The Law of Nations has been said to have modernized the entire practice of international law. Centuries after his death it was found that United States President George Washington had a number of overdue library books dating back over years. One of them was The Law of Nations. Swiss editor Charles W.

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This book is published by Liberty Fund, Inc. Introduction, annotations, translations, bibliographies, index. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. Vattel, Emer de, — International law.

War International law 3. Natural law. Whatmore, Richard. Title: Law of nations. Title: Principles of the law of nature, applied to the conduct and affairs of nations and sovereigns, with three early essays on the origin and nature of natural law and on luxury. Translated by T. Hochstrasser It was in great measure thanks to this work that the practical and theoretical influence of natural jurisprudence was extended down through the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras.

Indeed, it was Vattel who was cited as a major source of contemporary wisdom on questions of international law in the American Revolution and even by opponents of revolution, such as Cardinal Consalvi, at the Congress of Vienna.

From to Vattel was enrolled as a student of the humanities at the University of Basel, where he seems to have attended courses on Samuel Pufendorf given by the Huguenot minister Pierre Roques.

Nevertheless, this turned out to be the most productive period of his life. In he published a further collection of essays that included dialogues between Diogenes and Marcus Aurelius and between Henry IV of France and his adviser Sully.

In the elector of Saxony finally recalled Vattel to Dresden, appointed him to the Privy Council, and made him chief adviser to the government of Saxony on foreign affairs. Although a subject of the king of Prussia by birth, and a servant of the elector of Saxony by profession, Vattel was first and foremost Swiss.

However, that description was more complicated in the eighteenth century than it is today. What foreign observers often referred to as the Swiss republic was in fact a loose federation of independent and highly diverse entities, some aristocratic, some democratic, some monarchical, all of them small, some no bigger than a town.

The federation was held together by fear of foreign aggression, a complex web of treaties, jointly ruled territories, and military and trade agreements to contain conflict between individual cantons. Although Swiss thinkers frequently invoked a universal society of nations, they remained highly suspicious of projects for perpetual peace in Europe, whether a benevolent hegemony or a European federation.

Instead, they saw their best chances of survival in the more fragile order provided by a balance of power between large commercial nations constantly in need of Swiss mercenaries for their Edition: current; Page: [ xiii ] armies and Swiss investments for their public coffers. Here Vattel claimed to be following Christian Wolff who, in his Ius gentium methodo scientifica pertractatum, derived the duty to mutual aid from analogy between the state of nature and the realm of international relations: the law of nations was simply the law of nature of individuals in the state of nature applied to states Prelim.

The primary duties of states were, first, to preserve and perfect themselves, and, second, to assist each other in fulfilling those duties each state owed to itself. Accordingly, prudence prevented existing states from making mutual aid the guiding principle of foreign politics. Instead, states ought to content themselves with a morally less appealing, but nevertheless workable, order based on the balance of power.

Vattel explained this acknowledgment of the realities of modern European politics on two grounds. The first was the theoretical incoherence of previous natural law theories with regard to the duties of perfectly independent states. Wolff had also rightly recognized that since the law of nations applied to all states in the same way, those states affected by trade sanctions could merely point out breaches of the necessary law of nations.

Refusal to trade, however, did not provide any legal ground for the commencement of military hostilities. The situation was different when a state was not just incapable of self-preservation but lacked any resources to exchange for vital goods.

Here, the perfect right of preservation of a potential donor nation was bound to clash with the equally perfect right of preservation of a state on the brink of starvation. Given the increasingly economic dimension of European politics, there was a constant danger that peaceful trade would be subjected to the logic of warfare.

Wolff hoped to derive such understanding from the image of a civitas maxima, a universal republic instituted by nature, whose civil law was the expression of the right reason of civilized nations.

In contrast to individuals, nations enjoyed greater autonomy and because of this had no pressing reason to subject themselves to a higher authority.

Here he sought to explain how humans could be under an obligation to natural law even in the absence of a punitive superior. In The Law of Nations Vattel used the same argument with regard to states.

Moreover, like individuals, nations could attain national happiness only by developing more enlightened forms of self-interest, forms that took into account the well-being of other nations. It was acquired through the positive reputation a state enjoyed among well-intentioned nations, and through the respect it received from those seeking to violate the laws of nations.

