Influence of Public Opinion on International Law in the Nineteenth Century
AbstractThis article examines the influence of public opinion on international law in the nineteenth century. The author argues that although the nineteenth century was dominated by imperialism and state interests, public opinion played an important role. The article first examines the Vienna Congress in 1815, where European representatives made a declaration condemning the slave trade. It then moves to 1864, when some European nations agreed at Geneva on a convention for humanitarian relief of war victims. Finally it looks at the Berlin Conference of 1885, where European representatives guaranteed African people freedom of conscience and religious toleration in the Berlin Final Act of 1885. The author argues that each of these cases demonstrate circumstances in which it was possible for public opinion to influence the shaping of international documents binding upon sovereign states and concludes that although public opinion does not dominate international politics, it may play a minor influential role in the shaping of international norms. He concludes that historical analysis of these three cases provides lessons for our time and the future.
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