From the late sixteenth up to the end of the seventeenth century Europeans experienced a crisis of the rule of law. The intensification of warfare forced early modern Europeans to reconceptualise civil order. The Reformation and the subsequent brutal religious civil wars led to a growing need for alternatives to divine law and divinely-inspired natural law as ordering principles of society. Contemporaries increasingly claimed that coercion and sovereign authority of government were necessary to prevent society from falling apart. Often these claims were verbalised by the terminology of ‘reason of state’. Authors started to address socio-political entities characterised by the unity of the population combined with a certain area and possessing specific laws. Theoretical reflections upon the nature of civil order gradually produced notions of civil association such as the legal person of the ‘state’. From the 1630s onwards, authors increasingly defined relations between princes in terms of ‘interests of states’ instead of confessional or dynastic interests. In the last third of the seventeenth century, however, authors began using this terminology in defence of the rule of law that seemed threatened by confessional strife, the European arms- and war race, coercive princely politics, and despotism, all embodied by Louis XIV.

The objective of this paper is to elucidate the function of reason of state, especially interest of state, in the writings of the Huguenot military leader Henri de Rohan, the Dutch textile merchant and publicist Pieter de la Court and the Dutch jurist Petrus Valkenier against the background of what it actually implied. Reason of state arguments did not mirror early modern ‘state building’, but they constituted a fashionable political mode of reasoning, they explained the chaos of shifting power structures and attempted to persuade readers to take sides in internal and external political power struggles triggered by the early modern intensification of warfare. Moreover, this paper will give an insight into the outcome of Valkenier’s reason of state argumentation: an attempt to reconstruct the rule of law.

Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

Klerk, M. (2015). The unheard Changes in Europe, and the strange Revolutions which happened in our United Provinces in our times. In Friedeburg, Robert von, Schmoeckel, Mathias (Eds.), Recht, Konfession und Verfassung im 17. Jahrhundert. West- und mitteleuropäische Entwicklungen, Historische Forschungen (HF), Bd. 105, Berlin, Duncker & Humblot, 2015 (pp. 285–335). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/78709