Award ceremony speech

Presentation Speech by Christian Lous Lange*, member of the Nobel Committee, on December 10, 1936

The Nobel Peace Prize for 1936 has been awarded to Mr. Carlos Saavedra Lamas, foreign minister of the Argentine Republic. The prize has thus been given to a statesman.

The career and achievements of a statesman must always be examined in the context of his milieu and time; and doing so in depth is the Nobel Committee’s task when it evaluates a statesman’s personal contribution to the cause of peace. A few words concerning the milieu in which Saavedra Lamas has worked will therefore not be out of place.

Saavedra Lamas’ country, Argentina, occupies a leading position in Latin America, a part of the world whose characteristics distinguish it in important respects from the European part where we live. For most of Latin America, Spanish is the common tongue, and the Roman Catholic faith the common religion. The Latin American nations are also united by a political bond, for all twenty have for a long time enjoyed a republican form of government, differing in this fundamental regard from the old Europe of before the World War.

Latin America has accordingly been spared many of the problems which have beset us here. It does not suffer from the problem of nationalism, nor is there racial conflict with the indigenous Indian population, its absence being largely due to the influence and example of the Catholic missionaries who approached the so-called «primitive» peoples in a spirit of understanding.

Finally – and this is by no means least important – Latin America is not, like Europe, burdened by the problem of overpopulation, for there is plenty of space in that young world. Along with Finland, our own country is the least densely populated in Europe. Only one of South America’s ten countries, Uruguay, is more heavily peopled than Norway and Finland, and even Uruguay has a density of population well below that of Sweden. The consequence is that frontier disputes in South America never become as acute as they do in Europe. In fact, no other part of the world can boast such amicable settlement of boundary disputes – very often achieved by arbitration. Indeed, during the nineteenth century, Latin America became established as the home of arbitration.

In their struggle to free themselves from Spanish domination, the Latin American states had the support of their great sister republic in the North, the United States. President Monroe in 1823 made his famous declaration that the United States would not permit any part of American territory to be colonized by a European state1. This declaration was respected, and America thus escaped the fate which overtook Africa and to a certain extent Asia, both of which became the scenes of imperialist struggles between rival European powers.

The idea of a federation, or at least of organized cooperation between the American republics, soon arose. Simón Bólivar, the Liberator, was a staunch supporter of this idea, and a number of proposals and attempts to form such an association are recorded in the annals of history2. One finally began to take shape in 1889, when United States Secretary of State James G. Blaine3 called a Pan-American Conference in Washington4, the first of a series which have since taken place at irregular intervals. The eighth conference opened last week in the capital of Argentina, under the presidency of Carlos Saavedra Lamas. With the passage of time, the conferences have built up an organization which is becoming more closely knit. The Pan American Union has its offices in Washington. It has studied a number of questions of common interest to the American states; among them, public health, the laws relating to intellectual property, and communications – including the construction of a Pan-American railway which will link all countries in America from South to North. The Union has also taken a constant interest in matters pertaining to laws for peace, such as the development of international conciliation and arbitration.

In its efforts to create solidarity, the Union from the very beginning faced a serious problem: the relations between the powerful North American republic on the one hand and the Latin American republics on the other. The latter suspected that the Pan American Union was merely a convenient cover for the imperialist tendencies of the statesmen in Washington. Blaine himself, the originator of the Union, was in the vanguard of North American imperialism, a policy which was subsequently pursued with particular vigor in the Caribbean. The most pronounced representative of this North American imperialism, Theodore Roosevelt, interpreted Monroe’s declaration of 1823 as conferring a right on the United States to see to it that the other states of the Western Hemisphere maintained a well-ordered government which would afford security to the North American business men in their economic ventures and financial investments in these countries. From the Monroe declaration he had extrapolated a Monroe Doctrine which constituted a potential danger to the independence of these states.

This interpretation drew sharp opposition from the Latin American countries, and Argentina, Saavedra Lamas’ homeland and one of Latin America’s most powerful and best organized states, became the leader in the fight against intervention.

It is against this background that we must look at the work of Saavedra Lamas.

He began his career as a university professor and from the university he went into politics. In his most important academic work, which has appeared in French, La Crise de la codification et la doctrine argentine de droit international, he mounts a vigorous attack against the policy of intervention, and especially against that form of it which, in his opinion, had been conceived and practiced by the United States. The change in U.S. policy during recent years, at first introduced in a mild form under President Hoover and now pursued obviously and consistently under Franklin Roosevelt5, must be a source of great satisfaction to Saavedra Lamas. This change has led him to play a more active part in the work of the Pan American Union, which is no longer suspected of being merely a camouflage for North American imperialism.

