Leibniz as a Politician
|←Front matter||Leibniz as a Politician (1911)
Leibniz as a Politician
THE ADAMSON LECTURE, 1910
A. W. WARD, Litt.D., F.B.A.
Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge
At the University Press
Leibniz as a Politician.
In an early chapter of the book which must be regarded as the chief literary monument of the late Professor Adamson's great intellectual powers in one of those Lectures on the Development of Modern Philosophy in which every sentence seems to fall weightily from unfaltering lips and the superfluous is shunned with uncompromising directness—there is a brief explanation of the fact that the central idea of Leibniz s philosophy was never systematically worked out by him. " No doubt," says Adamson, "the main reason for this is to be found in the enormous varied activity of a public kind which fills the life of Leibniz from 1676 on to his death" [in 1716]. " In all the great movements of religion and politics he shared largely; expended infinite time and energy on the perfectly hopeless task of striving to reunite the Protestant and Catholic Churches, laboured with greater success to bring about, by the foundation of academies of science in the capitals of Europe, a kind of community of learned men; and was the first to project what is even yet incomplete—a detailed and comprehensive history of the fortunes of various European states. His public work, indeed, would have amply occupied the energies of a more ordinary man. It is not surprising, therefore, that the philosophical writings of these later years are fragmentary, that the most important points are often advanced in occasional correspondence, and that the most condensed statement of his views requires for its elucidation reference to a variety of incomplete sketches and plans of undeveloped works never carried into execution."
When, by the indulgent choice of old colleagues and friends, I was invited to deliver a lecture in connexion with a foundation established to perpetuate Professor Adamson s memory in a University in the building up of which he had a large share, I hardly knew whether I should be doing honour to that memory by accepting the invitation. But, searching, as I may confess to you, for excuses which might, at all events in my own eyes, palliate my presumptuousness in following a natural impulse, I remembered that in a course of public lectures which we had organised in this College not long before Professor Adamson transferred his services to one of the chosen seminaries of philosophical study north of the Tweed, his friendly disregard of my unfitness for the match actually went so far as to allow me to associate myself with him in a continued series of discourses, of which, I need hardly say, all the honours remained with him. Thus it occurred to me that you might be willing, on the present occasion also, to regard what I have to offer you as a sort of supplement or excursus to a passage in one of his own admirable lectures. For the rest, I have long thought that, while on the one hand no great man and no great life can be thoroughly understood unless they are viewed under all their main aspects, so nothing can be more futile, when seeking to form or formulate a judgment of a great individual force in history or in life, than the resolute exclusion even of a subsidiary aspect, because its significance is only secondary. And to no man does this apply more fully than to Leibniz, whose intellectual activity, more varied than that of any but a very few moderns, was singularly consistent with itself and with the desire for harmony which so largely shaped his thought and swayed his philosophy. I say moderns, for to what ancient sage would not the very notion of an intellectual activity labelled in different directions like a sign-post have seemed preposterous?
And yet, were I to attempt in the course of our brief hour to present even the merest outline of what Professor Adamson, using the word in its narrower sense, describes as the public work of Leibniz, no epitome could ever have fallen further short of the relative usefulness of a summary. I should in no case have wished to say anything as to his scientific and historical work proper in the former case because of my utter incompetence to form an estimate of it, in the latter because its value lies in qualities which, while they are in perfect accordance with the spirit of Leibniz s intellectual labours at large, hardly lend themselves to illustration or exposition on an occasion like the present. I shall return to the Annales Brunsvicenses from a different point of view before I close. Here, it will suffice to observe that, to quote from the late Ernst Curtius s brilliant oration on the Leibniz Day of the Berlin Academy in 1873, " though no theoretical connexion exists between those Annals and the doctrine of monads, yet Leibniz in his historical labours once more proved himself the great organiser of intellectual work, rightly perceiving what was really necessary for the foundation of a science of history, viz., the collection of documents and the investigation of sources, and thus setting a splendid example of painstaking and self-denying labour on the material at his disposal."
For, apart from these, there was hardly a field of human knowledge bearing on government and society with which he was unfamiliar and the cultivation of which he failed to advance; so that the very limitation which I have sought to impose upon myself by treating of Leibniz as a politician only does not, as a matter of fact, exclude all that I am forced to omit. Leibniz for instance, was a trained student of Law both civil and canonical, and, like all great jurists for I do not know what exception could be cited to the generalisation—he was, at all events in principle, an advocate of legal reform. The penal system which he found in existence in his own country was a special object of his critical study, and of the procedure in vogue against witches and witchcraft one of the lingering blemishes on the face of Western civilisation—he was a resolute opponent. He was, again, a political economist in days when the very basis for the application of economic principles was almost everywhere wanting. He was interested in the progress of industry and trade, predicting, almost a century before it became a great historical fact, the enormous value of the use of machinery in what continued, by a long-lived misnomer, to be called manufacturing industry; but he was not less solicitous for the maintenance and development of agriculture, and is found upbraiding the Whigs of his day for depressing its interests in favour of commerce, the supposed backbone of their political party. He was remarkably alive to questions of finance and taxation; he carefully watched the beginnings of a system of insurances, and was intent upon measures for improving the sanitary condition of the people, and protecting it against the spread of infectious diseases, even where their cure was an unsolved problem. In reading some of the political pamphlets on which I am about to touch and which turn on the successful conduct of wars, I have been repeatedly struck with the attention he gives to the health of armies and to the sufficiency of the commissariat on which it so largely depends as important elements in their effectiveness. I need hardly say that education was a theme very near to his heart, and that in two directions in particular his farsightedness asserted itself in this field in an extraordinary degree. On the one hand, he perceived the place which, to translate his speculations into the language of the present day, science would come to occupy by the side of the other studies. Humanism, he was convinced, had no prescriptive right to rule the progress of human culture any more than the scholasticism which it had superseded. And we humanists of a later age, who have learnt to ignore the old bugbear at which during the better part of our lives, north or south, we have been constantly told to tremble the fear of the classics being driven to the wall may accept quite cheerfully the sort of apologue which I find in a passage of a letter from Leibniz to Thomas Burnet: "I do not for a moment envy the excellent Mr. Dryden" —it seems to bring two epochs of Western intellectual life rather closely together to find Leibniz writing about Dryden as a contemporary—"because his Virgil has put more than £1,000 into his pocket. But I wish that Mr. Halley could secure the same sum at least four times over so as to be able to travel round the world and discover for us the secret of the variation of the compass, and I wish that Mr. Newton could obtain it tenfold and a good deal over, in order to be able to continue his profound meditations without interruption." You see how Leibniz thought of the endowment of research; and, if his indefatigable exertions at Vienna, at Berlin, and elsewhere in favour of those Academies and Societies whose true purpose is the promotion of great researches in the whole boundless realm of human knowledge be taken into account, I should be at a loss to say what other individual has ever equalled him in advancing the highest of all forms of educational work. One cannot but speculate on the satisfaction with which he would have regarded such conceptions on the value of organised University research as have lately been brought to the eve of practical realisation at Berlin, on the occasion of the centenary of its great University—an institution which he may almost be said to have foreseen.
