European Union 1713 Edition. In 1713, Charles-Iréné Castel, the Abbé of Saint-Pierre in France proposed the creation of a “Project for Bringing about Perpetual Peace in Europe”. His ideas were ridiculed by most intellectuals at the time, and for many years thereafter.
Voltaire thought the Abbot was delusional, and commented that “The peace…..will no more be realised than among elephants, rhinoceroses, wolves, or dogs”. He added, “Carnivorous animals will always tear one another to pieces at the first opportunity”. European history over the subsequent century or two has fully supported Voltaire’s realistic analysis.
However, when you look at the current European Union, there are remarkable similarities between the Abbot’s “Project” and today’s reality. Both have European countries agreeing to club together, submit themselves to the rulings of a central court, and both devise rules governing all countries by means of a continental parliament. Both also include contributions to the group’s budget, depending on individual country’s wealth, and both have a rotating presidency.
At the heart of both schemes is a radical idea. Sovereigns, or sovereign states, should submit to superior laws, enforced by supra-national, independent, institutions. Voltaire, and his contemporaries, would have been incredulous at such an idea, and with good reason.
Rousseau, an advocate of the Abbot, argued that the idea of an integrated European community could only come about through violent means. World War I and II proved him right, and his prediction is still in evidence today. It took the pandemic, and the biggest recession in EU history, for Germany and other holdouts to agree to issue a common debt.
It is amazing that an unknown, lowly, abbot could have conceived of such an idea three hundred years ago.
It is also interesting that many of his personal traits are reflected in the EU leaders today. Castel’s writings are littered with factual errors, his writing is clunky, and he was definitely considered a second-rate intellectual. Those qualities are evident in today’s EU statements and leadership. An example is the U.S. Goal of “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as compared to the EU equivalent, which is “Concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity”. Certainly clunky!
Ursula von der Leyen, the current German chief of the European Commission, ended up in Brussels only after her domestic career had gone off track. Yet the Commission has quietly become more powerful on her watch. Second-tier types have a way of succeeding in the EU!
The Abbot’s treatise included such suggestions as: An equitable tax system and graduated income tax; free public education for women and men; State improvement of transportation to improve commerce; an international court and a league of states; and a constitutional monarchy aided by a system of councils and an academy of experts. Do those ideas ring any bells today? These ideas were proposed in the treatise European Union 1713 edition.
It is unfortunate that the Abbot of Saint-Pierre is so little known today. His concepts and his vision are lessons for us all. We seem to have lost the attribute of vision in this soundbite world, and the abbot’s writings remind us of its importance. Perhaps we should study history a little more closely, and think a little longer than a few seconds. The future of mankind would almost certainly benefit.