Institutes of Natural Law

From Wythepedia: The George Wythe Encyclopedia
Revision as of 16:18, 28 October 2013 by Lktesar (talk | contribs) (Summary paragraphs by Lauren Bridenbaugh.)

Jump to: navigation, search

by Thomas Rutherforth

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 at Cambridge and he had a strong interest in natural and moral philosophy.[2] His lectures on the topic were ultimately 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] In fact, the founders relied on the treatise while creating and ratifying the Constitution; the work was also used in early legal education in the United States and as authority in actual cases.[6]

Rutherforth’s work brought him recognition and career advancement. He served as chaplain to Frederick, Prince of Wales, and later the princess dowager for a time. He married Charlotte Elizabeth Abdy whose father was Sir William Abdy, fourth baronet of Albyns,[7] and became regius chair of divinity at Cambridge in 1756.[8]

Bibliographic Information

Author: Thomas Rutherforth, (1712-1771)

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

Published: Cambridge: Printed by J. Bentham, printer to the University, for W. Thurlbourn, bookseller in Cambridge, 1754-1756.


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in contemporary calf; the Newton Hall set with the ownership signatures "Babington." Purchased from Meyer Boswell Books, Inc.

View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

External Links

Google Books


  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. McDowell, “The Limits of Natural Law: Thomas Rutherforth and the American Legal Tradition,” 59-60.
  7. Gascoigne, John, “Rutherforth, Thomas.”
  8. Ibid.