THE ADVOCATE 189
VOL. 78 PART 2 MARCH 2020
Vienna, Dunant persuaded the Archduke Rainer that Austria should favour
the conference with a delegate.
October 23, 1863 came and the conference got underway. Thirty-six delegates
attended. Eighteen of them represented 14 governments. Five were
the Committee of Five and the rest were interested individuals, army doctors
and representatives of societies.
General Dufour opened the meeting. This old soldier confessed that he
could see no end to war but was eloquent in support of the need to organize
the support of those who were to tend the wounded in the field. Moynier
then took the chair. Dunant was elected secretary to the meeting. Dunant
read out over 70 names of influential people who had written to record their
support. They included (again) Charles Dickens, Lord Shaftsbury and
Florence Nightingale, who had finally come round to lending lukewarm
The debate revealed a polarity of views. The French doubted that volunteers
would be able to do any good. The Prussian Knights Hospitallers of St.
John protested their own long and honourable record as volunteers of
mercy on the field of battle. An English delegate, one Twining, a member of
the Social Science Association, blandly proposed that the wounded should
be put out of their agony after a moment for composure and prayer “so
that they should not die with a fevered brain and blasphemy on their lips”.
The Surgeon Major of the Spanish army described the frightful effect of the
new conical bullet, now in use, which had a longer range than the round
bullet and caused more serious wounds.
Moynier was at pains to try to steer the debate to a discussion of the
points of the draft convention. There was trouble over the concept of neutrality
for the wounded and those coming to their aid. Dr. Basting cited the
support of the King of Prussia for this concept. Finally a resolution was
passed that to the draft convention should be added a clause that field
ambulances, hospitals, medical personnel and the inhabitants of a country
giving aid to the wounded should have neutral status, and that a universal
emblem, a red cross on a white field, should be adopted in all countries for
field ambulances and hospitals. Dr. Basting, dismayed at the timidity of
those delegates, including Moynier, who were trying to nudge towards a
compromise in order to mollify the opposition, held out for the establishment
of international law for the protection of the victims of war. The conference
had made provision for an organization to superintend the carrying
out of the terms of the treaty.