The Commonwealth of France's Louis XI:
Foundations Of The Nation State

by Pierre Beaudry

Printed in The American Almanac, July 3, 1995

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``Give the world on which you act the direction of the Good, and the natural rhythm of time will bring about its development.'' (Schiller, Letters).


Every American citizen owes an enormous debt to France's King Louis XI, who reigned from 1461 to 1483. Louis XI created the first modern nation-state committed to educating its population and raising the living standards of the approximately 95 percent of the population which, up to Louis's time, lived a life not much better than the animals they tended. This was a first step toward America's creation of a republic based on representative self-government, in the last two decades of the eighteenth century.

The concept of a government, in Abraham Lincoln's words, ``of, by, and for the people,'' was presented as a working document by the great scientist, historian, and Christian humanist Cardinal Nicolaus of Cusa (1401-1464) to the Catholic Church's Council of Basel in 1434, in a book-length treatise titled The Catholic Concordance.

Cusa clearly argued that Christians must drop their illusions about the glory of the Roman Empire. That empire, rejected the idea that man is created in the image of God (imago Dei), and aids God in His creation through his faculty of creativity and the emotion of agapë (charitable love), and was a moral abomination, which sowed the seeds of its own destruction. In The Catholic Concordance, Cusa presented the original research he had done to prove that the so-called Donation of Constantine (the ninth-century assertion that the Roman Emperor Constantine had ceded the temporal power of the empire to the papacy) was a total fraud. Cusa's argument exposed the tainting of the Church with this bogus cession to it of Roman imperial power, and demonstrated that the only basis for the emergence of the sovereign nation-state resides in the elective principle of the King based on the enrichment of the nation as a whole, and the consent of the people.

On this basis, Cusa establishes that the Holy Empire does not depend on the pope, but rather derives its authority from God by means of the consent of the governed. Cusa summarizes his political theory as follows:

``[A]ll legitimate authority arises from elective concordance and free submission. There is in the people a divine seed by virtue of their common equal birth and the equal natural rights of all men so that all authority--which comes from God as does man himself--is recognized as divine when it arises from the common consent of the subjects. One who is established in authority as representative of the will of all may be called a public or common person, the father of all, ruling without haughtiness or pride, in a lawful and legitimately established government. While recognizing himself as the creature, as it were, of all his subjects as a collectivity, let him act as their father as individuals. This is that divinely ordained marital state of spiritual union based on a lasting harmony by which a commonwealth is best guided in the fullness of peace toward the goal of eternal bliss.''

Coming Out of the Dark Age

By the first half of the fifteenth century, the Hundred Years' War with England had ravaged France to the point of barbarism. Especially savage was the destruction of the French countryside by English troops, following on the heels of a New Dark Age which had destroyed most of Europe.

France was only a small portion of the continent which had suffered the Black Death of 1348 during which half of Europe's population had been killed by the bubonic plague. The 1343 collapse of the Venetian-controlled banking houses of Bardi and Peruzzi, on top of a physical breakdown of the productive economy which was already underway, weakened the population for the spread of disease. The bubonic plague, carried by rats in the urban areas, quickly became pneumonic plague, which passes easily from human to human.

Marauding bands of armed men, known as ``ecorcheurs'', or strippers, representing various militias of French warlords, laid waste to the land and looted and killed those who had been fortunate enough not to have been killed by the plague. Entire regions, towns, and villages were pillaged, and ultimately disappeared.

When, in 1429, Joan of Arc took charge of a broken down French army--demoralized from decades of fighting England--and led it to a stunning first victory at the battle of Orléans, it seemed that France, and with it, the known civilized world, was doomed. Nearly 95 percent of the population still alive was suffering in utter poverty. In spite of all of this, by the middle of the sixteenth century, France had produced a leader, King Louis XI, who in the course of his reign (1461-1483), transformed this depopulated scorched earth into the most productive nation-state in the world, and a model for nation-building efforts of Spain, England, and eventually America.