I shall not linger over the academic work of Saavedra Lamas, for it is in the political field that he has made his most valuable contribution. He entered political life at a very early age. He was scarcely thirty years old when he was elected a member of Parliament, and by 1917 he was already minister of Justice and Education. As you know, Argentina remained neutral during the World War; unlike most of the Latin American countries, it did not follow the United States into the conflict. Nevertheless, it was invited, along with twelve other neutral countries in Europe, Asia, and America, to join the League of Nations, and at the First Assembly in 1920, it took a highly distinctive position. The Argentine delegates asked that the League Covenant be amended to admit any nation to membership without prior application and without such admission’s being subject to a vote. When this proposal was not adopted at once and received no support at all, Argentina withdrew from the Assembly, its seat there remaining vacant for many years to come.

Nevertheless, Argentina continued to send representatives to the International Labor Conferences6, and in 1928 we find Saavedra Lamas not only heading his country’s delegation but also being elected president of the conference. In this capacity, he had reason to study the institutions of Geneva in some detail, and so acquired useful preparation for the active part he was to play in international peace politics after February, 1932, when he became Argentina’s foreign minister, an office which he still holds.

Some months after he had taken up his new ministerial appointment, a bitter war broke out between Argentina’s neighbors, Bolivia and Paraguay7. This war has constantly claimed his attention. He deployed his efforts in three different but converging directions. He was learned in international law; he was acquainted, through some firsthand experience, with the existing international organizations, the League of Nations and the Pan American Union; and he was familiar with the particular position maintained by the United States on questions of war and peace. So he made a comprehensive attempt to coordinate these three different factors.

Like the logically thinking «Latin» he is, he began by formulating a theoretical expression of his ideas, working out his Antiwar Pact during his very first year as foreign minister.

Its first two articles express, in slightly modified form, the same principles of international law for which the United States has tried to gain recognition: first, the condemnation of all forms of aggressive war – the central point of the Kellogg-Briand Pact 8; and second, the refusal to recognize any territorial expansion or change of boundary unless effected by peaceful means – the so-called «Stimson Doctrine», which, un der President Hoover, Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson had formulated during the Manchurian conflict in 19329, and which was afterwards endorsed in the special session of the League of Nations Assembly called as a result of that dispute.

Thus did Saavedra Lamas seek to secure the invaluable support of the United States for his pact.

Both the Kellogg Pact and the Stimson Doctrine are simply declarations; that is to say, of purely theoretical nature. Saavedra Lamas’ Antiwar Pact goes further: its Article 3 requires the states not involved in a given conflict, in which one or more states violate the obligations stipulated in Articles 1 and 2, to maintain «a common and united attitude» and to employ the political, legal, and economic means provided by international law to put an end to the conflict; they shall have recourse to the influence of public opinion but shall never resort to intervention, either diplomatic or armed, subject to any commitments they may have assumed under other agreements. This last reservation clearly refers to sanctions stipulated by the League of Nations Covenant. Article 4 outlines a conciliation procedure which all signatory nations undertake to follow in settling the dispute.

The Antiwar Pact, therefore, tries to steer a middle course between the system of the Kellogg Pact and the Stimson Doctrine, which is satisfied to enunciate principles, and the far more rigid system laid down in the League of Nations Covenant. The pact rejects neither system, but opens the way to collaboration between those nations which so far have preferred the first system – especially the United States – and the states which have favored the second – the member states of the League of Nations.

His efforts to secure acceptance of his pact have proved Saavedra Lamas to be an astute and farsighted diplomat. He first obtained the signatures of six Latin American states at a solemn ceremony which he shrewdly arranged in Rio de Janeiro on October 10, 1933. By this step he won the powerful support of Brazil, the largest of the South American states, which had quit the League of Nations ten years before. Two months later, Saavedra Lamas won approval of the pact from all the American states at a special session of the Seventh Pan-American Conference in Montevideo. U. S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull was present at this conference, as a personal guarantor, so to speak, of the new policy which the United States had inaugurated toward its sister nations on the American continent.

That same year, 1933, Saavedra Lamas had succeeded in persuading his government to change its attitude toward the League of Nations, from which Argentina had withdrawn thirteen years previously. He was now able to inform the Secretariat in Geneva that henceforth Argentina wished to play an active part in the work of the League of Nations. And since, as everyone knows, there is greater joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who have no need to repent10, Argentina, too, received its reward. It was immediately elected to the Council of the League, where it kept its seat for the prescribed three years, which ended with the opening of last September’s session.

The Antiwar Pact was officially presented to the League of Nations Council in January, 1934, and was given a reception that must surely have delighted its author. The pact has since been signed by eleven nations outside America, including Norway, and to date five of these have ratified it.

We can safely assume then that Saavedra Lamas regards his pact as a kind of supplement to the League of Nations Covenant and as a primary means of bringing countries outside the League of Nations into its work to promote peace and prevent war, by imposing less rigid demands on them than those prescribed in the League’s Covenant.

