Nobel Lecture*, January 15, 1905
The Progress and Advantages of International Arbitration
For many reasons I regret the delay which has taken place in my appearance here. Ever since the Nobel Committee awarded me the prize, I have been anxious to fulfill the condition which they impose upon the recipient, that he should visit Christiania [Oslo] and deliver an address upon the subject of arbitration and peace.
Several circumstances entirely beyond my control have led to the delay, a delay which I deeply regret and for which I ask you to excuse me.
Travelers anxious to reach their journey’s end, occasionally ask themselves how far they have got and how much farther they have to go before they reach the goal of their hopes. The progress they have made can be easily ascertained, but the remaining distance and possible accidents on the way are more difficult to calculate.
In the time at our disposal this evening, we pilgrims of peace might imitate the traveler and note how many milestones we have passed: whether we have made any real progress, whether we have any cause for rejoicing, whether any – and if so, what – real obstacles are still to be overcome.
For a long time the friends of peace were preaching and saying what ought to be done. I propose to tell you something about what has been done.
First – and I hope that you will agree with me – we have been fortunate in enlisting the sympathies and securing the support of the monarch1 who sits on the British throne and to whom the world owes a debt of gratitude for using his best influence on behalf of the cause of peace. In the past, monarchs have so rarely used their influence in the cause of amity, that the example set by King Edward is the more notable, and one of the most hopeful signs of the times.
Thirty-four years ago, when the organization of which I am secretary2 formulated a plan for the establishment of a “High Court of Nations”, we were laughed to scorn as mere theorists and utopians, the scoffers emphatically declaring that no two countries in the world would ever agree to take part in the establishment of such a court.
Today we proudly point to the fact that the Hague Tribunal has been established3; and notwithstanding the unfortunate blow it received in the early stages of its existence by the Boer War4, and the attempt on the part of some nations to boycott it, there is now a general consensus of opinion that it has come to stay – and thanks to the munificence of Mr. Carnegie, this high court of nations will be provided with a permanent home in a Palace of Peace5.
If evidence had been wanting as to the desirability and usefulness of such a tribunal, the recent “Dogger Bank” incident 6 supplied it. Had there been no tribunal in existence, Russia and Great Britain would probably have taken months to consider whether the so-called outrage was a fit subject to be referred to arbitration, and that delay would have been used by the crimson press to lash the public mind into a state of frenzy and to render a pacific solution impossible. But the very fact that the peaceful machinery was at hand, ready to be set in motion, suggested its employment, and notwithstanding the frantic efforts of some British journals to provoke a conflict, the two governments in a few days agreed to resort to the friendly offices of the Hague Tribunal.
During the last century the number of disputes settled by arbitration or friendly mediation amounted to nearly 200. Many of the disputes were of a trifling character. Some, however, were very serious, the most important of all being the great dispute between the United States and Great Britain with regard to the pirate ship Alabama7.
It was not, however, until the year 1887 that the question entered upon what I regard as its practical stage. Up till that time meetings had been held, conferences arranged, and petitions presented to governments; but the difficulty with which the friends of peace were confronted was, who should begin? What nation would take the lead and make a practical proposal? To meet this difficulty and overcome these objections, memorials8 from members of the British House of Commons were presented to the President and Congress of the United States of America, urging that the governments of the United States and of Great Britain should inaugurate a new era and conclude between them a treaty binding themselves to settle their differences by arbitration.
Of course the scoffers again pooh-poohed the idea that any nations could be found willing to conclude such treaties; but those who ridiculed have been again put to shame, for within the last twelve months, thirteen treaties have been concluded between various nations. The countries that have bound themselves by these obligations are: Great Britain and France; France and Italy; Great Britain and Italy; Denmark and Holland; Great Britain and Spain; France and Spain; France and Holland; Spain and Portugal; Germany and Great Britain; Great Britain, Norway and Sweden; Great Britain and Portugal; Switzerland and Great Britain; Sweden, Norway and Belgium. Seven other treaties have also been drafted, and signed by the government of the United States of America, and the governments of Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland. With the exception of the treaties with the United States, which yet await the decision of the Senate, all the others are operative, so that today thirteen treaties have the force of international law.
