authorities: PROFO425/96; Count Bernstoff to Earl Granville, 1 September 1870, and
response, 15 September 1870, in PROFO123/140.

158 Dutch Consul General in London, Van Landsberge, to Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gericke
van Herwijnen, 29 March 1871, in NA2.05.19nr61. Also: The Times, 6 March 1871, p. 5; Doedens,
Nederland, pp. 1602.

159 Mr Lumley to Earl Granville, 28 July 1870, in PROFO425/96; Tamse,Nederland en Belgi, p.


148; Coolsaet, Belgi, p. 109.

160 Mr Lumley to Lord Granville, 29 October 1870, in PRO Belgium, FO10/309.

161 A. G. G. Bonar to Lord Granville, 10 August 1870, in PROFO100/178; 30 August 1870, in PRO
Switzerland, Series II, FO100/179.

162 A. G. G. Bonar to Lord Granville, 29 July 1870, in PROFO100/178.

163 Cf M. Abbenhuis, Where war met peace. The borders of the neutral neutrals with Belgium and
Germany in the First World War, 19141918, Journal of Borderlands Studies 22, 1, 2007, pp. 53
78.

164 Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 1239.

165 Mr Lumley, British legation in Brussels, to Lord Granville, 9 October 1870, in PROFO10/309.
Also: PROHO45/8444.

166 Mr Lumley to Lord Granville, 16 October 1870, in PROFO10/309. Also: correspondence


between Lumley and Granville on 16 November 1870, in PROFO10/309, and on 29 December, in
PRO Belgium, FO10/310. Banning, Les origins, p. 255.

167 Mr Lumley to Lord Granville, 4 December and 11 December 1870, in PROFO10/310.

168 A. G. G. Bonar to Lord Granville, 26 August 1870, in PROFO100/178; Admiral E. A. J. Harris


British legation in The Hague, to Lord Grandville, 21 July 1870, in PRO Holland (later
Netherlands), FO37/479; Doedens, Nederland, pp. 701.

169 Doedens, Nederland, pp. 707.

170 Algemeen Handelsblad, 3 August 1870, p. 2.

171 Mr Lumley to Lord Granville, 30 July 1870, in PRO Belgium: General Correspondence. To
Foreign Office, 1870 Jan.Aug., FO 123/141.

172 M. Martin, Conflictual imaginaries. Victorian illustrated periodicals and the Franco-Prussian
War (187071), Victorian Periodicals Review 36, 1, Spring 2003, pp. 501; Decsy, Prime
Minister, pp. 7880; Mittler, Der Weg, p. 136.

173 Illustrated London News, 3 September 1870, p. 230.

174 Cabinet report on Foreign Affairs to the British monarch, 28 January 1871, in PRO Bound
volume of Cabinet letters, 1871, CAB41/3/4.

175 Dutch legation in Vienna, van Heeckeren, to Dutch Minister Foreign Affairs, Herwijnen, 13
March 1871, in NA2.05.19.nr158.

176A. G. G. Bonar to Lord Granville, 14 March, 20 April 1871, in PRO Switzerland, Series II
FO100/181.
177 For eighteenth-century origins of humanitarian neutrality: Carter, The Dutch as neutrals, p. 826.

178 J. F. Hutchinson, Champions of charity. War and the rise of the Red Cross. Boulder, CO,
Westview Press, 1996, p. 105.

179 A. G. G. Bonar, British legation in Bern, to President of the Swiss Confederation, 3 August
1870, in PROFO100/180; Best, Humanity, p. 152; Hutchinson, Champions, pp. 10922.

180 Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 10720, 136.

181 Imlah, Britain and Switzerland, pp. 401.

182 For an early example of how refugees could complicate neutrality: W. D. Wrigley, The British
enforcement of Ionian neutrality against Greek and Turkish refugees, 18211828. A study in
selectivity, Sudost Forschungen 46, 1987, pp. 95112. For a later example involving Germany and
Switzerland in the 1880s: Dame, Continuity, p. 147; Archives diplomatiques. Recueil de
diplomatie et dhistoire, 2nd Series, 1889; H. Renk, Bismarcks Konflikt mit der Schweiz. De
Wolgemuth-Handel von 1889. Vorgeschichte, Hintergrunde und Folgen. Basel, Verlag von Helbing
& Lichtenbahn, 1972.

183 A. G. G. Bonar to Lord Granville, 8 August 1870, in PROFO100/178.

184 Mr Lumley to Lord Granville, 3 September 1870, in PRO Belgium, FO10/308.

185 A. G. G. Bonar to Lord Granville, 8 September 1870, in PROFO100/178; Earl Granville to A


G. G. Bonar, 15 September 1870, in PRO Switzerland: General Correspondence. From Foreign
Office, 1870, FO 192/63.

186 Illustrated London News, 27 August 1870, p. 206.

187 Wright, British foreign policy.

188Mr Lumley to Lord Granville, 3 September, 4 September 1870, in PROFO10/308. Also:


PROFO123/142; Thomas, Belgian independence, pp. 3056.
189 Mr Lumley to Lord Granville, 16 October 1870, in PROFO10/309.

190 Mr Lumley to Lord Granville, 24 December 1870, in PROFO10/310.

191 A. G. G. Bonar to Lord Granville, 20 April 1871, in PROFO100/181; Dutch legation in Bern to
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Baron Gericke van Herwijnen, 30 May 1871, in NA, Consulaat-
Generaal Zwitserland, 2.05.14.05nr71.

192 A. G. G. Bonar to Lord Granville, 10 August 1870, in PROFO100/178.

193 Best, Humanity, pp. 1515.

194 PRO Belgium, FO10/312; Mr Lumley to Lord Granville, 4 September 1870, in PROFO10/308
10 December 1870, in PROFO10/310. For British concerns about neutrality infractions of belligerent
wounded arriving in Britain for treatment: PROHO45/8444.

195 Mr Lumley to Lord Granville, 12 September, 17 September 1870, in PROFO10/308. Also:


Baron Beaulieu, Brussels, to Lord Granville, 25 August 1870, in PROFO10/312; Thomas,Belgian
independence, pp. 3067.

196 S. Wolf, Guarded neutrality. The internment of foreign military personnel in the Netherlands
during the First World War. PhD, University of Sheffield, 2008, p. 30; A. V. Freeman, Non-
belligerents right to compensation for internment of foreign military personnel, American Journal of
International Law 53, 3, July 1959, pp. 6401; Steiner, Die Internierung, pp. 268.

197 Steiner, Die Internierung, pp. 79.

198 Steiner, Die Internierung, p. 13.

199 Steiner, Die Internierung, pp. 1015.

200 A. Montaudon, Des interns en pays neutre dans la guerre continentale. Paris, M. Giard &
Brire, 1916; P. Annet, Linternement de soldats franais en Belgique pendant la guerre de 1870,
Revue belge dhistoire militaire 28, 5, 1990, pp. 33750; The Times, 7 January 1871, p. 4.
201 Mr Lumley to Lord Granville, 29 October 1870, in PROFO10/309; A. G. G. Bonar to Lord
Granville, 25 August 1870, in PROFO100/178, and 7 February 1871, in PROFO100/181; Steiner
Die Internierung, pp. 204.

202 E. Davall, Les troupes franaises internees en Suisse a la fin de la guerre franco-allemande
en 1871. Rapport rdig par ordre du Dpartement Militaire Fdral sur les documents officiels
deposes dans ses archives. Bern, 1873; A. G. G. Bonar to Lord Granville, 1 February, 2 February, 3
February 1871, in PROFO100/181; Dutch legation in Bern to Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Roest van Limburg, 18 July 1870, in NA2.05.14.05nr66; Freeman, Non-belligerents right, p. 645;
Verzijl, International law, pp. 1312. There is some debate in the sources about how many French
soldiers were interned in Switzerland; estimates range between 80,000 and 120,000, with one source
claiming a precise 90,314 (Mittler, Der Weg, p. 142). For Red Cross aid to these internees:
Hutchinson, Champions, p. 125.

203Admiral E. A. J. Harris, British legation in The Hague, to Lord Granville, 17 December 1870, in
PROFO37/480.

204 Sir Charles L. Wykes, British legation in Copenhagen, to Lord Granville, 24 April 1871 and 13
June 1871, in PRO Denmark, FO22/370.

205 Sir C. L. Wykes, British legation in Copenhagen, to Lord Granville, 13 May 1871, in
PROFO22/370.

206Admiral E. A. Harris, British legation in The Hague, to Lord Granville, 21 July 1870, in
PROFO37/479; Wassenaer, Nederlands plichten, p. 44.

207 Admiral E. A. Harris, British legation in The Hague, to Lord Granville, 1 August and 25 August
1870, in PROFO37/480.

208 Mr Lumley to Lord Granville, 23 October 1870, in PROFO10/309.

209 Count Bismarck to Count Bernstoff, 3 December 1870, in PRO GERMANY &
NETHERLANDS: Desp. Neutrality of Luxemburg, FO881/1842. Also: Mr Lumley to Lor
Granville, 11 December, 19 December 1870, in PROFO10/310; PRO Luxemburg. Alleged violation
of the neutrality of the Grand Duchy. Correspondence, 18701871, FO425/99; PRO
NETHERLANDS: Corres. Alleged Violation of Luxemburg, 18701871, FO881/1891.
210 Admiral E. A. Harris to Lord Granville, 23 December 1870, in PROFO37/480.

211 M. R. D. Foots article offers a useful overview of some of Britains reflections on this: Great
Britain and Luxemburg 1867, English Historical Review 67, 264, July 1952, pp. 35279.

212 Mulligan, Origins, p. 23.

213 Ogley, Theory and practice, p. 51.

214 A. G. G. Bonar to Lord Granville, 28 May 1871, in PROFO100/181. Cf Mittler,Der Weg, p.


143.
5 Neutrality as an international and patriotic ideal

The prominent British jurist and author Leone Levi began his 1881 bookWar and its consequences
with a quote from Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone s public address on the Alabama arbitration of
1871:

A great experiment is now being tried; it may be no more than [an] experiment. The vision may
be too bright and too happy to be capable of being realized in this wayward and chequered
world in which we live; but it is an experiment worth the trial at any rate, whether it is possible
to bring the conflict of opinions between nations to the adjudication of a tribunal of reason
instead of to the bloody arbitrament [sic.] of arms.1

Like many men of his generation and background, Gladstone was an idealist.2 He believed that the
European world could be civilised through responsible leadership and support for strong
international morals and laws.3 Levi concurred. In War and its consequences, he promoted the
creation of an international court of arbitration, where arbiters from neutral countries could
adjudicate the tensions that might otherwise bring nation-states to war. As he explained it:

Let our great leaders and teachers, our statesmen, the pulpit, the press, beware of their high
responsibility. War means a wasteful expenditure of productive power in money and men. Let
our economists be mindful of the first principles of economic science. The concomitants of war
are a fearful abandonment of high morals, a lowering of the public sense of order and propriety.
Let teachers of religion and morals discountenance it with all their might. If we wish low
taxation and good employment, if we are anxious for the comfort of the masses, for the welfare
of industry, and for the preservation of the homes of the people from the sudden and sad loss of
their bread-winners, let us strive for the preservation of peace at home and abroad, let us use all
the influence we can exert for the prevention of war.4

For Levi and Gladstone, alongside countless others, arbitration offered the hope of solving
international crises by peaceful means. It relied on the promotion of goodwill among nations, on the
exercise of restraint in diplomatic enterprise and on respect for international agreements and laws. It
also required a pool of neutral states willing and able to take on the role of arbiters.
The Congress of Vienna set the tone for international co-operation and respect for public law that
permeated throughout the following century. 5 Its participants recognised, albeit altogether reluctantly,
that the ties that bound them could also help to guarantee their countrys or empires future security.
Importantly, the promise of the Concert of Europe was both pragmatically and idealistically
conceived and, at a bare minimum, ensured that Europes leaders were aware of the importance of
their countries international connections. 6 By 1900, of course, Europe and Britain operated at the
heart of an interconnected and increasingly economically interdependent world. This brave new
world seemed to many contemporaries to need international organisations , rules and structures to
protect and defend it.
The second half of the long nineteenth century is historically renowned as both an era of great-
power rivalry and a golden age of peace activism and international law. 7 Historians of the origins of
the First World War tend to foreground the former and heighten the relevance of popular war mania,
as Geoffrey Best so eloquently describes it,8 whereas historians of internationalism and peace tend to
focus on the latter. Rarely do their histories meet. Even Martti Koskeniemi , in his magnificent The
gentle civilizer of nations (2001), repeatedly admonishes the international jurists of the pre-war era
for not seeing the skies darkening in the lead-up to the July crisis of 1914.9 Indeed, in the nineteenth-
century European world, war was always an option for governments. Understanding this, even the
most committed peace advocates of the time tended to ground their activism in pragmatism .10 As a
result, war prevention and the alleviation of the misery of war, rather than the unrealistic ambition to
bring an end to all war, were the modi operandi of the majority of peace activists. For example, one
of the founders of the International Red Cross movement and the originator of the Geneva
Conventions of 1864, the Swiss philanthropist Gustave Moynier , was so firmly convinced of the
potential of arbitration that on the eve of the Franco-Prussian War, he wrote a 300-page essay on the
subject. He argued that arbitration could spell an end of war by solving common rivalries of
governments and states. It could only achieve this, however, when the arbitration process was
properly supported and reinforced by international laws that heightened the moral ties that connected
humanity.11 For Moynier, like Gladstone and Levi , peace was a worthy end, but only if it sat within
an appropriate international structure and was based on sound internationalist principles.
Without exception, arbitration was the most important issue to mobilise supporters of
internationalism from the 1860s on.12 It was also a highly publicised and debated concept in the
popular press. It excited prominent public figures and inspired the agendas of numerous peace
movements. The accomplishments of actual arbitration cases, like the Alabama case, fuelled this
popular activism. Arbitration was also a remarkably successful international ideal. By the turn of the
century, most countries had initiated arbitration treaties with at least one other state, and often with
many more.13 By 1909, more than 300 treaties that included arbitration clauses had been signed, of
which 194 remained in force in 1914.14 The agreements established that if normal diplomatic
channels failed to resolve pecuniary or territorial disputes among the signatories, their governments
might initiate an arbitration process.15 The crowning achievement of the first Hague Peace
Conference of 1899 was the establishment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), which
formalised the procedure by which states could arbitrate their grievances, albeit on an entirely
voluntary basis. As a result, the bilateral arbitration treaties signed after 1899 all agreed to submit
their differences of a judicial order to The Hague.16 That the arbitration process might be improved
was clear from the many discussions on the topic at the 1907 Hague Peace Conference , most of
which centred on the question of whether making arbitration compulsory was worthwhile. Even as a
voluntary undertaking, the PCA dealt with eight arbitration cases and two commissions of inquiry
before 1914 and would adjudicate over another twelve cases by 1932.17 Furthermore, many of the
Courts processes were adopted by the Permanent Court of Justice after the First World War and the
International Court of Justice after the Second World War. The PCA remains the model on which
most international courts and tribunals meet today. 18 Arbitration was clearly a product of its time. It
offered a mechanism by which to deal with a modernising and industrialising world in which
economic interdependence heightened the value of peace and required new forms of problem-solving,
especially on commercial issues. It was initiated as a flexible tool of international affairs, intended
not to overrule sovereignty but rather to supplement it.19 At the very least, the creation of the PCA
signalled an understanding that the world could do with more international institutions to regulate it. It
also relied on the expectation that the international system contained enough neutral states willing to
act as adjudicators.
As they had in 1815, in 1900 the great powers, now consisting of Great Britain , Germany , Russia
, France , Austria-Hungary and the United States , still dominated international affairs. However, as
Ian Clark so convincingly argues, the varied influences on international society had expanded
substantially since 1815 and involved a range of official and unofficial groups and individuals
capable of affecting the course and direction of the formal decision-making processes of governments
and their diplomatic representatives.20 As such, and as the previous chapters also suggest, the
complexity of international affairs lay in the interplay among power, pragmatism and idealism, which
operated at both a state and a societal level. Neutrality played a key role when it came to the
maintenance of the power dynamics among states, the management of the international system and the
pragmatic ends of individual governments in particular situations. However, neutrality was also very
much a product of nineteenth-century idealism , connected to the promotion of peace and
internationalism, as well as to national pride. It certainly featured in the debates surrounding
arbitration , for example. As such, neutrality was as much a culturally constructed idea, promoted and
debated by a variety of interested parties and the educated reading public at large, as it was a
principle of international relations and international law . This chapter will illustrate some of the
interconnections among the cultural, legal and political constructions and applications of neutrality in
this Janus-faced century of war and peace, nationalism and internationalism .21
The regulation of neutrality in the post-1856 era went hand-in-hand with the rise of international
law as a valid and important part of international affairs. For much of industrialising Europe, the
nineteenth century was a liberal and increasingly global one. The German Zollverein (customs union )
was only one of many bilateral and multi-lateral treaties of friendship and commerce that
crisscrossed Europe and the Atlantic Ocean through the century.22 Formal agreements between
governments, and even with colonised peoples, became the norm in establishing imperial and
commercial rights throughout the world as well.23 As such, the nineteenth century was an era of
treaty-making and treaty law. 24 It was also an era of international agreement on a range of global
communication practices, from the standardisation of postal services , weights and measures and the
regulation of money to the adoption of standardised time.25 Increasing industrialisation ,
mechanisation and modernisation resulted in the increased bureaucratisation of state behaviour. 26 The
creation and rise of the modern state required predictability at a domestic and global level.27 This is
not to argue that interdependence overruled the sovereignty or power of the state no government of
the time accepted that premise but it does highlight how interdependence demanded regulation and
the expectation of dependability.
In their desire to stabilise the world along recognisable and acceptable lines, these modern states
needed expert advice.28 As a result, and as part of a much wider process of professionalisation and
bureaucratisation of the state, from the 1850s on, international law came into its own as a recognised
profession.29 In many, although not all, European countries, international law also gained prominence
in universities, with Prussia/Germany offering the only major exception. Nevertheless, even the
Kaiserreich employed a team of permanent legal advisers in its Foreign Ministry in 1885, eight years
before Britain did the same.30 There is, then, much to be said for F. H. Hinsley s insight that by the
1880s, the stability that had been brought to Europe by the Congress system was being replaced by a
growing reliance on rules, laws and processes, such as arbitration .31 At the very least, the
conservative practices of personal diplomacy that operated at the heart of the Concert of Europe were
supplemented by the liberal practices of international law and convention.
In Britain in the aftermath of the Crimean War , developments in international law were closely
connected to the countrys rising commitment to neutrality. As Michael Lobban explains, in an era of
extensive commerce, international law was in a state of transition32 and came to be situated firmly
within state practice, manifested in bi-or multi-lateral agreements and in principles of established
usage. It was also grounded in pragmatism. Successive British governments looked to the chairs in
international law at Oxford , Cambridge and London to offer advice and support on their international
dealings. As a result, through the 1860s, the practice of international law in Britain became a
respectable enterprise, as well as a public activity.33 International legal academics, such as Bernard
Montague , Thomas Erskine Holland , William Vernon Harcourt and Lassa Oppenheim , were
prominent and well-known public figures. They commented upon legal issues in newspapers and had
a distinct role to play in domestic politics. They sat on the Neutrality Commission in 1867, were
involved in the Washington agreement and Geneva arbitration process in the early 1870s, and helped
to situate British neutrality practices within a framework of international rules and precedents.34
Quite in contrast to this pragmatic bent promoted in Britain (and in the United States, for that
matter), international legal practice on the Europe an continent was more theoretically founded.35 As
international legal historians explain it, at the heart of the many international legal disputes that
appeared from the Alabama arbitration on lay the conflict between the pragmatism of the British
approach and the theoretical foundations of continental lawyers. In part, this was a reflection of the
legal traditions of the Anglo-world, based on common law, and those of the European world, based
on guiding principles.36 Nevertheless, it would be an overstatement to claim that the divergent legal
traditions stifled progress on the development of international law. At any rate, by the late nineteenth
century, French international law encouraged pragmatism over theorising, particularly while Louis
Renault held a chair in international law in Paris (18741910). Under Renaults guidance, and that of
other motivated international lawyers, fin-de-sicle France became a hub of internationalism ,
arbitration and the promotion of rationalism in diplomacy.37
As Martti Koskeniemi so ably explains, [n]owhere was the challenge to international law posed
more strongly than in Germany . Still, nowhere did lawyers take the challenge more seriously
either.38 The Kaiserreich was largely mistrustful of any developments that restricted the actions of the
state, particularly in terms of its rights to go to war , and advocated for a might-makes-right
approach to international issues instead.39 The general German reluctance to accept international law
as binding was a reflection of an unsettling fear that the use of international law by foreigners could
restrain Germanys meteoric rise. It was also an acknowledgement that the use of international law
was a relatively recent and contested phenomenon. That the Germans were not alone in their wariness
of the potential impact of international law on their sovereignty is clear from the evident reluctance of
many governments to promote or sign the Geneva Conventions of 1864.40 After the Franco-Prussian
War, there were even concerted efforts to abrogate them completely. The 1874 Brussels Convention
was similarly unpopular and was not ratified.41 As the French Ambassador in Bern commented at the
time:
the Germans say it has nothing to do with them. Austria has no instructions, but thinks
humanitarian projects utterly stupid. Holland , Sweden , and Belgium dont want it no one
wants this conference.42

Likewise, the Hague Peace Conferences were approached with notable cynicism and distaste by
many of the diplomatic, naval and military representatives who attended them.43 The pragmatism
promoted by many international lawyers rarely matched the particular ambitions of the governments
they served, nor did those ambitions correspond to the wider idealism that inspired many individuals
and groups to push for international co-operation in the first place .
Significantly, by 1900, Europe witnessed both a concerted push for international co-operation and
humanitarianism and a rising and aggressive form of militarism that was, in turn, closely linked to
national ambition. This was particularly evident with the rise of popular navalism spawned by the
French Jeune cole in the 1880s and by Germany s Alfred Tirpitz and Anglophile Alfred Mahan in
the 1890s, all of whom sought an end to maritime law and promoted the needs of naval might over
right.44 Unsurprisingly, all three critics sought the revocation of the Declaration of Paris . They were
extraordinarily persuasive personalities in France, Britain and Germany.45 Nevertheless, as the
British Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge noted in 1907, international law had become an established and
unavoidable part of statecraft and international reality, for even though one could not stop a dogfight
by singing a hymnthe strategist may have to reckon with the international jurist as well as with the
enemy in any upcoming war.46
That international law had become an established and important part of international society was
clearly evident by the early twentieth century.47 By this time, both pragmatism and positivism inspired
international legal developments.48 For example, one of the most influential international lawyers of
the time, Lassa Oppenheim, shored up the two volumes of his Treatise on international law, one on
Peace (1905) and the other on War and neutrality (1906), with an exposition of general morals
underpinning international law, which included the need to have a functioning and balanced
international system dominated by constitutional governments (rather than autocratic ones) and
respect for international conventions, conferences and multi-lateral agreements.49 The use of force,
according to Oppenheim, needed to be restricted to the real, as opposed to dynastic, interests of
states. As Amanda Perreau-Saussine argues, Oppenheim understood that international law was part of
international reality and that international law could give pragmatic structure to international
normative standards. As such, Oppenheim linked international law and international morality and
advocated that diplomats should not be left to determine the course of international negotiations
alone. They needed legal advice and guidance.50 Oppenheims vision of international law dovetails
nicely with Ian Clark s vision of an international society . Clark argues that by 1900, a greater
number of people were involved in setting the tone and parameters of international decision-making
than ever before, even if the decisions themselves continued to be made by a select few in the highest
echelons of government leadership.51
It is highly relevant, then, that Oppenheims position on neutrality was entirely pragmatic.
According to Oppenheim, neutrals had an important function in international society. For example,
neutralised states like Switzerland
exercised great influence with regard to several points of progress in International Law. Thus the
Geneva Convention owes its existence to the initiative of Switzerland. The fact that a
permanently neutralised State is in many questions a disinterested party makes such State fit to
take the initiative where action by a Great Power would create suspicion and reservedness on
the part of other Powers.52

Nevertheless, Oppenheim was also adamant that there should not be too many permanently
neutralised countries because that would dangerously inflate the influence of the great powers. By
implication, unneutralised small states played an important balancing role in world affairs, even if
only through their ability to declare their neutrality or enter into a military alliance if needed. As such,
Oppenheim all too prophetically argued that:

neutralised States in existence namely, Switzerland, Belgium , and Luxembourg are a product
of the nineteenth century only, and it remains to be seen whether neutralisation can stand the test
of history.53

Oppenheims ideas found parallels in the works of the French lawyers Louis Renault and Lon
Bourgeois , the German Walther Schcking and the Austrian Heinrich Lammasch , all of whom won
Nobel Peace Prizes in the decade before the outbreak of the First World War and had major roles to
play in their countries representation at the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907 and in
international law organisations such as the Institut de droit international (Institute of International
Law ).54
Given that neutrality formed a prominent part of late-nineteenth-century international law, it is
significant that most international lawyers conceived of their profession as a science of peace .55
They recognised that neutrality could counter the proliferation of war and tyranny and safeguard the
independent sovereignty of states, and particularly of small states .56 In general, they also held that
war was an imperfect part of human society that needed to be controlled, [and] exorcised from the
social normality of nations.57 In the spirit of internationalism , these lawyers set up organisations to
promote their ideas and research. For example, the Association international pour le progrs des
sciences sociales (International Association for the Progress of the Social Sciences) was established
in Brussels in 1862 by a group of lawyers from Belgium , the Netherlands , Britain , France and
Germany . The Association began publishing the Revue de droit international et de lgislation
compare (Review of International Law and Comparative Legislature) in 1869 as a means of
promoting liberal legislative reform across the globe. The journal reached a massive audience and,
according to Koskeniemi at least, brought international law and its multifarious applications into
every European and British gentlemans home.58
In 1875, the Revue became the official organ of the newly established Institut de droit
international .59 The Instituts membership soon included almost every international lawyer of any
repute in Europe. It was one of the most influential international organisations of the Victorian era and
was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1904 in recognition of its work. Some governments believed
that the Instituts influence was so substantial that they sought to ensure adequate representation in
it.60 At its biennial meetings, held throughout Europe and Great Britain, the Institut worked on legal
solutions for international crises, such as those surrounding the Suez Canal in the 1870s and 1880s.61
It discussed and drafted international legal codes, which its members promoted and hoped to have
adopted by their governments, including the three rules of Washington (1871, discussed by the
Institut in 1875), a code of arbitration procedures (1875), the inviolability of submarine cables
(1879), the Oxford Manual of War (1880) and the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907).62 It approved
Swedish international lawyer Richard Kleen s twelve articles on neutrality (Le rgime de la
neutralit) in 1906, which had some bearing on the second Hague Peace Conference the following
year.63 The Institut advocated for the codification of neutrality for pragmatic and idealistic reasons.
Its members acknowledged that if more states adopted neutrality voluntarily then the world would
witness an increase in peace , even if they also realised the contradiction that the best development
for humanitarians was the complete abolition of warfare , not its regulation.64
In addition to the Revue de droit international et de lgislation compare, which commented on
the application of neutrality in almost every single issue,65 the Victorian era witnessed the publication
of numerous legal treatises, historical accounts and commentaries on neutrality. Some explained the
existing state of neutrality law or unpicked its historical trajectories. Others advocated for changes in
the law on theoretical and pragmatic grounds. The rest showed how neutrality applied to a particular
event or enterprise.66 Written in a multitude of languages by a variety of legal and historical experts,
such works were read both as academic treatises and as informative accounts by a diverse and
educated public. Newspapers and periodicals wrote reviews of key volumes, and their authors often
spoke at public meetings.67
That the subject of neutrality was deemed particularly relevant is clear from the numerous editions
in which the treatises were published. For example, French maritime lawyer Laurent Basile
Hautefeuille s four-volume work Les droits et les devoirs des nations neutres en temps de guerre
maritime (The rights and duties of neutral nations in time of maritime war) went through three
editions between its original publication in 1847 and 1868 and, like many of its predecessors
especially Martin Hbner s De la saisie des btiments neutres (The seizure of neutral property),
originally published in 1759 influenced a host of new publications.68 Such works highlighted that
neutrality was central both to the international legal practices of the second half of the nineteenth
century and to the general understanding of the nature of international affairs and of international
morality . Many also had a practical application. As S. R. C. Bosanquet and R. T. G. Tangye
explained to the readers of their small book, The burden of neutrality. Notes for onlookers in time of
war , during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904:

Lord Lansdowne , in answer to a correspondent who wrote to ask his advice upon the question
of contraband of war, has recently pointed out that in time of war commercial transactions must
be conducted on the responsibility of those interested in them, who can obtain, if necessary, such
legal advice as it would be open to them and prudent for them to take in other important matters.
It is hoped that the notes contained in this book may be of use to those who find themselves in a
position of doubt with reference to their acts and liabilities as neutral traders when other nations
are at war.69

