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The proposition has been made by the friends of peace, that there should be a Congress of Nations, composed of delegates from all civilized States, and assembled for the purpose of promoting the great objects of national intercourse and peace. This proposition has met with considerable favor in the United States; and there can be no question, that it is richly deserving of a careful and candid consideration. We propose to give our views on this interesting topic, in the remaining chapters of this work.
The idea of an International Congress is not altogether new. Henry IV of France conceived the project of forming a closer union of the European States, by means of such a body, which should have the authority to decide and settle all disputes arising among the members of it. At a later period a French writer, by the name of Saint Pierre, renewed the topic. “He was forever, (says Voltaire, who probably had but little sympathy with such a proposition,) insisting on the project of a perpetual peace, and of a sort of Parliament of Europe, which he called the European Diet.” Although no permanent body of this kind has ever been formed, still it is worthy of notice, that the nations of Europe have fre
quently assembled together by means of their diplomatic agents, under such circumstances as to give to these assemblies the appearance and the name of Congresses. The history of European Congresses appears to begin with the diplomatic assemblies, held at the two towns of Munster and Osnabruck ; but which, by the agreement of the parties concerned, formed but one Congress. This Congress was first opened in December, 1644, and resulted in the treaty of Westphalia. From this period till 1713 there were no less than ten public Conferences or Congresses, held in different parts of Europe ; the Congress of the Pyrenees, the Congress of Breda, which terminated the war between Great Britain on the one side, and the Netherlands, France, and Denmark on the other; the successive Congresses of later periods at Aixla-Chapelle, at Nimeguen, at Frankfort, at Ryswick, at Oliva, at Radzyn, Altona, and Carlowitz.
The assemblies of this kind subsequently held, between the years of 1713 and 1814, were twenty-two in number; the objects and results of some of which are noticed as follows in the concise account, drawn up in the Encyclopædia Americana.—" (1.) The war of the Spanish succession was ended by the congress at Utrecht, to which France, England, the states-general, Savoy, the emperor, Portugal, Prussia, the pope, Venice, Genoa, the electorates of Mentz, Cologne, Treves, the Palatinate, Saxony, and Bavaria, together with Hanover and Lorraine, sent their plenipotentiaries in January, 1712, after France and Great Britain, in the preliminaries settled Oct. 8, 1711, had drawn the outlines of the peace, and had thus already decided, to a certain degree, the new relations which were to exist between the states. At Utrecht, also, French diplomacy succeeded in breaking the union of the powers interested, by a regulation that each of the allies should give in his demands
separately. The dissensions between them increased when they saw that the negotiations of Great Britain were, for the most part, carried on in secret, and immediately with the court of Versailles. The result was eight separate treaties of peace, which France, Spain, England, Holland, Savoy and Portugal made with each other, between 1713 and 1715, leaving Austria and the empire to themselves. (See Utrecht, Peace of.) Since that time, the British, from their naval and commercial power, have taken the lead among the principal states, and the interest of England has determined the fate of the European system of a balance of power, as it is called. (2.) The congress of Baden, in June, 1714, was a mere act of form to change the peace concluded at Rastadt by Eugene and Villars, in the name of the emperor and of France, and which rested upon the peace of Utrecht, into a peace of the empire (drawn up in Latin.) (3.) The congress at Antwerp was also a consequence of the peace of Utrecht. England there mediated between the emperor of Germany and the states-general, and concluded the barrier treaty of Nov. 15, 1715. (4.) The congress at Cambray, in 1722, was held to settle the disputes between the emperor, Spain, Savoy and Parma, with regard to the execution of the peace of Utrecht and the conditions of the quadruple alliance, England and France being mediators. But Philip V of Spain, offended by the rejection of his daughter, who had been betrothed to Louis XV (in April 1725,) recalled his minister from Cambray, and concluded a peace with Austria at Vienna, April 20, 1725, in which he became guarantee for the pragmatic sanction. The defensive alliance, soon after concluded between Austria and Spain, was followed by a counter-alliance between England, France, the United Provinces, Denmark, Sweden, Hesse-Cassel and Wolfenbuttel, formed at Herrnhauseri. On the other