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Vattel and the American Dream: An Inquiry into the Reception of the Law of Nations in the United States

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Chapter Summary

This chapter identifies and analyzes the formal and substantial reasons that explain Vattel's authority in the United States (US) until the early 20th century. The first part of the chapter retraces Vattel's influence on the American Founding Fathers, on the subsequent diplomatic and judicial practice, and on the legal doctrine in the US. The second part highlights the concept of national sovereignty - which is at the heart of his Law of Nations - as the most decisive substantive reason explaining Vattel's influence in the US and the overall impact of his work. The importance Vattel attributes to treaties and their interpretation shows that he was acutely aware of both the specificities and the limits of an international law founded on the co-existence of sovereign states. The pivotal role he attributes to the state also explains the recurring ambiguity that runs through his treatise.

Keywords: American Founding Fathers; international law; Law of Nations; sovereign states; United States (US); Vattel



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