Neutrality and the laws of war were precisely the sorts of matters that absorbed merchants, financiers
and any European who had overseas contacts .
The belief in international morality as a sound basis for international organisation found
expression in all manner of other international organisations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries as well, many of which advocated for neutrality within a wide framework of international
stability and peace. For example, the British branch of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), a
powerful international organisation of politicians established in 1889 to advance the cause of
arbitration and the spirit of continuous and courteous co-operation between responsible public
men,70 also promoted the voluntary neutralisation of states as a means of guaranteeing universal
peace .71 One of the IPUs forerunners, the Workmens Peace Association , was created during the
Franco-Prussian War with the aim of advancing the value of arbitration as a means of solving
international disputes. It also advocated for the idea of unconditional neutrality.72 Ever since
Richard Cobden promoted neutrality and non-interventionism as the only reasonable alternative to
being dragged into war73 in the 1840s, British peace advocates had promoted neutrality as an
international good. Members of these organisations recognised that if everyone was neutral, there
would be no war .74 Thus, in 1859 , on the eve of the war in Italy, the British Peace Society passed a
resolution at its annual meeting that British neutrality was essential.75 Norman Angell s British
Neutrality League echoed a similar sentiment on the eve of the First World War by arguing that
Britain s ongoing neutrality was the only sane way for the country to promote its pacifism and to
avoid the ills of a world at war. 76 In September 1914, the Irish Neutrality League advocated the same
basic premise, albeit tinged with a distinct anti-British flavour.77 Similarly, the Nordic Peace
Congress , held in Stockholm in 1895, endorsed neutrality as a central component of the Scandinavian
peace movements agenda. Its vision was inspired by the Belgian duard Descamps s conception of
neutrality and by the successes of Swiss and Belgian permanent neutrality over the course of the
century.78 Meanwhile, a few years later, the United States President Theodore Roosevelt called for
neutral states to unite and form a league to avoid war and promote the peaceful resolution of
international disputes through arbitration .79
Such expressions of neutralitys worth as a means of avoiding general war were central elements
of a much wider progressive response to solving the worlds ills by promoting positive
interventionism by neutral and thus disinterested and impartial parties.80 Neutrality underpinned many
variants of internationalism , whether they focussed on disarmament , arbitration or the establishment
of humanitarian rules of warfare as their primary objectives. That internationalism had a broad and
popular base throughout the industrialised world is best reflected in the nature of the organisations
that promoted it, which ranged from the Institut de droit international and the IPU to the socialist
Second International , from the International Anti-Military Movement to the Nobel Institute, and from
the Red Cross movement to international womens organisations.81 It was also reflected in the
numerous peace societies that existed in every community of every industrial state.82 In no sense, then,
was peace activism or internationalism limited to liberals or free-traders, although many liberals
were prominent members of some of these movements, as were members of particular religious
groups.83
Although they were by no means homogeneous or universally appealing, these internationalist
groups did have an impact on international decision-making. The interconnections among prominent
individuals across some of the groups should not be ignored either. Many international lawyers were
active peace activists, politicians and members of the IPU . Similarly, many prominent European
scientists were members of internationalist organisations like the International Association of
Academies or Solvay Council and also advocated for peace , arbitration and international co-
operation to advance research.84 Neutrality stood at the heart of the Nobel movement, for example,
and prominent members of the Nobel Committee also served on the IPU.85 Many scientists held that
neutrality was not founded in international law , nor even in moral conviction, but rather in neutral
practice, impartiality , objectivity and rationalism . It was this rational vision of neutrality that
became embedded in the traditions of the Nobel movement.86 Many artists and intellectuals were
equally prominent internationalists, especially within the fin-de-sicle modernist movement.87 Of
course, most liberal political economists, including Frdric Bastiat , Frdric Passy and Richard
Cobden , were also fervent peace activists and internationalists.88 Certainly, internationalism, peace,
arbitration and neutrality inspired many educated and powerful elites, who, as members of the
gentried classes, also had significant transnational ties and often socialised in the same circles as the
men in government who made foreign policy. 89 As such, it is no coincidence that the Hague Peace
Conferences of 1899 and 1907 witnessed the coming together of career diplomats, lawyers, admirals
and generals alongside a collection of Europes rich, powerful, educated and idealistic.
However central these internationalists were to influencing decision-making and to finding
solutions for the worlds problems, what is also most telling about late nineteenth-century
international affairs is its public production. By 1900, throughout the industrialised world, an avid
reading public accessed information about global events and diplomatic decision-making through
detailed newspaper reporting and the publication of carefully selected diplomatic documents,
including treaties, international laws, protocols and the correspondence of ambassadors and foreign
ministers.90 In an age of mass literacy and mass media, diplomacy was a public enterprise,
commented upon in great detail and with alacrity in newspapers, parliaments and public houses. In
other words, despite the control of international politics in the hands of a few, its exercise was
communicated to a wide popular base. This meant that diplomats and leaders could not fail to
acknowledge the growing power and relevance of public opinion.91 Of course, public opinion was
diverse and dynamic and reflected a support for war and militarism in some sectors as much and in
many places more strongly as for internationalism, arbitration and peace in others. Peace activism
certainly was not universally appealing and was often scorned as effeminate and ineffective.92 The
key here is that by the turn of the century, the public sphere was an important site for international
politics.93 And in that sphere, the issue of neutrality was voiced and promoted in all manner of guises
and through all manner of media and, significantly, within the spirit of both internationalism and
patriotism .
In the late nineteenth century, nationalism and internationalism went hand-in-hand.94 For one, the
rise in international exhibitions , fairs, sports events and the modern Olympic Games movement
(established in 1896) indicated how international co-operation and community could also promote
and heighten national pride and competition.95 Patriotism could easily absorb and encourage
internationalism and neutrality. The Swedes were particularly good at linking the concepts through the
Nobel movement . 96 However, neutrality was certainly not only a product of internationalism. In an
age of rising nationalism, xenophobia and citizen armies , the fate of the individual was connected to
the fate of the nation. Neutrality was also a national enterprise and citizens were bound to the
neutrality of their country regardless of whether they lived in a permanent ly, voluntarily or
occasionally neutral state. Furthermore, because neutrality could have a decisive impact on the well-
being of the national economy and the enterprises of individuals within it, its adoption and exercise
were of particular interest to anyone involved in that economy, including manufacturers, ship-owners,
merchants, bankers, insurers and farmers, but also travellers and consumers. In other words,
neutrality was relevant to anyone reliant on postal services or on any other service, goods or money
that crossed borders in time of war. It is in this sense that the proliferation of books and pamphlets on
the application of neutrality law to everyday life (from the mercantile marine to commercial
enterprise) needs to be understood as well.
In a multitude of guises, neutrality was frequently discussed, debated and analysed throughout the
European and Anglo-world. It was understood in a variety of contexts and thought about in theory and
practice. It was referenced in terms of its pragmatic application and as a principle with promise for
future improvement. But it was also understood as a lived reality. In unpicking these various strands
of neutralitys relevance to international society in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries,
several themes come to the fore. At one level, neutrality clearly held an international and global
function and was thought about in terms of international ideals . At this level, it was promoted as an
international good, sustaining the international system and keeping the world at peace. It also had
clear humanitarian applications. Liberals , furthermore, promoted neutrality as an economic good,
supporting and sustaining a global free-trade economy and the spread of Europe s formal and
informal dominion over the world. At another level, however, neutrality was a national ideal,
furthering national interests and the well-being of citizens and subjects. Beyond the idealism,
neutrality was also an everyday reality and was considered as such. It is in the interplay among the
global, national, local and personal applications of neutrality that its relevance to European and
British society in the long nineteenth century comes out best.
Unsurprisingly, many of the groups and individuals who endorsed neutrality as an international
good were committed internationalists . They recognised how neutrality and neutralisation had helped
to stabilise the Concert of Europe and saw their potential for the ongoing stability of European affairs
.97 Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, and certainly in the first decade of the
twentieth century, several small states the Netherlands , Sweden , Norway and Denmark among
them debated the advantages of neutralising themselves by great-power decree as well. On the one
hand, such debates revolved around the value of neutralisation in guaranteeing the security of the state
in question. On the other, they deemed neutralisation to have international value. Neutralised states
not only kept Europe from descending into a general war but could also offer their good offices to
other powers in time of peace and war. They could arbitrate and mediate wars.98 They provided
physical spaces to house international organisations and societies, such as the International Red Cross
in Geneva (from 1868 on), the Nobel Institute in Stockholm (1898) and Oslo (1905) and the PCA in
The Hague (1899).99 They were ideal places in which to conduct international negotiations. As the
British representative to the Conference for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works , held in the
Swiss capital of Bern in 1886, explained: due to its position of neutrality and with the cordial assent
of other peoples, Switzerland has little by little become the home of international organisations
[Unions internationales].100 They acted as the protecting power for belligerent citizens living in
enemy territory when war broke out.101 Furthermore, they promoted economic interdependence and
national prosperity by offering their services as transit zones for financial and commercial
transactions between belligerents (and potential belligerents).102 Neutral countries like Belgium and
Switzerland were recognised as secure havens for international finance . As Norman Angell
explained in his seminal and immensely popular anti-war tome The great illusion (1910), the Norwe
gians, Dutch , Swiss and Belgians showed that small states with strong national economies did not
need great military or naval strength to be prosperous in the international economy but thrived in that
economy due to their neutrality.103
Importantly, those who argued for the permanent neutralisation of their country often also did so in
terms of national pride and patriotic duty. For one, a neutralised country could exist above the base
principles of war-mongering advanced by the militarised powers. Furthermore, neutrals represented
all that was peaceful and reasonable. They enabled international co-operation, universalism ,
Olympic idealism and economic interdependence. They were, therefore, ideal international citizens
and inspired appropriate international behaviour in others. As the Secretary-General of the Institut de
droit international , duard Descamps , explained about his native Belgium in 1902, neutrality was a
natural vocation for a people who found themselves situated between two empires (the French and
the German) and the countrys neutralisation developed as an essential consequence of Belgiums
keystone position in sustaining the European equilibrium .104 Here, Descamps reiterated a message
that had permeated through Belgian society since J. Lebeau and J. B. Nothombs published theirEssai
historique et politique sur la rvolution belge (Historical and political essay on the Belgian
revolution) in 1833: namely, that Belgium was a superior nation for its internationalism and
neutrality.105
However, a country did not need to be neutralised to think of itself as a paragon of international
virtue, universalism and cosmopolitanism .106 Long-term voluntary neutrals , like the Dutch ,
presented their neutrality as a sacred duty to the international system and as a way of existing in the
world that countered the militarism and brutality of the militarised powers.107 The Dutch regarded
their neutrality in moral terms and as an expression of the unselfish, cosmopolitan and liberal attitude
of their citizenry, who furthermore had the international , imperial and commercial interests of all of
Europe at heart.108 Once the Netherlands embraced the mission of the Hague Peace Conferences ,
which it did not really do until 1907, the link between its neutrality and its international mission came
out even stronger. 109 Similarly, Norw egian intellectual and author Bjrnsterne Bjrnson advocated
for the rise of the small state in protecting the world from war in the late 1890s. His views were
influential enough to reach the Dutch newspaper press in 1897, which argued in Bjrnsons favour
that not only had small states brought great things to the world including polar expeditions , the
Nobel prizes , republicanism and literature but that if they united behind the principles of neutrality
and international law they would be a formidable force, an oasis of freedom, in the international
system and thereby offer military and economic security to the world. If the great powers could not
avoid war, the unity of small states might just be able to do so instead. 110 Bjrnson voiced the
sentiments of numerous dedicated neutrality advocates, Theodore Roosevelt included, who between
the 1860s and 1914 had sought to find ways of creating a league of neutrals to achieve peace .111
In the 1860s, neutrality also came to be coupled to a rising humanitarian idealism that was
prevalent throughout Europe. Not only did the Geneva Conventions of 1864 establish rules for the
amelioration of the conditions of wounded in armies in the field but they also enabled the creation
of Red Cross organisations in all countries that signed the treaty, whether or not they were neutral.112
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which functioned as the parent body for the
national organisations, relied on the ongoing neutrality of Switzerland to legitimise its existence and
to secure its future.113 Each national Red Cross organisation could establish medical units that were
to conduct themselves as neutrals on the battlefront, aiding the wounded from all belligerent sides
equally and impartially . Many principled Europeans lauded the conventions and volunteered or
supported their national Red Cross committees.114 However, the experiences of the wars of the
decade showed how the conduct of battle complicated the neutral status of Red Cross medical units.
Without proper affiliation to the armed forces in charge of conducting the war, gaining access to the
wounded and navigating the battlefields was difficult. This complication explains, in part, the
reluctance of many countries to pursue further the humanitarian regulation of warfare after 1871.115 In
1906, a new set of Geneva Conventions came into being, firmly placing the operation of Red Cross
units under the authority of each nations military and thereby removing their neutral status. 116
Nevertheless, the guiding principle that Red Cross units were to treat all victims of war equally and
impartially remained, as did the rule that those wearing the Red Cross emblem were non-combatants
and thus should not be shot at or targeted by enemy forces. Furthermore, the ICRC as a parent body
for the national committees continued to exist. Its neutrality was paramount to the ongoing legitimacy
of the Red Cross movements humanitarian purpose.117
Historians often mention how the nationalisation and militarisation of the Red Cross in 1906
highlights the rise of aggressive nationalism and the prioritisation of military needs over humanitarian
and internationalist agendas in the lead-up to the First World War. 118 What stands out about the
discourses over neutrality and humanitarianism between the 1860s and 1914, however, is how
intimately connected the two were and how committed many Europeans were to alleviating the misery
of war. As the French lawyer and academic Jules Lacointa explained to the delegates at the 1884 Red
Cross Conference:

However desirous one is to see the brotherhood among nations increase, who would consent to
see the sacred notion of the fatherland swallowed up in his triumph?By uniting the cult of
humanity to that of the nation, without insubordinating the one to the other, the aid societies are
performing a blessed task.119

Lacointa reflected a growing humanitarian patriotism that swept Europe from the 1880s on, which
was so influential in France, at least, that Red Cross participation became synonymous with patriotic
involvement in the life of the French nation.120
Certainly, in Britain during the Franco-Prussian War, humanitarianism, neutrality and patriotism
were interconnected ideas. Its Red Cross committees were inundated with financial and material
support and sent numerous medical and nursing units to the warfronts in France.121 British wartime
charity came in many other guises as well, ranging from medical aid to the care of French refugees
and from the collection and rolling of bandages to the supply of foodstuffs for the relief of the citizens
of a besieged Paris . At the end of the conflict, the Illustrated London News proudly reported that:

Great Britain has intervened in favour of France. Her Majestys Government has ordered four
ships of war to proceed with all possible speed to the coast of Franceladen with provisions
for the relief of the inhabitants of Paris. A committee sits daily to receive and dispose of the
contributions of the public for the same purpose. There is not a neutral Power in Europe that, so
far as opportunity served, would not rejoice to take part in [peace].We trust, therefore, that the
comparatively few Englishmen who have called aloud for intervention on behalf of France will
be gratified, if not satisfied, that it has come at last. [Even] if it has been resorted to in quite
another form than that which they recommended it.122

During the conflict, The Times repeatedly commented on Britains humanitarian duty to the sick and
wounded, who have done nothing to deserve their hard fate,123 while Punch satirically represented
Britains intervention in the war as lady peace nursing soldiers, with the caption at least we may
help the sick and wounded .124 That the charitable aid was heartfelt and patriotic is clear from a
letter to the editor published in The Times in August 1870: whether Prussians or Frenchmen may be
in need of help in this lamentable war matters little to a neutral people, wishing only to give aid and
succor [sic.] to the wounded.125 Through town-hall meetings and the organisation of charity
organisations, the public united behind the cause of neutrality and humanity. In August 1870, a well-
attended council meeting in Liverpool resolved to express their deep sympathy with the sick and
wounded French and German soldiers in the present deplorable war, and to co-operate in alleviating
their sufferings, and the Leeds Town Council agreed with a similar proposition and further passed
the following resolution: this Council, as the representative of a large peace-loving commercial
community, begs to express its sincere thanks for the attitude of strict neutrality which Her Majestys
Government has taken.126 As such, the blessings of staying neutral came accompanied with a moral
duty to proffer humanitarian relief. Most other neutral populations in Europe the Netherlands ,
Denmark , Belgium and Switzerland included recognised wartime charity and humanitarianism as
key responsibilities. They also collected vast sums of money to support the victims of the war, sent
medical teams to the warfronts and hosted refugees .127 As such, the Franco-Prussian War excited the
imagination of neutral populations and certainly witnessed their active participation as neutral
humanitarians .
The previous chapters have already shown how important neutrality was to the principles of free-
trade liberalism , to perceptions of the accessibility of the open seas and to the security of formal and
informal empire -building. Unsurprisingly, those who promoted these principles did so within the
framework of national and personal interests. As they were for the rise of humanitarianism,
arbitration , neutrality and the rise of international law , the 1860s were also pivotal years for the
spread of economic liberalism and the decline of tariff barriers around Europe.128 Free-trade
liberalism sustained its dominance in British political and economic life and within its national
identity right up until the outbreak of the First World War, as it did in other notably neutral and
mercantile nations, including Belgium, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries.129 Belgiums
Foreign Minister made the connection between free trade and Belgian independence as early as 1842,
when he explained that our existence is tightly linked to the free development of commerce and
industry.130 Elsewhere in Europe, however, free-trade liberalism came under increasing attack after
the economic recession of the 1870s and in the context of rising competition for markets, resources
and empires.131 Of course, the 1880s occasioned the violent takeover of the African continent by the
European powers in what was colloquially referred to as the scramble for Africa . In this age of
renewed imperialism and competition, economic nationalism also revived. Nevertheless, increased
protectionism only thinly masked the pressing reality that no industrial state could survive without its
financial interdependence, its global markets or the guarantee of ready access to them.132 Even in
Africa, the great powers established neutral zones to avoid unnecessary conflict erupting among
them.133
It is in terms of securing ready access to international trade and communications that the crisis
around the neutralisation of the Suez Canal in the 1870s and 1880s must be viewed. From the moment
the French entrepreneur Ferdinand de Lessep gained the concession to build the Suez Canal in 1856
until its completion in 1869, the British government baulked and refused co-operation.134 Once the
canal existed, of course, Britain became the main beneficiary of this short-cut route to colonies, ports
and markets throughout South East Asia , Australasia and the Pacific . The canal shaved thousands of
kilometres off a steamships journey, which previously had to include the treacherous waters off the
Cape of Good Hope .135 Inevitably, because of its immense strategic and economic value, the Suez
Canal remained a contentious international concern. In 1876, after years of financial mismanagement,
Egypt s Khedive went bankrupt and sold his majority share in the canal companys holdings to the
British government. As a result of the collapse of Egypt, which led to its dual governance by Britain
and France from 1879 to 1882 and then its takeover by Britain in 1882, control over the canal passed
to Britain.136 These events sparked new international negotiations over the conditions of passage on
the waterway. 137 On construction, the Egyptians had neutralised the canal, allowing all mercantile
ships to pass through on payment of a toll.138 In the 1880s, the British government loathed retaining
this level of neutralisation because of the waterways centrality to Britains global interests. As the
Earl of Derby explained to Lord Lyons as early as 1877, Britain could not agree to neutralise the
Suez, even if in so doing it created the troubling consequence that an enemy might blockade the canal
in a future conflict. All that the British government felt it could offer the other great powers was a
promise that it would not let the canal become a scene of war. 139 Nevertheless, and after much
negotiation, rising tension and public attention, Britain conceded to the ongoing neutralisation of the
canal in 1888, guaranteeing access to all mercantile and naval vessels in time of peace and war,
regardless of their neutrality or belligerency. 140 The world and not only Britain needed ready
access to the canal. Its global importance was so immense that it could not be monopolised by one
power, however great . Importantly, similar neutralisation agreements would be negotiated in
preparation for the construction of the Panama Canal, linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans , in
1901, ensuring its exemption from all the operations of war.141
Neutrality came to be linked to a variety of international and national ideals and policies through
the long nineteenth century. It also came to represent, or at the very least be associated with, the
national identities of many European nations, whether they were permanently, voluntarily or
occasionally neutral. Switzerland, of course, stood out as a paragon of neutral virtue. According to
Frederick William Dame , neutrality after the Franco-Prussian War seemed to be a deeply rooted
principle that was even capable of making the Swiss neutral in thought as well as deed.142 Neutrality
was so important to the creation and consolidation of Swiss nationalism that, even today, it remains
one of the most important factors in the self-definition of the Swiss nation.143 Furthermore, in the
nineteenth century, neutrality offered international legitimism to Switzerland, a nation whose
multitude of ethno-linguistic groups always threatened to drag other nations into its internal affairs.
As the Swiss intellectual Carl Hilty exclaimed in 1875:

What holds Switzerland together vis--vis its neighbours is an ideal, namely the consciousness
of being part of a state that in many ways represents a more civilised community; of constituting
a nationality which stands above mere affiliations of blood or language.144

As a result, for the Swiss, neutrality became a defining feature of their national identity by the late
nineteenth century .145
Because Belgiums existence as a nation-state was founded on its permanent neutralisation by the
great powers, the links between neutrality and nationalism remained controversial. In the 1830s, many
Belgians viewed their imposed neutralisation with contempt and dismay. As one Belgian Member of
Parliament, Charles de Brouckere , explained: neutral sentiment is the lot of women, and you [who
support it] are neuters, that is to say hermaphrodites.146 However, by the outbreak of the Crimean
War and certainly through the 1860s, when Belgian nationalism came into its own under the
intellectual guidance of Emile Banning and the popular leadership of King Leopold II , neutrality was
promoted as a sacred duty of the Belgian people. It provided Belgium with international purpose,
economic independence and self-worth.147 After the miracle of 1870 that kept Belgium out of the
Franco-Prussian War , neutralitys value for the sustenance of the nation was even more firmly
entrenched as a panacea that met everyones needs. 148 Much as in Switzerland, Belgian neutrality
also offered an alternative national ideology to unite a linguistically divided population.149 At any
rate, no Belgian leader considered the possibility of overthrowing the countrys neutralised status.150
However, neutrality had its detractors, especially among members of the armed forces and strident
nationalists. For example, General Brialmont exclaimed in 1882 that Belgium had lost its ability to
dictate its own future and that permanent neutrality was a mauvais cadeau (bad gift) that Belgium
should have refused because it had reduced the nation to a position of servitude to public law.151 At
the turn of the century, furthermore, the patriotic Journal des Tribunaux lamented that without war,
no patriotism, without patriotism, no civilisation,152 while socialist groups had questioned the
emasculation of Belgium through its permanent neutralisation for years.153
The commitment to neutrality and its use as a national unifier was much more homogeneous in the
Netherlands than in Belgium , although the parameters of neutrality were stridently debated there too.
After Belgiums secession in the 1830s, the Netherlands embraced its small-state status while
supporting a sizeable empire within its depictions of nationalism.154 The main aim of its neutrality,
and in some sense its nationalism too, was to avoid antagonising any of the great powers. To that end,
the Dutch were scrupulous not to expand their empire beyond commercial concessions , especially in
China.155 They embraced free-trade liberalism and with it maintained a close commercial and
imperial allegiance to Great Britain .156 Using their glorious trading past and long-standing
commitment to neutral rights at sea, which stemmed from the seventeenth century, Dutch nationalists
had little trouble creating an image of a great and proud neutral nation with a long and enviable
history. Certainly, the mercantile motto rest, peace and commerce applied as easily to Dutch self-
perception in the late nineteenth century as it had two or three hundred years earlier.157
Much like the Dutch, Swedish commitments to neutrality became more marked as the nineteenth
century wore on. However, until the 1860s, Sweden could best be described as an occasional rather
than a committed, long-term neutral. Its fear of Russia kept its allegiance to neutrality in check. From
the 1860s on, however, Sweden became devoted to neutrality and, again much like the Dutch,
endorsed it as a sacred ideal and defining element of its nationalism, although here too it was a
contested notion.158 Nevertheless, as Sven Widmalm suggests, the image of Sweden as a peace-
loving, rational, fair and neutral nation, a moral super power, had become a clich by the outbreak
of the First World War .159
However, neutrality was not the preserve of national myth-makers in small European states only.
Many of Europes great powers, including Britain , Austria and France , used neutrality to voice their
patriotism and sell their foreign policies. Because of its status as a great power and its troubled
history, few historians conceive of the Habsburg monarchy as a neutral power in the long nineteenth
century. Nevertheless, Austrian security was most at risk when it went to war, and successive Foreign
Ministers, starting with Metternich , understood this all too well. During the Crimean War , Austrian
neutrality was clearly imbued with an internationalist flavour. It safeguarded Europe from general
war and sustained the principles of the Concert of Europe . Furthermore, as Cavallar shows us,
during the 1860s, as Habsburg power came increasingly under attack from Prussia , the possibility of
neutralising Austria, like Switzerland , was seriously considered. By the early twentieth century,
Austria-Hungarys principle international lawyer and adviser to the imperial government, Heinrich
Lammasch , also pushed for Austrias permanent neutralisation. He received considerable support for
the move from Britain. Even King Edward VII , while visiting the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef in
1907, advised him to forego Austria-Hungarys alliance with Germany , adopt neutrality and thereby
help Britain in supporting a cordon sanitaire of peaceful neutral states, keeping Germanys
ambitions in check.160
After the Franco-Prussian War , neutrality also remained a vaunted concept for many patriotic
Britons. The connections between neutrality and Britains national interests came out particularly
strongly during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. The years 1875 to 1878 were years of crisis for the
Ottoman Empire , occasioning uprisings, massacres and conflicts in the Balkan region. The Russia n
government, seeking to re-assert Russian dominance in the Black Sea and the Balkans, used these
crises to advance its own interests in the region. The eyes of Europe were trained on all of these
events and through the medium of the printed press, Europeans freely expressed their horror and
dismay at the level of violence and barbarity displayed on all sides.161 When the prospect of a war
between Russia and the Ottoman Empire loomed large, it occasioned a massive and unprecedented
popular response in Britain.162 Thousands of concerned citizens gathered in town and church meetings
to sign petitions and signal their fear of war to the government. As the petition from Manningford
Bruce in County Wiltshire expressed:

British interests are at present endangered[The county] also wishes to record its profound
conviction that Englands supreme welfare is best promoted by strict and practical neutrality.
And therefore prays the Government to adhere to its neutral policy.163

Other petitions talked of the economic distress any British involvement in the Russo-Turkish war
would occasion for manufacturers and farmers and how it would necessitate an increase in
expenditure on armaments , thereby intensifying the already crippling economic downturn.164 A
British war with Russia was unpopular, but a British war in aid of the barbaric Ottoman Empire
was even more unpopular. More than keeping Britain out of an unpopular and uncivilised war,
however, neutrality would also sustain the countrys international obligations. As The Times reported
in April 1877:
Consummate prudence must therefore be exercised from the very outset.This country in
particular should set the example of calmnessit must, of course take measures of precaution.
Such a nation as England cannot be indifferent to the outbreak of any great war, for there is
scarcely a point of the globe at which its interests could not be touched. It must look to its
commerce , its naval stations, and the way to its Colonies and India. No other country has so
many vulnerable points[In previous conflicts, and especially during the Franco-Prussian War]
we maintained so strict a neutrality as by turns to displease both the belligerents. We cannot do
better than to follow the dignified precedent we then set for ourselves.165

The newspaper repeated the message a few days later as follows:

The outbreak of another war will soon send us to a fresh study of the rights and duties of
Neutrals. A Proclamation of Neutrality may be immediately expectedThe experience of still
recent years ought to impress upon every one the patriotic duty of observing this Proclamation.
Having accepted the position of Neutrals, we are bound to observe its duties. At the same
time we shall be entitled to maintain its rights.166

Similar arguments were advanced during the 1884 French war in China, as well as the Sino-Japanese
war a decade later, including calls for the worlds neutrals to band together to protect their combined
commercial interests in China.167
Of course, neutrality was never a universally popular patriotic ideal in Britain. Certain vocal
groups and individuals, mostly conservative Tories, feared the loss of agency and power that
Britains hands-off approach to international affairs seemed to occasion. To them, neutrality reeked
of spectatorship, effeminacy and pacifism . Some contemporaries and certainly many historians
subsequently argued that British isolationism in the late Victorian era made it a weak and ineffectual
great power. 168 At no stage, however, did these perspectives dominate Britons perceptions of
themselves. Certainly, the Foreign Office promoted Britains influence in the world, even as a neutral
power, as positive and strong. 169 As the experience of the Russo-Turkish War should indicate, most
Britons were also all too aware of the implications of going to war and the multitude of advantages
that were gained from staying neutral while others fought it out.
Significantly, the French also advocated for their neutrality as a public and patriotic good in the
Russo-Turkish War of 1877. The French neutrality declaration, which was published in full
translation in The Times , read:

In the Eastern Question the strictest neutrality, guaranteed by the most scrupulous abstention,
must remain the basis of our policy. France wants peace with all, and we know that we may
count on your [the French peoples] co-operation for insuring her its blessings.170

Less than a year later, on the eve of the Congress of Berlin , the French Minister of Foreign Affairs
explained to his parlment that:

the government has for five months constantly guarded the honour, dignity and interests of
France. We have done nothing but agitate in favour of peace, the neutrality of France, respect for
treaties, defence of the greater interest of Europe.we will go [to the Congress of Berlin] to
maintain the peace, with the firm will to conserve our neutrality, and with a profound sentiment
for the public law of Europe.171

The other members supported the mission with a unanimous 485 votes.172 That Frances neutrality in
the Russo-Turkish War was not an exceptional incident is clear from the manner in which French
consuls were instructed on their duties through the 1880s and 1890s. The handbook that the French
Foreign Ministry issued to its envoys included a detailed section on how they were to behave if
caught up in a country at war while the French were neutral, as well as another on what to do if
France was at war but their host nation remained neutral.173 Protecting the legitimacy of neutrality and
belligerency was taken all too seriously .
Throughout the late Victorian era, Europeans understood that neutrality was a complex and layered
concept with a multitude of applications. Upholding a countrys neutrality in time of war, furthermore,
meant important things diplomatically, legally and culturally. As such, neutrality was a production
involving the state and its citizens . How neutrality played out depended in large part on the rules and
ideals that were attached to the concept both within and outside the neutral nation. By 1900, neutrality
came with a multitude of adjectives that defined all manner of legal and cultural nuances. The
distinctions between permanent , voluntary and occasional neutrals, which I identified in the
introduction of this book, represent only the tip of the iceberg of the numerous meanings surrounding
neutrality that were available to contemporaries. For example, the Danes tended to present their
neutrality as absolute neutrality, the Swedes as active neutrality and the Dutch alternately as
strict or active neutrality. 174 Meanwhile, the Dutch lawyer Wassenaer summarised the various
forms of neutrality in 1891 as follows: complete neutrals (who wanted to remain completely outside
the war), provisional neutrals (whose neutrality was dependent on what happened in the war), armed
neutrals (who were ready to intervene in the conflict if need be) and defensive neutral s (who would
mobilise their armed forces only to protect their own neutrality).175 During the Franco-Prussian War ,
the Austro -Hungarians avoided making too much of their neutrality and certainly did not wish to have
their armed neutrality misconstrued as potential interventionism; they thus settled for the term
peaceful neutrality.176 At around the same time in Britain , Prime Minister Gladstone and his Tory
rival Benjamin Disraeli vehemently debated the consequences of promoting British neutrality as
armed . Where as Gladstone feared that armed neutrality struck an aggressive tone, Disraeli
wished to assert the power of British neutrality. In the end, they compromised and accepted the term
secured neutrality to represent their countrys position in the war: armed but non-aggressive.177
In formal terms, of course, the distinctions among the various adjectives attached to neutrality
meant very little. In wartime, all neutrals operated under the same legal expectations. However, in
cultural and diplomatic terms, the nuances were extraordinarily important. Belligerents and neutrals
alike attached meanings to neutrality to advance their interests, to chastise and to condescend. Thus,
neutrality helped to define the nation in war as much as the nation helped to define its neutrality. Read
in this light, Prussia s condemnation of the unneutral behaviour of the Belgian press during the
Franco-Prussian War, for example, was as much an expression of Prussias unwillingness to see
Belgium as genuinely neutral (for its newspapers expressed a bias towards France ) as it was a way
to assert dominance over Belgium and in the international arena more generally. For if Belgium was
not truly neutral then that undermined the value of the various guarantees of neutrality signed by the
great powers. Similarly, when the Dutch newspaper De Tijd admonished the French for expressing
their support for the United States after they had declared their neutrality in the SpanishAmerican
War of 1898, it did so in terms of the expectations of neutral conduct: a neutral should not show its
sympathy to a belligerent cause. Furthermore, as the newspaper saw it, the French would certainly not
have tolerated a similar outburst from Spain in favour of the Prussians during the Franco-Prussian
War . 178 In other words, maintaining a credible face to ones neutrality was part and parcel of
international politics and society and was certainly not limited to how ably a government or state
upheld the strict letter of international neutrality law. As a result, a neutral was always more than the
sum of the laws that applied to its neutrality.
Michael Howard in his lovely Inventing peace and reinventing war (2001) succinctly explains
that there were three contradictory movements operating in international affairs in the nineteenth
century. The first was a conservative enterprise that looked to obtain world peace through the
sustenance of the existing aristocratic world order. The second, deeply suspicious of the first, was a
liberal movement that sought peace through the creation of an international web of trade and
exchange. The third birthed as a genuinely nineteenth-century development: namely, popular
nationalism . He argues that the three stood in stark opposition to each other and that, in the end, the
conservative and liberal forces were unable to restrain or contain those of ethnic nationalism. Hence,
although he agrees that national self-determination did not cause the First World War , the war and all
of the calamities of the twentieth century that followed could not have come about without the
powerful impulse of popular nationalism.179 Importantly, yet paradoxically, neutrality had a key role
to play in each of these nineteenth-century movements. It operated at the heart of the conservative
ideal that brought the Concert of Europe into being, sustaining the political equilibrium and diffusing
great-power tensions in the international system. It dominated the means by which free-trade societies
promoted their commercial empires and security in times of war and peace and inspired
internationalism among academics and lawyers. And it defined the patriotic enterprise of many
countries, both occasionally and permanently neutral . Neutrality was as much an internationalist
ideal with pragmatic application, humanitarian appeal and popular kudos as it was a national
construction. It was a fluid and multi-faceted nineteenth-century concept, which would not survive the
First World War intact.

1 W. E. Gladstone, 9 November 1871, as quoted in L. Levi, War and its consequences economical,
commercial, financial and moral. With proposals for the establishment of a court of international
reference and arbitration. London, S. W. Partridge & Co., 1881, dedication page.

2 Robbins, Britain, p. 141; Medlicott, Bismarck.

3 Ramm, Granville, pp. 867.

4 Levi, War and its consequences, p. 89.


5 Kaplan, Great Britain, p. 5; D. King, Vienna 1814. How the conquerors of Napoleon made love,
war and peace at the Congress of Vienna. New York, Harmony Books, 2008.

6 Cf Schultz, Did norms matter?

7 M. Abbenhuis, A most useful tool for diplomacy and statecraft. Neutrality and Europe in the
long nineteenth century, 18151914, International History Review 35, 1, 2013, pp. 122.

8 Best, Humanity, p. 130. Cf G. R. Wilkinson, Depictions and images of war in Edwardian


newspapers, 18991914. Houndsmills, Palgrave MacMillan, 2003, p. 54.

9 Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer, p. 288, cf p. 228.

10 S. Wank, Introduction in S. Wank, ed., Doves and diplomats. Foreign offices and peace
movements in Europe and America in the twentieth century. Westport, CT, Greenwood Press, 1978,
p. 10; A. Iriye, Cultural internationalism and world order. Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins Press,
1997, pp. 910.

11 Hutchinson, Champions, pp. 1058.

12 Despite its centrality to late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century international society, no


general history on the subject of arbitration exists, although Sandi E. Coopers PhD thesis on
internationalism remains essential reading (Peace and internationalism. European ideological
movements behind the two Hague conferences (18891907). PhD, New York University, 1967).

