For nearly four centuries, the state system ushered by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648AD gave way to a new era of socio-economic and political dispensation determined by the diplomatic relations among the states.1 Under the terms of the treaty, the three-decade-long war of the 17th Century Europe was summarized, leading to the recognition of the territorial sovereignty of the states that made up the Holy Roman Empire. The pact saw 300 of the Roman Empires’ princes become entirely sovereign within their spheres of influence. The golden era of the ancient Roman Empire renaissance diplomacy settled with the French inversion of Italy in 1494.2
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This renaissance era was characterized by the struggle for dominion among the sovereign powers of Europe and the Hapsburg Empire. The failure by the Catholic Church to influence its own reform agenda manured the field for the regrouping of the protestant ideology. The first pinch was felt in 1534 against the whims of the papal power when King Henry VIII instituted a separationist movement under the banner of the Anglican Church. This move came about after the Catholic Church strongly opposed his highly publicized divorce with Catherine of Aragon.3 Following these developments, a widespread movement begun in Germany and was led by Martin Luther had the backing of many aristocrats and rulers of the time – the majority of whom were from Northern Europe. This conflict of interest sparked off a rebellion leading to the Thirty Year’s War. After the treaty of Westphalia, religious leaders took center stage to spearhead a long-lasting peace process that would not let the states to degenerate into another war with such catastrophic magnitude.
From the experiences and the memoirs of the English diplomatic representation of the 17th century, it was conspicuously established that the role that religion is capable of playing in foreign policy is second to no other concept reached upon in history.4 Much of this conviction was informed by their ability to cushion conflict into a cessation of hostilities, much of which was realized with preferential ease.5
William Godolphin, Henry Saville, and William Trumbull were categorically instrumental in these processes owing to their potentiality to the task and their positioning between diplomacy and religion. To ascertain their centrality to the contribution of these diplomatic ties, their respective taskforces were extensively distributed for a religious course under diplomacy. The diplomatic consciousness that informed the early church made all these key figures to be dispersed in most of the Catholic nation-states during the 17th century, while in these states, they positioned themselves in intermediate social ranks acting as a bridge between the church and the state. However, what mattered then was familiarity with the concept of parliamentary politics, and indeed this made these religious leaders go easily in-between the state and the masses.6 On the other hand, these religious leaders were restricted by virtue of their positions to issue their positioning openly on various issues of politics of the state and the people.
At the height of the 17th century AD, the Christian Commonwealth Empire had disintegrated, leading to vestiges in forms of autonomous states.7 With not many functions attributable to the Roman Catholic Pope and the Roman Empire as the sole mediators of the regional conflicts, conceptual gaps were evinced in the international conflict management and diplomatic representation. Having seen the impending trouble, the Dutch philosopher at the time, Hugo Grotius volunteered a most comprehensive theory that he opined and hoped would be useful as part of the endearing process that might fill these gaps and end the inevitability of any future wars.8
Accordingly, he instituted the schools of natural law, arguing that it is through these platforms that international law could be realized. The philosopher categorically insinuated that individuals must first possess natural rights for them to be protected against external aggression. In defending his claim, the philosopher pointed out that humanity is entitled to these natural laws by virtues ordained by God. Under these schemes of things, Grotius aimed to inspire the people to nurture a minimum moral unanimity capable of making the society to reach out to full stature and to overcome the divisions emanating from the religious interest groupings.9
Following Grotius’s assessment of humanity, other like-minded religious thinkers began to explore his ideology with the conception that whenever individual people are empowered by natural rights, they posthumously become sovereign entities. Grotius, in his work, saw the need for humanity to be more empowered, thereby coming up with the theory of international law that would guarantee the basis of going to war and setting the peace process.10 Under his assumptions, he opined that nation, just as individual people, have to be bound by certain established natural law. These natural laws, he opined, would safeguard individual rights and nurture order in the opinion of the masses. Through Grotius’ teachings, diplomatic sanity was influenced throughout Westphalia and beyond.
