Hugo Gratius, a scientist and a lawyer from Holland, lived from 1583 to 1645. In his famous treatise “The Three Books on the Right of War and Peace”, published in 1625, he depicted the struggle of the Dutch capital for freedom at the sea. He is considered to be the founder of the bourgeois studies of the international law and is one of the representatives of the big bourgeoisie as a scholar of law at an early stage of its development during the dissolution of feudalism in Western Europe and the first large revolt of bourgeoisie.
This book by Gratius is more or less a systematical report of the basic theories of international law, which were common for that period of evolution from feudalism to capitalism. It was for a long time one of the most important books for diplomats.
According to his beliefs, Hugo was a representative of the period of transformation from feudalist to bourgeois state. His ideas received wide spread and founded the basement of further development of the international law, because they expressed real conditions of development and political demands of the newly-forming class of bourgeoisie to the ruling feudal party. I must specially note the progressive character of some of the Gratius’s ideas in the sphere of the international law that had a strong influence to modern international relations. Hugo Gratius, being a bourgeoisie theorist on its early stages, denied the opinion that force makes all the decisions in the international relations. He thought that law and justice should be number one in international relations…
But we must not forget that the progressiveness of his ideas was inconsistent and limited by the narrow frameworks of the bourgeois law views. It is necessary to note that modern bourgeois ideologists renounce the principles promoted by the ancestors in 17 – 18 centuries when bourgeoisie was fighting against feudalism.
Hugo Gratius was on of the representatives of the leading (in 17 – 18 centuries) school of common law and treaty theory of state origins. The school expressed the basic demands of bourgeoisie in its struggle with feudalism; its theoretical basement was outlook, turned out as a result of the revolution in natural history, reformation, and a bundle of ideas, left from humanism in 15 –16 centuries.
It must be noted here that although the school had a common theoretical base it was not homogeneous. It had lots of trends, which differed from one another by phases of bourgeoisie development, stages of her struggle with feudalism, quantity of different class’s representatives in a state, and differences in bourgeoisie itself, because different groups had different opinions on implementing their demands. These differences can be seen when answering the questions on practical implementation of the ideas of common law, ex. Who is the bearer of sovereignty: people or monarch, which form of government is the best for human nature, etc.
The problem of the state origins – a theoretical question – had also different answers. They all agreed that before state there was a so called “natural condition”. But what was this “natural condition” was a point of debates. For one of the theorists it was a realm of unlimited freedom, wild anarchy, leading to war of “all against all” (Hobbes); for others – a peaceful idealistic state of freedom and innocence, “Golden Age” (Rousseau); others thought it was unlimited personal freedom (Loch).
For many preachers of this theory “natural condition” was a philosophical dogma or, as Golbach said, fiction. But this fiction helped ideologists of bourgeoisie to criticize pre-capitalistic social and political regime and to prophecy the victory of bourgeoisie. “In this society… - wrote Marx – an individual is free from natural bonds, etc., that in the past made him belong to a certain limited human community.”
Theorists of natural law consider state as a result of a juridical act – Treaty of the society, of people’s free will.
The idea of natural law and treaty state origins can be found in Greek and Roman philosophy and works, and in the works of feudalism scholars in middle ages. But in 17 – 18 centuries these ideas became more developed with some peculiar features, because they lose theological context common for medieval scholars, and naпve naturalism of ancient ones, because some of them considered animals as subjects of law. But the main thing is that a theory of international law of the 17 – 18 centuries had different class’ essence. It expressed strong demands of bourgeoisie, struggling hard for on its way to power.