Dr Fernando Gómez Herrero at the International Conference of the Historical Links between Spain and North America

Dr Fernando Gómez Herrero recently presented his paper "Francisco de Vitoria in Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s On the Law of Nations" at the 4th International Conference of the Historical Links between Spain and North America: New Cultural Cartographies (City College of New York / Instituto Cervantes / Universidad de Alcalá, Instituto Franklin UAH, New York, April 11-13, 2018).

I offered a general critical appraisal of the figure of the U.S. New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003), specifically in relation to his text On the Law of Nations (1990) against his immediate political and social background, also taking into account his diaries and other publications.

Two leading issues stick out: race-and-ethnicity and international law (or law of nations)  framed by Geopolitics and (Foreign) Area Studies. Or, in other words, we are dealing with the inside / outside partition of the (imperial) nation of the United States. Moynihan is looking at the internal dilemmas of group formation and the external tensions of U.S. foreign policy from Nixon-to-Reagan. The "liberal" Democrat of Irish origin, also U.N. representative, is saying a few critical things in relation to the immediate legacy of the Reagan years. What are these uncomfortable truths? How deep does he go into these? His law-of-nations account is a nimble text providing survey history lessons for the self-correcting of U.S. attitudes, typically caught up in between hawks and doves, indifference and negativity towards international law and organizations such as the United Nations.

This presentation highlighted the inclusion the figure of Francisco de Vitoria (1492-1546) in this book and the role he might have played in it after the more substantial example of the U.S. publicist James Brown Scott (1866-1943) acting during the Woodrow Wilson who is also included by Moynihan as the good precedent for utopian international law. Moynihan engages with the distant figure of the Spanish Dominican, deemed inspirational "father" of international law in the early European moment of the capture of the Americas. He does so by following - how else? - the English novelist Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), eye-witness account of festivities taking place in 1946 in the city of Salamanca, Spain in honour of the Dominican intellectual. How and why did he do it? By marginalizing the true English scholar J.L. Brierly (1881-1955). The U.S. Senator’s political lesson is one for the exercise in superpower self-restraint. But there is more  than meets the eye. And there is less. There are paradigmatic virtues and vices building historical links between U.S. and Spain not yet left behind.

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