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Emmerich de Vattel

Date of publication: 27/12/2011

Emmerich de Vattel (1714 - 1767) is one of the founding fathers of international law.  His most famous work, Le Droit des gens (The Law of Nations) has as its title the old name for international law and as its subtitle a statement of natural law theory:  "the Principles of Natural Law Applied to the Conduct and to the Affairs of Nations and of Sovereigns."  In other words, he regards international law as part of natural law and supports non-interventionism as part of the natural order.  For him, indeed, national sovereignty is a natural right on a par with personal freedom.  Vattel wrote,

"It is clear that a Nation has the right to draw up for itself its constitution, to uphold it, to perfect it, and to regulate at will all that relates to the government, without interference on the part of anyone … To intermeddle in the domestic affairs of another Nation or to undertake to constrain its councils is to do it an injury … Nations must put up with certain things although in themselves unjust and worthy of condemnation, because they cannot oppose them by force without transgressing the liberty of individual Nations and thus destroying the foundations of their natural society."


Centre for the Study of Interventionism