zaterdag, september 28, 2019

CHAPTER: "Permanent Neutrality or Permanent Insecurity? Obligation and Self-Interest in the Defence of Belgian Neutrality, 1830–1870" (in: Inge VAN HULLE & Randall LESAFFER (eds.), International Law in the Long Nineteenth Century (1776-1914). From the Public Law of Europe to Global International Law ? [Legal History Library, 28; Studies in the History of International Law, 11] (Leiden/Boston: Martinus Nijhoff/Brill, 2019), pp. 159-185, ISBN 9789004391147

(image source: Brill)

The permanent or compulsory nature of Belgian neutrality, from the country’s inception (1830–1839) to the Franco-Prussian war (1870) is has generally been left to political or diplomatic historians. The guarantors of Belgian independence had made their enduring support conditional on the respect of the obligations of neutrality. Legal historians should consider that political and diplomatic exchanges were steeped in international law-discourse. In early modern doctrine, a state’s decision to remain neutral during a conflict between third states could be reversed when necessary. The permanent nature of these restrictions meant the latter had become impossible. The Belgian government pleaded for a restrictive reading of limitations to its sovereignty. Rights and obligations were presented as mutually dependent. This played out favourably during the ‘War of the Triple Alliance’ (1864–1870), exports to Brazil could go on, even if its opponent, Paraguay suffered a blockade. Franco-British pressure forced the Belgian government to downplay its ambitions in 1854, during the Crimean War. Even if arms were supplied to all parties in the conflict. When guarantors were involved in a conflict, neutrality became a nearly prohibitive burden. British sympathy for the Belgian liberal constitutional system could not override basic geopolitical interests and French pressure.
Read more on the Brill website (DOI 10.1163/9789004412088_009).

vrijdag, september 27, 2019

COMMENTAAR: Afscheid van een stijlvolle politieke killer (De Morgen, 27 SEP 2019)

(bron afbeelding: Wikimedia Commons)

Eerste paragraaf:
Jacques Chirac vult bijna een halve eeuw Franse politieke geschiedenis. Zijn daden en woorden hebben de Vijfde Republiek mee vormgegeven, al was het maar omwille van het tekenende "Un chef, ça sert à cheffer!"
Deze opportunistische pragmaticus was ideologisch even ongrijpbaar als de gaullistische doctrine zelf.
Lees meer bij De Morgen.

woensdag, september 25, 2019

BOEKBESPREKING: Pierre SERNA, L'extrême centre, ou le poison français 1789-2019 (Samenleving & Politiek XXVI (2019), nr. 7 (september), 63-65

(bron afbeelding: Champ Vallon)

Vorige week verscheen mijn bespreking van Pierre Serna's L'extrême centre, ou le poison français (Champ Vallon) in Samenleving & Politiek (september-nummer).

De tekst kan op de website van SamPol worden geraadpleegd (zie hier).

CHAPTER: "Frederik Dhondt, “Hobbes en het klassieke vroegmoderne volkenrecht: Haat en liefde ?”, in: Andreas KINNEGING, Maarten COLETTE & Paul DE HERT (eds.), Thomas Hobbes. De ik-gerichtheid van de politieke filosofie (Eindhoven: Damon, 2019), pp. 232-256. ISBN 9789463402521.

(bron afbeelding: Damon)

De jaarlijkse symposiumreeks deDebatten (VUB/Leiden) behandelde in 2018 Thomas Hobbes. Het bijhorende volume verscheen deze week bij uitgeverij Damon, met een hoofdstuk van uw dienaar over "Hobbes en het vroegmoderne volkenrecht: haat en liefde ?" (pp. 232-256).

Meer informatie bij de uitgever.

dinsdag, juni 25, 2019

BOOK: Axel Gotthard on the autonomisation of political and legal discourse, and on the Holy Roman Empire

(image source: Boehlau Verlag)

When reading and writing on neutrality, legal historians tend to venture mainly into scholarship produced by lawyers or historians of political thought. A certain illusion of comprehensiveness is engendered by the dominance of English-speaking scholarship in relatively short monographs (300 pages) or articles in peer reviewed-journals. Complex factual questions are often left aside. Virtuosity is mostly exercised on a theoretical level. Of course, this entails advantages: the field witnesses many debates present in social sciences (Empire/world history, postcolonial studies, gender...), from which genuine methodological and theoretical innovations can be borrowed and adapted to more traditional sources. Alongside of this, some scholars continue to publish large-scale studies, based on years and years of thorough primary source-work.

