The Life of the Truly Eminent and Learned Hugo Grotius
by Jean Levesque de Burigny
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Of the truly EMINENT and LEARNED



A Copious and Circumstantial History of the several

Important and Honourable Negotiations

In which he was employed;


A Critical Account of his WORKS.

Written originally in French,



Printed for A. MILLAR, in the Strand; J. WHISTON and B. WHITE, at Mr. Boyle's Head; and L. DAVIS, at Lord Bacon's Head, both in Fleet-street.





It were to be wished that such a celebrated Genius as Grotius had found an Historian equal to his fame: for in this high rank we can by no means place those who have contented themselves with giving a superficial account of his Life, and a catalogue of his Works. M. Lehman, to whom we owe Grotius's Ghost revenged, is much fuller than any that went before him; yet he is far from having taken in all that deserves to be known of that illustrious writer, the two most interesting Distinctions of whose Life have been entirely neglected by all who have spoken of him; I mean his Negotiations, and his sentiments in matters of Religion.

Gaspar Brandt and Adrian Cattenburg have indeed published a long Life of Grotius; but the Dutch language, in which they wrote, is so little known, that their book cannot be of general use; with a view to which we have made choice of a more universal language, to communicate farther light concerning this excellent man, whom every one speaks of, tho' few with any certainty.

His being one of the most learned Authors that ever wrote, was not our sole motive for compiling his Life: for if we consider him only in that light, and with regard to the excellent treatises with which he has enriched the Republic of Letters, perhaps others may be found to compare with him. But his Life was so diversified, and filled with so many revolutions, that what regards literature is not the most curious part of it; greatly differing, in this respect, from the generality of men of letters, whole Lives are only the histories of their works. Besides, Grotius's prudence on all occasions, his modesty in prosperity, his patience in adversity, his steadiness in his duty, his love of virtue, his eagerness in the search of truth, and the ardent desire which he constantly maintained for uniting Christians in one Faith, distinguish him so advantageously from most other Scholars, that his Life may be proposed as a model to all who make profession of literature.

It is divided into six Books. The first presents us with the brightest genius ever recorded, of a Youth, in the history of the republic of letters. The second contains all that is worth being known of the disputes between the Gomarists and Arminians; the part Grotius took in them; his disgrace, and the manner of his escape out of prison. The third relates his transactions at Paris, and his retreat to Hamburg, where he continued till the great Chancellor Oxensteirn sent for him, to employ him in the important and honourable post of Ambassador from Sweden to the Court of France. The fourth and fifth Books give a detail of his Negotiations; which have never yet been published. We have been accustomed to consider Grotius only as a Scholar; his embassy is known but by report: we shall see, however, that he was employed in affairs of the greatest importance; that he succeeded in several; that he gave excellent counsels to the ministry; and that he always conducted himself with zeal, firmness, and integrity.

The sixth and last Book gives an account of such of his Works as we had not occasion to mention before; and examines particularly his theological sentiments, and his project for a coalition of Christians, and bringing them to unite in one creed.

* * * * *

Advertisement by the Editor.

The Abbe RAYNAL[1], a judicious French writer, gives the following character of this work.

"M. de BURIGNY hath executed his Plan with abundance of erudition, and an astonishing depth of enquiry. He has introduced nothing but facts well supported, or theological discussions delivered with the greatest conciseness and accuracy. Such readers as aim at amusement only, will think the author too minute in some places; those who are desirous of information will think otherwise. The most valuable part of this work is, in our opinion, the just and concise idea which it gives of Grotius's several Writings."


[1] Mercure Francois, an. 1752.


By Order of my Lord CHANCELLOR, I have read the Life of GROTIUS. This History, which gives us a pleasing Idea of the Extent of the Human Mind, farther informs us, that GROTIUS died without reaping any Advantage to himself from his great Talents. For the rest, I think it deserves to be made public on account of its relation to Literature, and to the general History of Europe.







I. Grotius's Origin: The Marriage of Cornelius Cornets with Ermengarda de Groot

II. He has a Son named Hugo de Groot

III. Life of Cornelius de Groot

IV. Life of John de Groot

V. Birth of Grotius

VI. Great hopes conceived of him when a boy

VII. State of affairs in the United Provinces

VIII. Embassy from the States to Henry IV. of France; Grotius accompanies the Ambassadors; is very graciously received by the king

IX. His mortification at not having seen M. de Thou; he writes to him; and keeps up an intimate correspondence with him till his death

X. Grotius gives an edition of Martianus Capella

XI. Publishes the Limneu[Greek: retiche]

XII. Publishes the Phoenomena of Aratus

XIII. Cultivates the study of poetry

XIV. The States nominate him their historiographer

XV. Henry IV. of France intends to make him his librarian

XVI. Commences Advocate; dislikes this employment

XVII. Is nominated Advocate General

XVIII. Marries

XIX. His treatise of the Freedom of the ocean is published

XX. Prints his book De antiquitate Reipublicae Batavicae

XXI. Is made pensionary of Rotterdam

XXII. Voyage to England: dispute concerning the Fishery

XXIII. Grotius's intimacy with Casaubon

XXIV. A grand question decided by the States of Holland according to Grotius's opinion

XXV. Sends Du Maurier a method of study


I. Dispute between Arminius and Gomarus

II. Remonstrance of the Arminians

III. The troubles increase

IV. The edict of the States

V. The States grant the Magistrates of the Towns permission to levy soldiers; which highly displeases the prince of Orange

VI. Grotius is deputed by the States to Amsterdam; falls ill through chagrin

VII. The project of reunion proves fruitless

VIII. Prince Maurice disbands the new levies

IX. Barnevelt, Grotius, and Hoogerbetz taken into custody

X. The synod of Dort

XI. Barnevelt's trial

XII. The fruitless solicitations of the French court in favour of the Prisoners: Barnevelt's execution

XIII. Trial and condemnation of Grotius

XIV. Grotius is carried to the fortress of Louvestein, his occupations

XV. Grotius escapes out of prison

XVI. His writings on occasion of the disputes in Holland


I. Grotius arrives at Paris, where he is well received

II. State of the French ministry: Du Vair's letter to Grotius: the court grants him a pension

III. Grotius's occupations at Paris

IV. Grotius publishes his Apology: it is condemned in Holland: the French king takes him again into his protection

V. He still maintains great connections in Holland; corresponds with Prince Henry Frederic of Nassau

VI. He publishes his Stobeus, and the Extracts from the Greek Tragedies and Comedies

VII. Goes to Balagni; is seized with the dysentery; publishes the Phoenissae of Euripides

VIII. The death of Prince Maurice; Frederic is made Stadtholder; Grotius writes to him

IX. Publishes his treatise, De jure Belli & Pacis

X. Has thoughts of leaving France

XI. Returns to Holland

XII. Is obliged to leave Holland

XIII. Goes to Hamburg


I. The High Chancellor Oxensteirn invites Grotius to him: the high esteem in which the latter held the King of Sweden

II. Grotius is appointed Ambassador from Sweden to the court of France

III. Situation of the Swedes affairs

IV. Grotius sets out for France, makes his entry into Paris, and has an audience of the King

V. Discussions between France and Sweden

VI. Arrival of the High Chancellor in France: a new treaty

VII. Disputes between Grotius and the ministers of Charenton

VIII. Grotius's several journeys to court, and his negotiations with the French ministry: abstains from visiting cardinal Richelieu

IX. Uneasiness given Grotius

X. Dispute for precedency with the Venetian Ambassador

XI. Is of opinion that the Swedes ought not to send plenipotentiaries to Cologn

XII. Disputes with the Venetian Ambassador

XIII. Quarrel between the English and Swedes for precedency


I. Different audiences which Grotius has of the French King

II. Conversation between the prince of Conde and Grotius

III. Grotius's negotiations in relation to the truce which was proposed: misconduct of Schmalz

IV. Grotius is in great danger of his life

V. Divers audiences of the king and queen

VI. The death of the duke of Weimar

VII. The elector Palatine is arrested in France; Grotius obtains his liberty

VIII. Grotius obtains the exchange of marshal Horn for John de Vert

IX. Renewal of the alliance between France and Sweden

X. Deaths of cardinal Richelieu and the French king; the regency of Anne of Austria

XI. Cerisante is sent to France; Grotius demands to be recalled

XII. He sets out for Stockholm, and applies to the queen to obtain his dismission

XIII. Grotius's death


I. Grotius's embassy does not interrupt his literary labours

II. He again applies to the cultivation of poetry

III. His notes on Tacitus

IV. —— notes on Statius

V. —— notes on Lucan

VI. —— Anthologia

VII. Antiquities of the Goths

VIII. Annals and history of the Low Countries

IX. Treatise of the truth of the christian religion

X. Florum sparsio ad jus Justinianeum

XI. Commentaries on the Bible

XII. Treatises on Antichrist, and other theological pieces

XIII. Of the origin of the people of America

XIV. Other printed pieces or Manuscripts of Grotius

XV. Grotius's letters

XVI. Grotius's sentiments in religion very distant at first from those of the Roman Catholics

XVII. His attachment to antiquity

XVIII. Leans towards the Roman Catholics

XIX. Is a partisan of the Hierarchy

XX. His sentiments concerning the Eucharist

XXI. His sentiments concerning the seven Sacraments

XXII. Grotius's sentiments concerning several other points controverted between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants

