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Burlamaqui, Jean-Jacques (* 1694.07.13 †  1748.03.03)
Burlamaqui, Jean-Jacques (* 1694.07.13 † 1748.03.03)
CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Burlamaqui, Jean-Jacques (* 1694.07.13 † 1748.03.03)

Basic Overview Data

Born
1694.07.13, Geneva
Died
1748.03.03, Geneva
Confession
Protestant, Calvinist
Institutional Affiliation
Academy/University of Geneva
Keyword Filters
Pufendorfianism, sovereignty, moral obligation, calvinist
VIAF:
Important Family Relations:
Father, Burlamaqui, Jean-Louis (1661 - 1728),
Mother, Favre de la Croix, Suzanne,
Son in law, Chapeaurouge, Jacob (14.09.1669 - 11.08.1744), member of the council of two hundred 1698, member of the small council 1713, syndic 1724, 1728, 1732
Kanonische URL:

Biography:

Burlamaqui was born on July 13, 1694 in Geneva as son of Jean-Louis, who was a member of the legislative authority of the city, the council of two hundred, and of Suzanne Favre de la Croix. His ancestors, the Burlamacchi, had emigrated from the Italian city of Lucca after the Reformation. Jean-Jacques studied philosophy and jurisprudence at the Academy of Geneva from 1709 to 1716, when he obtained his official law exam. On April 26, 1717, he got married to Renée, the daughter of Jacob de Chapeaurouge (1669-1744), who was a member of the small council and syndic. Having already taught private lessons on natural law to sons of patrician Genevan families and to foreigners, he was awarded the title of honorary professor by the city council in 1720. The same year, he travelled to England and joined his friend, the theologian Ami Lullin (1695-1756), for a short study stay at Oxford University. In 1721 the two friends travelled back to Geneva via the Netherlands, where Burlamaqui visited Jean Barbeyrac at the University of Groningen.

In 1722, the small council decided to create two professorships in law in order to assure that natural law would henceforth be taught at the Academy. Shortly after Jean Cramer (1701-1773), Burlamaqui was appointed professor of natural and civil law on 29 March, 1723, and he mainly taught natural law on the basis of Barbeyrac's richly commented French translation of Samuel Pufendorf's De officio hominis et civis. Besides the regular students, some of the numerous young nobles from England and Germany visiting the city also attended his classes.

While he was in England, Burlamaqui had been elected to the council of two hundred, and he was appointed to the council of sixty in 1730. He thus participated in the political affairs of the city and got involved in the turmoil of 1734. Together with three other commissioners he was in charge of writing a report on behalf of the government concerning the demands of the bourgeoisie, which were rejected. During the political unrests, he left the city, since he accompanied his pupil Frederick II, Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel, to his court. The prince had come to study in Geneva in 1732. He returned after the turmoil and remained there until 1737. During these years, Burlamaqui was in charge of teaching the prince the law of nature and nations. When the two were not together, the teaching continued via correspondence. Burlamaqui taught until 1739. Because of ill health, his former substitute Pierre Lullin officially replaced him in 1740. Despite his unwillingness, Burlamaqui was elected to the small council in 1742 to which he belonged until his death on April 3, 1748.

Comment on main natural law works:

Burlamaqui was, above all, a dedicated teacher of natural law. He used Barbeyrac’s French translation of Pufendorf’s manual, Des devoirs de l’homme et du citoyen (1708), as textbook for his courses, and he borrowed extensively from Pufendorf’s and Grotius’ main works, also in Barbeyrac’s translations, Le droit de la nature et des gens (1707), and Le droit de la guerre et de la paix (1724). In 1747 he brought the Principes du droit naturel to publication. He then worked on a study about civil government but was unable to finish the Principes du droit politique before he died. A friend of his, the theologian Jacob Vernet (1698-1789), completed the manuscript based on the lecture notes of Burlamaqui’s courses, and published the work in 1751. At the instigation of Burlamaqui’s sister and his daughter Sara (d. 1782), the government ordered the publisher Barillot to remove the names of the author and printer as well as the place of publication from the copies already printed and from any future publication. Therefore, the Principes du droit politique were considered as the second part of Burlamaqui’s system, and the two parts were later reprinted as Principes or Eléments du droit naturel.