The Idea of the Commonwealth

Louis's development of France was based on the idea of the commonwealth, government on behalf of the physical and cultural enrichment of the people and the nation-state--the common good--as opposed to the territorial looting of an empire. Such a commonwealth could only be achieved by means of improving the productive powers of labor of that population. In this fashion, the nation-state must be ruled in a dirigistic fashion from a centralized government which commits itself to fostering man's ability to reflect this general purpose through breakthroughs in art and science. In turn, the elevated individual soul will ennoble the nation-state by making a contribution to its advancement and progress.

From this sentiment of uplifting the individual, the nation-state should promote and defend the fundamental right of every human being to develop his mental powers of reason in the image of God, and to perfect himself in order to get closer to the principle of composition of divine reason, the underlying principle of the Good that generates the changing relationships of all things in harmony with natural law.

In specific, this means that the ruler of the nation-state is committed to fostering man's access to scientific knowledge, i.e., the discovery of the higher principles underlying the physical processes of nature and the mastery of how they can be applied to machine-tool principles and machines more generally. From this standpoint, the nation-state cannot exist without the explicit objective of establishing what the seventeenth-century universal genius Gottfried Leibniz was to later call ``academies,'' or ``societies.''

Leibniz wrote in his 1671 essay ``Society and Economy'':

With the help of these academies (or societies) which are institutions of research and development, with their own manufactures and commerical houses directly attached to them, the monopolies will be eliminated, because the academies will always guarantee a just and low price for goods, and very often such goods would become even cheaper because new manufactures will be built where none exist at that time.''

Louis XI of France was the product of such an outlook, and he understood the necessity to perpetuate it. This is clearly shown in his magnificent book, Le Rosier des Guerres (The Rosebush of Wars), written for his son, who was later to become Charles VIII. The book is a treatise on the necessity of defending the common good and is a precursor of Jean Bodin's six volume work on the commonwealth. In beautiful Rabelaisian French, Louis wrote:

``Considering that the characteristic of Kings and Princes and their Knights, is that their estate and vocation is to defend the common good, both ecclesiastic and secular, and to uphold justice and peace among their subjects, and to do good, they will have good in this world and in the other and out of doing evil will only come grief; and one must count one day on leaving this world to go and give an account of one's undertakings and receive one's reward. And to expose their lives for others, of which among all other estates of the world is most to be praised and honored. And because the common good which concerns many, which is the public matter of the Realm is more praiseworthy than the particular, by which the common good is often frustrated; we have gladly put in writing the deeds of princes and of their knights and all the good tenets that served their cause....

``I have seen nothing which has more destroyed and annihilated the power of the Romans than the fact that they listen more to their individual interest than to the common good....

``When Justice reigns in a kingdom, the common good is well guarded, and so is the particular: Because Justice is such a virtue that maintains human company and common life, providing that everyone makes a wise use of common things as common; and of particular things as particular.''

Academies based on these principles began to flourish in France under the leadership of Louis XI, and thereafter, including the Vosge Gymnasium (1505), a school of the Brotherhood of the Common Life which had its own printing and distribution house. In the seventeenth century, these schools were followed by the school of the Oratorians (1600), the Royal Academy of Sciences (1666), the École Polytechnique (The Polytechnical Institute), and the école des Arts et Métiers (School of Arts and Crafts) (1794). This outlook was exported to Germany, where Göttingen University was established, and to the United States, where the military academy at West Point was founded in 1816.

The key to teaching the scientific method in each and every one of these new institutions was modeled on Nicolaus of Cusa's method, and was reflected in a rigorous approach to resolving paradoxes, especially the paradox of the One and the Many, by means of constructive projective geometry.

But, the idea of a nation-state as a necessity for the survival of civilization was already clear, well before Louis XI actualized it through his reforms and innovations of government.

The Brotherhood of the Common Life

Joan of Arc, for example, was a project of the same circles which later launched Louis XI on his revolutionary course. These circles included the teaching order of the Brotherhood of the Common Life, the Augustinian Order of Hermits, and the faction of the Church around Nicolaus of Cusa. These were the circles in the Church which saw to it that both Joan and the Brotherhood of the Common Life were protected, to accomplish the necessary work of giving birth to the nation.

