Tobias Michael Carel Asser was born in 1838 in Amsterdam where he became professor of commercial law and later of international law from 1862 to 1893 when he was named a member of the Council of State. He soon became legal counselor to the Dutch Foreign Office and in 1904 minister of state. He holds honorary doctorates from the Universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh, and Bologna. He was a Dutch delegate at the two Peace Conferences at The Hague1 and, among other things, arbitrator in the dispute between Russia and the U.S.A. on the Bering Straits, which he heard in 19022, and in the dispute between the U.S.A. and Mexico on the Pious Fund of the Californias, which was brought to the Arbitration Court at The Hague (1902)3.
He was one of the founders of the Institut de droit international (1873)4 and has been one of its most active and influential members.
Asser has above all been a practical legal statesman. He holds a position in the sphere of international private law similar to that enjoyed by the famous French jurist Louis Renault5 in international public law. Indeed, his public activity has overshadowed his scholarly writing, which is of great importance in its own right. As a pioneer in the field of international legal relations, he has earned a reputation as one of the leaders in modem jurisprudence. It is therefore only natural that his countrymen should see him as a successor to or reviver of The Netherlands’ pioneer work in international law in the seventeenth century6.
It was at his instigation that the Dutch government summoned the four. conferences at The Hague in 1893, 1894, 1900, and 1904 on international private law; all presided over by Asser, they prepared the ground for conventions which would establish uniformity in international private law and thus lead to greater public security and justice in international relations. The responsibility then passed to individual countries to bring their national legislation into line. Asser has also proposed that other nations follow The Netherlands’ example by appointing permanent commissions to prepare the work of the Conferences. «By doing this», he said in 1900, «the foundations will be laid for an international organization which, without interfering with the complete autonomy of the nations in the domain of legislation, would contribute greatly to the codification of international civil law within the not too distant future.» As a result of these conferences, seven Conventions have been concluded on different aspects of civil procedure (legal aid) and of family law; five of these have been subscribed to by Norway.
* Mr. Løvland welcomed the audience to the award ceremony held on December 10, 1911, in the auditorium of the Nobel Institute and then called upon Prof. Fredrik Stang (later a member of the Committee himself), who addressed the assembly on «Nordic Cooperation in Unifying Civil Law». This address was followed by Mr. Løvland’s announcement that the Nobel Peace Prize for 1911 was to be shared by Mr. Asser and Mr. Fried, neither of whom was able to be present at the ceremony and neither of whom delivered a Nobel lecture. Mr. Løvland then gave a biographical account of each laureate and, since 1911 was the tenth anniversary of the first prize presentation, concluded with some brief comments on the basis-used for awarding the prizes. His account of Mr. Asser is given here as the presentation speech. The translation is based on the Norwegian text of it (insofar as the reporter was able to reproduce it) in the Oslo Aftenposten of December 11, 1911.
2. Mr. Asser decided in favor of the U. S. which had contended that damages for Russian seizure of 5 sealing vessels should be assessed on the basis of the average annual catch; although not taken to the Hague Tribunal, the case was settled according to the code of that court.
3. The so-called Pious Fund, which was set up in the 18th century to aid Catholicism in the Californias and which, after 1842, was controlled by Mexico, became the cause of a dispute when Mexico, having ceded Upper California to the U. S. in 1848, thereafter refused to pay the bishops of Upper California their share of the Fund’s interest. The laureate was one of the 4 arbitrators in the case, the first ever submitted to the Hague Tribunal; the award was to the U. S. and the bishops.
* * *
Alfred Hermann Fried was born in Vienna in 1864, but most of his activities have been carried on in Germany. Since 1891 he has devoted his whole life to work for peace, one of the few men to do so. Fried, who was first a bookseller and then a journalist, is a self-educated man who, with true German persistence and application, worked his way up until he had mastered scholarly writing. He has probably been the most industrious literary pacifist in the past twenty years. In 1892 he founded the Deutsche Friedensgesellschaft [German Peace Society] and for a time edited its journals. Since 1899 he has been publishing his own monthly periodical Die Friederswarte1, which he has gradually turned into the best journal in the peace movement, with excellent leading articles and news of topical international problems. Fried has considered it his task to win over the German university faculties of international law and history to the cause of peace and to persuade them to contribute to his periodical, and he may now be said to have succeeded. Among the many who have lent their support to Fried’s candidacy for the Nobel Peace Prize are Professors L. von Bar, Lamprecht, Niemeyer, Schucking, Rehm, and Lentner2. Fried’s name was also proposed by the Swedish Parliamentary Peace Group through Baron Bonde and by the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Association through another member of Parliament.
According to Fried, the foundation of the peace movement should be the legal and political organization of international life. He finds the beginnings of an efficient organization in the existing international bureaus and wants new ones to be created for all fields of international relations. The existing international anarchy (armed peace) will gradually disappear with increased organization and be succeeded by an ordered state of peace. Because of this viewpoint Fried places less emphasis on combating war; the method generally employed by friends of peace, that of arousing disgust at the idea of war, is not in his opinion sufficient. Instead of fighting the symptoms of war, he wants first and foremost to fight its cause, namely, the anarchy in international relations. Fried has argued his theory in a work entitled The Basis of Pacifism3 (Freiburg, 1908).
In addition to innumerable contributions to the Austro-German press, Fried has published a large number of individual monographs and books on pacifism. Among these are: Das Abrüstungs-Problem (Berlin, 1904); Der kranke Krieg (Leipzig, 1909), a collection of his best leading articles in Die Friedenswarte; and Pan-Amerika (Berlin, 1910), a meritorious scholarly account of the efforts organized by the Pan-American Bureau4 in Washington. His best known work is his Handbuch der Friedensbewegung (1905) of which Part I came out this year in a new and expanded edition. It is an account of the fundamental problems of the peace movement, giving reports on peace conferences and the position of arbitration, and containing an interesting historical review of the peace movement, with biographies of outstanding friends of peace and a list of societies and other organizations belonging to the movement.
Fried’s agitation played a part in bringing about the Morocco Pact5.
* Mr. Løvland gave biographical data on both prizewinners for 1911 in his presentation speech at the award ceremony in the Norwegian Nobel Institute on December 10, 1911. The second part of the speech, that concerning Mr. Fried, is given here. The translation is based on the Norwegian text of it (insofar as the reporter was able to reproduce it) in the Oslo Aftenposten of December 11, 1911. Mr. Fried was not present and never delivered a Nobel lecture.
1. This replaced Die Waffen Nieder, published by Fried and edited by Bertha von Suttner.
5. The latest of several Moroccan crises – brought on by European rivalry, especially between Germany and France, for territorial power in Morocco – had just been settled by the Convention of November 4, 1911, which provided that Germany would allow France a free hand in Morocco in exchange for part of the French Congo.
A new Nobel Prize Lesson is now available and ready to use in the classroom.