Front Page Titles (by Subject) Cvm svb hoc tempvs plvrimae Regis Hispaniarvm litterae in manvs nostras venissent, qvibvs ipsivs et Lvsitanorvm institvtvm manifeste detegitvr, operae pretivm visvm est ex iis, qvae pleraeqve eodem erant argvmento, binas in Latinvm sermonem translatas exh - The Freedom of the Seas (Latin and English version, Magoffin trans.)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Cvm svb hoc tempvs plvrimae Regis Hispaniarvm litterae in manvs nostras venissent, qvibvs ipsivs et Lvsitanorvm institvtvm manifeste detegitvr, operae pretivm visvm est ex iis, qvae pleraeqve eodem erant argvmento, binas in Latinvm sermonem translatas exh - Hugo Grotius, The Freedom of the Seas (Latin and English version, Magoffin trans.) 
*The Freedom of the Seas, or the Right Which Belongs to the Dutch to take part in the East Indian Trade, *Translated by Ralph Van Deman Magoffin, Introduction by James Brown Scott, Director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (New York: Oxford University Press, 1916).
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.
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.
Cvm svb hoc tempvs plvrimae Regis Hispaniarvm litterae in manvs nostras venissent, qvibvs ipsivs et Lvsitanorvm institvtvm manifeste detegitvr, operae pretivm visvm est ex iis, qvae pleraeqve eodem erant argvmento, binas in Latinvm sermonem translatas exhibere.
Domine Martine Alphonse de Castro, Prorex amice, ego Rex multam tibi salutem mitto:
Cum hisce litteris perveniet ad te exemplum typis impressum Edicti quod faciendum curavi, quo, ob rationes quas expressas videbis, aliasque meis rebus conducentes prohibeo commercium omne externorum in ipsis partibus Indiae aliisque regionibus transmarinis. Quandoquidem res haec est momenti atque usus maximi, et quae effici summa cum industria debeat, impero tibi, ut simulatque litteras has et edictum acceperis, publicationem eius omni diligentia procures in omnibus locis ac partibus istius imperi, idque ipsum quod edicto continetur exsequaris sine ullius personae exceptione, cuiuscumque qualitatis, aetatis, condicionisve sit, citra omnem moram atque excusationem, procedasque ad impletionem mandati via merae exsecutionis, nullo admisso impedimento, appellatione, aut gravamine in contrarium, cuiuscumque materiae generis aut qualitatis. Iubeo itaque hoc ipsum impleri per eos ministros ad quos exsecutio pertinet, iisque significari, non modo eos qui contra fecerint malam operam mihi navaturos, sed eosdem me puniturum privatione officiorum in quibus mihi serviunt.
Quia autem relatum est mihi commorari in istis partibus externos multos variarum nationum, Italos, Gallos, Germanos, Belgas, quorum pars maior, quantum intelligimus, eo venit per Persida et Turcarum imperium, non per hoc regnum, adversus quos si ex huius Edicti praescripto ac rigore procedatur, posse inde nonnullas difficultates sequi, si illi ad Mauros inimicos perfugiant, vicinisque munitionum mearum dispositionem indicent, rationesque monstrent quae rebus meis nocere possent, exsequi te hoc edictum volo prout res et tempus ferent, atque ea uti prudentia, qua illae difficultates evitentur, curando ut omnes externos in potestate tua habeas eosque custodias pro cuiusque qualitate, ita ut adversus imperium nostrum nihil valeant attentare, utque ergo omnino eum finem consequar quem hoc Edicto mihi proposui.
Scriptae Vlyssipone XXVIII Novembris, Anno MDCVI. Subsignatum erat Rex. Inscriptio. Pro Rege. Ad Dominum Martinum Alfonsum de Castro Consiliarium suum, et suum Proregem Indiae.
Prorex amice Rex multam salutem tibi mitto:
Etsi pro certo habeo tua praesentia, iisque viribus cum quibus in partes austrinas concessisti, perduelles Hollandos, qui illic haerent, nec minus indigenas qui eis receptum praebent, ita castigatos fore, ut nec hi, nec illi tale quicquam in posterum audeant; expediet tamen, ad res tuendas, ut iustam classem, eique operi idoneam, cum tu Goam redibis, in istis Maris partibus relinquas, eiusque imperium et summam praefecturam mandes Andreae Hurtado Mendosae, aut si quem ei muneri aptiorem iudicabis, quemadmodum pro tuo in me affectu confido, ea in re non aliud te respecturum quam quod rebus meis erit utilissimum.
