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8 - Sovereignty

from Part II - Concepts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 September 2021

Randall Lesaffer
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
Janne E. Nijman
Universiteit van Amsterdam
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A legal analyses of Grotius’s ideas on sovereignty in De jure belli ac pacis shows that political power is in fact the natural right of the political association to defend its rights and foster its well-being, transferred to one (monarchy), a few (aristocracy) of many (popular government). The power transferred from the association to the ruler can be absolute or conditional, complete or partial, perpetual or temporary, and the ruler can hold the right to rule in property, or have a usufructuary or precarious right to it. Notwithstanding the people’s right to resist their ruler(s) in some well-described cases of abuse of power, Grotius regards the ruler with a property or usufructuary right in political power as supreme (‘sovereign’), even if his power is limited. According to Grotius, power is supreme if the ruler’s actions are not subject to the legal control of another. Abuse of power beyond its limits is not an act of the political ruler, but of someone infringing on another’s rights.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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Further Reading

Barducci, M., Hugo Grotius and the Century of Revolution 1613–1718. Transnational Reception in English Political Thought (Oxford, 2017).Google Scholar
Baumgold, D., Contract Theory in Historical Context. Essays on Grotius, Hobbes and Locke (Leiden and Boston, 2010).Google Scholar
Brett, A.S., ‘The development of the idea of citizens’ rights’, in Skinner, Q. and Strath, B. (eds.), States and Citizens, History, Theory, Prospects (Cambridge, 2003), 97112.Google Scholar
Brett, A.S., Changes of State. Nature and the Limits of the City in Early Modern Natural Law (Princeton and Oxford, 2011).Google Scholar
Brett, A.S., ‘The subject of sovereignty: law, politics and moral reasoning in Hugo Grotius’, Modern Intellectual History 4 (2019) 127.Google Scholar
Feenstra, R., ‘Expropriation et dominium eminens chez Grotius’, in l’Expropriation/Expropriation (Recueils de la société Jean Bodin pour l’histoire comparative des institutions/Transactions of the Jean Bodin society for comparative institutional history 66.1; Brussels, 1999), 133–53.Google Scholar
Grunert, F., ‘Sovereignty and resistance: the development of the right of resistance in German natural law’, in Hunter, I. and Saunders, D. (eds.), Natural Law and Civil Sovereignty. Moral Right and State Authority in Early Modern Political Thought (Basingstoke and New York, 2002), 123–38.Google Scholar
Haakonssen, K., ‘Hugo Grotius and the history of political thought’, Political Theory 13 (1985), 239–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hinshelwood, B., ‘Punishment and sovereignty in De Indis and De iure belli ac pacis’, Grotiana N.S. 38 (2017) 71105.Google Scholar
Konegen, N., and Nitschke, P. (eds.), Staat bei Hugo Grotius (Baden-Baden, 2005)Google Scholar
Lee, D., ‘Popular liberty, princely government, and the Roman law in Hugo Grotius’ De Jure Belli ac Pacis’, Journal of the History of Ideas 72 (2011) 371–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Straumann, B, ‘Early modern sovereignty and its limits’, Theoretical Inquiries in Law 16 (2015) 423–46.Google Scholar
Van Gelderen, M., ‘From Domingo de Soto to Hugo Grotius: theories of monarchy and civil power in Spanish and Dutch political thought, 1555-1609’, Pensiero Politico 32 (1999), 186205.Google Scholar
Van Nifterik, G., ‘Hugo Grotius on slavery’, in Blom, H.W. and Winkel, L.C. (eds.), Grotius and the Stoa (Assen, 2004), 233–43.Google Scholar
Van Nifterik, G., ‘Grotius and the origin of the ruler’s right to punish’, in Blom, H.W. (ed.), Property, Piracy and Punishment (Leiden and Boston, 2009), 396415.Google Scholar

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