The lecture notes were later used for two new editions. The first one is Fortuné-Barthélemy de Félice’s annotated edition in eight volumes of 1766-1768, entitled Principes du droit de la nature et des gens. Avec la suite du droit de la nature qui n’avoit point encore paru. As de Félice explains in the letter to J. H. S. Formey serving as introduction to the first volume, Burlamaqui’s published work only presented the general principles of natural law and did not show how the latter applied to man’s duties against God, against himself and against others. Having discovered lecture notes on this matter, which would however be very short, he decided to include them in the present edition with his own extended commentary. This is the content of vols. 3-5, which the editor inserted between the Principes du droit naturel (vols. 1-2) and the Principes du droit politique (vols. 6-8). Since de Félice openly admits in his letter to Formey and in the introduction to the third volume that he happened to abridge the original text or to displace a chapter in order to make a coherent whole of the compilation of Burlamaqui’s published work and the text of the lecture notes, his edition, which received highly critical comments in his own time (Viani, 2012, p. 133-135), has to be used with great caution.

The other new edition was Elémens du droit naturel (1775, 1783) and Principes ou Elémens du droit politique (1784), printed in Lausanne by F. Grasset. The first of these volumes comprises a lengthy introduction, composed of a preface and two unsigned letters, the first on the study of civil law, the second on the shortest and easiest method to gain knowledge of the elements of law. The author of this introduction was Jean-Marc-Louis Favre (1733-1793), who held a doctoral degree in law of the University of Tübingen and owned a rich library in the Rolle castle. The letters are excerpts from the missives he had sent to several students of the Pays de Vaud, among them Frédéric-César de la Harpe (1754-1838), the future personal teacher of Alexander I of Russia and leading politician in the formation of the Helvetic Republic, who studied law at the University of Tübingen in the early 1770s. Favre’s editions are the only ones that are exclusively based on the texts Burlamaqui had dictated to his students (Viani, 2012).

Many of Burlamaqui’s published works, or parts thereof, have been translated into English, Dutch, Italian, German, and Danish, and were republished in more than sixty different editions until the second half of the nineteenth century. The first editions of the Principes du droit naturel and of the Principes du droit politique were immediately translated into English by Thomas Nugent, the former in 1748, the latter in 1752. A revised edition was published in 1763 as The Principles of Natural and Politic Law. This was the edition that reached the British and American universities and was studied there for generations.

Comment on profile’s conception of natural law:

Burlamaqui has sometimes been taken for an unoriginal compilator. This is because part of his published work, and notably the Principes du droit politique, reproduced the text of his lectures, which borrow extensively from Pufendorf’s and Grotius’ treatises on natural law as well as from Barbeyrac’s commentaries on these works without explicit reference. Yet in the Principes du droit naturel, which he elaborated for publication, he indicates clearly how he wishes to take position on issues discussed by Pufendorf, Barbeyrac and others, and he mentions Samuel Clarke and Francis Hutcheson in the context of his theory of moral obligation, which is no doubt original. A salient feature of this theory is his reliance on man’s striving for perfection and happiness (félicité). It needs yet to be established whether Burlamaqui borrowed this idea from Leibniz or Christian Wolff, or whether he rather referred to Lévesque de Pouilly’s Théorie des sentimens agréables, which Jacob Vernet published in a new edition in 1747. His innovative account of moral obligation allowed Burlamaqui to adopt a critical stance on Pufendorf’s voluntarism Barbeyrac had defended against Leibniz’ objections (Zurbuchen, 2004, Douglass, 2011, pp. 217-20). Since Burlamaqui also discusses the pursuit of happiness in his political theory, Harvey suggested that his theory may have been Jefferson’s main inspiration for including the right to the pursuit of happiness in the American Declaration of Independence (Harvey 1937, pp. 119-24).

