Film Ideas : The Treaty of Westphalia



The historical study of the relationships among states has indeed been only too often a wasteland of pointless talk, until now.

The Peace of Westphalia was the first European settlement in history. It was the beginning of the state system that we know today, a world of sovereign states that came into existence by mutual recognition of each others lands. Yes the states system! Where all great and middling, and meek states are perfectly equal and there is an inequality of real strength. That is when the balance of power policy started in 1448. The balance of power suggests that states counter any threat to their security by allying with other states and increasing their own military capabilities. The Treaty of Westphalia marked the practical extinction of Germany as a state for two centuries and started the most effective check on the power of the Roman Empire. This peace accord started the checking the power of the Roman Empire until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.

The Treaty of Westphalia took the form of two treaties, one treaty drawn up by the catholic princes and states at the Congress of Münster and the other by Protestant princes and states at the Congress of Osnabrück. Certain lawmakers such as Comte d’Avaux had spent a lot of time at Osnabrück even though they were Catholics; and some lawmakers such as John Adler Salvius, although Protestant had stayed at Münster. The chief lawmaker of the two treaties had been at both Congresses to make full account of each treaty together.

The primary participants in the treaty were the allies of Protestant Sweden and France and their opponents, Catholic Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. The chief representative of the Holy Roman emperor was Count Maximilian von Trautmansdorff. The French lawmakers were appointed, Henri d’Orléans, Duke de Longueville, but Marquis de Sablé and Count d’Avaux were the real diplomatic agents of France. Sweden was represented by John Oxenstierna, and by Salvius. Brandenburg, represented by Count Johann von Sayn-Wittgenstein, played the foremost part among the Protestant states of the empire. The downside of the whole accord was that the Osnabrück and Münster treaties were not in order together. This would entail much confusion on both parties to compare and contrast exact treaties, but somehow both treaties made up the Peace of Westphalia but gave a little uneasiness to ideas of democracy.

In the treaty, the sovereignty of German states was recognized, also including the Swiss Confederation, known as Switzerland currently and the Netherlands. Those two countries were recognized as independent states although they had held this status for decades. Apart from these territorial changes, a universal pardon to all those who had been deprived of their possessions was declared, and it was decreed that all secular lands (with specified exceptions) should be restored to those who had held them in 1618.

Sweden obtained numerous lands and bishoprics, West Pomerania, Stettin, the island of Rugen, Wismar, the island of Pol, Bremen and Verden. The Swedes enjoyed yearly sums of five million thalers for the war (silver coins) and made out greatly by coming into the war late and receiving so much land due to the Treaty of Westphalia. France, emerging as the dominant European power, received three bishoprics; Metz, Toul, Verdun, and lands of Breisach and Pinerolo. They also fortified a garrison at Brandenburg. The French also gained Alsace and Lorriane and cut off access by Spain through Austria. This is what started the 13 years War with France. The Spanish Habsburgs still retained control over the three Italian kingdoms of Sardania, Naples and Sicily and the Dutchy of Milan. Spain also still secured land over the Southern Netherlands and the county of Burgundy within the empire. France would not sign a peace treaty with them so Spain withdrew their council from  Münster and continued war on France. The Treaty of Pyrenees was signed in 1659, and France secured the provinces of Artois and Roussillon, Hainault, and Luxembourg; and the Pyrenees was made a boundary between the two countries. This also gave Louis XIV a Spanish bride, thereby providing France with a claim on Spain’s empire, and making France the ultimate winner in the Peace of Westphalia’s era.

France had a major role in The Peace of Westphalia. The purpose of the cardinal – minister Richelieu was to “find French safety on a system of European collective security which every state would benefit” (quote) before the Peace had undergone conference. It was not until Dec 25, 1641 that a preliminary treaty provided for two concurrent meetings – at Osnabrück and Münster. But serious democratic work did not start until 1645.

The skillful French diplomats had won over and over many rights for their French King Bishop Richelieu.  By vigorous and effective measures, Richelieu succeeded in

breaking the political power of the great families of France, making the king an absolute ruler and establishing France as the first military power of Europe while making the Roman empire fall. France along with Sweden, declared that the emperor could neither make laws, nor wage war, nor make peace or alliances, nor raise taxes, without the assent of the Reichstag in Germany. France also democratically protected all the princes that took arms against the empire, as they could not be banished from Germany and had all their lands returned if taken by force. The French archbishop’s foreign policy was cunning as he was one of the main establishers of duo diplomatic foreign policy by aiding the Swedish, the Germanic princes and many other nobles towards a central goal. This foreign policy was later used politically in the Treaty of Westphalia.

