for his longstanding contribution to the cause of peace and justice and his prominent role in the establishment of the League of Nations
(1851 - 1925)
Campaigner for a League of Nations
Léon Bourgeois took part in the Franco-German war of 1870-71, which ended in the defeat of France. He trained as a lawyer and became Chief of Police in Paris. In that position, he helped to prevent a military coup by a general who wanted to launch a revanchist war against Germany.
Bourgeois became politically active in the Republican Party. In 1895 he became Prime Minister, but resigned when he failed to gain a majority for a program to fight poverty. Bourgeois became involved in international peace work through the Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907. In his view, conflicts must be resolved by arbitration and an international court.
During World War I, Bourgeois drew up a proposal for a global organization that would secure peace. He wanted to give the organization greater supranational authority than US President Woodrow Wilson was willing to accept. The new League of Nations that emerged in 1919 was largely modeled on Wilson's ideas, but Bourgeois did see an international court established in the Hague.