Front Page Titles (by Subject) Part II.: It Is Honourable to Retain Possession of the Prize in Question - Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty
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Part II.: It Is Honourable to Retain Possession of the Prize in Question - Hugo Grotius, Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty 
Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty, ed. and with an Introduction by Martine Julia van Ittersum (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2006).
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It Is Honourable to Retain Possession of the Prize in Question
In so far as the question of justice is concerned, I believe that we have satisfied those readers who seek the truth. For we have furnished abundant proof of the fact that the despoliation of the Portuguese because of the injuries inflicted by them, and the delivery of the captured goods into the possession of certain merchants, were deeds that conformed to the requirements of piety, nature, and custom.
But those persons who are deterred by preconceived false opinions from committing their judgement to the guidance of reason, are not all to be grouped under a single head or in accordance with a simple classification.Part I of Chapter XIV So it is that we hear of some individuals who do not venture to deny the justice of the affair which we are discussing (nor would they be able to offer any defence for such a denial), while they nevertheless maintain that this same affair seems to them not entirely honourable.
Thesis IYet their contention surely involves an obvious inconsistency, inasmuch as we have always been told that whatever is just in every respect cannot fail to be honourable.a For everyone who frames a definition of this latter attribute would have us believe either that it is equivalent to virtue itself, or else that it is a certain quality inherent in the virtues or proceeding from them. In any case, the concept of “that which is honourable” can never be divorced from the concept of virtue, nor can anything be good unless it is also honourable. Indeed, even the more precise authoritiesb define the former concept as follows: that is honourable which is pleasing because it is good. Accordingly, of these two attributes, the one is necessarily bound up with the other.
Nor is it possible for anything to be base, or shameful in the eyes of wise and good men, if it is in conformity with true justice. The foregoing statement may be confirmed either by arguing that no one virtue is inconsistent with virtue in general, or by referring to the dictum correctly laid down by the ancientsc in regard to justice, namely, that in the virtue of justice all other virtues are included. As a matter of fact, however, no argument is needed to prove this point to sensible persons; for long ago (according to Plato)d the youth Alcibiades was prompted by Socrates to acknowledge naturally and instinctively the truth of the conclusion that he who is performing a just act must also be performing an honourable act. Moreover, this same conclusion, which is sanctioned by universal acceptance, has been expounded at length in the works of the philosophers.e
In order that our point may be properly grasped, it must be understood that we are not employing the term “just” to denote that which is permitted by some civil law, or (more accurately) that which is connived at by the laws.a For the juristsb themselves rule that whatever is[144′] thus exempted from punishment and to a corresponding degree described as permissible, while in point of fact it is not just, is at the same time not honourable. On the contrary, it should be understood that we are referring to what has been decreed and firmly established by the immutable law of nature. For everything that has been so decreed and established is necessarily honourable. So extensive is the force of this principle that the Stoics and, indeed, a very considerable number of the philosophers,c have felt that it is absolutely impossible to define the concept of “that which is honourable” more clearly than by saying that it consists of what is prescribed by nature. Consequently, a great many writers even employ the term to denote nothing more nor less than the common law which is universally acknowledged. This interpretation explains a certain saying handed down by the sages,d namely, that the force inherent in honourable things is such that they are sought after spontaneously, for their intrinsic merits and (as it were) by a natural impulse.
Therefore, since we have demonstrated that the law which governs spoils, like the law of war, has its origin in a natural instinct implanted by God Himself, and since the equitable character of the act under consideration is clearly apparent when viewed in the light of the principles underlying natural law and the law of nations, surely the said act involves no element that should cause any one to feel shame.
Thesis IIFor my own part, moreover, I shall maintain against any person who wishes to dispute the point, that both the seizure and the possession of enemy property under the circumstances in question, are acts not merely untainted by dishonour but even glorious in the highest degree. For those writerse who have devoted particular attention to the concept of what is honourable, tell us that the most important components from which this concept derives its high position among the virtues are fortitude and justice, inasmuch as these two attributes are undoubtedly the qualities most beneficial [to others],1 both in private and in public life.
The works of the poets certainly abound in references to fortitude. How impressive are the well-known lines from the Elegies of Tyrtaeus:a
Fortitude is the virtue celebrated in triumphal processions, in the garlands that bedeck the brave, in inscriptions, and in acclamations like the one that follows:
It is the virtue in whose name kings rejoice to be praised, and by which men are raised to the rank of gods.
Yet again, may we not say (since the case with which we are at present concerned turns also upon a naval incident), that Themistocles, who broke the power of Persia in battles waged upon the sea, achieved a fame almost more illustrious [than that of Pollux or of Hercules] in the eyes of Athens and his native Greece? Cynaegirus, though he was merely a private citizen, won for himself an undying name. Among the Romans, Duilius, after conquering the Carthaginians in naval conflict, was rewarded by what may be described as an unending triumphal celebration, with torches borne before him as he walked. In short, just as cowards and ῥιψάσπιδες [“deserters,” “those who throw away their shields in battle”] are everywhere crushed with contempt and in some regions severely punished, so there is no people, nor is there any state, that fails to bestow the highest honours upon those persons who have exalted their own fair fame and that of their native land by courageous deeds. The established institutions of all nations in general, as well as the special institutions which have won superlative acclaim (such as those of the Spartans and the Romans), testify so clearly to the truth of this assertion that it would surely be a waste of effort to dwell at length upon the matter here.
