political revue


Year XXXVI, 1994, Number 3 - Page 221



Charles-Irenée Castel, Abbé de Saint-Pierre, was born in 1658, in the castle of Saint-Pierre Eglise, near Barfleur in Normandy. In 1695 he became a member of the French Academy and in 1712, as a member of the Abbé de Polignac’s suite, he was present at the Congress of Utrecht, which gave him the idea of writing the Project for Settling an Everlasting Peace in Europe.[1] In 1718 he was expelled from the Academy for having dared, for the first time since its foundation, to protest publicly against the posthumous adoration of the Sun King. He was reinstated only after his death, in 1743, in an address to the Academy by D’Alembert.
In the course of his long life the Abbé de Saint-Pierre worked tirelessly to spread the idea of peace in an age of absolutism, when to refuse to magnify one’s own king could cost, as indeed it cost the Abbé, marginalisation and isolation. His perseverance and free spirit brought him more criticism than honour from most of his contemporaries. His Project for Settling an Everlasting Peace in Europe was criticised and derided by Rousseau, Voltaire, Leibniz and Herder.[2] Only Kant, after the outbreak of the French Revolution, continued the work of the Abbé, rationalising it and incorporating it into a universal political project in which the equality of citizens within the State went hand-in-hand with the affirmation of cosmopolitan law.[3]
The watershed of the French Revolution is evident in the different terminology, as well as in the different content of the two projects for perpetual peace. While Kant addresses princes and citizens, the Abbé addresses princes and subjects. This terminology from the ancien régime certainly did not help make the Abbé de Saint-Pierre’s work popular. Even today his reputation remains tied to an image of well-meaning, utopian and over-ambitious pacifism, even though historical studies into the origins of the League of Nations and the United Nations make reference to his project, and although the terminology introduced by him concerning the need to establish the European Union is highly relevant today. Nor was the Abbé any more fortunate in the nineteenth century: pacifists at that time were referred to with a certain condescension as “the disciples of the good Abbé de Saint-Pierre,” and peace was considered to be “the utopia of the Abbé de Saint-Pierre.”[4] The consolidation of this reputation is not unconnected to the way in which his works were diffused immediately after his death. In fact Rousseau, charged by the Abbé’s followers with the task of editing his works to make them accessible to a wider public, made no secret of his critical attitude to the Project for Settling an Everlasting Peace in Europe. This is how he described the task he had recently been given in his Confessions (book IX, 1756-1757): “These works contained excellent things, but so badly told that the reading of them was almost insupportable, and it is astonishing that the Abbé de Saint-Pierre, who looked on his readers as schoolboys, should nevertheless have spoken to them as men, by the little care he took to induce them to give him a hearing.... Besides, not being confined to the function of a translator, I was at liberty sometimes to think for myself; and I had it in my power to give such a form to my work, that many important truths would pass in it under the name of the Abbé de Saint-Pierre, much more safely than under mine.”
What is the value of re-reading the Abbé de Saint-Pierre’s Project today? It does not share with the Kantian Project the virtues of synthesis and clarity, nor did the Abbé clarify the institutional make-up of a federation of States, though openly criticising the limits of confederations.[5] However, the Abbé introduced into the history of political thought the idea of overcoming the absolute sovereignty of States (which at the beginning of the eighteenth century coincided with the absolute sovereignty of kings and princes), over half a century before the American and French Revolutions. The problem which the Abbé set himself was not simply theoretical: it was not by chance that he emphasised in his preface how his intention was to propose the means to render perpetual peace and not to propose a disquisition on peace. He was conscious of attracting the criticism of conventional thinkers, who would find his project naive and impracticable. Proof of this is in the note to readers written in 1715, in which he warned: “Changes can be seen every day in Europe. What is more uncertain than the fortune of Sovereigns while they are at war, and what is less solid than their peace treaties, as long as these Princes remain in their present unhappy state of anarchy? The intelligent Reader will find it easy to make such changes as prove necessary and to correct after each event what I myself could have corrected if I had written after all these revolutions.” Thus the Abbé is not to be considered a classical exponent of the ancien régime, but rather as the first man who was tried to propose peace as the supreme objective of politics. It is in this light that his practical plan to convince the holders of absolute power, the kings and princes, to establish a peaceful society, should be read. It is in this sense that his attempt to draw up a Treaty of European Union which provided for the submission of kings, and hence of the States, to a superior law, should be considered no less than revolutionary. But in an epoch dominated by the problem of freeing oneself from absolutism and of affirming the fundamental rights of the individual, such a project could not but arouse perplexity and criticism. And of criticism, as already noted, there was no shortage. Rousseau