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Peace Societies and Peace Congressés.
their names among those of the benefactors of their race. They were men of large moral courage, of deep earnestness of soul, and of a high reach of aim. They had already seen deeply rooted institutions fall beneath the blow of indignant virtue, and had resolved, with God's blessing, to accomplish the object which they had in view. To their mental and bodily labour they added their gold and their prayers, and toiling under the powerful sceptre of this earthly trinity, they reckoned upon the support of that which is in heaven. The American Peace Society had from its origin contemplated a Congress of Nations as a means of advancing their cause, and a prernium of thirty dollars, afterwards raised to fifty, was offered for the best essay on the subject of a Congress of Nations. A few essays only were obtained; but in 1831 a gentleman of New York offered 500 dollars for the best essay on the subject, and 100 for the second best. About forty essays were the result of this liberal offer, and five of them occupy the large volume of admirable Prize Essays published in America in 1840. The London Peace Society offered a prize of one hundred guineas for the best essay on peace and war, and twenty for the second best; and under its control countless numbers of tracts by male and female authors have been circulated throughout the empire.
Important as these measures have been in giving the public correct ideas of the principles of the peace associations, of the horrors of war, of the blessings of peace, and of their obligations as Christians, citizens, and men, another step was still wanting to give a cosmopolitan character to the National Associations. In August 1848, Mr. Elihu Burritt, the American apostle of peace, conceived the idea of assembling from all nations a Peace Congress in Paris. He addressed a circular on the subject to the most distinguished friends of the cause, and after a long and serious deliberation, the Peace Society of London resolved to give their most active exertions in the cause. Philanthropists from every country intimated their desire to be present; and with such powerful support, Mr. Burritt, fortified with introductions from the American Minister in London, set off for France to solicit the concurrence of its government. He communicated in a letter to the Minister of the Interior the objects and views of the friends of peace; but though his proposal was kindly received, yet the peculiar political position of France was considered to be unfavourable for such a reunion. When this decision was laid before them, the Peace Societies of London, Manchester, and Birmingham, resolved to abandon their plan of meeting in Paris, and to take immediate measures for holding the Congress in Brussels. A deputation, consisting of Mr. Scoble of London and Mr. Bradshaw of Manchester, was accordingly appointed, and having been joined by Mr. Burritt, they set out for Belgium, with a letter of introduction from the Belgian Minister in London, Mr. Van der Weyer, to M. Rogier, the Minister of the Interior in Belgium. On their arrival in Brussels, the deputation was introduced to M. Rogier by Lord Howard de Walden, and the Minister of the United States, and after the kindest and frankest reception, every facility was promised for promoting the objects of the Congress. M. Rogier obtained for it the use of the magnificent hall of the Society of Great Harmony, and the use of a special train of the States Railway from Ostend to Brussels, and relief from the Customhouse formalities. The first meeting of the deputation was held on the 10th September in the saloons of the Minister of the Interior; and at the meeting a committee of organization was formed, consisting of M. Aug. Visschers as its president, and other individuals who held important offices and positions in the State.
In virtue of the arrangement made by the Committee, the first meeting of the Peace Congress was held at Brussels on the 20th September 1848, under the presidency of M. Auguste Visschers, Counsellor of Mines. The fine hall of the Great Harmony was magnificently decorated for the occasion: An allegorical statue with a bee-hive in its hand, with groups of the different attributes of the arts and sciences, agriculture and commerce, at its feet, rose behind the bureau : The whole was surrounded with shrubs and garlands of flowers, and the national banners of Belgium ; while round the hall were suspended the national flags of England, France, the United States, Germany, Holland, and Italy. After the appointment of its office-bearers, the Congress was opened with a brief but excellent inaugural address by the president, M. Visschers, who closed it with the beautiful stanza which Béranger read at a fête given by M. De la RochefoucauldLiancourt, on account of the evacuation of France by the Allies :
J'ai vu la Paix descendre sur la terre,
“Ah! disait-elle, égaux par la vaillance,
"Et donnez-vous le main.” The following proposition was the subject of discussion at the first sitting of the Congress :
The iniquity, the inhumanity, and the absurdity of mar, as the means of settling differences between nations.
This great truth was supported by speeches profound in their logic, and impassioned in their eloquence, by M. F. Bouvet, Member of the National Assembly of France, M. le Baron de Reiffenberg, Member of the Royal Academy of Sciences and
Belles Lettres of Belgium, Mr. Ewart and Mr. Silk Buckingham, Members of our own House of Commons, and the Rev. Henry Richard, the active Secretary of the Peace Society of London; and at the commencement of the second meeting, the following resolution, founded on the proposition, was adopted :
* The Congress declares that recourse to arms for the settlement of international disputes, is a custom condemned alike by Religion, Morality, Reason, and Humanity, and, consequently, it is the duty of the civilized world, and necessary for its safety, to adopt suitable measures for the entire abolition of war.”
The following proposition was then submitted for discussion:The utility and the necessity of the adoption by all governments in future treaties, of a clause by which differences that may arise between them, and might lead to an appeal to arms, shall be submitted to arbitration, and settled by means of mediation.
After an able and argumentative letter from Mr. Cobden had been read to the meeting, the proposition above mentioned was eloquently defended by M. Chamerovzow, Secretary to the Society for the Protection of Aborigines ; M. Roussel, Professor in the University of Brussels; the Rev. M. Panchaud of Brussels; and M. Rastoul de Mongeot, an author; and at the commencement of the third sitting, the following resolution was adopted :
“It is of the highest importance to insist that governments shall, by means of arbitration, the principles of which shall be inserted in treaties, terminate in an amicable manner, and according to the rules of justice, all differences that may arise between nations,- special arbiters, or a supreme international court, deciding in the last resort."