Article 8 of the Osnabrück Treaty made Germany Diet establish a “perpetual settlement” by determining “once and for all” the powers within the Holy Roman Empire instead of defining them each time a new reign comes takes place. Article 5 of the Osnabrück Treaty made the German Diet to sit permanently in chair, regardless of a new reign. The French Kingdom succeeded in uniting its kingdom as an absolute king, while ultimately crumbling the kingdoms of Germany, Italy, Burgundy and Habsburg Spain with more democratic action than war.

The Germanic states of affairs on becoming an absolute king were over. France and Sweden saw to that, because they ultimately did not want the Holy Roman Empire to take over Europe again. When the Treaty of Westphalia was signed, 30-40 percent of Germany’s population was wiped out or fled. Germany collapsed into a loose confederation of states, electorates, dutchies, principalities, counties and church lands that all gained virtual sovereignty in Germany. Austria and Bohemia were the only possessions of Germany including Hungary, which was a country recently overrun by the Turks.

War weary Germans greeted the announcement of the peace in 1648 and were content even though their state fell apart. Since the treaty encouraged independence of the princes in feudal estates in Germany, a new Germany was born and it was hugely disunited in all aspects because “the conception of unity in the Holy Roman Empire which had existed before the religious reformation was just a thing of the past.”

The Treaty of Westphalia also caused the German legislature became no more than an assembly of ambassadors of the German princely states and had little power to do much. The center of political power, which used to be Germany because of the Golden Bull, shifted from Central Europe and the Mediterranean to the nations of the Atlantic coast.

Many religious ideals came out of the Peace of Westphalia. In Article 5 of the Osnabrück treaty, the law granted “free exercise of both ecclesiastical and political rights” to every prince in his territory. In Germany, religious status as settled by the two treaties was even more favorable to the princes than the Peace of Augsburg. The Treaty of Westphalia convened that the division of the state of affairs that existed in 1624 with the division of property shall be re-established and made permanent for that year. Religious constitution of the Holy Roman Empire is lessened to the point that wars of religion and crusades are over as a political endeavor. Calvinism was finally accepted as a free religion to practice, and rulers could allow full toleration, at their

discretion. Religious questions could no longer be decided by a majority of the imperial estates, each single Protestant and Catholic estate formed a chamber of persons that had a right to veto. Future disputes had to be resolved by a compromise between the confessions. Religious toleration at best so far in history was made except for a revolt in Germany slowed the growth of the toleration. The treaty ended many religious problems in Europe but Calvinism and Lutheranism broke less and less ground. Lutheranism spurted out because of need for the reform of the church, the authority of scriptures over the pope, and denying papal supremacy. When Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg, people began to take hold of this new idea of revolting against the church supremacy in mainstream Europe.

Calvinism spurted out by a theologist named John Calvin who believed in the absolute sovereignty of God, doctrine of justification by faith alone, and elaborating predestination further. Both religions are alike in respective ways, although Calvinism is a little more radical in ideas. The problem of breaking less religious ground is if the church has been reformed, and the Holy Roman Empire’s Catholicism has no ultimate power anymore, there isn’t anything for these religions to fight about.

The era of religious quarrels was over. Therefore, other forms of religion began to rise up because of no radical push for action. One religion that evolved because of the Peace of Westphalia was Socianism. Socianism is a Christological view that denies the divine nature of Jesus. The ideas were created by a Belarusian named Symon Budny.  In “Cathehesis” Budny blames priests are not explaining the meaning of Christian ideas to believers. He writes they all pay all their attention to rituals. He states that only Jewish priests are trying to explain the Testament. He went out to talk against John Calvin and was burned at the stake. The Peace of Westphalia has come along way in religious toleration, but the same talk against a religion gets another “heretic” burned at the stake.

Patriotism was not a motivational cause to unite a country yet. All wars were fought for religion and the pope and that swiftly declined are the peace of Westphalia.

Certain modern nations think another peace accord similar to this agreement should be drafted to revise international policy for the expansion of trade. The world as a whole has benefited from a true document that served the world very well under many circumstances. Commitment to international policy is a must and should be deeply ingrained in our President’s head as well. If we do occupy somewhere that is not ours and we are asked to leave because they feel threatened, we should leave or cripple from other nations that will join their cousin in force.

The most peaceful event that took place during the Peace of Westphalia was in Germany. Bells rang with peace throughout Germany and brought joy and contentment to the population. The Germans, above all were glad the 30yrs war was over and that the Peace of Westphalia was signed over shattered dreams of domination.


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