continued in his Confessions: “after a careful examination of his political works, I discerned nothing but superficial notions, and projects that were useful but impracticable, in consequence of the idea from which the author never could depart, that men were guided by their reason rather than by their passions. This extraordinary man, an honour to the age in which he lived and to the human species, and perhaps the only person since mankind has existed whose sole passion was that of reason, nevertheless wandered in all his systems from one error to another, by attempting to make men like himself, instead of taking them as they were, are, and will continue to be. He laboured for imaginary beings, while believing himself employed for the benefit of his contemporaries.” In his Criticism of the Abbé de Saint-Pierre’s Project of Perpetual Peace, which is appended to the abridged work, Rousseau directly attacks the feasibility of the Project: “In politics therefore, as in morals, let us distinguish between real and apparent interests. The first would be found in perpetual peace; that is demonstrated in the project; the second is to be found in the state of absolute independence which removes sovereigns from the reign of law and submits them to that of chance, like a vain and headstrong pilot who, to show off his empty skill and authority over his sailors, would rather drift among the rocks during a storm, than let his vessel lie at anchor... As to the quarrels between princes, can one hope to compel men to submit to a superior tribunal, who dare to boast that they hold their power by the sword alone, and refer to God Himself only because he is in heaven? A private gentleman with a grievance disdains to carry it before a Court of the Marshals of France, and you want a king to take his before a Diet of Europe? Again there is this difference, that the former is breaking the law and so risking his life twice, while the latter risks only the life of his subjects; and in taking up arms he is availing himself of a right recognised by all the human race, and one for which he claims to be responsible to God alone. We are not to assume with the Abbé de Saint-Pierre, even given the goodwill that we shall never find, either in the prince or in his ministers, that it would be easy to find a favourable moment to put this scheme into operation; for this would require that the sum of private interests should not outweigh the common interest, and that everyone should believe he sees in the good of all the greatest good which he can hope for himself. Now this requires a concurrence of wisdom in so many heads and a fortuitous concurrence of so many interests, such as chance could hardly be expected to bring about. Yet without such an agreement, there is nothing left but force, and then it is no longer a question of persuading but of compelling, and not of writing books, but of raising troops. Thus, although the project was very wise, the means proposed for its execution betray the artlessness of its author. He fondly imagined that it was enough to assemble a congress, propose his articles to it, have them signed and all would be settled. It must be admitted that, in all his projects, this worthy man saw clearly enough what their effect would be when they were once established, but that he judged like a child the means for establishing them. Let no one say then if his system has not been adopted that it was not a good one; let us say on the contrary that it was too good to be adopted. For the wrongs and abuses by’ which so many profit come about of themselves, while what is of benefit to the public is scarcely ever brought about except by force, seeing that private interests are almost always opposed to it. Without doubt perpetual peace is an absurd project today; but let another Henri IV and a Sully appear, and perpetual peace will once more be a reasonable project. Or rather, while we admire so fair a scheme, let us console ourselves for the fact that it was not carried into execution, with the reflection that it could only have been done by violent means to be feared by mankind. There is no prospect of federative leagues being established otherwise than by revolutions; and, on this basis, who among us would venture to say whether this European League is more to be desired or feared? It might perhaps do more harm in one blow than it could prevent for centuries.” Rousseau’s criticisms reflect the analysis which the federalists have developed with regard to the difficulty of uniting States in the absence of a growing context of interdependence. It is only in this kind of context in fact that state interest tends to coincide with the necessity of uniting together. The Abbé understood that it was necessary to institute a new State to channel the passions and weaknesses of sovereigns and men, but the historical conditions were not yet ripe to realise the convergence between the interests and the duty of sovereigns. He also foresaw that this new State would need to have the characteristics of a republic, the Republic of the European Union. But only with Kant, after the French Revolution, would the consciousness be arrived at that one of the premises for the achievement of perpetual peace is the realisation of a republican constitution in every State. As regards the relationship between ethics and politics, Kant in the appendix to For Perpetual Peace, “On the discordance between ethics and politics with regard to perpetual peace,” demolishes Rousseau’s theory of the practical man, who bases his renunciation of hope for peace on the pretext of foreseeing that man will never want to pursue the aim of perpetual peace rationally, thus rendering homage to the “utopia” of the Abbé.
