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Grotius, Hugo

Grotius, Hugo

WORKS BY GROTIUS

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Huig de Groot (1583–1645), better known by the Latinized version of his name, Hugo Grotius, was born at Delft in the province of Holland. He was carefully educated by his father, whose intellectual interests were both broad and profound, and who imbued in him the characteristic civic pride of the Dutch patriciate.

Grotius was extraordinarily young when his exceptional gifts became apparent. From 1594 to 1597 he studied in the faculty of arts of the University of Leiden, the Protestant university that had been opened in 1575. In 1599 he was called to the bar at The Hague; and in 1607 he received his first public office as advocaat fiscaal (deputy attorney general) at the highest law court in the province of Holland. Five years later he was appointed pensionary of Rotterdam, a political office that gave him power not only in the city itself but also in the States (the representative assembly) of the province, where he acted as Rotterdam’s representative.

Meanwhile, Grotius’ publications established him both as an accomplished neo-Latin poet and dramatist and as an ambitious historian and jurist. As a jurist he wrote a short book The Freedom of the Seas (1609)—it was, in fact, just one chapter of the manuscript De jure praedae (1604), not published until 1868—in which he tried to prove that no authority is entitled to claim sovereignty over the high seas; although it was aimed at Spanish pretensions, the book also aroused the wrath of James i of England.

In the 1610s Grotius became one of the major supporters of the grand pensionary, Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, who was engaged in a bitter struggle with the stadholder, Prince Maurice of Orange, on two issues: Oldenbarnevelt and Grotius supported the cause of the Arminians and of provincial sovereignty, particularly that of Holland. After their defeat in 1618, Oldenbarnevelt was executed and Grotius sentenced to life imprisonment. Thanks to the resourcefulness of his wife, Grotius escaped to France after three years; he was welcomed by Louis XIII, who paid him a pension, albeit irregularly. From 1621 to 1631 he lived in Paris with his family in relatively poor circumstances. He lived by his pen, expecting all the while that the justice of his cause would lead to his eventual rehabilitation in the Netherlands. In 1631 he made an attempt to re-establish himself there but was forced to leave the following year. In 1634 he accepted the offer of Queen Christina of Sweden to become her ambassador to France, and for ten years he worked in that capacity in Paris, a somewhat eccentric scholar of bourgeois origin among titled professional diplomats.

Diplomacy bored Grotius, and he could not afford to wait long years for his salary to be paid, as could his noble colleagues. He tried to compensate for his inadequacy as a diplomat by working for a goal far above the pettiness of routine politics: the restoration of Christian unity. During his last years, this came to be his major preoccupation. In 1645 he went to Sweden to offer his resignation. He went by way of Holland, where at last he was welcomed with the warmth he had been expecting in vain for two decades. On the journey back from Sweden, where Christina had received him with utmost politeness and with equal politeness accepted his resignation, his ship was driven off course, and he went ashore on the Pomeranian coast. He took the road to Lübeck but did not reach that city: forced to rest in Rostock, he died there from exhaustion.

Grotius’ intellectual achievement has a paradoxical character. He won great fame as a poet and dramatist, as a historian, a philologist, a theologian, and, of course, a jurist. But learned discussions about the contributions he made to all these different fields have not come to any conclusion about whether he was essentially a conservative who put together in magnificent syntheses opinions previously held by others or an innovator boldly treading new ground. The endless variety of his work, the mixture of precision and suppleness in his thought, and the sheer bulk of his learning make it almost impossible to determine with any certainty the degree of originality of his views.

He was very much a man of the baroque age. His motto, ruit hora (time flies), the Latin language in which he wrote most of his books, and his profound awareness of life’s antinomies indicate how fully he belonged to the civilization of his time. Yet in the deeply pessimistic early seventeenth century his optimism and rationalism were exceptional and so effortless that they may seem shallow in comparison with the views of such philosophers as Descartes. His theological studies were inspired by deep religious feelings, but they brought him into conflict with Protestants of various denominations and gave both Catholics and, later, deists the erroneous impression that he supported their views. His constant endeavors to heal the breaches in the Christian church caused the most confusing misunderstandings and involved him in acrimonious controversy.