XXIII. His project for reuniting all Christians

XXIV. Is accused of Socinianism

XXV. Opinions concerning Grotius

XXVI. An account of his family


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I. The learned and illustrious Writer whose Life we undertake to give, derived the name of Grotius from his great-grandmother, married to Cornelius Cornets. This was a Gentleman of Franche-Compte, who travelled into the Low-Countries about the beginning of the sixteenth century, and coming to Delft, got acquainted with a Burgomaster who had an only daughter: He took a liking to her, asked, and obtained her in marriage.

The name of this magistrate was Diederic de Groot, or Diederic the Great; his family was of the first distinction in the country; and had produced several persons of great merit[2]. It is said the name of Great was given to one of Diederic's ancestors, above four hundred years ago, for a signal service done his country; and it has been observed[3] that all who bore the name of De Groot distinguished themselves by their zeal for the public.

Diederic de Groot had several important employments, in which he acquitted himself with great honour. The name of his only daughter was Ermengarda de Groot: Her father, on giving his consent to her marriage, insisted that the children should bear the name of De Groot; and Cornelius Cornets agreed to it in the marriage contract. There were several branches of the Cornets: one settled in Provence, as we are informed by[4] Grotius.


[2] Acad. Leid. ed. 1614.

[3] Vita Grotii ap. Batesium, p. 420.

[4] Ep. 264. ad Peyresc. p. 91.

II. Cornelius Cornets had by his marriage with Ermengarda de Groot a son named Hugo de Groot, distinguished by his knowledge of the Greek and Latin, and his skill in the Hebrew. He died in 1567, fifth time Burgomaster of Delft. He married Elselinga Heemskerke, of one of the ancientest noble families in Holland, and by her had two sons, Cornelius, and John de Groot.

III. Cornelius de Groot, eldest son of Hugh, was born at Delft on the 25th of July, 1544. He studied with much success at the University of Louvain, at that time very famous. The Greek and Hebrew he knew perfectly, and was well acquainted with the Mathematics. The Platonic Philosophy pleased him extremely, and he retained a liking to it all his life: he had read all the books of the sect, had commented their works, and knew them almost by heart.

The Law wholly took him up afterwards: he went to study it at the faculty of law at Orleans, the most celebrated for that science, and took the degree of Licentiate. Returning home he followed the Bar; some time after, he was nominated Counsellor and Echevin: William prince of Orange made him Master of Requests.

The University of Leyden being founded in 1575, Cornelius de Groot resigned his post in the magistracy, to follow his ruling inclination of being useful to youth; and did not think it beneath him to accept of a Professor's place in the new University: he first taught Philosophy, and was afterwards made Law-professor; an employment that pleased him so much, he preferred it to a seat in the Grand Council at the Hague, which was several times offered him, but which he constantly refused. His reputation was so great, the Grand Council often consulted with him on affairs of importance. Six times he was honoured with the dignity of Rector, a place of great honour and authority: the members of the University, and all who are enrolled in the Rector's book, depend on his jurisdiction; before him their causes, civil and criminal, are brought, and from his sentence there is no appeal: a revisal of it is all that can be demanded. Cornelius de Groot died without issue in the year 1610, on the same day of the month of July on which he was born. He left several Law Tracts which have never been printed.

IV. John de Groot, brother to Cornelius and second son of Hugh, studied under the famous Justus Lipsius, who esteemed him much: in some letters of that learned man to John de Groot he speaks of him with great commendation. There is one, written in 1582, in which Lipsius tells him, "You have loved the Muses, they have loved you, they will love you, and I too with them will love you." We have still preserved by his son[5] a translation in verse, made by him in his youth of some Greek verses of Palladas. He also wrote a Paraphrase on the Epistle of St. John; which Hugo Grotius mentions in one of his Letters[6].

Four times he was Burgomaster of Delft, and Curator of the University of Leyden: this last was a place of great consequence at that time. There are only three Curators in the University of Leyden; one is taken from the body of the nobility, and nominated by them; the two others are chosen by the States of the Province from among the cities of Holland, or the Courts of Justice.

The Curators with the Burgomasters of Leyden have the direction of whatever regards the welfare and advantage of the University; they chuse the Professors, and have the care of the finances and revenues for payment of their salaries.

John de Groot filled the place of Curator with great dignity and honour. Daniel Heinsius wrote some verses in his praise, in which he styles him the Apollo and Protector of the Muses.

This dignity did not hinder him from taking the degree of Doctor of Laws. In the remaining part of his life he attached himself to the Count of Hohenloo, who made him his Counsellor.

In 1582 he married Alida Averschie, of one of the first families in the Country; by whom he had three sons and a daughter. He died in the month of May 1640. In the same year his wife lost her eyesight; she lived till the beginning of the year 1643[7].


[5] Stobaeus, Tit. 98. p. 413.

[6] Ep. xxii. p. 751.

[7] Ep. 499. p. 898. Grotii Ep. 638. p. 948.

V. Of the marriage of John de Groot with Alida Averschie was born the celebrated Hugo de Groot, better known by the name of Grotius: he was the first fruit of their coming together. Almost all who have mentioned his birth[8] fix it on the tenth of April 1583. The President Bouhier pretends they place it a year too late; and that he was born on the tenth of April 1582. To prevent the authority of such a learned man, which has already seduced several writers, from misleading others, we shall shew that by departing from the general opinion he has fallen into an error. Grotius writes to Vossius on Easter Sunday 1615[9], that on that day he reckoned thirty-two years: He dates another letter[10] to Vossius the twenty-fifth of March 1617; Easter-eve, "which, he observes, begins my thirty-fifth year." April 11, 1643, he says he had completed sixty years[11]. On Easter-day 1644 he reckons sixty-one years[12]. He acquaints us in his Poems[13], that he was fifteen when he went first to France: he went there in 1598; and speaking of Easter 1614 he informs us[14] he was then one-and-thirty. From all these different calculations it is manifest that Grotius was born in 1583.

It must be owned, however, that the proof on which the President Bouhier builds his opinion, would be decisive, if there were no error in the text of a[15] letter written by Grotius to his brother, April 14, 1640, in which he says, "I have completed my fifty-eighth year:" but the other passages of Grotius just cited demonstrate that the editors of this letter, instead of incepi, I have begun, read implevi, I have completed: which Grotius could not have written without contradicting himself.


[8] Athenae Batavae, p. 205. Life of Grotius prefixed to his works. Le Clerc, Hist. de Hollande, l. 12. t. 2. See the critical Remarks on Bayle's Dict. ed. 1734.

[9] Ep. 55. p. 18.

[10] Ep. 95. p. 41.

[11] Ep. 648. p. 952.

[12] Ep. 697. p. 965.

[13] Page 213.

[14] Poemata, p. 217.

[15] Ep. 491. p. 896.

VI. It was therefore on the tenth of April in the year 1583, that Grotius was born, at Delft. It was Easter-Sunday that year: and he always observed the anniversary of that feast as his birth-day[16].

He came into the world with the most happy dispositions. Nature bestowed on him a profound genius, a solid judgment, and a wonderful memory. Several authors report[17] that being employed to review some regiments he retained the name of every soldier. He was but eight years old, when, in 1591, he wrote some elegiac verses, very pretty for that age: afterwards he thought them not good enough to publish. M. le Clerc informs us, that he had seen a copy of them in the possession of a very able man, who purposed to write the life of Grotius.

