The League Of Nations At Work
The words of Arthur Sweetser as he began his correspondence with the American public about the creation of the League of Nations. In a series of articles published in the New York Evening Post at an extraordinary point in history, Sweetser makes his case for the League of Nations. Having been present at its birth at the Versailles Conference in Paris as a member of the American Peace Commission appointed by Woodrow Wilson, Sweetser was directly involved in the League's development as a member of its provisional Secretariat in London and subsequently joined the permanent Secretariat in the League's Public Information Section.
These articles written during the first weeks and months of the League's existence were later compiled in book form in: The League of Nations at Work, published in 1920. Sweetser's interest in the goals and purpose of the League of Nations was the direct result of his experience during the First World War when he crossed British, French, and German lines to witness the war's devastation first hand as a newspaper correspondent during Von Kluck's dash on Paris. Those quickly forgotten days of 1914 were also put to press in his book Roadside Glimpses of the Great War.
At the outset of hostilities in 1914, Arthur Sweetser embarked to the battlefields in France to witness first-hand the advance on Paris. As an American journalist, his credentials provided little protection from the great armies engaged in deadly confrontations. Yet Sweetser set out into the heart of the conflict, traveling by every means available while seeking the front line. A bicycle provided him with the necessary mobility to traverse the countryside, making notes of the people and places he encountered along the way, while describing the scale of destruction and the terrible human suffering that the war left in its wake. Roadside Glimpses of the Great War is the narrative of this incredible journey.
There is a great temptation to draw parallels from The League of Nations at Work to the world as it exists today, yet the most striking impression created by Arthur Sweetser is his perspicacity in predicting the remarkable progress that has been made in international affairs as a result of the League's creation. World institutions that were being created at the time of his writing included the International Court of Justice at The Hague, the International Labor Office, and the International Health Office; all are the continuing legacy of the League of Nations. The League of Nations at Work offers a thoughtful and often inspiring look at the world during a period when contemporary principles of international law were first taking form and beginning to be put into practice. Several chapters of this book are as fresh today as when they were first published.
Arthur Sweetser treats his subject in a timeless fashion, aware of the momentous developments with which he was intimately involved. He takes his case for the League directly to the man on the street, candidly admitting that the organization was "utterly dependent on the interest, imagination and enthusiasm of the public. It will live only through the lifeblood of popular interest." This theme of public interest and involvement is most forcefully expressed in the following extract from the chapter entitled Open Diplomacy :
Arthur Sweetser's papers are archived in the Library of Congress, where his full catalog extends to 36.4 feet (11 metres). Among his many accomplishments, Arthur Sweetser became the first head of the United Nations Information Office in Washington following the second World War. He was the first President of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, where he was instrumental in entrusting the former US President's papers to the United Nations Library. Throughout his life he devoted much of his energy to international education, an expression of his faith in the future of a more united world. He was a founder of the International School of Geneva in 1924, assisted in the creation of the United Nations International School in New York, and also founded International Schools Services.
Upon his retirement from the United Nations, Arthur Sweetser spoke to his colleagues about his life working to develop the institutions which today form such an integral part of human civilization: