Emer de Vattel

jurist from the Principality of Neuchâtel

Emer de Vattel (25 April 1714 – 28 December 1767) was an international lawyer whose works influenced Benjamin Franklin and other founding fathers when creating the United States Constitution.

Emer de Vattel in 1760


  • Les citoyens sont les membres de la societe civile : lies a cette societe par certains devoirs et soumis a son autorite, ils participent avec egalite a ses avantages.
    • Translation: The citizens are the members of the civil society: linked to this society by certain duties and subject to its authority, they participate with equality has its advantages.
    • Alternate: The citizens are the members of the civil society, bound to this society by certain duties, and subject to its authority; they equally participate in its advantages.
      The natives or natural-born citizens are those born in the country of parents who are citizens.
      if he be born there of a foreigner, it will be only the place of his birth, and not his country
      • page 176 of English translation published in 1883,
        • while the bottom-left marks it as page 176, it is listed as page 101 on the top-left. The section of the book is titled "OF OUR NATIVE COUNTRY, ETC." and it is part of chapter XIX called "OF OUR NATIVE COUNTRY AND SEVERAL THINGS THAT RELATE TO IT"
        • quoted in 1856 case in supreme court
        • quoted in 1942 by Mr. Stewart seen in page 1683 of part 2 of volume 8 of "Proceedings and Debates of the 77th Congress Second Session"
  • Les naturels, ou indigenes, sont ceux qui sont nes dans le pays, de parens citoyens.
    • Translation: the natural, or indigenous, are those born in the country, parents who are citizens.
  • car si vous y etes ne d'un etranger, ce pays sera seulement le lieu de votre naissance, sans etre votre patrie
    • Translation: because if you were born there to a foreigner, this country will only be the place of your birth, without being your homeland.


  • I am much obliged by the kind present you have made us of your edition of Vattel. It came to us in good season, when the circumstances of a rising state make it necessary frequently to consult The Law of Nations. Accordingly, that copy which I kept, (after depositing one in our own public library here, and sending the other to the college of Massachusetts Bay, as you directed3) has been continually in the hands of the members of our congress, now sitting, who are much pleased with your notes and preface, and have entertained a high and just esteem for their author.
    • 9 December 1775 letter thanking Charles Dumas for sending him three copies of Vattel's book
  • It may not be doubted that the very conception of a just government and its duty to the citizen includes the reciprocal obligation of the citizen to render military service in case of need, and the right to compel it. Vattel, Law of Nations, book III, cc. 1 and 2. To do more than state the proposition is absolutely unnecessary in view of the practical illustration afforded by the almost universal legislation to that effect now in force
  • In 1775, Benjamin Franklin acknowledged receipt of three copies of a new edition, in French, of Vattel's Law of Nations and remarked that the book
  • It was over two centuries late, but a copy of a library book George Washington borrowed was returned yesterday to a New York library. The former president borrowed The Law of Nations by Emer de Vattel on 5 October 1789, according to the records of the New York Society Library. Staff discovered it was missing when they conducted an inventory of books in the library's 1789-1792 ledger earlier this year. Washington had never returned the book
  • Emmerich de Vattels’ 1758 Law of Nations was on George Washington’s desk on the first day of his presidency. Law of Nations was also used and quoted from extensively by the Founders and Framers of the United States Constitution, including Benjamin Franklin. Law of Nations was cited more frequently than other Treatises on International Law in early American Court Cases, and historically was the primary textbook used by American Universities on matters of Natural Law, and Natural Rights.
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