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The Contribution of the Medieval Canon Lawyers to the Formation of International Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 July 2016

James Muldoon*
Rutgers University — Camden


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Bibliographical Survey
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1 Les origines du droit international (Brussels-Paris 1894) iv. See also his Études de droit international et de droit politique (2 vols.; Brussels 1896, 1901) and Le droit international (3 vols.; Brussels 1912). A convenient summary of Nys' views on the pre-Grotian origins of international law can be found in his introduction to Vitoria's De Indis et de jure belli relectiones (Washington, D.C. 1917; reprinted New York 1964) 55–100.

2 Nys, Origines 7.

3 Ibid. 11.

4 Ibid. 144.

5 Ibid. 150.

6 Ibid. 154–55.

7 Ibid. 159.

8 Nussbaum, Arthur, A Concise History of the Law of Nations (rev. ed. New York 1954) 293–94.

9 Vanderpol, A., Le Droit de guerre d'après les théologiens et les canonistes du moyen-ǎge (Paris-Brussels 1911).

10 Regout, Robert, La doctrine de la guerre juste (Paris 1935) 301.

11 Vanderpol, 151.

12 Ibid. 155.

13 Holland, Thomas E., Studies in International Law (Oxford 1898) 139.

14 Ibid. 2.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid. 22.

17 Ibid. 44.

18 Ibid. 44, 56. It should be noted, however, that Holland's references to the canonists are filled with minor errors which suggest that his knowledge of the sources must have been slight. For example, he refers to ‘the title De Homocidio in the sixth book of the Decretals' when in fact it is in the fifth and last book.

19 Vanderpol, 154–55.

20 , R. W. and Carlyle, A. J., A History of Mediaeval Political Theory in the West (6 vols.; Edinburgh and London 1903–1936) II viii.

21 Oppenheim, L., International Law: A Treatise (2 vols.; 2nd ed. London and New York 1912) I 54–55, 83–84, 86.

22 On Scott's life and career, see: Finch, G. A., ‘James Brown Scott, 1866–1943,American Journal of International Law [AJIL] 38 (1944) 183217; and F. R. Coudert, ‘An Appreciation of James Brown Scott,’ ibid. 37 (1943) 559–61.

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23 Letter to Woodward, Robert S. Dr., President of the Carnegie Institution, AJIL 3 (1909) 701–07 at 703.

24 Scott, J. B., Preface to Vitoria, De Indis p. 6.

25 John of Legnano, Tractatus de bello, de represaliis et de duello, ed. Holland, T. E. (Oxford 1917).

26 Nys, Ernest, ‘The Development and Formation of International Law,’ AJIL 6 (1912) 129, 279–315. See also Amos Hershey, ‘The History of International Relations During Antiquity and the Middle Ages,’ ibid. 5 (1911) 901–33; and ‘History of International Law Since the Peace of Westphalia,’ ibid. 6 (1912) 30–69; Sherman, G. E., ‘The Nature and Sources of International Law,’ ibid. 15 (1921) 349–60.

27 Blach, T. W., ‘Albericus Gentilis,’ AJIL 5 (1911) 665–79; F. F. Abbott, ‘Alberico Gentili and his Advocatio Hispanica,’ ibid. 10 (1916) 737–48.

28 Preface to Vitoria, De Indis p. 5.

29 Scott, J. B., The Spanish Conception of International Law and of Sanctions (Washington, D.C. 1934) 51. Scott's other works include: The Spanish Origin of International Law (Washington, D.C. 1928); The Catholic Conception of International Law (Washington, D.C. 1934); The Spanish Origin of International Law: Francisco de Vitoria and his Law of Nations (Oxford 1934).

30 See for example, Spanish Origin (1934) 71, 118.

31 Vitoria, De Indis 55.

32 Nussbaum (cit. supra n. 8) 304.

33 Scott, Spanish Origin (1934) 98.

34 It might be noted here that several of the authors discussed indicated a debt to the Carnegie Endowment. These include Eppstein, John, Hanke, Lewis, and Moreau-Reibel, Jean.

35 Brierly, J. L., The Law of Nations (Oxford 1928) 19.

36 Ibid. (5th ed. 1955) 36.

37 Holland (cit. supra n. 13), 20.

38 Lorimer, James, The Institutes of the Law of Nations (1883) I 71, quoted in Nys, Introduction to De Indis, p. 99.

39 Wright, Herbert F., Francisci de Victoria: De iure belli relectio (Washington, D.C. 1916).

40 Ibid. 17, 21.

41 Ibid. 20.

42 Ibid. 21.

43 Ibid. 17.

44 See Wright, H. F., ‘International Law: Old Wine in New Bottles, Catholic World 132 (1931–1932) 513–21; ‘Catholic Founders of International Law,’ Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia 45 (1934) 119–43. See also his ‘The Divorce of Henry VIII,’ American Catholic Quarterly Review 44 (1919) 556–65; ‘Origin of American Aborigines: A Famous Controversy,’ Catholic Historical Review 3 (1917–1918) 257–75; and ‘St. Augustine and International Peace,’ Thought 6 (1931) 399–416.

