The Law of Nations or the Principles of Natural Law (1758)

Emmerich de Vattel

Of The Common Duties of a Nation Towards Others; Or, of the Offices of Humanity Between Nations

§ 1. Foundation of the common and mutual duties of nations.
THE following maxims will appear very strange to cabinet politicians; and such is the misfortune of mankind, that, to many of those refined conductors of nations, the doctrine of this chapter will be a subject of ridicule. Be it so; but we will, nevertheless, boldly lay down what the law of nature prescribes to nations. Shall we be intimidated by ridicule, when we speak after Cicero? That great man held the reins of the most powerful state that ever existed; and in that station he appeared no less eminent than at the bar. The punctual observance of the law of nature he considered as the most salutary policy to the state. In my preface, I have already quoted this fine passage — Nihil est quod adhuc de republica putem dictum, et quo possim longius progredi, nisi sit confirmatum, non modo falsum esse illud, sine injuria not posse, sed hoc verissimum, sine summa justitia rempublicam regi non posse.1 I might say on good grounds, that, by the words summa justitia, Cicero means that universal justice which consists in completely fulfilling the law of nature. But in another place he explains himself more clearly on this head, and gives us sufficiently to understand that he does not confine the mutual duties of men to the observance of justice, properly so called. “Nothing,” says he, “is more agreeable to nature, more capable of affording true satisfaction, than, in imitation of Hercules, to undertake even the most arduous and painful labors for the benefit and preservation of all nations.” Magis est secundum naturam, pro omnibus gentibus, si fieri possit, conservandis aut juvandis, maximos labores molestiasque suscipere, imitantem Herculem illum, quem hominum fama, beneficiorum memor, in concilium cœlestium collocavit, quam vivere in solitudine, non modo sine ullis molestiis, sed, etiam in maximis voluptatibus, abundantem omnibus copiis, ut excellas etiam pulchritudine et viribus. Quocirca optimo quisque et splendidissimo ingenio longe illam vitam huic anteponit.2 In the same chapter, Cicero expressly refutes those who are for excluding foreigners from the benefit of those duties to which they acknowledge themselves bound towards their fellow-citizens. Qui autem civium rationem dicunt habendam, externorum negant, hi dirimunt communem humani generis societatem; qua sublata, beneficentia, liberalitas, bonitas, justitia, funditus tollitur; quæ qui tollunt, etiam adversus Deos immortales impii judicandi sunt; ab Us enim constitutam inter homines societatem evertunt.

And why should we not hope still to find, among those who are the head of affairs, come wise individuals who are convinced of this great truth, that virtue is, even for sovereigns and political bodies, the most certain road to prosperity and happiness? There is at least one benefit to be expected from the open assertion and publication of sound maxims, which is, that even those who relish them the least are thereby laid under a necessity of keeping within some bounds, lest they should forfeit their characters altogether. To flatter ourselves with the vain expectation that men, and especially men in power, will be inclined strictly to conform to the laws of nature, would be a gross mistake; and to renounce all hope of making impression on some of them, would be to give up mankind for lost.

Nations, being obliged by nature reciprocally to cultivate human society (Prelim. § 11), are bound to observe towards each other all the duties which the safety and advantage of that society require.

§ 2. Offices of humanity, and their foundation.
The offices of humanity are those succors, those duties, which men owe to each other, as men, — that is, as social beings formed to live in society, and standing in need of mutual assistance for their preservation and happiness, and to enable them to live in a manner conformable to their nature. Now, the laws of nature being no less obligatory on nations than on individuals (Prelim. § 5), whatever duties each man owes to other men, the same does each nation, in its way, owe to other nations (Prelim. § 10, etc.). Such is the foundation of those common duties — of those offices of humanity — to which nations are reciprocally bound towards each other. They consist, generally, in doing every thing in our power for the preservation and happiness of others, as far as such conduct is reconcilable with our duties towards ourselves.

