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The Idea of United European Nations


Tim writes: 

I am wondering for how long Europe (not as a collective whole, but more than a handfull) has had the idea of forming as Churchill put it "a united states of Europe." How old is this idea and I mean not just Charlamagne conquereing to the Iberian Penn. That many nations coming together to act as more or less a collective group. My thought put it at post-WW2 with billions being put up to rebuild and as to forstal any Hitler want-to-be from just grabbing little nations. (...)

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Dear Tim, (...) so far as I know, the way you put it, it was done by Victor Hugo in the 19th century. At his address to the Peace Congress in Paris (1849), Hugo said:

"A day will come when war will seem as absurd and impossible between Paris and London, between Petersburg and Berlin, between Vienna and Turin, as it would be impossible and would seem absurd today between Rouen and Amiens, between Boston and Philadelphia. A day will come when you France, you Russia, you Italy, you England, you Germany, you all, nations of the continent, without losing your distinct qualities and your glorious individuality, will be merged closely within a superior unit and you will form the European brotherhood, just as Normandy, Brittany, Burgundy, Lorraine, Alsace, all our provinces are merged together in France. A day will come when the only fields of battle will be markets opening up to trade and minds opening up to ideas. A day will come when the bullets and the bombs will be replaced by votes, by the universal suffrage of the peoples, by the venerable arbitration of a great sovereign senate which will be to Europe what this parliament is to England, what this diet is to Germany, what this legislative assembly is to France."

At the peace congress in Laussanne Hugo addressed his fellows as "citizens of the United States of Europe", the very phrase Churchill will use a century later and after Kalergi and Briand had worked on this idea.

Maybe Hugo is the first to have expressed with such a clarity this demand for a union in the political form we know it today - or, at least, since Stead's and Kalergi's work. But the whole 19th century is full of ideas of unions and unifications, of hidden or obvious bonds and links, in all fields (we are in the romantic era, as you recall), and Hugo just gave a certain voice and expression to broader movements and tendencies. Think, e.g., of what William Penn wrote at 1693: 

"(...) by the same rules of justice and prudence by which parents and masters govern their families, and magistrates their Cities, and estates their republics, and princes and kings their principalities and kingdoms, Europe may obtain and preserve peace among her sovereignties". 


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V. Hugo: Addresses to the Peace Congresses in Paris and Laussanne (1849)

Diplomacy against the odds

D. de Rougemont: Open letter to the Europeans

The European Prospect

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