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Established on July 11, 1951 as a Chair of International Law. In 1967, the position was officially designated the Charles H. Stockton Chair of International Law.

  1. The Secretary of the Navy established the Charles H. Stockton Chair of International Law on 6 October 1967 in honor of Rear Admiral Charles H. Stockton, President of the Naval War College from 1898-1900, a recognized authority on international law. From its inception, the Chair has attracted an exceptional array of international law scholars and practitioners to the College, including such giants in the field as Manley O. Hudson (1951-53), Hans Kelsen (1953), Leo Gross (1954), Howard Levie (1971) and Yoram Dinstein (1999, 2002).  A full list of all past Stockton Chairs is available here.
  2. The premise of the Chair is that knowledge and understanding of international law is a vital part of a naval officer’s education. The impact of international law on the legitimacy of a nation’s use of armed force, and the means and methods by which such force is used in the conduct of military operations has grown significantly, particularly in the last 50 years.
  3. Current world events raise questions as to whether or not existing legal structures, regimes and tenets are adequate to address pressures on and/or perceived threats to traditional notions of nation-state sovereignty. The answers to these questions are at the forefront of current intense debate within and among nations. One cannot underestimate the need for naval officers, charged with executing their nations’ military policies, to understand and contribute to that debate.
  4. To that end, the Chairholder is a recognized expert in the field who teaches, researches and conducts curriculum review in the following (not exclusive) subject areas:
    • The historical development and application of public international law
    • International law and the use of force
    • The United Nations Charter, with particular emphasis on the role of the Security Council
    • The Law of Armed Conflict
    • The Law of the Sea
    • Naval Warfare and Neutrality
    • The role and functions of regional and collective security organizations (such as NATO)
    • Human Rights Law
    • Arms Control
  5. The Chair reports to the Dean, Center for Naval Warfare Studies through the Chairman, International Law Department. The Chairholder may be either a United States citizen or foreign national, and normally holds the position for one academic year, providing the College continued enrichment with a broad spectrum of expertise and perspective. In turn, Chairholders leave the College with a fuller appreciation of the capabilities and contributions of the military services in the articulation and enforcement of the rule of law in the contemporary nation-state system.

Charles H. Stockton

13 OCT 1845 – 31 MAY 1924

Charles Herbert Stockton (born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 13 October 1845 - died in Washington, D.C., 31 May 1924) was a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Navy's first uniformed expert in International Law.

Early Life and Education

The son of Reverand William Stockton and his wife, Emma Goss Stockton, Charles Stockton was educated at Germantown Academy and Freeland Academy before entering the U.S. Naval Academy, then temporarily located at Newport, Rhode Island. He graduated from the Academy in 1865.

Naval Career

Stockton served on the North Pacific Station, 1865-69, then in USS Brooklyn (1858), flagship of the European Squadron, 1870-73. After instruction at the Naval Torpedo Station at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1873, he had a variety of ship and shore duties relating to that area, served at the Hydrographic Office, 1875-76, and lectured at the Naval War College, 1887-88. In 1890-91, he commanded USS Thetis, the first vessel to follow the entire coastline of Alaska, and published an article (1890) on this cruise in the new National Geographic Magazine as well as technical papers on Bering Strait ice conditions, before cruising off El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1890 war.

In 1891, he took charge of the Naval War College and supervised construction of its first, purpose-built building, Luce Hall. In 1892-93, he handed the completed building over to its returning president, Alfred Thayer Mahan, and became the College’s lecturer in International Law, completing Harvard Professor Freeman Snow’s unfinished book on the subject in 1895. After commanding USS Yorktown (1888) on the Asiatic Station, 1895-97, he returned to become President, Naval War College, 1898-1900. Recognized as the U.S. Navy’s first uniformed expert on international law, he remained at the College until 1901 to write the first code of Law of Naval Warfare.

He commanded the battleship USS Kentucky (BB-6), 1901-03, and served as U.S. naval attaché in London, 1903-05.

Civilian Career

Stockton retired as a serving naval officer in 1907, and, in 1908-09, was appointed as First U.S. Delegate to the London Naval Conference that resulted in the London Declaration concerning the Laws of Naval War. Upon his return from London, he became President, The George Washington University, 1910-1918. On stepping down from that post, Stockton continued as lecturer in International Law at The George Washington University until 1921. He is commemorated in Stockton Hall at The George Washington University and in the academic chair occupied by the Charles H. Stockton Professor of International Law at the U.S. Naval War College.

Bibliographical References

  • Hattendorf, John B. “Rear Admiral Charles Stockton, The Naval War College and the Law of Naval Warfare” in Green, Leslie C., and Schmitt, Michael N., eds. The Law of Armed Conflict: Into the Next Millennium. International Law Blue Book series, vol. 71. [Newport: Naval War College Press, 1998), pp. xvii-lxxii.
  • [Stockton, Charles H.], The Laws and Usages of War at Sea: A Naval War Code. (Washington; Government Printing Office, 1900).
  • Stockton, Charles H., A Manual of International Law for the Use of Naval Officers. (Annapolis: Naval Institute 1917).
  • Stockton, Charles H. “Address of Mr. Charles Stockton” [A Review of the London Naval Conference, 1908-09], American Society of International Law, Proceedings. (Washington, 1909), pp. 61-84.