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When, in the month of August last, my August Master instructed me to propose to the Governments which have Representatives in St. Petersburg the meeting of a Conference with the object of seeking the most efficacious means for assuring to all peoples the blessings of real and lasting peace, and, above all, in order to put a stop to the progressive development of the present armaments, there appeared to be no obstacle in the way of the realization, at no distant date, of this humanitarian scheme.
The cordial reception accorded by nearly all the Powers to the step taken by the Imperial Government could not fail to strengthen this expectation. While highly appreciating the sympathetic terms in which the adhesions of most of the Powers were expressed, the Imperial Cabinet has been also able to collect, with lively satisfaction, evidence of the warmest approval which has reached it, and continues to be received, from all classes of society in various parts of the globe.
Notwithstanding the strong current of opinion which exists in favor of the ideas of general pacification, the political horizon has recently undergone a decided change. Several Powers have undertaken fresh armaments, striving to increase further their military forces, and in the presence of this uncertain situation, it might be asked whether the Powers considered the present moment opportune for the international discussion of the ideas set forth in the circular of August 12 (24, O.S.).
In the hope, however, that the elements of trouble agitating political centers will soon give place to a calmer disposition of a nature to favor the success of the proposed Conference, the Imperial Government is of opinion that it would be possible to proceed forthwith to a preliminary exchange of ideas between the Powers, with the object:
(a) Of seeking without delay means for putting a limit to the progressive increase of military and naval armaments, a question the solution of which becomes evidently more and more urgent in view of the fresh extension given to these armaments; and
(b) Of preparing the way for a discussion of the questions relating to the possibility of preventing armed conflicts by the pacific means at the disposal of international diplomacy.
In the event of the Powers considering the present moment favorable for the meeting of a Conference on these bases it would certainly be useful for the Cabinets to come to an understanding on the subject of the programme of their labors.
The subjects to be submitted for international discussion at the Conference could, in general terms, be summarized as follows:
1. An understanding not to increase for a fixed period the present effective of the armed military and naval forces, and at the same time not to increase the Budgets pertaining thereto; and a preliminary examination of the means by which a reduction might even be effected in future in the forces and Budgets above mentioned.
2. To prohibit the use in the armies and fleets of any new kind of firearms whatever, and of new explosives, or any powders more powerful than those now in use, either for rifles or cannon.
3. To restrict the use in military warfare of the formidable explosives already existing, and to prohibit the throwing of projectiles or explosives of any kind from balloons or by any similar means.
4. To prohibit the use, in naval warfare, of submarine torpedo boats or plungers, or other similar engines of destruction; to give an undertaking not to construct, in the future, vessels with rams.
6. To neutralize ships and boats employed in saving those overboard during or after an engagement.
7. To revise the Declaration concerning the laws and customs of war elaborated in 1874 by the Conference of Brussels, which has remained unratified to the present day.
8. To accept in principle the employment of good offices, of mediation and facultative arbitration in cases lending them selves thereto, with the object of preventing armed conflicts between nations; to come to an understanding with respect to the mode of applying these good offices, and to establish a uniform practice in using them.
It is well understood that all questions concerning the political relations of States, and the order of things established by Treaties, as in general all questions which do not directly fall within the program adopted by the Cabinets, must be absolutely excluded from the deliberations of the Conference.
In requesting you, Sir, to be good enough to apply to your Government for instructions on the subject of my present communication, I beg you at the same time to inform it that, in the interest of the great cause which my August Master has so much at heart, His Imperial Majesty considers it advisable that the Conference should not sit in the capital of one of the Great Powers, where so many political interests are centered, which might, perhaps, impede the progress of a work in which all the countries of the universe are equally interested.
I have, etc.,
[Signed] COMTE MOURAVIEFF.
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.