<<

. 12
( 29 .)



>>

resistance that might have proved awkward at home; suf¬cient reason,
no doubt, for Gustavus Adolphus™s famous liking for carrying De Jure
Belli ac Pacis around with him on his campaigns. The more lasting sig-
ni¬cance of Grotius™s work, however, lies in its relevance to people who
wanted to justify colonialism on the basis of individuals™ rights in the law
of nations to appropriate unoccupied or uncultivated lands, and to people
who wanted to justify the assertion of public authority by European states
in the extra-European world. Both practices were radical extensions of
Hugo Grotius™s original position, and it is by no means obvious that he
would have given an unquali¬ed endorsement to either of them, but it
is nevertheless fair to say that over time an especially close relationship
developed between the speci¬c propositions of the Grotian theory of the
law of nations “ his ideas of divisible sovereignty and private property “
and the modern practices of colonialism and imperialism. Certainly, there
was more of an af¬nity here than there was between the Grotian theory
and the practice of the ˜Westphalian™ states-system that developed within
Europe.
In this chapter I want to turn my attention to these practices, examin-
ing how colonial and imperial systems were established and what kinds
of international relationships they involved. As I explained in chapter 1,
this topic is largely absent from the work of orthodox theorists of order
in world politics, who have concentrated overwhelmingly on the evolu-
tion of the European states-system and have to all intents and purposes
ignored the simultaneous emergence of colonial and imperial systems be-
yond Europe. My purpose, in brief, is to provide a parallel account of the
development of international relations in the extra-European world to
that which orthodox theorists have given for the European states-system.

60
Colonialism, imperialism, international politics 61

Obviously, it would be impossible to give a comprehensive account of
all the dimensions of politics in the entire extra-European world during
a period of roughly three and a half centuries. The conventional history
of the development of the states-system is a simpli¬cation of European
politics over a lengthy period, accentuating some aspects of the relations
between European states and underplaying others in order to identify a
theoretically intelligible pattern. Orthodox theorists pay little attention,
for example, to lingering ˜anomalies™ like the Germanic confederation
of states between 1815 and 1870, or the international personality of the
papacy, because they believe, with good reason, that these phenomena
were departures from the normal pattern of European international rela-
tions. Rather than clutter up their accounts with these aberrations, they
are more interested in describing how dynastic monarchs consolidated
their absolute sovereignty over their territorial possessions during the
wars of religion, and how they adopted a practice of recognizing each
other™s equality and independence. In much the same way, my account
of the world beyond Europe is not intended to be anything more than
an analysis focused on a few broad and, I believe, signi¬cant themes.1
I recognize that other scholars might identify different and equally signi-
¬cant phenomena in extra-European international relations, and nothing
I will say here should be construed as denying that such projects could
be carried out.
Even with my self-imposed restriction to looking at the development of
this pattern of order, there is still a vast amount of historical material to
be considered here, and to make it more digestible I have divided it into
two sections. First, I will describe how colonies of European settlers were
established in North America, and how the post-revolutionary American
states-union colonized the remainder of the continent through its west-
ward expansion. Then, I will explain how Europeans came to acquire
their imperial authority over non-European peoples in the East Indies,
how they used their authority to transform indigenous property systems
and how they defended it through doctrines such as ˜paramountcy™. This
distinction re¬‚ects genuine differences in the kinds of international re-
lations involved in the two instances, but in many respects the division
1 This, I might add, is how concepts are usually constructed in the social sciences. For a
seminal statement, see Max Weber, The Methodology of the Social Sciences, trans. E. Shils
and H. Finch (New York: Free Press, 1949), and for a worked-out example, see Weber, The
Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (London: Routledge,
1930). For a good commentary, see Thomas Burger, Max Weber™s Theory of Concept
Formation: History, Laws and Ideal Types (Durham: Duke University Press, 1976). The
acid test for a concept constructed on these lines is whether or not it does succeed in
highlighting phenomena of signi¬cance for its audience, and that can only be assessed
once my argument is complete.
62 Beyond the anarchical society

I am making here is purely for reasons of clarity, and the key point that I
want to stress is that both colonialism and imperialism had very similar
dynamics, especially with respect to the degree to which both involved the
division of sovereignty and the assertion of individuals™ rights to property.