A truly glorious nation, Vattel hoped, would set an example others would wish to emulate. In so doing, it would gradually shift the pathological rivalry between states in the direction of a system based on virtuous competition. As a further measure for reducing the tensions between self-preservation and mutual aid, Vattel called upon European rulers and their ministers to implement a wide range of legislative reforms that would allow modern nations to break out of the vicious cycle of public borrowing and taxation and to create a healthier balance between income and expenditure bk.

He also expressly recommended the role of learned societies for the dissemination of technological know-how bk. Praise of Britain also allowed Vattel to emphasize the greater modernity of Protestant states by contrast with the backwardness of the religious, moral, and economic practices that he associated with Catholicism. In an openly polemical fashion, Vattel often linked such backwardness with reason of state, or amoral policy, in the international Edition: current; Page: [ xix ] sphere and was always ready to provide examples of the violation of natural law from the history of the papacy.

Catholic writers were, however, willing to use Vattel for his broader arguments about the independence of small states. Vattel was convinced that if Britain played a more active role in the relations between European states, French aspirations to universal monarchy would be countered. This was expected in turn to safeguard the sovereignty of the smaller states, and especially the Swiss republics, the legitimacy of whose existence was increasingly questioned as public credit allowed the larger monarchies to employ mercenary armies too strong for the old republics, however great their republican valor and virtue.

Vattel saw his magnum opus as a contribution to a great European debate on the science of legislation, a debate that analyzed the possibilities available to modern nations to secure liberty and cultural advancement against constant interruption by war. The importance of The Law of Nations therefore resides both in its systematic derivation of international law from natural law and in its compelling synthesis of the modern discourse of natural jurisprudence with the even newer language of political economy.

These features help to explain the continuing appeal of this text well into the nineteenth century among politicians, international lawyers, and political theorists of every complexion. The first edition of was based on the French original Droit des gens of A Dublin translation of is remarkably fluent and elegant, but it does not include the substantive notes of the original nor, more importantly, the notes added to the posthumous French edition of and intended by Vattel for a second edition he did not live to complete.

Several English editions, including the Classics of International Law edition, are similarly flawed and based on the edition of One, from , contains a pagination error. This has been corrected in the revised version, London , and the latter forms the basis for the present edition.

The edition has the benefit of a detailed table of contents and margin titles for subsections. There is no modern edition of The Law of Nations, but facsimiles of the popular nineteenth-century editions by the London barrister Joseph Chitty have appeared in recent times.

These annotated editions first in and their reissue with further notes by Edward Ingraham first in were based on the London edition. Chitty helpfully identified the notes that distinguished the edition from the earlier English translation. He sought, however, to add much more to the text, as he explained in a preface written in Chancery Lane in November Many years have elapsed since the original work was published, long before the invaluable decisions of Sir William Scott, Sir C.

Robinson, and Sir John Nichol, and other eminent Judges in the Courts of Admiralty, Edition: current; Page: [ xxii ] and Prize and other Courts; and the last edition upon which any care was bestowed, was published in ad ; since which time, and especially during the last general war, many most important rules respecting the Law of Nations were established.

The object of the present Editor has, therefore, been to collect and condense, in numerous notes, the modern rules and decisions, and to fortify the positions in the text by references to other authors of eminence, and by which he hopes that this edition will be found of more practical utility, without interfering with the text, or materially increasing its size.

The present edition includes new footnotes, elucidating dates, events, works, and persons referred to by Vattel. Posthumous additions to the French edition of , which were then translated in the edition of , are identified as such in the new notes. For each translation, reference to the edition used can be found in the bibliography of authors cited. The bibliography of authors cited includes and explains the short titles employed by Vattel in his footnotes. Page breaks in the edition have been indicated in the body of the text by the use of angle brackets.

S, , 21— It is translated here in English for the first time. The text of this essay is important because it shows Vattel to have Edition: current; Page: [ xxiv ] been participating fully in the debates about economic and administrative reform that took place all over Europe at the time.

In all three essays the original notes have been preserved as numbered notes. New material added by the volume editors is enclosed in double square brackets.

