Institutes of Natural Law: Being the Substance of a Course of Lectures on Grotius De Jure Belli et Pacis

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by Thomas Rutherforth

Institutes of Natural Law

Title page from Institutes of Natural Law, volume one, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Thomas Rutherforth
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator {{{trans}}}
Published Cambridge: Printed by J. Bentham, printer to the University, for W. Thurlbourn, bookseller in Cambridge
Date 1754-1756
Edition Eighth
Language {{{lang}}}
Volumes 2 volume set
Pages {{{pages}}}
Desc. 8vo (21 cm.)
Location Shelf G-4
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]
Inscription, front flyleaf, volume one.
Thomas Rutherforth (1712-1771) was an English moral philosopher, regius professor of divinity at Cambridge, and archdeacon of Essex.[1] Rutherforth taught physical science privately while at Cambridge, as he had a great interest in natural and moral philosophy.[2] His lectures were published as the Institutes of Natural Law in two volumes in 1754 and 1756, respectively.[3] The work "draws heavily on Grotius and considers morality chiefly in terms of its social consequences."[4] "Institutes of Natural Law was a work widely read and cited among those of the founding generation" of the United States.[5] The founders relied on the treatise while creating and ratifying the Constitution; it was used in early legal education in the United States, and was frequently cited by judges in state and federal cases.[6]
Inscription, front flyleaf, volume one.

Rutherforth’s work brought him recognition and career advancement. He served as chaplain to Frederick, Prince of Wales, and later to the princess dowager for a time. His wife was Charlotte Elizabeth Abdy, whose father was Sir William Abdy, fourth baronet of Albyns.[7]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Dean's Memo[8] includes the first (1754-1756) edition of Thomas Rutherforth's Institutes of Natural Law based on a reference in Bernard Mayo's biography of Henry Clay, Henry Clay: Spokesman of the New West.[9] Brown's Bibliography[10] suggests either the first edition published in Cambridge, or the third (1799) edition published in Philadelphia, based on a reference in Wythe's case report for Aylett v. Aylett: "See Rutherforth on Grotius b.1. c. VI. s. V."[11] Brown notes "In all probability Wythe may have owned the Philadelphia edition." Based on the evidence we cannot determine precisely which edition Wythe owned. The Wolf Law Library followed Dean's recommendation and purchased a copy of the first edition.

Manuscript poem, rear free endpaper verso, volume one.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in contemporary calf with red morocco title labels and black morocco volume labels to spines. Includes previous owner's signatures: "Babington" to front pastedown of volume one, "W. Weddington" to front fly leaves of both volumes, and "R. Jacson" to both front free endpapers. Volume one also has a manuscript poem, "By the sea," on the rear free endpaper verso and the rear pastedown. Purchased from Meyer Boswell Books, Inc.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. William Holdsworth, A History of English Law (London: Methuen & Co., Sweet and Maxwell, 1938), 12:643.
  2. John Gascoigne, "Rutherforth, Thomas (1712–1771)" in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004- ), accessed October 21, 2013.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Gary L. McDowell, "The Limits of Natural Law: Thomas Rutherforth and the American Legal Tradition," The American Journal of Jurisprudence 37 (1992): 58, accessed Oct. 21, 2013.
  6. Ibid, 59-60.
  7. Gascoigne, “Rutherforth, Thomas.”
  8. Memorandum from Barbara C. Dean, Colonial Williamsburg Found., to Mrs. Stiverson, Colonial Williamsburg Found. (June 16, 1975), 16 (on file at Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary).
  9. Bernard Mayo, Henry Clay: Spokesman of the New West (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1937), 26.
  10. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  11. George Wythe, Decisions of Cases in Virginia by the High Court of Chancery ed. B. B. Minor, 2nd ed. (Richmond: J.W. Randolph, 1852), 225.

External Links

Read volume one of this book in Google Books.