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Excerpts from Emmerich de Vattel's Law of Nations

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Human nature is based on the men aiding and assisting each other


Man is so formed by nature, that he cannot supply all his own wants, but necessarily stands in need of the intercourse and assistance of his fellow-creatures, whether for his immediate preservation, or for the sake of perfecting his nature, and enjoying such a life as is suitable to a rational being. This is sufficiently proved by experience. We have instances of persons, who, having grown up to manhood among the bears of the forest, enjoyed not the use of speech or of reason, but were, like the brute beasts, possessed only of sensitive faculties. We see moreover that nature has refused to bestow on men the same strength and natural weapons of defense with which she has
furnished other animals--having, in lieu of those advantages, endowed mankind with the faculties of speech and reason, or at least a capability of acquiring them by an intercourse with their fellow-creatures. Speech enables them to communicate with each other, to
give each other mutual assistance, to perfect their reason and
knowledge; and having thus become intelligent, they find a thousand
methods of preserving themselves, and supplying their wants. Each
individual, moreover, is intimately conscious that he can neither
live happily nor improve his nature without the intercourse and
assistance of others. Since, therefore, nature has thus formed mankind,
it is a convincing proof of her intention that they should communicate
with, and mutually aid and assist each other.

Hence is deduced the establishment of natural society among men.
The general law of that society is, that each individual should do for
the others everything which their necessities require, and which he can
perform without neglecting the duty that he owes to himself: a law
which all men must observe in order to live in a manner consonant to
their nature, and conformable to the views of their common Creator,-- a
law which our own safety, our happiness, our dearest interests, ought
to render sacred to every one of us.
({The Law of Nations,} Preliminaries, Sec. 10)

Excerpt from Book I, Chapter 11, of The Law of Nations
`To Procure the True Happiness of the Nation'

Let us continue to lay open the principal objects
of a good government. What we have said in the five
preceding chapters relates to the care of
providing for the necessities of the people, and
procuring plenty in the state: this is a point of
necessity; but it is not sufficient for the happiness of
a nation. Experience shows that a people may be unhappy
in the midst of all earthly enjoyments, and in the
possession of the greatest riches. Whatever may enable
mankind to enjoy a true and solid felicity, is a second
object that deserves the most serious attention of the
government. Happiness is the point where center all
those duties which individuals and nations owe to
themselves; and this is the great end of the law of
nature. The desire of happiness is the powerful spring
that puts man in motion: felicity is the end they all
have in view, and it ought to be the grand object of the
public will. It is then the duty of those who form this
public will, or of those who represent it--the rulers of
the nation--to labour for the happiness of the people,
to watch continually over it, and to promote it to the
utmost of their power.

To succeed in this, it is necessary to instruct the
people to seek felicity where it is to be found; that
is, in their own perfection,-- and to teach them the
means of obtaining it. The Sovereign cannot, then, take
too much pains in instructing and enlightening his
people, and in forming them to useful knowledge and wise
discipline. Let us leave a hatred of the sciences to the
despotic tyrants of the east: they are afraid of having
their people instructed, because they choose to rule
over slaves. But though they are obeyed with the most
abject submission, they frequently experience the
effects of disobedience and revolt. A just and wise
prince feels no apprehensions from the light of
knowledge: he knows that it is ever advantageous to a
good government. If men of learning know that liberty is
the natural inheritance of mankind; on the other hand
they are more fully sensible than their neighbours, how
necessary it is, for their own advantage, that this
liberty should be subject to a lawful authority:
--incapable of being slaves, they are faithful subjects.

The first impressions made on the mind are of the
utmost importance for the remainder of life. In the
tender years of infancy and youth, the human mind and
heart easily receive the seeds of good or evil. Hence
the education of the youth is one of the most important
affairs that deserve the attention of government. It
ought not to be entirely left to fathers. The most
certain way of forming good citizens is to found good
establishments for public education, to provide them
with able masters--direct them with prudence--and pursue
such mild and suitable measures, that the citizens will
not neglect to take advantage of them.

Who can doubt that the sovereign--the whole
nation--ought to encourage the arts and sciences? To say
nothing of the many useful inventions that strike the
eye of every beholder,-- literature and the polite arts
enlighten the mind and soften the manners: and if study
does not always inspire the love of virtue, it is
because it sometimes, and even too often, unhappily
meets with an incorrigibly viscious heart. The nation
and its conductors ought then to protect men of learning
and great artists, and to call forth talents by honours
and rewards.

{--Emmerich de Vattel, The Law of Nations, 1758}
{Book I, Chap. XI, Sec. 110-113: Second Object of a Good Government}

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