On Monday, March 10, 1794, during the height of young Republics neutrality crisis, the Senate ordered: That the Secretary purchase Blackstones Commentaries, and Vattels Law of Nature and Nations, for the use of the Senate. The purchase orderthe first books the Senate bought (and the only ones it apparently ordered in the eighteenth century) -- gives us insight not only into the reference books the members of the First Congress likely consulted for issues relating to the ATS, but also signifies the omnipresent, omnipotent dual influencesometimes complementary as with the ATS, at other times pointing in different directions of English common law (represented by Blackstone) and continental public law (represented by Vattel) on the founding group.
The treatise by the Swiss thinker Emmerich de Vattel entitled The Law of Nations or Principles of the Law of Nature Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns was the supremus inter pares of the international law texts the founding group used during the crucial decade between 1787 and 1797. The Founders also read and cited other leading authorities, most notable Hugo Grotius and Samuel Pufendorf, but Vattel was their clear favorite.
Vattels work was first published in French in 1758, with the first English translation published in London in 1759. By 1787, there was another English edition and eight more French editions. The first American edition was published in New York in 1796 (BELOW). Vattels treatise, according to Benjamin Franklin as early as 1775, was continually in the hands of the members of our Congress now sitting. The book was especially treasured for its directions on how the young Republic should conduct its foreign affairs. At one cabinet meeting in April 1793, Alexander Hamilton cited Vattel for the proposition that the United States could unilaterally revoke its treaty of alliance with France given the dramatic upheaval in that country. Jefferson was not swayed by the citation, but it did cause Edmund Randolph, the attorney general, to reconsider his opposition to Hamiltons proposal. Unfortunately, a copy of Vattels was not available at the moment, and so the meeting adjourned until a copy could be located.
Just a few more examples..
Law of Nations
"Because the law of nations is rooted in natural law, its substantive content was understood by the Framers as being immutable."
The Swiss juirist Emer de Vattel (1714-1767) was one of the foremost theorists of natural law in the 18th century. His writings were widely read in the American colonies and had a profound impact on the thinking of the framers of the American constitution. The Law of Nations (1758) is a 2 volume work in which Vattel explores the application of natural law to the conduct of states and sovereigns. He discusses the rights of obligation of the state itself, those of the sovereign power, the nature of good government, the right of the people to secession or rebellion, and the proper relations between sovereign states. The latter includes international commerce, international legal agreements, and treaties.
Law of Nations was strongly influenced by Leibnitz and Christian von Wolff
"Vattel's The Law of Nations, was the most influential book on the law of nations for 125 years following its publication. The first English translation appeared in 1759. Numerous editions of The Law of Nations were printed in England during the Eighteenth century, which were widely read in the American Colonies, along with editions in the original French. The first American edition appeared in 1796"
Thomas Jefferson to John Minor, August 30, 1814 "Before you enter on the study of the law a sufficient groundwork must be laid...[Latin and French ]...This foundation being laid, you may enter regularly on the study of the Laws....[Physics, Ethics, Religion, Natural law, Belles lettres, Criticism, Rhetoric and Oratory]...For these reasons I should recommend the following distribution of your time. Natural Law. Vattel"
Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, April 28, 1793 "It seems as if his arrival would furnish occasion for the people to testify their affections without respect to the cold caution of their government. Would you suppose it possible that it should have been seriously proposed to declare our treaties with France void on the authority of an ill understood scrap in Vattel 2. § 192 toutefois et test argument &c. [ illegible] and that it should be necessary to discuss it?"
Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, April 28, 1793 "The Law of nations, by which this question is to be determined, is composed of three branches, 1. The Moral law of our nature. 2. The Usages of nations. 3. Their special Conventions. The first of these only, concerns this question, that is to say the Moral law to which Man has been subjected by his creator, & of which his feelings, or Conscience as it is sometimes called, are the evidence with which his creator has furnished him.....Certainly not when merely useless or disagreeable, as seems to be said in an authority which has been quoted, Vattel, 2. 197, and tho he may under certain degrees of danger, yet the danger must be imminent, & the degree great."
Furthermore, Vattle's Law of Nations was openly read during the Constitutional Convention itself (from Madison's notes):
"In order to prove that individuals in a State of nature are equally free & independent he read passages from Locke, Vattel, Lord Summers"
"To prove that the case is the same with States till they surrender their equal sovereignty, he read other passages in Locke & Vattel, and also Rutherford"
And, less well known...
Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 25 March 1, 1788-December 31, 1789
Secret Committee Contract
"MS (Privately owned original, 1993). In the hand of Roger Sherman.
1 A copy of a 60-page notebook in the hand of Connecticut delegate Roger Sherman was made available for use in this supplement by Mr. Joseph Rubenfine of West Palm Beach, Fla. It contains 24 pages of notes on Sherman's readings from Emmerich Vattel and the Bishop of Bristol, various personal expense accounts from 1781 to 1784, and copies of reports now in the PCC on Continental expenses and indebtedness, battle casualties, and the hospital establishment as of July 23, 1781, of which only the present notes do not duplicate information available elsewhere."