13 Probst, Good offices, pp. 4563; M. Rundschau, International arbitration, Royal United
Services Institution Journal 51, 1907, p. 1523; G. H. Perris, A short history of war and peace.
London, William and Norgate, n.d. [1911], p. 240; Hinsley, Power, pp. 2668.

14 A. C. F. Beales, A history of peace. A short account of the organised movements for


international peace. London, G. Bell & Sons, 1931, p. 239; J. H.Choate, The two Hague
conferences. Princeton University Press, 1913, p. 40; Scott, Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and
1907, pp. 2249.

15 J. Fiske, A century of science and other essays. Boston, Houghton Mifflin and Co., 1899, pp.
1667.
16 Beales, History of peace, p. 248.

17 S. Rosenne, Introduction in S. Rosenne, ed., The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907
and international arbitration. Reports and documents. The Hague, T. M. C. Asser Press, 2001, pp.
xxiiixxiv. For an overview of the PCA cases: M. O. Hudson, The Permanent Court of International
Justice. A treatise. New York, MacMillan, 1943, pp. 341.

18 A. McNair, Lord McNair. Selected papers and bibliography. Leiden, A. W. Sijthoff, 1974, pp.
2035; A. Eyffinger, The 1899 Hague Peace Conference. The parliament of man, the federation of
the world. The Hague, Kluwer Law International, 1999, p. 441.

19 Cf Hinsley, Power, pp. 2689.

20 I. Clark, International legitimacy and international society. Cambridge University Press, 2005.

21 Cf Best, Humanity, p. 139; D. A. Bell, The first total war. Napoleons Europe and the birth of
warfare as we know it. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 2007, pp. 30911.

22 H. Steiger, Peace treaties from Paris to Versailles in Randall Lesaffer, ed., Peace treaties and
international law in European history. From the late Middle Ages to World War I. Cambridge
University Press, 2004, p. 64; Neff, Rights and duties, pp. 945.

23 L. Godden, N. Casidader, The Kandyan convention: consolidating the British empire in colonial
Ceylon, Legal Histories of the British Empire Conference. National University of Singapore, 57
July 2012, oral presentation. Cf K. J. Holsti, T. Biersteker, C. Brown, Taming the sovereigns.
Institutional change in international politics. Cambridge University Press, 2004, pp. 1545.

24 E. Keene, The treaty-making revolution of the nineteenth-century, International History Review


34, 3, September 2012, pp. 475500.

25 Perris, Short history, p. 242; K. Wolfke, Great and small powers in international law from
1814 to 1920 (from the pre-history of the United Nations). Wroclaw, n.p., 1961, pp. 4953;
Hershey, History of international law, pp. 534; D. Stevenson, The First World War and European
integration, International History Review 34, 4, December 2012, p. 842; Meier, United States and
Switzerland, pp. 1456; F. S. Lyons, Internationalism in Europe 18151914. Leiden, A. W. Sijthoff,
1963; M. Geyer, One language for all the world. The metric system, international coinage, gold
standard and the rise of internationalism 18501900 in M. Geyer, J. Paulmann, eds, The mechanics
of internationalism. Culture, society and politics from the 1840s to the First World War . New
York, Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 5592.

26 M. S. Anderson, The rise of modern diplomacy 14501919. London, Longman, 1993.

27 Hinsley, Power, p. 267.

28 Hevia, Imperial security state (especially pp. 3452) offers an excellent study of the
professionalisation of the British imperial state in the nineteenth century.

29 Best, War and law, p. 41.

30 Anderson, Rise, p. 113.

31 Hinsley, Power, pp. 2667.

32 Lobban, English approaches, p. 73.

33 C. Sylvest, The foundations of Victorian international law in Bell, ed., Victorian visions, p. 52.

34 Lobban, English approaches, p. 72.

35 Lobban, English approaches, pp. 656; G. Cavallar, Eye-deep in hell. Heinrich Lammasch, the
confederation of neutral states, and Austrian neutrality 18991920 in Lettevall et al., Neutrality, pp.
2767.

36 Neff, Rights and duties, pp. 878.

37 Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer, pp. 26895.

38 Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer, p. 181.


39 K. Nabulski, Traditions of war. Occupation, resistance and the law. Oxford University Press,
1999, p. 6; R. Chickering, Problems of a German peace movement, 18901914 in Wank, Doves and
diplomats, p. 51. Cf A. J. Nicholls, Der dritte Weg im Zeitlater des Kaltest Krieges einfhrende
berlegungen in D. Geppert, U. Wengst, eds, Neutralitt Chance oder Chimre? Konzepte des
Dritten Weges fr Deutschland un die Welt 19451990. Munich, Oldenbourg Verlag, 2005;
Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer, p. 211; Robbins, Britain, p. 197; Medlicott, Bismarck, p. 11.

40 Wolfke, Great and small, pp. 545.

41 Nabulski, Traditions, p. 162; R.-J. Wilhelm, Quelques considerations generales sur levolution
du droit international humanitaire in Astrid J. M. Delissen, Gerard J. Tanja, eds., Humanitarian law
of armed conflict challenges ahead. Essays in honour of Frits Kalshoven. Dordrecht, Martinus
Nijhoff, 1991, p. 42; Hershey, History of international law, p. 52.

42 As quoted in Nabulski, Traditions, p. 5.

43 Semmel, Liberalism, pp. 99100.

44 Ranft, Restraints, pp. 42, 51; Hattendorf, Maritime conflict, p. 110; R. Hobson, Prussia,
Germany and maritime law from armed neutrality to unlimited submarine warfare in Hobson and
Kristiansen, Navies, pp. 978; Neff, Rights and duties, p. 125.

45 J. Rger, The great naval game. Britain and Germany in the age of empire. Cambridge
University Press, 2007; J. Beeler, Review article. The theatre of navalism in Germany and Britain,
International History Review 30, 2, June 2008, pp. 33242.

46 Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge, 1907, as quoted by Semmel, Liberalism, p. 122.

47 Cf J. Pitts, Boundaries of Victorian international law in Bell, ed., Victorian visions, pp. 6788.

48 Compare Neff, Rights and duties, p. 94, with Wrange, Impartial, p. 235.

49 For more on Lassa Oppenheim: M. Schmoeckel, The internationalist as a scientist and herald.
Lassa Oppenheim, European Journal of International Law 11, 3, 2000, pp. 699712.
50 A. Perreau-Saussine, A case study of jurisprudence as a source of international law:
Oppenheims influence in Craven et al., Time, p. 103.

51 Clark, International legitimacy and international society.

52 L. Oppenheim, International law. A treatise. Volume 1. London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1912,
pp. 1501.

53 Oppenheim, International law. Volume 1, p. 151.

54 Cavallar, Eye-deep, pp. 274, 27980.

55 Nabulski, Traditions, p. 164; Cavallar, Eye-deep, p. 281; Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer,
pp. 21618; E. Nys, The codification of international law, American Journal of International Law
5, 4, October 1911, p. 884.

56 Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, p. 191.

57 Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer, pp. 834.

58 Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer, pp. 1214. The Times was not the only newspaper to regularly
report on the Instituts meetings: 5 September 1878, p. 7; 7 September 1878, p. 7; 14 September
1882, p. 12; 15 September 1882, p. 6; 19 September 1882, p. 10; 10 September 1883, p. 4; 11
September 1883, p. 10; 12 September 1883, p. 7; 10 September 1885, p. 6; 14 September 1885, pp.
3, 6; 6 September 1887, p. 14; 12 September 1887, p. 3; 13 September 1887, p. 3.

59 Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer, p. 19.

60 Dutch diplomat in Peking to Dutch Minister Foreign Affairs, 2 January 1882, in NA2.05.03nr 151.

61 Wassenaer, Nederlands plichten, p. 9.

62 J. B. Scott, Resolutions of the Institute of International Law dealing with the law of nations
with an historical introduction and explanatory notes. New York, Oxford University Press, 1916;
T. E. Holland, letter to the editor, The Times, 24 November 1881, p. 7.

63 Nabulski, Traditions, p. 8; Best, War and law, p. 41; Verzijl, International law, pp. 1012.

64 Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer, p. 84; Cavallar, Eye-deep, p. 277.

65 Neutrality was discussed and analysed in the periodical in one form or another every year of
publication from 1869 to 1911, except in 1895 and 1906. In some issues, there were more than 300
references made to neutrality (Revue de droit international et de lgislation compare 143, 1869
1911).

66 Some mid-to late-nineteenth-century examples: Bellemare, Questions, 1854; Crampon,


Neutralit, 1854; J. Hosack, The rights of British and neutral commerce as affaected by recent
royal declarations and orders in council . N.p., 1854; J. A. Molster, Voorlezingen over de
neutraliteit vooral in verband met de scheepvaart der onzijdige volken. Gehouden in de
maatschappij Felix Meritis. Haarlem, A. C. Kruseman, 1856;Neutralite belge, 1859; De politieke
en strategische toestand van Nederland en zijne overzeesche bezittingen getoetst aan eigenbelang
en zelfbehoud. The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1862; J. F. Macqueen, Chief points in the laws of war
and neutrality, search and blockade with the changes of 1856 and those now proposed . Richmond,
VA, West and Johnston, 1863; Lowry, English neutrality, 1863; Boynton, English and French
neutrality, 1864; E. Cauchy, De respect de la proprit prive dans la guerre maritime. Mmoire
lu a lacadmie des sciences morales et politiques dans les sances des 12, 19 et 26 mai 1866.
Paris, Gauillaumin, 1866; L. Gessner, Le droit des neutres sur mer. Berlin, Stilke und van Muyden,
1865; J. Bluntschli, Das moderne Vlkerrecht des civilisirten Staten. Nrdlingen, C. H. Beck, 1868;
Montague, Historical account 1870; E. J. Castle, The law of commerce in time of war with
particular reference to the respective rights and duties of belligerents and neutrals . London, W.
Maxwell & Son, 1870; T. D. Woolsey, Introduction to the study of international law. New York,
Charles Scribner, 1871; T. Hodgkin, The duties of neutrality. A plea for the prohibition of the
export of arms to belligerents. London, F. B. Kitto, 1871; W. E. Hall, The rights and duties of
neutrals. London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1874; W. O. Manning, Commentaries on the law of
nations. London, MacMillan, 1875; A. de la Guronnire, Le droit public e lEurope moderne.
Paris, Typographie Lahure, 1876; L. Bassereau, tude sur la neutralit de la Savoie. Paris, Librairie
Sandoz et Thuillier, 1880; F. de Martens, Vlkerrecht. Das internationale Recht der civilisirten
Nationen. Berlin, Weidmann, 1883; C. Bergbohm, Die bewaffnete Neutralitaet 178083. Berlin,
n.p., 1884; C. Calvo, Le droit international thorique et pratique. Paris, Nabu, 1888 (2010);
Lieutenant-Colonel Hennebert, La guerre immenent. La dfense du territoire. Paris, Ernest Kolb,
1890; C. Piccioni, Droit romain. Les concessions de connubium. Droit international de la
neutralit perptuelle. These pour le doctorat. Paris, Arthur Roussea, 1891; G. Bry, Prcis
lmentaire de droit international public, mis au courant des progrs de la science et du droit
positif contemporain. Paris, Larose et Forcel, 1891; Wassenaer, Nederlands plichten 1891; Captain
Godchot, Les neutres. tude juridique et historique de droit maritime international. Algeria,
Imprimerie Pierre Fontana, 1891; C. de Mazade, LEurope et let neutralits. La Belgique et la
Suisse. Paris, Librairie Plon, 1893; Tswettcoff, Situation, 1895; A. Saunders, The neutral ship in
wartime. Rights duties, and liabilities. Illustrated in the form of a narrative. London, E. Wilson,
1898; M. R. dArgent, Histoire diplomatique de la neutralit du Chablais & du Faucigny.
Chateaudun, Imprimerie de la Socit Typographique, 1899.

67 Molster, Voorlezing, p. 3; Archives diplomatiques, 2nd series, 12, 1884, pp. 2389, 378;
Algemeen Handelsblad, 28 November 1879, p. 5, 14 February 1897, p. 5.

68 L.-B. Hautefeuille, Des droit et des devoirs des nations neutres en temps de guerre maritime .
Third edition. Saint-Denis, A. Moulin, 1868; Neff,Rights and duties, pp. 889; Wassenaer,
Nederlands plichten , pp. 14. Also: R. P. Ward, A treatise on the relative rights and duties of
belligerent and neutral powers in maritime affairs in which the principles of armed neutralities
and the opinions of Hubner and Schlegel are fully discussed. London, J. Butterworth and C.
Woodfall, 1801 (1875).

69 Bosa, Burden, p. v.

70 L. Quidde, The creation of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in The Inter-Parliamentary Union


from 1889 to 1930. A publication issued by the Inter-Parliamentary Bureau to commemorate the
fiftieth anniversary of the union. Lausanne, Payot & Lie, 1939, p. xii; V. Enebakk, Nobel science of
peace. Norwegian neutrality, internationalism, and the Nobel Peace Prize in Lettevall et al.,
Neutrality, p. 298.

71 Cavallar, Eye-deep, p. 277; Perris, Short history, p. 242.

72 Quidde, Inter-Parliamentary Union, p. 9. For more on the Workmens Peace Association: P.


Laity, The British peace movement 18701914. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2001, pp. 4662.

73 Spall Jr, Free trade, p. 420.

74 Neff, Rights and duties, pp. 1023.

75 Illustrated London News, 21 May 1859, p. 490.

76 Lyon, Neutrality, p. 262; A. J. Morris, Radicalism against war, 19061914. The advocacy of
peace and retrenchment. London, Longman, 1972, pp. 41112.

77 Salmon, Unneutral Ireland, p. 84; T. E. Hachey, The rhetoric and reality of Irish neutrality,
New Hibernia Review 6, 4, 2002, p. 27.

78 Cooper, Patriotic pacifism, p. 73; Enebakk, Nobel science, p. 297; Cavallar, Eye-deep, p.
277; . de Descamps, La neutralit de la Belgique au point de vue historique, diplomatique,
juridique et politique. tude sur la constitution des tats pacifique titre permanent. Brussels,
Veuve F. Larcier, 1902.

79 Wrange, Impartial, p. 243; Q. Wright, The future of neutrality, International Conciliation 242,
1928, pp. 4001.

80 S. A. Keefer, Building the palace of peace. The Hague Conference of 1899 and arms control in
the progressive era, Journal of the History of International Law 8, 2006, pp. 14.

81 Best, Humanity, pp. 1339; G. Best, The restraint of war in historical and philosophical
perspective in Delissen et al., Humanitarian law, pp. 1011; J. J. Sheehan, Where have all the
soldiers gone? The transformation of modern Europe. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 2008, pp. 2841;
V. Brittain, The rebel passion. A short history of some pioneer peace-makers. London, George
Allen & Unwin, 1964; J. Winter, Dreams of peace and freedom. Utopian moments in the twentieth
century. New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 2006, pp. 3846; G. Jochheim, Nederland als
centrum van de internationale anti-militaristische beweging, 19001940, Transaktie 6, July 1977,
pp. 88105; R. R. Laurence, The peace movement in Austria, 18671914 in Wank, Doves and
diplomats, pp. 2141; C. Levy, Anarchism, internationalism and nationalism in Europe 18601939,
Australian Journal of Politics and History 50, 3, 2004, pp. 33042; Conrad, Globalisation, pp. 55
9; S. Moyn, The last utopia. Human rights in history. Cambridge, MA, Belknap Press, 2010, p. 39;
Iriye, Cultural internationalism, pp. 2934.

82 P. Brock, Twentieth-century pacifism. New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1970, p. 2; Cooper,
Patriotic pacifism, pp. 6074; Lyons, Internationalism.

83 P. Brock, Varieties of pacifism. A survey from antiquity to the outset of the twentieth century .
University of Toronto Press, 1998, pp. 5090; Chickering, Problems, pp. 434. Cf Cooper, Peace
and internationalism, pp. 12.

84 B. Schroeder-Gudehus, Probing the master narrative of scientific internationalism. Nationals and


neutrals in the 1920s in Lettevall et al., Neutrality, p. 19; Somsen, Hollands calling, p. 45;
Enebakk, Nobel science, p. 295.

85 Enebakk, Nobel science, p. 295.

86 Schroeder-Gudehus, Probing, p. 21; Enebakk, Nobel science, pp. 299300; R.MacLeod, The
scientists go to war. Revisiting precept and practice, Journal of War and Cultural Studies 2, 1,
2009, pp. 378; S. Widmalm, Science and neutrality. The Nobel Prizes of 1919 and scientific
internationalism in Sweden, Minerva 33, 1995, pp. 33960. Also: E. Crawford, The beginnings of
the Nobel Institution. The science prizes 19011915. Cambridge University Press, 1984; E.
Crawford, Nationalism and internationalism in science 18801939. Four studies in the Nobel
population. Cambridge University Press, 1992.

87 J. Becket, Discoursing on Dutch modernism, Oxford Art Journal 6, 2, 1983, pp. 745. For
more: G. Brockington, ed., Internationalism and the arts in Britain and Europe at the Fin de Sicle.
Oxford, Peter Lang, 2009.

88 Neff, Friends, pp. 404; Trentmann, Free trade.

89 Cf C. MacLeod, Heroes of invention. Technology, liberalism and British identity 17501914.


Cambridge University Press, 2007, esp. pp. 21830; Lyons, Internationalism, p. 339.

90 For a French example: Archives diplomatiques. With thanks to Allana Sullivan-Vaughan for her
thoughts on this topic. Also: S. Ansari, The Sind Blue Books of 18431844. The political
laundering of historical evidence, European History Review 70, 485, February 2005, pp. 3565;
Glenny, Balkans, pp. 1367.

91 Clark, International legitimacy and world society, p. 71; Best, Humanity, p. 139; Anderson,
Rise, pp. 13643; Hamilton, European wars, p. 69.

92 B. Bond, War and society in Europe 18701970. Gloucestershire, Sutton Publishing, 1984
(1998), p. 26; Wilkinson, Depictions; Chickering, Problems, p. 45. Cf P. Crook, Darwinism, war
and history. Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 98129.

93 Mulligan, Origins, pp. 13444.

94 M. Geyer, J. Paulmann, Introduction. The mechanices of internationalism in Geyer and


Paulmann, Mechanics, p. 7.

95 Widmalm, Superior type, p. 68; Best, Peace conferences, p. 620; Porter, Absent-minded
imperialists, p. 91; G. J. Somsen, A history of universalism. Conceptions of internationality of
science from the Enlightenment to the Cold War, Minerva 46, 2008, p. 366; C. Eisenberg, The rise
of internationalism in sport in Meyer and Paulmann, Mechanics, pp. 375403.

96 Widmalm, Superior type, p. 68; Widmalm, Science and neutrality.

97 Cf J. Eisen, Anglo-Dutch relations and European unity 19401948. University of Hull


Publications, 1980, p. iii.

98 Cavallar, Eye-deep, p. 277; Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer, p. 212.

99 Perrin, Neutralit permanente, pp. 501.

100 Archives diplomatiques, Second series, XX, 1886, p. 162.

101 J. J. Blake, Pragmatic diplomacy. The origins and use of the protecting power in D. D.
Newsom, ed., Diplomacy under a foreign flag. When nations break relations. London, Hurt and
Company, 1990, pp. 711; Probst, Good offices; Goetschel, Neutrality, p. 121; L. Wildhaber,
Neutralitt und gute dienst in L.-E. Roulet, ed., Les tats neutres europens et la seconde guerre
mondiale. Neuchtel, Edits de la Baconniere, 1985, pp. 7992.

102 Coolsaet, Belgi, p. 163.

103 N. Angell, The great illusion 1933. New York, G. P. Putnams Sons, 1910 (1933), pp. 948.
Also: Trentmann, Free trade, p. 177; Laity, British peace movement, pp. 18995.

104 Descamps, Neutralit, pp. 3940. Also: R. Dollot, Les origines de la neutralit de la Belgique
et le systme de la barrire (16091830). Paris, Ancienne Librairie Gener Baillire et Co., 1902.

105 Coolsaet, Belgi, p. 105.


106 Lettevall et al., Introduction in Lettevall et al., Neutrality, p. 5.

107 Diepen, Voor volkenbond, pp. 1617; J. C. Boogman, The Netherlands in the European scene,
18131913 in J. S. Bromley, E. H. Kossmann, eds, Britain and the Netherlands in Europe and
Asia. Papers delivered to the Third Anglo-Dutch Historical Conference. London, MacMillan, 1968,
p. 154.

108 Wels, Aloofness, pp. 601; Hellema, Neutraliteit, p. 65.

109 Somsen, Hollands calling, p. 47.

110 Algemeen Handelsblad, 14 February 1897, p. 5.

111 Vigezzi, La neutralit, p. 67; Cavallar, Eye-deep, pp. 27980.

112 C. Moorhead, Dunants dream. War, Switzerland and the history of the Red Cross . London,
Harper Collins, 1998, p. 45; G. del Vecchio, On the history of the Red Cross, Journal of the
History of Ideas 24, 4, 1963, p. 581.

113 Probst, Good offices, p. 148.

114 Moorhead, Dunants dream, p. 51.

115 Hutchinson, Champions, pp. 105, 12933; Moorhead, Dunants dream , p. 82; Best, Humanity,
pp. 1515; Nabulski, Traditions, p. 5.

116 Hutchinson, Champions, p. 150.

117 G. Best, The Geneva conventions. Past, present and future, RUSI Journal 119, 2, 1974, pp. 22
7.

118 Best, Humanity, p. 141.


119 Jules Lacointa, Professor of Law, Paris, 1884, as quoted by Hutchinson, Champions, p. 155.

120 R. Chastril, The French Red Cross, war readiness and civil society 18661914, French
Historical Studies 31, 3, 2008, p. 448; J. F. Hutchinson, Rethinking the origins of the Red Cross,
Bulletin of the History of Medicine 63, 4, 1989, pp. 5734.

121 Moorhead, Dunants dream, p. 69.

122 Illustrated London News, 11 February 1871, p. 126.

123 The Times, 22 July 1870, p. 5.

124 Englands intervention in Punch, or the London Charivari, 27 August 1870.

125 The Times, 4 August 1870, p. 9.

126 The Times, 26 August 1870, p. 6.

127 Doedens, Nederland, p. 114.

128 Coolsaet, Belgi, p. 100; Howe, Restoring free trade, p. 201; F. Trentmann, National identity
and consumer politics: free trade and tariff reform in Winch and OBrien, Political economy, pp.
21819; Adams, Prussian-American relations, p. 37.

129 Trentmann, Free trade; Coolsaet, Belgi, pp. 55175; A. W. Johansson, T. Norman, The
Swedish policy of neutrality in a historical perspective, Revue International dHistoire Militaire
57, 1984, p. 79; Hellema, Neutraliteit, pp. 457.

130 Coolsaet, Belgi, p. 97.

131 Neff, Friends, p. 60; Howe, Restoring free trade, p. 209.

132 Cf Martin Daunton, State and market in Victorian Britain. War, welfare and capitalism .
Woodbridge, Boydell Press, 2008, pp. 2201.

133 See Chapter 2, especially fn 111.

134 Menning, Art, p. 117.

135 R. Findlay, K. ORourke, Power and plenty. Trade, war, and the world economy in the second
millenium. Princeton University Press, 2007, p. 380.

136 For a good overview of these events: Otte, Foreign Office mind, pp. 13644. Also: M. E.
Chamberlain, Sir Charles Dilke and the British intervention in Egypt 1882. Decision making in a
nineteenth-century cabinet, British Journal of International Studies 2, 3, 1976, pp. 23145.

137 H. Vincent, The Suez Canal. Its origins, constitution and administration. London, Soulden &
Co., 1905, pp. 925; Ramm, Granville, pp. 947.

138 Memorandum respecting the neutralization of the Suez Canal, British Foreign Office, 8 April
1870, in PRO AUSTRIA-HUNGARY: Desp. Pamphlet, The Neutrality of Austria and Hungary i
the event of War. (Lord Bloomfield), Aug. 24, 1869, FO881/1683.

139 Earl of Derby to Lord Lyons, 16 May 1877, in Egypt No. 1 1877. Correspondence with regard
to the Suez Canal, HCPP 1877 (C1766) LXXXVIII.393.

140 Wassenaer, Nederlands plichten , p. 9; Tswettcoff, Situation, p. 47; Egypt No. 1 (1888).
Correspondence respecting the proposed international convention for securing the free navigation of
the Suez Canal, HCPP 1888CX.1; Egypt No. 2 (1889). Further correspondence respecting the Suez
Canal Commission, HCPP 1889 LXXXVII.801; Archives diplomatiques. Second series, 1888.

141 B. Winchester, The old treaty and the new, American Law Register 48, 10, 1900, p. 575 (with
thanks to Annalise Higgins). Also: United States No. 1 (1900). Convention between H. M. and the
United States of America supplementary to the Convention of April 19, 1850, relative to the
establishment of a communication by ship-canal between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Washington
February 5, 1900, HCPP 1900CV.901.

142 Dame, Continuity, p. 149.


143 Dame, Continuity, p. 126.

144 Carl Hilty, 1875, in Zimmer, Contested nation, p. 200.

145 A. Suter, Neutralitt, Prinzip, Praxis und Geschichtsbetsein in M. Hettling, M. Knig, M.


Schaffner, A. Suter, J. Tanner, eds, Eine kleine Geschichte der Schweiz. Der Bundesstaat und seine
Traditionen. Franfurst am Mein, Suhrkamp, 1998, pp. 13388.

146 Charles de Brouckere in Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 40; and Banning, Les origins, p. 48.

147 Coolsaet, Belgi, p. 135; Banning, Les origins.

148 Coolsaet, Belgi, pp. 12930; G. Provoost, Vlaanderen en het militair-politiek beleid in Belgi
tussen de twee wereldoorlogen. Leuven, Davidsfonds, 1976, p. 16.

149 Goethem, Belgium and the monarchy.

150 M. F. Palo, The question of neutrality and Belgiums security dilemma during the First World
W a r , Belgisch Tijdschrift voor Nieuwste Geschiedenis/Revue Belge dHistoire
Contemporaine/Journal of Belgian History 31, 2000, 12, p. 229.

151 General Brialmont, 1882, as cited by Mandere and van Doorn, Pro en contra, p. 26.

152 As quoted by M. van Ginderachten, Het rode vaderland. De vergeten geschiedenis van de
communautaire spanningen in het Belgische socialisme van WO1. Tielt, Lannoo Uitgeverij, 2005,
p. 69. With grateful thanks to Maarten for the reference and others. Also: E. Defoort, Het Belgische
nationalisme vr de eerste wereldoorlog, Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 1972, pp. 527, 53233.

153 Ginderachten, Rode vaderland.

154 Diepen, Voor volkenbond, pp. 1617.

155 F. van Dongen, Tussen neutraliteit en imperialism. De Nederlands-Chinese betrekkingen van


1863 tot 1901. Proefschrift ter verkrijging van de graad van doctor in letteren en wijsbegeerte aan
de Rijksuniversiteit te Utrecht. Groningen, J. B. Wolters, 1966.

156 N. Ashton, D. Helema, Introduction and M. Kuitenbrouwer, Related but unequal partners in
imperialism, 18701914 in Ashton and Hellema, eds, Unspoken allies, pp. 916, 4357.

157 Sas, Between, pp. 356; Eyffinger, 1899, p. 74.

158 O. Elgstrm, Do images matter? The making of Swedish neutrality 1834 and 1853,
Cooperation and Conflict 35, 3, 2000, pp. 24344, 256; Johansson and Norman, Swedish policy,
p. 70; M. af Malmborg, Neutrality and state-building in Sweden. Houndsmills, Palgrave, 2001, p.
91.

159 Widmalm, Superior type, p. 65.

160 Cavallar, Eye-deep (the quote is on p. 278).

161 Glenny, Balkans, pp. 10910; P. J. V. Rolo, Derby in Wilson, British foreign secretaries, pp.
1089; Robbins, Britain, p. 161; Hamilton, European wars, p. 77; D. Rodogno, Against massacre.
Humanitarian intervention in the Ottoman Empire 18151914. The emergence of a European
concept and international practice. Princeton University Press, 2012, p. 27.

162 Laity, British peace movement, pp. 6387.

163 Public meeting, Maningford Bruce, County Wilts, 1 January 1878, in PRO Ottoman Empire.
Resolutions, memorials, etc., on the subject of neutrality, confidence in H. M.s Government, etc. Vol.
1. 1877 Dec. 1878 Jan., FO78/2930.

164 The petitions, in their hundreds, can be found at PROFO78/2930, 2931, 2932 and 2933.

165 The Times, 27 April 1877, p. 10.

166 The Times, 30 April 1877, p. 9.

167 China no. 3 (1884). Correspondence respecting the co-operation of neutral powers for the
protection of their subjects in China in case of necessity, HCPP 1884 LXXXVII.185; Dutch
representative in London, Schimmelpenick, to Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, M. J. Roll, 11
August 1894, in NA2.03.05nr512.

168 For an example: Millman, British foreign policy.

169 Otter, The Foreign Office mind, p. 397.

170 The Times, 7 May 1877, p. 12.

171 Archives diplomatiques. Second series, 18821883, pp. 623.

172 Archives diplomatiques. Second series, 18821883, p. 63.

173 A. J. H. de Clerq, Guide pratique des consulats. Fifth edition. Paris, A. Pedone, 1898.

174 Enebakk, Nobel science, p. 298; H. J. Langeveld, Abraham Kuyper, Hendrikus Colijn and
Dutch foreign and military policy 19011914, Dutch Crossing. A Journal of Low Countries Studies
48, Autumn 1992, p. 11.

