As opposed to this conception of political morality, there has been growing up a belief that states and nations, as well as individuals, must be governed by a code of morals, or a code of international law, as we should more strictly call it.
I believe it cannot be said to be an exaggeration to assert that during the last half century the foremost exponent of the necessity of regulation of international relations by recognized rules of international law has been England, and it is not a mere accident that the immediate cause of England's entrance into the present war was the violation of Belgian neutrality as guaranteed by international treaties.
The Germans delight in frequently speaking of "perfidious Albion". We need not hesitate to concede that perhaps there is no nation on the face of the globe in whose history there are not chapters that nation itself would prefer to have eliminated. But English statesmanship has always been farsighted, and if it is true of morals in the sociological sense that they are an outgrowth of experience as to what is beneficial to mankind, and to the individual, it is equally true that experience is beginning to teach that in international relations injustice ultimately reacts upon the oppressor, and that the spirit of fair play must prevail over the chaotic conditions which have characterized international relations almost to the present day.
Experience is beginning to teach us that this world will continue to present a sorry spectacle unless the rights of all nations are respected, and unless a firm and enforceable code of international morals is built up which will protect the existence and the right to exist and development of all nations.
It is to the credit of English statesmanship that perhaps more than any other it has foreseen the necessity of such an international code, and the necessity of respecting the rights even of small nationalities. In this recognition I believe we must find the secret of the frequent assertions by English statesmen that this war is one for the rights and protection of small nationalities.