The Law of War and Peace (1625)

by Hugo Grotius

Moderation in the Acquisition of Sovereignty

I.     To what extent moral justice permits sovereignty to be acquired.
THE equity which is required, or the humanity which is praised, in respect to individuals, is so much more required and praised in respect to peoples or parts of peoples in the degree that wrong or kindness toward a large number of persons becomes more notable. As other things may be acquired in a lawful war, so there may be acquired both the right of him who rules over a people and the, right which the people itself has in the sovereign power; only in so far, however, as is permitted by the measure of the penalty which arises from a crime, or of some other form of debt.

To these reasons should be added the avoidance of extreme danger. But this reason is very often confused with the others,. although both in establishing peace and in making use of victory it deserves particular attention for its own sake. It is possible to forgo other things from compassion; hut, in case of public danger, a sense of security which exceeds the proper limit is the reverse of compassion. Isocrates wrote to Philip: ‘The barbarians must be subjugated to a point which will enable you to make your country perfectly secure.’

II.     It is praiseworthy to abstain from the exercise of the right to acquire sovereignty over the vanquished.
1.   Sallust says of the ancient Romans: ‘Our ancestors, being” most scrupulous persons, used to deprive the vanquished of nothing, save the power to do harm.’ This is a view which could worthily have been uttered by a Christian; and with it accords another sentence of the same writer: ‘Wise men wage war to secure peace, and endure toil in the hope of ease.’ More than once Aristotle said ‘War was originated for the sake of peace, and business for the sake of leisure.’ Cicero supports the same idea, and his is this exalted’ maxim: ‘Let war be so undertaken that nothing else than peace may seem to be sought after.’ From the same author comes this similar saying: ‘ So wars are to be undertaken for this reason, that’ men may live in peace without being wronged.’

2.   These views differ in no respect from those which theologians of the true faith set forth to the effect that the end of war is the’ removal of the things which disturb peace. Before the time of Ninus, as we began to say elsewhere, following Trogus, it was the custom’ to protect rather than to advance” the frontiers of one’s empire; each one’s realm was limited to his own country; kings sought not empire for themselves but glory for their peoples, and, being content with victory, they abstained from acquiring dominion.

So far as he can, Augustine recalls us to this condition: ‘ Let them see to it, nevertheless, that it may not concern good men to delight in the extent of their dominion.’ He adds also this: ‘ It is a greater good fortune to live in harmony with a good neighbor than to subdue a bad neighbor who wages war on us.’ Furthermore, the prophet Amos severely reproves in the Ammonites this zeal for extending their borders by armed force.

III.     Either by mingling them with the conquerors.
To this ideal of old-time innocence the closest approach is in the wise moderation of the ancient Romans. ‘What would our empire be to-day,’ says Seneca, ‘ had not salutary foresight mingled the vanquished with the conquerors? ‘ ‘Our founder Romulus,’ says Claudius in Tacitus, ‘displayed so much wisdom that on the same day he had many peoples as enemies, and then as citizens.’ He adds that the cause of the downfall of the Lacedaemonians and Athenians was nothing else than the exclusion, as foreigners, of those whom they had conquered. Livy says that the Roman power grew through the admission of enemies into the state. Examples are to be found in the history of the Sabines, Albans, Latins, and other Italian peoples; until, at last,

      Caesar in his triumph led the Gauls, and into the Senate, too.

Cerialis, in his speech to the Gauls, which is found in Tacitus, declares: ‘You yourselves often command our legions; you yourselves govern these and other provinces; there is nothing shut off from you or closed to you.’ And shortly after: ‘Then love, then cherish, the peace and life which we, conquerors and conquered, enjoy by the same right.’ At length came that most admirable step; in accordance with a constitution of the Emperor Antoninus [Caracalla] all those within the Roman world were made citizens of Rome, as Ulpian says. In consequence, as Modestinus declares, Rome became the common fatherland. And of Rome Claudian wrote:

      To the peace-promoting customs of this city,
      Due it is that we are all one people.

IV.     Or by leaving the sovereign power to those who had held it.
1.   Another form of moderation in victory is to leave to conquered kings or peoples the sovereign power which they had held.’ So Hercules with Priam:

      Vanquished by his young foe’s tears,
      ‘Take up,’ he said, ‘the ruler’s reins;
      Sit elevated on your father’s throne,
      But with better faith the scepter wield.’

Hercules, also, after conquering Neleus, committed the kingdom to Neleus’s son, Nestor. Similarly the Persian kings used to leave the royal authority to conquered kings; thus Cyrus to the Armenian king. Thus Alexander left royal power to Porus. Seneca,’ praises’ this practice of ‘taking nothing but glory from a vanquished king.’ Polybius celebrates the goodness of Antigonus, who, although he had Sparta in his power, left the Spartans ‘ their ancestral constitution and their freedom’; and by this act, it is narrated in the same passage, Antigonus obtained the highest praises throughout Greece.

