Early Peace Congresses
The first international peace congress was held in London in 1843. Proposals were made for a congress of nations and for international arbitration; propaganda against war was urged, and the control of the manufacture and sale of arms and munitions was advocated. The second congress, known as the Universal Peace Congress, met in Brussels in 1848 and was followed by a series of such meetings in Paris, 1849; Frankfurt, 1850; and London, 1851. International peace activity was interrupted, first by the Crimean War and then by the U.S. Civil War.
In 1867, Charles Lemonnier convened a peace congress in Geneva known as the International League of Peace and Liberty; after the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) it reconvened (1873) in Brussels, and David Dudley Field's Proposals for an International Code formed the basis of discussion. In the Western Hemisphere the first Pan-American Conference met in 1889–90 (see Pan-Americanism). Meeting at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, the Universal Peace Congress, which had resumed in 1889, discussed plans for an International Court of Arbitration. In 1899 the court was established at The Hague by the first of the Hague Conferences. The Second Hague Conference (1907) was concerned, like the first, with arbitration and disarmament.
The Period of the World Wars
By 1914 the court (see Hague Tribunal) had successfully arbitrated 14 international disputes, but the outbreak of World War I disrupted the activities of all peace congresses, and it was not until 1919 that they were able to resume their work. It took another two years before the peace proposals of the 19th cent., incorporated in the Treaty of Versailles, bore fruit in the creation of two international organizations, the League of Nations at Geneva and the Permanent Court of International Justice (see World Court) at The Hague.
After 1919 the chief international peace congresses were the annual meetings at Brussels of the International Federation of League of Nations Societies, which concerned themselves increasingly with disarmament. Throughout the 1920s peace congresses concentrated on urging countries to reduce their armed forces, and they influenced the holding of naval conferences at Washington, D.C. (1921–22) and London (1930). A series of bilateral and multilateral disarmament conferences finally led to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed (1928) by 15 nations, which renounced war as an instrument of national policy. However, within three years Japan (a signatory to the pact) launched its undeclared war against Manchuria, and in 1935, Italy (another signatory) invaded Ethiopia; this was followed shortly by Germany's invasion (1939) of Poland and World War II.
Modern Peace Congresses
See R. S. Baker, Woodrow Wilson and World Settlement (1960); F. A. Hinsley, Power and the Pursuit of Peace (1963); L. W. Doob, The Pursuit of Peace (1981); L. S. Wittner, Rebels against War: The American Peace Movement, 1933–1983 (1984).