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Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas

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The word “peace” has traditionally been defined as
freedom from strife or war. This idealistic or utopian
concept has yielded, especially since 1945, to a belief
that peace exists in the absence of total war. Thus,
despite military engagements usually described as
“police action,” the world has still been termed peace-
ful. This attitude of toleration toward armed conflict,
while more apparent in recent years, has always existed
because warfare has ever been a part of human exist-
ence. Since before recorded time, men have engaged
in military struggles and have felt impelled at the same
time to seek ways to curtail the “scourge of mankind.”

The Greek city-states formed amphictyonic councils
to stabilize relations between them, and they estab-
lished a truce to suspend wars during the Olympic
games. Later, the Roman government imposed the
famous Pax Romana or Peace of Rome upon its citizens
by suppressing armed conflict throughout the empire.
Still later, the Roman Catholic Church, as the domi-
nant secular as well as religious power of the Middle
Ages, decreed the famous Truce of God in 1041 which
limited warfare to specified times. From then to the
present, men have continually revealed a willingness
to compromise and accept armed struggle as a part
of life even as they fought to reduce or eliminate it.

But peace whether total or partial remained a
dream. As the Italian city-states and later nation-states
emerged in Europe, as countries thrust outward in
pursuit of colonial empires, and as religious differences
aroused men to fight, the intensity and scope of con-
flicts increased rather than diminished. This condition
prompted renewed thought on the subject of peace
which by the end of the eighteenth century resulted
in philosophical and moral stands against war. Persons
commonly categorized as pacifists came to believe that
nations, like people, should be held accountable for
their acts, that mankind should be informed of the evils
and injustices of international conflicts, and that every-
one should assume an uncompromising stance in
opposing the use of arms.

Ideas on Peace and War. Peace workers soon
emerged with a number of beliefs. They argued that
wars were unnecessary and harmful and that pacifism
was thus utilitarian and logical rather than emotional.
They adopted a Christian posture, insisted that the
taking of life was wrong, and that contrary to popular
belief there were no just wars.

They faced a mountainous obstacle in this task,
because for centuries men had fought religious battles
and been told in the very name of Christianity that
they had been right. But peace workers assumed that
men possessed noble characteristics, that a common
spirit of brotherhood existed, and that human qualities
would rise above those of a bestial nature. They relied
upon these assumptions in the nineteenth century to
refute biological and evolutionary arguments that war
was an implicit part of life because human beings
possessed aggressive qualities that made them fight.

In arguing against the theory that wars were inevi-
table, the peace workers relied upon educational pro-
grams and propaganda techniques to inform people of
the horrors, the evils, and the waste of war in the hope
that men and women would turn against it. Beginning
in the nineteenth century, peace advocates shifted in
their emphasis and tactics and worked to create some
type of international machinery or organization to
resolve disputes amicably. At the same time, they
explored the causes of war in the hope that govern-
ments might eliminate inequities and abuses and thus
preserve peace. Among their causes they listed eco-
nomic factors, especially those relating to trade and
finance, and they examined nationalism, with its con-
cepts of honor, vital interests, sovereignty, and sensi-
tivity which led to alliances and other treaties involv-
ing mutual self-interest. They also recognized that
ideological differences, notably those related to racial,
religious, and political beliefs, could precipitate
clashes. Finally, they exposed militarism and arma-
ment-races as causes of war.

The peace movement has thus been built upon two
foundations. The traditional pacifist of the nonresist-
ance variety reflected a negative philosophy by assum-
ing an anti-war posture, and by seeking to persuade
people to abandon arms as a way of life. The other
premiss, of more recent vintage, was positive because
it called for solutions to the causes of war and con-
structive machinery to resolve conflicts. Peace workers
have long debated which of these tactics should prevail.
The traditionalists have argued that the world will not
see peace until a revolution has taken place in the
hearts and minds of people. The positive thinkers insist
that men cannot await such a millennium and that they
must erect machinery which will at least reduce the
frequency or intensity of war. Neither group has
succeeded in its quest despite centuries of effort.

The Peace Movement. Peace advocates discovered
early in the nineteenth century that as individuals they
could accomplish little; hence, the history of their
efforts since that time has been written largely in terms
of organizations. The founding of the New York Peace
Society in 1815, the British Peace Society in 1816, and
the American Peace Society in 1828 represented land-
marks in the movement. Many organizations subse-
quently appeared. In England, the Workingmen's
Peace Association under the leadership of William
Randal Cremer emerged in 1871, and the National


Peace Council, formed in 1905, represented a federa-
tion of existing groups. French advocates led by
Frédéric Passy founded a League of Peace in 1867,
and in Germany and Austria Alfred H. Fried and the
Baroness Bertha von Suttner organized groups in 1891
and 1892. The latter's book, Lay Down Your Arms (Die
Waffen Nieder,
1889), became a bible for peace
workers everywhere.

