A History of European Diplomacy, 1451-1789

A History of European Diplomacy, 1451-1789

A History of European Diplomacy, 1451-1789

A History of European Diplomacy, 1451-1789

Excerpt

This book is an historical study, from the point of view of diplomacy, of how wars have been made, concluded or prevented. The essential test-question for diplomacy, when it appears before the bar of universal judgment, will be: Has it, on the whole, helped to diminish warfare? The studies made for this book seem to point to the conclusion that diplomacy began as a means by which each sovereign aimed at preventing aggression from his neighbours; it became ultimately, on the whole, from about the middle of the seventeenth century, and without putting off its national attachments, an international agency for avoiding wars, or for localizing or concluding them after they had begun. The diplomatists were, as a whole, faithful to the idea of the Christian powers as being a system or family of states, each of which was morally bound not to encroach on the other, and none of which should preponderate over the rest. This idea substituted a conception of a society of independent units for the old idea of the Roman Empire relegated for ever to the limbo of the past.

There is a striking passage in Gulliver Travels to Brobdingnag. He had several conversations with the King of Brobdingnag about England and the other states of Europe, about war and politics and other public affairs. The king was not sympathetic:

He professed both to abominate and despise all mystery, refine. ment, and intrigue, either in a prince or in a minister. He could not tell what I meant by secrets of State, where an enemy or some rival nation were not in the case. He confined the knowledge of governing within very narrow bounds, to common sense and reason, to justice and lenity, to the speedy determination of civil and criminal causes; with some other obvious topics which are not worth considering. And he gave it for his opinion, that whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.

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