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The term “Diplomacy” is one of recent origin—a word not known to Johnson, and not to be found in the 5th Edition of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica,' published in 1817, nor indeed, as the writer believes, in
any dictionary or encyclopædia published earlier than half a century ago. It is of Greek origin, derived from the word “diploma,” which means a letter or epistle doubled up, and not open. It therefore implies duplicity, and secrecy, and is sig. nificantly applicable to the vicious practice in the conduct of State affairs, which has sprung up of modern times, as contradistinguished from the more constitutional mode of procedure which formerly obtained.
The unfortunate and undignified perplexities in which we have been involved in connection with the recent Washington Treaty, and the Alabama Claims raised under it, following upon so many miscarriages in State policy which have occurred within the memory of the present generation, have, to use a homely phrase, put this same Diplomacy "upon its trial,” and challenged public opinion as to whether our foreign relations are conducted altogether wisely
and for the well-being of the country, or whether, on the contrary, there may not be something radically wrong in a system which deeply affects the vital interests of the country, involving, it is possible, heavy sacrifices of blood and treasure, or prejudicing its most important social and commercial interests, without its having any consultative, much less a controlling, voice in the matter.
Does it not seem in the highest degree inconsistent, that a people who claim the right of exercising, through their representatives, a summary judgment on all matters of domestic policy, from the regulation of the succession to the crown down to the merest parish road bill, should have no deliberative authority in matters which concern the territorial and other material interests of the country, and its honour before the world;
its very position as a great nation? Does it not seem in the last degree absurd, that the crown should have the barren privilege of declaring war, when it cannot put a soldier afoot, or a ship afloat, without the previous sanction of Parliament ? Is it to be tolerated that the country, having made the necessary provisions for carrying on a war, having made heavy sacrifices for it in purse and person, should see it brought to a close by an ignominious or unmeaning Treaty of Peace, in which, mayhap, none of the objects with which the war was undertaken, are duly considered, at the mere will and pleasure of the Sovereign and his advisers for the time being, without the opportunity of interposing a word of remonstrance, or even of suggestion or opinion on the subject ?
An impartial judgment unfettered by party trammels, or the prejudices of routine, can only answer these propositions in the affirmative. And yet, whilst all other questions of administrative practice have been, and are habitually made the subject of jealous and painstaking scrutiny, there has, as yet, been no attempt at reform in a department of Government which, it is no exaggeration to say, transcends all others in magnitude and import
In justification of the last portion of the above remarks, it may be observed that in matters of internal policy, and notably in the imposition of taxes, a false step on the part of the executive is immediately controllable by Parliament, and may be remedied before any ill consequences have occurred : thus, a proposed tax on matches, for instance, was withdrawn, and the desiderated amount made up by imposing an additional penny on the income tax ; whereas an error in foreign policy, whether it be of war, or peace, or other diplomatic arrangement, involving, perhaps, thousands of lives, millions of treasure, or the dearest sovereign rights of the State, is irrevocable, and without remedy, until it has run its course.
The object of the writer of the following pages is to show that the people of this country have a constitutional right, through their representatives, to know and control what is being done in their name, and on their behalf, and in respect of which they are to be responsible in their lives, their property, and their honour; and that the practice of secrecy, under a pretended prerogative of the
crown, in inatters of peace, war, and alliances, is mischievous and untenable, repugnant alike to reason and to the old and recognized principles of the constitution of this, and other nations of Europe.
Whilst the first part of this work will be devoted to the advocacy of the general principle as to the right and duty of Parliament to advise and control the crown in matters of state policy, supported by reference to authority, and historical precedent; the second part will illustrate the mischiefs which have crept up in modern times through a neglect of that wholesome constitutional practice, by a copious analytical scrutiny of the recent Treaty of Washington and the negociations which preceded and followed it, the latter being continued down to the date of the adjournment of the Tribunal of Arbitration at Geneva, on the 28th June.
If, in the course of the latter portion of these pages, there should appear occasional repetitions, and somewhat of irregularity in the order and method of treatment of the different subjects, the reader is requested to make kind allowance for it, in consideration of the circumstance that the work has necessarily been written during the fluctuating progress of the events to which it refers.
June 29th, 1872.