But, say the skeptics, what use are the treaties now that you have got them? To this I make answer that the treaty between France and Great Britain9, although only twelve months old, has been followed by a convention between the two governments in which all the differences between the two countries, some of which had lasted for centuries, have been equitably adjusted and the decisions of the convention endorsed by both parliaments. So today France and Great Britain, whose sons had frequently slaughtered each other and wasted the resources of both nations, are now living on terms of the most cordial friendship without a cloud on the horizon.
Another notable instance is afforded of the advantages of treaties of arbitration. The two South American republics, Chile and Argentina, which had been frequently in conflict, having solemnly bound themselves by treaty to settle their disputes by arbitration, finding that they had no use for their ironclads and vessels of war, have been disposing of them to Russia, Great Britain, and any other power that chooses to purchase them.
The latter affords an excellent illustration of the wisdom of our policy in advocating arbitration first, with the conviction on our part that disarmament would be sure to follow. The one we have always regarded as the means; the other as the end to be attained.
Amongst the advantages which we have contended that nations would reap from entering into treaties of arbitration are, that when differences arose, the disputants would have time for reflection, because, while the arbitrators were deliberating, the passions of the contending parties would cool, and the chances of war be greatly diminished.
Again, at the first rumors of war, the market price of many necessary commodities is affected, especially articles which are crossing the seas and upon which the premium for insurance is increased, all such increases having ultimately to be paid for by the consumer.
Such treaties would also weaken the baneful influence of panic mongers and serve to protect honest investors from being defrauded by stock exchange gamblers. At the first rumors of war, timid investors in various government stock, being panic-stricken, sell out, to their loss and the gamblers’ gain. This evil would be lessened, if not obviated, as investors would not rush to sell out, knowing as they would, that war could not take place until after the dispute had been referred to arbitration.
A notable illustration of the advantages of arbitration is afforded by the late Boer War. If the points in dispute between the two governments had been referred to arbitration, as the Boers desired, the thousands of lives of heroic men and women which were sacrificed, the untimely deaths of 15,378 children in the concentration camps, the devastation wrought, the misery endured, and the 250 millions of money expended, would all have been saved.
So far, I have been referring to some of the good work which has been done, and now I propose to say something about how it has been done.
Thirty-four years ago, the British and French workmen inaugurated a series of conferences and meetings and the circulation of mutual addresses to their countrymen in favor of a better understanding between the peoples10.
These efforts have been continued during the whole of that time and at last have culminated in the Treaty of Arbitration between France and England – the first treaty of that nature concluded between any of the nations of Europe. The example thus set has already led to the series of treaties I have previously referred to.
The victory which has been achieved is therefore a people’s victory, and this is the opinion emphatically expressed by the great French orator and popular leader, Mr. Jaurès11.
I have previously referred to the efforts which were made in 1887 and the following years in favor of an Anglo-American Treaty of Arbitration when two memorials in favor of such a treaty were signed, the first by 234 and the second by 364 members of the British Parliament. These memorials were unique. It was the first instance on record of the members of one parliament addressing the members of another. These influentially signed memorials were supplemented by a unanimous vote of the British House of Commons.
Ultimately a treaty was drafted12, signed by both governments, endorsed by a large majority of the Senate, but failed, for want of three votes, to secure the requisite two-thirds majority. At the present moment, however, another treaty has been signed by the two governments and is now being considered by the Senate.
But out of that failure a new force sprang into existence. That force is now known as the Interparliamentary Union.
The Interparliamentary Conferences, which have led to the formation of that Union, began in 1888 with the meeting of thirty-eight British and French parliamentary representatives at Paris. Since then conferences have been held in London, Rome, Bern, The Hague, Brussels, Budapest, Christiania, Paris, Vienna, and last year at St. Louis. From that small meeting in Paris groups have been formed in every parliament of Europe except Spain.
The Union has now nearly 2,000 adherents, and the latest addition is the formation of a group in the Congress of the United States of America.
The influence and power of the Union is now recognized. The conferences are held in senate chambers, and governments make grants toward the expenses.