Yet another original dimension of Burlamaqui’s natural law is his theory of sovereignty and of mixed government such as the English monarchy or the Genevan aristo-democracy. Independently of Montesquieu, Burlamaqui argued that sovereignty comprises different powers, or parts, which may be divided and entrusted into different hands. While he did not deny that in his native republic the sovereign power originally belonged to the people, he also argued that sovereignty could be exercised jointly by the different orders of the government, that is, by the general council, the council of two hundred, and the small council. As attested by the report he helped elaborating at the request of the Genevan government against the demands of the bourgeoisie, Burlamaqui elaborated a political theory apt at serving the interests of the ruling elite. His theory of sovereignty was thoroughly criticized by Rousseau, who argued in the Social Contract that sovereignty exclusively consists in the legislative power, and that the latter has to be exercised by the people assembled in the general council.

Although Burlamaqui’s natural law theory has been read by generations of students in various European countries and in America, a thoroughgoing study of his impact on later thinkers remains a desideratum.

Academic Data

Studies

1709 - 1716, philosophy, jurisprudence at Academy of Geneva [Law: Bénigne Mussard]

Academic Degree

1716, Official law exam at Academy of Geneva

Academic Travels

1720 - 1721, England (Oxford 1720 - 1721), The Netherlands (Groningen 1721 - 1721) (Burlamaqui returned from England to Geneva via the Netherlands in 1721, where he met Jean Barbeyrac who held the chair of public and private law at Groningen University since 1717)
1735 - 1735, Hessen-Cassel (Cassel April 1735 - November 1735)

Academic Teaching

1723-1739, summer and winter semesters: natural law and civil law, public and private lessons at Academy of Geneva, Faculty of Law (Burlamaqui's teaching was interrupted in 1735 and 1739. His teaching ended in 1740)

Professional Data

Career

1720 - 1723, Honorary professor at Academy of Geneva
29.03.1723 - 1740, Professor of natural and civil law at Academy of Geneva, Faculty of Law

Titles, Memberships and Other Relevant Roles

1720 - 1748, Member, Council of Two Hundred, Geneva
1730 - 1748, Member, Council of Sixty, Geneva
1742 - 1748, Member, Small Council, Geneva

Printed Sources

Books:

Editions in French (Switzerland, Denmark and Netherlands)
Principes du droit naturel (Geneva: Barillot et fils, 1747): Digital Version
     - Edition 1748 (Geneva: Barillot et fils, 1748): Digital Version
     - Edition 1756 (Geneva and Copenhagen: Cl. & Ant. Philibert, 1756), [nouvelle édition revuë & corrigée]: Digital Version
     - Edition 1762 (Geneva and Copenhagen: Cl. & Ant. Philibert, 1762): Digital Version

Principes du droit politique (Geneva: Barillot et fils, 1751): Digital Version
     - Edition 1751, 2 vols. (Amsterdam: Z. Chatelain), [reprint Caën: Centre de philosophie politique et juridique de l’Université de Caën, 1984]
          - Vol. 1: Digital Version
          - Vol. 2: Digital Version
     - Edition 1754 (place and publisher unknown): Digital Version
     - Edition 1763 (Geneva: Cl. & Ant. Philibert): Digital Version

Juris naturalis elementa (Geneva: Fratres de Tournes, 1754): Digital Version

Principes du droit naturel et politique, 3 vols. (Geneva and Copenhagen: Cl. & Ant. Philibert, 1764)
          - Vol. 1: Digital Version
          - Vol. 2: Digital Version
          - Vol. 3: Digital Version

