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The Den Haag Peace Conference 1899-1900 as portrayed in Punch

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Lee, Jin Hyuck
Term Paper, AP European History Class, May 2008

Table of Contents
I. Introduction
II. Background
III. Agreements and Declarations
III.1 First Section : Pacific Settlements of International Disputes
III.2 Second Section : Laws and Customs of War on Land
III.3 Third Section : Adaptation to Maritime Warfare of Principles of the Geneva Convention of 1864
III.4 Fourth Section : Prohibiting Launching of Projectiles and Explosives from Balloons
III.5 Three Declarations
IV. Criticism by Punch
IV.1 Philippine-American War
IV.2 Baron de Staal
V Conclusion

I. Introduction
            Den Haag in English is often refered to as "The Hague", actually it is short for 's-Gravenshage. Placenames should not be translated.
            This paper will analyze how Punch portrayed the Den Haag Peace Conference 1899-1900 (or "The Hague Convention"). There are two pictures in Punch that depict the Den Haag Convention., each on page 99 and 109. Through these pictures, we will find out what the Den Haag Convention of 1899 was and how Punch viewed the convention.
            The paper is divided into two parts. The first part will provide detailed information about the Den Haag Convention of 1899. The second part will analyze how Punch viewed the convention.

II. Background
            The end of the 19th century was the era of imperialism. Numerous countries strove to establish an 'empire'. As one way to establish a powerful empire, many European countries focused on acquiring colonies, especially in the continent of Africa and Middle East. Having the powerful army was crucial, in order to protect its colonies and establish new colonies. As a result, excessive increase in the investment on forming the powerful army ensued, letting European countries to fall into the fear of military conflicts.
            Nicholas II, the Czar of Russia, suggested to hold a peaceful conference , "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" (1).. Moreover, through the conference, Nicholas wanted to "revise the declaration concerning the laws and customs of war elaborated in 1874 by the Conference of Brussels, and not yet ratified" (2).

III. Agreements and Declarations
            The First Peace Conference was held from May 18. The Den Haag Convention of 1899 consisted of four main sections and three additional declarations.

III.1 First Section : Pacific Settlement of International Disputes
            Being the first and longest section of the Den Haag Convention, Pacific Settlement of International Disputes try to settle the relationship among countries peacefully. In the introduction, it says :

     *      Animated by a strong desire to concert for the maintenance of the general peace
     *      Resolved to second by their best efforts the friendly settlement of international disputes
     *      Recognizing the solidarity which unites the members of the society of civilized nations;
     *      Desirous of extending the empire of law, and of strengthening the appreciation of international justice;
     *      Convinced that the permanent institution of a Court of Arbitration, accessible to all, in the midst of the independent Powers, will contribute effectively to this result;
     *      Having regard to the advantages attending the general and regular organization of arbitral procedure;
     *      Sharing the opinion of the august Initiator of the International Peace Conference that it is expedient to record in an international Agreement the principles of equity and right on which are based the security of States and the welfare of peoples

Of 61 articles that consist this section, the Article 20 to 29 created Permanent Court of Arbitration, or PCA. The PCA is not a court in the conventional understanding of that term, but an administrative organization with the object of having permanent and readily available means to serve as the registry for purposes of international arbitration and other related procedures, including commissions of enquiry and conciliation. In short, it is a permanent framework available to assist temporary arbitral tribunals or commissions.

III.2 Second Section : Laws and Customs of War on Land
            The second section of the Convention, Laws and Customs of War on Land adopted a great number of provisions, the object of which is to define and govern the usages of war on land. This is consisted of 5 articles of convention, and 60 articles that annex to convention. Some important articles include:

     *      The population of a territory which has not been occupied who, on the enemy's approach, spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading troops without having time to organize themselves in accordance with Article 1, shall be regarded a belligerent, if they respect the laws and customs of war.
     *      Prisoners of war shall be subject to the laws, regulations, and orders in force in the army of the State into whose hands they have fallen
     *      Individuals who follow an army without directly belonging to it, such as newspaper correspondents and reporters, sutlers, contractors, who fall into the enemy's hands, and whom the latter think fit to detain, have a right to be treated as prisoners of war, provided they can produce a certificate from the military authorities of the army they were accompanying.