175 Wassenaer, Nederlands plichten, pp. 1117.

176 Decsy, Prime Minister.

177 Hozier, Franco-Prussian War, p. 210.

178 De Tijd, 10 July 1898, p. 1.

179 M. Howard, The invention of peace and the reinvention of war. London, Profile Books, 2001.
6 Regulating neutrality from The Hague to The Hague, 18991907

The close of the nineteenth century was beset with contradictions. On the one hand, it augured an era
of conflict and war, most notably between Spain and the United States (1898 ), in southern Africa
between Britain and the Transvaal Boers (1899 to 1902), in China during the Boxer Rebellion (1900)
and subsequently in 1904 and 1905 between Russia and Japan over the fate of Korea and Manchuria .
In part because of these wars and in part because of other developments, such as the naval arms race
between Germany and Great Britain and the growing rivalry over China among the great powers, the
fin de sicle is also renowned for heightening international tension and instability.1 On the other hand,
the year 1899 witnessed an extraordinary internationalist event: namely, a conference of peace
attended by twenty-six different governments, including all the great powers, in the Dutch political
capital of s Gravenhage (Den Haag, The Hague ). The conference aimed to find agreement on three
complex and tendentious international concerns: namely, disarmament , arbitration and the regulation
of the laws of war .
Traditionally, historians of international relations tend to dismiss the first Hague Peace
Conference and its sequel in 1907 as fruitless and cynical ventures.2 They stress that most of the
great-power governments that attended them were hostile to the conferences stated ambitions,
especially regarding disarmament, and that the possibility of creating a genuinely peaceful world lay
far distant from the actual achievements of either event. Certainly, many of these historians hold up
the outbreak of the First World War as proof that any attempt at the peaceful resolution of world
problems was a pipe dream of a select few pre-war idealists. After all, the diplomatic and military
record attests to the steady, if not willing, march of the European peoples to world wide war in 1914.
By implication, this was an era of tension, crisis and beckoning conflict that no conference of peace
waylaid or could waylay.
Yet, to dismiss the Hague conferences as marginal or ephemeral fails to acknowledge their
seminal importance in the context of their time.3 It is true that the conferences did not, and could not,
address issues relating to disarmament due to almost universal opposition to the idea. They also bore
witness to an array of political and military cynicism.4 As a Times editorial reflected in 1899: the
conference at The Hagueavoids, but does not eliminate, reasons for quarrel, and neglects, without
destroying, the germs of war and revolution.5 Yet, the conferences also generated some remarkable
achievements, most notably in terms of arbitration and in the expansion of the international law of war
and neutrality. Furthermore, they inspired contemporaries to believe that a new world order based on
international co-operation and organisation might be attainable in the future. At a bare minimum, they
offered a forum in which the governments of the world could discuss and establish rules and
regulations to stabilise international affairs . When read from an idealistic perspective, the world was
not made more peaceful by the Hague conferences. However, when read from a perspective that
focusses on pragmatic achievement and progress, the conferences were an outstanding success. That
any progress at all was achieved on the laws of war and neutrality was in itself significant, given the
stakes involved.6 The first conference not only established a Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA),
to which all nations could bring their grievances, but also built on the rules of the 1874 Brussels
Convention and extended the 1864 Geneva Conventions to warfare at sea. The second Hague
conference reinforced the value of the arbitration court, promoted the establishment of an
International Prize Court (IPC), legislated key rules of neutrality both on land and at sea and
recommended further negotiation on finalising contraband and blockade issues, which occurred in
London in 1909. Many of these concerns, and especially those relating to maritime warfare, had
plagued international diplomacy for centuries. In other words, the Hague conventions were by no
means small achievements. That they came about at a time of great-power tension makes them all the
more noteworthy .
This chapter charts the history of neutrality in the key conflicts of the time: the SpanishAmerican
War , the Anglo-Boer War , the Boxer Rebellion and the Russo-Japanese War . It argues that as a
result of global interdependence, any war, however small or remote, was recognised to have the
potential for having a decisive impact on global economic and diplomatic affairs. The
interconnectedness of the world, by means of trans-oceanic cables, international finance and
interdependent trade networks, meant that a conflict also had the potential to disrupt the concerns of
all. Moreover, a modern war conducted at sea always implied the possibility of belligerent
interference with commerce, shipping and communications . Because most of the world remained
neutral when war broke out, the consequences of that neutrality influenced not only the conduct of the
war but also the ability of neutrals to continue their peaceful affairs. As a result, finding ways to
stabilise and guarantee the security of the seas and the business that crossed them was of paramount
concern. Agreeing on ways to delineate the parameters of acceptable conduct in time of war for
neutrals and belligerents was equally significant.
The international lawyer and German liberal politician Walther Schcking connected the
technological and legal aspects of international society in his commentary on the Hague Peace
Conferences in 1912: we are in an age of the telephone and wireless telegraphy, an age in which
international law has entered upon a very rapid development.7 Furthermore, as he saw it:

in our age of international commerce , even those states which can succeed in maintaining
complete neutrality are seriously injured by war. The financial crisis which regularly
accompanies the modern war will undoubtedly also affect neutral states; their industrial life may
be brought to a standstill thereby, and thus grave dangers for the domestic value of the state may
result. In short, there exists a common political interest between all the powers.8

The Hague Peace Conferences offered a forum in which to discuss such concerns and to recommend
some solutions binding on all. That the powers were able and willing to overcome many of their
differences on a range of contentious issues, including neutral rights, in 1899 and 1907 suggests how
aware they were of the advantages of doing so. Planning for the likelihood of their own neutrality was
an integral part of their foreign policy .
The world declared its neutrality in the SpanishAmerican War, which lasted a matter of months
in 1898 and saw the United States besiege Spanish -controlled Cuba and the Philippines . Although
most continental Europeans were sympathetic to Spains plight and worried about the implications of
the loss of its colonies, they declared and maintained their own strict neutrality. 9 Even the German
government, whose navy shadowed the American fleet in the Pacific Ocean , hoping that the collapse
of the Philippines might enable a German takeover, nonetheless kept to the rules and obligations
incumbent on neutrals.10 The German Chancellor, Count von Blow , excused his navys predatory
behaviour afterwards with the statement, we were never for one moment unfaithful to our duty of
honourable neutrality.11 Needless to say, it was in the United States interest to keep Europe and the
rest of the world neutral . Even the British government and press, who presented a generally friendly
position on the United States plight in the war, also advocated for the diligent maintenance of strict
neutrality at home and throughout its empire.12 Importantly, neutrality declarations came from all
corners of the world, including from China , Japan , most of the South American states, the Dutch East
Indian islands of Sarawak and Borneo and the Caribbean nations of Haiti , Liberia and the Dominican
Republic . Many of the declarations included sophisticated interpretations of neutral rights, whether
belligerents could coal in their ports and what the neutrals expectations were regarding trade in
contraband .13
As an imperial and largely sea-bound conflict, the SpanishAmerican War certainly brought the
application of belligerent and neutral rights into question. It also illustrated how disruptive a naval
war could be to the normal functioning of trans-oceanic communication networks. As a result, the
issues at stake in the war extended well beyond whether Spain lost its colonies and the United States
became an imperial power or could prevent the declaration of Cuban independence. How neutrality
applied to this war mattered for the belligerents and neutrals.14 Most countries registered relief when
Spain and the United States agreed to abide by the Declaration of Paris (1856), which vouchsafed the
safe passage of neutral shipping , excepting contraband and goods destined for blockaded ports.15 The
United States even relinquished the right of continuous voyage . Instead, it promoted the general
principle of immunity for all private property at sea.16 Still, it imposed blockades on Cuban and
Philippino ports and intercepted several neutral merchants suspected of blockade-running or
contraband trade.17 Likewise, Spain was relatively liberal in its application of belligerent rights. As
such, and as John Coogan so eloquently suggests, in 1898 controversies over blockade and
contraband seemed well on their way to the obsolescence that had already claimed privateering and
impressment .18
There was much more debate about the neutral status of telegraph cables. Because much of the
worlds commercial, diplomatic and governmental business was conducted by means of telegraph
communications using an ever-growing network of trans-oceanic and submarine cables, their fate in
time of war was a paramount concern. The International Telegraphic Union treaty (1875) recognised
the right of all to correspond freely and without censorship or surveillance in time of peace.19 But
could a belligerent cut an enemys cables in time of war? Could it cut a neutrals cables in enemy
territory or out on the open seas ? Should a neutral telegraph station censor or prevent the relay of a
belligerents messages? The potential consequences and costs involved in severing cables or
censoring the flow of messages were astronomical. Although the question of what to do about neutral
telegraph cables was not new it had existed in the Franco-Prussian War in 1898 there were many
more cables and a much greater reliance on them for all manner of everyday communications. At its
heart, then, the question of what to do about the cables remained the same. However, as in 1870, a
universally acceptable solution eluded the powers in 1898. Because Great Britain controlled the
lions share of the worlds cable network, 20 it also feared interference in its sovereign rights. So
while its law officers agreed in 1870 that there was merit in neutralising the cables to allow free
access to all, they also argued that a government should have the right to control the flow of
communications and to monitor them. In 1882, Britain accepted that as part of a neutrals duty to due
diligence it could prevent the transmission of belligerent telegraph messages, with the implication
that belligerents could cut neutral cables that relayed their enemys messages.21
During the SpanishAmerican War, however, Britains entire communication network with South
America and the Caribbean was at risk because that traffic normally routed through Cuban or Puerto
Rican telegraph stations, which were now under siege.22 Moreover, American and Spanish
companies owned a couple of key legs in the network. Because much of the world relied on these
cable links, the issues involved were urgent, and none more so when the United States cut cables in
the Philippines and Cuba.23 In the end, the call to permanently neutralise all communication cables
came from many quarters. Britain thus instructed its colonial governors that private telegraph stations
must not censor belligerent messages, regardless of their origin or content, because that task was too
onerous and would have too great an impact on the speedy relay of everyones communications. Only
when a telegram was sent from a warship stationed in a neutral port must they keep back the
communication and notify the Colonial Office of its content. In contrast, all government-owned cables
and telegraph stations should avoid sending on any belligerent communications in order to avoid
endangering the countrys neutral duty not to aid a belligerents war cause. 24 In the words of the
British Foreign Office at the time: the whole subject is novel.No inflexible rule can be laid down,
and a good deal of latitude must in practice [occur].25
The debate over neutralising telegraph cables at the turn of the century was akin to that over the
neutralisation of international canals that occurred around the same time. For example, the Hay
Pauncefote Treaty of 1901 signed between Britain and the United States , much like the Suez Canal
agreement of 1888, guaranteed that any canals built across the Central American isthmus to link the
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans would be open to all naval and merchant traffic, without restriction. As
the United States built the Panama Canal , which would eventually open in 1914, it sought greater
guarantees of sovereignty over it than Britain had over the Suez Canal. As a result, while the 1901
treaty agreed that the United States might fortify the mouths of the canal, it also clearly stated that no
state had the right to lay siege to the waterway. The HayPauncefote agreement recognised that, much
like submarine telegraph cables, the Panama Canal would be too significant an economic and geo-
strategic resource for its governance and status in time of war to be left entirely in the hands of one
sovereign state. As C. H. Stockton explained: there are certain things that rise above even narrow
territoriality, and the worlds use of great straits connecting oceans is among such matters. 26 The
international press in 1901 offered similar arguments as to why submarine cables needed protection
from belligerents: it vouchsafed international communications, which were too important to be left to
the sovereign rights of whichever state owned the cable, the telegraph station relaying the message or
the territory through which the message passed.27 Significantly, similar arguments abounded over the
usage of the BerlinBaghdad railway being constructed in 1903, which according to The Times was

not exclusively a German undertaking, and possibly the best guarantee for its neutral character is
that, next to German, French capital has the principal interest in the enterprise.The Baghdad
Railway will in no case be subordinated to the control of a single foreign PowerIn the interest
of international traffic it is to be hoped that this project, which will be of equal service to all
European countrieswill shortly be realized.28

Wars had the potential to undermine these international agreements and international communication
networks. Neutrality offered the hope of protecting them from undue interference.
The Russo-Japanese War further highlighted the urgency of finding international agreement on the
usage of international communication networks in time of war. The increasing use of wireless
technology complicated the question, as did telephone communications.29 For one, the Russians
worried about the ability of neutral ships to shadow their naval fleet and instantly relay information
about their location to others, including the enemy. By international law, belligerents could not
prevent the movement of neutral vessels on the open seas unless they carried contraband . A neutrals
duty to impartiality and due diligence , however, implied that the communication of militarily
sensitive information would be a serious breach of neutrality . Yet, how could a belligerent police
such infractions if they occurred? As a reflection of how technology impacted the conduct of war, the
concerns about neutral cables and neutral communications were serious considerations. In the words
of a Russian newspaper in 1904, the United States had acknowledged that during the Spanish
American War every telegraph cable was of more servicethan an individual battleship.30 Russia
thus sought greater guarantees of a neutrals duty not to aid a belligerents cause through the
dissemination of information.31 The topic became a major agenda item at the 1907 Hague Peace
Conference , which ruled that belligerents could not use neutral territory to relay messages of a
military nature, although a neutral did not have to prevent belligerents from using its communication
networks.32 The 1907 Hague conventions also recognised that commercial and neutral
communications should not be unduly interrupted by war and that cables and other communications
infrastructure were prima facie protected from belligerent interference.33 The tension between the
international needs of commerce , finance and governance that dominated most states peacetime
agendas and their wartime needs for military and naval security was all too palpable in these
discussions about information infrastructure. The age of electronic warfare would complicate them
further.
Another international concern for the belligerents in the SpanishAmerican War was the right to
coal warships in neutral ports. After the United States lay siege to the Philippines , a Spanish fleet left
Europe for the Pacific theatre. It sought and paid for passage through the Suez Canal in June 1898.34
However, although it clearly had the right to navigate through the canal, its right to dock and coal the
fleet in any of the neutral Mediterranean ports was not as evident. Obviously, the United States was
keen to keep the Spanish from using neutral ports and sought guarantees from neutrals to that end.
Britain steadfastly adhered to the 24-hour rule , as did many other countries, including Egypt .35 The
24-hour rule determined that a belligerent warship could dock in a neutral port for up to 24 hours but
could not receive provisions or coal except when it was in distress or did not have enough provisions
on board to safely reach the nearest friendly port. Certainly, everyone agreed that a warship could not
use a neutral port or neutral territory to stage a military campaign against an enemy. Thus, when the
twelve warships composing the Spanish fleet reached Port Sad in Egypt seeking moorings and fuel ,
the local authorities denied them coal and urged them to depart at their earliest convenience. In the
end, the ships coaled from colliers stationed outside Egypts territorial waters . Of course, the United
States also needed coaling stations to navigate around South America and across the Pacific. As a
result, the neutrality of the nominally independent state of Hawaii came into question. Much as the
United States agitated for the neutrality of the Mediterranean ports, the Spanish representative in
Honolulu urged strict neutrality on Hawaii .36 Ultimately, however, the local authorities were unable
to withstand American pressure and allowed American warships to coal, dock and use the Hawaiian
ports at will. Not long after the war, the United States annexed the islands.37 The SpanishAmerican
War signalled that the logistics of modern war, involving steamships crossing oceans, dictated that
belligerents needed friendly bases for supply . In a war where the world was neutral, however,
acquiring those bases involved careful negotiation and planning. As we will see, the topic also
dominated international discussions during the Russo-Japanese War and, much like the subject of
submarine cables, would see a ruling at the second Hague Peace Conference in 1907 .
In the immediate aftermath of the SpanishAmerican War , in late August 1898, the young Russian
Tsar Nicholas II made an announcement that astounded the world. He called nation-states together to
congregate

with the object of seeking the most effective means of ensuring to all peoples the benefits of a
real and lasting peace and, above all, of limiting the progressive development of existing
armaments .38

His initial proposal focussed on the need to achieve agreement on arms production. However, by the
time Russia s Foreign Office sent out the agenda for the conference in January 1899, it had expanded
well beyond the narrow parameters of disarmament. It also looked to the restriction of weapons
development , the regulation of the conduct of war and the use of good offices , mediation and
arbitration .39 By this point, the popular press had started calling the proposed event a conference for
peace, and the label stuck.40 What would be known as the first Hague Peace Conference convened in
the quiet seaside town, and administrative capital of the Netherlands, from May to July 1899.
The first Hague Peace Conference was a unique event. It witnessed the first genuinely global
convention of governments, with ninety-six representatives from twenty-six countries attending,
including those from Japan , Persia , China and Siam .41 Excepting Mexico , the South American
states were not invited they would be in 1907. Neither were the Vatican or Transvaal Boers
represented.42 Furthermore, the conference occurred in a rare moment of what one commentator
labelled profound peace.43 Aside from some troubles in Siam for the French and a subsequent
declaration of war by the United States on the Philippines , no major power was at war. In other
words, the conference was not called to end a war or solve a major crisis. Rather, it aimed to find
agreement on issues that affected all nations before they impacted negatively on their foreign affairs.
Of course, this is not to say that there were no crises brewing. Britain s affairs in southern Africa
with the Boers troubled many. France and Britain had only recently resolved the Fashoda incident in
north-eastern Africa, leaving a bitter aftertaste.44 Meanwhile, Russia rumbled to take over semi-
autonomous Finland and all of the powers vied for influence and concessions in China amidst local
uprisings. Furthermore, Europe was consumed by the Dreyfus Affair and rocked by the recent
assassination of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth in Geneva .45 Most importantly, however, no crisis
or war dictated the agenda or course of the conference.
The 1899 conference was also significant because it received a large amount of public attention .
It inspired peace activists and internationalists to agitate loudly and publicly for a number of practical
improvements to keep the world from war. 46 One such enthusiast wrote a letter to the editor of The
Times advocating that Sir Henry Drummond Wolfs suggestion, originally made in the 1860s, that a
neutral field [be] provided at which, even during war, the representatives of belligerents might meet
together and devise peace was no longer a Utopian dream but that thanks to the tsar, To-day it has
come, one may almost say, within the sphere of practical politics. 47 The influential and prominent
newspaper editor W. T. Stead was so moved by the tsars manifesto that he travelled around the
European continent seeking audiences with monarchs and heads of government to impress on them the
importance of the conference to solving the worlds problems. 48 On returning to Britain, he had to
admit that his appeals for peace had little effect on Europes diplomatic corps.49 Nevertheless,
thousands of Britons came to a public meeting to listen to Steads address on peace, and thousands
more sent petitions to the British government in favour of the conference.50 Furthermore, the
internationally recognised figurehead of the peace movement and author of the best-selling Die
Waffen nieder! (Lay down your arms, 1889), Baroness Bertha von Suttner , noted that the conference
was epoch making in the history of the world.51 Even Ivan Bloch , the author of the impressive six-
volume The future of war (originally in Polish, the English translation was published in 1898),
travelled to The Hague to promote a peace programme.52 Alongside a host of other inspired
internationalists, such as duard Descamps , Fredrik Bajer and Alfred Hermann Fried , Stead, Suttner
and Bloch came to The Hague to lobby delegates and report on conference events.53 That the
international press wanted access to the conference proceedings was in itself unique and caused
difficulties. No diplomat would allow public access to, interference in or scrutiny of their affairs, at
least not until the final conventions were signed. As a compromise, it was decided that the conference
president would report to the press correspondents each day on significant developments. The
environment of modern public diplomacy so familiar to us today, involving lobbyists, press releases
and public-relations experts, was thus also birthed in 1899, to the consternation of many
contemporaries.54
While the peace activists wined and dined delegates in The Hague and gave public lectures on key
pacifist principles, the delegates came to the conference wary and circumspect. Germanys two
representatives, Baron von Stengel and Philipp Zorn , had come to avoid any commitments that might
hamper Germanys sovereign right to dictate its own defence and foreign policies.55 Similarly,
Britain sent Vice Admiral Sir John Fisher as its naval representative, a man who understood the need
for economic warfare through application of the principle that might makes right.56 Nonetheless,
most nations were not represented only by the bellicose and cynical. Britains other representative,
Sir Julian Pauncefote , for example, headed his countrys delegation and was the principal advocate
for the establishment of an international court of arbitration .57 Most other countries had at least one
international lawyer present, as well as diplomats who understood the advantages of advancing
certain international improvements. As such, the conference witnessed a head-on clash of two
opposite perceptions of international society and conflicting outlooks on the law, as the worlds pre-
eminent authority on the Hague conferences, the historian Arthur Eyffinger , explains. One group
focussed on internationalism , the other on national prerogative.58
The conferences main achievement, arbitration, and singular failure, disarmament , clearly reflect
the co-existence of these opposite perceptions and conflicting outlooks among the attending
delegates. The conferences First Commission was unable to obtain any agreement on or even
generate much debate about the principle of disarmament. In the end, the delegates only feebly
endorsed the resolution that the limitation of weaponry present in the world is greatly desirable for
the increasing material and moral well-being of humanity, which was little more than a boon to stave
off adverse public opinion.59 The dismal failure of disarmament stood in direct contrast to the
conferences crowning achievement: namely, the establishment by the Third Commission of the PCA ,
to be housed in The Hague in the yet-to-be-built Peace Palace. In other words, while none of the
major powers were willing to second their sovereignty to a global agreement on the restriction of
arms, they were nevertheless willing to endorse a means by which inter-state disputes could be dealt
with by a duly recognised international judicial body. 60 As the previous chapter suggested, the
establishment of the PCA was certainly the conferences greatest achievement.61 It set up the
worlds first international court of justice, to be followed by many more through the twentieth century.
It also recognised that international disputes that could not be solved by means of traditional
diplomacy might benefit from an impartial and neutral adjudication process. Certainly, the PCA
received many accolades both at the time and subsequently. In 1929, the Italian anti-fascist polemicist
Luigi Sturzo described the PCA as the first and most significant European and World experiment,62
echoing the sentiments of many commentators that came before him, including G. H. Perris in 1911,
who described the court as a great leap forward,63 and Walther Schcking in 1912, who saw in its
creation and the other achievements of The Hague the inauguration of a Weltstaatenbund (world
federation ) .64
In many ways, the laws of war and neutrality regulated by the Second Commission at the first
Hague Peace Conference were its quiet success. The Second Commission witnessed an immense
amount of hard and conscientious work. It was quite an achievement to endorse and expand on the
terms of the Brussels Convention (which had not been ratified by anyone in 1874) and to adopt and
extend the provisions of the United States military code of conduct, the Lieber Code (1863), and the
Oxford Manual of War (1880), designed by the Institut de droit international .65 The Commission
also agreed to apply the Geneva Conventions of 1864 to naval warfare after the ready adoption of
similar rules by the United States and Spain in their recent war .66 As a result, the conference offered
the world its first comprehensive war code, which dealt with such diverse topics as the internment of
foreign military personnel found on neutral territory, the treatment of prisoners of war , the conduct of
spies , the applications of flags of truce , the conditions of military occupation , the procedure
required for signalling capitulation and initiating armistices , the limits of military authority in hostile
territory, the detention of belligerents and the care of war-wounded in neutral and belligerent territory
on sea and land.67 In and of itself, the Second Commission made a significant contribution, as the lead
French delegate Lon Bourgeois later explained, to the juridical organization of international life,
[and] the formation of a society of law among the nations.68 Schckings world federation may not
have been realised, but the implications of these Hague conventions suggested it could well become a
reality in the future.
Although neutrality was not a formal part of the conferences agenda, it permeated through many of
its conventions. The PCA relied on both the willingness of states to recommend their lawyers as
neutral adjudicators and the existence of a neutral site in a neutral country the Netherlands to
conduct its affairs. Similarly, the right and duty of neutrals to offer their services as mediators was
also recognised in the Hague conventions of 1899. The Russian delegation explained the relevance of
the decision as follows:

There is no doubt but that neutral nations are concerned not only in the results of [a] war but also
in the fact that is has taken place. It follows that the interests of neutral nations require that
mediation be offered by them not only in order to stop a war already begun but also, and more
especially, in order to prevent its breaking out.69
Similarly, the business of the Second Commission revolved around issues of neutrality and
belligerency, so much so that Luxembourgs delegate recommended that it would be an excellent idea
to rework the Commissions agenda to discuss the obligations incumbent on neutrals in time of war. 70
The president of the Commission, the brilliant Russian international lawyer Fyodor de Martens ,
responded tellingly as follows:

Almost all disputes regarding observation of neutrality arise from a diversity of opinion as to the
rights and duties of neutrals. This uncertainty is of the greatest danger to both [neutrals and
belligerents]as to the possibility of realizing within a few weeks this end which most eminent
jurists, such as those of the Institute of International Law have not been able to attain in twenty-
five years[, it is impossible].71

It was better to leave the subject for a future conference.


Importantly, then, neutrality dominated the agenda of the next Hague conference, held in 1907 , and
would see the creation of an internationally recognised code of neutral conduct that remains with us to
this day. Yet, even in 1899, commentators recognised that neutral rights had been significantly
advanced by the Hague conventions.72 The Times quoted the French statesman and historian Gabriel
Hanotaux on the topic as follows:

the appeal to public opinion [occasioned by the conference] remains a fact. We have now a
course of procedure open to us which it will be difficult to ignore. Neutrals have been
recognised as possessing certain rights which will have to be taken into accountreal progress
has been achieved .73