§ 3. General principle of all the mutual duties of nations.
The nature and essence of man, who, without the assistance of his fellow-men, is unable to supply all his wants, to preserve himself, to render himself perfect, and to live happily, plainly show us that he is destined to live in society, in the interchange of mutual aid; and, consequently, that all men are, by their very nature and essence, obliged to unite their common efforts for the perfection of their own being and that of their condition. The surest method of succeeding in this pursuit is, that each individual should exert his efforts first for himself and then for others. Hence it follows, that, whatever we owe to ourselves, we likewise owe to others, so far as they stand in need of assistance, and we can grant it to them without being wanting to ourselves. Since, then, one nation, in its way, owes to another nation every duty that one man owes to another man, we may confidently lay down this general principle: — one state owes to another state whatever it owes to itself, so far as that other stands in real need of its assistance, and the former can grant it without neglecting the duties it owes to itself. Such is the eternal and immutable law of nature. Those who might be alarmed at this doctrine, as totally subversive of the maxims of sound policy, will be relieved from their apprehensions by the two following considerations: —

1. Social bodies or sovereign states are much more capable of supplying all their wants than individual men are; and mutual assistance is not so necessary among them, nor so frequently required. Now, in those particulars which a nation can itself perform, no succor is due to it from others.

2. The duties of a nation towards itself, and chiefly the care of its own safety, require much more circumspection and reserve than need be observed by an individual in giving assistance to others. This remark we shall soon illustrate.

§ 4. Duties of a nation for the preservation of others.
Of all the duties of a nation towards itself, the chief object is its preservation and perfection, together with that of its state. The detail given of them in the first book of this work may serve to point out the several objects in relation to which a state may and should assist another state. Every nation ought, on occasion, to labor for the preservation of others, and for securing them from ruin and destruction, as far as it can do this without exposing itself too much. Thus, when a neighboring nation is unjustly attacked by a powerful enemy who threatens to oppress it, if you can defend it, without exposing yourself to great danger, unquestionably it is your duty to do so. Let it not be said, in objection to this, that a sovereign is not to expose the lives of his soldiers for the safety of a foreign nation with which he has not contracted a defensive alliance. It may be his own case to stand in need of assistance; and, consequently, he is acting for the safety of his own nation in giving energy to the spirit and disposition to afford mutual aid. Accordingly, policy here coincides with and enforces obligation and duty. It is the interest of princes to stop the progress of an ambitious monarch, who aims at aggrandizing himself by subjugating his neighbors. A powerful league was formed in favor of the United Provinces, when threatened with the yoke of Louis XIV.3 When the Turks laid siege to Vienna, the brave Sobieski, king of Poland, saved the house of Austria.4 and possibly all Germany, and his own kingdom.

§ 5. It ought to assist a nation afflicted with famine or any other calamities.
For the same reason, if a nation is afflicted with famine, all those who have provisions to spare ought to relieve her distress, without, however, exposing themselves to want.5 But, if that nation is able to pay for the provisions thus furnished, it is perfectly lawful to sell them to her at a reasonable rate; for they are not bound to furnish her with what she is herself capable of procuring; and, consequently, there is no obligation of gratuitously bestowing on her such things as she is able to purchase. To give assistance in such extreme necessity is so essentially conformable to humanity, that the duty is seldom neglected by any nation that has received the slightest polish of civilization. The great Henry the Fourth could not forbear to comply with it in favor of obstinate rebels who were bent on his destruction.6

Whatever be the calamity with which a nation is afflicted, the like assistance is due to it. We have seen little states in Switzerland order public collections to be made in behalf of towns or villages of the neighboring countries, which had been ruined by fire, and remit them liberal succors; the difference of religion proving no bar to the performance of so humane a deed. The calamities of Portugal have given England an opportunity of fulfilling the duties of humanity with that noble generosity which characterizes a great nation. On the first intelligence of the disastrous fate of Lisbon,7 the parliament voted a hundred thousand pounds sterling for the relief of an unfortunate people; the king also added considerable sums: ships, laden with provisions and all kinds of succors, were sent away with the utmost despatch; and their arrival convinced the Portuguese that an opposition in belief and worship does not restrain the beneficence of those who understand the claims of humanity. On the same occasion, likewise, the king of Spain signally displayed his tenderness for a near ally, and exerted, in a conspicuous manner, his humanity and generosity.