Scriptae Madritii XXVII Ian. MDCVII. Signatum Rex. Inscriptio. Pro Rege. Ad Dominum Martinum Alfonsum de Castro suum Consiliarium, et suum Proregem Indiae.
TO THE RULERS AND TO THE FREE AND INDEPENDENT NATIONS OF CHRISTENDOM
The delusion is as old as it is detestable with which many men, especially those who by their wealth and power exercise the greatest influence, persuade themselves, or as I rather believe, try to persuade themselves, that justice and injustice are distinguished the one from the other not by their own nature, but in some fashion merely by the opinion and the custom of mankind. Those men therefore think that both the laws and the semblance of equity were devised for the sole purpose of repressing the dissensions and rebellions of those persons born in a subordinate position, affirming meanwhile that they themselves, being placed in a high position, ought to dispense all justice in accordance with their own good pleasure, and that their pleasure ought to be bounded only by their own view of what is expedient. This opinion, absurd and unnatural as it clearly is, has gained considerable currency; but this should by no means occasion surprise, inasmuch as there has to be taken into consideration not only the common fraily of the human race by which we pursue not only vices and their purveyors, but also the arts of flatterers, to whom power is always exposed.
But, on the other hand, there have stood forth in every age independent and wise and devout men able to root out this false doctrine from the minds of the simple, and to convict its advocates of shamelessness. For they showed that God was the founder and ruler of the universe, and especially that being the Father of all mankind, He had not separated human beings, as He had the rest of living things, into different species and various divisions, but had willed them to be of one race and to be known by one name; that furthermore He had given them the same origin, the same structural organism, the ability to look each other in the face, language too, and other means of communication, in order that they all might recognize their natural social bond and kinship. They showed too that He is the supreme Lord and Father of this family; and that for the household or the state which He had thus founded, He had drawn up certain laws not graven on tablets of bronze or stone but written in the minds and on the hearts of every individual, where even the unwilling and the refractory must read them. That these laws were binding on great and small alike; that kings have no more power against them than have the common people against the decrees of the magistrates, than have the magistrates against the edicts of the governors, than have the governors against the ordinances of the kings themselves; nay more, that those very laws themselves of each and every nation and city flow from that Divine source, and from that source receive their sanctity and their majesty.
Now, as there are some things which every man enjoys in common with all other men, and as there are other things which are distinctly his and belong to no one else, just so has nature willed that some of the things which she has created for the use of mankind remain common to all, and that others through the industry and labor of each man become his own. Laws moreover were given to cover both cases so that all men might use common property without prejudice to any one else, and in respect to other things so that each man being content with what he himself owns might refrain from laying his hands on the property of others.
Now since no man can be ignorant of these facts unless he ceases to be a man, and since races blind to all truth except what they receive from the light of nature, have recognized their force, what, O Christian Kings and Nations, ought you to think, and what ought you to do?
If any one thinks it hard that those things are demanded of him which the profession of a religion so sacred requires, the very least obligation of which is to refrain from injustice, certainly every one can know what his own duty is from the very demands he makes of others. There is not one of you who does not openly proclaim that every man is entitled to manage and dispose of his own property; there is not one of you who does not insist that all citizens have equal and indiscriminate right to use rivers and public places; not one of you who does not defend with all his might the freedom of travel and of trade.
