The internet research hub for Victor Hugo enthusiasts
The first International Peace Congress was planned in Boston, and held in London in 1843...The second...was held in Brussels in 1848. The third, in Paris, in 1849, had an attendance of 2,000, and was presided over by Victor Hugo. The fourth was in Frankfort in 1850; and the fifth in London in 1851...
Below are some speeches Hugo delivered to various Peace Congresses
A day will come when your arms will fall even from your hands! A day will come when war will seem as absurd and impossible between Paris and London, between Petersburg and Berlin, between Vienna and Turin, as it would be impossible and would seem absurd today between Rouen and Amiens, between Boston and Philadelphia. A day will come when you France, you Russia, you Italy, you England, you Germany, you all, nations of the continent, without losing your distinct qualities and your glorious individuality, will be merged closely within a superior unit and you will form the European brotherhood, just as Normandy, Brittany, Burgundy, Lorraine, Alsace, all our provinces are merged together in France. A day will come when the only fields of battle will be markets opening up to trade and minds opening up to ideas. A day will come when the bullets and the bombs will be replaced by votes, by the universal suffrage of the peoples, by the venerable arbitration of a great sovereign senate which will be to Europe what this parliament is to England, what this diet is to Germany, what this legislative assembly is to France. A day will come when we will display cannon in museums just as we display instruments of torture today, and are amazed that such things could ever have been possible. (...)
It is after all a prodigious and admirable epoch, and the nineteenth century will be - let us say it openly - the greatest page in history. As I reminded you just now, all our advances are revealing and manifesting themselves together, in rapid succession: the decline in international animosity, the disappearance of frontiers from maps and of prejudices from hearts, a movement towards unity, a softening of manners, an increase in the level of education and a drop in the level of penalties, the dominance of the most literary, that is to say the most humane, languages; everything is moving at once, political economy, science, industry, philosophy, legislation, and is converging upon the same end, the creation of well-being and benevolence, and that for me is the end to which I shall always strive, the extinction of misery inside and of war outside.
Closing Speech - August 24, 1849:
My address shall be short, and yet I have to bid you adieu! How resolve to do so? Here, during three days, have questions of the deepest import been discussed, examined, probed to the bottom; and during these discussions, counsels have been given to governments which they will do well to profit by. If these days' sittings are attended with no other result, they will be the means of sowing in the minds of those present, gems of cordiality which must ripen into good fruit. England, France, Belgium, Europe, and America, would all be drawn closer by these sittings. Yet the moment to part has arrived, but I can feel that we are strongly united in heart. But before parting I may congratulate you and myself on the result of our proceedings. We have been all joined together without distinction of country; we have all been united in one common feeling during our three days' communion. The good work cannot go back, it must advance, it must be accomplished. The course of the future may be judged of by the sound of the footsteps of the past. In the course of that day's discussion, a reminiscence had been handed up to one of the speakers, that this was the anniversary of the dreadful massacre of St. Bartholomew: the rev. gentleman who was speaking turned away from the thought of that sanguinary scene with pious horror, natural to his sacred calling. But I, who may boast of firmer nerve, I take up the remembrance. Yes, it was on this day, two hundred and seventy-seven years ago, that Paris was roused from slumber by the sound of that bell which bore the name of cloche d'argent. Massacre was on foot, seeking with keen eye for its victim—man was busy in slaying man. That slaughter was called forth by mingled passions of the worst description. Hatred of all kinds was there urging on the slayer—hatred of a religious, a political, a personal character. And yet on the anniversary of that same day of horror, and in that very city whose blood was flowing like water, has God this day given a rendezvous to men of peace, whose wild tumult is transformed into order, and animosity into love. The stain of blood is blotted out, and in its place beams forth a ray of holy light. All distinctions are removed, and Papist and Huguenot meet together in friendly communion. (Loud cheers.) Who that thinks of these amazing changes can doubt of the progress that has been made? But whoever denies the force of progress must deny God, since progress is the boon of Providence, and emanated from the great Being above. I feel gratified for the change that has been effected, and, pointing solemnly to the past, I say let this day be ever held memorable—let the 24th of August, 1572, be remembered only for the purpose of being compared with the 24th of August, 1849; and when we think of the latter, and ponder over the high purpose to which it has been devoted—the advocacy of the principles of peace—let us not be so wanting in reliance on Providence as to doubt for one moment of the eventful success of our holy cause.
--(as appears in "Three Years in Europe" by William Wells Brown, A Fugitive Slave. 1852.)
