The teaching of Hugo Gratius

The teaching of Hugo Gratius

Tyumen State University

Faculty of History

International Relations Department

Term paper

The teaching of Hugo Gratius of war and peace.

Done by Denis Brovka,

Student of group 984

Checked by Christopher Goldsmith

Tyumen 2000


Introduction 3

Chapter I 4

Chapter II 7

Chapter III 12

Conclusion 15

Bibliography 16


Hugo Gratius, a scientist and a lawyer from Holland, lived from 1583 to

1645. In his famous treatise The Three Books on the Right of War and

Peace, published in 1625, he depicted the struggle of the Dutch capital

for freedom at the sea. He is considered to be the founder of the bourgeois

studies of the international law and is one of the representatives of the

big bourgeoisie as a scholar of law at an early stage of its development

during the dissolution of feudalism in Western Europe and the first large

revolt of bourgeoisie.

This book by Gratius is more or less a systematical report of the basic

theories of international law, which were common for that period of

evolution from feudalism to capitalism. It was for a long time one of the

most important books for diplomats.

According to his beliefs, Hugo was a representative of the period of

transformation from feudalist to bourgeois state. His ideas received wide

spread and founded the basement of further development of the international

law, because they expressed real conditions of development and political

demands of the newly-forming class of bourgeoisie to the ruling feudal

party. I must specially note the progressive character of some of the

Gratiuss ideas in the sphere of the international law that had a strong

influence to modern international relations. Hugo Gratius, being a

bourgeoisie theorist on its early stages, denied the opinion that force

makes all the decisions in the international relations. He thought that law

and justice should be number one in international relations

But we must not forget that the progressiveness of his ideas was

inconsistent and limited by the narrow frameworks of the bourgeois law

views. It is necessary to note that modern bourgeois ideologists renounce

the principles promoted by the ancestors in 17 18 centuries when

bourgeoisie was fighting against feudalism.

Chapter I

Hugo Gratius was on of the representatives of the leading (in 17 18

centuries) school of common law and treaty theory of state origins. The

school expressed the basic demands of bourgeoisie in its struggle with

feudalism; its theoretical basement was outlook, turned out as a result of

the revolution in natural history, reformation, and a bundle of ideas, left

from humanism in 15 16 centuries.

It must be noted here that although the school had a common theoretical

base it was not homogeneous. It had lots of trends, which differed from one

another by phases of bourgeoisie development, stages of her struggle with

feudalism, quantity of different classs representatives in a state, and

differences in bourgeoisie itself, because different groups had different

opinions on implementing their demands. These differences can be seen when

answering the questions on practical implementation of the ideas of common

law, ex. Who is the bearer of sovereignty: people or monarch, which form of

government is the best for human nature, etc.

The problem of the state origins a theoretical question had also

different answers. They all agreed that before state there was a so called

natural condition. But what was this natural condition was a point of

debates. For one of the theorists it was a realm of unlimited freedom, wild

anarchy, leading to war of all against all (Hobbes); for others a

peaceful idealistic state of freedom and innocence, Golden Age

(Rousseau); others thought it was unlimited personal freedom (Loch).

For many preachers of this theory natural condition was a philosophical

dogma or, as Golbach said, fiction. But this fiction helped ideologists of

bourgeoisie to criticize pre-capitalistic social and political regime and

to prophecy the victory of bourgeoisie. In this society - wrote Marx an

individual is free from natural bonds, etc., that in the past made him

belong to a certain limited human community.

Theorists of natural law consider state as a result of a juridical act

Treaty of the society, of peoples free will.

The idea of natural law and treaty state origins can be found in Greek

and Roman philosophy and works, and in the works of feudalism scholars in

middle ages. But in 17 18 centuries these ideas became more developed

with some peculiar features, because they lose theological context common

for medieval scholars, and nave naturalism of ancient ones, because some

of them considered animals as subjects of law. But the main thing is that a

theory of international law of the 17 18 centuries had different class

essence. It expressed strong demands of bourgeoisie, struggling hard for on

its way to power.

