In 1917, Salmon Levinson, a corporate lawyer in Chicago, began to develop a simple but profound idea: “We should have, not as now, laws of war, but laws against war; just as there are no laws of murder or of poisoning, but laws against them.”
One of the few surviving images of Salmon Levinson, whose proposal in 1918 to make war illegal, and tireless grassroots effort to build popular and political support for “outlawry,” led to the Paris Peace Pact in 1928.
When he began to develop his idea of outlawing war, Levinson wrote to his friend, John Dewey, by many accounts the greatest American philosopher of his generation. Dewey encouraged and assisted Levinson as he developed his ideas about outlawing war, and sent a “memo” Levinson had written to The New Republic, which published it under the title “The Legal Status of War” in 1918
James T. Shotwell (standing second from right), here with a group of U.S. expert advisers who accompanied President Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference after World War I, shared Levinson’s dream to outlaw war. But he argued that the proposal would not work without institutions to enforce it. He would ghostwrite both the Paris Peace Pact and the first draft of the United Nations Charter.
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, led by Jane Addams, held large public rallies against war throughout the 1920s, many of them coordinated with Levinson’s American Committee to Outlaw War.
Senator William Borah (l.) and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (r.) both helped defeat the entry of the United States into the League of Nations, earning themselves a reputation as the “Irreconcilables.” Borah harbored presidential ambitions and worried that he was gaining a reputation as a man against everything, and for nothing. He saw Levinson’s proposal to outlaw war as a way out of this dilemma, and, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he championed Levinson’s ideas.
Shotwell gave a lecture in Berlin on the outlawry of war on March 1, 1927. The lectures unnerved the German law professor Carl Schmitt (not shown). He worried that the ideas would lead to disaster for Germany. Shortly after the lecture, Shotwell traveled to France and met with Foreign Minister Aristide Briand to set in motion the very process Schmitt feared.
In 1927, Briand (l.) became the first foreign leader to propose a treaty to outlaw war—though his initial proposal was made only to the U.S. When the treaty was circulated to all countries, German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann (r.) convinced the German cabinet to sign on. Though no pacifist, he was certain that trade, not war, was the way to restore Germany’s rightful place.
Briand addressed the audience before the signing of the Pact of Paris on August 27, 1928 in the Salle de l’Horloge, the “Clock Room,” inside the French Foreign Ministry. Blazing klieg-lights set up to film the ceremony turned the Clock Room into an oven. Dignitaries spent the hour mopping their faces with handkerchiefs.
Briand, U.S. Ambassador to France Myron T. Herrick, and U.S. Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg met in the French Foreign Office before the signing ceremony. The treaty they signed would be known by many as the “Kellogg-Briand Treaty.“
The “General Pact for the Renunciation of War,” also known as the Pact of Paris, included only two substantive articles. The key provisions were so short they fit on a post card, thousands of which were produced by the National Council for the Prevention of War, a consortium of U.S. peace organizations, to advertise the Pact.
Japan was one of fifteen nations invited to participate in the signing ceremony in Paris. Though a few cautious Japanese officials had argued against joining, Hirohito’s teacher of diplomacy and international law downplayed the Pact’s significance. He advised the Emperor that the treaty permitted self-defense and thus would allow Japan to protect its interests in the region.
As U.S. Secretary of State Henry Stimson looks on, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, Katsuji Debuchi, signs the Paris Peace Pact on July 24, 1929. The Japanese invasion of Manchuria just over two years later would prove the first major test of the Pact and would lead the U.S. to issue the “Stimson Doctrine,” a policy of non-recognition of forceful territorial changes.
Kellogg (l.) and Stimson (r.) leaving the State Department on July 25, 1929, the day after the Pact of Paris was celebrated at the White House. Whereas Kellogg had done all he could to exclude Levinson from receiving any credit for the Paris Peace Pact—and campaigned against him for the Nobel Peace Prize—Stimson, a Yale classmate of Levinson, invited him to the ceremony. Stimson also drew on Levinson’s work as he considered how to enforce the Pact.
Stresemann speaking to the League of Nations on September 9, 1929. He died of a stroke less than a month later. When the U.S. stock market crashed on October 29, 1929, American banks called in their German loans, leading to the collapse of the German financial system. With the economy in free fall, Hitler had a disaster he could exploit, and with Stresemann gone, there was no one who could stop him.
In 1931, young Japanese officers set an explosion on the Japanese-owned South Manchurian Railway, then blamed it on “Chinese saboteurs.” Japan responded to the “attack” by invading Chinese Manchuria. Here the Lytton Commission, sent by the League of Nations, inspects the thirty-one inch section of damaged track damaged during the “Mukden incident.”
The Lytton Commission prepared a series of maps as part of its report, including this chart of the Mukden incident. It shows the “Spot of Exposlosion (alleged)” on the Japanese-controlled railway. It then traces the path Japanese troops (shown in blue) took through the nearby Chinese barracks, the path of the fleeing Chinese soldiers (in red), and the brief exchange of fire between the two.
After unanimous condemnation over Manchuria, the Japanese Representative to the League, Yōsuke Matsuoka, denounced the League of Nations before dramatically leaving the Assembly Hall with his entire delegation on February 23, 1933. Japan withdrew from the League shortly thereafter.
