Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards

International Peace Congress


Of the many public questions discussed fifty or sixty years ago (and since) the peace question, with its immeasurable possibilities, interested me the most. I naturally desired to attend the Brussels Peace Congress in September, 1848, but did not expect to do so, as I was not able to meet the necessary expenses. But a few days before the Congress met I received, to my surprise and delight, a letter from Henry Richard (afterwards M. P.), the secretary of the London Peace Society, saying that his committee, in consideration of the assistance I rendered the peace movement, and particularly the speeches I delivered at Chartist meetings in Nottinghamshire, offered me a free delegate's ticket to Brussels and back and free lodgings there during the Congress.
Richard Cobden (from LSE Web site) The joyful news saluted me like the sunshine of a June morning. I accepted the offer with suitable thanks, and went with about 150 other delegates from this country to the first International Peace Congress, with Cobden, "The International Man," as its chief ornament and spokesman. One of the delegates to the Congress was Mr. John Bradley, ex-mayor of Nottingham, who informed me that, after I left the town about six months before, it was resolved to thank me for my courageous conduct and speeches, that £10 was collected to be presented to me, and that the thanks and the money had not been sent because my address was not known. Mr. Bradley then and there, to my surprise and delight, presented me £10. I felt as if fortune had showered on me special favours-first in having my expenses as a delegate to the Congress paid, and secondly to receive, without expectation, such a-to me at the time-splendid present.
The Brussels Congress was a success. It received the active support of the Belgian Prime Minister, the patronising smile of the Belgian King, a considerable share of public attention, and the good wishes of the lovers of mankind everywhere. That Peace Congress, though it encountered opposition, and got pelted with sneers, was historic, as it was the first of the kind, and it sowed seed which has since germinated, and from which may now be seen the prospect of an international harvest. Just fifty years after-and fifty years are not much in the life of nations-Government representatives from the independent nations of Europe and America met at The Hague, in response to an invitation from the Czar of Russia, to consider and afterwards to sanction the general truthfulness and applicability of the principles enunciated at the Brussels Congress, and to suggest methods for their practical adoption. Had the South African Republics been represented at the Hague Conference, as they wished to be, or had Kruger's repeated appeals to submit the matters in dispute to arbitration been adopted, South Africa would not have been blasted by British power; we should not have entered on a costly and cowardly war, and thereby weakened our position in the world, incurred the reproach, and called down the general condemnation of civilised peoples.
Two other International Peace Congresses, under the guidance of the same committee, with Cobden as leader, took place-one at Paris in 1849, and the other at Frankfort-on-the-Main in 1850. I attended both, and on each occasion paid my own expenses, as in the meantime I had made some financial headway. The Paris Congress, with Victor Hugo as chairman, was a complete success. Having a few months before written a biographical sketch of Lamartine, which appeared in the People's Journal, and knowing that he had married an English lady, I summoned up sufficient courage to call on him, and was granted a short and sweet interview. I presented him with a copy of the People's Journal containing the biographical sketch, which he accepted with stately politeness. He said he was an admirer of English institutions, and that he cordially hoped the Peace Congress then sitting would produce good fruit. It so happened that on the same day the members of the Congress, in answer to a special invitation from M. de Tocqueville, attended a reception at the Foreign Office. It also happened that M. de Tocqueville had married an English lady, and I said, when I had the privilege of being introduced to him, as two French Ministers who immediately succeeded each other in the Foreign Office had married English ladies, I hoped it would assist to unite England and France in the bonds of peace. He replied in excellent English, and warmly expressed a similar desire. That desire has recently received partial fulfilment in improved relationships between the two countries.
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April 18, 2005
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© Dean Evans 2003