As for the attribute of justice, the ancientsa have rightly declared that neither the Morning nor the Evening Star can compete with it in lustre. In fact, they have even asserted (as Cicero does, for example, [in his treatise On the Laws])b that nothing devoid of this attribute can be honourable. For in a sense the very foundation of enduring worth and fame, [so that same writer tells us in his work On Duties,]c is justice, without which nothing can be deserving of praise.
What other kind of deed, then, will shine so brightly and with such splendour as one that is illumined alike by both of these virtues: fortitude and justice? Yet this combination is never more apparent than on the occasions when we are granted the opportunity, in just and open warfare,
As we have observed in another passage,a where we quoted from Ambrose,bthe fortitude2 that defends one’s native land or one’s allies or the weak, is just in the fullest sense of the term. Aristotle,c too, the most sagacious of philosophers, tells us3 that it is honourable to take vengeance upon one’s enemies, “since the repayment of like with like is just and that which is just is assuredly honourable, and since, moreover, it is the duty of a man of fortitude to refuse to yield”; wherefore, “victory and the honours accorded to victory are also numbered among those things which are honourable” in the highest degree, so much so, indeed, that “they are desirable even when they bear no fruit,” because they testify to the pre-eminence of virtue. These, I repeat, are the teachings of Aristotle.
Nor is there any valid basis for the objection that we shall be making a more noble gesture and at the same time one not inconsistent with the precepts laid down by Christ and by the philosophers, if we refrain from inflicting any harm upon those whom we have the power to harm, in order to prove by this very restraint our superiority to our enemies; for certainly such restraint, under such a pretext, is opposed to[145′] honour in precisely the same degree in which it is opposed to justice and public welfare.
We have already explainedd that the persons who censure [certain types of] revenge are of the opinion, first, that it is not proper for private individuals to seek by direct action that vengeance which they are able to seek through recourse to a judge; and secondly, that [cases where direct action is justified] must be characterized both by the existence of due cause4 and by the observance of just limits to revenge (which must not be exceeded), as well as by a pure heart and righteous intent on the part of the avenger. These requirements, however, in nowise preclude the possibility that occasions may arise on which vengeance is both right and necessary. Senecaa makes this point in a concise statement: “It is as cruel to pardon all, as it is to pardon none.” And in the works of Augustineb we find the following learned exposition of the same sentiment:
To return good for good, and to return evil for evil: these are the two moderately virtuous forms of retribution. The first of these two courses of conduct, while it is especially characteristic of good persons, is acceptable also to the wicked. Thus Christ does not censure it, but He does say that more is required, since even the heathen make such repayment. The second course is especially characteristic of wicked persons, yet it is acceptable also to the virtuous; wherefore [divine5 ] law itself has prescribed a due measure for revenge.
Further on, Augustinec explains the foregoing statement by interpreting it thus: in acts of just vengeance, which is inflicted owing to love of justice and not because of delight in another’s distress, evil is not [really] returned for evil, but rather, justice is returned for injustice; or in other words (still according to that same Augustine), good is returned for evil, a course followed by God Himself when He acts as Judge.
Therefore, in order that we may clearly understand when vengeance is honourable and when, on the other hand, mercy should be shown, it seems advisable for us to draw certain distinctions both among the persons who inflict injury and among those who suffer injury.
With reference to the latter, and to cases in which the injury is suffered in common with one’s allies or one’s native land, it is clear that we may not forgive public wrongs, or those inflicted upon other persons, as readily as we may forgive those directed against ourselves. There is a maxim frequently reiterated by the jurists,a to the effect that he who fails to defend the victim of an injury, is lending support to the perpetrator of the injury. To quote Augustineb once more: “It has been proven that individuals who have permitted the commission of a crime are not guiltless of that crime. He who is able to prevent a given act and fails to do so, consents to it.” For, as this authorityc elsewhere observes, “it is not the part of innocence to allow, by forbearance, too grave a lapse into wickedness. Thus it is properly the duty of innocence, not only to refrain from inflicting evil upon any person, but also to check the commission of sins, or even to punish the sin that has been committed, so that he who previously was an object of hatred may be reformed through experience, or others may be deterred by dread example.” Ambrose,d too, severely censures that misdirected mercifulness which delivers up the innocent to destruction while it frees from restraint the very individual who is plotting the destruction of numerous individuals. “The guiding principle of virtue,” declares Ambrose,e “consists not in tolerating but rather in repelling injury. For he who fails to ward off injury from an ally is as much at fault as he who inflicts the injury.” Moreover, just as the foregoing tenet relative to allies is most admirable, so also is the sentiment relative to one’s native land expressed by Cicerof (in one of his Orations against Catiline) in these terms: “If we adopt the sternest possible attitude toward those men who have attempted to destroy the homes of each and every one of us together with our common home, the state, we shall be considered merciful; but if we choose to be too indulgent, we shall be obliged to suffer a reputation for cruelty disastrous to the fatherland and to our fellow citizens.” In the opinion of Augustine,a too, the man who shows such indulgence is guilty of betrayal and contempt of sovereign authority. To this assertion Augustine appends the following comment: “Thus [a soldier]6 will be punished for failing to perform, when bidden to do so, the very act that he is punished for performing unbidden.”
