How can the U.S. exonerate itself?
One common argument of sovereignty activists is that the Morgan Report cannot exonerate the U.S. from violations of international law it admitted to earlier. The typical rationale relies on the Blount Report of 7/17/1893 and Cleveland's message to Congress referring the matter of 12/18/1893, as "confessions" which once given, cannot be retracted.
The problem here is that the analogy is not complete. Although we have a clear indication of who the suspect is (the U.S.), and the confession (the Blount Report and Cleveland's message), we do not have anyone identified as the judge or the jury.
If Cleveland confessed, who did he confess to? Well, in his referral of the matter to Congress, one may suppose that Cleveland, as the head of the Executive Branch of the U.S., confessed to the Congress, as the Legislative Branch of the U.S. - if this analogy is accepted, then the Senate acted as both judge and jury, coming to the conclusion that despite the "confession" of Cleveland, the evidence showed that it was a false confession.
It can be argued that one branch of the U.S. cannot judge another branch in matters of international law, and that the Executive cannot confess and be exonerated by the Legislative. However, in order to make this assertion, it is required that some proxy for judge or jury must be made.
In terms of international law, especially around the late 1800's and early 1900's, this is particularly difficult. There was no United Nations. There was no International Court of Justice. Cleveland himself, in his 12/18/1893 letter, spoke of the ephemeral nature of international law:
- The considerations that international law is without a court for its enforcement, and that obedience to its commands practically depends upon good faith, instead of upon the mandate of a superior tribunal, only give additional sanction to the law itself and brand any deliberate infraction of it not merely as a wrong but as a disgrace.
According to Cleveland, the only judge could be ourselves, for there was no higher tribunal to answer to. And the only punishment would be disgrace we would suffer in our own eyes.
Regardless of any assertions that the Morgan Committee were not lawful judge and jury to examine the confessions of Cleveland, the fact of the matter is that it was the only tribunal of any sort to examine the matter, and is the only judgement of history available based on the complete body of evidence. The international institutions we have today were not available then, and we cannot reasonably ex post facto impose our modern conventions on the past.
So how can the U.S. exonerate itself? In the case of the Morgan Report, they did so as the only authority at the time able to investigate, cross-examine and decide the matter. Cleveland lawfully referred the matter to Congress, and despite his initial opinion on the matter, he accepted their judgement as correct and final.