The United States kept pace with Alfred Love's
Universal Peace Union in 1866, and with a host of new
agencies early in the twentieth century—a reorganized
New York Peace Society, the Carnegie Endowment for
International Peace, the World Peace Foundation, and
the Church Peace Union. Pacifists also sought to
organize on a worldwide scale with the International
Peace Bureau in 1892. The founding of the Inter-
parliamentary Union in 1889 further reflected this
current. Consisting of representatives of the legislative
bodies of individual countries, it reached across na-
tional lines directly into the heart of governments.
Pacifists also sought broad action through conferences.
A series of these had been held between 1848 and 1851,
and they were revived in 1889. Thereafter the Univer-
sal Peace Congresses met annually in various countries
until the First World War, while in the United States
National Arbitration and Peace Congresses assembled
five times between 1907 and 1915.

This surge of activity, especially in the quarter-
century preceding the First World War, reflected a
widespread and optimistic belief that armed conflict
between civilized nations was declining. Not since the
battle of Waterloo in 1815 had there been a major
conflagration of comparable scope, and many persons
dedicated themselves to the task of eliminating any
remnants of war that remained. Likewise, a developing
democratic spirit throughout the nineteenth century
contributed to the peace movement. Where people
rather than rulers determined the policies of nations,
it was assumed there would be less likelihood of war-
fare, and the greatest thrust of the peace workers
appeared in the two countries, Great Britain and the
United States, where representative governments and
firmly established legal systems prevailed. Elsewhere,
especially in those states on the European continent
where autocratic governments existed, activities did
not compare with those in lands which guaranteed
freedom of speech.

The tactics of peace advocates in the century be-
tween 1814 and 1914 reflected these two molding
influences of declining war and democratic principles.
Their societies acted as educational agencies to win
people to their cause and inform them of work which
still needed to be done. They especially sought to
persuade the democratically elected parliamentary and
congressional bodies in Great Britain and the United
States that treaties and laws should be developed to
curtail war, and they resorted to the petition as one
of their most effective devices. Since the United States
Senate played a major role in treaty-making, many
peace groups sought to influence its attitudes to insure
approval of measures by a favorable two-thirds vote.

During the First World War, activity in most coun-
tries centered upon a campaign for a league of nations;
thereafter, until 1939, in England and on the Continent
societies concentrated upon disarmament and the
strengthening of the League. In the United States, some
organizations like the League of Nations Association
and the American Foundation agitated for League or
World Court membership, while others such as the
National Council for the Prevention of War, the Com-
mittee on the Cause and Cure of War, and the Fellow-
ship of Reconciliation pursued more conventional aims.
The latter bodies attracted widespread support as
American citizens experienced a reaction against war-
fare and armaments that contributed to the isolationist
stance of their country in the 1930's.

Following the Second World War, peace workers
rallied behind the United Nations, but many of them
realized that their age-old quest had not ended. There-
fore, they created new societies which sought to
strengthen the United Nations or to create an even
more powerful international agency. Others renewed
demands for disarmament as nuclear weapons threat-
ened the annihilation of mankind. The intensity or
scope of the movement after 1945, however, did not
approach that of the previous seventy-five years until
the late 1960's when the war in Vietnam stimulated
a renewed interest in the subject of peace.

Peaceful Settlement of Disputes. Once peace
workers abandoned their negative posture against war,
they argued that nations should act constructively to
settle their differences without conflict. Methods, how-
ever, had to be devised which governments would
accept and utilize, and an array of alternatives
appeared—arbitration, conciliation, mediation, in-
quiry, and good offices. All operated upon the basic
principle that a third party or parties should serve as
a friendly agent and propose a suitable solution for
a particular problem that threatened war.

Arbitration had the most ancient lineage of these
methods, and it became exceedingly popular between
1870 and 1914. It called for the third party to suggest
a solution which the disputing nations agreed they
would accept. The Greek city-states had resolved
differences in this way, but the process had virtually
disappeared between the sixteenth and nineteenth
centuries when intense nationalistic and religious con-
flicts dominated the European scene. It then became


dangerous for an outsider to intervene in any quarrel,
for his motives were suspect and he often found himself
enmeshed in the controversy.

Attitudes changed, however, so that by the time of
the First Hague Peace Conference in 1899 delegates
adopted a resolution which acknowledged the honest
intention of third parties willing to serve as brokers.
The Jay Treaty of 1794 between Great Britain and the
United States had started this revolution in attitudes
when it reawakened interest in the idea of resolving
differences through arbitral processes, and an increas-
ing number of governments subsequently resolved dis-
putes in this way. The most famous instance involved
the controversy between Great Britain and the United
States over damages claimed by the latter for the
depredations of the Confederate cruiser, the Alabama,
and its settlement in 1872 stimulated further activity.
Peace advocates began a quest to persuade statesmen
to write into all agreements, even those of trade, a
clause that they would resort to arbitration if any
problem arose over the accord. This goal soon gave
way to a campaign for general obligatory treaties in
which governments would agree to arbitrate certain
types of disputes. Once this had been achieved, efforts
centered on committing nations to broader provisions
in which they would submit all differences of whatever
nature to arbitration.

This activity resulted in the only achievement of
importance at the Hague Peace Conference of 1899.
The delegates created a Permanent Court of Arbitra-
tion, a panel of judges from which governments could
select impartial arbiters to hear and decide a dispute.
Between 1828 and 1899, nations had signed approxi-
mately forty bipartite treaties of arbitration; from 1899
to 1914, they reached agreement on at least one hun-
dred fifty more.