During his imprisonment, from 1618 to 1621, Grotius wrote, in rhyme, The Truth of the Christian Religion; it was published in Dutch in 1622, and in 1627 Grotius’ own Latin version followed. In this simple book, written for seamen who might be impressed by foreign religions, Grotius explained and lauded the main tenets of Christianity. The book was a great success; it was translated not only into all the major European languages but also into Danish, Irish, Hungarian, and Arabic, and there are 110 known editions of it.

Grotius’ masterpiece, The Law of War and Peace (1625), was also an immediate and widespread success, if not on the same scale as his little book on Christianity: it has gone through at least 75 editions and has been translated 24 times. In this book he presented his famous doctrine of the just war. War, in his view, is justified as a means of obtaining justice in cases where no law court exists to give a ruling upon the matter under dispute. Most of these cases are, of course, international conflicts, such as the revolt of the United Provinces against Spain. A contestant may take up arms in order to defend his property or his rights, to take possession of what is due to him, or to punish criminal offenses. Thus, war is essentially a lawsuit carried out by armed force because there is no court that can deal with it.

Other concepts are also presented in this large book, which is like a warehouse of opinions, quotations, conflicting doctrines, and debates. Especially noteworthy is Grotius’ doctrine of natural law, for it exerted considerable influence, even if it was neither coherent nor strikingly original. Since he considered natural law to be basic to all social organization, international or national, Grotius’ initially juridical theory developed into a more general one that analyzed and explained not only the conditions of international justice but every aspect of human society. In other words, his work pertains as much to general sociology as to international law.

Grotius defined the law of nature as “a dictate of right reason, showing the moral necessity or moral baseness of any act according to its agreement or disagreement with rational nature, and indicating that such an act is either commanded or forbidden by the author of nature, God” (1625, pp. 20-21 in a 1949 edition). This does not differ essentially from scholastic conceptions, and it is somewhat misleading to claim, as has often been done, that Grotius made an original contribution by secularizing the medieval interpretation of natural law. For Grotius, just as for the medieval thinkers and the sixteenth-century Spanish lawyers whom he quoted, the law of nature is an objective datum, an absolute norm given for all eternity. It is only later in the century, with Hobbes and other theorists, that the law of nature, identified with the instinct of self-preservation, developed into an essentially individualistic, subjective, and secular concept. Grotius, according to Erik Wolf (Wolf 1939) saw God, nature, and reason as only different names for the metaphysical foundation of life, which to human beings becomes manifest in law. Society is a natural and necessary form of concrete law because man is a social being endowed with reason. Thus, human society is also by definition rational.

These premises served Grotius as starting points for determining the rational quality in social and political life. It was not his purpose to draft a political theory. Various political concepts that seemed essential to his contemporaries were rather indifferently treated by him. Sovereignty, for example, did not mean much to a thinker educated in the corporative, patrician Dutch republic that was slowly emerging when he was young. Yet he transcended his origins by regarding all nations, sovereignties, and even churches as mere elements of the largest possible social entity, the human race in general. Therefore, the societies under examination appeared to him as manifestations of a social and ethical order in which each social element has its place, determined by its own existential principle.

But all of them are embraced by the corporative unity which is humanity—primarily, of course, Christian humanity.

The Law of War and Peace is more than a philosophical and sociological monograph. To make it useful to the practical statesman, Grotius endeavored to determine the justifiability of particular actions that are often taken prior to war or in war, according to simple principles laid out by him. Although, for example, Gustavus Adolphus is said to have consulted the book frequently while campaigning in Germany, it is obviously impossible to assess the actual impact of its prescriptions on the conduct of war. But this much is certain: the work exercised a profound influence on the development of international law, and even in the present century it is referred to not only by professional lawyers but also by statesmen. The remarkable mixture of idealistic optimism—for in spite of international chaos, Grotius viewed the ethical content of natural law as a principle that automatically asserts itself, since, in the last analysis, rational and natural behavior are identical—and realism, which sprang from a critical study of history, rendered his concepts and advice applicable to many situations and attractive to many different groups.

E. H. Kossmann

[See alsoInternational lawand the biography ofVattel.]

WORKS BY GROTIUS

(1597–1628) 1928-1965 Briefwisseling van Hugo Grotius. 4 vols. Edited by P. C. Molhuysen and B. L. Meulenbroek. The Hague: NijhofF. → Additional volumes are projected.

