Nobel Lecture*, August 25, 1909
Peace and Law in the Italian Tradition
When on the afternoon of December 10, 1907, I received the happy news, soon to be made public in the newspapers, that you had conferred upon me the Nobel Peace Prize, the satisfaction of all Italians was reflected in the many marks of affection and esteem I received from people in every walk of life, and in particular from His Majesty King Victor Emmanuel1, who, in his telegram congratulating me on this great honor, reaffirmed “his ardent desire that the great cause of peace should triumph”. For all the honors I have received and for a public acclaim as great as any man could wish for, you have placed me in your debt; indeed, the years of life still left to me are too short in which to demonstrate to you, by renewed activity in my propagandist work, my undying gratitude.
Your choice was all the more pleasing to my fellow countrymen in coming from a country we have loved for a very long time for its devotion to truth and beauty, for its civic institutions, and for its poets and dramatists, such as Ibsen and Bjørnson2 who are among the most admired and most widely read in Italy. It was they who focused the world’s attention on the admirable way of life, so full of vigor and sincerity, of your wonderful country. It was they who evoked anew your courageous ancestors, the Vikings, who with their small boats and indomitable courage were sailors and warriors truly worthy of being immortalized in legend; conquerors, not mercenaries, they astonished the world by the boldness of their fighting exploits in the days when war was honorable.
I say, without adulation but with the profound conviction that I am truly expressing what the world thinks of you and of your country (especially what the inhabitants of my own country think, and it is well known that foreigners, in their judgment of the affairs of others, are often as impartial and truthful as posterity) – I say to you, in all sincerity, that your civic life today is as worthy of admiration in our time as was that of the bold Vikings in the days of war and armed conquest.
This is because, caught up in the daily struggle, your nation faces ever changing reality with a clear eye and rejects old practices accordingly. It does not cling to customs which no longer have a reason for being; it is constantly readjusting itself to new needs and necessities. That is why your country is today in the vanguard of the world peace movement. Your Storting was the first parliament to uphold officially the idea of universal arbitration, to set aside funds for the Interparliamentary Union and for the Bureau in Bern3 ,and, ever since 1890, to encourage the King to lend support to arbitration treaties between Norway and the small nations. Furthermore, the memory of the recent attainment of your independence, for which you strove so long in the midst of the gravest difficulties, is still fresh in all our minds4. Your independence, achieved as it was without violence or bloodshed, is a living example of good sense and wisdom, prudence and great tenacity, and brings everlasting credit both to you who obtained it and to those who did not refuse it to you.
Pacifism – as we have always advocated it, and as you are practicing it – does not seek to obliterate countries by throwing them into the melting pot of cosmopolitanism, but to organize them, if this is not already the case, according to the dictates of justice.
In varietate unitas! The more each nation contributes to world society from the wealth of its own aptitudes, its own race, and its own traditions, the greater the future development and happiness of mankind will be.
And now, allow me to say a few words in respectful tribute to the memory of Alfred Nobel whose last act is responsible for my being here with you. Although Alfred Nobel was Swedish, he wished the choice and award of the Peace Prize to be in the hands of the Norwegian Parliament, which, as I have already said, was the first parliament in Europe to support the idea of international arbitration.
The service done our cause by Nobel was immense; for here was a man of science, a man of industry, always in search of practical goals, who rejected the old cliché that peace is an unattainable utopia, capable only of seducing the minds and souls of sentimental idealists.
The inception of the Nobel Peace Prize put an almost immediate end to the scoffing of skeptics and pseudo-intellectuals; and ever since then, our ranks have been reinforced by newcomers from all sides: politicians, industrialists, merchants, bankers – all hitherto aloof, now sympathetic to our cause.
The gravest difficulties faced by our Society5, however, occurred at the very beginning of its existence when our members, who had founded it to combat a militant nationalism which imperialist politicians wanted to foster in Italy, were denounced by our adversaries as the “stateless ones”.
This accusation was totally inconsistent. Before devoting ourselves to the propaganda of peace, my friends and I had first taken part in Italy’s battles of independence, and by defending peace and brotherhood among peoples we were faithfully interpreting the great men who had planned and instigated our revolution. Like them, we proclaimed our primary obligation to be that of liberating our country, believing with Immanuel Kant6 that to hasten the great and beneficial advent of united mankind, it is first essential to restore nations to their natural frontiers.
Our revolution did not explode in a sudden uprising of people intolerant of a tyrannical regime; it was the result of a long period of intellectual and moral evolution, brought about by men of great talent and of rare spiritual qualities, poets and philosophers, true educators of the people. In speaking of liberty and patriotism, all of them taught that liberty may be won by risking death, but it is preserved only by adherence to the principles of justice and through acts of civic virtue.
I was a young man when, in March, 1848, Milan along with the other cities of Lombardy rose in revolt against the ruling government’s rejection of its offer of “peace and fraternity” in return for national representation for Lombardy and Venice. While the tocsin sounded, we were putting up the barricades; we fought, mingling cries of joy with the shots and the crash of tiles and bricks thrown from windows. If this magnificent and epic struggle, which passed into history under the name of the “Five Days”7, demonstrated the courage of our people in the face of danger, it also demonstrated their generosity in the face of victory, which was free of reprisals even against the most notorious police agents. They fought heroically but without hatred for the poor foreign soldiers who were obliged by discipline to fight in spite of themselves. For our fighters it was practically a cause for celebration whenever, by catching the enemy unawares, they were able to capture them without bloodshed. The enemy prisoners and wounded were all well treated.