This superficial evidence of success cloaked a weak-
ness. None of the issues at stake would have led to
a major war. Governments usually submitted only
inconsequential differences and in most instances re-
fused to sign any instrument which obligated them to
refer questions of vital interest, national honor, or
independence to third parties. The record of the United
States supported that fact, for the Root-Roosevelt
arbitral agreements of 1908-09 contained little to
commit the nation, and the Senate refused to approve
clauses in treaties concluded by the Taft administration
in 1911 to broaden the obligations under arbitration

The weakness of the system became apparent in
1914. Prior to the formal declarations of war, no gov-
ernment suggested that the issues be resolved by arbi-
tration, and none of the major European powers had
signed accords with each other which included clauses
relating to national honor or vital interests. Their
agreements obliged them to submit for settlement only
such matters as misunderstandings over the inter-
pretation or application of treaties or questions of a
legal nature. Statesmen had been unwilling to commit
their countries to effective programs as the peace
advocates had suggested.

Many pacifists had perceived the weakness of arbi-
tration and sought to fill in other ways the gap through
which nations could still plunge to war. They emerged
with another plan—conciliation. Those issues which
governments would not submit to arbitration should
be referred to another kind of third party whose rec-
ommendations would not be binding. This process was
greatly strengthened early in the twentieth century by
the addition of the “cooling off” principle largely
associated with William Jennings Bryan. He discussed
the idea at a meeting of the Interparliamentary Union
in 1906, suggested it to President Taft, saw it partially
incorporated into the arbitration accords of 1911, and
wrote it into the conciliation treaties he concluded as
Secretary of State in 1914. The latter called for a post-
ponement of hostilities while any commission was at
work and a further moratorium, usually of six months,
after it had rendered its decision. This process assumed
that wars began in moments of passion. If nations
would delay and explore their problems calmly and
rationally, tempers would cool and there would be no
armed struggle. This principle, however, like arbitra-
tion, had its limitations. Such agreements did not bind
the signers to accept the recommendations of the third
party of forbid fighting. Thus conciliation also failed
to avert the First World War.

Because both arbitration and conciliation possessed
limitations, men devised other ideas to resolve disputes
peacefully or to stop wars after they began. These
involved mediation, good offices, and inquiry, but the
one proposal which seemed most attractive was that
associated with an international court of justice. A legal
tribunal would operate under commonly accepted
practices and perhaps even statutes, and it would thus
be distinctive in its procedures and authority. If nations
could agree to establish rules of behavior and a genuine
judicial court, they would then willingly bring their
disputes to the bar of justice.

This idealistic concept possessed flaws, however, the
most important of which was the absence of any code
of international law. Hugo Grotius, in De jure belli ac
(1625), had pioneered in exploring the subject
and in formulating philosophical principles, especially
his assumption that a body of rules or commonly
accepted practices did exist which could be determined
and on which nations could agree. He argued that these
could be codified, and states would then have some


basis on which to determine right from wrong. Those
in the wrong would rely less upon force to assert their
claims because they could be condemned for their
actions, and the world would thus see peace through
law. Grotius maintained that countries subscribed to
certain moral standards of behavior, that many of these
could be found in treaty provisions, and that laws could
be extracted from conventions and customs and pre-
sented in the form of a code. Yet neither men nor
governments made headway in ensuing years in com-
piling a set of acceptable rules.

Not until the nineteenth century did legal scholars
progress in this work. First, they divided international
law into public and private categories with the latter
applying to nongovernmental relations. Trends in busi-
ness, commerce, and improved communications greatly
accelerated this movement in private law, while the
arbitration campaigns and the emergence of more
democratic governments in western Europe further
stimulated interest in public law. Two societies
appeared in 1873, the International Law Association
and the Institute of International Law. The former
concentrated upon the private sector and the latter
the public. At the same time, such individuals as
J. C. Bluntschli of Switzerland, David Dudley Field of
the United States, and John Westlake of England pre-
pared written codes, but no governments accepted
these or acknowledged the existence of any rules which
restricted their action.

The creation of the Permanent Court of Arbitration
at The Hague in 1899, however, encouraged the
legalists. Agitation in ensuing years resulted in an effort
at the Second Hague Peace Conference of 1907 to
establish an International Court of Justice, but this
dream faded because the delegates there and later
workers could not find a formula to select judges which
governments would accept. The ideal persisted, never-
theless, and the creation of the Central American Court
of International Justice in 1907 stimulated the legalists
to further activity. In the United States the American
Society of International Law and the American Society
for Judicial Settlement of International Disputes
appeared in 1906 and 1910 to promote their goal of
a worldwide judicial tribunal. They did not succeed
in their quest prior to 1914, but their vision took form
in 1921 with the creation of the Permanent Court of
International Justice.

This tribunal, authorized under Article 14 of the
Covenant of the League of Nations, functioned until
April of 1946. It heard sixty-five cases and rendered
twenty-seven advisory opinions and thirty-two deci-
sions. The United States never accepted membership
but during the Court's life-span fifty-six governments
did join. While the Court contributed to the principle
of international law by its existence, operation, and
decisions, it faced problems similar to those experi-
enced by arbitral bodies. It never developed a code
to be used in the judging of cases, and nations did not
entrust major problems to it for settlement. These
weaknesses were compounded by its lack of authority
to uphold decisions and by those attitudes of sover-
eignty which kept issues involving vital interests, na-
tional honor, and independence outside of the realm
of justice.

