Award ceremony speech


Presentation Speech by Johan Ludwig Mowinckel*, member of the Nobel Committee, on December 10, 1930

It might appear that this year’s two Peace Prize winners are widely separated, not only in the geographical sense by the ocean which separates their two countries, but also in the area of their activities and in the nature of their contributions to the cause that concerns us here. One is a man of the world engaged in practical politics, the other a man of the church, a soldier of the spirit.

But just as it is said that all roads lead to the Eternal City, so it can also truthfully be claimed that many are the roads which must be followed and many the means which must be explored if the human race is to attain the great and sacred goal which is eternal peace among nations.

To achieve this goal, practical efforts to promote better collaboration in commercial and economic affairs – such as in developing easier and faster means of communication – and similar efforts in cultural affairs can and should go hand in hand with purely political efforts.

But the steps that are taken and the progress which is made are unfortunately not always readily apparent. The obstacles to be surmounted, the opposition to be overcome, are formidable in magnitude and number. And the problems are not just of a practical or political character; they are frequently to be found in the minds of men, in the warlike mentality which is so tragically passed on from one generation to the next, a legacy which our own generation, in spite of its fearsome experiences, has failed to disclaim.

Alfred Nobel himself had no illusions as to the difficulties and the complexity of work for peace. For this reason he placed no strict limitations on his Peace Prize; any serious and noble effort to advance the cause of peace could qualify. At a very early date he perceived the value of an international association of states, such as we now have in the League of Nations. He had already formulated this thought in January, 1893, when, in a letter to Bertha von Suttner, he outlined his ideas for a Peace Prize which might be awarded to the person or organization making the greatest contribution toward the attainment of the ideal of universal peace1.

It is thus in full accord with Alfred Nobel’s conception of work for peace that no restrictions are imposed on the manner in which it is performed. Nor can it be otherwise. For in this work, both hand and heart are required.

How wonderful it now is to see all the world’s might united in advancing this great cause, and how happy we are that this work can bridge not only the narrow national frontiers of our little part of the world but also the vast expanse separating the continents. And even if we could wish that this cooperation had found greater support, we cannot lose sight of what has already been accomplished: that the League of Nations, the greatest, the most powerful, the most remarkable institution acting for peace that the world has ever known has been established, thanks to the initiative of the United States. The League of Nations, that gigantic world monument which President Wilson erected in 1918 above the ruins of war and peace2, to the glory of his own country and for the happiness and salvation of the world! The deepest shadow which has so far been cast over the organization is the sad fact that Wilson’s own country has not become a member3. Fortunately this has not meant that the United States of America has taken no part in the great international work for peace and understanding which has been conducted during the twelve years since the war. Time and again the initiative and the cooperation of the U.S.A. have left a deep and enduring mark on this work, and the pact which bears the name of the man who sits today in our midst exemplifies not only the efforts put forth by the U.S.A. but also a sound and conscientious collaboration on the international front for the advancement of peace.

The movement in favor of the «outlawry of war», to proclaim war illegal and to label it a crime, had gained increasing support in the U.S.A. ever since the end of the World War. Mr. Briand, France’s great champion of peace, made a point of choosing a memorable date in the American calendar – April 6, 1927 – the tenth anniversary of the entry of the United States into the war, to declare himself a disciple of that movement: «If there were any need between these two great democracies [the United States and France] to testify more convincingly in favor of peace and to present to the peoples a more solemn example, France would be ready publicly to subscribe, with the United States, to any mutual engagement tending, as between those two countries, to ‹outlaw war›, to use an American expression.»4

And on June 20, 1927, Briand handed to the American ambassador in Paris a draft of a treaty of perpetual friendship between the two countries. According to the draft, the two parties would solemnly declare that they condemned war and renounced it as an instrument of their national policies.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Frank B. Kellogg, the U.S. Secretary of State, elevated this proposal to the status of the world pact to which we pay tribute today in the person of its author: «The Government of the United States is prepared, therefore, to concert with the Government of France with a view to the conclusion of a treaty among the principal Powers of the world, open to signature by all nations, condemning war and renouncing it as an instrument of national policy in favor of the pacific settlement of international disputes.»5

And from this common action emerged the pact that today binds together almost all civilized nations in the world. Article I of the Pact states the following: «The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies and renounce it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.»

Seldom has an inscription been as appropriate as that which the town of Le Havre inscribed on the box holding the gold pen it presented to Frank B. Kellogg as he stepped ashore on his way to Paris to join France and other leading world powers in signing the pact on August 27, 1928: Si vis pacem, para pacem.

We fully realize that a number of countries have made significant reservations with regard to the Kellogg Pact, and we realize, too, that a long road remains to be traveled between the signing of the pact and its fulfillment in spirit and in action.

We realize that theory should not be mistaken for reality.

And we also realize that the collaboration of all nations, of which the Kellogg Pact is the great outcome, must be extended to fields other than the purely political. For, however deep and menacing may be the political divergences between nations, it is not at all unlikely that differences in the field of commercial and economic politics constitute an equally grave threat to peace. The problem of the war debt, which still weighs heavily upon economic progress, must be resolved finally and effectively. And we must, in the interest of peace, try to counteract, with no less vigor than we devote to the fight against senseless military armament, the isolationist policies which can bring only misery and unemployment and which obstruct the free exchange and healthy distribution of world production.

