Kellogg-Briand Pact Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Signatories to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a multilateral treaty, pledged to renounce war as an instrument of national policy and to maintain peace by common action.

Summary of Event

The multilateral Kellogg-Briand Pact, also known as the Pact of Paris, held out the promise of a new era of international harmony when it was signed on August 27, 1928. The chief architects of the treaty, Aristide Briand and Frank B. Kellogg, and the other member signatories took a formal pledge “not to have recourse to war as an instrument of national policy, and to settle all disputes arising between them by peaceful means.” The treaty was signed originally by fifteen countries, and by 1934 it embraced the participation of sixty-four nations, the exceptions being Argentina, Brazil, and the tiny countries of Andorra, Liechtenstein, Monaco, and San Marino. [kw]Kellogg-Briand Pact (Aug. 27, 1928)[Kellogg Briand Pact (Aug. 27, 1928)] [kw]Briand Pact, Kellogg- (Aug. 27, 1928) [kw]Pact, Kellogg-Briand (Aug. 27, 1928) Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928)[Kellogg Briand Pact] Pact of Paris (1928) General Pact for the Renunciation of War (1928) Coming of Age in Samoa (Mead) Anthropology;cultural Cultural anthropology [g]France;Aug. 27, 1928: Kellogg-Briand Pact[07080] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Aug. 27, 1928: Kellogg-Briand Pact[07080] Borah, William E. Briand, Aristide Kellogg, Frank B. Levinson, Salmon O.

President Calvin Coolidge (seated at table, left) and U.S. secretary of state Frank B. Kellogg (at table, right) sign the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

(Library of Congress)

The movement to outlaw war was initiated by Salmon O. Levinson in the United States in the aftermath of the first global war and became a worldwide movement in a few years. This movement was of great importance in bringing about the negotiation and general ratification of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Briand proposed the idea of a definitive treaty on April 6, 1927, when he suggested the conclusion of a bilateral Pact of Perpetual Friendship between France and the United States for the renunciation of war. Briand’s aim was to bind the United States—which still remained outside existing international accords, such as the League of Nations Covenant League of Nations;Covenant and the Locarno Treaties Locarno Treaties (1925) —to France through a separate bilateral pact in an effort to reinforce the international movement toward world peace.

At the beginning, the French proposal was ignored completely by Kellogg and the Department of State. It was Nicholas Murray Butler, Butler, Nicholas Murray the president of Columbia University, and Professors J. T. Shotwell Shotwell, J. T. and Joseph P. Chamberlain Chamberlain, Joseph P. who developed the implications of Briand’s offer by drawing up a draft treaty celebrated as the “American Locarno.” The idea had an overwhelming impact on both educated and common Americans, creating widespread support for the antiwar idea. Encouraged by these developments, Briand formally presented a “Draft Pact of Perpetual Friendship between France and the U.S.” to the Department of State on June 20, 1927.

Levinson’s untiring campaign to make the United States the champion of the movement to outlaw war bore fruit. He persuaded William E. Borah, chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, to introduce a resolution in the Senate on December 27, 1927, calling for the outlawing of war. Kellogg, now responding to public enthusiasm, made a new proposition to the French minister: that “the two governments would make a more signal contribution to world peace by joining in an effort to obtain the adherence of all of the principal powers of the world to a declaration renouncing war as an instrument of national policy.” There ensued a long period of complex negotiations among France, the United States, the other Great Powers except Russia, and some lesser powers.

The French did not immediately endorse the suggested alterations to their original proposal. They feared that a new multilateral agreement would conflict with the obligations and machinery of sanctions embodied in the League Covenant and the Locarno Treaties. Because the United States was not a signatory to those international accords, France desired only a bilateral pact with the United States. In his reply of February 27, 1928, Kellogg allayed French fears by assuring that the multilateral pact would neither conflict with nor violate the specific obligations of the Covenant and the Locarno Treaties. Rather, it would act as an effective instrument for strengthening the foundations of world peace. On March 30, 1928, the French accepted the revised United States proposal to universalize the treaty. It is historically accurate to say that the Briand offer formed the basis of the multilateral Kellogg-Briand Pact, and its wording, with slight modifications, became the wording of the final treaty.