§ 6. It ought to contribute to the perfection of other states.
A nation must not simply confine itself to the preservation of other states; it should likewise, according to its power and their want of its assistance, contribute to their perfection. We have already shown (Prelim. § 13) that natural society imposes on it this general obligation. We are now come to the proper place for treating of the obligation somewhat more in detail. A state is more or less perfect, as it is more or less adapted to attain the end of civil society, which consists in procuring for its members every thing of which they stand in need, for the necessities, the conveniences, and enjoyments of life, and for their happiness in general, — in providing for the peaceable enjoyment of property, and the safe and easy administration of justice, — and, finally, in defending itself against all foreign violence (Book I. § 15). Every nation therefore, should occasionally, and according to its power, contribute, not only to put another nation in possession of these advantages, but likewise to render it capable of procuring them itself. Accordingly, a learned nation, if applied to for masters and teachers in the sciences, by another nation desirous of shaking off it native barbarism, ought not to refuse such a request. A nation, whose happiness it is to live under wise laws, should on occasion, make it a point of duty to communicate them. Thus, when the wise and virtuous Romans sent ambassadors to Greece to collect good laws, the Greeks were far from rejecting so reasonable and so laudable a request.8

§ 7. But not by force.
But, though a nation be obliged to promote, as far as lies in its power, the perfection of others, it is not entitled forcibly to obtrude these good offices on them. Such an attempt would be a violation of their natural liberty. In order to compel any one to receive a kindness, we must have an authority over him; but nations are absolutely free and independent (Prelim. § 4). Those ambitious Europeans who attacked the American nations, and subjected them to their greedy dominion, in order, as they pretended, to civilize them, and cause them to be instructed in the true religion, — those usurpers, I say, grounded themselves on a pretext equally unjust and ridiculous. It is strange to hear the learned and judicious Grotius assert that a sovereign may justly take up arms to chastise nations which are guilty of enormous transgressions of the law of nature, which treat their parents with inhumanity like the Sogdians, which eat human flesh as the ancient Gauls, etc.9, 10 What led him into this error, was, his attributing to every independent man, and of course to every sovereign, an odd kind of right to punish faults which involve an enormous violation of the laws of nature, though they do not affect either his rights or his safety. But we have shown (Book I. § 169) that men derive the right of punishment solely from their right to provide for their own safety; and consequently they cannot claim it except against those by whom they have been injured. Could it escape Grotius, that, notwithstanding all the precautions added by him in the following paragraphs, his opinion opens a door to all the ravages of enthusiasm and fanaticism, and furnishes ambition with numberless pretexts? Mohammed and his successors have desolated and subdued Asia, to avenge the indignity done to the unity of the Godhead; all whom they termed associators or idolaters fell victims to their devout fury.

§ 8. The right to require the offices of humanity.
Since nations ought to perform these duties or offices of humanity towards each other, according as one stands in need, and the other can reasonably comply with them, — every nation being free, independent, and sole arbitrator of her own actions, it belongs to each to consider whether her situation warrants her in asking or granting any thing on this head. Thus 1. Every nation has a perfect right to ask of another that assistance and those kind offices which she conceives herself to stand in need of. To prevent her, would be doing her an injury. If she makes the application without necessity, she is guilty of a breach of duty; but, in this respect, she is wholly independent of the judgment of others. A nation has a right to ask for these kind offices, but not to demand them.

§ 9. The right of judging whether they are to be granted.
For, 2. These offices being due only in necessity, and by a nation which can comply with them without being wanting to itself; the nation that is applied to has, on the other hand, a right of judging whether the case really demands them, and whether circumstances will allow her to grant them consistently with that regard which she ought to pay to her own safety and interests: for instance, a nation is in want of corn, and applies to another nation to sell her a quantity of it: — in this case it rests with the latter party to judge whether, by a compliance with the request, they will not expose themselves to the danger of a scarcity: and, if they refuse to comply, their determination is to be patiently acquiesced in. We have very lately seen a prudent performance of this duty on the part of Russia: she generously assisted Sweden when threatened with a famine, but refused to other powers the liberty of purchasing corn in Livonia, from the circumstance of standing herself in need of it, and, no doubt, from weighty political motives likewise.

§ 10. A nation is not to compel another to perform these offices of which the refusal is no wrong.
Thus, the right which a nation has to the offices of humanity is but an imperfect one: she cannot compel another nation to the performance of them. The nation that unreasonably refuses them offends against equity, which consists in acting conformably to the imperfect right of another: but thereby no injury is done; injury or injustice being a trespass against the perfect right of another.

