October 22, 2022
When we final rolled into The Hague last night we had just enough time for a quick visit to the Peace Palace. Since 1948 the Peace Palace has housed the International Court of Justice (the principal judicial body of the United Nations), the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), The Hague Academy of International Law, and the Peace Palace Library. The idea of the Palace started with a discussion in 1900 between the Russian diplomat Friedrich Martens and American diplomat Andrew Dickson White over providing a home for the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). White contacted Andrew Carnegie, but Carnegie was only interested in donating money to establish the library of international law. White convinced Carnegie to do more and in 1903 Carnegie agreed to donate the US$1.5 million needed (US$50 million adjusted for inflation) to house the court as well as endow the library of international law. The Palace officially opened on 28 August 1913. I got “a” picture in the darkening sky and called it good.
When I looked online, I found The Hague is situated on the west coast of the Netherlands. While the official capital is Amsterdam, The Hague is described as the country’s de facto capital. The Hague is the seat of the Cabinet, the States General, the Supreme Court, Council of State of the Netherlands, and the Royal Library of the Netherlands. The Hague is home to King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima in the Huis ten Bosch Palace (and gardens) and the king works at the Noordeinde Palace. The Hague also houses most of the foreign embassies to the Netherlands. The Hague is also home to the headquarters of many Dutch companies. The Hague is known as the home of international law and arbitration and the International Court of Justice, the main judicial arm of the UN, as are the International Criminal Court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Europol, and approximately 200 other international governmental organizations.
That night we fell to sleep early and woke up late the next morning. We arrived for the breakfast buffet with 10 minutes to spare before we gathered for The Hague tour. I was able to get a cup of coffee, but alas it was too hot for me to drink before we had to go. We started down the street that went in front of the Noordeinde Palace (marked by crowns suspended across the road) and then leads down to the city center. Over the next two hours we walked among the political and administrative meetings that dominated the city. These were a mixture of old (15th century) and new (20th century) construction. The city center is also home to a variety of historical as well as art museums. The one that caught my eye was the Gevangenpoort (prison gate) museum. This incorporated part of the 13th century city wall and continued in use until the beginning of the 19th century. Melissa sat out the three stories and basement traversed by steep narrow stairs, but I laid out 15 Euros to take the tour.
THOUGHTS: After having our fill of buildings of “der Stadt”, Melissa and I settled into the parks and views around the city center. Walking the stairs of Gevangenpoort the dichotomy of rich and poor was clearly on display. The rich were afforded their own cells (the Knight’s Chamber) with its own privy (“secret”). Adequate food, beer and wine were provided, but these were augmented by donations brought from home. The poor ended in the Hostage Room, where they slept two or three together and were doomed to await payment of their debt to the wealthy (often years) eating bread and drinking the polluted canal water. Women were somewhere between, with more room, adequate food, and beer or wine. Regardless, incarceration often included sentences of lost fingers, limbs, or even torture or execution. The prison was finally abandoned as the mood changed from punishment to rehabilitation. This is a debate that still vacillates in most countries of the world. Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.