Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

Some Chapters Touching the Law of Nature

Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

Some Chapters Touching the Law of Nature

Article excerpt

Textual Introduction

This publication is a critical edition of a transcription of the first five chapters of Hale's unpublished treatise on natural law. The entirety of the transcribed treatise is scheduled to be released in a later volume of the Sources in Early Modern Economics, Ethics, and Law series published by CLP Academic.

The Manuscripts (*)

In Gilbert Burnet's early list of Hale manuscripts (printed 1681), there is a record of a work, "Of the Law of Nature, Fol." (168) The autograph is unfortunately no longer extant, but three copies, including a seventeenth-century copy of the autograph, survive. Burnet's list of titles matches closely the titles of extant manuscripts written in Hale's own hand, (169) so the original title of the autograph was presumably "Of the Law of Nature."

Hale had drafted three pages of notes for a "treatise on natural law" (De lege naturali tractatus) in the autumn of 1668, and these notes are without doubt an initial outline of Hale's "Of the Law of Nature." (170) Therefore the treatise itself was likely composed sometime late 1668 or shortly thereafter. (171) Internal evidence is consistent with this date of composition. Around 1664 Hale seems to have favored traducianism with respect to the origin of the soul, but by 1672 he certainly held the position of creationism, (172) and this latter creationist doctrine is favored in the present treatise (B1, 109v). Between ca. 1664 and 1673 Hale composed a number of works which discuss the nature of the animal soul, (173) and in the present treatise he refers to his previous detailed description of animal instincts, "which I have elsewhere done" (B1, 116r). At least from 1671 Hale began incorporating Helmontian philosophical terminology in his description of the soul, (174) but this terminology is absent from the present treatise, which seems to preclude a date of composition ca. 1671-1676. With these observations, we can suggest a date of composition ca. 1668-1670.

The three witnesses to Hale's "Of the Law of Nature" are housed at the British Library, London:

1. Add. MS 18235, fols. 41-147 (B1). (175) This is a copy of the autograph and the copy-text for the present transcription. It is written in an exceptionally legible hand. The title page reads: "Some Chapters touching the Law of Nature. By the late Lord Cheif Justice Hale and copied From his owne Writing Lent to S (r) Rob (t) Southwell by his Grand Son Mathew Hale of Lincolns-Inn Esq (r) 1693" (B1, 41r).

2. Harley MS 7159, fols. 1-266 (B2). (176) This is a copy made from B1 in 1696. The title page reads: "Some Chapters touching the Law of Nature By the late Lord Cheif Justice Hale and copied from his own Writing. Lent to S (r) Robert Southwell by his Grand Son Mathew Hale of Lincolns-Inn Esq (r) 1693 And copied from the same Aug: 19. 1696." (B2, 1r).

3. Hargrave MS 485 (B3). (177) This copy is derivative of B1 and B2 and is written in a late-eighteenth century hand. The title page reads: "Treatise of the Nature of Lawes in Generall and touching the Law of nature. By Sir Mathew Hale" (B3, 1r).

Although scholars have long known of all three copies, (178) little attention has been given to the question of their relationship. Alan Cromartie included B3 in his select bibliography of "most authoritative" copies of Hale manuscripts and as a result most subsequent scholars have drawn on this copy. (179) But this judgment is mistaken. Whereas the orthography of B1 and B2 is consistent with a late-seventeenth century dating, the orthography of B3 certainly postdates 1760. By comparison with B1 and B2, the hand of B3 uses initial capitals sparsely; B3 rarely uses capitals for words other than proper nouns and the first letter of the sentence. As N.E. Osselton has demonstrated with respect to printed material, the early modern English practice of capitalizing the initial letter of common nouns steadily rose until it reached its zenith around 1750 (resembling modern German), when around 1760 there was a precipitous drop in this practice and by 1795 it was no longer in vogue. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.