We have evidence of his attitude in the fact that he has submitted his pact to the commission set up by the Assembly of the League of Nations last September to investigate improved ways and means of implementing the principles set forth in the Covenant. There may well be a question of whether Saavedra Lamas’ pact will be of decisive importance in the solution of this great problem. The pact becomes operative only when a war has already started; and the vital problem in the prevention of war is to find ways to intervene with peacemaking procedures before the storm of war breaks.

When the Argentine Antiwar Pact was submitted to the League Council on January 18, 1934, British Foreign Minister Sir John Simon 11 took the opportunity to point out that the pact was of particular interest since the Council had to deal, during the same session, with a serious conflict precisely «in that part of the world occupied by most of the signatory powers».

Needless to say, Saavedra Lamas had been aware of this fact all along. Paraguay, although among the first states to sign the pact, had never ratified it, and Bolivia did not ratify it until July 1, 1935. So Saavedra Lamas was unable, in the case of these two warring nations, to invoke the pact officially. He had to bide his time. But in May of 1935, he took the very course of action dictated by his own pact, approaching the Brazilian, Chilean, and Peruvian diplomatic representatives in Buenos Aires about setting in motion a common mediatory operation. A conciliation commission was set up, composed of representatives from Argentina, from the three countries already contacted, and from the United States and Uruguay, under the chairmanship of Saavedra Lamas himself; The foreign ministers of both Bolivia and Paraguay were persuaded to take part in the commission’s negotiations, and by the twelfth of June, 1935, two protocols had been signed which brought hostilities to an end. The work was later completed when the two belligerents accepted a final settlement stipulating that any disagreement concerning the implementation of the peace treaty should be resolved by the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague.

It must be recognized that the principles underlying Saavedra Lamas’ Antiwar Pact have stood a practical test on South American soil and under his personal leadership.

As foreign minister and leader of the Argentine delegation, Saavedra Lamas participated in the recent Assembly of the League of Nations. In recognition of his work for peace, the Assembly elected him its president. In his opening address, he alluded to the fact that the six American states, whose work of conciliation he had headed, had succeeded in negotiating an end to the war in South America, and that two of the six, the United States and Brazil, were not members of the League of Nations. He added: «The possibility therefore exists, in a concrete case demanding mediation, of winning the cooperation of nations outside our League. I see this as a significant signpost for the diplomacy of peace. We must regard it not as an isolated or exceptional occurrence but as one which will become the rule.»

In making this statement, Saavedra Lamas has set a task for the future. He is still a man in the prime of life. His recent achievements in the politics of peace entitle us to hope that his unusual energy and singleness of purpose will enable him to contribute even more to the creation of a truly lasting peace between nations.

* Mr. Lange delivered this speech on December 10, 1936, in the auditorium of the Nobel Institute, following Mr. Stang’s speech in honor of the laureate for 1935, Carl von Ossietzky. Because of official duties Mr. Saavedra Lamas was unable to attend the ceremonies. The translation of Mr. Lange’s speech is based on the Norwegian text in Les Prix Nobel en 1936, which also carries a French translation.

1. James Monroe (1758-1831), U.S.president (1817-1825), whose message to the U.S. Congress, December 2, 1823, initiated the Monroe Doctrine; the doctrine’s two main points: no future colonization by European powers in the Americas, and no European intervention in American affairs.

2. Simón Bólivar (1783-1830), El Libertador, Venezuelan-born leader of revolts that freed various Latin American countries from Spanish control; organizer of some of the new republics and president-dictator of several. For details on attempts at con-federation, see Joseph Byrne Lockey, Pan-Americanism: Its Beginnings (New York: Macmillan, 1926).

3. James Gillespie Blaine (1830-1893), U.S. secretary of state (1881; 1889-1892).

4. This conference (October 2, 1889-Apri1 19, 1890), attended by all except one (San Domingo) of the 21 American republics, established the International Bureau of American Republics, a permanent agency to collect and publish information and to promote cooperation. The Bureau, whose name was changed in 1910 to Pan American Union, became the unifying factor in an effective regional system and now serves as the general secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS).

5. Herbert Clark Hoover (1874-1964), U.S. president (1929- 1933). Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), U.S. president (1933-1945). Under these two presidents, any remnants of Theodore Roosevelt’s policy of «dollar diplomacy» toward Latin America changed to a «good neighbor» policy.

6. Held at least once a year by the ILO.

7. The Chaco war (1932-1935) resulting from a long-standing dispute over boundaries in the Gran Chaco region.

8. Officially called the Pact of Paris and signed August 27, 1928, it was originated by Frank B. Kellogg and Aristide Briand, Peace Prize laureates for 1929 and 1926 respectively.

9. Henry Lewis Stimson (1867-1950), U.S. secretary of state (1929-1933), who protested the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, stating that the U.S. would not recognize any results of it that might be contrary to the Pact of Paris.

10. See Matthew 18:12-13.

11. Sir John Allsebrook Simon (1873-1954), British foreign secretary (1931-1935).

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


Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 1936

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