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Ludwig Quidde: The Central Office for International Law (1916)

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The newly formed organization immediately sent a petition to the Reichstag, which convened on September 28. In this petition the Center for International Law asked that the Reichstag, “announce its desire and the desire of the German people that the peace that ends this war not only secure, as a matter of course, the basic interests of the German people, its independent political existence, the inviolability of its territory, and the freedom of its economic development, but also that the peace include every practical guarantee of its own durability. Therefore, the Reichstag should declare in particular that: 1. In order to avoid the seeds of future wars, the coming peace shall impose no intolerable conditions on any nation; in particularly, it shall provide for no annexations that violate the free will of a population or infringe on the autonomy of previously independent states. 2. In order to represent a lasting peace, however, the coming peace shall also lay new foundations for international law, by creating an international organization to guarantee the peaceful settlement of future international disputes, by means of orderly, amicable mediation or juridical decision.” These demands were accompanied by a detailed explanation, which stated that the new political organization of the civilized world would, among other things, “put an end to secret diplomacy and eliminate the dangerous system of secret treaties and alliances.” The organization would also establish an environment for limiting armaments by treaty.” “It would as well fulfill in the domain of international law two demands that have been often been cited as German war aims [. . .] the open door policy in all colonies and imperial protectorates, as well as freedom of the seas guaranteed by international law.” The petition further provided: the new international organization “be accompanied by a wholesale rejuvenation of public life.” Irresponsible, extravagant declarations have awakened the impression that “the German people, alone among the nations of the world, is opposed to securing peace through the rule of law and desires instead to secure peace by the force of German might.“ In this way, “other nations justify continuing this war until Germany is defeated [. . .] Therefore,” (the statement concludes) “it is necessary to create clarity and to declare to the entire world that the overwhelming majority of the German people wants nothing more than a peace that secures its basic interests, is founded on law and equity, and is based on the rule of law.”

The petition was signed by no fewer than 179 people.

Source: Ludwig Quidde, Der deutsche Pazifismus während des Weltkrieges 1914-1918 [German Pacifism during the World War 1914-1918]. Karl Holl, ed. Boppard am Rhein, 1979, pp. 114-15.

Translation: Jeffrey Verhey and Roger Chickering

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