One day when my father and brothers were absent, I watched, from the windows of my home, three Austrian soldiers fall amid a hail of bullets. Apparently dead, they were carried away to a neighboring square. I saw them again two hours later: one of them was still in the throes of dying. This sight froze the blood in my veins and I was overcome by a great compassion. In these three soldiers I no longer saw enemies but men like myself, and with remorse as keenly suffered as if I had killed them with my own hands, I thought of their families who were perhaps at that very moment preparing for their return.
In that instant I felt all the cruelty and inhumanity of war which sets peoples against one another to their mutual detriment, peoples who should have every interest in understanding and being friends with each other. I was to feel this way many times as I looked at the dead and the wounded in all the wars for our independence in which I took part.
I was not alone in thinking and feeling this way. On the day following the victory of the people, the government set up after the insurrection issued a manifesto to the peoples of Europe, in which it said8:
“The day is probably not far distant when all nations will forget old quarrels and rally to the banner of international brotherhood, putting an end to all conflict and enjoying peace and friendship, strengthened by the bonds of commerce and industry. We look forward to that day. Italians! Free and independent we shall seal the peace of brotherhood with our own hands, not least with the nations which today constitute the Austrian Empire, if only they are willing.”
We can almost identify these vows as the heritage of, or better still, as the development of a civic way of thinking which, manifest from time to time in Italian life from its very beginning, considers law and justice the basis of true social harmony and of all human relations.
The same idea played a leading part in the common rites of the Etruscans, Volscians, Sabines, and Latins when magistrates representing forty-seven towns gathered together at the temple of Jupiter on the Mons Albanus9. These early Italian peoples formed confederations whose only purpose was to present a united front against aggression by their neighbors and against the demands of collective municipalities, never to promote aggression of their own.
The concept that flourished during the most glorious periods of republican Rome and that appeared in the Twelve Tables of the Law10 as one of the first, though as yet imperfect, affirmations of the rights of man, inspired the struggle between patricians and plebeians. The plebeians were eager to gain equal rights with the patricians, and the patricians were anxious not to let the government of the Republic slip from their grasp since they could foresee from the first victories Rome’s great destiny.
This was a conflict that rarely degenerated into civil war. It instituted the tribunal, the right of appeal to the people, and the arraignment of magistrates who abused their powers. It was a conflict dominated by patriotic feeling so intense that it stirred those involved in it to fantastic feats of heroism and sacrifice which the world may perhaps equal but never surpass.
Governed as it was by a senate always eager to spread the influence of the city, Rome soon became a militant conqueror. It should, however, be given credit for the jus fetialium11, which originated among the first Italian races, particularly among the Etruscans and Sabines, and which Cicero called “sanctissimum jus“.
This law was a true jus gentium12 for its day, an important affirmation of the supremacy of justice, equity, and peace. Although it dealt primarily with legal form and ceremony, it marked great progress nevertheless, for it removed legal procedure, which constitutes so great a part of law, from the domain of the arbitrary. Functioning as guardian of this law was a college of priests responsible for declaring war, making alliances, arraigning those who violated the law of the people, keeping the peace by ensuring respect for treaties.
When Rome became omnipotent after the Punic Wars13, it no longer looked to the “Collegium Fetialium” for approval, regarding it as a superfluous and antiquated institution.
But though sheer force of arms opened the way to a world empire, though the exploits of Roman consuls and of the Senate were not without frequent incidents of cruelty to towns like Numantia, which put up heroic resistance14, the first and already vigorous protests came from the Roman people themselves.
Histories of ancient Rome, such as those by Livy15 and Dionysius of Halicarnassus16, are full of accounts of popular protests and of episodes concerning the way in which the common people of Rome resisted the war-mongering and conquering policies of the Senate; it was, indeed, the Latin poets and philosophers who called war “horrida bella” or “bella matribus detestata”17.
Even though Rome came to dominate the world through a series of often unjust wars, it was its civic and assimilative virtues, which it never lost, that enabled Rome to maintain its position and to be of service to humanity. Behind the legions came the merchants and farmers who, as conquest spread, implanted the civic standards, the name, the language, and the institutions of the mother country in the new territories. While assimilating some of the character and customs of the vanquished peoples, Rome imparted to them some of its own, thus fusing all peoples, lands, and cultures into a homogeneous entity and finally, as its crowning gift, granting citizenship, first to the Italian people themselves and later to all nations within the Roman Empire.
This explains the rapidity with which the conquered provinces became absorbed and Romanized, and how imperial Rome with its handful of legions was able to keep under control the immense populations of its enormous empire. And if it is with some justification that later aspirations of certain warrior kings to conquer the world have been attributed to the splendor of the Roman conquests, it should also be remembered that when the Republic declined and the Empire began, it was Rome who gave the world the doctrine of the rights of man and of nations.
One of the advocates of this doctrine was the philosopher and teacher Cicero who, even prior to Alberico Gentili and Grotius18, sowed the first seeds of international law. Cicero was against all wars unless they were absolutely unavoidable.
