A schoolmaster abolishing home-work? Vattel on peacemaking and peace treaties

Between the end of the Middle Ages and the late 17th century, peace treaties became far more elaborate and detailed. Doctrine did not follow suit. The Italian civil lawyers Pierino Belli (1502-1575), Albericus Gentilis (1552-1608) and the Dutch humanist Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) were among the first of the early modern authors of the law of nations to cover peace treaties in a somewhat systematic way. After Grotius, doctrine did not dramatically evolve.In his famous treatise on the law of nations of 1758, the Swiss diplomat Emer de Vattel (1714-1767) devoted four chapters out of 68 to the subject. In relation to peacemaking and peace treaties, he followed closely in the footsteps of his inspirer, Christian Wolff (1679-1754).Vattel, even more than Wolff had done, had shed the forms and constrictions of humanist jurisprudence. More than anyone before, he made reference to recent and current practice. This, and his concision and clarity of style allowed him to expose the ius ad pacem in terms of generally applicable principles and rules, of a true voluntary law of peace, which was helpful to interpreting contemporary peace treaties.Vattel's most significant contribution to the law of peacemaking stems from his relating peacemaking and peace treaties expressly to the doctrines of just and legal war and of sovereign equality. The underlying ideas and assumption were not new - Wolff and he drew heavily on Grotius's conceptions of war and peace -, but Vattel expounded them far less apologetic and far more straightforward than any of the older writers. Although Vattel himself did not do away with the idealism of just war and just peace, by making the doctrine of sovereign the basic tenet of the law of peacemaking and by setting out a systematic exposition of compromise peace - which, I propose to call 'formal peace' as opposed to 'just peace' - he made 'formal peace' into an autonomous category. It offered later international lawyers a great platform to divorce peacemaking altogether from morals and justice.
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