Principes du droit de la nature et des gens. Avec la suite du droit de la nature qui n'avoit point encore paru. Le tout considérablement augmenté, par M. le professeur de Félice, 8 vols. (Yverdon: F.-B. de Félice, 1766-1768).
          - Vol. 1: Digital Version
          - Vol. 2: Digital Version
          - Vol. 3: Digital Version
          - Vol. 4: Digital Version
          - Vol. 5: Digital Version
          - Vol. 6: Digital Version
          - Vol. 7: Digital Version
          - Vol. 8: Digital Version

Elémens du droit naturel. Ouvrage posthume, publié complet pour la première fois (Lausanne: François Grasset, 1775): Digital Version
     - Edition 1783 (Lausanne: François Grasset): Digital Version

Principes ou élémens du droit politique. Ouvrage posthume publié complet pour le première fois (Lausanne: François Grasset, 1784): Digital Version

Editions in French (France)
Principes du droit naturel (Paris: Palais de l’Union, 1771), [title page says: 1791]: Digital Version
     - Edition 1791 (Paris: Guillaume, 1791), [nouvelle édition, revue, corrigée et augmentée de la Déclaration des Droits de l’Homme]: Digital Version
     - Edition 1821 (Paris: Delestre-Boulage)
     - Edition 1821 (Paris: Janet et Cotelle), [reprint Caën: Centre de philosophie politique et juridique, 1989]: Digital Version
     - Edition 1850 (Paris: Brajeux)

Elémens du droit naturel (Paris: Janet et Cotelle, 1820), [comprises also: Devoirs de l’homme et du citoyen traduits du latin de Pufendorf par Barbeyarc, avec les notes du traducteur et le jugement de Leibnitz]: Digital Version

Principes du droit de la nature et des gens [ed. de Félice], 5 vols. (Paris: B. Warée, 1820)
          - Vol. 1: Digital Version
          - Vol. 2: Digital Version
          - Vol. 3: Digital Version
          - Vol. 4: Digital Version
          - Vol. 5: Digital Version
     - Edition 1821 (Paris: Janet et Cotelle), [with new reflexions and historical examples by M. Cotelle]: Digital Version

Editions in English (England and Ireland)
The principles of natural law, transl. Thomas Nugent (London: J. Nourse, 1748): Digital Version
     - Edition 1752 (London: J. Nourse, 1752)
     - Edition 1769 (Dublin: J. Sheppard and George Cecil, 1769)
     - Edition 1776 (Dublin: J. Sheppard and G. Nugent)
     - Edition 1780 (London: J. Nourse, 1780)
     - Edition 1791, 2 vols. (Dublin: John Rice, 1791), [vol. 2 = The principles of politic law]
     - Edition 1819 (Dublin: Graisberry and Campbell)
     - Edition 1838 [with questions for examination] (Dublin: T. V. Morris)

The principles of politic law, being as sequence to the Principles of natural law, transl. Thomas Nugent (London: J. Nourse, 1752): Digital Version
     - Edition 1774 (Dublin: J. Sheppard and G. Nugent)

The principles of natural and politic law, transl. Thomas Nugent, 2 vols. (London: J. Nourse, 1763)
          - Vol. 1: Digital Version
          - Vol. 2: Digital Version
     - Edition 1776, 2 vols. (Dublin: J. Sheppard and G. Nugent)
     - Edition 1784, 2 vols. (London: C. Nourse)
     - Edition 1789, 2 vols. (London: C. Nourse)
     - Edition 1791 (London: C. Nourse)

The principles of natural and politic law. Translated from the Latin original (Oxford and London: W. Green, 1817): Digital Version

Editions in English (United States of America)
The principles of natural and politic law, 2 vols. (Boston: Joseph Bumstead, 1792): Digital Version
     - Edition 1807 (Cambridge, MA: at the University Press, by W. Hilliard).
          - Vol. 1: Digital Version
          - Vol. 2: Digital Version
     - Edition 1823, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: H. C. Carey & I. Lea)
          - Vol. 1: Digital Version
          - Vol. 2: Digital Version
     - Edition 1830, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: H. C. Carey & I. Lea): Digital Version
     - Edition 1859 (Columbus, Ohio: Joseph A. Reley and Company): Digital Version
     - Edition 1867 (Albany, NY: W. C. Little)

