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23 Brit. Y.B. Int'l L. 1 (1946)
The Grotian Tradition in International Law

handle is hein.journals/byrint23 and id is 7 raw text is: THE GROTIAN TRADITION IN INTERNATIONAL LAW
Whewell Professor of International Law in the University of Cambridge
THE tercentenary of the death of Grotius-he died on 29 August 1645-
passed almost unnoticed in the literature of international law.' When com-
pared with the solemn prominence accorded twenty years before to the
three hundredth anniversary of the appearance of De Jure Belli ac Pacis,
that absence of remembrance of a life so rich in fame and achievement is
significant. It coincided with a period in which international law, after
having survived the fiercest assault ever made upon it, proved as yet unable
to impose its authority over the essentials of the new international system.7
At no time was it therefore more necessary than after the Second World
War. to sustain hope by drawing inspiration from works in which principle
has asserted itself against makeshifts. It is believed that instruction of this
kind may still be derived from the ideas which Grotius bequeathed to inter-
national law and which supply the key to the attraction and the influence
of his treatise in the course of centuries. This is so although the principal
work on which his fame rests may be faulty in its method, pretentious in
its learning, and, unless it is studied with a sense of historic perspective,
unreadable in the twentieth century. The object of this essay is to attempt
to supply that perspective through an estimate of his teaching in the light
of the enduring problems of international law. A survey of that nature is
bound to show that the contribution of Grotius is more than a mere link
in the evolution of thought; that there is about it a unity and a consistency
which transcend its evasions and contradictions; that it is representative
of the main problems with which international law has been confronted
since its inception; and that, upon final analysis, the true value of his
teaching is bound to assert itself over the repetitious and often uncritical
adulation which has threatened to obscure the true import of his work.
Admittedly, the significance of his achievement has been, and probably
will remain, a subject of controversy. Although the criticism is unlikely
to reach the low level of vituperation by Rousseau,3 and some lesser writers,4
Professor Lee's article in Law Quarterly Review, 62 (1946), pp. 53-7, is a notable exception.
It was with some difficulty that the authors of the Charter of the United Nations were
persuaded to assign to international law a place within the scheme of the United Nations. The
view is widely held that, conceived in the spirit of realism, the Charter in many respects preferred
order to law.
3 Contrat Social, Book I, chs. ii and iv. He reproaches Grotius with favouring tyrants and
says: 'His constant way of reasoning is to establish law by reference to the facts' (ch. ii). See
below, p. 45.
4 See, e.g., Dugald Stewart's outspoken criticism expressed in his first Dissertation on the
Progress of Philosophy, and answered by Hallam, Introduction to the Literature of Europe (1839),
vol. iii, pp. 439 ft.

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