“Disputes”, he said, “can be settled in two ways: by reason or by force; one way belongs to man and the other to the beasts; one should employ force only when reason proves impossible.”19 He possessed a much greater breadth of vision than Aristotle, who justified slavery and believed that it would last until doomsday. “Beneath the cloak of the slaves”, said Cicero,”breathes a man who is not just a thing, but a person who hires out his services and who has a right to decent treatment and a fair wage.” He wanted all people to be equal in the eyes of justice: “True law is reason, just and consistent with nature; it imposes obligations and forbids fraud; it cannot be different in Athens from what it is in Rome.”20
Although in the realm of ethics Cicero was far ahead of his time, he was not alone in propounding such ideas. The Epicurean poet Lucretius, in his poem about the Roman world21, marked the contrast of its internal strife and the horrors of its wars with the placid tranquillity of the sage who, from the heights of the austere temple of knowledge, contemplates the senseless conflicts of men. And when Augustus brought these conflicts to an end, there was a host of high-minded individuals, such as Vergil, Horace, Pliny, Seneca, and all the Stoics, who extolled the peace22.
No one painted a more accurate picture of military depredation than Vergil. Inspired though he was by the Latin spirit and by his pride in Rome, he nevertheless glorified Rome’s true mission as one of providing the world with the rules of peace and justice.
These ideas of peace and justice were a prelude to Christianity which, while preaching brotherhood among all men, established its principal center in Rome. When the Empire fell under the sword of the barbarian, the ideal of humanitarianism and peace survived in Italy by finding refuge and support in the Roman church. The church set out to educate even the barbarians; it opposed the cruelty of the times with the Christian law of love; and it almost always used its moral authority, intensified by the very violence and rampant anarchy of the day, to foster the free and civil association of peoples. This international arbitration, which, for want of any communal law, we still regard as the best protection of peace today, was practiced by the best and greatest of the pontiffs of the early Middle Ages who censured injustice and the corruption of the aristocracy and who defended the liberty of the common man.
The Truces of God which at certain times of the year punctuated any continuous wars between neighboring countries; or between communities, or even between factions within the same community, were also a beneficent inspiration of the Roman church. They sprang into existence and multiplied in a feudal society whose aristocracy, beyond our mountain ranges, gloried in celebrating any event, joyous or sad, with battles and massacres.
When, however, following the Donation of Constantine23, the popes became temporal sovereigns and began to concern themselves more with their own material interests than with the moral interests of the people, they gradually lost the authority which, to the benefit of society at large, they had previously wielded in civic matters.
The last days of the Empire saw the growth of our free towns, composed for the most part of a Roman element (which was never suppressed), of a Christian element, and of a new Germanic element.
During the Middle Ages it was these free towns that kept the torch of freedom alight in Italy. They aroused and sustained in their citizens the sentiment of human dignity and they insured the protection of their cottages by forcing the nobility to abandon their castles and to live among. the free citizens in the towns and villages. It was they who, even before the birth of the Hanseatic League, formed the Lombard League to defend their rights against the Empire24. And it was they who, after defeating Barbarossa’s army at Legnano, then for the sake of peace and of compliance with customary law, acknowledged in Barbarossa imperial authority in all “except”, said they in the presence of Pope Alexander III, “what concerns the honor of Italy”25. “Moreover”, they added, “we will never allow ourselves to be deprived of our liberty. This we have inherited from our fathers and our ancestors and this we will yield only with life itself; we would rather die than live in slavery.”
This devotion to the free towns, strengthened by a religious feeling which prompted each town to seek for itself a patron saint, produced in Italy a galaxy of republics, all flourishing in commerce, industry, and the arts at a time when the rest of Europe was still in the grip of feudalism. However, formation of one strong and unified Italian state was impossible, for no Italian prince could obtain the slightest support for it from the people, who were more concerned with the liberty and sovereignty of their own town than with any notion of national greatness.
Dante saw the danger and the pity of this division into jealous and antagonistic city states. In his poem, attacking parties, he says in an immortal line that Italy, “no longer the mistress of provinces,” has become the slave of cruel and pitiless sects26.
This masterpiece in which Dante sets forth the fundamentals of his doctrine can be said, if one discards the now obsolete part which was adapted to his own day and to the metaphysics of Aristotle, to present the rules of government and of humanitarian life under one law; to this end, he wanted the Empire transferred to Rome, for he perceived in the Romans those qualities most suited to governing the world.
The purpose of civilization, he said, is to put man’s intellectual potential to practical use, in short, to develop his faculties to their fullest extent. So too, do universal peace and the free functioning of public bodies and of nations coordinate in aiming for the ultimate establishment of a universal society.
Translate these highly philosophical words into common parlance and you see outlined the way to attain universal peace and, at the same time, to attain the greatest possible universal perfection.
I will not now speak of Pietro Belli27 nor of Alberico Gentili who, in imposing limitations and applying rules to war, were the predecessors of H. Grotius and who, in holding peace to be the ultimate goal desired by all civilization, went far beyond him.
