Thursday, January 28, 2010

Present at the Creation

In a long and distinguished career as a French diplomat, Jacques Leprette occupied a number of important posts, most notably as his country's ambassador to the United Nations (1976–82) and to the European Community (1982–85). His papers in the archives document important aspects of French foreign policy in this period; they also record Leprette's intimate knowledge of American society, a product of his lengthy stay in the United States as a junior official with the French embassy in Washington.

Among the materials in the collection, however, it was a document from the earliest part of his career that seemed to have been singled out by Leprette as an item of special significance: an original draft of the treaty establishing the Council of Europe, signed in London in May 1949. Leprette was part of the French delegation at the London conference that negotiated the treaty and subsequently served as a counselor at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

The draft in the Leprette papers has handwritten corrections to the French version of the treaty, as well the signatures of the various heads of delegations present at the council’s creation, including Ernest Bevin from the United Kingdom and Robert Schuman, from France. Given the document’s intrinsic value as an artifact and the subsequent importance of the Council of Europe in the story of European integration, it was decided to give it special treatment so that it could be both preserved and shown to visitors to the archives. Among the staff of the archives, such presentation items are known informally as “treasures”; it was nice to be able to add something to this select category.

The archives’ Preservation Department designed and made a portfolio to house the treaty draft. The portfolio encapsulated the draft and a photo depicting the treaty’s signing. The resulting whole allows the items to be easily presented and also protects them from any possible harm.

The Leprette papers contain other documents relating to the Council of Europe, including transcripts of proceedings held during the first years of the council’s existence. The Council of Europe went on to establish the European Court
of Human Rights and continues to play an important role in promoting cooperation among its member states in the areas of common legal standards and democratic governance.

Photograph depicting the signing ceremony for the founding treaty of the Council of Europe, London, May 5, 1949, Jacques Leprette Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Last page of draft of Council of Europe treaty, with the signature of Ernest Bevin, the British representative, Jacques Leprette Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Cover of special presentation folder for Council of Europe treaty, Jacques Leprette Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

Expanded view of presentation folder, showing encapsulated photograph and treaty, Jacques Leprette Papers, Hoover Institution Archives

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