restricted access Chapter II - General Principles of the Duties of a Nation towards herself
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chapter ii 85 But a people that has passed under the dominion of another is no longer a state, and can no longer availitself directlyof thelawof nations. Such were the nations and kingdoms which the Romans rendered subject to their empire; the generality even of those whom they honoured with the name of friends and allies no longer formed real states. Within themselves, they were go-verned by their own laws and magistrates; but without, they were in every thing obliged to follow the orders of Rome; they dared not of themselves either to make war or contract alliances ; and could not treat with nations. The law of nations is the law of sovereigns: free and independent states are moral persons, whose rights and obligations we are to establish in this treatise. chapter ii General Principles of the Duties of a Nation towards itself. If the rights of a nation spring from its obligations, it is principallyfrom those that relate to itself. It will further appear that its duties towards others depend very much on its duties towards itself, as the former are to be regulated and measured by the latter. As we are then to treat of the obligations and rights of nations,—an attention to order requires that we should begin by establishing what each nation owes to itself. The general and fundamental rule of our duties towards ourselves is, that every moral being ought to live in a manner conformable to his nature, naturae convenienter vivere. A nation is a being determined by its essential attributes, that has its own nature, and can act in conformity to it. There are then actions of a nation as such, wherein it is concerned in its national character, and whichare eithersuitableoroppositetowhat constitutes it a nation; so that it is not a matter of indifference whether it performs some of those actions, and omits others. In this respect, the Law of Nature prescribes it certain duties. We shall see, in this firstbook, what conduct a nation ought to observe, in order that it may not be§11. Of a state that has passed under the dominion of another.§12. The objects of this treatise.§13. A nation ought to act agreeably to its nature. 86 book i: nations in themselves wanting to itself. But we shall first sketch out a general idea of this subject. He who no longer exists can have no duties to perform: and a moral being is charged with obligations to himself, only with a view to his perfection and happiness: for to preserve and to perfect his own nature, is the sum of all his duties to himself. The preservation of a nation consists in the duration of the political association by which it is formed. If a period is put to this association, the nation or state no longer subsists, though the individuals that composed it, still exist. The perfection of a nation is found in what renders it capable of obtaining the end of civil society; and a nation is in a perfect state, when nothing necessary is wanting to arrive at that end. We know that the perfection of a thing consists, generally, in the perfect agreement of all its constituent parts to tend to the same end. A nation being a multitude of men united together in civil society,—if in thatmultitudeallconspire to attain the end proposed in forming a civil society, thenationisperfect; and it is more or less so, according as it approaches more or less to that perfect agreement. In the samemanneritsexternalstatewillbemore or less perfect, according as it concurs with the interior perfection of the nation. The end or object of civil society is toprocureforthecitizenswhatever they stand in need of, for the necessities, the conveniences, the accommodation of life, and, in general, whateverconstituteshappiness,—with the peaceful possession of property, a method of obtaining justice with security, and, finally a mutual defence against all external violence. It is now easy to form a just idea of the perfection of a state or nation :—every thing in it must conspire to promote the ends we have pointed out. In the act of association, by virtue of which a multitude of men form together a state or nation, each individual has entered into engagements with all, to promote the general welfare; and all have entered into engagements with each individual, to facilitate for him the means of supplying his necessities, and to protect and defend him. It is manifest that these reciprocal engagements...


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Subject Headings

  • International law.
  • War (International law).
  • Natural law.
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