To conclude this already considerable digression, let me repeat the words of one of our eminent historians and publicists of today: “It has always been the concern of all the great Italian political leaders to preach: peace, love, unity, and concord.“
With the decline of the freedom and sovereignty of the city states came a reawakened interest in Greek and Roman letters and through it the Renaissance which, scorning politics and disdaining military glory, held the supremacy of the mind and of the cult of truth and beauty to constitute the ideal life. It paved the way for the association of nations by creating a fellow-feeling among scholars and men of science.
But this purely intellectual pacific existence, coupled with the disuse of arms, was fatal for Italy.
While in neighboring territories great monarchies possessing new permanent armies were consolidating, the premature pacifism in our country left her once more wide-open to invasion; as a result, the richest and most beautiful parts of our peninsula came under the domination now of Austria, now of Spain.
Since we are deeply concerned with the present, with all its dangers and contradictions, you may think it strange that I have talked to you about ancient Italy and about the Italy of the Middle Ages rather than about the place and purpose of today’s Italy within the complicated framework of modern Europe.
I do not regard a look at the past as fruitless, however, for it was from the past that the forerunners and the first apostles of our revolution drew their inspiration. The idea of a legal system for the whole world, pursued by the pacifists in Europe and America during both the last century and this one, is to be found back in the history of Rome and in the minds of our greatest thinkers.
Both pagan and Christian Rome regarded national law as the foundation and keystone of the law of nations. That is why nationalism, in whose name Italy rose in rebellion, is not jealous, is neither shut up within itself nor greedy for the acquisition of foreign territories. It is, on the contrary, sympathetic toward all nations who live and flourish in liberty, or who aspire thereto.
After Giuseppe Mazzini28 had founded the “Giovine Italia” [Young Italy], whose objective was unification and liberation of Italy, he went on in 1834 to found the “Giovine Europa” at Bern in collaboration with German and Polish exiles. In accordance with his instructions to its initiators, this group strove “to organize human society in such a way as to enable it through continuous progress in the shortest possible time to discover and apply the law of God by which it should be governed”29.
Later, Mazzini founded another such committee with Ledru-Rollin and other French, German, and Hungarian exiles30.
Perhaps you would now be interested to hear what Pasquale Stanislao Mancini31, leader of the modern Italian juridical school, was teaching in regard to the new law of nations as early as 1852 when he held a professorship at the University of Turin. “Humanity is our concern,” he said, “and it is essential that mankind attain a unique organization of sufficient versatility to enable it to fulfill its destiny on earth. But in the human world an element of diversity exists: nations in which individual talents and abilities are educated become developed nations, civilization is advanced, and the rule of law becomes a reality.”
After the revival and reconstitution of Italy, Mancini, along with other jurists such as Corsi, Buzzati, and Pasquale Fiore32, never tired of advocating the reform and codification of the law of nations, or, in a word, the establishment of international justice in the interests of peace and the progress of civilization.
So far, this plea from our jurists and lawyers has not been answered; so international justice is still the high objective of our world congresses and of our propaganda.
A great deal of credit for the development of the study of international law in nearly every civilized country belongs to the Italian school; from this study was born the Institute of International Law to which you so rightly awarded the Nobel Prize in one of the first years after you began to function33.
But Italy has done more than this.
Anticipating the beginning of a codification of international law – and indeed we have even now at The Hague a tribunal for its application34 – Italy, since her unification, has introduced into positive legislation almost all of the principles concerning private international law set up by her juridical school. The legislation has established not only that “a foreigner may enjoy the same civil rights as those held by Italian citizens” (Article III of the Italian Civil Code), but also that in civic matters, he is, while in our country, governed by the laws of his own nation. In this important respect we have preceded other nations in eradicating the differences, as far as civil law is concerned, between nationals and foreigners and have thereby founded the principles of our doctrine concerning the rights of the human individual in the provisions of jurisprudence. Thus theory is put into practice, as is further demonstrated by the fact that Italy is the first, and so far the only one, among the bigger nations to have abolished the death penalty from its penal code.
It is evident then that Italy offers the best conditions for the continuous development and perfection of private international law, which provides the surest route to public law.
It is not patriotic vanity that has prompted me to bring up these facts. It is because on the day when an international parliament proclaims the judicial unity of nations, followed by a related disarmament, the day awaited by all pacifists, I believe that all nations, Norway no less than Russia, England as well as France, will be able to prove that they have contributed in one way or another to this great event.
But I must also provide facts to show that our first educators did not teach us in vain that Italy would have to undergo a rebirth not only to gain her own rights, but also to fulfill her obligations toward other nations.
Unfortunately, like all other nations, Italy has had to yield to the hard necessity of armaments which from time to time must be increased because they are considered essential for the conservation of peace in the present state of world turmoil.
The situation is so strangely anomalous that we see even allies fortifying and arming themselves one against the other; we cannot, however, blame Italy for this.
Of the many examples I could cite to show how strongly the Italian soul is opposed to the idea of war, I will be content to give you two of the most eloquent ones.
As the leader of the government in 1865, General La Marmora35, who was a true product of the old Piedmontese militarism, initiated confidential negotiations with the court of Vienna in an effort to procure the surrender of Venice in exchange for a sum of millions to be established; that these talks never went beyond the preliminary stage was not La Marmora’s fault.
The second example is even more typical.
Garibaldi, who was the most sublime personification of Latin genius and military valor of our day, won the battle of the Volturno at the end of September, 186036, and on the following day, in his capacity as dictator of southern Italy, sent a message to the powers of Europe, exhorting them to put an end to wars and armaments by uniting in a European confederation.