The concept of medius in bello (a third party not involved in an armed conflict between belligerents) has repercussions on trade and self-defence. A neutral state is obliged to treat belligerents even-evenhandedly. In return, the neutral state can continue pre-existing trade with the belligerents, and even expand its previous market share, since bilateral trade between belligerents has stopped at the declaration of war (or the start of the conflict). Neutral ships cannot be stopped and searched by military ships or privateers... at least according to smaller states. A neutral state should not allow its territory or maritime area being used by belligerents, and should thus provide a credibly defense against outside aggression. Finally, neutrality can come across as immoral, in those cases where one of the belligerent parties is seen as defending a manifestly just cause (e.g. coming to the rescue of an oppressed or starving population). However, this moral character of war is controversial, subjective and ambiguous. The very possibility to declare oneself neutral is a contested concept. The legitimacy of war is partly embedded in positive law, but belongs to the realm of political philosophy or theology for the major part of Western history. 

Of course, the study of the Spanish Neoscholastics, Gentili, Hobbes, Grotius, Vattel, Montesquieu, Locke, Kant... is an art in itself. Yet, the more subtler the literature becomes, the less it tends to become relevant for the study of law as it was applied by the relevant political actors. Academics writing on past academics for the benefit of present or future academics only tell us a part of the story. The same applies to moral or theological investigations, in themselves relevant to grasp the interdisciplinary (mutual) influence between law and the study of the scripture (from a Catholic, Lutheran or Calvinist point of view). To what extent does this inform us on practice ? Did conscience put identifiable breaks on a sovereign's animus belligerandi ?

The studies examining the birth of neutrality through a 'bottom-up'-approach, combining political and diplomatic considerations behind closed doors (arcana principis), with legal doctrine, theology and pamphlets are relatively rare. Maritime neutrality has drawn the major part of scholarly interest. The monograph of Eric Schnakenbourg (Entre la guerre et la paix, PUR, 2013, which I reviewed for Pro Memorie in 2015) and the collective volume Neutres et neutralité dans l'espace atlantique durant le long XVIIIe siècle (Les Perséides, 2017) are excellent examples of recent scholarship. In an analysis of complaints by merchants during the War of the Quadruple Alliance (published in Legatio in 2017), I explained the striking differences between the formal-legal status of an early modern conflict and the labels used by both private and public actors.

On the side of history of political and economic thought, the volumes of Antonella Alimento on seventeenth century neutrality (which I reviewed for the Journal of the History of International Law) and the volume co-edited by Antonella Alimento and Koen Stapelbroek on 18th century commercial treaties (which I reviewd for the Revue Belge de Philologie et d'Histoire, forthcoming) provide fine examples of the creative nexus between economics, politics, administration and law.

However, the monography of Axel Gotthard, Der liebe und werthe Fried: Kriegskonzepte und Neutralitätsvorstellungen in der Frühen Neuzeit [Forschungen zur kirchlichen Rechtsgeschichte und zum Kirchenrecht; 32] delves into the theoretical foundations of neutrality, by treating the Thirty Years' War and the various expressions of war in a myriad of pamphlets and primary sources. This book thoroughly explores certain aspects at which I could only hint, or which were the product of an intuition when examining the Franco-British stabilisation of international relations after 1713, or Belgian permanent neutrality between 1830 and 1914 (see my contributions in The Legal History Review, Cahiers du CRHiDI and Journal of Belgian History). 

1. Neutrality and the Holy Roman Empire: "Neutralitas est Germanorum pestis?"

Gotthard considers that neutrality had been 'verdichtet' as 'Völkerrechtstitel' before the 18th century, but seeks for the decline of a 'Sündendiskurs' (sin discourse), which associated neutrality with forsaking either one's feudal loyalty and honour towards the Emperor [e.g. in the Schmalkaldischer Bund-war (p. 188), exemplified by the maxim 'qui non possint esse Neutrales: Subditi ac Vasalli' (p. 847), or by the idea that princes of the Empire choosing neutrality, made in reality a secessio (p. 848)], or one's moral duty to assist belligerents with an evidently just cause (p. 186) (see further down this post (2)). The position of the Emperor, who would cling on to his prodominium until well in the 18th century, was -of course- unfavourable towards neutrality. Gotthard gives the examples of the Elector Palatinate, negotiating with Louis XIV during the Dutch War on neutrality, leaving room for the 'approbatio' by the Emperor of his neutrality.

(emperor Leopold I by von Block; source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Imperial chancery qualified voluntary neutrality by a member of the Empire of 'separatio', 'Abtretung der allgemeinen Sach', incompatible with the 'bono Imperii publico' (p. 850). As Gotthard rightly states, the Emperor did not address this kind of writings to a 'Völkerrechtssubjekt' (subject of public international law), but to one of his vassals (Ibid.), of whom he expected submission and obedience. Of course, in specific conflicts, such as the Dutch War (1672-1678), where the Emperor's interests and those of the members of the Empire were the same, neutrality had become a Reizwort (causing a substantial emotional stir) in Regensburg (where the Permanent Imperial Diet assembled) as well as in Vienna: 'es könne doch keine Gleichheit zwischen dem reich und dessen Feiden gemacht werden' (p. 853). However, the ambiguous nature of Habsburg interests created situations whereby the Emperor was suspected of acting on behalf of the House of Habsburg, and not of the Empire as a whole. Gotthard refers to a Neuer Friedens-Curier (1673), wherein it is stated that Emperor Leopold I (1640-1705) had his eyes on the Spanish Low Countries, convinced that French encirclement would prevent the Spanish branch of the House from keeping them, but only 'um seines eignen Interesse' (p. 854). 

