4000bce - 399
400 - 1399
1400 - 1499
1500 - 1599
1600 - 1699
1700 - 1799
1800 - 1899
1900 - 1999
THE HAGUE, July 31, 1899.
THE COMMISSION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE AT THE HAGUE
Gentlemen: I have the honor of submitting a resume of the work of the First Committee of the Conference and of its First Sub-Committee, which was the military subdivision, concerning the following subjects, which are mentioned in the second and third numbered articles of the circular of Count Mouravieff of December 30, 1898 (January 11, 1899), namely: powders, explosives, field guns, balloons, and muskets; also the subject of bullets which, although not mentioned in either of the above designated articles of Count Mouravieff's circular, were considered by this Committee, notwithstanding that it would have appeared more logical to consider them under the seventh numbered article of the circular, referring to the declaration concerning the laws and customs of war made by the Brussels Conference in 1874.
The Russian representative on the First Committee was Colonel Gilinsky, and the propositions for discussion were for the most part presented by him in the name of the Russian Government, and upon him generally devolved the duty of explaining the proposals and of supporting them in the first instance.
By this term was meant the propelling charge of projectiles, as distinguished from the bursting charge. The proposition presented was that which is contained in the second article of the circular, namely: an agreement not to make use of any more powerful powders than those now employed, both for field guns and muskets. There was little discussion on the proposition; in fact, the remarks of the United States Delegate were the only ones made upon the subject, and the proposition was unanimously rejected.
By this term was meant the bursting charges of projectiles. Two propositions were made. The first was not to make use of mining shells (obus brisants on a fougasses) for field artillery. After a short discussion the proposition was decided in the negative by a vote of eleven to ten. The second proposition was not to make use of any new explosives, or of any of the class known as high explosives for the bursting charges of projectiles. This proposition was also, after a short discussion, lost by a vote of twelve to nine.
The proposition on this subject was for the Powers to agree that no field material should be adopted of a model superior to the best material now in use in any country-those countries having inferior material to the best now in use to have the privilege of adopting such best material. During the discussion, which was extended to some length, the question divided itself into two parts, and two votes were taken upon it. The first was as to whether, in case improvements in field artillery should be forbidden, this interdiction should nevertheless permit everybody to adopt the most perfect material now in use anywhere. The vote upon this question was so accompanied by reservations and explanations, that it was impossible to state what the result of it was-the only thing evident being that the question was not entirely understood by the voting delegates. Consequently, a second vote was taken upon the question whether the Powers should agree not to make use, for a fixed period, of any new invention in field artillery. This question was decided in the negative by a unanimous vote, with the exception of Russia and Bulgaria, which abstained from voting. The Russian Delegate, at a later period, explained that his abstention was due to the fact that the question had taken such a form that its decision in the affirmative would have prevented the adoption of rapid fire field guns, which, in the view that these were of an existing type, he desired to retain for his Government the privilege of adopting.
The Sub-Committee first voted a perpetual prohibition of the use of balloons or similar new machines for throwing projectiles or explosives. In the full Committee, this subject was brought up for reconsideration by the United States Delegate and the prohibition was, by unanimous vote, limited to cover a period of five years only. The action taken was for humanitarian reasons alone, and was founded upon the opinion that balloons, as they now exist, form such an uncertain means of injury that they cannot be used with any accuracy; that the persons or objects injured by throwing explosives from them may be entirely disconnected from any conflict which may be in process, and such that their injury or destruction would be of no practical advantage to the party making use of the machines. The limitation of the interdiction of five years' operation preserves liberty of action under changed circumstances which may be produced by the progress of invention.
The proposition presented under this head was that no Power should change their existing type of small arm. It will be observed that this proposition differed from that in regard to field guns, which permitted all Powers to adopt the most perfect material now in existence-the reason for the difference being explained by the Russian delegate to be that, whereas there was a great difference in the excellence of field artillery material in use in different countries, they have all adopted substantially the same musket, and being on an equal footing, the present would be a good time to cease making changes. The object of the proposition was stated to be purely economic. It was explained that the prohibition to adopt a new type of musket would not be intended to prevent the improvement of existing types; whereupon there immediately arose a discussion as to what constituted a type and what improvements might be made without falling under the prohibition of not changing it. Efforts were made to effect a concord of views by specifying details, such as initial velocity, weight of projectile, etc., also by the proposition to limit the time for which the prohibition should hold, but no agreement could be secured. The United States delegate stated early in the discussion, on the attitude of the United States toward questions of this class, that our Government did not consider limitations in regard to the use of military inventions to be conducive to the peace of the world, and for that reason such limitation would in general not be supported by the American Commission.
A separate vote was taken upon the question whether the Powers should agree not to make use of automatic muskets, and as this may be taken as a fair example of the class of improvements which, although they may have reached such a stage as to be fairly before the world, have not yet been adopted by any nation, an analysis of the vote taken upon it may be interesting as showing the attitude of the different Powers in regard to such questions. The States voting in favor of the prohibition were Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Holland, Persia, Russia, Siam, Switzerland, and Bulgaria (nine). Those voting against it were Germany, the United States, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, Italy, Sweden and Norway (six). And those abstaining were France, Japan, Portugal, Roumania, Servia, and Turkey (six.) From this statement it may be seen that none of the great Powers of the world, except Russia, was willing to accept restrictions in regard to military improvements when the question of increase of efficiency was involved, and that one great Power (France) abstained from expressing an opinion upon the subject.
