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THE LIFE OF HUGO GROTIUS - Hugo Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace (2005 ed.) vol. 1 (Book I) 
The Rights of War and Peace, edited and with an Introduction by Richard Tuck, from the Edition by Jean Barbeyrac (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005). Vol. 1.
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THE LIFE OF HUGO GROTIUS
To look into the Manners of Antiquity, and recover the Memory of preceding Ages, is an Entertainment of the highest Pleasure and Advantage to the Mind, it establishes very lasting Impressions of Virtue in us, enlarges the Soul, and moves our Emulation to follow and excel the leading Characters before us; when we are tracing the Exploits of some Worthy of Old, with what Delight do we pursue him in every Circumstance of Action, we admire the Example, and transmit the Beauties of his Life into our own Conduct by Practice and Imitation; for the Mind of Man is of a searching Nature, very wide and extensive in her Speculations; and as she is blind to the Transactions of Futurity, so she receives a greater Lustre from the Reflection of Instances that are past, than from the Rules of Wisdom, or the Determination of the Schools: ϕιλοσοϕία ἒκ παραδειγμάτων, Philosophy from Example, in the Opinion of the Historian,Thucydides. advances human Life beyond the Power of Precept, or the Distinctions of Morality, it opens a large Scene for Observation, it displays all the Occurrences and Revolutions of Providence, how far Application and Industry improve the Abilities of the Soul, and offer us to the Notice of Mankind, and the Wonder of Posterity.
This Life of GROTIUS is not writ with a Design to enlarge upon his Merit, or to adorn his Character, who has left such Illustrious Testimonies of his Learning, Zeal, and Piety, that the Letter’d World submits to his Authority, and reveres his Judgment so much,<ii> that his Name will be venerable to latest Ages: Our present Aim is only to reduce the Circumstances of his Life into such a Method as will shew us by what Steps and Degrees he attained to so high an Esteem, as to derive an Honour upon the Century he lived in, and to recommend him as a Pattern to succeeding Ages.
HUGO GROTIUS, in Dutch, de Groot, one of the greatest Men in Europe, was born at Delft the 10th of April, 1583; where his Family had been Illustrious between Four and Five Hundred Years. He made so early a Progress in his Studies, that he writ some Verses before he was nine Years of Age; and at Fifteen he had a great Understanding in Philosophy, Divinity and the Civil Law; but he was still better skill’d in Philology, as he made it appear by the Commentary he writ at that Age upon Martianus Capella, a very difficult Author. So prodigious was his Memory, that being present at the Muster of some Regiments, he remembered the Names of every Soldier there. In the Year 1598 he accompanied the Dutch Embassador, the famous Barnevelt, into France, where Henry IV gave him several Marks of his Esteem; he took there his Degree of Doctor of Law, and being returned into his Country, he applied himself to the Bar, and pleaded before he was Seventeen Years of Age; he was not Twenty four Years old when he was made Advocate-General; he settled at Rotterdam in 1613, and was Pensionary of that Town; he would not accept of that Employment, but upon Condition that he should not be deprived of it; for he foresaw that the Quarrels of Divines about the Doctrine of Grace, which formed already a thousand Factions in the State, would occasion many Revolutions in the chief Towns; he was sent into England in the same Year, by reason of the Misunderstanding between the Merchants of both Nations; he wrote a Treatise upon that Subject, and called it Mare Liberum, or a Treatise shewing the Right the Dutch have to the Indian Trade. He found himself so far engaged in the Affairs which undid Barnevelt, that he was arrested in August 1618, and condemned to perpetual Imprisonment the 18th Day of May 1619, and to forfeit his Estate; he was confined to the Castle of Louvestein the 6th of June in the same Year, where he was severely used for above 18 Months; from whence, by the Contrivance of Mary de Regelsberg his Wife, he made his Escape, who having observed that the Guards, being weary of searching a large Trunk full of Books and Linnen to be washed at Gorcum, a neighbouring Town, let it go without opening it as they used to do, advised her Husband to put himself into it, having made some Holes with a Wimble in the Place where the forepart of his Head was, that he might not be stifled. He followed her Advice, and was in that manner carried to a Friend of his at Gorcum; from whence he went to Antwerp in the usual Waggon, after he had crossed the publick Place in the Disguise of a Joyner, with a Ruler in his Hand. That good Woman pretended all the while that her Husband was<iii> very Sick, to give him time to make his Escape into a Foreign Country: But when she thought he was safe, she told the Guards, laughing at them, that the Birds were fled. At first there was a Design to Prosecute her, and some Judges were of Opinion she should be kept in Prison instead of her Husband; but by a Majority of Votes she was released, and praised by every Body, for having by her Wit procured her Husband’s Liberty. Such a Wife deserved not only to have a Statue erected to her in the Commonwealth of Learning, but also to be canoniz’d; for we are indebted to her for so many excellent Works published by her Husband, which had never come out of the Darkness of Louvestein, if he had remained there all his Lifetime, as some Judges appointed by his Enemies designed it.
