Sir (William) Randal Cremer was born in Fareham in 1828 in abject poverty. Having only the most basic education, he ended up working in the shipyards at age twelve. Cremer made his way upward with his exceptional skills as an organiser, becoming one of the first representatives of the working class in Parliament which he entered in 1885 as MP for Haggerston.
Cremer used his power as a Member of Parliament and his prestige as a labour leader to advance his passionate belief that peace was the only acceptable state for mankind and arbitration the method by which it could be achieved. A committee of working men which he formed in 1870 to promote England’s neutrality during the Franco-Prussian conflict became the Workmen’s Peace Association in 1871. In turn, it provided the keystone for the International Arbitration League, an association to which he thereafter contributed both his time and his money.
In 1887, two years after entering Parliament, Cremer secured 234 signatures of members of Commons to a resolution addressed to the President and the Congress of the United States. This resolution urged the Congress to conclude with the government of Great Britain a treaty stipulating that disputes arising between the two governments which defied settlement by diplomacy should be referred to arbitration. In that same year Cremer, heading a delegation of British statesmen, presented the resolution to President Cleveland.
The resolution excited the interest of Frédéric Passy and other French deputies who invited Cremer and his colleagues to an exploratory meeting in Paris in 1888. As a result of this meeting the Inter-Parliamentary Union was formed and its first meeting held in Paris in 1889, with representatives from nine nations (United Kingdom, France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Hungary, the United States, and Liberia) in attendance. Cremer was elected Vice-President of the Union and Secretary of the British section, effectively founding the British Group of the IPU.
In 1903, Cremer was named the first British recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as ‘first father’ of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. This was well-deserved international recognition of Cremer’s efforts to champion a world where disputes between nations would be resolved by arbitration and friendly mediation, not by acts of aggression or war. In recalling his legacy, BGIPU hope that his vision will serve as inspiration to future generations of parliamentarians in their pursuit of peace and global harmony. In his own words, delivered in Oslo in January 1905 when he received the Nobel Peace Prize. “The darkness is ending, a new day is dawning, and the future is ours”.