The colonization of North America
The major distinguishing feature of European activity in North America
was the establishment of settlements composed of individuals who owned
their property on ˜free and easy™ terms, as the popular description had
it. Colonialism, in the British model at least, was also characterized by
a highly decentralized system of government, with public authority and
jurisdiction divided between the mother country, colonial agencies or pro-
prietors, local settlers and sometimes, albeit rarely, indigenous peoples.
Although it underwent a considerable re-structuring after the American
Revolution, this framework of property rights and divided sovereignty
continued to inform subsequent American practices, and had an espe-
cially powerful impact on the tenurial and political arrangements that
were made for the subsequent expansion of the United States as it ac-
quired new territories in the West and began to exert its imperial control
over states beyond the American continent.
The ¬rst question to ask is why the practice of colonialism took on
these forms. Why did colonial settlers in the New World typically enjoy
˜allodial™ (i.e. unencumbered) tenures, rather than feudal ones? It is sig-
ni¬cant, from an international legal point of view, that Thomas Jefferson
maintained that this was the result of a ˜universal law™ that applied to all
colonization of unoccupied or uncultivated lands, and his opinion cer-
tainly accorded with the widely accepted opinions of theorists like Grotius
and Vattel.2 It is also true that ideas about the ˜completeness™ of prop-
erty ownership, and its inherently allodial nature, were well-established
themes in both Roman law and pre-Norman English common law, and
were central to early modern speculation about natural law. But the de-
tails through which colonial land tenures were worked out in practice
had a more speci¬c, and somewhat more humble, origin. Most of the
¬rst British grants of land in North America, for example, exhibited a
strong resemblance to earlier grants that had been made in the context
2 This theme in Jefferson™s thinking is discussed in more detail in chapter 4. Some interesting
studies of the in¬‚uence of Vattel on American revolutionary thought can be found in
Daniel Lang, Foreign Policy in the Early Republic: The Law of Nations and the Balance
of Power (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985), and Peter Onuf and
Nicholas Onuf, Federal Union, Modern World: The Law of Nations in an Age of Revolutions,
1776“1814 (Madison House, 1993).
Colonialism, imperialism, international politics 63

