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The Kellogg-Briand Pact, also known as the Pact of Paris, was a treaty that attempted to outlaw war (46 Stat. 2343, T.S. No. 796, 94 L.N.T.S. 57). The treaty was drafted by France and the United States, and on August 27, 1928, was signed by fifteen nations. By 1933 sixty-five nations had pledged to observe its provisions.
Kellogg-Briand contained no sanctions against countries that might breach its provisions. Instead, the treaty was based on the hope that diplomacy and the weight of world opinion would be powerful enough to prevent nations from resorting to the use of force. This soon proved to be a false hope; though Germany, Italy, and Japan were all signatories, the treaty did not prevent them from committing aggressions that led to World War II.
The origin of the Kellogg-Briand Pact was a message that the French foreign minister, Aristide Briand, addressed to the citizens of the United States on April 6, 1927, the tenth anniversary of the United States' entrance into World War I. In this message Briand announced France's willingness to join the United States in an agreement mutually outlawing war. Such an agreement, Briand stated, would "greatly contribute in the eyes of the world to enlarge and fortify the foundation on which the international policy of peace is being erected." Briand's overture to the United States was part of a larger campaign that France was waging to form strategic alliances that would improve its national security. In addition, Briand was influenced by recent conversations with Nicholas Murray Butler and James Thomson Shotwell, U.S. academics who were leaders in the burgeoning U.S. political movement to outlaw war, also known as the outlawry movement.
Initially, Briand's offer generated little reaction in the United States. The U.S. State Department made no response, apparently considering Briand's statement to be simply an expression of friendship. Not until certain leaders in the peace movement, notably Butler, began to generate widespread public support for Briand's proposal did the government become involved. But by the middle of June 1927, France and the United States had begun diplomatic conversations aimed at reaching the sort of agreement Briand had proposed in his address.
On June 20 the State Department received the Draft Pact of Perpetual Friendship between France and the United States, written by Briand and transmitted through the U.S. ambassador in Paris. The draft contained just two articles: the first declared that France and the United States renounced war "as an instrument of their national policy towards each other," and the second declared that all conflicts between the two nations would be settled only by "pacific means." Secretary of State frank b. kellogg and other officials in the U.S. State Department were uncomfortable about entering into such an agreement with France alone, fearing that it would amount to an indirect alliance that would deprive the United States of the freedom to act if France were to go to war with another country. Instead, U.S. officials preferred to expand the agreement into a multilateral treaty involving all the world powers except Russia. On December 28, therefore, Kellogg told Briand that the United States was prepared to enter into negotiations with France to construct a treaty that would condemn war and renounce it as an instrument of national policy; when concluded, the treaty would be open to signature by all nations.
France accepted the United States' offer, and treaty negotiations began in January 1928. By early April the four other Great Powers—Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Japan—were invited to enter the discussions. Soon after, the invitation was extended to Belgium; Czechoslovakia; Poland; India; and the five British dominions, Australia, Canada, Irish Free State, New Zealand, and South Africa. Several of the parties wanted specific conditions and reservations included in the treaty. These issues were resolved, and on August 27, 1928, diplomats from the fifteen countries met in Paris to sign the treaty. By 1933 fifty additional countries had agreed to observe the treaty's provisions.
The final text of the Kellogg-Briand Pact, like the original draft, was extremely simple and contained just two principal articles. The first stated that the contracting parties "condemn[ed] recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce[d] it as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another." In the second the parties agreed that "the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise between them, shall never be sought except by pacific means." The treaty therefore outlawed war entirely, providing no exceptions to this general prohibition. The parties, however, generally recognized that war would be permissible in the case of Self-Defense; several signatories, including the United States, had submitted diplomatic notes prior to the treaty's ratification indicating their understanding that wars entered into in self-defense would be lawful.
When it was signed, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was considered a tremendous milestone in the effort to advance the cause of international peace. In 1929 Kellogg received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the treaty. Events soon showed, however, that the pact did not prevent or limit war between the nations. The primary problem was that the treaty provided for no means of enforcement or sanctions against parties who violated its provisions. In addition, it did not address the issues of what constituted self-defense and when self-defense could lawfully be claimed. Because of these large loopholes, the Kellogg-Briand Pact was ultimately an ineffective method for achieving the ambitious and idealistic goal of outlawing war.
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Pauling, Linus, ed. 1986. World Encyclopedia of Peace. Oxford: Pergamon Press.