The 1713 Peace of Utrecht and its Enduring Effects, edited by
Alfred H.A. Soons, presents an interdisciplinary collection of contributions marking the occasion of the tercentenary of the Peace of Utrecht. The chapters examine the enduring effects of the Peace Treaties concluded at Utrecht in 1713, from the perspectives of international law, history and international relations, with cross-cutting themes: the European Balance of Power; the Relationship to Colonial Regimes and Trade Monopolies; and Ideas and Ideals: the Development of the International Legal Order. With contributions by: Peter Beeuwkes, Stella Ghervas, Martti Koskenniemi, Randall Lesaffer, Paul Meerts, Isaac Nakhimovsky, Sundhya Pahuja, Koen Stapelbroek, Benno Teschke, Jaap de Wilde
By looking at its intellectual history, this chapter addresses the problem that Balance of Power by most observers is treated one-sidedly in adversarial terms, whereas a balance of power-logic often requires cooperation. The Peace of Utrecht (1713) is an example where the balance can be better compared with an arch than with a pair of scales. Moreover, an adversarial Balance of Power has little to do with weighing power in imaginary scales: 1) there are no objective standards for measuring power, 2) means of power cannot predict outcomes of struggles; and 3) outcomes themselves are discursive tools rather than historic facts. Balance of Power has two specific political functions: the first is to structure an analysis of specific historic episodes; the second is to support specific political argumentations. Using the scales argument is likely to undermine the associational logic.
After a short introduction this chapter describes the political context of the Peace of Utrecht. It then turns to the pre-negotiation processes, after which the chapter analyzes the processes of negotiation themselves as well as the behaviour of the diplomats representing the main stakeholders. It then compares the Utrecht negotiations to those at Nijmegen and Ryswick, thereby putting the Peace of Utrecht in the broader perspective of preceding peace negotiations on Dutch soil. After this the chapter poses the question: what is the profile of the effective negotiator in the past and the present? Are there differences in the behaviour of negotiators in the eighteenth century and today? It then concludes by briefly putting the Utrecht negotiations in the broader context of diplomatic negotiation as it evolved from the beginning of the 18th century till the beginning of the 21st.
This chapter attempts to bring the historiography of the European balance of power in the eighteenth century into focus by examining the forms it took in the aftermath of the Peace of Utrecht in 1713, above all in the hands of the eminent philosopher François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694–1778). Voltaire envisioned a post-Utrecht Europe in which large monarchies like Britain and France were both locked into a system of diplomatic and commercial relations, thereby forming, in his words, “a kind of great republic divided into many states.” This vision of the balance of power and of the European states system proliferated widely and was discussed in many contexts. Though many challenges to this vision were expressed at the time, particularly in the wake of the Seven Years War, a version of it was also embedded into Emer de Vattel’s famous treatise on the law of nations, published in 1758. As Vattel’s status as a leading authority on international law throughout the nineteenth century suggests, this was a vision of the European balance of power with enduring appeal.
This chapter examines the legacy of the conceptions of the European order that emerged in the aftermath of the Peace of Utrecht (1713) as an alternative to the traditional paradigm of universal monarchy. One option was the balance of power, which evolved in England as a doctrine of foreign policy, before being incorporated as a legal principle into the Treaty of Utrecht. The second was a controversial counter-proposal in the form of a league of European states, outlined by Abbé de Saint-Pierre in his Plan of Perpetual Peace. Despite the fact that the balance of power had its heyday in the eighteenth century and proved a flexible tool to maintain some equilibrium in Europe, it was eventually Saint-Pierre’s paradigm (albeit in altered form) that found its way into the Congress System of the post-Napoleonic era. This chapter reconnects the two post-war orders of Utrecht and Vienna, showing that part of the theoretical reflection of the eighteenth century actually influenced the later diplomatic practices of the great powers.
The Peace of Utrecht is famous for having allegedly instated the concept of the balance of power in modern politics. This chapter looks at how the balancing mechanism assumed to have been created at Utrecht was configured, so to speak, in commercial terms. It engages with the question what changed before, during and after the conclusion of Peace of Utrecht in how commercial treaties as ordering institutions were thought about, designed and subsequently negotiated in diplomatic circles. While discussion about the regulation of global trade in the years leading up to the peace talks initially took a novel form, the outcome of the commercial treaties of Utrecht confirmed Britain’s victory in the war. It is arguable, however, that the regime of commercial treaties instated at Utrecht was the first of its kind as an attempt to regulate international trade and thereby bring about a solid lasting peace.
This chapter examines some of the contradictions and conflicts in 18th century international politics and political thought. It opposes the Christian pacifism of Fénelon with the Hobbersian realism of the Abbé de Saint-Pierre and the ideologies behind the pragmatic comprise that was the balance of power. It contrasts the development of the Public Law of Europe with the commercial spirit and the spread of ideas of “liberty” in the (British) colonies with expanding slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean. Overcoming the “crisis of European conscience” meant learning to live with belief in contradictory things.
The Peace of Utrecht’s greatest claim to fame in the historiography of the law of nations is that it introduced the balance of power into the positive law of nations. This paper assesses what this inclusion signified to the treaty negotiators at Utrecht and what the balance of power meant to them both as a political principle and for its legal implications. In origins, the inclusion of the balance of power in the Utrecht Peace Treaties only held legal consequences in relation to the prevention of personal union between France and Spain. In the treaty practice of the next four decades, references to the balance as a basis for concrete legal rights and obligations gradually expanded to other succession issues. It is sometimes claimed that Utrecht marked the transition of a European order based on legitimate dynastic right to an order based on the common interest of peace and balance of power. While this claim has merit, it does not signify a complete overhauling of the old system. Over the 18th century, the legitimate claims of dynasties would remain foundational to the system of Europe. But progressively, they had to be balanced with the public interests of state, which at times were defended through an appeal to the balance of power.