National law is the law of a particular nation. While some people define national law as the laws of a state, it is a broader term that refers to the legal framework of a country. Depending on the specific country, it may include international law.
The term “national” law came into common usage after the Roman Empire established a concept of law. The Roman jus gentium, or law of nations, governed the rights of citizens and foreigners in the Roman Empire. However, it did not apply to individual acts within a state.
Since the 19th century, the concept of natural rights has been influential in international politics. In the United States, the concepts of natural rights remained powerful during the republican revolutions.
Treaties were a common means of regulating relations between states until the mid-19th century. But treaties were often non-binding, except as matters of honor.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, a debate emerged over whether there was a single, universal concept of “natural law.” Some argued that there was no such thing, and others argued that natural law only applied to external actions. This theory is called the ‘naturalist school’.
Another major debate over the relationship between national and international law involved the idea of monism. A group of scholars, including Samuel von Pufendorf, believed that there was a single, natural law that governed the entire world. Others, including Samuel Triepel and Christian Wolff, argued that there was a middle ground.