Auguste Beernaert was born in 18281. After completing his legal studies he began practice as a barrister in Brussels in 1853. In 1859 he was appointed counsel at the Belgian Supreme Court of Appeal. He entered politics at an early date and in 18732 was elected deputy for Thielt. His unusual talents and political ability promised a great political future. In 18753 he was named minister of public works, an office he held until 1878 when the Liberal Party won the election. When his Clerical Party returned to power in 1884, he was made head of the Department of Agriculture, Industry, and Public Works, and a few months later became finance minister and head of the cabinet. In 1895 he was elected president of the Chamber of Representatives.
Beernaert has played a leading role in Belgian politics. It was through his efforts that the Belgian Chamber agreed that King Leopold4 should become sovereign of the Congo State, and it was thanks to him that fortifications were constructed on the Meuse to protect Belgium’s neutrality. This experienced politician also played an important part in the revision of the Belgian constitution. His work for the cause of peace is widely known in Europe, and his name renowned in the International Peace Conferences. At the first Hague Conference he was chairman of the commission set up to formulate proposals for the restriction of armaments.
Beernaert is also a member of the Permanent Arbitration Commission, a member of the Institut de France and of the Belgian Academy. He is honorary president of the Société de droit international, active president of the Association for the Promotion of International Maritime Law, and honorary president of the International Law Association.
Each of these men [Mr. Beernaert and Baron d’Estournelles de Constant] holds a prominent position in the international movement for peace and arbitration, and it is therefore fully in keeping with the spirit of Nobel’s intentions that the prize should be awarded to them.
* Mr. Løvland opened the award ceremony of December 10, 1909, in the auditorium of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, with a welcome to the audience and an introduction of Mr. Christian L. Lange, secretary to the Committee, who had just been named secretary-general of the Interparliamentary Bureau. Mr. Lange delivered a speech on the Interparliamentary Union, reviewing its twenty-year history. After thanking Mr. Lange for his speech and for his years of service to the Committee, Mr. Løvland announced the joint winners of the Peace Prize for 1909, Mr. Beernaert and Baron d’Estournelles de Constant, and gave a brief biographical sketch of each. The translation of that of Mr. Beernaert, given here, is based on a reporter’s version of it which appeared in the Oslo Aftenposten of December 10, 1909; certain apparent errors of date in the text are noted as they occur. There is no indication in Les Prix Nobel en 1909 or in the Aftenposten that the laureates were present at the ceremony. Neither laureate delivered a Nobel lecture.
4. Leopold II (1835-1909), King of Belgium (1865-1909). See biography of Beernaert.
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Paul Henri Benjamin d’Estournelles de Constant is still in the prime of life. Born on September 22, 18521, at La Flèche (Sarthe), he belongs to the old French aristocracy. As Baron de Constant de Rebecque, he can trace his ancestry back to the Crusaders.
He was educated at the Lycée Louis le Grand in Paris and later studied law; he is a Licentiate of Law and also holds a diploma from the School of Oriental Languages.
At the age of twenty-three he became attaché in the French Foreign Office and two years later was sent to the Balkans. When he was twenty-nine he became secretary-general of the French Residency in Tunis; on the basis of his experience there he wrote La Politique française en Tunisie2. While in Tunis, d’Estournelles de Constant performed most valuable organizing work.
He returned to Paris and became assistant director for the Levant in the Department of Foreign Affairs. At thirty-eight he went to London as counselor to the Embassy, with the title of minister plenipotentiary. As chargé d’affaires he was involved in averting threatened war between France and England during the conflict between King Chulalongkorn of Siam and the French fleet3.
Since then he has become thoroughly dedicated to the movement for peace and arbitration, and he has written a number of books and articles on the subject.
He entered politics in his own country, and in 1895 the republican Baron stood for his native Sarthe. He was elected senator in 1904.
In 1899 d’Estournelles de Constant was named a French representative at the first Hague Conference, and in 1903 he founded the Groupe parlementaire de l’arbitrage international. It was this work which determined his later political attitude. A practical result of his efforts was the arbitration treaties between France and other countries, and he saw his policy adopted beyond the frontiers of France. He believed that foreign policy should be controlled by parliaments and that consequently parliamentary arbitration groups should be developed and strengthened.
His work for peace has not been performed blindly. As a diplomat he has learned to understand international policy and has planned his efforts accordingly.
In this country d’Estournelles de Constant is a well-known and very welcome visitor ever since the last visit of the French parliamentarians4.
* Mr. Løvland gave this biographical sketch of Baron d’Estournelles de Constant, along with one on the co-laureate Mr. Beernaert, on December 10, 1909, at the Norwegian Nobel Institute. The translation is based on a reporter’s version of the speech which appeared in the Oslo Aftenposten of the same date. (For a note on other details of the occasion, see Auguste Beernaert´s presentation speech.)
3. In 1893 during French-Siamese border disputes, the Siamese, under Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868-1910), fired at gunboats sent to enforce French demands. A French ultimatum, rejected by the Siamese, was followed by a blockade which, in turn, brought opposition from the British who refused to remove a gunboat stationed at Bangkok to protect British subjects. The crisis, brief but acute, ended when the Siamese were obliged to accept the ultimatum and the blockade was raised.