Neutrality was excluded when the Imperial Diet had pronounced a Reichskrieg (e.g. in 1734 in the War of the Polish Succession, against objections by the Electors of Bavaria and Saxony, who wished to remain neutral). Yet, would feudal law have obliged imperial vassals to remain neutral when this approbation was lacking ? Gotthard rightfully argues that more research is required for the 'Bermudadreieck Neutralität/Reichssystem/Lehnsverbund' (p. 859). Sanctions for felony, such as the Reichsacht (Ban of the Empire, e.g. earlier on this blog on Joseph I's decision in 1706) clash with the idea of the Holy Roman Empire as a political system, consisting (in Pufendorf's words monstro simile...) of subjects not subjected to anybody else, but still members of a common corpus (p. 860), halfway between municipal law and the law of nations. Textor's opinion (Synopsis Iuris Gentium, 1680, see below), according to which neutrality could only be created through a treaty, was subject to the overlord's consent. However, cases of emergency, whereby a vassal would be at risk of ruin in case of a conflict between two other sovereigns, allowed to forego this approval. 

However, wouldn't the 'Hypertrophy' of Staatsräson and individual state sovereignty have weakened the Reichsbindungen ? (p. 860). Gotthard cites interpretations of the famous article VIII §2 of the Instrumentum Pacis Osnabrugensis, which granted members of the Empire the right to conclude treaties (Ius foederis), as long as they did not violate the Peace of the Empire (Reichsfrieden). Was neutrality a 'beneficium', which needed to be granted by the Emperor, as a logical corollary of the latter's status as Caput Imperii, or, quite the contrary, would it have been included in the principal freedom of members of the Empire ? In 1756, a pro-Austrian pamphlet described the war waged by Maria Theresia against Frederick the Great of Prussia as a Reichsexekution, whereby neutrality was not allowed, or a 'wissent- und beflissentliche Absagung des Reichs-Ständischen Schuldigkeit', a position adopted by the Imperial Diet on 17 January 1757 (p. 863).

After citing Glafey ('keinem Stand neutral zu verbleiben vergönnet') and Vogt (cogi possunt, et opoertet, ut militem in matricula IMperii vel comitiis assignatum) a 1793 Repertorium des Teutschen Staats- und Lehnrechts is mobilized to highlight the reciprocal nature of the feudal relationship (p. 864). The set of arguments is very similar to Spanish arguments I detected at the Congress of Cambrai (on the question whether don Carlos, son of Philip V and Elisabeth Farnese, ought to be seen as a 'vasallus', or a 'vasallus ligus', the Spanish court interpreting 'vassallagium' favourably, positioning the vassal in a relationship of equals with the Empire). If a member of the Empire does not have the possibility to remain neutral in case of an attack on the Emperor or other members, this relationship is 'reciprok' (sic, p. 864):
'eben so weinig, wie der Vasall es dulden darf, dass das Leben, die Ehre, die Güter seines Lehnsherrn angegriffen werden, eben so wenig darf auch der Lehnsherr seinen Vasallen angreifen lassen'
[A vassal cannot tolerate that life, honour or goods belonging to his overlord are being attacked. Conversely, the latter cannot allow an attack on his vassal]
In other words, the feudal system of the Empire could also be explained as a collective security-agreement. Yet, the essential step here was the oath of loyalty to 'dem Kaiser und dem heiligen Reiche getreu, hold, gehorsam und gewärtig seyn' [to be loyal, steadfast, obedient and reliable towards the Emperor and the Holy [Roman] Empire]. In other words, 'Neutralät fügt sich am besten in eine polyzentrische horizontale Ordnung' [Neutrality functions in a polycentric horizontal order], 

