(image source: Oxford Academic)
Why and how did a new type of intervention, intended to prevent rulers from punishing individuals for their religious beliefs and justified using natural law, emerge in England during the first decade of the eighteenth century? This article traces its origins to the War of the Spanish Succession, when Huguenot publicists and diplomats petitioned English politicians to negotiate freedom for Huguenot prisoners in France. In campaigning for prisoners’ freedom rather than for the restoration of Huguenot corporate rights in France, Huguenot publicists and diplomats had to justify intervention in universalising, non-confessional terms. Because those prisoners were not protected by treaty law, the laws of war, or the laws of France, they cited Protestant and humanist traditions of natural law and theories of natural sociability to justify negotiating their release. In so doing, they invited European readers, politicians and monarchs to sympathise with distant strangers—and even to take political action on their behalf—not only because they shared a common faith, but also because they belonged to human society and shared a common humanity. These arguments circulated both in print and among European diplomats, altering the conduct of international affairs. In England, this article shows, Huguenot campaigns influenced debates about intervention and English foreign policy-making. Thus, this article suggests a new narrative for the diffusion of humanitarian argument in eighteenth-century western European political culture.Source: Oxford Academic.