Manuscript held by G. W. Leibniz Bibliothek, Hanover
Shelfmark LH 2, 3, 1 Bl. 7-8

Date: 1695

Translated from the Latin

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[LH 2, 3, 1 Bl. 7v]

The beginning of the institutions of perpetual right

Justice in general is a virtue whereby one conducts oneself properly with respect to the goods and evils of others. And one is all the more just the more one takes pleasure in the common good and strives for it according to the dictates of wisdom, the science of which we call jurisprudence. Accordingly, the just person will be endowed with a will of such a kind that everyone would want the person who governs them to have. And since the author and director of the universe is such as can be wished for, supreme in power and wisdom, best in will, it follows that the more well-disposed one is towards everyone, the more one looks after one's own interests under a Lord who, governing all things in the most perfect way, passes over nothing without taking it into account, so that it is not permissible to squander oneself and one's own things, since everything we are, we are of God. Just is therefore that which is in the public interest, and public prosperity is the supreme law. "Public," however, is understood as referring not to a few, not to a particular nation, but to all those who belong to the city of God and, so to speak, the commonwealth of the universe. And those who govern others must be aware that, for the power conceded to them in their domain, they are the vicars of God, and they will have to account for their performance of their duties; nor will they be excused if, avoiding exertion, they have transferred to others, no matter how good and wise those others may be, a task they could have carried out themselves.
     From this it can be understood that souls are immortal by divine providence, and that, in a time continuing beyond this life, those things which are now considered to be thrown into disorder are brought back to order so that no one can repent of his justice and virtue, and that, in the end, every honourable [action] is made useful, every shameful [action] harmful, and that those qualities that are moral are converted into natural ones, since there is no doubt someone who will ultimately execute the decrees of justice. Now, since right is a power, and obligation a necessity, bestowed or imposed on him who follows justice, they will also apply to anyone who wishes to be saved. Whoever has wisdom will certainly understand, and whoever does not will learn at his own cost, that those deeds which violate piety and justice, or modesty, and which go against good morals, are ultimately those that should not be done, nor can a wise man do them, and that, on the other hand, if there is any virtue, any merit, striving for them and cultivating piety in particular is the most useful thing for all.
     Moreover, it is the greatest goal of he who cultivates justice1 that happiness be extended as much as possible. And since happiness is a state of durable joy, he will endeavour, as far as he is able, to make as many as possible joyful and to make their joys able to endure and block out disturbances. [LH 2, 3, 1 Bl. 8r] We must therefore try to increase the number of those who can be made happy, to the extent that they do not hinder each other, that is, we must favour propagation and preservation. Happiness consists of internal and external goods; the latter are the instruments of the former. Both must be pursued by those who hold power: the internal especially by the education of children and adolescents, the external more by the care of adults. And in all these things, the art of persuading is most effective. The internal goods concern the soul and the body. Primary goods of the soul are wisdom, understanding, and virtue of the will. Wisdom is the science of happiness. Virtue is a certain habit or customary practice that becomes second nature, making one act with ease as wisdom prescribes so that, in short, virtue is nothing other than a propensity of the will to [follow] the path of happiness. But yet, even the secondary goods of the soul, the best of which are a memory equipped with a lot of knowledge and a readiness of ingenuity accessible by practice, must not be entirely neglected. The primary goods of the body are health and agility. Nature bestows the former and art maintains it; exercise bestows and preserves the latter for the sole object that everyone can be maximally useful to the community. But yet some consideration must also be given to certain secondary goods of the body, among which chiefly stands out the grace of the body, not only [grace] in the form itself, certainly of the one being silent and resting, but also in acting and speaking.2 And by these secondary goods of the soul and body, people become more pleasant and more useful to each other in turn, and make each other happier. Lastly, external goods consist of people and things that help us. The help we receive from other people is accomplished by authority, friendship, mutual benefit. There are animated and inanimate things, but we are helped above all by the toil of animated ones, whose preservation is fitting for us to oversee. Inanimate things serve to feed us, clothe us, protect us, and to form utensils and other tools. Among the latter, I include those things we need to protect ourselves from enemies and wild beasts.
