Book Review: Digest of International Law

Edwin Borchard, Yale Law School


Few persons realize how great an influence on the development of international law and on the practice of Foreign Offices generally has been exerted by the publication of John Bassett Moore's Digest of International Law (8 v. 1906). Through that work the opinions of the United States Government on questions of international law have spread far and wide, and other governments have even been persuaded to alter their standing custom by permitting a discreet publication of a small part of their archives in the field of international law. Moore's Digest was much more than a revision of Wharton's Digest (3 v. 1886-87). It was a complete rearrangement of the diplomatic correspondence, instructions and dispatches of the United States, of treaties and agreements, decisions of courts, opinions of the Attorney-General, extracts from treatises and monographs, and a considerable portion of the original learning of judge Moore himself which illuminated every chapter of that indispensable work. It was not only a scientific achievement of the first magnitude-omitting reference here to the companion Digest of International Arbitrations (6 v. 1896)-but enhanced the reputation and influence of the United States, since Foreign Offices not only paid the closest attention to the views expressed by American officials, but also, as I have had occasion to learn, marveled at the openhandedness of the United States in disclosing its archives to public scrutiny in a form so easily accessible and so cheap that every student and public official could have it at his side. When judge Moore asked Secretary of State Sherman whether any part of the archives were to be regarded as confidential and therefore not be published, he was informed that everything in the Department was at his disposal for publication. Those were the good old days.