Perpetual Peace and Different Ideas

Perpetual Peace: A logic of international relations that develops before the emergence of international relations.

The idea of ​​establishing perpetual peace in the international system is an idea that has a very old origin. Many questions have been asked about this idea in different historical periods and many solutions have been presented for perpetual peace. In their search for lasting peace, states have resorted to peace movements, congresses around the world, international law agreements, interstate diplomacy, and even violent situations such as revolution and war. Through these methods, it was aimed to ensure perpetual peace by making plans for centuries. The plans made can be divided into two ensuring perpetual peace in Europe and ensuring lasting peace around the World (Scheid, 2011a)

Perpetual peace began with the first examination of the relations between societies, in a broad framework ranging from Erasmus to Kant. Later, with the emergence of modern states, he continued to examine these relations as an explanation of the balance between war and peace. However, perpetual peace was generally used to express a permanent peace between great powers that could not be limited in time and would not lose its effect. Rather than preventing conflicts among all humanity, it was aimed to ensure peace by developing a law-based order (Belissa, 2020).

When we look at the first proponents of the idea of ​ perpetual peace, their origins date back to Hellenistic and early Roman times (Scheid, 2011a). Since the idea of ​​peace is directly related to universal human rights and law, Roman law and the thoughts of thinkers who grew up with this understanding have made significant contributions to the literature. When we examine the studies on peace, we come across some important names.

First, we can start with Pierre Dubois. Dubois was a lawyer and thinker who lived in France between 1250 and 1320. In addition to his stance supporting a secular monarchy, he came up with the idea of ​​establishing an "International Court of Arbitration" to ensure lasting peace, albeit on a local scale. Dubois, who is considered to be the first person to support this idea, argued that through this court, disputes can be resolved and peace can be maintained for a long time(Caplow, 1987). The Italian poet Dante, who we are familiar with from the history of literature, also aims to create world peace and perpetuate it, with the view that a world-class empire is on the way in his work “In De Monarchia”.

Emeric Crucé on the other hand, “Le Nouveau Cynée ou Discours des Occasions et Moyens d'establir une Paix general, & la Liberté du Commerce par tout le Monde” (The New Cyneas or Discourse of the Occasions and Means to Establish a General Peace, and the Liberty In his work called Commerce Throughout the Whole World), he emphasized the idea that although world history was full of wars, there were also long periods of peace. According to Curycé, the internal dynamics of states are vital for international peace. He argues that a universal currency will be effective for lasting peace. His main argument is that a “Council of Representatives” should be established in order to ensure a lasting peace. Unlike Dubois and Dante, achieving world peace is not one of Crucé's goals, but its main purpose (Mansfield, 2013)

In the plan put forward by Maximilien de Béthune Sully to cry for lasting peace, there was the idea of ​​providing a European federation of all Christian nations. According to this plan, called Grand Dessein' (Grand Design), the religious unity of Christians would be restored and the unbelievers would be expelled from Europe and a European federation would be established (Riley, 1974). William Penn, on the other hand, developed a project to establish lasting peace by establishing a "United States of Europe". According to Penn, peace could only be achieved through justice. From this point of view, he has prepared a very detailed plan (Aksu, 2008).

The impact of the devastating wars of the sixteenth century can be seen when we look at the early plans for perpetual peace. The first goal of all these plans was to organize the peace with a diplomatic understanding and ensure its permanent. These plans, which proposed congresses, federations, and arbitrations, it was aimed to prevent the convenience of a state in declaring war. Instead of declaring peace by denying the existence of existing powers they wanted to build peace in the existing order created by these Powers (Belissa, 2020).

Immanuel Kant, who made detailed research on the concept of Perpetual Peace and drew a plan, is one of the most important names who evaluated this concept. The most striking features of Kant's principles are that they have a much more general level and are universally applicable. Kant did not limit his analysis to perpetual peace to Europe. He studied states, regardless of where they were founded. In this view, Europe is no better or worse than anywhere else in the world. When Kant's plan is carefully examined, some items come to the fore. When we look at these articles, first of all, a peace treaty made by hiding material for the possibility of future war is not valid. On the other hand, standing armies contracted national debts, and interference of a state in the internal affairs of other states is strictly prohibited. Finally, he says, “No state ... shall countenance such modes of hostility as would make mutual confidence impossible in a subsequent state of peace....” According to Kant, if these principles can be applied equally to all states, it will be possible to achieve lasting peace (Aksu, 2008).