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45 Rupp, Max G., ‘Hugo Grotius and his Place in the History of International Peace, Catholic Historical Review 4 (1924–1925) 358–66. See also A. H. Chroust, ‘Hugo Grotius and the Scholastic Natural Law Tradition,’ New Scholasticism 17 (1943) 101–33.

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46 Pfeiffer, Nicolaus, ‘The Doctrine of International Law According to Francis de Victoria O.P.,Catholic Historical Review 6 (1926–1927) 185224. See also G. F. Benkert, The Thomistic Conception of an International Society (Washington, D.C. 1942).

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47 McKenna, C. H., ‘Francisco de Vitoria: Father of International Law,Studies 21 (1932) 635–48 at 647.

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48 Eppstein, John, The Catholic Tradition of the Law of Nations (Washington, D.C. 1935) xviii. For a similar point of view by an author who was not a Catholic, see: R. F. Wright, Medieval Internationalism: The Contribution of the Medieval Church to International Law and Peace (London 1930).

49 Wright, H. F., in New Scholasticism 9 (1935) 369–70 at 369.


50 Salvador de Madariaga, Spain (New York 1930) 48, cited in Merriman, R. B., Rise of the Spanish Empire (4 vols.; New York 1918–1934; reprinted New York 1962) IV 484. Madariaga gives no indication in the text as to the source of this opinion, but in a bibliographical note at the end he cites the Classics edition of Vitoria's De Indis, suggesting the possibility that he was influenced by Nys' views. See Spain 484.

51 Parry, J. H., The Spanish Theory of Empire in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge 1940) 19.

52 Ibid. 19–20.

53 Parry has not essentially changed his views concerning the importance of Vitoria and the other pre-Grotians. See his The Spanish Seaborne Empire (New York 1966) 138–39, 142.

54 Hanke, Lewis, The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America (Philadelphia 1949; reprinted Boston 1965) 28.

55 Ibid. 1.

56 Ibid. 151.

57 Fenwick, C. G., AJIL 29 (1935) 183–84 at 184.

58 Ibid.

59 Nussbaum 113.

60 Ibid. 301.

61 Ibid. 298.

62 Ibid.

63 Ibid. 80–81.

64 Ibid. 297.

65 It should be noted that Nussbaum's views on the significance of Vitoria and Suárez and the polemical tone of his criticism of Scott were in turn criticized as being too extreme. See the review by Kunz, J. L., AJIL 50 (1956) 448–49. Ironically, one reviewer of the first edition (1947) declared that ‘Victoria and Suarez are masterly portrayed in the restricted space of some fifteen pages.’ See Freeman, A. V., AJIL 43 (1949) 603–05 at 603.

66 Regout, 9–10, 301.

67 Ibid. 59–60.

68 Ibid. 15.

69 Moreau-Reibel, Jean, ‘Le droit de société interhumaine et le jus “gentium”: Essai sur les origines et le développement des notions jusqu’à Grotius,’ Académie de droit international, Recueil des cours 77 (1950) 481597 at 524.

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70 Ibid. 523–24.

71 Ibid. 514.

72 Ibid. 486.

73 Ibid. 524.

74 Ibid. 531.

75 Ibid. 532.

76 Belch, Stanislaus, Paulus Vladimiri and His Doctrine Concerning International Law and Politics (2 vols.; The Hague 1965) I 742.

77 Ibid.

78 Ibid. 751.

79 Ibid. 75.

80 Muldoon, J., ‘Extra ecclesiam non est imperium : The Canonists and the Legitimacy of Secular Power,’ Studia Gratiana 9 (1960) 553–80.

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81 Muldoon, J., ‘A Canonistic Contribution to the Formation of International Law,The Jurist 28 (1968) 265–79.

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82 Innocent IV's sponsorship of an embassy to the Mongols is often forgotten. See Dawson, Christopher, The Mongol Mission (London and New York 1955).

83 Several of the most important bulls are available in Davenport, F. G., European Treaties Bearing on the History of the United States and its Dependencies to 1815 (4 vols.; Washington, D.C. 1917–1919; reprinted Gloucester, Mass. 1967) I.

84 Weckman, Luis, Las Bulas Alejandrinas de 1493 y la teoría política del papado medieval (Mexico City 1949). Weckman's bibliography, though extensive, does not include the works of Nys, Vanderpol, or Scott.

85 de Witte, Charles-Martial, ‘Les bulles pontificales et l'expansion portugaise au XVe siècle,’ Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 48 (1953) 683718; 49 (1954) 438–61; 51 (1956) 415–53, 809–36; 53 (1958) 5–46 and 443–71.

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