Herbert Hoover photo

Address to the Annual Conference and Good-Will Congress of the World Alliance for Friendship Through the Churches.

November 11, 1930

UPON THIS DAY all thoughts must turn to our heroic dead whose lives were given in defense of the liberties and ideals of our country. Their contribution to these priceless heritages was made without reservation. They gave the full measure of their intelligence and energy and enthusiasm, and life itself, forfeiting their portion of further happiness-all that we and our children might live on more safely, more happily, and more assured of the precious blessings of security and peace.

A solemn obligation lies upon us to press forward in our pursuit of those things for which they died. Our duty is to seek ever new and widening opportunities to insure the world against the horror and irretrievable wastage of war. Much has been done, but we must wage peace continuously, with the same energy as they waged war.

This year, 1930, has been rendered notable in peace annals in the achievement of the London Naval Treaty. That has disposed of one of those major frictions among the great naval powers--that is, competition in naval construction--and it has made a sensible advance in the reduction of warships.

The promotion of peace and prevention of war, however, cannot rest upon the accomplishments of any 1 year. The outlook for peace is happier than for half a century, yet we cannot overlook the fact that nations in many ways are always potentially in conflict. There are not only the accumulated age-old controversies and ambitions which are alive with prejudice, emotion, and passion, but you may be assured that there will always be an unceasing crop of new controversies between nations.

Every shift in power, every advance in communications, in trade and finance daily increases the points of contact of one nation with another. The diffusion of their citizens and their property abroad increasingly penetrates and overlaps into the four corners of the Earth. The many inventions of these citizens, their ceaseless energies, bring an hourly grist to our foreign offices of contested right or grievance. It is true that many of these contacts make for understanding and good will. It is indeed of the first importance to peace that these happy influences be cultivated and that the unhappy ones be disposed of with justice and good will.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed a little over 2 years ago to further safeguard against the dangers from these conflicts, has already become a powerful influence in international affairs. Several further states have adhered to it since last November, bringing the total number of nations up to 58 which have renounced war as an instrument of national policy and have agreed to settle conflicts of whatever nature by pacific means. Five other states have expressed an intention to adhere, which will bring the total to 63, a figure comprising all but two nations.

By the recognition of this fundamental principle of peace and from the moral restraint that the convenant itself presents, this agreement has become one of the most potent instruments for peace which the world has ever forged for itself.

There has been much discussion as to the desirability of some further extension of the pact so as to effect a double purpose of assuring methodical development of this machinery of peaceful settlement, and to insure at least the mobilization of world opinion against those who fail when strain comes. I do not say that some such further step may not someday come about.

Such a formula would be stimulative and would appeal to the dramatic sense of the world as a mark in the progress of peace. But less dramatic and possibly even more sure is the day-to-day strengthening and buttressing of the pact by extension from one nation to another of treaties which, in times of friction, assure resort to well-tried processes of competent negotiation, of conciliation, and of arbitration.

And we can in our own relations record great advancement in these fundamental but less dramatic supports to the pact during the 2 years since its signature. Up to the signature of the pact our country was bound by arbitration treaties to seven other nations. It was bound to 26 nations by conciliation treaties, both bilateral and multilateral. Since that time we have completed treaties with 15 more countries, and, in addition, we have signed further arbitration and conciliation treaties with 45 nations, of which 26 have been ratified and the others are either before the Senate or in course of presentation to it.

By these treaties of arbitration we pledge ourselves to the acceptance of the judgment of a disinterested third party in all controversies of a justiciable character. By treaties of conciliation we pledge ourselves to submit all other types of controversy to negotiations or the mediation of commissions which embrace representatives of disinterested nations.

It is our purpose to develop in every way the use of arbitration and conciliation agreements in our relations with foreign nations.

Other nations of the world have likewise been engaged over years in the building up of the machinery for pacific settlement of controversies. There are hundreds of arbitration and conciliation treaties existing directly between them. Indeed the covenant of the League of Nations provides for arbitration and conciliation amongst 54 nations of the world.