On the other hand, he showed himself fully aware of the uncomfortable contrast to the care and elegance of his Latin and his French, he never shrank from using his native tongue unless occasion demanded more cosmopolitan speech. So far as I know, his communications to the Emperor were all in German; nor had he for gotten Luther s principle of plain speech for plain folk.of literary expression as one of the chief agencies by which national self-knowledge and national self-reliance are trained and matured. He perceived that the vernacular (what an unfortunate term! let me say, the mother-tongue) is the instrument with which Providence has supplied a nation resolved on having and holding these possessions; and, a few years before the foundation-deed of the Berlin Academy declared the preservation and the study of the German language to be one of its chief tasks, Leibniz had promulgated the principles then first officially approved. And, if the style of his numerous German compositions in prose and in verse still offers an unmistakable and at times
You may think that I am losing my way before I have reached the threshold which I have invited you to cross with me, and I will therefore say nothing of Leibniz s labours for the communication of the results of research as well as for its prosecution, nor ask you to consider his claims to the title of the originator of the modern encyclopaedia. But there is a different instance of his constructive efforts as a man of action which I cannot pass by not only because it completely harmonises with his endeavours as a politician, but because at times it intimately associates itself with, and almost forms part of them. For there can be no doubt whatever that the religious question continued to be a vital element in European politics, and in those of the Empire in particular, long after the conflicts which culminated in the Thirty Years War had nominally come to an end.
The efforts, then, of Leibniz for Religious Reunion, i.e., for a formal closing of the great schism of the West by means of a reconciliation between Rome and the Protestant Churches, were among those of his labours which were doomed to disappointment whether, like certain others on which we shall have to touch, to absolute failure, is more than those of us can pronounce who lack the gift of prophecy. How unwearying those labours were in the present instance is known to us not only from the arguments carried on by him alike with the protagonists in a discussion which lasted over the better part of a human generation, from the Eagle of Meaux downwards, and with the parliament of lesser participants—ecclesiastics and doctors and more or less enthusiastic women. We also know it from at least two long correspondences of which one is familiar to all who are interested in the life and labours of Leibniz, while of both this subject of Religious Reunion forms a constant theme. The letters exchanged between Leibniz and the Duchess, afterwards Electress, Sophia of Hanover are, as you know, of great biographical interest, so far as the life and opinions of an illustrious lady fit ancestress of a long line of English sovereigns are concerned. Gifted with extraordinary acuteness of perception and a lively interest in things intellectual, at the same time perfectly self-possessed and when needful self-restrained in the difficulties of life and hers seemed almost endless in maidenhood, marriage, and old age she, unlike her quondam quasi suitor, afterwards King Charles II, seems while saying many witty things, never to have done an unwise one. What is of more importance, her opinions, so far as we can judge from a series of personal records quite exceptionally full and varied, were rarely on any side but that of good sense and right feeling. At the same time, as Leibniz very well knew, even matters in which she felt an interest had to be presented to her in lucid and attractive form; she was a princess first, after all, and not a philosopher, like her aunt the Princess Palatine Elizabeth, with whom Descartes had corresponded on scientific topics as with an equal; nor did she profess to care for what was lengthy or intricate, or involved an unreasonable amount of application in the mastering of it. Religious questions she approached, like all other questions, with a sincere love of truth, but with a want of interest in theological issues and formulae partly due to the natural constitution of her mind, partly (one cannot but conjecture) to the experiences of her life, which had been so full of these contentions and of their untoward effects upon the problem of getting on in the world as to breed in her a good deal of indifference towards them.
The other correspondent to whom Leibniz had as it were to render a continuous account of the progress of his endeavours in the Reunion question was a spirit of another sort. Landgrave Ernest of Hesse-Rheinfels was one of the younger sons of Landgrave Maurice of HesseCassel, the political associate of the French King Henry IV and of Geneva, whose edifice of a Protestant polity, constructed with infinite trouble, had been ruthlessly swept away early in the Thirty Years War, and whose dynasty was only by the most careful steering brought safe out of the waves of that ruinous conflict. After its close Landgrave Ernest, although he had gallantly come forward to offer the services of his sword to the Emperor against the Turks, soon gave himself up to his endeavours to keep up a petty principality of his own on the Rhine, and to have his own way in it. He had become a convert to the Church of Rome, and being anxious to induce others to follow his example, carried on his propaganda by all the means in his power, publishing a treatise called The Discreet Catholic, and, with less discretion than might have been expected from its author, establishing at Rheinfels a sort of college for ladies of whom several were converts like himself, and for whom, in spite of his sceptical kinsfolk, he cherished a platonic interest. He made no secret to Leibniz of his wish that, as they shared in many common interests, so they might be united in the same church; but, since this could not be, he was content to discuss projects of Reunion, though he thought that Pietists and Chiliasts and other visionaries, as he called them (including no less a name than that of Spener in his denunciation), must be looked upon as obstacles in the path.
The toleration which is, in some measure at least, the product of indifference, and the intolerance which springs from impatience of all private judgment but one's own—neither of these was an ally on whom Leibniz could greatly depend in his long-sustained effort to assert as the basis of reunion the existing inner unity of the Christian Church at large. For this, the in essentialibus unitas of St. Augustine, was the principle which he continued to press in both the chief phases of the movement in which he bore a part. The more hopeful of these, which extended over the last quarter of the 17th century, with the exception of the last five years, is reflected in the correspondence (included in that between the Duchess Sophia and Leibniz), of which the central figure is Royas de Spinola, Bishop of Tina in Croatia, and afterwards of Wiener-Neustadt. This prelate had the full authority of the Emperor Leopold in carrying on his endeavours, as well as the tacit approval of Pope Innocent XI. Leibniz, who had not taken the initiative in the Bishop s scheme, warmly approved of his method, which was neither that of discussion nor that of concession. The inefficiency of the former is sufficiently taught by history, and some of us may remember one of the essays of Clarendon (certainly no reunionist) in which he blandly asserts the uselessness of religious conferences between Roman Catholics and Reformed, inasmuch as they never converted a single human being: those who are converted are not converted by argument. In concession (condescendance) on the other hand, there is always something that cannot be conceded; Leibniz himself had told the Landgrave that he would join the Church of Rome if he did not feel that certain tenets which he must reserve would, " peut-être," not be conceded, and he could not risk the peut-être. What then was Bishop Spinola's method? To induce the Church of Rome to regard as not absolutely alienated from the Church those who, while material, i.e., nominal, heretics, were ready to submit to a Council of the Church recognised by them as such, and to induce the Protestants for their part to declare that readiness. You will perceive at once how this method carries us back to days when resort to it was still formally possible. Was it possible to revive the conditions of the times of Charles V in the age of Leopold I and Louis XIV? Of course the application of the method involved a large amount of tentative discussion as to the questions of major and of minor moment which would have to be reserved or waived, were such a basis of negotiation to be regarded as within the sphere of practical politics; and on this head it is impossible to observe without interest some of us might add without sympathy which among the controversies of lesser moment Leibniz regards as mere matters of phrase and formula; while as to others he shows how not even all Catholics and all Protestants are agreed among themselves, and yet others seem to him to possess intrinsic importance, but not such as to outweigh the blessings of Christian reunion.