The views on the contents of the Treaty were also different. Hobbes calls

a treaty via people an act by which all population loses all natural

freedom and rights in monarchs favour and permit him an unlimited power

upon them. Loch thought that an individual who enters this society via

treaty loses his rights only partly (right for self-help, self-defense when

something is threatening his natural rights), in favour of the other part:

private property and freedom. Golbach defined the Treaty of the society as

a bundle of conditions necessary for organizing and saving society. Denny

Didreau thought of the Treaty of the society a bit differently. People,

he wrote, quickly understood that if they continued using their freedom,

their power, their independence then the situation of every single person

would be even more miserable, than that if he lived separately; they

realized that every person has to sacrifice a part of his natural

independence and to submit to will, that would be the will of the whole

society and would be, so to say, common center and a point of unification

of all their wills and powers. That is the origin of rulers.

There is no need to say about theoretical unsoundness of this concept of

the school of natural law. Even in the 18 century some bourgeois

philosophers found the antihistorical essence of these views. For example,

Jum says that natural condition is a fiction of the philosophers. State

emerges not as a result of a treaty but historically. Some also said that

people could not invent a term state, not knowing the practice. The first

Russian law professor Semen Jefimovitch Desnitskiy abruptly criticized

natural law and mostly Pouffendorf. The works of Pouffendorf he said

was unnecessary, because writing of states of humankind that had never

existed, is a very unworthy deed.

Chapter II

It is important to show which natural conditions were the soil for such

an illusion of natural state and treaty state origins, and to show the role

and importance of this idea in the class struggle of that time.

Marx said that the individual who enters the society union via treaty, as

seen by theorists of the school of natural law, is a result of descended

feudal society forms and developed in the 16-century new productive powers.

A great mistake of natural law theorists was that in their opinion

individual has not developed historically, but set up by nature itself.

Features common for bourgeoisie were proclaimed as common for mankind.

But treaty of the society was regarded by many adepts of natural law not

as a historical fact but as a logic ground, hypothesis for explaining the

difference between state and natural condition, i.e. between state and

anarchy for explaining one or the other form of state, ex. monarchy

(Gratius), democratic republic (Rousseau). It must be added that in those

historical conditions the theory of the treaty of the society had

progressive meaning for struggle with feudal theories, ex. theocratic

concept of state origins and patrimonial theory, which viewed the state as

property of the monarch.

A statement about the dualism of law is common for the treaty theory. It

differentiates the natural[1] and positive law, i.e. given by the

legislation of a state[2]. Natural law is prior to society and state;

positive law to creating a state.

This dualism in notions of law is also depraved feature in the theory of

natural law, because the metaphysical way of thinking, common for bourgeois

ideologists, was not able to explain the unsteadiness and variety in the


For the ideologists of bourgeoisie it is common to consider law and state

as an expression of the peoples will. It is of course wrong, from or point

of view. But in those historical conditions of struggle against feudalism

and absolute monarchy, this illusion had certainly a progressive sense,

because with the help of this idea bourgeoisie was achieving abolition of

the system of privileges and setting up a representative system in state


Hugo Gratius is one of the earliest bourgeoisie ideologists and a

representative of school of natural law. His views were formed at the time

when the process of formation of bourgeois state in Netherlands had not

finished yet, and the British one was only starting. It must be noted that

the struggle of the Dutch against Spanish king Phillip II made a great

influence on Gratius. The problems of international law, examined by him

were set up by the bloody 30-years war, competition between Holland,

England and Spain and their fighting for the leadership at the sea.

It must be noted that in the system of Gratiuss views there is no such

political sharpness as is common for Rousseau or even for Loch. He

expresses the interests of such groups of bourgeoisie, which were able to

make a deal with feudalism. He is a monarchist according to his beliefs and

opposes the idea of peoples sovereignty. He also doesnt want to throw

away religious world outlook.

Hugo Gratius differentiates law as natural and voluntarium. Natural law

according to him is a deed, which is considered morally disgraceful or

morally necessary, according to whether it contradicts the nature or not;

thats why this deed is forbidden or allowed by the God himself, the

creator of the nature. Natural law is so stable that cannot by changed

by God himself. He also spreads the natural law to everything, which is

dependable from the humans will, and also consequences, which flow from

the acts of the humans will. Natural law sometimes depends on the time.

For example, the right to private property is ser up by the humans will

and thats why natural law prohibits the theft of it. That is, the theft is

prohibited by the natural law.

The common possession was natural until private property was established.

The realization of your right with the help of force was common before

setting up civil laws.

