Puffendorf, Samuel

, an eminent German civilian and historian, was born in 1631 at Flaeh, a little village near Chemnitz, in Upper Saxony, of which village his father, the descendant of a Lutheran family, Elias Puffendorf, was minister. He discovered an early propensity to letters, when at the provincial school at Grimm, and at a proper age was sent to Leipsic, where he was supported by the generosity of a Saxon nobleman, who was pleased with his promising talents, his father’s circumstances not being equal to the expence. His fajher designed him for the ministry, and directed him to apply himself to divinity; but his inclination led his thoughts to the public law, which, in Germany, consists of the knowledge of the rights of the empire over the states and princes of which it is composed, and of those of the princes and states with respect to each other. He considered this study as a proper method of advancing in some of the courts of Germany, where the. several princes who compose the Germanic body, were accustomed to have no other ministers of state than men of learning, whom they styled counsellors, and whose principal study was the public law of Germany. As these posts were not venal, and no other recommendation necessary to obtain them but real and distinguished merit, Puffendorf resolved to qualify himself for the honours to which he aspired. After he had resided some time at Leipsic, he left that city, and went to Jena, where he joined mathematics and the Cartesian philosophy to the study of the law. He returned to Leipsic in 1658, with a view of seeking an employment fit for him. One of his | brothers, named Isaiah, who had been some time in the service of the king of Sweden, and was afterwards his chancellor in the duchies of Bremen and Werden, then wrote to him, and advised him not to fix in his own country, but after his example to seek his fortune elsewhere. In compliance with this advice, he accepted the place of governor to the son of Mr. Coyet, a Swedish nobleman, who was then ambassador from the king of Sweden at the court of Denmark. For this purpose he went to Copenhagen, but the war being renewed some time after between Denmark and Sweden, he was seized with the whole family of the ambassador, who himself escaped in consequence of having a few days before taken a tour into Sweden.

During his confinement, which lasted eight months, as he had no books, and was allowed to see no person, he amused himself by meditating upon what he had read in Grotius’s treatise “De jure belli & pacis,” and in the political writings of Hobbes. He drew up a short system of what he thought best in them he turned and developed the subject in his own way he treated of points which had not been touched by those authors and he added much that was new. In all this he appears to have had no other object than to divert himself in his solitude; but two years after, shewing his work to a friend in Holland, where he then was, he was advised to review and publish it. It appeared accordingly at the Hague in 1660, under the title of “Elementorum Jurisprudent Universalis libri duo;” and gave rise to his more celebrated work “De jure naturae &^gentium.” The elector Palatine, Charles Louis, to whom he had dedicated the “Elements,” not only wrote him immediately a letter of thanks, but invited him to the university of Heidelberg, which he was desirous of restoring to its former lustre and founded there, in his favour, a professorship of the law of nature and nations which was the first of that kind in Germany, though many have since been established in imitation of it. The elector engaged him also to allot some portion of his time to the instruction of the electoral prince, his son. Puffendorf remained at Heidelberg till 1670, when Charles XL king of Sweden, having founded an university at Lunden, sent for him to be professor there and thither, to the great concern of the elector Palatine, he went the same year, and was installed professor of the law of nature and nations. His reputation greatly increased after that time, both by | the fame and success of his lectures, and by the many valuable works that he published. Some years after, the king of Sweden sent for him to Stockholm, and made him his historiographer, and one of his counsellors. In 1688, the elector of Brandenberg obtained the consent of the king of Sweden for Puffendorf to go to Berlin, in order to write the history of the elector William the Great; and granted him the same titles of historiographer and privycounsellor, which he had in Sweden, with a considerable pension. The king of Sweden also continued to give him marks of his favour, and made him a baron in 1694. But he did not long enjoy the title for he died the same year, of a mortification in one of his’toes, occasioned by cutting the nail. He was as much distinguished by the purity of his morals, and the rectitude of his conduct, as by the superiority of his talents, and the celebrity of his numerous writings.