III.3 Third Section : Adaptation to Maritime Warfare of Principles of the Geneva Convention of 1864 (3)
            This third section of the convention consists of 14 articles, and manifests its objective as "Alike animated by the desire to diminish, as far as depends on them the evils inseparable from warfare, and wishing with this object to adapt to maritime warfare the principles of the Geneva Convention of the 22nd August, 1864, 2 have decided to conclude a convention to this effect:" Some of the important articles include:

     *      Military hospital ships, that is to say, ships constructed or assigned by States specially and solely for the purpose of assisting the wounded, sick or shipwrecked, and the names of which shall have been communicated to the belligerent Powers at the beginning or during the course of hostilities, and in any case before they are employed, shall be respected and cannot be captured while hostilities last. These ships, moreover, are not on the same footing as men-of-war as regards their stay in a neutral port.
     *      Neutral merchantmen, yachts, or vessels, having, or taking on board, sick, wounded, or shipwrecked of the belligerents, cannot be captured for so doing, but they are liable to capture for any violation of neutrality they may have committed.
 :    *  :    Sailors and soldiers who are taken on board when sick or wounded, to whatever nation they belong, shall be protected and looked after by the captors

III.4 Fourth Section : Prohibiting Launching of Projectiles and Explosives from Balloons
            As the last section of the convention, its objective is to prohibit, for a term of five years, the launching of projectiles and explosives from balloons, or by other new methods of similar nature.

III.5 Three Declarations
            The Convention also includes three declarations. The first is On the Launching of Projectiles and Explosives from Balloons. As already mentioned in the fourth section, Prohibiting Launching of Projectiles and Explosives from Balloons, the declaration prohibits the launching of projectiles and explosives from balloons. The second declarations is On the Use of Projectiles the Object of Which is the Diffusion of Asphyxiating or Deleterious Gases. The Contracting Powers agree to abstain from the use of projectiles the object of which is the diffusion of asphyxiating or deleterious gases. In the third declaration, namely On the Use of Bullets Which Expand or Flatten Easily in the Human Body, the contracting parties agree to abstain from the use of bullets which expand or flatten easily in the human body, such as bullets with a hard envelope which does not entirely cover the core, or is pierced with incisions.

IV. Criticism by Punch
            Although it is true that Hague Convention pursued peace through various agreements and declarations, there were certainly some loopholes that made it difficult to be referred as a complete success. The Punch criticizes the convention in two aspects. First, it did not stop the ongoing Philippine-American war, which produced tens of thousands of casualties. Next, it was a concert of Russia; it dominated the conference.

IV.1 The Philippine-American War
            In May, 1899, when the peace conference was held in Den Haag to pursue peace, ironically, a military conflict between the United States and the Philippines was going on. After Spanish-American War (4) with Spain, the United States was ceded the possession of Philippines according to the Treaty of Paris (5) . The United States saw the economic and military importance of the islands, but they had trouble convincing Philippines of the benefits of annexation. On February 4, 1899, the first shots of the Philippine-American War were fired.
            The Philippine-American War was brutal. In the Philippine-American War, brutality reached a level unprecedented in American history. Americans fighting in the Philippines treated their enemy with none of the civility that generally characterized wars against European opponents. For example, Jacob H. Smith (6) said, "I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better it will please me...Kill everyone over the age of ten". In the official war years, 4,196 American soldiers died, 1,020 of which were from actual combat; the remainder died of disease, and 2,930 were wounded. There were also 2,000 casualties that the Philippine Constabulary (7) suffered during the war, over one thousand of which were fatalities. Philippine military deaths are estimated at 20,000 with 16,000 actually counted, while civilian deaths numbered between 250,000 and 1,000,000 Filipinos. These numbers take into account those killed by war, malnutrition, and a cholera epidemic that raged during the war. The Philippine-American War Centennial Initiative gives an estimate of 510,000 civilian deaths, and 20,000 military deaths. The American military and Philippine Constabulary still suffered periodic losses combating small bands of Moro guerrillas in the far south until 1913.

Fig. 1 : Punch Vol.116 p.254 May 31 1899                                        Fig.1a : detail                                       

            While the Den Haag Conference pursued peace, ironically, a brutal war was going on between the United States and the Philippines. The Den Haag Convention could not help stop the severe massacre going on in Philippine because the Convention was 'only binding on the Contracting Powers in case of war between two or more of them' (8). The Angel of Peace (Punch page 99) says, "I wish I could stop to settle that affair, but I've a pressing appointment at the Hague". It is possible to infer that Punch viewed the Den Haag Convention rather sarcastically; the peace was only in name, but the convention did not actually contribute to stopping the war between the U.S. and the Philippines.

