Excerpt from the Kellogg-Briand Pact
Published on August 27, 1928
World War I (1914–18) involved thirty-two countries around the globe in a conflict that took more than 15,000,000 lives. Although casualties suffered by the United States were comparatively small—130,000 were killed, and 190,000 wounded—the country joined the rest of the world in shock at the bloodshed and destruction of this war. A mood of isolationism (keeping apart) dominated the United States as people expressed their strong desire to stay well away from other nations' troubles. Lawmakers and leaders reflected this mood. In 1929, for example, the U.S. Senate voted not to join the League of Nations, the international organization originally conceived by President Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924; served 1913–21) as a way to prevent war through global cooperation. The next year, the size of the U.S. armed services was reduced from a wartime high of 4,355,000 to 250,000.
Clearly, U.S. citizens were ready for peace. One indication was a contest sponsored by the former editor of Ladies Home Journal magazine, Edward W. Bok. Heoffered a $100,000 prize for the best plan to preserve international peace. Thousands responded. But it was not just isolationists who supported the idea of finding a way to end war. Others actually wanted the United States to take a more active role in an international effort to achieve that goal.
One such person was James T. Shotwell, a professor at New York City's Columbia University, who met with French foreign minister Aristide Briand (1862–1932) in Paris to discuss the possibility of a bilateral treaty (one involving two parties) that would outlaw war between the United States and France. Briand was very interested in the proposal, mostly due to his nation's fear that Germany (the main aggressor in World War I) would gain strength again and attack France. Getting the United States to agree to side with France if such an event occurred would make the French feel much safer. Instead of approaching the United States in the usual manner, through the State Department (the branch of the U.S. government that is responsible for relations with other countries), Briand sent an open letter about his proposal to the people of the United States. It was published on April 6, 1927.
Secretary of State Frank Kellogg (1856–1937) was annoyed that Briand had not gone through the usual diplomatic channels. In addition, he did not want the United States to be obligated to defend France. But it was too late. Several prominent leaders as well as many U.S. citizens liked the idea of a treaty to end war. Facing pressure from the public, Kellogg came up with another proposal. This one was to be signed not just by the United States and France but by many nations (making it multilateral), and it would allow each one to defend its own territory if necessary. In effect, this agreement meant very little, because the nations would all be allowed to decide when to defend themselves. It also provided no way to enforce the agreement or punish any nation that violated it.
Nevertheless, in August 1928, fifteen nations signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which stated that countries could not "resort to war" as a way to resolve conflicts. A total of sixty-two countries ultimately signed the treaty.
Things to remember while reading this excerpt from the Kellogg-Briand Pact …
Supporters of the agreement included those who saw value in international cooperation, such as Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler (1862–1947), who wrote a pro-treaty editorial published in the New York Times. But isolationists also agreed with the idea of outlawing war. One of these was Senator William T. Borah (1865–1940) of Idaho, a pacifist, who spearheaded a petition drive that collected two million signatures of people in favor of the pact.
Even at the time of the signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, it does not seem to have been taken very seriously, at least by the government officials involved. For example, immediately after ratifying (officially approving) the treaty, the U.S. Senate passed a bill designating $247 million to be used to build warships.
Although the Kellogg-Briand Pact is considered a failure in its stated aim of preventing war, it did have some positive effects. It has served as one of the legal bases for the international rule that using military force presumptively (taking action without a just cause) is illegal. It also helped establish the idea of a crime against peace. This concept provided the basis for the Nuremburg Tribunal, at which several people were tried and sentenced for starting World War II (1939–45).
Excerpt from the Kellogg-Briand Pact
Treaty between the United States and other Powers providing for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy. Signed at Paris, August 27, 1928; ratification advised by the Senate, January 16, 1929; ratified by the President, January 17, 1929; instruments of ratification deposited at Washington by the United States of America, Australia, Dominion of Canada, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Great Britain, India, Irish Free State, Italy, New Zealand, and Union of South Africa, March 2, 1929: By Poland, March 26, 1929; by Belgium, March 27, 1929; by France, April 22, 1929; by Japan, July 24, 1929; proclaimed, July 24, 1929.