We have already mentioned his first work his second was, 2. “De Statu Germanici Imperii liber unus,” which he published in 1667, under the name‘ of “Severini di Mozambano,” with a dedication to his brother Isaac Puffendorf, whom he styles “Laelio Signor de Trezolani.” Puffendorf sent it the year before to his brother, then ambassador from the court of Sweden to that of France, in order to have it printed in that kingdom. His brother offered it to a bookseller, who gave it Mezeray to peruse. Mezeray thought it worth printing, yet refused his approbation, on account of some passages opposite to the interests of France, and of others in which the pritfsts and monks were severely treated. Isaac Puffendorf then sent it to Geneva, where it was printed in 12mo. The design of the author was to prove that Germany was a kind of republic, the constituent members of which being ill-proportioned, formed a monstrous whole. The book and its doctrine, therefore, met with great opposition; it was condemned, prohibited, and seized in many parts of Germany; and written against immediately by several learned civilians. It underwent many editions, and was translated into many languages and, among the rest, into English by Mr. Bohun, 1696, in 12mo. 3. “De Jure Naturae & Gentium,Leyden, 1672, 4to. This is Puffendorf’s greatest work and it has met with an universal approbation. It is indeed a body of the law of nature, well digested; and, as some think, preferable to Grotius’s book “De Jure | Belli & Pacis,” since the same subjects are treated in a more extensive manner, und with greater order. It was translated into French by Barbeyrac, who wrote large notes and an introductory discourse, in 1706; and into English, with Barbeyrac’s notes, by Dr. Basil Kennet and others, in 1708. The fourth and fifth edition of the English translation have Mr. Barbeyrac’s introductory discourse, which is not in the three former. In the mean time Puffendorf was obliged to defend this work against several censurers the most enraged of whom was Nicholas Beckman, his colleague in the university of Lunden. This writer, in. order to give the greater weight to his objections, endeavoured to draw the divines into his party, by bringing religion into the dispute, and accusing the author of heterodoxy. His design in this was, to exasperate the clergy of Sweden against Puffendorf; but the senators of that kingdom prevented this, by enjoining his enemies silence, and suppressing Beckman’s book by the king’s authority. It was reprinted at Giessen; and, being brought to Sweden, was burned in 1675 by the hands of the executioner: and Beckman, the author, banished from the king’s dominions for having disobeyed orders in republishing it, Beckman now gave his fury full scope, and not only wrote virulently and maliciously against Puffendorf, but likewise challenged him to fight a duel he wrote to him from Copenhagen in that style, and threatened to pursue him wherever he should go, in case he did not meet him at the place appointed. Puffendorf took no notice of the letter, but sent, it to the consistory of the university yet thought it necessary to reply to the satirical pieces of that writer, which he did in several publications. Niceron gives a good account of this controversy in the 18th vol.- of his “Memoires.

Other works of Puffendorf are 4. “De officio Hominis & Civis juxta legem naturalem,1673, 8vo. This is a very clear and methodical abridgement of his great work “De jure naturae & gentium.” 5. “Introduction to the History of Europe,’ 7 1682. With a Continuation, 1686; and an Addition, 1699, in German; afterwards translated into Latin, French, and English. 5.” Commentariorum de rebus Suecicis libri xxvi. ab expeditione Gustavi Adolphi Regis in Germaniam, ad abdicationem usque Christinae,“1686, folio. Puffendorf, having read the public papers in the archives of Sweden, with a design of writitig | the history of Charles Gustavus, according to orders received from Charles IX. thought proper to begin with that of Gustavus Adolphus, and to continue it down to the abdication of queen Christina: and this he has executed in, the present work, which is very curious and exact. 6.” De habitu Religionis Christianas ad vitam civilem,“1687, 4to. In this work an attempt is made to settle the just bounds between the ecclesiastical and civil powers. 7.” Jus Feciale Divinum, sive de consensu & dissensu Protestantium Exercitatio Posthuma,“1695, 8vo. The author here proposes a scheme for the re-union of religions and it appears from the zeal with which he recommended the print* ing of it before his death, that this was his favourite work. 8.” De rebus gestis Frederici Wilelmi Magni, Electoris Brandenburgici Commentarii,“1695, in 2 vols. folio; extracted from the archives of the house of Brandenburg. To this a supplement was published from his ms. by count Hertsberg in 1783. 9.” De rebus a Carolo Gustavo Suecise Rege gestis Commentarii,“1696, in 2 vols. folio; He likewise published” An Historical Description of the Politics of the Papal empire,“in German, and some works of a smaller kind, which, being chiefly polemical,and nothing more than defences against envy and personal abuse, sunk into oblivion with the attacks which occasioned them. His brother Isaiah, mentioned above, was born in 1628, was educated at Leipsic, where he distinguished himself, and took the degree of M. A. After various changes of fortune, he was made governor of the young count of Koningsmark, and was afterwards chancellor of the duchy of Bremen. In 1686 he was appointed ambassador of the king of Denmark to the diet of Ratisbon, and died there in 1689. He is the author of a satirical work, entitled” Anecdotes of Sweden, or Secret History of Charles XL" 1

1 Gen. Dict. —Niceron, vol. XVIII.—Moreri. —Chaufepie. Saxii Oaoeiast.