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A Pioneer in 
International Arbitration 



Professor of Modern Languages^ Roanoke College 

Salenty Virginia 

Reprinted from 

The Sswanes Rkvikw 

for April, 1907 


Printed at The University Press of 
Sewanee Tennessee 




A Pioneer in 
International Arbitration 

AT the present time when the Hague Tribunal is steadily 

r^ growing in dignity and authority and when the man who 

makes peace between two great warring nations is justly 

acclaimed a benefaflor of the human race, one should not forget 

the career of a man to whose untiring zeal was largely due the 

first signal achievement in international arbitration. 

Thomas Balch, son of Lewis P. W. Balch, was born at Lees- 
burg, Loudoun County, Virginia, on July 23, 1821, and it was 
in this county seat that he received his early education. He 
studied at Columbia College and later read law in the office of 
Mr. Stephen Cambreleng, of New York. He was admitted to 
the New York bar in 1845, to the bar of the Supreme Court of 
Pennsylvania in 1849, ^uid the bar of the Supreme Court of the 
United States in 1855. In 1852 he married Emily, daughter of 
Joseph Swift, of Philadelphia, and from this period he devoted 
himself to the interests of his adopted city as well as to those of 
a wider public. 

In 1859, Mr. Balch went to Europe where he traveled exten- 
sively, making the acquaintance of many distinguished states- 
men, political economists, and literary men. He was well ac- 
quainted with Guizot, the historian and premier of Louis 
Philippe, Michel Chevalier, the economist, James Lorimer of 
Edinburgh, and Prevost-Paradol, the journalist and author of 
La France Nouvelle, Making his headquarters at Paris, he de- 
voted himself to colle<5Hng material for a work which had long 
engaged his attention. This was the history of the part taken 
by France in the Revolutionary War. Although completed in 


A Pioneer in International Arbitration 

1870, this work, owing to the Franco-Prussian War, was not 
published until 1872, and then only in part It was entitled Les 
Fran fats en Amirique pendant la Guerre de V Ind^pendance des 
EtatS' Unis. This first volume was subsequently translated into 
English by his son, Thomas Willing Balch, and was published 
in Philadelphia in 189 1. 

While engaged in these researches, Mr. Balch found occasion 
to visit America. His sojourn in France and his intercourse 
with Englishmen caused him fully to appreciate the seriousness 
of the difficulties growing out of the Alabama claims. The 
strained relations between the United States and Great Britain 
in the latter part of the Civil War were to him a cause of solici- 
tude. In November, 1864, while Grant and Lee were facing 
each other before Richmond, he visited President Lincoln for 
the purpose of urging that the quarrel caused by the Alabama 
depredations be settled by arbitration. Mr. Lincoln replied that 
"the idea was a good one in the abstraft but that in the 'then 
temper of the American people it was neither possible nor pop- 
ular." And then in his charafteristic manner he added: "We 
are not near enough to the millenium for such methods of set- 
tling international quarrels." 

This answer, though explicit and pointed, did not prevent him 
from continuing the advocacy of his idea in the face of repeated 
rebuffs. At last, taking advantage of the softened feelings in 
the North which followed the surrender at Appomattox, he 
wrote a letter which Mr. Greeley published in the New York 
Tribune of May 13, 1865. This letter not only urged that the 
Alabama claims be settled by international arbitration but at 
the same time laid down the code of rules which were later ob- 
served, with slight modification, by the Geneva Tribunal. Sec- 
tions III and IV of these rules indicated a method of procedure 
which was followed in the Treaty of Washington, May 8, 1871, 
which referred the question in dispute to a tribunal of five arbi- 


A Pioneer in International Arbitration 

trators instead of three, as Mr. Balch had suggested. These 
se<5Hons are as follows : 

III. That as to such claims, war was a barbarous manner of 
enforcing them ; that the most successful war would after all be 
a most expensive and unsatisfaftory process of litigation ; and 
that the civilized and Christian way of ascertaining their validity 
and extent should be by arbitration. 

IV. That the best manner of composing such a Court of Ar- 
bitration would be, that each party should seleft some compe- 
tent jurist, those two to seleft an umpire. The claims to be 
presented, proved and argued before this Court, whose decisions 
should be final and without appeal. 

The temper of the American public was still too embittered 
for this suggestion to be adopted immediately. Nevertheless, 
the idea did not perish. The British statesman and political 
economist, Richard Cobden, who was a friend of Thomas Balch, 
had already endorsed it, but his support was cut off by his death 
April 2, 1865. Still it continued to gain adherents. The letter 
originally published in the Tribune was reprinted in England in 
Social Science of March 15, 1 867. The Courrier du DimanchCy 
through M. Prevost-Paradol, and the Journal des Debats lent as- 
sistance to the cause in France. But the most powerful support 
was received from a lefture by James Lorimer, professor of pub- 
lic law and the law of nations in the University of Edinburgh. 
After this the idea grew until it found concrete expression in the 
Geneva Tribunal, but it was due to Mr. Greeley that it was not 
suffered to die at its birth. 

It was due in large measure to the peaceful acceptance of the 
decision of the Geneva Tribunal that the principle of arbitration 
has since then been successfully applied to the settlement of 
other disputes and tliat it has been possible to establish at The 
Hague a permanent international tribunal, ** whose decisions 
should be final and without appeal.*' 


A Pioneer in International Arbitration 

It is true that The Hague Tribunal was suggested as early as 
1623 by Emeric Cruce, who pointed out Venice as a good loca- 
tion, and that his contemporary Grotius and subsequently Castel 
de Saint- Pierre, Kant, and Bentham, also advocated the idea of 
international arbitration. But until the well-timed, specific 
suggestion of Thomas Balch, it had remained purely a theoretic 
question, one that would do for philosophers to speculate over 
and for peace-lovers to dream about Such in fa6l was the atti- 
tude of Mr. Lincoln. All the greater honor is therefore due to 
the man who, perceiving its practicability, persisted in advocat- 
ing it, with the result that his ideas are obtaining wider and 
wider acceptance at the present day as the correft method of 
settling international disputes.