The teaching of Hugo Gratius of war and peace

: 6/6

In the treatise, the war in a broad sense is defined as a state of struggle with the force, as solving of controversial questions with the implementation of force. This definition of war spreads to many types of wars. Depending on the sides (subjects), taking part in a war, the force can be private (self-defense by a person not possessing a state power), public (state) or combined (on one hand public, one the other - private). In a narrower sense, war is an armed conflict between states. The right of war is justice, but in a negative meaning: thing that does not contradict to justice. The first inducements of nature do not contradict it, even on the contrary. Thats the way in which he tries to prove it. Saving life and limbs, saving belongings, useful for it correspond to the first inducements of nature. In other words, care of oneself does not contradict to community life, until they break somebody elses right. The force that doesnt break anothers right is legal. That means that, according to Gratius:

The sources of wars are the passions of human body (desire to possess valuables)

Just war is possible, which deserves approval of natural and international law.

Gratius defines two stages of just public war:

Solemn just war

Simply just war

For the war to have solemn character, two conditions are required: it must be waged by the will of highest rulers of the states, and certain customs must be kept Both of those are required, because any of them is not enough without another.

Public war is not solemn; it can be free from those customs and ceremonies; it can be waged against anyone by anyones authority. That means that any person has a right to wage his own war. But as war may cause danger for the whole state most legislatures forbid it. War can be waged only by the highest authority.


Neither Gratius, nor any other bourgeois scholars of international relations and international law managed to find out the reasons of war and the principle difference between just and unjust war. One of my sources says that only Marxist theory managed it. According to Marxist point of view just war is not a predatory one but a war of liberation, which has a goal of protecting the people of external attack or of freeing colonies from the oppression of imperialism, etc. And unjust war is a predatory war, which has a goal to conquer and slave the other states people. But I must say that these views are out-of-date of course.


1 Huizinga J The waiting of the Middle Ages. New York: Doubleday &

Company Inc 1956

2 Parry J H The Establishment of the Europian Hegemony: 1415-1715

New York: Harper & Row Publishers 1966

3 1948

[1] This term has dual meaning. This is either inborn law, not dependable from state or the one that is common for different times or for different states at the same time.

[2] After having come to power and having created its own class structure, bourgeoisie rejected this separation of law into natural (ideal of law) and positive (the real practice). It admitted only positive law. And thats why bourgeois scientists lose interest in natural law after that. In 19-century juridical positivism emerges and attracts wide spreading, only engaging positive law.

: 27/02/2010