Much was achieved in 1899 that boded well for the future of international law . The question then has
to be asked: Why were these achievements possible? Part of the answer must be that many of the
individuals negotiating at The Hague were committed to the principle of humanising warfare. Part of
the answer was also that they were able negotiators. There were also many excellent lawyers among
them who, as members of the Institut de droit international , had worked on some of the proposed
laws in advance and were willing and able to accommodate compromise.74 Similarly, the Inter-
Parliamentary Union (IPU)s preparatory work on arbitration was essential for the establishment of
the PCA , a fact the IPU never tired of repeating.75 However, even the most able negotiator or lawyer
could not support a rule that was not acceptable to the government he served. Thus, the rest of the
answer as to why the Hague conventions came into being has to be because it was deemed in the
general interest of the governments who signed them to do so, or at the very least that it was
understood that to be seen to be accepting them would be to their advantage. As Arthur Eyffinger
muses regarding the tsars rationale for calling the conference in the first place, peace made sense to
a nation growing its empire , building railway lines across the vast Russian hinterland and seeking to
catch up to the rest of the world in terms of economic, industrial and military power. 76 Peace with
some degree of international stability supporting it, when others went to war , made even greater
sense. So too did ensuring some degree of predictability over the impact of a war when it came.
The Hague conventions of 1899 signalled many important things about the parameters of state
sovereignty and international society . First, they recognised that when it came to decisions about war
and military expenditure, most nation-states were not ready to accept any outside interference or
restrictions. A states right to go to war and to use military production and expansion as a means of
advancing its international status and influence was not affected by the 1899 agreements. In fact, most
countries, and definitely all of the great powers, came to The Hague intent on protecting this
fundamental entitlement. In the same vein, they also came to protect the right and duty of a state to arm
its citizens in defence of the nation. In other words, the conventions did not and could not engage with
topics relating to a countrys fundamental right to go to war, to prepare for war or to defend itself.
What the conventions did signal, however, was the recognition that the impact of war was too
significant to be left entirely unchecked. Therefore, there should be some regulation of the means by
which wars were conducted for humanitarian reasons: namely, to limit the destructiveness of war,
and for international reasons: namely, to limit the impact of war on those not fighting and on the
international processes and institutions on which all countries relied in time of war and peace. In
other words, the conventions acknowledged that a conflict involving two states should not upset the
function of global commerce and finance or disturb the rights of non-belligerents to conduct their
peaceful affairs. Importantly, the conventions also signalled that the avoidance of war in certain
circumstances could be advantageous, and to this end established some procedures by which
mediation and arbitration could be successfully achieved.
Significantly, the wars that broke out between the end of the first Hague Peace conference and the
opening of the second in 1907 brought the urgency of stabilising international affairs , and especially
the rules surrounding neutral conduct, into sharp relief. Where the 1899 conventions related to the
most pertinent aspects of neutralbelligerent relations since the Declaration of Paris , the 1907
conventions would do the same for the wars of the fin de sicle. As the British Prime Minister, Sir
Arthur Balfour , explained to the House of Commons in the Russo-Japanese War : the belligerent of
to-day is the neutral of tomorrow and, as such, belligerents and neutrals needed to keep in mind the
duties and obligations of both parties.77 However, as the worlds many neutrals also recognised
during the wars of the time, there remained too much uncertainty about neutral rights, which made
international affairs all too unpredictable, if not outright dangerous.
That neutral rights could upset international relations was all too apparent during the (Second)
Anglo-Boer War , waged in southern Africa between 1899 and 1902. The war was a brutal and
complicated affair. At the outset, the British government saw the conflict as an internal imperial
matter and as a legitimate act of repression against a rebellious population in a key imperial region
for the protection of British trade, shipping, mining and prestige.78 As a civil war of sorts, then,
Britain could claim that the war did not warrant international attention or interference. Nevertheless,
in the face of heavy British military losses and effective politicking by the Afrikaner Boers in Europe
and the United States , the Anglo-Boer War quickly evolved into an internationally significant event.
It inspired widespread international condemnation of Britain, as well as offers of mediation , which
were rebuffed.79 It also occasioned humanitarian responses. Many countries sent Red Cross units to
southern Africa , and the Netherlands , friendly to the Boer cause yet adamantly neutral,80 also sent
warships to the region to rescue civilian refugees .81 Furthermore, when Britain used international
law to impose conditions of belligerency on the Transvaal and Orange Free State , it expected
neutrals to abide by international law. The Royal Navy intercepted neutral merchants heading to
southern Africa, checked their cargo for contraband and applied the principle of continuous voyage to
capture prizes it believed had the Transvaal as their ultimate destination.82 These invasive actions
resulted in serious diplomatic wrangles with Germany and Portugal , principally because the British
intercepted several German ships while searching for contraband in the port of Delagoa Bay
(Portugal), which was the closest sea base that the Boers could use for supply.83 Despite exhibiting a
generally pro-British attitude during the war, the United States government also had to question
British actions when the Royal Navy seized British merchant ships sailing out of the United States for
the Transvaal with American cargo on board.84
In the end, however, Britain decided it could ill afford to increase the ire of neutrals or to risk
losing even more respect in Europe and the United States. As a result, it reduced its contraband
policing actions.85 Nevertheless, the war showed how neutrality had become a major international
concern. The Germans , for example, upheld most of their neutral responsibilities in their part of
Africa , including interning British and Afrikaner soldiers who crossed into their territory and
monitoring the movement of contraband goods across their borders. Their government warned
merchants that they would not receive any aid if intercepted carrying contraband, and the German
Consul-General in Cape Town urged German subjects in the region to remain aloof and not aid or
abet the belligerents.86 Given the massive size of German territory in southern Africa, however, and
the relatively small number of officials it had to guard and monitor its borders, Britain readily
admitted that we cannot expect, in that sparsely-populated country, the slender German guards shall
be able to prevent every petty infraction of neutrality .87 At any rate, because it had asked the
Portuguese to allow the use of their railway lines near Beira to transport British troops and supply ,
which the Portuguese subsequently agreed to, Britain could not admonish Germany for not doing
enough to police its territorial integrity .
International legal experts nevertheless agreed that Britains use of the Beira railway line was a
clear breach of Portuguese neutrality, which effectively turned Portugal into a belligerent, albeit one
that never fired a shot in the war. 88 Unsurprisingly, the Transvaal vehemently protested the act, as did
France and Russia , while the European press seethed with consternation.89 Furthermore, the French
government began to look closely at the integrity of its own territory in Mozambique in case the war
expanded.90 Meanwhile, the United States undertook a detailed investigation when it discovered that
the British military authorities had used the port of New Orleans repeatedly to acquire military
materials and recruits .91 If the Transvaal won the war and had its independence recognised, which
did not happen, the federal government acknowledged that it would have to pay compensation for this
breach of its responsibility to due diligence . Because Britain won the war, the issue never arose;
neither was Portugal made to answer for its neutrality breach.92 Still, the incident made the United
States authorities all too aware of the requirement to police and monitor traffic leaving and entering
their territorial waters at any time any nation was at war, however far away. In much the same way,
the Dutch newspaper, the Tilburgsche Courant, urged its government to follow up claims made in
German newspapers that Britain was buying up horses in the Dutch East Indies and sending them to
Africa for use by their imperial troops.93 Furthermore, both the British and American navies
recognised in the course of the conflict that their officers needed comprehensive training in
international maritime law to avoid embarrassing misapplications of the rules.94 Altogether, the
Anglo-Boer War highlighted how the careful scrutiny of belligerent and neutral affairs had become a
central part of international diplomacy, military and naval planning , as well as public affairs .
Much like the contemporaneous Anglo-Boer War , the Boxer Rebellion in China also illustrated
how closely neutrality, belligerency and global relations were interconnected. Much more than the
South African conflict, however, the Boxer Rebellion was considered a genuine threat to European
peace .95 The rebellion began after local Chinese nationalists , who named themselves I Ho Chuan
(the Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists , or Righteous Boxers) attacked foreigners in northern
China and Beijing in 1899.96 It soon evolved into part civil war , pitting various members of the Qing
dynasty and their supporters against each other, and part international conflict, as the Boxers declared
war on all foreigners in China.97 Understandably, the uprising was hugely concerning to those states
with commercial or territorial interests in China, let alone those interested in protecting their subjects
who resided there. In recent years, China had witnessed an extraordinary level of foreign expansion
and had granted concession rights to foreigners in various ports. Many Chinese feared the impact of
more foreign incursions . They especially did not want to see their massive empire carved up like the
continent of Africa . They had good reason to be concerned. For one, Russia eyed up Manchuria and
looked to obtain another port on the Pacific Ocean south of ice-bound Vladivostok . In turn, Japan
sought to expand into Manchuria from the Korean Peninsula, and the United States and most European
countries hoped to protect the viability of their concession ports and maintain their commercial
influence throughout mainland China. All of these foreigners wished to contain each others
expansionism, and especially that of Russia. As a result, rather than leave the fate of China in the
hands of the Chinese or the Russians, the armies and navies from the United States, Japan, Italy ,
Germany , Russia, Austria-Hungary , Great Britain , France and the Netherlands engaged the Chinese
rebels at sea and on land.98 At the conclusion of the conflict, the Qing dynasty had to accept the
ongoing presence of foreign troops in Beijing , although it also received generous compensation from
its allies for the destruction caused by these troops during the war. 99 More significantly, and despite
serious protests, Russia held on to Manchuria, heightening its rivalry with the Japanese.100
In terms of neutrality, the Boxer Rebellion highlighted some key things about the state of
international affairs at the turn of the nineteenth century. For one, the possible neutralisation of China
was seriously contemplated. Britain and the United States were especially desirous of stabilising
Chinese affairs. Neutralisation would ensure the ongoing existence of China and prevent military
expansion in the region by the great powers. China was too important not to engage them all. From the
British and United States governments perspectives, it was preferable to maintain the status quo
there than to allow for the collapse of the Chinese dynasty and the rule of one of the other powers. In
effect, they hoped that a global imperial and commercial concern could be addressed by global co-
operation.101 They received enough encouragement from other powers to initiate a common open-
door policy in China in 1901, with the aim of preserving the Chinese empire while providing
commercial access to all.102
Furthermore, the Boxer Rebellion heightened Britain s realisation that its imperial affairs in the
Asia-Pacific region were at risk. Thus, when the opportunity came to enter into an alliance with Japan
in 1902 , the British Foreign Minister, Lord Lansdowne , readily agreed, albeit against the advice of
many of his cabinet colleagues.103 The Anglo-Japanese alliance was really more of a neutrality
guarantee. It stated that if either Japan or Britain went to war with another state, its ally would
declare its neutrality and attempt to keep other states from joining the war as well.104 If it went to war
with two powers, however, the alliance would come into effect and the ally would go to war too.
Similar treaties of neutrality had existed throughout the previous century, including between Russia
and France in 1859 and between Austria-Hungary and Germany in 1879.105 Russia offered a
neutrality treaty to Germany in 1887, and in 1901, at the expiry of the Triple Alliance between Italy ,
Germany and Austria-Hungary, the Italians toyed with the idea of offering an alliance of neutrality to
France.106 The secret treaty was ratified in 1902: France received Italian neutrality in a war with
Germany and Italy received recognition of its ambitions in Tripoli . As the French press reported at
the time: by obtaining the neutrality of the other Powers we [France] gain freedom for our own
movements.107 Significantly, Germany also sought out an agreement of British friendship and
neutrality around the same time and again in 1909.108 In the midst of the Russo-Japanese War, Russia
and Austria-Hungary would also sign a neutrality agreement stating that each would stay neutral if the
other went to war with a third party.109
When Japan attacked Russia in 1904, it did so with the expectation that the ensuing war would
remain localised.110 With Britains declaration of strict neutrality , Japan understood that the rest of
the world would in all likelihood also maintain its neutrality. 111 True to form, most countries issued
neutrality declarations. Only Frances neutrality was uncertain. Although its military alliance with
Russia, signed in 1894, came into effect only if either state went to war with Germany , Austria -
Hungary or Italy , the French government understood the need to signal a policy of benevolent
neutrality towards Russia. It nevertheless declared its neutrality, but in a form that was as
accommodating of Russias wartime needs as international law would allow of a neutral .
The most pressing concern for the non-belligerent powers was the impact of the Russo-Japanese
War on China and Korea . Not only was the fate of Manchuria , since 1901 almost completely
occupied by Russia , in jeopardy, but so was that of the rest of China. Meanwhile, both the Russians
and the Japanese completely ignored Koreas fervent neutrality declaration.112 Although Britain was
determined to give Japan a free hand against the Russians, it also recognised the vulnerability of its
Chinese holdings and of the Qing dynasty itself. When, at the urging of the Germans, the United States
government suggested the possibility of issuing a great-power decree to guarantee the neutrality of
China in the war, Britain happily welcomed the idea.113 Of course, maintaining Chinese neutrality
was more complicated than the issuance of a decree. For one, the Chinese authorities had to protect
the countrys territorial integrity and ensure neither belligerent could make undue use of its neutrality.
All of the other neutral powers with concession ports in China and imperial holdings in the Asia-
Pacific region had to ensure their territorial integrity as well. Britain even closed the port of
Weihaiwei to the belligerents in fear that it could not police its neutrality adequately. 114 That
neutrality was of concern is clear from accounts that the Russians used Chinese junks to cross the
Gulf of Liaotung in order to move information and spies into the Liaotung Peninsula . In response, the
Japanese declared a blockade on the peninsula and diligently searched every junk moving into and out
of the area.115 Russia also repeatedly claimed that China failed to meet its neutrality requirements,
which the Chinese government repeatedly and with good reason denied.116 Only when the Chinese
failed to intercept and intern a Japanese warship that sank a Russian vessel (the Ryeshitelni ) that had
docked in Chinese waters did it seriously contravene international law .117 On the whole, however,
China was pedantically neutral, although there was little it could do about the fighting in Manchuria
.118 It even issued prohibitions on the carriage of contraband out of Shanghai , to the dismay of the
British, German, American and Japanese traders who used the port. In an incident comically labelled
the affair concerning the exportation of bean-cake and eggs, Britain urged China to end its export
prohibitions because Russias contraband declaration was no more binding on China than on the man
in the moon. Prince Ching subsequently agreed to overturn the decree.119
Much more concerning to the overall outcome of the war was the journey of the Russian Baltic
Fleet to Asia. As soon as it became clear that Russia was going to send the Baltic Fleet from its base
in northern Europe around the world to Vladivostok , the neutrality of ports, bays and harbours in
every corner of the globe came on high alert. The journey took the fleet through Danish waters and
around Europe . On reaching Tangier (Morocco ), the fleet split in two: one half travelled through the
Suez Canal , the other navigated around the southern tip of Africa . They met up north of Madagascar
and proceeded along the south-eastern Asian seafront, reaching Japanese waters in May 1905.120
Obviously, Russias most pressing concern was the ability to coal and supply the fleet.121 Because it
owned no overseas ports that it could use for fuel and supply, it needed friendly neutrals to
accommodate these needs. Where no neutral ports could be found, it sought out neutral colliers to
supply the warships on the open seas.
The rights of belligerent warships to moor, coal and supply themselves in neutral ports or by
neutral colliers, as well as to navigate through neutral waters, were fundamental to the course and
conduct of the Russo-Japanese War. There was no universally binding international law on coaling or
on the use of neutral waters. Whereas most countries had adopted the 24-hour rule in previous
conflicts and accepted the precedent as binding in this conflict, France did not. Instead, it declared
that it had always allowed all ships to use its waters and ports at need and would continue to do
so.122 So Russias fleet was welcome, although France agreed that it could not provide more coal
than the Russian warships might need to get to the nearest friendly port.123
The Japanese acted well within international law in claiming that any supply of the Russian war
fleet by neutrals was a breach of their duty to impartiality . The Russian ships were not merely
making a journey but were travelling with the express intent of engaging their enemy in battle. Even a
rudimentary reading of international law indicated that a neutral state could not directly aid a
belligerents military cause.124 France took little heed of the rebuke: it invited the Baltic Fleet to dock
in Cherbourg and on its reaching French-controlled Madagascar , allowed it to stay indefinitely in its
territorial waters off the island of Nossi-Be .125 When the Russian flotilla reached Kamranh Bay in
French Indochina , within striking reach of Japan , Japanese fury and worldwide outrage at Frances
actions exploded. One Dutch newspaper even published an illustrated print of the bay where, it
stridently declared, France breached neutrality and threatens to keep breaching neutrality.126 In the
end, to protect his international reputation and that of the French, as well as to keep his own admirals
in check, Tsar Nicholas II ordered the fleet to leave French territorial waters.127 Altogether,
however, as a British commentator explained to a Royal United Services Institution conference on the
topic of The problems of neutrality illustrated by the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, France was
tempting fate.128 For although it acted within the parameters of existing international law and its own
neutrality declaration , it nevertheless risked international indignation and the likelihood of a large
claim for damages. Japans potential case against France for breaching its duty to due diligence
was as strong as the United States claim against Britain for the Alabama had been in 1870.129 In this
respect, the devastation of the Baltic Fleet by the Japanese navy in the Tsushima Strait in May 1905
was seen as divine justice in Japan and saved France from certain international embarrassment. For,
if the tables had been turned and the Japanese navy had suffered major damage from the Baltic Fleet,
France would have had to account for the accommodation of the fleet in its ports.
The journey of the Russian fleet was also remarkable because of the many obstacles it encountered
in dealing with other neutrals. To start with, whereas Sweden denied access to its territorial waters ,
Denmark opened its straits but refused the warships the right to stay in its waters for longer than 24
hours or to dock or refuel in its ports except in an emergency. 130 The Danes acknowledged that while
neutrals might require belligerents to avoid neutral waters, they did not have to. International practice
certainly allowed for Denmarks proclamation. At any rate, the Danes had always allowed
belligerents the use of the Straits . Furthermore, they hoped that the Baltic Fleets journey highlighted
the need for some agreement on neutralising the Danish Straits in the same way that the Suez and
Panama Canals were neutralised and the Black Sea and Dardanelles Straits had been neutralised in
the past .131
Much more dangerous to the course of the war were the Baltic Fleets actions in the North Sea ,
where the highly excited Russians sank a group of British fishing vessels that they encountered at
night in the Doggerbank area, believing them to be Japanese cruisers. Understandably, the
Doggerbank incident caused widespread outrage. Calls for British entry into the war came thick and
fast among a population that had, on the whole, supported the countrys policy of strict neutrality until
that point in time. Nevertheless, the crisis passed. Russia apologised, promised to investigate and put
the officers responsible on trial, and the matter of compensation was referred to the PCA to be dealt
with after the war. 132 The Russian fleet then docked and refuelled in France and asked for similar
rights from the Spanish and Portuguese . Spain allowed the fleet to dock in Vigo for up to 24 hours
and gave the ships enough coal to reach the next friendly port (Tangier ). 133 On its arrival in northern
Africa, the British government issued instructions to all colonial governors not to allow entry to the
fleet into their territorial waters for more than 24 hours, nor to fuel or provision any of the fleets
supply ships, whether Russian or neutral. That the German government allowed German colliers to
accompany the Russian fleet and refuel it on the open seas was an open secret.134 The files of the
Colonial Office paint an extraordinary picture of the lengths to which port authorities went to
accommodate the British order.135 Shipping logs were checked, crews were spoken to, all suspicious
activity was reported and any ships caught breaching the rules were apprehended under the terms of
Britains Foreign Enlistment Act of 1870, which was extended to all imperial territories by a
Colonial Office decree.136 Patrol boats further monitored the journey of the Baltic Fleet as it
circumnavigated the continent.137 Like the British, the Dutch also carefully monitored the use of their
imperial ports in the Dutch East Indies to prevent the supply of the Russian warships.138 Meanwhile,
the British Colonial Office put the Governors of Australia , New Zealand and Fiji on high alert in
case colliers were tempted to leave their ports and traverse the thousands of kilometres required to
supply the Russian fleet in Asian waters .139
The other major neutrality concern in the Russo-Japanese War was contraband. Within days of the
declaration of war, Russia issued a comprehensive list of articles it considered contraband and liable
for capture, including foodstuffs , cotton , construction materials, coal and [g]enerally everything
intended for warfare by sea or land, as well as rice, provisions, and horses, beasts of burden.140 The
list was so comprehensive that it made any shipment destined for Japan liable for capture. By
international law, a belligerent had the right to define whatever it liked as contraband. However,
international practice since the Crimean War had been generally lenient on contraband declarations.
Most belligerents instead used blockades as the most effective way of stopping neutral trade getting to
an enemy. 141 From the neutrals perspective, a strict differentiation between military materials
(absolute contraband) and multi-use materials (conditional contraband) should be applied, and
conditional contraband should only be confiscated if it had a genuine military application.142 At one
stage, the British Board of Foreign Trade even recommended implementing the payment of bonds by
merchants carrying conditional contraband from Chinese ports to guarantee its destination and
peaceful use.143 The United States also reiterated its stand that all private property should be exempt
from capture.144 Russias contraband declarations tested the boundaries of usual practice and
certainly made a mockery of the United States position. After much American and British pressure,
however, Russia did alter its position and declared foodstuffs conditional contraband.145
Needless to say, Russias contraband declaration caused widespread concern among neutral
governments, ship-owners and merchants. The British became particularly worried once the Russian
navy began to police the declarations and took extra notice of neutral vessels flying the British flag.
For example, of the fifty-nine neutral ships captured as prizes by the Russians by August 1904, forty-
four were British-owned. None were French . Furthermore, the Russians applied a very liberal
reading of an established international precedent which stated that if a prize-taker did not have the
resources to board a captured prize and take it into port for adjudication by a prize court, the prize
and its content (although not its crew) might be sunk. As a result, of the fifty-nine ships captured, six
were sunk or shot at by the Russian navy, including the British Knight Commander , St Kilda and
Hipsang , the latter with the loss of five crewmembers lives. 146 The Russians applied the same
policy throughout the war. Furthermore, although the Russian prize courts did, at times, rule in favour
of a neutral, they nevertheless purposely delayed their rulings before releasing ships, thereby
inconveniencing neutral merchants even more.147
The concerns over contraband strained Russias relationships with most neutrals, but especially
with Britain , although never enough to bring Britains entry in the war into question.148 Most of all,
however, they had an impact on Britains economy . For one, shipping companies feared that
merchants would transfer their wares to German or French vessels.149 As the Liverpool SteamShip
Owners Association begged to impress on the Foreign Minister, Lord Lansdowne , in August 1904:

the vital necessity for an immediate and satisfactory settlement of the question as to what is and
what is not contraband. That in consequence of the action of Russian cruisers seizing, destroying,
or detaining British shipping said to be carrying contraband a feeling of insecurity with regard to
the British flag has arisen and in consequence thereof the ship-owners and merchants of other
nations are being benefited.150

The British Consul-General in Le Havre protested the same point less diplomatically when he wrote
to the Foreign Office as follows:

It seems to me to be nothing less than a declarationthat Britannia is no longer able to rule the
waves, and that British diplomacy and the British Navy are incapable of protecting British
shipping and commerce.151

That the British government was aware of the potential impact of Russias actions is all too obvious
from the fact that the Admiralty , Foreign Office and Board of Trade expended much time consulting
each other about possible solutions.152 In turn, one British shipping company refused to carry any
cargo to Japan at all. At that stage, the Admiralty suggested using this company to carry government
mail and goods because it would guarantee that Russia could not intercept them. However, on the
grounds of patriotism , loyalty to its ally (Japan) and the principle that Russia did not have the right to
interfere in its mail in the first place, the government decided to continue with its usual practice of
sharing the mail around all of the shipping companies. It did, however, require ship-owners to sign
guarantees that they would not carry munitions to Japan at the same time as carrying British
government goods or correspondence.153
Russia stretched the letter of international law even further when it sailed its Volunteer Fleet out of
the Black Sea through the Dardanelles Straits and Suez Canal as merchant vessels but on reaching the
Red Sea converted them to warships by bringing guns, kept below deck, out in the open. The fleet
roamed the Red Sea intercepting vessels coming out of the Canal and capturing them as prizes when
contraband was found on board. Britain was most affected by the actions of the Volunteer Fleet,
although Germany was equally outraged when the Russians boarded the Prinz Heinrich and carried
off bags of mail destined for Japan.154 Many neutrals believed that Russia had stretched the good-faith
principle that a ship should maintain a constant character on its travels, at least until it reached a
friendly destination and re-issued its flags. The Turks certainly would not have allowed the fleet
through the Dardanelles if it had been recognised as consisting of warships; neither would the
Egyptians have coaled the ships in Port Sad.155
Unsurprisingly, Russias contraband declarations, sinking of prizes and actions concerning the
Volunteer Fleet were not received well by the British , who saw them as blatant abuses of belligerent
power. The British authorities repeatedly appealed to the Russian government on these matters and
were generally well received by the Russian Foreign Office . It was obvious to the British diplomat
in Moscow , however, that the Russian government was in disarray and that its Foreign Office held
little authority to dictate terms to the navy. Given the revolutionary atmosphere in Russia,
furthermore, it was little wonder that the conduct of the naval war was left unchecked by the civilian
administration.156 The United States and Germany were equally concerned about Russias actions and
violations of what they deemed established neutral practices.157 What the Russo-Japanese War
illustrated to them all was that within existing international law , any belligerent with a sizeable navy
could undermine and harass neutrals beyond the reasonable. As a result, it seemed obvious to these
powers that the international rules of neutrality needed clarification and tightening. Thus, the topics of
contraband , prize -taking and the conversion of merchants into warships were major agenda items for
the second Hague Peace Conference, as were the use of neutral communication networks and the
obligations of neutrals to protect their territorial integrity and of belligerents to prevent the use of
floating mines in open seas and neutral waters.158
Importantly, where international law had already achieved greater clarity, namely in terms of the
internment and treatment of wounded and captured soldiers and sailors, the Russo-Japanese War was
an example of how it could be applied with little controversy. Japan was particularly fastidious in
ensuring that its treatment of Russian prisoners of war met the requirements of the law.159 The 1899
Hague conventions had also established a useful set of rules for neutrals to employ when belligerent
warships, prizes, war materials, soldiers and sailors entered their territory. Most neutrals applied
them judiciously. For example, the Chinese disarmed several belligerent ships that overstayed the 24-
hour limit in their harbours and interned the sailors found on board in camps.160 Belligerent vessels
and crews were interned elsewhere too, including in the German port of Kiaochow , Hong Kong ,
Batavia and the Philippines .161 Even in San Francisco , local authorities interned the Russian
auxiliary cruiser Lena and its 500-strong crew when it could not leave within 24 hours of entering the
port. The United States navy subsequently sent an extra cruiser to the port to protect it from further
neutrality incursions .162
Historians often hold up the Russo-Japanese War as an example of a modern industrial war that
signalled many of the developments of total war that would dictate the nature of the First World War
.163 In terms of Russia s actions against neutrals , the Russo-Japanese War can be used as an example
of a conflict where in international law was easily ignored and neutrality violated. Certainly,
historians like Pl Wrange and Gordon A. Craig imply continuities between the Russo-Japanese War
and the First World War when they argue that the great powers regard for neutrality was on the
decline in the years leading to 1914.164 However, this is not how most contemporaries interpreted the
conflict. Instead of seeing the Russo-Japanese War as an example of the opportunities that belligerent
rights offered belligerents, most governments worried about the impact of this war (and future wars)
on their neutral rights. Paraphrasing from Balfours speech in 1904, if the belligerent of today was the
neutral of tomorrow, even Russia should agree to mitigate unnecessary confusion about the
parameters of neutral and belligerent conduct. Or to quote a British pamphlet on the matter in 1904:

Modern usage tends more and more to spare the individual and his property as opposed to the
enemys statethe rule [of all-out war] has been so far modified in recent times as to reduce the
legitimate methods of warfare within comparatively narrow and definite limits.Neutral trades
reap the benefit of this new theory of warfare.They may rest assured that when civilized
nations are fighting, they will be permitted to carry on their ordinary business as in time of
peace, without fear of molestation.165

Thus, when President Theodore Roosevelt called for another Hague Peace Conference in 1904, he
did so with an eye to codifying neutrality. 166 Britain and Germany fervently supported Roosevelts
request for the same reason.167 The experiences of the SpanishAmerican , Anglo-Boer and Russo-
Japanese Wars had indicated to them all how the misapplication of neutrality could easily result in
international controversy and crisis.168 Furthermore, because the great powers expected their own
neutrality in a future war, regulating that neutrality to stabilise its impact on international affairs
seemed beneficial. The Institut de droit international obviously agreed that neutrality had become an
urgent concern because it had prioritised work on developing a comprehensive law of neutrality from
the time of the Anglo-Boer War on, which it adopted in 1906.169
Mainly due to complications arising out of the Russo-Japanese War and the Moroccan crisis in
1906, the convening of the second Hague Peace Conference was delayed until 1907. Its agenda was
much more focussed than the 1899 event, in large part due to the controversy about finalising its
content.170 There was no mention in it of disarmament , for one. Few governments, excepting Britain
and the United States , would even acknowledge a willingness to discuss the topic, which offers a
sure sign of the tension-laden environment of great-power politics.171 Neither did the agenda refer to
pacifism at all, instead reiterating that it would be well understood that the deliberations of the
contemplated meeting should not deal with the political relations of several States.172 Nevertheless,
the proposed programme sought to revisit the 1899 conventions, including improving the mechanisms
of arbitration and further regulating the laws of war on land and at sea to remove all
misapprehensions. Furthermore:

in regard to which the laws and customs of several countries differ on certain points, it is
necessary to establish fixed rules in keeping with the exigencies of the rights of belligerents and
the interests of neutral s.173

It was understood that these topics were of relevance and significance to all of the states that attended
the conference and would apply to all who signed the conventions.
Even more than its predecessor, the 1907 conference was a true meeting of the world. With more
than 230 delegates in attendance, representing 43 sovereign states, the conference signalled that even
though the great powers still dominated world affairs, they could not do so by ignoring the rest of
Europe or the rest of the world.174 The Concert of Europe in that sense no longer operated. For the
worlds governments, involvement in the Hague Peace Conferences and in international organisations
like the Red Cross also implied recognition of their right of involvement in international decision-
making more broadly.175 By receiving a voice in international affairs , they could also assert rights in
the international system and influence international law . For better or worse, the Hague conference of
1907 indicated that states could no longer ignore other voices in the global community on such
matters. It was not quite the world federation that Schcking aspired to but it promised much,
especially because the delegates in 1907 agreed that future conferences should be held at regular
intervals and should be governed by a constitution. The next meeting was planned for 1915.176 Of
course, thanks to the outbreak of the First World War, that event never took place. The rest of the
twentieth century nevertheless registered the wider significance of these initial steps at regularising
international conferences. At the very least, they foreshadowed the establishment of the League of
Nations in 1919 and the United Nations at the end of the Second World War .177
Furthermore, and despite the lack of a distinct pacifist agenda, the second Hague Peace
Conference also brought large numbers of peace activists and internationalists to the city to agitate for
all manner of causes, including representatives from the Bureau Internationale de la Paix (Bern ),
the IPU , the Congrs Permanent de lHumanit (Permanent Congress for Humanity, Paris ), Vrede
door Recht (Peace through Law , the Netherlands ), the International Council of Women (United
States ) and the London Peace Society , as well as representatives from Poland , Albania , Armenia ,
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Georgia seeking national independence.178 In the weeks preceding the event,
W. T. Stead retraced the itinerary of his 1899 European peace pilgrimage, meeting with heads of
government and diplomats alike.179 The conference, like its predecessor, was also a major social
event, accompanied by balls, royal dinners and local entertainments.180 The international press gave
the conference substantial coverage, including reporting on the cause of the unofficial Korean
delegation, which turned up to advocate for Korean independence. The Koreans were refused
accreditation, but their cause came away with some impressive international exposure.181 The
imagination of the newspaper -reading public was further heightened by the laying of the first stone of
the Peace Palace . The palace, commissioned by the American billionaire philanthropist Andrew
Carnegie as a temple for peace , was built to house the PCA and future international organisations . It
was, and remains, a gorgeous and ostentatious building filled with priceless objets dart from every
nation that attended the conference.182 It encapsulated all too well the popular appeal of the messages
of peace and internationalism that surrounded the 1899 and 1907 conferences and the Hague
movements more widely.
The Hague Peace Conference of 1907 achieved many things. It tightened the procedures of the
PCA and initiated a thorough discussion about whether to make arbitration compulsory, which was
ultimately defeated.183 It also used the experiences of the recent wars to improve the existing laws of
war codified in 1899.184 However, its most important and impressive achievement was the regulation
of the international laws that applied to neutrals. The 1907 Hague conventions that relate to neutrality
were remarkably thorough in their scope. An extraordinary amount of co-operation was necessary for
them be brought about, given the wide range of national interests at stake. As such, the delegates at
The Hague made a concerted attempt at achieving what de Martens had believed almost impossible in
1899, even if on some fundamental issues, particularly contraband and blockade , they made little
headway. As Nicolas Politis explained in 1935: there is no chapter in international law on which
more has been written [than on neutrality]. This extraordinary abundance of material is explained by
the extreme complexity of the subjectIts regulation is like squaring the circle.185 Yet, in 1907, the
circle was almost squared.
The 1907 Hague conventions that dealt with neutrality established the requirements of neutrals in
time of war, namely what they must do to protect their neutrality and what they might do, but were not
obligated to do, to enhance it. They furthermore acknowledged that belligerents also had rights and
obligations vis--vis neutrals. At their heart, the conventions demanded that neutrals actively police
their neutrality by protecting their territorial integrity and maintaining their military impartiality .
Furthermore, a neutral should not aid or abet a belligerents war cause. The conventions also
highlighted that for neutrals to benefit from the right to continue their peaceful relations with others,
they had a duty to accept a belligerents right to declare contraband , impose blockades and police
neutral traffic with an enemy destination . The conventions did away with the cumbersome notion of
due diligence but not with the principle that neutral states had an obligation to prevent unneutral
service by their citizens .
The Convention (V) Respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in Case of
War on Land was the least controversial.186 It explained that neutral territory was inviolable and that
belligerents could not use that territory for their war-mongering. They could not move troops,
munitions or military equipment through it, nor use it to set up communications networks.
Furthermore, no belligerent military corps or recruiting agencies could be founded in a neutral
country. Above all, a neutral government was responsible for preventing these abuses and, as such,
the fact of a neutral Power resisting, even by force, attempts to violate its neutrality can not be
regarded as a hostile act.187 Furthermore, a neutral could not behave as Luxembourg had done in
1870 . It must police its neutrality and punish acts of violation when they occurred within its territory.
Still, a neutral was not obligated to prevent the export or transport of arms, munitions or contraband.
It did not have to forbid the use by belligerents of its telegraph or telephone networks . However, it
did have to apply all of its measures, restrictions and prohibitions impartially and equally to all
belligerents.
Convention V also stipulated that citizens of neutral countries could avail themselves of their
neutral status, even if residing in a warring state, but that they revoked their neutral status when they
committed hostile acts against a belligerent or volunteered for service in a belligerents armed force.
The German delegation had proposed a much more thorough code of conduct for neutral citizens and
their property than alluded to in these articles. It had hoped to obtain the right for neutral citizens
resident in a country that was at war to be exempted from military service and war taxes . It had also
sought to protect neutral business, finance and commercial transactions in belligerent states.188 In the
end, after a week of negotiation, the delegates could not align Germanys suggestions with a
sovereign states right to determine its own domestic laws regarding citizens, subjects and aliens . 189
Nonetheless, the convention signalled that individuals did have a duty to their nation as neutrals as
much as the neutral state had a duty to its citizens to protect and police their neutrality .
Where the delegates had the most trouble achieving uniformity was in terms of determining the
conditions of neutrality at sea. For centuries, maritime warfare had dominated international debates
about belligerent rights. The 1907 conference was no different, and the resulting conventions
remained controversial in the countries that adopted them. Yet, the conventions made major advances.
Convention VII, for example, recognised that although the delegates could not agree whether a
merchant ship had the right to convert to a warship on the open sea , any conversion that took place
had to be officially announced to the world and the converted warship had to operate and identify
itself fully as part of a navy. 190 The objective was to avoid the creation of a new class of privateer
that could raid neutral commerce.191 The Russian Volunteer Fleets actions in the Russo-Japanese
War had made it imperative that a clear distinction between a warship and a merchant vessel was
established. Convention (XI) Relative to Certain Restrictions with Regard to the Exercise of the Right
of Capture in Naval War, in turn, sought to offer guarantees due to peaceful commerce and legitimate
business. It specified that all postal correspondence, regardless of its private or official character,
was inviolable from capture at sea, except when destined for or coming out of a blockaded port. It
made fishing vessels and ships with a religious, scientific or philanthropic mission exempt from
belligerent capture . And it provided for the status of neutral crews captured on board enemy
merchant vessels, which could not be made prisoners of war .192
Meanwhile, Convention (XIII) Concerning the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers in Naval War
stipulated the rights and responsibilities of neutrals at sea. Much like the conventions relating to
warfare on land, neutral territorial waters were inviolable and must not be used by the belligerents
for warring purposes or as bases from which to conduct military operations. Furthermore, any act of
hostility, including capture and the exercise of the right of search, committed by belligerent warships
in neutral waters constitutes a violation of neutrality . A belligerent could not use neutral waters to
set up a base of communications either. The neutral, furthermore, had the duty to police and protect its
waters from such violations and intern belligerent ships, their crews and prizes that breached them. It
also had to prevent any supply of war materials and warships to a belligerent fleet and was bound to
employ all means at its disposal to prevent the outfitting or arming of any vessel that might be
employed as a warship by a belligerent. It nevertheless retained the right to allow the export and
transit of war materials through neutral waters and to allow the passage of belligerent ships through
its waters, although belligerent vessels were required to leave neutral territory within 24 hours ,
except on account of damage or stress of weather or if two enemy ships were found in the same
port, in which case the second ship was to leave 24 hours after the first. Furthermore, no more than
three warships of any one belligerent could be situated in a particular stretch of neutral water at any
one point in time. Belligerents had the right to repair ships to make them seaworthy and to refuel in a
neutral port, although only with enough coal to reach the nearest friendly port. A warship that fuelled
in a neutral port could not return there for refuelling until at least three months had passed. Prizes
could only be taken into a neutral port on account of unseaworthiness, stress of weather, or want of
fuel or provisions.193 Quite comprehensively, Convention XIII made almost allof France s actions
vis--vis Russias Baltic Fleet in the Russo-Japanese War illegal.
Most significantly, the Hague Convention XII recommended the creation of the IPC.194 The
German delegation proposed the Court as a way of stabilising the impact of contraband declarations
on neutral merchants. The IPC was to act as the final court of appeal for prize cases that went
awry.195 For centuries, states had operated their own prize-court systems, to which their warships and
privateers brought captured enemy ships and neutral vessels that had breached contraband and
blockade laws. The courts ruled whether the prizes were legitimately taken. The IPC offered neutral
governments that wished to appeal the rulings of these prize courts a forum through which to do so.
The IPC proposal was complicated because it relied not only on the acceptance by each state that its
sovereignty might be overruled but also on the expectation that there was an internationally
recognised code of law on contraband and blockade. The delegates at The Hague did not, however,
come to an agreement about contraband. Britains delegation even took the radical step of suggesting
that a belligerents right to capture contraband be abandoned altogether, bringing it as close to the
United States position of exempting private property from capture as it had ever been.196 Because
there was no agreement, and in fact a considerable amount of disagreement, Britain offered to host a
follow-up conference in 1909 specifically focussed on defining absolute and conditional contraband,
the rights of blockade and the principle of continuous voyage .197 It made its adhesion to the IPC
convention conditional on the creation of a useable law of contraband and blockade.198 As the next
chapter will show, the subsequent achievements and failures of the Declaration of London highlighted
the attractions of neutrality, the desirability of limiting the impact of war on neutral commerce and the
difficulties of enforcing such rules in time of war .
Many of the delegates who came to The Hague in 1907 did so with the express purpose of
achieving agreement on the laws of neutrality . The British government even instructed its delegation
that the object which His Majestys Government have in view, as you are aware, is to limit, so far as
may be, the restrictions that war entails upon legitimate neutral trade and that Britains interests as a
neutral require uniformity of practice on the part of neutrals generally.199 Despite the widespread
bickering and the clashing interests of delegates, those ambitions were largely achieved.200 As the
delegate from Cuba explained in an article he wrote for the American Journal of International Law
in 1908:

neutrality to-day does not depend upon the interest of the belligerents, nor upon their military
exigencies, but upon the pacific interests of the universal community , constantly becoming more
exacting, and upon the right of noncombatant states to maintain their natural prerogatives in spite
of the conflict.201

The codification of neutrality at The Hague in 1907 did much to stabilise the conditions of neutrality
in wartime. It certainly created a much clearer set of expectations of neutrals and, on that ground
alone, the conventions were widely, although not universally, welcomed. Nevertheless, not all the
conventions were ratified. As the next chapter will show, in the end Britain did not ratify the
convention establishing the IPC (XII), Russia refused to ratify the convention relating to the laying of
submarine mines (VIII) or the one relating to the capture of ships at sea (XI) and Italy did not sign any
of them.202 However, none of these refusals took anything away from the general principle that the
legal conditions attached to neutrality were more stable after 1907 than at any previous juncture .
At the very least, the two Hague Peace Conferences successes in codifying neutrality reflected the
reality that even in an environment in which war between the great powers was deemed more likely,
the value of neutrality was not undermined. In fact, the exact opposite was true. Reinforcing the
parameters of neutrality offered greater security to all states.203 If they managed to declare and
maintain their non-belligerency when others were at war, the 1907 Hague conventions offered some
guarantee that their interests would be protected and, if that proved impossible, provided some
recourse for compensation. Above all, the conventions highlighted how well aware the world was
that wars were precarious for international business . This is not to argue, of course, that the great
powers were convinced of the value of war avoidance . The outbreak of the First World War alone
indicates that war remained a powerful and available course of action. However, it does suggest that
the great powers planned as readily for the possibility of not being involved in other peoples wars
as they did for wars and alliances of their own. As such, the Hague conventions flag that there were
drivers for peace and ongoing flexibility at work in the international system , even on the eve of the
First World War .

1 T. G. Otte, The China question. Great power rivalry and British isolation 18941905. New
York, Oxford University Press, 2007; T. G. Otte, The Boxer uprising and British foreign policy. The
end of isolation in R. Bickers, R. G. Tiedemann, eds, The Boxers, China and the world. Lanham,
Rowman & Littlefield, 2007, pp. 15778.

2 Hinsley, Power, pp. 2689; N. J. Brailey, Sir Ernest Satow and the 1907 Second Hague Peace
Conference, Diplomacy & Statecraft 13, 2, June 2002, p. 201; C. D. Davis, The United States and
the First Hague Peace Conference. Ithaca, NY, Cornell University Press, 1962, p. 213. Cf Sheehan,
Where have?, p. 25; Clark, International legitimacy and world society, p. 62; Cavallar, Eye-deep,
p. 274.