of medieval reclamations; in many cases they were modelled on grants
that had been made for irrigation and drainage projects in places like the
Fens.3 The parallel should be clear, although it was rather an unfortunate
one for the original inhabitants of the Americas, whose rights were yet
further denuded by the analogy. During the middle ages, especially in the
dramatic expansion of agricultural activity that took place after the tenth
century, wildernesses that had never been brought under cultivation be-
fore were extensively reclaimed.4 Established feudal seigneurs generally
asserted their political jurisdiction over these areas, but in a sense the ac-
tivity created entirely new lands and thus opened up the opportunity to
establish new forms of tenure. Moreover, the most basic fact about recla-
mation and colonization in the middle ages was that, even by the normal
standards of a medieval peasant, it was exceptionally hard work, and was
often conducted in remote places where coercion was hard to apply. To
entice people to undertake the work, they needed to be offered some kind
of lure, and the usual bait was to grant unusually generous tenures over
the land that they reclaimed and then cultivated. By the high middle ages
there was a fairly well-established practice, sharply distinguished from
other feudal tenures, whereby colonizers of reclaimed ˜new™ land enjoyed
their property with only minimal obligations, and often in a monetized
form rather than in terms of requirements to perform military or other
services for the seigneur.
The broader signi¬cance of this development for the social structure of
medieval Europe is questionable because in some cases colonization was
undertaken by peoples unable to escape from feudal obligations in the ¬rst
place, and often when colonizers did win initially permissive tenures they
suffered from expansions of feudalization, their liberties giving way under
the seigneurial imposition of new encumbrances.5 Those feudalizing ef-
forts were not always decisive, however. Sometimes, medieval settlements
founded through colonization were so ubiquitous that they swamped at-
tempts by seigneurs to reduce peasants to vassalage. The Netherlands
are a case in point.6 Attempts to establish ties of personal dependence
3 Marshall Harris, Origins of the Land Tenure System in the United States (Ames: Iowa State
College Press, 1953), pp. 15 and 73.
4 On this topic, see Richard Koebner, ˜The Settlement and Colonization of Europe™, in
M.M. Postan (ed.), The Agrarian Life of the Middle Ages, 2nd edn (Cambridge University
Press, 1966), pp. 1“91; Bryce Lyon, ˜Medieval Real Estate Developments and Freedom™,
American Historical Review, 63 (1957), 47“61; and, for a particularly detailed case study,
William H. TeBrake, Medieval Frontier: Culture and Ecology in Rijnland (College Station:
Texas A&M University Press, 1985).
5 Koebner, ˜The Settlement and Colonization of Europe™, p. 5, but for a quali¬cation to
this general claim see p. 75.
6 For two interesting, and somewhat contrasting, discussions, see J.J. Woltjer, ˜Dutch
Privileges, Real and Imagined™, and I. Schoffer, ˜The Batavian Myth during the Sixteenth
¨
64 Beyond the anarchical society

and vassalage in the Netherlands, especially in the relatively autonomous
northern and western regions, were always seriously compromised by the
weak material and political resources upon which local elites could draw.
Even in the Southern Netherlands, where some feudal ties remained rela-
tively strong, special agreements known as ˜copes™ were made between the
seigneurs and the colonizers that were extremely favourable to the latter:
obligations were reduced to the form of a small tax or tithe, in return for
which colonists received near-absolute rights over their property, includ-
ing, for example, the right to dispose of their land as they saw ¬t.7 The
weakness of the seigneurial system in the Netherlands was exacerbated by
the fact that, even in those regions that were relatively well integrated into
wider European feudal regimes, the sheer extent of reclamation and colo-
nization assumed such proportions that seigneurial claims to feudal dues
were simply outweighed by the practice of free tenure. Here, unusually
in comparison with rest of Europe, custom worked against feudalization
rather than in its favour, leading to the establishment of what generally
came to be known as the ˜Dutch™ or ˜Flemish™ right.8
Not only did they enjoy these remarkably free tenures, the medieval
colonizers in the Netherlands were also granted extensive rights to ad-
minister low justice and self-government, normally through a sheriff
system. What is more, they were able to retain these political privileges,
often because of the practical necessities of maintaining the cultivability
of the new settlements. The inhabitants of the newly reclaimed lands in
the Netherlands usually had to construct dikes and drainage systems to
protect their farms from ¬‚ooding; this imposed considerable demands
on the administrative capacity of the relevant communities, and served
to enhance the voice of freeholders in their government, especially in
non-cope peat reclamation areas, i.e., those areas in the northern and
western Netherlands, where extreme levels of local autonomy were often
the original state of affairs.9 As a consequence of the practicalities of sus-
taining land productivity after reclamation in these low-lying regions of
the Netherlands, colonial settlements did not just develop a surprising de-
gree of individual freedom in the form of allodial property rights; they also
and Seventeenth Centuries™, both in J.S. Bromley and E.H. Kossmann (eds.), Britain and
the Netherlands: Volume 5, Some Political Mythologies (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975),
pp. 19“35 and 78“101 respectively, and see especially p. 85.
7 TeBrake, Medieval Frontier, p. 50.
8 G.P. van de Ven, Man-Made Lowlands: History of Water Management and Land Reclama-
tion in the Netherlands, 2nd edn (Utrecht: Uitgeverij Matrijs, 1994), p. 61, and George
Masselman, The Cradle of Colonialism (London: Yale University Press, 1963), p. 10.
9 Jan de Vries, The Dutch Rural Economy in the Golden Age, 1500“1700 (London: Yale
University Press, 1974), p. 36, and C. Dekker, ˜The Representation of the Freeholders
in the Drainage Districts of Zeeland West of the Scheldt during the Middle Ages™, Acta
Historiae Neerlandicae, 8 (1975), 1“30.
Colonialism, imperialism, international politics 65

