Nobel Peace Prize

The very first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1901 to two men, and not for a collaborative effort, but for individual ones. Jean Henri Dunant was awarded half the prize for founding the International Red Cross; the other half was awarded to Frédéric Passy, who founded the very first French peace society, the Société française pour l'arbitrage entre nations (French Society for Arbitration among nations). Known as "a pacifist before his time", Passy was also an idealist, as maybe most advocates for world peace are; never-the-less, his words rang true a hundred years ago as surely as they do today.

War is no longer merely a crime; it is an absudity. It is no longer merely immoral and cruel; it is stupid. It is no longer merely murder on a large scale; it is suicide and voluntary ruin.

Born in Paris, France on May 20, 1822, Frédéric Passy was of a family seeped in the tradition of civil service, as far back as the mid-18th century when his uncle, Hippolyte Passy, served under both Louis Philippe and Louis Napolean. After initially studying law, Passy went to work in the French Ministry as an accountant for the State Council. Three years later, economics had become his focus. Passy left the employ of the state and began what would become a prodigious volume of publications as well as public lectures. Starting with Melanges economiques in 1857 followed by a series of lectures at the University of Montpellier, Passy emerged as an ardent supporter of free trade which he believed would "draw nations together as partners in a common enterprise", thereby resulting in disarmament and the end of war as we know it. Passy travelled throughout his beloved country, spreading his economic gospel for peace.

Someday all barriers will fall; someday mankind, constantly united by continuous transactions, will form just one workshop, one market, and one family...and this is the holiness of the free trade doctrine...and with effective pressure of material interest it tends to make justice and harmony prevail in the world.

Most importantly, Passy's cries for peace, whether written or oral, actually made a difference. In 1867, Passy's plea for peace appeared in Le Temps, and actually helped to, at least temporarily, avert war between Prussia and France over Luxembourg. It was here, that he founded the International and Permanent league for Peace, later reorganized as the French Society for Arbitration among Nations. In 1881, a dispute between France and The Netherlands over the French Guiana-Surinam boundary, was brought to a peaceful conclusion, thanks to an arbitration proposed by Passy. His continued work in the Chamber of Deputies, from 1881 to 1889, resulted in the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which remains in existence today. Represented by parliaments from France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Hungary, Belgium and the United States, Passy had ideally hoped that any conflict between countries could be settled through normal diplomatic channels. Obviously, not as successful as hoped, the IPU is the oldest multilateral organization, currently headquartered in Geneva, with 138 affiliated national parliaments.

In lieu of an autobiography, which Passy deplored, he published his last work, Pour la Paix, in 1909 at the age of 87. Frédéric Passy passed away on June 12, 1912, at the age of 90.

Free trade cannot prevent war when men no longer believe in peace. Free Trade is premised on the idea that human relationships should be voluntary and based on mutual consent. It requires the conviction that the moral condition of individual men and mankind as a whole is fostered the most when people acquire the things of the world that they desire by peaceful exchange rather than by theft and plunder; and when men attempt to change the way their fellow human beings think and live and act by using the methods of reason, persuasion, and example instead of through the use of compulsion, power, terror and death.
Richard M. Ebeling..March 2002.


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