A Grotian Moment

The International Criminal Court, The U.S., and The Hague Tradition

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    The July 4, 1899 celebration at Nieuwe Kerk

  • The wreath laid by the U.S. Delegation in 1899

  • Grotius monument outside of Nieuwe Kerk

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    Proceedings of the Grotius celebration. Can be read online

  • Grotius' tomb at the Nieuwe Kerk


The historic 1899 Hague Peace Conference took place from May 18, 1899 to July 29, 1899.  The chief accomplishments of this conference include the creation of the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the establishment of international laws of war.

On July 4, 1899, the U.S. delegation to the Conference convened a celebration at the tomb of Hugo Grotius at the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft, Netherlands.  Members of the U.S. delegation lauded Grotius and spoke about how his ideas have shaped U.S. jurisprudence.The U.S. laid a custom made, elaborate wreath of silver and gold at Grotius' tomb.  Engraved on the wreath are these words:

To the Memory of Hugo Grotius / In 
Reverence and Gratitude / From the United States of America / on the occasion of the International Peace Conference of The Hague / July 4th, 1899

The wreath still hangs on Grotius' tomb to this day. W.H. de Beaufort said these words about the U.S. wreath on July 4, 1899:

I sincerely hope that this fine and precious work  of art will remain for ever on the place where it  is now fixed. ... May it act as a stimulus for future generations in their exertions in behalf of  still further reforms in the practice of international law.  

In honor of the 10 year anniversary of the International Criminal Court, on July 4, 2012, U.S. students, citizens and diplomats will convene another celebration at Grotius' tomb. A new wreath will be laid by U.S. Ambassador for Global Criminal Justice, Stephen J. Rapp. A number of addresses which focus on the United States' role in the development of the "Grotian Project" of international law will be delivered.

Characterizing the present unsettled reality of international society as "a Grotian Moment" is a way of underscoring the view that this is a time of potential transition from one type of world order to another ...

Richard Falk

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Take a virtual tour of the site of the 1899 (and 2012) Grotius celebration to the right.