The Nobel Peace Prize 1905 – Introduction


Introduction by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Member of the Nobel Committee, on April 18, 1906*

On behalf of the Nobel Committee, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson introduced the speaker, Baroness Bertha von Suttner, to the audience. In a few words he recalled the great influence of the Baroness on the growth of the peace movement. While still young she had had the audacity to oppose the horrors of war1, and had done so in one of the most militaristic countries in Europe. She had continued this fight all her life and never wearied of crying “Down with Arms2. Despite the laughter with which her words had been greeted in the beginning, they did receive a hearing because they were uttered by a person of noble character and because they proclaimed humanity’s greatest cause. Many women had since followed in her footsteps and taken up the cause, and the call to lay down arms had become general. Moreover, to all men of goodwill the cause of peace and the women’s cause were one and the same movement, striving for the same goal. When the cause of peace prevailed, then too would the women’s cause be won.

* Mr. Bjørnson, a leading writer and a friend of the laureate, introduced Baroness von Suttner when she delivered her Nobel address on April 18, 1906. This translation of his introduction is based on the Norwegian précis of it in the Oslo Aftenposten of April 19. It is given here because no presentation speech was made on December 10, 1905. This date, the one prescribed for announcing the award; fell on a Sunday when the Norwegian Parliament was not in session. In order to conform to the Statute, the Committee invited Parliament members to attend the inauguration of the new Norwegian Nobel Institute building, which took place on that day, and made its announcement there. Speeches or remarks on this occasion were devoted to Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Foundation, etc. The Committee’s decision was also given officially to the Parliament at its session the next day, December 11. Baroness von Suttner was unable to be present at either ceremony because of fatigue incurred during a strenuous schedule of meetings and speaking engagements. A speech in honor of Baroness von Suttner given by Mr. Løvland at the banquet after her address is also included here.

1. The laureate describes herself as being, in her earlier years, either “piously loyal to the military” or completely unconcerned about the horrors of war. See her Memoirs, Vol. 1, pp. 46; 70-73; 133-136; 173-174; 229-233.

2. Lay Down Your Arms is the English title of the laureate’s famous novel against war.

* * *

Speech by Jørgen Gunnarsson Løvland, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, on April 18, 1906*

History constantly demonstrates the great influence of women. Women have encouraged the ideas of war, the attitude to life, and the causes for which men have fought, for which their sons were brought up, and of which they have dreamed. Any change or reformation of these ideas must be brought about chiefly by women. The human ideal of manly courage and manly deeds must become more enlightened; the faithful worker in all spiritual and material spheres of life must displace the bloodstained hero as the true ideal. Women will cooperate to give men higher aims, to give their sons nobler dreams.

Many are the individual women who have set an example in sacrifice and work, who have followed the armies as angels of consolation and healing, tending the sick and suffering. How much more effective it is to do one’s utmost to prevent misfortune!

This is where you, Madame Baroness, have taken the lead among women of today. You have attacked war itself and cried to the nations: “Down with arms!” This call will be your eternal honor.

Beginning as a murmur in the corn on a summer’s day
And growing to a gale through the tops of the forest,
Till the ocean bears it on with tenderous voice,
And nothing is heard but this.1

These stirring words of our great poet apply to your call to action, Madame Baroness. It began as a murmur through the lovely meadow of the Danube Valley2 , that old highway for the devastating armies of war. We already hear it in the forests in all parts of the world and soon, we hope, its voice, borne by the oceans of people, will permanently drown the sound of war drums and trumpets.

This will take a long time, some will say. We do not know. And it makes no difference to our work. Our task is clear: to combat any act of violence, any war of aggression, and so render even the justifiable defensive war unnecessary. We shall rouse the conscience of man, put justice and morality in the place of war.

We thank you, Madame Baroness, for your firm faith, for your hope and self-sacrifice, for your work. We too, in the lands of the North, women as well as men, need you to light and nourish the flame of faith and work. Good luck to you!

Frédèric Passy, that venerable apostle of peace3 has called you, Madame Baroness, our general-in-chief. The friends of peace in Scandinavia applaud this salute.

* Mr. Løvland, also at this time Norwegian foreign minister, delivered this speech in German at a banquet which he and his wife gave in honor of Baroness von Suttner after her Nobel address on April 18, 1906. The translation is based on the German text appearing in the Oslo Aftenposten the next day.

1. From a poem by the Norwegian poet Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910), recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature for 1903, and the person who had introduced the laureate earlier in the day.

2. The laureate’s novel, Lay Down Your Arms, was written in the country near Vienna.

3. Frédéric Passy (1822-1912), co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1901.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1901-1925, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1905

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