Secondly, as I have already pointed out, we must consider the question in its bearing upon the persons who first inflicted injury. For if it is evident that such persons are not reformed by leniency, if their stubborn-ness is such as to corroborate the warning found in the farce,—
vengeance against them is undoubtedly honourable, since it is a necessity. In the works of Thucydides,b there are a great many brilliant observations which support this view, including the wise pronouncement quoted from the oration of Cleon, namely: that it is right to be merciful and lenient when dealing with persons who are guided in their turn by merciful sentiments, or whom one may hope to draw into a friendly relationship as a result of such conduct, whereas it is not right to deal thus with persons who cherish an enduring motive for hatred and who, even if they themselves are spared, will not for that reason be more inclined to renounce their enmity. In another passage, Thucydidesc insists that no concession should be made to the enemy, lest he grow more insolently vainglorious, rejoicing in the opportunity offered him for abuse of another’s kindness. There is, too, this additional consideration: that when we have shown mercy to men actuated by inflexible enmity, the act is ascribed to consciousness of our own weakness rather[146′] than to voluntary leniency, and the reputation for clemency sought in this manner is turned against us in the form of contempt. Thus Severus is quoted by Herodiana as saying: ὥσπερ δὲ ἄδικον τὸ ἄρχειν ἔργων πονηρω̑ν, οὕτως ἄνανδρον τὸ μὴ ἀμύνασθαι πρὸς ἀδικούμενον; “even as it is unjust to have been the first to engage in injurious acts, so it is weak to refrain from avenging injuries already inflicted.”
Again, is vengeance not beneficial to the culpable parties themselves? The Platonistsb speak the truth when they maintain that, “although the infliction of injury upon another is the worst of all evils, such evil becomes still more grave if the perpetrator of the injurious act goes unpunished; and if the impunity of the wrongdoer is protracted, and he is not chastised meanwhile by the censure of his fellow man, this situation itself will be more grievous and painful than any punishment.” In a certain sense, indeed (according to our own theological writers, and also according to Augustine,c that greatest of theologians), we bestow a favour upon the very individuals whom we deter from wrongdoing by filling them with dread. Other statements made by Augustine may be cited to the same effect. In the Letter to Lothariusd we find these words: “He who fosters vice by extending to it indulgence and protection, in order to avoid saddening the hearts of sinners, is even less merciful than the person who refuses to snatch a knife from a child lest he hear the child crying for it, and nevertheless does not fear to see that same child wounded or killed.” It is Augustine,e too, who offers this admonition: “Moreover, those persons who decree that for so grave a crime you should be thus gently restrained and corrected by punishment in the form of fines depriving you of estates or goods or money, are to be regarded as exceedingly careful guides and kindly counsellors, since they are pondering the means by which you may endure these [consequences of wrongdoing], may escape from your own acknowledged sacrilege and may be delivered from eternal damnation.” Jeromea expressed a similar sentiment in his commentary on Sophonias, when he wrote as follows: “If the strength of a bandit or pirate is diminished and he is rendered feeble, he will be benefited by his own weakened condition, since the disabled members which were formerly ill employed, will cease from evil works.”
Finally, that good judgement in civic matters which takes careful account of all the different parts of a war, shows us clearly enough that leniency is appropriate either at the outset or at the conclusion of wars (at the outset, of course, with a view to influencing favourably the disposition of the enemy by establishing a reputation for clemency, and at the conclusion, with the object of holding the vanquished in check more easily once security has been attained), whereas during the intervening period, while the peril is still at its height, nothing is more judicious than the dissemination of fear.
Let us now examine the question with special reference to the seizure of spoils, ascertaining what kind of seizure is to be considered as honourable, and what kind, on the other hand, as base and infamous. For confusion on this point is the source of widespread and exceedingly harmful errors, which either enable evil to lie hid under the guise of the good that it resembles, or else besmirch what is righteous with the stigma befitting a closely related form of infamy.Thesis III Yet nothing could be easier than the drawing of the necessary distinction, provided that we bear in mind the rules above set forth in regard to what is just, which coincide with the rules relative to what is honourable.
For, in the first place, that gain is dishonourable which is acquired by individuals who despoil others through privately exercised force and without urgent reasons for so doing. To such individuals we give the name of “pirates” when their activities take place upon the sea. Secondly, the same criticism applies to acquisitions made by persons who without any legitimate cause usurp authority to wage public war. For example, it is recorded that in earlier times whole peoples—such as the Cretans, the Cilicians, and even the Greeks themselves (according to the testimony of Homer), as well as the Germans and the Normans—engaged openly and publicly in the practice of despoliation without so much as an appropriate pretext. To despoilers of this kind we refer (and not unjustly) as “freebooters.” Yet again, those persons are deserving of blame who snatch away property prior to the execution of the measures required in order that war may be lawfully undertaken. Such attacks upon property are severely censured by writers on the subject as acts of “robbery.”
But these three types of dishonourable seizure are of so obvious a character as to be easily and directly identifiable. Therefore, we shall devote our attention chiefly to a fourth type, which can scarcely be detected save through conjectural inferences. It is the type of seizure that occurs when, in the course of a just war or a war believed to be just, someone grasps at profit in a way which indicates that he has been mindful only of profit for its own sake and not of the true objective of war, namely, the attainment of rights.
