Working Papers

■ Working Paper No. 2018-1 (March)
Frederik Dhondt
The first continental congresses of the "Friends of Peace" were held in 1848 (Brussels) and 1849 (Paris). A heterogeneous bourgeois audience convened to discuss the abolition of war and standing armies, unearthing a long pedigree of perpetual peace plans, linking them up with the changing nature of national sovereignty and general concerns for societal reform. The professionalisation of international law, or its establishment as a discipline taught by experts, was preceded by scathing criticism from civil society against the traditional diplomatic and military elites, who monopolised the exercise of force. In spite of the Peace Conferences' failure to alter international order through transnational public opinion, discussions stretching from the 1840s to the late 1860s provide insight into the role of legal arguments in political activism. This paper gives an overview of the personal networks and intellectual inspirations converging at these meetings, situated in the immediate "pre-history" of the Gentle Civilizer of Nations (Koskenniemi, 2001).
■ Working Paper No. 2017-3 (December)
Raphaël Cahen
Alors que l’illustre rédacteur du Code Civil des français a fait l’objet de nombreuses publications, Portalis le jeune, c’est-à-dire son fils aîné, ne semble pas avoir beaucoup intéressé les historiens. [1] Pour autant, ce personnage historique aux huit serments politiques à l’image d’un Talleyrand ou d’un Fouché, a traversé les bouleversements sociaux, économiques, industrielles, politiques et juridiques de la France et de l’Europe pendant les quatre-vingt années de sa longue vie. Ancien émigré, diplomate, conseiller d’état, Pair de France, député, académicien, publiciste, ministre (par intérim) des cultes, de la justice, des affaires étrangères, président de la Cour de Cassation pendant plus de vingt ans et même sénateur au début du Second Empire, acteur de l’ordre social et public, Joseph-Marie Portalis a bien laissé à la postérité une œuvre importante tant politique que juridique certes dans l’ombre de son père. A la fin de l’année 2012, une partie des Archives de la famille Portalis ont été vendues par l’une des quatre branches de la famille des descendants des Portalis qui habitent d’ailleurs toujours dans la bastide provençale dite château Pradeaux, à Saint-Cyr-Sur-Mer dans le Var. [2] Ainsi, un grand nombre de papiers inédits que nous avons pu consulter sur le personnage se trouvent notamment aux archives du MAE, aux Archives nationales, à la bibliothèque de la Faculté de droit d’Aix-en-Provence. [3] Nous avons pu bénéficier également des papiers inédits encore conservés par les Portalis et de ceux acquis par un collègue. [4] Ces sources inédites permettent d’apporter un nouvel éclairage sur la vie et l’œuvre du natif d’Aix-en-Provence. Serviteur de l’Etat éclectique, Portalis s’est intéressé à une grande diversité de thématiques. Pour autant, la question de la liberté de la presse qui illustre parfaitement les luttes politiques et sociales du siècle des révolutions semble avoir constamment animé ses réflexions jusqu’à la rédaction de la Loi sur la Presse de juin 1828 sous le ministère Martignac. [5] Il apparait donc judicieux d’analyser le lien entre Portalis et la philosophie des Lumières ainsi que son rapport à la Révolution française à travers l’étude de son itinéraire et de sa formation intellectuelle (I) avant de revenir sur le contexte historique et l’esprit de la loi sur la presse de 1828 (II).
■ Working Paper No. 2017-2 (August)
Frederik Dhondt
Neutrality is one of the most controversial issues in public international law and international relations history. Its remoteness from the United Nations system of collective security has rendered its discussion less topical. The significance of contemporary self-proclaimed ‘permanent neutrality’ is limited. Recent scholarship has taken up the theme as a general narrative of nineteenth century international relations: between the Congress of Vienna and the Great War, neutrality was the rule, rather than the exception. In intellectual history, Belgium’s neutral status is seen as linked to the rise of the ‘Gentle Civilizer of Nations’ at the end of the nineteenth century. International lawyers’ and politicians’ activism brought three Noble Peace Prizes (August Beernaert, International Law Institute, Henri La Fontaine). The present contribution focuses on the permanent or compulsory nature of Belgian neutrality in nineteenth century diplomacy, from the country’s inception (1830-1839) to the Franco-Prussian War (1870). The subject has generally been left to political or diplomatic historians. This would suggest a lack of conceptual primary-source material. I argue, on the contrary, that political and diplomatic exchanges were steeped in in international law-discourse. As the discursive arena of international politics, international law was impossible to evade. Hence, Belgian nineteenth century neutrality cannot be properly understood without having recourse to legal sources.
