In the official literature of arbitration, from the very inception of the American Arbitration Association to the present, the process is defined as a voluntary proceeding, based upon agreement of the parties. "Arbitration is wholly voluntary in character," wrote Frances Kellor, First Vice President of AAA from 1926 to her death in 1952. "The contract of which the arbitration clause is a part is a voluntary agreement. No law requires the parties to make such a contract, nor does it give one party power to impose it on another. When such an arbitration agreement is made part of the principal contract, the parties voluntarily forgo established legal rights in favor of what they deem to be the greater advantages of arbitration."*
More than a quarter of a century has elapsed since those words were written, and remarkable changes have taken place in commercial arbitration practice since that time. But the theory of arbitration has been modified only to the extent of refining a phrase here or there. The current literature still features "voluntary agreement of the parties" as the key words describing the process, and "compulsion" is deplored as the very antithesis of true arbitration. "Don't litigate. Arbitrate"—a slogan often used in the Association's early days—is not favored today, chiefly because of its competitive tone. But private determination of disputes is still urged as an "alternative avenue of justice" in appropriate cases, and this means, of course, an avenue alternative to the courts.