Every year in July, the anniversary of the battle of Oudenarde (11 July 1708) makes me realise I tend to age together with my previous research.
The twitter hashtag #OTD allows for regular recalls of events or major texts, using the fantastic and ever-growing historical online resources at our service.
An interesting but short document is the Declaration of War by Louis XIV against the Emperor, England, the Dutch Republic and their allies, issued at Marly on 3 July 1702. The text is published -where else?- in the Corps universel diplomatique du droit des gens, in the first section of its eighth volume, which appeared in 1731, available on Google Books.
The documents illustrates the very limited relevance of declarations of war for international law. These texts are pure unilateral and intended to convince one's own supporters. They can be 100% opposite to the discourse of secret negotiations. I refer to my article in History of European Ideas (2016) on the Wars of the Quadruple Alliance and the Polish Succession (see here).
In the preamble, Louis XIV recalls his magnanimity for having conceded peace to the Princes voisins jaloux de sa Puissance at the Peace of Rijswijk (1697), which ended the last major European War, the Nine Years' War (or War of the League of Augsburg). France indeed did win the major engagements in the Spanish Netherlands (under command of the famous marshal Luxembourg), but negotiated a partition of the Spanish Succession, signed in 1698 and in another configuration in 1700 (see earlier on this blog).
Since the decision to go to war has already been taken a while ago (in November 1700, when Louis XIV decided to accept the will of Charles II for his grandson, well knowing that this would imply waging war on most European princes, but with Spain on his side), the first material element in the declaration is of a purely propagandist nature. The Emperor, by augmenting the number of his troops, by concluding treaties and alliances with several other princes (especially England and the Dutch Republic), without any 'legitimate right' to the succession to the Kingdoms & Estates of the Spanish monarchy, has become a threat to the tranquility of Europe. The new conflict was as unjust as ill-founded.
These sentences refer to the Treaty of the Grand Alliance, concluded between the Emperor, who demanded the Spanish inheritance for his second son, archduke Charles of Habsburg, on the other hand, and the Maritime Powers on the other hand. The Treaty of 7 September 1701 is of the utmos importance to understand why the English would in 1711 decide to opt for separate peace negotiations with France. The Maritime Powers did not promise to fight until the whole of the Spanish monarchy had come under Austrian control. They only pledged to secure an aequa et rationi conveniens satisfactio (equitable and reasonable satisfaction).
This alliance between Vienna, Hampton Court and The Hague came seven months after the French had installed their troops in the Spanish Netherlands (present-day Belgium and Luxemburg, without the Prince-Bishopric of Liège). This decision, coupled with conferring the monopoly to import black slaves for the Spanish colonies to the French Compagnie de Guinée, or the decision to recognise the title of the chased Catholic King of England's son, explains why these three European powers wanted to thwart French expansion. The Emperor's 'rights' to the Spanish succession were part of a complex and far stretching discussion in European diplomacy, going back to 1659 at least (see my earlier article "From Contract to Treaty. The Legal Transformation of the Spanish Succession"). In other words, it is hard to believe any outside observer would have taken this text seriously. This is the main reason why I am extremely skeptical about data-mining declarations of war, or applying lexical analyses within the restricted framework of a text without context....
The French manifesto accuses the allies of having started hostilities, against and to the detriment of solemnly sworn treaties. The whole of Europe could witness Louis XIV's moderation, had seen sieges laid to cities, occupation of strategically advantageous positions, the stopping of convoys, prisoners made, avant qu'il y eût aucune Déclaration de Guerre, while Louis XIV had made his ambassadors or envoys negotiate peace.
In reality, both Louis XIV and Leopold I knew they were set for war. The Austrians confiscated the Duchy of Milan as soon as Charles II of Spain had died (October 1700). They claimed this territory was a fief of the Empire, and had to return to the Emperor at the extinction of the ruling line. I n the French view, this territory either had to be part of the partition agreed with the Dutch and English, or had to be claimed back by force, as soon as Louis XIV had agreed to accept Charles II's last will, which conferred the whole of the Spanish monarchy on his grandson, Philip of Anjou.
Louis XIV is said to have been shocked by the Démarches si contraires à la bonne foi and to the Powers' own interests. After publication of manifestos by the Emperor, England and the Dutch, he could not do anything else, to safeguard his own estates and those of his grandson, than to arm his troops and collect taxes considerable enough to stop the plans of the enemies of the House of Bourbon.
All forces, terrestrial as well as maritime will be used, with the help of divine protection, implored for a just cause. Hence, war is declared to the Emperor, England, the Dutch and their allies sovereings. Louis XIV ordains and enjoins all his subjects, vassals and servants to stop those of the Emperor, the English, the Dutch and those of their allies. He forbids explicitly all communications, trade nor intelligence, on penalty of death. All permissions, passports, sauvegardes or saufconduits are declared null and void.
The Admiral of France, the Marshalls, governors and lieutenants-general, maréchaux de camps, colonels, mestres de camps, captains, chiefs and conductors of the King's soldiers, on horseback as well as on foot, French or stranger, and all other appropriate officers, execute the King's declaration, within the perimeter of their competences and jurisdiction.
Car telle est la volonté de sa Majesté !
The declaration is hung out or read out in all places of France, both maritime and terrestrial, ports, as shall be necessary, to avoid that anybody could invoke his or her ignorance of the situation.
As well as (secretary of state for war),
Marly, 3 July 1702.