1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vattel, Emeric de

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VATTEL, EMERIC (Emer) DE (1714-1767) Swiss jurist, the son of a Protestant minister, was born at Couvet, in the principality of Neuchâtel, on the 25th of April 1714. He studied at Basel and Geneva. During his early years his favourite pursuit was philosophy; and, having carefully examined the works of G. W. Leibnitz and C. Wolff, he published in 1741 a defence of Leibnitz's system against J. P. de Crousaz. In the same year Vattel, who was born a subject of the king of Prussia, repaired to Berlin in the hope of obtaining some public employment from Frederick II., but was disappointed in his expectation. Two years later he proceeded to Dresden, where he experienced a very favourable reception from Count Brühl, the minister of Saxony. In 1746 he obtained from the elector, Augustus III., the title of councillor of embassy, accompanied with a pension, and was sent to Bern in the capacity of the elector's minister. His diplomatic functions did not occupy his whole time, and much of his leisure was devoted to literature and jurisprudence. Among other works he published Loisirs philosophiques (1747) and Mélanges de littérature, de morale, et de politique (1757). But his reputation chiefly rests on his Droit des gens, ou Principes de la loi naturelle appliqués à la conduite et aux affaires des nations et des souverains (Neuchâtel, 1758). During the same year he was recalled from Switzerland, to be employed in the cabinet of Dresden, and was soon afterwards honoured with the title of privy councillor. His labours now became so intense as to exhaust his strength, and his health broke down. After a period of rest he returned to Dresden in 1766; but his renewed exertions soon produced a relapse, and he made another excursion to Neuchâtel, where he died on the 28th of December 1767. His last work was entitled Questions de droit naturel, ou Observations sur le traité du droit de la nature, par Wolff (Bern, 1762).

Vattel's Droit des gens, which is founded on the works of Wolff, had in its day a great success, in truth, greater than it deserved. His principal and only merit consists in his having rendered the ideas of that author accessible to the political and diplomatic world. The Droit des gens passed through many editions, and was translated into various languages (English in 1760).