Editions in Latin and Italian (Italy)
Juris naturalis elementa (Venice: Joseph Bortoli , 1757): Digital Version
     - Edition 1771 (Venice: Nicolò Pezzana)
     - Edition 1789 (Venice: Anton Pezzana): Digital Version

Principii del diritto naturale, transl. Conte Bapt. Crespi (Venezia: Giovanni Gatti, 1780): Digital Version
     - Edition 1797, 2 vols. (Venice: Pietro & Gio. Battista Pasquali), [vol. 2 = Principii del diritto politico]: Digital Version

Principii del diritto politico opera postuma (Venezia: Giovanni Gatti, 1780)

Elementi del diritto naturale, con giunte le note del sig. Professore de Felice, transl. Giuseppe Umili (Naples: Torchi di Raffaello, 1829): Digital Version

Principi del diritto della natura et delle genti. Colla continuazione del diritto della natura aggiunta nell’ultima edizione d’Yverdon. Tutto notabilmente accresciiuto da de Felice, 3 vols. (Siena: Luigi e Benedetto Bindi & Francesco Rossi, 1781-82)
Principie del diritto naturale e politico, 2 vols. (Venice: Molinari, 1820)
     - Edition 1832, transl. C. B. C., 2 vols. (Naples: Torchi di Raffaello)
          - Vol. 1: Digital Version
          - Vol. 2: Digital Version

Editions in Spanish
Elementos del derecho natural (Madrid: la Minerva Española,1820): Digital Version
     - Edition 1825, transl. D. M. B. Garcia Suelto, 2 vols. (Paris: Masson)
     - Edition 1826 (Caracas: Devisme Hermanos)
     - Edition 1834, transl. D. M. B. Garcia Suelto, 2 vols. (Burdeos: Pedro Beaume): Digital Version
     - Edition 1837 (Madrid: los herederos de F. M. Dávila)
     - Edition 1837, transl. D. M. B. Garcia Suelto (Madrid: Don N. Llorenci): Digital Version
     - Edition 1838, transl. D. M. B. Garcia Suelto, 2 vols. (Paris: Lecointe y Lasserre), [new edition]
     - Edition 1838 (Granada: Libreria de Sanz): Digital Version
     - Edition 1874, transl. D. M. B. Garcia Suelto (Paris: A. Bouret é hijo)

Principios del derecho natural (Madrid: Libreria de Razola, 1837): Digital Version

Editions in Dutch
Beginsels van het natuurlyk regt, transl. Marten Schagen (Haerlem: Jan Bosch, 1751): Digital Version

Beginsels van hat burgerlyk regt (Haerlem: Jan Bosch, 1752): Digital Version

Edition in Danish
Grundsaetninger til Naturens Ret, transl. A. S. Dellgast (Leipzig: publisher unknown, 1757)

Edition in German
Abhandlung von dem Willen, und der Freiheit des Menschen [extract of Principes du droit naturel, anonmous transl.], appendix in: Adolf F. Reinhard, Vergleichung des Lehrgebäudes des Herrn Pope von der Vollkommenheit der Welt, mit dem System des Herrn von Leibnitz (Leipzig: Johann Christian Langenheim, 1757), pp. 97-120: Digital Version

Contemporary Editions
The Principles of Natural and Politic Law, trans. Thomas Nugent, ed. and with an Introduction by Peter Korkman (Indianpolis: Liberty Fund, 2006): Digital Version

Principes du droit naturel, étude critique par Jean-Paul Coujou (Paris: Dalloz, 2007).


