Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VIII: Rules with respect to Foreigners. - The Law of Nations, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns, with Three Early Essays on the Origin and Nature of Natural Law and on Luxury (LF ed.)
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CHAPTER VIII: Rules with respect to Foreigners. - Emer de Vattel, The Law of Nations, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns, with Three Early Essays on the Origin and Nature of Natural Law and on Luxury (LF ed.) 
The Law of Nations, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns, with Three Early Essays on the Origin and Nature of Natural Law and on Luxury, edited and with an Introduction by Béla Kapossy and Richard Whitmore (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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Rules with respect to Foreigners.
§99. General idea of the conduct the state ought to observe towards foreigners.We have already treated (Book I. §213) of the inhabitants, or persons who reside in a country where they are not citizens. We shall here treat only of those foreigners who pass through or sojourn in a country, either on business, or merely as travellers. The relation that subsists between them and the society in which they now live,—the objects of their journey and of their temporary residence,—the duties of humanity,—the rights, the interest, and the safety of the state which harbours them,—the rights of that to which they belong,—all these prin-ciples, combined and applied according to cases and circumstances, serve to determine the conduct that ought to be observed towards them, and to point out our right and our duty with respect to them. But the intention of this chapter is not so much to shew what humanity and justice require towards foreigners, as to establish the rules of the law of nations on this subject,—rules tending to secure the rights of all parties, and to prevent the repose of nations being disturbed by the quarrels of individuals.
§100. Entering the territory.Since the lord of the territory may, whenever he thinks proper, forbid its being entered (§94), he has no doubt a power to annex what conditions he pleases to the permission to enter. This, as we have already said, is a consequence of the right of domain. Can it be necessary to add, that the owner of the territory ought in this instance to respect the duties of humanity? The case is the same with all rights whatever: the proprietor may use them at his discretion; and, in so doing, he does not injure any person: but if he would be free from guilt, and keep his conscience pure, he will never use them but in such manner as is most conformable to his duty. We speak here in general of the rights which belong to the lord of the country, reserving for the following chapter the examination of the cases in which he cannot refuse an entrance into his territory; and we shall see in Chap. X. how his duty towards all mankind obliges him on other occasions to allow a free passage through, and a residence in, his state.
If the sovereign annexes any particular condition to the permission to enter his territories, he ought to have measures taken to make foreigners acquainted with it, when they present themselves on the frontier. There are states, such as China, and Japan, into which all foreigners are forbid to penetrate without an express permission: but in Europe the access is every where free to every person who is not an enemy of the state, except, in some countries, to vagabonds and outcasts.
§101. Foreigners are subject to the laws.But even in those countries which every foreigner may freely enter, the sovereign is supposed to allow him access only upon this tacit condition, that he be subject to the laws,—I mean the general laws made to maintain good order, and which have no relation to the title of citizen, or of subject of the state. The public safety, the rights of the nation and of the prince, necessarily require this condition; and the foreigner tacitly submits to it, as soon as he enters the country, as he cannot presume that he has access upon any other footing. The sovereignty is the right to command in the whole country; and the laws are not simply confined to regulating the conduct of the citizens towards each other, but also determine what is to be observed by all orders of people throughout the whole extent of the state.
§102. And punishable according to the laws.In virtue of this submission, foreigners who commit faults, are to be punished according to the laws of the country. The object of punishment is to cause the laws to be respected, and to maintain order and safety.
§103. Who is the judge of their disputes.For the same reason, disputes that may arise between foreigners, or between a foreigner and a citizen, are to be determined by the judge of the place, and according to the laws of the place. And as the dispute properly arises from the refusal of the defendant, who maintains that he is not bound to perform what is required of him, it follows from the same principle, that every defendant ought to be prosecuted before his own judge, who alone has a right to condemn him, and compel him to the performance. The Swiss have wisely made this rule one of the articles of their alliance, in order to prevent the quarrels that might arise from abuses that were formerly too frequent in relation to this subject. The defendant’s judge is the judge of the place where that defendant has his settled abode, or the judge of the place where the defendant is, when any sudden difficulty arises, provided it does not relate to an estate in land, or to a right annexed to such an estate. In this last case, as property of that kind is to be held according to the laws of the country where it is situated, and as the right of granting possession is vested in the ruler of the country,—disputes relating to such property can only be decided in the state on which it depends.
We have already shewn (§84) how the jurisdiction of a nation ought to be respected by other sovereigns, and in what cases alone they may interfere in the causes of their subjects in foreign countries.
§104. Protection due to foreigners.The sovereign ought not to grant an entrance into his state for the purpose of drawing foreigners into a snare: as soon as he admits them, he engages to protect them as his own subjects, and to afford them perfect security, as far as depends on him. Accordingly we see that every sovereign who has given an asylum to a foreigner, considers himself no less offended by an injury done to the latter, than he would be by an act of violence committed on his own subject. Hospitality was in great honour among the ancients, and even among barbarous nations, such as the Germans. Those savage nations who treated strangers ill, that Scythian tribe who sacrificed them to Diana,* were universally held in abhorrence; and Grotius justly says† that their extreme ferocity excluded them from the great society of mankind. All other nations had a right to unite their forces in order to chastise them.
