The St. Louis Historic Connection

105 Years of History:

The 1904 Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute’s Crimes Against Humanity Initiative

In 1904, the twelfth conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union was held in St. Louis, Missouri during the World’s Fair. It was during this 1904 conference in St. Louis that the Inter-Parliamentary Union issued its appeal for peace and adopted a resolution calling for a second Hague Peace Conference, paving the way for the convening of the 1907 Hague Peace Conference. This momentous resolution was drafted by U.S. Representative Richard Bartholdt of Missouri, who was instrumental in bringing the Union’s conference to St. Louis and who was also elected president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union at the conference held in St. Louis. On behalf of the Union’s 2,000 members, Bartholdt as well as Charles Albert Gobat, secretary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1902, later presented this so-called Resolution of St. Louis to U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. President Roosevelt responded affirmatively to the Inter-Parliamentary resolution, and shortly thereafter, upon Roosevelt’s instruction, Secretary of State Hay issued a circular proposing a second Hague Peace Conference. Subsequently, Czar Nicholas II of Russia formally initiated and convened the Hague Peace Conference of 1907.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is an international organization of parliaments of sovereign States. It was established in 1889 by William Randal Cremer and Frédéric Passy, who were also Nobel Peace Prize winners, and was the first permanent forum for political multilateral negotiations. The IPU’s original objective was the promotion of peace and the international arbitration of conflicts, and it played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The IPU also worked towards the establishment of inter-governmental institutions such as the United Nations. Over time, the IPU has shifted its mission towards the promotion of representative democracy and inter-parliamentary dialogue.

The opening session of the Inter-Parliamentary Conference of 1904 was held in Festival Hall on the fair grounds. In 1904, the structure that is currently the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park was located directly behind Festival Hall. Festival Hall was designed to be a temporary structure constructed for the purposes of the Fair, and no longer exists. The Crimes Against Humanity Initiative’s April Experts’ Meeting will include an evening gala at the St. Louis Art Museum on Monday, April 13, 2009.

The second day of the 1904 Inter-Parliamentary Conference was held the in the Hall of International Congresses which is now Ridgley Hall on the campus of Washington University. The Inter-Parliamentary Union held its session in the ornate reading room on the first floor of the building, the room that is now the Mary Brooks Holmes Lounge. During this session on September 13, 1904 in the Hall of International Congresses, the Inter-Parliamentary Congress unanimously adopted a resolution to hold a second Hague Peace Conference.

The building known then as the Hall of International Congresses was leased by the university to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company for use during the 1904 World’s Fair. During the fair, the second floor was used by the British Government for display of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee gifts, and the main reading room on the first floor was used for social and professional purposes such as balls and meetings such as that of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The building was subsequently occupied by the university in February 1905 as the university’s first library building, and on May 3, 1907, it was officially named Ridgley Library in honor of Stephen Ridgley who had the gift to Washington University for the construction of a fire-proof library. Following the completion of Olin Library in the early 1960s, the reading room in Ridgley was converted into a lounge space, which is now known as Holmes Lounge in honor of Mary Brooks Holmes, a prominent St. Louis philanthropist. In 1997, the lounge was renovated. On April 14, 2009, the participants of the April Experts’ Meeting of the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative will gather in Holmes Lounge for a group photo.