New explanationThe signs betokening the fact that such seizure is taking place are bound up, generally speaking, with a situation in which a given person (particularly one who has charged up no losses against the enemy), with very little force at his command, attacks and despoils the unarmed and the weak unexpectedly and at random, though he has not the strength that would embolden him to claim in battle open possession of the regions despoiled. For such a person, since he neither weakens the enemy to any appreciable extent nor advances the interests of his own side, is very liable to be suspected of engaging in war with no other motive than that of private profit. Under this head we may place the despoilers of fishermen or of ship-masters who have been caught by chance upon a sea where the assailants themselves fear to be seen.[147′]
Assuredly, that true warrior who
is far removed from this uncouth class. Consequently, with reference both to warfare on land and to maritime warfare, those individuals who steal into possession of enemy property by making clandestine raids, so to speak, have always been assigned to one category,a while a different estimate has been applied to whole armies or fleets which show themselves openly with their insignia on display and which either enter into battle on their own account or challenge the enemy to do so. For persons belonging to the latter class, who are motivated by an eager desire to win the war by any means whatsoever, deserve indulgence if they are in error, and glory if they are supporting a just cause; whereas persons of the former class incur universal detestation, since by audacious but unwarlike devices they turn public loss into private gain, a course of conduct clearly incompatible not only with justice but also with fortitude,7 the virtue wherein legitimate enemies vie with one another.
If we apply the foregoing observations to our present purpose, recalling at the same time the events that have already been narrated, we shall plainly perceive that the Portuguese, though they assume the guise of merchants, are not very different from pirates. For if the name of “pirate” is appropriately bestowed upon men who blockade the seas and impede the progress of international commerce, shall we not include under the same head those persons who forcibly bar all European nations (even nations that have given them no cause for war) from the ocean and from access to India, although they are not able to find among the exceedingly diverse and mutually contradictory pretexts that they adduce in defence of their savage behaviour, so much as one excuse that can be rendered acceptable to their own relatively fair-minded compatriots? Therefore, since it was invariably held in ancient times that persons of this kind were worthy objects of universal hatred in that they were harmful to all mankind, and since even now there is no one, or at the most perhaps a very few individuals, who would absolve the Portuguese from the charge of belonging to this class, why should anyone fear that he might incur ill will by inflicting punishment upon them?
Thus we conclude that it cannot be dishonourable for merchants to take well-deserved vengeance upon the violators of a public right, with the purpose of ensuring greater security for themselves in the enjoyment of that right, just as there can be no one who will censure the conduct of a traveller assaulted in the course of his journey by a highwayman, if that traveller bravely and quite justifiably takes his assailant captive. Nor is the mercantile manner of life incompatible with such vengeance, any more than agricultural life is incompatible with the practice frequently followed (so we understand) by farmers in dangerous localities, when they wear the sword while guiding the plough. For Ciceroa assures us that, “There is no prohibition derived either from the natural order or from any legal precept or custom, that forbids acquaintance with more than one art on the part of one individual.” How much more acceptable, then, is this versatility, when one of the arts involved is adopted by choice, the other as a result of necessity; and when the latter is combined with the former as the servant of the chosen art, because without that servant the other art could not continue to be practised! Moreover, history teaches us, not only that the Athenians, the Carthaginians, and the Portuguese themselves (both the present-day Portuguese and those of early times) have frequently employed arms for the protection of commerce, but also that the people of ancient Holland (who were men of the most saintly and blameless character, so that the ability to imitate them is a mark of surpassing virtue) have bequeathed to posterity shining examples of just such conduct. From the vast number of these examples, I shall choose one for special mention here.
In the year 1438Many years ago, the maritime states of the Germans (Lübeck, Hamburg, Danzig, Lüneburg, Wismar, Rostock, Lunden, &c.), in alliance with the Prussians, and with the Spaniards and Venetians as well (for at that time these two peoples were likewise in the habit of navigating northern waters), had been lying in wait for those excuses to inaugurate a quarrel which are never lacking among commercial rivals. Finally, they began not only to despoil the Dutch, who were roaming the seas quite unprepared for war, but also to slay our men or else carry them off into the harshest kind of captivity. The Dutch, for their part, choosing to have recourse to every other device before employing force, despite the fact that they were being harassed with the most grievous injuries, sought to reclaim their property through duly appointed embassies. They commanded the above-mentioned states to desist from private despoliation (unless the latter wished to pay assessments for damages), and to contend with the Dutch thenceforth in open warfare. Since it proved absolutely impossible, however, to elicit voluntary respect for Dutch rights from the Germans, our people undertook, with the consent of their reigning Prince (Philip the First of Burgundy), to equip and man ships in all their cities. Shortly thereafter, using these vessels to attack the enemy (in most cases after a formal declaration of intention to open battle), they entered wholeheartedly into a struggle as successful as it was valiant, with the result that in a little while no other ships than those of the Dutch were to be seen upon the ocean.
These Dutch ships, moreover, displayed drag-nets commemorating numerous victories and symbolizing a sea swept clean. In one[148′] engagement, twenty large German vessels and three Prussian vessels were captured, as well as a richly laden Venetian carack which was accompanying them. The latter was borne off to Zeeland. In a subsequent battle, three more ships, massive in size, were taken by the Dutch. The captives were accorded the most honourable treatment, even though such Dutchmen as had previously fallen into the hands of the enemy were wasting away at that very time in the vilest confinement. The victors apportioned the prize by casting lots; and this prize proved to be so valuable that it sufficed not only to provide compensation for the earlier losses but also, in a moderate degree, to defray the expenses of the war.
The Germanic states, overwhelmed by these disasters, reached the point where they begged for peace, since they feared that there was truth in the prediction made by a certain man who enjoyed considerable authority among them, to the effect that they were provoking a lion whom they would not easily lull to rest once he had been aroused. Their request was readily granted by a nation which had always kept its heart open for the admission of peace, even in the process of executing just vengeance and waging a brilliantly successful war.
