The Caroline Affair in the Evolving International Law of Self-Defense
Matthew Waxman, The Caroline Affair in Evolving International Law of Self-Defense, (Aug. 28, 2018), The LawFare Book Review
5 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2018
Date Written: August 28, 2018
The "Caroline" incident—an 1837 raid by British Canadian militia across the Niagara River border to sink an American steamboat being used by Canadian insurgents—is well-known to many international lawyers. United States Secretary of State Daniel Webster’s resulting correspondence with British representative Lord Ashburton is often cited today as a key authority on customary international self-defense standards. University of Ottawa professor Craig Forcese has produced a valuable new history and analysis of that event, its legal context, and its continuing influence: "Destroying the Caroline: The Frontier Raid that Reshaped the Right to War." As explained in this review, the book corrects some misunderstandings about the incident and shows its continuing relevance to contemporary international legal debates about military force. It also helps in understanding this period of U.S. foreign relations law, especially with regard to powers of war and peace.
Keywords: Force, customary international law, self-defense, Caroline, jus ad bellum
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