In 1429, Joan stepped forward to organize a military offensive to expel the English from France and defeat the Burgundian allies of England, which by that time controlled the northern half of France from the Rhine to the Lower Loire Valley and the entire southwestern region around Bordeaux (map). Forcing a cowardly Charles VII to be crowned as king of France, Joan then proceeded to unify the nation around the monarch. [fn1] Even though Joan was betrayed by Charles, who allowed her to be burned at the stake in 1431, the idea of the French nation endured.

A few years later, at the Council of Florence in 1439, the organizing within the Church by the great Cardinal Nicolaus of Cusa (1401-1464) succeeded in unifying the eastern and western churches around the fundamental idea that all men are created in the image of God, laying the basis thereby for the great project of Louis XI, political and economic unity. [fn2]

These ideas had been handed down by Saint Augustine, Dante Aligheri, and the teaching order established in 1380 known as the Brotherhood of the Common Life. Its founder, Gerhard Groote, set up numerous schools across Germany, Switzerland, Burgundy, Flanders, the Netherlands and parts of France which took in poor boys to teach a method of learning that went back to the Greek Renaissance. This method, known as the Devotio Moderna, taught that every man is made in the image of God and is perfectible by virtue of his creative capabilities which must be developed and educated.

Between 1374-1417 thousands of boys were educated by the Brotherhood of the Common Life from Cologne, Trier, Louvain, Utrecht, Brabant, Flanders, Westphalia, Holland, Saxony, Cleves, Gelderland and Frisia.

Tremendous opposition erupted to the Brotherhood's method, and the church circles which fought to heal the Great Schism rose to defend this group. Cardinal Nicolaus of Cusa himself rose to defend the Brotherhood. [fn3]

It was this method of education, coupled with the type of political and military actions undertaken by Joan of Arc, that created the potential for a nation-state of France. Even though Charles VII turned away from that challenge in fear, his son, Louis XI, impatiently dreamed of its realization, and, when crowned in 1461, seized the opportunity.

Louis XI and René II

The key players in the fight on behalf of the French nation-state were the the papacy; King Louis XI and his first secretary Commynes; Louis's uncertain but pivotal ally, René II, duke of Lorraine; and the banking house of Medici, especially Lorenzo de Medici.

On the other side, was the city-state of Venice; Charles the Bold, who used the Venetian tactic of divide and conquer, and acted against France as if he were an out-and-out Venetian agent; and a significant portion of the old aristocracy and medieval nobility, who wanted to maintain the feudal order and their privileges over an abused population.

Over the course of 20 years, Louis XI and his closest associates formed a strong alliance called the League of Constance, involving several key duchies whose leaders would remain faithful to the King. France at the time had 14 feudal duchies and 94 major cities, which Louis XI unified on the basis of the common good and common development opportunities. This ``commonwealth'' idea was conveyed throughout the country in the slogan: ``One law, one weight, one currency.'' The king also expanded the standing army established by his father Charles VII.

Louis's strategy was to win the cities, develop cultural centers, build manufactures, establish international trade fairs, and so forth, in order to attract all talents from the rural areas as well as from international quarters. And indeed, the cities contributed eagerly to guarantee this royal policy. But in order to unite the nation, the king needed Duke René II, the leader of the Valois princes who controlled much of the area of central France.

René lacked a humanist education, to say the least. Worse than that, René II's allegiance to the king was uncertain, since he was receiving 5,000 ducats a month from the Venetians, to whom he was formally allied. [fn4] So the King asked Father Jean Pelerin Viator, his secretary and confessor, to send Jean Ludovic de Pfaffenhofen, (the brother of Vautrin Lud, who later becomes the leader of the Vosge Gymnasium), to be René II's ambassador and negotiator with the doge in Venice. Jean Ludovic struck an agreement with the doge under which René would remain allied to Venice, with all of the same enemies as those of the city-state, with the exception of the king of France.

