Institutes of Natural Law

From Wythepedia: The George Wythe Encyclopedia
Revision as of 07:57, 25 July 2013 by Jcarte18 (talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search

by Thomas Rutherforth

This is the first edition of Rutherford's sole legal work, drawing heavily on Grotius, and prompting Holdsworth's observation that is was "the only book written by an Englishman which can be compared with Burlamaqui's [Principles of Natural and Political Law]." [1]

Together with Rutherforth's teaching in natural philosophy went a strong interest in moral philosophy, and his lectures in this area were published in two volumes as the Institutes of Natural Law (1754 and 1756). It is a work that draws heavily on Grotius and considers morality chiefly in terms of its social consequences, a form of utilitarianism that was later to influence his younger Cambridge colleague William Paley. Earlier, in An Essay on the Nature and Obligations of Virtue (1744), Rutherforth offered a critique of the other dominant schools of moral philosophy active within Britain at the time, chiefly the hedonist views of Mandeville, the rationalist views of Clarke and Balguy, Shaftesbury's theory of the disinterestedness of virtue, and the Hutchesonian conception of an innate moral sense. As an alternative he developed a form of Christian utilitarianism, arguing that good actions advanced one's happiness in both this world and the next. Such a view prompted the strictures of Catharine Cockburn who maintained that ‘by denying … to the duties of religion or virtue any foundation but the prospect of a reward; he highly injures and dishonours both’ (Works, 2.105). [2]

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.

External Links

Google Books


  1. Holdsworth
  2. John Gascoigne, ‘Rutherforth, Thomas (1712–1771)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 7 June 2013