Such conditions determined that the International
Court of Justice under the United Nations would like-
wise be an ineffective agency for peace. Despite pro-
visions which granted it greater authority than its
predecessor, most governments which joined qualified
their acceptance. The United States stood in the van-
guard of this movement by approving membership in
1946 under the Connally Reservation which allowed
that nation to determine what constituted domestic
questions. Thus the International Court of Justice heard
only minor matters and never considered controversial
issues which could result in a major war. Several groups
have campaigned since 1946 for a greater acceptance
of peace through law, but such efforts, especially those
by Grenville Clark and Louis B. Sohn in their book,
World Peace Through World Law (Cambridge, Mass.,
1958), have been relatively ineffective.

The idea of peace through law has thus suffered
adversely. The ambitious hopes of late nineteenth- and
early twentieth-century planners did not materialize.
A number of reasons can be cited for this condition.
First, the Grotian assumption of an international soci-
ety in basic accord on standards of conduct was proven
invalid. The diversity of states, the various levels of
development of societies, and the absence of any com-
mon worldwide cultural or ideological foundation
made it impossible for nations to agree to any code
of behavior. Second, war has always been considered
a legitimate activity for countries. The Spanish philos-
opher, Francisco Suárez, late in the sixteenth century
argued in one of the earliest discussions on interna-
tional law that legitimate wars could be waged either
to promote justice or to uphold the right of the state
on matters vital to its survival. This principle, unfor-
tunately for the cause of peace, became accepted doc-
trine; thus, nations have considered wars to be legal
and justifiable, and they have claimed the right to
determine what a “just war” might be.

Third, nations have been unwilling or afraid to rely
upon legal machinery to resolve disputes. When they
created the Covenant of the League of Nations, they
did not establish a system to develop law as most
internationalists wished; rather, they relegated justice
and courts to the periphery and relied upon political


decisions by the major powers to avert wars. The
Covenant provided for the Permanent Court of Inter-
national Justice to function as a separate agency outside
the League, not as an essential part of the League's
machinery itself.

A further factor behind the failure of law lay in the
way it was discredited in the 1930's and 1940's. The
first step began in the 1920's with a movement to
outlaw war. Led by Salmon Levinson of Chicago,
peace workers campaigned successfully to have gov-
ernments conclude treaties in which they renounced
aggressive warfare as an instrument of national policy.
The Pact of Paris to which they subscribed contained
no provisions for enforcement or for any effective
machinery to be employed in time of crisis. Thus when
nations resorted to war in the 1930's and the treaties
were not upheld, concepts of law suffered. The appli-
cation of certain standards at the Nuremberg Trials
following the Second World War further discredited
the idea of international justice. Separate military tri-
bunals heard the cases, not those which had been
legally created as courts, and the principles of law
applied had still not been embodied in any formal code
accepted by nations.

Peace through Diplomacy. The general inability of
men to develop successful machinery to resolve dis-
putes and prevent war meant that countries had to
rely upon their own resources. Traditionally, they have
utilized diplomacy to avoid conflicts, and peace advo-
cates have encouraged statesmen in this task. American
pacifists of the nineteenth century often argued that
their secretary of state had been misnamed. He should
have been called secretary of peace as a counterpart
to that of war. They thus revealed a faith in the oldest
and most natural method of states to resolve their
differences. Diplomats might pursue other aims, but
for humanitarian, economic, and practical reasons
governments should concentrate upon the pursuit of

Diplomats had long been practitioners of negotia-
tions with both bad and good results. They had devised
the balance of power concept as one of their major
devices to avert struggles, but rather than deter, it
seemed to stimulate a spirit of rivalry among nations
which actually encouraged instability. Wars continued
as a part of life, and men sought to repudiate the
balance of power concept after 1918 when they re-
placed it with a community of nations organized for
peace. Yet by the late 1930's, statesmen returned to
their alliances. The Charter of the United Nations
recognized this reality of life when in Article 51 it
allowed the creation of regional groups after 1945.

Diplomats also resorted to defensive treaties through
which they sought to avoid war by threatening any
aggressor who might move against any of the signato-
ries. But such arrangements, notably the Locarno Pact,
proved to be unreliable; they have been both violated
and repudiated. Statesmen have thus followed less
formal procedures to avert wars. They have negotiated
through exchanges of notes, by informal talks, or by
conferences either to prevent or end struggles. The
diplomatic pathway to peace, however, while recon-
ciling many differences, has possessed many pitfalls.
Too often negotiations have taken place in an atmos-
phere of mistrust in which governments have sought
to attain a preferred position rather than peace. Fur-
thermore, few statesmen have ever placed much faith
in treaties as peacekeeping devices. The “scraps of
paper” which did not avert the First World War and
the agreements in effect in 1938 and 1939, which
countries both honored and dishonored, revealed seri-
ous shortcomings in traditional diplomacy.