Ironically, René was the individual who was to win the military battle from which France emerged as a unified nation. On Jan. 5, 1477, outside the city of Nancy, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy and the last remaining powerful foe of Louis, gambled what was reputedly the largest army in all of Europe, against the forces and of the king and his allies, under command of René II. On that day, remembered as the ``Battle of Nancy,'' Charles the Bold met a Shakespearean death, and the unified nation-state of France was born. Today, a modest bronze plaque can be seen on one of the pillars of the collegial chapel of Saint-George in Nancy, bearing the following inscription in memory of René II's victory: ``With the help of God, the Duke, fully armed friend of goodwill, has reunited the torn fatherland.'' The inscription as composed and signed by the geometer Jean Pelerin Viator, of whom more later.

Humanist Education

During a little over fifty years (1461-1510), Louis XI (who died in 1483) and his allies built the necessary educational institutions for the development of the nation-state. But they were unable to destroy their mortal enemy, Venice, the center of usury and slave-trading of the western world.

In 1509, the League of Cambrai brought together the largest military alliance ever organized against the Venetians, including Louis XII of France, the Emperor Maximilian I of Germany, Ferdinand of Aragon of Spain, Henry VIII of England, the Duke of Ferrara and the Medici bankers from Florence, and the instigator of the league, Pope Julius II. The military operations launched against Venice represented such overwhelming odds that the doge, Leonardo Loredan, admitted before the city's Great Council that their ``sins of pride'' and of ``luxury'' were being punished by God. However, during the course of the same year, while negotiating for armistice and peace, the Venetian ambassadors succeeded in breaking up the league by inducing Pope Julius II to quarrel with Louis XII and break the alliance. Conjuring the fears of a future conflict between a weak and divided Italy and a strong and unified France, the Venetian ambassadors succeeded in 1510 in convincing the Pope to lift his previous excommunication against Venice and form the Holy League with Venice against France.

The fight to weaken and destroy the nation-state of France has been relentless ever since that period. What was it that Louis XI accomplished that the oligarchy hated so much? During his 22-year reign, Louis's most significant political change was to bankrupt the feudal landed aristocracy. He created a new base for society and the economy with the establishment and defense of industries throughout the cities of France, and with the opening of reciprocal trade with England, and treaty agreements with Genoa, Florence, Naples, Sicily, and Calabria.

Louis guaranteed the expansion of industries by subsidizing the cities, including the medieval cities; such subsidies came from income taxes, which were levied in inverse proportion to the productivity of the earner. Accordingly, the feudal princes were taxed higher than the villagers and the villagers more than the townspeople. While salaries doubled during Louis's reign, income taxes tripled in a period of 20 years: The total tax collected was 1,200,000 pounds in 1462, and had reached the level of 3,900,000 pounds in 1482. While the majority of the people and the cities never complained, however, the historical records are filled with complaints from the aristocracy, which had been frustrated in its privileges.

But the crucial change was the creation of new humanist schools and universities under the king's authority. Louis XI presided over the establishment of the first Renaissance humanist studies by creating two new universities, one in Valence and the other in Bourges, in 1464. By 1471, he opened the printing house of the Sorbonne in Paris, which began the dissemination of Plato, Sallustre, Virgil and Juvenal, and Xenophon, commissioned by the king himself. Louis brought from Germany Martin Krantz, Ulrich Gering, and Michel Friburger to set up the Sorbonne printing house with state subsidies. Very quickly, France had major printing houses in 37 cities. In 1515, the Sorbonne press printed the first complete edition of Cusa's work in Europe, under the editorship of the humanist Jacques Lefévre d'Etaples.

Louis used the Sorbonne press as a political weapon as well as an educational one. In 1477, the king commissioned the first book in French, La Chronique by Saint Denis which recounted the building of the French nation from the Roman times to the death of his father, Charles VII. This was used widely to discredit Charles the Bold of Burgundy as an enemy of France. Thus, the first French language book is the history of how France became a nation!

