Signed copy of War and Peace Hamilton
Signed copy of War and Peace Hamilton
Signed copy of War and Peace Hamilton

The Rights of War and Peace, in Three Books

Hugo Grotius


De jure belli ac pacis libri tres.
(English: On the Law of War and Peace)

Reprinted and translated many times since. Jean Barbeyrac's 1735 edition, with extensive notes and commentary, was the most important; it was translated into English and published in London by Innys et al. in 1738.¹

The Rights of War and Peace is now regarded as a foundational work in international law.

Jean Barbeyrac (1674-1744) was a Huguenot refugee from religious persecution in France. He taught in Germany, Switzerland, and Holland and became one of the most important disseminators of Protestant natural law as well as an important rights-theorist.

His translations of Pufendorf and Grotius, along with his copious notes and commentaries, were an important addition to natural law theory.³

Book I advances his conception of war and of natural justice, arguing that there are some circumstances in which war is justifiable.

Book II identifies three 'just causes' for war: self-defense, reparation of injury, and punishment; Grotius considers a wide variety of circumstances under which these rights of war attach and when they do not.

Book III takes up the question of what rules govern the conduct of war once it has begun; influentially, Grotius argued that all parties to war are bound by such rules, whether their cause is just or not.²

The Rights of War and Peace, in three books.

Wherein are explained, The Law of Nature and Nations, and The Principal Points relating to Government.

Written in Latin by the learned Hugo Grotius, and translated into English.

To which are added, all the large notes of Mr. J. Barbeyrac, professor of law at Groningen, and member of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Berlin.

London: printed for W. Innys and R. Manby, J. and P. Knapton, D. Brown, T. Osborn, and E. Wicksteed.


Rights of War and Peace in the
Alexander Hamilton Room²

The Rights of War and Peace, in three books, by Hugo Grotius, from the personal library of Alexander Hamilton (annotated and signed) was on display in the Alexander Hamilton Room at the Museum of American Finance in New York, NY.

The paper displayed next to the book reads:

The Rights of War and Peace by Hugo Grotius

This copy of Hugo Grotius’ The Rights of War and Peace is likely to have belonged in Alexander Hamilton’s personal library. Hamilton signed the book three times, and one of this signatures can be seen here at the top of page 527.

The Rights of War and Peace, written in 1625, is an important work on international law, which Hamilton used for help in laying the foundations of the young nation’s legal system. In the landmark legal case, Rutgers v. Waddington, which set the precedent for judicial review, Hamilton represented the defense. Throughout his legal briefs for the case, Hamilton quoted Grotius and The Rights of War and peace. The quotes and references in the original briefs directly correspond with marginalia, notes and underlined portions of text within this book.