Thanks are also due to Laura Goetz, Diana Francoeur, and the editorial team at Liberty Fund, who saw the manuscript through press with outstanding professionalism.

As is always the case, a debt of gratitude is owed to our wives and families, and also to our colleagues in intellectual history at Sussex, Fribourg, and Lausanne.

Our greatest debt, however, is to Knud Haakonssen who, master editor that he is, guided us with patience and good humor through the minefield of modern editorial practice. Nihil est enim illi principi Deo qui omnem hunc mundum regit, quod quidem in terris fiat, acceptius, quam concilia coetusque hominum jure sociati, quae civitates, appellantur. Revised, corrected, and enriched with many valuable Notes never before translated into English.

AND J. As I proceeded, however, my alterations became more numerous: but whether they will be acknowledged as amendments, it must rest with the reader to determine. Even if his decision should be more favourable than I have any reason to expect, I lay no claim to praise for my humble efforts, but shall esteem myself very fortunate if I escape the severity of censure for presenting the work to the public in a state still so far short of perfection.

Conscious of its defects, I declare with great sincerity—. The Law of Nations, though so noble and important a subject, has not hitherto been treated of with all the care it deserves. The greater part of mankind have therefore only a vague, a very incomplete, and often even a false notion of it. The generality of writers, and even celebrated authors, almost exclusively confine the name of the Law of Nations to certain maxims and customs which have been adopted by different nations, and which the mutual consent of the parties has alone rendered obligatory on them.

This is confining within very narrow bounds a law so extensive in its own nature, and in which the whole human race are so intimately concerned; it is at the same time a degradation of that law, in consequence of a misconception of its real origin.

There certainly exists a natural law of nations, since the obligations of the law of nature are no less binding on states, on men united in political society, than on individuals. But, to acquire an exact knowledge of that law, it is not sufficient to know what the law of nature prescribes to the individuals of the human race.

The application of a rule to various subjects can no otherwise be made than in a manner agreeable to the nature of each subject. Hence it follows that the natural law of nations is a particular science, consisting in a just and rational application of the law of nature to the affairs and conduct of nations or sovereigns.

All those treatises, therefore, in which the law of nations is blended and confounded with the ordinary law of nature, are incapable of conveying a distinct idea or a substantial knowledge of the sacred law of nations. And that law, which natural reason has established among all mankind, and which is equally observed by all people, is called the law of nations, as being a law which all nations follow.

The exigencies and necessities of mankind have induced all nations to lay down and adopt certain rules of right. For wars have arisen, and produced captivity and servitude, which are contrary to the law of nature; since, by the law of nature, all men were originally born free. Still this is nothing more than the law of nature which is equally applicable to all mankind. The Romans, however, acknowledged a law whose obligations are reciprocally binding on nations: and to that law they referred the right of embassies.


Emer de Vattel

Emmerich de Vattel. This enormously influential work by Swiss diplomat and jurist Emmerich de Vattel was first published in , and is credited with shaping modern international law by applying natural law to international relations. Its argument for liberty and equality proved influential upon the American Declaration of Independence, with Benjamin Franklin commenting on its usefulness to the drafters. The book was translated into English in , , and the latter version was revised by Joseph Chitty the elder , a barrister and one of the most prolific legal writers of his day, who published more than twenty books on law in his lifetime, and also served as tutor or mentor to some of the most influential lawyers of nineteenth-century England. First published in , Chitty's version amends the errors of the anonymous translation, as well as revising and expanding the explanatory notes. Society established by nature between all mankind. The object of this society of nations.


Online Library of Liberty

He was largely influenced by Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius. He is most famous for his work The Law of Nations. This work was his claim to fame and won him enough prestige to be appointed as a councilor to the court of Frederick Augustus II of Saxony. He studied at Basel and Geneva. During his early years his favorite pursuit was philosophy and, having carefully studied the works of Leibniz and Christian Wolff , he published in a defence of Leibniz's system against Jean-Pierre de Crousaz.


Emmerich de Vattel

His treatise was especially influential in the United States because his principles of liberty and equality coincided with the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence. In particular, his defense of neutrality and his rules for commerce between neutral and belligerent states were considered authoritative in the U. Emmerich de Vattel. Info Print Cite. Submit Feedback.



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