„This Solemn, And Ever Memorable and Sacred Treaty“: Perceptions of the Peace of Westphalia in the later Ancien Régime

Andreas Osiander (2009)

This manuscript was commissioned for an edited volume to be published in Brazil.  Publication, announced repeatedly to be just around the corner, keeps being delayed, for somewhat unfathomable reasons.  Pending that happy event, I have decided to make the text available here.

The 1648 Peace of Westphalia is still widely regarded as a turning point in political history.  The Thirty Years War, which the 1648 peace brought to an end, is commonly interpreted as an attempt by some actors in the European system – variously identified as the German emperor, the Habsburg dynasty to which he belonged, or even the papacy – to assert their ascendancy and quash the aspirations and autonomy of the rising national states.  The latter are exemplifed, in this view, by France, Sweden, the (northern) Netherlands, or Switzerland, opponents of Habsburg ambition over which, at the peace, they triumphed.  Consequently, it is held, they were able to turn the 1648 peace into a charter for a new European system.  This new system was to be based on the concept of sovereign equality of all the states forming part of it, with a concomitant rule of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other states.  The peace became the founding document of the modern states system, which therefore is routinely referred to today as the „Westphalian“ system.

In an article published in 2001,[1] I labelled this perception of the settlement the „Westphalian myth“ and offered a revisionist account, which I contend fits the historical facts much more closely – whereas the view outlined above is completely at odds with those facts.  I pointed out that the war broke out not because the Habsburg dynasty was seeking to extend its already vast dominions, but because, despite those dominions, it was essentially weak.  It was that weakness that other actors sought to exploit once the revolt of the Bohemian estates against their stumbling Habsburg suzerains triggered the outbreak of hostilities in 1618.  In the course of the war, the Danish crown, the Swedish crown and the French crown took turns attacking the emperor and his allies, each joining the war after the defeat of the previous attacker.  This suggests that the Habsburg position was not quite as weak as it seemed, yet not strong enough to deter another attack.

None of the challengers had been attacked themselves or reason to fear Habsburg aggression in the foreseeable future.  Rather, all of them were out for gain.  The Bohemian estates were hoping for a protestant ruler with whom they would be more comfortable and secure than with the catholic house of Habsburg; moreover, that new ruler would be at least as weak as his Habsburg predecessors since he owed his elevation to the estates.  The Danish king feared that the consolidation of the imperial position following the failure of the Bohemian uprising might enable the recatholicisation of certain contested north German bishoprics, dashing his hopes of turning them into protestant principalities controlled by his own dynasty.  The motives of the Swedish king, Gustav Adolf, for basically taking the war over from the Danish king once that ruler had been forced to make peace in 1629 are the most mysterious.  He may have feared Habsburg assistance for his catholic arch-rival the king of Poland, a member of the same dynasty as he, with competing claims to certain territories around the Baltic and indeed to the Swedish throne.  And he may have wished to forestall some sort of future attempt by the emperor to enter the competition for the dominium maris Baltici or control of the Baltic Sea (the alleged imminence of such an attempt is cited as a main reason for intervention in the Swedish war manifesto of 1630).  It seems, however, that Gustav Adolf was essentially being opportunistic in the sense that he had no clear prior aim when he attacked but was willing to see how far his fortune-at-arms might take him, possibly even contemplating some form of protestant emperorship to replace or rival that of the Habsburg dynasty.

The French crown (that essentially meant the French prime minister cardinal Richelieu) was happy to have other actors fight its traditional competitor the house of Habsburg and subsidising them to do so.  It was only after the decisive Swedish defeat in 1634 that the French crown entered the war itself in 1635.  The short-term aim was to prevent the Peace of Prague, negotiated by the emperor after the Swedish defeat, from taking effect.  In the longer term, Richelieu wished both to keep the Swedish crown in the war (after the death of king Gustav Adolf, Swedish policy was essentially determined by the Swedish chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna) and at the same time to balance this protestant power and prevent it from becoming a threat to the catholic religion – which, after all, was professed by the French crown too.  As in the Swedish case, the overall strategy pursued by Richelieu was self-consciously vague.  Like Gustav Adolf, at bottom the cardinal simply wished to exploit to the fullest extent possible the opportunity presented by the war (which therefore had to be prolonged), the general intention being to reduce Habsburg power in whatever manner seemed practical while at the same time enhancing the power of the French crown.  Again as in the Swedish case, there was no threat posed to the French crown by the house of Habsburg.  There was, however, the memory of over a century of failed efforts to oust the Habsburg dynasty from its perceived position of preeminence in Europe, which, it was felt in Paris, rightly belonged to the house of Bourbon – as potent or perhaps even more potent a motive as the Habsburg threat alleged in French propaganda.

The Dutch had long been involved in a quite successful struggle for independence against the Habsburg-held Spanish crown, terminated by a truce in 1609 on terms advantageous for the Dutch and resented as humiliating on the Spanish side (this, in fact, was the model that the Bohemian estates hoped to emulate).  The truce expired in 1621.  It could have been renewed, but Spanish dissatisfaction with the terms and Dutch confidence that even better terms could be obtained combined to prevail over the peace party present on both sides.  Resumption of the Spanish-Dutch war thus compounded the German war that broke out in 1618.  As a result, the Dutch were a party to the peace negotiations leading up to the 1648 settlement, along with the Swedish crown, the French crown, the Spanish crown and the emperor.  In the context of that settlement, the Dutch won final acceptance of their independence by the Spanish crown, though not by anybody else since no other actors contested that independence.  The Swiss for their part had no part in the war and originally wanted no part in the settlement either.  But the city of Basel, which had joined the Swiss confederation only after a key treaty recognising the autonomy of the confederation from the Holy Roman Empire had been concluded in 1499, insisted on seizing the opportunity of having its membership in the confederation acknowledged on the part of the empire.  Naturally this also involved reaffirming the autonomy of the confederation as a whole.  By later readers of the peace unacquainted with Swiss history the relevant article was taken to mean that Swiss „independence“, or indeed Swiss „sovereignty“ was first granted in 1648, reinforcing the impression that the concept of sovereignty was at the heart of the settlement.

In fact, the Latin text of the main settlement contains no terminology that can be equated with the modern concept of sovereignty.  (This main settlement consists of the treaty of Osnabrück between the Swedish crown and the emperor – Instrumentum Pacis Osnabrugense or IPO – on the one hand and the treaty of Münster between the French crown and the emperor – Instrumentum Pacis Monasteriense or IPM – on the other; no peace treaty was concluded between Paris and Madrid until almost twenty years later.)  Nor was this in any way an issue in the peace negotiations.  Even though anti-Habsburg propaganda of the period, taken up by the Swedes and French, did depict the Habsburg dynasty as aiming for hegemony in Europe or indeed for the subjugation of other actors, no one at the time worried about „sovereignty“ as a concept.  The term is virtually absent from the diplomatic exchanges and the pamphleteering accompanying the war as well as from the peace negotiations, whether conducted in French – whence, of course, the word originally comes – or some other language.  Latin, still dominant at the time, basically lacks a word for sovereignty.  Jean Bodin, who gave the word souveraineté its modern meaning, rendered it as maiestas in his own Latin translation of his Six livres de la république.  But this did not catch on, and as far as I can see no other Latin translation of the word did either.  At the peace congress, the French negotiatiors desultorily experimented with superioritas, but were unable to establish it as the Latin equivalent of souveraineté.

It did not really matter since as far as the main settlement (that is, IPO and IPM) was concerned the peacemakers were not called upon to recognise anybody as sovereign.  To affirm or reaffirm the sovereignty, or some such concept, of the French crown or the Swedish crown in the settlement would have implied that French or Swedish independence had been somehow questioned or imperilled, which was far from the case.  Nor, of course, was there any question of declaring the emperor sovereign – had this somewhat paradoxical idea even arisen the emperor himself would have been the first to reject such a humiliation, even though (or because) in point of fact his own independence was rather less securely established than that of his colleagues in Paris or Stockholm.  IPO and IPM do contain the term ius superioritatis, but this is used as an analogue for the German Landeshoheit, meaning the limited autonomy of the estates of the Holy Roman Empire (i.e. its princes and free cities).  Subject as it was to imperial suzerainty and the restrictions placed on the estates by the constitution of the empire, Landeshoheit fell short of sovereignty.  Other actors in Europe never treated the estates of the empire as sovereign even after 1648.

superioritas is missing from article 6 IPM, which is the article dealing with the autonomy of the Swiss.  Instead, the confederation is described as being in possessione vel quasi plenae libertatis et exemptionis ab Imperio.  The operative term here is „freedom“ (libertas), hardly a lawyer’s technical term.  The other term, „immunity from the empire“ (exemptio ab Imperio), is.  It refers to the jurisdiction of the supreme courts of the empire, as indicated by the full text of the article itself and by the historical context.  The supreme courts had until then refused to consider Basel a member of the confederation, which had been granted immunity from their jurisdiction, and continued to accept complaints against its citizens.  Even though at first sight the wording of the article may appear compatible with the concept of sovereignty, that concept is not in fact expressed here.  The one treaty where the magic word really shows up is the „other“ treaty of Münster (of January 1648, not to be confused with IPM, concluded in October), between the Spanish king and the Dutch States-General, and in which the latter are described as „free and sovereign“ by the king.  Unlike IPO and IPM, this treaty was concluded in French, allowing use of the word souverain.  But this document was and is not usually regarded as part of the „Peace of Westphalia“ proper (the Dutch themselves refer to this treaty as the „Peace of Münster“), and it had no legal bearing on anybody else in Europe.