     But the greatest treasure of humankind consists in the sciences and the arts, whereby our power in the nature of things is increased so that we know how and are able to use souls and bodies, ours and others, in the best way possible for the common happiness. Therefore, we need not only an abundance of things but also their correct use. And rulers must take care,3 first, that discoveries already made and established4 are preserved in written works; second, that the use of these works is facilitated by repertories; third, that the very science of thinking, that is, of discovering, judging and remembering, is augmented; fourth, that all5 remarkable observations that chance presents [to us] are diligently written down; fifth, that, without waiting for a chance teacher, many things are tested by experiments to investigate the natures of things, whereby we obtain data sufficient for knowing them; sixth,6 that, with a wise use of the perfected art of thinking, we may obtain from knowledge already given anything useful that can be derived therefrom. [LH 2, 3, 1 Bl. 8v] Therefore, after virtue, health, the copious supply of necessary things, and public safety, the greatest concern of rulers must be to augment, through illustrious talents, the sciences and the arts,7 by which the abundance of goods and the health of bodies is increased and also piety and virtue are safeguarded and augmented. For when the knowledge of things is greater, not only is the use of them better, but there also arises a greater admiration and love for their divine author. From which there follows a devotion to virtue and wisdom, by which we can be pleased with him above all, so that other goods are also given to us. From these things it is clear that the8 precepts of perpetual right, which we also call "natural," are the same as the laws of the best commonwealth, from which of course every commonwealth deviates to some extent, on account of the weakness of human affairs. Yet as far as possible we should approach this ideal. These are the three aforementioned precepts in the generally known formulation but of an extremely broad meaning: to harm no-one, to give to each his due,9 to live piously, of which the first is the precept of peace,10 the second of due measure, the third of salvation. The first precept restrains us from worsening the condition of anyone unless an important reason, in accordance with the second and higher precept, requires it. In this way, fights between free men and quarrels in the state are avoided. And in this consists the justice that they call commutative, which preserves the state of individuals as much as it depends upon others, or else demands equivalent compensation from those responsible for it not being preserved. The second precept involves assigning to each as much good as the procuration of the greatest common good permits; this is distributive justice, which also concerns rewards and punishments, by which the state of individuals is improved or worsened. And these two precepts would be sufficient if [LH 2, 3, 1 Bl. 7r] they were taken with regard to that universal society which can be called the city of God. But if, as happens, they are understood with regard to human society,11 which we maintain in this life, both precepts will make way for the supreme third one. For all the goods and evils of this life are to be considered as naught compared to future goods and evils, which God has destined to his friends or enemies. This is therefore the court of conscience, which even true but sublime philosophy teaches us to satisfy. Nor is it is sufficient to conduct oneself well towards others for the sake of one’s own tranquillity and convenience, since those who have no other reasons for acting justly find nothing in themselves to deter them from great but extremely profitable crimes, which could be committed with impunity. Therefore we must be so disposed that love of God, that is, of the supreme good, should prevail over other desires. And so the ultimate and perfect basis of justice consists, ultimately, in this last precept, of true piety. And human society itself must be ordered in such a way as to conform as much as possible to the divine [society], and in the souls of men knowledge and love of God should be joined in the most effective way with the other doctrines and virtues.


1. justice ǀ , which is especially in the public interest ǀ deleted.
2. speaking. ǀ And by these, men are more pleasant to each other and make each other happier ǀ deleted.
3. care ǀ that (α) the science of thinking, that is, of judging or inventing is improved (β) remarkable things are written down (γ) discoveries already made are in ǀ deleted.
4. established ǀ are at hand in libraries and repertories ǀ deleted.
5. all ǀ noteworthy ǀ deleted.
6. sixth, ǀ whatever will be useful from the given observations ǀ deleted.
7. arts, ǀ by which virtue, health, and self-sufficiency are preserved and augmented ǀ deleted.
8. the ǀ doctrine ǀ deleted.
9. due, ǀ to live honourably ǀ deleted.
10. peace, ǀ the second of charity, while the third commends (α) piety (β) probity ǀ deleted.
11. society, ǀ of this life, the third precept of piety is added ǀ deleted.

© Lloyd Strickland 2021