Fig. 2 : Punch Vol.117 p.62 August 9 1899                                                                  Fig.2a : detail                                       

IV.2 Baron de Staal
            The person who is portrayed smiling on page 109 of Punch is Baron de Staal, who was ambassador of Russia, and also took office of the president of the Den Haag Conference. Here is part of his inauguration address:

            "If the Emperor of Russia has taken the initiative for the meeting of this Conference, we owe it to Her Majesty, the Queen of the Netherlands, that we have called together in her capital . . . We have under our eyes a striking example of what may by done for the welfare of peoples by valor, patriotism, and sustained energy . . . As for myself, I cannot consider the election which has been conferred upon me otherwise than as a result of my being a plenipotentiary of the Emperor, my Master - the august initiator of the idea of the Conference . . . The proposition contained in the Russian circular is the most eloquent testimony of the unanimity which peaceful ideas have attained . . ."

            It is possible to infer that de Staal tried to emphasize the role of Russia in his address. From views of other nations which attended the Conference, the prominent role of Russia could be offending. Punch also seems to view Russia rather negatively. The picture on page 109 satirizes the domination of Russia in the Hague Conference by showing emblem of Russia, the two-headed eagle with a crown. Moreover, referring to de Staal as an 'actor' also implies that Punch thinks he rather 'showed off' than actually trying to settle the peace among nations.

V. Conclusion
            The First Peace Hague Conference was held from May 18 and signed on July 29, 1899 and entered into force on September 4, 1900. It tried to build up peace among countries, and also tried to minimize the victims and crimes due to war by stating peaceful treaties.
            The fact that the Hague Conference was an attempt to advance towards the peace was undeniable. However, whether it contributed to the actual peace was questionable. As Punch points out, Hague Convention failed to cease the ongoing brutality in the archipelago of the Philippines, which took away lives of hundreds of thousands of people.. Punch also satirizes that Russia, rather than settling peace among countries, tried to show off its power by dominating the conference.


(1)      Russian note of 30 December 1898/11 January 1899
(2)      ibid.
(3)      Geneva Convention covers the treatment of battlefield casualties and was adopted in 1864 as part of the establishment of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
(4)      The Spanish American War was a military conflict between Spain and the United States from April 25 to August 12, 1898
(5)      The Treaty of Paris of 1898, signed on December 10, 1898, ended the Spanish-American War.
(6)      Jacob Hurd Smith (1840-March 1, 1918) was a controversial United States Army officer, notorious for his orders to "kill everyone over the age of ten" and make the island "a howling wilderness
(7)      The Philippine Constabulary (PC) was the oldest of the nations four armed forces, and one of two national police forces of the Philippines.
(8)      Excerpted from Declaration I from the Hague Convention of 1899.


Primary Sources
Punch Cartoon Library, in an email dated June 2nd 2008, was so generous to permit the usage of Punch cartoons in students' papers as this one. Punch Cartoon Library does offer full-size decorative prints of individual cartoons for sale.
Punch, or the London Charivari, Vol.116 p.254 May 31 1899 (figures 1, 1a)
Punch, or the London Charivari, Vol.117 p.62 August 9 1899 (figures 2, 2a)

Secondary Sources
Note : websites quoted below were visited in May 2008.
1.      Article " "Hague Convention", from. Wikipedia. 24 May. 2008,
2.      Article "Spanish-American War", from Wikipedia
3.      Article "Philippine-American War", from Wikipedia
4.      Article "Geneva Conventions", from Wikipedia
5.      Article "Permanent Court of Arbitration", from Wikipedia
6.      "Hague Convention 1899", from International Humanitarian Law,,
7.      "Peace Conference at Hague 1899" from Avalon Project at Yale Law School
8.      "The Philippine-American War 1899-1902", from Filipino-Americans,
9.      "Hague Convention", from Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, 30 May 2008,
10.      D. Schindler and J. Toman The Laws of Armed Conflicts, Martinus Nihjoff Publisher, 1988
11.      Arthur Eyffinger The 1899 Hague Peace Conference: "the Parliament of Man, the Federation", Martinus Nihjoff Publisher, 1999
12.      William Holls The Peace Conference at the Hague Elibron Classics, 1914

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