That, on the other hand, is also true of IPO and IPM, which are exlusively concerned with domestic German matters and with compensating the Swedish crown and the French crown for their efforts in the war, meaning cession of territories.  There is no explicitly European aspect to the settlement.  The peacemakers had no intention whatever of establishing new principles.  They reaffirmed the constitution of the empire as it had been before the war, modifying it only in the religious sphere.  Here, the peacemakers sought, successfully, to quench the religious disputes which had been simmering before the war and complicated the war itself – even though religion was far from the sole issue of the Thirty Years War.  No provisions of the settlement are concerned with the European system at large.

Then how did the Westphalian settlement come to play, in the popular perception, the role of founding charter of the modern states system?  In my 2001 article, I suggested that this occurred only in the 19th century or perhaps even the 20th century, when the meaning of the peace was reinterpreted.  I argued there, and at greater length in a subsequent book,[2] that it was not before the 19th century and the advent of industrial society that states as we know them today came to exist, complete with sovereignty vested in states as corporate entities.  That, in the ancien régime, sovereignty was a personal attribute, vested in the person of the ruler, whereas today it is vested in states as such is but one aspect of the fundamental change in the patterns of political organisation since the turn of the 19th century.  If, as I am convinced, states in our sense, and by extension the modern states system, came to exist only in the 19th century, then the founding myth of that system can itself be no older than that.  In my 2001 article, I suggested elements of an explanation of why and how this founding myth evolved.

In this contribution, I intend to follow a different but complementary approach.  If the reasoning outlined above is correct, then the interpretation of the 1648 peace current before the French Revolution must differ from the „Westphalian myth“ as current today.  In what follows I would like to explore how the settlement was regarded in the century-and-a-half or so following its conclusion.  How did its status then differ from its perception today?  Is there any continuity of interpretation at all?  If so, what elements of the ancien régime view of the settlement foreshadow the current „Westphalian myth“, perhaps even helping our understanding of how that myth developed?

The format of this essay, and the time available for its preparation, dictated certain limitations.  In particular, only a relatively small sample of literature from the relevant period could be processed.  It is restricted to publications in only three languages.  It seems to me, however, that this sample is nevertheless quite eloquent: while further research might well discover views of the settlement at odds with those in the sample, it would still be significant that the authors that I looked at clearly were not conversant with such views.  Moreover, literature in the languages covered – German, French, and English – seems more likely to have influenced subsequent, post-ancien regime views of the settlement than publications in other languages.

Concerning the great political writers of the late ancien régime, it seems that few of them took much note of the Westphalian peace at all.  For example, if I am not mistaken, there is nothing about it in any of the writings of Montesquieu or (apart from a single reference in his summary of the peace plan of the abbé de Saint-Pierre) Rousseau.  A certain lack of interest in this particular subject seems, in fact, to have been shared by the authors of the famous Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers in general (Montesqieu and Rousseau were among them), since I cannot find any relevant entry – certainly the terms Münster, Osnabrück, and Westphalie all yield blanks.  Among the better-known authors of the Encyclopédie (published from 1751 onwards), Voltaire, as we shall see further on, seems to be the only one to have commented somewhat more extensively on the 1648 settlement, though not in the context of the Encyclopédie.  Emer de Vattel, in his influential Droit des gens (The law of nations) first published in 1758 and later also in English and German, explains the basic attributes of „states“, the principles of their mutual intercourse, and indeed the concept of sovereignty without reference to the Westphalian peace.  While he mentions the settlement a couple of times, he clearly did not consider it of any special relevance to his subject matter.

Among English-language publications, the situation is quite similar.  The model of the Encyclopédie, Ephraim Chambers‘ 1728 Cyclopædia, or, An universal dictionary of arts and sciences, lacks a relevant entry.  „See HAM“ is all that the reader finds under the entry „WESTPHALIA“, a particular type of ham, cured, as the Cyclopædia explains, with saltpetre and smoked with juniper wood, being a culinary specialty of that region; Münster or Osnabrück do not rate any entry.  By the end of our period, the third edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in 1797, still had no dedicated entry either to the Thirty Years War or to the 1648 settlement.  „WESTPHALIA“, in the 1797 Britannica, is either „a duchy in Germany“ or „one of the circles of Germany“ (the Holy Roman Empire was subdivided into ten Kreise or circles, which had their own institutions).  If you look up „MUNSTER, a city in Germany“, you do learn that it was „rendered famous“, among other things, by

the peace concluded here in 1648, which put an end to a [!] war of 30 years; occasioned by the persecuting spirit of bigotted papists, who chose rather to plunge their own country into all the calamities of war than allow liberty of conscience to the Protestants.  By this peace, however, they consented, much against their inclinations, to grant them a toleration.

In turn, „OSNABURG, or Osnabruck„, besides being the birthplace of king George I of Britain, „is noted for a [!] treaty betwixt the emperor and the king [in fact, queen] of Sweden in 1648, wherein the affairs of the Protestants were regulated, which was [!] a branch of the treaty of Westphalia.“  That is all.  It seems fair to say that with regard to this kind of subject matter the standards of the Britannica have, since the late 18th century, improved rather dramatically.

If there are English-language political theorists of the period who dealt with the settlement I have yet to discover them.  In line with a pattern found elsewhere, and not surprisingly, it is only the major German encyclopedia of the period, the Großes Vollständiges Universal Lexicon aller Wissenschafften und Künste published from 1731 onwards by Johann Heinrich Zedler, that covers the subject extensively, with a long entry not only for the „Peace of Westphalia“ (Westphälischer Friede) but another two for the „Peace of Münster“ (Münsterischer Friede) and the „Peace of Osnabrück“ (Osnabrückischer Friede).  The first entry offers a history of the negotiations in their general historical context, while the other two consist of detailed summaries of, respectively, IPM and IPO.  None of the three overlaps in any way with the present day Westphalian myth.  The same is true of the entry for the Thirty Years War (Dreyßig-jähriger oder Teutscher Krieg), which offers a run-through of the events of the war practically devoid of commentary.  (There is no entry for the Thirty Years War in either Chambers‘ Cyclopedia or the Encyclopédie; or in the history section of the Encyclopédie méthodique published from 1784 onwards, or the 1797 Britannica.)

The status of the Westphalian settlement in the period before the French Revolution is somewhat paradoxical.  On the one hand, mentions of the settlement in writings of that period are virtually always accompanied by some form of verbal obeisance honouring its importance.  At the very least, the epithet „famous“ is employed – for example by Emer de Vattel on the rare occasions when he makes a passing allusion to the settlement in his Droit des gens (Book II Chapter 3 note 7; Book II Chapter 15 § 223).  Quite frequently, however, more elaborate versions are found, of which an example, taken from a text yet to be discussed, is quoted in the title of this essay.  On the other hand it is not easy to determine exactly what made the settlement worthy of this special status.  As indicated, works of reference of the period are mostly of little help.  Efforts to spell out grounds for considering the settlement significant that I have found are by obscure authors whom no one remembers today.

One reason for this could be that already in the 18th century people found the settlement hard to understand, and for the same reason that, I suspect, many an eager present-day scholar comes away from a perusal of its provisions more bewildered than enlightened – since virtually all of those provisions deal with the domestic politics of the Holy Roman Empire, which few people understand today and which, it is my impression, not that many people outside the empire understood in the 18th century either.  Even though the phenomenon is probably still more pronounced today, not a little egregious nonsense was written on this subject already in the final phase of the ancien régime.

Many of those in our period who described the peace as „famous“ or otherwise exalted it may simply have followed an established custom, the reason for which may well have been partly obscure even to them.  Certainly the efforts by John Campbell and Johann Christoph Krause to interpret the settlement for what would appear to have been a somewhat unsophisticated and possibly young readership give the impression that those two authors had to engage in reflection of their own rather than being able to draw on some readily available conventional narrative.

John Campbell (1708-75) was a Scottish-born writer mostly on historical matters.  A friend of Dr Johnson, he is featured in a number of anecdotes in the Life of Samuel Johnson of his fellow Scotsman James Boswell.  Despite his prolific output, this is probably the only reason why Campbell is remembered today.  By contrast, in his lifetime he was known not only in his own country, but even in Europe at large.  At least this is claimed in his entry in the British Dictionary of National Biography, even though the only evidence cited in support is the fact that in 1774 Catherine II of Russia sent Campbell a gift of her portrait.  According to the Dictionary, what brought Campbell to the attention of a wider public was his Present State of Europe; Explaining the Interests, Connections, Political and Commercial Views of its several Powers, Comprehending also, a clear and concise History of each Country, so far as to shew the Nature of their present Constitutions.  First published in 1750, it went through six editions within the next quarter-century; the third edition, used here, went to press already in 1752.

Of course this comes complete with a discussion of

the famous [!] Treaty [sic] of Westphalia; by which a reasonable Satisfaction was given to all that had been concern’d in the [Thirty Years] War, and consequently a Foundation was thereby laid for a solid, lasting, and honourable Peace.  As the Intention of this historical Deduction is to give the Reader, from the Consideration of past Events, a perfect Insight into the present State of Things, it is absolutely necessary that we should insist more particularly upon this Treaty, than upon any thing of the same Nature that has gone before; because it entirely changed the Face of Affairs not only in Germany, but throughout all Europe.