When the history of the Union comes to be written, it will be found that during the time when there was considerable friction and danger of war between Italy and France, the appeals made by the Union to the members of the Italian Parliament produced an excellent effect and were largely instrumental in preventing strife between those two nations.
It is also a matter of history that the Czar was induced to issue his Rescript, which led to the Hague Convention, by the proceedings of the conference at Budapest13.
It has also brought into contact with each other and paved the way for a good understanding between the members of the parliaments of Europe and the United States. Its latest achievement was to induce the President of that great country to undertake the task of convening another conference of the nations to complete the work which the Hague Convention left unfinished. To the Union, therefore, is due the credit of having brought about the convention at the Hague which systematized arbitration and provided nations with an alternative method of settling their disputes.
To the Union is also due the credit of influencing President Roosevelt14 to summon another convention, and although the invitations to that convention do not specify that disarmament will be considered, the strong and constantly increasing desire which exists upon the subject – especially in France – will force the convention seriously to consider the cost and danger of armaments and whether they are really peace-preserving, or war-provoking institutions.
The object lesson of the war between Japan and Russia15, with its unparalleled holocaust, will make it practically impossible for the convention to disregard the question of disarmament.
To the industrial classes, the subject is of supreme importance. The workers have to pay, and the workers have to fight.
The task before us is a mighty one. All the vested interests and people who profit by war will – with the journals they control – resolutely oppose any reduction of armaments.
But science is rapidly becoming a powerful auxiliary of peace; the restiveness of the burden bearers and the growing political power of the people are also factors which will have to be reckoned with in the great struggle between the supporters of barbarism, and the higher civilization.
In this brief summary of efforts made and victories won, I have abstained from any reference to the part which I have been privileged to take in promoting the Anglo-American Treaty of Arbitration, which was the first organized effort ever made for such a purpose and which lifted the question on to a higher plane and brought it within the domain of practical politics. Incidentally I may state that every senator of the United States has just received a memorial urging that body to ratify the Anglo-American Treaty of Arbitration which is now before it. The memorial is signed by 7,452 officers of industrial organizations in Great Britain, and these organizations have a membership exceeding two and three-quarter millions.
Concerning the long-continued efforts which were necessary to bring the French and British people into line, the initiation and organization of the first Interparliamentary Conferences, the multifarious labors in the cause of peace in which I have been engaged during the past thirty-four years, I express no opinion, leaving my actions and doings to the judgment of my fellowmen.
Some people, however, appear to have lost heart because Japan and Russia are engaged in a sanguinary conflict. But the most ardent advocates of peace never expected that treaties of arbitration would at once put an end to all wars, any more than those who, when mankind was emerging from barbarism, first framed crude laws and set up rude courts of justice, expected that by so doing all men would immediately cease to fight out their personal differences.
Our forefathers, however, were not disheartened. The courts were continued for those who preferred to use them, and now we seldom hear of individual disputes being settled by brute force. What was formerly the universal practice is now regarded as degrading and brutalizing.
That is what we believe will be the ultimate effect upon nations of concluding treaties and setting up tribunals.
It may be that for a long time some nations will continue to fight each other, but the example of those nations who prefer arbitration to war, law courts to the battlefield, must sooner or later influence the belligerent powers and make war as unpopular as pugilism is now.
Gentlemen, if I have not exhausted my subject, I fear that I must have exhausted my audience.
I cannot, however, conclude without heartily thanking the Nobel Committee for having honored me with their suffrages, awarded me the magnificent prize, and afforded me the opportunity of enabling the International Arbitration League to continue its useful work when I am gone.
It has been the great object of my life to build up and endow a great peace organization which should be powerful enough to combat the forces which make for war, and thanks to the Nobel Committee, I have been able to do a great deal in that direction. Nearly the whole of the fund placed at my disposal has been given to and profitably invested for the use of the League.
My only regret is that I am unable to wholly, instead of partially, complete the endowment. I hope, however, that others may be induced to follow my example, and that before I die I may see the dream of my life realized.
