|I° vol. 1ª ed. 1826.|
|Internet Archive: Vattel.|
We ought not, therefore, to separate the science of public law from that of ethics, nor encourage the dangerous suggestion, that gouvernments are not as strictly bound by the obligations of truth, justice, and humanity, in relation to other powers, as they are in the management of their own local concerns. States or bodies politic, are to be considered as moral persons, having a public will, capable and free to do right and wrong, in as much as tbey are collections of individuals, each of whom carries with him into the service of the community, the same binding law of morality and religion which ought to control bis conduct in private life. The law of nations is a complex system, composed of various ingredients. It consists of general principles of right and justice, equally suitable to the government of individuals in a state of natural equality, and to the relation and conduct of nations; of a collection of usages and customs, the growth of civilization and commerce; and of a code of conventional or positive law (a). In the absence of these latter regulations, the intercourse and conduct of nations are to be governed by principles fairly to be deduced from the rights and duties of nations, and the nature of moral obligation; and we have the authorithy of the lawyers of antiquity, and of some of the first masters in the modern school of public law, for placing the moral obligation of nations and of individuals on similar grounds, and for considering individual and national morality as parts of one and the same science.
The law of nations, so far as it is founded on the principles of natural law, is equally binding in every age, and upon all mankind. But the Christian nations of Europe, and their descendants on this side of the Atlantic, by the vast superiority of their attainments in arts, and science, and commerce, as well as in policy and government; and, above all, by the brighter light, the more certain truths, and the more definite sanction, which Chrintianity has communicaled to the ethical jurisprudence of the ancients, have established a law of nations peculiar to themselves. They