The Science of Perspective

It was shortly after this period that the city of Saint Die, near Nancy in Lorraine, became a center of the French Renaissance and one of the most important junctures of humanist currents for the whole of Europe. Geographically situated on the travel routes between Strasbourg, Selestat, Heidelberg, Fribourg, Bale and Paris, the small town of Saint Die had established a school of the Brotherhood of the Common Life--the Vosge Gymnasium--under the protection of both the duke of Lorraine, René II, and the Vatican.

The Gymnasium was an ecclesiastic school directly under the control of Rome, and was founded in 1490 by Vautrin Ludovic (Lud), chaplain of René II and brother of René's ambassador to the doge, and by Chanoine Jean Pelerin Viator, then secretary of René II, and formerly secretary to Louis XI. It was staffed by the networks from the Deventer school of the Brotherhood of the Common Life, students of the Alsacian humanist current of Geyser de Kaysersberg, friends of the mathematician Lefevre d'Etaples, and collaborators of Leonardo da Vinci and Pico della Mirandola, in Italy.

Aside from being a ``Latin school'' in the tradition of the ``modern devotion,'' the Vosge Gymnasium ran an important printing house for the dissemination of scientific works in geography, music, and geometry. Its first publication was a treatise on perspective, De Artificiali Perspectiva, 1505, by Jean Pelerin Viator, published both in French and Latin. Viator's treatise not only represented the very first treatise on perspective to be published in Europe, (the works of Alberti, Piero della Francesca, Filatere, Foppa, and Leonardo circulated only in manuscript forms at the time), but it represented a completely original neo-Platonic approach to the application of perspective in city-building. Other works were published on geography and in music.

After the first edition of Viator's book, there were printed no fewer than five pirate editions, with or without mention of his name, in Germany between 1508 and 1535, and three editions in France between 1505 and 1521. The German artist Albrecht Durer demonstrated the Viator construction in his engraving of Saint Jerome (1514). By the time that Vignola, who closely studied the work of Viator, wrote his Due Regule della Prospettiva Pratica (1583), Viator's name was all but forgotten and ``Viator'' appeared as the title of the book. If the author could be erased from the historical record, the idea could not be stopped. But why? What was so dangerous about Viator's ``perspective''?

Viator writes at the opening of his book that this knowledge will ``elevate the observers' minds'' and will ``transport their hearts toward virtue and Divine action,'' because perspective has the ability to ``console and transcend the sorrows of human life.'' That is the reason why the Venetians had to keep this method of developing the human mind away from the general population. Vignola will say that Viator's perspective is easy to apply but ``difficult to understand.'' We will see shortly all of what is implied in this statement. (See Figure 1.)

The Gymnasium had also produced the first world map published by Mathias Ringmann which identifies the entire continent of South America. (See Figure 2.)

Monge and Carnot, founding fathers of the École Polytechnique, were also to assign a crucial role to perspective in developing in the students the sentiment of elevation, proportionality and of the infinite--that is, the movement of the soul through which can be developed noble thoughts, such as the ideas of creativity, inalienable rights, the Good, Truth, and Beauty, love of God and love of mankind, and so on. In other words, perspective, properly understood, is a ``higher species'' than linear proportions, and it will develop the yearning for political freedom in a people; and that is why, the oligarchical freemasons, specifically a chapter of the freemasons meeting in Regensburg, Germany in 1549, declared, ``No one shall transmit the secret of how to calculate elevation from a plane.''

By 1642, Viator's perspective was to have a determining impact on Desargues, who was to become embattled over the issue with Jesuit Father Du Breuil, the plagiarizer of Desargues's work in projective geometry, and of Viator in his 1642 book, La Perspective Practique. A very nasty fight lasting until 1661, was to ensue, when Desargues's publisher Abraham Bosse, also a perspective expert, was expelled from the Academy by the Jesuits.

The National Banking Policy of Louis XI

Louis's relationship with the city of Florence was a crucial element in his design for the creation of a unified France: He had to have a single currency and a unified investment plan which prioritized the physical economy, a dirigist program which included a tax-incentive program for investment in manufacture and infrastructure. There was only one banking house in the world at that time that was also oriented toward that kind of economic development, and that was the organization of the Medici banks.