Gentlemen, if someone four centuries ago, at a time when war raged from parish to parish, from parish to parish, from town to town, from province - if someone had said to Lorraine, to Picardy, to Normandy, to Brittany, to Auvergne, to Province, to Dauphine, to Burgundy, 'A day will come when you will no longer wage war, when you will no longer raise men of arms against each other, when it will no longer raise men of arms against each other, when it will no longer be said that Normans have attacked the men of Picardy, and the men of Lorraine have driven back those of Burgundy; that you will still have differences to settle, interests to discuss, certainly disputes to solve, but do you know what you will have in place of men on foot and horseback, in place of guns, falconets, spears, pikes, and swords? You will have a small box made of wood, which you will call a ballot box. And do you know what this box will bring forth? An assembly, an assembly in which you will all feel you live, an assembly which will be like your own soul, a supreme and popular council which will decide, judge, and solve everything in law, which will cause the sword to fall from every hand and justice to rise in every heart. And this event will say to you, 'There ends your right, here begins your duty. Lay down your arms! Live in peace!"
On that day you will be conscious of a common thought, common interests, and a common destiny. You will clasp each other's hands and you will acknowledge that you are sons of the same blood and the same race. On that day you will no longer be hostile tribes, but a nation. You will no longer be Burgundy, Normandy, Brittany, Provence, you will be France. On that day your name will no longer be war, but civilization.
Well, you say today - and I am one of those who say it with you - all of us here, we say to France, to England, to Prussia, to Austria, to Spain, to Italy, to Russia, we say to them, 'A day will come when your weapons will fall from your hands, a day when war will seem absurd and be as impossible between Paris and London, St. Petersburg and Berlin, Vienna and Turin, as today it would seem impossible between Rouen and Amiens, Boston and Philadelphia.
A day will come when there will be no battlefields, but markets opening to commerce and minds opening to ideas. A day will come when the bullets and bombs are replaced by votes, by universal suffrage, by the venerable arbitration of a great supreme senate which will be to Europe what Parliament is to England, the Diet to Germany, and the Legislative Assembly to France.
A day will come when a cannon will be a museum-piece, as instruments of torture are today. And we will be amazed to think that these things once existed! A day will come when a cannon will be a museum-piece, as instruments of torture are today. And we will be amazed to think that these things once existed!
A day will come when we shall see those two immense groups, the United States of America and the United States of Europe, stretching out their hands across the sea, exchanging their products, their arts, their works of genius, clearing up the globe, making deserts fruitful, ameliorating creation under the eyes of the Creator, and joining together to reap the well-being of all.
Henceforth the goal of great politics, of true politics, is this: the recognition of all nationalities, the restoration of the historical unity of nations and the uniting of the latter to civilization by peace, the relentless enlargement of the civilized group, the setting of an example to the still-savage nations; in short, and this recapitulates all I have said, the assurance that justice will have the last word, spoken in the past by might.
Fellow citizens of the United States of Europe,
Allow me to give you this name, for the European Federal Republic is established in right and is waiting to be established in fact. You exist, therefore it exists. You confirm it by the union from which unity is taking shape. You are the beginning of a great future.
Alas, I am indeed not among those who would deny that a second war is necessary. What will this war be? A war of conquest. And what is the conquest to be made? The conquest of liberty.
Socialism is vast, it is not narrow. It addresses the whole human problem. It embraces the entire social concept. While it poses important questions of labour and reward, it also proclaims the inviolability of human life, the abolition of murder in all its forms, the reduction of deprivation through education, a marvellous problem solved. It proclaims free and compulsory education. It proclaims the rights of women, the responsibilities of man. Finally it proclaims the sovereignty of the individual which is synonymous with liberty.
What is all of this? It is socialism. Yes. And it is the Republic!
Let Germany feel happy and proud, with two provinces more and her liberty less. But we, we pity her; we pity her this enlargement which contains such abasement, we pity her for having been a people and for being now nothing more than an empire.
I have just said that Germany will have two more provinces. But it is not done yet, and I add, it will never be done. Never, never! To take is not to possess. Possession presupposes consent. Did Turkey possess Athens? Did Austria possess Venice? And did Russia possess Warsaw? Does Spain possess Cuba? Does England possess Gibraltar? In fact, yes, but in right, no!
(...) We shall see France arise again, we shall see her retrieve Lorraine, take back Alsace. But will that be all? No... Seize Trier, Mainz, Cologne, Koblenz, the whole of the left bank of the Rhine. And we shall hear France cry out: It's my turn, Germany, here I am! Am I your enemy? No! I am your sister. I have taken back everything and I give you everything, on one condition, that we shall act as one people, as one family, as one Republic. I shall demolish my fortresses, you will demolish yours. My revenge is fraternity! No more frontiers! The Rhine for everyone! Let us be the same Republic, let us be the United States of Europe, let us be the continental federation, let us be European liberty, let us be universal peace! And now let us shake hands, for we have done one another a service: you have delivered me from my emperor and I have delivered you from yours.