Ever the teacher, Campbell goes on to rectify that what is more appropriately called the „peace“ of Westphalia is in fact not one treaty but two, which settled „the Civil and Religious Rights of the States that compose the Empire.“  Concerning civil rights, Campbell thinks it best simply

to transcribe the eighth Article of the Treaty of Osnabrug, which runs thus.  ‚For preventing any Disputes that may arise for the future in the political State, all and every of the Electors, Princes, and States of the Roman Empire, ought to be so confirm’d by Virtue of the Treaty, in their ancient Rights, Prerogatives, Freedom, and Privileges, in the free Exercise of their Territorial Rights, in Matters Ecclesiastical and Political in their Dominions, in their Rights of Regale, and in the Possession of all these Things together, that no Person may have it in his Power or Choice to give them actual Molestation, on any Pretence whatsoever.  They shall, without any Contradiction, enjoy the Right of Suffrage in all Deliberations concerning the Right of the Empire, particularly when Laws are to be made or interpreted, War to be declared, Contributions to be imposed, Levies of Troops to be made, and their Quarters regulated; new Fortresses to be erected in the name of the Publick in the Territories of the States, or Garrisons to be placed in the old ones; as also, when any Treaties of Peace or Alliances are to be concluded, or any other Affairs of this Nature to be treated; none of these, or others of the like Kind, shall be undertaken or permitted without the Suffrage and free Consent of all the States of the Empire assembled in the Diet.  They shall have, above all Things, the perpetual Right of making Alliances between themselves and Foreigners, for their own Preservation and Security; provided nevertheless, that such Alliances are not directed against the Emperor and Empire, against the publick Peace, or against the present Transaction in particular; and that they do not, in any wise, infringe the Oath which they have all taken to the Emperor and Empire.‘[3]

Campbell, possibly trying to determine why exactly this settlement was „famous“, ingeniously zooms in on what is indeed a key article of the treaty.  He does not really spell out, however, in what manner the settlement „changed the Face of Affairs not only in Germany, but throughout all Europe„.  As to his interpretation of the Thirty Years War as such, he takes a relatively benign view of the emperor Ferdinand II, the key figure on which any such interpretation must focus.  The Habsburg dynasty, after all, did not plan the Thirty Years War, but reacted to the revolt of the Bohemian estates.  This poses something of a problem (at least it should do) for adherents of the idea that the war was fought against unbridled Habsburg ambition: the Bohemian realm had been part of the Habsburg dominions for many generations, the power of the Habsburg-held Bohemian crown was, at the time of the revolt, reduced to an almost notional authority, and the legitimacy of the Bohemian revolt was widely questioned even in protestant circles in the empire.  Well might the Bohemian estates fear a backlash against their autonomy, won by playing one member of the Habsburg dynasty (the emperor Rudolf) against this brother and successor Matthew.  But in the eyes even of many of their protestant brethren in the empire that eventuality did not justify deposing a legitimate monarch, or risking the general war in the empire that many feared and wished to avert.

As it was, the revolt failed, while bringing about both the backlash that it may have sought to forestall and the dreaded general war in the empire at large, since as noted many actors, chief among them the Danish crown, the Swedish crown, and the French crown, actively kept hostilities going in order to exploit the resulting instability.  It was only now that, fortified by the victories of his new generalissimo Wallenstein, the emperor Ferdinand decided to try just that himself.  In particular, in 1628 he decreed the recatholicisation of all church property in the empire which the protestant camp had appropriated since the religious peace of 1555 – appropriated illegally, from the catholic point of view.  This included entire bishoprics, which were also principalities of the empire and thus a big prize with which their protestant incumbents were loath to part.  A deeply religious man, Ferdinand must have considered the generalissimo and his victories literally a godsend, the more so as Wallenstein, a Bohemian nobleman, had more or less imposed himself on the reluctant emperor.  The 1628 edict, following as it did the deposition of two major protestant princes or the empire in favour of catholic replacements, prompted anti-Habsburg propaganda accusing the emperor of wishing to become „the master of Germany“, in the words of the title of a famous tract of 1628.  The accusation stuck, right down to the present day.  Even now it is widely claimed or implied in the literature that the edict would have made the emperor more powerful.

This is really quite unfair.  By trying to take advantage of the war, the emperor was doing nothing worse than his colleagues in Copenhagen, Stockholm or Paris, all of whom have tended to enjoy a much better press than he – despite the fact that, unlike them, he was fighting a war that had been forced on him, and that in the end his designs were largely foiled whereas those of his Swedish and French adversaries were crowned with substantial success.  Furthermore, the proposition that the 1628 edict would have strengthened the emperor seems dubious.  Its promulgation was shocking in that it constituted a demonstration of power – which, unfortunately for him, the emperor did not really possess.  Both Wallenstein and the Spanish court, quite catholic themselves, advised the emperor against it, since it increased the number and determination of his adversaries and thus in fact weakened him badly.  And even if he had succeeded in implementing the edict durably, would that have strengthened the position of the emperor?  One look at pre-Reformation Germany, or at the complicated relationship between Ferdinand himself and some of the major catholic princes of the empire, is enough to suggest a negative answer.  Nor, I think, would the 1635 Peace of Prague, foiled by the decision of the French crown to enter the war, have strengthened the emperor to the extent of giving him control of Germany.  That peace too, many of whose provisions were recycled in the Peace of Westphalia, explicitly reaffirmed the existing constitution.  It suspended the 1628 edict and, while seeking to integrate all existing armed forces in the empire into a single army under the supreme authority of the emperor, gave the protestant elector of Saxony control of part of this army as a guarantee against catholic bad faith.

Campbell thinks that „[t]he Emperor’s good Fortune had an Effect but too common amongst Princes, it induced him to flatter himself with the Hopes of erecting an absolute Power in Germany.“  He thus shared the view that Ferdinand was seeking to strengthen the emperor’s position beyond what it had traditionally been, and indeed cites the 1628 edict in support.  On the other hand, he relativises this position by indicating that Ferdinand was only doing what other princes would have done in his place, and nothing in his text suggests that he saw the whole affair as a threat to anybody outside the empire.

To be sure, he insists that

The History of these Troubles, and of this War, is a Point of the greatest Importance towards a thorough Understanding of the History of Europe even at this Day; for it changed the whole Face of Affairs, and produced a new System, which it is absolutely requisite that the Reader should understand, in order to his becoming Master of those Disputes in the Empire, which then engaged the attention of all Europe, and have never failed to engage them [sic] as often as they have been renewed from that Time to this, which has been in almost every Reign.[4]

I take this to mean that, in the 17th century as much as in the 18th, the politics of the empire were important to the politics of Europe as a whole.  At the same time, the notion that the kind of disputes opposing the emperor Ferdinand to some of the estates of the empire remained a recurrent phenomenon after 1648 (as indeed in some sense they did) sits somewhat awkwardly with the assertion that the war „changed the whole Face of Affairs“, or the present-day view that the Thirty Years War and the 1648 peace represented a watershed in the history of Europe.  All in all Campbell judges Ferdinand mildly:

He was in every Respect a very wise and great Man, in most Things a very fortunate Prince, and if his Ambition had been less, his Authority had been greater; but the too great Warmth he discovered in Matters of Religion, and the Desire he had to extend the Imperial Power beyond the Bounds prescribed to his Predecessors, induced the Protestant Princes of the Empire to take such Measures for their Security, as in the End, notwithstanding all his Victories, proved in that Respect very effectual.[5]

Perhaps those „effectual measures“, exemplified by the article of the Osnabrück treaty that Campbell quotes, for him constituted the „new system“ of which he speaks repeatedly without being altogether explicit as to what he means.  At least I do not see what else he might have had in mind – even though it is clear from his text that the power of the emperor had been limited already in the past.  It is quite possible that Campbell was making a mistake that has very commonly been made since, and which consists in assuming that the limitations on the power of the emperor written into the 1648 treaty were an innovation.

Other authors saw this more clearly, perhaps because they were better versed in the history and public law of the empire than Campbell, who may well have been writing up things that he had only recently researched himself and of which his prior knowledge was limited.  This, at any rate, is suggested by certain errors in his narrative.  For example, Campbell conflates Ferdinand II (Bohemian king from 1617, emperor from 1619 to his death in 1637) with his son of the same name, Ferdinand III (emperor from 1637 to 1657), treating them as one and the same person.  Or he claims that, faced with the 1628 edict, the German protestants appealed to the Swedish king – a reasonable enough supposition for someone unfamiliar with the details of the politics of the period, but quite false.  King Gustav Adolf launched his invasion at his own initiative and basically had to compel the German protestants, quite unenthusiastic about his arrival and suspicious of his motives, to support him.

Johann Christoph Krause, in 1782, emphasised that the peace of 1648 had not „altered the essence of the German constitution in any point whatsoever, ecclesiastical affairs apart.“  Indeed, Krause observes quite pertinently that following the settlement the emperor was soon more powerful than he had been before 1648, or even 1618 – then, he had been dependent on his cousin the king of Spain, whereas subsequently this situation was reversed.  Moreover, the House of Austria was soon able to expand its lands at the expense of the Ottomans, which Krause attributes to an improvement in military skills that he regards as a consequence of the Thirty Years War.[6]

Like Campbell, Krause (1749-99), a lecturer, and from 1787 professor, of history at Halle university, writes as a teacher.  His 1782 Manual of the history of the German Thirty Years War and of the Peace of Westphalia is exactly what its title announces: a textbook clearly intended for students, sober and conscientious, devoid of polemicism (which the subject still tended to provoke in German publications of the period) or high-brow interpretation.[7]  Again like Campbell, and despite the remark already quoted about the German constitution, Krause stresses that „after the Peace of Westphalia the face of Europe was quite different from what it had been before the war.“[8]  This kind of statement about the settlement was really a commonplace.  Irritatingly, almost never is it made clear, in literature from our period, exactly what was different after 1648.  Campbell, as we saw, is no exception from this.  Krause, thankfully, for once elaborates, methodically identifying eight numbered aspects of change.

