For centuries, rulers had pursued wars to spread their religion, gain territory, seize assets or in other ways expand their power. The Florentine political thinker Niccolo Machiavelli had described war as a perfectly legitimate government policy. Then the early 17th century Dutch legal scholar and philosopher Hugo Grotius declared that war was wretched and that it harmed all participants. So, where counsels conflict we ought to incline toward peace…It is often a duty, which we owe to our country and ourselves, to forbear having recourse to arms…[the] conquered should be treated with clemency, in order that the interests of each may become the interests of both. With that in mind, he hoped that the widest international differences could be met, if not by the parties themselves then by mediators, arbitrators, or international conferences.
|Country:||Saint Kitts and Nevis|
|Published (Last):||26 April 2006|
|PDF File Size:||10.60 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||19.27 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
For centuries, rulers had pursued wars to spread their religion, gain territory, seize assets or in other ways expand their power. The Florentine political thinker Niccolo Machiavelli had described war as a perfectly legitimate government policy. Then the early 17th century Dutch legal scholar and philosopher Hugo Grotius declared that war was wretched and that it harmed all participants.
So, where counsels conflict we ought to incline toward peace…It is often a duty, which we owe to our country and ourselves, to forbear having recourse to arms…[the] conquered should be treated with clemency, in order that the interests of each may become the interests of both. With that in mind, he hoped that the widest international differences could be met, if not by the parties themselves then by mediators, arbitrators, or international conferences. They believed the legitimacy of government laws must be judged by standards of justice — natural law.
Grotius defended natural law without appealing to the Bible or organized religion. He insisted it followed from the nature of things, and it was discovered by human reason. For although the power of God is infinite, yet there are some things, to which it does not extend. He was considered a child prodigy. He achieved impressive things as a young man. He managed to continue learning when he was in prison.
His most famous work, De Jure Belli ac Pacis [The Law of War and Peace] was written when he was an impoverished refugee, and it cited about ancient authors Cicero was his favorite. He had the misfortune of being a Protestant persecuted by Protestants because he defended the view that human beings have free will. His own family were devoted to him despite the fact that he was sometimes inconsiderate and quarrelsome.
His person was tall and well formed. Before recourse to arms, a country should make a formal declaration of its grievances, and should go to war only if satisfaction could not be obtained through diplomatic negotiations. Wars should be fought according to accepted rules providing for humane treatment of the wounded and the prisoners.
Treaties ending wars should also be drawn according to accepted rules which, in effect, precluded the conquest of one of the antagonists by the other and the subjugation of the enemy population. He was the oldest of four children, the son of Jan de Groot and Alida van Oerschie. Jan de Groot was a lawyer and a trustee of the University of Leyden. This was a perilous time. In , Protestants in the seven northern Dutch provinces began their struggle for independence from Spain whose Catholic King Philip II pursued religious intolerance and high taxes.
The Dutch, fortunately, were served by able leaders, beginning with William of Orange William the Silent and after his death, his second son William of Nassau in partnership with the lawyer Johan van Oldenbarnevelt.
William of Nassau proved to be a resourceful military commander, while Oldenbarnevelt kept the provinces politically together. When Grotius was 11, he entered the University of Leyden. He studied Greek and Roman history, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, law and religion. As a student, he lived in the home of Franciscus Junius who passionately believed in religious toleration and peace.
Grotius studied for a year in France, earning a Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Orleans. Back in Holland, Grotius was sworn in as a lawyer on December 1, His father arranged for him to begin practice with a government official. He wrote a book on logic and translated a work about using the compass. In , the United Provinces asked year-old Grotius to write the history of their valiant struggle against Spain.
Around , the Dutch East India Company, formed to handle Dutch trade in the Indian Ocean, asked Grotius for a brief explaining why they ought to be able to do business with territories claimed by the Portuguese. He made a case that everybody had the right to use an ocean, regardless who explored it. She fell for Grotius right away. The wedding took place sometime in mid-July Grotius became a good friend of Jacobus Arminius, a University of Leyden theology professor who believed that individuals have free will.
Arminius believed anybody could achieve eternal happiness with faith. Arminius died on October 19, , at 49, but controversy intensified, and Grotius tried to resolve issues peacefully. Elder statesman Johan van Oldenbarnevelt proposed that city officials should be able to raise armed forces for maintaining order.
A special tribunal of 24 judges was set up to hear these cases. Guilty verdicts were a foregone conclusion. Ledenberg, fearing torture, stabbed himself in the stomach and cut his throat.
