The Natural Jurisprudence of Jean Barbeyrac: Translation as an Art of Political Adjustment

The article makes the case for redescribing Jean Barbeyrac (1674-1744), the great French translator and influential glossator of seventeenth-century Latin natural-law texts, as something quite other than a neutral mediator of Samuel Pufendorf. To consider the specific religious and political charge of his strategies as translator is to recognize the independence of Barbeyrac's Huguenot stance on natural jurisprudence. This stance is provoked by the profound challenge that Pufendorf's radical post-Westphalian secularizing of civil authority posed for a Huguenot: how to grant that the state had legitimate authority to regulate all external conduct, but at the same time preserve an inviolable moral space for the exercise of individual conscience. The argument—pointing to Barbeyrac's construction of a 'Lockeanized' Pufendorf—rests both on his famous presentation of Leibniz's critique of Pufendorf's De officio hominis et civis and on more neglected elements of Barbeyrac's corpus.