Let us not trouble ourselves unduly in a search for examples from foreign sources. Many lessons can be learned from this single domestic example, which serves us as an illustration of justice in undertaking war, fortitude in actual warfare and equity in desisting from hostilities. Thus we find that the same persons who were merciful in victory, were temperate in the seizure of spoils. Moreover, anyone who compares the incident just described with the events in the East Indies narrated in an earlier chaptera of this discussion, will certainly admit that those early characteristics of Dutch conduct remain unchanged after the lapse of a hundred and sixty years.
We conclude, then, that vengeance of this kind, undertaken for the purpose of obtaining one’s rightful due, is honourable. The Dutch merchants are justified in resorting to such vengeance against the Portuguese.
The present case, however, involves not merely the private cause of the aforesaid merchants, but the cause of the state, too, and that of its allies. The cause of the state is involved not only in consequence of the need for some great business enterprise that will provide support for the common people and resources for the treasury, but also because the interests of one and all demand that the Iberian races—who seek to erect a tyrant’s throne for themselves upon the ruins of the shattered fatherland—shall be crushed and overthrown in every part of the world. Otherwise, the time may come when even the farthest regions of the earth will be forced to pay tribute in order to assist in the subjugation of the Dutch. The cause of our allies is likewise involved: in other words, that of the East Indian kings and peoples, whom the Portuguese are assailing with fire and sword on the sole ground that these kings and peoples are not hostile to the Dutch. The imperilment of Bantam, the ashes of Makian, the devastation of Bachian, all bear witness to this attitude on the part of the Portuguese. Therefore, no one can pardon these injuries [against both the state and its allies] without sinking into the deepest infamy. For what could be more disgraceful than the betrayal either of that native land which shares our perils with us or of the allied peoples who are endangered for our sake?
We know that, in an earlier age, the Romans were admonished thus:a “You must seek for allies where the disaster of Saguntum is unknown.”8 You may be certain that, in like manner, the East Indians would have shuddered to see the sails of the approaching Hollanders, as one would shudder at ill-omened and deadly portents, and that [their] men would be fleeing from any contact with us or even putting our own men to flight, had it not been God’s pleasure to reveal to the Asiatic nations, also, that same Dutch virtue which is renowned throughout Europe, and to demonstrate by means of a memorable object-lesson the fact that those persons are by no means deceived who prefer Dutch fortitude and good faith to the perfidy and ferocity of the Portuguese. For my part, indeed, I find that the entire history of this war, which has already been prolonged beyond its thirtieth year, contains no lesson more impressive than those relative to good faith among allies. The inhabitants of Leyden, when their city was exhausted by its misfortunes and surrounded by hostile forces, when their provisions and whatever their extreme need had converted into food was running out, still did not betray this principle of faith. Inspired by the same principle, other Dutchmen in their turn called in the ocean to cover their fields and crops. It was this good faith that defended England in our common war. It was this faith that succoured France in her distress. Good faith is a useful attribute at home and a matter of honour among neighbours, but it is a veritable necessity in those farthest corners of the world where persons previously unknown cannot very well make themselves known save through their virtues. For we have no common bond of religion with those distant peoples, nor even a bond based upon covenants; but we are linked to them by[149′] the natural and inescapable tie that unites all human beings, as well as by a special commercial relationship, a factor of fundamental importance for the support of the state and of private interests. Furthermore, any conceivable hope that the peoples in question will eventually see the light of reason and accept the doctrine of Christianity, must certainly be based not upon the destruction of cities nor upon the torture of the inhabitants, but rather upon conduct that will set an example of good faith, benevolence, and clemency.
On the other hand, if we turn our attention to the Portuguese character, who will be able to deny that, despite the conciliatory advances implicit in the favours extended by the Dutch even after they had suffered injury, the Portuguese were so little inclined to mitigate in any degree their ancient ferocity, that they repeatedly took advantage of this very benevolence, viewing it not merely with scorn but also as a basis for their own attempts at treachery? Thus the illustrious historian Thucydidesa does not err when he declares that those persons who causelessly inflict injury upon another are especially unlikely to be restrained, by any benefaction whatsoever, from pursuing to his utter destruction that same victim toward whom they have once assumed a voluntary attitude of enmity. Accordingly, just as leniency in dealing with such adversaries is attended both by peril and by the shameful brand of cowardice, so the infliction of vengeance upon them is honourable because it is necessary. For we are already acquainted with the character of the Spaniards, who did not for their own part abstain from any kind of cruelty at the outset of the war now being waged in the Low Countries, although they themselves were treated with a certain measure of forbearance; nor did they swerve from their original course of conduct until it had been decided that a similar course should be followed against them.
In the East Indies, however, not even this retaliatory step was taken. Who is unaware of the fact that every bodily injury is infinitely more serious than any loss of goods?b Nevertheless, in those East Indian regions, while Dutchmen are being torn to pieces alive or delivered to the galleys, the life and liberty of the captives held by the Dutch are, on the contrary, preserved intact. Yet it would have been just if the said captives had been forced to undergo suffering more severe than that which they had inflicted, since they themselves, without provocation, had first set the example of such savagery. In fact, this vengeance which is now being exacted is scarcely worthy of the name. It is nothing more than a species of chastisement from which hard-hearted men may learn how gravely others, too, are affected by the loss of their goods.