§ 11. Mutual love of nations.
It is impossible that nations should mutually discharge all these several duties if they do not love each other. This is the pure source from which the offices of humanity should proceed; they will retain the character and perfection of it. Then nations will be seen sincerely and cheerfully to help each other, earnestly to promote their common welfare, and cultivate peace, without jealousy or distrust.

§ 12. Each nation ought to cultivate the friendship of others.
A real friendship will be seen to reign among them; and this happy state consists in a mutual affection, Every nation is obliged to cultivate the friendship of other nations, and carefully to avoid whatever might kindle their enmity against her. Wise and prudent nations often pursue this line of conduct from views of direct and present interest: a more noble, more general, and less direct interest, is too rarely the motive of politicians. If it be incontestable that men must love each other in order to answer the views of nature and discharge the duties which she prescribes them, as well as for their own private advantage, — can it be doubted that nations are under the like reciprocal obligation? Is it in the power of men, on dividing themselves into different political bodies, to break the ties of that universal society which nature has established amongst them?

§ 13. To perfect itself with a view to the advantage of others, and set them good examples.
If a man ought to qualify himself for becoming useful to other men, — and a citizen, for rendering useful services to his country and fellow citizens, a nation likewise, in perfecting herself, ought to have in view the acquisition of a greater degree of ability to promote the perfection and happiness of other nations; she should be careful to set them good examples, and avoid setting them a pattern of any thing evil. Imitation is natural to mankind: the virtues of a celebrated nation are sometimes imitated, and much more frequently its vices and defects.

§ 14. To take care of their glory.
Glory being a possession of great importance to a nation, as we have shown in a particular chapter expressly devoted to the subject,11 — the duty of a nation extends even to the care of the glory of other nations. In the first place, she should, on occasion, contribute to enable them to merit true glory: secondly, she should do them in this respect all the justice due to them, and use all proper endeavors that such justice be universally done them: finally, instead of irritating, she should kindly extenuate the bad effect which some slight blemishes may produce.

§ 15. Difference of religion ought not to preclude the offices of humanity.
From the manner in which we have established the obligation of performing the offices of humanity, it plainly appears to be solely founded on the nature of man. Wherefore, no nation can refuse them to another, under pretense of its professing a different religion; to be entitled to them, it is sufficient that the claimant is our fellow-creature, A conformity of belief and worship may become a new tie of friendship between nations: but no difference in these respects can warrant us in laying aside the character of men, or the sentiments annexed to it. As we have already related (§ 5) some instances well worthy of imitation, let us here do justice to the pontiff who at present fills the see of Rome, and has recently given a very remarkable example, and which cannot be too highly commended. Information being given to that prince, that several Dutch ships remained at Civita Vecchia, not daring to put to sea for fear of the Algerine corsairs, he immediately issued orders that the frigates of the ecclesiastical state should convoy those ships out of danger; and his nuncio at Brussels received instructions to signify to the ministers of the states-general, that his holiness made it a rule to protect commerce and perform the duties of humanity, without regarding any difference of religion. Such exalted sentiments cannot fail of raising a veneration for Benedict XIV. even amongst Protestants.12

§ 16. Rule and measure of the offices of humanity.
How happy would mankind be, were these amiable precepts of nature everywhere observed! Nations would communicate to each other their products and their knowledge; a profound peace would prevail all over the earth, and enrich it with its invaluable fruits; industry, the sciences and the arts would be employed in promoting our happiness, no less than in relieving our wants; violent methods of deciding contests would be no more heard of; all differences would be terminated by moderation, justice, and equity; the world would have the appearance of a large republic; men would live everywhere like brothers, and each individual be a citizen of the universe. That this idea should be but a delightful dream! yet it flows from the nature and essence of man.13 Put disorderly passions, and private and mistaken interest, will for ever prevent its being realized. Let us then, consider what limitations the present state of men, and the ordinary maxims and conduct of nations, may render necessary in the practice of these precepts of nature, which are in themselves so noble and excellent.