3 Kaplan, Great Britain, p. 208.

4 A. D. White, The first Hague conference. Boston, World Peace Foundation, 1912, pp. 8, 1819;
Sheehan, Where have?, pp. 223; Wilkinson, Depictions, pp. 4350; Eyffinger, 1899, pp. 315; R.
Sharwood, Princes and peacemakers. The story of the Hague Peace Conference of 1899 in Rosenne,
Hague Peace Conferences, p. 6.
5 The Times, 16 May 1899, p. 7.

6 Scott, Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, p. 1.

7 W. Schcking, The international union of Hague conferences. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1912
(1918), pp. 78.

8 Schcking, International union, p. 78.

9 Ralph Milbankes, British representative in Vienna, to Lord Lansdowne, 29 April 1898, in


PROFO72/2093; S. L.Hilton, S. J. S. Ickringill, eds, European perceptions of the Spanish-
American War of 1898. Oxford, Peter Lang, 1999.

10 Stead, United states of Europe, p. 98; Burk, Old world, p. 414. For more on German opinions of
the war and neutrality: M. M. Hugo, Uncle Sam I cannot stand, for Spain I have no sympathy. An
analysis of discourse about the Spanish-American War in Imperial Germany, 18981899 in Hilton
and Ickringill, European perceptions, pp. 7193.

11 As reported in The Times, 13 February 1899, p. 5 (with thanks to Annalise Higgins).

12 For more: PROFO72/2092 and PROFO72/2093; R. vanVuurde, Engeland, Nederland en de


Monroeleer 18951914. Amsterdam, De Bataafsche Leeuw, 1998, pp. 15867.

13 For these declarations: PROFO72/2093; PROFO881/7249X; Advance sheets of consular


reports, 27 June 1898, in NA2.05.03nr426; Verzijl, International law, p. 137.

14 For Dutch concerns over the neutrality of their colonies in the East and West Indies:
NA2.03.05nr426.

15 For the United States and Spanish acceptance of the rules of the Declaration of Paris in 1898:
PROFO72/2092; N. A. Bootsma, Reactions to the Spanish-American War in the Netherlands and
Dutch East Indies; and S. Ricard, The French press and brother Jonathan. Editorializing the
Spanish-American conflict, both in Hilton and Ickringill, European perceptions, pp. 38, 145, fn 19.

16 Coogan, End of neutrality, pp. 267.


17 M. L. Hayes, The naval blockade of Cuba during the Spanish-American War in Elleman and
Paine, Naval blockades, pp. 8090; E. J. Benton, International law and diplomacy of the Spanish-
American War. Gloucester, Peter Smith, 1968, pp. 20111.

18 Coogan, End of neutrality, p. 25. Cf Benton, International law, p. 218.

19 Kaplan, Great Britain, p. 12; D. R.Headrick, The invisible weapon. Telecommunications and
international politics 18511945. New York, Oxford University Press, 1991, pp. 1314.

20 Henri Carr, Les incidents de neutralit de la guerre Russo-Japonaise (anne 1904). Paris,
Henri Charles-Lavauzelle, 1904, pp. 75, 79.

21 A. H. Oakes, Colonial Office memo, 25 April 1898, in PROFO72/2092; E.Bujac, La guerre


hispano-amricaine. Second edition. Paris, Henri Charles-Lavauzelle, 1908, p. 210.

22 J. C. Lamb to Sir Thomas Anderson, 12 April 1898, in PROFO72/2093.

23 Cuba Submarine Telegraph Company to Lord Salisbury, 25 April 1898, in PROFO72/2092;


Eastern Extension Australasia & China Telegraph Company Ltd to Lord Salisbury, 5 May 1898, in
PROFO72/2093; Benton, International law, pp. 21114; Headrick, Invisible weapon, pp. 824.

24 Law Officers Department to Lord Salisbury, 7 May 1898, in PROFO72/2093.

25 Foreign Office memo to Law Officers, 30 April 1898, in PROFO72/2093.

26 C. H. Stockton, Naval Attach to the United States Embassy in London, response to (and
published in): T. J. Lawrence, Problems of neutrality connected with the Russo-Japanese War,
Royal United Services Institution Journal 48, 318, 1904, p. 932.

27 The Times, 12 January 1901, p. 5, and 3 April 1902, p. 8.

28 The Times, 10 April 1903, p. 3.

29 Foreign Office to Colonial Office memo, 26 January 1905, in PRO Subjects Affecting Colonies
Generally, Confidential Print, 19031908, CO885/9/5; Carr, Les incidents, pp. 7589.

30 Novoe Vremya, 18 January 1905, translation found in PROCO885/9/5.

31 A. S. Hershey, International law and diplomacy of the Russo-Japanese War. Indianapolis, IN,
Hollenbeck Press, 1906, pp. 789.

32 Articles 3, 8 and 9 of Convention (V) Respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and
Persons in Case of War on Land, The Hague, 1907, in J. B.Scott, ed., The Hague conventions and
declarations of 1899 and 1907 accompanied by tables of signatures, ratifications and adhesions of
the various powers and texts of reservations. New York, Oxford University Press, 1918, pp. 1335.

33 Article 54 of the Convention (II) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, The Hague,
1907, in Scott, Hague conventions and declarations, p. 126.

34 For British correspondence on the navigation of the Spanish fleet through the Mediterranean Sea
and Suez Canal: PRO War between United States and Spain. Observance of Neutrality. Vol. 4, 1898
June 23July. Reference FO72/2096.

35 For the Dutch use of the rule in the SpanishAmerican War: Vuurde, Engeland, pp. 17496;
Bootsma, Reactions, p. 39.

36 British Consul-General in Hawaii to Lord Salisbury, 30 April 1898, in PROFO72/2093, and 15


June 1898, in PRO War between United States and Spain. Observance of Neutrality. Vol. 5, 1898
May 27June 22. Reference FO72/2095.

37 Findlay and ORourke, Power, p. 394.

38 Russian circular note proposing the program of the first conference, 30 December 1898, in
Scott, Hague conventions and declarations, p. xv.

39 Scott, Hague conventions and declarations, p. xviii; K. Hamilton, Britain and the Hague Peace
Conference of 1899 in K. Hamilton, E. Johnson, eds, Arms and disarmament in diplomacy. London,
Vallentine Mitchell, 2008, p. 11.
40 J. B. Scott, Introduction (1917) in Rosenne, ed., Hague Peace Conferences, p. 3.

41 La confrence de la paix. La Haye 18 mai29 juillet 1899. The Hague, Martinus Nijhoff, 1907,
pp. 16; Best, Peace conferences, p. 623.

42 Hamilton, Britain and The Hague, p. 10.

43 Beales, History of peace, p. 233.

44 R. Langhorne, The collapse of the concert of Europe. International politics 18901914. New
York, St Martins Press, 1981, pp. 856.

45 B. W. Tuchman, The proud tower. A portrait of the world before the war 18901914 . New
York, Ballantine Books, 1962 (1996), pp. 231, 263.

46 Laity, British peace movement, pp. 14551; Kaplan, Great Britain, pp. 10612; Sharwood,
Princes, pp. 89.

47 The Times, 28 February 1899, p. 12.

48 Stead, United states of Europe; Beales, History of peace, p. 232. For more on Stead and the
Hague conference: Kaplan, Great Britain, pp. 94106; Tuchman, Proud tower, pp. 2459.

49 Beales, History of peace, p. 232.

50 Laity, British peace movement, pp. 1469.

51 Bertha von Suttner, as quoted by Tuchman, Proud tower, p. 257.

52 For more on Bloch and the first Hague conference: P. van den Dungen, Een interresante probleem
Jean Bloch en de eerste Haagse Vredesconferentie, Transaktie 10, 1981, pp. 189214; Peter van
den Dungen, From St Petersburg to The Hague. Bloch and the first Hague Peace Conference (1899)
in G. Prins, H. Tromp, eds, The Future of War. The Hague, Kluwer Law, 2000, pp. 6983; C. D.
Davis, The United States and the second Hague Peace Conference. American diplomacy and
international organization 18991914. Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 1975, p. 23.

53 Laity, British peace movement, p. 151; Beales, History of peace, pp. 2334; Cavallar, Eye-
deep, p. 274; B. von Suttner, Lebenserinnerungen. Berlin, Verlag der Nation, 1979, pp. 43995;
Brigitte Hamann, Bertha von Suttner. Ein Leben fr den Frieden. Munich, Piper, 1986, pp. 23288;
Davis, United States and the second Hague Peace Conference, p. 24.

54 Scott, Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, pp. 534; Clark, International legitimacy
and world society, pp. 714; Best, Peace conferences, pp. 6234; Sharwood, Princes, pp. 1314;
Tuchman, Proud tower, p. 258.

55 Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer, p. 208.

56 Lambert, Planning, p. 66. Cf Semmel, Liberalism, p. 99.

57 Hamilton, Britain and The Hague, p. 16.

58 A. Eyffinger, A highly critical moment. Role and record of the 1907 Hague Peace Conference,
Netherlands International Law Review 54, 2007, p. 199.

59 Confrence de la paix, p. 173. For more on the First Commission and its failures: Hamilton,
Britain and The Hague, pp. 204; J. Dlfer, Chances and the limits of armament control 1898
1914 in Afflerbach and Stevenson, An improbable war, pp. 1001; Eyffinger, 1899, p. 205.

60 For more on the Third Commissions workings: Confrence de la paix, pp. 63102; Hamilton,
Britain and The Hague, pp. 1619.

61 Choate, Two Hague conferences, p. 31.

62 L. Sturzo, 1929, as quoted by Beales, History of peace, p. 237.

63 Perris, Short history, p. 240.

64 Schcking, International union, p. 28; Koskenniemi, The gentle civilizer, p. 217; Clark,
International legitimacy and world society, p. 64; Perris, Short history, p. 241.

65 Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, p. 191.

66 Reports on the progress of the Second Commission are detailed and frequent in Confrence de la
paix, pp. 2255.

67 For an overview and text of the conventions: Scott, Hague conventions and declarations, pp.
10032.

68 Lon Bourgeois, 1910, as quoted in Choate, Two Hague conferences, p. xi.

69 Elements for the elaboration of a convention to be concluded by the powers participating in the
Hague Conference presented by the Russian delegation of 1899 in Scott, Hague Peace Conferences
of 1899 and 1907, p. 787. For more on mediation at the conference: Kaplan, Great Britain, pp.
15660.

70 Scott, Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, p. 2.

71 Fyodor de Martens as quoted in Eyffinger, 1899, p. 295. Also: A. Eyffinger, Living up to a


tradition in p. J. van Krieken, D. McKay, eds, The Hague. Legal capital of the world. The Hague, T.
M. C. Asser Press, 2005, pp. 345.

72 Cavallar, Eye-deep, pp. 275, 277.

73 The Times, 1 August 1899, p. 5.

74 Eyffinger, 1899, pp. 56; Scott, Resolutions, p. vi.

75 H. Wehberg, The Inter-Parliamentary Union and the development of international organization in


Inter-Parliamentary Union, pp. 39, 41. Cf Scott, Resolutions, pp. viiiix.

76 Eyffinger, 1899, pp. 245. For more on railways and Russian expansion: H. Shukman, F.
Patrikeeff, Railways and the Russo-Japanese War. Transporting war. Florence, Routledge, 2007,
esp. pp. 1823; A. J. Heywood, The most catastrophic question. Railway development and
military strategy in late imperial Russia in T. G. Otte, K. Neilson, eds, Railways and international
politics. Paths of empire 18481945. New York, Routledge, 2006, pp. 4567.

77 Mr Balfour, House of Commons address 28 July 1904, in S.Takahashi, International law


applied to the Russo-Japanese War with the decisions of the Japanese prize courts. London,
Stevens and Sons, 1908, p. 316 (with thanks to Leon Ostick).

78 S. E. Knee, Anglo-American understanding and the Boer War, Australian Journal of Politics &
History 30, 2, 1984, p. 206. Also: P. Henshaw, The origins of the Boer War. The periphery, the
centre and the man on the spot in K. Wilson, ed., The international impact of the Boer War.
Durham, United Kingdom, Acumen, 2001, esp. pp. 1218.

79 The Times, 17 April 1900, p. 9; Robbins, Britain, pp. 1745; Probst, Good offices, p. 21. For the
proposed use of the PCA to arbitrate the war: Davis, United States and the second Hague Peace
Conference, p. 37.

80 For a good overview of the Netherlands situation in the war: M. Bossenbroek, The Netherlands
and the Boer War. The wildest dreams. The representations of South African culture, imperialism and
nationalism at the turn of the century in Wilson, Boer War, pp. 12339.

81 Peet, Belangen, pp. 3858; Algemeen Handelsblad, 25 October 1899, p. 2; Smit, Nederland.
Volume 1, pp. 5572.

82 R. G. Campbell, Neutral rights and obligations in the Anglo-Boer War. Baltimore, MD, Johns
Hopkins Press, 1908, pp. 78112.

83 PRO Admiralty: Record Office: Cases. War Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers, 1908
1909. Reference ADM116/1073. Also: T. Barclay, Problems of international practice and
diplomacy with special reference to the Hague Conferences and Conventions and other general
agreements. London, Sweet & Maxwell, 1907, p. 93; Campbell, Neutral rights, pp. 5460; Verzijl,
International law, p. 137; The Times, 14 March 1900, p. 13; M. Krger, Imperial Germany and the
Boer War. From colonial fantasies to the reality of Anglo-German estrangement and P. Lains, F.
Costa, Portugal and the Boer War, both in Wilson, Boer War, pp. 356, 14057; P. R. Walhurst,
Anglo-Portuguese relations in south-central Africa 18901900. London, Longmans, 1962, pp. 109
28.

84 Burk, Old world, p. 411; Campbell, Neutral rights, pp. 11349; Knee, Anglo-American, pp.
1967, 199, 204; I. Adams, Brothers across the ocean. British foreign policy and the origins of the
Anglo-American special relationship 19001905. London, I. B. Tauris, 2005, p. 13.

85 Knee, Anglo-American, p. 203.

86 Campbell, Neutral rights, pp. 478. For more on Germany in the war: Krger, Imperial
Germany, pp. 2542.

87 Memorandum by Sir John Ardagh respecting the rights and duties of neutrals in territory adjacent
to [a] theatre of war, British Foreign Office, September 1901, in PRO AFRICA & GENERAL
Memo. Reference FO881/7608.

88 Lains, Costa, Portugal, pp. 1534. For more on the complications of British-Portuguese
relations in Africa: Langhorne, Collapse, p. 79.

89 Campbell, Neutral rights, pp. 6677; Tilburgsche Courant, 8 April 1900, p. 3, and 28 June
1900, p. 3.

90 Campbell, Neutral rights, p. 67.

91 W. N. Tilchin, The United States and the Boer War in Wilson, Boer War, pp. 11415.

92 Campbell, Neutral rights, pp. 2441; The Times, 13 April 1901, p. 7, and 15 April 1901, p. 5.

93 Tilburgsche Courant, 12 August 1900, p. 2.

94 Coogan, End of neutrality, pp. 423; The Times, 5 April 1901, p. 8, and 10 April 1901, p. 6.

95 The Times, 18 September 1900, p. 3.

96 Shukman, Railways, pp. 234.

97 For more: P. A. Cohen, History in three keys. The Boxers as event, experience and myth. New
York, Columbia University Press, 1997; L. Xiang, The origins of the Boxer war. A multinational
study. London, Routledge, 2003; J. L. Hevia, English lessons. The pedagogy of imperialism in
nineteenth-century China. Durham, NC, Duke University Press, 2003, esp. pp. 186240.

98 Peet, Belangen, pp. 6274; B. A. Elleman, Modern Chinese warfare 17951989. London,
Routledge, 2001, pp. 1234, 1312.

99 Burk, Old world, pp. 41819.

100 Adams, Brothers, pp. 16670; Shukman, Railways, pp. 245.

101For more: D. J. Silbey, The Boxer Rebellion and the great game in China. New York, Hill and
Wang, 2012.

102 Burk, Old world, pp. 41819.

103 Adams, Brothers, p. 172.

104 Anglo-Japanese Alliance Treaty, 30 January 1902. Available at www.jacar.go.jp/nichiro/uk-


japan.htm.

105 Blumberg, Russian policy, pp. 13753; Robbins, Britain, p. 149.

106 Mulligan, Origins, p. 33; The Times, 22 March 1901, p. 13.

107 As quoted in The Times, 23 January 1902, p. 3.

108 Langhorne, Collapse, pp. 834; Mulligan, Origins, p. 67.

109 Bridge, Habsburg monarchy, pp. 256, 3901; F. R. Bridge, sterreich (-ungarn) under den
Grossmchten in Wandruszka, Ubanitsch, Habsburgermonarchie, p. 304.

110 The Times, 15 February 1902, p. 23.


111 Adams, Brothers, p. 188.

112 L. Bon, La guerre russo-japonaise et la neutralit. Montpellier, lAbeille Imprimerie, 1909,


pp. 3645; Hershey, International law, p. 72.

113 Adams, Brothers, p. 125; Hershey, International law, p. 246; The Times, 9 February 1904, p. 5,
10 February 1904, p. 9, and 28 March 1904, p. 8 (with thanks to James David); E. P. Trani, The
Treaty of Portsmouth. An adventure in American diplomacy. Lexington, University of Kentucky
Press, 1969, pp. 3940.

114 Admiralty to Commander-in-Chief in China, 5 July 1904, in PRO JAPAN & RUSSIA: Furthe
Corres. Questions relating to Coaling, Neutrality, &c. Part 2, July to Sept. 1904. Reference
FO881/8433.

115 Takahashi, International law, pp. 35972.

116 For correspondence: PRO Foreign Office: Consulates and Legation, China: General
Correspondence, Series I. Volume 243 (Neutrality), 1905. Reference FO228/2409.

117 Hershey, International law, pp. 2601; Takahashi, International law, pp. 43744; Carr, Les
incidents, pp. 513; Trani, Portsmouth, pp. 345.

118 Carr, Les incidents, p. 19.

119 Sir Ernest Satow, British minister in Beijing, to Prince Ching, 1 June 1904, in
PROFO881/8433; Takahashi, International law, pp. 51617; S. J. S. Lewis, Majesty without
power. A study of Sir Ernest Satow in the context of British diplomatic influence in China 1900
1906. MA, University of Auckland, 2009, p. 95.

120 Hershey, International law, p. 190.

121 L. J. R. Cecil, Coal for the fleet that had to die, American Historical Review 69, 4, 1964, pp.
9901005.

122 Sir C. MacDonald, British representative in Tokyo, to Lord Lansdowne, 15 November 1904, in
PRO Photographic Copies of Cabinet Papers, c18801916. Reference CAB37/74/1.

123 Lord Lansdowne to Mr de Bunsen, 4 January 1905, in PRO JAPAN & RUSSIA: Further Corres
Questions relating to Coaling, Neutrality, &c. Part 3, Oct 1904 to Mar 1905. Reference
FO881/8512.

124 For more on the controversies over Frances accommodation of the Baltic Fleet:
PROFO881/8512; Sir C. MacDonald, British representative in Tokyo, to Lord Lansdowne, 17
November 1904, in PROCAB37/74/2.

125 Hershey, International law, p. 190; Maxey, Growth of neutral rights, p. 58.

126 Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad, 8 May 1905, p. 2.

127 Correspondence among Sir F. Bertie, Sir C. MacDonald and Lord Lansdowne, 19, 20, 21 and 22
April 1905, all in PRO GENERAL & JAPAN & RUSSIA: Further Corres. Rights and Proceeding
of Belligerents in Neutral Territory. Part 2, 1905. Reference FO881/8694; Hershey, International
law, p. 194.

128 For the conference announcement and report: The Times, 25 May 1904, p. 7, and 26 May 1904,
p. 5; Lawrence, Problems.

129 Lawrence, Problems, p. 923.

130Sir E. Goschen, British representative in Copenhagen, to Lord Lansdowne, 21 October 1904, in


PRO DENMARK: Corres. Neutrality of Denmark and Russian Fleet in Danish Waters. Referenc
FO881/8325; Verzijl, International law, pp. 1423.

131 Foreign Office, Memorandum on the question of Danish neutrality and the free navigation of the
Straits giving access to the Baltic, 18 February 1907, in Documents on British Policy Overseas.
Diplomacy in the Twentieth Century. Electronic database. London, Foreign & Commonwealth
Office, Reference FO371/242/5865/3058/07/15; A. Rindfleisch, The question of Danish neutrality
in M. Epkenhans, G. P. Gro, eds, The Danish Straits and German naval power 19051918.
Potsdam, Militrgeschichtliches Forschungsamt, 2010, pp. 6671; Luntinen, Neutrality, pp. 10810.
For the debate in Britain: The Times, 6 March 1907, p. 5; 16 March 1907, p. 11; 19 March 1907, p.
5; 21 March 1907, p. 5; 29 March 1907, p. 10; 18 December 1907, p. 16; and 15 January 1908, p. 7.
132 Foreign Affairs report by Prime Minister to British monarch, OctoberNovember 1904, in
PROCAB41/29/3335; Lord Lansdowne to Sir C. Hardinge, 28 October 1904, inDocuments on
British Policy Overseas. Reference FO Russia 1729; Hershey, International law, pp. 21745;
Coogan, End of neutrality, pp. 512; Bon, Guerre russo-japonaise, pp. 188218; A. Eyffinger, De
hele wereld bijeen. De eerste Haagse vredesconferentie van 1899. Mesdagkwartier lezing III. N.p.,
1995, p. 21; Verzijl, International law, p. 149; M. Soroka, Debating Russias choice between Great
Britain and Germany. Count Benckendorff versus Count Lamsdorff, 19021906,International
History Review 32, 1, March 2010, p. 9.

133 Hershey, International law, p. 190.

134 J. Steinberg, The Copenhagen complex, Journal of Contemporary History 1, 3, July 1966, p.
32; Bon, Guerre russo-japonaise, pp. 889.

135PROCO885/9/5. Also: Foreign Affairs report by the Prime Minister for the British monarch, 25
November 1904, in PROCAB41/29/39.

136 Foreign Jurisdiction Neutrality Order in Council 1904 in PROFO881/8433.

137 Admiralty to Commander-in-Chief at the Cape, 17 November 1904, in PROFO881/8694.

138 NA2.05.03nr512, 513, 514, 516; Hellema, Neutraliteit, pp. 634; Porter, Dutch neutrality, pp.
402.

139 Mr Lyttelton, Colonial Office, to the Governors of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, 14
December 1904, in PROCO885/9/5.

140 Notifications defining contraband of war, 29 February 1904, in PROFO881/8512.

141 The exception was when France declared rice contraband in the Sino-French War 1884: A.
Lambert, Great Britain and maritime law from the Declaration of Paris to the era of total war in
Hobson and Kristiansen, Navies, p. 38.

142 Coogan, End of neutrality, pp. 501.


143 Board of Foreign Trade to Sir Ernest Satow, 21 May 1905, in PROFO228/2409.

144 Tracy, Sea power, p. xxvi.

145 Coogan, End of neutrality, p. 49.

146 Straits Settlement Governor, Sir John Anderson, to Mr Lyttelton, Colonial Office, 13 June 1905,
in PROCO885/9/5; Mr Angier to Mr Balfour, 5 September 1904, in PROFO881/8433; W. Maycock
Notes prepared for the use of Prime Minister by Foreign Office, 27 October 1907, in
PROFO881/8512; Hershey,International law, pp. 14451; Takahashi, International law, pp. 310
17, 3205. Also: T. E. Hollands letters to the editor of The Times, 20 February 1904 and 29 June
1905, in T. E. Holland, Letters to The Times upon war and neutrality (18811920) with some
commentary. Third edition. London, Longmans, Green & Co., 1921, pp. 1501, 17980.

147 Takahashi, International law, pp. 31720.

148 Hershey, International law, p. 146.

149 Foreign Office to London Chamber of Commerce, 2 November 1904, in PROFO881/8512.

150 Liverpool SteamShip Owners Association to Lord Lansdowne, 19 August 1904, in


PROFO881/8433. It was one of dozens of similar requests.

151Walter R. Heam, British Consul-General in Le Havre to Foreign Office, 7 August 1904, in


PROFO881/8433.

152 For the correspondence: PROFO881/8512.

153 Admiralty to Foreign Office, 19 August 1904, and ongoing correspondence: PROFO881/8433.

154 Hershey, International law, p. 139; Carr, Les incidents, pp. 4063.

155 For more on the controversies regarding the Russian Volunteer Fleet and neutrality:
PROFO881/8512; PROFO881/8433.
156 For the correspondence: PROFO881/8433.

157 Sir F. Lascelles, British minister in Berlin, to Lord Lansdowne, 20 August 1904, in
PROFO881/8433; Carr, Les incidents, pp. 947.

158 Hershey, International law, pp. 12430; Oppenheim, International law. Volume II. Fifth
edition, pp. 5034; T. J. Lawrence, M. Carter, Neutrality and war zones, in Problems of the war.
Volume 1. Papers read before the society in the year 1915. 1915, pp. 37, 401; Coogan, End of
neutrality, p. 55; Eyffinger, Highly critical, pp. 213, 215.

159 For more on Japanese treatment of Russian prisoners of war: PROFO881/8433; Takahashi,
International law, pp. 94147.

160 Hershey, International law, pp. 1889; Takahashi, International law, pp. 41836; Carr, Les
incidents, pp. 2739. For correspondence on the issue of internment: PROFO881/8694;
PROFO228/2409.

161 Commander Sea-Watch, Kouwenberg, to Governor-General of Batavia, 5 July 1905 and 8 July
1905, in NA2.05.03nr512; Sir M. Nathan, Governor of Hong Kong to Mr Lyttelton, 23 September
1904, Sir C. Hardinge to Lord Lansdowne, 9 December 1904, 25 January 1905, and Consul-General
C. W. Bennett, to Lord Lansdowne, 17 February 1905, all in PROFO881/8694; Takahashi,
International law, pp. 44752, 4578; Verzijl, International law, pp. 1467.

162 Takahashi, International law, pp. 4557; Leeuwarder Courant 14 September 1904, p. 3.

163 G. P. Cox, Of aphorisms, lessons, and paradigms. Comparing the British and German official
histories of the Russo-Japanese War, Journal of Military History 56, 3, July 1992, pp. 389402; J.
Steinberg, ed., World war zero. The Russo-Japanese War in global perspective. Leiden, Brill, 2005.

164 Wrange, Impartial, p. 244; Craig, War, p. 151; Abbenhuis, Most useful, pp. 1415.

165 Bosa, Burden, p. 278.

166 Scott, Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, pp. 912.
167 Abbenhuis, Most useful, p. 15. Also: T. E. Hollands letter to the editor of The Times, 20 April
1905, in Holland, Letters, pp. 1445.

168 Coogan, End of neutrality, p. 30; Semmel, Liberalism, p. 107.

169 The Times, 23 September 1902, p. 3; 26 September 1902, p. 11; 28 September 1904, p. 6; 29
September 1904, p. 6; and 30 September 1904, p. 7; Verzijl, International law, pp. 1012.

170 Davis, United States and the second Hague Peace Conference, p. 135.

171 Sir F. Lascelles to Sir Edward Grey, 16 August 1906, in Documents on British Policy
Overseas, Reference FO 371/78/2829D/25838/06/18. Cf Morris,Radicalism, pp. 11115; Davis,
United States and the second Hague Peace Conference, pp. 14057.

172 W. H. de Beaufort, Circular instruction of the Netherland Minister for Foreign Affairs to the
diplomatic representatives of the Netherlands. Invitation to the Conference, 6 April 1899, in Scott,
Hague conventions and declarations, p. xxix.

173 Russian Ambassador to the United States to the United States Secretary of State, 12 April 1906,
in Scott, Hague conventions and declarations, pp. xxixxxxi.

174 Perris, Short history, p. 241; Wolfke, Great and small, p. 61.

175 C. Reeves, From red crosses to golden arches. China, the Red Cross, and the Hague Peace
Conference, 18991900 in J. H. Bentley, R. Bridenthal, A. A. Yang, eds, Interactions,
transregional perspectives on world history. Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 2005, pp. 64
93.

176 Schcking, International union, pp. 37, 218.

177 Eyffinger, Highly critical, pp. 2268.

178 For these and other appeals: NA2.05.03.nr534. Also: NA2.05.03nr191 for police reports on
suspicious political activities in The Hague at the time of the conference; W. Hull, The two Hague
conferences and their contributions to international law. Boston, n.p., 1908, p. 27.
179 Laity, British peace movement, p. 172; Morris, Radicalism, p. 110.

180 Choate, Two Hague conferences, pp. 8990; Eyffinger, Hele wereld, p. 20.

181 K. de Ceuster, The third man: Yi Wijong and the Korean mission to the 1907 Hague Peace
Conference in M. Prost, ed., Mlanges offerts Marc Orange et Alexandre Guillemoz. Paris,
Collge de France, 2010, pp. 13142 (with thanks to Michael Moon).

182 Choate, Two Hague conferences, p. 91. For the history of the Peace Palace: A. Eyffinger, The
Peace Palace. Residence for justice, domicile of learning. The Hague, Carnegie Foundation, 1988;
Davis, United States and the second Hague Peace Conference, pp. 927.

183 Coolsaet, Belgi, p. 201.

184 For the conventions: Scott, Hague conventions and declarations, pp. 10032.

185 Nicolas Politis, 1935, in Wrange, Impartial, p. 5.

186 For the whole text: Scott, Hague conventions and declarations, pp. 13340.

187 Article 10, Convention (V) Respecting the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers and Persons in
Case of War on Land, The Hague, 1907, in Scott, Hague conventions and declarations, p. 135.

188 Additions proposed by Germany to the convention concerning the laws and customs of war on
land, 1907, in Scott, Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, pp. 8268; Deuxime
confrence internationale de la paix. La Haye 15 juin18 octobre 1907. Actes et documents. Tome
III. Deuxime, troisime et quatrime commissions. The Hague, Imprimerie nationale, 1907, pp. 63
73; Bustamante, The Hague convention, pp. 10915.

189 Scott, Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, pp. 542, 549.

190 Convention (VII) Relating to the Conversion of Merchant Ships into WarShips, The Hague, 1907,
in Scott, Hague conventions and declarations, pp. 1468.
191 Cf Eyffinger, Highly critical, p. 213.

192 Convention (XI) Relative to Certain Restrictions with Regard to the Exercise of the Right of
Capture in Naval War, The Hague, 1907, in Scott, Hague conventions and declarations, pp. 1827.

193 Convention (XIII) Concerning the Rights and Duties of Neutral Powers in Naval War, The
Hague, 1907, in Scott, Hague conventions and declarations, pp. 20919.

194 Convention (XII) Relative to the Creation of an International Prize Court, The Hague, 1907, in
Scott, Hague conventions and declarations, pp. 188208.

195 Scott, Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, p. 476.

196 Eyffinger, Highly critical, p. 211; C. Parry, Foreign policy and international law in F. H.
Hinsley, ed., British foreign policy under Sir Edward Grey. Cambridge University Press, 1977, pp.
1045; Semmel, Liberalism, pp. 1035, 1545; Coogan, End of neutrality, pp. 5760, 824; T. E.
Holland, The Hague conference of 1907, Law Quarterly Review 76, 1908, p. 78; E. F. Trabue, The
law of the sea and the Great War, Virginia Law Review 6, 4, 1920, p. 245.

197 Davis, United States and the second Hague Peace Conference, pp. 22050.

198 Eyffinger, Highly critical, p. 217.

199 Sir E. Grey to Sir E. Fry, 12 June 1907, available inDocuments on British Policies Overseas.
Reference FO 372/67/19160/268/07/329.