Essentially the Treaty of the Westphalia amicably settled the religious tussle that was evidenced in vast territorial Germany. It was, however, the last attempt seen largely by observers as an effort by the Catholic Hapsburgs to arrest Protestantism.11 The treaty also confirmed the centrality of the Catholicism dynasty in the south while Protestantism got its footing in the north, German certainly became sharply divided along ideological lines. It was also an attestation to the fact that the Catholic and the Lutheran princes, as seen in the Augsburg accord, had the ability to determine the type of religion prevailing in their territories, as a consequence, Princes were empowered to choose Calvinism.12
This never pointed to anything close to the freedom of religion, though it was widely perceived as a major breakthrough towards religious liberalism. In addition, before the treaty of Westphalia was instituted, there were other competing forces – most remarkably were those of the international religious groupings like the Ecclesiastical Catholic faith-led organizations. In Europe, religious passion moderated greatly after the ratification of the Westphalia Treaty. In other words, religious rhetoric was subsequently toned down, leading to the versatility of the church. The competing factions never quit their demand for a complete revolution, though, and the enthusiasm to dynamism by the orthodoxy forces continued to wage sporadic revolts.13
War across Europe was essentially not abandoned in its entirety, but religion ended up becoming a less contributory factor in the subsequent wars. It must, however, be reiterated that as much as the religion was a major contributor in sparking off the Thirty Years War, it was equally a major factor in the mediation process that saw the diplomatic signing of the Treaty of the Westphalia and the eventful ceasing of hostilities.14
The interplay of religion and politics in the Westphalia oligarchy has been quintessential of a more complex yet conventional theory that provokes wisdom. More than anything, the seeming religious conflicts recorded from the ancient governmental establishment to the current times could be interpreted in terms of conflicts of interests. These conflicts have been played upon by religious prejudice, whose main interpretation of religious ethics has been to inspire a greater zeal through sacrifice and offertory from the masses. This point of view often suggests that the archetypical balance of power in the Westphalia was not necessarily the direct opposite of Christian dominion.15 Rather, the most candid expression to it would be the religious conflicts that heralded it into a full-blown war. The pedigrees and the consequences of the apparent conflicts in these wars were, by extension, a farce and instigation of religious embodiment.
Westphalia is perhaps among the most referenced historical nation-states in ancient international diplomatic relations16. This is because the sovereignty of the nation-states was established with the states enjoying their dominion as autonomous political units. After the treaty of Westphalia was institutionalized, the dominion of the Roman Catholic Empire under the stewardship of the Pope was replaced by a system of independent states. Observers reckon that the Westphalia treaty was a turning point in the life of the ancient Roman Empire and which marked the beginning of the modern-day autonomous nation-states. After the exhaustive three-decade war that saw the destruction upon the land, the Westphalia negotiations took shape as all the warring factions felt the need to draw a ceasefire.17
The resultant compromised reached upon never satisfied all the factions involved in the truce; this is because it was perceived that the basis of an all-round compromise, which was after all the bone of contention throughout the negotiations, had not been reached either. However, the peace deal that ushered the negotiations was because of the extensive negotiations that took another five years to accomplish.18 The diplomatic crescendo was structured and orchestrated, with the first six months having entirely been dedicated to reaching out for the consensus of procedure that, in fact, proved contentious as the participants held various personal, yet strategic interests based on their different states.
The 17th century Westphalia Treaty succeeded mainly in the light of the religious policy of protection and direct public concern aimed at building sovereign nation-states presided upon by a religious cardinal.19
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The rudimental cardinal policy of natural law was the basis of liberty from political and economic want. With the signing of the peace treaty in Westphalia, the principle of forgiveness became a duty that was preached all over Europe. Under these considerations, it was widely seen that in the concept of religious forgiveness, there would be a mutual benefactor in the realization of economic growth as well as political maturity. Seen from a religious standpoint, the concept of the treaty was a model that viewed real or perceived enemies from the benefit of the other, a principle that endeared nation-states to one another virtually capitalizing on the shared benefits rather than the differing factors.20 Moreover, while the confessional allegiances remained vital, it was enough with the states, and for the better part of the 17th century, religious wars were a forgone experience in the Roman Empire.21
As concerns the political settlement, the peace process was remarkably a legalistic and conservative act.22 Under these considerations, the treaty was intended to be a restatement of old rights that would safeguard the nation-states from degenerating into conflicts of such magnitude. Much of the accentuation had been given to the princess who had by then become autonomous by law.
