Dutch philosopher and theologian Hugo Grotius (Huig de Groot) was a pioneer of the theory of natural rights
. Grotius is acknowledged as the father of international law
. His writings influenced many of the philosophers in the 17th and 18th centuries including John Locke
and Thomas Paine
. In fact, though he is virtually unknown today, Grotius was considered a giant by the American founding fathers
. The House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol has twenty-three marble portraits -- all figures considered central to the principles of American law -- and Hugo Grotius is one of them.
A child prodigy, Grotius earned his legal degree at the age of 16. He would hold various political positions; including Governor of Rotterdam, Attorney General and First Public Comptroller for the courts of Holland, Zealand, and West Friesland; Governor Generalship of the Dutch East India Company in Asia; and ambassador to France (from Sweden).
In 1619 Grotius found himself on the wrong side (i.e., losing side) of a Calvinist religious and political coup. He was sentenced to life in prison on charges that were eventually changed to treason. Two years later he escaped from prison to France where he published On the Law of War and Peace. He defied the judgement and returned to Holland a decade later, but a price was put on his head and he was forced to flee again -- this time to Germany. As a diplomat, Grotius helped negotiate the treaty ending the Thirty Years War.
Works by Hugo Grotius
Prolegomena to the Law of War and Peace (1625)
On the Law of War and Peace (1625)
The Truth of the Christian Religion (1632)
Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty (1868) written circa 1605
Professor Pi says Hugo de Groot was born in Delft
and that he is also buried there -- in the Nieuwe Kerk