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A Methodical System of Universal Law

Johann Gottlieb Heineccius

Publication Year: 2012

The natural law theory of Johann Gottlieb Heineccius was one of the most influential to emerge from the early German Enlightenment. Heineccius continued and, in important respects, modified the ideas of his predecessors, Samuel Pufendorf and Christian Thomasius. He developed distinctive views on central questions such as the freedom of the human will and the natural foundation of moral obligation, which also sharply distinguished him from his contemporary Christian Wolff.Heineccius’s work saw five Latin editions in thirty years as well as several French, Italian, and Spanish editions; and it had a long life in Latin America. The English edition presented by Liberty Fund is based on the translation by the Scottish moral philosopher George Turnbull (1698–1748). It includes Turnbull’s extensive comments on Heineccius’s text, as well as his substantial Discourse upon the Nature and Origin of Moral and Civil Laws. These elements make the work into one of the most extraordinary encounters between Protestant natural law theory and neo-republican civic humanism. Johann Gottlieb Heineccius (1681–1741) studied theology at Leipzig and later law at the newly founded (1694) University at Halle, where he became a pupil of Christian Thomasius.Thomas Ahnert is a Lecturer in History, at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.Peter Schröder is Senior Lecturer in the History Department at University College London.Knud Haakonssen is Professor of Intellectual History and Director of the Centre for Intellectual History at the University of Sussex, England.

Published by: Liberty Fund

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix

A Note on the Text

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pp. xix


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pp. xxi

Book I: Of the Law of Nature

Title Page

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pp. 1


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pp. 3

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pp. 5-6

The author of this system of the law of nature and nations is so well known, and in so high esteem in the republic of letters, that it would be arrogance in me to say any thing in recommendation of his works. Nor need I make any apology for translating into our language so excellent a book upon a...

Table of Contents

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pp. 7-10

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Chapter I: Concerning the origine and foundation of the Law of Nature and Nations

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pp. 11-29

Whatever tends to preserve and perfect man is called good with respect to man: whatever hath a contrary tendency is called ill with regard to him: every action therefore which contributes to human preservation and perfection is a good action; and every action is evil which tends to...

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Chapter II: Concerning the nature and distinguishing qualities or characteristics of human actions

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pp. 30-50

From what hath been said of the foundation and origine of the law of nature and nations, it is obvious, that it hath for its object and <19> scope the direction of human conduct; and therefore order makes it necessary to enquire accurately into the qualities and characteristics of...

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Chapter III: Of the rule of human actions, and the true principle of the law of nature

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pp. 51-74

Such, we have already seen, is the nature of our free actions, that they must have a rule to direct them (§4); there we likewise shewed that a rule could not serve the purposes of a rule, if it be not streight or right, certain, evident, and invariable, and have external as well as internal...

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Chapter IV: Of the application of this rule to actions, and the differences of actions proceeding from thence

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pp. 75-92

Having considered the nature of human free actions, and the rule according to which they ought to be regulated; the next thing to be considered, is the application of this rule to free actions. The application of a law to a fact is called imputation, and therefore we shall in this chapter...

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Chapter V: Of the duties of man to God

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pp. 93-106

Hitherto we have but premised some of the first principles of the beautiful moral science; let us now proceed to consider the offices or duties which the law of nature prescribes to mankind; to all and every one of the human race. What the Greek philosophers called...

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Chapter VI: Of the duties of man to himself

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pp. 107-130

Nothing is nearer to man, besides the ever-blessed God, than he is to himself; nature having inlaid into his frame such a sensibility to his interests, and so tender a love of himself, that we justly look upon him to be out of his senses and distracted, who...

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Chapter VII: Concerning our absolute and perfect duties towards (others in general), and of not hurting or injuring others (in particular)

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pp. 131-158

Let us now proceed to consider our duties towards others, the foundation of which lies, as was observed above, in this, that man is by nature equal to man, and therefore every man is obliged to love every other with a love of friendship (§85 & 88). And because equality of nature requires...

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Chapter VIII: Concerning our imperfect duties towards others

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pp. 159-174

We think our obligation not to hurt any person, and the nature of injury have been sufficiently cleared and demonstrated. The next thing would be to explain with equal care our obligation to render to every one his own, and the nature of that duty (§175); were not the nature...

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Chapter IX: Concerning our hypothetical duties towards others, and the original acquisition of dominion or property

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pp. 175-205

What hath hitherto been explained, belongs partly to the love of justice, and partly to that which we call the love of humanity and beneficence (§84). From the latter we have deduced our imperfect duties in the preceding chapter; from the former our perfect ones are clearly deducible...

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Chapter X: Of derivative acquisitions of dominion or property made during the life of the first proprietor

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pp. 206-218

Dominion being acquired, a change sometimes happens, so that one acquires either property or dominion in a thing, neither of which he before had; and such acquisitions we called above, (§240), derivative. Now, seeing the thing in which we acquire property was before that...

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Chapter XI: Of derivative acquisitions by succession to last-will and to intestates

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pp. 219-231

A Testament, in the notion of Civilians, is a solemn declaration of one’s will concerning the transition of his inheritance and all his rights to <216> another after his demise. And therefore, while the testator is alive, no right passes to his heirs; nay, not so much as any certain hopes...

