The Principles of International Law

Jeremy Bentham

Essay 1, Footnote #01
New Discoveries and War

In modern times, one of the most fruitful sources of war has been the limits of new discoveries. They have sometimes been traced by common agreement:---but this has seldom happened till after wars or discontents which have sown the seeds of wars. It would be better to undertake such labours in cool blood and to make previous arrangements with regard to possible discoveries without waiting till they are made. It was thus that a pope once thought, with a mathematical line, to have for ever crushed the seeds of future wars. This was not ill-imagined at a time when the earth ras flat and the servant of servants was the ruler of kings. Since that time the earth has become round, and the power of the triple crown is somewhat retrenched. Still, however, that demarcation is not the less good as a lesson, how defective soever it may be as a law. The difficulty would be to trace such limits as should agree with objects which have not been seen. An island, for example: in what case ought the whole of it to belong to those who first discovered it and when to many others who have equally touched at it? Ought it to belong to him who first saw it without entering it,---to him who first entered it,---or to him who first went round it? How shall an island in every case be distinguished from a part of a continent, or even from an entire continent, which may be very extensive? And when it respects a discovered continent, to what distance shall the right of possession extend? shall it be the space inclosed by the sea, the two nearest navigable rivers, and the high ground in which these rivers take their rise? What depth shall constitute a navigable river? &c. In these points may be seen a crowd of questions sufficiently difficult of resolution.

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PIL, Essay 1 Objects of International Law.