Early on, Louis had a project to establish a national banking policy. In 1462, he released an ordinance establishing a bank with branches in Paris, Lyons, and Montpellier, which would use, with the agreement of the Church, 900,000 ecus a year of lendable money as state credit for infrastructure and agriculture. But since the Medicis agreed to secure and guarantee depositors the way Louis intended, they actually took charge of his national bank policy.

Louis wrote thousands of laws, which were read in the public squares across France, to both inform the population of the new regulations and to invite them to participate in such newly created economic activities.

For example, Louis issued a law calling for all fallow land to be put into cultivation. He wanted all lands to be used. A census shows that all unclaimed land was put into agricultural production and if there were not enough manpower, Louis appealed to Germans, Italians, and so forth to come and occupy the land, leasing it for 10 to 20 years.

The general view of the Medici and of Louis was that the banks were at the service of the nation and not the nation at the service of the banks. Louis had the personal guarantee that all the loans from the Medici banks would be interest-free. Indeed, all loans made by the branches of the Medici banks were interest-free contracts. It was against the law of the land and against Christianity to incur interests on loans, and usury was prohibited in France. Bankers who were oriented toward fat profits had to resort to other means to get it, such as ``bills of exchange, or currency exchange, and the like.

According to accounts of the time [fn5], Louis won a major trade war in favor of the city of Lyon, the second-largest city in France, against Genoa, which was then controlled by the Venetians. In order to lure international merchants to Lyon, Louis organized major international fairs in Lyon and systematic operations against Genoa. To convince foreign merchants that their operations would be safer in France than Genoa, Louis renounced his privilege of assuming control of the possessions of any foreigner who died on French territory. In his famous ordinance of March 8, 1463, he established the most sweeping measures to favor merchants who would ``prefer'' trading with the French city. No restrictions whatsoever would be placed on all merchant transactions at the Lyon fair, and exchangers would be allowed to trade with up to 15 percent interest.

In October of 1462, Genoa made the foolish mistake of supporting a revolt against the father-in-law of Louis XI, the Duke of Savoy. In retaliation, the king decreed that any Frenchman attending Genoese fairs would be penalized, and any foreigner crossing the territory of France to go to Genoa would have his wares highly taxed. This was no idle threat, but a regulation strictly enforced by thousands of guards at strategic locations on the route to Genoa. As a result of this, by 1464, Genoa had suffered a major decline on international markets.

Louis and the Medici were so closely allied that when the King discovered that Francequin Neri, the Medici bank manager in the city of Lyon, had been persuaded by the Venetians to become the financial adviser to Philip of Savoy, one of Louis major enemies, the king had him deported and got the guarantee from his friend Piero di Cosimo that none of the Medici managers in France would give aid or comfort to his opponents.

Population Growth Policy

Even before becoming king, Louis XI had begun his grand design to build the commonwealth of France. For example, in 1447, he was sent to the Dauphine region after several clashes with his father, Charles VII, whom he feared was moving too slowly in the battle to rebuild the nation. As soon as he arrived, he immediately set about organizing the state.

As a general policy, Louis protected and then capitalized on the initiatives of entrepreneurs and inventors in agriculture, industry, and commerce. He adopted protectionist and anti-dumping measures to protect grain growers, linen producers, and other agricultural enterprises, and exempted traders from provincial tariffs while imposing tariffs on foreign merchandise. He encouraged skilled laborers from other countries to settle in Dauphine with their families, guaranteeing them tax exemptions which were proportional to their productivity.

Louis's main concern was to develop tens of thousands of jobs in infrastructure and industry. He centralized the development of waterways in order to facilitate transportation of goods and military ordinance throughout the nation. One of his projects made the Garonne River fully navigable and toll free so that ``wool, oil and other goods from Languedoc would flow down to Bordeaux and then to England and Flanders which had never previously been done.'' For similar purposes, he expanded the ports of Rouen, Marseilles, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux.

