The US State Department is recognizing the 100th Anniversary of the Diplomatic Courier Service in an exhibit that features my grandfather, Amos Peaslee. I was honored to attend the opening reception with my son Max, sister Daphne, and cousin Lucy Ann.
The exhibit is a moving display of photos and artifacts that bring to life what it took to lay the foundation for peace negotiations at the end of World War I. In 1918 my grandfather was directed by General Pershing to create a courier service to run information behind enemy lines that would reconnect a world torn apart by war. Amos formed the Silver Greyhounds to support the work of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace that led to the Treaty of Versailles.
His personal copy of the Treaty of Versailles is part of the exhibit. It contains hand written notes stating why he thought the treaty could not be enforced, and could give way to yet another world war. He was already a lawyer at this time, and the trajectory of his later work was emerging. As a courier he had been witness to the ravages of war. As a Quaker he was committed to non-violence. As an international lawyer he would support the creation of the League of Nations and then the United Nations. It was clear to him that international law was the just and humane way to resolve conflicts and prevent future wars.
As we celebrate Veteran’s Day and the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I, I reflect on the values and world view I was fortunate to inherit. Amos Peaslee was a lifelong champion of the rule of law, nationally and internationally. He had enormous influence over his children and grandchildren, but he was not a champion of political conformity. He encouraged intellectual freedom and rigor. We were expected to think deeply, and we run the gamut politically. The common thread is a unifying respect for the rights and liberties of all, in spite of differences.
Looking backwards in time at a world ravaged by war gives me hope that we can also look forward to a world in which all nations agree to abide by and enforce international laws that uphold peace with respect for differences. This was the vision Amos shared with the great peacemakers of his time. It is a vision our current leadership appears to have lost, but which many of us inherited and will continue to work toward. The unfinished work is to strengthen the institutions that bind us to international laws that protect the rights and liberties of all people and the planet we call home.