Monday, March 29, 2010

Janis, America and the Law of Nations, 1776-1939

Steven Wilf, Joel Barlow Professor of Law at the University of Connecticut Law School, sends news of a new book by Mark Weston Janis, America and the Law of Nations 1776-1939. From Steven:
Oxford University Press has just published a new book by Mark Weston Janis of the University of Connecticut Law School, America and the Law of Nations 1776-1939. The book traces the complex, ambivalent, and often troubled relationship between the United States and the law of nations. It begins with a meditation on the differences between Blackstone's law of nations and Bentham's conception of international law, and probes the legacy of ambiguities surrounding these two terms. The book is full of utopian ideals of international adjudication, Christian notions of world peace, the search for a common scientific language of law, and Wilsonian idealism. In a certain sense, it is an intellectual history. Discussions of Chancellor Kent, David Dodge, Francis Lieber, and Elihu Burritt shape the lineaments of America's law of nations tradition. But it also probes how larger contestations--such as the long American War of Independence through the War of 1812, debates over the slave trade, legal battles over Civil War confiscation, and post-World War I isolationism--shifted the terms of the debate. Ending the book with the fall of the League of Nations underscores the peculiar mix of idealism and denial which characterizes America's response to the international legal community. The more optimistic theme is portrayed in the two cover illustrations. The front cover shows a painting of a street lined with a medley of flags--representing both foreign countries and the United States--flying during Allies Day, 1917. The back cover reproduces an Edouard Manet painting of a sea battle involving the Alabama, a Confederate warship built with the aid of Great Britain, which led to international arbitration of claims by the United States against the British for damage caused by the ship--a moment which Janis calls "the high-point of nineteenth-century American international law idealism."