Heresy in action: James Lorimer’s dissident views on war and neutrality

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Abstract / Description of output

Lorimer’s positions on issues of war and neutrality were rooted in his commitment to natural law. This included, crucially, an insistence on individuals acting in a dual capacity – as citizens of their states and also as members of the larger global community. At the same time, Lorimer was committed to a traditional just war doctrine and, in particular, to the principle that, in a given conflict, only one side can be right. This notion led him, in turn, to take a principled negative view of neutrality, in contrast to the prevailing positivist tendency in international law, which was to look with approval on neutrality. On the specific subject of contraband of war, he maintained that there could be no fixed division between contraband and non-contraband goods. He was doubtful that the cardinal neutral duty of impartiality could realistically be applied. He also doubted the feasibility of a code-of-conduct approach to the law on the conduct of war and on neutrality, insisting instead (consistently with his just war approach) that necessity was the foundation of belligerents’ rights. Lorimer was also an outspoken opponent of the Washington Rules on neutrality that had been crafted by the USA and Britain in 1871. He objected to the restrictions in these rules on the freedom of individuals to contract with belligerent powers as well as to the imposition of a duty on the part of neutral states to police the activities of their nationals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477–492
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of International Law
Issue number2
Early online date25 Jul 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Jul 2016

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • neutrality
  • natural law


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