Saturday, January 4, 2014

John Bassett Moore



Sometimes everything comes together all at once. While searching for stamps with pince-nez I ran across John Bassett Moore on a $5 U.S. stamp from 1965. It is an unusual stamp in its stark appearance by being black & white. John Bassett Moore? I never heard of the man before this stamp and I have a fairly strong grasp of American history.

Last week I went to a stamp show in San Jose with my good friend Ken. He insisted on buying me the Moore stamp shown above (Scott 1295 for stamp collectors). Thanks Ken.

My other collecting interest is autographs of lesser known figures in American history. My favorite seller on eBay offered a John Bassett Moore autograph shown above. The item arrived yesterday and I'm very pleased with the fountain pen signature.

And there is the pince-nez aspect. Mr. Moore wore the rimless hoop spring variety pince-nez which was popular from about 1880 to 1910. A wonderful simple style which I wear (I alternate among three sets of glasses).

Who was John Bassett Moore? My first stop was Wikipedia. He was the foremost expert in the U.S. on international law in his time and the first American to serve on the Permanent Court of International Justice (1920-28). He was a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School in 1880 and served in the State Department as an assistant secretary of state. Mr. Moore became a professor of international law at Columbia University.

There is an excellent summary of his career on the Virginia Journal of International Law website. This short two page tribute to Mr. Moore also discusses his beliefs. He advocated U.S. neutrality in the 1930s. I found the following text in their tribute to be of particular interest today:

"His [Moore's] argument was essentially simple: that the “new” internationalism, in its efforts to guarantee peace, really did no more than guarantee that any future war would be a world war. He held that if you start out forcibly to maintain peace you will have to spend your blood and treasure on the job; and if you are not willing to do that, then you must mind your own business and maintain your own neutrality in every war that does not immediately concern you." (Vol. 1, Issue 2-5) [emphasis added]

The University of Virginia also has a student organization called the John Bassett Moore Society of International Law. He is well remembered in Virginia.

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