Louis XIV, at least, did not choose to fall behind Leopold I by rejecting as impossible a contingency against which, by his approval of the Bishop of Tina's initial proceedings, the Emperor had shown himself unwilling to shut the door. When, therefore, the Duchess Sophia put herself in communication on the subject with her sister, that queer saint the Abbess of Maubuisson near Paris, it was with the knowledge of the King of France that other persons were drawn into the correspondence, and that an exchange of letters ensued between Leibniz and Bossuet which, after being carried on for about four years, was dropped and again taken up for a short time in 1699, partly with the aid of the enthusiasm of Mme. de Brinon.
The earlier part of this correspondence was really little more than a continuous account rendered by Leibniz to Bossuet of the proceedings of Spinola, supplemented by arguments of his own; when, after Spinola's death, it was taken up once more, Leibniz explained in a letter to the Elector, George Lewis (afterwards King George I), why this last opportunity should in his judgment not be rejected. His hopes were small, but it was well to do so much for Christian charity, and if possible to induce the Church of Rome or some representative Roman theologians, to agree to a basis on which posterity might construct the most acceptable scheme of reunion that could be agreed upon, and which would anticipate future attempts at reunions in which everything would be sacrificed. The hope, as we know, was futile; the political horizon, which had in a measure cleared with the Peace of Ryswick, was soon blacker than ever; a clause of that peace itself had seriously alarmed German Protestants; and at home and at the last period of the religious policy of Louis XIV was that of the undisputed ascendancy of the principles of Madame de Maintenon.
It would, I fear, take me too far on the present occasion, were I to seek to illustrate with any degree of detail the connexion between the religious and the political conceptions of Leibniz; and it is to his work as a politician proper that I now turn. It may be said to cover the whole of his life from the time when, after being refused the doctorate of law by the University of his own native Leipzig on account of his youth (he was then twenty years of age), he had been promoted to this degree at Altdorf, but, declining the professorship offered him there, had entered the service of the Elector of Mainz. From this time forth he became a courtier and a placeman, but without ever surrendering his independence of judgment or doing violence to his sense of self-respect. He was only too well aware of the prejudice existing in the official world against taking the advice of scholars and bookmen; when in later days he seemed on the point of permanently entering into the Imperial service at Vienna, he was anxious to do so in the recognised position of a councillor of state as well as that of a librarian. The difference between the position of an official and that of an unofficial adviser was to be brought home to him with painful distinctness, when, after the death of the Electress Sophia, the 'Master' (as with her usual humorous twinkle she was in the habit of calling her eldest son, whose qualities certainly included that of knowing his own mind) speedily adjusted the relations between himself and Leibniz to those between employer and employed. But, though Leibniz was a courtier and very well understood the necessity for a deferential attitude and the nuances of expression in writing as well as in speaking which that attitude implies, no great publicist, from Burke to Gentz to the leaders of modern journalism in the days of Louis-Philippe and Queen Victoria, has ever been more desirous of placing himself in touch with a popular, and, if possible, a numerous audience. Accordingly, the political writings of Leibniz are sometimes confidential memoranda, addressed to sovereigns and ministers, sometimes pamphlets in the latter case almost always anonymous or pseudonymous, launched upon the sea of unbounded publicity. In yet other instances, they are something between the two species, resembling those ballons d'essai of which later examples have been started in the sphere of higher journalism—sometimes suggesting to those in authority ideas to the conception of which they may not have chanced or not have ventured to rise, sometimes, again, inspired by those in authority with a view to ascertain how far public opinion will follow. This relation between authority and public opinion was not so well organised at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century as it may have been in our days; but statesmen have never been able to operate quite without the support of public opinion—and public opinion, in its turn, usually needs a little assistance in the process of forming itself. Leibniz himself compares one of his more popular tracts a scheme for a descent on Biscay after the battle of La Hogue—to one of the letters which at Venice members of the pensive public were invited to place in the lion s mouth in the palace of St. Mark, to be used or ignored in the counsels of the Signoria.
It would serve no purpose in this brief address to seek to discriminate between the varieties among his contributions to political literature, of which I can only mention a few specimens. For my primary object is to indicate the way in which the great optimist, the thinker who was convinced that in the end all things would work together to the fulfilment of the Divine plan, regarded some of the chief political problems of his age and was anxious to see them treated by those upon whose action or inaction it depended in what sense they would be solved.
Leibniz was only in his twenty-third year when, in 1667, he was introduced into the service of the Elector of Mainz (John Philip von Schönborn) by the Elector s former minister, Johann Christian von Boineburg. Both these men were very remarkable personalities and must be reckoned not only among the ablest German politicians of their day but as belonging to the select band of statesmen who were true patriots at heart. Yet the name of the Elector is associated in history with the first Confederation of the Rhine—a transaction which, when all has been said that can be urged as to its ultimate purposes, nevertheless redounded to the advantage of France and to the increase of her influence in Germany. Boineburg, after, as minister of the Elector, openly declaring himself an adversary of that influence, had through French intrigue, facilitated perhaps by some indiscretion on his own part, been actually put under arrest by his master; and, though, on his clearing himself from the charges against him, John Philip had entreated him to resume his former post, he had preferred to remain out of office, while in full possession of the electoral favour and confidence. The political ideas of the pair were really in harmony and centred in the desire, while strengthening the Empire internally, to maintain in European affairs a balance between France and Austria, and to preserve the peace which was indispensable for Germany. The material ruin in which the Thirty Years War had involved the land (for I think we may confidently reject the doubts which have been recently thrown on this commonly received view of the case) still stared every patriot in the face, and was only here and there at last giving way to better things. 'Germany,' so Leibniz wrote many years after John Philip s death, was scarcely beginning to breathe again, and peopled almost entirely by a generation under age if war broke out afresh, there was reason to fear that this generation would be destroyed before it had reached maturity, and that a great part of the unhappy land would be all but turned into a desert." These were the impressions under which a policy of peace seemed indispensable to the patriotic Elector of Mainz, who, as Leibniz says, could not conceive that the predominance of France would assert itself with the extraordinary rapidity which its progress was actually to display; these were the conditions with which, as well as with the stagnant sluggishness prevailing in many parts of the Empire and with the mistrust of the House of Austria which war and peace had alike bequeathed to many of its Princes and their subjects, those politicians and political thinkers had to contend who, like Leibniz, gradually came to recognise that the Western was not less imminent than the Eastern peril.
