Give Peace a Chance: Some Ideas Sent to Jane Addams

Jane Addams and other members of the American delegation on the S.S. Noordam, sailing through embattled waters to attend the International Congress of Women in April 1915. (Library of Congress http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2014698779/)

If you were given three wishes, what would they be? One of the most common answers is world peace. It’s only natural that people want peace, especially with the barrage of headlines screaming about war and conflict. World peace means happiness and freedom for all people and nations. Though it may not seem like it, statistically speaking, we live in the most peaceful era since the 1400s, according to Max Roser, who created a chart that visualizes the global death rate from war over the past 600 years. Some of the deadliest times were during the 20th century due to both World Wars.

Global Deaths in Combat since 1400. For more visualizations on this theme see https://ourworldindata.org/war-and-peace

During the First World War, Americans developed many ideas on how to pave the way for international peace, and often sent them to notable peace activists and politicians, such as Jane Addams, Woodrow Wilson, and Andrew Carnegie. Starting in 1914, Addams began receiving letters that contained proposals on how to secure international peace in a time of war. Some were pragmatic, others idealistic, and some fanciful. All shared the same goal, however, which was to stop war.

James Woodburn Hamilton’s Children’s Creed and International Memorial Day

 James Woodburn Hamilton, a mining engineer, sent his peace plan to Addams in November of 1916. Believing that children play a crucial role in the future of international peace, he wrote a “creed” for children in the United States which read:

Passport photo of James W. Hamilton.

“I believe in the God of all nations who over ruleth all things for His own great purposes. I believe in my country, America, born in the love of liberty and purified in the fires of maintaining it. I believe in her destiny as the great exemplar of freedom; in her honesty of purpose; in her high ideals for the best service of all humanity; a service of which I will be a part and which I will do my best to keep pure.”

“I owe allegiance and honor to her flag and constitution before any earthly interest, and conceive it to be my highest duty to so live day by day a clean and upright life that later on I may be worthy of American Citizenship.

James Woodburn Hamilton, “Peace Plans,” Nov. 27, 1916.

Hamilton also proposed an International Memorial Day, a day of “mourning and humiliation,” that would remind the world of trauma and human cost of war. While Decoration Day, later Memorial Day, were celebrated in the United States, the somber reason for the day has devolved into barbecues, baseball games and the unofficial start of summer.

Samuel Ware Packard’s Federated Government

In December 1915, Samuel Ware Packard proposed that the only way to insure peace was to establish a Federated Government of nations, resembling the structure of the United States government. This government would issue bonds to “disarm all nations would have the capabilities for world peace. Packard’s  Federated Government would have a congress with representatives from each nation, a supreme court for the settling of international disputes, and a president selected by vote. It would tax the exports and imports  of any nation that “did not voluntarily pay its fair proportion of the expenses of maintaining the Federated Government.” As Packard wrote:

1904 Lithograph cartoon of Samuel Ware Packard

“The warring nations in Europe deprecate the present war, but do not dare to give up until there is some guarantee for future peace. At present each side seems to believe that the only way to attain lasting peace is by the complete defeat or exhaustion of their enemies. The foregoing plan would enable these warring nations to obtain lasting and permanent peace without humiliation or dishonor; and the enormous waste of life and resources which each side must sustain if the war is continued would seem to be reason suficient to make every nation willing to submit the adjustment of their differences to an impartial tribunal — when assured that the decisions of such tribunal would be carried into effect.”

Samuel Ware Packard, “Plan for Permanent Peace by the Disarmament of Every Nation in the World, Dec. 1915.

Packard argued that there would be no need for military competition without armaments. Distrust between nations would decrease alongside the need to conquer and dominate the globe. With the Federated Government, each nation would be cared for and protected by all other nations, living together in harmonious peace.

Charles Leopold Bernheimer’s International Public Conscience

Charles Leopold Bernheimer crafted a peace proposal styled as “A Business Man’s Plan for Settling the War In Europe” in January 1915. Similar to Packard’s plan, Bernheimer suggested the creation of a council called the International Public Conscience. He wanted to apply a businessman’s principle of arbitrating commercial disputes” to international relations.

Charles L. Bernheimer’s passport photograph

“War is the phenomenon — the negation of the rule of reason.” he argued.  “The causes are frequently misunderstanding, selfishness, inconsiderateness; the reasons for the perpetration of this war do not yet seem to have been frankly and fully stated. There can be misunderstandings and differences of opinion between nations as there can be between individuals. War will not settle them, — at least not with a settlement that endures, for such a settlement must be built upon reason and acceptance of ethical standards.War will not settle them — at least not with a settlement that endures, for such a settlement must be built upon reason and acceptance of ethical standards.

Charles Leopold Bernheimer, “Peace Proposal,” January 12, 1915.

The International Public Conscience would diffuse these tensions, by building outlets for commercial, civic, religious, labor, agricultural and other disputes. An “International Public Opinion,” would provide a megaphone for public opinion, which would help start dialogues. Other organizations, such as the Commision on Immediate Action, the International Conference, the Council of Nine, and the Treaty of Peace with would be designed to take effective action. 

Elsie M. Gill and Paul Edmund Frind’s Telepathic Peace Movement

Many of the proposals above operated on a pragmatic analysis of the problem. Others were more experimental and radical. In March 1915, Addams received a 6-page telegram from Vancouver, Canada from Elise M. Gill and Paul Edmund Frind. The pair had already written to President Wilson without receiving an answer, so appealed to Jane Addams for help spreading word about their idea. 

Gill’s idea for peace involves spreading peace through telepathy. Telepathy, or extrasensory perception (ESP), involves the transferring of information outside of the natural five senses. Gill wanted to use telepathy as a means of spreading peace and hoped that Addams would use her connections with the Woman’s Peace Party and other peace leagues to get the word out.

“It is impossible to doubt but that the objective would be attained the direct result of thousands of minds thinking peace urgently desiring peace living solely in the thought of peace assisted by minds that have been specially trained in the science of telepathic projection occultists would be to attain the consummation of our earnest desire, universal and eternal peace. I am in touch with several people who are greatly gifted and trained the the practical use of the science of telepathic projection and I would spare neither time nor money in the interests of such as peace movement.”

Elsie Gill and Paul Frind to Jane Addams, March 17, 1915

When faced with what seemed a senseless and increasingly extended World War, people sought to develop proposals that could not only bring the warring nations to sense, but could also prevent the next war. Whether it was the creation of an international government, prayer and moral instruction, arbitration, or telepathic pacifism, people then and now hoped to encourage world peace. With all of the ways the world has tried, not much success has come, so who can say that these methods should be dismissed?

Documents mentioned in this post will be available via the Jane Addams Digital Edition in the near future.

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