§105. Their duties.From a sense of gratitude for the protection granted to him, and the other advantages he enjoys, the foreigner ought not to content himself with barely respecting the laws of the country; he ought to assist it upon occasion, and contribute to its defence, as far as is consistent with his duty as citizen of another state. We shall see elsewhere what he can and ought to do, when the country is engaged in a war. But there is nothing to hinder him from defending it against pirates or robbers, against the ravages of an inundation, or the devastations of fire. Can he pretend to live under the protection of a state, to participate in a variety of advantages that it affords, and yet make no exertion for its defence, but remain an unconcerned spectator of the dangers to which the citizens are exposed?
§106. To what burdens they are subject.He cannot indeed be subject to those burdens that have only a relation to the quality of citizens; but he ought to bear his share of all the others. Being exempted from serving in the militia, and from paying those taxes destined for the support of the rights of the nation, he will pay the duties imposed upon provisions, merchandise, &c. and, in a word, every thing that has only a relation to his residence in the country, or to the affairs which brought him thither.
§107. Foreigners continue members of their own nation.The citizen or the subject of a state who absents himself for a time without any intention to abandon the society of which he is a member, does not lose his privilege by his absence: he preserves his rights, and remains bound by the same obligations. Being received in a foreign country, in virtue of the natural society, the communication, and commerce, which nations are obliged to cultivate with each other (Prelim. §§11 and 12; Book II. §21), he ought to be considered there as a member of his own nation, and treated as such.
§108. The state has no right over the person of a foreigner;The state, which ought to respect the rights of other nations, and in general those of all mankind, cannot arrogate to herself any power over the person of a foreigner, who, though he has entered her territory, has not become her subject. The foreigner cannot pretend to enjoy the liberty of living in the country without respecting the laws: if he violates them, he is punishable as a disturber of the public peace, and guilty of a crime against the society in which he lives: but he is not obliged to submit, like the subjects, to all the commands of the sovereign: and if such things are required of him as he is unwilling to perform, he may quit the country. He is free at all times to leave it; nor have we a right to detain him, except for a time, and for very particular reasons, as, for instance, an apprehension, in war time, lest such foreigner, acquainted with the state of the country and of the fortified places, should communicate his knowledge to the enemy. From the voyages of the Dutch to the East Indies, we learn that the kings of Corea forcibly detain foreigners who are ship-wrecked on their coast; and Bodinus assures us,* that a custom so contrary to the law of nations was practised in his time in Aethiopia, and even in Muscovy. This is at once a violation of the rights of individuals, and of those of the state to which they belong. Things have been greatly changed in Russia; a single reign—that of Peter the Great—has placed that vast empire in the rank of civilised nations.
§109.nor over his property.The property of an individual does not cease to belong to him on account of his being in a foreign country; it still constitutes a part of the aggregate wealth of his nation (§81). Any power, therefore, which the lord of the territory might claim over the property of a foreigner, would be equally derogatory to the rights of the individual owner, and to those of the nation of which he is a member.
§110. Who are the heirs of a foreigner.Since the foreigner still continues to be a citizen of his own country, and a member of his own nation (§107), the property he leaves at his death in a foreign country ought naturally to devolve to those who are his heirs according to the laws of the state of which he is a member. But, notwithstanding this general rule, his immovable effects are to be disposed of according to the laws of the country where they are situated (see §103).
§111. Will of a foreigner.As the right of making a will, or of disposing of his fortune in case of death, is a right resulting from property, it cannot, without injustice, be taken from a foreigner. The foreigner therefore, by natural right, has the liberty of making a will. But it is asked by what laws he is obliged to regulate himself either in the form of his testament or in the disposal of his property? 1. As to the form or solemnities appointed to settle the validity of a will, it appears that the testator ought to observe those that are established in the country where he makes it, unless it be otherwise ordained by the laws of the state of which he is a member; in which case he will be obliged to observe the forms which they prescribe, if he would validly dispose of the property he possesses in his own country. I speak here of a will which is to be opened in the place where the person dies: for if a traveller makes his will, and sends it home under seal, it is the same thing as if it had been written at home; and in this case it is subject to the laws of his own country. 2. As to the bequests themselves, we have already observed that those which relate to immovables ought to be conformable to the laws of the country where those immovables are situated. The foreign testator cannot dispose of the goods, movable or immovable, which he possesses in his own country, otherwise than in a manner conformable to the laws of that country. But as to movable goods, specie, and other effects which he possesses elsewhere, which he has with him, or which follow his person, we ought to distinguish between the local laws whose effect cannot extend beyond the territory, and those laws which peculiarly affect the character of citizen. The foreigner remaining a citizen of his own country, is still bound by those last-mentioned laws, wherever he happens to be, and is obliged to conform to them in the disposal of his personal property, and all his movables whatsoever. The laws of this kind made in the country where he resides at the time, but of which he is not a citizen, are not obligatory with respect to him. Thus, a man who makes his will and dies in a foreign country, cannot deprive his widow of the part of his movable effects assigned to that widow by the laws of his own country. A Genevan, obliged by the law of Geneva to leave a dividend of his personal property to his brothers or his cousins, if they be his next heirs, cannot deprive them of it by making his will in a foreign country, while he continues a citizen of Geneva: but a foreigner dying at Geneva is not obliged, in this respect, to conform to the laws of the republic. The case is quite otherwise with respect to local laws: they regulate what may be done in the territory, and do not extend beyond it. The testator is no longer subject to them when he is out of the territory; and they do not affect that part of his property which is also out of it. The foreigner is obliged to observe those laws in the country where he makes his will, with respect to the goods he possesses there. Thus, an inhabitant of Neufchatel, to whom entails are forbidden in his own country with respect to the property he possesses there, freely makes an entail of the estate he possesses out of the jurisdiction of the country, if he dies in a place where entails are allowed; and a foreigner making a will at Neufchatel cannot make an entail of even the movable property he possesses there,—unless indeed we may suppose that his movable property is excepted by the spirit of the law.