First, by virtue of the settlement Europe received „a more securely founded positive law of nations,“ with the settlement serving as „the foundation of almost all those that followed it“ and providing a „written law“.  At the same time, the peace talks „established a tradition, and were the school of political negotiators“: greater consensus was achieved regarding such things as protocol and the „law of embassies“; and the French language began to displace Latin as the language of politics.  Second, by virtue of the settlement Europe „became still more of a single whole than before“ – Krause says practically nothing more on this.  Third, having noted earlier that before the Thirty Years War „all the states of Europe were governed very badly“, Krause deems the „art of government“ to have become more widespread after the war, in part out of sheer necessity.  Fourth, military technique improved as a result of the experience gained in the war, especially with regard to logistics.  „No one“, Krause notes, „has felt this more acutely than the Ottomans.“  Fifth, two new independent states (unabhängige Freystaaten) were brought into existence: the Dutch United Provinces and the Swiss Confederation.  Sixth, „[t]he alliance between France and Sweden for some time determined the fate of Europe.“  Seventh, „[m]anners became more uniform and increasingly French.“  Eighth, „[C]ommerce etc. [sic] undergoes [sic: present tense] a complete transformation“ – again this is not clarified.[9]

It has to be said that this list leaves one a little disappointed.  Krause, too, gives the impression of grasping for an explanation for the special significance conventionally attributed to the settlement, without being entirely successful.  More often than not, it is not clear how his eight points were the result of the war and the settlement.  The spread of French manners would, one suspects, have taken place with or without the war (complaints about this were a commonplace already in 16th-century Germany).  And while no doubt important the creation of new political entities or the long continuance of an alliance are hardly unique to this particular settlement.  What is interesting about the list is the little resemblance it bears to the present-day Westphalian myth.  Nothing here about any Habsburg threat to the independence of other states that was successfully averted, or about sovereignty.  Tellingly, the attribution of the „independence“ of Switzerland to the 1648 settlement, current by the mid-18th century at the latest, anticipates one element of the present-day myth, but it is not linked to the issue of sovereignty.

What about French writers?  In the latter part of the 18th century, the authority on both the Thirty Years War and the 1648 peace was a Jesuit priest, Guillaume-Hyacinthe Bougeant (1690-1743), very often credited in the context of mentions of the settlement even by protestants (for example by Vattel).  In 1727 he published a history of the Thirty Years War, followed in 1744 by a history of the peace settlement reprinted in 1751, and again in 1767 together with the history of the war.  By that time, the entire text had already been published in German translation (1758-60).  In a preface to the complete work, Bougeant introduces his subject matter thus:

Everybody knows that the Peace of Westphalia or Münster is one of the most famous epochs in history.  It put an end, in the last century, to a bloody and tenacious war in which all Europe found itself involved, and which hatred, ambition and a thousand opposing interests seemed to render interminable.  Heresy had ignited the torch of war, but soon political interests prevailed over religious interests, and protestants were seen allying themselves to catholics and catholics fighting under protestant colours.  Sweden wanted to gain a foothold in Germany: Spain wished to recover the provinces that the revolt of the Netherlands had removed from its rule: France wanted to put limits to the enormous power of the House of Austria and augment its own: the princes and estates of Germany defended the German liberty.  How many obstacles had to be overcome to reconcile so many different interests![10]

We observe here the presence of one element of the current Westphalian myth, the idea of an overpowering Habsburg dynasty.  As I argued in my 2001 article, this derives from anti-Habsburg propaganda of the period.  Accusations that the House of Austria was striving for „universal monarchy“ were, during the peace negotiations, still being repeated routinely by the French negotiators; and it is on the papers of one of them, Claude de Mesmes, Comte d’Avaux (1595-1650), that Bougeant principally based his account of the peace congress.[11]

We observe also, however, that for Bougeant this is but one element among many, given no priority and relativised moreover by the observation that the French crown was seeking greater power itself.  We must bear in mind that rather than with Ferdinand II or Ferdinand III – somewhat shadowy figures that, as we saw, John Campbell could not even keep apart – an eighteenth-century readership associated the old spectre of universal monarchy much more readily with either the rather earlier emperor Charles V (king of Spain from 1516, emperor from 1519 to his abdication in 1556), or with Louis XIV of France (1638-1715, king since 1643).  It was in the name of the Sun King that the French negotiators signed the treaty of Münster.  Louis subsequently came a lot closer to establishing hegemony over the rest of Europe than Ferdinand II ever did, to say nothing of his son Ferdinand III or the indolent occupants of the Spanish throne, Philip III (king 1598-1621) and Philip IV (king 1621-65).  Seen in this light it is one of the more striking ironies of history that the birth of the sovereign state is today associated with the Westphalian settlement rather than with the Peace of Utrecht (of course that too would be wrong, but marginally more plausible).

The same consideration also explains why the 18th century was somewhat unlikely to have adopted our Westphalian myth already.  To be sure, the notion that the Thirty Years War was fought against Habsburg preponderance, or at any rate the threat of such preponderance, was necessarily present even then since it could be found in documents dating from the time of the war and the peace negotiations.  But the more recent memory of Louis XIV stood in the way of regarding 1648 as a watershed after which what 18th-century authors routinely called „the liberty of Europe“ ceased to be under threat.  This also makes it easier to understand why the originators of the Encyclopédie (1751ff.), of its Supplément (1776ff.), and of the history section of the Encyclopédie méthodique (1784ff.) dispensed themselves from dedicating any entry to the Peace of Westphalia, however „famous“ it might be.

Subscribers to the Supplément and to the Encyclopédie méthodique did find information about both the Thirty Years War and the settlement in articles about Ferdinand II and Ferdinand III.  Signed „M.-Y.“, they would appear to be the work of Charles-Claude de Montigny (1744-1818), the author also of a six-volume Histoire générale de l’Allemagne (1775-9).  Both articles are characterised by half-knowledge bearing a certain resemblance to what really happened but likely to mislead the unsuspecting reader at every turn.  De Montigny depicts Ferdinand II as facing a virtually united opposition from the German protestants even before his election to the imperial throne, which, committed to supporting the Bohemian uprising, they supposedly sought to prevent.  In reality Ferdinand was elected unanimously, with the votes also of the three protestants in the, at that time, seven-strong electoral council (de Montigny wrongly suggests of a majority vote).  For the next decade the emperor enjoyed robust support in particular from the elector of Saxony, head of the lutheran party in the empire.  Moreover, as already pointed out the Bohemian revolt tended to be viewed with disfavour even among German protestants (lutheran or calvinist), causing them to rally to Ferdinand or at least stay neutral.  However, de Montigny in this context offers an interesting observation.  In his version of events, support for Ferdinand comes from catholics only, within the empire as well as outside it – the latter in the shape of the papacy and the Spanish crown.  He then adds:

Even the French court, led by the connétable de Luynes [Charles d’Albert, duc de Luynes, then de facto prime minister of Louis XIII], put its weight behind him [Ferdinand]; and this is what all the politiques [traditionally, a label for those in France who put raison d’état above considerations of religious solidarity] have had difficulty understanding; either the connétable was bribed [that is what I think de Montigny means with his expression déterminé par des vues d’intérêt], or he did not think like Richelieu, Mazarin and Louis XIV, who later always did their utmost to weaken the House of Austria, whose despotism was setting Europe ablaze.[12]

Several years later, in the wake of his military successes, Ferdinand, according to de Montigny, „busies himself to take his revenge, and to weigh down Germany with his despotism“, depriving protestants of their fiefs and ecclesiastical possessions while neglecting to consult with the estates of the empire as he should have done.  If the Bohemian uprising and the hostilities that it sparked were already the result of Habsburg despotism, this seems a slightly illogical line for de Montigny to take.  He goes on to inform us that

the French [royal] council, enlightened by Richelieu, felt that it was necessary to interrupt this constant run of good fortune [meaning the successes of the emperor in the 1620s], and Louis XIII realised that if it was attractive to weaken the protestants of France, it was a wise policy not to allow those of Germany to be destroyed.  It was necessary to divide this great confederation of princes [i.e. the empire], who, if they had all shown the same obedience to Ferdinand, would have chained Europe to the House of Austria.[13]

It would appear more logical to claim that if de Luynes followed a different policy from his successor Richelieu, it was because Ferdinand, however bad a character to begin with, got worse as a result of his fortune-at-arms.  Richelieu, of course, then brings in the Swedes, before entering the war himself.  Richelieu, by his own admission,[14] did pursue a policy of weakening Habsburg as much as possible, but the rationale for this policy as described by de Montigny once again uncritically reflects French propaganda of the period.

What about the settlement?  This, „so famous [!] under the name Treaty of Westphalia“, is discussed in the article on Ferdinand III.  The negotatiators, de Montigny explains,

determined first the rights of the empire, and put firm limits on the power of its head.  The emperor was prohibited from changing old laws and from making new ones.  This right was reserved to the general assemblies, which had always enjoyed it…  These assemblies alone could declare war on the part of the empire, impose taxes, put someone under the ban of the empire, or proscribe a rebellious prince…  Each free city, each prince was given the power to make alliances as they saw fit, to make peace or war: but in these acts of sovereignty it was always necessary to show respect for the general association.

Once again this displays a certain incompetence.  The emperor had never had the power to legislate unilaterally.  However, the 1648 settlement is entirely silent on his prerogatives (provisions on this issue were suggested during the negotiations, but proved too contentious), leaving them exactly as they had been before.  This meant that while, as de Montigny correctly states, the „general assemblies“ – the diet or Reichstag – had to approve of any new laws, so did the emperor, against whose veto no laws could be passed.  Moreover, in the 18th century, it was mostly the emperor who set the agenda of the diet.  The right to put someone under the ban of the empire in fact remained with the emperor: even though by the early 18th century it had become accepted that he ought to consult the electoral council beforehand, the diet as such remained excluded (it is true that the 18th-century diet could and did take measures against princes whose behaviour was deemed in breach of the constitution).  The formulation „was given the power to make alliances“ sounds as if this was a new right given to the estates of the empire, which is not the case.  Nor were the estates at liberty to make war as they pleased: the German constitution forbade war among fellow-estates of the empire.  Breaches of this rule, passed by the diet in 1495, were hardly unheard of, but always remained exceptional, even during the Thirty Years War.  And of course it is legal nonsense to speak of the making of alliances by the estates as „acts of sovereignty“.  As pointed out, not even the French crown ever treated the German estates as sovereign, or came even close.

