Three volumes contain Grotius' classic text, originally published in 1625, in which he grounds his ideas about the state, the individual, and rights in ""the design of the Creator"" as manifested in the natural world, emphasizing self defense and self preservation.
This Liberty Fund edition based on the English text of 1738, containing extensive commentary by Jean Barbeyrac—also includes the Prolegomena to the first edition, a document heretofore untranslated into English.
An introduction and annotations by Tuck (government, Harvard U.) provide context and highlight differences between the first and second editions.
Of the Obligation that arises from Property.
I. 1. Having declared what Right we have over Things or Persons, as much as serves to our Purpose, let us now see what Obligation to us does from thence arise. Now this Obligation arises either from. Things now in Being (un-<273>der the Name of Things, I shall comprehend the Right we have over Persons too, so far as we can receive any Benefit from it) or from Things not in Being.
2. From Things now in Being this Obligation naturally arises, that he who has in his Hands what belongs to me, should endeavour all he can, to have it come into my Possession; all he can, I say, for he is not obliged to an Impossibility, nor to restore it at his own Charge; but he is obliged to signify it, that I may recover my own if I please. For as there was an Equality to be observed in that State, where all Things were common, that one as well as another might have the Liberty of using what was common; so as soon as ever Property was introduced, there was a Sort of mutual Engagement, tacitly agreed on among the Proprietors, that if one Man should get another Man’s Goods, he should be obliged to restore them to the Owner; for if the Power of Property reached no farther than to have a Thing restored upon demand, Property would have been too weakly secured, and the keeping of it too expensive.
Hugo Grotius (10 April 1583 – 28 August 1645), also known as Huig de Groot, Hugo Grocio or Hugo de Groot, was a jurist in the Dutch Republic. With Francisco de Vitoria and Alberico Gentili he laid the foundations for international law, based on natural law. He was also a philosopher, theologian, Christian apologist, playwright, and poet.
Grotius's influence on international law is paramount, and is acknowledged by, for instance, the American Society of International Law, which since 1999 holds an annual series of Grotius Lectures.
In The Free Sea (Mare Liberum, published 1609) Grotius formulated the new principle that the sea was international territory and all nations were free to use it for seafaring trade. Grotius, by claiming 'free seas' (Freedom of the seas), provided suitable ideological justification for the Dutch breaking up of various trade monopolies through its formidable naval power (and then establishing its own monopoly).
England, competing fiercely with the Dutch for domination of world trade, opposed this idea and claimed That the Dominion of the British Sea, or That Which Incompasseth the Isle of Great Britain, is, and Ever Hath Been, a Part or Appendant of the Empire of that Island. William Welwod, a Scottish jurist who was the first to formulate the laws of the sea in the English language, argued against Grotius' Mare Liberum in An Abridgement of All Sea-Lawes (1613), eliciting a response from Grotius around 1615 under the title Defensio capitis quinti Maris Liberi oppugnati a Gulielmo Welwodo ("Defense of chapter five of the 'Free Oceans,' opposed by William Welwod"). In Mare clausum (1635) John Selden endeavoured to prove that the sea was in practice virtually as capable of appropriation as terrestrial territory.
As conflicting claims grew out of the controversy, maritime states came to moderate their demands and base their maritime claims on the principle that it extended seawards from land. A workable formula was found by Cornelius Bynkershoek in his De dominio maris (1702), restricting maritime dominion to the actual distance within which cannon range could effectively protect it. This became universally adopted and developed into the three-mile limit.
The dispute would eventually have important economic implications. The Dutch Republic supported the idea of free trade (even though it imposed a special trade monopoly on nutmeg and cloves in the Moluccas). England adopted the Act of Navigation (1651), forbidding any goods from entering England except on English ships. The Act subsequently led to the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652–1654).
Grotius' personal motto was Ruit hora ("Time is running away"); his last words were "By understanding many things, I have accomplished nothing."