Frank B. Kellogg

Acceptance Speech

Frank B. Kellogg’s Acceptance Speech* on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, December 10, 1930.

I desire most to express my deep appreciation of the great honor you have conferred upon me; an honor I value more than any I have ever received, not only on account of the noble cause for which this great prize is awarded – a cause which I, with you, have deeply at heart – but because I feel in honoring me you have honored my country and its devotion – to the cause of peace and the development of higher civilization. But beyond that it gives me the deepest gratification to pay tribute to the memory of that distinguished man whose grand conception of peace led to the establishment of this prize to encourage the men of all nations to strive for the great goal of enduring peace. I further value this gift as it gave me an opportunity to accept this distinguished honor in a country so devoted to this cause and whose history marks a wonderful chapter in world development.

There are many ties to unite our two countries: our common love of peace, of liberty, of constitutional government; and the fact that so many of your people are today residents and citizens of the United States, lending their influence to our civic and economic life, which has meant so much to our development.

I know of no greater work for humanity than in the cause of peace, which can only be achieved by the earnest efforts of nations and peoples. There is no short and easy road, no magic cure for those ills which have afflicted mankind from the dawn of history. It can only be accomplished by slowly building the bulwarks of peace as peoples and nations have slowly and laboriously built the foundations of individual liberty and representative government. There must be inspired in the minds of men and women higher ideals and nobler aspirations than the settlement of international disagreements through the arbitrament of arms, and I am glad to see such a distinguished advocate of peace as Archbishop Söderblom adding his influence and voice to so great a cause.

Warned by the disaster of the last great war1, the statesmen of all nations have been taking measures to prevent the return of another such calamity. These measures may not constitute an absolute guarantee of peace, but, in my opinion, they constitute the greatest preventive measures ever adopted by nations. It is not to be expected that human nature will change in a day; perhaps it is too much to expect that the age-old institution of war, which has, through the centuries, been recognized by international law as a sovereign right and has darkened the pages of history with the story of blood and destruction, will be at once abolished, but people of all nations should be encouraged by the great progress which has been made since the war in the furtherance of international peace. I cannot in this brief address discuss these measures beyond enumerating them. There is the League of Nations, which has been functioning for ten years and which, I am sure, has been most beneficial in adjusting many difficult international problems; the Pact of Paris2; arbitration treaties; conciliation treaties; and the Court of International Justice3; and I might add that commendable progress has been made toward reduction of armament. Each one of these treaties is a step for the maintenance of peace, an additional guarantee against war. It is through such machinery that the disputes between nations will be settled and war prevented.

It is not my intention today to discuss the Pact of Paris, which has passed into history; perhaps I should not say it has passed into history, but has been cemented in the foundations of the nations’ organic law, as a solemn pledge not to go to war for the settlement of their disputes – a pledge which was entered into voluntarily and backed by the united sentiment of the peoples of the world and one which I am convinced the nations intend to carry out in absolute good faith. It was inspired by the determination of peoples not to be again afflicted with the horrors of such an appalling catastrophe. It was inspired by the memory of devastated lands, ruined homes, and the millions of men and women sacrificed in that awful struggle. It was not an ordinary treaty entered into by nations to serve some temporary advantage, like treaties of amity or alliances; it was a sacred promise between all nations and to all peoples of the world not to go to war for the settlement of their differences; to use a common phrase, to “outlaw” war; to make it a crime against the law of nations so that any nations which violate it should be condemned by the public opinion of the world.

I know there are those who believe that peace will not be attained until some super-tribunal is established to punish the violaters of such treaties, but I believe that in the end the abolition of war, the maintenance of world peace, the adjustment of international questions by pacific means will come through the force of public opinion, which controls nations and peoples – that public opinion which shapes our destinies and guides the progress of human affairs.

I regret very much to hear so many people, many of my own countrymen, predicting war, stating that Europe is preparing and arming for such a conflict. I rather share the opinion of those of broader vision, who see in the signs of the time hope of humanity for peace. Have we so soon forgotten those four years of terrible carnage, the greatest war of all time; forgotten the millions of men who gave their lives, who made the supreme sacrifice and who today, beneath the soil of France and Belgium, sleep the eternal sleep? Their supreme sacrifice should inspire a pledge never again to inflict humanity with such a crime. I have said before and I wish to repeat today, with all the solemn emphasis which I can place upon my words, that Western civilization would not survive another such conflict, but would disappear in the universal chaos.