(1604) 1950 De jure praedae commentarius: Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty. 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon Press. → The manuscript of 1604 was first published in 1868.

(1609) 1916 The Freedom of the Seas: Or, the Right Which Belongs to the Dutch to Take Part in the East India Trade. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. → First published as Mare liberum.

(1622) 1823 The Truth of the Christian Religion. 16th ed. Corrected and illustrated with notes by Le Clerc. Oxford: Baxter. → First published in Dutch.

(1625) 1962 The Law of War and Peace: De jure belli ac pacis. Translated by Francis W. Kelsey, with an introduction by James Brown Scott. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill. An edition was published in 1949 by Black.

1687 Epistolae quotquot reperiri potuerunt: In quibus praeter hactenus editas, plurimae theologici, iuridici, philologici, historici, et politici argumenti occurrunt. Amsterdam: Blaeu.

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Knight, William S. M. 1925 The Life and Works of Hugo Grotius. London: Sweet & Maxwell.

Meulen, Jacob TER; and Diermanse, P. J. J. 1950 Bibliographic des écrits imprimés de Hugo Grotius. The Hague: Nijhoff.

Meulen, Jacob TER; and Diermanse, P. J. J. 1961 Bib liographic desécrits sur Hugo Grotius imprimés au Xvw siecle. The Hague: Nijhoff.

Wolf, Erik (1939) 1963 Grosse Rechtsdenker der deutschen Geistesgeschichte. 4th ed., rev. & enl. Tu bingen: Mohr. → See especially “Hugo Grotius,” pages 253–311.

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Hugo Grotius

Hugo Grotius

The Dutch jurist, statesman, and historian Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) founded the modern school of international law.

Born in Delft on April 10, 1583, Huig de Groot is known by the Latinized form of his name Hugo Grotius. As a boy, he excelled his father, a learned patrician of Delft, Johan Hugo de Groot, by becoming a marvel of scholarly precocity. He wrote Latin poems at the age of 8 and attended Leiden University from 1594 to 1597. He took his doctorate in law at Orléans in 1599, during a stay in France as a member of a diplomatic mission led by Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Land's Advocate of Holland, his political sponsor for the next 2 decades. He entered the private practice of law in The Hague at the age of 16 and 8 years later was named state's attorney (advocate fiscal) of the Court of Holland. In 1608 he married Maria van Reigersberch, a Zeelander who stiffened his rather soft personality with her own determination and resourcefulness.

In 1604 Grotius wrote a treatise, The Law of Prizes, for the East India Company, which was not published until its discovery in 1864; however, one chapter, which defended Dutch trading and sailing rights, was published in 1609 under the title Mare liberum (The Free Sea). In 1610, in De antiquitate reipublicae Batavae (The Antiquity of the Batavian State), he argued that the province of Holland had been sovereign and independent since the time of the Romans. In 1613, at Oldenbarnevelt's suggestion, Grotius accompanied a delegation sent by the Dutch East India Company to London as juridical counselor to plead its case in a dispute with the English East India Company. Although favoring free trade in Europe, he argued for the monopoly of the Dutch company in the East Indies, as granted by the native princes for the sake of its protection.

When Grotius was named pensionary (legal officer and political representative) of Rotterdam in 1613, he entered the higher ranks of Dutch politics. He represented Rotterdam in the States of Holland and supported the strongly Remonstrant (moderate Calvinist) position of Oldenbarnevelt against the increasing hostility of Prince Maurice of Nassau, the stadholder and captain general. In that same year Grotius published a treatise defending Holland's right to intervene in church affairs, and various theological treatises from his pen appeared from 1613 to 1618 defending the Remonstrant position. He became Oldenbarnevelt's right hand and was arrested with him on Aug. 29, 1618, when Maurice decided to cut short the measures taken by the States of Holland against his military authority. He was sentenced to life imprisonment on May 18, 1619; Oldenbarnevelt received the death penalty. After almost 2 years of imprisonment in Loevestein Castle, Grotius escaped in a book chest brought in by his wife and servant and went to France.