With the same hand that had but a little earlier wielded the sword of liberation, he wrote: “In waging war, we differ little from primitive men who killed one another to snatch each other’s prey. We spend our lives (today as then) continually threatening one another while in Europe the large majority, not only of great minds but of all sensible men, understand perfectly that we could easily go through life without this perpetual menace and mutual hostility and without the necessity which seems to have been fatally imposed on nations by some secret and invisible enemy of mankind of slaughtering each other with such science and refinement.”
He closed by expressing the hope that France and England, setting aside old rivalries and uniting, would form the nucleus of a European confederation which all other nations of Europe would soon join.
Garibaldi’s hopes for a French and English unity that might serve as a nucleus of a European confederation have been realized. The future will tell whether or not the other nations will gradually rally round them.
Incarnating the highest ideals which he always put into action, fighting in a hundred battles for the freedom of all peoples, Garibaldi in 1870, in the same spirit, despite his distress over the transfer of his native town of Nice to France, hastened with his companions to the aid of a France abandoned by all Europe – and this only a few years after he had attended the first Congress for Peace and Liberty in Geneva37, which he opened with these words: “All nations are sisters and war between them is therefore inconceivable. Italians as citizens of other countries, men of other countries as citizens of Italy – that is the goal we should reach…”
These sentiments are the same ones expressed by the Italian people in the culminating moments of the revolution, but I would be dishonest were I to claim that they are those of the majority of my fellow citizens in ordinary times. Had that been the case, our pacifist propaganda would never have been necessary and would not at present be necessary.
On the contrary, because Garibaldi, having become universally known and admired, said himself on several occasions that he had always drawn inspiration “from the great qualities and magnanimous deeds of the Roman people”, there arose in Italy a generation of patriots who, dreaming of an impossible return of Roman splendor, would have liked to make modern Italy a military power of the first rank rather than a nation outstanding for its great freedom and advancement.
Irritated at seeing France enter Tunis in spite of the French government’s last assurances to our government that she would not40, these patriots believed that with the aid of Germany they could make war against France and wrest Nice and Corsica from her.
It was at this stage that we, the former followers of Garibaldi together with patriots from other parties, all of us friends of France, formed the Lombard Union of Peace to counteract this mad Gallophobia.
By exposing the nefarious schemes of the sowers of discord, by reviving memories of Italy’s debt of gratitude to France, by holding conferences and forming pacifist propaganda committees in the cities where they were most needed, we succeeded in obliging the government of that time to modify its policy and to silence those newspapers which seemed bent on creating a rift of hatred between Italy and France.
You know the result of our work. For several years there has been no trace of Gallophobia in Italy; and a warm friendship for our western neighbor has taken its place. We had clear proof of this last June on the fiftieth anniversary of the liberation of Milan and Lombardy. The streets, the squares, and the theaters were filled with crowds vibrant with memories of the political events and the feats of bravery that had freed our country. The warmest and most unanimous demonstrations were those saluting France and her army – several of whose gallant representatives were among us – for the generous assistance lent us during that memorable campaign in 1859, assistance which played so large a part in securing our emancipation.
Clearly, a people who, after a half-century of extraordinary and occasionally unfortunate events, can preserve intact their deep appreciation of the benefits received from another nation, can be neither a boorish people nor one oblivious to the obligations that bind them to the society of other nations.
Although today this society of other nations has no actual political existence, it has a virtual one. We Italians were made very aware of this when, struck by the terrible disaster which buried Messina, Reggio, and many villages in Calabria and Sicily41, we were consoled by receiving touching proofs of affection and prompt aid from every part of the world.
Such is the voice of the universal human soul which, in times of great calamity, ignores the artificial barriers created for reasons of state and testifies to the goodness and nobility of human nature.
And during the celebration of our national jubilee we did not forget the great demonstration of compassion and active sympathy that came to our country from your magnanimous Norway, as indeed from all the civilized nations.
The orator of the “Mille” himself, the poet Abba42, in the presence of the King at Rome, commemorated that great event by expressing the thought which was then and still is uppermost in the minds both of the people and of the government; he closed his speech by saying that Italy had risen again to accomplish the mission of peace with which history and her position in Europe had charged her. It is now known, even outside Italy, that there is no longer in our country any party agitating for war. Even so, there is no lack among us, particularly among the military, of people who, though not expressly wishing for war, would not be displeased were war to come; they hope that the laurels of victory, denied to Italy at the time of her wars of independence, which were fought by bands of Italians [rather than by an organized Italian army], might now come to crown Italy as a nation. This idea, held by a small number of our fellow citizens, has been rejected by all those of us who have any human feelings and is contradicted by the history of nearly every modern nation which has managed to become great, prosperous, and respected in spite of the fact that its military chronicles record a larger number of defeats than of victories.