Louis created extensive textile plants throughout the country, such as a Lyon firm which employed up to 10,000 workers in its silk factory. He wrote a public letter stating that textile manufacturing is a most honorable trade which could employ ``church people, nobility, nuns, and others who are now unemployed and would have an honest and profitable occupation.'' Such programs were so successful that, in the case of the city of Tours, the burghers who financed it, benefitted from a flourishing industry for two centuries.

Louis created a national postal system. Horsemen were posted every few kilometers offering a service as efficient as it is today. A letter could travel 400 kilometers within 24 hours.

The mining industry was also a major project of Louis. Throughout France, he ordered large-scale mining of gold, silver, lead, tin, copper, iron, and coal and did not hesitate to confiscate the land of any feudal lord who refused to exploit the natural resources under his responsibility. For this purpose, France needed foreign labor, notably, German and Italian engineers and miners, who were considered the most developed and skilled miners and metallurgists in the world. He brought them in to train the local population in the various productive skills of the trade. Engineers, printers, miners, farmers, armor manufacturers, designers, artillery specialists, iron workers, copper workers, caldron makers, glass makers, weavers, etc.--all specialties of workers from all over Europe--were encouraged to come to France.

One particular law on the creation of industries for the common good shows clearly that Louis's conception of the creation of technology was the basis of his policy of economic growth. Wrote Louis in the ordinance:

``Whereas among all those things necessary for the well maintaining and usefulness of the republic, one of the most important would be the act of trading by means of which the fertility and abundance of the fertile regions aids and provides for the necessities of others, and provides the regions and people living therein with several things which otherwise, frequently, they should suffer the lack of: and [this] is clearly seen by manifest and known experience that all the kingdoms, countries, and regions where the act of trading is not common and frequent are not the richest and most abundant, and by the means of negotiation and carrying, as much by sea as on the land of the big and powerful merchants, great number of people, who otherwise would be idle, have honest and profitable occupation and by the industry of the mechanical arts which they exercise under the aforesaid big merchants, entertain themselves and earn their living and that of their household: for which cause the countries and regions where the continuation of said trading is common and frequent are most wealthy in all things and similarly in multitude of people which is one of the greatest glories and felicities which a Prince might have and which he has to desire the most to have under him....

Let it be known that we, desiring with all our heart to ... practice all the means which can be turned to the profit and utility of our subjects and give them industry where they might profit, and enrich themselves and better live under our law. We want to declare and order, by this ordinance and its perpetual constitution, that all lords, churchmen, nobles, officers ... and generally anyone irrespective of state, condition, or origin be able to freely engage in trade over seas, land, rivers, without infringement on their noble rights, offices, dignities, and prerogatives, nor that anything might be imputed against them on account of it.''

This is a true application of the principle of Genesis 1|28 which says, ``be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth...''; the unique principle of the nobility of labor, demonstrating that the commonwealth of the people comes from the improvement of the mechanical arts, and the rise in labor power. Never before Louis XI did any leader of a nation have an explicit policy of growth and profit, the clear conception that labor can produce more, through advanced technology, than what is necessary for its own subsistance.

These measures were so crucial that during Louis's 20-year reign, salaries doubled, and the income tax paid to the crown increased from 1,200,000 in 1462 to 3,900,000 pounds in 1482. Add to this the ``aides'' and the ``gabelle'' taxes, which reached a total of 655,000 pounds, and the royal domain, which brought 100,000, there was a sum total of 4,655,000 pounds per year income to the crown. Through the judicious use of taxes, both levying and exempting as the need arose, Louis was able to direct economic growth and development throughout the kingdom. While the majority of the people in the cities never complained, the historical records are filled with complaints from the aristocracy which had been frustrated in its privileges. Never did a single city turn against Louis in 50 years.


The reign of France's King Louis XI was the first time in human history that a policy of demographic growth was consciously implemented for the establishment of the nation-state. These and other reforms in universal coinage, administrative functions, and judicial reorganization were totally unheard of in Louis's day. They made Louis the most hated enemy of the feudal lords, who could no longer wage private wars and exercise the privileges of potentates. But for the ordinary man, Louis XI was a good king, a king who served the common good of the people and gave them the dignity that the feudal oligarchy had taken from them.

