On War and Peace
1. It accords most closely with the natural law, if men are at peace with
one another, voluntarily performing their obligations; in fact peace itself is
a state peculiar to man, as distinguished from the brutes. Yet at times, even
for man himself, war is permitted, and sometimes necessary; when, namely, owing
to another's malice, we are unable to preserve our possessions, or gain our
rights, without employing force. Even in this case. however, prudence and
humanity persuade us not to resort to arms, if more harm than good will result
for us and ours from the avenging of our wrongs.
2. The just causes for which war can be undertaken reduce themselves to
these: that we may preserve and protect ourselves and our belongings against
the unjust invasion of others; or that we may assert our claim to what is owed
us by others who refuse to pay; or to obtain reparations for an injury already
inflicted, or a guarantee for the future. A war waged for the first cause is
called defensive, if for the other causes, offensive.
3. And yet when one thinks he has been injured, there must be no instant
recourse to arms, especially when there is still some doubt about the right or
the fact. But we must try to see whether the matter can be settled in a
friendly way, for example, by arranging a conference of the parties, by
appealing to arbitrators, or intrusting the case to the decision of the lot.
These methods are especially to be tried by the nation making the demand: since
an advantage certainly attends possession with some sort of tide.
4. Moreover, the unjust causes of war are either openly such, or they admit
some color [of a pretext], however pale. The former are referred chiefly to two
heads, avarice and ambition, the passion, that is, for possession, or for rule.
The latter are various, as, for example, fear prompted by the wealth and power
of a neighbor, an advantage not based upon right, the desire to gain better
lands, the refusal of what we have earned by some good quality as such, the
stupidity of the possessor, the desire of extinguishing a right lawfully
acquired by the other party, if it seems rather irksome to us, and so forth.
5. Again, the most appropriate mode of action in war is force and terror;
but it is nevertheless permitted to use trickery and ruses against an enemy,
provided there as no breach of faith. Hence it is permissible to deceive an
enemy by a pretended speech, or fictitious reports, but not at all by promises
6. As for the force employed in war against the enemy and his property, we
should distinguish between what an enemy can suffer without injustice, and what
we cannot bring to bear against him, without violating humanity. For he who has
declared himself our enemy, inasmuch as this involves the express threat to
bring the worst of evils upon us, by that very act, so far as in him lies,
gives us a free hand against himself, without restriction. Humanity, however,
commands that, so far as the clash of arms permits, we do not inflict more
mischief upon the enemy than defense, or the vindication of our right, and
security for the future, require.
7. War is classified as formal and informal. For the first it is required
that it be waged on both sides by authority of him who has the supreme power,
and that a declaration shall have preceded. A war not declared, or waged
against private citizens, is informal. To this class belong also civil wars.
8. The right of making war in a state belongs to him who has the supreme
authority. Hence, to engage in war without permission given by the ruler,
exceeds the authority of a magistrate, even in case he infers that the supreme
power, if consulted, would decide to wage war here and now. But all who are
placed with military forces in charge of some province or fortified place are
understood, from the purpose of their office, to be also instructed to repel by
any means an attacking enemy from the places intrusted to them. They may not,
however, rashly transfer the war to hostile territory.
9. But whereas one living in natural liberty can be attacked in war only for
injuries which he has himself inflicted, in a state the ruler is often attacked
by war, or the whole state is attacked, even though he was not responsible for
the injury. But if this is to be rightly done, the injury must have been in
some way transferred to him. And rulers of states share in the injuries done by
their former citizens, or by those who have recently taken refuge among them,
if the rulers have suffered the acts, or afford shelter. Suffering an act
becomes culpable, only in case one knows the wrong is being done, and has the
power to prevent. But the ruler of a state is assumed to know what is openly
and frequently done by the citizens. Ability to prevent is always presumed,
unless the lack of it is plainly proved. But the right to make war upon a ruler
who receives and protects a guilty person fleeing to him, merely to escape
punishment, results rather from a particular agreement between neighbors and
allies, than from some common obligation, except in case the fugitive while he
is among us plans acts of hostility against the state which he has abandoned.