In these domains too, cooperation between all nations is indispensable, cooperation based on an appreciation of its importance for the well-being of the entire world.

We shall not, however, succeed until our minds and thoughts become attuned to peace, until our present mentality is completely transformed. Archbishop Söderblom has said, «The Kellogg Pact is a solemn declaration, invaluable if life is brought into conformity with its words, delusory if actions contradict its great and noble sentiments.» And that is the crux of the matter: the need to animate this pact – as it has been the need for so many other attempts to safeguard peace – with the light of the Word, the truth of the spirit, the courage of the will.

We must bring people to understand that it is not enough to proclaim war to be a crime, but that it is necessary for all men to recognize with every sense and emotion that the murder of hundreds of thousands of human beings to settle an international dispute is no more justifiable, no more pardonable than the murder of a single individual to settle some personal quarrel.

«The day», said Briand in the great speech he delivered at the League of Nations last year, «when children are taught to respect the people of other nations and to seek that which unites men rather than that which divides them, then we shall have no more need of treaties – then peace will truly reign among nations.»6

Archbishop Nathan Söderblom’s great achievement is that he has thrown the power of the spirit into the fight for peace. A holder of high ecclesiastical office, he understands the enormous importance of the church in this fight, the powerful influence which it can bring to bear. The Christian church has sinned grievously and often against the teaching of Him whose first commandment to men was that they should love one another. This church surely has a unique opportunity now of creating that new attitude of mind which is necessary if peace between nations is to become reality.

«Peace in the heart and peace on earth make up the task of the church, so long as it bears the name of the Prince of Peace.»

«The spirit of Geneva». said Robert de Traz7, «dedicated to the salvation of mankind but seeing it only in its universal aspect, is now seen to pervade ecclesiastical circles shattered by war. Born of Christianity, the spirit of peace now returns to it. Today it no longer inspires politicians, economists and lawyers alone, it seeks to penetrate into the human mind!

If a new war threatens, the churches will not, this time, bless the guns. They will halt the nations in the name of Him who called Himself the Prince of Peace. At least they say this and they commit themselves to it. And because in 1914 they denied their Master more than twice, they now beg mankind for forgiveness.»

In Schiller’s lovely «Das Lied von der Glocke», the church bell rings out the praise of peace in solemn tones:

Holder Friede,
süsse Eintracht,
weilet, weilet
freundlich über dieser Stadt

and it exhorts and implores:

Friede sei ihr erst Geläute!8

So today we offer our homage and our thanks to the two great men whose work among us has set new milestones along the road to peace among nations.

And just as all streams lead toward the sea, so we hope and believe that the great work of the hand and of the heart for peace, that work which bears the names of Kellogg and Söderblom, will lead irresistibly toward making «the spirit of Geneva» live among the people, that spirit of which it is said that even though «still weak, disputed, even despised, at every moment in danger of perishing – no catastrophe can destroy it forever, for it bears mankind’s indomitable hope, that of resurrection.»

* Mr. Mowinckel, also at this time prime minister of Norway, delivered this speech of presentation in the auditorium of the Nobel Institute in Oslo on December 10, 1930. The audience included Mr. Kellogg, the recipient of the prize for 1929 (reserved in that year), and Archbishop Söderblom, the laureate for 1930. Both laureates responded with speeches of acceptance after receiving the prize insignia from Mr. Fredrik Stang, chairman of the committee. A French translation of Mr. Mowinckel’s speech is carried in Les Prix Nobel en 1930. The present translation in English is based on the Norwegian text which appeared in the December 10, 1930, issue of the Oslo Aftenposten.

1. Nobel’s letter of January 7, 1893, from Paris to Bertha von Suttner, peace laureate for 1905, contains this reference to a Peace Prize: «I should like to allot part of my fortune to the formation of a prize fund to be distributed in every period of five years (we may say six times, for if we have failed at the end of thirty years to reform the present system we shall inevitably revert to barbarism). This prize would be awarded to the man or the woman who had done the most to advance the idea of general peace in Europe.» Quoted by Herta E. Pauli in Alfred Nobel (New York: Fischer, 1942), p. 236.

2. Thomas Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), U.S. president (1913-1921), primarily responsible for the creation of the League of Nations as an integral part of the Peace Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

3. The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles; therefore the U.S. never joined the League.

4. Aristide Briand (1862-1932), co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for 1926 and French foreign minister (1925-1932), in an open letter to the press. The expressions «outlawry of war» and «to outlaw war» originated with Salmon O. Levinson, an American who had great success at the end of WWI in promulgating his ideas on making war illegal.

5. From Kellogg’s note of December 28, 1927, to Briand.

6. From the speech made before the Tenth Assembly in September, 1929. The original text of the speech and the French translation in Les Prix Nobel read, instead of «treaties»: «measuring out doses of security and applications of the paragraphs of Article 8 of the covenant».

7. Robert de Traz (1884-1951), French author.

8. These lines from «The song of the Bell» by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805), German poet and dramatist, have been translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as follows:

Gentle peace!
Sweet union!
Linger, linger
Kindly over this our home!

Peace its first, its latest sound!

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

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1930

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