Award ceremony speech

Presentation Speech by Fredrik Stang*, Chairman of the Nobel Committee, on December 10, 1927

The Nobel Committee has awarded the Peace Prize for this year jointly to Ferdinand Buisson and Ludwig Quidde.

At last year’s ceremony the Committee gave prominence to three events of historical significance to the world: the Dawes Plan, the Locarno Pact, and Germany’s admission to the League of Nations. These were political measures effected by responsible agents of government, and we emphasized their importance by awarding the Peace Prize to four statesmen1 who had rendered outstanding service in making them possible.

This year we pay tribute through the Nobel Prize to a different kind of work for the cause of peace. Governments and their policies are not the only potential menace to peace. A constant and real threat of war also lies in the mentality of men, in the psychology of the masses. Therefore the great organized work for peace must be preceded by the education of the people, by a campaign to turn mass thinking away from war as a recognized means of settling disputes, and to substitute another and much higher ideal: peaceful cooperation between nations, with an international court of justice to resolve any disagreements which might arise between them. It is in the task of reorienting public opinion that Buisson and Quidde have played such prominent roles. They have guided this work in two countries where it has been particularly difficult to accomplish, but where the need for it has been commensurately great. In presenting the Nobel Peace Prize to Buisson and Quidde, the Nobel Committee wishes to recognize the emergence in France and Germany of a public opinion which favors peaceful international cooperation. It is this happy circumstance which brought about the rapprochement between Germany and France, which in turn found expression in the events rewarded at last year’s award ceremony.

Ferdinand Buisson was born in Paris in 1841. He studied philosophy and pedagogy but was later unable to obtain a position in France because he refused to take the oath to the Emperor2. He therefore went to Switzerland where he stayed from 1866 to 1870. Upon his return to France in the autumn of 1870 he held various educational posts and in 1879 was appointed, director of the primary school section of the Ministry of Public Instruction. In this capacity he was actively concerned in the drafting and implementing of the laws on free, compulsory, and nondenominational primary education in France. In 1897 he became professor of education at the Sorbonne.

The Dreyfus case3 brought Buisson into politics. He threw himself heart and soul into the struggle waged on behalf of this unjustly convicted man. He joined the French League of the Rights of Man, which, inspired by Zola’s J’accuse4, was founded at the time of the Dreyfus affair. The aim of this society was to attack every form of injustice and oppression both in France and elsewhere. As a member of the Radical-Socialist Party, Buisson was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1902. Although defeated in 1914, he returned to the Chamber in 1919, holding his seat until 1924.

The cause of peace first attracted Buisson when he was still a young man. He took part in the first congress of the Ligue de la paix et de la liberté5 [League of Peace and Liberty] in 1867 and wrote articles denouncing militarism and insisting that intensive education of the masses was the way to put an end to war.

When the World War came, Buisson did not protest it. Regarding France as the attacked party, he believed that a German victory would mean defeat for justice and the principle of international solidarity. During the early years of the war the League also remained passive. The essential thing, said Buisson, was to win in order to put an end not only to this war, but to all wars. Convinced that the Allies would win in the end, he was greatly concerned that they should not misuse their victory but should take action to lay the foundations for a new, international world by creating a League of Nations. From 1916 on he worked tirelessly for a just peace and supported Wilson‘s program.

The peace turned out to be a bitter disappointment for Buisson. In an open letter published on May 23, 1919, he criticized the League of Nations as it had been structured, and described it as a league of the victorious powers of the Entente. It was nevertheless a fait accompli; it must be defended. It was therefore necessary to put propaganda to work, with a view to shaping the League into an efficient instrument for the prevention of war and for the promotion of international solidarity. In a eulogy on Wilson in 1924 he expressed his belief that the League would grow, that the day would come when it would be a force claiming the respect of the whole world, even of those who then dismissed it with a smile. And he preached the disarmament of hatred, for this must precede the disarmament of nations.

Buisson and his friends have not confined themselves merely to talking about the disarmament of hatred; they have sought to make it a living fact. At the time of the Ruhr dispute6 they had the courage to try to build a bridge by inviting German friends of peace to Paris and then returning the visit to do what they could in Germany. Buisson, at the age of eighty-four, accompanied the delegation. Speaking on a number of occasions, he concluded one address to the German people with these words:

«A force exists which is far greater than France, far greater than Germany, far greater than any nation, and that is mankind. But above mankind itself stands justice, which finds its most perfect expression in human brotherhood.»

Ludwig Quidde was born in Bremen in 1858. He studied at Strasbourg and Göttingen, his main interest being the history of Germany in the Middle Ages. After taking his doctorate, he devoted some years to historical writing and publishing. This pursuit took him to Rome for a few years as a staff member of the Prussian Historical Institute there. Following his return to Germany, he threw himself into political activity and especially into work for peace. Being of independent means, he had no need to find paid employment and was therefore in a position to devote his undivided efforts to his chosen interests.

While he was in Rome, Quidde wrote Caligula (1894), a small pamphlet of some sixteen pages. Ostensibly an historically accurate description of the emperor Caligula7 and the mad obsessions from which he suffered, it was actually a rather transparent satire on Emperor Wilhelm II8. The book created a storm. It had an enormous sale, reputedly reaching a printing of several hundred thousand copies. Many people were naturally delighted with it. But in others it aroused bitter resentment, and for years afterwards Quidde was to learn in various ways how deeply the wound had been felt.

Quidde’s work for peace began about the time Caligula appeared. Ever since then he has worked ceaselessly as lecturer and organizer. He has taken part in, and in many cases presided over, numerous peace congresses; he has attended conferences of the Interparliamentary Union9; and he has written countless publications, some of which treated current problems so trenchantly as to lead to their confiscation and even to the institution of legal proceedings against their author.

