SELLERS: Nation building is well done | Free sharing



This is an opinion piece.

EExperiment is the practical scientific method.

Some things succeed while others fail; observing the reasons for success should help write a plan to plan for the future. It may be fashionable to view the past as nothing more than a sentimental embrace of the pre-modern world, but the Human Conflict Lab produces tangible results that can be examined, quantified, and revised to account for best practices.

What can we learn when the autocrat of the autocrat allows some form of counter-type pluralism?

That Louis XIV, king of France and in his mind, king of the world, abandon a ruthless conquest for a negotiated peace is not something that many monarchs adopted 340 years ago. But, against his own model for subjecting the other provinces to his iron will, Louis allowed the Protestant city of Strasbourg to remain virtually untouched with limited oversight from city government oversight.

This was not the normal behavior of the seventeenth century: conquest led to subjugation, which, in turn, led to exploitation. In the short term, this policy created wealth for the conqueror but also a simmering resentment among the population seeking an opportunity to shake off the yoke and regain its independence.

Strasbourg spoke mainly German and was predominantly Lutheran. But rather than join his neighbors and engage in a devastating sectarian conflict, he wisely chooses to pursue a policy that relies on commerce rather than religion.

The Strasbourg leaders understood that the religious war only benefited arms dealers and funeral directors; they understood that communities lose out when trade is stifled by conflict. Ahead of its time, Strasbourg understood that the religious belief that led to the armed conflict was not true religion at all. He thus refused to embrace the fervor of religious belief that other provinces cooperate in a misguided rage that demanded acceptance on pain of death.

it would be would be neither the first nor the last time that religious zeal would be compromised by politicians concerned with territorial expansion and self-glorification. Many city-states and provinces have harnessed the religious fervor of reform and counter-reform to gain territory and political advantage. But, as a result of such cynicism of faith, the result has been widespread devastation, bloodshed and poverty.

Strasbourg contrasts sharply with this political science. Strategically located on the Rhine, the city was at the crossroads of trade and economic expansion. It was a free imperial city with a thriving middle class engaged in crafts, commerce, and, with its own currency, banking.

As a free city, it had an adequate defensive system to protect itself against limited conflict, but not strong enough to fend off the military juggernaut of Louis XIV. By its structure of government, the city openly encouraged participation of all faiths and even had a power-sharing agreement between Lutherans and Catholics.

While it is true that Calvinists and Jews were not part of this political structure, it is also true that unlike other places, they were tolerated and allowed to participate generally in the affairs of the city under the protection of its citizens. laws. Another mitigating factor against sectarian violence was that Martin Bucer, proclaimed by some as the father of ecumenism, had been an influential cleric there. Bucer was the accomplished Protestant of the “big tent,” seeking common ground with all faiths and advocating tolerance in a sea of ​​fanaticism.

Strasbourg’s economic, political and cultural stability has created great prosperity for its citizens. It was a thriving medieval community, which made it the crown jewel of the region and an object of conquest for the King of France. The value of the town at the confluence of the Rhine and the Ill made it ideal for an outpost on the eastern border of France to serve as an early warning system against invasions.

For years, Louis and his generals coveted the city as an addition to the expanding Sun King empire. But rather than pursuing a siege and armed conflict, Louis wisely engaged in skillful diplomacy effectively charming the city but with the threat of force implicit in his affections.

Annexing Strasbourg through negotiation would not only offer an economic advantage, but also serve as an example to other surrounding towns that Louis’ ruthless reputation was undeserved and that he was a reasonable despot. This diplomatic approach gave Louis a sphere of influence to neutralize otherwise hostile cities and encourage acceptance, if not allegiance, to his cause.

Thus, in September 1681, Louis occupies Strasbourg without firing anger and incorporates the city into his kingdom. Reaching an acceptable deal with the city’s various power centers was easily accomplished when it was clear that the French occupation would not change the law of the land.

Louis demanded that Notre-Dame Cathedral be returned to exclusive Catholic worship. Previously, several churches were used by various denominations to worship at alternate hours on Sundays. But, while Louis favored his Catholic faith, unlike his other conquests where all other sects were banned and members exiled, he allowed Strasbourg to continue to follow its long tradition of religious tolerance.

Strasbourg thus remained faithful to Louis and the French. While its initial language was primarily German, over time this changed as the city embraced a distinctive French culture. However, from 1871 it was caught between the imperial objectives of Germany and France in three wars, changing the borders by conquest and negotiated settlement until it was finally reincorporated into France. after the Second World War.

Thanks in large part to Louis’ largesse, Strasbourg has remained a thriving commercial center and also a center of religious tolerance. This tolerance was an unintended consequence of understanding the importance of commercial interest and the prosperity brought about by stability in all aspects of city life.

Nation builders, honeymooners, and community organizers would do well to follow Louis’ example and moderate changes in local customs to advocate acceptance, tolerance, and freedom of conscience. It’s no wonder that when Europe sought a location for its Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg was a logical choice.

Do sellers graduated in 1985 from Hillsdale College and an associate judge of the Supreme Court of Alabama. He is best reached at


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