An ‘Embellisher’ of Grotius?

Self-Preservation and the Right to Resist in Willem Van der Muelen (1659–1739)

In: Grotiana

Willem Van der Muelen (1659–1739), jurist and member of the Dutch urban elite, was the author of a huge and widely read commentary on Hugo Grotius’s De iure belli ac pacis. Defined by the Neapolitan philosopher Giambattista Vico as a simple ‘embellisher’ of Grotius, but in recent times hailed as ‘the Dutch Locke’, Van der Muelen certainly deserves more attention. The essay will focus on the justification of political resistance to the sovereign, a particularly controversial issue both in early-modern political thought and in Grotius himself. I argue that Van der Muelen, far from being a simple ‘embellisher’ of Grotius, adopts a more radical view based on a strong individualistic and utilitarian anthropology, bridging the Scholastic and monarchomach ideas of resistance – to which he is still indebted – with modern natural law jurisprudence. Thus he offers an interesting companion to Locke as well as a source of inspiration for later commentators such as Jean Barbeyrac.