Grotius continued his scholarly publications in Paris. The most notable was his masterpiece, De iure belli ac pacis (1625; The Law of War and Peace), in which he argued for a system of law in the relations between sovereign states, with emphasis upon the notion of "just war." He built his arguments upon the idea of "natural law, " derived from ancient, medieval, and recent (especially Jesuit) authors, as a principle of right deriving from the nature of things rather than from the commandments of either God or lay rulers.

In 1631 Grotius published Introduction to the Jurisprudence of Holland, which profoundly influenced legists in the Netherlands and abroad and continues to be considered part of the constitutional law of South Africa. His religious ideas evolved into a broad ecumenicism, whereby he favored reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics. He lost his certitude that the Protestant revolt against Rome had been justified—without, however, gaining confidence in Rome's infallibility. His De veritate religionis Christianae (1627; The Truth of the Christian Religion) was an attempt with the weapons of legal scholarship to prove the unity of Christendom; it was widely read in his own time and long afterward.

Incurring Cardinal Richelieu's hostility, Grotius returned to Holland in October 1631 and lived quietly; but he would not request pardon and fled in April 1632 to avoid arrest. Taking refuge in Germany, he came into contact with the Swedish authorities and returned to Paris in 1634 as Swedish ambassador. He proved a better scholar than diplomat and was recalled in 1644. On his return from Stockholm, Grotius suffered shipwreck at Rostock, Germany; he was rescued but died 2 days later, on Aug. 28, 1645, from exhaustion. When his identity was discovered, his body was brought home to Delft for burial.

Further Reading

The standard life of Grotius is William S. M. Knight, The Life and Works of Hugo Grotius (1925). Robert W. Lee, Hugo Grotius (1931), is a collection of essays.

Additional Sources

Vreeland, Hamilton, Hugo Grotius:the father of the modern science of international law, Little, Colo.:F.B. Rothman, 1986, 1917. □

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Grotius, Hugo (1583–1645)

Grotius, Hugo (15831645)

A Dutch jurist and historian, Hugo Grotius (born Huig de Groot) was the first to set out important concepts of international law. He was born in the town of Delft and was a precocious student of Latin, writing his first poems in that language at the age of eight. Schooled by his father and his tutors in classical humanism, he entered the University of Leiden at the age of eleven. He graduated four years later, his reputation as a brilliant scholar rapidly spreading after an appearance at the court of King Henry IV of France. In 1599 he earned his doctorate in law at the University of Orléans. Under the patronage of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, Land's Advocate of Holland, he advanced in the ranks of public officials, and was named by the Dutch government as an official historian in 1601.

At this time Holland was at war with Portugal; the battle was taking place far from the European continent, in the distant seas of East Asia and the Spice Islands. In 1603, when a ship of the Dutch East India Company seized a Portuguese merchant ship, the Santa Catarina, in the Straits of Singapore, the arrival of the seized goods in Holland touched off a legal controversy. Grotius was called on by the Dutch East India Company to defend their actions and the seizure of foreign property at sea. Grotius wrote De Indus, also known as The Law of Prizes, a treatise that set out first principles of natural law. A single chapter, The Free Seas, was published in book form in 1609. Because the trading company won its case, the full treatise was never published and remained unknown until 1864, when it was rediscovered and appeared as On the Right of Capture.

Grotius defended the rights of free movement and trade in The Free Seas. The concept of freedom of the sea in effect meant that nations could harass rivals and seize their property at will, and that no court could claim jurisdiction over the claims of a wronged party. Grotius was called on to defend the Dutch East India Company in its disputes with the East India Company of England; much later England would pioneer the concept of territorial seas by declaring its sovereignty to extend 3 miles (4.8km) from its shoreline.

Grotius attained the post of pensionary, or representative, of the city of Rotterdam in 1613. He was soon involved in a religious dispute involving Jacobus Arminius, a professor at the University of Leiden, and those following a strict interpretation of the teachings of John Calvin. Grotius was asked by the States of Holland to support Arminius's position that Calvinist doctrine was incorrect, and that religious belief should be left up to the conscience of the individual. The dispute flared into outright rebellion, with Grotius and his patron Oldenbarnevelt defying the authority of the Prince of Orange, Holland's head of state.

