Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER V: Of the Enemy, and of Things belonging to the Enemy. - 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.)
Return to Title Page for 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 Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHAPTER V: Of the Enemy, and of Things belonging to the Enemy. - 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).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The copyright to this edition, in both print and electronic forms, is held by Liberty Fund, Inc.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
Of the Enemy, and of Things belonging to the Enemy.
§69. Who is an enemy.The enemy is he with whom a nation is at open war. The Latins had a particular term (Hostis) to denote a public enemy, and distinguished him from a private enemy (Inimicus). Our language affords but one word for these two classes of persons, who ought nevertheless to be carefully distinguished. A private enemy is one who seeks to hurt us, and takes pleasure in the evil that befalls us. A public enemy forms claims against us, or rejects ours, and maintains his real or pretended rights by force of arms. The former is never innocent; he fosters rancour and hatred in his heart. It is possible that the public enemy may be free from such odious sentiments, that he does not wish us ill, and only seeks to maintain his rights. This observation is necessary in order to regulate the dispositions of our heart towards a public enemy.
§70. All the subjects of the two states at war are enemies,When the sovereign or ruler of the state declares war against another sovereign, it is understood that the whole nation declares war against another nation: for the sovereign represents the nation, and acts in the name of the whole society (Book I. §§40, 41); and it is only in a body, and in her national character, that one nation has to do with another. Hence, these two nations are enemies, and all the subjects of the one are enemies to all the subjects of the other. In this particular, custom and principles are in accord.
§71. and continue to be enemies in all places.Enemies continue such, wherever they happen to be. The place of abode is of no consequence here. It is the political ties which determine the character. Whilst a man continues a citizen of his own country, he is the enemy of all those with whom his nation is at war. But we must not hence conclude that these enemies may treat each other as such, wherever they happen to meet. Every one being master in his respective country, a neutral prince will not allow them to use any violence in his territories.
§72. Whether women and children are to be accounted enemies.Since women and children are subjects of the state, and mem-bers of the nation, they are to be ranked in the class of enemies. But it does not thence follow that we are justifiable in treating them like men who bear arms, or are capable of bearing them. It will appear in the sequel, that we have not the same rights against all classes of enemies.
§73. Things belonging to the enemyWhen once we have precisely determined who our enemies are, it is easy to know what are the things belonging to the enemy (res hostiles). We have shewn that not only the sovereign with whom we are at war is an enemy, but also his whole nation, even the very women and children. Every thing, therefore, which belongs to that nation,—to the state, to the sovereign, to the subjects, of whatever age or sex,—every thing of that kind, I say, falls under the description of things belonging to the enemy.
§74. continue such every-where.And, with respect to things, the case is the same as with respect to persons:—things belonging to the enemy continue such wherever they are. But we are not hence to conclude, any more than in the case of persons (§71), that we every-where possess a right to treat those things as things belonging to the enemy.
§75. Neutral things found with an enemy.Since it is not the place where a thing is, which determines the nature of that thing, but the character of the person to whom it belongs,— things belonging to neutral persons, which happen to be in an enemy’s country or on board an enemy’s ships, are to be distinguished from those which belong to the enemy. But it is the owner’s business to adduce evident proof that they are his property: for, in default of such proof, a thing is naturally presumed to belong to the nation in whose possession it is found.
§76. Lands possessed by foreigners in an enemy’s country.The preceding section relates to movable property: but the rule is different with respect to immovable possessions, such as landed estates. Since all these do in some measure belong to the nation, are part of its domain, of its territory, and under its government (Book I. §§204, 235, Book II. §114)—and since the owner is still a subject of the country as possessor of a landed estate,—property of this kind does not cease to be enemy’s property (res hostiles), though possessed by a neutral foreigner. Nevertheless, war being now carried on with so much moderation and indulgence, protections are granted for houses and lands possessed by foreigners in an enemy’s country. For the same reason, he who declares war does not confiscate the immovable property possessed in his country by his enemy’s subjects. By permitting them to purchase and possess such property, he has in that respect admitted them into the number of his subjects. But the income may be sequestrated, in order to prevent its being remitted to the enemy’s country.
§77. Things due to the enemy by a third party.Among the things belonging to the enemy, are likewise incorporeal things,—all his rights, claims, and debts, excepting however those kind of rights granted by a third party, and in which the grantor is so far concerned, that it is not a matter of indiffe-rence to him, in what hands they are vested. Such, for instance, are the rights of commerce. But as debts are not of this number, war gives us the same rights over any sums of money due by neutral nations to our enemy, as it can give over his other property.
When Alexander, by conquest, became absolute master of Thebes, he remitted to the Thessalians a hundred talents which they owed to the Thebans.* The sovereign has naturally the same right over what his subjects may owe to enemies. He may therefore confiscate debts of this nature, if the term of payment happen in the time of war; or at least he may prohibit his subjects from paying while the war continues. But at present, a regard to the advantage and safety of commerce has induced all the sovereigns of Europe to act with less rigour in this point. And as the custom has been generally received, he who should act contrary to it, would violate the public faith; for strangers trusted his subjects only from a firm persuasion that the general custom would be observed. The state does not so much as touch the sums which it owes to the enemy: money lent to the public is every-where exempt from confiscation and seizure in case of war.
[* ] Grotius, de Jure Belli & Pacis, lib. iii. cap. viii. §4.