Nothing contributed more to his amazing progress, than the excellent education he received. He was so happy, as to find in his own father a pious and able governor, who formed his mind and his morals. He did not confine himself to making his son a man of learning, he purposed making him a good man. The young Grotius, like Horace, has celebrated his gratefulness for so good a father in some verses still extant. He often declared in the course of his life,[18] that he could never sufficiently acknowledge his obligation to his father and mother for the principles of piety they instilled into him. We learn from his letters[19], that his preceptor was one Lusson, whom he calls an excellent man; and seems to have been greatly affected with his death: which is all we know of him.

He was scarce past his childhood[20] when he was sent to the Hague; and boarded with Mr. Utengobard, a celebrated clergyman among the Arminians, with whom he kept up the most tender friendship till his death, in return for the care he had taken of his education. Before he was twelve, he was sent to the famous university of Leyden to perfect himself: and continued there three years with the learned Francis Junius, who was so kind to superintend his behaviour. Joseph Scaliger, the ornament of the university of Leyden, who enjoyed the most brilliant reputation among the learned, and whom his worshippers regarded as the Dictator of the republic of Letters, was so struck with the prodigious capacity of young Grotius, that he condescended to direct his studies. In 1597 he maintained public theses in Mathematics, Philosophy, and Law with the highest applause. Hence we may judge with what ardour he applied to study. He tells us himself that he spent a part of the night in it.[21] The device which he adopted[22] shews that he had reflected on the swiftness of time, and the necessity of employing it well.

The reputation of this learned youth spread every-where; and learned men spoke of him in their works as a prodigy. So early as the year 1597 Isaac Pontanus calls him a young man of the greatest hopes; Meursius, in 1599, declared he had never seen his equal. James Gilot, in a letter written from Paris to Meursius in 1601, affirmed the capacity of young Grotius bordered on prodigy; the famous Poet Barlaeus said the childhood of Grotius astonished all the old men. Daniel Heinsius maintained that Grotius was a man from the instant of his birth, and never had discovered any signs of childhood. He was scarce eleven when John Dowza bestowed the highest encomiums on him in some verses that might deserve to be copied entire: he can scarce believe that the great Erasmus promised so much as the young Grotius: and foretels that he will soon excel all his cotemporaries, and be fit to be compared with the most esteemed of the Antients.

At this early age, Grotius ventured to form plans, which required very great learning; and he executed them to such perfection, that the Republic of Letters was struck with astonishment. But as he did not publish these works till after his return from France, we shall defer giving an account of them till we have first spoken of his journey thither, and displayed the situation of affairs in Holland, in whose government Grotius had soon a share.


[16] Ep. 490. p. 895.

[17] Borremansius. Crenius Anim. Hist. t. 1. p. 20. Du Maurier.

[18] Ep. 490, p. 895.

[19] Ep. 500. p. 884.

[20] Apol. c. 20.

[21] In natalem patris, p. 199.

[22] Hora ruit.

VII. He came into the world precisely at that time when the affairs of the United Provinces were in the greatest disorder. It was the year[23] that the duke of Anjou wanted to surprize Antwerp; and that the greatest lords, in despair of being able to resist the formidable power of the king of Spain, were seeking to obtain a pardon. To add to their distress, William prince of Orange, the greatest support of the infant Republic, was murdered the year following, 1584, at Delft. His talents, his experience, and his reputation were the principal resource of the Malcontents. The confusion, in which he left affairs, grieved him so much, that his last words were, Lord, have pity on this poor people. Every thing was prepared, when he died, for proclaiming him Count of Holland. The provinces of Zealand and Utrecht did not oppose it: only the cities of Amsterdam and Goude made some difficulty: however, the thing was so far advanced, that the States of Holland sent a deputation to those two cities, to acquaint them, if they refused any longer to give their consent, the States would nevertheless consummate the affair. The deputation had been gone a month, when the prince was assassinated on the tenth of July.

The States in this kind of anarchy requested Henry III. of France to receive them for his subjects; but the embarrassments the League gave him hindered his accepting their offer. On his refusal they had recourse to Queen Elizabeth, who concluded a treaty with them, by which she engaged to furnish five thousand foot, and a thousand horse, under an English general, and to pay these troops during the war on condition of being reimbursed when it was over: and it was stipulated that for security of the payment some towns, particularly Flushing in Zealand, and the Brille in Holland, should be put into her hands, to be restored to the States when the money was repaid. The Queen of England at the same time published a manifesto, setting forth, that the alliance between the Kings of England and the Sovereigns of the Low Countries was not so much between their persons as between their respective States: from whence she concluded that, without violating her alliance with the King of Spain, she might assist the people of the Low Countries oppressed by the Spaniards.

The Earl of Leicester was appointed to command the succours sent by the Queen to Holland. The States, to express their gratitude to England, declared him Governor and Captain-General of the United Provinces. No sooner did he see himself invested with this great power, than he began under-hand to form projects destructive of the liberty of the country he came to defend: it has been said, he designed to make himself Sovereign of the Provinces of which he was only Governor. He soon became odious to every one; and after a campaign, in which he performed no considerable exploit, returned to England to take measures for facilitating the execution of his ambitious designs.

The States, who had no longer any confidence in him, gave, in 1587, the command of their own army to Count Maurice of Nassau, son of the Prince of Orange. He was then only eighteen: but he quickly justified by many signal successes the hopes they had conceived of him. The Earl of Leicester, returning to Holland, resolved to employ force to accomplish his design of making himself Sovereign: he wanted to get possession of several places at once; but his scheme for surprizing Leyden being seasonably discovered, all correspondence between the States and him was entirely broken off. The Queen recalled him, and sent in his room Lord Willoughby, who was to command only the English. The States thereupon appointed Count Maurice of Nassau Captain-General: the Grand Pensionary Barnevelt, who had distinguished himself by his firmness in opposing Leicester, contributed greatly to this nomination.


[23] Ann. Grotii L. 4. p. 81.

VIII. The United Provinces had bravely defended their liberty for several years: it was a subject of astonishment to all Europe, that such a small State should be able to resist the formidable power of King Philip II. Henry IV. having triumphed over the League, had nothing more at heart than the restoring peace and order to his kingdom that had been exhausted by a long series of misfortunes, and found it impossible to bring about this without making peace with Spain. He communicated his intentions to the Dutch[24] above a year before there was any talk of negotiating: for though he had not been their adviser to take up arms, he wished they might make their peace at the same time he did: but the States would have no peace on the conditions on which Spain pretended to grant it: the French king's resolution, of consequence, put them in a great consternation, because they foresaw the whole force of Philip II. was coming to fall on them. They took a resolution to send to Henry, in 1598, Count Justin of Nassau and the Grand Pensionary Barnevelt, to intreat him to continue the war, and not make a separate peace.

The Dutch Ambassadors, in conjunction with Lord Cecil, Ambassador from England, omitted nothing to determine the King to conclude a new treaty of perpetual alliance with Holland and England against Spain. The King prayed them to consider, that the state of his affairs required him to make peace; but, for the rest, it would not hinder him, in case the Queen of England and the States did not chuse to be comprehended in the treaty, from doing them service; that the peace itself would enable him to assist them with money, without leaving Spain any room to complain, as he could pretend that he only repaid what money they had lent him in his greatest wants.

The congress of Vervins, already begun, was still continued. Henry sincerely desired a general peace: and accordingly ordered Mess. de Bellievre and de Silleri, his plenipotentiaries, to obtain from the Archduke Albert a truce of four months between Spain and Holland; hoping that means of reconciliation might be found in that interval. The Archduke at first refused it: and this denial had well nigh broke off the congress: he consented at last to a truce of two months: but the Dutch would not accept it, finding the term too short. The only advantage which the States drew from this embassy was a promise from the King to assist them, in four years, with two millions nine hundred thousand florins; as Barnevelt informs us.

Grotius, who had a strong inclination to see France, seized the opportunity of the Dutch ambassadors journey: he accompanied the Grand Pensionary, for whom he had the highest esteem, and justly regarded as one of the principal supports of the infant Republic.

The learned Youth was advantageously known in France before. M. de Buzanval, who had been ambassador in Holland, introduced him to the King, by whom he was graciously received: that great prince presented him with his picture and a gold chain. Grotius was so transported with this present, that he caused a print of himself, adorned with the chain given him by Henry, to be engraved. He gives the history of this Embassy in the seventh book of his Annals: but is so modest not to mention himself. He reflects, however, with pleasure, in some part of his[25] Poems, on the honour he had of speaking to such a great King. "I had the honour to kiss the hand of that Hero, who owes his kingdom only to his valour."