He retir’d into France, where he met with a kind Reception at Court, and had a Pension assigned him; the Dutch Embassadors endeavoured to prepossess the King against him, but that Prince did not regard their Artifices, and gave a glorious Testimony to the Virtue of that Illustrious Refugee, and admired the Virtue of the Man, who being so ill used in his Country, never omitted an Opportunity to advance its Interest, and encrease its Grandeur. He applied himself very closely to Study, and to compose Books. The first he published after he settled in France, was An Apology for the Magistrates of Holland, who had been turned out of their Places. The contrary Party was very much displeased with this Treatise, they thought GROTIUS made it appear that they had acted against the Laws, and therefore they endeavoured again to ruin and defame him, but the Protection of the French Court secured him against their Attempts.
He left France after he had been there Eleven Years, and returned into Holland full of Hopes, by reason of a kind Letter he received from Prince Frederick Henry, who succeeded his Brother in that Republick; but his Enemies prevented the good Effects of that Letter, and therefore he was forced once more to leave his Country; he resolved to go to Hamburg, where he stayed till he accepted the Offers he received from the Crown of Sweden, in the Year 1634. Queen Christina made him one of her Counsellors, and sent him Embassador to Lewis XIII. Having discharged the Duties of that Employment about Eleven Years, he set out from France to give an Account of his Embassy to the Queen of Sweden; he went through Holland, and received many Honours at Amsterdam; he saw Queen Christina at Stockholm, and after he had discoursed with her about the Affairs he had been entrusted with, he most humbly begged of her, that she would grant him his Dismission. The Queen gave him no positive Answer when he asked leave to retire, which displeased some great Men, who were afraid that she would keep him in her Council: He perceived their Discontent, and was so pressing to obtain his Dismission, that it<iv> was granted him at last. The Queen, upon his Departure, gave him several Marks of her great Esteem for him. The Ship on Board which he embarked was violently tost by a Storm on the Coasts of Pomerania; GROTIUS being sick, and uneasy in Mind, continued to travel by Land, but his Illness forced him to stop at Rostock, where he died in a few Days, on the 28th of August 1645. His Body was carried to Delft to be buried among his Ancestors; he left behind him three Sons, and one Daughter. The Daughter was married to a French Gentleman called Mombas, who was very much talk’d of, on Occasion of a Trouble he was brought into soon after the French had passed the Rhine in the Year 1672. The eldest Son and the youngest pitched upon a Military Life, and died without being married. The second, whose Name was Peter de Groot, made himself illustrious by his Embassies. The Elector Palatine being restored to his Dominions by the Treaty of Munster, appointed him his Resident in Holland: He was made Pensionary of the City of Amsterdam in 1660, and discharged the Duties of that Place with great Ability for the Space of Seven Years. He was sent Embassador to the Northern Crowns in the Year 1668. At a Year’s End he went into France with the same Character, and acquitted himself in that Employment with great Dexterity and Wisdom. When the War was kindled 1672, he returned into his Country, and was deprived of his Office of Pensionary at Rotterdam, which he had enjoyed ever since his Return from his Embassy into Sweden: He was deprived of it during the Popular Tumults, which occasioned so many Alterations in the Towns of Holland. He retired to Antwerp, and then to Cologne, whilst the Peace was treating there, and acted for the Good of his Country as much as ever he could; and yet when he returned into Holland he was accused of a State Crime; the Cause was tried and he was acquitted: He retired into a Country-House, where he died at 70 Years of Age.
