[a/k/a HUIG DE GROOT]ADVOCATE-GENERAL OF HOLLAND AND ZEELAND
THE LAW OF
WAR AND PEACE
IN THREE BOOKS (1625)
Translated into English by Francis W. Kelsey (1925)
with the collaboration of
Arthur E. R. Boak, Henry A. Sanders,
Jesse S. Reeves and Herbert F. Wright
Spelling has been modernized.
This electronic edition
© Copyright 2003, 2005 Lonang Institute
TO THE MOST CHRISTIAN KING OF FRANCE
MOST eminent of Kings: This work presumes to inscribe your revered name in dedication because of confidence not in itself, nor in its author, but in its theme. For it has been written on behalf of justice, a virtue in so distinguishing a manner yours that in consequence, both from your own merits and from the general recognition of mankind, you have received a surname truly worthy of so great a king; you are now everywhere known by the name of just no less than that of Louis. To the generals of ancient Rome titles drawn from the names of conquered peoples, from Crete, Numidia, Africa, Asia, and other lands, seemed the height of glory; but how much more glorious is your title, by which you are designated as an enemy everywhere, and vanquisher always, not of a nation, or of a person, but of that which is unjust!
The kings of Egypt thought it a great thing if men could say of them that one was devoted to his father, another to his mother, still another to his brothers. But of how slight moment are such particulars in the case of your title, which in its scope embraces not only such traits but all else that can be conceived as beautiful and virtuous! You are just, when you honor the memory of your father, a king great beyond characterization, by following in his footsteps; Just, when you train your brother in all possible ways, but in no way more effectively than by your own example; just, when you arrange marriages of the utmost distinction for your sisters; Just, when you call back to life laws that are on the verge of burial, and with all your strength set yourself against the trend of an age which is rushing headlong to destruction; Just, but at the same time merciful, when from subjects, whom a lack of knowledge of your goodness has turned aside from the path of duty, you take away nothing except the opportunity to do wrong, and when you offer no violence to souls that hold views different from your own in matters of religion; Just, and at the same time compassionate, when by the exercise of your authority you lighten the burdens of oppressed peoples and of downcast princes, and do not suffer too much to be left to Fortune.
Such extraordinary kindness, characteristic of you, and as like to that of God as the limitations of human nature permit, constrains me as an individual and on my own behalf to offer to you thanks even in this public dedication. For just as the heavenly bodies not only flood the vast expanses of the universe but suffer their force to descend to each living thing, so you, a most beneficent star upon the earth, not content to lift up princes and to succor peoples, willed to become a protection and solace also to me, who had been badly treated in my native country.
In order to complete the sum of virtues comprised in justice, to your acts of a public nature we must add the blamelessness and purity of your private life, which are worthy to be admired not alone by men but even by the spirits of heaven. For how many of the common run of mankind, how many even of those who have cut themselves off from the world, are found to be as free from all faults as you are, though you occupy a station in life which is beset on all sides with innumerable enticements to wrongdoing? How great a thing it is in the midst of affairs, among the crowd, at the Court, surrounded by men who set examples of wrongdoing in so many different ways, to attain to that uprightness of character which to others, even in seclusion, comes with difficulty, and often not at all! This truly is to deserve not only the name of just but even, while you are still living, that of Saint, which the unanimous agreement of good men conferred after death upon your ancestors Charlemagne and Louis; this is to be in very truth Most Christian, not merely by a right inhering in your lineage but by a right inhering in yourself.
But while no aspect of justice is foreign to you, that nevertheless with which the matter of this work is concerned-the principles underlying war and peace-is in a peculiar sense your province because you are a king, and further, because you are King of France. Vast is this realm of yours, which stretches from sea to sea, across so many prosperous lands so great in extent; but you possess a kingdom greater than this, in that you do not covet kingdoms belonging to others. It is worthy of your devotion to duty, worthy of your exalted estate, not to attempt to despoil any one of his rights by force of arms, not to disturb ancient boundaries; but in war to continue the work of peace and not to commence war save with the desire to end it at the earliest possible moment.
How noble it will be, how glorious, how joyful to your conscience, when God shall some day summon you to His kingdom, which alone is better than yours, to be able with boldness to say: ‘This sword I received from Thee for the defense of justice, this I give back to Thee guilty of no blood rashly shed, stainless and innocent.’ Hence it will come to pass that the rules which we now seek to draw from books will in the future be drawn from your acts as from a complete and perfect exemplification.
This will be a very great achievement. Yet the peoples of Christian lands are so bold as to ask of you something further, that, with the extinction of warfare, everywhere, through your initiative peace may come again, not only to the nations but also to the churches, and that our time may learn to subject itself to the discipline of that age which all we who are Christians acknowledge in true and sincere faith to have been Christian. Our hearts, wearied with strifes, are encouraged to such a hope by the friendship lately entered into between you and the King of Great Britain, who is most wise and singularly devoted to that holy peace; a friendship cemented by the most auspicious marriage of your sister. Hard the task is by reason of partisan passions, fired by hatreds which blaze more fiercely day by day; but no task except one fraught with difficulty, except one that all others have given up in despair, is meet for so great kings.
May the God of Peace, the God of justice, O just king, O peacemaking king, heap upon your Majesty, which is nearest unto His own, not only all other blessings but with them also the distinction of having accomplished this task.