The law of nature cannot condemn the good to become the dupes and prey of the wicked, and the victims of their injustice and ingratitude. Melancholy experience shows that most nations aim only to strengthen and enrich themselves at the expense of others, — to domineer over them, and even if an opportunity offers, to oppress and bring them under the yoke. Prudence does not allow us to strengthen an enemy,14 or one in whom we discover a desire of plundering and oppressing us: and the care of our own safety forbids it. We have seen (§ 3, etc.) that a nation does not owe her assistance and the offices of humanity to other nations, except so far as the grant of them is reconcilable with her duties to herself. Hence, it evidently follows, that, though the universal love of mankind obliges us to grant at all times, and to all, even to our enemies, those offices which can only tend to render them more moderate and virtuous, because no inconvenience is to be apprehended from granting them, — we are not obliged to give them such succors as probably may become destructive to ourselves. Thus, 1. The exceeding importance of trade, not only to the wants and conveniences of life, but likewise to the strength of a state, and furnishing it with the means of defending itself against its enemies, — and the insatiable avidity of those nations which seek wholly and exclusively to engross it, — thus, I say, these circumstances authorize a nation possessed of a branch of trade, or the secret of some important manufacture or fabric, to reserve to herself those sources of wealth, and, instead of communicating them to foreign nations, to take measure against it. But, where the necessaries or conveniences of life are in question, the nation ought to sell them to others at a reasonable price, and not convert her monopoly into a system of odious extortion. To commerce England chiefly owes her greatness, her power, and her safety: who, then, will presume to blame her for endeavoring, by every fair and just method, to retain the several branches of it in her own hand?

2. As to things directly and more particularly useful for war, a nation is under no obligation to sell them to others of whom it has the smallest suspicion; and prudence even declares against it. Thus, by the Roman laws, people were very justly prohibited to instruct the barbarous nations in building galleys. Thus, in England, laws have been enacted to prevent the best method of ship-building from being carried out of the kingdom.

This caution is to be carried farther, with respect to nations more justly suspected. Thus, when the Turks were successfully pursuing their victorious career, and rapidly advancing to the zenith of power, all Christian nations ought, independent of every bigoted consideration, to have considered them as enemies; even the most distant of those nations, though not engaged in any contest with them, would have been justifiable in breaking off all commerce with a people who made it their profession to subdue by force of arms all who would not acknowledge the authority of their prophet.

§ 17. Particular limitation with regard to the prince.
Let us further observe, with regard to the prince in particular, that he ought not, in affairs of this nature, to obey without reserve all the suggestions of a noble and generous heart impelling him to sacrifice his own interests to the advantage of others, or to motives of generosity; because it is not his private interest that is in question, but that of the state — that of the nation who has committed herself to his care. Cicero says that a great and elevated soul despises pleasures, wealth, life itself, and makes no account of them, when the common utility is at stake.15 He is right, and such sentiments are to be admired in a private person; but generosity is not to be exerted at the expense of others. The head or conductor of a nation ought not to practice that virtue in public affairs without great circumspection, nor to a greater extent than will redound to the glory and real advantage of the state. As to the common good of human society, he ought to pay the same attention to it as the nation he represents would be obliged to pay were the government of her affairs in her own hand.

§ 18. No nation ought to injure others.
But, though the duties of a nation towards herself set bounds to the obligation of performing the offices of humanity, they cannot in the least affect the prohibition of doing any harm to others, of causing them any prejudice, — in a word, of injuring them16…. If every man is, by his very nature, obliged to assist in promoting the perfection of others, much more cogent are the reasons which forbid him to increase their imperfection, and that of their condition. The same duties are incumbent on nations (Prelim. §§ 5, 6). No nation, therefore, ought to commit any actions tending to impair the perfection of other nations, and that of their condition, or to impede their progress, — in other words, to injure them.17 And, since the perfection of a nation consists in her aptitude to attain the end of civil society — and the perfection of her condition, in not wanting any of the things necessary to that end (Book I. § 14) — no one nation ought to hinder another from attaining the end of civil society, or to render her incapable of attaining it. This general principle forbids nations to practice any evil maneuvers tending to create disturbance in another state, to foment discord, to corrupt its citizens, to alienate its allies, to raise enemies against it, to tarnish its glory, and to deprive it of its natural advantages.18

However, it will be easily conceived that negligence in fulfilling the common duties of humanity, and even the refusal of these duties or offices, is not an injury. To neglect or refuse contributing to the perfection of a nation, is not impairing that perfection.

