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Hugo Grotius discusses the just causes of going to war, especially the idea that the capacity to wage war must be matched by the intent to do so (1625)

Grotius attempted to codify the historical, moral, and legal grounds for justly waging war against an enemy. Here are his thoughts on waging war against a perceived threat:

First therefore, the Dread (as we before observed) of our Neighbour’s encreasing Strength, is not a warrantable Ground for making War upon him. To justify taking up Arms in our own Defence, there ought to be a Necessity for so doing, which there is not, unless we are sure, with a moral Certainty, that he has not only Forces sufficient, but a full Intention to injure us.

    1. First therefore, the Dread (as we before observed) of our Neighbour’s encreasing Strength, is not a warrantable Ground for making War upon him. To justify taking up Arms in our own Defence, there ought to be a Necessity for so doing, which there is not, unless we are sure, with a moral Certainty, that he has not only Forces sufficient, but a full Intention to injure us.

      2. Wherefore their Opinion is not to be assented to, who maintain that it is lawful to bring War upon a neighbouring Prince, who, in his own Territories shall erect a Castle, or other fortified Place, which may some Time or other be detrimental to us, tho’ he is under no Obligation to the contrary by any previous Compact. For to remove such Apprehensions, we should apply ourselves to the raising such within our own Dominions, and look out for other Remedies, rather than immediately have Recourse to War. From whence it is deducible, that the War of the Romans against Philip King of Macedon, and of Lysimachus against Demetrius, if they had no other Cause (than this uncertain Fear) were not just. I am wonderfully pleased with that of Tacitus, about the Cauchi, They are a People of the greatest Repute and Figure in all Germany, and chuse to maintain their Grandeur by their Justice, living quiet, and keeping at Home; as free from Ambition as from Envy. They give no Occasion for Wars, committing neither Outrage nor Robbery; and what is a great Proof of their Valour, and their Strength, they preserve their Superiority, without Injury and Oppression: However, they are always in a Readiness for War, and can, if their Affairs require it, raise an Army in an Instant, being well provided with Men and Horses, and in the midst of Peace are equally respected and feared.

About this Quotation:

We first used a quotation from Grotius' The Rights of War and Peace in May 2004 and the edition we used was from 1901. Since then the marvelous three volume edition published by Liberty Fund and edited by Richard Tuck has appeared (2005) which supercedes all earlier editions and translations. In this quotation Grotius explores an important contemporary topic, when is it just to go to war?

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