Dorothée Goetze:

Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz

‘Peace as an argument in conflict II: The peace treaties of Oliva and Alt-Ranstädt in the Swedish-Saxon dispute at the German Perpetual Diet.’

The second presentation of this double session on the use of earlier peace treaties in conflicts took us further in time, to the German imperial diet, or the so-called Perpetual German Diet, of 1663. Goetze approached the subject of peace as an argument in conflict from a different angle than Lena Oetzel, by using the example of a Swedish-Saxon dispute at the German Perpetual Diet during the Great Northern War in the beginning of the 18th century.

The Diet was meant to settle unresolved problems of the Westphalian Peace Congress and the Thirty Years War. However, the Great Northern War fought between 1700-1721 brought new issues to the table. The disputing parties had double roles, being both foreign sovereigns and members of the Holy Roman Empire. As such, they tried to use the imperial institutions such as the imperial diet to regulate the conflict. Both Saxony and Sweden were seeking guarantees by the imperial diet at several points during the conflict. In 1712 their diplomatic attempts culminated in a kind of ‘paper war’, addressing the imperial Estates.

In this year a change of strategy can be found in the source material. Until then the argumentation was built on emphasizing one’s commitment to the welfare of the Holy Roman Empire, but now history became a prominent argument. It was the Saxon party who started to refer to earlier peace treaties and who accused the Swedish king of having violated them. The treaties in question were the Peace of Oliva (between Sweden and Poland in 1660) and the Peace of Alt-Ranstädt of 1706 (between Sweden and Saxony). These were crucial treaties for the power relations between Saxony and Sweden.

In 1712 the use of history in conflict, or rather the lack thereof, was employed by the Saxon envoy. The Swedish side had initially often included the Peace of Oliva in their writings but had stopped doing so, thus, creating the suspicion that the Swedish side did no longer legally recognized this treaty. This diplomatic approach was a reaction to the Swedish accusation that the Saxon-Polish side had started the conflict. If a party was recognized as a peace-breaker, they would not get help from the imperial diet. The Saxon-Polish side aimed to avoid any doubt that they would act against the imperial constitution and blamed the other party by referencing the older treaties. The Peace of Alt-Ranstädt was similarly used as an argument against accusations of breaking the peace. The Saxon diplomats claimed it had been forced upon them, which meant that they had not broken it. Afterall, an imposed peace can be broken and ‘a line may be drawn through them’.  

The Swedish accused the other party of instrumentalization of the Peace of Alt-Ranstädt and attempting to justify a new breach of peace by the Saxon party. Regarding the interpretation of a forced treaty, the Swedish envoy asked if one could look to history and find any peace that had been concluded without any party feeling obliged to do so. The German Perpetual Diet became the stage where diplomats questioned how negotiating parties should deal with earlier treaties in conflicts. If the lack of references and arguments of imposed treaties could impact its validity, how could peace ever be reached?

Dorothée Goetze is se senior lecturer at Mid Sweden University, and she is currently editing the Handbook on Early Modern Diplomacy with Lena Oetzel, to be published by De Gruyter History.
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