Leibniz' earliest political tract was written for the use of Boineburg, when, after his restoration to the Elector s favour, that statesman in 1668 attended the Polish election diet as ambassador for the German candidate (Count Palatine Philip William of Neuburg). Neither he nor either of the candidates really favoured by France and Austria respectively was chosen; and thus, after a fashion, the desired balance may be said to have been observed. What interests us in the tract is Leibniz deprecation of yet another possibility (which likewise remained unrealised), viz., the choice of the Russian candidate. Russia, writes the far-sighted young politician, who in his later years was to be greatly attracted by the civilising policy and the high personal intelligence of Peter the Great, would by the virtual appropriation of Poland become a dangerous colossus, and the Turk would be duplicated. But these were relatively remote speculations.
In his second pamphlet, and one which its comprehensiveness of view already entitles to be numbered among the notable political deliverances of its author, his thoughts are already directly turned to the West. The Confederation of the Rhine had fallen to pieces, and the eyes of the Elector of Mainz, with Boineburg once more in his secrets, had been opened by the War of Devolution to the aggressive policy of Louis XIV. But the Elector and those who thought with him were not yet willing to hurry Germany into a decision which might be fatal to her prosperity, unprepared as she was for a struggle; and the choice therefore had lain for some little time between risking all by joining the celebrated—perhaps unduly celebrated—Triple Alliance which had in a measure stayed the advance of the French arms, or playing a waiting game, and meanwhile organising resistance at home. Securitas Publica (the way of establishing the security of the German Empire) as the title of the treatise is usually cited in brief—was written in 1670–1—between two wars; and its immediate occasion was to provide a basis of discussion at an interview between the Electors of Mainz and Trier at Schwalbach, where they were to decide on the policy to be adopted by them and the Duke of Lorraine, with whom they had combined in the so-called alliance of Limburg, and who was now trembling how to save his duchy from the embraces of France. While Leibniz was in the middle of his disquisition, Marshal Crequi had overrun Lorraine and strengthened the writer s argument. In a very interesting survey of the chief states of Europe and of their relations to France, he demonstrates how the conclusion is inevitable that Louis XIV has a design upon the United Provinces; but that to join the Triple Alliance and enter upon immediate war would be perdition for Germany and more especially for the defenceless states of the South West. Better form an alliance between these German States of the West, which could for the present give no offence to France; but without including her as a predominant partner, as in the case of the Confederation of the Rhine, and thus gradually prepare for the conflict which must come sooner or later, but the later the better.
Both the negative and the positive part of the advice was followed; the Triple Alliance was left to put an end to itself Leibniz did not know that Charles II's Secret Treaty of Dover (1670) with Louis XIV had already destroyed this diplomatic masterpiece; and an alliance of German States was formed at Marienburg, which with excellent intentions proved a dead letter. The invasion of the United Provinces by France, with England on her side, became more imminent than ever, and a European war, in which (as events proved) the Emperor could not remain neutral even if he would, must almost inevitably follow. Was Germany, like Holland, to fall helpless into the victor's hands? Or might the blow, if it could not be met, be diverted?
This calculation, rather than a dream of bringing the kingdom of the Pharaohs within the range of the Western civilisation which owed an ancient debt to that mysterious land, was, it cannot be doubted, the real raison d'être of Leibniz's famous 'Egyptian plan.' Far from being a mere scholar's fancy, this design had in germ long impregnated the political atmosphere of the West, allying itself with the lingering enthusiasms of the Crusades, and with the desire for a condign revanche which the failure of St. Louis had every now and then called forth in the sons of France. Bacon, whose influence upon Leibniz was probably far greater in the matter of political and social projects than it was in philosophy, had, in the dedication to his Holy Warre suggested that the princes of Christendom should unite against the Turk instead of inflicting damage upon one another. This was shortly after the beginning of the Thirty Years War; thirteen years after its close, Cardinal Mazarin, doubtless not actuated altogether by religious motives, left a legacy for carrying on a war against the Ottoman power; and, after the accession of Louis XIV, Boileau and Fenelon in letters, and others in apocalyptic prophecies, appealed in the same sense to the receptive mind of the King. In 1664, French troops, forming a contingent furnished by Louis XIV as a member of the Confederation of the Rhine, took part in Montecuculi's splendid victory at St. Gotthard on the Raab over the Grand Vizier Ahmed Köprili, and in the same year the French flag was planted at Gigeri on the Algiers coast, as a place of security against the Moslem pirates, the pest of the Mediterranean.
It is unnecessary further to illustrate the growth of an idea which took hold of Leibniz at a very early date, and which no doubt was met half-way by the fascination which the rediscovered East, whether Near or Far, always exercised over his imagination. To go no further back, towards the close of the treaties mentioned, the Securitas Publica, he had dwelt on the probability that in the future, when the scope of all expeditions of war would be remote, France, too, would find her sphere of action at a distance, and, as she had done in the days of St. Louis, would carry the arms of Christendom into the Levant and into Egypt in particular. In 1671—only a few months before Louis XIV definitely announced to the Elector of Mainz his intention of invading the United Provinces—Leibniz composed his Fabula Ludovisia, in which St. Louis is supposed to appear in a dream to his reigning namesake, and to bid him undertake an expedition to Egypt; which rather sudden proposal Louis XIV, on awaking, dutifully promises to carry out. (There is no reason for wondering at the employment by Leibniz of this or similar devices for arresting attention on so serious a subject; he made constant use of them, from dialogue and poem to epigrammatic couplet and even mild anagram; for like all born publicists may I say all born teachers—he held by the principle of repeating many times, if possible in many different ways, the one thing that it is desired to impress on readers or hearers.) When, in the same year, Duke John Frederick of Hanover, Leibniz s subsequent patron, who was persona gratissima with the French King and Court, visited Mainz, Leibniz hoped for a personal introduction through him to the great monarch, and it was afterwards intended that the same thing should be effected by the Elector of Mainz, to whom Leibniz s scheme had by that time been communicated by Boineburg. In the end, however, it was agreed to send a general statement of the nature of the scheme to Paris beforehand, reserving its details for the present. In February 1672, Boineburg was informed by Pomponne, then French minister for Foreign -Affairs, that the King wished for further explanations from the author of the preliminary memorandum. Thereupon, Leibniz (taking occasion, according to his wont, to combine various scientific projects with his great political design) at once started for Paris, where he arrived in March 1672. In the same month, France and England declared war against the Dutch, and in two months time a great part of the United Provinces had been overrun by the French forces, with King Louis XIV at their head. From the camp at Doesburg Pomponne sent a rather nonchalant message that Holy Wars had gone out of fashion; and it might have been supposed that Leibniz at Paris would have hereupon been satisfied to concentrate his attention upon subjects of common interest between himself and Antoine Arnauld, the inventor of the pendulum, and Christian Huygens, the discoverer of Saturn's ring.