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Chapter XII: Concerning the rights and duties which arise from property or dominion

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pp. 232-251

Dominion is the right of excluding all others from the use of something (§231). But when we exclude others from the use of a thing, we pretend to have the sole right of using it. Hence the first effect of dominion is the free disposal of a thing; i.e. the right or faculty of granting any one...

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Chapter XIII: Concerning things belonging to commerce

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pp. 252-295

After men had departed from the negative communion of things, and dominion was introduced, they began to appropriate useful things to themselves in such a manner, that they could not be forced to allow any one the use of them, but might set them aside wholly for...

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Chapter XIV: Concerning pacts

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pp. 296-308

Tho’, by the law of nature, there be no difference between pacts and contracts, both deriving their subsistence and force from consent; yet it may be said, that contracts, according to the antient way of speaking, related to commerce about goods and labour (§327); and...

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Chapter XV: By what means obligations arising from pacts and contracts are dissolved

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pp. 309-318

We have already proved that pacts ought to be religiously fulfilled, and that nothing is more sacred than one’s pledged faith (§387); but by faith is meant nothing else but the performance of promises and pacts; (and therefore Cicero de off. 1. 6. justly, tho’ not exactly according...

Book II: Of the Law of Nations

Title Page

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pp. 321

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Chapter I: Concerning the natural and social state of man

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pp. 323-345

Hitherto we have considered the law of nature, by which the actions of particulars ought to be regulated. Now, the next thing to be done in this undertaking, is to deduce the laws of nations from their principles, and to give a compendious view of them. This we promised...

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Chapter II: Of the duties belonging to the matrimonial state, or society

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pp. 346-365

That God wills mankind should be propagated, and that the number of those who daily pay their debt to nature should be supplied by a new race, is plain from hence, that otherwise his end in creating mankind could not be obtained (l. 1. §77.) they therefore who have this end...

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Chapter III: Of the duties that ought to be observed in a society of parents and children

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pp. 366-382

By the conjunction of which we have been treating in the preceding chapter, children are procreated, who abide in society with their parents till they themselves form new families, and go from under their parents authority. For tho’ children, when they come into the world, can...

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Chapter IV: Concerning the duties belonging to masters and servants, and that despotical society

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pp. 383-392

We now proceed to consider the society of master and servants, which is not, by nature, so necessary as the more simple societies of which we have already treated, but yet has been most frequent among mankind from the most antient times. And by it we understand a society...

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Chapter V: Of the complex society called a family, and the duties to be observed in it

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pp. 393-404

We observed that lesser or more simple societies may coalesce or unite into larger and more compounded ones (§17): and of this the societies we have described afford us an example. For when these join and consent into a larger society, hence arises a family, which is a society compounded...

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Chapter VI: Of the origine of civil society, its constitution and qualities, or properties

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pp. 405-438

Tho’, in the societies we have described, men might have lived very comfortably; yet some reason hath prevailed upon men to form themselves into those larger societies, which we call states or republics, and to prefer, almost by universal consent, the civil to the natural state; there is almost...

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Chapter VII: Of sovereignty, and the ways of acquiring it

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pp. 439-467

Since those who unite into a civil state lived before that in a state of nature (§3), which is a state of equality and liberty (§5 and 6); the consequence is, that a civil state is subjected to no person or persons without it; may not be hindered or disturbed in doing any thing it judges...

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Chapter VIII: Concerning the immanent rights of majesty, and the just exercise of them

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pp. 468-497

The immanent or internal rights of majesty, are rights so inseparably connected with it, that the security of the subjects cannot be attained without them (§134). Since therefore this security consists in this, that no subject may be injured by any other, and every one may have his...

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Chapter IX: Concerning the transeunt rights of Sovereignty

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pp. 498-522

Because all empire is supreme and absolute, (§127), it follows, that different empires or civil states are independent, and subject to no common authority on earth (§ eodem). But such states are in a state of nature, and therefore in a state of natural equality and liberty...

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Chapter X: Of the duties of subjects

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pp. 523-529

Hitherto we have treated of the rights of the supreme magistrate both within and without his dominions. Let us now enquire into the duties of subjects; but all of them may be so easily deduced from the rights of Sovereigns as correlates to them, (l. 1. §7), that we shall quickly dispatch...

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A Supplement Concerning the Duties of Subjects and Magistrates

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pp. 531-550

We have had little occasion to differ, very considerably at least, from our Author, except in one important question, about the measures of submission to the supreme power; and as little occasion to add to him, except with relation to the natural causes of government, and their...

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A Discourse upon the Nature and Origine of Moral and Civil Laws

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pp. 551-618

It will be acknowledged that subjects of importance deserve to be set in various lights. Let us therefore endeavour to set the first principles of the science of laws in a light, which, if not altogether new, yet may perhaps prove more satisfactory to several understandings, than that...

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pp. 619-651

The bibliography identifies the works referred to in Heineccius’s text and in Turnbull’s notes and additions, including editions used in the present editors’ annotations. It also lists any other sources that were originally published before 1800 and are referred to in the new...


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pp. 653-687

Publication Information

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pp. 688

E-ISBN-13: 9781614878087
E-ISBN-10: 1614878080
Print-ISBN-13: 9780865974791

Page Count: 711
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: None