For his part in inspiring these events, Grotius was arrested in 1618 and sentenced to life in prison (Oldenbarnevelt was executed). Hiding himself in a chest of books, he escaped in 1621 and fled to Paris, where King Louis XIII rewarded him with a pension that allowed him to research and write his most famous works, including On the Truth of the Christian Religion (1627), which was translated into many languages and brought to Asia by missionaries. Grotius also addressed the issue of a common law among nations in On the Laws of War and Peace, published in 1625. This treatise explains a just war as based on universal principles of natural law, which follow from the natural order of the world and which should be binding on all nations. On the Laws of War and Peace also deals with legal conduct during war time, the rules of warfare, a revolutionary concept in a Europe torn apart by endless wars undertaken by princes and kings for purely personal gain.

Grotius's legal and religious opinions made the powerful Cardinal Richelieu of France one of his most dangerous enemies. Fearing trouble in Catholic France, he returned to Holland in 1631, but his refusal to admit his guilt and the error of his opinions forced him again into exile. He moved to Germany and then to Sweden, where in 1634 he won an appointment as the ambassador to France. In 1645, while sailing from Sweden, he was shipwrecked and forced to swim to shore, dying two days later of exhaustion.

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Grotius, Hugo

GROTIUS, HUGO

Hugo Grotius, also known as Huigh de Groot, achieved prominence as a Dutch jurist and statesman and is regarded as the originator of international law.

Grotius was born April 10, 1583, in Delft, Netherlands. A brilliant student, Grotius attended the University of Leiden, received a law degree at the age of fifteen, and was admitted to the bar and began his legal practice at Delft in 1599. It was at this time that he became interested in international law, and, in 1609, wrote a preliminary piece titled Mare liberum, which advocated freedom of the seas to all countries.

In 1615, Grotius became involved in a religious controversy between two opposing groups, the Remonstrants, Dutch Protestants who abandoned Calvinism to follow the precepts of their leader, Jacobus Arminius, and the Anti-Remonstrants, who adhered to the beliefs of Calvinism. The dispute extended to politics, and when Maurice of Nassau gained control of the government, the Remonstrants lost popular support. Grotius, a supporter of the Remonstrants, was imprisoned in 1619. Two years later he escaped, seeking safety in Paris.

In Paris, Grotius began his legal writing, and, in 1625, produced De jure belli ac pacis, translated as "Concerning the Law of War and Peace." This work is regarded as the first official text of the principles of international law, wherein Grotius maintained that natural law is the basis for legislation for countries as well as individuals. He opposed war in all but extreme cases and advocated respect for life and the ownership of property. The main sources for his theories were the Bible and history.

"What the consent of all men makes known as their will is law."
—Hugo Grotius

Grotius spent the remainder of his years in diplomatic and theological endeavors. From 1635 to 1645, he represented Queen Christina of

Sweden as her ambassador to France. He pursued his religious interests and wrote several theological works. Grotius died August 28, 1645, in Rostock, Germany.

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Grotius, Hugo

Hugo Grotius (grō´shəs), 1583–1645, Dutch jurist and humanist, whose Dutch name appears as Huigh de Groot. He studied at the Univ. of Leiden and became a lawyer when 15 years old. In Dutch political affairs Grotius supported Oldenbarneveldt against Maurice of Nassau. After Maurice gained power he had Grotius condemned (1619) to prison for life, but Grotius made a daring escape in 1621 and fled to Paris. There, expanding certain views he had earlier recorded but had never published, he wrote De jure belli ac pacis [concerning the law of war and peace] (1625, definitive ed. 1631), usually considered the first definitive text on international law. In it Grotius contended that natural law prescribes rules of conduct for nations as well as for private individuals. He derived much of the specific content of international law from the Bible and from classical history. Although he did not condemn war as an instrument of national policy, he maintained that it was criminal to wage war except for certain causes. Much of his book is an attempt to make the conditions of warfare more humane by inducing respect for private persons and their property. Grotius returned briefly to Holland in 1631, but was forced to flee in 1632. From 1635 to 1645 he represented Sweden at the French court. Although generally regarded as the founder of international law, Grotius was indebted for much of his work to earlier scholars, especially Gentili. Grotius was also a leading student of theology and biblical criticism, and he wrote an authoritative account of contemporary Dutch political affairs.

See study by E. Durnbauld (1969).

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