The aim has been to give a knowledge of the most important topics to English university students and average Englishmen interested in public affairs, neither of them a class which can devote very much time to a single science, and to put them in a position to appreciate the discussions on other topics as they arise in the foreign affairs of the country.
We have not attempted a deductive treatment. Such a treatment might start from state sovereignty or from the assertion of certain rights as inherent in a state, but it would lead in many cases to the admission of clashing sovereignties or rights, that is to no result, unless the starting-points were defined with a precision only attainable by embodying the conclusions in them. International sovereignty and rights are the growth of recent centuries, and the very object of our science is to ascertain the point at which they now stand. Some of the earlier stages of that growth were assisted by theories of a law of nature and nations, of which what is good survives under the name of justice, a ground more solid but less capable of being systematized, while the attempt to transfer wholesale to associations what is true of natural individuals was bound to fail.
We have not treated ex professo of the history of international law, though much of it appears in the discussion of particular topics.