After Japan withdrew from the League of Nations, the Chinese protested Matsuoka’s arrival in New York.
This Dr. Seuss cartoon from the late 1930s mocks the neutrality laws that prevented the United States from providing aid to the United Kingdom, France, and other European states at war with the Germans.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles (l.), with George Kennan, attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin. Welles was in the midst of a European tour, where he met with Hitler and his Foreign Minister, Joachim von Robbentrop. Hitler was wary of Welles—referring to him as “the cunning fox.”
Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Welles (r.), arriving at the White House for a meeting with U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, on May 10, 1940. Hull resented Roosevelt’s close relationship with Welles, who had had known First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt since childhood.
Roosevelt and UK Prime Minister Winton Churchill chatting on August 10, 1941 on the quarterdeck of the HMS Prince of Wales during the Atlantic Conference. The conference would give rise to the Atlantic Charter, a joint declaration of the war aims, grounded in the Pact’s rejection of aggressive war. Welles stands in the background between the two world leaders.
The cover page of the first draft of what would become the United Nations Charter, produced by “JTS” for the “Subcommittee on International Organization” at the State Department, which Welles quietly convened in February 1942. The first section of the draft repeated the Pact of Paris almost verbatim.
James T. Shotwell, the “J.T.S.” of Document 99, saw the drafting of a new international agreement as an opportunity to reaffirm the Pact but add “teeth.”
At the 1944 Dumbarton Oaks Conference, the U.S. introduced a draft treaty of the United Nations for consideraiton. Seated (l. to r.): UK Under-Secretary for Foreign Affair Sir Alexander Cadogan, U.S. Under Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius Jr., and Soviet Ambassador Andrei A. Gromyko. Standing behind them, on the right, is Leo Pasvolsky, a State Department employee described as a “one-man think tank.” Welles himself was absent, having been forced out of government after news emerged that he had propositioned a male railway worker.
Because the Soviets were unwilling to meet directly with the Chinese during Dumbarton Oaks, the United States and the United Kingdom held a second round of meetings with representatives from China. Wellington Koo, the lead Chinese representative, is at center, in sunglasses.
Roosevelt (in jeep), Churchill, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, and Stettinius listen to the Russian national anthem after their arrival at the airport for the Yalta Conference in early 1945 There, the Allies worked out the final details of the new United Nations. The President, wasted by the arduous journey, died after returning to the United States.
Churchill pulls out a new cigar as Stalin smiles at the Yalta Conference, on February 1, 1945. Gromyko later wrote that while Roosevelt reacted to Stalin’s remarks calmly during the conference, Churchill could not hide his irritation. His cigars gave him away: “He smoked far more of them when he was tense or excited. The number of his cigar stubs was in direct proportion to the stresses of the meeting.”
Carl Schmitt, speaking at the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce on April 8, 1930, was a leading defender of the German government’s plan to seize power from the Reichstag. Schmitt argued that under the emergency provisions of the Weimar Constitution, the President could rule as a dictator, which he proceeded to do until the collapse of the Weimar Republic and rise of the Third Reich.
In 1930, the Jewish law professor Hans Kelsen fled antisemitism in Vienna and moved to the University of Cologne where he became the dean of the law faculty. Kelsen voted in favor of an appointment for Carl Schmitt, with whom he disagreed but whose brilliance he recognized. Schmitt repayed his generosity by engineering Kelsen’s dismissal a year later when the Nazis came to power.
A report compiled by the Allies after the war described Schmitt as Germany’s leading political scientist and one of the world’s greatest political writers, “a man of near-genius rating.” The report also called for his prosecution as a war criminal.
This index card shows the history of Carl Schmitt’s internment by the United States Military Government at the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg (arrested March 20, 1947, released on May 6, 1947).
The “dock” at the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg (center row, left to right: Hermann Goering, Rudolf Hess, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Wilhelm Keitel, Ernst Kaltenbrunner). Hermann Jahrreiss, who replaced Hans Kelsen at the University of Cologne and presented the defense for the German prisoners, is in the lower right corner, wearing violet academic robes.
Robert Jackson, Chief Prosecutor at Nuremberg. Despite his lack of formal higher education—he never attended college or law school—he was a gifted writer and eloquent speaker. By all accounts, his opening statement at Nuremberg was a spellbinder.
In 1944, having fled to the United States, Kelsen began working for the U.S. State Department on war crimes issues, including the prosecution at Nuremberg. In 1945, he was hired as a full professor at the University of California, Berkeley. After his death, Austria honored him with a stamp, proclaiming him “A Father of the Constitution.”
Legal scholar Hersch Lauterpacht recognized the revolutionary nature of the Pact of Paris and was central in rethinking the laws of war and peace. In 1941, he helped Jackson, then U.S. Attorney General, defend Lend-Lease by explaining that the Pact now allowed states to assist the victims of an illegal war. He also helped the prosecution team at Nuremberg establish the crime of aggression.
During the Nuremberg trial, Lauterpacht sent a newspaper clipping to his wife showing the British prosecuting team alongside the major Nazi war criminals: “In case you do not recognize your husband,” he wrote in an accompanying letter, “he is on p. 633, in the bottom left hand picture, seated in the extreme left. You never expected your husband to be photographed with Goering.”