Johann Caspar Bluntschli

Johann Caspar Bluntschli

Johann Caspar Bluntschli was born in Zurich in 1808 into a traditional and reasonably well-off family, who owned a candle and soap factory. After being schooled in Zurich, he moved to Berlin and Bonn in order to complete his law studies and earn his doctorate degree. Here, he was taught by Friedrich Carl von Savigny, who exposed him to the German historicist school of thought, an approach that would have an important impact on Bluntschli’s own works and teachings. After a short stay in Paris, he returned to Zurich in 1830. In his hometown, he worked in different positions for the County Court and the city and was named extraordinary professor in 1833 and ordinary professor in 1836. He lectured on Roman law and later on German law and history of law. As a representative of the historicist and pandectist school, he also played a decisive role in drafting the new legislation on tutelage and finished drafting the Zurich civil code, a project started by Friedrich Ludwig Keller.

Following his political passion, he sought office in the municipal and cantonal parliament of Zurich. Being of a liberal-conservative mind-set, Bluntschli benefited from the Züriputsch in 1839, a reactionary putsch against the radical-liberal rule of Zurich at the time, and from the reinstatement of conservatives in the political offices that followed. He was also the founder of the liberal-conservative party of Zurich and Switzerland, a reactionary force, which established itself against radicalism on the one hand and ultramontanism on the other. However, as this conservative reaction lost momentum, Bluntschli lost an election for the office of Mayor of Zurich. After this, he abdicated his political offices in Switzerland in 1845.

In 1848, Bluntschli moved to Munich, hoping to combine his love for academia with his passion for politics. Unfortunately, due to the commotion around Lola Montez, controversial concubine of King Ludwig I of Bavaria, this endeavour proved to be more difficult than anticipated. Although he eventually received a professorship in German Civil and Constitutional Law in Munich, he was denied political office. However, taking up a professorship for Political Science at the University of Heidelberg, he was elected to the First Chamber of Baden in 1861 and to the Parliament of the German Zollverein in 1868.

During his time in Germany, Bluntschli also devoted much of his time to writing scholarly works on constitutional law, for example Allgemeines Staatsrecht (1851), on public international law, such as Das moderne Kriegsrecht (1866), Das Beuterecht im Krieg (1878) and Das moderne Völkerrecht der civilisirten Staaten als Rechtsbuch dargestellt (1867), which is discussed below as well as other works in history, theology and politics.

Johann Caspar Bluntschli was one of the founding members of the Institut de Droit International, and served as vice-president of the same. Also, he was a member of the Deutscher Protestantenverein, the German Association of Protestants, and a leading Freemason. He passed away in Karlsruhe in 1881 and was buried in Heidelberg.


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