When, by the virtue of its people and the valor of its fighting men, a nation manages in a few years to throw off all governments that have enslaved and divided it and to accomplish a rebirth that would have taken other nations over a century; when, not since the Greek insurrection against Turkish domination43, has there been a single war of national independence in Europe or America in which Italians have not shown their brotherhood by fighting on the side of liberty; when the bravery of our soldiers was always remarkable even in the battles which we lost, like the Prussians at Jena44 and the French in the [France-Prussian] War of 1870-1871, through lack of organization and the fault of commanders-in-chief – when all these things are true, then new wars are not needed to demonstrate to the world that if our independence and our national honor are again endangered, our people and our army will know how to perform their duty to the bitter end. However, it is not glory in war that Italy or any other nation should seek today.
It is sad to think that the peace which has now prevailed in Europe for many years can be maintained only at the price of ever increasing armaments whose enormous economic weight prevents nations from developing themselves fully and freely; and sad to think that this peace exists only on condition that very serious questions be ignored – a situation that, after a few vain protests, allows the abuse of force which would not occur if law were in control.
No man of sense and feeling can fail to see the grave dangers of this situation or to shudder at the thought of the terrible conflagration it could lead to if we delay much longer in finding the remedy.
It is urgently necessary that some ray of truth and love fall upon the three or four men who are today the arbiters of peace and war, so that a peace rich in justice and well-being for Europe may replace the present armed truce.
Ever since Muraviev, chancellor of the Russian Empire, acting for the ingeniously inspired Czar Nicholas, addressed his famous circular to the powers inviting them to a conference aimed at disarmament and peace45, we have believed that the great day of proclaiming universal peace was close at hand.
The frequent exchange of visits in recent years between the sovereigns of England, Germany, Russia, and the president of the French Republic, the often attempted conciliation between France and Germany, the demonstrations of friendship made both in England and in Germany to dispel the clouds of suspicion and enmity which unhealthy prejudices raise from time to time between the two – all these indicated the good intentions of the heads of state as well as of the people and encouraged us to go on hoping. But almost immediately the dark, proud, and provocative arrogance of nationalism reared its ugly head, and the ground we believed ourselves to have gained in the direction of a general peace seemed lost again.
Will it always be like this? Will the day foretold by the prophet never come, that day when no nation will ever again take up arms against another and when lances and swords will be beaten into plowshares? Was it in vain that Jesus of Nazareth came into this world to herald peace and goodwill among men and died on the Cross so that one day all men would recognize each other as brothers?
Consider the French Revolution which should have introduced the ideals of peace, equality, and fraternity into international relations and instead, two years after the Declaration of the Rights of Man, let loose a tempest of war such as the world had not seen since Attila46. Consider the fact that two years after the founding of the Society of the Friends of Peace in France47, which was greeted warmly by men of letters, by statesmen, and by workers’ associations throughout France and Germany, came the outbreak of the Franco-German War, disastrous not only for France, but also for the cause of peace throughout Europe. And then remember that our distinguished master Frederic Passy was not returned to office by his electors48, perhaps on account of his grievous sin in having become the most fervent apostle of international peace. Notice too that not one of our most eminent pacifists has ever been summoned to lead a government or to direct foreign policy. Note that the Pope, the vicar of Christ on earth as he is called, shuts himself up like a voluntary prisoner in the Vatican in protest against loss of temporal power49; yet when his voice should have rung out above every other in true Christian love and anguish in an effort to avert war at its inception, it was either never raised at all, or else too late, or too feebly, just as were the voices of his most recent predecessors. Consider the way that poets, with few exceptions, pay court to fame and popularity by singing the praises of war and massacre. Consider again how the most sublime virtues are always associated with the national flag while cruelty is ascribed to the enemy alone – this in order to sustain mistrust, hatred, and enmity between nations. Remembering and pondering all this, oh, I confess to you that I too have had moments of discouragement, wondering whether the idea to which I devote and have for years devoted all my time and energy might be no more than an illusion of my poor mind, a dream like Thomas More’s Utopia or our own Campanella’s City of the Sun50.
But these were fleeting moments! And I was soon telling myself that if work for a future of peace and justice, a future of continual progress and of fruitful and useful labor for all men and all nations was indeed an illusion, it was still an illusion so divine as to make life worth living and to inspire one to die for it.
But it is not an illusion. I felt this deep within me, and the history of human evolution as well as everyday experience confirmed it for me. Reasonable ideas which find their sanction in the conscience of the righteous do not die; they are consequently realities and active forces, but they are so only to the extent that those who profess them know how to turn them to account. It depends on us, then, and on our judgment and steadfastness whether or not the idea of peace will root itself ever more firmly in public awareness until it grows into the living and active conscience of a whole people.
Today, unfortunately, what many facts indicate only too well is that universal peace, as we conceive of it, still lies far in the distant future, and in view of the growing greed for the lands of others, the weaker countries can no longer trust the stronger ones.
“Keep your powder dry and always be ready to defend yourself”; this is for Italy, as well as for others, a hard necessity at the present time.
I do not believe that there is at the moment a single government in Europe which is actually planning war, but the time could come when those who are thinking of it least might find themselves embroiled in war by force of circumstances. We had a classic example of this in France in 1870 when, one month before the war, no one dreamed of or could have imagined such a thing; but once it had started no one knew how to stop it.
Meanwhile, one thing seems certain: alliances today are made not for war, but for peace. We see proof of this in the fact that one nation belonging to a given group of allies can establish and maintain friendly relations with nations making up another group, without protests or complaints from the allies.