200 Eyffinger, Highly critical, p. 217.

201 Bustamante, The Hague convention, p. 96.

202 Neff, Rights and duties, p. 136.

203 G. C. W. van Tets, Eenige opmerkingen naar aanleiding van de Nederlandsche


neutraliteitsproclamaties uit den laatsten tijd. Leiden, n.p., 1909, pp. 18990.
7 Neutral no more: neutrality and the origins of the First World
War

There are few subjects that inspire as much conflicting historical debate or that remain as puzzling as
the origins of the First World War. 1 From its onset in July 1914, the task of assigning blame and
absolving responsibility for the calamity that raged around them preoccupied contemporaries. By
1939, the generally accepted orthodoxy on the subject was that the world, as David Lloyd George so
eloquently explained in his war memoirs, had slithered over the brink into the boiling cauldron of
war.2 In the aftermath of the Second World War and throughout the Cold War, however, Germanys
peculiar responsibility resurfaced as the orthodox explanation. As Fritz Fischers ground-breaking
work suggested in the early 1960s, if any state could be held responsible for the war then Germany
should.3 Yet, from the outset, consensus eluded contemporaries as much as it would later elude
historians. There were always voices that nuanced the orthodoxy and those that challenged it and
asserted opposite views. Since the end of the Cold War, the next generation of historians has
revisited the subject and opened up new avenues of interpretation and investigation. William
Mulligans recent exposition on the origins of the war, for example, does an admirable job in
highlighting that the outbreak of general war between the great powers was not inevitable. For
Mulligan, the decades of relative peace that reigned in Europe after the Franco-Prussian War deserve
explanation. He argues that the stability of the international system across that time offers a vital
context to explaining the July crisis. Although he concedes that from at least 1912 on the challenges to
great-power peace were considerable, he insists that restraint and flexibility were key components of
the international environment and that, as such, we should avoid any teleological explanations for
why war came in 1914.4
This chapter is not going to reinvestigate the debates surrounding the origins of the First World
War. It leaves that arduous task to others who have the heart to navigate the many heavy tomes written
on the subject. The chapter is more concerned with Mulligans arguments for explaining the years of
restraint that dominated the international system before 1914. Of course, as most historians who study
the subject duly acknowledge, in the period 1908 to 1914, the great powers operated in an almost
constant crisis-management mode. The numerous international emergencies that preoccupied them,
from Morocco to the Balkans, placed considerable strain on the friendly relationships they had with
each other and on the flexibility of their alliances . The accumulated stress of these emergencies on
the international system was profound. Yet, as Mulligan also acknowledges, the purpose of the
international system was not to prevent crisis but rather to alleviate it.5 At least until the assassination
of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo in June 1914, they managed
to alleviate most crises reasonably well.6
Ultimately, the powers and the international system could not cope with the impact of the
disintegration of the vast Ottoman Empire . For much of the nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire
had been cast as the sick man in Europe, as the empire most likely to face collapse from within.
Across that time, most of the great powers, barring Russia, were willing to bolster the sultans power
in order to ensure the stability of the Balkans and the Middle East . Indeed, Britain and France fought
the Crimean War to ensure that Russia did not expand into the region. With the Young Turks uprising
in 1908, however, the sultanate faced ruin and could no longer hold on to large swathes of its empire,
including in the Balkans. The Balkan region had always operated as the geo-political centre of the
Ottoman Empire, but it was also of immense geo-strategic relevance to the rest of Europe .7 The rise
of virulent ethnic nationalism and a drive for self-determination among the many peoples in the
Balkans further complicated matters and increased the likelihood of wars breaking out among them,
especially after the Young Turks rebellion. Austria-Hungary, Russia and Italy were all too willing to
take advantage of the reigning confusion in the region, thereby destabilising European affairs even
more. While managing the Balkans had been difficult for the great powers in the nineteenth century,
the task became almost impossible after 1908 amidst the competing claims of rival ethnic groups to
territory and political power. Furthermore, none of these groups were particularly willing to be
managed by the great powers, nor did they profess any desire to sustain the international status quo.8
Yet, the key to understanding the 190814 period lies in the fact that the great powers did try to
manage the Balkan situation. The Concert of Europe ideal had not died.9 The great powers task was
complicated, however, by the fact that many contingent developments heightened their
competitiveness, solidified their defensive alliances and increased their unwillingness, in the end, to
compromise with each other. Over the years, historians have identified a host of reasons for why the
great powers were more likely go to war with each other in 1914. Their arguments range from the
expansion of arms races to heightened popular and military nationalism, from the willingness to risk
war to the detailed military and economic planning that made war possible, from the rising tension in
international affairs to the inflexibility of military alliances, from the needs of imperial and
commercial expansion to fears over the collapse of societies from within, and from the expectation
that any war would be a short war to the belief that if war came, ones own army should mobilise
first.10 Importantly, recent history also highlights the many drivers for peace and systemic stability
that existed on the eve of war. 11 At the time, most contemporaries understood the possibility of a
general war erupting, but they also feared the consequences of that happening.12 If anything, they
considered war as something to be avoided if possible. However, if war was unavoidable, then its
parameters needed to be managed, as they had for almost a century.
From this perspective, explaining the July crisis turns into an account of the failure to exercise
restraint .13 The first culprit was the Austro-Hungarian government, which, in the aftermath of Franz
Ferdinands assassination sought out a localised war with Serbia .14 The Austria-Hungarians were
wary of going to war with Serbias protectors, the Russians . When approached to support them on
the matter, Austro-Hungarys allies, the Germans, were more willing to risk war with Russia but also
hoped that an Austro-Hungarian war with Serbia would not spread to the rest of Europe . The
Germans expected the Russians to exercise restraint, yet they themselves offered their wholehearted
support to the Habsburgs. For if a war with Russia eventuated, so many in the German imperial
government thought, it was better if it came in 1914 than later. 15 In turn, the Russians did not exercise
restraint either. They felt obliged to aid their allies, the Serbs.16 Russia responded to Austria-
Hungarys threat of war with Serbia by partially mobilising its army, which set off war alarms around
the continent. If the Russian mobilisation aimed at deterring the Habsburgs from pursuing their war
plans, it utterly failed. Austria-Hungary did not retract its threat of war with Serbia but only increased
it. In combination, the decisions made by the Russians, Germans and Austro-Hungarians in June and
July 1914 all failed to keep one another from going to war. In the process, they set in motion a chain
of events in which the rest of Europes leaders also failed to take the precautions they might have
taken in the past to prevent the outbreak of a general war. 17 As a result, when Austria-Hungary
declared war on Serbia, Germany implemented its Schlieffen Plan and invaded Belgium, Luxembourg
and France . Russia subsequently declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary, leaving Britain
questioning whether it should go to war with the central powers or remain neutral .18 When it did go
to war in early August, the great calamity had sprung and global war had begun.
This chapter highlights the role of neutrality in the international system and as a tool of diplomacy
and statecraft in the period between the end of the second Hague Peace Conference in 1907 and the
July crisis in 1914. It makes two key arguments. First, it reinforces the argument that there was no
inevitability of general war breaking out in 1914.19 This may seem like an obvious assertion because
the outbreak of any conflict depends on the decisions made by individuals in a particular moment in
time. Nonetheless, the point remains worth making because it is so easily forgotten. Historians may
disagree whether the world slithered into war in 1914 due to the mismanagement of a select few
powerful men or because some of those men willingly chose to risk general war, but either way, they
were not set on a path leading to inevitable conflict.20 Rather, in those fateful July days, the means
and modes of crisis management that had served Europes leaders quite well for more than a century
failed. Historians continue to disagree about why they failed, but their disagreements take little away
from the fact that the July crisis was considered just that: a tense situation to be managed as so many
situations had needed managing in the past. At the time, David Lloyd George certainly did not know
of any statesman (and in 1914 they were all men) who did not believe it could be managed.21
Given the fact that the First World War resulted from the decisions made by Europes leading
statesmen in June and July 1914, historians need to look closely at the futures that these statesmen
considered for their countries and for the international system more widely. Undeniably, the prospect
of a continent-wide war loomed large in most of their imaginations, especially after 1908. However,
although they planned for general war, they also considered the alternative possibility of non-
belligerency when others went to war. The prospect of neutrality had to be a consideration, even if
the likelihood of that neutrality declined in the context of the great-power politics at play. As this
chapter argues, it is through the lens of neutrality that the great powers support for the Declaration of
London in 1909 and the debates surrounding its ratification in 1910 and 1911 must be read. The
Declaration of Londons main achievement was to standardise the conditions of maritime warfare to
protect the rights of neutrals. In creating the Declaration, the great powers looked to stabilise
neutrality in order to obtain maximum benefit from its regulation. In so doing, they looked to two
wartime futures for themselves: one as neutrals, the other as belligerents . Furthermore, the
Declaration acknowledged that even as belligerents, the great powers expected that they might profit
from the neutrality of other states.
None of this collaboration on the rules of maritime warfare denies the fact that by 1909, great-
power relations were sorely strained and had been for many years. The growing unwillingness of the
great powers to uphold the neutralisation agreements they had made in the past was a clear signal of
this strain. The second main argument of this chapter, then, is that the perceived vulnerability of the
long-term and permanent neutrals indicated the growing instability of the international system. For
example, the German High Command had planned for the possible invasion of Belgium, the
Netherlands and Luxembourg from the late 1890s on but had solidified these plans in 1905 and
1906.22 In considering their response to what was known of Germanys Schlieffen Plan, the French
and British likewise evaluated their own military plans with regard to the Low Countries and the
Scandinavian neutrals. They even arranged for an economic war against Germany involving these
neutrals.23 As a result, the great powers willingly undermined the function that these neutrals had
played in sustaining the balance of power that had served the international system so well since 1815.
That the small states were aware of the need to protect their national security by military means was
also evident by 1908. Almost all of them, including the permanent neutrals, improved their military
defences after 1900. They recognised their own vulnerability and feared that a declaration of
neutrality would not protect them sufficiently from invasion or attack. They realised the need to
become even more active in policing and defending their territorial neutrality . The militarisation of
the neutrality of these states signalled that the international system was no longer as stable or secure
as it had been before 1900. The insecurity that fostered in the international arena was significant.
Thus, by 1914, it was all too obvious that if a war broke out involving more than one great power,
it would be much more difficult to contain than the great-power wars of the previous century. The
great powers were less willing to consider the need to keep such a conflict within limited territorial
boundaries than they had been in the Crimean and Franco-Prussian Wars . The shift in perception
from containment to the likely spread of war was a fundamental one. It may not have been the cause of
the First World War but it did ensure that once Germany went to war with France and Russia , the
fates of Belgium, Luxembourg and Moresnet were sealed. With the German invasion of these
countries in July 1914, war would and did spread across Europe and soon the world.
As John Coogan so carefully describes in his excellent book The End of Neutrality (1981),
delegates at the second Hague Peace Conference spent eleven weeks unsuccessfully negotiating the
terms and conditions that might be imposed on contraband, blockade and the principle of continuous
voyage . The conduct of their negotiations reflected a degree of tit-for-tat rivalry and a competitive
desire to protect key neutral and belligerent rights against the wishes of their rivals.24 Yet, despite the
acrimony between the delegates, the conference managed to establish the International Prize Court
(IPC). The IPCs main purpose was to remove decisions regarding the capture of wartime trade from
the hands of belligerents and put them into those of neutrals. It recognised that the interests of
neutrals should be safeguarded by neutrals and not by the belligerents own domestic prize courts. 25
In every conceivable way, the IPC was a fundamental development and recognised the value that the
world, and especially the great powers, attached to its own and others neutral rights and to the
commercial security of the seas. The IPC convention met with almost universal approval among the
delegates at The Hague in 1907.26 However, the IPC could only function if its lawyers had a
relatively solid international code of maritime law to which to appeal.27 Because the negotiators at
The Hague failed to create that code, the British government called on representatives from the ten
greatest naval powers to meet in London to rectify the situation.28
From December 1908 until February 1909, the delegates in London worked diligently at creating a
workable set of maritime warfare rules for the world to ratify. 29 The resulting Declaration of London
was a complex document, which nevertheless reached agreement on all three key maritime concerns:
blockade, contraband and continuous voyage . It stated that for a blockade to be operative, a
belligerent had to declare a rayon daction (area of operations) to all foreign powers and had to
monitor that area effectively by naval means. Everyone recognised that new technology, including the
laying of submarine mines, the extending of the range of coastal batteries and the possibility of
torpedo warfare, made close blockade an obsolete practice.30 Still, Britain wanted to protect its right
to blockade because this offered the utmost flexibility for its own wartime futures: as a belligerent,
blockading would allow it to keep trade from reaching its enemy; as a neutral, its merchants could
continue to ply the seas relatively unhindered.31 The Declaration made the conditions under which
neutrals could trade more precise as well: a neutral merchant could carry goods, except for
contraband, to a belligerent but not to a blockaded port. In terms of contraband, the Declaration of
London established different rules for absolute and conditional contraband. The principle of
continuous voyage applied to absolute contraband goods but not to conditional contraband.32 The
declaration also itemised which goods applied to which contraband status and created a list of goods
that were deemed free from capture.33 The Declaration was a far-from-perfect solution but was
nevertheless an astonishing achievement. It was a product of compromise and negotiation and many
deemed it highly problematic for belligerents and neutrals.34 Yet, it managed to attain international
consensus on what were centuries-old rival practices.35
The Declaration also ruled on an issue that had plagued maritime diplomacy for decades: namely,
whether private property should be immune from capture at sea. The United States had advocated for
that position since the Napoleonic Wars and had actively pushed for the principle to be recognised in
international law since the SpanishAmerican War of 1898 .36 In 1909, the delegates in London paid
serious attention to the subject. Certainly, there was growing support for the principle throughout
Britain, especially among the commercial classes, in the British peace movement and among Radicals
.37 Many of the smaller European states were also enthusiastically in favour of it. However, the
representatives at the London conference in 1909 recognised that a nation at war needed the right to
conduct economic warfare . The time was not ripe to take Stocktons principle of the separation
between a military war and commercial peace to its logical conclusion by removing the rights of
states to interfere in the conduct of private enterprise. The delegates recognised that the open seas
needed to be free for commerce but should not be made inviolable by military means.
In 1912, former United States Secretary of State Elihu Root explained that the concurrence of the
major part of the civilized world in the project of this Convention [the Declaration of London] was an
event of the first importance in the development of international peace . He claimed that in the
preservation of the substantial rights of neutral commerce lay the key to the containment of war and
the preservation of peace. Furthermore, he reminded his readers that the Declaration solved some of
the key issues that had plagued international diplomacy during the United States Civil War and Russo-
Japanese War .38 Other international lawyers supported Roots opinion, including Professor
Westlake, who effusively praised the Declaration as follows:

that the ten greatest naval Powers of the world should have met in conference on the laws of
naval war as affecting neutrals, and that after careful consideration they should have agreed upon
a code so comprehensive as that contained in the Declaration of London, would alone suffice to
make the year nineteen hundred and nine memorable to all who are interested in the improvement
of international relations.39

Both Root and Westlake recognised that the Declaration was a major achievement and, in
combination with the IPC, ushered in an age of greater clarity and certainty in international law and
economic affairs.
Of course, to our modern eyes, the notion that certainty in time of war was attainable and that
merchants could rely upon due process appears almost comically naive.40 But at the time, the
expectation of certainty was backed up by a century of diplomatic activity that sustained and
promoted neutral economic conduct in time of war. It is this backdrop of a century of limited war that
also offers essential context for why, in the end, Britain could not and did not descend into all-out
economic warfare against Germany in 1914. While the British Admiralty may have planned to
unleash economic Armageddon on Germany from 1910 on, as Nicholas Lambert suggests in his
latest book, when it came to it in 1914, the British government proclaimed a business-as-usual
policy instead. It could not, at that early stage of the war, risk the collapse of the international
economic system on which its own prosperity and security relied.41
Historians often write about the Declaration of London, much like they do about the Hague Peace
Conferences, as a failed endeavour. Because Great Britain did not ratify the Declaration, for one, the
IPC was never actually established. Further, through the course of the First World War , the
belligerents effectively ignored the terms of the Declaration.42 In the words of Maurice Hankey,
Secretary to Britains Committee of Imperial Defence, the Declaration soon shrivelled up when
exposed to the fiery furnace of actual war.43 But at the time of its creation in 1909, support for it was
strong and came from some surprising corners. The British Admiralty, for example, was on the whole
in favour of the Declaration because it created stability in terms of maritime warfare that applied to
all nations equally.44 As Winston Churchill explained to King Edward VII at the time: as a neutral, the
Declaration offered Britain guarantees of its rights to trade unmolested, and as a belligerent, Britain
had the navy. From his perspective, as the worlds most powerful naval power, whether as a neutral
or a belligerent, British might would continue to make right.45 At any rate, by 1909, even the
opponents of the Declaration of London, who tended to be same voices that advocated for strong
naval rights against the Declaration of Paris of 1856, argued their case within a framework of
commerce and global needs.
For the world of 1909 was even more globally interconnected than that of 1856. And Britains
priority in 1909 remained essentially the same as it had been since 1856: the maintenance of Europe-
wide peace . If Europe remained stable and the great powers at peace, Britain could continue to
pursue and protect its global commercial, financial and imperial interests and responsibilities.46 Of
course, if that stability was under threat, then Britains global and imperial security was also at risk.
So while the Admiraltys job was to plan for war and to find ways to achieve victory in a possible
war, this was not the only wartime future that preoccupied the British government in 1909. It had to
hope and plan for the possibility of avoiding war . In this respect, neutrality was a potential option
that might protect Britains vital global and imperial interests if war came.
The rest of Europe was also concerned with its own global interests and concerns in time of war
and peace. Germanys Weltpolitik (world politics), for example, aimed at global economic and
imperial growth. The desire and necessity of global growth informed German nationalism as much as
its European or domestic affairs.47 That there was a conflict between the expectations attached to
ethnic nationalism and the needs of international commerce was also recognised in Germany, as it
was around the continent.48 In this respect, the Declaration of London shows up an easily forgotten
element of the international environment: namely, that the great powers were working at maintaining a
balance of interests . Their interests were manifold and global, and certainly not focussed only on
conflict, crisis and war. As a result, the Declaration of London highlights how neutrality was an
essential part of the great powers toolbox of diplomacy. As the international lawyer Malbone
Watson Graham explained in 1927, on the eve of war in 1914
neutrality was as firmly rooted a concept in international law as any part of the legal system so
painfully elaborated since Grotius day. In fact, neutrality had been, in the eyes of many,
particularly entrenched, sanctified, made strong by the dual benedictions of London [1909] and
The Hague [1907].49

Obviously, because international law came out of diplomatic negotiation, neutrality was an expected
and lauded part of the international system in both international law and international expectation.
Of course, in 1911, Britains House of Lords refused to ratify the Declaration of London and the
IPC convention. It is all too easy to overstate the relevance of this decision, however, and historians
most often do so to signal the coming total war and the radicalisation of Britains military measures in
expectation of that war. 50 In the context of its time, the decision whether to endorse the Naval Prize
Bill (1911), which would ratify the Declaration and the IPC, could have gone either way. In the end,
it passed through the House of Commons easily enough but was defeated by a sizeable margin of
votes in the House of Lords after vociferous debate .51 The debates surrounding the Naval Prize Bill
were a heated and public affair. Throughout, the protagonists focussed on the interplay of Britains
needs as a possible neutral and as a possible belligerent in a future war. Those who argued against
the Declaration of London were well aware of the global commercial, financial and imperial needs of
Britain as a neutral in wartime. Many of them were even willing to admit the attractions of the
Declaration for neutrality.52 They argued, however, that the Declaration was too great an imposition
on the countrys needs for belligerent naval rights. 53 The opponents of the Declaration won the debate
in 1911, where in 1856 and at every juncture since they had lost. The defeat of the Naval Prize Bill
was an important signal of the uncertainty of the time. In 1911, Britons were on the whole more aware
of the likelihood of becoming involved in a continental war and feared the results of such a conflict.
However, their arguments for and against the bill did not only revolve around the prospect of their
belligerency in a forthcoming war. Neutrality was as much a driver of the debate and of the vote in
the House of Lords as any concept of naval power and future belligerency .
Where the Declaration of London formed one element of great-power considerations about
neutrality in 1909 and 1910, the fate of Europes small recognisably neutral states formed another.
For example, in 1909, the Dutch government looked to improve the viability of its neutrality and
military security and suggested constructing a new fortified position in the town of Vlissingen
(Flushing) on the mouth of the Schelde (Scheldt) River.54 The river was the main conduit from the
North Sea and the English Channel into the Belgian town of Antwerp and had historically been the
site of numerous contentious negotiations, mainly in terms of shipping access to and from Antwerp. In
1909, however, the ambition to build the fortification had everything to do with the military security
of the Netherlands in a future war involving the Germans, French and British . The original Schlieffen
Plan, designed in 1905, projected a German invasion of Belgium through the Dutch pan handle
province of Limburg . As a way of dissuading the Germans from pursuing such an invasion, the
Netherlands military planners recognised a need to present the country as stronger and more capable
of defending itself. They created two plans to improve their military capacity: one looked to improve
the make-up, training and conscription numbers of the Dutch army, the other to build a fortification in
Vlissingen at the mouth of the Scheldt . The Vlissingen fortification would, so its proponents argued,
both show the Germans that the Dutch were willing to defend themselves against possible neutrality
incursions made by the British (or others) and offer protection to Antwerp from any unwanted
military attacks. In offering the two military improvements to the parliament for approval late in
1910, the Minister of War, Wouter Cool, hoped that at least one of them would be adopted. He
understood all too well that the largely anti-military constituency in the Netherlands did not much
desire unnecessary defence expenditure. He was quite willing, in fact, to forego the fortifications in
favour of the army improvements.55
However, he was quite unprepared for the international fracas that ensued over what came to be
known as the Flushing incident. Rumours that the Germans pressured the Dutch into building the
fortification abounded.56 The British expressed their concerns about how the fortification would
impact on their ability to access Antwerp .57 The Belgians consulted with the Dutch and proclaimed
that they did not oppose the construction project as long as it did not interfere with the right of the
signatories of the 1839 Treaty of London to come to Belgiums aid if it was invaded.58 The Germans,
in turn, were also in favour. However, the French turned the issue into a major international incident
early in 1911 when one prominent politician suggested that because the Scheldt was an international
river, the Dutch should not have the right to fortify its mouth. He further suggested that any such
fortification might be in breach of Belgiums neutralisation agreement of 1839, which the Dutch had
signed.59 As a result, and to the chagrin and embarrassment of the Dutch, international press attention
on the subject spread. Meanwhile, the Austro-Hungarians prepared a full dossier on the issue and the
Belgians supported a French call to hold an international conference to mediate a solution.60 In the
end, the Dutch government looked to ease the fracas. The Dutch parliament approved the proposed
army improvements while delaying their support for the Vlissingen project. Construction on the
fortification was nevertheless begun in 1913 after a revised Coastal Defence Bill passed through
parliament very quietly and away from the gaze of international scrutiny. 61 The fortification was
nowhere near completed when war broke out in 1914. Its artillery pieces, ordered from the Krupps
factory in Germany, never arrived.62
The Flushing incident rarely features in the narrative of the origins of the First World War, lost
amidst the many more tension-laden crises of the time. Yet, it was a key event that signalled a vital
element of the international system: namely, that the acknowledged long-term neutral states, Belgium
and the Netherlands included, were no longer sure of their future non-belligerency.63 It also signalled
that the great powers believed with some urgency that the relative defensive value of these neutrals
mattered greatly in determining the balance of military power in north-western Europe. As Schroeder
explains, Belgium was the cockpit of Europe and could easily inspire war among the great powers.
The question of Belgium underpinned many of the great powers plans for war on the continent.64
Well before the Vlissingen incident, military planners in Britain were already preoccupied with the
possibility of a war between France and Germany involving Belgium.65 The French were also quite
willing to violate Belgian neutrality but only if Frances Entente partner, Britain, would let that
happen .66
Unsurprisingly, the Dutch and Belgians recognised the dangers when their powerful neighbours
began to take too much interest in them. The Dutch Queen Wilhelmina even addressed her subjects on
the matter in 1905 when she stated that the Netherlands must arm itself against England, France and
Germany; in the defence of the colonies we must reckon with England, the United States of America
and perhaps later with Germany.67 Like all of Europes small states, the Netherlands understood the
need to focus more on its own defensive capabilities.68 For Europes small neutral states, improving
their defences aimed at three ends: deterrence, defence and the policing of neutrality regulations.
These small states all understood that to protect their neutrality, they had to actively defend their
territorial borders and uphold the international laws of neutrality that applied there. The second
Hague Peace Conference reinforced this obligation when it ruled that all neutrals had to actively
defend their neutrality by military means.69 Even the Danes, who more than any other state had
advocated for a policy of defensive nihilism, with the motto whats the use?, recognised that they
could not survive a future European war without adequate military or naval defences.70 Across
Europe, the small neutrals initiated military reforms, increased conscription numbers, improved their
navies and considered other military improvements. They also initiated military exercises to practise
particular scenarios in which their neutrality might be breached.71 As a result, it was not only the
great powers that militarised their populations between 1890 and 1914 .
For the great powers, the steps made by the small states to improve their defences formed a vital
context for their own strategic calculations over the future of north-western Europe.72 The
contemporaneous debates about the possible neutralisation of the Scandinavian countries and the
Netherlands played a central part in those calculations.73 Whereas the small powers considered the
implications of guaranteed neutrality for their long-term security, the great powers considered them
within the context of the international system and in terms of the consequences of their guarantees of
that neutrality in any future war .74 That they recognised the value of stabilising the territorial
boundaries of states in the region was clearly signalled by the signing of the North Sea Convention in
1908, which guaranteed the borders of all of the countries situated on the seas peripheries. 75
However, the great powers also realised that the neutralisation of these states was too difficult and
contentious to enforce amidst their competing interests in the Baltic Sea .
At one level then, the immediate pre-war years did not see a noticeable decline in the use and
application of neutralisation agreements. The great powers seriously considered them when it came to
Scandinavia and the Netherlands from 1905 on. Russia and Britain neutralised central Persia in 1907,
while in 1913, as part of the settlements at the end of the Balkan Wars, the great powers also
guaranteed Albanias neutrality. 76 According to the international press, at least, the great powers had
considered neutralising Serbia in 1909 and Egypt in 1912.77 However, at another level, the same
period also witnessed a noticeable decline in the willingness shown by the great powers to support
some of their historical neutrality guarantees, of which Belgiums was the most noticeable. The many
uncertainties surrounding these neutralisation guarantees reflect a key element of neutralitys function
in the international system in this tense period. All of these events reinforce the argument that
neutrality and neutralisation were always tools of diplomacy and statecraft and not ends in and of
themselves. They were not hard-and-fast principles of the international system but rather instruments
used to manage international crises and offer long-and short-term solutions to international situations.
That they were readily adopted by states both small and great tells us much about the flexibility of the
international system in the long nineteenth century and the value it placed on peace. It also clearly
signals that in the years 190814, both peace and flexibility were under threat. However, that did not
mean that neutrality was no longer deemed valid, viable or valuable.
Certainly, that neutrality had value was reflected in the military planning of the great powers.
Germanys Count Helmuth von Moltke, for example, changed the Schlieffen Plan in 1908 to avoid a
German invasion of the Netherlands . He understood how valuable the Netherlands as a neutral could
be to a belligerent Germany. If, as he fully expected, Britain blockaded Germanys ports, then
Germany would need neutrals like the Netherlands with impressive mercantile marines to ply them
with trade . The Netherlands would be the economic windpipe through which Germany could
breathe.78 As such, by 1908, Dutch neutrality was considered a vital element of Germanys war
planning, which explains in part why Germany was an advocate for both the IPC in 1907 and the
terms of the Declaration of London in 1909, which it ratified. As a neutral, Germany would benefit
from the right to access the world and its seas but as a belligerent, it would need access to neutral
resources and trade that might otherwise be denied it by its potential enemy, Great Britain. In the end,
the First World War would prove von Moltke right. Germany did gain substantially from neutral
commerce, at least until the Allies changed the rules and clamped down on neutral trade from late
1915 on.79 The implementation of total economic warfare ended the viability of maritime neutrality.
Furthermore, in writing the history of the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, historians often fail to
recognise that it was only through their own neutrality that the great powers were able to manage
these crises. Both Germany and Great Britain interceded in these wars to bring them to an end and to
negotiate workable solutions. In the end, the great powers opted to localise the conflicts and worked
hard at ensuring they did not become directly involved.80 Of course, as Elizabeth Chadwick shows us,
the great powers also used neutrality to their own commercial advantage, freely gun-running and
supplying the various belligerents with armaments and other contraband .81 At any rate, the rules laid
down at The Hague in 1907 and London in 1909 allowed them the freedom to trade in contraband as
long as none of the belligerents prevented them from doing so. Still, newspapers and governments
around Europe discussed the ethical and legal implications of their neutrality and the limitations and
ramifications of neutrality for trade and humanitarian intervention.82
In so many ways, the history of the origins of the First World War is a story of contradictions. As
Mulligan shows, economics could be used to explain a path of peace as easily as it could the path to
war.83 Popular nationalism and xenophobia existed at the same time as humanitarianism, arbitration
and peace activism. What these contradictions remind us is that there was no certainty of war, and
certainly no certainty of all-or-nothing war breaking out in 1914. What was certain, however, was
that the willingness to go to war was greater than ever before, especially in Germany. Of course, all
European nations were primed for continent-wide conflict after the Moroccan crisis of 1905. Their
naval expansions and increased militarism brought their national rivalries into sharp relief. The
Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 exacerbated these tensions. Yet, it is all too easy to focus on the steps
leading to war and to ignore or dismiss other elements of the international environment that aimed at
restraint, co-operation and business as usual . As the lawyer-cum-author Coleman Phillipson
explained in 1915:

The universal sense of mankind recognizes that in the present state of civilization peace is the
normal condition of the worlds peoples and war is the abnormal condition. Considering the
development of international relationships and the modern organization of the society of nations,
it is felt that differences which arise may be settled by the various established methods of
diplomacy and negotiation, or by means of arbitration; and failing these, it is considered that war
is the ultima ratio, the final remedy, the very last resource of States for securing their self-
preservation and independence, or for enforcing some other fundamental rights.84
Even in the midst of the First World War, the expectation that a situation of peace was considered the
norm for international society thrived.
In the end, I come back to the argument with which I began Chapter 1: namely, that an analysis of
neutrality is a useful barometer of the flexibility and nature of the international system.85 An analysis
of neutralitys roles and functions in the period 190814 clearly shows up the strains and stresses of
the international system and brings out the tensions among the militarised great powers . However,
these years also highlight that neutrality was not a dead concept. In fact, in this period neutrality was,
as Malbone Watson Graham reminds us earlier in the chapter, more lauded and entrenched in the
international system than at any time before or, it would seem, after. The fact that neutrality was a
central component of international affairs remains an important counter to the inevitability-of-war
argument .
By 1914, Europe had sustained almost a hundred years of general peace, albeit staggered with
many instances of limited war. Neutrality was a signal of that century of limited war and a recognised
tool of peace and diplomacy throughout. It remained an important tool of diplomacy and statecraft in
1914. However, it could never be the answer to avoiding general war because it was not an end in
and of itself. As a result, the onset of the First World War cannot be seen as a failure of neutrality but
should rather be cast as a failure of diplomacy. Historians do need to look closely at the question,
Why did general war break out in 1914? Analysing neutrality shows us that the mere existence of
the means to limit war and to promote international organisation and communication was no guarantee
of doing so. In the long nineteenth century, then, the rise and fall of neutrality was always more a
symptom of international affairs than one of its driving forces. Its significance lay in its flexibility to
be utilised to aid and abet the interests of small and great states alike.
Thus, if the long nineteenth century is best described as a century of limited war then neutrality
was the tool by which many of the limits of such limited war were achieved. That it was useful as a
tool of diplomacy and statecraft is undoubted. Britains global imperial growth depended in large
part on neutrality, whereas much of continental Europe used neutrality to protect itself from
involvement in unpopular and unattractive crises. Furthermore, because neutrality was such a
common and respected feature of the international environment, it also became an entrenched ideal
with national and internationalist implications. However, the age of neutrals died with the onset of the
First World War in 1914. Nineteenth-century neutrality would have an afterlife through the rest of the
carnage of the twentieth century, but its applications shifted fundamentally in an age of total war and
collective security . Its twentieth-century representations were, by and large, little more than echoes
of its nineteenth-century golden age .

1 Annika Mombauer offers an excellent overview of the major historiographical debates: The
origins of the First World War. Controversies and consensus . London, Longman, 2002. Cf
Mulligan, Origins, pp. 122.

2 D. Lloyd George, War Memoirs. Volume 1. London, Odhams Press, 1938, p. 32; Mombauer,
Origins, p. 105.

3 F. Fischer, Griff nach der Weltmacht. Die Kriegzielpolitik des kaiserlichen Deutschland
1914/1918. Droste Verlag, 1961. Cf Mombauer, Origins, pp. 11954.

4 Mulligan, Origins. Cf Bartlett, Peace, pp. 1225; Schroeder, International politics, p. 208;
Afflerbach and Stevenson, An improbable war.