In the preface to the Project for Settling an Everlasting Peace in Europe, which we publish here, the Abbé de Saint-Pierre presents his design, which he then develops meticulously in seven sections divided up into theses, in which he compares the advantages and disadvantages of the project of Union, and refutes the most common objections regarding the impossibility of establishing peace. In the final part he expounds the Articles of the Treaty of European Union. Conceived and written in an epoch in which the evils and misfortunes produced by frequent wars were very tangible, the Abbé’s project identifies the maintenance of the absolute sovereignty of sovereigns as the real obstacle in the way of peace. In the first section the Abbé is explicit: the means employed so far to guarantee peace, namely struggles to maintain the balance between the major powers and international treaties, have shown themselves to be completely ineffectual. The balance cannot in fact be preserved for long, and in any case has prohibitive costs, while treaties can easily be disregarded. Because of this, according to the Abbé, it would be easier to maintain a Union than the balance of power. Only through a Union in fact could the development of commerce, and of the sciences and the arts be guaranteed, hunger be eliminated, border revenue increased, military expenditure reduced and the education of the subjects be raised. It was therefore necessary to draw up a Treaty of a different nature to those signed before, a Treaty which proposed to establish not a short period of truce but perpetual European Union, and which provided for the minimum institutions to render both sufficient and permanent the security of all against external dangers (at that time the Moslems) and against the dangers of civil war. To arrive at this it was necessary to convince the sovereigns that it was in their interest, and in that of future generations, to accept a judge who was superior them, a tribunal. The Union should moreover provide for the creation of a Congress of Deputies or Senators nominated by the kings, which should meet to deliberate in assembly in the City of Peace, a city removed from the sovereignty of all member states of the Union, and protected by its own army. But since the objective of the Union was more ambitious, that of indicating the way to universal peace, the Union signed among a limited nucleus of European sovereigns should remain open to forms of association with other States on its borders (above all with Turkey) and should favour the birth of other Unions, above all in Asia. The Union proposed by the Abbé, as we can see, prefigures in form and substance many of the problems faced today by the European Union which was created by the Treaty of Maastricht signed by the Heads of State and Government of the European Community in December 1991. Certainly many changes and revolutions have taken place in the meantime, as the Abbé had warned. But it is surprising to see how the Abbé, with the eyes of reason, succeeded in perceiving many of the main themes which the recent evolution of the process of European integration has introduced de facto into the continent’s political debate. Today the absolute power of the king no longer exists, the subjects have become citizens and our States are now all, in substance, republics. But the symbols of the sovereignty of States, currency and national foreign policy, are still holding out. The European Union has taken the place of the European Community, but it is very far from having acquired that capacity to act which would legitimise it in the eyes of the European citizens and of the world. In fact, as the Abbé had warned, only when the Union, the new permanent society of peace, has become a sufficiently powerful actor in the eyes of princes and subjects will it have become irreversible.[6] At a distance of almost three centuries, after two destructive world wars and with the emergence of new threats to the planet, these problems have become highly relevant not only for Europe, but for all mankind, which is now compelled, as Kant had foreseen, “to do what reason, even without such sad experience, might have suggested.”[7]
Giving a General Idea of the Project.
My Design is to propose Means for settling an Everlasting Peace amongst all the Christian states. Let not any Body ask me, what Capacity I have acquired to handle a Subject of so very high a Nature. ‘Tis a Question I can make no Answer to; for tho’ for above these three and twenty Years I have done all I could to Instruct my self thoroughly in Matters of political Government; because ‘tis my Opinion, that Such chiefly deserve the Attention of a good Citizen; yet, perhaps, I have attain’d none of the Qualities necessary to make a Man serviceable to his Country. But, to judge of the Value of a Work, does the Reader stand in need of any thing besides the Work itself?