It must be further observed, that, when we are making use of our right, when we are doing what we owe to ourselves or to others, if, from this action of ours, any prejudice results to the perfection of another, — any detriment to his exterior condition, — we are not guilty of an injury we are doing what is lawful, or even what we ought to do. The damage which accrues to the other is no part of our intention: it is merely an accident, the imputability of which must be determined by the particular circumstances. For instance, in case of a lawful defense, the harm we do to the aggressor is not the object we aim at; — we act only with a view to our own safety; we make use of our right; and the aggressor alone is chargeable with the mischief which he brings on himself.

§ 19. Offences.
Nothing is more opposite to the duties of humanity, nor more contrary to that society which should be cultivated by nations, than offences, or actions which give a just displeasure to others: every nation therefore should carefully avoid giving any other nation real offence: I say real; for, should others take offence at our behavior when we are only using our rights or fulfilling our duties, the fault lies with them, not with us. Offences excite such asperity and rancor between nations that we should avoid giving any room even for ill-grounded piques, when it can be done without any inconvenience, or failure in our duty. It is said that certain medals and dull jests irritated Louis XIV. against the United Provinces to such a degree as to induce him, in 1672, to undertake the destruction of that republic.19

§ 20. Bad customs of the ancients.
The maxims laid down in this chapter, — those sacred precepts of nature, — were for a long time unknown to nations. The ancients had no notion of any duty they owed to nations with whom they were not united by treaties of friendship.20 The Jews especially placed a great part of their zeal in hating all nations; and, as a natural consequence, they were detested and despised by them in turn. At length the voice of nature came to be heard among civilized nations; they perceived that all men are brethren.21 When will the happy time come that they shall behave as such?


