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Title: "Are Treaties Which Are Made Contrary to the Law of Nations Binding?" Composition of William E. Webb for the Dialectic Society, August 1797: Electronic Edition.
Author: Webb, William Edwards, ca. 1777-1829
Editor: Erika Lindemann
Funding from the State Library of North Carolina supported the electronic publication of this title.
Text transcribed by Erika Lindemann and John H. Brinegar
Images scanned by Mara E. Dabrishus
Text encoded by Natalia Smith
First Edition, 2005
Size of electronic edition: ca. 12K
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2005
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text
The electronic edition is a part of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2005-03-14, Natalia Smith, project manager, finished TEI/XML encoding.
Part of a series:
This transcribed document is part of a digital collection, titled True and Candid Compositions: The Lives and Writings of Antebellum Students in North Carolina
written by Lindemann, Erika
Source(s):
Title of collection: Dialectic Society Records (#40152), University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Title of document: "Are Treaties Which Are Made Contrary to the Law of Nations Binding?" Composition of William E. Webb for the Dialectic Society, August 1797
Author: William E. Webb
Description: 2 pages, 2 page images
Note: Call number 40152 (University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Topics covered:
Politics and Government/Political Issues
Examples of Student Writing/Debating Society Writings
Editorial practices
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 5 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Originals are in the University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Original grammar, punctuation, and spelling have been preserved.
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Letters, words and passages marked as deleted or added in originals have been encoded accordingly.
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All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as ".
All single right and left quotation marks are encoded as '.
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Indentation in lines has not been preserved.

For more information about transcription and other editorial decisions, see Dr. Erika Lindemann's explanation under the section Editorial Practices.

Document Summary

Webb's debate speech claims that nations consent to be bound by treaties; if they later act contrary to the treaty without renouncing it, they commit an unlawful action.
"Are Treaties Which Are Made Contrary to the Law of Nations Binding?" Composition of William E. Webb for the Dialectic Society, August 17971
Webb, William Edwards, ca. 1777-1829



Page 1
August 1797

Gentlemen

Are Treaties which are made contrary to the Law of Nations binding?–
To persons conversant in this part of Jurisprudence the question I think can admit of but little doubt.– It seems to divide itself into two parts: 1st are such Treaties binding on the contracting parties, and 2d Are other Nations bound to respect them?– Without entering at present into any inquiries concerning the Law of Nations we shall take it for granted that there are certain rules by which Nations are to regulate their conduct.– Our reason for taking this for granted is because it is a point essential to our question, for if there are no Laws nothing can be unlawful and our query becomes useless.– Now if there is a Law of Nations no person will doubt, but what it is binding upon all those who have consented to it.– But suppose that after they have consented to it they act contrary to it without renouncing it; what is the consequence?– The consequence is, they have committed an unlawful action, and that action or what results from it is not binding

Page 2
For no person can pretend that an unlawful promise, Treaty or agreement of any kind is Obligatory or binding.– Why? because we are under a prior obligation to the contrary, and no posterior obligation can invalidate a prior one, nor a weaker one destroy a stronger.– Here is the point on which I shall rest my argument for the present and untill gentlemen convince me to the contrary I shall say nothing more, but should they enter into abstruse disquisitions concerning the Law of Nations and endeavor to support their doctrine by that means, I shall consider myself in duty bound to answer them.–


No Mistakes

Wm Houston

Sept 2nd 1797

Endnotes:

1. Dialectic Society Addresses, University Archives. The essay was written on both sides of an 8 1/4-by-11 1/5-inch sheet which subsequently was folded into fourths. To the left of Webb's signature at the bottom of the essay fellow student William Houston has written "No Mistakes/ Wm Houston /Sept 2nd 1797." Under Webb's signature at the bottom of the essay appears the following endorsement: "Wm E. Webb /2nd Class/Corrected by/ Wm, Houston /2 corr." This endorsement appears upside down with respect to Webb's essay, as if it were written on the "front" of the sheet after it had been folded into quarters.
1. During this period, the Dialectic Society divided its members into three classes, which rotated weekly duties of reading, speaking, and composing. Webb was in the second class. Two correctors were elected every six weeks, and evidently William Houston served as the first corrector of William Webb's composition. The second corrector merely indicated that he had read the essay by writing "2 corr." on the "front" of it. Society minutes for this period contain gaps, so we cannot be sure what transpired at the September 2, 1797, meeting. However, on September 12, 1797, Webb was himself elected corrector, serving with William Houston , and on February 1, 1798, Webb became president of the Society (Vol. 1, UA). The Dialectic Society Papers contain a second, longer composition written by Webb in September 1797. It treats the relationship between moral philosophy and the science of government and was corrected by Houston on September 21, 1797.