Vattel
Exerpts frm Vattel | Locke vs. Leibniz | Vattel's Natural Law | Law of Nations | Declaration of Independence | U.S. Constitution | Alexander Hamilton

Introduction

While preparing a presentation on the economic policies of Alexander Hamilton for chapter meetings of the LaRouche movement, I realized how badly Americans have been misled on their own nation's history. Most Americans, today, have no idea that there once existed something, commonly known as the ``American System.'' The vast majority of Americans today think of freedom as the equivalent of ``doing your own thing.'' Those who think of themselves as better educated are really no better off, believing that the Constitution of the United States came out of the tradition of John Locke's Social Contract. Alexander Hamilton, who had played a key role in shaping both the American economy and the Constitution of the United States, is commonly described as a man whose outlook was ``aristocratic.''

The myth that the founding of American Republic was based on the philosophy of John Locke could only have been maintained, because the history of Leibniz's influence was suppressed. The American Revolution was, in fact, a battle {against} the philosophy of Locke and the English utilitarians. Key to this struggle, was the work of the Eighteenth-century jurist, Emmerich de Vattel, whose widely read text, "The Law of Nations," guided the framing of the United States as the world's first constitutional republic. Vattel had challenged the most basic axioms of the Venetian party, which had taken over England before the time of the American Revolution, and it was from Vattel's {The Law of Nations,} more than anywhere else, that America's founders learned the Leibnizian natural law, which became the basis for the American System.

Virtually unknown today except amongst specialists, Emmerich de Vattel was born on April 25, 1714, in the principality of Neufchatel, which was part of Switzerland. He became an ardent student of Leibniz, and in 1741, published his first work, a defense of Leibniz, {Defense du systeme leibnitzien.} In another book analyzing the philosophy of Christian Wolff, Vattel showed that Christian charity is consistent with natural law. He demonstrated that Christ's instruction, ``Love your enemies,'' is proven by natural law. His most famous work, "The Law of Nations; or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns," was published in 1758. He also published a piece on tragedy and comedy, and a few poems.

In 1746, Vattel entered the diplomatic service of King Augustus III of Saxony, where he was appointed the chief adviser of the government on foreign affairs in 1758. Vattel remained in this position until his death in 1767.

Vattel's "The Law of Nations," was the most influential book on the law of nations for 125 years following its publication. The first English translation appeared in 1759. Numerous editions of {The Law of Nations} were printed in England during the Eighteenth century, which were widely read in the American Colonies, along with editions in the original French. The first American edition appeared in 1796. The book was reprinted nineteen times in America by 1872. It was reprinted at least fifty times in the years following its 1758 publication. By comparison, Hugo Grotius, who is currently described as the founder of modern international law, was reprinted only around five times during the hundred years following the appearance of Vattel's work. Grotius' fame had waned in the Nineteenth century, but was resurrected in the opening decades of the Twentieth century, through the efforts of especially the British and the Dutch. Grotius was, then, falsely promoted as the main representative of the law of nations as based on natural law, to serve as an Aristotelian foil for the establishment of an international law which was based upon Lockean positivism.

The majority of this essay will be devoted to reviewing the contents of Vattel's "The Law of Nations," and its documented impact on America's founding fathers. But, we must first review certain fundamental issues of law and the nation-state, as these were considered by G.W. Leibniz, and as they have been further developed by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.

For more information on this article, send me an email:

Robert Trout

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