De Montigny mentions a few more provisions of the settlement, and concludes:  „Such are the main articles of this famous [!] treaty which serves as the basis of the German constitution, and which is considered the foundation of the public law of a part of Europe.“[15]  Once more this is somewhat confusing.  In Germany, the 1648 settlement indeed came quickly to be considered as one of the iura fundamentalia or Grundgesetze (basic laws) which collectively made up the German constitution, but it was not the only one (the list also included, at a minimum, the Golden Bull of 1356, the pacification of 1495, and the election oath sworn by each new emperor).  And while this made the peace settlement very much part of the public law of the empire, it is not obvious of which other part of Europe, besides Germany, this could be said.  In any case, this is all de Montigny tells us about the settlement.  The notion that the Thirty Years War was fought against Habsburg preponderance, which he takes up in his discussion of the war, is absent from his discussion of the settlement; otherwise, no elements of the current Westphalian myth are present.  Dutifully, he calls the settlement „famous“, but he too fails to explicate what made it so special.

Another author interested in German history was Voltaire (1694-1778), whose Annales de l’Empire depuis Charlemagne, published in 1754, appeared in English translation (Annals of the Empire, from the reign of Charlemagne) already in the following year.  Voltaire apparently did much of the research for this book while travelling in Germany, and in the course of preparing his grand history of mankind, the Essai sur les moeurs et l’esprit des nations first published in 1756 (and in English in 1780: Essay on the manners and spirit of nations), of which the Annales appear to be a spin-off.

The Habsburg dynasty powerful?  Not even under Charles V, if we are to believe Voltaire:

The might of Charles V was, then, nothing but a heap of distinctions and dignities surrounded by precipices.  The turmoil of his life never gave him leisure to turn his vast states into an ordered and robust whole whose parts assisted one another, providing him with large armies that were always kept supplied.  That is what Charlemagne succeeded in doing: but his states were contiguous; and, victor over the Saxons and Lombards, he did not have a Soliman to push back, kings of France to combat, powerful German princes and an even more powerful pope to repress or be afraid of.[16]

Further on, Voltaire is at pains to stress the weakness of the Habsburg dynasty under the emperor Rudolf („in his reign, everything happened without him“)[17] and his successor Matthew, who were on the throne in the decades preceding the outbreak of war in 1618.  Voltaire emphasises that it was only the outbreak of the conflict that gave the emperor Ferdinand II a brief, contingent moment of power – which Ferdinand used unwisely, thereby provoking the opposition of both the Swedish crown and the French crown.  There is no hint, in Voltaire, that the emperor or the Habsburg dynasty posed a threat to the freedom of Europe.  According to the Essai, what prompted Richelieu to enter the war were considerations quite different from the claims of contemporary French propaganda:

[Richelieu] resolved, despite the secret troubles agitating the interior of the realm, to establish the strength and glory of France externally…by entering into open war against the House of Austria…This war made him necessary to a master [Louis XIII] who did not like him, and in whose entourage his downfall was often contemplated.  His [not clear whether this is a reference to the king or to Richelieu] prestige was at stake in this enterprise; the time seemed ripe to harrass the declining might of Austria.  Picardy and the Champagne formed the borders of the realm: it was possible to extend them while the Swedes were still present in the empire.  The United Provinces were ready to attack the king of Spain in Flanders, if France but helped them a little.  Those were the sole motives of the war…all other reasons were but pretexts.[18]

It seems that on this point Voltaire had changed his mind, perhaps as a result of additional research.  In his earlier Siècle de Louis XIV, published in 1751 but begun in 1733, the traditional rationale of the threat of Habsburg hegemony is given some credit.

From Charles V onwards the balance tilted in favour of the House of Austria.  Around the year 1630, this powerful dynasty was the mistress of Spain, Portugal, and the treasures of America; the Netherlands, Milan, the kingdom of Naples, Bohemia, Hungary, even Germany, if you wish [si on peut le dire], had become its patrimony; and if so many states had been united under a single head of this dynasty, it seems likely that Europe would at last have come under its yoke [il est à croire que l’Europe lui aurait enfin été asservie].

The last such single head of the dynasty had, of course, been Charles V; now there were two, the king of Spain and the emperor.  Concerning the latter, by himself, he would

in truth be hardly more powerful or more rich than a doge of Venice.  You know that Germany, divided into cities and principalities, does not leave to the head of so many states but preeminence with a great deal of honour, without demesne, without money, and, as a consequence, without power.  In his capacity as emperor he does not possess a single village.  However this dignity, often as empty as it was supreme, had become so powerful in the hands of the Austrians that it has often been feared that they would convert this republic of princes [i.e. the empire] into an absolute monarchy.

The grammar here is somewhat intriguing: the imperial dignity had become [était devenue] so powerful in the hands of the Austrians – but when and how exactly? – that it has often been feared [qu’on a craint souvent] etc. – meaning that when Voltaire wrote, this fear was not a thing of the distant past but had been felt recently and might be felt again!

Concerning Spain,

it had, since the death of Charles V, inspired more terror than the German nation.  The Spanish kings were incomparably more absolute and more rich.  The mines of Mexico and Potosí appeared to provide it with the means to buy the liberty of Europe.  You have seen that project of universal monarchy, or rather universal ascendancy [supériorité], on our christian continent, begun by Charles V and kept up by Philip II.


Under Philip III the greatness of Spain was reduced to a vast body without substance, whose reputation was greater than its strength.  Philip IV, heir to the weakness of his father, lost Portugal through his negligence, the Roussillon through the weakness of his army, and Catalonia through his excessive despotism.  Kings like that could not long be successful in their wars against France.  If they gained some advantage through the divisions and mistakes of their enemies, they lost its fruit through their own incapacity.  Besides, they commanded peoples given the right to serve badly by their privileges: the Castilians enjoyed the prerogative of not having to fight outside their own country; the Aragonese never ceased to argue their liberty against the royal council; and the Catalans, who considered their kings their enemies, did not even permit them to raise militias in their provinces.  Yet Spain, united with the empire, represented a formidable weight in the balance of Europe.[19]

A rather ambiguous panorama that leaves one unsure, even in this book, of the reality of Habsburg power; and somewhat inconsistent – how can Voltaire describe the Spanish rulers as „incomparably more absolute“ than their German cousins, and speak of their „excessive despotism“ (as opposed, no doubt, to the self-restraint of Louis XIII or Louis XIV in France?), only then to tell us that their subjects apparently did what they wanted?  And even in the Siècle de Louis XIV Voltaire suggests that on the French side a key role was played, for personal reasons, by Richelieu.  Voltaire observes that following the death of Louis XIII in 1643 his widow, regent for the young Louis XIV, would have liked to make peace with her brother, Philip IV of Spain, „whom she loved“; but found herself unable to do so.

It is difficult to say exactly why this war was being fought; nothing was being asked of Spain, not even Navarra, which ought to have been the patrimony of the kings of France.  The war had been going on [On se battait] since 1635, because cardinal Richelieu had wanted it, and it seems likely [il est à croire] that he wanted it to make himself indispensable.[20]

Regarding the 1648 peace, both the Annales and the Essai provide a summary of the provisions of „this important treaty of Westphalia“ (Annales) or „this famous treaty“ (Essai); the Siècle de Louis XIV for its part is very brief on the contents of the settlement.  None of the three says anything at all on any importance that the settlement had for Europe, with the focus exclusively on its importance for the constitutional development of Germany.  Of course, that really is where its primary importance lay.

Voltaire clearly had difficulty coming to terms with the empire, which at the same time seems to have exerted a certain fascination on him – he discusses it at some length in the Siècle de Louis XIV and returns to the subject in the Annales and in the Essai.  It is in the latter work that he famously quips that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor even an empire.[21]  Unfortunately, determining what the empire was not did not answer the question what, then, it was, as, in the context of his discussion of the Peace of Westphalia, Voltaire confesses elsewhere:  „Yet the name Holy Roman Empire continued to exist.  It was difficult to define what Germany was, and what the empire was.“[22]

A certain puzzlement pervades everything that Voltaire has to say on this subject.  As he puts it in the Essai:

If the German constitution had succumbed, if the Turks had invaded part of Germany, and the other part had called in foreign masters, political observers [les politiques] would without fail have proved that Germany, already torn apart from within, could not survive: they would have demonstrated that its singular form of government, the multitude of its princes, the plurality of its religions, could not but lead to its downfall and inevitable enslavement.  The causes of the decline of the ancient Roman empire were less palpable by far; yet while carrying within itself everything that it seemed must destroy it, the German body has proved unshakeable; it is difficult to attribute the permanence of so complicated a constitution to any other cause than the character [génie] of the nation.[23]

 A passage in the Siècle de Louis XIV throws some light on what Voltaire meant by this:

The German empire is France’s most powerful neighbour: it is of greater extent; less rich, perhaps, in terms of money, but more fecund in terms of robust men who labour patiently.  The German nation is governed more or less as France was governed under the early Capetian kings, set over several great vassals and a large number of small ones, who would often obey badly.  Today, sixty free cities, called imperial cities, about as many secular sovereigns [!], close on forty ecclesiastical princes, be they abbots or bishops, nine electors nowadays comprising four kings, and finally the emperor, set over all these potentates, make up that great German body, which the German phlegm has allowed to last into our own time, with almost as much orderliness as there used to be disorderliness in the government of France.[24]

A key aspect of the German political system was the fact that it was based on law rather than power.  Voltaire recognises the importance of the latter:

Each member of the empire has its rights, its privileges, its obligations; and the hard-won knowledge of so many different laws, often contested, forms what in Germany is called the study of public law, for which the German nation is so famous.[25]

In fact, what Voltaire has to say on the details of the German constitution often betrays a similar half-knowledge as what we found in the case of de Montigny.  No more than de Montigny can Voltaire abstain from speaking of German princes as „sovereigns“, even though one would expect him to have seen himself how impossible such terminology is in the context of the kind of political system that he discusses.  He is perfectly right, in the very same passage in which he speaks of them as „sovereigns“, to liken the estates of the German empire to the vassals of Capetian France.  All German princes remained vassals of the emperor until 1806.  Not one of them, however powerful, ever contested that legal fact, expressed in the formal homage paid to the emperor on his accession and on that of the princes.  (It is true that in the second half of the 18th century the electors – and they only – omitted this ceremony, which saw the princes‘ envoys kneeling before the imperial throne; but even this was explicitly not seen as calling in question their status as vassals.)  Vassalage and sovereignty are mutually exclusive, at least if sovereignty is understood as lawyers define the word today.  The electors, and other princes, might also be kings, but in that capacity they ruled territories outside the boundaries of the empire.