About four Years ago, after having finish’d an Essay useful for the interiour Commerce of the Kingdom, being both an Eyewitness of the extreme Misery to which the People were reduc’d by the heavy Taxes, and also inform’d, by divers particular Relations, of the excessive Contributions, the Forragings, the Destructions, the Violences, the Cruelties, and the Murthers which the unhappy Inhabitants of the Frontiers of Christian States daily suffer; in short, being sensibly touch’d with the Evils which War causes to the Princes of Europe, and their Subjects, I took a Resolution to penetrate into the first Sources of this Evil, and to find out by my own Reflections, whether it was so inseparable from the Nature of Sovereignties, and Sovereigns, as to be absolutely without Remedy; I applied myself to examine this Affair, in order to discover whether it was not possible to find out some practicable Means to terminate their future Differences without war; and so to render the Peace perpetual among them.
I bestow’d formerly, at different times, some Thoughts upon this Matter, as the most useful that great Genius’s could employ themselves upon; but those Thoughts were always without any Success: the Difficulties which arose one from t’other and even from the Nature of Mankind itself, always discouraged me: it is true, I thought of it only in Places, where, though my Mornings where wholly spent in reading or in meditating upon Subjects of this Nature, yet my Mind was a little two much taken off, either by Duties or Amusements; whereas in the Country, being assisted by the Strength which the Mind receives from the calmness and leisure of Solitude, I thought I might, by an obstinate and continued Meditation, exhaust a Subject, which ‘till then had not perhaps ever been examin’d with so much Attention, as in self it deserved to be.
I thought it necessary to begin, by making some Reflections upon the Happiness it would be, as well to the Sovereigns of Europe, as to private Men, to live in Peace, united by some permanent Society; and upon the Necessity they are at present in to have continual Wars with each other, about the Possession or Division of some Advantages; and finally upon the Means which they have hitherto used, either to avoid entering upon those Wars, or not to sink under them, when once they have entered upon them.
I found that all those Means consisted in making mutual Promises, either in Treaties of Commerce, of Truce, of Peace, wherein Limits of Dominion, and other reciprocal Pretensions are regulated; or else in Treaties of Guarantie, or of League offensive and defensive, to establish, to maintain, or to re-establish the Equilibrium of Power between the Principal Houses; a System which hitherto seems to be the highest Degree of Prudence, that the Sovereign of Europe, or their Ministers ever carried their Policy to.
I soon perceived, that so long as they contented themselves with such Methods, they would never have any sufficient Security for the Execution of Treaties, nor sufficient Means for terminating equitably, and above all without War, their future Differences; and that unless they could find out some better Ways, the Christian Princes must never expect any thing but an almost continual War, which can never be interrupted but by some Treaties of Peace, or rather by Truces, which are the necessary Productions of Equality of Forces, and of the Weariness and Exhaustion of the Combatants, and which in the End must be the total Ruin of the Vanquished. ‘Tis these Reflections that are the Subject of the first Discourse. I have reduced them all into two Heads, or two Propositions, which I propose to my self to demonstrate.
1st. The present Constitution of Europe can never produce any thing else but almost continual Wars, because it can never procure any sufficient Security for the Execution of Treaties.
2nd. The Equilibrium of Power between the House of France, and the House of Austria, cannot procure any sufficient Security either against Foreign Wars, or against Civil Wars, and consequently cannot procure any sufficient Security either for the Preservation of Territory, or for the Preservation of Commerce.
The first Step necessary to the obtaining a Cure for a Disease great, or inveterate, and for which alone nothing but ineffectual Medicines have hitherto been used, is to endeavour, on the one Side, to find out the different Causes of the Disease; and, on the other, the Disproportion of those Medicines with the Disease it self.
I afterwards consider’d, whether Sovereigns might not find some sufficient Security for the Execution of mutual Promises, by establishing a perpetual Arbitration; and I find, that if the eighteen Principal Sovereignties of Europe, in order to maintain the present Government, to avoid War, and to procure the Advantages of an uninterrupted Commerce between Nation and Nation, would make a Treaty of Union, and a perpetual Congress, much after the Model, either of the seven Sovereignties of Holland, the thirteen Sovereignties of the Swisses, or the Sovereignties of Germany, and form an European Union, from what is best in those Unions, and especially in the Germanic Union, which consists of above two hundred Sovereignties: I found, I say, that the weakest would have a sufficient Security, that the great Power of the strongest could not hurt them; that every one would exactly keep their reciprocal Promises; that Commerce would never be interrupted, and that all future Differences would be terminated without War, by means of Umpires, a Blessing which can never be obtain’d any other Way.