Grotius took advantage of this journey to get himself created Doctor of Laws.


[24] Mem. de Bellievre & de Silleri, T. 2. p. 348.

[25] In Pasch. 1612.

IX. After having been near a year in France, he returned to Holland. He had the greatest pleasure in his journey: one thing only was wanting to his satisfaction, a sight of the celebrated M. de Thou, the person among all the French whom he most esteemed. He had fought to get acquainted with that great man; but did not succeed. As soon as he returned to Delft, he wrote him[26] that he had been a year in France; had the pleasure of seeing a fine kingdom, a great king, very valuable noblemen, but had the mortification of not seeing him; that he would endeavour to repair this misfortune by his letters; and that he took the liberty to present him with a book he had just dedicated to the Prince of Conde.

This Letter was extremely well received by the President; and from that time to the death of M. de Thou, notwithstanding the disproportion of their age and fame, a most intimate correspondence subsisted between them.

Grotius sent him, July 4, 1600,[27] the Epithalamium he had written on the Marriage of King Henry IV. with Mary of Medicis. Mention was made in it of the Massacre on St. Bartholomew's day: this was an invidious subject; but the author, after consulting Scaliger, thought he could not dispense with recalling the remembrance of that horrid scene. He was in doubt whether he ought to publish this piece: he asked the President de Thou's advice; and till he had his answer, shewed the verses to none. Whether it was that M. de Thou advised him to suppress them, or that he took this step of himself[28] because there were several facts in the Epithalamium not strictly true, it is not to be found in the collection of his Poems. He intended to dedicate some Work to the President, as a public testimony of his profound esteem for that excellent Magistrate, whom he regarded as the greatest Man of his age[29].

M. de Thou soon perceived the great merit of young Grotius; and had the highest affection for him[30]. They corresponded by Letter whilst the President lived: Grotius sent him memoirs[31] for his History, and hints relating to the lives and deaths of illustrious men in the United Provinces.

It was a thing infinitely pleasing, and at the same time extremely honorable to a youth between seventeen and eighteen, to be most intimately connected with one of the greatest men of his time, already advanced in years, who filled a post of much eminence, and whom all Europe beheld with admiration. The friendship and esteem of such a personage is the highest encomium.

M. de Thou gave Grotius, towards the end of his life, sincere proofs of the concern he took in his quiet and welfare. That great Historian, who had experienced the fiery zeal of some Divines, beheld with pain his friend engaging in controversies which would render him odious to a powerful party. As if he had foreseen what was soon to happen, he advised him to drop these dangerous disputes. Grotius wrote him in answer, that he had entered into them only through necessity, to serve his Country and the Church; that he thought himself obliged to obey those who wished he would write on those matters; that, for the rest, he would avoid, for the future, all disputes which were not absolutely necessary. This Letter is the last we have of the valuable correspondence between those illustrious men: the President de Thou died soon after. Grotius wrote his Elogium in verse, addressed to Francis Augustus de Thou his son, and in this Poem, which was composed at the time he escaped from Antwerp to go to Paris, he appears to regret much that he had not the felicity to see his illustrious Father. It is looked on as one of the best Grotius ever wrote.


[26] Ep. 1. p. 1. April 1, 1599.

[27] Ep. 2. p. 1.

[28] Ep. 3. p. 1.

[29] Poemata, p. 262. Ep. 24. p. 7.

[30] Ep. 1581. p. 711. Ep. 325. p. 115.

[31] Ep. 3. p. 1. Ep 4. p. 1.

X. Grotius, who had resolved to follow the Bar, pleaded his first cause at Delft in the year 1599, at his return from France. The study of law and poetry employed one part of his time; he spent the other in publishing the works he had prepared for the press. The first he gave to the public was Martianus Capella. This is one of those obscure authors, who are commonly not read till we have nothing else to learn: the title of his work is, Of the marriage of Mercury and Philology, in two books; to which are annexed seven other books on the liberal arts. The author was an African, and his style, like that of most authors of his nation, obscure and barbarous; which makes it not easy to be understood. Before this there was no good edition of his works. John Grotius had put into his son's hands a manuscript of Capella: Hugo shewed it to Scaliger; and this learned man, whose counsels were commands to the young Grotius, engaged him to study that author, and publish a new edition of him.

Though Grotius was then but fourteen, the difficulty of the undertaking did not discourage him: he read all the works that had relation to the matters Capella treated of; and at length acquitted himself of the task enjoined him by Scaliger with such abilities and success, as, to use Mr. Baillet's words, astonished the whole world.

The work appeared in 1599. It would have been published before, but for his journey to France, and some delays occasioned by the bookseller. Grotius also informs us, that he would have printed it sooner, had he been less taken up with the study of the law.

To judge of Grotius' labour it will be sufficient to read what he says in the preface. "We have collated Capella with the several authors who have treated the same subjects: in the two first books with those who have written of the sentiments of the ancient Philosophers, Apuleius, Albricus, and others too tedious to name, on Grammar we have compared him with Grammarians: what he has said on Rhetoric, with Cicero and Aquila; on Logic, with Porphyry, Aristotle, Cassiodorus, Apuleius; on Geography, with Strabo, Mela, Solinus, Ptolemy, but chiefly Pliny; on Arithmetic, with Euclid; on Astronomy, with Hygin, and the rest who have treated that subject; on Music, with Cleonides, Vitruvius, Boethius."

Rightly to understand Capella requires an acquaintance with all the Sciences. The principal use of his book is to shew how far the knowledge of the Ancients extended. Grotius, when in France, had often the honour of paying his court to the young Prince of Conde, at that time presumptive heir of the crown: he was so well pleased with his genius, and learning, which was above his years, that he dedicated his Capella to him. The dedication is dated December 29, 1598.

Men of the greatest learning publickly expressed their surprise to see a child of fifteen produce a work that would have done honour to the most celebrated Man of Letters. Scaliger made a very high encomium on the young author in some fine verses which are much to Grotius' honour. The President de Thou was very well pleased with Capella. [32]Casaubon declared that whatever high idea he might have of Grotius' labour, the success exceeded his hopes. [33]Vossius, in fine, after assuring Grotius that he had very happily restored Capella, compares the editor to Erasmus; and affirms that the whole world could not produce a man of greater learning than Grotius[34].

The more we consider this work, the greater difficulty we have to believe it to have been executed by a boy. We would sometimes be inclined to think the great Scaliger had a hand in it; but this is only a conjecture: that Grotius was assisted by his father is very certain; he tells us so himself.

Some perhaps will be glad to know how Grotius managed with the booksellers: for even little details that relate to famous men yield a pleasure. He never took money for the copy, though, he tells us, some people of good fortune were not so delicate: but he asked a hundred books on large paper handsomely bound, to make presents to his friends; it being unjust, he said, that while he served the public and enriched the booksellers, he should injure his own fortune.


[32] Ep. Gr. 3. p. 1.

[33] Ep. Caus. 1030.

[34] De Hist. Lat. lib. 3

XI. The same year, 1599, Grotius published another work which discovered as much knowledge of the abstract sciences in particular, as the edition of Martianus Capella did of his learning in general.

Stevin, Mathematician to Prince Maurice of Nassau, had by his orders composed a small treatise for the instruction of pilots in finding a ship's place at sea. He formed a table of the variations of the needle, according to the observations of Plancius, a famous geographer, and added directions how to use it.

Grotius translated into Latin this work, which he could not have understood without knowing the Mathematics, and particularly Mechanics; Statics, and the art of working a ship, and of finding her place at sea, being branches of that science.

This translation he dedicated to the Republic of Venice by a letter dated April 1, 1599; in which he says, that having been in France about a year before, with the Ambassadors of the States, he there saw Signior Contarini, Ambassador of Venice; that a comparison happening to be made in conversation between the Republics of Holland and Venice, he immediately resolved to dedicate to the Venetians the first work he published that might be agreeable, or worthy to be presented to them; that an opportunity now offer'd of fulfilling this resolution, and that he dedicated to them the translation of Stevin's work because Prince Maurice had recommended it to the colleges of the Admiralty to be studied by all officers of the Navy; and as the Republic of Venice attentively cultivated Navigation, this book might be as useful to her as to Holland.