I do not envisage the signs of the time as foretelling another war. I am aware that the people of many nations, I might say of all the world, are struggling back from this great disaster and slowly again building their governmental and economic structures and laying the foundations for an orderly peace. I am sure statesmen are using their best endeavors to avoid war.

It is true that all the world today is suffering from an economic depression4; that there are millions of people out of employment; that there is suffering; and that the remedy for these unfortunate evils is being sought for and is occupying the attention of the statesmen of the world. They are seeking the cause and trying to apply a remedy. I do not believe that there is any magic remedy which legislatures or parliaments can immediately invoke. If we will maintain our hope and confidence in the genius of our people, they will work out this problem, and their ability and industry will bring us back to normal conditions. There is no question that in the heat of political campaigns the leaders of parties will be prone to try to convince the people that they have a sure remedy for the economic depression which is now prevalent throughout the world. But if statesmen will come to the conclusion that the business of the government is to govern wisely, the people themselves will in time, and I think in a very short time, remedy the present conditions.

I do not consider that it should be surprising that, following the sacrifice and the destruction of property in the war, there should now be a dislocation of the ordinary economic laws. The world is overburdened with taxes. The people of many nations have been driven into abnormal channels of production, and we have, therefore, the astonishing condition that there is want and misery in the face of surplus of the necessities of life. But I do not consider that the unrest and disturbance prevalent throughout the world are presages of war. They are rather the natural phenomena of what we might call the hard times through which we are passing. To be sure, there is unrest, and in some parts of the world this has taken the form of political upheavals or revolutions. Mostly these were bloodless revolutions and have really been changes in the parties in control of the governments. To be sure, in some instances these proceedings have been unconstitutional, but we must remember that it is not the first time since a war that there have been changes in governments by such methods.

Yet through all these troubles there has not been a war between nations, and we should be thankful and consider it a good omen that today peace reigns throughout the entire world.

I realize that in South America there have been revolutions or changes in government which have startled the world, but they were undoubtedly the result of unrest caused by the universal economic depression, and no war has resulted from them. There has not been a war in South America for fifty years, and I have every confidence that the countries of Central and South America are deeply in earnest in the maintenance of peace.

Much of the war talk, in my opinion, is due to the economic depression and to the dissatisfaction and agitation natural to the aftermath of the war. There are undoubtedly, especially in Europe, national jealousies, racial animosities, fears of aggression, and dissatisfaction with the settlement following the war. I am not going to discuss these questions in the concrete, but to call attention to the fact that during the last ten years the European countries have, with patience and statesmanlike vision, been settling these difficult problems, which in other times might have brought on international conflict. Many of these disputes have been submitted to the Court of International Justice, and the judgment of that tribunal has always been accepted as final. That there are yet many differences which must be adjusted, there is no doubt, but I have the utmost confidence in the people that these problems will be worked out by peaceful means, for all must realize that war will only bring on additional burdens and greater injustice, and is there anyone who believes that any of these questions growing out of the war is worth plunging Europe, and perhaps the world, into another war? What we need is to keep cool and above all keep our confidence in the people that in time these questions which are agitating the public mind will be adjusted.

There will always be disputes between nations which, at times, will inflame the public and threaten conflicts, but the main thing is to educate the people of the world to be ever mindful that there are better means of settling such disputes than by war. It is by such means as the prize offered by your Committee that the attention of the world will be focused and that men and women will be inspired to greater efforts in the interest of peace. The churches, the peace societies, the schools and colleges should add their educational influence to this great movement.

*In 1930 Mr. Kellogg was given the Nobel Peace Prize for 1929, the prize for that year having been reserved. He attended the award ceremony on the afternoon of December 10 in the auditorium of the Nobel Institute in Oslo and responded to the presentation at some length. At the banquet that evening he replied, at some length also, to a toast by Mr. Stang. These two discourses are given here since Mr. Kellogg did not deliver a formal Nobel lecture the next day. The texts are taken from Les Prix Nobel en 1930.

1. World War I (1914-1918).

2. The Pact of Paris or Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed on August 27, 1928, was an agreement condemning war as a means of settling international disputes.

3. The Permanent Court of International Justice, organized by the League of Nations and popularly known as the World Court, opened at The Hague on February 22, 1922.

4. The collapse of world stock exchanges 14 months before the laureate spoke ushered in the great depression of the 1930’s.

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

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1929

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