2. Secularisation and political neutrality

The author is not unfamiliar with topoi of legal doctrine concerning just war. The hypothesis tested in his book is that of secularisation. Just war-discourse (bellum iustum) is transformed by theologians and preachers in to that of Holy War (bellum necessarium). On the Catholic side, religious arguments are used to present the Peace of Augsburg (1555) as a mere expedient of 'external law', violating the will of God (i.e. the triumph of Catholic order). Protestant arguments, by contrasts, portray the Jesuits as an international maffia ('blutdurstiger Jesuit'), likened to 'terrorists' by the author. Both sides' 'bösartigen Verdrehungen des Religionsfriedens' (p. 200) were 'Ursache wie Anlass' of the Thirty Years' War. Belligerents accused their opponents of giving in to 'den gottlosen Ratschlägen Macchiavellis'. Neutrality was 'unehrenhaft", or sometimes "pure stultitia" (p. 487). 'Godless' ragione di stato (read: compromising with infidels) was a mutual topos with 'extremist' 'Schreibtischextremisten'  [writing desk-extremists] (p. 202). Yet, how could a peace agreement function without 'Grundvertrauen in die Verlässlichkeit des Verhandlungspartners' ? Gotthard thinks 'alle Wegbereiter säkularer politischer Ordnungsstiftung" necessarily developed interesting an reasoning on neutrality, since both are linked (p. 441, footnote 171).

(image: the 1555 Augsburg Diet; source: Wikimedia Commons)

However, and this is a crucial, central point, to which I entirely subscribe, political order and moral justification are two utterly distinct concepts. The author rightly points to the partial reception of bellum iustum-doctrine in Vattel (1758) or Glafey (1723). Both authors consider that in most cases, both belligerents can be found to be reasonably fighting with a causa iusta. The priority lay not with 'Iustitia', but with 'Pax', or, in German: 'Ruhe und Ordnung' (p. 868). Peace was the 'Abwesenheit physischer Gewalt'. It did not mean 'Wahrheit und Gerechtigkeit', but 'Ruhe und Stabilität'.

Yet, where, when and why did this transformation happen ? In my own dissertation, focusing on French and British diplomatic correspondence after the Peace of Utrecht (1713), I noted that religious arguments did not play a big part, or even hardly a part at all, in debates on international order (I was criticized for this in a review, but I don't see a reason to change this point of view... quod non est in scriptis, non est in mundo; the assertion does not apply to sources not treated). In 1718, James Craggs (Secretary of State for the Southern Department) wrote an impressive dispatch to abbot Dubois and the French Regent, emphasising that religious (domestic) arguments were irrelevant when it came to the relationship between France and Britain (see my discussion of this letter in The Legal History Review, 2013). 

A decade later, Cardinal Fleury, French Prime minister from 1726 to 1743, stated in a conversation with Horatio Walpole (British ambassador in Paris, brother of Prime Minister Robert Walpole) that the faith of treaties, even concluded with infidels, was sacred. It was impossible to engage in political agreements (ergo: to conclude treaties) when a difference of religion would be seen as a sufficient reason to part. Conversely, Vattel denies that a difference of religion would constitute a causa iusta to start a war. Yet, since bellum iustum-theory was grounded in moral -and thus religious- considerations, these factual assertions also had broader implications.

In his study, Axel Gotthard repeatedly applies sound historical criticism to sources often over-exploited, or cited for the sake of their grammatical or lexical qualities. It is evident -even to an undergraduate students- that many pamphlets were of a subjective nature, only intended to convince one's own partisans. The same goes for declarations of war, as I demonstrated in History of European Ideas in 2016, by using the War of the Quadruple Alliance and the War of the Polish Succession.
To quote Gotthard: 'Um die plausibele Annahme zu erhärten, dass in konfessionnellen Kampfschriften (gar solchen theologischer Provenienz) anders und hitziger argumentiert wurde als in der Ratsstube, genügt ein Tag im Archiv' (p. 172)
[To strengthen the plausible hypothesis according to which confessional polemical combat writings (not in the last place those from a theological origin) argued differently, and in more excited terms as was done in the prince's advisory rooms... it is sufficient to spend a single day in the archives !]
Gotthard contrasts the work of legal advisers to render coexistence 'handhabbar' through the Peace of Augsburg (1555) with the relative inaction of theologians (from all confessions) to diminish the 'Kluft' between confessions (p. 871). The author suggests that political writers/lawyers, 'Ancillae Theologiae' (p. 874) only gradually acquired their autonomy vis-à-vis theologians, whereas the latter considered temporary peace treaties to be nothing but 'Gottloser Friedt vnnd mit Sünden vermengt vnnd besudelt'. Biblical precedents are invoked, e.g. that of Moses, who could not turn down God's invitation to lead the people of Israel out of slavery (p. 414).