Not so; for, though the Dutch War had not been averted, it seemed by no means certain that its worst apprehended consequences could not still be avoided. It had long been known that there was a great deal of diplomatic tension between the French Government and the Sublime Porte; and, in June, 1672, an open rupture occurred between the two Governments at Adrianople, and people in France began to talk about a Turkish War the very issue involved in Leibniz s design. It therefore seemed after all well worth his while that, while he was waiting at Paris with more or less hopefulness for the return of the King from his Dutch campaign, he should compose a full statement of his design for the use of the great monarch. The statement drawn up by him was afterwards known as De expeditione Aegyptiaca regi Francicz proponenda Justa Dissertatio; while a shorter form of the same—a first draft, or more probably a summary—which he intended for Boineburg, was preserved under the title of Consilium Aegyptiacum.
My account of the contents of these documents must necessarily be quite brief, and pretermit preamble, illustrations and peroration. In a word, then, the Egyptian scheme is here represented as the greatest and the most important undertaking upon which France could possibly enter; for its accomplishment implies the acquisition by her of the arbitrium of the known world and the military leadership of Christendom. It is at the same time the easiest and the least dangerous of great designs open to France, and its failure would not be fatal to her. Moreover, no time could be so favour able for carrying it out as the present. The conquest of Egypt by France would be the conquest of the Holland of the East, and would at the same time bring about the overthrow of the actual Holland, whose strength lies in her colonies and in the trade of the East Indies. The master of Egypt can render either infinite service or infinite disservice to the world—the former by stopping trade as the Turks have done, the latter by developing it through the union of Mediterranean and Red Sea by means of a canal.
All this comes home; and it is almost by way of a parenthesis only (though we know how much is some times hidden in parentheses) that it is pointed out how, in comparison with such gains as these, the conquest of a few towns on the Rhine or in the Low Countries is worth very little, while, moreover, the kindling of a great European war would be insensate on the part of a power which would thus raise resistance against itself on all sides. Contrariwise, what could stand in the way of the two great imperial Houses if they were agreed on dividing the world between them France taking the Eastern half of the whole?
If this part of the argument may not seem wholly free from objections, it must be allowed that the portion of the treatise which deals with the way in which the project could be easily carried out, with the forces that would be necessary for the purpose, with the methods of providing for them and for the occupation of the country, and with the existing condition of the Turkish empire as encouraging the enterprise—is to all appearance unanswerable, and full not only of sound practical sense but of a knowledge of detail which might have commended itself to the best informed of the King s advisers. Departmental knowledge on the part of these advisers was not the least among the causes of the greatness of Louis and his monarchy; and a very strong point in Leibniz as a politician was that he never spoke without his book. Even the facilities for retreat, should the expedition unexpectedly prove unsuccessful, are carefully outlined; and, in short, the whole project is so satisfactorily expounded that the author is war ranted in dealing quite succinctly with the question of the justice of the enterprise he proposes—a holy war, conducing to the benefit of humanity, and to the advance of the Christian faith, the liberation of sufferers, and offering an opportunity of revenge for the wrongs inflicted upon France.
The memorandum never reached Louis XIV; for he never asked to see it. In June 1673, his government arrived at an understanding with the Porte, and his interest contingent as it was—in the design came to an end. But it was not forgotten by Leibniz, though he now speedily passed from France into England, and there seemed absorbed in the differential calculus and Newton. Several allusion to its central thought are to be found in his later writings, more especially in the half-ironical The Great King's Main Design of 1687 or 8, when, on the eve of the most shameless of all Louis XIV s wars of aggression—the Orleans War—he asks why, if so jealous of the Austrian successes against the Turks, the King of France did not take part in the attack upon their dominions, more especially upon Egypt, since all of these lay at his mercy.
The two versions of Leibniz's Egyptian plan were not, however, destined to remain buried among his papers at Hanover, though both of them reposed there unnoticed for something like a century and a quarter. I cannot pass on without reminding you of the circumstances in which the Design first became known to the world, and thus gained a notoriety which in the Europe of the Napoleonic Age was inconceivable except in some sort of connexion with Napoleon himself. Before, in 1798, Napoleon set forth on that Egyptian expedition which—was primarily intended as a blow against Great Britain with what ulterior conceptions or visions I will not here pause to enquire; but in India, too, England owed France a revanche—he could not have known anything of Leibniz s design. But the British Government (through the vigilance of the Hanoverian Regency, which may probably be traced back to the historian Johannes von Müller's knowledge of the existence of the document) had received a copy of the larger memorial from Hanover. In this country we have always liked to 'focus' our ideas about foreign policy as definitely as possible; and it was not till 1803, shortly before the renewal of hostilities between England and France, that the British Ministry thought it worth while to publish in pamphlet form a very effective summary of Leibniz s memoir. Clearly, the purpose of this publication was not so much to open the eyes of Britons to vast schemes of visionary conquest which in imitation of those suggested to Louis XIV by Leibniz the First Consul might have formed, as to revive certain very distinct references in the famous writer s statement to the importance of which the possession of Malta might prove to France. These references incidental to the days of Louis XIV, seemed to call very speedily for publication and comment in the days of Napoleon. You know that after the Peace of Amiens we found ourselves unable to evacuate Malta, and that, largely in consequence of this inability on our part, war broke out anew between England and France, before this very year 1803 had come to a close. The French immediately seized Hanover, and General Mortier, who commanded the occupying troops (which were by no means popular there) obtained a copy of the design in its shorter form, the Consilium Aegyptiacum aforesaid. Thus it found its way to the First Consul, who may or may not have been edified by its perusal, and into the library of the French Academy, where Thiers and Michaud read it and formed incorrect conclusions from it, which I have no time for discussing.
One more remark, and I will leave the subject of the celebrated Design. Nothing could be more childish than to conclude that the treatment of Leibniz in this matter by Louis XIV (which political considerations are amply sufficient to explain) provoked him to the subsequent attacks made by him upon the great monarch and arch-disturber of the Peace of Europe. I have made myself acquainted with many of these attacks—both those of which Leibniz was beyond doubt the author and those of which the indefatigable Pfleiderer (who discovered not less than twelve anonymous pamphlets of the sort bound up in a single volume), with more or less certainty, attributes to him; and in none of them can I perceive any trace of a pettiness wholly foreign to the nature of Leibniz. He had to undergo, and underwent without loss of dignity, provocations of a much severer sort from a quarter where he deserved every consideration; while from Louis XIV he had nothing to expect, and in the King's refusal to receive him could have found very little to resent.