The Calumnies, maliciously dispersed by the Enemies of GROTIUS, about his Death, are irrefragably confuted by the Relation of the Minister who attended upon him when he was dying. The Minister, called John Quistorpius, was Professor of Divinity at Rostock. His Relation imports, “That he went to GROTIUS who had sent for him, and found him almost dying; that he exhorted him to prepare for Death, in order to enjoy a more happy Life, to acknowledge his Sins, and to repent of them; that having mentioned to him the Publican, who confessed himself a Sinner, and begged God’s Mercy, the sick Man answered, I am that Publican; that he went on and told him he should have Recourse to Jesus Christ, without whom there is no Salvation, and that GROTIUS replied, I place all my Hopes in Jesus Christ alone; that he repeated in a loud Voice a Prayer in High-Dutch, and that the sick Man said it softly after him with his Hands joined; that having ended, he asked him whether he understood<v> him, and his Answer was, I understood you very well; that he continued to repeat to him some Passages of the Word of God, which dying People are usually put in Mind of, and to ask him, Do you understand me? and that GROTIUS answered, I hear your Voice, but I do not understand every thing that you say; that with this Answer the sick Man lost his Speech, and expired soon after.” It were an absurd thing to call in Question the Sincerity of Quistorpius, nothing could move him to be false in his Account, and it is certain that the Lutheran Ministers were no less displeased than the Calvinists with the particular Opinions of GROTIUS, and therefore the Testimony of the Professor of Rostock is an authentick Proof; and if such Evidence is not sufficient in Matters of Fact, we make way for Scepticism, and it will be difficult to prove any thing. It is therefore an undeniable Case that GROTIUS being a dying, was affected like the Publican mentioned in the Gospel, he confess’d his Faults, he was sorry for them, and implor’d the Mercy of his heavenly Father; that he placed all his Hopes in Jesus Christ alone; that his last Thoughts were those that are contained in the Prayer of dying People, according to the Liturgy of the Lutheran Churches. The Result of which is, that those who say he died a Socinian, would be too gently used if they were only told, that they are guilty of a rash Judgment; they are Persons prejudiced against the Character of this Great Man, and therefore very unworthy of our Belief. Several People have wondered that his Grand-Children did not ask Satisfaction for this Injury done tohis Memory, and that they appeared less sensible in this Point, than Jansenius’s Relations upon slighter Calumnies; but some Persons highly approve their waving all Juridical Proceedings. There is a solid Answer to that Reflection upon our Author made by a Book entitled l’Esprit de Mr. Arnauld; and since the Accuser made no Reply to it, it is a plain Sign he has been convicted of Calumny. The Apologist for the Character of GROTIUS begins thus, “ But, Sir, what that Author and Father Simon say of GROTIUS, is nothing, if compared to what the nameless Author of the scandalous Libel intitled l’Esprit de Mr. Arnauld says of him; it is true, he slanders every Body in that Book, and the manifest Lies that are in it, ought to make one disbelieve every thing else; but because some are so weak, as to be imposed upon by his bold way of speaking, because some of those to whom you shew my Letters, entertain an ill Opinion of GROTIUS upon that Account, you will give me leave to undeceive them. Perhaps they will not be displeased to find an Author, for whom they have so great an Esteem, guilty of the most horrid Calumny that ever was; this will teach them, that one ought to suspect those who appear so zealous for Truth, and that sometimes a prodigious Malice and Detraction are concealed under the zealous Pretence of defending the Church of God. Afterwards the Apologist examines the four Accusations one after another; I shall not dwell on what<vi> he says upon the first Head, viz. That GROTIUS was a violent Arminian. GROTIUS, says our