Oldenbarnevelt — a Founder of the United Provinces — was convicted of treason and beheaded. Grotius feared the same fate, but on November 19, he drew a sentence of life imprisonment and forfeiture of all his goods. Soldiers escorted him to the massive fortress of Loevestein, near Gorcum, with two moats and walls about six feet thick.
Grotius was kept in a two-room cell. When Grotius was through, he sent the trunk back so it could bring him more books. Grotius translated some Greek and Latin tragedies into Dutch. Ironically, since his trial had violated principles of Dutch law, he wrote Introduction to the Jurisprudence of Holland. It was accompanied by their year-old maid, Elsje van Houwening. Several times, soldiers expressed suspicion because of the unusual weight of the trunk. Elsje assured them it was filled with Arminian books.
Daatselaer, Maria and Elsje were grilled, but nothing could be proven against them. Maria joined him by September. Amidst poverty and debts, he produced Justification of the Lawful Government of Holland and West Friesland which attacked the proceedings against him.
He affirmed his belief that toleration was better than persecution. The work was published in Amsterdam, November , and it outraged the States-General. Here, in , he began work on De Jure Belli ac Pacis.
He expanded on the ideas and organization which he had used in De Jure Praedae, the unpublished brief written more than 20 years before — a draft of which he had with him.
Grotius was able to work rapidly because another friend made available a big library. Grotius finished the book in about a year. It appeared in Paris, June The printer paid Grotius by giving him copies of the book.. There were many and weighty considerations impelling me to write a treatise on the subject of law. I observe everywhere in the Christian world a lawlessness in warfare, of which even barbarous nations would be ashamed.
And arms once taken up, there would be an end to all respect for law, whether human or divine, as though a fury had been let loose with general license for all manner of crime. He believed nations should be guided by natural law. He accepted slavery even though this obviously violated the natural principle that individuals own themselves. Grotius recognized the right of self-defense and the right to be compensated for injuries inflicted by an adversary, but especially in Book III, he encouraged restraint.
He believed that everything should be done to resolve disputes peacefully, because all sides are sure to suffer grievous losses from war. He advised limiting what might be seized from an adversary. The book remained on the Papal Index until Grotius hoped that the fame he gained from De Jure Belli ac Pacis would overcome hostility in the Netherlands. He went to Rotterdam and visited a statue of Erasmus which had been put up while he was away. Officials issued an order for his arrest, and he fled on March 17, He headed for Hamburg because it was reasonably close to Sweden whose king, Gustavus Adolphus, was emerging as the leading Protestant champion and might possibly retain his services.
Grotius was miserable in Hamburg. He was broke. Gustavus Adolphus was killed in the Battle of Luetzen, November , and was succeeded by his six-year-old daughter Maria Christina.
The Regent was Axel Oxentierna who had more important things to think about than Grotius. Things began to look up in He was sick when he retired in He boarded a ship which got caught in a storm and came ashore on the Pomeranian coast, northern Germany east of Denmark. He was carried by farm cart about 60 miles to Rostock. He arrived quite frail at a lodging house on August 26, He asked for a minister, and the only one available was John Quistorpius, a Lutheran.
His mortal remains were sent to Delft where they were entombed in the Nieuwe Kerk, or New Church, situated on the public square. Ironically, Grotius was laid to rest amidst the tombs of the princes of Orange, one of whom had compelled him to live for so many years as a fugitive from justice.
Biographer W. But the positivist view was discredited when 20th century governments murdered tens of millions legally. This brought renewed interest in Grotius, and there are many Grotius sites on the Internet.
Grotius courageously spoke out against war, one of the worst evils. He upheld moral standards independent of rulers. He told how to improve the prospects for peace. The greatest peace settlements, like those ending World War II and the Cold War, displayed his wisdom and generous spirit as they helped turn enemies into friends.
Share Explore our growing library of content Start Exploring Subscribe Justice, prosperity, responsibility, tolerance, cooperation, and peace.
Online Library of Liberty
Grotius at age 16, by Jan Antonisz. His father was a man of learning, once having studied with the eminent Justus Lipsius at Leiden , as well as of political distinction. Jan de Groot, was also translator of Archimedes and friend of Ludolph van Ceulen. He groomed his son from an early age in a traditional humanist and Aristotelian education. A prodigious learner, Hugo entered the University of Leiden when he was just eleven years old. There he studied with some of the most acclaimed intellectuals in northern Europe, including Franciscus Junius , Joseph Justus Scaliger , and Rudolph Snellius. The scandal led to a public judicial hearing and a wider campaign to sway public and international opinion.