There is still a great work before us. The advocates of peace are, however, no longer regarded as idle dreamers, and I trust that I have convinced you that our cause has, especially of late, made wonderful progress and that we are nearing the goal of our hopes.
The world has passed through a long night of tribulation and suffering, millions of our fellow creatures have been sacrificed to the demon of war; their blood has saturated every plain and dyed every ocean.
But courage, friends, courage ! The darkness is ending, a new day is dawning, and the future is ours.
* The lecture text is taken from Les Prix Nobel en 1903. The Oslo Dagbladet for January 16, 1905, described the laureate as possessing a stocky build, swarthy complex: ion, bald head, grey mustache, and tinted glasses, and said that he read expertly, his voice strong and distinct.
1. Edward VII (1841-1910), called the Peacemaker, king of England (1901-1910).
2. The International Arbitration League; the proposed constitution of a “High Court of Nations”, is carried in pp. 84-85 of Sir Randal Cremer by Howard Evans.
3. By the Hague Peace Conference of 1899.
5. Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), American industrialist and philanthropist, donated $1,500,000 in 1903 for the construction of the Palace of Peace at The Hague as a home for the Permanent Court of Arbitration (Hague Tribunal) and as a library of international law; the building was dedicated on August 28, 1913.
6. The Dogger Bank, or Hull, incident occurred on October 21, 1904, when a Russian fleet on its way through the North Sea fired on English fishing trawlers at Dogger Bank. One vessel was sunk. The remaining trawlers, five of them seriously damaged, put into Hull, England, on October 23, with two killed and six wounded. The Russians claimed to have been attacked by Japanese torpedo boats mingling with the Hull trawlers. Although British public opinion was outraged, Britain referred the matter to an International Commission of Inquiry which, on February 26, 1905, reported its opinion that since “there was no torpedo boat either among the trawlers nor on the spot, the fire opened by Admiral Rozhdestvensky was not justifiable.” On March 9, the Russian ambassador handed to the secretary of state for Foreign Affairs an indemnity of £65,000.
7. During the American Civil War, a British shipyard constructed the Alabama for the Confederacy. Armed with British weapons received at sea and manned by a Southern captain, with a partially British crew, the Alabama destroyed Northern shipping in 1863. In 1871 the United States’ claims arising from this destruction were submitted to arbitration at Geneva, and in 1872 a decision in favor of the United States was accepted.
8. Memorials (or resolutions) were presented on two occasions, 1887 and 1893, Cremer taking the leading role each time.
9. The Anglo-French Treaty of Arbitration, first of its kind in history, was signed on October 14, 1903, going into effect before general agreement on pending difficulties was concluded. These difficulties, which included problems in Egypt, Morocco, New-foundland, New Hebrides, and Siam, were adjusted by April, 1904, and the arguments published.
10. In 1871, Cremer formed the Workmen’s Peace Association. A similar organization was founded at about the same time in Paris. At a conference in Paris in 1875 fifty British delegates led by Cremer joined with 100 French delegates led by Auguste Desmoulins in establishing the Workmen’s Peace Committee to advance the international aspects of the peace crusade.
11. Jean Léon Jaurès (1859-1914), French politician, leader of the Socialists in the Chambre des Députés, founder (with Briand) and editor of L’Humanité (1904-1914).
12. The Anglo-American Arbitration Treaty (1897).
13. There was no official Russian delegate to the seventh Interparliamentary Union Conference in Budapest (September 23-25, 1896), but a Russian consul in Budapest, acting as an observer, sent to the Russian government a copy of the resolutions passed and later, as a member of the Foreign Office, to the Czar when concern about international armaments arose.
14. Czar Nicholas II is generally given credit for the actual convening of the second Hague Peace Conference in 1907. Cremer is referring to President Theodore Roosevelt’s remarks of September 24, 1904, to delegates from the recently adjourned Interparliamentary Union meetings in St. Louis when he said, “In response to your resolutions, I shall at an early date ask the other nations to join in a second congress at The Hague”, and to his fulfillment of this promise in the following month by the issuance of a circular note through Secretary of State Hay to his counterparts in other nations urging the calling of such a conference.
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