Author, in the second Place, was a Socinian, as appears from his enervating the Proofs of Christ’s Divinity. Sir, desire your Friends to read GROTIUS’s Annotations upon the Passages of St. Mark and St. John which I have mentioned to you, and if they do not say that it is an abominable Calumny, I am willing to be accounted a most wicked Calumniator. See also the DXLVIIIth Letter among the Literae Ecclesiasticae & Theologicae.” I should be too long should I mention what he says upon the third Head, I shall only set down this Passage out of it, “When Mr. Arnauld says something that is injurious to the Reformed, the Author of the Libel exclaims violently against him, and Mr. Arnauld is then an unsincere Man, an unfair Accuser, an Infamous Calumniator; but when he says something that may serve this Satyrical Writer to inveigh against those whom he hates, every thing is then right, it serves him to fill up his Page, and to prevent his being placed among the little Authors. ”
I must not forget that Mr. Arnauld blames the Lutheran Minister for not asking GROTIUS in what Communion he would die, this is a material Thing, says Mr. Arnauld, “with respect to a Man who was known to have had no Communion a long time with any Protestant Church, and to have confuted in his last Books most of the Doctrines that are common to them. Whereupon the Apologist says, that Mr. Arnauld and the Author of the Libel do wrongly fancy, that a Man has no Religion when he joins with none of the Factions that condemn Mankind, and each of which pretends to be the only Church of Christ. GROTIUS abstained from communicating with the Protestants, as well as with the Papists, because the Communion, which was appointed by Christ as a Symbol of Peace and Concord among his Disciples, is accounted in those Societies a Sign of Discord and Division. ”—Quistorpius acted the Part of a wise Man in not asking him what Communion he would die in, since he saw him dying in the Communion of Jesus Christ, by Virtue of which we are saved, and not by Virtue of that of the Bishop of Rome, or of the several Protestant Societies.
Without enquiring whether Quistorpius was in the Right or the Wrong for not asking such a Question, we observe, that a Man who believes the Fundamental Doctrines of Christianity, but forbears receiving the Communion, because he looks upon that Action as a Sign that one damns the other Christian Sects, cannot be accounted an Atheist, but by one who has forgot the Notions of Things or Definitions of Words; nay, we go farther, and maintain it cannot be denied that such a Man is a Christian; we allow you to say, that his believing all the Sects that receive the Gospel to be in the way to Salvation is an Heresy; we allow you to assert, that it is a pernicious and dangerous Doctrine; notwithstanding which, can it be said that<vii> those who believe that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Son of God, coessential and consubstantial with the Father, that he died for us, that he sits at the right Hand of God his Father; that Men are saved by Faith in his Death and Intercession; that one ought to obey his Precepts, and repent of one’s Sins, &c. we say, can it be affirmed that such People are not Christians? No Man of Sense can affirm it; but none would be more unreasonable in affecting such a thing than the Author of l’ Esprit de Mr. Arnauld, since he published another Book, wherein he shews that all those who believe the Fundamental Points, belong to the true Church, whatever Sect they may be of. We omit several other Maxims advanced by him, whereby it appears, that one may be saved in all Religions; we only mention such Doctrines as he cannot deny, and according to which he ought to acknowledge, that GROTIUS, who believed the Fundamental Doctrines, without approving Calvinism or Popery, &c. in every thing, was a Member of the true Church.
We suppose that what has been delivered may be of sufficient Force to overthrow the Calumnies that have been raised against our Author, in respect to his Principles in Religion; we shall now take a short Survey of the most eminent Books that were published from him.