Moreover, since honourable conduct in the seizure of spoils is a matter dependent primarily upon the end sought (as we have already observed), we must repeat at this point the statement for which proof was given in an earlier passage, as follows: the Dutch sailors have cleared themselves satisfactorily of suspicion by disregarding many opportunities for the capture of quite valuable property, and consequently no one can believe that they were motivated merely by greed for spoil in exposing themselves to such great danger; for it is clear that whatever they did, was done because they perceived the impossibility of restraining by any other means the unbounded avidity for gain characteristic of the Portuguese. Besides, the particular prize to which we refer, represents not a profit but reparation for losses, and nothing could be more honourable than such a circumstance.
Yet again, it was not by any fraudulent means, not by perfidy (though fraud and perfidy could have been regarded as exempt from the reproach of injustice when employed against the Portuguese), not even by furtive and roundabout methods, that the Dutch sought out occasions to engage in battle; on the contrary, they waged open and public warfare. Moreover, it frequently happened that a small number of Dutchmen joined battle with forces vastly larger than their own, displaying such valour of spirit and strength of body that they have a right to claim for themselves, in addition to the commendation due to justice, the glory that is awarded to fortitude.
Truly, there is no room for doubt as to what kind of deed earns censure and what kind, on the other hand, is glorious; nor is there any doubt as to the judgement that one may expect all men to render in regard to each type of conduct. Let us remember that the Hollanders were reproached by the East Indian nobles because, on the occasion of the first voyage made by our countrymen, while they were still striving zealously to preserve the peace, four [Dutch] vessels had lowered their sails before a single Portuguese carack; and let us remember that those same Hollanders were exhorted by the Chinese not to hold their own fair fame in such slight esteem as to leave unavenged (most reluctantly, to be sure) the gibbeting and drowning of their allies at the city of Macao. Now, let us imagine instead that we are listening to the joyous acclamations of the people of Bantam, who have been rescued by Dutch valour from impending disaster and who are hailing our victorious fleet as the sole author of their deliverance. How great was the fame earned throughout the islands by that act! How grave was the terror spread throughout the ranks of the enemy! How joyful was the King of Johore when he stood—secure and avenged at last—upon the thwarts of the captured[150′] carack! These are the deeds that proclaimed the glory of the Dutch nation to the uttermost ends of the earth.
For certainly it must be confessed that the reputation of the Holland-ers, prior to these wars, was confined within very narrow limits of renown. Who, indeed, is unaware of this fact? Their activities and the fame of those activities were bounded by two straits: to the north, by the Sound; to the west, by the Strait of Gibraltar. The Hollanders have derived considerable benefit from the celebrity of the Spanish foe. For peoples dwelling at a great distance, along the farthest inlets of the ocean, have come to know that there is a tiny nation which has not hesitated to challenge the might of Spain and which has even succeeded in beating back that mighty force during all these years.
After the Dutch had made their appearance among the East Indians, the worth of the new-comers was carefully weighed in the Indies, as is customary in regard to merchants. Our countrymen were commended for their good faith and industry, as well as for the fact that they had traversed so vast an expanse of sea for the sake of commerce. Nevertheless, the extraordinary renown of the Spaniards [and Portuguese] remained pre-eminent, for they were believed to be the conquerors of almost every region of the earth, and the only mortals who had never been vanquished. It is true that the East Indians hated the Portuguese; but at the same time they regarded that people with fear and even with veneration, just as evil genii (so we are told) are worshipped by barbarous nations for the sole purpose of averting the injuries that might be inflicted by those evil spirits. The prestige enjoyed by the Portuguese and the fear inspired by them, enabled them to hold possession of islands and shores over which they had not been able to establish true dominion. Many persons did not even dare to set sail upon the sea without first purchasing Portuguese permission. So it was that all other peoples were looked upon as inferior and as destined to yield quite speedily before the power of the Hispanic nations. But as soon as the Dutch had been provoked to display their valour, as soon as these men who had at first been deceived by their own artlessness and by the enemy’s trickery met armed force with armed force, and when the scattered flight, the disastrous defeat, and the capitulation of the Portuguese were witnessed, who among the East Indians was not struck with astonishment? Who among them did not marvel at the very existence of a nation which refrained from proving its strength until compelled to do so, although nothing was beyond its power? Everywhere the East Indians extolled the Hollanders as the most valiant of men, defenders of their allies and subduers of their enemies; and everywhere, too, they assigned to our people, with prayers and steadfast hope, the role of saviours of the Orient.
Thus the great and fearful fame of the Portuguese gave way before the Dutch, amid manifestations of affection for the latter, on the part of the peoples proclaiming this change of heart, as intense as the hatred built up by the Portuguese against themselves. Everyone wished to know what land nurtured men so brave and just, what government ordered their affairs. Every East Indian state vied with the others in dispatching embassies and gifts all the way to our own part of the world. Each state strove to ally itself with the Dutch. The East Indian kings themselves hastened to meet our sailors, as if the latter were princes. Exemption was granted us from the imposts and tithes paid by other nations. In short, no act was omitted that might serve as testimony to sentiments of goodwill and even of veneration.
Furthermore, quite apart from the attitude taken in Asia, the reaction throughout Europe toward the affair in question is in no sense doubtful. For we see that the greatest princes joyfully accept the gifts sent them out of these very spoils, and that an incredibly vast throng drawn from all nations is assembling for the sale. At home, too, the States Assembly of Holland has itself indicated by the terms of its Decree that, in the opinion of that governmental body, a large part of the glory resulting from this episode sheds its lustre upon the entire state. The citizens give thanks to God; they rejoice that so signal a triumph has fallen to the lot of the fatherland; and indeed, those individuals who have played any part whatsoever in this victory are universally honoured and esteemed as persons of the highest merit.
