1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wheaton, Henry

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WHEATON, HENRY (1785-1848), American lawyer and diplomatist, was born at Providence, Rhode Island, on the 27th of November 1785. He graduated at Brown University in 1802, was admitted to the bar in 1805, and, after two years' study abroad, practised law at Providence (1807-1812) and at New York City (1812-1827). He was a justice of the Marine Court of the city of New York from 1815 to 1819, and reporter of the United States Supreme Court from 1816 to 1827, aiding in 1825 in the revision of the laws of New York. His diplomatic career began in 1827, with an appointment to Denmark as chargé d'affaires, followed by that of minister to Prussia, 1837 to 1846. During this period he had published a Digest of the Law of Maritime Captures (1815); twelve volumes of Supreme Court Reports, and a Digest; a great number of historical articles, and some collected works; Elements of International Law (1836), his most important work, of which a 6th edition with memoir was prepared by W. B. Lawrence and an eighth by R. H. Dana (q.v.); Histoire du Progrès du Droit des Gens en Europe, written in 1838 for a prize offered by the French Academy of Moral and Political Science, and translated in 1845 by William B. Lawrence as A History of the Law of Nations in Europe and America; and the Right of Visitation and Search (1842). The History took rank at ouce as one of the leading works on the subject of which it treats. Wheaton's general theory is that international law consists of “those rules of conduct which reason deduces, as consonant to justice, from the nature of the society existing among independent nations, with such definitions and modifications as may be established by general consent.” In 1846 Wheaton was requested to resign by the new president, Polk, who needed his place for another appointment. The request provoked general condemnation; but Wheaton resigned and returned to the United States. He was called at once to the Harvard Law School as lecturer on international law; but he died at Dorchester, Massachusetts, on the 11th of March 1848.