HENRI DUNANT AND THE RED C ROS S * SALLIE MORGENSTERN Rare Book Room Cataloguer and Archivist Library of the New York Academy of Medicine New York, New York URING

the past year, because of the


of Mrs. J.


i/Bulkley, a member of the Friends, we were able to add three very rare and valuable books dealing with the history of the Red Cross to our collection. These are: the first edition of Henri Dunant's Un Souvenir de Solferino, one of the 1,600 copies bearing the words "not for sale" on the title page, printed in November 1862; the second Swiss edition of the book printed a month later; and the Proceedings of the Geneva Congress of October 1863, which contains the preliminary discussions for the founding of the Red Cross. The Red Cross, born in the fury of war, grew in a short time into a worldwide voluntary relief organization. Rising above race, country, and creed, and symbolizing a universal spirit of humanitarian relief in time of peace and war, the Red Cross is a monument to the 19th century. There is no doubt, however, that the greatest 19th century precedent for Dunant's ideas came from the work of Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) during the Crimean War (1853-1856) who, together with a band of courageous Englishwomen and supported by her government, went to the actual battlefield. In addition to the team of nurses, she took along a vast amount of equipment that was desperately needed in the overcrowded and understaffed hospitals. The Crimean War was a barbarous war in which disease was more deadly than cannon. Florence Nightingale had neither remarkable drugs nor miracles of any other kind at her disposal; but she did have an extraordinary gift for organization and efficiency; tireless and sensible, she took up the struggle against death with military discipline. Her concentrated and organized effort helped not only dramatically to lower the death rate in that war, but to make the public aware of the need for hospital reforms in peacetime. Word of Florence Nightingale's pioneer work and remarkable achievement soon spread across Europe. Dunant *Part I of a two-part article.

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Bull. N.Y. Acad. Med.




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heard of her work and never forgot it. In his book he fully acknowledged the impression Florence Nightingale's work made on him. Some years later (1872) in an address to an English audience, The Social Sciences Association, he said, "I would first remark that I was inspired with the idea of this work by the admirable devotion rendered by Miss Nightingale to the English army in the Crimea. Her noble spirit, her generous heart, called forth the gratitude of the whole of England . Certain successive periods in history occur within which general conditions are notably favorable for fresh and important advances in civilization. This seems to have been the case in respect to the propagation of the idea of the Red Cross movement. When Dunant's book appeared in 1862, the fitting time for its reception had arrived and the world was ready to listen. The middle of the 19th century was a period of progress toward better things in many fields of human endeavor. The intellectual and political revolutions of the 18th century in Europe and America had created a new climate of thought. The facilities for rapid diffusion of intelligence and personal intercommunications had roused the attention of all ranks of society to the detailed incidents of wars and their horrible consequences. The spread of more civilized and human feelings and the higher estimate of the value of life everywhere had awakened the general sympathy to individual concerns. This all led to the gradual growth of the idea of making war less awful. These were the conditions which made the Red Cross movement possible. The vast majority of the earth's ordinary citizens know about the Red Cross and admire it as the greatest charitable and cooperative effort in human history. However, only a small minority are familiar with the name, the spirit, and personality of the man who first had the idea of founding the movement, Jean Henri Dunant. Dunant is one of the most celebrated sons of the city of Geneva. Before becoming part of Switzerland, Geneva was a free city surrounded by powerful states, and the Genevans had thus grown up as an independent and hard working community. Positioned at the crossroads of several main lines of travel, it was frequently visited by men of note. during the Middle Ages. These travelers brought to the city not only increasing wealth but also ideas from all parts of Europe, which were eagerly discussed by the Genevans, who were attracted as readily by fresh notions as they were by the opportunity for gain. During the religious wars of the 16th century, Geneva was known as the "city of refuge," and opened her gates to Vol. 55, No. 10, November 1979