XII. The year following, that is to say, 1600, Grotius published the Treatise which Aratus, of Sola in Cilicia, composed in Greek on Astronomy, two hundred and some odd years before the birth of Christ. It is known by the name or the Phaenomena of Aratus. The title fully shews what Grotius gives in this book. It contains the Phaenomena of Aratus in Greek with Cicero's Latin interpretation, the places where Cicero's Translation is wanting being supplied; a Translation of the same Phaenomena, ascribed to Germanicus; the fragment of Aratus's Prognostics, and the forms of the constellations as found in a Manuscript; with Remarks upon the whole, the Paraphrase of Festus Avienus, and marginal notes.

This work is dedicated to the States of Holland and West Friesland: the author in the dedication promises them others more considerable. The book is a prodigy of science and erudition: it discovers a great knowledge of Physics, and especially of Astronomy. The Latin verses made by Grotius to supply those of Cicero that were lost, are not inferior to the lines of that great man, in the opinion of the Abbe d'Olivet, an excellent judge, who likewise thinks the supplement a very good commentary on Aratus's work. The corrections made by Grotius in the Greek are most judicious; and his notes shew he had read several of the Rabbi's, and had some tincture of the Arabic.

Scaliger[35], M. de Thou, and Lipsius, speak of this edition with the highest praise. Lipsius, in thanking Grotius for his Aratus, says that notwithstanding his childhood he looks on him as his friend: he congratulates him, that, tho' so very young, he had by force of genius and labour accomplished what few could do in the flower of their age[36].

Casaubon[37] tells us, every one was surprised at such an extraordinary production. Bonaventura Vulcanus, who took occasion from Grotius's publishing this book, to write his elogium in verse, says in the conclusion, that Apollo had opened to him his sanctuary, and that he was himself an Apollo.

Grotius's modesty would not permit him to leave us ignorant that he had been assisted by his Father in this work. It may be proper to observe, that a library in Germany contains a copy of Grotius's edition of the Phaenomena of Aratus, collated with an ancient manuscript by the learned Nicholas Heinsius, who has added some Notes[38].


[35] Ep. Scal. 375. Ep. Gr. 2.

[36] Ep. Lips. ad Belgas, Cent. 3. p. 83.

[37] Ep. 130.

[38] Fab. Bib. Gr. lib. 3. c. 18.

XIII. These grave and profound studies did not hinder Grotius from cultivating Poetry. He had made some verses in his childhood which were thought very pretty: he continued this manner of writing in the midst of his greatest occupations, and with such success, that he was looked on as one of the best Poets in Europe.

The Prosopopoeia[39] in which he makes the city of Ostend speak, after being three years besieged by the Spaniards, is reckoned one of the best pieces of verse since the Augustan age. Public fame gave it at first to Scaliger because he was considered as the greatest poet of that time. The celebrated Peyresc[40] hinted it to that learned man, who made answer, he was too old not to be the aversion of the Virgins of Helicon; and that the verses were not written by him, but by Grotius, a most accomplished youth. Notwithstanding this declaration, Mathieu, in the Life of Henry IV. ascribes them to Scaliger. They were thought so excellent, several men of learning set about translating them into French, particularly Du Vair, afterwards Keeper of the Seals; Rapin, grand Provost of the Constabulary, and Stephen Pasquier. Malherbe himself, the Oracle of the French Parnassus, did not think it beneath him to put this Epigram into French verse: and Casaubon translated it into Greek.

Grotius did not confine himself to writing small pieces of verse: he rose to tragedy. We have three written by him. The first was called Adamus exsul. He sent it to Lipsius, who liked it[41]; and it was printed at Leyden in 1601. The author was afterwards dissatisfied with it, and would not suffer it to appear in the collection of his Poems published by his brother[42]. Christus patiens was his second tragedy. It was printed at Leyden in 1608, and much approved. Casaubon greatly admires its poetic fire[43]. Sandes translated it into English verse; and dedicated it to Charles I. It was very favourably received in England; and in Germany it was proposed as the model of perfect Tragedy.

The subject of his third Tragedy was the story of Joseph; and its title Sophomphaneas, which, in the language of Egypt, signifies the Saviour of the world. Vossius assures Meursius it is the most perfect thing in its kind the age has produced[44]: Vondel, a celebrated poet of Holland, translated it into Dutch: and Grotius expressed a high sense of Vondel's friendship, in condescending to translate his works, when he could write much better of his own[45].

The most learned critics, many of whom were good versifiers, agreed that Grotius excelled in Poetry. Scaliger acknowledged his epigrams were admirable[46]. Casaubon being informed that Grotius had written some verses on the death of Theodore Beza, says, "he heard with infinite pleasure that so great a man had his elegy written by so great a poet[47]." Baudius calls him the darling friend of the Muses, and acquaints us that Scaliger thought some of his small poems equal to the best of the ancients[48]. Gerard Vossius speaks of him as the greatest poet of his age, and the prince of poetry. In fine, M. Baillet, who had examined the many opinions given of Grotius, assures us, that all who read his poems approved of them; that those of fine taste, and who could judge of epigrams, found many of his admirable, some discovering the subtilty of his genius, and the fertility of his imagination; others, the happy turn which he could give to his thoughts and expressions.

Even his enemies did not presume to deny him the praise of an excellent Poet; and Salmasius, in a letter written with design to lessen Grotius's reputation, and dictated by jealousy, injustice, and spleen, allows however he was a great Poet. "But," he adds, "every one in this country prefers Barlaeus; and many, even Heinsius." Balzac, who in other things did justice to Grotius, wished he had employed his poetic talents only on proper subjects. "I never saw," says he, "the Swedish Ambassador, but I have long esteemed his genius: and if he had not put the Institutes into verse, and published some other pieces of the same nature, I should esteem him still more." But it is proper to observe that these were the amusements of his childhood, and never intended to be made public. Grotius had a meaner idea of his poetical talents, than even the rivals of his glory. "As to merit in poetry (he writes to the President de Thou) I yield it to every one."

It was William Grotius who published the collection of his brother's poems. Some of them, and these not the best, had been printed before in Germany very incorrect: which induced William to look over his brother's papers, extract the poems, and publish them with those already printed. This Collection is dedicated to Vandermile, son-in-law of the Grand Pensionary Barnevelt, Deputy to the States General, Curator of the university of Leyden, and the great friend of Hugo Grotius. The dedication is dated September 1, 1616. A Letter of Grotius, written the 14th of December in the preceding year, informs us he was very averse to his brother's project. He foresaw that he would one day be reproached with this edition; which accordingly happened, particularly when, endeavouring to reconcile the two Religions, he incurred the hatred of Rivet and some other ministers, who seeking to destroy his reputation, declaimed against his epithalamiums, and found fault with his introducing the false divinities in the manner of the ancient poets, and his speaking of war rather as a zealous citizen, than a pacific Christian. These reproaches touched him: and in the latter part of his life he wished only his sacred poems had been preserved[49]. But, notwithstanding the peevishness of those Divines, Grotius's Poems had a great run, were printed in England, and several times reprinted in Holland.



Area parva ducum, totus quam respicit orbis, Celsior una malis, et quam damnare ruinae Nunc quoque fata timent, alieno in littore resto. Tertius annus abit; toties mutavimus hostem. Saevit hiems pelago, morbisque furentibus aestas; Et nimium est quod fecit Iber crudelior armis. In nos orta lues: nullum est sine funere funus; Nec perimit mors una semel. Fortuna, quid haeres? Qua mercede tenes mixtos in sanguine manes? Quis tumulos moriens hos occupet hoste perempto Quaeritur, et sterili tantum de pulvere pugna est.

[40] Gassendi's Life of Pyresc, lib. 2. p. 79.

[41] Ep. 99. Feb. 3, 1602.

[42] Ep. 87. ad Vossium, p. 34.

[43] Casaub. Ep. 597. p. 313.

[44] Ep. 313. p. 317.

[45] Ep. 527. p. 204.

[46] Scaligerana p. 178. ed. 1695.

[47] Ep. 1089.

[48] Ep. Baudii, 100. Cent. 3. Scal. Poemata, p. 359.

[49] Discus. Apolog. Rivetiani, p. 740. Ep. 504, p. 885. Ep. 558. p. 924. Ep. 664. p. 956. Ep. 736. p. 974.

XIV. The United Provinces still bravely maintained their liberty against the efforts of Spain, who since the peace of Vervins had collected her whole force against them. The glory they acquired by this illustrious defence determined them to make choice of an Historian who might transmit with dignity to after-ages the signal exploits of this memorable war. Several learned men made great interest for the place; among others Baudius, the famous Professor of Eloquence in the university of Leyden: but the States thought young Grotius (who had taken no step to obtain it) deserved the preference: and what is still more singular, Baudius himself did not find fault with their choice, because he looked upon Grotius to be already a very great man.