§112. Escheatage.What we have established in the three preceding sections is sufficient to shew with how little justice the crown, in some states, lays claim to the effects left there by a foreigner at his death. This practice is founded on what is called Escheatage, by which foreigners are excluded from all inheritances in the state, either of the property of a citizen or that of an alien, and consequently cannot be appointed heirs by will, nor receive any legacy. Grotius justly observes that this law has descended to us from those ages when foreigners were almost considered as enemies.* Even after the Romans were become a very polite and learned people, they could not accustom themselves to consider foreigners as men entitled to any right in common with them. “Those nations,” says Pomponius the civilian,23 “with whom we have neither friendship, nor hospitality, nor alliance, are not therefore our enemies: yet if any thing belonging to us falls into their hands, it becomes their property; our free citizens become slaves to them: and they are on the same terms with respect to us.”* We cannot suppose that so wise a people retained such inhuman laws with any other view than that of a necessary retaliation, as they could not otherwise obtain satisfaction from barbarous nations with whom they had no connection or treaties existing. Bodinus shews† that Escheatage is derived from these worthy sources! It has been successively mitigated, or even abolished in most civilised states. The emperor Frederic II. first abolished it by an edict, which permitted all foreigners dying within the limits of the empire to dispose of their substance by will, or, if they died intestate, to have their nearest relations for heirs.‡ But Bodinus complains that this edict is but ill executed. Why does there still remain any vestige of so barbarous a law in Europe, which is now so enlightened and so full of humanity? The law of nature cannot suffer it to be put in practice, except by way of retaliation. This is the use made of it by the king of Poland in his hereditary states. Escheatage is established in Saxony: but the sovereign is so just and equitable, that he enforces it only against those nations which subject the Saxons to a similar law.
§113. The right of traite foraine.The right of traite foraine (called in Latin jus detractûs) is more conformable to justice, and the mutual obligation of nations. We give this name to the right by virtue of which the sovereign retains a moderate portion of the property either of citizens or aliens which is sent out of his territories to pass into the hands of foreigners. As the exportation of that property is a loss to the state, she may fairly receive an equitable compensation for it.
§114. Immovable property possessed by an alien.Every state has the liberty of granting or refusing to foreigners the power of possessing lands or other immovable property within her territory. If she grants them that privilege, all such property, possessed by aliens, remains subject to the jurisdiction and laws of the country, and to the same taxes as other property of the same kind. The authority of the sovereign extends over the whole territory; and it would be absurd to except some parts of it, on account of their being possessed by foreigners. If the sovereign does not permit aliens to possess immovable property, nobody has a right to complain of such prohibition; for he may have very good reasons for acting in this manner: and as foreigners cannot claim any right in his territories (§79), they ought not to take it amiss that he makes use of his power and of his rights in the manner which he thinks most for the advantage of the state. And as the sovereign may refuse to foreigners the privilege of possessing immovable property, he is doubtless at liberty to forbear granting it except with certain conditions annexed.
§115. Marriages of aliens.There exists no natural impediment to prevent foreigners from contracting marriages in the state. But if these marriages are found prejudicial or dangerous to a nation, she has a right, and is even in duty bound to prohibit them, or to subject to certain conditions the permission to contract them: and as it belongs to the nation or to her sovereign to determine what appears most conducive to the welfare of the state, other nations ought to acquiesce in the regulations which any sovereign state has made on this head. Citizens are almost every-where forbid to marry foreign wives of a different religion; and in many parts of Switzerland a citizen cannot marry a foreign woman, unless he prove that she brings him in marriage a certain sum fixed by the law.
[* ] The Taurians. See Grotius de Jure Belli et Pacis, lib. ii. cap. xx. §xl. n. 7.
[† ] Ibid.
[* ] In his Republic, book i. chap. vi.
[* ] De Jure Belli et Pacis, lib. ii. cap. vi. §14.
[23. ] Titus Pomponius Atticus, ca. 110–32 bc, Roman nobleman and patron of letters, close friend of Cicero.
[* ] Digest [[of Justinian, lib. xix. tit xv. De Captivis & Postlimin.]]
[† ] His Republic, book i. chap. vi.
[‡ ] Ibid.