Francisco de Vitoria in Daniel Patrick Moynihan's On the Law of Nations (pp. 177-203)

An American, an Englishman, a Spaniard: birds of the same feather flying together?

  • Norteamerica y Espanaby Dr Fernando Gomez Herrero

What binds them together? Why on this earth would a noted contemporary public intellectual and politician from the U.S. go to an old-European legacy of the relative periphery of five centuries ago? How does he go “there”? Has he got good modern languages to do so? What about the Englishman? How does he broker the good deal? What historical ghost of the Spaniard shows up five centuries after his demise? The former American Senator for New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003) invokes the figure of the Spanish Dominican Francisco de Vitoria (1492-1546), in his fight within and against the imperial politics during the Reagan presidency. And he does it indirectly via the novella Scott-King’s Modern Europe (1947) by Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966). The connection is direct between this work of fiction with Moynihan’s social-science work titled On the Law of Nations (1990).

This article deals with the historical links between the U.S. and Spain via England. It deals with the history of international law caught up in between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking traditions of scholarship and interpretation. We are dealing with the deemed inspirational “father” of international law in one official beginning, i.e. the Early Modern / colonial European capture of the Americas, mid-1950s in Europe and the 1980s-1990s in the U.S. Our man of fictional letters (Waugh) misbehaves. Our American man of social-science studies behaves somewhat. The ghost of Vitoria is invoked by the latter to try to put limits to systematic violation of international law by his own imperial country. What lessons are we to learn in our own times? There is more to Moynihan’s neo-Wilsonian visibility of Vitoria on the American side of things than meets the eye, and there is also less. There are virtues and vices if you wish in all of these scholars. The signification of the historical sign “Vitoria” starts to go in many directions. This critical evaluation underlines some generalizations about historical links between the Anglo-Atlantic and Spain not yet left behind.

Norteamérica y España: una historia de encuentros y desencuentros [North America and Spain: A History of Convergences and Divergences] edited by Silvia Betti. © 2019 for this edition Escribana Books an Imprint of Artepoética Press Inc. Todos los trabajos del presente volumen se sometieron a una doble evaluación a ciegas. The articles included in this books were subjected to a double-blind peer review. This book is the result of a call for articles issued by Escribana Books (An imprint of Artepoetica Press following the Fourth International Conference on the Historical Links between Spain and North America celebrated in New York in April 2018. This annual conference alternates locations between Alcalá and New York. Escribana Books thanks the organizing institutions (Instituto Franklin, Instituto Cervantes NY, and Division of Interdisciplinary Studies of City College of New York) for making this volume possible.