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WHEREAS a Treaty between the President of the United States Of America, the President of the German Reich, His Majesty the King of the Belgians, the President of the French Republic, His Majesty the King of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, Emperor of India, His Majesty the King of Italy, His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, the President of the Republic of Poland, and the President of the Czechoslovak Republic, providing for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, was concluded and signed by their respective Plenipotentiaries at Paris on the twenty-seventh day of August, one thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight, the original of which Treaty, being in the English and the French languages, is word for word as follows:
THE PRESIDENT OF THE GERMAN REICH, THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF THE BELGIANS, THE PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC, HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF GREAT BRITAIN IRELAND AND THE BRITISH DOMINIONS BEYOND THE SEAS, EMPEROR OF INDIA, HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF ITALY, HIS MAJESTY THE EMPEROR OF JAPAN, THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF POLAND THE PRESIDENT OF THE CZECHOSLOVAK REPUBLIC,
Deeply sensible of their solemn duty to promote the welfare of mankind;
Persuaded that the time has, come when a frank renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy should be made to the end that the peaceful and friendly relations now existing between their peoples may be perpetuated;
Convinced that all changes in their relations with one another should be sought only by pacific means and be the result of a peaceful and orderly process, and that any signatory power which shall hereafter seek to promote its national interests by resort to war a should be denied the benefits furnished by this Treaty;
Hopeful that, encouraged by their example, all the other nations of the world will join in this humane endeavor and by adhering to the present Treaty as soon as it comes into force bring their peoples within the scope of its beneficent provisions, thus uniting the civilized nations of the world in a common renunciation of war as an instrument of their national policy;
Have decided to conclude a Treaty and for that purpose have appointed as their respective
THE PRESIDENT OF THE GERMAN REICH:
Dr Gustav STRESEMANN, Minister of Foreign Affairs;
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA:
The Honorable Frank B. KELLOGG, Secretary of State;
HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF THE BELGIANS:
Mr Paul HYMANS, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister of State;
THE PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC:
Mr. Aristide BRIAND Minister for Foreign Affairs;
HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF GREAT BRITAIN, IRELAND AND THE BRITISH DOMINIONS BEYOND THE SEAS, EMPEROR OF INDIA
For GREAT BRITAIN and NORTHERN IRELAND and all parts of the British Empire which are not separate Members of the League of Nations: The Right Honourable Lord CUSHENDUN, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Acting-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs;
For the DOMINION OF CANADA:
The Right Honourable William Lyon MACKENZIE KING, Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs;
For the COMMONWEALTH of AUSTRALIA:
The Honourable Alexander John McLACHLAN, Member of the Executive Federal Council;
For the DOMINION OF NEW ZEALAND:
The Honourable Sir Christopher James PARR, High Commissioner for New Zealand in Great Britain;
For the UNION OF SOUTH AFRICA:
The Honourable Jacobus Stephanus SMIT, High Commissioner for the Union of South Africa in Great Britain;
For the IRISH FREE STATE:
Mr. William Thomas COSGRAVE, President of the Executive Council;
The Right Honourable Lord CUSHENDUN, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Acting Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs;
HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF ITALY:
Count Gaetano MANZONI, his Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary at Paris.
HIS MAJESTY THE EMPEROR OF JAPAN:
Count UCHIDA, Privy Councillor;
THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF POLAND:
Mr. A. ZALESKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs;
THE PRESIDENT OF THE CZECHOSLOVAK REPUBLIC:
Dr Eduard BENES, Minister for Foreign Affairs;
who, having communicated to one another their full powers found in good and due form have agreed upon the following articles:
The High Contracting Parties solemnly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.
The present Treaty shall be ratified by the High Contracting Parties named in the Preamble in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements, and shall take effect as between them as soon as all their several instruments of ratification shall have been deposited at Washington.
This Treaty shall, when it has come into effect as prescribed in the preceding paragraph, remain open as long as may be necessary for adherence by all the other Powers of the world. Every instrument evidencing the adherence of a Power shall be deposited at Washington and the Treaty shall immediately upon such deposit become effective as between the Power thus adhering and the other Powers parties hereto.