Protestants, on the other hand, saw a danger in dividing their own side: "Bäpstlern, Neutralisten, Zweyfflern, vnnd Temporisirern" are the cause of all havoc (p. 417). Neutrality would equal slowness and laziness ("zagheit, trägheit, vnd faulkeit") and is seen as a synonym of "Heuchlerei" [hypocrisy] (p. 422) or of "Heuchlerischen lästerlichen Neutralität" [hypocritical and slanderous neutrality]. For Protestants and Catholics alike, God was said to have "hated" neutrality in the choice between "GOTT" and "den Teufel" (p. 423). Gotthard also delved into English texts contemporary to the Thirty Years' War, and found the following statement in a writing called Neutrality condemned (1643, p. 424):
"It is observable, that things of the Neuter Gender are without life; and where either side is for God, it argues small life in him, that is, at that time, neither hot nor cold, neither for God nor Baal [...] [These men] could be content to be an Hermaphrodite or same Monster of Men [...] The Neutralist is a Sceptique in his opinion, as well as in his resolution [...] A sluggard indeed, that will choose rather to lye still upon his hard bed, then rise to have it made the softer."
The logical apotheosis of this litany of injuries comes in 1663 in a Sermon against Neutrality:
"Neutrality in the Substantials of Religion differs not from Atheism."
Gotthard sees this heated and polarised religious criticism of neutrality soften during the wars of Louis XIV (1667-1714), e.g. citing Leibniz's idea that the princes of the Empire ought to constitute a neutral alliance, and not take part in outside quarrels, "neutral, unpartheyisch, indifferent und billig [...] von niemand mit grund getadelt werden, viel weniger enige jalousie erwecken", praising Swiss neutrality during the Dutch War (1672-1678): "ein unpartheyisches Vrtheil Auss dem Parnasso".

On the other hand, the difficult neutrality of the Prince-bishopric of Liège, which could not prevent French military raids, leads other voices to opt for a partisan attitude in order to shield oneself from the dangers of war (p. 430). Neutrals would only become the victims of the conflict's victorious party ("La malheureuse victime du vainqueur, qui sacrifie ce faux Politique [sic] à sa colere [sic]" (p. 431; for Lipsius: "praeda victoris", p. 441). The case of the voluntary neutrality of the Duchy of Württemberg during the Thirty Years' War, powerless against the troops of Tilly (1559-1632), "nicht besser als die turken selbsten" (p. 663), is another illustration. Or, to sum up this strand of arguments (p. 435):
"wer kan länger Friede haben, als ihm sein bosshaftiger Nachbar lassen will ?"
In any case, criticism of neutrality is said to have shifted away from the religious idiom of the Thirty Years' War: "Die Neutralisten, oder Stillsitzer, oder frembden Potentaten Anhänger und Bediente" are likened to "Staats- und Reichs-Criminalisten", who renounce to "dem Vatterlande mit Gut und Blut beystehen" (p. 436), but not to sinners. If French expansion constitutes a motive of alliances, neutrals are loathed following calculations of interest and power, or an abhorrence of Universal Monarchy, not necessarily linked to religion (p. 432). Another criticism is that of the neutral power as a 'Profiteur" (p. 434), as I encountered equally in Franco-British resentment against the Dutch Republic, which had not participated in the War of the Quadruple Alliance against Philip V. Gotthard cites a pamphlet from 1676 (p. 435), stating that:
"Die einfältigen Kühmelcker, die Schweitzer, solten bilig unsere Anweiser in den politischen Strichen sein [...] Sie bleiben fein in ihren Klippen und Felsen wohnen, und wissen sich beyder Partheyen Geld wol zu Nutze zu machen... O hätten wir Schwaben ein gleichmässiges gethan, wir wären in unser Einfalt glückselig geblieben!"
The contrast between an external message (pamphlet, declaration of war...) and diplomatic archival sources is evident. Again, in Gotthard's words:
'[dass] Zahlreiche im Reich verlegte Flugschriften Andersgläubige für nicht geschäftsfähig erklärten, da sie etwaige interkonfessionelle Vereinarbarungen sowieso nicht als sie bindend akzeptieren; doch ist mir kein für die damalige Reichspolitik relevanter Entscheidungsträger bekannt, der diese Schreibtischparole ebenfalls vertregen hätte'
[Many pamphlets published in the Empire stated that people from a different confession could not enter into valid and binding peace agreements, since interconfessional would not be accepted as binding in any way. Yet, I don't know a single decision maker, relevant for Imperial politics at that time, who should have defended this kind of writing-desk-theories.] 
The author suggests that a thorough 'reception history' of ratio status (raison d'état, ragione di stato) is still on the table. Whereas the works of inter alios Michael Stolleis are praised, it is suggested that archival material is still waiting (I equally take the liberty to refer to Lucien Bély's Les secrets de Louis XIV, which I reviewed for Comparative Legal History in 2014).