What, then, remains to be said? It is praiseworthy to be praised, but only (as a certain famous man was wont to say), if the tribute is bestowed by those who have themselves received praise; for in so far as other critics are concerned, one is for the most part a better person in proportion to the displeasure that one has aroused in them. In fact, if there are individuals who still maintain that the crimes of the Portuguese should be encouraged with impunity, or who regard it as right that men of the most monstrous character should be exempt even from the restraint imposed by liability to seizure of goods, I for my part shall scarcely deem such individuals worthy to be called human beings and shall certainly consider them utterly unworthy of the name of “Dutchmen.”
Part II of Chapter XIVPossibly there are some critics who will admit that the Portuguese have indeed earned the penalties in question, but who will nevertheless feel that it is by no means seemly that they themselves should be found in possession of property seized from the enemy, or of any proceeds derived from that source.
But surely it is the mark of an exceedingly abject and degenerate spirit, to be fearful of incurring reproach for that form of acquisition which the greatest kings and princes, as well as all persons of outstanding worth, consider as an instrument of glory. For what other interpretation shall we place upon the memorials erected in honour of victors, the triumphal arches constructed from the spoils of the enemy, the proceeds derived from sales of captured property, and the public stages adorned[151′] (whether by the ancient Romans or by the Venetians of our own day) with the beaks of enemy ships?9
Certainly those fearful persons might have learned from the Holy Scriptures, not only that spoils can be acquired and held with a clear conscience, but also that these very practices are actually regarded as glorious in the highest degree, since they result at one and the same time in profit for ourselves, in terror for the enemy, and in the edification of others by means of the example set. Thus God Himself a adds to His promises of other gifts to be bestowed by Him upon the seed of Abraham, this further promise of a blessing which appears to be especially honourable, namely, that He will bring it to pass that Abraham’s seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. Then, too, the possessions allotted by Jacob to Josephb are praised by the former on the ground that they were δορύκτητοι, “taken with his sword and with his bow.”10 Yet again, we read that Joshua,c when he sent away the children of Manasseh, presented them with the spoil of their enemies as a mark of honour, and furthermore declared that this was a reward for services rendered. David, also, in referring to that part of the spoil which he was sending to his friends, the elders of Judah, entrusted it to them with these words:d “Behold a present for you of the spoil of the enemies of the Lord. . . .”
Senecae lists among benefactions of prime importance, the transmission of “wealth seized by right of war” to one who is impoverished, and the enrichment of that same impoverished person “with spoils actually taken from the enemy, the most splendid of gifts in the eyes of a military hero.”11 Moreover, if we turn to the ranks of the jurists, we find that Accursiusa does not hesitate to say that whatever we have obtained in this manner, by our own valour, is more truly ours than that which was bequeathed to us by our ancestors.
Now, as for those persons who readily admit that spoils may be retained by the state, but who do not make the same concession with respect to private individuals, their excessive subtlety—aside from the fact that it is supported by no logical argument—will be very neatly refuted if we recall here a conclusion whose truth has been demonstrated in another passageb and which may be stated as follows: in a primary and direct sense, property captured in a war that is conducted in accordance with a public mandate belongs to the state; but, even as it is just to purchase this same captured property from the state, so also its acceptance as a gift is honourable. Precisely for this reason, the portion allotted to individuals from the public spoils in recognition of valour is described by Homerc at times as κύδος, [an ornament of glory,] and at other times as γἑρας, [a gift of honour,] both being exceedingly honourable terms.
Therefore, since the States Assembly, by conceding the prize in question to the merchants, has testified to its belief that a splendid service has been rendered the state through the diligence and at the expense of the said merchants while at the same time the common enemy has found his strength diminished, and since the Assembly has also testified in this connexion that it wishes to repay the merchants out of the said prize as a token of gratitude, should not all acquisitions derived from this source be regarded as rewards for meritorious service to the fatherland? And what, pray, could be more honourable than such rewards?
Yet again, in what sense is it odious to obtain from the enemy merely enough to provide for the recovery of compensation for the losses and expenses already incurred or hereafter to be incurred in the process of fitting out and arming ships, from the very persons solely responsible for the need to make expenditures? For anyone who carefully considers the essential circumstances of the present case will find that this award differs not at all from those which are granted to us by a judicial decision covering both damages and costs, and which not infrequently have to be collected by resort even to armed force.
We may agree, then, that the following point has been established: even as acquisition of the prize was just, so there is no reason at all to hold that it is dishonourable to retain possession of the prize.
Here follows a discussion as to what is beneficial.
[a. ]Cicero, On Invention, II [iv, passim]; id., On Duties, I [ix. 62]; ibid. III [viii. 33–5]; Cicero, On Ends, I [xvi. 50]; Arist., On Virtues and Vices, at beg. [Eudemian Ethics, VII. xv].
[b. ]Arist., Rhetoric, I. ix .
[c. ]Arist., Nic. Ethics, V. iii [V. i. 15], citing an ancient poet.
[d. ]Alcibiades [I, p. 114 e].
[e. ]Arist., Rhetoric, I. ix .
[a. ]Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, V [ix. 26].