acquired extensive rights for self-government, although usually within the
context of an overarching seigneurial claim to ultimate jurisdiction over
the land. One can see, perhaps, whence Grotius™s conception of occupatio,
and especially occupatio duplex, might have originated: the transposition
of a Roman legal concept onto a familiar Dutch practice.10
Attempts to establish colonies in North America faced very similar
problems in terms of the exactions involved and the dif¬culty in main-
taining coercive control over settlers, and colonizers dealt with them in
very similar ways. It is therefore unsurprising that most settlement agen-
cies and noble proprietors in British North America held their lands
under an extremely unencumbered tenure described as of the Manor
of East Greenwich, in free and common socage (the exceptions were
the grants of Maryland in 1632, Pennsylvania in 1681 and Georgia in
1732). In seventeenth-century England, this particular formula of ˜the
Manor of East Greenwich™ was an increasingly common way of estab-
lishing tenurial rights and obligations, the main importance of which was
that it represented a way of defusing feudal encumbrances, like the need
to render military service, and thus offered the prospect of owning land
in as near to an absolute, exclusive form as possible.11 The principle was
employed in colonial land grants for very similar reasons to the grants
made in medieval colonization: the offer of free and easy tenures would
encourage emigration and colonial settlement, especially given the risks
and hardships involved.12
Beyond the initial grants to noble proprietors and corporate agen-
cies, the logic of colonization also had an impact on the tenures under
which actual settlers held their lands, with individual settlers typically
coming to possess relatively absolute and exclusive rights of ownership.
To understand how this came about, it is helpful to distinguish be-
tween systems adopted in colonies settled under the auspices of cor-
porate settlement agencies, like the Massachusetts Bay Company, and
royal colonies or those settled by the efforts of individual proprietors, like
William Penn or Lord Baltimore. In New England, the corporate set-
tlement agencies which were granted tracts of land organized settlement
10 There are some fairly extensive discussions of Dutch reclamation practices in Grotius™s
analysis of the acquisition of property in De Jure Belli ac Pacis, although implying,
I suspect, that this was more of a local custom than a genuine feature of the law of
nations: see Hugo Grotius, De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres, trans. Francis Kelsey (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1925), pp. 300“5. See also Grotius, The Jurisprudence of Holland, trans.
R.W. Lee (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926), pp. 64“75 and 86“93.
11 Neil Hamilton, America Began at Greenwich (London: Poseidon Press, 1976). It should
be admitted that some historians have described this as rather an empty formula, partly
because of its growing popularity in England: see Edward Cheyney, ˜The Manor of East
Greenwich in the County of Kent™, American Historical Review, 11 (1906), 29“35.
12 Harris, Origins of the Land Tenure System, p. 148.
66 Beyond the anarchical society

according to a system of townships. Beyond this of¬cial system, how-
ever, colonies were also established by squatting (as at Plymouth) and by
unauthorized purchases from the local Indians (as at the Rhode Island
and Providence Plantations). In the townships, and in many of the un-
of¬cial settlements, land that had originally been given to the agen-
cies by the king under generous terms, was in turn granted by them
to individual settlers under exceptionally free tenures. In this respect,
colonial practice antedated the general freeing of tenures in England.
Before equivalent developments in England, except for areas where ex-
tensive reclamation had already taken place, like the Fens or Kent (where,
in fact, the Manor of East Greenwich was situated),13 the general tenurial

<<

. 12
( 29 .)



>>