The most notable of these polemical invectives is the Mars Christianissimus—the most Christian War God—which belongs to the middle of the dreary period from the Peace, which was no peace, of Nimeguen and the outbreak of the so-called Orleans War in 1688, when Louis XIV, in Leibniz's words, threw off the mask, and on pretexts which were themselves so many insults, took the Empire by the throat. The Mars Christianissimus, written during the siege of Vienna, is a satire of uncommon force, and is marked by an almost savage irony not usually associated with the urbane lucidity of its author. The moderation of the King—by which is meant his ruthless enforcement of the principle un roy, une foy, une loy—is the theme on which the satire harps. Pomponne has shown the way out of the stipulations of the Peace of Westphalia; Louvois has made men see the stuff of which German Princes are made. This is as it should be. That is just, according to Plato, which is of advantage to the strong; and Moses had a law of his own when he spoiled the Egyptians. The fact that he is commissioned with unheard of power shows whose Vicar Louis XIV is, while the Pope only registers his decrees. And so forth, with sarcasms almost savage in their bitterness, and a parade of charges made by others against France and her King, as to which the writer pretends to hold up deprecatory hands. There is, strange as the comparison may seem, a touch of Swift in all this—though the object of the veiled invective is a very different one from that of any of Swift s famous pamphlets.
Before he indited this exceptionally trenchant satire, Leibniz had passed into the service of Duke John Frederick of Hanover (1676), and on the Duke s death three years afterwards into that of his brother Duke (after wards Elector) Ernest Augustus and his wife Sophia, the youngest daughter of Elizabeth of Bohemia and the future acknowledged heiress of the English Crown. The two brothers resembled each other in many respects; they were alike very much intent upon the honour and glory of their House, and very careful of their own comfort; they preferred Venice and Paris—the former in those days the chosen abode of luxurious pleasure—to Osnabrück and Hanover, but they did what they could to make their own courts bright and enjoyable and, in a measure, refined. But they differed in both their religious and their political opinions; John Frederick became an ardent Roman Catholic, while Ernest Augustus, like his eldest son after him, remained a staunch Lutheran, without being much affected by the freer ways of thinking which his wife had brought from her brother s court at Heidelberg. In politics, John Frederick was one of those German princes who followed the lead of Louis XIV so long as it was possible; while Ernest Augustus, with his eldest brother George William of Celle, though not so soon as he, became one of the mainstays of the Imperial and anti-French cause, influenced no doubt by the distinction gained by his sons in the Imperial service against the Turks, and by his own desire to secure for the furtherance of his dynastic ambition the goodwill of the Emperor.
That Leibniz should have served both these princes with equal zeal and devotion—for his biographical memoir of John Frederick is written in the courthest strain of panegyric—does not seem very wonderful, more especially as his service to the elder brother was of so short duration. But it helps to account for the fact that the years following on the succession of Ernest Augustus to Hanover (from 1680 to about 1695) were, to judge from his literary activity as well as from his correspondence in them, the period of his career most congenial to himself as a politician—the aspect of his intellectual activities to which I must confine myself here. Leibniz, as he had only too much occasion for reminding the Elector George Lewis, both before and after the Elector had become King George I, was a faithful servant of the House of Hanover. None of the three chief steps towards the consummation of its greatness—the establishment of primogeniture as safeguarding the unity of the Lüneburg-Celle dominions, the attainment of the electoral dignity, and the securing of the English Succession—was taken without his co operation; but he laboured with the greatest zeal and the most effective application of his powers when he felt himself to be working at the same time for the advantage of the House of Hanover and for the general system of European policy which he had at heart. Thus, while he was in the service of John Frederick, I am not aware that he produced more than one political piece of any consequence—and this was the disquisition, written by him under a pseudonym of rather pedantic sound (Cæsarinus Furstenerius), on a topic which could hardly be held to be of European interest, though the original Latin version (he afterwards brought out a French replica in dialogue form) went through six editions in a single year. It treated the burning question of the right of German princes not electors (Fürsten not Kurfürsten) to send ambassadors not mere agents (legati not deputati) to congresses and conferences; but it treated this question both with a great deal of legal and historical learning, and also with a great deal of common sense—which no doubt was the novelty accounting for the success of the publication. It was, in fact, a plea for the principle that actual power should be the recognised measure of formal rights. As these were days in which princes desired to have the privileges of electors, and electors to have the title of Kings—I do not say that analogies to this tendency could not be found in later times when kings are made almost as fast as they are unmade—Leibniz s admirably stated plea cannot be said to have been inopportune.
But how wide became his range of topics, and how varied were his opportunities, when from the contentionuculæ (as he elsewhere calls them) of German domestic politics he passed into the domain of general European affairs! And here it would be quite impossible to attempt anything like a survey, or to enter upon even so much as an enumeration of the sheaves of political writings from his hand—French, German and Latin, with translations, by his own or other hands, into different European tongues—gathered into their editions of his works by Klopp and Foucher de Careil, and supplemented by the researches of Pfleiderer. One tractate discusses the necessity of pausing when things were going badly against the Turks, and when the great Elector of Brandenburg was still in one of those spiral phases of his policy which give so much trouble to historians convinced of his mission—a necessity which led to the Truce of Ratisbon in 1684. Another is concerned with the French declaration of war in 1688, answered by a counter-manifesto on the part of the Emperor Leopold, which was misattributed to Leibniz by his biographer Guhrauer, but which was dissected in a memorandum certainly written by him for the use of the imperial ministers and summing up, with not less force than elaboration (it extends through twenty chapters) the whole case against France as guilty of a systematic violation of the public law of nations.
A third treats the outlook at the end of the campaign of 1791 (written after the battle of Fleurus), when a new effort seemed necessary if the cause was not to collapse, and Leibniz in a series of "consultations" showed how closely he had followed both the conduct of the war and the attitude of the allies and neutrals towards it. These are but specimens of the efforts of his indefatigable pen in the period of his service under Ernest Augustus; and I only wish I had time to illustrate the completeness, the vigour and the general effectiveness (that I think is the right word) of these productions.
In 1698 Ernest Augustus was succeeded as Elector by his son George Lewis; but, largely no doubt because of Leibniz's devoted attachment to the widowed Electress Sophia, and her continuous pleasure in his society and correspondence, he remained in the service of the House. But the marriage of her daughter Sophia Charlotte to the Elector Frederick of Brandenburg (afterwards King Frederick I of Prussia) had already for some years caused Leibniz to become a frequent visitor at Berlin. This Princess (a woman of perhaps bolder mind than her mother, though less distinguished by the kindly humour which in the latter almost invariably tempered the expression of an acute intelligence) was, in her turn, much attached to Leibniz and glad of his frequent presence where 'the infinitely small,' (as it is to be feared she paraphrased the idiosyncrasy of her consort) was the ordinary pabulum of existence. Moreover, he was fully aware of the long-standing friction between the two electoral Houses, and he did his best, both by a skilful exposition of means by which pettly grievances between them could be removed, and in every other way in his power, to aid Sophia Charlotte in accomplishing the purpose for which she had been married to so uninspiring a husband. There can be no doubt of the loyalty of his exertions on this head, and he greeted the attainment by Sophia Charlotte s consort of the object of his life—the Prussian Crown—with cordial sympathy; but it seems to me little short of absurd to represent him as actuated by the belief that the future of Germany lay with Prussia, and not with Austria. Not only was he afterwards attracted to Vienna, as it is impossible to ignore, more potently than he ever had been to any other capital; not only is it probable that but for certain ecclesiastical influences he would have found a permanent place in the Emperor's service; but there is no political principle more consistently upheld by him than that the strengthening, not the weakening, of the imperial authority, of which in this age there was no thought of divesting the House of Habsburg, was essential to the preservation of the European system.