[b. ]Dig. L. xvii. 144; Cicero, For Balbus [iii. 8].
[c. ]Cicero, Academics, I [II. xliii. 132]; id., On Laws, I [xvii. 46]; id., On Duties, I [xiv. 42].
[d. ]Arist., Rhetoric, I. ix ; Cicero, On Ends, V [III. xi. 36].
[e. ]Arist., Rhetoric, I. ix [5–6].
[1. ]The bracketed phrase is introduced into the English sentence in order to preserve an essential element of Aristotle’s argument, since Aristotle is the only writer specifically cited by Grotius in regard to this point.
[a. ][10, lines 1 ff.]
[b. ]Horace [Odes, III. iii. 9–10].
[a. ]Arist., Nic. Ethics, V. iii [V. i. 15].
[b. ]I [ passim].
[c. ]I [II. xx. 71].
[d. ]Homer [Iliad, XXIV. 369].
[a. ]See Chap. iii, at end, supra, p. 67.
[b. ]On Duties, I. xxvii .
[2. ]Fortitudo, which in the Latin has the twofold connotation of “fortitude” and “courage,” and must be translated according to the context. In the preceding passages where this statement from Ambrose was cited, the English term “courage” was employed, as representing more accurately Ambrose’s meaning; in this particular context, however, the double connotation must be brought out in order to preserve the force of Grotius’s argument as well as the thought of Ambrose.
[c. ]Arist., Rhetoric, I. ix [24–5].
[3. ]In the Latin, these statements drawn from The “Art” of Rhetoric are all reproduced in the form of a direct quotation; but parts of the Latin passage are in reality a rather loose paraphrase, as is indicated by the distribution of the quotation marks in the present translation.
[d. ]In discussion of Law V, Chap. ii, supra, p. 32, and discussion of Concl. VII, Art. I, Chap. viii, supra, pp. 127 ff.
[4. ]A reference to the Digest appears in the margin of the MS. at this point. No doubt Grotius intended to delete it when he crossed out the corresponding passage in the text.
[a. ]On Mercy, I. ii .
[b. ]On Psalms, CVIII , and cited in Decretum, II. xxiii. 3. 1.
[5. ]The passage cited here from the Decretum refers specifically to the verse from Exodus (xxi. 24) which runs as follows: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
[c. ][Augustine, ibid. 7.]
[a. ]Decretum, I. lxxxiii. 5; Arias, De Bello, 37–8.
[b. ]On Psalms, LXXXI.
[c. ]On the City of God.
[d. ]On Psalms, CXVIII, sermon viii [vs. 58, § 25].
[e. ]Ambrose, On Duties, I. xxxvi .
[f. ]Against Catiline, IV [vi. 12].
[a. ]On the City of God, I. xxvi.
[6. ]Augustine was discussing the difference between slaughter committed by a soldier in obedience to orders received, and voluntary homicide on the part of the same soldier. Cf. the longer excerpt from this same passage, supra, p. 123.
[b. ]III [xl].
[c. ]The colloquy between Athenians and Melians in Thucydides, V [xcv, xcvii].
[a. ][Histories, VI. iii. 4.]
[b. ]Apuleius, On Plato [II, p. 615].
[c. ]Letters, cliv [xlvii. 5], To Publicola.
[d. ]Letters, To Lotharius.
[e. ]Against Petilianus, II.
[a. ][On Sophonias, i.]
[a. ]Virgil [Aeneid, X. 735].
[a. ]See on this distinction, Alphonso Guerrero In Speculum Principum, xlvi.
[7. ]I.e. incompatible with the two most important virtues included in the concept of what is honourable; see pp. 439–40, supra.
[a. ]On the Orator, I [l. 216].
[a. ][Supra, chap. xi, passim.]
[a. ]Livy, XXI [xix. 10].
[8. ]This was the answer returned by the Volciani, a Spanish tribe, to the Roman ambassadors who were seeking new allies against the Carthaginians, after Rome had failed to save Saguntum from complete destruction at the hands of Hannibal.
[a. ]III [xl. near end].
[b. ]Doctors, On Dig. XLVIII. xix. 10.
[a. ]Virgil [Aeneid IX. 138–39].
[9. ]Rostra, in the present context, has implications that call for this amplified interpretation in the English. The earlier meaning of the term (“beak” of a bird, animal, or ship) eventually resulted in the connotation “public stage,” “platform for public speakers,” because of the beaks of captured ships that were hung about the Roman Forum. Grotius obviously wishes to call to mind by means of the single word Rostra, both this later connotation and the custom from which it was derived.
[a. ]Genesis, xxii. 17; ibid. xxiv. 60.
[b. ]Ibid. xlviii, at end.
[10. ]δορύκτητοι, “won by the spear,” is rendered somewhat freely in order to reproduce as closely as possible the phraseology of the Biblical passage cited here by Grotius.
[c. ][ Joshua] xxii.
[d. ]1 Samuel, xxx. 26.
[e. ]On Benefits, III. xxxiii.
[11. ]Seneca, in the passage above cited, is referring specifically to the spoils handed over by Scipio to the latter’s father. Consequently, it would be inaccurate to present the whole of Grotius’s more general statement as a direct quotation, although it appears as such in the Latin text of the Commentary.
[a. ]Accursius, On Dig. XLIX. xv. 28.
[b. ]See Concl. IX, Art. II, Chap. x, supra, pp. 226 ff.
[c. ][e.g., Iliad, I. 122, 163.]