■ Working Paper No. 2017-1 (March)
Brecht Deseure
Even though they were formally abolished during the French Revolution, the constitutions of the Old Regime continued to be politically relevant in nineteenth-century Belgium. The suggestion that there was continuity between the defunct charters and privileges of the former Southern Netherlands and the modern Belgian state proved useful for legitimising Belgian independence and for historically grounding the institutions of the young state. This article draws attention, first, to a specific legal historical line of argument, developed by patriotic Belgian historians and legal scholars in the nineteenth century, who made a case for formal continuity between the Belgian Constitution of 1831 and the old fundamental laws. After analysing this continuity thesis and its political and ideological backgrounds, the article then turns to the actual genesis of the Belgian Constitution. As the debates in the constituent assembly and in the press make clear, the Belgian revolutionaries of 1830 were much less concerned with national constitutional history than has later been supposed. The views on constitutional monarchy enshrined by the Constitution of 1831 were fundamentally liberal, and invocations of the ancient constitutions usually remained limited to preserving the spirit of ancestral liberty. A notable and little known exception was the reedition of the medieval Joyous Entry charter by Toussaint, a radical Belgian revolutionary who turned to the medieval charters as an alternative for the elitist and socially conservative Constitution produced by the Constitutional Committee and the National Congress.
■ Working Paper No. 2016-2 (June)
Frederik Dhondt
The act of registration of the lettres patentes of Louis XIV on 15 March 1713, which renounced Philip V’s right to the throne of France and also the rights of the dukes of Berry and Orléans to the throne of Spain, is usually presented as a violation of the fundamental law of indisposability of the Crown. Even with internal implications for France and ensuing contemporary debate that was framed in those terms, it is nonetheless important to highlight its practical juristic logic with regard to international relations. Renonciations marked a vital element in the equilibrium of European state relations and they allowed to avoid excessive concentration of power. The Regency’s diplomacy sought to extend the solutions contained within the Utrecht treaties (11 April 1713) to other cases of potential war, in Italy. As a result, the mentioned registration of renunciation touched upon two conflicts of norms instead of one. On the one hand, the monarch’s lettres patentes conflicted with the lois fondamentales. On the other hand, the law of treaties was at odds with the internal laws of France. Not only the negotiations leading up to the peace treaties, but also the subsequent interpretation of those treaties demonstrate an alternative, apocryphal but coherent, juristic discourse, the understanding of which is indispensable for a proper analysis of their global implications.
■ Working Paper No. 2015-2 (October)
Frederik Dhondt
Abstract: The Peace of Utrecht (11 April 1713) ended a century of bloodshed on the continent. Inter alia by setting new rules for trade with the Spanish Indies and redesigning the balance of Italy. Yet, five years later, a new conflict broke out. France and Britain united with the Emperor against Spain. No particular convention was reached regarding commercial matters for the duration of the conflict. The present paper analyses the complex interplay between trade policy, privateering, warfare, neutrality, corruption, consular and local jurisdiction and diplomatic intercession, based on individual cases contained in the French Maritime records (Archives Nationales, Marine, series B1), as well as Franco-British diplomatic correspondence (Archives Diplomatiques, National Archives). Its main purpose is to help understanding the disconnect between, on the one hand, cordial Franco-British relations regarding “high policy” and, on the other hand, unfettered commercial rivalry.
■ Working Paper No. 2015-1 (April)
Maarten Colette
Abstract: The ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau provide a middle ground between thin-rope liberal views on and neo-roman approaches towards liberty. Rousseau's ideas on liberty are not negative or based on non-domination. Instead, Rousseau takes participation in political life as paramount and construes freedom as liberating and constraining at the same time. In so doing, Rousseau, and also Benjamin Constant in his footsteps, revived the ancient idea of man’s self-fulfilment in politics, but they also updated it to make it fit for modern times. “To be free” according to Rousseau is to act with respect for the common good.


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