The Foundations of Vattel’s “System” of Politics and the Context of the Seven Years’ War: Moral Philosophy, Luxury and the Constitutional Commercial State
While Emer de Vattel is commonly known nowadays as an anglophile, it appears curious that in his main work, the Droit des gens of 1758, he severely criticised British policy concerning the borders of Acadia that helped trigger the Seven Years’ War. This article suggests that Vattel indeed was an admirer of the British constitution as well as a critic of the British ‘mercantile system’. When the first edition of Vattel’s Droit des gens was immediately republished in a French propaganda publication, this made perfect sense in view of the French foreign policy contexts of the time. Moreover, Vattel’s attitude towards Britain was not a strange combination of contrasting positions, but followed from his fundamental political thought. In fact, Vattel’s general position on luxury, moral philosophy and commercial sociability resembled that of other contemporaries who were equally concerned with the legacy of the Peace of Utrecht and the challenge to turn the balance of power into a durable system of peace and international trade.