It is from this point of view, as much from that of preventing the overthrow of that system by the undue aggrandisement of France that he treats the question of the Spanish Succession, and comments on the progress of the war carried on (from 1702 onwards) during thirteen years for its settlement. In the first of his pamphlets belonging to this period he denounces the sacrifice of the Habsburg claims to the entire Spanish Monarchy by the Partition Treaties as poltroonery; and his activity in the critical months ending with the acceptance by France of the last will of Charles II was extreme: these writings fill a volume and a half of Foucher de Careil, where they are arranged in wild chronological disorder. And here should once more be noted his literary inventiveness of mise-en-scene. A Venetian sets his fellow Signori right on the subject of their interests in the struggle; a Dutchman of Amsterdam retorts on a sophistical publication purporting to come from Antwerp 'but fabricated in a French shop;' Cardinal Portocarrero and the Admiral of Castile confer in a dialogue serving as a prelude to a manifesto drawn up by Leibniz for the use of Archduke Charles, when in 1703 he was preparing for a roundabout journey into Spain. Leibniz was concealed beneath all these disguises; nor was there an important phase in the war which he fails to accompany by his comments. It is quite true that what may be called the Hanoverian interest is not lost sight of, the conferring of a great command upon the Elector George Lewis being repeatedly urged; but except in one pamphlet (1703) where it is stated, probably with perfect correctness, that this demand would certainly have been granted had William III lived long enough, it is only incidentally made. What was the dominant thought of all to the mind of Leibniz as a politician in these years may be gathered, even more from his writings on the war, from his writings concerning the Peace which ended it. The most important of these, the well-known La Paix d Utrecht inexcusable (1713) was written not only with the object of exposing the conduct of the Maritime Powers—which in the case of England was so cynical as hardly to need exposure, for though the Peace of Utrecht can be defended, the methods by which it was concluded cannot. It was also designed to justify the Emperor for holding out alone; and, even during the negotiations afterwards carried on at Rastadt, Leibniz stuck to his guns professing to tender to the Emperor—for his own ears only—advice which nothing but conviction and trust in the future could have induced him to offer when the eleventh hour had all but passed. In such a mood Leibniz was perhaps unlikely to respond with much fervour to the Project of a Perpetual Peace, forwarded to him by that amiable fellow-philosopher, the Abbé Bernardin de St. Pierre which (if I may be pardoned so personal a reference) I remember discussing in a lecture delivered at the opening of the new Owens College a good many years ago. Even amiable philosophers, when they touch the border of politics, are apt to say dangerous things, and Leibniz in 1715 was not prepared to listen to the suggestion that a suitable step towards the establishment of Eternal Peace would be the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. His own dream was an Alliance of Nations; but the Empire, strengthened as he desired to see it, seemed to him the natural nucleus of such an alliance, rather than an obstacle in the path towards it.
In the meantime, at least one of the political ends for which he had laboured long and unintermittently, though at first with very doubtful prospects of success and at last with small thanks from those who had benefited by his efforts, had been accomplished; the English succession was settled, and though his honoured mistress and correspondent, the Electress Sophia, had gone to her rest, the House of Hanover had been established upon the English Throne. I should not attempt on this occasion, even were time left to me, to summarise the history of what was done and what with still greater wisdom was left undone by the House of Hanover to bring about this consummation; but I should like before I close to say a very few words as to Leibniz s share in these transactions, though even of this I can only refer to some aspects. In January 1700—when there was as yet no apprehension of the death of William III or of the impossibility of averting the outbreak of a European War—Leibniz and the active English ambassador, Cresset, were present at an interview between the Dowager Electress and her brother-in-law of Celle, the intimate friend of William III; and at this meeting the line of conduct was settled which was on the whole (though not without some occasional deviation) faithfully observed by the Electress and her son. In July, the Duke of Gloucester died, and the Electress became heiress presumptive to the throne. But this event, though it called for increased vigilance, made no alteration in the conclusions reached at Celle, which were elaborated by Leibniz in the Considerations on the rights of the House of Brunswick to the English succession drawn up by him after the meeting. What interests us in this statepaper is not only its bearing on the immediate issue, on which I need not dwell, but the farsightedness of some of its wider deductions. As to the justice of the claims of the House of Brunswick—and it was this consideration of justice which (as we know to her honour) troubled the Electress Sophia as it did many an honest Englishman of the time—he argues that the exclusion of Roman Catholics and the descendants of Roman Catholics from the succession is not a matter for the consideration of anyone except the English people; and France (he rather sophistically adds), which proposes to place the Duke of Anjou on the Spanish throne in accordance with the will of the Spanish nation, should be the last to object. As to the actual end in view (and here he may have thought of the unconcealed apathy of the future King George I towards the prospect of adding to his sovereign authority as Elector that of a constitutional ruler over-sea), it is perfectly true that a King of England has need of a great deal of prudence and moderation in order to govern a difficult people and one very jealous of its liberty. On the other hand, the glory of a prince lies, not in attaching himself to his ease and his pleasures, but in the consciousness that he is great only for the purpose of securing the welfare of all. These are noble words, and worthy, not of a servant of princes or princelings, but of one who fitly aspired to be the adviser of the ruler of a great and free nation.
This, however, was not to be; and perhaps we may think it well that Leibniz was not destined to be lumped by English prejudice—a prejudice, let us allow, not without a certain amount of provocation—with the rest of the German counsellors and favourites of our first Hanoverian King. As a matter of fact, the height of his activity belongs to the earlier rather than the later stages of the Succession question—to the period intervening between the death of the Duke of Gloucester (July 1700) and the Act of Settlement which named the Electress Sophia and her descendants as successors after the childless Queen Anne (August 1701), and the conclusion (in the following month) of the Grand Alliance at the Hague. These two events were never dissociated from one another in the minds of Leibniz, and, in another set of Considerations on the matter of the English Succession, he showed that they had both been present to the mind of William III, when he delivered his speech from the throne (February 1701), of which the Act of Settlement had been the direct result. The War of the Spanish Succession was in the eyes of both William and Leibniz the War of the English Succession also; and in the Peace of Utrecht, which settled the Spanish question, he was actually desirous of inserting specific conditions that would in his opinion have placed the settlement of the English beyond the reach of doubt.