These are the eighteen Principal Christian Sovereignties, which should each of them have a Voice in the general Diet of Europe: 1. France, 2. Spain, 3. England, 4. Holland, 5. Portugal, 6. Switzerland, and the Associates, 7. Florence, and the Associates, 8. Genoa, and the Associates, 9. the Ecclesiastick State, 10. Venice, 11. Savoy, 12. Lorrain, 13. Denmark, 14. Courland and Dantzick, & c., 15. the Emperor and Empire, 16. Poland, 17. Sweden, 18. Muscovy. I set down the Empire only as one Sovereignty, because it is but one Body; Holland too is mention’d but for one Sovereignty, because that Republick, tho’ it consists of seven Sovereign Republicks, is but one Body; the same of Switzerland.
In examining the Government of the Sovereigns of Germany, I did not find that there would be more Difficulty in forming the European Body now, than formerly there was in forming the Germanick Body, in executing in great that which has been already executed in little; on the contrary, I found that there would be fewer Obstacles, and more Facility, in forming the European Body; and what greatly perswaded me that this Project was no Chimera, was the Information I received from one of my Friends, soon after I had shewn him the first Sketch of this Work: he told me that Henry IV had form’d a Project, which, in the main, was much the same; and so I found in the Memoires of the Duke of Sully, his Prime Minister; and in Monsieur de Perefixes’s History of his Reign; Nay more, I found that this Project had been even agreed to by a great many Princes, in the Beginning of the last Century: This gave me Occasion from thence to draw some Inferences, to prove that the Thing was far from being impracticable: And this is the Subject of the Second Discourse.
1st. The same Motives and the same Means that formerly sufficed to form a permanent Society of all the Sovereignties of Germany, are within the Reach and Power of the present Sovereigns, and may suffice to form a permanent Society of all the Christian Sovereignties of Europe.
2nd. The Approbation which most of the Sovereigns of Europe gave to the Project for an European Society, which Henry the Great proposed to them, proves that it may be hoped such a Project will be approved of by their Successors.
These Models of permanent Societies, the Approbation that was given, an hundred Years ago, to the Project of Henry the Great, are sufficient to produce two very great Prepossessions in favour of the Possibility of this: I know the Weight of Prepossessions and that they make more Impressions upon the Generality of Minds, than true Arguments, fetch’d from the very Bottom of the Subject, and from necessary Consequences of the first Principles; but I plainly foresee they will never be sufficient entirely to determine Spirits of the first Order; that They will be continually finding out Differences and Inequalities between the European Society, which I propose, and the Societies I quote as Models; that Henry IV, might after all be deceived in thinking That possible, which was in reality impossible. Thus I find my self obliged to demonstrate every Thing strictly, and am resolved to use my utmost Endeavours, to trace back those very Motives, which induced the Ancient Sovereigns of Germany, and those of the last Century, to desire an unalterable Peace; and shall try to find out Methods, better than theirs, to form a more important Establishment.
As for sufficient Motives, I believe that if anyone could propose a Treaty which might render the Union solid and unalterable, and so give everyone a sufficient Security for the Perpetuity of Peace, the Princes would find therein much fewer Inconveniencies, and those much less great, a greater Number of Advantages, and those much more great, than in the present System of War; that a great many Sovereigns especially the least powerful, would begin by Signing it, and afterwards would present it to others to Sign; and that even the most powerful, if they examined it thoroughly, would soon find they could never embrace any Resolution, nor sign any Treaty, near so Advantagious as this would be.
As for practicable and sufficient Means, which consist in the Articles of a Treaty of Union, made to be to every one a sufficient Security for the Perpetuity of the Peace, I have spared no Pains to invent them, and I believe I have done it.
Now, as on the one side, those who have read the first Sketches of the fourth Discourse agree, that a Treaty which should be composed of such Articles, would form that sufficient Security, so sought after by Politicians; and as, on the other side, the signing of those Articles depends solely upon the Will of the Sovereigns, and all those Princes would be so much the more inclined to be willing to sign them, and to procure the Execution of them, the more evidently they shall have seen the Greatness of the Advantages they may reap from them: We may conclude, that on their side there will be no Impossibility found in the Execution of the Project; and that the more they shall be convinc’d of this Security, and these Advantages, the more easily they will be brought to execute it. The whole Project then is contain’d in this single Argument.
