Co-founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Union with William Randal Cremer (United Kingdom)
Frédéric Passy (May 20, 1822-June 12, 1912) was born in Paris and lived there his life of ninety years. The tradition of the French civil service was strong in Passy's family, his uncle, Hippolyte Passy (1793-1880), rising to become a cabinet minister under both Louis Philippe and Louis Napoleon. Educated as a lawyer, Frédéric Passy entered the civil service at the age of twenty-two as an accountant in the State Council, but left after three years to devote himself to systematic study of economies. He emerged as a theoretical economist in 1857 with his Mélanges économiques, a collection of essays he had published in the course of the research, and he secured his scholarly reputation with a series of lectures delivered in 1860-1861 at the University of Monpellier and later published in two volumes under the title Leçons d'économie politique... Passy's passionate belief in education found expression in De la propriété intellectuelle (1859) and La démocratie et l'instruction (1864). For these contributions, among others, he was elected in 1877 to membership in the Académie des sciences morales et politiques, a unit of the Institut of France.
Passy was not, however, a cloistered scholar; he was a man of action. In 1867, encouraged by his leadership of public opinion in trying to avert possible war between France and Prussia over the Luxembourg question, he founded the "Ligue internationale et permanente de la paix". When the Ligue became a casualty of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, he reorganized it under the title "Société française des amis de la paix" which in turn gave way to the more specifically oriented "Société française pour l'arbitrage entre nations", established in 1889.
Passy carried on his efforts within the government as well. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in 1881, again in 1885, and defeated in 1889. In the Chamber, he supported legislation favourable to labour, especially an act relating to industrial accidents, opposed the colonial policy of the government, drafted a proposal for disarmament, and presented a resolution calling for arbitration of international disputes.
His parliamentary interest in arbitration was whetted by Randal Cremer's success in guiding through the British Parliament a resolution stipulating that England and the United States should refer to arbitration any disputes between them not settled by the normal methods of diplomacy. In 1888 Cramer headed a delegation of nine British members of Parliament who met in Paris with a delegation of twenty-four French deputies, headed by Passy, to discuss arbitration and to lay the groundwork for an organisation to advance its acceptance. The next year, fifty-six French parliamentarians, twenty-eight British and scattered representatives from the parliaments of Italy, Spain, Denmark, Hungary, Belgium, and the United States formed the Inter-Parliamentary Union, with Passy as one of its three presidents. The Union, still in existence, established a headquarters to serve as a clearinghouse of ideas, and encouraged the formation of informal individual national parliamentary groups willing to support legislation leading to peace, especially through arbitration.
Passy's thought and action had unity. International peace was the goal, arbitration of disputes in international politics and free trade in goods the means, the national units making up the Inter-Parliamentary Union the initiating agents, the people the sovereign constituency.
Through his prodigious labours over a period of a half century in the peace movement, Passy became known as the "apostle of peace". He wrote unceasingly and vividly. His Pour la paix (1909), which came out when he was eighty-seven years old, is a personalized account - in lieu of an autobiography which he deplored - of his work for international peace, noting especially the founding of the Ligue, the "période décisive" when the Inter-Parliamentary Union was established, the development of peace congresses, and the value of the Hague Conference.