But this was later. Even when he was at what I have described as the height of his political influence, he held no official political position at Hanover, and was in no sense minister of the Electress Dowager, though the reports of her special agent in London, Falaiseau, passed through his hands. With Bothmer, who in the early years of the century began to be largely entrusted with the conduct of Hanoverian diplomacy in its relations to both England and Holland, he seems generally to have been on excellent terms. But from 1705 onwards, when after the reunion of Celle and Hanover Bernstorff became the leading minister of the Elector George Lewis, and Bernstorff's right hand man, the Huguenot Robethon, was charged by him with reports on the progress of the Succession question, Leibniz's communications with the Electress Dowager on the subject become essentially those of a private correspondent. They are not the less interesting on that account, or the less well informed. Thus, he knew of the fateful change of ministry in England long before it actually took place in 1710: 'I have,' he writes, ‘friends of importance among both Whigs and Tories, who from time to time supply me with good information because I am known to have the entrée here with the padronanza’ (as who should say, I have the key of the house). There are some people in England who would like me to pay a visit to that country, and I find that things would be explained to me there which could not be communicated by the ordinary channel. But I avoid that in order not to excite jealousy." Leibniz, in political enquiries as in historical research, was always desirous of securing information at first hand. But, in the present instance, no such opportunity was, in point of fact, accorded to him; and he had to content himself with correspondence and interviews with English agents who came to Hanover, and with the consciousness that, so far as in him lay, he had from first to last neglected no opportunity and left no stone unturned towards the achievement of the great result.
Before it was achieved, his best friend and patroness the old Electress Sophia had taken her last walk in the gardens of Herrenhausen, and some of those who knew, or professed to know, attributed her breakdown to the agitation caused by the anger of Queen Anne at a forward step in the relations between the two Courts—the demand of a writ of summons for the Electoral Prince to the House of Lords—of which she strongly disapproved. Leibniz, though he heartily applauded this step, was not responsible for it; and with the death of the old Electress his political influence and favour at Hanover were likewise at an end. For the Elector George Lewis, who soon afterwards, on Queen Anne s decease, ascended the English Throne as King George I, Leibniz was, as has been well said, nothing more than an admirable instrument when argumentative memorials were required in support of the interests of his dynasty. His advice was not valued, or wanted, by George and his ministers; when he tendered some very sound counsel through the Electoral Princess as to the expediency of forming a ministry out of both parties instead of Whigs and none but Whigs, the excellent Caroline was instructed to inform him that such matters could be best managed on the spot. She was the youngest of the three high-minded and high-spirited women who enjoyed and valued his friendship; but neither she nor the old Electress Sophia can be said to have had a will of her own in politics, and Queen Sophia Charlotte, who had one in all things, could not in this sphere often exercise it except indirectly. And Caroline had special reasons for not importuning her father-in-law, King George I, who disliked her almost as much as he disliked his son, her husband. When Leibniz indicated that he would gladly serve as historiographer royal in England he was plainly told to finish the historiographical task he had undertaken at home.
I am glad, almost, that time prevents me from dwelling on an episode in the career of Leibniz—unhappily it was the closing episode—which reflects little credit on Bernstorff and on Bernstorff's master. I would say that it reflects little credit on the earlier successors of George I, but that it would be perhaps unreasonable to expect any of them after George II to have remembered Leibniz or the great historical undertaking which his father and his father s ministers had for years urged, ordered—more than ordered—the great scholar to complete. And George II did actually go so far as to command the publication of the Origines Guelficæ (in which, as treating of the dynasty, he naturally took more interest than in the companion work, which had a wider basis and a wider scope), and four out of the five folios of this part of the undertaking which Leibniz had left to be executed by his assistant, successor and indefatigable backbiter Eckhart, were actually published in 1753. The Annales Brunsvicenses, which Leibniz himself had in substance completed, had to wait nearly a century longer, when, in the years 1843-5, they were published as part of Pertz's Monumenta Germaniæ. Thus it was as part of a great national historical collection, not as the record of one particular principality, that the great historical work which Leibniz had been unable to lay at the feet of George I was given to the world.
It is not as a historian that I have spoken of Leibniz to you today. I wished to add a note—it is no more—to my dear friend and honoured colleague s chapter only from the point of view of the political endeavours of the great man who to me is familiar from this side only or chiefly. It is for those of you who have read Leibniz as a philosopher and who know how as such he strove to bring all his studies—mathematical, linguistic and the rest—into harmony with his philosophical conceptions of the purposes of the Universe—it is for you to say whether the lesser side of his activity is out of harmony with the greater. I should be surprised if such were your conclusion either as to his religious or even as to his purely temporal politics; or rather I should attribute it to the imperfect and fragmentary nature of my note. Genius is not pieced together out of dissimilar or discordant elements; and the self-education of a great man, which is the highest type of all education, has for its end, unattainable yet never to be renounced, the perfection of all the powers which he holds in trust. No doubt, Leibniz attempted too much. No doubt, in the words of the most eminent of his biographical critics (Kuno Fischer) Leibniz's original fault was the impulse, which he found irresistible, towards multiplying the tasks and problems of his intellectual life, together with the spheres of his personal activity and the duties they involved, in a measure which no human mind and no single career could ever fully meet. That was his fault—but it was not a fault which posterity can visit heavily on one who, as I have already reminded you, did perhaps more than any other modern has done to suggest and supply means and methods both for the distribution of higher intellectual work and for the cooperation of those devoted to it in learned bodies which would recognise research—in the widest sense of the word—as the crown of their endeavours. That, I say, was his fault; his merit was the willing sacrifice of himself to the cause of progress, which is the cause of truth, however large be the unavoidable admixture of transitory error. The genius of Leibniz, his love of truth, which is eternal, and his aspirations for harmony, which is from on high these were true to themselves even in that secondary and subsidiary branch of his intellectual activity to which, for this reason, I have thought it not unfitting to call your attention to-day.
- Leibniz s lesser project of a union among the Protestant confessions must be left aside here, though it had important bearings both upon the politics of the Empire, and the prospects of the English Succession. For his letter on the subject to Burnet, written about the end of 1698, and the Bishop s reply, see H. C. Foxcroft, Life of Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury (Cambridge, 1907), pp. 361–4.
- It seems to have been preceded by an original memoire De foedere Rhenano in the same year, dealing with the alliance mentioned in the text about to be concluded by Mainz, with Trier and Lorraine.
- If you look at the historical records of the latter half of the seventeenth and the early years of the eighteenth century, you will find that we were thought a very difficult and a very unstable people epithets which in later times we have been accustomed to apply to our neighbours rather than to ourselves.
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——— und Landgraf Ernst von Hessen-Rheinfels. Ein Briefwechsel über religiose und politische Gegenstände. With Introduction by C. von Rommel. 2 vols. Frankfurt, 1847.
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