The Comity Doctrine

The doctrine of comity, as developed in the Netherlands during the last quarter of the Seventeenth Century, for the first time posed in stark simplicity the basic dilemma of conflicts law in modem times to mediate between the pretensions of territorial sovereignty and the needs of international commerce. As Ulrik Huber, the most influential exponent of the doctrine, observed: “Exempla, quibus utemur, ad juris privati species maxime quidem pertinebunt, sed judicium de illis unice juris publici rationibus constat, & exinde definiri debent.” [“The examples which we shall use belong principally to the category of private law but their treatment rests exclusively on principles of public law, and they must be defined accordingly.”] In this summary account, it is proposed to sketch the background, to restore the meaning-still too frequently misunderstood- and to consider the relevance at the present time of the basic principle in this historic doctrine. It is hoped that a modest excursus of this nature in a field of special interest to the MaxPlanck- Institut fur auslandisches und internationales Privatrecht, founded by Ernst Rabel, may be accepted in acknowledgement of the signal contributions to the advancement of comparative legal science, for which we are indebted to the distinguished jurist, who has directed the Institut since 1945, Hans Dolle.