Proposal for a Conference of the Neutral Nations, August 2, 1915







AUGUST 2ND., 1915.

The International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace.
Keizersgracht, 437, AMSTERDAM. [page 2]



Immediately after the International Congress of Women at The Hague Envoys delegated by that Congress went to the different European Governments to present its Resolutions. The Envoys appointed were Jane Addams, U.S.A., President of the Congress; Aletta Jacobs, the Netherlands, President of the Dutch Committee of the Congress; Emily G. Balch, U.S.A.; Ellen Palmstierna, Sweden; C. Ramondt-[Hirschmann], the Netherlands, representing neutral countries; [Rosa] Genoni, Italy, whose country was neutral when she acted as Envoy; and Rosika Schwimmer, Hungary; and Chrystal Macmillan, Great Britain, representing the two belligerent sides.

The delegations were received by the following belligerents:

Mr. Asquith and Sir Edward Grey in London;

Herr von Bethmann and Herr von Jagow in Berlin;

Graf [Stürgkh], Baron Burián and Graf Tisza, Austria-Hungary;

M. Salandra and H. [Sonnino] in Rome;

M. Viviani and M. Delcassé in Paris;

M. d'Avignon in the Havre; and

M. [Sazonov] in Petrograd

and by the following representatives of neutral governments:

M. Cort van der Linden in The Hague;

M. Zahle and M. Scavenius in Copenhagen;

The King, M. Knudsen, M. Ihlen, M. [Løvland], M. [Årstad], M. Castberg and M. Jahren in Christiania;

M. Wallenberg in Stockholm; and

M. Motta and M. [Hoffmann] in Berne.

While in Rome the Delegation went unofficially, that is to say without a mandate from the Congress to an audience with the Pope.

They laid before these gentlemen the Resolutions of the Congress and laid special emphasis upon the resolution urging the summoning of a neutral conference for continuous mediation as the resolution which asks for immediate action, as follows:

Resolution on Continuing Mediation

This International Congress of Women resolves to ask the neutral countries to take immediate steps to create a conference of neutral nations which shall without delay offer continuous mediation. The Conference shall invite suggestions for settlement from each of the belligerent nations and in any case shall submit to all of them simultaneously reasonable proposals as a basis of peace.

To explain the Resolution more in detail, it means that: [page 3]

(b) The work of the Conference should be to formulate concrete proposals of possible terms of peace as a basis for suggestions and objections on the part of the belligerent governments and for public discussion. In other words, it should frame the outlines of a possible peace treaty to be submitted to the belligerent governments and to be publicly discussed in the different countries.

Further, on the basis of the suggestions and objections received from the belligerents, the Conference should modify the original proposals, and submit them again thus modified to the belligerents. It should in this way continuously develop the original proposals in the line of further suggestions and objections made by the belligerent governments, or arising out of the public discussion of the successive proposals in the different countries. It should continue in this way [until] the proposals have reached a point when the belligerents of both sides find in them sufficient common ground themselves to meet for the final settlement of the peace treaty.

The Need of a Special Method.

This war is in every way unparalleled so that none of the methods applied to the settlement of previous wars are practicable. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance to the future peace of the whole world that the method of bringing about the settlement of the present war should be adapted to its peculiar circumstances. Such a method is this impartial neutral conference, which would work towards a settlement without waiting to be officially asked by the belligerents.

It is useless to wait till one belligerent side asks for mediation, because both sides say, as the reports of our interviews prove, that they as belligerents can do nothing, but that only the neutrals can act in this matter. Every day's delay means loss, irreparable loss, not only to the belligerents but to the whole world. This method provides the [machinery] for taking the first steps towards a settlement. It is for the neutrals to put it into motion.

That this method has [to?] it the terms of success is evident from the fact that the belligerent governments are not opposed to it, as may be seen from the report of our interviews.

Suggested Method of calling the Conference.

