Yesterday I highlighted 14 Nobel Peace Prize winners who were leaders of their country before, during, or after they won the prize. Today, I will highlight 19 more winners with legal backgrounds. Many of these laureates were leaders in international law, disarmament policies, or helped to broker peace in time of conflict.
Elihu Root was a Nobel laureate in 1912 for promoting arbitration as the way to solve conflicts between states. He graduated from New York University Law School, founded a law firm, and became a prominent and wealthy lawyer. He served as Secretary of War under President McKinley, Secretary of State under President Theodore Roosevelt, and was a U. S. senator. He negotiated many treaties and formulated the plan to create the Central American Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of International Justice at the Hague. He believed that international law was mankind’s best chance to achieve world peace.
Two winners in the late 1920s gained notoriety for working on international peace plans that would bear their names. Frank Billings Kellogg was one-half of the Kellogg-Briand Pact which prohibited wars of aggression.
Charles Gates Dawes proposed the “Dawes Plan” that provided for détente and reducing the tension between Germany and France after World War I. Kellogg was a self-made lawyer, teaching himself law, history, Latin, and German using borrowed textbooks. He passed the state bar examination and worked as a successful attorney for 20 years before becoming a U.S. senator, diplomat, and Secretary of State from 1925-1929. Dawes had a financial background, but also attended law school at the University of Cincinnati for two years. He became vice president under President Coolidge and was involved with the League of Nations dealing with the question of German reparations.
The next four laureates I am highlighting today were United States leaders with roots in legal education. The “father of the United Nations,” Cordell Hull, won the award in 1945. Hull worked for free and reciprocal trade agreements with many states, especially as a U.S. representative, senator, and then Secretary of State under President Franklin D. Roosevelt for 12 years. He received a law degree in 1891 from Cumberland University in Tennessee and began to practice law but ultimately decided to enter the political arena.
René Cassin won the award in 1968 for his work as president of the European Court for Human Rights and was known as the “Father of the Declaration of Human Rights.” He received a degree in the humanities as well as earning first place in the law examination. In 1914 he received the doctorate in juridical, economic, and political sciences from the University of Aix-en-Provence. He began his legal career as a counsel at the Court of Paris before World War I cut his career short. He was inducted into the French infantry where he was severely wounded in battle. He later began a career as a professor of law, ultimately becoming the chair of fiscal and civil law at the University of Paris. He lectured around the world, wrote many articles and treatises, and served as a president of many legal organizations. He was the French delegate to the Assembly of the United Nations and served on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, responsible for the draft of the Declaration of Human Rights.
Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld is the only Nobel Peace Prize laureate to receive the award posthumously for his commitment to peace and diplomacy. He earned degrees in law, the humanities, and economics and was an outstanding student at Uppsala University. He enjoyed political economy and held several posts in finance and social welfare before becoming the Swedish delegate to the United Nations. He was elected the second Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1953. Hammarskjöld died in an airplane crash in 1961 while serving in his second term. U.S. President John F. Kennedy called him “the greatest statesman of our century.”
Two British Nobel Laureates worked closely together in the administration of the League of Nations and later for the United Nations. Philip John Noel-Baker was principal assistant to Robert Cecil, formally Cecil of Chelwood, Viscount (Lord Edgar Algernon Robert Gascoyne Cecil), who was an architect of the League of Nations. Noel-Baker read history and law at Cambridge and Cecil read law at Oxford. Cecil was present at the final League of Nations meetings in 1946 and said “the League is dead; long live the United Nations!” He was named honorary life president of the United Nations Association. Cecil was the 1937 Nobel Laureate. Noel-Baker was the 1959 Nobel Laureate, recognized especially for working on disarmament policies and to prevent nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union.
In 1982, Alfonso García Robles of Mexico won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in disarmament and nonproliferation agreements. He studied law and then entered diplomacy, becoming a representative to the United Nations and playing a key role in making Latin America a nuclear-free zone. He was called “Mr. Disarmament” at the UN Headquarters. He was not the first Latin American winner, however. The first Latin American Peace Prize Laureate was Carlos Saavedra Lamas in 1936. He earned his doctor of laws degree in 1903 and became a professor in constitutional law at the University of La Plata. He won the prize in 1936 for mediating the conflict between Paraguay and Bolivia and South America’s anti-war pact promoting international law and condemning all wars of aggression.
Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi was the 2003 laureate for her efforts in promoting democracy and human rights, especially for women and children in Iran. She received a doctorate with honors in private law from the University of Tehran and became Iran’s first female judge. With a change in leadership, she and other female judges were dismissed from their posts. She protested and was eventually allowed to obtain a lawyer’s license and practice where she represented families of murder victims killed in attacks.
Seán MacBride was an Irishman who joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA) at the age of 13. He broke with the IRA in the 1930s, qualified in law, and defended prisoners condemned to death. He was chairman of the International Peace Bureau, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, and had a leading role in establishing the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974 for founding Amnesty International and other human rights work.
Like MacBride, two other lawyer Nobel Peace Laureates worked on the International Peace Bureau. Charles Albert Gobat (Nobel Laureate in 1902) was Secretary-General of the Bureau and Henri La Fontaine (Nobel Laureate in 1913) was president. The International Peace Bureau won in their own right in 1910 for internationalism and promoting peace. La Fontaine was a lawyer, professor of international law, and senator in the Belgian legislature for 36 years. He received his doctorate in law from the Free University of Brussels and practiced law for 16 years, becoming one of Belgium’s leading jurists, a prodigious writer, and a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, the League of Nations, and the Interparliamentary Union. Gobat was also a practicing lawyer and professor, lecturing on French civil law at Bern University. He earned his doctorate in law from the University of Heidelberg in 1867 before turning to politics, like La Fontaine, to pursue reform. He organized the Interparliamentary Union and Interparliamentary Bureau as director for 17 years to promote dialogue and collaboration between nations on international issues.
The Interparliamentary Union was critical in early international understanding and communication. Frédéric Passy (1901 Nobel Peace Laureate) was known as the “dean” of the international peace movement for founding the Interparliamentary Union. He also promoted free trade between independent nations, founded the first French Peace Society, and opposed colonialism. He was educated as a lawyer, but after three years devoted himself to the study of economics. Similarly, Paul Henri d’Estournelles de Constant, Baron de constant de Rebecque (1909 Nobel Peace Laureate) was a contributor and early member of the Interparliamentary Union. He studied law at Lycée Louis le Grand in Paris and entered the diplomatic corps, becoming a senator for the last 20 years of his life. He was a member of the Hague Peace Conference, Permanent Court of Arbitration, and European Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Louis Renault studied law in Paris from 1861 to 1868, receiving three degrees including a doctoral degree with extraordinary honors. He became a professor in Roman law, commercial law, criminal law, and eventually became chair of international law at the University of Paris. He lectured, wrote extensively, and represented France at many international conferences, but never stopped teaching. He was awarded the prize in 1907 for his work in international law and especially for his role in the Hague Peace conferences.
The final two laureates highlighted today are the Institut de droit international or the Institute of International Law and Tobias Michael Carel Asser. In 1904, The Institute of International Law was the first organization to be awarded the prize. The Institute’s objective is to “promote the progress of international law.” Asser, a founding member of the Institute and the 1911 laureate, believed “that legal conflicts between nations could best be solved by international conferences which would agree on common solutions to be implemented by each participating nation.”
Today, I highlighted 19 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates with legal backgrounds. Yesterday I highlighted 14 additional laureates. Elin’s post mentioned that Alfred Nobel disliked lawyers—how ironic that so many have received this award! I can’t say for certain that only 33 laureates were lawyers or people with legal training because researching this is quite complicated and some of the biographies are incomplete, especially in the earlier years of the Nobel Peace Prize. Laureates who received honorary degrees in law or who studied law but did not receive degrees were not included. I also left out several organizations that create laws, but are not particularly legal institutions such as the European Union, United Nations, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the International Labour Organization.
Bravo. A great public service.