S. MORGENSTERN MORGENSTERN~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


numerous refugees of the reformed religion. Men came to Geneva from all over the world professing opinions condemned in their own countries as heretical. As a result of this, the city, which is today the headquarters of numerous international organizations, was already four centuries ago an international center. So it was at Geneva, a city with a long humanitarian tradition, where the idea of the Red Cross movement could probably be better understood and developed than anywhere else in the world. Jean Henri Dunant, first child of Jean Dunant and Antoinette Colland, was born on May 8, 1828 in Geneva. Both his parents belonged to old, respected, and well-to-do families; his mother came from a family with a great reputation in the scientific world. Geneva for many years past has been noted for its religious and charitable proclivities, and the Dunants were deeply engaged in good and charitable works. They were members of a Protestant sect called The Seventh-Day Adventists. The sect, founded by Methodists in 18th century England, had undergone a strong revival in Geneva, following a visit by the Scottish preacher, Robert Haldane. Due to their social activities in connection with all these religious and charitable organizations, the Dunants were highly respected and trusted. The boy grew up in their cultured bourgeois home. Dunant 's mother, a woman of fine character and strict Calvinistic convictions, must be credited with having profoundly influenced her eldest son; she brought him up in the belief that wealth and prosperity were a reward for godliness and sobriety, and that these rewards demanded that their possessor devote a certain part of his wealth and time to looking out for the less fortunate. The father, also strictly Calvinist, was a banker. Unfortunately, this included a somewhat speculative inclination, inherited by the son. Besides these influences, the boy's character, which linked intimate mysticism to vivid sensitivity, was considerably developed by readings from scripture and by perpetual interpretation of the biblical prophets. For years the older Dunant was the patron of an orphan's home, and young Henri, while still a youth and apprenticed to the distinguished banking firm of Lullin and Sautter, spent his Sundays in prisons reading to the prisoners and chatting with them. The combination of religion, charity, and speculation together formed the character of the man who gave up the best part of his life for the good of mankind. From his early manhood, Henri Dunant already felt the urge to spread a gospel of love and humanity. He gathered about him in Geneva a group of young men like himself, devout sons of well-to-do families, whom he Bull. N.Y. Acad. Med.




inspired with his own Christian ideals and founded the charitable organization of the League of Alms. After some years of unselfish devotion to the cause of charity, young Henri, who had inherited his father's skill at organization, set about to expand and transform the League of Alms into an international organization by adding other groups to it, especially in foreign countries. First he obtained the names of young men in Europe and America who might set up groups like the Geneva League. He spent several months enthusiastically corresponding with those prospective members, and followed up his international correspondence with trips to different European countries. He personally helped to set up new groups whose goals were to promote Christian friendship and charity. In 1855, at a meeting in Paris, where Dunant represented the Geneva group, at his urging, the vast, famous, and still flourishing Young Men's Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) was established. Henri Dunant was 27 years old when the Christian Union was founded. While Jean Henri Dunant was campaigning for the spread of the Christian spirit among nations, Harriet Beecher Stowe's famous antislavery novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, appeared in America. When Dunant read the book, it affected him deeply and he became Uncle Tom's champion. It was another great cause for which to fight. From the beginning of his association with the banking firm of Lullin and Sautter, young Dunant handled the bank's accounts with the same energy and imagination with which he endowed his religious activities. His hard work won approval from the directors of the bank, and he was elevated to the responsible position of head cashier. He did not remain unaffected by the materialism of his age and seemed to have been seized with an urge to make vast sums of money, just like the men who banked at Lullin. In 1853 26-year-old Dunant entered the service of the Compagnie des Colonies Suisses de Setif, a Swiss company with extensive interests in North Africa. He spent five years in Algiers, Tunis, and Sicily, serving the company to the best of his ability. The spirit of Algeria, which had become a French colony in 1830, challenged Dunant's imagination. He dreamed of developing an industrial and agricultural empire on the edge of the still unexplored continent by irrigating the fields and erecting mills that would grind the harvested wheat. He resigned from the Swiss company, which had refused to support his venture, and put into practice all his skills to persuade investors to Vol. 55, No. 10, November 1979





finance his African adventure. In 1854 he acquired extensive commercial interests of his own and not before long he saw the first part of his vision come to life: four pairs of mills ready to grind the wheat that would feed the French army. It was obvious, however, that more land was needed to support the enterprise. In the fall of 1854 he began to besiege Paris with letters requesting the grant of the additional land. Several years passed without Dunant being able to convince the French bureaucrats to grant the concession, and the business began to fail. By 1857 Dunant's situation grew more desperate by the day. His investors received no return on their money and he himself was running short of cash. Then, under the stress of financial anxieties, the idea suddenly struck him that the government would probably grant a company what they had refused to an individual. Consequently, in 1858, Dunant founded The Limited Liability Company of the Mills of Mons-Djemila. Full of confidence and with the solid backing of a company with the impressive capital of a million dollars, Dunant set off for Paris to approach the authorities in person and to review his demand for a grant of land. Although he carried with him letters of introduction from some highly influential persons, the doors did not open for him and he returned with empty promises. For the moment, there was nothing more he could do to speed things up. At that time, Dunant published his first book, Notice sur la Regence de Tunis, an account of his travels in this country. One chapter in this work was noteworthy-that on slavery. Here Dunant contrasted slavery in the Islamic states with that practised in the United States of America to the disadvantage of the latter. He contended that Islamic slavery was humane and philanthropic compared with the brutality and callousness practised in the American southern states. Dunant's report on Tunisia was privately printed in 1858, and he sent copies to several learned societies. The Paris Society of Ethnography elected him as a corresponding member, and the Bey of Tunis rewarded him with the highest national decoration. But all the tributes could not distract him from the ominous fact that his business affairs were at a standstill and that the Algerian dream was in danger of becoming a nightmare. A daring approach suddenly suggested itself to him. He would try to meet the French emperor, Napoleon III, in person and inform him about the mills of Mons-Djemila, the project on which his ambition had been toiling for years, constantly thwarted by bureaucratic obstruction. That Napoleon III was waging a war against Austria in Italy did not deter him. Bull. N.Y. Acad. Med.




