The Law of War and Peace (1625)

by Hugo Grotius

Conclusion, with Admonitions on Behalf of Good Faith and Peace

I.     Admonitions to preserve peace.
At this point I think that I can bring my work to an end, not because all has been said that could be said, but because sufficient has been said to lay the foundations. Whoever may wish to build on these foundations a more imposing structure will not only find me free from envy, but will have my sincere gratitude.

Yet before I dismiss the reader I shall add a few admonitions which may be of value in war, and after war, for the preservation of good faith and of peace; just as in treating of the commencement of war I added certain admonitions regarding the avoidance of wars, so far as this can be accomplished.

And good faith should be preserved, not only for other reasons but also in order that the hope of peace may not be done away with, For not only is every state sustained by good faith, as Cicero declares, but also that greater society of states. Aristotle truly says that, if good faith has been taken away, ‘ all intercourse among men ceases to exist.’

Rightly the same Cicero says that ‘it is an impious act to destroy the good faith which holds life together.’ To use Seneca’s phrase, it is ‘the most exalted good of the human heart.’ And this good faith the supreme rulers of men ought so much the more earnestly than others to maintain as they violate it with greater impunity; if good faith shall be done away with, they will be like wild beasts,’ whose violence all men fear. Justice, it is true, in its other aspects often contains elements of obscurity; but the bond of good faith is in itself plain to see, nay more, it is brought into use to so great an extent that it removes all obscurity from business transactions.

It is, then, all the more the duty of kings to cherish good faith scrupulously, first for conscience’s sake, and then also for the sake of the reputation by which the authority of the royal power is supported. Therefore let them not doubt that those who instil in them the arts of deception are doing the very thing which they teach. For that teaching cannot long prosper which makes a man antisocial with his kind and also hateful in the sight of God.

II.     In war peace should always be kept in view.
Again, during the entire period of administration of a war the soul cannot be kept serene and trusting in God unless it is always looking forward to peace. Sallust most truly said, ‘ The wise wage war for the sake of peace.’ With this the opinion of Augustine agrees: ‘ Peace is not sought that war may be followed, but war is waged that peace may be secured.’ Aristotle himself more than once condemns those nations which made warlike pursuits, as it were, their end and aim. Violence is characteristic of wild beasts, and violence is most manifest in war; wherefore the more diligently effort should be put forth that it be tempered with humanity, lest by imitating wild beasts too much we forget to be human.

III.     And peace should also be accepted even at a loss, especially by Christians.
If, then, it is possible to have peace with sufficient safety, it is well established by condonation of offences, damages, and expenses; this holds especially among Christians, on whom the Lord has bestowed His peace. And His best interpreter wishes us, so far as it is possible and within our power, to seek peace with all men. It is characteristic of a good man, as we read in Sallust, to be unwilling to begin war, not gladly to pursue it to the bitter end.

IV.     The consideration stated is useful to the conquered.
This one consideration ought to be sufficient. However, human advantage also often draws in the same direction, first, those who are weaker, because a long contest with a stronger opponent is dangerous, and, just as on a ship, a greater misfortune must be avoided at some loss, with complete disregard of anger and hope which, as Livy has rightly said, are deceitful advisers. The thought is expressed by Aristotle thus: ‘ It is better to relinquish something of one’s possessions to those who are stronger, than to be conquered in war and perish with the property.’

V.     The consideration stated is also useful to the conqueror.
Again, human advantage draws in the same direction also the stronger. The reason is, as the same Livy no less truly says, that peace is bounteous and creditable to those who grant it while their affairs are prosperous; and it is better and safer than a victory that is hoped for. It must be kept in mind that Mars is on both sides. As Aristotle says, ‘In war men ought to consider how many and how unexpected changes are wont to occur.’ In a certain oration for peace in Diodorus Siculus those are censured who magnify the greatness of their exploits, as if it were not evidently customary for the fortune of war to bestow favors alternately. And especially must the boldness of the desperate be feared; wild beasts bite most fiercely when dying.

VI.     The consideration stated is useful likewise to those whose fortunes are in doubt.
But, if both sides seem to be equal to each other, this in truth, as Caesar says, is the best time to treat of peace, while each has confidence in himself.

VII.     Peace, when made, must be kept with the utmost scruple.
Moreover peace, whatever the terms on which it is made, ought to be preserved absolutely, on account of the sacredness of good faith, which I have mentioned; and not only should treachery be anxiously avoided, but everything else that may arouse anger. What Cicero said about private friendships you may apply to public friendships no less correctly: not only should all friendships be safeguarded with the greatest devotion and good faith, but especially those which have been restored to goodwill after enmity.

VIII.     A prayer, and the end of the work.
May God, who alone hath the power, inscribe these teachings on the hearts of those who hold sway over the Christian world. May He grant to them a mind possessing knowledge of divine and human law, and having ever before it the reflection that it hath been chosen as a servant for the rule of man, the living thing most dear to God.

End of Book 3