It is my belief that the world will have become firmly interlocked with such agreements within a very few years, and that it will become an accepted principle of international law that disputes between nations which it has not been possible to determine through the ordinary channels of diplomacy shall in future be submitted to arbitration, or to international conciliation commissions.

In the development of methods of pacific settlement, a great hope lies in ever extending the body and principles of international law on which such settlements will be based. The World Court is now a strongly established institution amongst 45 nations as a continuing body, performing and facilitating justiciable determinations which can only be accomplished sporadically under special treaties of arbitration. Its permanence is assured and from it there is steadily growing a body of precedent, decisions, and acceptance of law in the formulation of which we should have a part, not alone in our own interest but in advancement of peace.

A year ago I made a suggestion of a practical contribution in settlement of an age-old controversy of freedom of the seas. I proposed that food supplies should be made immune from interference in time of war, 1 and that the security of such supplies should be guaranteed by neutral transport and management. I proposed it not alone upon humane grounds but that the haunting fears of nations who must live from over the sea might be relaxed and the sacrifices which they make for naval strength might be lessened. Our food supplies are assured, and it is therefore from us a disinterested proposal. It would make for prevention as well as limitation of war.

1 For President Hoover's earlier suggestions on neutralizing food ships, see 1929 volume, Item 275.

We, as a nation whose independence, liberties, and securities were born of war, cannot contend that there never is or never will be righteous cause for war in the world. Nor can we assume that righteousness has so advanced in the world that we may yet have complete confidence in the full growth of pacific means or rest solely upon the processes of peace for defense.

With the progress the world has made in the installation of the methodical processes for the settlement of controversies, the larger problem emerges as to fidelity to agreement to use these methods. The thought and anxiety of the world is rightly directed to the question as to what the nations of the world will do in case of a failure to use them. It is useless for us to say that we have no interest in such events.

Since our experience in the World War no one will deny the dangers which foreign wars bring to our shores or the interest we must have in the peace of the world at large. But I do not hold that our obligation in these matters lies wholly on the basis of self-interest. It is upon its moral and spiritual strength that the advancement of the world must rest.

Our basis of cooperation to preserve peace among nations must be different from that of the other great nations of the world. The security of our geographic situation, our traditional freedom from entanglements in the involved diplomacy of Europe, and our disinterestedness enable us to give a different and in many ways a more effective service to peace.

The nations of Europe, bordered as they are by age-old dangers of which we in the Western Hemisphere have little appreciation, beset as they are by long-inherited fears, believe that they must subscribe to methods which in the last resort will use force to compel nations to abide by their agreements to settle controversies by pacific means. We, in our great state of safety and independence, should make no criticism of their conclusions which arise from their necessities.

But we believe that our contribution can best be made in these emergencies, when nations fail to keep their undertakings of pacific settlement of disputes, by our good offices and helpfulness free from any advance commitment or entanglement as to the character of our action.

The purpose of our Government is to cooperate with others, to use our friendly offices, and, short of any implication of the use of force, to use every friendly effort and all good will to maintain the peace of the world.

The war that ended on this day 12 years ago taught us one thing, if nothing else, and that is the blessing of peace. When we look back upon its splendid valor and heroism then displayed, when we remember the magnificent energies poured forth by young and old, when we recall the marvelous exercise of the greatest virtues that glorify the human race-unselfishness, self-sacrifice, cooperation, both by men and women--we are looking not upon qualities which war creates but rather upon the traits of the human race which war makes seem more vivid by contrast with its own horrors. These same qualities are exercised, but are unsung and unheralded, in times of peace. Those who died displaying them would have displayed them living, and would have wrought their fruits into the enduring fabric of our peaceful destiny. We can only pledge ourselves, in honor of their memory, to the task of making ever more unlikely that our youth hereafter shall be denied its opportunity to devote its idealism and its energies to the constructive arts of peace.

Note: The President spoke at 11 a.m. in the Washington Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

Herbert Hoover, Address to the Annual Conference and Good-Will Congress of the World Alliance for Friendship Through the Churches. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/212359

Filed Under



Washington, DC

Simple Search of Our Archives