Dr Christopher Szabla, member of CCPL Board of Management, published an article “A New Foundation for Freedom of Movement in an Age of Sovereign Control: The Liberal Jurisprudence of August Wilhelm Heffter” in Law and History Review.

This article addresses how a once influential jurist addressed a potential paradox in liberal thought—between democratic control over borders and transnational rights—as it arose in the mid-nineteenth-century, amid advocacy against authoritarianism and for free trade and movement, on the one hand, and the increasing calling into question of natural law theories that may have best facilitated free movement, on the other. While scholarship has increasingly shown how the boundaries between periods of natural law and positivist hegemony are difficult to distinguish, specific tensions in the mid-nineteenth-century called for an approach that preserved free movement in light of the growing appeal of empiricism and state sovereignty. In this context, August Wilhelm Heffter proposed that states were bound by higher law as a consequence of their free decision to enter international communities: these communities’ purpose, he wrote, bred customary laws facilitating interstate interaction. Heffter’s approximation of “natural” law in a more positivist context and his use of the period’s “customary” logic helps account for his influence not only in periods of free trade and movement’s ascendancy but also the survival of forms of his thought into periods of sovereigntist reaction against them. It therefore holds potential to address what scholarship has termed today’s “liberal paradox” between democracy and migration better than approaches that emphasize a more complete return to natural law.

Click here to read the article.