During his Stay at Paris, before he was Embassador of Sweden, “he translated into Latin Prose his Book concerning the Truth of the Christian Religion, which he had writ in Dutch Verse, for the Use of the Seamen who travelled into the Indies, that they might have some Diversion in singing such a pious Poem.” Thus du Maurier speaks of it; but he is very much to blame for giving such a mean Notion of the Author’s Design, for GROTIUS aimed at a nobler End; he had a Mind to enable the Dutch, who travel to the Indies, to promote the Conversion of the Infidels; this is the Character he gives of it himself, My Resolution was to do something of Advantage to all my Countrymen, but especially for Seamen, that in all their Leisure they have Aboard, they may use their Time with Profit to themselves, and not loiter away their Hours as some do. And therefore beginning with a Panegyrick upon my own Nation, which infinitely excels all others in this Art; I encouraged them, that they would improve their Art, not only for their Benefit and Gain, but that they would regard it as the Mercy of Heaven, and use it for the propagating of the Christian Religion. It is an Excellent Work, and the Notes upon it are very learned. It was translated into English, French, Dutch, German, Greek, Persian, and Arabick; but we do not know whether all those Translations have been published; the Greek was not printed in the Year 1637. In the Year following GROTIUS mentions the Persian Translation only, as a Book which the Pope’s Missionaries had a Mind to publish. My Book, says he, concerning the Truth of the Christian Religion, that is accounted Socinian by some, is so far from having that Character here, that it is to be turned by the Pope’s Missionaries into the Persian<viii> Tongue, to convert, by the Favour of God, the Mahometans who are in that Kingdom. In the Year 1641, an Englishman, who had translated that Book into Arabick, was desirous his Translation should be printed in England. There came a very learned Englishman to me within these few Days, says he, who lived a long time in the Turkish Dominions, and translated my Book of the Truth of the Christian Religion into Arabick, and will endeavour, if he can, to have it published in England: He thinks no Book more profitable, either to instruct the Christians of those Parts, or to convert the Mahometans that are in the Turkish, Persian, Tartarian, Punic, or Indian Empire. That Translation made by the famous Dr. Edward Pocock, was printed at London in the Year 1660. There are three German Translations of that Work, two in Prose, and one in Verse, and two French Translations in Prose.
GROTIUS writ an History of the Low-Countries; it contains an Account of what happened in the Netherlands from the Departure of Philip II. It is divided into Annals and History, the Annals comprehend five Books; the History contains eighteen, and begins in the Year 1588. Casaubon, who had read something of it in the Year 1613, speaks well of it in a Letter written from London to Thuanus. The Judgment of the Author of the Parrhasiana runs thus, “ We may add to Polybius, a famous Historian among the Moderns, who though he had been a Sufferer by the Injustice of a great Prince, relates his noble Actions as carefully as any other Historian, and speaks of him according to his Merit, without saying any thing, whereby it may appear that he had Reason to complain of him; I mean the incomparable HUGO GROTIUS, who speaks in his History of the Netherlands of Prince Maurice de Nassau, as if he had never been ill treated by him; this is a remarkable Instance of Impartiality, which shews that it is not impossible to overcome one’s Passion, and speak well of one’s Enemies, as several People fancy, who judge of others by themselves. ” The Author who observes this fine Passage in GROTIUS’s History, did it not out of Flattery, for he blames him afterwards for a thing that deserves to be blamed; he does not approve GROTIUS’s Style, and shews thereby that he is a Man of a good Taste. “None,” says he, “of those who spoke well at Athens, and at Rome, expressed himself so obscurely in Conversation, as Thucydides and Tacitus did in their Histories; doubtless they had a Mind to raise themselves above common Use, and thereby they fell into that Obscurity for which they are justly reproved. It cannot be denied they have an affected Style, and that they hoped to recommend their Histories as it were by a manly Eloquence, whereby it seems that many things are expressed in few Words, and raised above the Capacity of the Vulgar; I cannot apprehend why some learned Men undertook to imitate them, as HUGO GROTIUS, and Dionysius Vossius in his Translation of Rheide’s History, and<ix> how they could relish such a Style; for certainly good Thoughts need not be obscure to be approved by good Judges; and when a Reader is obliged to stop continually, in order to look for the Sense, he does not think himself in the least obliged to an Historian who gives him the Trouble; this is the Reason why some Histories, though excellent as to the Matter, are read by few People; whereas if those Historians designed to write for the Instruction of those who have a sufficient Knowledge of the Latin Tongue to read a History with Pleasure, they should endeavour to make themselves easily understood, and useful to as many People as ever they could. The more a History deserves to be read by reason of the Events contained in it, the more it deserves to be of a general Use; the Authority of the Ancients who neglected the Clearness of the Style, cannot justify the Moderns, who have imitated them contrary to the Reasons I have mentioned, or rather contrary to good Sense. There is nothing in Tacitus that less deserves to be imitated, than his too concise, and consequently obscure Style; I am sorry GROTIUS was one of those who did not avoid it, it makes the Translation of his Writings more difficult, and his Thoughts more obscure.”