The following proposition was then submitted to the consideration of the meeting:
The utility of the convocation of a Congress, composed of delegates from all nutions, the purpose of which shall be to form an international Code, which shall have for its object to place the relations of one State to another upon a solid and unanimously accepted basis, in order to secure, as far as possible, the maintenance of peace.
This proposition was well supported by M. Bertinatti of Turin, Mr. Henry Vincent of London, and, after an excellent letter on the subject from Dr. Bowring had been read, by Mr. Ewart, M. Scheler, Librarian to the King at Brussels, Mr. Henry Clapp of the United States, M. Bourson, and Mr. Somerset; and at the commencement of the next sitting, the following resolution was agreed to :
“ It is desirable that in future a Congress of Nations, composed of representatives of each of them, should unite in forming a Code to regulate international relations. The establishment of this Congress, and the adoption of a Code sanctioned by the Council of all nations, will be the best means of arriving at a universal peace.”
The last proposition discussed by the Congress was—
To call the attention of governments to the advantages of a general disarmament, and to request respectfully the exchange of their good offices in order to secure the maintenance of pacific relations between nations, as well as the interests and progress of humanity. This proposition was defended in a written note from Mr. William Stokes, agent of the Peace Society of London, by M. Alvin, director of public instruction at Brussels, M. L'Abbe Louis, chief of the institution at Brussels, M. Roussel, Mr. Henry Vincent, M. Huet, professor in the university of Ghent, the Rev. Thomas Spencer of Bath, and Mr. Roberts, a mulatto, and governor of the colony of Liberia, who had succeeded in inducing several of the savage tribes under his influence to insert in their treaties a clause referring their differences to the government of Liberia.
The Congress concluded its sittings on the 22d September by the usual formalities of a vote of thanks to the President, and a warm acknowledgment of the hospitality of M. Visschers, and of M. Rogier, the minister of the interior. A soirée, held in the same hall in which the Congress inet, was brilliantly attended by the beauty and fashion of Brussels; and after leaving a sum of 2000 francs for the best essay on the subjects discussed at the Congress,* the delegates of the different Peace Societies took an affectionate leave of their Belgian friends.
The impression which was everywhere made by the discussions, in this the first Peace Congress, was admirably maintained by the subsequent labours of its members. An address, explaining the principles of the Congress, was presented to Lord John Russell on the 30th of October, by a deputation of Englishmen and foreigners. His Lordship expressed himself in the kindest terms regarding the sentiments which actuated the Congress; he approved of meetings of that kind, as disseminating among the people ideas of wisdom and moderation; and he emphatically assured the deputation, that in case of any differences arising with another nation, if that nation should propose to refer it tv arbitration, the English Government would always regard it as their duty to take such a request into the most serious consideration.
Thus encouraged by the British minister, a great public meeting of the friends of peace was held in Exeter Hall on the 31st October 1848, under the presidency of Mr. Hindley, when speeches of great eloquence and power were delivered by Mr. Ewart, who presided, and Messrs. S. Gurney, Cobden, Brock, Mr. Cobden's motion for International Arbitration.
* Twenty-two memoirs in competition for this prize were received before the specified time, the 1st June 1849, and two afterwards; and on the 6th August the Committee of the Royal Academy of Belgium adjudged the 1000 francs to M. Bara, advocate, residing at Muus.
F. Bastiat, Horace Say, Joseph Garnier, Mr. Potonic, and Mr. Mahan of Ohio. On this occasion M. Josselin, a young French magistrate, in the uniform of the National Guard, happened to enter the Assembly. He was immediately conducted to the platform, where the plaudits with which he was received testified the sympathy and good feeling towards the French people which animated our countrymen. Influential meetings at Birmingham and Manchester followed immediately that of London, and the public mind was thus prepared for the next great step taken in the cause of peace.
Mr. Cobden, who had already triumphed over the prejudices and interests of a powerful party in the State, by his successful exertions for the repeal of the corn-laws, had given notice of a motion in the House of Commons:
“ That an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that she will be graciously pleased to direct her principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to enter into communication with foreign powers, inviting them to concur in treaties binding the respective parties, in the event of any future misunderstanding, which cannot be arranged by amicable negotiation, to refer the matter in dispute to the decision of arbitrators.”
With the view of supporting this motion upwards of 150 meetings were held in different parts of the empire, and about a thousand petitions, containing two hundred thousand signatures, were presented to the House of Commons in favour of the proposition.
This important proposal, which we believe embodies the anxious wishes of all the piety, and philanthropy, and disinterested talent of England, was submitted to the House on the 12th June 1849. It was moved by Mr. Cobden, in a speech rich in its facts, logical in its argument, sagacious in its views, and warm and affectionate in its humanity. Lord Robert Grosvenor, Mr. Hobhouse, (now Lord Broughton,) Mr. Milner Gibson, and Mr. Roebuck, supported it with great eloquence and powerful argument; and the previous question was moved by Lord Palmerston, and supported by Lord John Russell, in speeches of deep interest and good feeling. Lord Palmerston, with his usual ability, gave an interesting and statesmanlike view of our foreign relations. The two ministers fully admitted the principle of the resolution, and acknowledged the benefit that would arise from it; but they believed that peace might be maintained by the old method of negotiation, and cited the many recent occasions in which they had preserved peace without the new method of arbitration. In thus contrasting the two methods of settling national differences, Lord John Russell has thoroughly, we are sure unwittingly, misrepresented the proposition in debate. The friends of peace value and desire to uphold the old method of negotiation, and they honour the present Government for its frequent and successful application. The method