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This Week in History:
June 26 - July 2, 1646
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's Birthday

June 2011

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

This week we go back more than 365 years, to an historical event that is seldom celebrated anywhere: the birthday of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Those who read our column on the Declaration of Independence last week, will recall our argument that Leibniz's philosophy, not that of John Locke, provided the foundation for the founding principles of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Who is Gottfried Leibniz? many might have asked. This week, we answer that question.

Leibniz was the universal mind, in the Platonic tradition, of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, a giant whose work encompassed, and provided new knowledge, in all of the following fields: mathematics, physics, geology, philosophy, logic, theology, history, jurisprudence, politics, and economy. Yet, for the most part, even the educated European citizen has never heard of him. It is relevant to ask yourself how that could be so—and what it says about the control over knowledge which has been exercised by Leibniz's enemies, generally the oligarchs from the Anglo-Dutch and Hapsburg financial oligarchies. We can provide only a short biographical summary here, which we urge you to follow up on the websites of the Schiller Institute and EIR publications.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was born on July 1, 1646, in Leipzig, Germany, an area devastated, as was most of divided, feudal Germany, by the Thirty Years' War of 1618-48. His father was a university professor, and young Leibniz read avidly from the age of 7, teaching himself Latin and Greek, and ultimately earning degrees in philosophy and law by the age of 20.

But Leibniz was not headed for the academic life. His passion was to establish a new political order, based upon institutions of education, and civic participation, which would provide for the happiness and prosperity of the nations of the world. He was a self-proclaimed antagonist of the British empiricists Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, believing instead in the ability of mankind to organize society for increasing perfection. His outlook is reflected, in part, in his chosen epitaph: "Provided that something of importance is achieved, I am indifferent whether it is done in Germany or in France, for I seek the good of mankind. I am neither a phil-Hellene nor a philo-Roman, but a philanthropos." Or, as he described his social philosophy at other times: "Justice is ... that which is useful to the community, and the public good is the supreme law—a community, however, let it be recalled, not of a few, not of a particular nation, but of all those who are part of the City of God and, so to speak, of the state of the universe."

Leibniz's first "job," as it were, was as an adviser to Baron Johann Christian von Boineburg, the Elector of Mainz. He went there after leaving school, and devoted himself to foreign policy and statecraft. It was there, for example, that he wrote the two memoranda on economy, "Society and Economy," and "On the Establishment of a Society in Germany for the Promotion of the Arts and Sciences," which the LaRouche movement has widely publicized, for their concept of political economy (see The Political Economy of the American Revolution). He also wrote a memorandum/proposal to the French court, putting forward the idea of an Egyptian expedition as an alternative to King Louis XIV's threatened war against Holland.

In 1672, Boineburg sent the young Leibniz to Paris, on a diplomatic mission to promote this peace-making proposal. While Leibniz was not successful in that regard, his visit there brought him into contact with the circles of scientists set by King Louis' celebrated Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who had established the Paris Academy of Sciences, and was promoting the very kind of scientific and technological nation-building which Leibniz already had in mind.

In 1673, as part of his mission for the Mainz Elector, Leibniz travelled to London, where he shared his breakthroughs in mathematics and physics, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.

In 1675-76, Leibniz left Paris for the court in Hanover, which served as his base of operations for the rest of his life. From that court, he travelled throughout Germany, as well as to Italy and Austria, and undertook historical, language, and other scientific studies, as well as working on diplomatic projects, such as the possible unification of the Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches (he was a Lutheran), and the creation of other academic societies.

In 1689, Leibniz was elected to the Paris Academy of Sciences. In 1700, he established the Academy of Science in Berlin, of which he was president for Life. In 1711, he met with Tsar Peter the Great of Russia, to whom he proposed an academy project for that nation, which was officially launched a couple decades later. In 1712-14, he visited Austria and met the Emperor Charles VI, ultimately being appointed an imperial privy councilor to that court as well.

And, as historian Graham Lowry unveils in his groundbreaking book, How the Nation Was Won, it was only by full-scale intelligence warfare that Leibniz was prevented from becoming the leading councilor to the Hanoverian Duke George Ludwig, who became King George I of England. What a different world it would have been, if that had been the case!

When Leibniz died, in relative isolation in Hanover in 1716, the event passed virtually unnoticed, thanks to his political enemies. But the institutions, writings, and political networks which he had set up—from Russia, to London, Paris, Italy, and America—survived to play a crucial role in the century to follow, not the least of which was in the founding of the United States of America.

From now on, put July 1 on your calendar, to celebrate the birthday of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.


The original article was published in the EIR Online’s Electronic Intelligence Weekly, as part of an ongoing series on history, with a special emphasis on American history. We are reprinting and updating these articles now to assist our readers in understanding of the American System of Economy.

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