Peace through International Organization. Nations
have, therefore, turned more and more toward ma-
chinery to keep the peace, and the most significant
achievement along these lines can be found in the
evolution of an international organization. The modern
concept of a world body had to await the rise of the
nation-state, and the word “international” did not ap-
pear in men's vocabulary until the eighteenth century.
The idea of cooperation among countries, however,
had emerged in medieval times when it was associated
with schemes to strengthen the Roman Catholic
Church or to recover the Holy Land from the hands
of infidels. Pierre Dubois, about 1255, pioneered in
such schemes, and by the sixteenth century several
other projects had been written. In the following cen-
tury, Maximilien de Bethune, duc de Sully (1603),
Émeric Crucé (1623), and William Penn (1694) formu-
lated notable proposals.

Most early planners revealed common aims. They
thought in terms of some type of assembly or congress,
of an arbitration system, and of sanctions to uphold
decisions or rules. All but Crucé proposed a union
confined to European powers. They also reflected the
autocratic spirit of their age and the absolutism of
rulers, for they wrote primarily of leagues of princes
and often revealed an ulterior motive.

The pattern did not shift appreciably in the pro-
posals of the Abbé de Saint-Pierre in 1712 or Rousseau
in 1761. Rousseau, however, reflected ideas of the
Enlightenment in suggesting a representative assembly
of people rather than of crowned heads or their dele-
gates. He also emphasized voluntary action so that
states would enter any association by free will rather
than under compulsion. Jeremy Bentham in 1789 and
Immanuel Kant in 1795 stressed the idea of confedera-
tion, and the latter sought to justify an international


organization on moral as well as political grounds. Such
thinkers received considerable support for their views
from the form of government created in the United
States after the American Revolution, for the union
there seemed to confirm the belief of those writers who
argued that a voluntary society would be possible.

The Congress of Vienna in 1815 represented an
important turning point in the evolution of thought.
It still reflected autocratic principles, for the major
powers operated as virtual dictators in determining
policy, but it also encouraged cooperative action on
the part of states. Both Tsar Alexander's abortive Holy
Alliance and the more practical Concert of Europe
gave prominence to the belief that nations could vol-
untarily work together in deciding important questions.
The series of conferences which followed, Aix-
la-Chapelle in 1818, Troppau and Laybach in 1820 and
1821, and Verona in 1822 laid the foundation for others
throughout the nineteenth century, notably those at
London in 1829 and 1830 and at Berlin in 1856, 1878,
and 1885.

Men took note of these political gatherings and
decided that cooperation on nonpolitical matters
would also be beneficial. Over two thousand world
conferences prior to 1914 on such diverse subjects as
communications, labor, agriculture, business, and social
problems reflected a growing spirit of internationalism.

Peace workers in the United States shared in these
activities, for leadership in discussing an international
organization had largely shifted to the United States
by the 1830's. The American Peace Society under the
direction of William Ladd became the leading expo-
nent of the ideal of world unity by sponsoring essay
contests which elicited considerable response and re-
sulted in Ladd's famous Essay on a Congress of Nations
(Boston, 1840). He added one distinctive contribution
to the already age-old idea of an international orga-
nization. There should be two separate operating
agencies, both a congress and a court, not one func-
tioning in different ways. Ladd's proposal appealed to
many persons, and under the leadership of his disciple,
Elihu Burritt, the congress and court theme received
widespread endorsement in ensuing decades in Europe
and America.

By the 1890's, spokesmen for an international orga-
nization appeared in increasing numbers. Andrew
Carnegie coined the phrase “League of Peace” to
describe their aims, but others preferred to speak of
the “Federation of the World.” The secretary of the
American Peace Society, Benjamin F. Trueblood,
advanced the latter ideal in articles, speeches, and a
book, and he received considerable support from the
Boston minister and editor, Edward Everett Hale.
Americans usually thought in terms of a world union,
but on the Continent and in Great Britain advocates
reflected their environment by calling for a European
federation of states. Journalist W. T. Stead and Prime
Minister Lord Salisbury in England, the Baroness von
Suttner of Austria, the Baron d'Estournelles de Con-
stant of France, and Jacques Novicow of Russia
emerged as the leading exponents of this proposition.

The First Hague Peace Conference greatly advanced
the belief that an international organization could be
attained. Twenty-six states sent delegates, and although
they failed to agree on many proposed items they did
create a Permanent Court of Arbitration. This
achievement stimulated thought in many lands. In the
United States, Trueblood, journalist Raymond Bridg-
man of Boston, attorney Hayne Davis and editor
Hamilton Holt of New York City, United States Rep-
resentative Richard Bartholdt of Missouri, and Andrew
Carnegie spearheaded a propaganda campaign. They
obtained a promise from President Theodore Roosevelt
in 1904 to seek a second Hague Conference, which
Tsar Nicholas subsequently called for 1907. These in-
ternationalists sought one basic aim. They wished to
see periodic congresses in which governments could
discuss common problems and create machinery to
avert crises. Arbitral commitments, a court of justice,
an agency to formulate and codify international law,
and perhaps some form of sanctions might arise from
such meetings. Some men explored the subject of an
executive and the delicate question of how force should
be applied to prevent war, but they aroused few fol-