This did not entirely mean that all doors of innovation were shut. In fact, the expansion of the empire into numerous electorates was the beginning of the reform process, and the subsequent increment of the number of imperial electors was seen as a move to make a representation of the state to be expansive. In the culminating series of events, the several smaller imperial states created by the new trends in leadership created a feeling that these states were too insignificant to exploit fullness of the privileges and freedoms they had been granted, majority of these smaller states had favored the protectorate of the Holy Roman Empire. Consequently, they looked upon the empire and frequently sought protection from the empire, given that he was no longer seen as a predator.23 Due to these facts, the Franco-Swedish efforts to maul the imperial institutions were amicably resisted, and the states became more inclined to the imperial throne.
While religion has always been the decisive aspect in domestic politics, its effect on diplomatic relations is still being debated in international fora to ascertain this presumption. Observers of the Westphalia diplomatic efforts opine that one of the major effects of the reformation process was to empower the sovereign states to fasten their grip on matters of religion and politics of the church. The peace process in the Westphalia passed out as a fundamental step in these processes. Whenever the diplomatic circumstances prevailed upon, the European princes became very instrumental in the processes that resulted in the amicable solution of war. Under these developments, the princesses were empowered to pick their allies in the concept of the peace process whenever there is a need to do so.
Engle, Eric. “The transformation of the international legal system: the post-Westphalia legal order.” The Quarterly Review of Literature 23, no. 23 (2004): 23-45. Web.
Holsti, Kenneth. “From states systems to a society of states: The evolution of international relations.” International Relations Journal 1, no. 2 (2010): 1-9. Web.
Jeng, Ndey. Why Has the Westphalia State Failed to Function Effectively in Africa? . 2010. Web.
Kurbalija, Jovan. Golden age of diplomacy and technology. 2013. Web.
McDougall, Walter. Religion in diplomatic history. 2010. Web.
Onnekink, David. War and religion after the Westphalia, 1648-1713. London: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2009. Web.
Vaughan, Michael. After Westphalia, whither the nation state, its people and its Governmental institutions? Brisbane: The University of Queensland, 2011. Web.
1 Michael Vaughan. After Westphalia, whither the nation-state, its people, and its Governmental institutions? Brisbane: The University of Queensland, 2011. Web.
2 Jovan Kurbalija. The golden age of diplomacy and technology. Web.
4 David Onnekink. War and religion after the Westphalia, 1648-1713. London: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2009. Web.
6 Jovan Kurbalija. The golden age of diplomacy and technology. p. 2
7 Jovan Kurbalija. The golden age of diplomacy and technology. p. 2
10 Kenneth Holsti. “From state systems to a society of states: The evolution of international relations.” International Relations Journal 1, no. 2 (2010): 1-9. Web.
11 Walter McDougall. Religion in diplomatic history. Web.
13 Eric Engle. “The transformation of the international legal system: the post-Westphalia legal order.” The Quarterly Review of Literature 23, no. 23 (2004): 23-45.
14 Walter McDougall. Religion in diplomatic history. Web.
16, Ndey Jeng. Why Has the Westphalia State Failed to Function Effectively in Africa? Web.
19 Michael Vaughan. After Westphalia, whither the nation-state, its people, and its Governmental institutions? Brisbane: The University of Queensland, 2011. Web.
21 Eric Engle. “The transformation of the international legal system: the post-Westphalia legal order.” The Quarterly Review of Literature 23, no. 23 (2004): 23-45. Web.
22 Ndey Jeng, Why Has the Westphalia State Failed to Function Effectively in Africa? Web.