Friday, March 2, 2012

The Law of Nations

The Law of Nations (French: Le droit des gens) is a work of political philosophy by Emerich de Vattel, published in 1758.

The book influenced many of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton. de Vattel's work was heavily influenced by Christian Wolff.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7]

Centuries after his death it was found that United States President George Washington had a number of overdue library books dating back over 221 years. One of them was The Law of Nations.[8][9]
Swiss editor Charles W.F. Dumas sent Benjamin Franklin three original French copies of the book. Franklin presented one copy to the Library Company of Philadelphia. On December 9, 1775, Franklin thanked Dumas:[10]
It came to us in good season, when the circumstances of a rising State make it necessary to frequently consult the Law of Nations.
Franklin also said that this book by Vattel, "has been continually in the hands of the members of our Congress now sitting".[11]

It provides at least a partial legal basis for modern conscription in the United States.[12] In the Selective Draft Law Cases (1918), upholding the Selective Service Act of 1917, the court stated:
It may not be doubted that the very conception of a just government and its duty to the citizen includes the reciprocal obligation of the citizen to render military service in case of need, and the right to compel it. Vattel, Law of Nations, book III, cc. 1 and 2. To do more than state the proposition is absolutely unnecessary in view of the practical illustration afforded by the almost universal legislation to that effect now in force.

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