Dissertations:

Dissertatio juridica de matrimonio, (Geneva: Fabri & Barillot, 1731) [Praeses: Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, Respondent: Jean-Robert Tronchin]


Ego-Documents and Biographical Materials:

Eloge historique de Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, ((Vernet, Jacob)), Journal helvétique (Neuchâtel, Abraham Droz, avril 1748), pp. 307-331: Digital Version

Eloge historique de Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui ((1750)), Oeuvres historiques et littéraires de Léonard Baulacre (Genève: Jullien Frères, 1857), vol. 1, pp. 484-496: Digital Version

Manuscript Sources

Manuscripts:

[Rilliet, Robert], Juris Naturalis Compendium A Domino Celeberrimo Juris utriusque Professore Burlamaqui Compositum. Ex Typographia. R. Rilliet. anno 1732, (s.l., 03 / 1731-1732), Bibliothèque de Genève, BGE Ms. fr. 2841: Digital Version

[Du Gard d’Echichens, T.], Abrégé du droit de la nature et des gens du professeur Burlamaqui, vols. 1-3 (s.l., 1739-1740), Archives cantonales vaudoises, ACV P Buren (de) 16-18: Digital Version

Abrégé du Droit de la Nature et des Gens expliqué par Mr. Burlamaqui Professeur en Droit, (Genève, 1743), Bibliothèque de Genève, BGE Ms. fr. 155b: Digital Version

[Bourdillon, Jacob], Abrégé du Droit de La Nature et des Gens par Monsieur Jean Jacques Burlamaqui Professeur en Droit à Genève 1721, 2 vols. (Londini, 1746), Bibliothèque de Genève, BGE Ms. fr. 155/1-2: Digital Version

Compendium Juris naturalis Authore D.D Burlamachio in academia Genevensi Juris Professore Consultissimo, (s.l, [1747]), Bibliothèque de Genève, BGE Arch. Tronchin 362: Digital Version

[Anonymous], Cours abregé du Droit, tiré de la Coûtume de Beri, du Droit Romain, et des Usages de la Ville et Republique de Geneve. Pour servir d’explication aux Edits de la ditte Republique, conformément aux Remarques faites par feu Monsieur Burlamaqui, (s.l., s.d.), Bibliothèque de Genève, BGE Ms. Cours univ. 39: Digital Version

[Anonymous], Droit naturel de Monsieur Burlamaqui, 5 vols. (vol. 3-7 ; vol. 1-2 missing), (s.l., s.d.), Bibliothèque de Genève, BGE Ms. Cours univ. 40-44 à Cours univ 41 is missing on Lumières.Lausanne, copy exists in “archive”: Digital Version

[Cramer, Jean], Jean Jacques Burlamaqui Jus Naturalis, (s.l., s.d.), Bibliothèque de Genève, BGE Ms. Cramer 172: Digital Version

[Anonymous], Extrait des Principes du droit naturel de mr. Burlamaqui (s.l., s.d.), Bibliothèque de Genève, BGE Ms. fr. 1918: Digital Version

[Anonymous], Abregé du Droit de la Nature et des Gens, fait par Monsieur le Conseiller J.J. Burlamaqui, Professeur en Droit à Genève, dès l’an 1721, vols. 2-3 (vol. 1 missing), (s.l., s.d.), Bibliothèque de Genève, BGE Ms. Jallabert 1: Digital Version


Correspondence:

Lettre sur le mariage écrite à mylord Kilmorey (1716), J.-J. Burlamaqui, Principes du droit naturel et politique (1764), vol. 3, supplement, pp. 263-295 [first published by Jacob Vernes in Choix littéraire, t. 24 (1761), p. 543]

Direct Personal Connections:

1721, Jean Barbeyrac, Groningen
1709, Bénigne Mussard, Geneva [Burlamaqui's teacher]
xxxx, Pierre Lullin, Geneva [Disciple of Burlamaqui]
Mikkel Munthe Jensen, Last Update:  17.03.2021