The Second Hague Peace Conference further
encouraged the internationalists. Delegates represent-
ing forty-two nations attended and followed the course
previously charted. They could not agree upon disar-
mament proposals, but they did recommend the crea-
tion of an international prize court and a court of

Between 1907 and 1914, men made no substantial
headway in official circles toward a world organization.
The limited scope and application of arbitration was
amplified by the failure to achieve a purely judicial
tribunal because governments could not agree on a
formula to select judges. The propaganda continued
with two clear schools of thought. One endorsed the
principle of periodic congresses and began a campaign
for a third Hague Conference. The other spoke for a
permanently functioning body in the form of a league
rather than a loose association meeting only on occa-
sion. The latter group also believed in a greater
delegation of authority to any agency, but all advocates
agreed upon one point. Concepts of justice should lie
at the core of its operation.

With the outbreak of the First World War, the idea


of some form of union gained widespread currency.
In England, many individuals prepared plans and sev-
eral organizations appeared of which the League of
Nations Union, the Fabian Society, and the League of
Free Nations Society were the most prominent. These
groups reflected prewar thinking as they called for
periodic congresses, the creation of machinery to re-
solve disputes through legal and arbitral processes, and
a cautious application of sanctions. British thinkers
generally favored force to uphold awards of the
authorized bodies and even to defend members from
attack, but they preferred that a league in each in-
stance determine whether or not to employ sanctions.

In the United States, groups also appeared, notably
the League to Enforce Peace, the World's Court
League, and the League of Free Nations Society.
Nearly everyone agreed with the formula for regular
meetings and machinery to settle differences, but there
accord ended. The League to Enforce Peace favored
automatic sanctions but called for their application in
only one way. Nations should be compelled to submit
their disputes to the procedural machinery. Awards
should not be upheld and members should not be
defended. In the neutral countries of Europe, interna-
tionalists created the Central Organization for a Dura-
ble Peace, the only body not primarily national in its
membership, which suggested a program similar to that
of the League to Enforce Peace. Statesmen slowly
accepted the idea of a postwar union, and by the war's
end it had been embodied in the aims of nearly every-

Thus by 1919 men agreed to test this new proposi-
tion. Between 1920 and 1946, sixty-five nations joined
the League of Nations with thirty-one involved for the
entire period. From its headquarters at Geneva and
with an average annual budget of six million dollars,
the League assumed a number of tasks in its role as
a preserver of peace. It attacked the problem of terri-
torial rivalries through a mandate system under which
the former colonies of Germany as well as other
disputed lands were assigned to various governments
as agents of the League. It sought to achieve disar-
mament, to solve refugee problems, and to cope with
major economic and human difficulties. It also served
as a peacemaker by settling disputes. Until 1931 it
succeeded reasonably well, largely because no vital
issue involving a major power came before it. Then
the Japanese attack upon Manchuria in 1931 and that
of Italy upon Ethiopia in 1935 tested the League and
exposed its weaknesses. Its members refused to support
the principle of sanctions in Articles 10 and 16 of the
Covenant, and from that point until the outbreak of
the Second World War in September of 1939 aggressors
successfully challenged the League. The idea of collec
tive security implicit in the Covenant gave way to
neutrality and appeasement. Discussions after 1935 to
“reform” the League clearly reflected the desire of
states to reduce their responsibilities, and the orga-
nization became little more than a consultative body.

The idea of an international agency, however, did
not die with the collapse of the League of Nations.
Again, groups and political leaders emerged to create
the United Nations in 1945. In its basic structure, it
bore a marked resemblance to the League, but it con-
tained clauses in its Charter which made it distinctive.
The United Nations placed much more emphasis on
averting wars by improving social, economic, and po-
litical conditions that prompt conflict, and it created
many agencies to deal with such problems.

On the other hand, the Charter retained the League
concept of political rather than judicial action to cope
with problems. Chapters VI and XIV of the Charter
did provide for the peaceful settlement of disputes
along various lines, but other clauses placed the real
decision-making in the hands of the Security Council
and the General Assembly. The Council received a
charge to maintain peace, and the Assembly had the
right to discuss any matter relating to the peace and
security of the world. The organization displayed its
authority most dramatically with a Security Council
decision to intervene in Korea in June of 1950, but
thereafter when the Council failed to act because of
the veto power of members the Assembly assumed the
initiative. The Uniting for Peace Resolution in No-
vember of 1950 granted the Assembly the authority
to reach decisions and even to call for the use of arms
when necessary. Thus the Assembly gained significant
power as an agency of peace.

