Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XII: The Portuguese prohibition of trade has no foundation in equity - The Freedom of the Seas (Latin and English version, Magoffin trans.)
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CHAPTER XII: The Portuguese prohibition of trade has no foundation in equity - 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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The Portuguese prohibition of trade has no foundation in equity
From what has been said thus far it is easy to see the blind cupidity of those who in order not to admit any one else to a share in their gains, strive to still their consciences by the very arguments which the Spanish jurists, interested too in the same case, show to be absolutely empty. 1 For they intimate as clearly as they can that as regards India all the pretexts employed, are far fetched and unjust. They add that this right was never seriously approved by the swarm of theologians. Indeed, what is more unjust than the complaint made by the Portuguese that their profits are drained off by a freedom which is incompatible with their license? An incontrovertible rule of law lays down that a man who uses his own right is justly presumed to be contriving neither a deceit nor a fraud, in fact not even to be doing any one an injury. This is particularly true, if he has no intention to harm any one, but only to increase his own property. 2 For what ought to be considered is the chief and ultimate intent not the irrelevant consequence. Indeed, if we may with propriety agree with Ulpian, he is not doing an injury, but he is preventing some one from getting a profit which another was previously enjoying.
Moreover it is natural and conformable to the highest law as well as equity, that when a gain open to all is concerned every person prefers it for himself rather than for another, even if that other had already discovered it. 1 Who would countenance an artisan who complained that another artisan was taking away his profits by the exercise of the same craft? But the cause of the Dutch is the more reasonable, because their advantage in this matter is bound up with the advantage of the whole human race, an advantage which the Portuguese are trying to destroy. 2 Nor will it be correct to say, that this is done in rivalry, as Vasquez shows in a similar case. For clearly we must either deny or affirm that this is done not only in honorable but in most honorable rivalry, and, according to Hesiod, ‘This rivalry is honorable for mortal men’. 3 For, says Vasquez, if any one should be so moved by love for his fellow men that he sells grain in hard times for a lower price than usual, he would diminish the wicked oppression of those men who in the same season of cruel financial stringency would have sold their grain at a higher price than usual. But, some one will object, by such methods the profits of others will be made less. ‘We do not deny it’, says Vasquez, ‘but they are made less to the corresponding advantage of all other men. And would that the profits of all Rulers and Tyrants of this world could be thus lessened’!
Indeed can anything more unjust be conceived than for the Spaniards to hold the entire world tributary, so that it is not permissible either to buy or to sell except at their good pleasure? 4 In all states we heap odium upon grain speculators and even bring them to punishment; and in very truth there seems to be no other sort of business so disgraceful as that of forcing up prices in the grain market. 5 That is not to be wondered at, for such speculators are doing an injury to nature, who, as Aristotle says, is fertile for all alike. 1 Accordingly it ought not to be supposed that trade was invented for the benefit of a few, but in order that the lack of one would be counterbalanced by the oversupply of another, a fair return also being guaranteed to all who take upon themselves the work and the danger of transport.
Is the same thing then which is considered grievous and pernicious in the smaller community of a state to be put up with at all in that great community of the human race? Shall the people of Spain, forsooth, assume a monopoly of all the world? Ambrose inveighs against those who interfere with the freedom of the sea; 2 Augustine against those who obstruct the overland routes; and Gregory of Nazianzus 3 against those who buy goods and hold them, and thus (as he eloquently says) make profits for themselves alone out of the helplessness and need of others. Indeed in the opinion of this wise and holy man any person who holds back grain and thus forces up the market price ought to be given over to public punishment and be adjudged worthy of death.
Therefore the Portuguese may cry as loud and as long as they shall please: ‘You are cutting down our profits’! The Dutch will answer: ‘Nay! we are but looking out for our own interests! Are you angry because we share with you in the winds and the sea? Pray, who had promised that you would always have those advantages? You are secure in the possession of that with which we are quite content’.
[1 ]Vasquius, Controversiae illustres c. 10, n. 10; Victoria, De Indis I, 1, n. 3; Digest VI, 1. 27; L, 17, 55, 151; XLII, 8, 13; XXXIX, 2, 24; Bartolus on Digest XLIII, 12, 1; Castrensis on Code III, 34, 10; Digest XXXIX, 3, 1.
[2 ]Vasquius, Controversiae illustres c. 4, n. 3 ff.; Digest XXXIX, 2, 26.
[1 ]Vasquius, same reference.
[2 ]Vasquius, same reference, n. 5.
[3 ]In his Works and Days [The entire passage as translated by A. W. Mair (Oxford translation, page 1) is: “For when he that hath no business looketh on him that is rich, he hasteth to plow and to array his house: and neighbour vieth with neighbour hasting to be rich: good is this Strife for men.”].
[4 ]Code IV, 59.
[5 ]Cajetan on Thomas Aquinas, Summa II. II, q. 77, a. 1, ad 3.
[1 ]Politics I, 9.
[2 ]Hexameron V, 10, 4, q. 44.
[3 ]In funere Basilii.