In that respect, it is interesting to note that Gotthard does not downplay the continuity between Jean Bodin (see my review of Howell Lloyd's biography in the Revue Belge de Philologie et d'Histoire, 2017) and Justus Lipsius. Both authors emphasize that Roman history demonstrates that neutrality is "media via, nulla" (p. 443). Yet, Bodin sees neutrality as a sound option for powerful princes, or princes capable of defending themselves against aggression:
"Celuy qui demeure neutre, trouvera bien souvent le moyen d'appaiser les ennemis: en se maintenant en l'amitié de tous, emportera grace et honneur des uns et des autres. Et si tous les Princes sont liguez les uns contre les autres, qui sera moyenneur de la paix ? Davantage il semble qu'il n'y a moyen plus grand de maintenir son estat en sa grandeur, que voir ses voisins se ruïner les uns par les autres."
Gotthard tackles legal doctrine from Grotius on, after a thorough analysis of pamphletary literature. He finds Grotius' attention devoted to neutrality unsatisfactory, notes the presence of the word "neutrality" in major treaty collections (e.g. as my students will recall from their exam last week, Du Mont) and then turns to the Strasburg lawyer Johann Heinrich Böckler (1611-1672). In a general work (Libellus de quiete in turbis), this author states that neutrality is not rare, but should be formally declared, in order to inform belligerents. Could we derive a right to be neutral from this factual state of affairs ? Böckler identifies a theoretical right, but subject to factual limitations by the belligerents. Forbidding trespass on neutral territory depends on their consent, or their reluctance to force transit. The ius necessitatis, or ratio belli trumps the neutral's rights.

The next author treated is Johann Wolfgang Textor (latinised form of Weber, 1638-1701), who only recognised conventional neutrality (i.e. neutrality granted by the belligerents to a smaller power, e.g. Louis XIV and Speyer, p. 654). The recognition of neutrality is dependent on all belligerents' consent. The treaty whereby a belligerent grants neutrality to a third power should respect the principle of equidistance between the neutral power and each belligerent. Consequently, a situation of genuine neutrality is hard to reach.

Only 18th century treatises make the decisive step, recognising the factual reality of a wide-spread practice of unilateral, self-declared neutrality. Adam Friedrich Glafey (1692-1753), whose contribution to the Theatrum Praetensionium Historicum was eagerly translated by Jean Rousset de Missy (see earlier on this blog), clearly stated that every sovereign had the right to remain neutral, and could not be forced by belligerents to opt for this position (p. 479). Even more, in certain cases, a ruler could be obliged by circumstances to declare his neutrality (p. 488). Gotthard sees Bynkershoek's Quaestionum Iuris Publici Libri Duo as a decisive point in the evolution, achieving the recognition of unilateral, "weder vertraglich fixierte noch irgend in feierliche Form gebrauchte Neutralitätsbekundungen" (p. 480). Gotthard argues that Bynkershoek did not treat the "right to neutrality", which would be insufficient for a PhD student. Yet, since the master thinks neutrality to be self-evident, and since he uses the Thirty Years' War to construct his practical reasoning, rather than "antiken Autoritäten", the work becomes a milestone and an illustration of a deep and long evolution in practical politics.

Christian Wolff (1679-1754), whose work constituted a major source of inspiration for Vattel, is characterised as of "little use" for contemporary politics. Wolff restricted the use of force to cases whereby the opponent had declined mediation or arbitration of the "Völkergemeinschaft", and continued to restrict neutrality to cases whereby a convention allowed for it.


Similar reflections could be made for those who qualify balance-of-power thinking and discourse as the consequence of early 18th century confessional opposition, whereby Europe would unite against the spectre of Catholic domination. The main actors had moved well beyond that. There was no link between heated political/religious arguments and diplomatic negotiations, which aim at compromise, order and the protection of material interests.

Gotthard pleads to look for sources in (p. 173):
'innere Beratungsprotokolle [...], den öffentlichen Deutungskrieg wie seinen Niederschlag in den Ratstuben beobachten, und genau an diesen Schnitstellen, zwischen Bibliothek und Archiv, Gelehrten- und Ratsstube, publizistischen Meinungskampf und Meinungsbildung der Entscheidungsträger'
[Internal deliberation records [...], the public explanation war, as well as its transposition in the deliberation room, and especially at this intersection, between library and archive, between the office of scholars and of statesmen, between the battle for public opinion and the genesis of decision makers' convictions]
Gotthard challenges the idea that even for the 'most pious' 17th-century princes, religious zealoutry could override 'schlaue [...] Interessenpolitik' (p. 183). Even if the double use of religion as 'Legitimitätsgenerator und Disziplinierungsmittel' (for domestic matters) and 'Mobilisierungsfaktor' (for external factors) was evident, models of 'Confessionalisation' as dominant factor ('Leitkategorie') in 17th century international relations have the primary merit of a hypothesis, to be challenged by thorough archival work (p. 184). Religious polarisation led to the depiction of neutrals as 'Bestien, Monstri, Mörder' (p. 201), which forfeited their moral duty to exterminate religious opponents ('aussrotten, vertilgen, extirpare', ibid.).