The law, set up by will, according to Hugo Gratius can be human or godly

law. In its turn, human law can be either internal law of a state or

humans law in a narrower and at the same time broader meaning. Internal

law of the state flows from the civil power, ruling in a state. Humans law

in a narrower meaning does not flow from it. As for humans law in a

broader meaning, it is the law of peoples (jus gentium), which has a power

from the will of all living peoples or most of them. Speaking of a law set

up by God Gratius asserts that it flows right from the Gods will.

Of course, Hugo Gratius according to his metaphysical outlook asserts

that no society is possible without a law. The law is not a result but the

prior event, flowing from the human nature. From the essence of law, which

is a desire to communication, flows a range of necessities: not to touch

not your own belongings, keep a promise, pay for inflicted damage, etc.

This antihistorical outlook on the essence of law and the appearance of

some of it aspects was common for those historical conditions and was

necessary for bourgeoisie as an ideological weapon in a struggle against

the feudal system for bourgeois law order.

Hugo Gratius defines the law into features and separates it into the law

of domination and the equality. In his book, mentioned above, he says that

a law is a thing that doesnt contradict justice. What contradicts justice

is against the nature of creatures who possess mind and communication.

Justice can be dualistic.

a) Justice is the relation between the equal (brothers, friends,

citizens and allies, etc.). This is a law of equality.

b) Justice is the relation between the dominant and submissive (father

and children, master and slave, God and people, etc.). This is a

law of dominance.

From all this he excludes the law concerning individuals. It is a moral

quality common for personality, according to which it is possible to

possess something or to act in one way or another. This law is adjacent to

personality, although it is often connected with things. Law ability is a

law itself according to Hugo. This law is a power upon oneself (freedom)

and upon other people (fathers or masters powers), property (complete and

incomplete), the right to demand, etc. Law ability is divided into lower

(personal use) and higher (adjacent to all humankind for the good).

So Hugo Gratius appears to have a division of law into natural and

voluntarium (positive), which is common systematic mistake for natural law

concept. It is also common for him to have metaphysical views on the

justice in relation between brothers, people. He sets in the same row the

father, master, king and God, calling them all dominants. That means that

Gratius does not differentiate economic, ideological and state relations.

But the essence of law, given by Hugo Gratius, is objectively

propagandizing the eternity of slavery. It is common for Hugo Gratius to be

a supporter of the monarchy and even more than that: in his views, the

medieval jurisprudence remains.

Although a state is according to definition an act of creative activity

and the best form of peoples unification, based on a treaty, i.e.

supposing the sovereignty of people, Gratius denies the fact that people

possess sovereignty. He does not agree that peoples will is higher than

the will of a monarch. Considering that people were once sovereign he is

sure they passed their sovereignty freely to the people they elected. So he

stands for medieval patrimonial theory, according to which the juridical

nature of the nature of the states power is not different from private

property right.

Thats why a crime of monarch should not lead to depriving of power, just

as a crime of a simple person in most cases does not lead to depriving him

of his property. State territory and state possessions is the property of

the monarch.

Those reactionary views of Hugo Gratius show that he was a representative

of such a group of bourgeoisie that did not make a deal with feudal

elements, which mostly determined the results of the Dutch Revolution.

Chapter III

Treatise The Three books on the right of war and peace is dedicated to,

as seen from the name, problems of international public law. In it the

author looks at the problem of justice, sources of international law,

possibility of just war and types of just wars, of influence of the war to

juridical relations, which existed before, of rules of waging war, etc.

Gratius writes that his treatise is written in the defense of justice.

This view on justice is as metaphysical as view on state and law. The

origins of this metaphysical view are shown in the work F. Engels To the

living problem. Looking over the emerging of state and law, Engels writes

that at a certain stage of class society development complex legislation

and a class of professional lawyers emerges. Together with lawyers the

study of law emerges, which in its later development compares juridical

systems of different peoples and different epochs, not as reflections of

economic relations but as self-explaining systems. This comparison finds

similarities. The lawyers call everything more or less similar in different

systems natural law. The scale that measures what is related to natural law

is operating through the most abstract expression of the law justice.

Since then the main goal of development of the law, in the lawyers opinion,

is to draw human life conditions nearer to justice, or eternal justice. But

this justice always expresses only ideological expression of existing

economic relations from their conservative or revolutionary point of view.

