William Randall Cremer

William Randal Cremer (March 18, 18281-July 22, 1908) was born in the small town of Fareham in Hampshire, England, not far from Portsmouth, into a working class family at a time when intense misery was the workingman's lot. His father, a coach painter, deserted the family while the boy was still an infant. His mother was an indomitable woman, raised her son and two daughters despite stringent poverty and even sent her son to school - a church school, for she was a strong Methodist. At fifteen he was apprenticed to an uncle in the building trades, eventually becoming a full-fledged carpenter. During this time he supplemented his meager formal education by attending lectures. On one occasion he heard a lecture on peace in which the speaker suggested that international disputes be settled by arbitration, an idea that Cremer never forgot. At the age of twenty-four he came to London to seek his fortune. This he found in the trade-union movement, where his leadership qualities were soon recognized. At the age of thirty he was helping organize the campaign for a nine-hour day, and he went on to become a national leader of the carpenters' union and a member of the London Trades Council. With other working-class leaders Cremer was drawn into campaigns on international questions of the day. These activities led to the establishment in 1864 of the International Working Men's Association, in which Karl Marx and other socialists from the continent took part. Cremer was elected general secretary in 1865, but resigned after two years, later maintaining that the organization had come under the direction of "men who cared more for their isms than for the cause of real progress." In such pursuit, he tried again in 1874 to win a seat in Parliament, but failed. After the reform bill of 1885 broadened the franchise, however, he won the election to represent Haggerston in London's East End and entered Parliament at the age of fifty-seven as a Liberal along with ten other working-class representatives. Cremer used his power as a member of Parliament and his prestige as a labor 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 workingmen which he formed in 1870 to promote England's neutrality during the Franco-Prussian conflict became the Workmen's Peace Association in 1871 and it, in turn, provided the keystone for the International Arbitration League, an association to which he thereafter contributed both his time and his money.  For his efforts in the cause of international arbitration Cremer was awarded the 1903 Nobel Peace Prize. He gave most of the stipend in trust to the International Arbitration League. He was knighted in 1907. Cremer was a lonely man: his first wife died in 1876, his second in 1884; there were no children. He lived simply, enjoyed nature, worked long hours. He was also a generous man. The cash value of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1903 was about £8,000. He immediately gave £7,000 to the League of which he was secretary and later an additional £1,000. Stricken by pneumonia, he died on July 22, 1908.