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International treaties and the clause "rebus sic stantibus"

Publication Date
  • Ddc:340
  • Economics
  • Law
  • Political Science


December, 1927. INTERNATIONAL TREATIES AND THE CLAUSE "REBUS SIC STANTIBUS" JOHN P. BULLINGTON During the past quarter of a century the increase in com;. plexity of international relations and the growth of economic interdependence among nations have required that states regu- late their relations more and more by treaties, since customary international law has been unable to keep abreast of modern developments. Despite the continuous violation, both of treaties and of customary rules of international law, by all the contest..' ants in the recent European war, treaties continue to be drawn and signed, and seem on all sides to be regarded as effectively binding the parties to them. The importance of treaties as a present means of establishing peaceful intercourse and mutually advantageous' economic relations between states makes it worth while to t:econsider the doctrine advanced and accepted by most modern writers which would, under varying circumstances, au- thorize the abrogation of treaties without the consent of all the contracting parties-the mere fiat of a single state being sufficient to annul freely contracted obligations. This theory is usually discussed under the heading tiThe Rebus Sic Stantibus Clause/J1 It is scarcely to be doubted that treaties are ordinarily con- summated after a due consideration by all parties of the possible benefits which may in the future accrue to them through the operation of the treaty under consideration. It so happens that one state often finds that it has made a bad bargain, or that it failed to take into consideration future contingencies that might operate to its disadvantage. Thus the state may find itself bound either for a term of years or in perpetuity to a contract, the execution of which may entail varying degrees of injury to itself. It is just possible that the continued existence of the state as an independent political division may be threatened. On the other hand, mere hardship may flow from the execut

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