Emeric Cruce and a League of Nations

During the early years of the Thirty Years War, writes Wayland Young, a monk of Paris published a book in which he outlined a peaceful future League of Nations.

In the long development of European thought on international organization, we should look back more carefully to Eméric Crucé than to any of his predecessors, and to most of his successors. His field of vision distinctively exceeded Dante’s, who wanted nothing more interesting than an Imperial hegemony; Campanella’s, who wanted first a Spanish and then a French one; and even Sully’s, who later pillaged Crucé’s own work to support the case for a ‘Grand Design’ which was just another name for the same French hegemony.

Not being content with the imposed hegemony of one power, Crucé still did not fall back upon the ‘jungle-as-before’ concepts of Dubois, let alone the fag-end of the crusading tradition surviving in his day with Giovanni Botero, who argued that annexation of territory as a result of just war was permissible so long as ‘we have the Turks at our gates and on our flank; could there be a juster or more honourable argument for war?’ Above all, he got beyond Erasmus, who wanted, indeed, kingdoms of moderate power united in a League, but only in a Christian League.

The inventor of the United Nations and of much of our present disarmament theory was probably a monk in Paris when he published, in 1623 and 1624, the two editions of his book Le Nouveau Cynée Partly he excelled because of his cast of mind; his writing shows a generous, voluble, shrewd and constructive temperament, animated by a distressful horror of war and an impulsive yearning for peace.

But partly, too, because it was his fate to live when the world he knew was sinking into a time of corruption, cruelty, slaughter and barbarism. Five years before Le Nouveau Cynée first appeared, the event had taken place which historians traditionally reckon as the beginning of the Thirty Years War; the Protestant Left in Prague invaded the offices of the right-wing, Catholic government, and threw two of its members out of the window.

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