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Worth the ReadOct. 12 2014
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Grotius wrote the Commentary at the request of the management board of the Dutch East India Company (or VOC in Dutch) as part of a defence of the actions of one of its merchant ship captains, van Heemskerk, who seized a Portuguese ship in the East Indies. Based on the captain's own retrospective self-justification (he possessed no warrant for such seizure), the confused reasoning of the Admiralty Board, and his own classical education, Grotius argued for 'subjective right' of the individual (as judge and jury of his own cause when at sea or anywhere else without government jurisdiction 'like Muscovy today') and thereby invented modern natural law.
The Commentary is a pleasure to read - written with energy and confidence, Grotius is here at his best. Although unpublished in his lifetime, and subsequently overshadowed anyway by the gigantic 'Right of War and Peace', the Commentary is a remarkable mixture of high principle and opportunistic pragmatism. One of the real highlights is a conception of religious tolerance entirely based on the pursuit of profit-making. In this way Grotius invented a line of thinking tolerance that differs from both reason of state approach of Pufendorf and Hobbes and from the liberalism of Bayle, Locke, Mill.