Marking the Anglo-American Peace Centenary

From Aug. 28 to Sept. 21 of this year, there have been a series of ceremonies and events in The Hague in the Netherlands to celebrate the centennial of the Peace Palace.

This remarkable edifice, one of the most photographed in all of western Europe, officially opened on Aug. 28, 1913. It has since become both a centre and symbol of international efforts towards peace and justice.

The roots of the Peace Palace go back to the First and Second Peace Conferences held at The Hague in 1899 and 1907.

These conferences reflected a significant growth in international pacifism and an emerging belief that many disputes between nations could be resolved through an international court of arbitration instead of war.

A big boost came when Andrew Carnegie, the enormously wealthy steel magnate and philanthropist, donated a huge sum of money towards the construction of a peace palace. In keeping with his strong belief in public libraries as a means of social betterment, Carnegie stipulated that a library be constructed in conjunction with the peace palace.

The completion of the Peace Palace and Library in 1913 had symbolic historical importance. It happened on the eve of the centennial of the end of the great Napoleonic Wars, still considered by some as the first global conflict. An international Court of Arbitration soon began operations in the Peace Palace.

This has since been replaced by the International Court of Justice, which still uses the Peace Palace as its headquarters.

While all this work towards world peace and justice took place in Europe, several influential people in Canada, the United States and Great Britain thought it would be fitting to organize a centennial celebration of the end of the War of 1812 and the commencement of a centenary of peace between what was then viewed as the chief Anglo-American nations.

The preliminary meetings to discuss how best to celebrate the Anglo-American Peace Centenary took place in April 1912. The concept quickly caught on. It garnered the support of a number of very influential people in Canada, the United States and Great Britain.

On Sept. 30, 1913, a meeting on local arrangements for the Peace Centenary was held in the Red Deer City Council Chambers. A steering committee, consisting of Mayor Francis W. Galbraith, H.H. Gaetz and J.F. Boyce was appointed to recruit 20 local citizens to sit on an organizational general council. J.F. Boyce, who later became the chief proponent of the Red Deer Public Library, agreed to act as secretary for the local Centenary Committee.

Distinguished speakers such as E.H. Scammell and Dr. W. Evan Darby came to Red Deer to speak on the Centenary, as well as the concepts of peace in general. Soon, local groups such as the Valley Centre Young Peoples’ Society were holding meetings to promote peace and international harmony.

On Nov. 20, 1913, a provincial Peace Centenary organizational meeting was held in Calgary with delegates for Red Deer attending. Plans were made for public services of thanksgiving and the erection of peace monuments in Alberta and across Canada.

Tragically, in August 1914, the First World War broke out. The plans for the Peace Centenary celebrations, commencing at Christmastime and extending into 1915, were abruptly dropped.

Fortunately, not all the plans were completely abandoned.

Three years after the end of the First World War, the International Peace Arch near Blaine, Washington and Surry, B.C. was dedicated in September 1921.

It was the first international peace arch erected to commemorate a centennial of peace between two nations.