Kellogg-briand Pact | (2024)


The Kellogg-Briand Pact marked the high point of the League of Nations and common security between the two world wars. Proposed by the head of theU.S. State Department, Frank B. Kellogg, at the initiative of the French foreign affairs minister, Aristide Briand, this pact was signed in Paris on 27 August 1928 by fifteen countries. This was a declaration of the common renunciation of war, placing it "outside the law."

In 1927–1928 belief in common security was at its height. Economic conditions were satisfactory, and world public opinion believed in a lasting peace. The idea of incorporating in the common security system the two major powers that were not members of the League of Nations, the United States and the USSR, gained increasingly wide support. In France, Aristide Briand persevered with his policy of rapprochement with Germany. In fact, a few days after Germany was admitted to the League of Nations in September 1926, Aristide Briand met Gustav Stresemann, the German foreign affairs minister, in Thoiry. At this meeting, the two men reached agreement on the need to resolve the differences between their two countries. This project entailed some major political concessions for France: evacuation of the Rhineland, occupied since 1923; abolition of military control and restoration of the Saar region. In return, Stresemann accepted the principle of a capital payment to France from the interest on industrial and railway stock as reparations. While this proposal was well received in Berlin, it was rejected by the French president of the council, Raymond Poincaré. There was also a hostile reaction in parliamentary circles in Paris.

Confronted with this deadlock, from 1927 Briand turned his attention to the development of common security. In April 1927, on the tenth anniversary of the U.S. entry into the First World War, he addressed a communication to the American people, suggesting a joint Franco-American commitment to abjure war as a political method. This proposal emerged in a context in which Franco-American relations were strained by the question of war debts. In April 1926 an agreement had been signed between the two states to establish a reimbursem*nt plan for French debts in sixty-two annuities (the Mellon-Béranger Agreement of 29 April 1926). One year later, France had still not ratified this agreement. Aristide Briand hoped that his proposal would bring the two states closer together.

Under the influence of Nicholas M. Butler (president of Columbia University), Senator William Borah (president of the Senate's foreign affairs committee), and the pacifist S. O. Levinson, Frank Kellogg—in his response to the Briand proposal on 27 December 1927—modified the project by transforming it into a multilateral pact to abjure war that would include all the states of the world. This new project far surpassed Briand's original intentions and led to discussions lasting several months. Some important questions then arose for the negotiators: would such a pact be compatible with the League of Nations pact that made provision for a member state having to take military sanctions against another in the event of an attack? Was it possible to agree to the American request for a reference to the right of peoples to legitimate defense? In the intervening period, on 6 February 1928, the anniversary of the first treaty of friendship concluded between the two states, France and the United States renewed their convention of arbitration for twenty years. It was finally in April 1928, after wide consultation with Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan, that Frank Kellogg's proposal was accepted by France. The treaty stated in Article 1 that: "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 abjure it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another." Article 2 was formulated as follows: "The high contracting parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of what ever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means."

Accordingly, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was signed in Paris in August 1928 in an atmosphere of enthusiasm. The American president Calvin Coolidge telegraphed from Washington to say that "Briand's idea is as great as the world." Briand, who suggested dedicating the treaty to all the dead of the First World War, described this as a new date in the history of humanity. On 27 August 1928 the American government invited forty-nine states to sign the treaty. Fifty-nine states, including the USSR, finally subscribed to this. Nine of these were not then members of the League of Nations. A general mood of euphoria prevailed, despite thefact that this agreement was very general and only issued a moral condemnation of war, without envisaging either sanctions or any framework for specific action in the event of an act of aggression. It is true that international events in the following years showed that this agreement had had a huge symbolic impact but no practical effect other than reopening the Franco-German dialogue (evacuation of the Rhineland and establishment of the Young Plan). The criticism to which it has been open should not, however, be allowed to overshadow the innovative nature of the process in terms of both challenging the right to war and constructing a peaceful international society. In fact, until 1914 international law imposed no restriction on the use of force. In 1919 the League of Nations pact established a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate wars. In 1945 the UN Charter provided for the obligation to resolve conflicts by peaceful means (Article 33). The Kellogg-Briand Pact thus emerges as an intermediate stage in the development of the law relating to war in international relations. Furthermore, both Frank B. Kellogg in 1929 and Nicholas M. Butler in 1931 received the Nobel Peace Prize for their roles in the signing and promotion of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

See alsoBriand, Aristide; League of Nations; Reparations; Rhineland Occupation; Versailles, Treaty of; World War I .


Primary Sources

Butler, Nicholas M. The Path to Peace: Essays and Addresses on Peace and Its Making. New York, 1930.

Lysen, Arnoldus. Le Pacte Kellogg: Documents concernant le traité multilatéral contre la guerre, signéà Paris le 27 août 1928, recueillis avec une préface, un tableau synoptique des projets américains et français, et une bibliographie. Leiden, 1928.

Myers, Denys P. Origin and Conclusion of the Paris Pact, and The Renunciation of War by Kirby Page. 1929. Reprint, with a new introduction by Charles DeBenedetti. New York, 1972.

Wehberg, Hans W. The Outlawry of War: A Series of Lectures Delivered before the Academy of International Law at the Hague and in the Institut Universitaire de Hautes Etudes Internationales at Geneva. Washington, D.C., 1931.

Secondary Sources

Brownliei, Ian. International Law and the Use of Force by States. Oxford, U.K., 1963.

Buchheit, Eva. Der Briand-Kellogg-Pact von 1928: Machtpolitik oder Friedensstreben? Münster, 1998.

Elisha, Achille. Aristide Briand: la paix mondiale et l'Union Européenne. Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 2000.

Ferrell, Robert H. Peace in Their Time: The Origins of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. New Haven, Conn., 1952. New edition 1968.

Ferrell, Robert H., ed. The American Secretaries of States and Their Diplomacy. Vol. 11. 1963.

Dzovinar Kevonian

Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction

Kellogg-briand Pact | (2024)


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