XV. His high reputation was on the point of procuring him, about the same time, a very honourable settlement in France. King Henry IV. sensible that he ought to have a man of the greatest merit at the head of his Library, had, at the recommendation of M. de Villeroi, while Gosselin his librarian was yet living, fixed upon Casaubon, who at that time had the greatest name for literature. This affair was carried on mysteriously: The King desired to see Casaubon in private: he told him, that he intended to make him his librarian; and that Gosselin could not live above a year; adding, with the frank and noble air which so well became that great Prince: "You shall see my fine books, and tell me what they contain; for I don't understand them myself."

Gosselin lived three years after this conversation, till 1603. The Jesuits being informed Casaubon was to be set over the King's Library, represented to his majesty the inconveniences of confiding a treasure of that nature to the most obstinate of all heretics. This made some impression on the king: nevertheless he was afraid of a clamour were it known that he refused an employment promised to a Protestant on account of his religion. He consulted with some persons; and they advised him to send to Holland for Grotius, whom he knew, and appoint him his librarian; which would make the Public ascribe the change to some private discontent, and not to religion. Casaubon, apprised of what was doing, remained perfectly quiet: but the President de Thou, thinking the King's honour concerned in keeping his word, warmly solicited in his favour, and, after the affair had been suspended some weeks, Casaubon was at length nominated. Grotius had had no part in this whole proceeding: accordingly Casaubon was so far from being offended with him, that, writing to Daniel Heinsius, December 29, 1603, he assures him if the place could have made Grotius's fortune, he wished he had got it, because he loved him, and admired his prodigious genius.

XVI. Grotius was at that time principally employed as an Advocate. He tells us that to make himself master of the forms of law, he carefully studied the practical part, transcribing precedents of Petitions, Prosecutions, and Defences. He pleaded his first cause when he was but seventeen, with universal applause, which he maintained whilst he continued at the Bar. We learn the method he followed in his pleadings from a letter to his son Peter advising him to imitate it. "That you may not, says he, be embarrassed by the little order observed by those against whom you speak, mind one thing, of which I have found the advantage. Distribute all that can be said on both sides under certain heads, which imprint strongly in your memory; and whatever your adversary says, refer it to your own division, and not to his[50]." Grotius's great attention was to avoid prolixity and confusion in his pleadings[51].

The employment of an advocate, though he acquired infinite honour by it, did not however please him. The reasons of his dislike we have in a letter to Daniel Heinsius, dated July 21, 1603. "Besides that law-suits are improper for a peaceable man, what doth he derive from them? They procure him hatred from those against whom he pleads, small acknowledgments from his clients, and not much honour with the Public. Add to this, that the time spent in things so little agreeable, might be employed in acquiring others much more useful. I should have been a better philosopher, more master of the Greek, better acquainted with the manners of the Ancients, with the Poets, and Philologists, if I had practiced less as an Advocate."


[50] Ep. 1134. p. 512.

[51] Ibid.

XVII. His brilliant success at the Bar, which he treats as ungrateful, procured him, however, a very considerable promotion. The place of Advocate-general of the Fisc for Holland and Zealand becoming vacant, it was unanimously conferred on Grotius. This is an employment of great distinction and authority, the person invested with it being charged with the preservation of the public peace and the prosecution of offenders. It was in 1607 he took possession of this important office, which he filled with so much reputation, the States augmented his salary, and promised him a seat in the Court of Holland.

XVIII. John Grotius, on his son's being made Advocate-general, began to think of a wife for him; and fixed upon Mary Reigersberg, of one of the first families in Zealand, whose father had been Burgomaster of Veer: the marriage was solemnised in July, 1608. The greatest encomium of the new-married lady is, that she was worthy such a husband as Grotius. The most perfect harmony subsisted between them, and Grotius held her in the highest esteem[52]. This alliance gave occasion to a number of poems. John Grotius wrote his son's Epithalamium; Daniel Heinsius composed a Poem on that subject, which, in the opinion of Grotius, was the best of the kind that ever had been written. Grotius himself celebrated his nuptials in some Latin verses, approved of by Scaliger, and translated them into Dutch: he also wrote some in French on that occasion.


[52] Ep. 423. p. 876.

XIX. At the time of his marriage he was employed in a work of great importance, which was not published till the year following. This was his Freedom of the Ocean, or the Right of the Dutch to trade to the Indies; dedicated to all the free nations of Christendom, and divided into thirteen Chapters. The author shews in the first, that by the law of Nations navigation is free to all the world: In the second, that the Portuguese never possessed the sovereignty of the countries in the East-Indies with which the Dutch carry on a trade: In the third, that the donation of Pope Alexander VI. gave the Portuguese no right to the Indies: In the fourth, that the Portuguese had not acquired by the law of arms the sovereignty of the States to which the Dutch trade: He shews in the fifth, that the ocean is immense and common to all; that it is absurd to imagine that those who first navigate a sea ought to be judged to have taken possession of it; that a vessel which cuts the waves of a sea, gives no more right to that sea, than she leaves marks of her way in it; that, besides, the Portuguese are not the first who sailed in the Indian sea, since there are facts which demonstrate it was neither unknown to the Ancients, to the Spaniards, nor to the Carthaginians, nor even to the Romans. The sixth chapter proves, that the right of navigation in that sea cannot belong exclusively to the Portuguese by virtue of Alexander VI's donation, because donation cannot take place in things which enter not into trade; and that, besides, the Pope is not master of the sea. In the seventh chapter it is shewn, that the Eastern sea, or the right of navigation in it, cannot belong to the Portuguese by prescription, since prescription being only by the civil law it cannot operate against the law of nature, by virtue of which, navigation in that sea is free to all the world; that, moreover, prescription doth not take place in things that cannot be alienated, such as the sea, the use of the sea, and things common to all men: add to this, that the opposition of other nations, and their navigation in that sea would have hindered the prescription. It is proved in the eighth, that by the law of nations the commerce between nations is free, and cannot be prohibited without injustice. In the ninth it is shewn that the trade to the Indies doth not belong to the Portuguese, exclusive of other kingdoms, because they first took possession of it, since the title of first occupant takes place only in that which is corporeal. The tenth proves, that the Pope could not grant the Portuguese an exclusive trade to the Indies: the eleventh, that this trade does not belong to them by prescription: the twelfth, that nothing is more unjust than the claim to an exclusive trade set up by the Portuguese. The author concludes his work with the thirteenth chapter, exhorting the Dutch to continue their trade to the Indies in time of war, of truce, or of peace.

This work was printed without Grotius's knowledge, and published without his consent. He appears not to have been quite satisfied with it: "My intention (says he in a letter to Camerarius, May 20th, 1637) was good; but the work favours too much of my want of years." They wrote against him in Spain: "I know (he writes his brother, April 1, 1640) that a treatise was written some time ago, at Salamanca, against mine Of the Freedom of the Ocean, but it was suppressed by the King of Spain." Another appeared, in 1625, at Valladolid, entitled, De justo imperio Lusitanorum Asiatico, by one Francis Seraphin de Freiras. The Freedom of the Ocean was refuted in England by the famous Selden in his work entitled Mare clausum, seu de dominio maris. Grotius thought the Spanish author's book not ill done, and deserving of an answer[53]; and was pleased with the politeness shewn him by Selden[54]. But at the time these Answers appeared Grotius was so dissatisfied with the Dutch, he did not think himself obliged to employ his time for people void of gratitude. "Let them seek among my Judges (said he by way of irony on their ignorance) for one to answer the Spaniard[55]." As to Selden's book, Grotius seemed not to mind it; he looked on himself as no longer concerned in the controversy. "I wholly forget what I have been, says he, when I see those to whom I have done so great services, remember me only to hurt me." These sentiments of an indifference bordering on hatred he did not entertain till after the Dutch had done every thing to make him uneasy, as we shall see in the sequel.


[53] Ep. 144. p. 796.

[54] Ep. 364. p. 858.

[55] Ep. 144. p. 796.