(a) Invitations to the Conference

With respect to the issuing of the invitations we propose that the Conference should be invited, not by one single neutral, but by a group of five European neutrals, namely, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, [page 4] to the belligerents of both sides, and, on the other, would help to safeguard the neutrality of the individual governments signing the invitation.

This would be so because the sensitiveness of the belligerents might lead them to suppose that some of the neutrals might lean to one side and some to the other, so that the invitation signed by the group would assure the belligerents of the disinterestedness of all the signatories.

(b) First step.

In order to make a start with a view to issuing the invitations to such a conference in the name of all five States one of the five must invite the four other States to send Plenipotentiaries to a meeting to arrange for the issue of the invitation to the other neutral States to the Conference.

We found on the part of all five neutrals a readiness to help and a wish to cooperate when action should be taken, but the position of these different countries seems to suggest that the initiative with respect to this preliminary meeting should be taken either by the Netherlands, or by Sweden.

(c) Number of Delegates.

With respect to the number of delegates to be invited to the Conference from each neutral country we suggest that probably two would be a convenient number.

To sum up it is necessary that one of the five neutral governments should invite the other four to a preliminary meeting, and that the five should then jointly invite the other neutral States to the Conference.

<Commencement of the work of the Conference

(d) As it would cause delay to postpone the commencement of the work of the Conference till the arrival of all the delegates, those delegates appointed by the five signatory neutral governments and others as they arrived should immediately begin to draw up preliminary proposals and submit them without delay to the belligerent governments.

Experts at the Conference

It would probably be useful that the Conference should invite experts, whether from neutral or belligerent countries, to give it information regarding the special problems involved.>

Basis of a Lasting Peace.

By this method of continuous mediation in which the proposals would be initiated by an impartial body we can hope to see established the peace based on the principles of freedom and justice for which all the belligerents in their official statements, whether to the public or to our delegations, declare themselves to be fighting.

These declarations on their part of a desire for a peace based on freedom and justice gives to the neutral conference the opportunity to draft their proposals on this basis acknowledged by the belligerents to be fundamental.

To suggest the postponing of action till after a problematic decisive victory, whether on one side or the other, is to go back to the exploded idea that peace must be dictated by the victor to the defeated.

For the neutrals to postpone taking immediate action, is to [missing text] [page 5]



Great Britain.

May 15th. Sir Edward Grey said that the nations at war could not be in negotiations, that was for the neutrals. In response to a remark that neutrals think they have to wait till the right moment comes before taking action towards mediation, he indicated his astonishment [by?] asking when they [did] think that the right moment would come.

(see also further statement under Great Britain.)


May 21st. Herr von Jagow said he thought it very desirable that peace should come soon but thought that the first steps should be taken by the neutrals because it could not be taken by them. When asked if he thought the United States should take the first steps to invite the neutrals, he asked whether the United States was neutral. He said that the neutral countries should form a conference such as the delegation proposed as soon as possible.

Austria Hungary.

May 27th. Graf Burián, the Foreign Minister, said that he thought that a conference as proposed should be brought together as soon as possible. He did not think that America should begin because America did not know enough about European interests. He thought that America should send a representative to such a Conference but that it ought to be some one who understands European interests. Mr. Wilson's way of offering mediation was impossible because it was only offered, if the belligerents wanted it. Both parties were obliged to say no. He did not consider that the right way to offer mediation. He thought that definite prepositions should be made to both parties. The neutrals can come again with proposals, if the first are not accepted.


June 14th. [M.Viviani said that France would "not resent" the formation of a neutral conference for the offering of continuous mediation such as we propose.


June 16th. M. d'Avignon said that Belgium would rather have the enemy leave their country as the result of negotiations than have the armies fighting over it a second time. [page 6]


June 16th. M. [Sazonov] said that it would not be unacceptable to Russia if the neutral governments called a conference to offer mediation and to make proposals of possible terms of peace to the belligerents but that he did not think that in the meantime it would be useful.

The statement was put in writing in his presence, and read over and endorsed by him but unfortunately in this written statement the words "in the meantime" were omitted

The wording of the written statement was as follows: --

The above extracts from the report of our first interviews with these governments show that the belligerent governments are not opposed to the proposal for the immediate formation of a neutral conference.

