Frank B. Kellogg

Banquet speech

Frank B. Kellogg’s Banquet speech* at the Nobel banquet at Grand Hôtel, Oslo, Norway, December 10, 1930.

I have several times been asked by members of the press since I arrived in Oslo to discuss the subject of disarmament. I have received a large number of letters and telegrams making the same request. I have declined so far to discuss it. Not because I am not deeply interested, but because I hesitate to discuss a subject which is today a matter of consideration at the preliminary conference in Geneva1 and is controversial in Europe. But I have concluded to briefly express my views.

I cannot overemphasize the great importance of this subject to the people of the world. Competition in armament, both land and naval, is not only a terrible burden upon the people, but I believe it to be one of the greatest menaces to the peace of the world. It is idle to say that nations can struggle to outdo each other in building armaments and never use them. History demonstrates the contrary, and we have but to go back to the last war to see the appalling effect of nations competing in great armaments. I know that military alliances and armament have been the reliance for peace for centuries, but they do not produce peace; and when war comes, as it inevitably does under such conditions, these armaments and alliances but intensify and broaden the conflict. Adequate defense has been the catchword of every militarist for centuries. When I say that I have confidence in the people that they are going to maintain peace and abolish the horrors of war, immediately my hearers exclaim: “Why are the nations keeping up their great armies and navies?” I realize the difficulty in answering these questions, but we must remember that it is difficult to abolish the century-old practices of nations in a day or in a year. Time must elapse to soften the animosities and deaden the fears of people.

Let me very briefly discuss what has been done, what has been accomplished, and what in my opinion should be done in the future.

In the Versailles Treaty of Peace the nations declared for disarmament, and I consider they stand morally pledged to the world to accomplish this object. I do not say that nothing has been accomplished; quite the contrary. This subject has never been seriously approached until after the war. Real, important steps have already been taken, and I have hope for greater accomplishments in the future. Certainly there has been material progress toward naval disarmament or reduction and limitation of armament at the Washington Conference, at the Geneva Conference, and at the Conference in London last winter2. It is true not all has been accomplished that the earnest advocates would desire, but a start has been made. The limitation in battleships was made at Washington, and a limitation of all naval craft made in London between the great naval powers, Great Britain, Japan, and the United States. It is true that France and Italy have not yet signed this treaty or agreed to naval limitation as between those nations, but I have confidence that in time they will do so. I do not hesitate to say that the limitation on naval craft between the great naval powers was too high. The United States at Geneva in 1927 offered to limit all naval craft outside of battleships, which had been already limited at the Washington Conference, from 250,000 to 300,000 tons, much preferring the lower figure. Notwithstanding this, the lowest figure which could be obtained at London was about 325,000 tons. But this was a real step, a real accomplishment, because it for the first time set a limitation upon naval building other than battleships. There has been going on since 1925 a preliminary disarmament conference at Geneva under the auspices of the League of Nations. Contrary to the opinion of some of the men who have talked with me since I came to Europe, the United States has participated in every one of these conferences and is now represented at what is hoped to be the final preliminary conference at Geneva. I think there is general disappointment because less has been accomplished there, but it must be remembered that this is simply a preliminary conference to establish the principles on which a general conference will be called by the League.

I know of no more important subject to the peace of Europe and the world than the reasonable reduction of armaments, especially in Europe, and of naval armaments throughout the world. There are but few naval powers, but there are many land powers. I am not disposed to be dogmatic in talking upon this subject, and I realize the national fears, the jealousies, and ambitions of the powers of Europe as they look back over the centuries of bloody strife, but the people of the world are looking to the statesmen not only to lift this burden from the nations, but by disarmament to show their confidence in peace, a peace which they have guaranteed under the solemn declaration of the nations of the world. I believe the next naval conference, which will certainly be held some time before 1936, will make further reduction in the navies, and I hope that a general disarmament conference will be called within a very short time3 and that it will fulfill the hope of millions of people.

Certain it is that a great responsibility rests upon the statesmen of all nations, not only to fulfill the promises for reduction in armaments, but to maintain the confidence of the people of the world in the hope of an enduring peace. I have often heard it said that the United States is isolated and is not interested in European affairs. I assure you that this is not the case. There is no country in the world more interested in peace than is the United States, for a war, wherever it may exist, is bound to affect our people, and I am sure you will find the American government always interested and using its influence to prevent any international conflict.

*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.

1. The last meetings of the Preparatory Commission on disarmament began on November 6, 1930, and ended on December 9, the day before Mr. Kellogg spoke.

2. The Washington Conference (November, 1921-February, 1922) fixed the ratio of total tonnage of capital ships and aircraft carriers for England, U.S., and Japan at 5:5:3 and for France and Italy at 1.75. At the Geneva Naval Conference (June-August, 1927) the nations failed to agree on limitation of cruisers and other classes. The London Naval Conference (January-April, 1930) resulted in partial agreement among England, U.S., Japan, France, and Italy.

3. Called on February 2, 1932, it met for the next several years before disbanding without producing any results other than clarification of some of the technical problems of disarmament.

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

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1929

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