If the European Society, which is propos’d, can procure for all the Christian Princes a sufficient Security for the Perpetuity of the Peace, both without and within their Dominions, there is none of them that will not find it more advantageous to sign the Treaty for the Establishment of that Society, than not to sign it.
Now the European Society, which is propos’d, can procure, for all the Christian Princes, a sufficient Security for Perpetuity of the Peace both within and without their Dominions.
Therefore there will be none of them but what will find it much more advantageous to sign the Treaty for the Establishment of the Society, than not to sign it.
The Major or the first Proposition, contains the Motives, and the Proof of it may be found in the third Discourse after the Preliminary Discourses, which I thought necessary, in order to dispose the Mind of the Reader to conceive the Force of the Demonstration. The Minor, or the second Proposition, contains the Means; the Proof of it may be found in the fourth Discourse. As for the last Proposition, of the Conclusion, that is the End that I propos’d to my self in this Work.
As this Project may begin to be known in the Courts of Europe, either in the middle, or towards the end of a War, or in the Conferences, or after the Conclusion of a Peace, or even in the midst of a profound Peace, it was necessary to shew compendiously in the fifth Discourse, that upon any of those Occasions it would produce both a great Facility in concluding the Peace, and a great Desire to render it perpetual, if it was concluded.
Having observ’d that several were of Opinion, that even though the Sovereigns of Europe should one by one have sign’d the Treaty of Union, yet there would, in all appearance, remain some Difficulties, almost insurmountable, in the Formation of the Congress, and in the Means how to begin and maintain such an Establishment: I was oblig’d, in order to remove this Doubt, to propose, in the sixth Discourse, several Articles, to which the Sovereigns may agree: Not that I thought there could be none propos’d more useful, for the rendering the Establishment more solid in it self, and more convenient for each Member. All I pretend to prove is, that those feign’d Difficulties, which Men may form to themselves, with respect to the Execution of the Establishment, are very far from being insurmountable, since even the Articles, that I propose are sufficient for that execution, and that nothing hinders the Sovereigns from agreeing to them.
Such is the Analysis, such the Order I have follow’d in this Work; this is the Fruit I have gather’d from my Meditations for above four Years; this is the Use I have made of the judicious Criticisms of my Friends; and now, if ever any Body propos’d a Subject worthy to be attentively examin’d by the most excellent Wits, and especially by the wisest Ministers and the best Princes, it may be said, that this is it; since it treats of no less than of the Means how to procure to all the Sovereigns and Nations of Europe, the greatest Felicity that a new Establishment can possibly ever procure them.
It is easie to comprehend, that the more Methods this Project shall carry in it, for rendring the Peace of Europe unalterable, the more it may contribute to facilitate the Conclusion of that which is now treating at Utrecht: For the Allies of the House of Austria desire Peace as much as we do; but they do not care for it, without sufficient Security for its Duration. And indeed, if we were to examin the Interest of those Allies in the present War, we should find, that it all turns upon two principal Heads: The first is a sufficient Security for the Preservation of their Dominions against the great Power of the House of France, which may, in time, find specious Pretences and favourable Opportunities to make Conquests upon them, and to introduce into their Country a Religion and Government for which they have a very great Aversion. The other Head is, a sufficient Security for Liberty of Commerce; whether that of America, or that of the Mediterranean; in those two Commerces consists above half the Revenue of England and Holland.
But what sufficient Securities can be found for the Weakest against the Strongest? There are but two Systems for this; the first is, if it can be done, sufficiently to weaken the Strongest; which is either impossible, or ruinous; though it is that which the Allies follow in the present War, to arrive at their Chimerical Equilibrium. The second is, sufficiently to fortifie the Weaker, and to give him a Force sufficiently superior, without depriving the Stronger of any of his Force; which is what I propose to do by a Treaty of Society, that might give to the Weaker a new Augmentation of very strong Allies, and who would be so much the Stronger, as they would be much more closely united; not to deprive the Stronger of any thing he possesses, but to take from him the Power of ever disturbing the others, either in their Possessions at home, or in their Commerce abroad.