Kant thinks that the idea of creating a sovereign power and the creation of sovereign power through violence will not benefit peace. Kant, who advocates a federation founded by free states, says that perpetual peace can be achieved in this way. The Republican administration is one of the main points of permanent peace. Because constitutional government prevents impulsive decisions in case of a possible war compared to monarchy. Kant, who sees the establishment of republics as the first step, argues that some of these republics will unite and establish a federative structure afterward. He argues that after the effect of this structure is understood, more passive republics will join the union and peace will be achieved (ÇINAR, 2017).

Rousseau, another important figure in the idea of establishing perpetual peace, argues that a union including European Christian states should be established in his work "Jugement sur la paix perpetuelle" [A Judgment on Perpetual Peace], which was published in the article of Abbe de Saint Pierre, which is also the main subject of our research. With this work, Rousseau proposes the way of the federation to ensure permanent peace in Europe and discusses this proposal in depth (Rousseau, 2005). According to Rousseau, the European Union is as much about sociality and morality as it is about law and economy. The union he wanted to establish included a political space beyond a political structure.

Saint-Pierre was secretary to an authorized French minister at the Congress of Utrecht that brought the War of the Spanish Succession to an end. Witnessing the process of making the treaty and the negotiations, Pierre used this situation to unveil the project of perpetual peace. And, the incessant wars before the agreement was reached were the impetus for the Abbé de Saint-Pierre to work on lasting peace in Europe. This plan has inspired and somewhat influenced the work of almost everyone working on perpetual peace (Ghervas, 2019).

 Similar to his previous peacemaking plans, Saint-Pierre's main argument is to create a "Grand Alliance", to create a permanent union of states in Europe and to ensure peace. Arguing that a union like this should not remain just a project, Abbe cites some federations that have been tried in history as an example. He argues that with the establishment of such an alliance, the war will also disappear. According to him, one of the biggest causes of wars is the absence of a permanent authority that is strong enough to implement the agreements made in the world. Therefore, he argues that the mentioned alliance will fill this authority vacuum and ensure peace (Spector, 2011).


Aksu, E. (2008). “Perpetual Peace”: A Project by Europeans for Europeans? Peace & Change, 33(3), 368-387.

Belissa, M. (2020). Projects for Perpetual Peace, 16th-18th centuries.

Caplow, T. (1987). St. Pierre and the Project of Perpetual Peace. The Tocqueville Review, 8, 111-123.

ÇINAR, M. U. (2017). Rousseau ve Kant ile Avrupa’da kalıcı barışa ve Avrupa Birliği’ne dair. Ankara Avrupa Çalışmaları Dergisi, 16(1), 61-80.

Ghervas, S. (2019). In the Shadow of Utrecht: Perpetual Peace and International Order, 1713–1815. In The 1713 Peace of Utrecht and its Enduring Effects (pp. 192-224). Brill Nijhoff.

Mansfield, A. (2013). Émeric Crucé’s Nouveau Cynée (1623), universal peace and free trade. Journal of Interdisciplinary History of Ideas, 2(4), 2-23.

Riley, P. (1974). The Abbe de St. Pierre and Voltaire on Perpetual Peace in Europe. World Affs., 137, 186.

Rousseau, J.-J. (2005). A Lasting Peace through the Federation of Europe: Exposition and Critique of St. Pierre’s Project. In Theories of Federalism: A Reader (pp. 59-85). Springer.

Scheid, D. E. (2011a). Perpetual Peace. In D. K. Chatterjee (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Global Justice (pp. 827-833). Springer Netherlands.

Scheid, D. E. (2011b). Perpetual Peace: Abbé de Saint-Pierre. In D. K. Chatterjee (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Global Justice (pp. 833-836). Springer Netherlands.

Spector, C. (2011). The plan for perpetual peace: From saint-Pierre to Rousseau. History of European Ideas