This transition elevated the Secretary-General to a
position of prominence, and he has served as a personal
mediator in disputes or as the instigator of United
Nations action. Peacekeeping operations increased
with military observers in Kashmir, the Middle East,
Greece, and Lebanon and with a police force in the
Middle East, Cyprus, and the Congo. Despite such
efforts, the United Nations in its first twenty-five years
did not always resolve disputes or problems of major
importance, especially those involving the great
powers. Bypassed in favor of traditional diplomacy, it
played the role of an “honest broker” as it sought to
stabilize conditions and to persuade the major govern-
ments to follow the pathway of common sense. It also
influenced discussions involving large countries by
increasing the number of participants. Its actions, while
notable, have not been impressive, and its ineffective-
ness in such “preventive diplomacy” has led to in-
creasing doubts about its efficacy as a peacekeeping


This has prompted suggestions for strengthening the
United Nations by granting it greater authority and
thus allowing it to escape from its policy of improvisa-
tion. Planners have called for increased executive,
legislative, and judicial powers to make it more effec-
tive. They have noted the discrepancy between inter-
national life in 1945 when statesmen drafted the Char-
ter and the later reality of nuclear confrontation, and
they have argued that the United Nations should be
allowed to cope with the problems of armaments,
fissionable materials, and delivery systems. Reformers
have exposed other weaknesses: membership concepts
which give micro-nations equal weight with great
powers; the limitations on agencies seeking to alleviate
conditions leading to war; and the financial dependence
of the United Nations upon its members, and the
insufficient funds available for its extended operations.
Governments, however, while aware of these problems,
have not been inclined to resolve them.

Peace and Arms. Because the United Nations never
received sufficient authority to prevent all wars, gov-
ernments have had to rely upon their own strength
to defend themselves as in the past. And pacifists have
always responded with proposals that countries disarm,
because that would be the most simple and direct
formula for peace. They have long assumed a direct
connection between the existence of weapons and
fighting and believed that when men prepare for wars
they will have them. Pacifists have also associated
armaments with militarism. As forces grow, military
leaders have assumed a greater role in political affairs
and thus advised firmness and aggressive action rather
than caution and moderation. The advocates of dis-
armament have never proven their case, but their
arguments have often been heeded. The record of
achievement in arms reduction, however, has been

The Hague Conferences considered the subject be-
cause men at that time worried about the vast expen-
ditures for war preparation in the late nineteenth cen-
tury, but both in 1899 and 1907 the delegates could
not agree upon a program. Their discussions led only
to rules which limited or forbade the use of weapons
capable of inflicting unusual devastation or cruelty.

The peace treaty in 1919 contained many provisions
to limit the forces of the former Central Powers so
they could not rearm and again threaten their neigh-
bors. These clauses failed, however, because the
German government found ways to circumvent or defy
them. The Covenant likewise provided for disar-
mament through the League of Nations, but commis-
sions and sessions beginning in the 1920's yielded no
appreciable results and ended their work in 1934.

The only notable gain of the interwar years came
at the Washington Conference of 1921-22, one of the
rare instances in history when governments actually
agreed to a program and acted upon it. The formula,
in the form of the Five Power Treaty signed by Great
Britain, the United States, Japan, France, and Italy,
called for naval disarmament according to classes and
the total tonnage of ships. Public response appeared
in the Republican party platform of 1924 which
referred to the agreement as “the greatest peace docu-
ment ever drawn.” Subsequently, at conferences at
Geneva in 1927 and at London in 1930 and 1935, the
major naval powers partially extended the program of
naval disarmament, but the effort collapsed in 1936
after Japan withdrew from the arrangement. Historians
have judged the experiment a worthy one, but it did
not succeed in keeping the peace.

The Second World War shattered pacifist claims
regarding the efficacy of disarmament, and the Charter
of the United Nations contained few clauses on the
subject compared to the League of Nations Covenant.
A few months later, however, with the use of atomic
bombs upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki, mankind faced
the specter of nuclear annihilation and responded with
renewed demands for action. The United Nations at
its first regular session created an Atomic Energy
Commission which examined the subject of control and
inspection of fissionable materials, while at the same
time a Commission for Conventional Armaments func-
tioned from 1947 to 1952. After the Soviet Union
developed a nuclear weapon in 1949, the United Na-
tions created a new general Disarmament Commission
in 1952. Despite many sessions, it failed to discover
formulas to limit or regulate the production of nuclear
weapons because of an impasse over an inspection
system to guarantee that the terms of any agreement
would be honored.

For a time, the governments of the United States
and the Soviet Union announced moratoriums on the
testing of bombs, but they broke these. The United
States recognized the scope of the problem when in
1961 it created the Arms Control and Disarmament
Agency as an independent office within the govern-
ment, and the two powers established a Disarmament
Committee outside of the United Nations in 1962.

The Soviet Union and the United States also
approved a nuclear test-ban treaty in 1963 in which
they agreed not to explode devices in the atmosphere,
outer space, or under water. It allowed underground
testing, however, and contained another escape clause
which permitted any signatory to withdraw after three
months' notice. Over one hundred countries (excluding
France and China) subsequently joined in the accord.
In 1964, the General Assembly approved a resolution
banning nuclear arms on orbiting space vehicles, and


governments then turned to the problem of controlling
the spread of fissionable materials and weapons. Then
in 1968 the Soviet Union and the United States drafted
a nonproliferation pact. Nonnuclear countries which
signed promised neither to receive nor develop arms,
and in return gained the use of fissionable materials
for peaceful purposes. They further secured a pledge
from the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great
Britain that they would be assisted immediately in the
event of a nuclear attack. Many nations signed, but
significant ones, including some with atomic and hy-
drogen weapons, refused to join.

