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A Historical Perspective: Inter-State Arbitration in the 18th and 19th Centuries

The landscape of inter-state arbitration witnessed significant developments during the 18th and 19th centuries, with the United States and Latin American states playing notable roles in shaping the trajectory of international dispute resolution. This historical exploration unveils the origins and evolution of inter-state arbitration during this transformative era.


Great Britain's North American Colonies: Pioneers in Inter-State Arbitration


Great Britain's North American colonies set the stage for inter-state arbitration, embracing it from the moment of their independence. The 1781 Articles of Confederation marked a pivotal moment, providing a mechanism for resolving inter-state disputes among different American states through arbitral procedures. This early adoption laid the foundation for future developments in international dispute resolution.


However, it was the signing of Jay's Treaty in 1794 between Great Britain and the United States that ushered in the modern era of arbitral or judicial settlement of international disputes. This treaty, signed in a determined effort to restore amicable relations between the newly-independent United States and Great Britain, established three arbitral mechanisms. These mechanisms addressed boundary disputes, claims by British merchants against U.S. nationals, and claims by U.S. citizens against Great Britain, signifying a groundbreaking step between recent combatants.


United States' Continued Tradition of Inter-State Arbitration


The United States continued its tradition of arbitrating international disputes throughout the 19th century. The inclusion of an arbitration clause in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the 1871 Treaty of Washington exemplified the commitment to resolve future disputes through arbitration mechanisms. The latter treaty, in particular, laid the groundwork for the Alabama Arbitration, addressing U.S. claims of British violations of neutrality during the U.S. Civil War.


Notably, the Washington Treaty established a five-person tribunal for arbitration, with each party nominating one arbitrator and neutral states nominating three. This innovative approach became a template for subsequent inter-state arbitration arrangements between the United States and Great Britain.


Latin American Engagement in Inter-State Arbitrations


Inter-state arbitration in the Americas extended beyond the United States, with Latin American states actively engaging in arbitration treaties. Between 1800 and 1910, some 185 separate treaties among Latin American states included arbitration clauses, covering a wide array of issues, including pecuniary claims, boundaries, and general relations.


An example from 1822 between Colombia and Peru illustrates the collaborative approach, convening a general assembly of the American states as an umpire and conciliator in disputes. Moreover, the late 19th century witnessed Latin American states entering into bilateral arbitration treaties, specifying categories of disputes to be submitted to arbitration.


European Developments in Late 19th Century Arbitration Treaties


In contrast to the American experience, arbitration of state-to-state disputes in Europe during the 18th century was not notably prevalent. However, by the late 19th century, European states began incorporating arbitration provisions in various treaties. Multilateral treaties covered diverse matters, including the General Postal Union, carriage of goods by rail and post, European colonization and trade in Africa, and the abolition of the slave trade.


The final years of the 19th century also saw the emergence of bilateral arbitration treaties in Europe, addressing defined categories of future disputes. These treaties reflected a commitment to arbitration, with some treaties providing for the submission of all controversies between the parties during the existence of the treaty.


In conclusion, the 18th and 19th centuries witnessed a transformative period in the evolution of inter-state arbitration, with pioneers in North America and active engagement in Latin America and Europe. These historical developments laid the groundwork for the continued utilization and refinement of inter-state arbitration mechanisms into the 20th century.

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