Hugo Grotius

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Grotius, Hugo

(grō`shəs), 1583–1645, Dutch jurist and humanist, whose Dutch name appears as Huigh de Groot. He studied at the Univ. of Leiden and became a lawyer when 15 years old. In Dutch political affairs Grotius supported OldenbarneveldtOldenbarneveldt, Johan van
, 1547–1619, Dutch statesman. He aided William the Silent in the struggle for Dutch independence from Spain and opposed the dictatorial policy set by Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, chosen by the States-General as governor-general in 1586.
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 against Maurice of NassauMaurice of Nassau
, 1567–1625, prince of Orange (1618–25); son of William the Silent by Anne of Saxony. He became stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland after the assassination (1584) of his father.
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. After Maurice gained power he had Grotius condemned (1619) to prison for life, but Grotius made a daring escape in 1621 and fled to Paris. There, expanding certain views he had earlier recorded but had never published, he wrote De jure belli ac pacis [concerning the law of war and peace] (1625, definitive ed. 1631), usually considered the first definitive text on international law. In it Grotius contended that natural law prescribes rules of conduct for nations as well as for private individuals. He derived much of the specific content of international law from the Bible and from classical history. Although he did not condemn war as an instrument of national policy, he maintained that it was criminal to wage war except for certain causes. Much of his book is an attempt to make the conditions of warfare more humane by inducing respect for private persons and their property. Grotius returned briefly to Holland in 1631, but was forced to flee in 1632. From 1635 to 1645 he represented Sweden at the French court. Although generally regarded as the founder of international law, Grotius was indebted for much of his work to earlier scholars, especially GentiliGentili, Alberico
, 1552–1608, Italian writer on international law. Forced to leave Italy because of his Protestantism, he went to England (1580), where he became regius professor of civil law, Oxford, and in 1605 became advocate for the king of Spain in the British
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. Grotius was also a leading student of theology and biblical criticism, and he wrote an authoritative account of contemporary Dutch political affairs.


See study by E. Durnbauld (1969).

Grotius, Hugo


(Huig de Groot). Born Apr. 10, 1583, in Delft; died Aug. 28, 1645, in Rostock. Dutch jurist, sociologist, and political figure. One of the founders of the theory of natural law and the subject of international law.

Grotius was condemned to life imprisonment in 1619 for participating in a political struggle. In 1621 he escaped to France; persecuted there by Richelieu, he settled in Sweden. His first important work, Freedom of the Seas (1609), defended the principle of freedom of the seas. This principle served the interests of Holland, which at that time was becoming a major sea power and was threatening the claims of England and Spain to domination of the seas. Grotius’ work On the Law of War and Peace (1625) is devoted to problems in international law, although general questions of state and law are also treated. Dividing law into natural law and the law of mankind, Grotius endowed these concepts with meanings different from those of classical and medieval thinkers. According to him, natural law is true in itself, and thus exists independently of divine will. The law of mankind is formed in the process of fulfilling the principles of natural law (avoiding encroachment on someone else’s property, observance of agreements, and punishment of crimes).

In Grotius’ opinion, the state comes into being as a result of the “societal nature of man,” and its emergence is preceded by the so-called social contract. Although he also wrote of god as the creator of all things, his theories were obviously anticlerical. His book was among those banned by the papal curia.

Grotius’ concept of international law is based on the general principles of his theory. Its basic propositions include replacing the pope’s authority with treaties between states, which would be observed by virtue of natural law, and the prohibition of unjust wars (that is, wars that violate certain rights). In addition, states at war would be obliged to refrain from destroying enemy property or committing unjust cruelties against the civilian population. Grotius also proposed the establishment of a permanent agency to settle disputes between states. The agency would have at its disposal means sufficiently effective to enforce its rulings.

Grotius’ theory created a basis for criticizing positive law from the standpoint of natural law, which ultimately contributed to the overthrow of feudalism. His doctrine was evidence of the emergence of the so-called juridical outlook, which, according to Engels, “was a theological outlook to which a secular character was imparted” (“Juridical Socialism,” K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 21, p. 496).


O prave voiny i mira, books 1–3. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from Latin.)


Istoriia politicheskikh uchenii. Moscow, 1965. Pages 215–18.


References in periodicals archive ?
90) The just war tradition goes back to famous writings of Saint Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Hugo Grotius, Suarez, Emmerich de Vattel.
Hugo Grotius, Prolegomena to HUGO GROTIUS, DE JURE BELLI AC PACIS LIBRI TRES 13 (Francis Kelsey trans.
Professor Frank Turner, a former provost of Yale, once asked me: "Is it true that Myres McDougal is the greatest international lawyer since Hugo Grotius, the founding father of international law?
In the 17th century, the Dutch legal expert Hugo Grotius came on the scene.
By orienting themselves so much to the ancient natural-law tradition, they miss the main point of the modern natural-law tradition (which includes such venerable figures as Hugo Grotius, Samuel Pufendorf, John Locke, and even David Hume), which was to refute the ever-present skeptics by providing a firm and unchallengeable foundation and progression for the arguments for justice.
It was a Dutch man, Hugo Grotius who, in his seminal work, titled De Jure Belli ac Pads Libri Tres (Of the Laws of War and Peace) published in 1623, wrote: "Throughout the Christian world, I observed a lack of restraint in relation to war, such as even barbarous races should be ashamed of.
Along with the later chapter on just-war theorist Hugo Grotius, the coverage of Cicero keeps the book fresh and unpredictable.
He examines what he describes as the three key prescriptive moments of this development: the foundational international legal works of Alberico Gentili and Hugo Grotius in the context of the wars against Catholic Spain in the 16th century, World War I, and World War II.
Playing the part of Thomas Hobbes to Doyle's Hugo Grotius, the historian of political thought Richard Tuck casts a skeptical eye over the notion that individual nations in an international state of nature can move from set procedures to agreed actions without an international sovereign to bang heads together.
The old canon is well-represented but many other figures make a more than fleeting appearance too, such as Michel de Montaigne, Francisco Suarez, Hugo Grotius, Pierre Gassendi, Nicholas Malebranche, Pierre Bayle, Samuel Pufendorf, and Thomas Reid.
This is an important recognition because it is possible to show the direct historical linkage of scholastic economics to the late-scholastic theologians in Spain through Leonard Lessius to Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and Samuel von Pufendorf (1632-1694) and through them to Gershom Carmichael, Francis Hutcheson, and Adam Smith.
Hugo Grotius and Jacob Arminius are more familiar figures who make an appearance here, and so is Roger Williams, the Cambridge-trained nonconformist who is best known for his role in placing the colony of Rhode Island on a foundation of religious liberty.