     1.    Fragm. ex. lib. ii. De Republica.
     2.    De Officiis, lib. iii. cap. 5
     3.    In 1672.
     4.    He defeated the Turks, and obliged them to raise the siege of Vienna, in 1683.
     5.    Ante. Prelim. § 14. Upon this principle, during the late war with France, when the French troops were extensively afflicted with a disorder which would have occasioned more destruction than the most disastrous defeat in battle, England supplied them with Peruvian bark, which instantly checked and overcame the disease. — C.
     6.    At the famous siege of Paris.
     7.    The earthquake by which a great part of that city was destroyed.
     8.    See the conduct of Charlemagne and Alfred the Great. Hume Hist. The ancient policy was to withhold any communication or information in improvements which might diminish our home manufactures; but the restrictions upon the exportations of artificers and machinery were removed by 5 Geo. 4, c. 97. If there be reciprocity on the part of the other nation, the indulgence of this liberal policy must be desirable; but otherwise it requires prudential checks. — C.
     9.    De Jure Belli et Pacis, lib. ii. cap. xx. § 11.
     10.    And see the absurdity of such interference sarcastically well exemplified by Cervantes in his Don Quixote, releasing the refractory apprentice and compelling his master to beg pardon, thereby occasioning the former an infinitely more severe chastisement. — C.
     11.    Book I. chap. xv.
     12.    He was much celebrated and spoken of in Lord Charlemont’s Travels in A.D. 1742. — C.
     13.    Here, again, let us call in the authority of Cicero to our support. “All mankind (says that excellent philosopher) should lay it down as their constant rule of action, that individual and general advantage should be the same: for, if each man strives to grasp every advantage for himself, all the ties of human society will be broken. And, if nature ordains that man should feel interested in the welfare of his fellow-man, whoever he be, and for the single reason that he is a man, — it necessarily follows, that, according to the intentions of nature, all mankind must have one common interest. — Ergo unum debet esse omnibus propositum, ut eadem sit utilitas uniuscujusque et universorum: quam si ad se quisque raplat, dissolvetur omnis humana consociatio. Atque si etiam hoc natura præscribit, ut homo homini, quicunque sit, ob eam ipsam causam, quod is homo sit, consultum velit, necesse est, secundum eandem naturam, omnium utilitatem esse communem. De Offic. lib. iii. cap. iv. Note Ed. 1797.
     14.    The same prudential consideration extends also in time of peace; for, who can anticipate how soon after advantages have been conferred or granted without equivalent to another state, she may declare war against the nation who conferred them? — C.
     15.    De Offic. lib. iii. cap. v.
     16.    Lézer (professedly borrowed from the Latin lædo) is the term used by the author, who, in order the better to explain his meaning, proceeds to inform us, that “nuire (to hurt), offenser (to offend), faire tort (to wrong), porter dommage (to cause detriment), porter prejudice (to prejudice), blesser (to wound, or hurt), are not of precisely the same import,” and that, by the word lézer (which is here rendered injure) he means, “in general, causing imperfection in the injured party, or in his condition — rendering his person or his condition less perfect.”
     17.    This position, however, requires qualification; for, whether in time of peace or of war, a nation has a right to diminish the commerce or resources of another by fair rivalry and other means not in themselves unjust, precisely as one tradesman may by fair competition undersell his neighbor, and thereby alienate his customers. — C.
     18.    An instance of this rule, is, the illegality of any commercial intercourse with a revolted colony before its separate independence has been acknowledged. A contract made between a revolted colony in that character with the subject of another state that has not as yet recognized such revolted colony as an independent state, is illegal and void, and will not be given effect to by the Court of Chancery, or any other court in this country. City of Berne v. Bank of England, 9 Ves. 347; Jones v. Garcia del Rio, 1 Turner & Russ. 297; Thompson v. Powles. 2 Sim. Rep. 202, 3; Yrisarri v. Clement, 11 Moore, 308; 2 Car. & P. 223; 3 Bing. 432; for such direct recognition of such a revolted colony must necessarily be offensive to the principal state to which it belonged; and, in the American war, Great Britain declared war against France and other countries on the ground of their improper interference between her and her colonies, Thompson v. Powles, 2 Sim. Rep. 203, 212, 3, and in Biré v. Thompson, cited id. and id. 222, Lord Eldon refused to lake notice of the Republic of Colombia; and it seems that, if a bill inequity falsely state that the colony had been recognized as an independent state, the court may take judicial notice of the contrary, and decree or proceed accordingly; and the mere fact of this country having for commercial purposes sent a consul to a revolted colony, is not equivalent to a state recognition of its independence: Taylor v. Barclay, 2 Sim. 213, and Yrisarri v. Clement, 11 Moore. 306; 2 Can. & P. 223; 3 Bing. 432, cited id. 219; {The United States v. Palmer, 3 Wheat. Rep. 610.}

To supply such a revolted colony (or even any independent state) with money, without leave of the government to which a subject belongs, is illegal, because that would be assisting such colony against the parent country to which it belongs; and also because it would create objects and interests on the part of the subject that might in case of war be injurious to his own government. Observations in Thompson v, Powles, 2 Sim. Rep. 203, and Hennings v. Rothschild, 12 Moore, 559; 4 Bing. 315,335; 9 Bar. & Cres. 470; Yrisarri v. Clement. 11 Moore, 308; 2 Car. & P. 223; 3 Bing. 432. {See The Santissima Trinidada, 7 Wheat Rep. 283.}
     19.    On this ground it was held that the publication in England of a libel upon Bonaparte, then first consul of the French republic, was an indictable offence, as calculated to stir up animosity between him and the citizens of the republic, and to create discord between our king and people and said Bonaparte and said republic. Information against Peltier filed in Crown Office, K.B., in Michaelmas Term, 43 Geo. 3-1 Camp. 352, {Adam’s Rep. of Peltier’s Trial. Lond. 1803.} So Lord Hawkesbury laid it down to be clear “that a foreign power has a right to apply to foreign courts of judicature and obtain redress for defamation or calumny” 6 Russell’s Modern Europe, 20, and see post, page 173, end of note; and see 1 Chit. Commercial L. 74. — C.
     20.    To the example of the Romans may be added that of the English in former days, — since, on the occasion of a navigator being accused of having committed some depredations on the natives of India. “this act of injustice” (according to Grotius) “was not without advocates who maintained, that, by ancient laws of England, crimes committed against foreign nations with whom there existed no public treaty of alliance, were not punishable in that kingdom.” — History of the Disturbances in the Low Countries, book xvi.
     21.    See § 1, a fine passage of Cicero.