The justice of Greeks and Romans was slavery, the justice of bourgeoisie of

1789 demanded to overthrow feudalism, because it is unjust. So views on

eternal justice vary not only in different places or times, but they also

vary from person to person.

So, the justice which Gratius speaks about is bourgeois justice. Due to

the will of the Creator of nature, a human alone is helpless and requires

lots of things for a good living. That is why natural law includes benefit.

It was a reason of emerging of a state law. Both the community and power

emerged because of some benefit. As for international law or the law of the

peoples, it appeared according to custom and agreement of peoples in favour

of all the communities. The other source of it is nature and holy laws.

According to Gratius, just as a criminal of internal state legislation

ruins his future well-being and the one of his descendants, the criminal of

the natural law ruins the basement of his future peace. Peoples who break

this rule, break the walls erected for their safety forever. There is

nothing solid beyond the law.

The main problem in The Three books on the Right of War and Peace is

the problem of the relation between the war and law, in other words, can a

war be fair and thats why legal. Gratius argues with the point that war

and law cant be compatible and that voice of law is overridden by the

sound of weapon. He dedicates a significant part of his work to refutation

of this, as he says, mistake. During a war only civil laws keep silence,

because they are created for peace, but not the natural ones, they are

eternal. He greatly believes in the existence of some common law in the

international relations, which works both for war and peace. It is

necessary to start a war to keep justice, and to continue a started war,

keeping in the limits of law.

According to Gratius, war can be waged only against those who cannot be

made doing something in a legal order. Legal forms are common for those who

consider themselves weaker. For those who consider themselves equal wars

must be waged. During a war one must keep to the act of peace and one must

start a war only intending to finish it as fast as possible.

In the treatise, the war in a broad sense is defined as a state of

struggle with the force, as solving of controversial questions with the

implementation of force. This definition of war spreads to many types of

wars. Depending on the sides (subjects), taking part in a war, the force

can be private (self-defense by a person not possessing a state power),

public (state) or combined (on one hand public, one the other - private).

In a narrower sense, war is an armed conflict between states. The right of

war is justice, but in a negative meaning: thing that does not contradict

to justice. The first inducements of nature do not contradict it, even on

the contrary. Thats the way in which he tries to prove it. Saving life

and limbs, saving belongings, useful for it correspond to the first

inducements of nature. In other words, care of oneself does not contradict

to community life, until they break somebody elses right. The force that

doesnt break anothers right is legal. That means that, according to


1) The sources of wars are the passions of human body (desire to

possess valuables)

2) Just war is possible, which deserves approval of natural and

international law.

Gratius defines two stages of just public war:

1) Solemn just war

2) Simply just war

For the war to have solemn character, two conditions are required: it

must be waged by the will of highest rulers of the states, and certain

customs must be kept Both of those are required, because any of them is

not enough without another.

Public war is not solemn; it can be free from those customs and

ceremonies; it can be waged against anyone by anyones authority. That

means that any person has a right to wage his own war. But as war may cause

danger for the whole state most legislatures forbid it. War can be waged

only by the highest authority.


Neither Gratius, nor any other bourgeois scholars of international

relations and international law managed to find out the reasons of war and

the principle difference between just and unjust war. One of my sources

says that only Marxist theory managed it. According to Marxist point of

view just war is not a predatory one but a war of liberation, which has a

goal of protecting the people of external attack or of freeing colonies

from the oppression of imperialism, etc. And unjust war is a predatory

war, which has a goal to conquer and slave the other states people. But I

must say that these views are out-of-date of course.


1 Huizinga J The waiting of the Middle Ages. New York: Doubleday &

Company Inc 1956

2 Parry J H The Establishment of the Europian Hegemony: 1415-1715

New York: Harper & Row Publishers 1966

3 1948


[1] This term has dual meaning. This is either inborn law, not dependable

from state or the one that is common for different



??????????????????????????????s or for different states at the same time.

[2] After having come to power and having created its own class structure,

bourgeoisie rejected this separation of law into natural (ideal of law) and

positive (the real practice). It admitted only positive law. And thats why

bourgeois scientists lose interest in natural law after that. In 19-century

juridical positivism emerges and attracts wide spreading, only engaging

positive law.