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Hugo Grotius (1583–1645). The Rights of War and Peace. 1901.

Book III

Chapter XXV: Conclusion

  • Admonitions to the observance of good faith—Peace always to be kept in view in the midst of war—Peace beneficial to the conquered—To the conqueror—And to be chosen in cases where the issue is doubtful—To be religiously observed—Prayer—Conclusion of the work.

  • I. HERE seems to be the proper place to bring this work to a conclusion, without in the least presuming that every thing has been said, which might be said on the subject: but sufficient has been produced to lay a foundation, on which another, if he pleases, may raise a more noble and extensive edifice, an addition and improvement that will provoke no jealously, but rather be entitled to thanks.

    Before entirely dismissing the subject, it may be necessary to observe, that, as in laying down the true motives and causes, that alone will justify war, every possible precaution at the same time was taken to state the reasons for which it should be avoided; so now a few admonitions will not be deemed superfluous, in order to point out the means of preserving good faith in war, and maintaining peace, after war is brought to a termination, and among other reasons for preserving good faith the desire of keeping alive the hope of peace, even in the midst of war, is not the least important. For good faith, in the language of Cicero, is not only the principal hold by which all governments are bound together, but is the key-stone by which the larger society of nations is united. Destroy this, says Aristotle, and you destroy the intercourse of mankind.

    In every other branch of justice there is something of obscurity, but the bond of faith is clear in itself, and is used indeed to do away the obscurity of all transactions. The observance of this is a matter of conscience with all lawful kings and sovereign princes, and is the basis of that reputation by which the honour and dignity of their crowns are maintained with foreign nations.

    II. In the very heat of war the greatest security and expectation of divine support must be in the unabated desire, and invariable prospect of peace, as the only end for which hostilities can be lawfully begun. So that in the prosecution of war we must never carry the rage of it so far, as to unlearn the nature and dispositions of men.

    III. These and these alone would be sufficient motives for the termination of war, and the cultivation of peace. But apart from all considerations of humanity, the INTERESTS of mankind would inevitably lead us to the same point. In the first place it is dangerous to prolong a contest with a more powerful enemy. In such a case some sacrifices should be made for the sake of peace, as in a storm goods are sometimes thrown overboard to prevent a greater calamity, and to save the vessel and the crew.

    IV. Even for the stronger party, when flushed with victory, peace is a safer expedient, than the most extensive successes. For there is the boldness of despair to be apprehended from a vanquished enemy, dangerous as the bite of a ferocious animal in the pangs of death.

    V. If indeed both parties are upon an equal footing, it is the opinion of Caesar, that it is the most favourable moment for making peace, when each party has confidence in itself.

    VI. On whatever terms peace is made, it must be absolutely kept. From the sacredness of the faith pledged in the engagement, and every thing must be cautiously avoided, not only savouring of treachery, but that may tend to awaken and inflame animosity. For what Cicero has said of private friendships may with equal propriety be applied to public engagements of this kind, which are all to be religiously and faithfully observed, especially where war and enmity have ended in peace and reconciliation.

    VII. And may God, to whom alone it belongs to dispose the affections and desires of sovereign princes and kings, inscribe these principles upon their hearts and minds, that they may always remember that the noblest office, in which man can be engaged, is the government of men, who are the principal objects of the divine care.