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8 - Importing our Lawyers from Holland: Netherlands Influences on Scots Law and Lawyers in the Eighteenth Century

from SIGNIFICANCE OF DUTCH HUMANISM

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 October 2017

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Summary

Perhaps the most significant cultural figure in Edinburgh life in the first half of the eighteenth century was Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, Baron of the new Exchequer Court established after the Union. It is notable that a lawyer should have had this role, just as it is generally remarkable how many of the literati of the Scottish Enlightenment were lawyers: Lord Kames, Lord Monboddo and John Millar are only the most obvious and brightest stars in this firmament. Clerk spent two years as a student in the University of Glasgow studying logic and metaphysics – years that he was to regret as wasted because of the nature of these disciplines as taught at Glasgow. In October 1694, however, he sailed for the Netherlands, there to pursue the study of law at the University of Leiden. He studied Civil (Roman) Law for two years with Philippus Reinhardus Vitriarius, and for one further year with Johannes Voet. Vitriarius was originally German, and a distinguished scholar of German public law. He is of note for attempting to relate Civil Law to its sources in natural law, and for writing an elementary work on natural law according to the method of Hugo Grotius. He was interested in the philosophical and political origins of law. Thus, his course on Civil Law, published in Leiden in 1697 as Universum jus civile privatum ad methodum institutionum Justiniani compositum a Philippo Reinhardo Vitriario jurisconsulto et antecessore Lugdunensi, was subtitled as a work in quo praeter principia, et controversias juris civilis, indicantur fontes juris naturae et gentium, unde illa deducta esse videntur. As well as Civil Law, Clerk initially studied with Vitriarius the law of nature and nations of Grotius, until this met with the vehement disapproval of his father. Voet is the more famous man for his scholarly Commentarius ad Pandectas, first published in two volumes in Leiden in 1698 and 1700; he was best known to generations of students, however, for his Compendium juris juxta seriem Pandectarum published in Leiden in 1682. The young Clerk acutely remarked of Voet: “This man I found very distinct, for he keept close to his own Compend on the Instituts and Pandects, but he was far from being such a Corpus Juris as Professor Vitriarius was.”

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Law, Lawyers, and Humanism
Selected Essays on the History of Scots Law, Volume 1
, pp. 223 - 241
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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