2.   In the same way the Romans allowed the Cappadocians to use whatever form of constitution they wished, and to many peoples their freedom was left after a war. ‘ Carthage is free and has its own laws,’ say the Rhodians to the Romans after the second Punic War. Pompey, says Appian, ‘left some of the conquered peoples free.” When the Aetolians declared that there could be no sure peace unless Philip of Macedon were driven from his kingdom, Quintius said that they had stated their opinion without thinking of the Roman custom of sparing the vanquished. He added: ‘Whoever is mildest to the conquered has the loftiest mind.’ In Tacitus we read: ‘From the vanquished Zorsines nothing was taken away.’

V.     Sometimes by the imposition of garrisons.
Sometimes, with the concession of sovereign power, provision is made for the security of the victors. Thus Quintius ordered’ that Corinth should be restored to the Achaeans, yet upon the condition that there should be a garrison in Acrocorinthus; also that Chalcis and .Demetrias should be retained, until the anxiety with regard to Antiochus should be over.

VI.     Or even by tributes and similar burdens.
Often the levying of tributes also has for an object not so much the restitution of the expenses that have been incurred as the security, in the future, of both victor and vanquished. Cicero says of the Greeks: ‘ At the same time let Asia reflect on this, that if it were not held by this Empire there is no disaster of foreign war or domestic strife that would fail to assail it; and since, moreover, this Empire can in no way be maintained without taxes, let Asia with a part of its produce contentedly purchase for itself eternal peace and rest.’

In Tacitus Petilius Cerealis speaks to the Lingones and other Gauls on behalf of the Romans in the following words: ‘Although we have been so often provoked, this is the only burden we have laid upon you by right of victory, wherewith we might keep the peace; for there is no quiet for the nations without armed forces, and armed forces cannot be had without pay, and pay cannot be had without tribute.’

To this same problem apply also the other conditions which we mentioned when discussing unequal treaties-the surrender of arms, of a fleet,” of elephants, not to maintain an army ready for battle nor an armed force.

VII.     The advantage derived from such moderation is pointed out.
1.   Moreover to leave to the vanquished their sovereign powers is not only an act of humanity, but often an act of prudence also. Among the institutions of Numa there is praised that which aimed to exclude any shedding of blood from the rites of Terminus, indicating that nothing is more useful in securing quiet and a sure peace than to remain within one’s own frontier. Florus well remarks: ‘ It is more difficult to keep provinces than to win them; they are won by force, they are retained by justice.’

Not unlike this is the comment in Livy: ‘It is easier to gain things one by one than to hold all together ‘; also, the remark of Augustus in Plutarch: ‘A greater task … than winning a great empire is the governing of an empire already in existence.’ The ambassadors of King Darius said to Alexander: ‘A foreign empire is a dangerous thing; it is difficult to hold what you may not be able to take. Some things it is easier to conquer than to defend; by Hercules, how much more readily do our hands receive than retain! ‘

2.   This difficulty of holding an empire together is what Calanus of India and, before him, Oebares the friend of Cyrus explained by the comparison of a dried hide, which rises up in one spot as soon as you press another spot with your foot; and Titus Quintius in Livy by comparison with a tortoise, which is immune to blows when gathered into its shell, but exposed and weak as soon as it has thrust out a part of its body. Plato, On Laws, Book III, applies to this situation the saying of Hesiod: ‘The half is better than the whole.’

Appian observes that not a few peoples who wished to come under the rule of the Romans were rejected by them; while for other peoples kings were appointed. In the judgement of Scipio Africanus, in his time Rome already possessed so much that it would be greedy to seek for more; and she would be richly fortunate if she lost nothing of what she held. The formula for making the lustral sacrifices, in which the gods were entreated to make the resources of Rome better and greater, he altered in such a way that he prayed that they might preserve Rome’s resources in safety forever.

VIII.     Examples; with a discussion of a change in the form of government among the vanquished.
The Lacedaemonians, and, at first, the Athenians, claimed for themselves no sovereignty over the cities they had captured. They wished merely that these should use a form of government modeled on their own; the Lacedaemonians, in fact, a government under the influence of the aristocrats, the Athenians one subject to the will, of the people, as we learn from Thucydides, Isocrates, Demosthenes, and even from Aristotle himself in the fourth book of his Politics, chapter xi, and the fifth book, chapter vii. This very thing is indicated in a comedy by Heniochus, a writer of those days, in the following manner:

      Then drew near to them two women,
      Who turned all things to dire confusion;
      The one called Aristocracy, Democracy the other,
      Through whose solicitation the cities were driven to madness.

