European Diplomacy in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries was an odd duck. It’s worth taking a look at the official letters of the time. They contained about equal parts rampant, disgustingly self-effacing flattery (J.S. Bach could fill PAGES with introductory honorifics and claims of fundamental, worm-like unworthiness) and oblique references to ancient history, popular literary figures, gastronomic theories… pretty much everything EXCEPT actual diplomatic policy.
I don’t know how they actually got anything done, but somehow a statesman could write something like, “I think our mutual Tartuffe has supped his Whitsun pie,” and two months later the Great Northern War would miraculously emerge as a perfectly coordinated entity. I’m sure that the details of war are located deep within the Whitsun pie reference but, like we said, it’s SUBTLE.
Benjamin Franklin understood all of this, learned the steps, and was a smashing success as a diplomat in the French court. John Adams understood none of this, was in a constant state of simmering rage over why nobody would talk normal talk to him, and ended up offending so many people that he was eventually packed off to the Netherlands.
– DvL