Obrecht, Ulric

, a learned German, was descended from a family, which came originally from Schlestadt, and had been raised to nobility in the person of his great-grandfather *


It is perhaps Thomas Obrecht, whose instrument of creation as count Palatine may be seen in Selden’s “Titles of Honour;” where there is a curious extract of the forms and ceremo nies used by him on the creation of John Crusius, poet-laureat, at Strasburgh. Here, also, our count was a professor of law in 1616.

by the emperor Rodolphus II. in 1604. Ulric was born, July 23, 1646, at Strasburg, where he had the first part of his education, and then proceeded to study the sciences at Montbelliard and Altorf. He inherited both the inclination and taste of his ancestors, who were all distinguished by the posts they held, either in the university, or in the senate of Strasburg. The study of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew tongues was almost the first amusement of his infancy; and he learned, with equal facility, French, Spanish, and Italian. At fifteen^ he was so good a rhetorician, that he composed and pronounced a Latin speech in public, with universal applause. The method prescribed by his preceptors was, to suffer him to read only the ancient authors, and to derive the principles | of eloquence from the purest sources, Demosthenes, Cicero, Quintilian, Longinus, &c. He also pursued the same plan, in his course of philosophy; Plato, Aristotle, and Pythagoras, being principally recommended to him. His general knowledge at length settled in jurisprudence and history: in both which he excelled, and filled the chairs of both in the university with great distinction, being admired, not more for the great extent of his knowledge, than for his perspicuity in communicating it. He gave an account of all ages as if he had lived in them; and of all laws as if he had been the maker of them. With all this, he spoke of such subjects as he knew best, like a man who sought rather to be informed than to decide. As soon as he had taken his licentiate’s degree, he resolved to travel for farther improvement. In this view, he went first to Vienna in Austria, with Mr. Kellerman, the Muscovite ambassador, and visited the libraries and learned men wherever he came. He commenced author at nineteen, when he published a kind of “Commentary upon Scipio’s Dream,” and “A Dissertation upon the Principles of Civil and Political Prude-nee.

At his return from Italy, he married at Strasburg the daughter of Boeder, the famous professor of eloquence and history, whom he succeeded afterwards in that station; and he also collected the most finished pieces of his fatherin-law. Among others, he published “Animadversiones in Dissertationem de ratione status in imperio,” &c. a concise piece of criticism upon a book, which had made a great noise in Germany, under the fictitious name of Hyppolitus of Pierre; where the author had represented the power of the house of Austria as dangerous, and even fatal, to the liberties of the empire. This family, therefore, acknowledged their obligations to Obrecht, for vindicating them from so injurious a suspicion; and omitted nothing which might engage him in their interest.

In the mean time, his growing reputation increased the number of his scholars from all parts of Germany, to whom he read lectures in law and history. This employment left him few spare moments to his own studies; and he never thought of offering anything to the public but from necessity, or in compliance with the intreaties of his friends. Having made great proficiency in the study of medals, there was presented to him a very curious one of Domitiai upon the reverse of which appeared a goddess, which he | conjectured to be the figure of Isis; and on this occasion he published his “Conjectures,” in 1675, with the title of “Epistola de Nummo Domitiani Isiaco.” After this, he turned his thoughts to the “Augustan History,” and collected and arranged all its writers in a new edition, accompanied with important notes: accordingly, the piece appeared in print, under the title of “Prodromus rerum Alsaticarum,” in 1680. It was, indeed, only an introduction to a larger work which he was meditating upon Alsace, in order to discover the origin, limits, rights, customs, wars, revolutions, &c. of that country; but the multiplicity of his employments obliged him to lay this aside. He printed, however, some detached treatises, as that upon the right of bearing the standard of the empire, “De Vexillo Imperil” to which honour the republic of Strasburg claimed an equal share with the dukes of Wirtemberg, who were in possession of it. He published also another piece, concerning the treaties which the states and princes of the empire make in their own names, “De Imperil Germanic! ejusque Statuum fcederibus” and, lastly, one more upon the rights of war, and the guarantees of peace, “De jure belli, et sponsoribus pacis.