XX. The year after the publication of the treatise Of the Freedom of the Ocean, Grotius printed his work De antiquitate reipublicae Batavae, divided into seven chapters. In the first the author shews what is an aristocratical government: In the second he gives the history of the ancient Batavi, whose government, he says, was aristocratical, under the command of a head, who was sometimes styled King. He explains, in the third, the state of the Republic of the Batavi in the time of the Roman empire; and building on a passage of Tacitus he pretends they were allies, and not subjects of the Romans. In the fourth he enquires into the government of the Batavi after the fall of the Roman empire; from which aera till the establishment of the Counts of Holland we know very little of that nation. The author treats, in the fifth chapter, of the government of Holland in the time of the Counts. The first elected to that dignity was named Diederic, of Friesland, and was Count of the whole nation: He was not a vassal of the Empire, and, as Philip of Leyden observes, he was Emperor in his County. He was not so absolute as a Monarch, and though the Dutch in chusing their Counts generally followed the order of primogeniture, they never set up a Prince without first requiring of him an oath, to conform to the laws: so that he reigned rather by the consent of the people, than by right of succession. The power of the Counts was limited by law; and the taxes were always imposed by the States. In the sixth chapter the author shews that Philip II. King of Spain, endeavouring to change their form of government, occasioned the grand war which procured Holland her liberty. Grotius explains, in his seventh and last chapter, the form of government established in Holland after the Dutch threw off the Spanish yoke. The work is dedicated to the States of Holland and West-Friesland, March 16, 1610.

The States were extremely pleased with it: they returned their thanks to the author, and made him a present[56]. He afterwards added notes, serving for proofs of the several facts: these were carried away with his other papers at the time of his arrest; but the Elzevirs, intending to publish a new edition of it, acquainted Grotius, who was at pains to get the notes returned; and they are now printed at the end of the Elzevir edition. His love to his country led him to advance several things in this work, which he afterwards owned to be mistakes[57]; in particular, that the Batavi had always been free, and not subject to the ancient Franks[58].

While this book was in the press, Grotius, and his father, who commonly assisted him in his writings, translated it into Dutch[59].


[56] Apolog. C. 1.

[57] Ep. 635. p. 947.

[58] Grotii manes, Conringius, Pope, p. 947.

[59] Ep. 662. p. 834.

XXI. Elias Oldenbarnevelt, Pensionary of Rotterdam, and brother to the Grand Pensionary of Holland, dying in 1613, the city of Rotterdam offered that important place to Grotius, whose name was so famous, foreigners sought to draw him to them by offers of honours and lucrative posts, which love to his Country made him constantly reject. It was some time before he yielded to the desires of Rotterdam. By the ferment of mens minds he foresaw that very great commotions would speedily shake the Republic; this made him insist with the gentlemen of Rotterdam that he should never be turned out of his place of Pensionary: and on their promising accordingly, he accepted the employment, which gave him a seat in the assembly of the States of Holland, and afterwards in that of the States General.

Hitherto Grotius had had very little connection with the Grand Pensionary; but from this time contracted an intimate friendship with him, which gave him the greater pleasure as he was most desirous of the counsels of a man of so much experience, who had been himself nine years Pensionary of Rotterdam, and above thirty years Grand Pensionary of Holland (in which employment he had done his Country most essential services) and who was famous not only in Holland, but in foreign countries, for his many embassies, and acknowledged prudence and abilities.

The great intimacy between them gave rise to a report, that the Grand Pensionary, who was sensible of Grotius's great merit, and who loved him, designed to have him made Grand Pensionary. We have this particular from Grotius himself[60], who assures us he never desired that high office, the rather as his health would not then permit him to discharge the many functions belonging to it. For by the Grand Pensionary the States see, hear, and act; and though he has no deliberative voice, and is the lowest in rank, his influence is the greatest. He manages Prosecutions, receives Dispatches, and answers them, and is as it were Attorney-General of the States: before he be called to be Grand-Pensionary, he is nominated Advocate of the States.


[60] Apol. C. 19.

XXII. There was at that time a high dispute between the English and Dutch concerning the right of fishing in the northern seas. Two vessels had sailed from Amsterdam to Greenland to kill walrus, a sea-animal, larger than an ox, with the muzzle of a lion, the skin covered with hair, four feet, and two large teeth in the upper jaw, flat, hard, and so white that in colour and value they equal those of the elephant: some even give them the preference, because, besides their exceeding whiteness, they are not subject to grow yellow. These two vessels having caught twenty-two walrus, were met by some English vessels bound to Russia, who hail'd them, and demanded whether they had pasports from the King of Great Britain to fish at Greenland? The Dutchmen answered, that the Sea was free, and they had pasports from Count Maurice their Stadtholder. "That is not enough, said the English[61]: and to let you know that that sea belongs to the King our master, if you will not give us instantly the walrus you have taken, with your boats, nets, and instruments for killing them, we'll send you to the bottom." The two Dutch vessels, unable to resist, were obliged to obey. Returning to Holland, they made their complaint; and the affair being laid before the States, it was resolved that Grotius, who had written on the subject and was more master of it than any one, should be sent to England to demand justice: But, says the Mercure Francois, he found the old proverb true: The strongest are masters of the sea, and such never care to make restitution: so that he could obtain no satisfaction.

This denial of justice from the English determined the Dutch not to go to Greenland for the future without a force sufficient to revenge themselves on the English, or to have nothing to fear from them.

The dispute growing serious, to prevent any acts of hostility, and to know on what grounds they went, a conference was held in 1615 between the Commissaries of England and Holland, in which the debate turned chiefly on the whale-fishery. Grotius, who was one of the Commissaries from the Province of Holland, gives the history of this conference in a Letter to Du Maurier, dated at Rotterdam, June 5, 1615. The Dutch Commissaries put the English to silence, by demonstrating, that neither the land nor the sea of Greenland belonged to them, and that they had no right to hinder the Dutch to navigate and catch whales in that sea, of which none could claim the property. That the land did not belong to them, because till the year 1596 no mortal had set foot on it; that the Dutch discovered it the year before, and gave it the name it still retains, as may be seen in all the modern geographers, on the globes, and carts. The English wanted to reply that Hugh Willoughby discovered it in 1553: but the Dutch shewed even by the Journal of his voyage, that setting out from Finland he landed on the Island which bears his name, at a great distance from Greenland; that he died of hunger and cold, with all his companions, on the coast of Lapland, where the Laplanders found him, next summer, and from whence his Journals were sent to England. The English, not knowing what to answer, said, it was a high indignity to their master, to dispute a right of which he had hitherto been in peaceable possession; and that their instructions imported, they should break off the conference unless the Dutch would acknowledge England's claim to Greenland. What was still more diverting (continued Grotius) they added, that they had not then their titles, but would shew them to Caron, the Dutch Agent in England, and, they flattered themselves, on seeing them, he would yield the point. They like better (adds he in the conclusion) to deal with him, than dispute with us, because they will take his silence, as they have done already, for submission.


[61] Mercure Francois, an. 1613.

XXIII. If Grotius had ground to be dissatisfied with the disingenuousness and injustice of the English Ministry in his negotiation concerning the Fishery, he had at least reason to be pleased with the politeness of King James, who, Casaubon informs us, gave Grotius a most gracious reception, and was charmed with his conversation. But the greatest pleasure he received by this voyage was the intimate friendship he contracted with Casaubon. They knew one another before by character, and highly esteemed each other. They were made to be intimate friends: in both the most profound erudition was joined with the most perfect probity. They had still another sympathy to knit faster the band of this union: both ardently wished to see all Christians united in one faith and desired nothing more, than to be employed in that great work. They have left behind them testimonies of the satisfaction they found in each other's acquaintance. "For my part, says Grotius in a letter to John Frederic Gronovius[62], I reckon it one of the greatest felicities of my whole life to have been loved by a man as illustrious for his piety, his probity, and his candor, as for his extensive learning. It was by his counsels or those of persons he approved that I conducted myself in the most difficult times."

"I respect no less, says he in another letter, his frankness and his probity, than his uncommon erudition. His letters sufficiently prove what great friendship he had for me."

We find in fact that they contain evidences of the highest esteem for Grotius. To Daniel Heinsius he writes, April 13, 1613, "I am very well; and cannot say enough of my felicity in enjoying the friendship of such a great man as Grotius. O that incomparable man! I knew him before: but fully to comprehend the excellency of his divine genius, one must see him, and hear him converse. His countenance speaks probity, and his discourse discovers the deepest learning and the most sincere piety. Think not that I only am his admirer; all learned and good men entertain the same sentiments for him, particularly the King."

Casaubon writes to the President de Thou, April 20, 1613, to acquaint him what pleasure he had received by seeing Grotius. "I must let you know, says he, that I have seen here Hugo Grotius. He is a man of admirable probity and learning[63]."

