Nineteen sixteen was the midpoint of the Great War. The bloodbath of the war of attrition reached its apogee in the Battles of Verdun and the Somme. The Ligue des Droits de l'Homme (LDH) held its first wartime congress in November 1916 with this as a backdrop. The theme of the congress was the “conditions for a lasting peace.” Two issues came to the fore. The first was France's relationship with its autocratic, undemocratic ally, imperial Russia, and in particular how to square support for all that the LDH stood for with Russia's treatment of its oppressed minorities, especially the Poles. The second was that the LDH debated calls for a negotiated end to the war, ultimately rejecting them, but only after a lengthy debate showed how the LDH was divided between a majority that believed that arbitration could be applied only in times of peace, and a minority that demanded an immediate end to the carnage, operating within a nineteenth-century episteme that privileged arbitration as the pacifist method of choice.

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