The developments of the 1960's clearly reflected a
trend from the idea of disarmament to that of arms
control. Statesmen realized that nuclear powers would
never destroy their arsenals without an adequate in-
spection system, and they could not agree on that
subject because of mistrust and the concept of sover-
eignty. Furthermore, as the nuclear “club” grew with
the addition of France in 1960 and China in 1964, men
realized that they had to allay the fear expressed by
President John F. Kennedy “that by 1970... there
may be ten nuclear powers instead of four and by 1975
fifteen or twenty.” The recent emphasis upon control
is thus a new hope applied to an old problem.

The difficulties which governments faced in achiev-
ing satisfactory agreements limiting or controlling
weapons forced men to attempt another approach—
peace through arms. In a refinement of the old balance
of power principle, the major nations achieved a
military stalemate and injected into their vocabularies
such new phrases as massive deterrent, retaliation,
overkill, and sufficiency. At the same time, they devel-
oped conventional arms and a delivery system for
nuclear warheads, spending between one and two hun-
dred billion dollars every year from 1945 to 1969 in
the name of peace.

Two basic beliefs lay behind this trend. The first has
been expressed as peace through terror, with each
power possessing the capacity to annihilate its poten-
tial enemy, and with a reprisal system to bring de-
struction on whatever country strikes first. The second
has been described as a philosophy of confrontation
in which the world knows neither peace nor war. The
delicate balance achieved presupposes sensitive states-
manship, restraint on the part of men and nations, and
sufficient rationality to avoid a thermonuclear holo-

Since governments may no longer wage major wars,
they have had to prepare for lesser conflicts involving
conventional weapons, and with these they have sought
to stabilize the world so that a greater conflagration
does not erupt. They have thus combined many of the
ideas of the past. They seek the peaceful settlement
of disputes and hope to develop a more advanced legal
system; they resort to diplomacy by building and
maintaining a collective security system based upon
a balance of power principle as reflected in the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Warsaw Pact, and
the Organization of American States; they strive to
make the United Nations a more effective agency both
to alleviate the causes of war and to preserve an un-
certain peace; they have not abandoned their dream
of disarmament or arms control; and they stand con-
fronting each other with the scientific capacity to

These concepts, however, aside from the recently
developed policy of nuclear deterrence, have never
prevented war. Other cultural, political, and ideologi-
cal factors such as nationalism, militarism, and sover-
eignty have been of greater importance in determining
events. Man, therefore, stands at the same threshold
he approached centuries ago. Despite improved means
of communication, an ominous threat to his survival,
an increased awareness of his danger, and the experi-
ences and machinery of the past to aid him, peace still
remains a dream. The idea of peace, however, has
survived innumerable wars and still motivates men to
hope and work for the millennium.


The peace movement has been traced by A. C. F. Beales,
The History of Peace: A Short Account of the Organised
Movements for International Peace
(New York, 1931). Amer-
ican efforts appear in Peter Brock, Pacifism in the United
States: From the Colonial Era to the First World War

(Princeton, 1968), in Merle Curti, Peace or War: The Ameri-
can Struggle, 1636-1936
(Boston, 1936), and in Lawrence
S. Wittner, Rebels Against War: The American Peace Move-
ment, 1941-60
(New York, 1969). Accounts of developments
toward an international organization can be found on
Sylvester J. Hemleben, Plans for World Peace through Six
(Chicago, 1943); Warren F. Kuehl, Seeking World
Order: The United States and International Organization to
(Nashville, Tenn., 1969); Christian L. Lange, Histoire
de l'internationalisme,
2 vols. (Kristiana, 1919; New York,
1954); F. S. L. Lyons, Internationalism in Europe, 1815-1914
(Leyden, 1963); Gerard J. Mangone, A Short History of
International Organization
(New York, 1954); Jacob ter
Meulen, Der Gedanke der internationalen Organisation in
seiner Entwicklung,
2 vols. (The Hague, 1917-29); Edith
Wynner and Georgia Lloyd, Searchlight on Peace Plans
(New York, 1944).

The following specialized studies are also useful:
Raymond Aron, Peace and War: A Theory of International
(New York, 1966); Herbert Butterfield and Martin
Wight, eds., Diplomatic Investigations: Essays in the Theory
of International Politics
(London, 1966); Inis L. Claude, Jr.,
Swords into Plowshares: The Problems and Progress of Inter-
national Organization
(New York, 1959); Arthur H. Dean,


Test Ban and Disarmament: The Path of Negotiation (New
York, 1966); Clark M. Eichelberger, UN: The First Twenty
(New York, 1965); Stephen D. Kertesz, The Quest for
Peace Through Diplomacy
(New York, 1967); Wilfred F.
Knapp, A History of War and Peace, 1939-1965 (New York,
1967); Arthur Nussbaum, A Concise History of the Law of
(New York, 1954); M. Stuyt, Survey of Interna-
tional Arbitrations, 1794-1938
(The Hague, 1939); F. P.
Walters, A History of the League of Nations (New York,
1952; reprint 1960).


[See also Balance of Power; Enlightenment; Ideology; Law,
Concept of; Millenarianism; Nationalism; Peace, Ethics of;
State; War and Militarism.]