They had long conversations together on religion. Casaubon ardently desired a reunion of the Protestants with the Roman Catholics[64]: and would have set about it, had he staid longer in France, as he informed Descordes, who repeated it to Grotius. He greatly respected the opinions of the ancient church[65], and was persuaded its sentiments were more sound than those of the Ministers of Charenton. Grotius and he had imparted their thoughts to each other before the voyage to England: for Casaubon congratulates him, January 8, 1612, on his desiring nothing but peace and a coalition; and communicated Grotius' sentiments to King James; who approved of them. This shews that Grotius thought it was wrong to depart from the discipline and forms of the ancient church: Casaubon was of the same mind; and his Letter to M. de Thou is a demonstrative proof that these two excellent men did not differ in matters of Religion. "I esteem him highly, says he[66], on account of his other great qualities; for he judges of the modern subjects of religious controversy like a learned and good man; and in his veneration for antiquity agrees with the wisest."

The last Letter which we have from Casaubon to Grotius comprehends all these sentiments in few words[67]: "I heartily pray God to preserve you ever: and as long as I live, I shall hold you in the highest esteem, so much am I taken with your piety, your probity, and your admirable learning."


[62] Ep. 1168. p. 530.

[63] Ep. 883 p. 531.

[64] Ep. Grotii 610.

[65] Ep. Grotii 613.

[66] Ep. 531.

[67] Ep. 890.

XXIV. After his return from England, Grotius happened to be one day at the Assembly of the States of Holland and West-Friesland when an affair of consequence was under consideration. The States had granted commissions to several Privateers, some of which made depredations on the friends of the Republic, and, afterwards quitting the country, scowered the seas, refusing to return though summoned. Some people of Pomerania who had been ill used by these Corsairs, applied to the States for redress. The Question therefore was, Whether the States were answerable for the act of those privateers, either as having employed bad men in their service, or neglected to require security from them on giving them commissions. Grotius' advice being asked, his opinion was, that the States were only bound to punish the offenders, or deliver them up, if taken; and, for the rest, to make satisfaction to the sufferers out of the effects of the pirates. We learn from himself on what he grounded his opinion[68]. The States, said he, were not the cause of those unjust practices, nor had any part in them: so far from it they have prohibited, by express ordonnances, the injuring of our friends. They were not obliged to ask security from the privateers, since, without granting formal commissions, they might permit all their subjects to plunder the enemy, as was formerly practised; and the permission they granted to those privateers was not the cause of the damage they did to our allies, since any private person may, without such permission, fit out vessels, and sail on a cruize. Besides, it was impossible to foresee that these privateers would turn out wicked; and there is no taking such precautions as to employ only honest men. When a prince's troops, whether by sea or land, contrary to his order, injure his friends, he is not responsable for it; as appears from what has been acknowledged by France and England. To make one answerable for the acts of those who are in his service, even when no fault of his gave any occasion to them, would be to decide the question not by the law of nations, but by the civil law; and even the rule is not general in the civil law.

The States were determined by this opinion.


[68] De jure belli et pacis, lib. 2. c. 17. sec. 20.

XXV. The multitude of affairs with which Grotius was oppressed, and the continual journeys he was obliged to make, left him no time for cultivating Polite Literature. In the midst of his occupations Du Maurier, the French Ambassador in Holland, and his particular friend, having resolved to begin a course of study, applied to Grotius for directions. We shall here give an extract from his answer[69], because it may be of use to grown persons desirous of acquiring literary accomplishments.

He shortened his method as much as he could out of regard to Du Maurier's age, dignity, and affairs. He advises him to begin with Logic, not that of Aristotle, which is too long, and contains many things of no great use: an abridgment was sufficient, such as Du Moulin's, the most esteemed at that time. "But your assistant, says he, must read the best that has been written on the subject, and communicate to you what is most remarkable: much may be learnt in an hour or two spent in this manner." The same method he would have observed in the other sciences, and even with regard to books; that is to say, the person under whom Du Maurier studies must read the best writers on every subject; and extract what is most essential, to be repeated to him. After Logic he directs him to the study of Physics, which he would not have carried too far; and recommends some plain and short abridgement: he could think of none at that time but Jacchaeus. He is of opinion, that as in Logic the rules of syllogism are chiefly to be attended to, so in Physics the enquiry into the nature and functions of the soul is of most importance. After Physics he advises him to proceed to Metaphysics, of which he might get some notion from Timplerus' book, which is neither long nor obscure. The study of Moral Philosophy is to be begun with Aristotle, whose books to Nicomachus are the best. "Your reader, says he, must give you in a small compass what the ablest interpreters have said. It is also necessary to be acquainted with the sentiments of the different sects of Philosophers; for without that knowledge you will be much at a loss in reading the Ancients, and profit little by them." To unbend after this serious study, some other short and agreeable books that have a relation to it may be read: such as Ecclesiasticus, the Wisdom of Solomon, Theognis, Phocilides, the Golden Verses ascribed to Pythagoras, Epictetus's Enchiridion, Hierocles, and the Commentaries of Arrian; not omitting the Characters of Theophrastus. What the Poets have written on Morality may also be perused; with some select Tragedies of Euripides, Terence's Comedies, and Horace's Epistles. Young people and grown persons admire different things in these writings: the beauty of the style pleases the first: the others learn by them to know men. To these works may be added Cicero's Offices, a piece not enough esteemed, purely because it is in the hands of every one; some of Seneca's Epistles, the Tragedies that go under his name; and the best of Plutarch's smaller pieces. After having gone through Aristotle's Politics, the excellent extract by Polybius of Republics is to be read; with the Harangues of Mecaenas and Agrippa to Augustus, in Dion; and Sallust's Letter to Caesar. Plutarch's Lives of Pericles, Cato, the Gracchi, Demosthenes, and Cicero, must not be omitted: much may be learned too from Cicero's Letters to Atticus, if they were translated by one well acquainted with the Roman History of that period.

After this would be the proper time for reading Aristotle's Rhetoric: for, as is well remark'd by that great man, who possessed all the arts and sciences in an eminent degree, from Morals and Politics must the arguments be drawn that are to convince mens understandings; that is to say, it is impossible to be truly eloquent without extensive knowledge. The better to perceive the use of the precepts it would be proper to read with attention some Orations of Demosthenes and Cicero, particularly those which relate to public Affairs, such as the Philippics, the Olinthiacs, the Oration pro lege Manilia, that against the Agrarian Law, and some others. The next thing, to be applied to is Jus publicum, that is to say, the knowledge of the different forms of government, the Conventions between Nations, and, in fine, whatever regards Peace and War. The treatises of Plato and Cicero On Laws shew in what manner the principles of this law are to be deduced from morality. It will not be unprofitable to read likewise, or at least to run over the second book of St. Thomas Aquinas, especially what he says of Justice and Laws: The Pandecta, particularly the first and last book, the first and the three last books of Justinian's Codex, point out the use to be made of those principles. The Lawyers who have best handled the questions relating to the Law of Nations and Jus publicum, are Vasques, Hotoman, and Gentilis. After the acquisition of these several branches of knowledge, the study of History will be extremely useful, by the application which may be made of the examples to the precepts. History is to be begun with an abridgement of universal history; such as Justin, Florus, and the abridgement of Livy. But in reading History a man ought to please his own taste: for they all contain many useful things: and we retain best those we read with pleasure. In general, we ought not to begin with the most ancient, but with such as, being nearer our own times, have greater relation with what we know already: we may afterwards go back to what is more distant. It is proper to observe, that there is more advantage to be reaped from reading the Greek historians who have written the history of Rome, than the Latin, who have treated the same subject; because Foreigners give more attention to the public manners and customs, than the Natives.

M. du Maurier received this Letter with the highest satisfaction; he permitted several copies to be taken of it, and it was printed by the Elzevirs in 1637, in a collection of several Methods of Study, under the title of De omni genere studiorum recte instituendo.

Grotius acquaints us[70] that it was published with out his consent.


[69] Ep. 54. p. 17.

[70] Ep. 740. p. 976.


Grotius has hitherto appeared to us chiefly as a Man of Learning: we are now going to consider him entering into the affairs of the Republic, wholly employed in restoring the peace of his country, and receiving for the reward of his pacific intentions an imprisonment, which would in all probability have been perpetual, had not the ingenious friendship of his wife with great address procured his liberty. But as the occasion of these events was the warm dispute kindled in the United Provinces concerning Grace and Predestination, we must resume things a little higher.

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