It shall be the duty of the Government of the United States to furnish each Government named in the Preamble and every Government subsequently adhering to this Treaty with a certified copy of the Treaty and of every instrument of ratification or adherence. It shall also be the duty of the Government of the United States telegraphically to notify such Governments immediately upon the deposit with it of each instrument of ratification or adherence.
IN FAITH WHEREOF the respective Plenipotentiaries have signed this Treaty in the French and English languages both texts having equal force, and hereunto affix their seals.
DONE at Paris, the twenty seventh day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight.
[SEAL] GUSTAV STRESEMANN
[SEAL] FRANK B KELLOGG
[SEAL] PAUL HYMANS
[SEAL] ARI BRIAND
[SEAL] W. L. MACKENZIE KING
[SEAL] A J MCLACHLAN
[SEAL] C. J. PARR
[SEAL] J S. SMIT
[SEAL] LIAM T. MACCOSGAIR
[SEAL] G. MANZONI
[SEAL] AUGUST ZALESKI
[SEAL] DR EDWARD BENES
Certified to be a true copy of the signed original deposited with the Government of the United States of America.
FRANK B. KELLOGG
Secretary of State of the United States of America AND WHEREAS it is stipulated in the said Treaty that it shall take effect as between the High Contracting Parties as soon as all the several instruments of ratification shall have been deposited at Washington;
AND WHEREAS the said Treaty has been duly ratified on the parts of all the High Contracting Parties and their several instruments of ratification have been deposited with the Government of the United States of America, the last on July 24, 1929;
NOW THEREFORE, be it known that I, Herbert Hoover, President of the United States of America, have caused the said Treaty to be made public, to the end that the same and every article and clause thereof may be observed and fulfilled with good faith by the United States and the citizens thereof.
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
DONE at the city of Washington this twenty-fourth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and twenty-nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and fifty-fourth
HERBERT HOOVER By the President:
HENRY L STIMSON Secretary of State
Note by the Department of State
Adhering Countries When this Treaty became effective on July 24, 1929, the instruments of ratification of all of the signatory powers having been deposited at Washington, the following countries, having deposited instruments of definitive adherence, became parties to it:
Additional adhesions deposited subsequent to July 24, 1929. Persia, July 2, 1929; Greece, August 3, 1929; Honduras, August 6, 1929; Chile, August 12, 1929; Luxemburg August 14, 1929; Danzig, September 11, 1929; Costa Rica, October 1, 1929; Venezuela, October 24, 1929.
What happened next …
Most historians agree that the Kellogg-Briand Pact turned out to be meaningless, mainly because it lacked any measure to force nations to abide by the agreement. It also allowed for war to defend one's own territory, and it provided neither an expiration date nor a way to make needed changes or additions. During the 1930s several nations that had signed the pact ignored its terms as they took aggressive actions to expand their boundaries. For instance Japan invaded Manchuria (a region in northern China) in 1931, Italy attacked the African nation of Ethiopia in 1935, and Germany took over Austria in 1938. Three years after that, most of the countries of the world were again involved in a global conflict.
Did you know …
- Only fourteen years after the Kellogg-Briand Pact supposedly outlawed war, all the nations that had signed it were involved in World War II.
- Each of the two sponsors of the Kellogg-Briand Pact was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Briand won his in 1926, and Kellogg received his in 1929.
Consider the following …
- The United Nations, formed in 1945, at the end of World War II, has been more successful than either the League of Nations or the Kellogg-Briand Pact in preventing and resolving global conflicts. Why do you think this is the case?
- Imagine that you are taking part in Edward Bok's contest to propose a plan to achieve international peace. What would you suggest?
For More Information
Miller, D.H. The Peace Pact of Paris: A Study of the Briand-Kellogg Treaty. New York, London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1928.
Shotwell, James T. War as an Instrument of National Policy and Its Renunciation in the Pact of Paris. New York: 1974.
"Coolidge and Foreign Affairs: Kellogg Briand Pact, August 27, 1928." U-S-History.com. Available online at http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1485.html. Accessed on June 20, 2005.