A similar course is that which, according to Tacitus, was pursued by Artabanus at Seleucia: ‘He placed the commons under the aristocracy,’ he says, ‘ in accordance with his own interest: for the rule of the people is close to liberty, but the despotism of the few is nearer to the licence of a king.’ But the question whether changes of this sort make for the safety of the conqueror does not belong to our investigation.

IX.     If sovereignty is to be assumed, it is right to leave a part of it to the conquered.
If it is not safe to refrain from assuming any dominion over the conquered, the action may still be limited in such a way that a portion of the sovereign power may be left to them or to their kings. Tacitus calls it the practice of the Roman people ‘ to have kings also as instruments of subjection.’ To the same author it seemed that ‘Antiochus was the richest of the subject kings.’ ‘ Kings subject to the Romans ‘ is the phrase in the Commentaries of Musonius; also in Strabo, near the end of Book VI. Lucan writes:

      And all the royal purple which serves the Latin sword.

Thus among the Jews the scepter remained in the Sanhedrin, even after the confiscation of Archelaus. Evagoras, king of Cyprus, as we read in Diodorus, said that he was willing to be subject to the Persian king, but as one king to another. Alexander at different times offered to the conquered Darius this condition, that Darius should rule over others, but should obey Alexander.

We have elsewhere spoken of the ways of dividing the sovereign power. To some peoples a part of their governmental power has been left, as to former possessors a part of their lands.

X.     Or, certainly, some degree of liberty should be left to the conquered.
But when all sovereignty is taken away from the conquered with respect to their private affairs and minor public matters it is still possible to leave to them their own laws, customs, and officials. Thus in the pro-consular province of Bithynia the city of Apamaea had the privilege of governing itself as it pleased; we are so informed by the letters of Pliny, who says also that the Bithynians have their own officials and their own senate. And so in Pontus the state of the Amiseni [Amisus] enjoyed its own laws through the kindness of Lucullus. The Goths left the Roman law to the conquered Romans.

XI.     Some degree of liberty should be left to the conquered, especially in the matter of religion.
1.   A part of this indulgence is not to deprive the conquered of the exercise of their inherited religion,’- except by persuasion. This Agrippa, in his speech to Gaius, which Philo quotes in his report of his embassy, proves to be as devoid of harm to the victor as it is gratifying to the vanquished. In Josephus, both Josephus himself and the Emperor Titus reproach the rebels of Jerusalem with the fact that, through the generosity of the Romans, the rights they enjoyed in the exercise of their worship were so complete that they could exclude foreigners from the Temple, even upon pain of death.

2.   If, however, a false religion is practiced by the vanquished, the victor will do right in taking steps to prevent the oppression of the true faith, as Constantine did, when he crushed the faction of Licinius, and, after him, the Frankish and other kings.

XII.     At any rate the conquered should be treated with clemency; and why.
1.   Last of all is this word of caution. Even under the fullest and, as it were, despotic sovereignty, the conquered should be treated with clemency, and in such a way that their advantage should be combined with that of the conquerors. Cyrus bade the conquered Assyrians be of good cheer, saying that their lot would be the same as it would have been if they had only changed their king that they would retain their houses, their lands, their rights over their wives and children, which they had had up to that time; indeed, if any one should wrong them, he and his men would be their avengers,

In Sallust we read: ‘The Roman people thought it better to gain friends than slaves; and held it safer to rule over willing than over compulsory subjects. The Britons, in the time of Tacitus, would patiently have endured the levy and tribute and the additional burdens of the Roman domination if they had not been subjected to wrongs; these they bore impatiently, for they were subdued to the point of obedience, but not yet to that of slavery.

2.   The ambassador from Privernum, when asked in the Roman senate what sort of a peace the Romans were to expect from his people, said: ‘If you should have given to them a good peace, then you may expect it to be reliable and perpetual; if a bad one, brief.’ As the reason, there was added: ‘Do not believe that any people, or any man, will remain longer than is necessary in a condition with which he is dissatisfied.’

Similarly, Camillus said that that authority was the most secure with which those who obeyed were pleased. The Scythians said to Alexander: ‘There is no friendship between master and slave; even in time of peace the rights of war are maintained.’ Hermocrates, in Diodorus, declares: ‘It is not so glorious to conquer as to make a mild use of victory.’ Tacitus has a wholesome opinion regarding the use of victory: ‘Wars have noble endings, whenever they are terminated by pardoning.’ In a letter of the dictator Caesar are the words: ‘Let this be a new method of conquering, to fortify ourselves with mercy and generosity.’