This book is the product of a relative (but increasingly rarer) freedom for an author to delve into primary sources, and let the sources speak for themselves. The work does not deliver a final or comprehensive theory in answer to the research questions asked, but this is not necessary. Of course, certain sections can come across as repetitive, and it takes a while to read 964 pages. But who cares, really ? A good scientific work provides ample evidence to make readers think, and preferably doubt of their previously acquired general image of a period or subject. Gotthard indicates to doubt of many influential studies' generalisations on early modern war and peace. This is exactly what a researcher should do. Stimulating uncertainty and new interrogations, building on archival material and predecessors' work, not delivering ready-made simplistic answers. "It's complicated" is often a representative and loyal description of what happened in reality in the past, just as it is today. We should not be afraid to say so when we write on it... 

(see Table of Contents here)

woensdag, juni 05, 2019

OPENING REMARKS: XXVth Annual Forum of Young Legal Historians, "Identity, Citizenship and Legal History" (Brussels: Academy Palace, 5 JUN 2019)

(image source: Wikimedia Commons)

I had the honour to address the plenary assembly of the XXVth Annual Forum of Young Legal Historians, organised by the VUB (CORE), ULB (CHDAJ) and the Université Saint-Louis (CRHiDI), with the generous support of the VUB's Hoover Fund and Doctoral School of Humanities, the VUB's Faculty of Law and Crimninology (Emeriti Fund), the FWO, the FNRS, the Committee for Legal History of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for the Arts and Sciences and the Young Academy and the CRHiDI. The opening remarks introduced the keynote lectures by Prof. dr. Thomas Duve (Co-Director of the MPI for European Legal History), Prof. dr. Lauren Benton (President-Elect of the American Society for Legal History) and Prof. dr. Simona Cerutti (EHESS, Paris).

We are proud of our CORE PhD-students C.M. in 't Veld, Stephanie Plasschaert and Wouter De Rycke, who took the initiative to attract this established event in the world of legal history to Brussels.

The text of my opening remarks can be read here.

zaterdag, juni 01, 2019

CONFERENCE PAPER: "Le théâtre de la guerre et l’art de la paix: la défaite française près d’Audenarde du 11 juillet 1708" [Société d'histoire du droit et des institutions des pays flamands, picards et wallons: La Vie et la Mort] (Audenarde: Black Nuns' Convent, 1 JUN 2019)

(image source: Wikimedia Commons)

I had the honour to address the Société d'histoire du droit et des institutions des pays flamand, picards et wallons in Audenarde on 1 June 2019.


