Christoph Besold on confederation rights and duties of esteem in diplomatic relations

Intellectual History Review 32 (1):51-70 (2022)
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The self-worth of political communities is often understood to be an expression of their position in a hierarchy of power; if so, then the desire for self-worth is a source of competition and conflict in international relations. In early modern German natural law theories, one finds the alternative view, according to which duties of esteem toward political communities should reflect the degree to which they fulfill the functions of civil government. The present article offers a case study, examining the views concerning confederation rights and the resulting duties of esteem in diplomatic relations developed by Christoph Besold (1577–1638). Besold defends the view that confederations including dependent communities—such as the Hanseatic League—could fulfill a stabilizing political function. He also uses sixteenth-century conceptions concerning the acquisition of sovereignty rights through prescription of immemorial time. Both strands of argument lead to the conclusion that the envoys of dependent communities can have the right to be recognized as ambassadors, with all the duties of esteem that follow from this recognition.

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Andreas Blank
Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt


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