But his Book Of the Rights of War and Peace was the Masterpiece of his Works, and therefore deserves a more particular Account; it was printed at Paris in 1625, and dedicated to Lewis XIII. “King Gustavus of Sweden having read and admired it, resolved to make use of the Author, whom he took to be a great Politician by reason of that Work; but that Prince having been killed at the Battle of Lutzen in the Year 1632, Chancellor Oxenstern, according to his own Inclination, and the Design of the late King Gustavus, nominated him to be sent Embassador into France. ” Colomies says, “It is believed that GROTIUS exhausted his Parts upon that Book, and that he might have said of it what Casaubon said of his Commentary upon Perseus, in a Letter to Mr. Perillan his Kinsman, which is not printed, in Perseo omnem ingenii conatum effudimus; and indeed that Work of GROTIUS is an excellent Piece, and I do not wonder that it has been explained in some German Universities.”—Here follows the Judgment which M. Bignon, that unblamable Magistrate, makes of that Book in a Letter to GROTIUS, dated the 5th of March, 1633. “I had almost forgot,” says he, “to thank you for your Treatise De Jure Belli, which is as well printed as the Subject deserves it; I have been told that a great King had it always in his Hands, and I believe it is true, because a very great Advantage must accrue from it, since that Book shews, that there is Reason and Justice in a Subject, which is thought to consist only in Confusion and Injustice; those who read it will learn the true Maxims of the Christian Policy, which are the solid Foundations of all Governments; I have read it again with a wonderful Pleasure.” They did not make the<x> same Judgment of it at Rome, where it was placed among prohibited Books the 4th of February 1672. M. Chauvin’s Memorial concerning the Fate and Importance of that Work is so curious, that we cannot forbear transcribing some things out of it. It informs us that GROTIUS undertook to write that Book at the Solicitation of the famous Peireskius. He himself says so, in a Letter he writ to him, when he presented him with the Copy of that Work. “The Subject of it was thought to be so important and useful, that it gave Occasion to make a particular Science of it; for the Explication of which, some Professors have been appointed on purpose in the Universities. Charles Lewis, Elector Palatine, did so highly value that Book, that he thought fit it should serve as a Text to the Doctrine concerning the Right of Nature, and the Law of Nations, and in order to teach it he appointed M. de Puffendorf in the University of Heidelberg; and in Imitation of that Prince, the like Settlements have been made in other Universities. It does not appear that any Body criticized upon this Work of GROTIUS during his Lifetime”; but when he was dead it occasioned many Disputes, and was published over all the World of Letters, and commented upon by the most learned of all Nations. It came out at last, cum Notis Variorum, by which means our Author, within 50 Years after his Death, obtained an Honour, which was not bestowed upon the Ancients till after many Ages.
Thus have we given the History of this great Man, taken from the best Accounts that have contributed to derive his Memory to our Times; but as an Improvement of his Character receive the Testimony of Salmasius, one of his Enemies, in a Letter to him, You have laid but a small Obligation upon the Cardinals, and upon myself likewise, by bestowing a Title upon me, which is peculiar to the most eminent GROTIUS; for why should I not call him so, whom I had rather resemble, than enjoy the Wealth, the Purple, and Grandeur of the Sacred College?<xi>