5 Mulligan, Origins, p. 227.

6 Cf Schroeder, International politics, p. 204.

7 Lieven, Empire, p. 131; Glenny, Balkans, p. 216.

8 R. J. Crampton, The Balkans, 19091914 in Hinsley, British foreign policy, pp. 25670.

9 Cf Bridge and Bullen, Great powers, p. 19.

10 For examples of these perspectives: Bond, War and society, p. 26; Steinberg, Copenhagen
complex; Conrad, Globalisation, pp. 424; Bartlett, Peace, pp. 1267; Rger, Great naval game;
Hinsley, Power, pp. 3045; Langhorne, Collapse, pp. 7096; Bridge and Bullen, Great powers, pp.
810; Hamilton, European wars; Schroeder, International politics; D. Stevenson, Armaments and
the coming of war. Europe 19041914. Oxford University Press, 1996, esp. p. 14; Keefer,
Building; Lambert, Planning; M. C. C. Adams, The great adventure. Male desire and the coming
of World War I. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1990; Wilkinson, Depictions.

11 Mulligan, Origins, pp. 1518, 193206.

12 Cf Coolsaet, Belgi, p. 201.

13 Cf Langhorne, Collapse, p. 97. For a useful short account of the July crisis: D. Stevenson, The
outbreak of the First World War. 1914 in perspective. London, MacMillan, 1997; D. Stevenson, The
First World War and international politics. Oxford University Press, 1988, pp. 1140.
14 P. Schroeder, Stealing horses to great applause. Austria-Hungarys decision in 1914 in systemic
perspective, and S. R. Williamson, Aggressive and defensive aims of political elites? Austro-
Hungarian policy in 1914 in Afflerbach and Stevenson, An improbable war, pp. 19, 6173; F.
Fellner, Austria-Hungary in K. Wilson, ed., Decisions for war, 1914. London, UCL Press, 1995,
pp. 925.

15 M. Howard, Europe on the eve of the First World War in R. J. Evans, H. Pogge von
Strandmann, eds, The coming of the First World War. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1988, p. 7. Cf D.
Stevenson, Cataclysm. The First World War as political tragedy. New York, Basic Books, 2004, p.
13.

16 D. W. Spring, Russia and the coming of war in Evans and Strandmann, Coming, pp. 578.

17 F. H. Hinsley, The origins of the First World War in Wilson, Decisions, pp. 67. Cf Mulligan,
Origins, p. 90.

18 M. G. Ekstein, Z. Steiner, The Sarajevo crisis in Hinsley, British foreign policy, pp. 397404.

19 Mulligan, Origins; Z. S. Steiner, K. Neilson, Britain and the origins of the First World War.
Second edition. New York, Palgrave MacMillan, 2003, p. 265; Stevenson, Cataclysm, p. 9.

20 Schroeder, International politics, p. 208; Eyffinger, Highly critical, p. 225; D. Fromkin,


Europes last summer. Who started the Great War in 1914? New York, Knopf, 2004, pp. 28791.

21 Lloyd George, War memoirs, p. 33.

22 J. Steinberg, A German plan for the invasion of Holland and Belgium, 1897, Historical Journal
6, 1, 1963, pp. 10719. Cf M. Epkenhans, Germany and Denmark before 1914 in Epkenhans and
Gro, Danish Straits, pp. 810.

23 Ogley, Theory and practice, p. 45; Lambert, Planning; K. Goddard, Down the toilet. The
Flushing incident and the decline of the Anglo-German relationship, 18901914. MA, University of
Auckland, 2010, esp. pp. 1220.

24 Coogan, End of neutrality, pp. 907. Cf Scott, Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, pp.
1345; Lambert, Planning, pp. 87101.
25 Scott, Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, p. 466.

26 Choate, Two Hague conferences, p. 65.

27 Scott, Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, p. 489.

28 Trabue, Law of the sea, p. 246; Lord Devlin, The House of Lords and the Naval Prize Bill
1911. Cambridge University Press, 1968, p. 5.

29 Davis, United States and the second Hague Peace Conference, pp. 3089. For a useful
overview of the London conference: C. H. Stockton, The international naval conference of London,
19081909, American Journal of International Law 3, 3, July 1909, pp. 596618.

30 Ranft, Restraints, p. 49. Cf W. H. von Heinegg, Naval blockade and international law in
Elleman and Paine, Naval blockades, p. 15.

31 Davis, United States and the second Hague Peace Conference, p. 310; Lambert, Great Britain,
pp. 2731.

32 Davis, United States and the second Hague Peace Conference, p. 311.

33 Davis, United States and the second Hague Peace Conference, p. 310.

34 Coogan, End of neutrality, p. 123.

35 Cf Parry, Foreign policy, p. 103; Riste, Neutral ally, p. 24.

36 Coogan, End of neutrality, p. 26; C. H. Stockton, Would immunity from capture, during war, of
non-offending private property upon the high seas be in the interest of civilization?, American
Journal of International Law 1, 4, October 1907, pp. 93043.

37 Semmel, Liberalism, pp. 1201, 1289; Morris, Radicalism, p. 219.


38 E. Root, The real significance of the Declaration of London (1912) in J. B. Scott, ed., The
Declaration of London February 26, 1909. A collection of official papers and documents relating
to the international naval conference held in London December 1908February 1909. New York,
Oxford University Press, 1919, pp. 112 (the quotes are on p. 3).

39 Professor Westlake, 1910, as quoted by Root, Real significance, p. 8.

40 Lambert, Planning, p. 67.

41 Lambert, Planning, pp. 2, 181.

42 Holland, Letters, pp. 1903; Tracy, Sea power, pp. 1258.

43 Maurice Hankey as quoted by Neff, Rights and duties, p. 145.

44 For a useful explanation of the Admiraltys position: C. Martin, The Declaration of London: a
matter of operational capability, Historical Research 82, 218, 2009, pp. 73155.

45 Semmel, Liberalism, p. 118.

46 Otte, Foreign Office mind, pp. 3989; T. G. Otte, Old diplomacy. Reflections on the Foreign
Office before 1914 in G. Johnson, ed., The Foreign Office and British diplomacy in the twentieth
century. New York, Routledge, 2005, pp. 415; Z. Steiner, The Foreign Office under Sir Edward
Grey, 19051914 in Hinsley, British foreign policy, p. 68; P. Schroeder, The tradition of
appeasement in British foreign policy 18651939, British Journal of International Studies 2, 3,
October 1976, p. 198; P. J. Cain, A. G. Hopkins, British imperialism. Innovation and expansion
16881914. London, Longman, 1993, pp. 44966.

47 Conrad, Globalisation, pp. 4653, 384; Bartlett, Peace, p. 148.

48 Daunton, State and market, pp. 2201; Iriye, Cultural internationalism, pp. 5190.

49 Malbone Watson Graham in Abbenhuis, Most useful, p. 16.


50 Cf Lambert, Great Britain.

51 Semmel, Liberalism, p. 117.

52 Semmel, Liberalism, p. 112.

53 As examples: H. F. Wyatt, Englands threatened rights at sea, Royal United Services Institution
Journal 54, 1910, pp. 533; T. G. Bowles, Sea law and sea power as they would be affected by
recent proposals with reasons against those proposals . London, John Murray, 1910. Cf The
Declaration of London, the round table, Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs 2, 6, 1912,
pp. 285311.

54 For a solid overview of the Vlissingen incident and its relevance: Goddard, Down the toilet.

55 Hellema, Neutraliteit, p. 70. For a useful overview of the Dutch position: Smit, Nederland.
Volume 1, pp. 1735.

56 Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 469; Goddard, Down the toilet, p. 21; Vandenbosch, Dutch
foreign policy, p. 101.

57 For a useful overview: D. H. Thomas, The use of the Scheldt in British plans for the defence of
Belgian neutrality, Revue belge de philologie et dhistoire. Belgisch tijdschrift voor philologie en
geschiedenis 41, 1963, pp. 44970.

58 Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 470.

59 Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 470; Goddard, Down the toilet, p. 29; Smit, Nederland.
Volume 1, pp. 1789.

60 Thomas, Belgian independence, p. 471; Goddard, Down the toilet, pp. 6, 2932.

61 Goddard, Down the toilet, p. 33.

62 Vandenbosch, Dutch foreign policy, p. 106.


63 Cf Abbenhuis, Art, p. 31.

64 Schroeder, Transformation, p. 564; J. E. Tyler, The British army and the continent 19041914.
London, Edward Arnold, 1938.

65 For some of these plans: PRO Europe. Papers: Various, 19081911, WO 106/47 and PRO
Defence and Operational Plans. Europe, WO 106/48. Also: correspondence and commentary on the
security of Belgium in the British press, 1901: The Times, 8 January 1901, p. 5; 12 January 1901, p.
28; 18 January 1901, p. 3; and 12 February 1901, p. 5. In 1903: PROFO881/8060. In 1908 and 1909:
PRO BELGIUM: Memo. Belgian Neutrality and Great Britains obligation to defend it. (Mr. E. A
Crowe), Nov. 15 1908, FO881/9900; Ogley, Theory and practice, pp. 536. Cf J. E. Helmreich,
Belgian concern over neutrality and British intentions 19061914, Journal of Modern History 36,
4, December 1964, pp. 41922.

66 M. Trachtenberg, French foreign policy in the July crisis 1914. A review article in H-
Diplo/ISSF. 26 November 2010, h-net.org/diplo/ISSF/essays/PDF/3-Trachtenberg.html; Thomas,
Belgian independence, pp. 4813.

67 Queen Wilhelmina, memorandum 29 April 1905, as quoted by C. M. Schulten, The Netherlands


and its army (19001940), Revue Internationale dHistoire Militaire 58, 1984, pp. 734. Also:
Smit, Nederland. Volume 1, p. 2.

68 For a useful overview of Belgiums military planning: D. Stevenson, Battlefield or barrier?


Rearmament and military planning in Belgium, 19021914, International History Review 29, 3,
September 2007, pp. 473507. Cf Coolsaet, Belgi, pp. 198203.

69 Malmborg, Neutrality, p. 90.

70 P. Salmon, Between the sea power and the land power. Scandinavia and the coming of the First
World War, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 3, 1993, p. 41; K. Galster, The debate on
Denmarks defence 19001940 in Amersfoort and Klinkert, Small powers, pp. 1569; C. M. B.
Christensen, Strategic perceptions and the Danish defence debate, 19021909 in Epkenhans and
Gro, Danish Straits, pp. 1326.

71 Smit, Nederland. Volume 1, pp. 1923; The Times, 26 April 1899, p. 10; Dutch Minister of War
discussions with Dutch Minister of the Navy, September 1906, in NA2.05.03nr196.
72 Cf Salmon, Between, p. 24; Riste, Neutral ally, p. 34.

73 See Chapter 2.

74 D. W. Sweet, The Baltic in British diplomacy before the First World War, Historical Journal
13, 3, September 1970, pp. 45867.

75 Porter, Dutch neutrality, p. 71.

76 Robbins, Britain, p. 186; Crampton, Balkans, p. 261. For more on Albanian neutrality: M. B.
Fried, The cornerstone of Balkan power projection: Austro-Hungarian war aims and the problem of
Albanian neutrality, 19141918, Diplomacy & Statecraft 23, 3, 2012, pp. 42545.

77 Tilburgsche Courant, 6 March 1909, p. 9; Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 24 September 1912, p.
5.

78 Abbenhuis, Art, p. 32; H. de Jong, Between the devil and the deep blue sea. The Dutch economy
during World War I in S. Broadberry, M. Harrison, eds, The economics of World War I. Cambridge
University Press, 2005 pp. 1389.

79 M. Frey, Bullying the neutrals. The case of the Netherlands in R. Chickering, S. Frster, eds,
Great War, total war. Combat and mobilization on the Western Front, 19141918 . Cambridge,
German Historical Institute and Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 233; M.Frey, Trade, ships,
and the neutrality of the Netherlands in the First World War, International History Review 19, 3,
August 1997, p. 547.

80 Glenny, Balkans, p. 229; Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, p. 67; Langhorne, Collapse, p. 105;
Peet, Belangen, pp. 15169.

81 Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, pp. 61, 83. Also: The war in the Balkan peninsula, Royal
United Services Institution Journal 57, 1913, pp. 41012.

82 For examples: NA2.05.03nr646.

83 Mulligan, Origins, pp. 17780.


84 C. Phillipson, International law and the Great War. London, T. Fisher Unwin, 1915, p. 2.

85 Cf Wrange, Impartial, p. 35.


Conclusion: international laws finest and most fragile flower1

By definition, neutrality is a legal term. That is to say, neutrality defines the parameters of action
available to non-belligerents in time of war. In the nineteenth century, neutrality was recognised first
and foremost by its legal definition. As a result, a neutral was recognised by its adoption of neutrality
at the outbreak of war and by its adherence to the international laws and precedents attached to that
neutrality during the war. What those laws and precedents entailed, however, was open to negotiation
in time of peace and war. Furthermore, neutrality was a policy that all states could adopt, at will, at
the outbreak of a war. Of course, some states, including Switzerland and Belgium , had neutrality
imposed upon them by outsiders as a permanent reality, whereas others, like the Netherlands and the
Scandinavian countries, found the idea of neutrality so enticing that they voluntarily adopted it as a
long-term policy to apply in all wars. Yet, despite the obvious differences that existed between
permanent, voluntary long-term and occasional neutrals , the same expectations applied to their
behaviour in time of war. As John Coogan explains:

Neither intent nor effect was central to the definition of neutrality that existed in international
relations in 1914. Neutrality was a status which a nation maintained by behaving in a certain
manner toward belligerents and toward other neutrals.2

A country s neutrality ended when it declared war on another state, when it was invaded by a foreign
power or when it failed to uphold the international laws of neutrality to the satisfaction of other
states. Neutrality was a wartime phenomenon but one whose applications nevertheless preoccupied
small and great states in time of peace . Between 1815 and 1914, every country in Europe, and many
others around the world, declared their neutrality repeatedly and as a matter of course when others
went to war. Consequently, all of these states planned for neutrality as readily as they did for war.
They also considered the application of neutrality in advance of war and sought ways to promote its
best use. As a result, it is possible to label the long nineteenth century, which stretched from the end
of the Napoleonic Wars to the outbreak of the First World War , as an age of neutrals.
An age of neutrals implies an age of war. In the nineteenth century, the European continent
witnessed much warfare , albeit warfare of a particular kind. These conflicts tended to be
characterised by limitation and restraint . They were generally initiated by governments to achieve
key objectives but were managed within an international system in which the great powers promoted
restraint and the maintenance of a political equilibrium . All of the centurys European wars were
limited affairs involving a small number of belligerents, with the rest of Europe standing by as
neutrals. Many of these neutrals were great powers. As a result, neutrality helped to prevent the
spread of war and restrict the impact of war. The nature of European warfare in the period 1815
1914, then, stands in direct contrast to the general wars that bookended this century of limited war.
Of course, through the ages, neutrality has waxed and waned depending on the interests of those
who ruled the international arena. This certainly did not change after the Napoleonic Wars. In fact,
through the long nineteenth century, the great powers promoted and protected neutral rights in ways
they did not do before 1815 and have not done since 1914. As this book argues, neutrality fulfilled a
number of key functions in the international system between 1815 and 1914, all of which helped to
keep the many wars of the time limited affairs. Perhaps the most fundamental of these functions was
the use the great powers made of neutrality guarantees. From the Congress of Vienna on, the great
powers willingly neutralised countries, territories, islands, waterways and even railway lines as
means of solving international crises and stabilising their economic, strategic and diplomatic impact.
Even though they came in a variety of forms, such neutralisation agreements were remarkably
successful tools in sustaining the Concert of Europe and in preventing wars from breaking out. The
great powers also readily declared their own neutrality in order to prevent the unnecessary spread of
a conflict and to mediate among the belligerents. In so doing, they further reinforced the strength and
flexibility of the Congress system.
The adoption of neutrality by a great power was usually also self-serving . Although all the great
powers willingly went to war when it served a key interest, in general they also deemed wars costly
affairs that were detrimental to the global interests of the state. This was particularly true of the
centurys super power, Great Britain . The British Empire, in all its glorious confusion, thrived while
Britain could avoid going to war with the other great powers. The success of Britain s commercial,
financial and imperial growth also depended on ready access to every corner of the world. As a
result, in the interests of its many imperial and global pursuits, Britain looked to maintain access to
the open seas and to the communication networks that crossed over and under them (in the form of
ships and cables ). It controlled the lions share of the worlds telegraph network and hosted the
worlds largest merchant-marine fleet. After 1856, successive British governments realised that
neutrality offered opportunities to protect and expand the countrys many global interests. As a result,
neutrality, not belligerency , underpinned British global power through the long nineteenth century.
Neutrality prevented costly wars, ensured that the seas remained open to British commerce , finance
and shipping, and kept Britain on a friendly footing with the world. For many Britons, the economic
ramifications of the Crimean War underlined the attractions of neutral maritime rights as well as of
other means of keeping the seas open to trade and exchange. However, even outside Britain, Stockton
s principle of separating a commercial peace from a military war was appealing because it
sustained access to the global economy in time of war and peace. Unsurprisingly, then, the maritime
rights of neutrals came to dominate international legal proceedings from the 1850s on. As a result of
this preoccupation, the great powers agitated over the rights of neutrals and came to prioritise them,
by and large, and not without controversy, over those of belligerents. The international law of
neutrality was solidified at the two Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907 and in the London
Declaration of 1909.
At one level, then, it is easy to argue that on the eve of the First World War, neutrality was a
stable, predictable and well-defined element of the international system. By 1914, everyone
understood that any war in Europe would see a variety of states declare their neutrality. Many also
hoped that a general war could be averted by a judicious neutrality declaration by one or more of the
great powers. In public and private, the British certainly debated whether they should stay out of the
conflict during the July crisis .3 Furthermore, by 1914, the parameters of what neutrality entailed were
largely defined, respected and understood .
As a result, the neutrals in the First World War were much more aware of what was expected of
them than their predecessors had been in earlier wars. For example, the Netherlands managed to
maintain its neutrality in the First World War through a combination of diplomatic negotiation and
domestic agency.4 The Dutch were only too aware that they should do nothing to give the belligerents
any reason to claim that their country was not neutral . The Dutch abided by the international laws of
neutrality and issued a detailed neutrality declaration to signal how they would behave as neutrals.
They mobilised their armed forces to protect and police their land and sea borders and ensured that
the international laws of neutrality, as well as their own domestic laws, were binding and
enforceable.5 Inevitably, the Netherlands encountered many breaches of its neutrality and expended
much care and attention on managing them as best as it was able. There was no question that its
neutrality was not actively maintained in the First World War . A central implication of this book is
that in the period 18561914, neutral countries encountered many of the same challenges as their
counterparts did during the First World War. The questions of how to remain neutral and how to
protect non-belligerency in the face of the numerous challenges posed by a modern war and a set of
determined belligerents had not changed much since the 1850s. What had changed was that in 1914,
the expectations attached to neutrality were by and large defined in international law. It took the
experiences of the many limited wars of the 18591905 period to create that international law.
The other main difference between neutrals before 1914 and those during the First World War was
that until 1914, neutrality was maintainable because it remained in the interest of Europe , the great
powers and most belligerents for it to be so. In the First World War, neutrality was less robust not
because the laws of war that defined the rights and obligations of neutrals were incomplete but rather
because the belligerents focussed less on restraint and more on victory at almost any cost. In time of
total war , nineteenth-century conceptions of neutrality that promoted and protected the practices of
limited war stood little chance. As a result, countries like the Netherlands exerted an extraordinary
amount of effort to navigate the demands made on them by the belligerents in the First World War. At
this level of explanation, then, it is easy to argue that neutrality was always a complicated and
tendentious concept in international law and in the international arena. As international laws finest
and most fragile flower, neutrality was a constantly evolving concept, deviously complex and
contentious in its applications. Most important it was always a tool of diplomacy and statecraft a
means to many ends rather than the end itself. So whereas on the eve of war in 1914 the great powers
expected neutrality to be useful, they were also willing to jettison it when it no longer served their
purposes.
As a result, in the war of 191418, most, although not all, of the systemic applications of neutrality
that had existed in the previous century collapsed under the excessive pressure put on them by the
great-power belligerents . Germanys invasion of Belgium was only one example of the many
neutralisation agreements ignored by the belligerents through the course of the war, including in
Africa and the Middle East .6 At any rate, Belgiums situation only reinforced to the great powers that
neutralisation was no longer a useful tool for stabilising world affairs. Collective security and League
of Nations participation were to replace neutrality as the stabilising mechanism in the international
environment after 1918 . Just as dramatically, Stockton s principle of separating peaceful commerce
from armed conflict died a rapid death from 1915 on. In this total war , the great powers ignored,
overruled or rejected almost all of the restrictions on belligerent maritime rights that had been
established since the Crimean War . Inevitably, not only did neutral rights fall by the wayside but also
the conduct of the belligerents towards neutral trade had a deleterious impact on most neutrals. In
some cases of which the United States in 1917 is the most famous the belligerents abuse of
neutral rights resulted in a neutral deciding to join the war.
The First World War also brought the liberal economic order of the nineteenth century to an
abrupt halt and, with it, suspended the rapid period of globalisation that had begun in the nineteenth
century and would not now return until after the Second World War . 7 Before 1914, neutrality had
been a useful tool for states with global aspirations: it kept the peace between economic rivals and
protected access to the seas. After the outbreak of war in 1914, and especially after 1915, those seas
were no longer peaceful, safe or free. As a result, the war had a decisive impact on the movement of
people, goods and information into and out of the European continent and the British Isles. Historians
have long identified the First World War as a key moment in charting the decline of the British
Empire, in part because of the wars financial effect and in part because of the ideological context of
self-determination that grew among colonised peoples during the war. 8 It seems, however, that the
wars impact on the reliability of Britain s global communication and trade networks, and with it
Britains steady access to its empire, was an important contributing factor in its collapse. The Royal
Navy was not powerful enough to defend or protect all of Britains interests, nor its many overseas
ports, trading posts and colonial holdings. Certainly, the worlds most powerful neutral at the time,
the United States , profited from the war in Europe. Its merchants, financiers and communication
networks to the extra-European world remained largely intact, while those of the European states did
not.9 In this respect, the end of the age of neutrals also spelled the beginning of the end for Britains
global hegemony and signalled the rise of the United States as one of the twentieth centurys super
powers .
Nevertheless, as the excellent edited collection Neutrality in Twentieth-Century Europe (2012)
by Rebecka Lettevall , Geert Somsen and Sven Widmalm shows, nineteenth-century neutrality had an
important afterlife in the post-war era, particularly as a cultural, humanitarian, scientific and
internationalist ideal .10 In this respect, the connections that existed among the cultural elements of
nineteenth-century neutrality and its twentieth-century counterparts were essential and deserve much
more research and attention. Such research may highlight how twentieth-century internationalism did
not originate in the League of Nations era or even in the early twentieth century but rather appeared
much earlier in the midst of the many wars of the 1860s.11 It was connected to peace activism but also
to the many global movements that promoted arbitration and international law . Its high points came at
the two Hague Peace Conferences with the establishment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration
(PCA) in 1899 and the International Prize Court (IPC) in 1907.12 Such research may also highlight
how neutrality was considered part of the wider civilising mission of the Western world. For
however barbarous their imperial policies and actions were towards subjugated populations and
however ruthless the European states were in acquiring advantages on the global stage, the nineteenth
century also witnessed widespread acceptance of the need for the rule of international law and
respect for stable and regular diplomatic and economic exchange. Such laws and rules would apply
to the maintenance of relationships between all states within and outside Europe .
Neutrality also remained a powerful part of the national identities of many states after 1918,
including for Switzerland , the Scandinavian states, the United States and the Netherlands . Here
again, historians need to examine more closely the continuities between the experiences of neutrality
in the long nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, which would bring out the internationalist
dimensions of these neutral countries national myths as well. In the inter-war period, most of the
European neutrals promoted their neutrality as an alternative to the military stand-offs and diplomatic
posturing undertaken by their great-power neighbours. If more countries were neutral, so they argued,
wars would not break out as quickly. Furthermore, if more countries were neutral, international co-
operation would thrive. Such ideas were products of these countries experiences in the long
nineteenth century and of their ability to remain non-belligerent in the First World War . Many
neutrals found them particularly powerful because they had a century of neutral experience to back
them up. However, as Lettevall et al., also argue, they were by and large idealised notions of
neutrality that were impractical to apply after 1918: They were founded on the wrong premise that it
would be possible to overcome the ills of the war by reconstructing an imagined old order.13
Nonetheless, historians of twentieth-century neutrality need to pay close attention to its nineteenth-
century roots. For one, between 1815 and 1914, the meanings of neutrality were extended well
beyond international law and diplomatic expectation. That is to say, through the nineteenth century,
neutrality came to mean more than merely a legal status in time of war, although it firmly remained
that as well. Formally, neutrality only applied in time of war and only related to the behaviour of a
neutral vis--vis the belligerents and other neutrals. However, because neutrality was such a stable
and respected part of the international system, it was possible for states to adopt it repeatedly and to
become identified by their neutrality . The many national myths surrounding Swiss and Swedish
neutrality that exist today, for example, are largely nineteenth-century creations that permeated
through the twentieth century to the present. Furthermore, neutrality underpinned many international
peacetime developments in the nineteenth century. The long-term status of many neutrals lent
legitimacy to their actions in the world and offered important services to the ongoing stability of the
international order. For example, Switzerland functioned as the home of international organisations
and as a place to conduct multi-lateral diplomatic negotiations, while the Netherlands , another
recognised neutral state, hosted the 1899 and 1907 peace conferences . The Hague became the capital
of international peace and justice almost entirely on the back of its long-term adherence to neutrality
through the nineteenth century. Unsurprisingly, in the course of the nineteenth century, neutrality
became an internationalist ideal, with multi-farious applications in time of war and peace.
In writing the history of twentieth-century neutrality and neutrals, historians all too easily confuse
the difference between neutrality as an international status (tied to rules , behaviours and diplomatic
negotiation) and neutrality as a cultural identity (connected to the politics of national identity,
international morality and ideas of what a neutral ought to do). One of the reasons they do so is
because the meanings of neutrality after 1918, and especially after 1939, became more closely
connected to the cultural and political identities attached to neutrality than to the legal parameters of a
states conduct. The irony of the First World War, then, is that while the systemic value of neutrality
and the application of many neutral rights in international law died in the course of the conflict, the
cultural legacies of neutrality that were predicated on the international experiences of a century of
limited war remained. These cultural representations had relevance at a national and an international
level. Some of them would inform the few, but important, functions neutrals continued to perform in
the international environment , especially in terms of humanitarian aid and the hosting of international
organisations .14 The rest of them floundered between two contradictory conceptions of neutrality .
On the one hand, the mid to late-twentieth-century world conceived of neutrality as, at best, passive
removal from world affairs and, at worst, immoral profiteering from the suffering of others. C. R. M.
F. Cruttwell summarised such sentiments very well in his powerful history of the First World War,
first published in 1934:

In as much as war is not now waged for limited objects, nothing but absolute victory seems a
justification for breaking it off; and until it has been gained a compromised peace is regarded as
an unwarranted defeat by all the belligerents. It follows inevitably that the pacific influence of
neutrals, never very great, wasin the greatest of all wars, reduced almost to nothing. Each
belligerent, confident of being in the right, regarded neutrality as a denial of moral principles,
adopted merely for selfish interests.15

On the other hand, neutrals themselves presented their neutrality as a means of protecting the
sovereignty and independence of small weak states in a dangerous world and of positing an
alternative way of organising that world based on global co-operation and war avoidance.
This latter vision of neutrality had new and old adherents after 1918. Ireland , for example,
proudly asserted its independence and neutrality from 1922 on. It did so using all manner of
nineteenth-century conceptions of neutrality , including pacifism , the right to choose peace over
involvement in a British war, the right to adopt its own foreign policy and the right to assert its
sovereignty and nationalism.16 It managed to uphold its neutrality, albeit controversially, through the
Second World War and the Cold War . Nonetheless, Irish neutrality in the twentieth century was
largely founded on nineteenth-century principles. The gloss that made neutrality attractive to the Irish
and other mid-twentieth-century neutrals was a product of a nineteenth-century world order that could
not shine in a postFirst World War setting. For as Nicholas Politis all too presciently explained in
1935, [e]ither the spread of war excludes neutrality or neutrality suppresses war by making war
practically impossible. The one will fatally kill the other.17 The age of total war and collective
security that was the twentieth century proved Politis correct .
However, in the context of the nineteenth-century age of limited war, Politiss precept did not
apply. Neutrality had many functions and offered a multitude of possibilities for the future of the
international system . In the twentieth century, neutrality came to be identified by passivity and
inactivity and as an exercise for the weak and insignificant. In the nineteenth century, neutrality was
neither insignificant nor a policy reserved for the weak. It was a recognised part of the international
environment and a useful tool of diplomacy and statecraft exercised by great and small powers alike.
It also came to have cultural and internationalist legacies that permeated through the age of total war
and collective security that followed.
As Akira Iriye explains in his compelling book on cultural internationalism , the dichotomy that
exists between the power of excessive nationalism and visions of international orderhas been a
defining characteristic of the contemporary world. He goes on to argue that the key to understanding
international affairs in the modern world lies in analysing the interplay between war and peace.18
Iriyes observation can easily be translated back to the nineteenth century. This century witnessed the
rise of militant and ethnic nationalism, accompanied by a widespread will to war . When combined
with the rise of mass citizen armies and technological innovation, the rise of ethnic nationalism
ensured large-scale destruction in the two world wars of the twentieth century. Yet, the nineteenth
century also witnessed the reverse development: namely, a pervasive recognition of the value of
peace , the need for humanitarian intervention in limiting the destructive nature of warfare and the
advantages of using international organisation and regulation to achieve peace and stability and to
impose humanitarian obligations. The contradiction between the will to war and the will for peace
and humanitarianism was obvious to many contemporaries and informed many of their ideas about
neutrality as well.
Of course, human society through the ages has had the capacity to sustain all manner of
contradictory trends and oppositional opinions. The difficulty for the historian lies in assigning
relevance to the contradictions. How much consequence should we assign to the developments
assuaging war over those that prefaced conflict in the century between the fall of Napoleon and the
outbreak of the First World War? The study of the uses (and abuses) of neutrality in the nineteenth
century certainly suggests that it was both an age leading to total war and an age of war avoidance.
Perhaps the key is not to see war and peace as oppositional but rather as two sides of the same coin.
For war itself was seen in contradictory ways in the nineteenth century. It was both desirable and
abhorrent. It could achieve national and personal interests and impede them. It augured the advance of
civilisation and signalled its demise. Yet, as Clausewitz reminds us, war was always an option for
the nineteenth-century state. But so was peace. If anything, this study of nineteenth-century neutrality
highlights both how well aware Europeans were of the costs of war and the benefits of peace and
how the desire for peace and the willingness to use military means to achieve key goals could co-
exist. It is in the interplay between war and peace that neutrality thrived. For this age of limited war
was also an age of neutrals.

1 Lyon, Neutrality, p. 259.

2 Coogan, Wilsonian diplomacy, p. 78.

3 Morris, Radicalism, pp. 41120.

4 Abbenhuis, Art.

5 M. Abbenhuis, In fear of war. The First World War and the state of siege in the neutral
Netherlands 19141918, War in History 13, 1, 2006, pp. 1641.

6 For examples: Helmreich, Congo.

7 Findlay and ORourke, Power, p. 429; Conrad, Globalisation, p. 29.

8 C. Barnett, The collapse of British power. Third edition. London, Pan Books, 2002; Steiner and
Neilson, Britain, p. 264.
9 Mulligan, Origins, p. 191.

10 Lettevall et al., Neutrality.

11 Cf Iriye, Cultural internationalism, p. 13.

12 M. Geyer, J. Paulmann, Introduction in Geyer and Paulmann, Mechanics, pp. 34.

13 Lettevall et al., Introduction, p. 12.

14 Norton, Between the ideology, p. 254; R. M. Friedman, Has the Swedish Academy of
Sciencesseen nothing, heard nothing, and understood nothing? The First World War, biased
neutrality, and the Nobel prizes in peace in Lettevall et al., Neutrality, pp. 90114; Widmalm,
Superior type; Knudsen, Pursuing.

15 C. R. M. F. Cruttwell, A History of the Great War 19141918. Second edition. Academy


Chicago Publishers, 1934 (2007).

16 Salmon, Unneutral Ireland, pp. 945; Hachey, Rhetoric; Clair Wills, The aesthetic of Irish
neutrality during the Second World War, Boundary 2 31, 1, 2004, pp. 1245.

17 N. Politis, Neutralit et la paix. 1935. As quoted by Chadwick, Traditional neutrality, p. 59, fn


2.

18 Iriye, Cultural internationalism, p. 15.


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