Conceivably, „sovereignty“ and related terminology in 18th-century discourse did not quite have so restricted and technical a meaning; after all, when 18th-century authors speak of „states“, as they routinely do, we must likewise be careful not to understand that word as the exact equivalent of what we mean by it today.[26]  But it is also possible that „the hard-won knowledge of so many different laws“ was simply not congenial to the French.  Underestimation of the importance of law for the empire may have been a factor in the failure already of the French negotiators at Münster – aristocrats both: Abel Servien, Marquis de Sablé et de Boisdauphin, Comte de La Roche des Aubiers; and Claude d’Avaux, already mentioned – to gauge the mood of their German interlocutors.  Indeed, they expressed their puzzlement at the unexpected and, as they saw it, irrational loyalty that the envoys even of protestant German princes showed to the emperor and the empire.  „They are all doctors“, d’Avaux remarked, which must mostly have meant doctors of law.[27]

It does not appear that either Servien or d’Avaux, though highly educated, had attended a university, let alone one outside France.  By contrast, members of the Swedish elite of that period normally attended university not only in Sweden (Uppsala) but virtually always also in Germany, and additionally elsewhere in Europe.  Thus Axel Oxenstierna, still chancellor and the dominant figure in Swedish politics at the time of the peace congress, had studied at Rostock, Wittenberg and Jena; his son Johan, who headed the Swedish delegation at Osnabrück, had studied at Heidelberg and Tübingen; his capable second at Osnabrück, Johan Adler Salvius, had studied at Rostock, Helmstedt and Marburg and lived the greater part of his life in Hamburg.  The Swedish negotiators clearly communicated easily with their German counterparts.  And they understood the empire: the French, then as later, found it difficult.  If the subsequent history of the western world had seen a phase of Swedish cultural hegemony, it seems likely that the general perception of the 1648 peace would today be much less characterised by ignorance and misunderstanding.  As it is, a long period of French cultural hegemony may have helped perpetuate a degree of ignorance and misunderstanding of both the Holy Roman Empire and the 1648 peace so intimately connected with it.  Even though this French cultural hegemony is now itself history, its successor, the current cultural hegemony of the English-speaking world, took its cues from it (as, for that matter, German authors did too when it came to reinterpreting their own history from the 19th century onwards).

If there is one notion on which commentators on the settlement writing in French or English (and some of those writing in German)[28] tended to agree, it is that it was the premier example of a traditional French policy of keeping Germany weak by playing its princes against the Habsburg emperor.  A benign formulation of the underlying idea here is provided by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) in his Extrait du projet de paix perpétuelle de M. l’abbé de Saint-Pierre of 1761 – this being the only time, as far as I can see, that Rousseau mentions the settlement in any of his works.  It is of course not quite clear, in this particular publication, to what extent the thinking is attributable to Rousseau himself rather than to Saint-Pierre – but for the purposes of this essay, it may be enough to note that in either case the thinking was French.  The Extrait argues that the „established order of Europe“ was difficult to upset by force, on account of

the play of conflicting policies which, in nine cases out of ten, keep each other mutually in check.  But there is another bulwark more formidable yet.  This is the Germanic Body, which lies almost in the centre of Europe and holds all the other parts in their place, serving still more perhaps for the protection of its neighbours than for that of its own members: a Body formidable to all by its size and by the number and valour of its component peoples; but of service to all by its constitution which, depriving it both of the means and the will to conquer, makes it the rock on which all schemes of conquest are doomed infallibly to break.  In spite of all its defects, it is certain that, so long as that constitution endures, the balance of Europe will never be broken; that no potentate need fear to be cast from his throne by any of his rivals; and that the Treaty of Westphalia will perhaps for ever remain the foundation of our international system [sera peut-être à jamais parmi nous la base de notre systême politique].  Accordingly, the system of public law, which the Germans study so diligently, is even more important than they suppose.  It is the public law not only of Germany, but even, in many ways, of Europe as a whole.

Interestingly, it is in the context of this particular discussion that Rousseau also brings up the old spectre of universal monarchy, observing that „if the princes accused of aiming at universal monarchy were in reality guilty of such a projet, they gave more proof of ambition than of genius.“[29]

A rather less benign formulation, which is also a magnificent illustration of the misunderstanding and, often, disparagement that has become typical of mainstream thinking on the empire, comes from the pen of James Madison (1751-1836), co-author of the constitution of the United States of America and later president of that country.  He writes in one of his articles for the Federalist Papers of 1787-88:

The examples of ancient confederacies, cited in my last paper, have not exhausted the source of experimental instruction on this subject.  There are existing institutions, founded on a similar principle, which merit particular consideration.  The first which presents itself is the Germanic body….The history of Germany, is a history of wars between the emperor and the princes and states; of wars among the princes and states themselves; of the licentiousness of the strong, and the oppression of the weak; of foreign intrusions, and foreign intrigues; of requisitions of men and money disregarded, or partially complied with; of attempts to enforce them, altogether abortive, or attended with slaughter and desolation, involving the innocent with the guilty; of general imbecility, confusion, and misery.  The fundamental principle, on which it [the empire] rests, that the empire is a community of sovereigns [!]; that the diet is a representation of sovereigns; and that the laws are addressed to sovereigns; render the empire a nerveless body, incapable of regulating its own members, insecure against external dangers, and agitated with unceasing fermentations in its own bowels…Controversies and wars among the members themselves, have been so common, that the German annals are crowded with the bloody pages which describe them.

If I may interpose myself in this eloquent diatribe, let me say that it seems difficult to misrepresent the empire and its record more completely than this.  It has to be admitted that Madison is partially right about the „requisitions of men and money“, which, although they were very seldom „disregarded“, were indeed often „only partially complied with“ – I am, however, unaware of attempts to enforce them.  I doubt that the history of Germany saw more internal warfare than that, say, of France.  And if, indeed, there is one respect in which the empire was remarkably successful, then it must be in guarding the weak from oppression.  This is true both of the relations of the estates of the empire among themselves – with even the tiniest, most defenceless princedom piously preserved right down to the turn of the 19th century – and of the relations between princes and their subjects, protected as the latter were by the supreme courts of the empire.  And I need not repeat myself on the subject of the supposed sovereignty of the estates.

Madison continues:

Previous to the peace of Westphalia, Germany was desolated by a war of thirty years, in which the emperor, with one half of the empire, was on one side; and Sweden, with the other half, on the opposite side.  Peace was at length negotiated, and dictated by foreign powers; and the articles of it, to which foreign powers are parties, made a fundamental part of the Germanic constitution….It may be asked, perhaps, what has so long kept this disjointed machine from falling entirely to pieces?  The answer is obvious.  The weakness of most of the members, who are unwilling to expose themselves to the mercy of foreign powers; the weakness of most of the principal members, compared with the formidable powers all around them; the vast weight and influence which the emperor derives from his separate and hereditary dominions; and the interest he feels in preserving a system with which his family pride is connected, and which constitutes him the first prince in Europe: these causes support a feeble and precarious union; whilst the repellent quality, incident to the nature of sovereignty, and which time continually strengthens, prevents any reform whatever, founded on a proper consolidation.

Such factors no doubt played a role, even though with regard to the question of why the empire survived I would rank them as contributing factors rather than as efficient causes.  In any case the point about the relative weakness of the German princes seems overstated – thus, had they so wished, the king of Prussia, or the British king in his capacity as elector of Hanover, could have attempted to do what the Dutch or Swiss had, after all, managed, and secede from the empire.  That they did not had little to do with lack of power.  Madison adds:

Nor is it to be imagined, if this obstacle could be surmounted, that the neighbouring powers would suffer a revolution to take place, which would give to the empire the force and pre-eminence to which it is entitled.  Foreign nations have long considered themselves as interested in the changes made by events in this constitution; and have, on various occasions, betrayed their policy of perpetuating its anarchy and weakness.

It is odd that Madison, in alluding to the Thirty Years War, mentions Sweden, but not France (to say nothing of Denmark).  It was the French crown that was most commonly regarded as pursuing this policy of keeping Germany divided.  John Campbell appositely relates that the Peace of Westphalia

may be truly stiled the Magna Charta of Germany; and therefore we need not wonder that the French, who were principally concerned in making this Treaty, had afterwards the Vanity to strike a Medal upon this Subject; in which the Genius of France is represented standing by an Altar, on which is a Caduceus supported by two Horns of Plenty; In one Hand, which leans upon the Altar, she holds an Olive Branch; and in the other a Ballance, having in one Scale the Imperial Crown, and in the other the Crowns of the Electors and Princes of Germany, so that they hang exactly even.  Under her Feet is a Yoke.  The Legend is LIBERTAS GERMANIAE, and the Exergue contains these Words, PAX MONASTERIENSIS MDCXLVIII., implying, that Liberty was restored to Germany by the Peace of Munster.  It may not be amiss to remark, that the Liberty of Germany and the Slavery of France were the work of the same Hand, or rather of the same Head; I mean that of the famous Cardinal Richlieu [sic], who contrived this Scheme to keep the House of Austria within Bounds, and to hinder her from ever becoming too powerful for that of Bourbon.  The Reader will likewise see, for this very Purpose France took so much Pains [sic] to aggrandize the Crown of Sweden.[30]

Speaking of the 1648 peace, Voltaire, in the Siècle de Louis XIV, claims that „[b]y this treaty, which became the foundation of every future treaty….the power of the emperor was restricted within narrow limits, and the French, jointly with the Swedes, became legislators of the empire.“  He reiterates this interpretation in the Essai sur les moeurs et sur l’esprit des nations:  „By this famous treaty, the Swedes and the French became the legislators of Germany in politics and religion.“[31]

In fact, a closer look at the negotiations reveals little if any „legislation“ directly inspired by either the Swedish or the French delegation – as noted, the constitution of the empire remained essentially as it was, except in the religious sphere; but here, too, there was little foreign input.  To be sure, the backing of the Swedes and French gave the estates of the empire a stronger negotiating position at the congress of Münster and Osnabrück, where the emperor, had he been free to decide, would have preferred not to admit them in the first place – since internal affairs of the empire properly belonged before the diet rather than being debated with foreign emissaries.  But had he had his way, what would have happened?  As pointed out, the abortive Habsburg-sponsored Peace of Prague of 1635, concluded after the Swedes had been defeated and before the French entered the war, would still have left Germany decentralised and half-protestant.  And even though the peace made the Swedish crown and the French crown, along with the emperor, guarantors of the settlement (the relevant provisions were, in fact, never invoked), there was no further French or Swedish attempt at imposing any sort of „legislation“ on the empire after 1648.

To sum up our findings so far, we have seen that while there was a very widespread consensus to treat the 1648 settlement as somehow fundamental, no standard narrative as to why this should be so existed in the 18th century.  Quite often, no reasons are given at all, and it may be suspected that if queried many people, even intellectuals, would have been at a loss to find any.  If reasons are given, it often seems that the settlement was seen as important for Germany but at best indirectly for Europe as a whole.  If some importance of the peace for Europe is argued explicitly, the reasons invoked or implied differ widely.  Thus there is no common ground between the notion put forward by Rousseau, that the 1648 settlement protected the balance of Europe by making it impossible for the centre of the continent to be controlled by anybody or for anybody at the centre to control the continent, on the one hand, and the list of reasons put forward twenty years later by Johann Christoph Krause on the other hand.  And while it is true that writers like Krause or Campbell insisted that the settlement „changed the face of Europe“, neither they nor any of the other writers cited so far in this essay put their finger on any very concrete, let alone striking transformation.  There is no real sense in most 18th-century publications that the peace was „the majestic portal that leads from the old to the new world“, in the words, written on the occasion of the tercentenary of the peace in 1948, of Leo Gross, whom in my 2001 paper I singled out as a likely promoter of the current Westphalian myth.[32]

There is, however, one book from our period that really does present, if not the 1648 peace, then the war that preceded it as giving birth to a new world.  Its author, Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), had made his name as a poet and playwright, but also as a writer of history – the first volume of his History of the secession of the United Netherlands from Spanish Rule earned him a professorship at Jena university.  It was as holder of that post that he published his History of the Thirty Years War from 1791 onwards, to immediate acclaim.  A French edition came out in 1794, very soon after the final part of the German original had appeared in 1793, and the first English edition went on sale in 1799.  Two further English translations followed.[33]  Certainly, this treatment of our subject matter is of an entirely different calibre from anything that we have reviewed so far, combining bold analysis with fine rhetoric.

To the 1648 settlement itself, Schiller dedicates a paean similar to, if rather grander than, what we have seen previously, while at the same time refusing to discuss it:

The colossal labour of concluding this solemn, and ever memorable and sacred treaty, which is known by the name of the peace of Westphalia; the endless obstacles which were to be surmounted; the contending interests which it was necessary to reconcile; the concatenation of circumstances which must have co-operated to bring to a favourable termination this tedious, but precious and permanent work of policy; the difficulties which beset the very opening of the negotiations, and maintaining them, when opened, during the ever-fluctuating vicissitudes of the war; finally, arranging the conditions of peace, and still more, the carrying them into effect; what were the conditions of this peace; what each contending power gained or lost, by the toils and sufferings of a thirty years‘ war; what modification it wrought upon the general system of European policy; – these are matters which must be relinquished to another pen.  The history of the peace of Westphalia constitutes a whole, as important as the history of the war itself.  A mere abridgment of it, would reduce to a mere skeleton one of the most interesting and characteristic monuments of human policy and passions, and deprive it of every feature calculated to fix the attention of the public, for which I write, and of which I now respectfully take my leave.

However, what Schiller has to say on the meaning of the war, at the very beginning of the book, gives a fair indication of what he would have said about the peace, had he been inclined to do so.  For Schiller, the Thirty Years War, even though it was not simply a religious war, had everything to do with the Reformation.

All the events of this period, if they did not originate in, soon became mixed up with, the question of religion…Against the reformed doctrine and its adherents, the House of Austria directed, almost exclusively, the whole of its immense political power….It was the Reformation…that rendered the Spanish yoke intolerable to the Flemings, and awakened in them both the desire and the courage to throw off its fetters, while it also principally furnished them with the means of their emancipation….It was, too, the Reformation principally that first drew the northern powers, Denmark and Sweden, into the political system of Europe; and while on the one hand the Protestant League was strengthened by their adhesion, it on the other was indispensable to their interests.  States which hitherto scarcely concerned themselves with one another’s existence…began to be united by new political sympathies….Thus, by a strange course of events, religious disputes were the means of cementing a closer union among the nations of Europe.  Fearful indeed, and destructive, was the first movement in which this general political sympathy announced itself; a desolating war of thirty years…Yet out of this fearful war Europe came forth free and independent.  In it she first learned to recognize herself as a community of nations; and this intercommunion of states, which originated in the thirty years‘ war, may alone be sufficient to reconcile the philosopher to its horrors.  The hand of industry has slowly but gradually effaced the traces of its ravages, while its beneficent influence still survives; and this general sympathy among the states of Europe, which grew out of the troubles in Bohemia, is our guarantee for the continuance of that peace which was the result of the war.

This sounds impressive, at least if one does not scrutinise the argument too closely – thus, it would be difficult to find in Europe two powers less bound by mutual political sympathies, despite their common lutheranism, than the Danes and Swedes for at least the first two hundred years following the secession of the Swedes from Danish rule in the 1520s.

„The charm of independence [from Rome],“ Schiller observes, „the rich plunder of monastic institutions, made the Reformation attractive in the eyes of princes, and tended not a little to strengthen their inward convictions.“  Without that „little strengthening“, Schiller believes, the Reformation would have been a non-starter politically.  On the other hand, protestantism could only be defended politically (which really meant militarily) from the threat posed to it by the Habsburg dynasty because the subjects of the protestant princes fought not, or not only, for plunder but from conviction.

Had not private advantages and state interests been closely connected with it, vain and powerless would have been the arguments of theologians; and the cry of the people would never have met with princes so willing to espouse their cause, nor the new doctrines have found such numerous, brave, and persevering champions….Of the multitude who flocked to their [the protestant princes‘] standards, such as were not lured by the hope of plunder imagined they were fighting for the truth, while in fact they were shedding their blood for the personal objects of their princes.  And well was it for the people that, on this occasion, their interests coincided with those of their princes.  To this coincidence alone were they indebted for their deliverance from popery.

But why did Habsburg remain loyal to Rome?  And the French crown, too?  A key question, which Schiller for all the efforts that he expends on it is unable to answer convincingly.  According to him, for one thing, „Spain and Italy, from which Austria derived its principal strength, were still devoted to the See of Rome with that blind obedience which, ever since the days of the Gothic dynasty, had been the peculiar characteristic of the Spaniard.“  Therefore, no ruler could risk any sympathy with protestantism while hoping to hold on to the Spanish crown.  In other words, „the Spaniard“ was simply to dumb to escape from popery.  At least this has the merit of being relatively clear, whereas with regard to Italy, home, after all, to the Holy See itself, Schiller simply waffles a bit without ultimately resolving the issue.  Concerning the German branch of the dynasty, which held the imperial dignity, Schiller asks rhetorically how a „Roman emperor“ could be in breach with the Church of Rome?  „Besides, the German princes of the House of Austria were not powerful enough to dispense with the support of Spain, which, however, they would have forfeited by the least show of leaning towards the new doctrines.“  As a result of what would appear to be a rather complicated mix of disparate factors compiled by Schiller in the service of his theory, the Habsburg princes

came to be regarded by all Europe as the pillars of popery.  The hatred, therefore, which the Protestants bore against the latter, was turned exclusively upon Austria; and the cause became gradually confounded with its protector.  But this irreconcileable enemy of the Reformation – the House of Austria – by its ambitious projects and the overwhelming force which it could bring to their support, endangered, in no small degree, the freedom of Europe, and more especially of the German States.  This circumstance could not fail to rouse the latter from their security, and to render them vigilant in self-defence.  Their ordinary resources were quite insufficient to resist so formidable a power.  Extraordinary exertions were required from their subjects; and when even these proved far from adequate, they had recourse to foreign assistance; and, by means of a common league, they endeavoured to oppose a power which, singly, they were unable to withstand.

But, one can hardly help objecting, quite a few of „the [!] German states“, one of which, Bavaria, was of the first magnitude, remained catholic, as, for reasons left undetermined by Schiller, did the French crown.  The elector of Bavaria, although very much alive to his own interests, sided with Habsburg.  The French crown, as we saw, was pro-Habsburg in 1618, then changed its mind.  The whole argument, moreover, hinges on the ready assumption that the might of the House of Austria was commensurate with the extent of the territories under Habsburg suzerainty.  And Schiller seems ill informed, or at any rate overly simplistic, for example in wrongly positing protestants in Germany or Europe to have been uniformly anti-Habsburg – thus, as already pointed out, the catholic emperor had the support of the protestant elector of Saxony until 1628 and again after 1635; and while the Danish king fought the emperor in the 1620s, he operated a rapprochement with Vienna after his arch-enemy the king of Sweden entered the war in 1630.  Perhaps Schiller was at least partly aware of certain weaknesses of his reasoning.  For all the success of both his historical monographs Schiller seems not really to have been comfortable in his role as a scholar.  The first volume of the History of the secession of the United Netherlands remained the only one; nothing ever came of the other five that had been planned.  And the quoted passage about the 1648 peace, with which the History of the Thirty Years War ends, has overtones of „I simply cannot be bothered to go on with this“.  But the weaknesses of this book probably did not diminish its popularity or influence.

