Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER I: By the Law of Nations navigation is free to all persons whatsoever - The Freedom of the Seas (Latin and English version, Magoffin trans.)
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CHAPTER I: By the Law of Nations navigation is free to all persons whatsoever - 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).
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By the Law of Nations navigation is free to all persons whatsoever
My intention is to demonstrate briefly and clearly that the Dutch—that is to say, the subjects of the United Netherlands—have the right to sail to the East Indies, as they are now doing, and to engage in trade with the people there. I shall base my argument on the following most specific and unimpeachable axiom of the Law of Nations, called a primary rule or first principle, the spirit of which is self-evident and immutable, to wit: Every nation is free to travel to every other nation, and to trade with it.
God Himself says this speaking through the voice of nature; and inasmuch as it is not His will to have Nature supply every place with all the necessaries of life, He ordains that some nations excel in one art and others in another. Why is this His will, except it be that He wished human friendships to be engendered by mutual needs and resources, lest individuals deeming themselves entirely sufficient unto themselves should for that very reason be rendered unsociable? So by the decree of divine justice it was brought about that one people should supply the needs of another, in order, as Pliny the Roman writer says, 1 that in this way, whatever has been produced anywhere should seem to have been destined for all. Vergil also sings in this wise:
and in another place:
“Let others better mould the running mass Of metals,” etc. 3
Those therefore who deny this law, destroy this most praiseworthy bond of human fellowship, remove the opportunities for doing mutual service, in a word do violence to Nature herself. For do not the ocean, navigable in every direction with which God has encompassed all the earth, and the regular and the occasional winds which blow now from one quarter and now from another, offer sufficient proof that Nature has given to all peoples a right of access to all other peoples? Seneca 1 thinks this is Nature’s greatest service, that by the wind she united the widely scattered peoples, and yet did so distribute all her products over the earth that commercial intercourse was a necessity to mankind. Therefore this right belongs equally to all nations. Indeed the most famous jurists 2 extend its application so far as to deny that any state or any ruler can debar foreigners from having access to their subjects and trading with them. Hence is derived that law of hospitality which is of the highest sanctity; hence the complaint of the poet Vergil:
We know that certain wars have arisen over this very matter; such for example as the war of the Megarians against the Athenians, 1 and that of the Bolognese against the Venetians. 2 Again, Victoria 3 holds that the Spaniards could have shown just reasons for making war upon the Aztecs and the Indians in America, more plausible reasons certainly than were alleged, if they really were prevented from traveling or sojourning among those peoples, and were denied the right to share in those things which by the Law of Nations or by Custom are common to all, and finally if they were debarred from trade.
We read of a similar case in the history of Moses, 4 which we find mentioned also in the writings of Augustine, 5 where the Israelites justly smote with the edge of the sword the Amorites because they had denied the Israelites an innocent passage through their territory, a right which according to the Law of Human Society ought in all justice to have been allowed. In defense of this principle Hercules attacked the king of Orchomenus in Boeotia; and the Greeks under their leader Agamemnon waged war against the king of Mysia 6 on the ground that, as Baldus 7 has said, high roads were free by nature. Again, as we read in Tacitus, 1 the Germans accused the Romans of ‘preventing all intercourse between them and of closing up to them the rivers and roads, and almost the very air of heaven’. When in days gone by the Christians made crusades against the Saracens, no other pretext was so welcome or so plausible as that they were denied by the infidels free access to the Holy Land. 2
It follows therefore that the Portuguese, even if they had been sovereigns in those parts to which the Dutch make voyages, would nevertheless be doing them an injury if they should forbid them access to those places and from trading there.
Is it not then an incalculably greater injury for nations which desire reciprocal commercial relations to be debarred therefrom by the acts of those who are sovereigns neither of the nations interested, nor of the element over which their connecting high road runs? Is not that the very cause which for the most part prompts us to execrate robbers and pirates, namely, that they beset and infest our trade routes?
[1 ]Panegyric 29, 2.
[2 ]Georgics II, 109 [Dryden’s translation, II, 154].
[3 ]Aeneid VI, 847–853 [Dryden’s translation, VI, 1168–1169].
[1 ]Natural Questions III, IV.
[2 ]Institutes II, 1; Digest I, 8, 4; cf. Gentilis, De jure belli I, 19; cf. Code IV, 63, 4 [Grotius refers particularly to his famous predecessor Albericus Gentilis (1552–1608), an Italian who came to England and was appointed to the chair of Regius Professor of Civil Law at Oxford. He published his De Jure Belli in 1558].
[3 ]Aeneid I, 539–540 [Dryden’s translation, I, 760–763].
[4 ]Aeneid VII, 229–230 [Dryden’s translation, VII, 313–314].
[1 ]Diodorus Siculus XI; Plutarch, Pericles XXIX, 4. [The Athenian decree prohibiting the Megarians from trading with Athens or any part of the Athenian Empire was one of the leading causes of the Peloponnesian War.]
[2 ]Carlo Sigonio [(1523–1584), an Italian humanist, in his work] On the Kingdom of Italy.
[3 ]Victoria, De Indis II, n. 1–7; Covarruvias, in c. Peccatum, § 9, n. 4, ibi Quinta [Franciscus de Victoria (1480–1546), the famous Spanish Scholastic, a Dominican, and Professor of Theology at Salamanca from 1521 until his death. His thirteen Relectiones (De Indis is no. V) were published (‘vitiosa et corrupta’) in 1557 after his death; the 1686 Cologne edition is held to be the best.
[4 ]Numbers XXI, 21–26.
[5 ]Locutionum IV (on Numbers), 44; Estius, c. ult. 23, 4, 2 [Estius (?-1613) was a Dutch commentator on the Epistles of St. Paul and on the works of St. Augustine].
[6 ][Grotius refers to the Trachiniae of Sophocles, but probably from memory, for there is no such reference in that play.]
[7 ]Baldus de Ubaldis, Consilia III, 293 [Baldus (1327–1406) was a pupil of the great Bartolus].
[1 ]Histories IV, 64 [In connection with the revolt of Civilis].
[2 ]Andrea Alciati, Commentaria VII, 130; Covarruvias in c. Peccatum, p. 2 § 9; Bartolus on Code I, 11 [Alciati (1492–1550) was made Comes Palatinus by the Emperor Charles V, and offered a Cardinal’s hat by Pope Paul III, which he refused, but he did become a Protonotarius Apostolicus].