William Ladd

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For the Portland, Oregon mayor and banker, see William S. Ladd. For the American surgeon, see William E. Ladd.
William Ladd
William Ladd c1830.jpg
Born William C Ladd
(1778-05-10)May 10, 1778
Exeter, New Hampshire
Died April 9, 1841(1841-04-09) (aged 62)
Occupation Ship captain
Known for Founder and first President of the American Peace Society
Signature William Ladd signature.svg

William Ladd (May 10, 1778 – April 9, 1841) was one of the earliest American anti-war activists, and the first president of the American Peace Society.

Ladd was born in Exeter, New Hampshire as a direct lineal descendant of Daniel Ladd, Sr. (1613–1693). After he graduated from Harvard in 1797 he shipped as a seaman from Portsmouth, New Hampshire in a vessel owned by his father, a local merchant. At 20 years old he was a capable New England captain and had seen much of the world. He briefly had a plantation in Florida which ultimately failed as he refused to use slave labor.

A disbeliever in war for any purpose, he turned landsman at the outbreak of the War of 1812, when the British blockade temporarily stopped commerce. He moved to Minot, Maine, became a prosperous farmer, and devoted both his tongue and his pen to preaching non-resistance. In 1823 he wrote the first of 32 Essays on Peace and War, published in the Christian Mirror of Portland, Maine, which laid out a Christian case for pacifism. Subsequent essays would criticize the slave trade and the raising of the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, Massachusetts as a memorial to war.

State and local "peace societies" already existed in the 1820s, but in 1828 the American Peace Society was formed with Ladd as its first president. The first meeting was held in New York City. Ladd wrote and published the society's newspaper, The Harbinger of Peace (later The Calumet) from his house in Minot, Maine. In 1837, due to Ladd's influence and against the arguments of other members, including the president of Bowdoin College, the constitution of the American Peace Society was amended to declare that all war was contrary to the Christian Gospel.

In 1840 Ladd proposed a plan for a World Congress and Court of Nations, somewhat similar to the later League of Nations or United Nations. He published An Essay on the Congress of Nations (1840). He was partly influenced by the military build-up the year before in his home state of Maine because of a border dispute with Britain, the so-called Aroostook War.

Ladd is buried in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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