1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Suzerainty

SUZERAINTY. “Suzerain,” a term of feudal law, is now used to describe persons or states in positions of superiority to others. Definitions. Its etymology, according to Professor W. W. Skeat (Etymological Dictionary), is as follows: “A coined word; made from French sus, Latin susum or sursum, above, in the same way as sovereign is made from Latin super; it corresponds to a Low Latin type suseranus.” Another form of the word is souseran (F. Godefroy, De l’Ancienne langue française). Suzerain has been defined as “Qui possède un fief dont d'autres fiefs relèvent” (Littrê and Dictionnaire de l'académie française). C. Loyseau, in his Traité des seigneuries (3rd ed., 1610, p. 14), explains that there are two kinds of public seigneuries, that is, sovereign seigneurs, possessing summum imperium, and suzerains, “Les suzeraines sont celles qui ont puissance supérieure mais non suprème.” Elsewhere he says that suzerainty is a form of public seigneuries which has been “usurpée par les particuliers pour laquelle exprimer il nous a fallu forger un mot exprés, et l'appeller suzeraineté, mot qui est aussi étrange comme celle espèce de seigneuries est absurde” (p. 11). Loyseau adds, “Seigneurie suzeraine est dignité d'un fief ayant justice” (p. 38). Bousquet (Nouveau dictionnaire de droit) defines suzerain as “supérieur, celui dont un fief relevait”; Rogulau (Glossaire dti droit français), “supérieur en quelque charge ou dignité autre que le roy.” The name does not occur in the Consuetudines feudorum, or in Hotoman's De verbis feudalibus commentarius. It was rare in feudal times in England. But it was used in France to describe a feudal lord, the supreme suzerain being the king. Merlin, under suzeraineté, shows that the word was not used by all feudal writers in the same sense. (See also Chas. Butler's note to Coke on Litt. 191 a.)

In modern times the term has come to be used as descriptive of relations, ill-defined and vague, which exist between powerful Modern Usage. and dependent states; its very indefiniteness being its recommendation. According to feudal law the vassal owed certain duties to the lord; he promised fidelity and service; and the lord was bound to perform reciprocal duties, not very clearly defined, to the vassal—Dominus vassallo conjux el amicus dicitur. The relation between a lord and his vassals, implied in the oath of fealty, has been extended to states of unequal power; it has been found convenient to designate certain states as vassal states, and their superiors as suzerains. Originally and properly applicable to a status recognized by feudalism, the term vassal state has been used to describe the subordinate position of certain states once parts of the Ottoman Empire, and still loosely con- nected therewith. Such are Egypt and Bulgaria. Rumania, Servia and Montenegro, once vassal states, may now be regarded as independent. The relations of these states to the Ottoman Porte are very varied. Egypt has been variously described as a vassal state or as a protectorate. But all of these pay tribute to the sultan, or in some way acknowledge his supremacy (Emanuel Ullmann, Völkerrecht, § 16); M. de Martens (Traité de droit international, 1883, i. 333 n.) thus defines the term: " La suzeraineté est la souveraineté limitée exercée par le pouvoir supréme d'un état sur un gouvernment mi-souverain," a definition applicable to protectorates, with which it is often confounded. Thus Mommsen (History of Rome) indiscriminately describes the supremacy of Rome over Armenia as " suzerainty " or " protectorate." To illustrate the vague use of the word in modern diplomacy may be quoted the description of suzerainty given by Lord Kimberley, which Mr Chamberlain in the correspondence as to South Africa mentioned with approval: " Superiority over a state possessing independent rights of government subject to reservations with reference to certain specified matters " (1899 [C. 9057], p. 28).

M. Gairal (Le Protectorat international) distinguishes suzerainty from protectorate in these respects: (a) suzerainty proceeds Protecto-
rate and
from a concession on the part of the suzerain (p. 112); (b) the vassal state is bound to perform specific services; and (c) the vassal state has larger powers of action than those belonging to a protected state; (d) there is reciprocity of obligation. According to M. F. Despagnet the term suzerain is applicable to a case in which a state concedes a fief, in virtue of its sovereignty (Essai sur le protectorat international, p. 46), reserving to itself certain rights as the author of this concession.

Another writer draws these distinctions: (a) a state connected by protectorship with another previously enjoyed autonomy; the vassal state did not; (b) the protected state retains its nationality and its internal administration; the vassal state acquires a distinct nationality; (c) the establishment of a protectorate modifies few of the institutions of the protectorate state except as to foreign relations; the establishment of a suzerainty changes the institutions of the vassal state; (d) the protected state exercises its internal sovereignty à peu près pleinement; the vassal state remains subordinate in several respects; (e) while the protected state has the right to be assisted in case of war by the protecting state, but is not bound to defend the latter, the vassal state is bound to aid its suzerain (Tchomacoff, De la Souveraineté, p. 53). See also Hachenburger, De la Nature juridique du protectorat.

W. E. Hall thus defines vassal states: " States under the suzerainty of others are portions of the latter which during a process of gradual disruption or by the grace of the sovereign have acquired certain of the powers of an independent community, such as that of making commercial conventions, or of conferring their exequatur on foreign consuls. Their position differs from that of the foregoing varieties of states (protectorates, &c), in that a presumption exists against the possession by them of any given international capacity (International Law, 4th ed., p. 31).