In my second Draught I took in all the Kingdom of the World; but my Friends observ’d to me, that even though in following Ages most of the Sovereigns of Asia and Africa might desire to be receiv’d into the Union, yet this Prospect would seem so remote and so full of Difficulties, that it would cast an Air of Impossibility upon the whole Project, which would disgust all the Readers, and make some believe, that tho’ it were even restrain’d only to the Christian part of Europe, the Execution of it would be still impossible; therefore I subscribed to their Opinion, and that the more willingly, considering, that the Union of Europe would suffice to preserve Europe always in Peace; and that it would be powerful enough to maintain its Frontiers and Commerce, in spight of those who should endeavour to disturb it. The General Council it might establish in the Indies, would soon become the Arbiter of the Sovereigns of that Cuntry, and, by its Authority, hinder them from taking up Arms; the Credit of the Union would be much the greater amongst them, as they would be assur’d, that it only desired Securities for its Commerce; that that Commerce cannot but be very advantageous to them; that it does not aim at any Conquests; and that it will never look upon any as Enemies, but those who were Enemies to Peace.
If the Reader is willing to form a sound Judgment of the Work, it is, in my Opinion, necessary that he should make a stop at the end of every Discourse, and ask himself what Effect the Proofs I bring have upon him. If he thinks them sufficient, he may go on; but if he does not think them so, That may proceed, either from his still meeting with Difficulties, or from his not having read some Passages with Attention enough; and nothing is more common, even with the most thoughtful Readers, than sometimes to want Attention. In the first Case he need only make a Note of his Doubts, and observe, whether they be not sufficiently clear’d up in the following part of the Work. In the second Case, the only Remedy is, to read over again the Passages he did not well understand; otherwise he would act like a Judge, that should report and make a Judgment after a superficial Reading, and without having given sufficient Attention to the principal Evidences of the Cause. I have endeavour’d to make a Concatenation between the Thoughts, that the Mind might the more easily comprehend them. Now those who are no attentive enough to perceive this Concatenation, can never be sensible of the Force of particular Arguments, and much less of the Force of a Demonstration, which results from the Assemblage of those Arguments.
I own the Title gives a Prejudice to the Work; but as I am persuaded, that it is not impossible to find out Means sufficient and practicable to settle an Everlasting Peace among Christians; and even believe, that the Means which I have thought of are of that Nature; I imagin’d, that if I my self first seem’d to be uncertain, as to the Solidity of those Means, and doubtful of the Possibility of executing them, the Readers, tho’ never so well dispos’d in favour of the System, might really doubt of it too, and that their real Doubtfulness might, perhaps, go further than my affected Doubtfulness. It is not with things, in which the Design is to persuade Men to Action, as it is with things of pure Speculation; the Pilot who himself seems uncertain of the Success of his Voyage, is not likely to persuade the Passenger to imbark; the Undertaker who himself seems to doubt of the Solidity of an important Work which he proposed to undertake, is not at all likely to persuade others to join in the Enterprize. Therefore I chose rather to venture being thought ridiculous in assuming an affirmative Stile, and promising in the Title all that I hope to make good in the Body of the Work, than to run the risque, by a false Air of Modesty and Uncertainty, of doing the least wrong to the Public, by making Men of Sense look upon this Project as whimsical and impossible to be put in execution, when I, my self, form’ d it, in full Expectation to see it one Day executed.
(Prefaced and edited by Franco Spoltore)

[1] The Project for Settling Perpetual Peace in Europe in its original form consists of three parts. The first two were published in Utrecht in 1713, by Antoine Schouten; the third, entitled Project of a Treaty to Render Perpetual Peace among Christian Sovereigns, was published by the same printer in 1717.
[2] Daniele Archibugi and Franco Voltaggio (eds.), Filosofi per la pace, Rome, Editori Riuniti, 1991.
[3] Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace.
[4] On this subject it is worth reading the biography edited by a Belgian intellectual, close to the international pacifist movement, Maurice Gustave de Molinari, who made reference to the pacifist tradition of Saint-Simon (M.G. de Molinari, L’Abbé de Saint-Pierre, membre exclu de l’Académie Française, sa vie et ses œuvres, Paris, Guillaumin et C, 1857).
[5] See in the first section the chapter entitled Treaty of Confederation: Absence of Power and of Will.
[6] See the response given by the Abbé to objection no. XXIV: How Can One Hope to Make a Human Construction Irreversible?
[7] See the seventh thesis of the Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Viewpoint.
* From “Project for Settling an Everlasting Peace in Europe”, printed in English for J. Wats, London 1714.



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