In 1934-35 more than 11 ½ million adults in Great Britain completed the famous “Peace Ballot” (the official title was A National Declaration on the League of Nations and Armaments) designed to test, and indeed to demonstrate, popular support for the League and “the collective peace system.” The massive response exceeded all expectations and greatly impressed observers. It was, said the New Statesman, “the most remarkable popular referendum ever initiated and carried through by private enterprise.”
But what did the Ballot demonstrate? Did it return a “plain and decisive” answer as Lord Cecil of Chelwood, President of the League of Nations Union and Chairman of the National Referendum Committee, claimed?
Supporters of the Ballot had no doubt about the national verdict. Britons, said Cecil, had shown “overwhelming approval” of the collective system. They were, according to Winston Churchill, “willing, and indeed resolved, to go to war in a righteous cause,” provided that all action was taken under the auspices of the League. The British people were ready to fulfill their obligations under the Covenant, Philip Noel-Baker later wrote. The country was prepared to stop Mussolini by armed force if that should be required.