For Quidde the outbreak of war heralded a period of intensive and diversified activity. He went immediately to The Hague, thinking that from neutral Holland he would be able to keep alive his connections with the French, English, and Belgian pacifists. In this he was disappointed. And so he returned to Germany but tried even from there to sway public opinion in the other belligerent countries.

His work was divided between organization and writing. The war and all the problems it raised led to friction within the pacifist camp in Germany, impeded organizational operations, and made great demands on Quidde’s ability as a mediator. However, he succeeded not only in holding the movement together, but also in increasing support for the peace organizations. All this work left Quidde little time to write. Of the things he published during and after the war I should like to mention two which seem to me to be characteristic of his views and of his manner of working.

In 1915 he published a pamphlet entitled Sollen wir annektieren? [Should We Annex?]. In this pamphlet he mounts an attack on the desire for annexation which at that stage of the war found wide support in Germany. To him it was sheer lunacy to try to secure the peace by destroying the antagonist. In this publication he takes no marked political standpoint but sets out in a calm, well-balanced, and pertinently documented argument the political, economic, and cultural consequences of a peace based on annexation. He himself submits a positive program for peace, whose chief point is that the freedom of the seas and the Open Door policy10 should be secured through the peace settlement. The pamphlet was confiscated. A revised edition met the same fate, but this did not prevent it and a French translation of it from reaching a wide public.

When the question of guilt arose at the end of the war, Quidde entered the discussion with his pamphlet Die Schuldfrage [The Question of Responsibility]11. Once again his subject is calmly reasoned. He goes to the root of the question, distinguishing between responsibility for creating the circumstances which paved the way for the World War and responsibility for the actions which unleashed war at the decisive moment. He does not share the view of those members of the German pacifist movement who lay all the blame at Germany’s door, and, as one might expect, he is even less inclined to the other extreme. Calmly and without passion he draws the distinction between responsibility and guilt, analyzing the interrelationship of the many factors involved.

Two qualities stand out in Quidde’s writing and in his work as a whole: moderation and courage. Although he has never had a chance to publish major works outside his professional field of history, all of his work beats the stamp of the historian and the scholar. And he has displayed his courage on many occasions. His own account of the origins of Caligula and of the events associated with it is characteristic of the man. As already mentioned, the book appears on the face of it to be an objective portrayal of the Roman emperor’s life and character. In order to make sure that it was historically accurate and that it had been in no way colored by the political purpose behind it, he had the manuscript read by several scholars specializing in Roman history. When he decided to print the pamphlet, his friends advised him to do so in Switzerland and to publish it anonymously. But he had it printed in Germany under his own name. After the pamphlet’s appearance when everyone expected him to be prosecuted, his friends advised him to flee to Switzerland. But he stood fast and remained in his own country. My impression is that Quidde’s later writings are also imbued with the same devotion to the truth, and their publication has on occasion demanded no less courage.

Today the Nobel Committee honors two admirable and distinguished servants of peace. We thank them for their long and tireless efforts in the cause of peace. To work for the cause of peace is to clear a path for honest and just relations between peoples, for recognition of the intrinsic worth of human beings and of the equal right of all people to live here on earth, and for the success of the greatest political idea ever conceived: the supplanting of war by peace.

* Mr. Stang, also at this time professor of jurisprudence at the University of Oslo, delivered this speech on December 10, 1927, in the auditorium of the Nobel Institute in Oslo. The two laureates who shared the prize, Mr. Buisson and Mr. Quidde, were present to accept the medals and diplomas, each doing so with a brief speech of thanks. Les Prix Nobel en 1927 carries a report in French of Mr. Stang’s speech. The translation given here is based on a typescript of the text in Norwegian deposited in the files of the Nobel Institute

1. Charles G. Dawes, co-recipient for 1925; Austen Chamberlain, co-recipient for 1925; Aristide Briand, co-recipient for 1926; Gustav Stresemann, co-recipient for 1926.

2. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (1808-1873), Napoleon III, emperor of the French (1852-1870).

3. The Dreyfus case began in 1894 when Captain Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935), a Jewish Alsatian in the French army, was convicted of having promised to deliver secret French documents to Major Schwartzkoppen, German military attaché in Paris. When evidence pointing toward Major Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy as the real traitor was brought forward several times in succeeding years and silenced, the case became a major political issue throughout France. In 1906 Dreyfus was cleared and reinstated as a major; his innocence was proved conclusively in 1930 upon publication of the Schwartzkoppen papers.

4. Émile Zola (1840-1902), French novelist and vigorous Dreyfusard whose J’accuse (1898) openly and violently denounced everyone who had a decisive part in the case against Dreyfus.

5. The Ligue internationale de la paix et de la liberté was founded by Charles Lemonnier in Geneva in 1867.

6. After the Reparation Commission declared Germany in default on deliveries of timber and coal, French and Belgian troops occupied Germany’s industrial Ruhr district early in 1923. The German government suspended deliveries and supported the area’s population in a policy of passive resistance, which met with reprisals from the occupying authorities. The Dawes Plan led to the departure of the last French and Belgian soldiers from the Ruhr on July 31, 1925.

7. Caligula (A.D. 12-A.D. 41), Roman emperor (A.D. 37-A.D. 41), known for his irrational cruelty and tyranny.

8. Wilhelm II (1859-1941), emperor of Germany and king of Prussia (1888-1918).

9. The Union, founded in 1888 and composed of members of parliaments of various nations, often held its conferences at the same time and place at which the world peace congresses were held.

10. The Open Door policy extends the opportunity of commercial intercourse with a country to all nations on equal terms.

11. Published in 1922.

From Nobel Lectures, Peace 1926-1950, Editor Frederick W. Haberman, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1927

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