On April 7, 1928, Kellogg secured an understanding with the French ambassador that both France and the United States would separately address the other four Great Powers—Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and Japan—inviting their opinions and participation. According to The New York Times of April 14, 1928, a copy of the U.S. draft treaty and a note were sent to those powers and to France. The note stated that the U.S. government “desires to see the institution of war abolished and stands ready to conclude with the French, British, German, Italian, and Japanese governments a single multilateral treaty open to subsequent adherence by any and all other governments binding the parties thereto not to resort to war with one another.” The draft treaty contained two articles calling for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy and peaceful settlement of all international disputes. The French sent their draft on April 20. The French draft contained six articles, adding other clauses concerning matters such as self-defense, violation and release of obligation by others, and ratification by all before the treaty would be enforced.

The responses of the four Great Powers to both drafts were more than favorable. The only concern, expressed by the British minister, Sir Austen Chamberlain, was the restrictions that the treaty would place on British freedom of action over its far-flung empire. This fear was lessened by the sovereign right of self-defense implicit in the pact. Every sovereign state, Kellogg emphasized, possessed the inherent right to defend its territory, and wars fought to repulse aggression would be entirely legal and not a violation of the pact. On the suggestion of the British, other signatories of the Locarno Treaties—Belgium, Poland, and Czechoslovakia—were included among the principal signatories, along with India and the five British dominions of Australia, Canada, the Irish Free State, New Zealand, and South Africa. The U.S. interpretation of the treaty was sent to fourteen governments. The vital element in the fourteen replies received in July was that all the governments had agreed to sign the treaty as proposed by Kellogg.

The diplomatic exchanges thus came to a successful conclusion. This represented a personal triumph for Kellogg, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929. Nobel Prize recipients;Frank B. Kellogg[Kellogg] Since December 28, 1927, he had unremittingly pursued the aim of a global multilateral treaty for the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy, and he had achieved his goal. The other great hero and the original inspiration, Briand, also was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Nobel Prize recipients;Aristide Briand[Briand] He had accomplished everything that he deemed essential for France.


The most important aim of the Kellogg-Briand Pact was to prevent war. The treaty linked the United States to the League of Nations as a guardian of world peace and in turn strengthened the sanctions of the Covenant. It simultaneously enhanced the feeling of security in Europe and in the rest of the world, and abetted the motive for general disarmament. The practical influence of the pact lay in the mobilization of the moral and legal conscience of humankind against aggressive militarism.

The treaty remained permanently flawed, however. Although it outlawed war, it did not codify this into a principle or rule of international law. Hence breaches of the resolution—many of which happened in subsequent years—were not tantamount to crimes or violations of international law. Italy’s attack on Ethiopia in 1935 and Japanese imperialism in China in the 1930’s could not be prevented, as the pact included neither moral sanctions nor any tribunals to enforce its provisions. Moreover, the blanket interpretation of self-defense allowed many nations to justify their wars of aggression. Nevertheless, the pact, although violated many times, was never officially repealed. It served as the legal basis for the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials after World War II. Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928)[Kellogg Briand Pact] Pact of Paris (1928) General Pact for the Renunciation of War (1928)

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ferrell, Robert H. Peace in Their Time: The Origins of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. New York: W. W. Norton, 1969. Essential source provides superb analyses of the U.S. State Department’s stratagems with French diplomats and domestic peace activists in the shaping of the pact.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Marks, Sally. The Illusion of Peace: International Relations in Europe, 1918-1933. 2d ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Presents general, scholarly coverage of European diplomatic events, with critical analysis of the Kellogg-Briand Pact and its ramifications. Includes chronological table, bibliography, and index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Miller, D. H. The Peace Pact of Paris: A Study of the Briand-Kellogg Treaty. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1928. Detailed and objective study of the shaping and writing of the pact from both French and American perspectives. Research based on official documents and firsthand information.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Shotwell, J. T. War as an Instrument of National Policy and Its Renunciation in the Pact of Paris. 1928. Reprint. New York: Garland, 1974. An essential, firsthand source on the peace pact. Explains the perspective of the U.S. peace seekers.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Steiner, Zara. The Lights That Failed: European International History 1919-1933. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Comprehensive, scholarly work examines efforts to reestablish equilibrium in Europe after World War I through peace treaties and other means. Includes maps, tables, and bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Vinson, John C. William E. Borah and the Outlawry of War. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1957. A major contribution to an understanding of the U.S. commitment to promote world peace. Portrays Borah as the spokesperson for the United States and highlights his role in effecting peace plans, especially the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

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Categories: History