La guerre conditionna à l’époque moderne la vie et la mort des hommes. Les Pays-Bas espagnols furent durement touchés. Le mythe de la « Belgique champ de bataille de l’Europe », utilisé par les historiens au XIXe siècle, n’était certainement pas infondé. Cependant, il convient de rentrer dans les facteurs structurants de l’action étatique des puissances étrangères, afin de mieux saisir leur conception des Pays-Bas Espagnols comme objet, plutôt que comme acteur des relations internationales (de Vault & Pelet 1835-1862 ; Legrelle 1888-1892 ; von Noorden 1870-1882 ; Kirchhammer 1885 ; Churchill 2002 [1933]). Je me permets à cet égard de revenir sur des travaux publiés antérieurement (Dhondt, 2011A) pour articuler les dimensions militaire et diplomatique de la campagne militaire de 1708. La « journée d’Audenarde » du 11 juillet 1708 fut célébrée par les puissances maritimes et l’Empereur comme une défaite française éclatante (Lachaert 2008 ; Dhondt 2010). Trois mille morts et environ le même nombre de blessés tombèrent autour de la « Bloedbeek », à quelques kilomètres d’Audenarde, une importante place sur l’Escaut (Dhondt 1999). Quelques mois plus tard, Marlborough et Eugène de Savoie s’emparèrent de Lille. L’hiver effroyable de 1708-1709 leur offrit Bruges et Gand. Cependant, aucun de ces faits militaires permirent à la coalition autour de Charles de Habsbourg d’emporter la Guerre de Succession d’Espagne (1702-1713/1714). Le véritable théâtre de la guerre fut celui des négociations diplomatiques, où les décisions furent prises (Dhondt, 2011B). Pour saisir la nature véritable des conflits, nous devons nous séparer d’un schéma bilatéral, qui lie les aspirations de chaque partie au ius ad bellum (ou au droit de la guerre juste). Les querelles ne dureraient pas si longtemps, si le tort n’était que d’un côté ! Une logique plus politique s’imposa dans la conclusion des traités de paix d’Utrecht (11 avril 1713), Rastatt (7 mars 1714) et Bade (7 septembre 1714) (Bély 1990) : la partition de la monarchie composite espagnole imposait aux parties d’abandonner des arguments tirés du droit privé, du droit naturel ou du droit canonique, pour consacrer une solution politique comme pierre angulaire d’un réseau de traités (Dhondt 2011B). En réalité, les campagnes militaires n’avaient été que les premières étapes d’un raisonnement, visant à contraindre l’opposant à conclure un traité sur la base d’autres conditions. Cependant, la conception stratégique de l’espace des Pays-Bas espagnols (De Schryver 1965), basée sur les fleuves, les échanges économiques, les circulations terrestres, la situation des ports, les fortifications (Rowlands 2011) et la mémoire historique des luttes avec la France, nous permettra de comprendre pourquoi les événements du 11 juillet 1708 ont retenti à travers l’Europe entière (Dhondt 2009 ; De Weerdt-Pilorge & Blanquie 2017). Références :Lucien BÉLY (dir.), Dictionnaire Louis XIV (Paris : Robert Laffont, 2015)Lucien BÉLY, Espions et ambassadeurs au temps de Louis XIV (Paris : Fayard, 1990)Winston CHURCHILL, Marlborough. His Life and Times (Chicago: Chicago UP, 2002 [1933]), vol. II.
Reginald DE SCHRYVER, Jan van Brouchoven graaf van Bergeyck 1644-1725 : een halve eeuw staatkunde in de Spaanse Nederlanden en in Europa [Verhandelingen van de Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België. Klasse der Letteren; vol. 57] (Bruxelles: Palais des Académies, 1965).
Marie-Paule DE WEERDT-PILORGE & Christophe BLANQUIE, Tout Saint-Simon (Paris : Robert Laffont, 2017)
Frederik DHONDT, ‘Clans, Cabales en Coterieën: de Slag bij Oudenaarde en de permanente machtsstrijd in de Grand Siècle’, Handelingen van de Geschied- en oudheidkundige kring van Oudenaarde, van zijn kastelnij en van den lande tusschen Maercke en Ronne XLVI (2009), 3-35
Frederik DHONDT, ‘Lodewijk XIV als spelverdeler in de Spaanse Successie, 1707-1708’, De Achttiende Eeuw 2018, 283-319
Frederik DHONDT, ‘From Contract to Treaty: The Legal Transformation of the Spanish Succession (1659-1715)’, Journal of the History of International Law XIII (2011B), nr. 2, 347-374Frederik DHONDT, Op zoek naar Glorie in Vlaanderen. De Zonnekoning en de Spaanse Successie, 1707-1708 [Standen en Landen/Anciens Pays et Assemblées d’États, v. CVIII] (Courtrai : UGA, 2011A)
Luc DHONDT, ‘Een schets van de geschiedenis van de stad en van een bijzondere symbiose met het platteland’, in: Ingrid DE MEÛTER & Martine VANWELDEN (eds.), Oudenaardse wandtapijten van de 16de tot de 18de eeuw (Tielt: Lannoo, 1999), 13-22
Fadi EL HAGE, Vendôme: la gloire ou l’imposture (Paris : Belin, 2016)Alexander KIRCHHAMMER (Hrsg.), Feldzüge des prinzen Eugen von Savoyen nach den Feld-Acten und anderen authentischen Quellen (Wien: Verlag des K. u. k. Generalstabes, 1885), vol. X.
Pieter-Jan LACHAERT (ed.), Oudenaarde 1708; een stad, een koning, een veldheer (Leuven: Davidsfonds, 2008)
Arsène LEGRELLE, La diplomatie française et la succession d’Espagne (Gand/Paris : Dullé-Plus/Pichon, 1888-1892)Guy ROWLANDS, ‘Moving Mars: the Logistical Geography of Louis XIV's France’, French History XXV (2011), 492-514 François-Eugène DE VAULT & Jean-Jacques Germain PELET, Mémoires militaires relatifs à la succession d’Espagne sous Louis XIV (Paris : Imprimerie Royale/Imprimerie Nationale, 1835-1862)Carl VON NOORDEN, Europäische Geschichte im achtzehnten Jahrhundert: der spanische Erbfolgekrieg (Düsseldorf: J. Bubbens, 1870-1882)
(see the Standen en Landen-blog on the conference)

woensdag, mei 29, 2019

OPEN ACCESS: Handelingen van de Geschied- en Oudheidkundige kring van Oudenaarde, van zijn Kastelnij en van den Lande tusschen Maarke en Ronne

De Geschied- en Oudheidkundige Kring Oudenaarde heeft de quasi-volledige collectie van de Handelingen van de Geschied- en Oudheidkundige Kring van Oudenaarde, van zijn Kastelnij en van den Lande tusschen Maarke en Ronne gedigitaliseerd (tot en met 2010).

In deze collectie verschenen twee bijdragen van mijn hand, namelijk in de editie 2007 en 2009.