In the Full Committee, after another effort to secure some action in the line of the proposition had failed, it was agreed that the subject should be regarded as open for the future consideration of the different Governments.
A question was also raised as to whether there should be any agreement in regard to the use of new means of destruction, which might possibly have a tendency to come into vogue, such as those depending upon electricity or chemistry. After a short discussion, in which the Russian representative declared his Government to be in favor of prohibiting the use of all such new instrumentalities because of their view that the means of destruction at present employed were quite sufficient, the question was also put aside as one for future consideration on the part of the different Powers.
The United States representative made no objection to these questions being considered as remaining open upon the general ground of not offering opposition to desired freedom of discussion, the attitude of the United States in regard to them having, however, been made known by his statement already given.
This subject gave rise to more active debate and to more decided differences of view than any other considered by the Sub-Committee. A formula was adopted as follows:
The use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as jacketed bullets of which the jacket does not entirely cover the core or has incisions in it, should be forbidden.
When this subject came up in the Full Committee the British representative, Major-General Sir John Ardagh, made a declaration of the position of his Government on the subject, in which he described their Dum Dum bullet as one having a very small portion of the jacket removed from the point, so as to leave uncovered a portion of the core of about the size of a pin-head. He said that this bullet did not expand in such manner as to produce wounds of exceptional cruelty, but that on the contrary the wounds produced by it were in general less severe than those produced by the Snider, Martini-Henry, and other rifles of the period immediately preceding that of the adoption of the present small bore. He ascribed the bad reputation of the Dum Dum bullet to some experiments made at Tubingen in Germany with a bullet from the forward part of which the jacket, to a distance of more than a diameter, was removed. The wounds produced by this bullet were of a frightful character, and the bullets being generally supposed to be similar to the Dum Dum in construction had probably given rise to the unfounded prejudice against the latter.
The United States Representative here for the first time took part in the discussion, advocating the abandonment of the attempt to cover the principle of prohibition of bullets producing unnecessarily cruel wounds by the specification of details of construction of the bullet, and proposing the following formula:
The use of bullets which inflict wounds of useless cruelty, such as explosive bullets and in general every kind of bullet which exceeds the limit necessary for placing a man immediately hors de combat, should be forbidden.
The Committee, however, adhered to the original proposition, which it voted without acting on the substitute submitted.
The action of the Committee having left in an unsatisfactory state the record, which thus stated that the United States had pronounced against a proposition of humanitarian intent, without indicating that our Government not only stood ready to support but also proposed by its representative a formula which was believed to meet the requirements of humanity much better than the one adopted by the Committee, the United States delegate, with the approval of the Commission and in its name proposed to the Conference at its next full session the above-mentioned formula as an amendment to the one submitted to the Conference by the First Committee. In presenting the amendment he stated the objections to the Committee's proposition to be the following: First, that it forbade the use of expanding bullets, notwithstanding the possibility that they might be made to expand in such regular manner as to assume simply the form of a larger caliber, which property it might be necessary to take advantage of, if it should in the future be found desirable to adopt a musket of very much smaller caliber than any now actually in use. Second, that by thus prohibiting what might be the most humane method of increasing the shocking power of a bullet and limiting the prohibition to expanding and flattening bullets, it might lead to the adoption of one of much more cruel character than that prohibited. Third, that it condemned by designed implication, without even the introduction of any evidence against it, the use of a bullet actually employed by the army of a civilized nation.
I was careful not to defend this bullet, of which I stated that I had no knowledge other than that derived from the representations of the delegate of the Power using it, and also to state that the United States had no intention of using any bullet of the prohibited class, being entirely satisfied with the one now employed, which is of the same class as are those in common use.
The original proposition was, however, maintained by the Conference the only negative votes being those of Great Britain and the United States. It may be stated that in taking the vote it was decided to vote first upon the proposition as it came from the Committee, instead of upon the amendment, notwithstanding the strong opposition of the United States and other Powers to this method of procedure as being contrary to ordinary parliamentary usage and preventing an expression of opinion upon the amendment submitted in the name of the United States Commission.
From this report results the advice that, of the two declarations of the Conference originating in the First Sub-Committee of the First Committee, viz: that concerning the use of balloons and that concerning the use of expanding or flattening bullets, the first only be signed by the United States Commission.
The reports of General den Beer Portugael of the work of the Sub-Committee, and of M. de Karnebeek of that of the full First Committee, are hereto annexed and marked respectively "A" and "B."
The Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907
A Series of Lectures Delivered before the Johns Hopkins University in the Year 1908
By James Brown Scott
Technical delegate of the United States to the Second Peace Conference at the Hague
In two Volumes
Volume II - Documents
Baltimore, MD : The Johns Hopkins Press, 1909.