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The generation which has passed since Sumner's oration was delivered has witnessed a change of opinion among humane people in relation to the peace agitation as a distinct movement. Civilized nations carry on wars, maintain standing armies, and spend vast sums on forts and navies; but they are not met, a thirty years ago, with an array of peace societies, journals, tracts, anniversaries, and sermons. One reason may be suggested for this reaction. Moralists and philanthropists did not then foresee that war, which had long served ambition, was destined to render service for the human race which no other agency seemed able to render. They did not foresee how the unity and independence of Italy were yet to be wrested from her oppressors; how a usurper was to be driven from France; how American Slavery, which defied moral efforts, was to perish,—each by the sword. Nor in their endeavors to remove the incentives to war by discontinuing all military preparations, did they fully estimate the exigencies of modern society, which has as yet found no substitute for a trained military body in the support of civil authority when assailed by riots and dangerous combinations.1

But while, with maturer thought and larger experience, Sumner saw limitations to the doctrines which he maintained in 1845, he kept his ideal in view, nor bated heart nor hope in its final acceptance. In 1849 he delivered an elaborate address before the American Peace Society on the ‘War System of the Commonwealth of Nations;’ being an argument against the system itself, and proposing instead a Congress of Nations and Arbitration.2 The next year he wrote an address for the Peace Congress Committee to the people of the United States, recommending these substitutes.3 In 1854, while a Senator,—receiving a request from the Peace Society in London,—he called upon

1 The change of opinion among divines and moralists is well shown by comparing the editions of Wayland's ‘Moral Science.’ In all but the last there is a chapter earnestly setting forth the moral and religious argument against war, and coming to the conclusion that ‘hence it would seem that all wars are contrary to the revealed will of God, and that the individual has no right to commit to society, nor society to commit to government, the power to declare war.’ But in the last edition, published in 1865, just after the suppression of the Rebellion, and completed one month preceding his death, the author substituted a much briefer discussion of the question; and maintained, contrary to the view his treatise had taught for thirty years, the duty, in extreme cases of national aggression, to repel force by force. It is worthy of note, in this connection, that formerly greater prominence was given, in discussions concerning the taking of human life judicially or in war, to certain texts of Scripture than is common at this day, when the argument is put rather on the general spirit and scheme of Christianity and considerations of public necessity.

2 Works, Vol. II. pp. 171-277.

3 Works, Vol. II. pp. 393-397.

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