He had no intention to meet him empty handed. He chose instead to prepare two documents: one to describe his company, the other to exalt the emperor. The first book was called Memorandum on the Subject of the Society of the Mills of Mons-Djemila. The second volume, its title page ornamented with the French imperial arms, was titled The Empire of Charlemagne Re-established.. .by His Majesty, the Emperor, Napoleon III. Armed with the two works, Dunant set off for Lombardy. On the afternoon of June 24, 1859 he reached the village of Solferino, where the final and most fearful battle of the campaign was being waged, and in which the casualties on both sides totaled 40,000 dead and wounded. Shocked beyond measure at the callous neglect of the wounded, dying in so many instances for want of the most simple care, he threw himself into the task of organizing what relief he could. He called upon the medical services of neighboring towns for aid and inspired their women to distribute food and drink. With as many volunteers as he could muster, he did everything possible, without distinction of nationality (the watchword being "Sono tutti fratelli! "), to relieve or provide some solace to the thousands of injured men who were otherwise completely deserted. When Dunant left Solferino he was a changed man. He could not forget the nightmare of the battlefield, the human misery and waste he had witnessed. He became obsessed with the idea of doing away with the horror of war, gradually realizing that writing a book describing the consequences of the battle would ease his conscience. He guarded his plan like a secret. "I hesitated a long time," he writes, "before I decided to write a brief account of those scenes of desperation which it had been my sad privilege to witness.'" Even now he had no thought of making himself an instrument of mass propaganda; the book was to be printed privately for his "family and his numerous friends." Dunant set to work, and, in the stirring pages of Un Souvenir de Solferino, developed the idea that was to come to fruition in the organization of the Red Cross. It was published in November 1862 in Geneva. Three long years lay between the reality and the recollection, but Solferino was indelibly etched on his brain. The appalling reality and the countless forms of grief, the long silent cries of despair, were brought to life again by his inexorable pen. "These recollections had to be written.... The deep and pain-filled shock of Solferino must be transmitted in this brief account, which would trustfully record what my own eyes had seen. Vol. 55, No. 10, November 1979



Others must share it so that the humanitarian idea.. .might bear fruit and develop of its own strength.'" He was not satisfied with the mere revival of his gruesome experience. Based on thorough research, he describes clearly the lines of the battle, sets forth the names of the officers on both sides, the types of equipment used, and the progress of the day-long battle. In the second part of the book Dunant outlines his greatest inspiration. What he asked of society, after graphically describing the battlefields of Solferino, was a very simple question. "Would it not be possible" he wrote, "in time of peace and quiet, to form relief societies for the purpose of [aiding]... the wounded in wartime by zealous devoted and thoroughly qualified volunteers'?"' And, going beyond this concept, he further proposed an "international principle"' whereby the countries of Europe would undertake through an inviolate convention to protect the work of such societies in providing relief for the wounded of all belligerents in a spirit of universal humanity. When Dunant wrote these words he thought only of establishing permanent organizations that would be ready to provide relief in time of war. He had not thought then of the peace-time activities of such an organization. The idea of a permanent, voluntary, and international relief society was radical enough to begin with. Although others throughout history had organized and directed relief activities in war, it was Dunant who had the genius to consider creating in peace time an enduring organization that would be international in scope.


Hebenstreidt, Johannes. Regiment Pestilentzischer gifftiger Fieber, so jetzund in Duringen auch vmbligenden orthern die Mensche ploetzlich vberfallen. Augsburg, 1563. Rare tract on plague and fever diseases discussing preservatives against contagion. This booklet, written in 1562, is full of advice for the prevention of the numerous epidemics that had lately swept Diiringen and surroundings-Diringen is a community in central Germany, in the former state of Thuringen. In the introduction, addressed to the Councilors of the Free City of Erfurt, the author announces that an epidemic of fevers has broken out in Diringen and Erfurt and that the contagion is in the beginning stage, having killed so far only 200 people. Hebenstreidt tries to Bull. N.Y. Acad. Med.

Henri Dunant and the Red Cross.

949 HENRI DUNANT AND THE RED C ROS S * SALLIE MORGENSTERN Rare Book Room Cataloguer and Archivist Library of the New York Academy of Medicine New Yor...
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