Another suggested distinction is this: Suzerainty is title without corresponding power; protectorate is power without corresponding title (Professor Freund, Political Science Quarterly, 1899, p. 28).

On the whole, usage seems to favour this distinction: while a protectorate flows from, or is a reduction of, the sovereignty of the protected state, suzerainty is conceived as derived from, and a reduction of, the sovereignty of the dominant state.

As to the power of making treaties, a vassal state cannot, as a rule, conclude them; such power does not exist unless it is specially given. On the other hand, a protected state, unless the contrary is stipulated, retains the power of concluding treaties (Bry, p. 294).

It is sometimes said that a protected state, unlike a vassal state, has the right of sending representatives to foreign states. But such distinctions are of doubtful value: the facts of each case must be considered (Ullmann, § 26).

There is one practical difference between the two relations: while the protecting and protected states tend to draw nearer, the reverse is true of the suzerain and vassal states; a protectorate is generally the preliminary to incorporation, suzerainty to separation. Sometimes it is said that the territory of the vassal state forms part of the territory of the suzerain; a proposition which is true for some purposes, but not for all.

All definitions of suzerainty are of little use. Each instrument in, which the word is used must be studied in order to ascertain its significance. Even in feudal times suzerainty might be merely nominal, an instance in point being the suzerainty or over-lordship of the papacy over Naples. In some cases it may be said that suzerainty brings no practical advantages and implies no serious obligations. Among the instances in which the term is actually used in treaties are these: the General Treaty, Peace of Paris, 1856 (arts. 21 and 22), recognizedInstances of
the suzerainty of Turkey over the Danubian principalities Moldavia and Wallachia, modifying the " sovereignty " of Turkey recognized by the Treaty of Adrianople. " Les principautes de Valachie et de Moldavia continueront a jouir, sous la suzeraineté de la Porte et sous la garantie des Puissances contractantes, des privilèges et des immunités dont elles sont en possession." The convention of the 19th of August 1858 (Hertslet x. 1052) organized the then principalities " under the suzerainty of the sultan " (art. 1). The internal government was to be exercised by a hospodar, who received his investiture from the sultan, the sign of vassalship, it has been said (Tchomacoff p. 45). The autonomy of these vassal states has been fully recognized by the Treaty of Berlin of 1878 (art. 1). In the Interpretation Act, 1889, s. 18 (5), " suzerainty " is used to describe the authority of the sovereign over native princes.

The word suzerain is used in the Pretoria convention of the 3rd of August 1881 between the British government and the late South African Republic. The convention (by its preamble) granted to the inhabitants complete self-government, " subject to the suzerainty of her Majesty," and this suzerainty was reaffirmed in the articles. Even when the convention was being negotiated doubts arose as to its meaning, and legal authorities were divided as to its effect (see speech of Lord Cairns, Hansard, 269, p. 261; Lord Selborne, 260, p. 309; answer of attorney-general 260, 1534). It was doubtful whether territory could be ceded by the Crown of its own authority; and if the power existed the cession could, it was said, be made only by virtue of clear words. From the articles substituted in the London convention of the 27th of February 1884 for those of 1881, the word "suzerainty" was omitted. Fresh doubts arose as to the effect of this omission; and a correspondence on the subject took place between the British government and the government of the republic before the outbreak of hostilities in South Africa, the former maintaining that the preamble of 1881, by which alone any self-government was granted, was still in force, and therefore that the suzerainty—whatever it involved—remained; the Transvaal government, on the other hand, contending that the suzerainty had been abolished by the substitution of the 1884 convention for that of 1881. Writers on international law differ greatly as to the exact position of the South African republic under the later convention. Some considered it an independent sovereign state. Mr Taylor (A Treatise of International Public Law, p. 174) treats the Transvaal after the convention of 1884 as a "neutralized state only part sovereign." Other writers describe the relation as that of a protectorate (see Professor J. Westlake, Revue de droit international, 1896, p. 268 seq.; International Law, pt. 1, p. 27). Professor de Louter defines it as "une servitude du droit des gens (servitus juris gentium), et qui differe de la servitude du droit privé en ce qu'elle ne constitue pas un droit réel (jus in re aliena) mais un droit entre deux personnes de droit international (subjecta juris gentium)" (Revue de droit international, 1899, p. 330). Dr F. Von Liszt (Das Völkerrecht, p. 331) treats the South African republic as an example of a half sovereign state. M. Gairal describes it as a vassal state. Probably the soundest opinion is that the British Crown reserved no other rights than those expressly stated in the convention of 1884.

See Stubbs, "Suzerainty, or the Rights and Duties of Suzerain and Vassal States" (1882), Revue de droit international (1896), pp. 39, 278; Westlake, "L'Angleterre et la republique sud-africaine," Revue de droit international (1896), p. 268; Bornhak, Einseitige Abhangigkeitsverhältnisse unter den modernen Staaten (1896); Ullmann, Völkerrecht (1908), p. 25; Tchomacoff, De la Souveraineté (1901); Jellinek, Die Lehre von den Staatenverbindungen (1882); Correspondence Relating to South African Republic (1890) [C. 9507]; Law Magazine (1900), p. 413; Law Quarterly Review (1896), p. 122; Journal of Comparative Legislation, new series, vol. i. p. 432; Merignhac, Droit public international (1905), p. 204.

(J. M.)