10. There is also an established custom among nations that in payment for a
debt incurred by the state, or in which the state has involved itself by
maladministration of justice, the property of individual citizens is held, to
this extent, that foreigners to whom the debt is owed, can lay hands upon such
property, if found among them. However, a restitution to the citizens who have
had their property taken away in this manner, should be arranged by those who
contracted the debt. Such executions are usually called reprisals, and they are
frequently the prelude to wars.
11. War can be waged not only by anyone for himself, but also on behalf of
another. But for this to be rightly done, requires a just cause on the part of
him for whom the war is waged, and on the part of his helper a satisfactory
reason, in view of which, and for the other's defense, he can carry on
hostilities against a third. But among those for whom we not only can, but also
must, take up arms, there are in the first place our subjects, not only
collectively, but also singly; provided it is clear that the state will not be
involved in greater evils in consequence. Next come allies, if this was
included in the treaty with them. These, however, yield precedence to our
citizens, when they have need of help at the same time. And, furthermore, a
just cause of war is presupposed in their case, and a certain prudence in
undertaking the war. Then come friends, even though no express promise has been
made to them. Finally, when there is no other reason, common descent alone may
be a sufficient ground for our going to the defense of one who is unjustly
oppressed, and implores our aid, if we can conveniently do so.
12. License in war goes so far that, although in killing, devastating and
plundering a man may have overstepped the limits of humanity, still in the
general opinion of nations he is not regarded as infamous, and a man whom good
men should avoid. Nevertheless the more civilized nations despise certain
methods of injuring an enemy; for example, using poison, or bribing the
citizens and soldiers of another state to slay their rulers.
13. Movable property is understood to have been captured in war only after
it is safe from the enemy's pursuit; immovable property, when we hold it under
such circumstances that we have the power to keep the enemy at a distance. And
yet, in order to extinguish completely the former owner's right to recover such
property, it is necessary for him to renounce all claim by a subsequent
agreement. For otherwise, what was acquired by force, may be taken away again
by force. But just as soldiers fight under authority of the state, so what they
take from the enemy, as properly acquired for the state, not for the soldiers.
Yet it is everywhere customary to leave movable property, especially of small
value, to the soldiers who have taken it; and this is connived at, or it takes
the place of a reward, or sometimes of pay; or it is to tempt such as may be
willing to sell their blood when there is no compulsion. But when captured
property is again wrested from the enemy, the immovable things return to their
former owners, and the movable should do likewise. But among most nations these
too are given up to the soldiers as booty.
14. Finally, authority also is acquired in war, as well over individuals as
over whole peoples that have been conquered. But to make this legitimate, and
binding upon the consciences of the subjects, the vanquished must have given
their word to the victors, and the latter must have laid aside their hostile
attitude and temper towards the former.
15. Warlike acts are suspended by truces, that is, a convention by which,
for a time, although the state of war and the quarrel out of which the war
arose still remain, they must abstain from warlike acts of offense; and when
the truce has expired, unless peace has meanwhile been restored, they return to
hostilities without a fresh declaration.
16. Truces can, moreover, be divided into two kinds: one when the armies
come to a halt on their expedition, and warlike preparations are continued by
both sides, — a truce which is generally made for a short time only; the
other, under which warlike preparations are terminated on both sides. These can
be entered into for a considerable length of time, and usually are; they also
have the appearance of a complete peace, and sometimes are called by that name,
with the addition of a definite time. For otherwise, as a rule, every peace is
perpetual, that is, it permanently extinguishes the controversies on account of
which the war was begun. But the so-called tacit truces involve no obligation;
in that case the parties both remain quiet at their discretion, and can proceed
again to warlike acts, whenever they please.
17. But war ceases entirely when peace has been ratified by the rulers of
both sides. Although it rests with the parties to the negotiations to define
the terms and conditions of peace, they must be faithfully executed at the time
agreed upon, and must be observed. In confirmation thereof, besides the
customary oath, and giving of hostages, others, especially those present at the
negotiations, often guarantee the observance of the peace, promising their aid,
if one party is injured by the other in defiance of the terms of peace.
Previous | Text
Version | Contents