Today, we are once again confronted with a New Dark Age and the possibility of a new Hundred Years' War. It is imperative that we internalize the great potentiality of mankind as it was once successfully accomplished by Louis XI, and recreate with renewed passion the same principles of development for the continents of Africa, Asia, and Ibero-America.

We must again reestablish the nobility of labor, whereby every human being can develop the maximum of his creative capabilities in the image of God. This means that universal love of mankind, agapë, must once again become the basis for the moral courage of leaders where the commitment for the commonwealth of all peoples makes kings and ordinary citizens equals.

Let this echo resound from the counseling of Louis XI to his son:

``We read of King Alexander who, when his father the king was near death, had him crowned and made him king of his realm and made him sit on the royal throne and the princes and lords were content with that, nonetheless, after the death of his father, to draw to himself the hearts of his men and subjects, he said among other beautiful words: `Good lords, I wish to have no sovereignty over you but to be as one of you and that it please you to accept me: I would love what you love and hate what you hate: I do not wish in any manner to be in opposition to you or your actions. But I, who hate frauds and malice and have always loved you when my father was alive, and still do and will always, counsel and pray you that you fear God and obey Him as sovereign lord and elect Him as King, whom you see the most obedient to God, who will best think of the good standing of the people, and who will be most kindly and merciful to the poor, who will protect justice and right among the weak as for the strong, who most will expose his own being in public matters, who for no delectations nor delights will be slow to protect and defend you, who most boldly places himself in danger of death to destroy your enemies, and who by means of his good works protects you from evil: For such a man must be elected King and none other.'|''

The author wishes to express his appreciation for the help of his wife, Irene Beaudry, Stephanie Ezrol, and Garance Upham.


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    Gabriel Hanotaux, Jeanne d'Arc, Editions Hachette, Paris, 1911.

    According to Gabriel Hanotaux, the French foreign minister at the end of the nineteenth century, in his biography of Joan, Joan's intervention into the Hundred Years' War was decisive for the fate of civilization. The crucial battle of Orléans turned the tide and gained the victory for France even though at the expense of Joan of Arc herself. From 1425 to 1428, the invading English conquered every town from Maine to Anjou, were able to reduce Picardy and Champagne, beat back two offensives in Normandy and Brittany, and were on the point of taking strategic Orléans which would have enabled the English to rejoin their northern states with those of the south, ending thereby the French nation as such.

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    Pope Eugene VI, who would convene the Council of Florence in 1439, organized the Treaty of Arras in 1435 which ended the French-Burgundian hostilities and paved the way for ending the English occupation of France.

    The papal delegation to Arras was led by the great humanist Nicolo Albergati (1375-1443), assisted by both his secretaries, Tommaso Parentucelli, the future Pope Nicolaus V, and Aeneas Sylvanus Piccolomini, Pope Pius II. These were clearly the networks who saw in France and in her young prince Louis the potential for the kind of nation state outlined by Nicolaus of Cusa in his The Catholic Concordance.

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    In 1429, upon the request of Charles VII, Jean Gerson (1363-1429) theologian and chancellor of the University of Paris, established the validity of Joan of Arc's mission. The last thing Gerson wrote before he died was a defense of Joan of Arc. At the Council of Constance in 1417, Gerson rose to the public defense of the Brotherhood of the Common Life, which was being charged with heresy for preaching the perfectibility of ordinary people. Gerson also denounced the Burgundian-authored assassination of the Duke of Orléans and thus was forced to go into exile. Nicolaus of Cusa came to Gerson's posthumous defense, when Gerson came under attack by critics from the University of Paris.

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    Lyliane Brion-Guerry, Jean Pellerin Viator, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1962.

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    Raymond de Roover, The Rise and Decline of the Medici Banks, New York: W.W. Norton, 1966.

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The preceding article is a rough version of the article that appeared in The American Almanac. It is made available here with the permission of The New Federalist Newspaper. Any use of, or quotations from, this article must attribute them to The New Federalist, and The American Almanac.

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