Victor Hugo (1802-1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers of all time. Outside of France, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, 1831.
Many of his works have inspired music, both during his lifetime and after his death. He is buried in the Panthéon in Paris. His legacy has been honored in many ways, including his portrait being placed on French currency.
Victor Hugo was also a convinced pacifist. In fact, he chaired the Peace Congress held in Paris from 22 to 24 August 1849. This Congress was part of a series of international meetings of representatives from peace societies from throughout the world held in various places in Europe from 1843 to 1853. The proceedings of the Paris international congress were published by Charles Gilpin. William Wells Brown was invited to speak against slavery.
Hugo introduced the concept of the United States of Europe, the recognition of peace as a right and the obligation of States to disarm. In his famous speech delivered in the Peace International Congress, Victor Hugo conceived peace not only as part of law, which origin should be embodied in the natural rights, but also as final destiny of humanity:
“But the divine law is not one of war – it is peace. Men have commenced in conflict, as the creation did in chaos. Whence do they proceed? From wars-that is evident. But whither do they go? To peace-that is equally evident”.
In his resounding speech, Victor Hugo also advocated for the establishment of an Assembly aimed at settling disputes peacefully and laying down arms. In this Assembly, human beings could actively exercise peace as a duty and right through the promotion of dialogue and cooperation, he added.
“An assembly—an assembly in which you shall all live—an assembly which shall be, as it were, the soul of all—a supreme and popular council, which shall decide, judge, resolve everything—which shall make the sword fall from every hand, and excite the love of justice in every heart—which shall say to each, ” Here terminates your right, there commences your duty. Lay down your arms!”.
In this line, Victor Hugo also outlined that “the education of people is no longer of the violent kind; it is now assuming the peaceful kind”.
The final purpose of his vision was “…to restore the historic unity of people, and enlist this unity in the cause of the civilization of peace to enlarge the sphere of civilization, to set a good example to people who are still in a state of barbarism, to substitute the system of arbitration for that of battles and, in a word, and all is comprised in this to make justice pronounce the last word that the old world used to pronounce by force”.