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The Idea of Europe

Catriona Seth
Rotraud von Kulessa

5. Universal Peace

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1Influenced by Saint-Pierre and his Project for Peace, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)i published his own treatise Zum ewigen Frieden. Ein philosophischer Entwurf (Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch) in 1795. The text rapidly circulated throughout Europe. Kant moved on from the idea of perpetual peace in Europe and came up with the idea of universal peace, to be founded on liberty, equality, fraternity and reason. Unlike SaintPierre, he does not go into the minutiae of his plan. His reflections relate more generally to the philosophy of law.

2Article II: No State that exists for itself (whether small or large) shall be acquirable by another through inheritance, exchange, purchase, or donation.

3For a State (as compared, for example, to the ground on which it has its seat) is not a property (patrimonium). It is a society of human beings, over whom no one else but itself may rule and dispose. But to incorporate such a State, which is itself a trunk with its own roots, as a graft into another State, means to abolish its existence as a moral person, and to make of the latter a thing, and therefore contradicts the idea of the original contract, without which no right over a people is conceivable. The danger that the prejudiced preference for this mode of acquisition has, up to our own times, brought to Europe, for it was never known in the other parts of the world, is well known to everybody, namely that States could also marry one another, partly as a new kind of industry by which one could make oneself all powerful without expense of effort through family alliances, partly also to expand one’s landed property. […]

4Second definitive article on perpetual peace. The law of nations shall be founded upon a federalism of free States.

5Peoples, as States, can be viewed like individual human beings, who, in their natural state (i. e. independent from external laws) already injure one another through their coexistence, and of whom everyone, for the sake of their safety, can and should demand of others to enter into a constitution similar to that of civil society, in which everyone’s right can be secured. That would be a confederation of peoples, which would not however need be a nation State. […]

6But since reason, from the throne of the highest moral legislative power, absolutely condemns war as a course of law and, on the contrary, makes the state of peace an immediate duty, which cannot, however, be achieved or secured without a treaty among peoples—therefore there must be a federation of a particular kind, which one could call the federation of peace (foedus pacificum), which would differ from the peace treaty (pactum pacis) in the sense that the latter seeks to end merely one war, the former however seeks to end all wars forever.

7The practicability (objective reality) of this idea of federalism, which should eventually encompass all States, and thereby lead to perpetual peace, can be demonstrated. For if luck would have it that a powerful and enlightened people were to form themselves into a republic (which must be inclined toward perpetual peace by its very nature), then this would offer a centre for the federal union of other States to join and thereby to secure the freedom of all participating States in accordance with the idea of the law of nations, and, through multiple bonds of this kind, gradually spread ever further in the course of time. […]

8Third definitive article on perpetual peace. The right of world citizenship shall be restricted to the conditions of universal hospitality.

9Here, as in the preceding articles, we are speaking not of philanthropy, but of law, and there hospitality (the quality of being a host) means the right of a foreigner not to be treated with hostility by another upon arriving on that other’s soil. The foreigner can be refused, if this can occur without their destruction; so long, however, as the foreigner behaves peacefully wherever they reside, they may not be treated with hostility. […]

10In this way distant parts of the world can enter into peaceful relations with each other, which finally become publicly lawful, and can thereby bring the human race ever closer to a world-wide constitution. […]

11If one compares this to the inhospitable conduct of the civilized, primarily mercantile states of our part of the world, the injustice they commit when visiting foreign countries and peoples (which they consider one and the same upon conquest) reaches the point of horror. […]

12Supplement. Of the guarantee of perpetual peace.

13She [Nature] employs two means to prevent peoples from intermixing and to separate them from each other: the difference of languages and religions. These carry with them the tendency towards mutual hatred and the pretext for war, but, with growing culture and increasing closeness of the peoples the diversity of tongues and faiths, leads to greater unity in principles, to agreement in a peace that is brought forth and secured not through the weakening of all powers, as in despotism (on the graveyard of freedom), but through their balance, through their most vigorous competition. […]

14It is the spirit of trade that cannot coexist with war, and that sooner or later possesses every people.

15Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (1796).

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