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Hugo Grotius

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) a renowned jurist in the Dutch Republic, laid the foundations for international law, based on natural law. He was also a philosopher, Christian apologist, playwright, and poet.

One of the pioneering natural rights theorists of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Grotius defined natural law as a perceptive judgement in which things are good or bad by their own nature. This was a break from Calvinist ideals, in that God was no longer the only source of ethical qualities. Grotius' conception of the nature of natural law is set forth in his De Jure Belli ac Pacis (On the Law of War and Peace), published in 1625.[1] 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.[2]

In Dutch political affairs Grotius supported Oldenbarneveldt against Maurice of Nassau . 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.[3]

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  1. Bill Uzgalis, Hugo Grotius in Western Philosophers, Oregon State online notes (2003).
  2. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, Columbia University Press, 2008.
  3. Ibid., Columbia Encyclopedia.

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