There are still of course many people dominated by old prejudices who conceal under the mask of civilized man, the barbarian who sees any foreigner as an enemy and war as a good speculation. It is up to us pacifists to expose these backward mentalities by making people aware of what war really involves – just how many tears, how much blood, and how much torture unfortunate populations have to pay as the price of victory.
Meanwhile, the situation in Europe is so involved, the old bitterness between certain nations still so alive, that no one can guarantee the future.
It is very strange, however, that while progressive men of science have succeeded in overcoming the resistance of the winds and in cleaving a way through the air on artificial wings, not one of their counterparts among progressive statesmen – and there are still many in the various countries has so far found out how to overcome the resistance of evil passions and antisocial interests that together block the inevitable advance of nations toward the common goal of peace, justice, and well-being.
I do not know what the governments of the principal powers will do today, tomorrow, or later to find a way out of a situation whose weaknesses, instability, and dangers they themselves recognize.
Nor am I any more able to predict what government and what policy could bring about a different form of parliamentary action in our own country. I can assure you of one thing, however, for I know the spirit of our people. It is that Italy will never take up arms or bring influence to bear in the service of causes condemned by the conscience of free men who have a feeling for justice and for the conditions of universal progress.
One recent event is a good omen for the future: When in 1870 the very popular king, Victor Emmanuel II, out of a sense of chivalry wanted to send 100,000 men to reinforce the army of Napoleon – then waging war on Prussia in an effort to prevent the unification of Germany – our people opposed it unanimously, and the 100,000 soldiers remained in Italy.
Later, when the Crispi government seemed bent on war against the French Republic, Cavallotti51 spoke out in the name of Italian democracy and all the friends of peace, saying that the Italian soldiers would have to march over our dead bodies before they could cross the French frontier. As a result, Crispi was forced into changing his policy to one that made such a war impossible.
Again, a few years later, the same minister planned to send an entire army to Africa to regain the prestige which, according to the militarists, had been lost by our forces in the unfortunate battle of Adua. But threatened with revolution by the people if this senseless and unjust war were continued, he was compelled to hand over power.
I do not, however, wish to conceal from you the fact that, although our people have many good qualities, they are also impressionable and impulsive, and since some of their agitators are equally so, it has occasionally happened that some of them, particularly the students, have indulged in rash demonstrations which could have compromised Italy’s good relations with neighboring states. But these were commotions that the majority of the people never had anything to do with. They were not provoked by thoughts of revenge nor were they stirred up in answer to taunts; almost without exception they were the result of insults and injuries suffered by Italians outside the frontiers of our kingdom: “Blood is thicker than water.”
Gentlemen, I’m sure you know how I am going to end my lecture. Italy, the youngest and the smallest among the great powers, has contributed to international life her fair share of political ideas, juridical concepts, and moral ideals which have been both sound and productive and which have served as her compass in dark and stormy days; they will be her strength, her glory, and her driving spirit in times to come.
The Italian Revolution was fought first of all to obtain the liberty and unity of the nation, and then, with that achieved, to join the freest and most advanced nations in inaugurating a new era of peace, justice, and joint cooperation in the work of civilization.
So far, only the first goal has been attained; Victor Emmanuel II, who was king of tiny Piedmont, made his contribution by assuming the crown of Italy in Rome.
It remains now to realize the second ideal.
If King Victor Emmanuel III (who deserves recognition from civilization for founding the International Institute of Agriculture52 which will certainly yield benefits useful to all in the future world economy) will lend his support to the fulfillment of the Italian Revolution with respect to Italy’s place in the world, he will gain added renown for himself and his subjects and at the same time strengthen the bond of affection between himself and his people.
“Courage ever high and ever for liberty, for justice, and for peace among peoples.” This is the motto with which both people and sovereigns can face all obstacles and strive to reach the highest goals.
I speak here without mandate, but I speak as a man who has followed closely (sometimes as one of the lesser participants) every phase of the political renaissance of his country and who has in the supreme moments of our national epic felt the stirrings of the Italian soul.
Gentlemen, at this most solemn moment of my life, before you citizens and representatives of this illustrious Norway whose example has taught all nations, large and small, how to achieve without violence the greatest civil victories – in view of the patriotic and humanitarian ideals in the name of which Italy has come into its third existence, and in memory of the long list of heroes and martyrs who died on the battlefields, in prisons, or on the scaffold for those ideals – I give the solemn assurance, as a seal to my speech, that Italy will never fail in the commitment she made before the world: to be, once free to control her own destiny, an element of order and of progress, of pacification and of civilization in Europe. Yes, I am fully convinced that she will never fail, for one can say of Italy what your great Ibsen said of your country:
After a heavy sleep,
She awoke renewed in strength, ready for the word of command,
And now she is the race which has the will and the faith,
Will and faith in the peaceful progress of mankind53.
*Although awarded the prize in 1907, the laureate asked, for reasons of health, to give his lecture later, preferably in the summer of 1909 when he could also attend a peace congress in Stockholm. He therefore delivered this lecture on August 25, 1909, at the Norwegian Nobel Institute where he was introduced to a large audience by Mr. Løvland, chairman of the Nobel Committee. This translation is based on the text in French (the language in which MrMoneta spoke) published in Les Prix Nobel en 1907.
2. Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906), Norwegian poet and dramatist. Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910), Norwegian poet, novelist, dramatist; recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1903 and one of the original members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
3. The Interparliamentary Union (1889)was organized in 1888 through the efforts of Frédéric Passy (co-laureate for 1901) and William Randal Cremer (laureate for 1903); composed of delegates from the different parliaments of the world, its primary aim originally was to further the cause of international arbitration. The Permanent International Peace Bureau began its work late in 1891 at Bern as a clearinghouse and information center for the many organizations and individuals working for peace, and as an executive arm for the international peace congresses.
8. Manifesto published by the Milanese revolutionaries on March 23, 1848. The translation of the quotation is taken from “The Peace Prize” by August Schou in Nobel: The Man and His Prizes, ed. by the Nobel Foundation (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1962), p. 539.
11. Jus fetialium was a branch of early Roman law concerned with embassies, declarations of war, and treaties of peace; it was administered by a college of fetiales, that order of priests who discharged the duties of ambassadors.
12. Jus gentium, in early Roman practice, became that part of the law of nations, “regulating the transactions of men who reside in different countries and carry on the intercourse of nations independently of the local customs and municipal law of particular states”. Palmer D.Edmunds, Law and Civilization (Washington, D.C., 1959), p. 152.
18. Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 B.C.-43 B.C.), Roman orator and statesman. Alberico Gentili (c.1550-c.1608), Italian jurist whose book De jure belli paved the way for the work of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), Dutch statesman and jurist, who wrote De jure belli ac pacis (1625), the first systematic text on international law.
22. Augustus (63 B.C.-A.D.14), first Roman emperor. Vergil (70 B.C.-19 B.C.), Roman poet. Horace (65 B.C. -8 B.C.), Latin lyric poet. Probably Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79). Roman scholar. Seneca (c.3 B.C.-A.D. 65), Roman philosopher, statesman, dramatist.
23. A supposed grant of extensive temporal authority made to Pope Silvester I and his successors by the Roman emperor Constantine I (274?-337), which was later used as a basis for larger papal claims. Accepted as genuine during the Middle Ages, its authenticity was questioned during the Renaissance, and by 1800 it was commonly admitted to be a forgery.
24. The Hanseatic League, organized in the 14th century and dissolved in the 17th. was a loose confederation of German towns in a mercantile league formed for protection against pirates and foreign competition. The Lombard League united rival towns of Lombardy in 1167 to defy the extension of imperial authority by Frederick I; successful at first, the League was defeated in 1237 by Frederick II.
25. Frederick I or Frederick Barbarossa (c. 1123 – 1190), German king and Holy Roman emperor (1152-1190), was defeated in 1176 at Legnano, a Lombard city near Milan. Alexander III (?-1181), pope (1159-1181), supported the Lombard League.
26. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). The laureate probably refers to lines in Canto VI of the Purgatory. As translated by Thomas Okey, p. 225, in the Carlyle-Wicksteed translation of The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri (New York: Modern Library, 1932), these lines read: “Ah Italy, thou slave, hostel of woe, vessel without pilot in a mighty storm, no mistress of provinces, but a brothel!”
30. In 1850 in London, Mazzini, along with Alexandre Ledru-Rollin, a French lawyer and politician, Arnold Ruge, a German political writer, and Albert Darasz, a Polish political reformer, founded the European Democratic Central Committee.
31. Pasquale Stanisiao Mancini (1817-1888), Italian jurist and statesman; professor of international law at Turin (1849 ff.); minister of justice (1876-1878) and minister of foreign affairs (1881-1885).
36. Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882), Italian soldier and patriot, hero of the 19th-century movement for political unity in Italy; his army of 1,000 selected volunteers, known as the “Mille”, defeated the Neapolitans in the Battle of the Volturno on October 1-2, 1860 (the date usually given).
39. Italian efforts in the 1880’s and 1890’s to establish a protectorate over Ethiopia led to war and eventually to the Italian defeat at Adua and the Treaty of Addis Ababa (1896) recognizing Ethiopian independence.
45. The Czar’s Rescript, dated August 12, 1898 (New Style, August 24), was handed by the Russian minister of foreign affairs, Count Muraviev, to all foreign diplomatic representatives accredited to the Court at St. Petersburg; along with the Russian follow-up circular of December 30, 1898 (New Style, January 11, 1899), it resulted in the calling of the first Peace Conference at The Hague in 1899.
46. The French Revolution, which began in 1789, and its Declaration of the Rights of Man, which was adopted as part of the French constitution of 1791. were followed by the French Revolutionary Wars and they in turn by the Napoleonic Wars. Attila(406?-453), leader of the Huns, ravaged much of central Europe (451-452).
47. Société française des amis de la paix (later known as Socitété française pour l’arbitrage entre nations) was founded by Frédéric Passy in 1867 under the name La Ligue internationale et permanente de la paix.
49. After the French troops left Rome in 1870 to fight in the Franco-Prussian War, the city was annexed to Italy; stripped of the papal states, the Pope refused to accept the terms offered by the government and withdrew to the Vatican where he and his successors remained voluntary “prisoners” until 1929.
52. Acting on an idea advocated by David Lubin, an American agriculturist, Victor Emmanuel III convened the 1905 international conference in Rome which initiated the Institute, the opening of which took place several years later.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.