Sir William Randal Cremer was an English pacifist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1903. He was a member of the Liberal party in the British Parliament. He received the Nobel Prize for advocating arbitration and peaceful settlement of disputes between different nations instead of going to war against each other. Due to his ideas on international arbitration for the prevention of conflicts, he was fondly called the ‘Member of Arbitration’ by his colleagues in Parliament. His early life was very humble and full of struggle. His father had left his mother when he was just an infant. His mother was a devout Methodist and though she faced utter despondency, she somehow managed to bring up her son and two daughters until he was big enough to fend for himself. The difficult conditions of his upbringing could not suppress his indomitable spirit and he rose from the depths of extreme poverty to become a great man in his own right. During his education days, he came to hear about how a peaceful settlement could be arrived at between warring nations by bringing them to the negotiating table. This lecture planted the idea of international arbitration between conflicting nations in his mind which later became his life’s main objective.
Childhood & Early Life
William Randal Cremer was born on March 18, 1828 in a small town called Fareham in England. His father was a coach painter and left his mother, a simple housewife, when William was just an infant and she had to bring up her children in spite of abject poverty.
He did his early schooling in a Methodist church school at his mother’s insistence.
At the age of fifteen he became an apprentice in his uncle’s company and later on became a full fledged carpenter. Initially he worked in shipyards as a carpenter.
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William Randal Cremer moved to London in 1852 to try his luck which he found in the workers movement.
At age of thirty he was became a member of a council fighting for the implementation of a nine-hour working day shift. In the same year he led a group of 70,000 men who were demonstrating against a lockout.
He formed a single union of people who worked as carpenters and jointers across the country.
He helped in forming the ‘International Working Men’s Association’ in 1865 and was elected its secretary.
He resigned from his post in 1867 when he thought that the organization was undergoing radicalization.
Thinking that labor problems should be highlighted in the Parliament, he contested from Warwick in 1868. He supported voting with the help of ballots, compulsory education for all, imposition of direct taxes, reforms in land laws, amendments to labor union laws, creation of courts for international arbitration but was defeated in the election. He was again unsuccessful in 1874.
The reform bill which came out in 1885 created an entire constituency of workers who elected him to the Parliament the same year. He was elected again in 1886 and 1892.
He was defeated in 1895 but got back his seat in 1900 which he retained till he was alive.
He believed that all mankind could live side by side only when there is peace and formed a committee of working people in 1870 as a neutral body to try solve the Franco-Prussian conflict.
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This body came to be known as the ‘Workmen’s Peace Association’ in 1871 which helped to form the ‘International Arbitration League’ later.
In 1887 Cremer convinced 234 members from the ‘House of Commons’ of the British Parliament to sign a resolution urging President Cleveland of the United States to solve all problems through arbitration which he himself presented to the American President as the head of a British delegation.
With his efforts he caught the attention of another pacifist Frederick Passey who invited him to a meeting in 1888 at Paris where the ‘Inter-parliamentary Union’ was formed.
The first meeting of this body was held in 1889 when eight nations attended the meeting where Cremer was elected the Vice-President of the Union. He also became the secretary of the British group.
He was successful in setting up a court for international arbitration in the Hague Conference in 1899. He vehemently criticized the British government for its involvement in the Boer War in South Africa.
Awards & Achievements
William Randal Cremer received his knighthood from King Edward VII in 1907 and was allowed by the monarch not to wear a sword during the swearing in ceremony.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1903 for his efforts to convince nations to settle disputes through arbitration and peaceful negotiations.
Personal Life & Legacy
His first wife died in 1876 while his second wife died in 1884 and this made him a lonely man. He did not have any children from either marriage.
William Randal Cremer died of pneumonia on July 22, 1908 in London, UK.
He lived a very simple life, worked for long hours and loved every aspect of nature and the environment.
He bequeathed £7000 and later another £1000 that he received as the prize money to the League in which he held the post of secretary.
All his life he worked to bring nations at war to the negotiating table where all the problems could be solved peacefully and amicably. His efforts included the attempts to make the British and the American governments cease hostilities and smoothen out their differences through arbitration and negotiations.
Though William Randal Cremer considered himself as a simple working man and represented the interests of all other workers in Parliament, he did not believe that workers should get involved in a revolution.