Hitherto Obrecht had professed the Protestant religion; but the king of France having made himself master of Strasburg, he was induced, by the persuasions of the Jesuits, who were established at Strasburg by Lewis XIV. to abjure his religion in 1648, at Paris. Upon his return to Strasburg, he w resumed his profession in the law; and it was about this time that he wrote the notes which we see in some editions of Grotius, “De jure belli ac pacis.” In 1685, the king of France nominated him to preside, in his majesty’s name, in the senate of Strasburg, with the title of praetor-royal, in imitation of the old Romans; and from that time Obrecht applied himself entirely to public affairs. The judges of Strasburg, according to the principles of the reformed religion, were empowered to dissolve marriages in case of adultery, and to enable the injured party to marry again. In opposition to this custom, Obrecht translated, into the German tongue, St. Austin’s book of adulterous marriages; and obtained from the king a prohibition, upon pain of death, either to tolerate or solemnize the marriage, for the future, of any persons that were separated or divorced for adultery. This edict was made in 1687; and, in 1688, Obrecht translated into High | Dutch the treatise of Father Dez Primier, rector of the Jesuits at Strasburg, entitled “The Re-union of the Protestants of the Church of Strasburg to the Catholic Church.

Although, by the rights of his praetorship, every thing done in the senate must necessarily pass through his hands, yet he was so expeditious, and so good a manager of time, that there was some left for his studies, which served to him. as a relaxation from public business. During these intervals. he published an edition of “Dictys Cretensis,” with notes, in 1691. He afterwards intended to give a more correct edition of “Quintilian,” by the help of an excellent manuscript which he had recovered. He finished it, and had prepared the notes for the press, which were afterwards added to BurmanrTs valuable edition of 1720, 2 vols. 4to. In 1698, Obrecht was deputed to the court of France, to manage the interests of the city of Strasburg, and the king appointed him in 1700 his commissary and envoy to Francfort, upon affairs relating to the succession of the duchess of Orleans. Here also he undertook a most arduous task, respecting the eventual succession of the duke of Anjou to the crown of Spain; and made it his business to collect all the pieces that had been written, either by civilians or historians, upon the subject of establishing or regulating the rights of succession to that vast monarchy: all with a design to prove that the pretensions of the house of Austria were not well founded. The title of his work was “Excerptorum historicorum et juridicorum dre natura successionis in Monarchiam Hispaniae, mense Dec. 1700,” in 4to. Our author likewise drew up the plan of a particular treatise upon the succession to the duchy of Milan: the impression of which waited only for the publication of the emperor’s manifesto. His last publication was “A Translation of the life of Pythagoras,” from the Greek of Jamblichus. The multiplicity of these labours at length impaired his health, and after he had passed sentence upon the rights of the duchess of Orleans, he ordered himself to be conveyed to Strasburgh, where he died Aug. 6, 1701.

Among his other publications, not hitherto mentioned, were, “Dissertatio de abdicatione Caroli V. imperatoris;” “De electione Imperatoris Romana Germanici;” “De imitate reipublicae in sacro Romano imperio;” “De Clenodiis S. Rom. Imperil;'” “De legibus agrariis Pop. | Romani;” “De verae philosophise origine;” “De philosophia Celtica” “De extraordinariis populi Romani imperils” “De ratione belli” “Sacra Termini” De censu Augusti” De legione fulminatrice M. Antonini PhiL Imperatoris.“All these were published together in 1676, 4to. To these we may add his edition of Grotius” De Jure Belli," fol. 1696, &c. He left a son, who, at the time of his father’s death, was twenty-six years of age, and succeeded him in the post of praetor-royal of Strasburg, by the appointment of the French king. 1


Chaufepie.Niceron, XXXIV.