John Bassett Moore

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John Bassett Moore
23rd United States Assistant Secretary of State
In office
April 27, 1898 – September 6, 1898
Preceded by William R. Day
Succeeded by David J. Hill
Personal details
Born (1860-12-03)December 3, 1860
Smyrna, Delaware
Died November 12, 1947(1947-11-12) (aged 86)
Political party Republican
Profession Politician, Author, Lawyer, Professor

John Bassett Moore (December 3, 1860 – November 12, 1947) was an authority on international law,[1] who was a member of the Hague Tribunal and the first American judge to serve on the Permanent Court of International Justice (the "World Court").


Moore was born in Smyrna, Delaware, graduated from the University of Virginia in 1880, and was admitted to the Delaware bar in 1883. From 1885 to 1886 he was a law clerk at the Department of State, then an Assistant Secretary of State. In 1891 he took the first full professorship of international law at Columbia University;[1] he stayed there until 1924. During his service with the Department of State he acted as secretary to the Conference on Samoan Affairs (1887) and to the Fisheries Conference (1887–88).

While holding the chair of international law and diplomacy at Columbia, Professor Moore was frequently granted leave of absence to accept appointments in the public interest. For part of 1898 he served as Assistant Secretary and Acting Secretary of State, and after the close of the war with Spain was secretary and council to the American Peace Commission at Paris. In 1901, he served as professor of International Law at the Naval War College, where he initiated that college's long series of "International Law Blue Book" publications. Subsequently, Moore represented the government as agent before the United States and Dominican Arbitration Tribunal (1904), as delegate to the Fourth International American Conference at Buenos Aires and special plenipotentiary to the Chilean centenary (both 1910), and as delegate to the International Commission of Jurists at Rio de Janeiro (1912). He was on the Hague Tribunal from 1912 to 1938, and was a judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice from 1920 to 1928.

Moore was a proponent of neutrality, believing that the post-World War I system of alliances would tend to broaden wars into global conflicts. He was also a strong believer in the principle of separation of powers under the United States Constitution, asserting in 1921, "There can hardly be room for doubt that the framers of the constitution, when they vested in Congress the power to declare war, never imagined that they were leaving it to the executive to use the military and naval forces of the United States all over the world for the purpose of actually coercing other nations, occupying their territory, and killing their soldiers and citizens, all according to his own notions of the fitness of things, as long as he refrained from calling his action war or persisted in calling it peace."[2]


John Bassett Moore postage stamp

Moore was honored on a U.S. definitive postage stamp issued December 3, 1966, the five-dollar value of the Prominent Americans series.

In 1922, a new school was dedicated to Moore in his hometown of Smyrna, Delaware. The John Bassett Moore Intermediate School now serves as a public school for the fifth and sixth grades.

Moore is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City.


  • Reports on Extraterritorial Crime (1887)
  • Extradition and Interstate Rendition (two volumes, 1891)
  • American Notes on the Conflict of Laws (1896)
  • History and Digest of International Arbitrations (6 vols., 1898)
  • American Diplomacy (1905)
  • Digest of International Law (8 vols., 1906)
  • Works of James Buchanan (12 vols., 1909–11, reissued 1960)
  • Four Phases of American Development (1912)
  • International Law and Some Current Illusions (1924)
  • The Permanent Court of International Justice (1924)
  • International Adjudications, Ancient and Modern (8 vols., 1937)
  • Collected Papers (7 vols., 1945)


  1. ^ a b Woods, Thomas (July 7, 2005) Presidential War Powers,
  2. ^ "Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society". 60. Philadelphia, PA: American Philosophical Society. 1921: xvii. ISBN 9781422372494. 

Sister projects[edit]

Works related to John Bassett Moore at Wikisource

Further reading[edit]

PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Moore, John Basset". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead. 

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Alvey A. Adee
Third Assistant Secretary of State
August 6, 1886 – September 30, 1891
Succeeded by
William Morton Grinnell
Preceded by
William R. Day
United States Assistant Secretary of State
April 27, 1898 – September 6, 1898
Succeeded by
David J. Hill