"QUOTED EVERYWHERE IN THE COLONIES": GROTIUS' "MASTERPIECE… THE FOUNDATION OF MODERN INTERNATIONAL LAW" AND AN IMPORTANT INFLUENCE ON THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
GROTIUS, Hugo. His Three Books Treating of the Rights of War & Peace…. Translated into English by William Evats. London: Printed by M.W. for Thomas Basset, 1682. Folio (8 by 12-1/2 inches), contemporary full dark brown paneled calf, raised bands, remnants of paper spine label. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $6200.
First complete English translation of this cornerstone treatise on law and government, with engraved frontispiece portrait of Grotius and Evats and title page printed in red and black.
De Jure Belli ac Pacis, first published in Latin at Paris in 1625, proved to be Grotius' "masterpiece… and the questions which he put forward have come to be the basis of the ultimate view of law and society. This was the first attempt to lay down a principle of right, and a basis for society and government, outside Church or Scripture… Grotius' principle of an immutable law, which God can no more alter than a mathematical axiom, was the first expression of the 'droit naturel,' the natural law which exercised the great political theorists of the 18th century and is the foundation of modern international law" (PMM 125). Grotius' framing of a higher law that nations were to obey in their mutual relations later played an crucial role in the build-up to the American Revolution as he became a signal voice, one of those "quoted everywhere in the colonies, by everyone who claimed a broad awareness. In pamphlet after pamphlet the American writers cited… secular thinkers of the European Enlightenment," among them Locke, Montesquieu, Voltaire, and "Grotius… on the laws of nature and of nations, and on the principles of civil government. The pervasiveness of such citations is at times astonishing" (Bailyn, 27). "The name of Grotius must always be preeminent when we speak of the establishment of the law of nations as a distinct body of doctrine" (Pollock, Sources of International Law, 429). This English translation by Evats was preceded only by Barksdale's truncated 1654 translation, considered a "small and worthless abridgment" (Sweet & Maxwell I:361). Occasionally mispaginated (including gap in pagination from 220-361); text complete. Lowndes, 950. NYU, 570. PMM 125. Wing G2126. See Gephart I:3939. See Sowerby 1404. Owner ink signature; inscription on verso of frontispiece.
First and last free endpapers (blank) excised. Text generally clean, ink spatter to fore-edge. Light rubbing to corners, joints tender at spine head, cords holding, binding sound. A very good copy in contemporary calf.