Readers seriously interested in the period could at that time find more reliable if less dramatic accounts of the Thirty Years War and the 1648 peace from the pen for example of two professorial colleagues of Schiller, Johann Georg August Galletti, professor at the Gymnasium at Gotha, and Christoph Gottlob Heinrich, he too a professor at Jena university.  Both published the relevant parts of multi-volume monographs on German history to coincide with Schiller’s book, indeed Galletti published separately a History of the Thirty Years War and the Peace of Westphalia in 1791-2.[34]  But whatever reputation Galletti or Heinrich may have enjoyed in their lifetime, both, unlike Schiller, are out of print and largely forgotten today, and neither has been translated.  They never were a match for the international fame of a man who in 1792, shortly after his book on the Thirty Years War began to appear, was elected an honorary citizen of revolutionary France.  Although Schiller gave up lecturing at Jena in 1793, ironically this did not stop the university from converting his original, extraordinary and unpaid professorship into an ordinary, fully paid, but purely honorary one in 1798; or from naming itself after Schiller from 1934 onwards.

Rather conveniently, it was enough to pick up the great man’s History of the Thirty Years War and read the first few pages to know its message – as in generations to come a good many people perusing the Collected Works probably sitting on their own bookshelves may have done.  They would have come away from this with the knowledge that the war ended in 1648 was a titanic struggle precisely between what Leo Strauss would term „the old and the new world“: the old world of popish obscurantism and oppression and the new world of progress (embodied by the Reformation) and liberty.  „Out of this fearful war Europe came forth free and independent.“  This was not yet the „Westphalian myth“ of today.  But it must have been a stepping stone.

[1]  Andreas Osiander, „Sovereignty, International Relations and the Westphalian Myth“.  International Organization 55 (2001) 215-87.

[2]  Andreas Osiander, Before the state.  Systemic political change in the west from the Greeks to the French Revolution, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2007.

[3]  John Campbell, The Present State of Europe [etc.].  The Third Edition.  Revised, corrected, and continued by the Author.  London: Longman & al. 1752; p. 173-4.

[4]  Campbell p. 169.

[5]  Campbell p. 176.

[6]  „Das Wesen der teutschen Verfassung, Kirchensachen abgerechnet, hat er [der Friede] in keinem einzigen Stücke abgeändert.“  Johann Christoph Krause, Lehrbuch der Geschichte des dreyßigjährigen teutschen Krieges und Westphälischen Friedens.  Halle: Hendel 1782, p. 130.

[7]  For an example of a much more polemical discussion – pro-protestant and anti-Habsburg – of exactly the same subject matter see for example the slightly later treatise by [Michael Truckenbrot, published anonymously], Geschichte des dreißigiährigen Kriegs und westphälischen Friedens.  Ein Lesebuch für den deutschen Bürger, Nürnberg: Stiebner 1786.

[8]   „Nach dem Westphälischen Frieden hatte Europa eine ganz andere Gestalt, als vor dem Kriege.“  Krause, p. 126.

[9]  Krause p. 126-7; the remark on bad government before the war is on p. 12.

[10]  Guillaume-Hyacinthe Bougeant, Histoire des guerres et des négociations qui précédèrent le traité de Westphalie, Sous le règne de Louis XIII. et le ministère des cardinaux Richelieu et Mazarin, composée sur les mémoires du comte d’Avaux…, vol. I, Paris: Musier & Durand 1747, Préface, not paginated.

[11]   Thus, the French negotiators, Servien and d’Avaux, had no sooner arrived at Münster than, in April 1644, they circulated a memorandum to the German princes in which they repeated the well-worn (as they themselves admit) charge that Habsburg was out to oppress the rest of Europe, with the attempt to establish absolute power over the German empire only the beginning:  „Quid opus est verbis?  Jamdiu circumfertur, Domum Austriacam Europae Monarchiam moliri: Basin tanti aedificii constituere in Summo Dominatu Imperii Romani, ceu Centri Europae.“  Johann Gottfried von Meiern, Acta Pacis Westphalicae Publica, Oder: Westphälische Friedens-Handlungen und Geschichte, vol. I, Hanover: Schultz, p. 220.

[12]  „La cour de France même, dirigée par le connétable de Luines [sic], l’appuya de son crédit;et c’est ce que tous les politiques ont eu peine à concevoir; ou le connétable étoit déterminé par des vues d’intérêt, ou il ne pensoit pas comme Richelieu, Mazarin et Louis XIV qui mirent depuis tous leurs soins à abaisser la maison d’Autriche dont le despotisme allumoit toute l’Europe.“

[13]  „…le conseil de France, éclairé par Richelieu, sentit qu’il étoit nécessaire d’interrompre une fortune aussi constante; et Louis XIII s’apperçut que s’il étoit intéressant d’abaisser les protestans de France, il étoit d’une sage politique de ne point laisser abattre ceux d’Allemagne.  Il falloit diviser ce grand corps de princes qui, s’ils eussent tous prêté la même obéissance à Ferdinand, enchaînoient l’Europe à la maison d’Autriche.“

[14]  For an example see Armand-Jean du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu, Les papiers de Richelieu.  Section politique extérieure.  Correspondance et papiers d’Etat.  Empire allemand: Tome II (1630-1635), edited by A. V. Hartmann, Paris: Pedone, pp. 518-20.

[15]  „[Les plénipotentiaires] fixaient d’abord les droits de l’Empire, et assignèrent des limites sûres au pouvoir de son chef.  Il fut défendu à l’empereur de changer les anciennes loix, et d’en porter de nouvelles.  Ce droit fut réservé aux assemblées générales, qui en avoient toujours joui…  Ces assemblées seules purent déclarer une guerre d’Empire, régler les impôts, mettre au ban, ou proscrire un prince rebelle…  On accorda à chaque ville libre, à chaque prince, le pouvoir de faire à son gré des alliances, la paix ou la guerre: mais dans ces actes de souveraineté, il falloit toujours donner des témoignages de son respect pour les loix de l’association générale….Tels sont les principaux articles de ce fameux traité qui sert de base à la constitution germanique, et que l’on regarde comme le fondement du droit public d’une partie de l’Europe.“

[16]  Voltaire, Essai sur les moeurs et l’esprit des nations ch. 126.  As in preparing this paper I did not have access to 18th-century English editions of Voltaire, quotations from his writings appear in my own translation.

[17]  „Tout se fit sans lui sous son empire.“  Voltaire, Essai ch. 178.

[18]  Voltaire, Essai ch. 178.

[19]  Voltaire, Siècle de Louis XIV ch. 2.

[20] Voltaire, Siècle de Louis XIV ch. 3.

[21]  Voltaire, Essai ch. 70.

[22]  Voltaire, Annales de l’Empire depuis Charlemagne, chapter Tableau de l’Allemagne depuis la paix de Westphalie jusqu’à la mort de Ferdinand III.

[23]  Voltaire, Essai ch. 178.

[24]  Voltaire, Siècle de Louis XIV ch. 2.

[25]  Voltaire, Siècle de Louis XIV ch. 2.

[26]  Often, „states“ simply means „territories, lands“, as when Voltaire speaks of the „states“ of Charlemagne.  In 18th-century English, „states“ often means „estates“ (for example in the phrase „the German states“).  English usage was, and is, inconsistent here: what in the case of the Dutch is called „States-General“ (Staten Generaal; even today the legislative assembly of the islands of Jersey and Guernsey is called the „States“) is called „Estates General“ in the case of their French equivalent (États-Généraux).

[27]  Quoted in Fritz Dickmann, Der Westfälische Friede, 5th edition, Münster: Aschendorff 1985, p.195.

[28]  E.g. Michael Ignaz Schmidt, Geschichte der Deutschen, vol. 6, Ulm: Stettinische Buchhandlung 1793, p. 307-8.

[29]  This translation by C.E. Vaughan, first published in 1917, reprinted for example in Stanley Hoffman and David Fidler (eds.), Rousseau on international relations, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1991, p. 64, p. 62.  Vaughan has „public right“; I changed that to „public law“.  I left the phrase about „our international system“ even though it is a rather free rendering of the original.

[30]  Campbell p. 174-5.

[31]  Voltaire, Siecle de Louis XIV ch. 6; Essai ch. 178.

[32]  Leo Gross, „The Peace of Westphalia, 1648-1948“.  American Journal of International Law 42 (1948) 20-41, p. 28.

[33]  Friedrich Schiller, Geschichte des dreyßigjährigen Kriegs, first published in instalments in the Historischer Kalender für Damen, Leipzig: Göschen 1791-3.  The English translation by William Blaquiere appeared first in London in 1799, and was soon reprinted in Dublin.  A new translation by J.M. Duncan was published in 1828.  The one mostly used today, including in this essay, by A.J.W. Morrison, was apparently first published in 1846; it is ubiquitous on the worldwide web.

[34]  J.G.A. Galletti, Geschichte von Deutschland, vol. 6, Halle: Gebauer 1792 – a Geschichte des dreyßigjährigen Kriegs und des Westphälischen Friedens by Galletti appeared, with the same publisher, in instalments in 1791-2; C.G. Heinrich, Teutsche Reichsgeschichte, vol. 6, Leipzig: Weidmannische Buchhandlung 1795.  Cf. also the work by Schmidt cited in note 28.

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