The delegations on their return to Amsterdam met and exchanged reports. The direct information in those reports showed that on the one hand, the belligerents thought that only the neutrals could take the first steps towards mediation, while, on the other hand, the neutrals seemed to be afraid that the immediate calling of a neutral conference might be considered inopportune or unfriendly by the belligerents.

We therefore considered it important to revisit at least one of the important governments on each of the belligerent sides, and therefore again to London and Berlin where interviews were given to our delegates by Lord Crewe, while he was acting Foreign Secretary in the absence of Sir Edward Grey, and later by Sir Edward Grey himself, and by Herr von Jagow. He explained to them that it would strengthen the hands of the neutral governments towards the calling of a neutral conference, if they were convinced that such action on their part would not be taken as unfriendly by the belligerents.

The following written statements give the necessary reassurance and are evidence that such action would not be resented.


July 15th. In their interview with Herr von Jagow our delegates wrote down what they understood to be his statement as to the attitude of Germany towards the immediate calling of a neutral conference as follows: -- [page 7]

"Herr von Jagow sagt Deutschland würde nichts Unfreundliches darin finden, wenn eine Conferenz von Neutralen ein erufen würde, glaubt [aber] man soll sic nicht zu viele Illusionen davon machen".

But Herr von Jagow after he had read the above version said that it did not express his meaning and he changed it to the more encouraging form, as follows: --

"Herr von Jagow sagt Deutschland würde nichts Unfreundliches darin finden, wann eine Conferenz von Neutralen ein erufen würde, frägt sich aber ob es practisce Folgen haben würde"


As further indication of Herr von Jagow's attitude another statement of his may be worth mentioning. In response to a remark of our delegation that, if the side in the strongest position were to ask for peace, the weaker side would resent mediation because it would be thought that the stronger wanted to dictate terms; while, were the weaker side to ask for peace, it would be considered as a confession of defeat. Acknowledging the truth of this Herr von Jagow said: but at this moment neither side is strong enough to dictate terms and neither side is so weakened that it has to sue for peace.

Great Britain.

Copy of a letter from the Foreign Office, London, to Miss Macmillan.


July 22nd. 1915.

Dear Miss MacMillan,

Lord Crewe has asked me to reply to your letter of yesterday on the subject of the private interview which you and Miss Balch had with him on July 14th.

In the record of the conversation which Lord Crewe has made it is stated that you proposed the immediate formation of a League of Neutrals and that this League was to be brought into existence at once if possible, not so much with the hope of formulating any definite proposals at this stage as with the idea of preparing the ground, and inducing a state of mind which, on the one hand, would enable the Neutral countries to come forward promptly with such proposals and, on the other, would [familiarize] the belligerents with the prospect of their introduction.

You then asked what the attitude of the British Government would be towards such a proposition.

Lord Crewe replied that it would be impossible for the Government to invite the formation of such a body because it would be thought equivalent to an indirect proposal for terms of peace.

You then asked whether it might be said that the Government accepted the idea of the immediate cooperation of the [page 8] subject.

Lord Crewe answered that he did not like the word "accept" to which a meaning would probably be attached going beyond anything to which his Colleagues and he could agree, but you could say that the Government would not place any obstacles in the way of the formation of such a body or make any protest against its existence if it should come into being.

I trust that this will give you the information which you desire.

Yours very truly,

Eric Drummond.


Taking into consideration the impossibility for any belligerent Government [to invite] the formation of a neutral conference it is obvious that no stronger evidence on this point can be given than these statements taken together.

As an indirect result of our reception by the different governments and the publicity [thereby] given to our resolutions in the press this proposal for a neutral conference is already securing the support of important [organizations] in several countries, both belligerent and neutral.

If above we have [spoken] only of the Governments, we do not forget the millions of sufferers whose hopes are turned towards the neutrals who have it in their power to take the first steps towards bringing to an end this world calamity. Let their hope be [realized].

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