If it be thought that the small society which we call a state cannot exist without the application of these principles (and certainly it cannot), why will not those same principles be necessary to uphold the social structure of the whole human race and to maintain the harmony thereof? If any one rebels against these principles of law and order you are justly indignant, and you even decree punishments in proportion to the magnitude of the offense, for no other reason than that a government cannot be tranquil where trespasses of that sort are allowed. If king act unjustly and violently against king, and nation against nation, such action involves a disturbance of the peace of that universal state, and constitutes a trespass against the supreme Ruler, does it not? There is however this difference: just as the lesser magistrates judge the common people, and as you judge the magistrates, so the King of the universe has laid upon you the command to take cognizance of the trespasses of all other men, and to punish them; but He has reserved for Himself the punishment of your own trespasses. But although He reserves to himself the final punishment, slow and unseen but none the less inevitable, yet He appoints to intervene in human affairs two judges whom the luckiest of sinners does not escape, namely, Conscience, or the innate estimation of oneself, and Public Opinion, or the estimation of others. These two tribunals are open to those who are debarred from all others; to these the powerless appeal; in them are defeated those who are wont to win by might, those who put no bounds to their presumption, those who consider cheap anything bought at the price of human blood, those who defend injustice by injustice, men whose wickedness is so manifest that they must needs be condemned by the unanimous judgment of the good, and cannot be cleared before the bar of their own souls.
To this double tribunal we bring a new case. It is in very truth no petty case such as private citizens are wont to bring against their neighbors about dripping eaves or party walls; nor is it a case such as nations frequently bring against one another about boundary lines or the possession of a river or an island. No! It is a case which concerns practically the entire expanse of the high seas, the right of navigation, the freedom of trade!! Between us and the Spaniards the following points are in dispute: Can the vast, the boundless sea be the appanage of one kingdom alone, and it not the greatest? Can any one nation have the right to prevent other nations which so desire, from selling to one another, from bartering with one another, actually from communicating with one another? Can any nation give away what it never owned, or discover what already belonged to some one else? Does a manifest injustice of long standing create a specific right?
In this controversy we appeal to those jurists among the Spanish themselves who are especially skilled both in divine and human law; we actually invoke the very laws of Spain itself. If that is of no avail, and those whom reason clearly convicts of wrong are induced by greed to maintain that stand, we invoke your majesty, ye Princes, your good faith, ye Peoples, whoever and wherever ye may be.
It is not an involved, it is not an intricate question that I am raising. It is not a question of ambiguous points of theology which seem to be wrapped in the deepest obscurity, which have been debated already so long and with such heat, that wise men are almost convinced that truth is never so rarely found as when assent thereto is forced. It is not a question of the status of our government and of independence not won by arms but restored. On this point those can reach a right decision who have an accurate knowledge of the ancestral laws and hereditary customs of the people of the Netherlands, and who have recognized that their state is not a kingdom illegally founded but is a government based upon law. In this matter, however, just judges no longer compelled to subordinate their convictions have been persuaded; the public authority of many nations has entirely satisfied those who were seeking a precedent; and the admissions of our adversaries have left even the foolish and malevolent no room for doubt.
But what I here submit has nothing in common with these matters. It calls for no troublesome investigation. It does not depend upon an interpretation of Holy Writ in which many people find many things they cannot understand, nor upon the decrees of any one nation of which the rest of the world very properly knows nothing.
The law by which our case must be decided is not difficult to find, seeing that it is the same among all nations; and it is easy to understand, seeing that it is innate in every individual and implanted in his mind. Moreover the law to which we appeal is one such as no king ought to deny to his subjects, and one no Christian ought to refuse to a non-Christian. For it is a law derived from nature, the common mother of us all, whose bounty falls on all, and whose sway extends over those who rule nations, and which is held most sacred by those who are most scrupulously just.
Take cognizance of this cause, ye Princes, take cognizance of it, ye Nations! If we are making an unjust demand, you know what your authority and the authority of those of you who are our nearer neighbors has always been so far as we are concerned. Caution us, we will obey. Verily, if we have done any wrong in this our cause, we will not deprecate your wrath, nor even the hatred of the human race. But if we are right, we leave to your sense of righteousness and of fairness what you ought to think about this matter and what course of action you ought to pursue.
If today the custom held of considering that everything pertaining to mankind pertained also to one’s self, we should surely live in a much more peaceable world. For the presumptuousness of many would abate, and those who now neglect justice on the pretext of expediency would unlearn the lesson of injustice at their own expense.
We have felt that perhaps we were not entertaining a foolish hope for our cause. At all events we are confident that you will all recognize after duly weighing the facts in the case that the delays to peace can no more be laid to our charge than can the causes of war; and as hitherto you have been indulgent, even favorably disposed to us, we feel sure that you will not only remain in this mind, but be even more friendly to us in the future. Nothing more to be desired than this can come to men who think that the first condition of happiness is good deeds; the second, good repute.