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With a Collection of Official Documents





Director of the Division of International Law of the Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace






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From time to time a plebiscitum has been held by the interested nations in order to ascertain the sentiment of a community in the matter of transfer of the allegiance of the inhabitants of a given territory which, by agreement of the nations involved, is to be ceded from one country to another. Within recent years the doctrine of plebiscites based more or less upon isolated practice has found its way into treatises on international law. The treatment of the doctrine, however, has hitherto been fragmentary and the documents upon which the doctrine is based have not hitherto been assembled.

In the belief that an exposition of the theory and practice of plebiscites as applied to States would not only be valuable historically but that it would be of service to publicists having to deal with such questions, Miss Sarah Wambaugh has collected for the Division of International Law of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the documents relating to this subject and has prefixed to them a monograph in which she lays before the reader the result of her investigations in this interesting but hitherto unexplored domain. The importance and timeliness of this volume are very great. It is important in that it is the first adequate treatment of the subject, laying before the reader, as it does, in the original language, and in English translation whenever the original text is in a foreign tongue, documents relating to plebiscites which have never before been brought together and whose very existence has not been suspected even by persons interested in the subject. It is timely in that the Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany, signed at Versailles, June 28, 1919, provides for plebiscites to be held in many instances.

In view of these facts, Miss Wambaugh's volume has a present interest not merely for the student of international law, but for the statesman, diplomat, and expert called upon to deal with plebiscites in the concrete cases provided for by the various treaties putting an end to the War of 1914.


Director of the Division of International Law.

July 15, 1919.


Late in the autumn of 1917 I was asked by Dr. James Brown Scott, Director of the Division of International Law of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to prepare a monograph, with a collection of documents, on the history of the doctrine of national self-determination in changes of sovereignty. The present monograph was accordingly undertaken under his supervision.

It had been hoped that the monograph could be published at an earlier date, but the study has proven to be a much heavier task than was expected. Research has disclosed many more instances of recourse to the doctrine than those which are enumerated in the treatises on international law or in the general histories, yet at the same time the collection of documents illustrating the various instances has proven to be unexpectedly copious. Careful intensive study of the history of each country treated has been necessary. Most of the cases have involved controversial questions, and thus a careful appreciation and statement of each side has been imperative.

The monograph has been scrupulously limited to the doctrine with reference to changes of sovereignty. Material regarding the numerous plebiscites to determine the form of government or the personality of the sovereign, such as the plebiscites of Napoleon III, Greece, Rumania, Belgium and Norway, has been excluded from consideration as such a study, although it might be of great interest, deals with a theme essentially different from that of separation, cession or annexation.

There has been no attempt to present data on the many territorial questions which have become acute since 1914, or of the several plebiscites which rumor has told us have taken place since then, nor did the author conceive it to be part of the scope of this study to present a plan for the settlement of such questions.

Doubtless some cases which might be considered at first thought to be germane to its purpose have been omitted. The self-determination of the United States was omitted deliberately for two reasons: one because our independence was the result of a successful war and not of a resort to ballot, which came later; the other because, if it were put in its proper chronological position in the collection, it would make the doctrine appear to be derived from our revolution, which was not the fact. The American Revolution had more of a national than international aspect, so far as it affects this question. It made no change in the application of the theory of conquest or annexation,

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