Two centuries of peacemaking

June 2016 is the bicentenary of the establishment of the Peace Society (the London Society for the Promotion of Permanent and Universal Peace). Along with the formation of a similar society in New York the previous year, its appearance is widely seen as representing the beginning of the modern peace movement. In order to mark this important event, the Peace Committee, along with the history departments of Northumbria and Newcastle Universities, ran an academic conference. See here for conference programme: Two centuries of peacemaking.

The conference concluded with a public ceremony to honour the men and women of the North East who have worked for peace over two centuries. Extracts from the archives were read by Matthew Scott (historical geographer at Newcastle University) and Ingrid Sharp (Leeds university historian).

These are the extracts read:

First Report of the Newcastle Upon-Tyne Auxiliary from 1831:

“In 1817, a few persons met together in this town, and united themselves as an Auxiliary to the London Society; and although they have continued associated, yet this is the first time they have attempted to claim the attention of the public by an official report. Perhaps their having underrated the spread of pacific principles has been the chief cause of their silence. Several years ago, the Committee procured a liberal supply of the first four tracts circulated by the London Society, which they distributed amongst the more influential classes of the community in Newcastle, and throughout the counties of Northumberland and Durham. They have since continued, in a variety of ways, to give circulation to the society’s publications, which now extend to a series of eleven articles, in several of which the unlawfulness of war, and its inconsistency with the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles, is largely and ably discussed.”

“We now call upon our fellow-townsmen to rally round the standard of this institution; to give that exposition of its views and principles which are developed in the series of tracts published by the London Society, that degree of attention and patient investigation which the importance of the subject claims. The aims of the Society is to establish the position, that war is inconsistent with Christianity and the true interests of mankind. Those who are not yet prepared, by the full conviction of the practical soundness of this sentiment, to disclaim all war, the Committee invite to cooperate with them to the full extent of their present views, trusting that the day is not very distant when the sublime precepts of the Lord Jesus Christ to his disciples, “Love your enemies, do good to them who hate you,” will be clearly seen to be incompatible with war, how specious soever may be the pretext on which it is undertaken.”

Fifth Report of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Auxiliary to the London Society for the Promotion of Permanent and Universal Peace, from 1837.

"The precise object which your Committee contemplate, - not a political interference with the government of the country, touching the maintenance of a standing army in times of peace, or the mustering of military forces in times of supposed danger, but simply to shed light on the abstract principles of justice and mercy, to place these principles prominently before the view of men of every rank, and colour, and clime; that all men may see and feel that an appeal to the sword, whether individually, as in the case of duelling; or on a more fearfully extended scale, as in national warfare, is as utterly subversive of the eternal principles of right and wrong, as was the ancient ordeal by water or by fire."