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Chapter 1: Introduction.—Dr. Wayland's arguments on the justifiableness of war briefly examined

Our distance from the old world, and the favorable circumstances in which we have been placed with respect to the other nations of the new world, have made it so easy for our government to adhere to a pacific policy, that, in the sixty-two years that have elapsed since the acknowledgment of our national independence, we have enjoyed more than fifty-eight of general peace; our Indian border wars have been too limited and local in their character to seriously affect the other parts of the country, or to disturb the general conditions of peace. This fortunate state of things has done much to diffuse knowledge, promote commerce, agriculture, and manufactures; in fine, to increase the greatness of the nation and the happiness of the individual. Under these circumstances our people have grown up with habits and dispositions essentially pacific, and it is to be hoped that these feelings may not soon be changed. But in all communities opinions sometimes run into extremes; and there are not a few among us who, dazzled by the beneficial results of a long peace, have adopted the opinion that war in any case is not only useless, but actually immoral; nay, more, that to engage in war is wicked in the highest degree, and even brutish. [8]

All modern ethical writers regard unjust war as not only immoral, but as one of the greatest of crimes — murder on a large scale. Such are all wars of mere ambition, engaged in for the purpose of extending regal power or national sovereignty; wars of plunder, carried on from mercenary motives; wars of propagandism, undertaken for the unrighteous end of compelling men to adopt certain religious or political opinions, whether from the alleged motives of “introducing a more orthodox religion,” or of “extending the area of freedom.” Such wars are held in just abhorrence by all moral and religious people: and this is believed to be the settled conviction of the great mass of our own citizens.

But in addition to that respectable denomination of Christians who deny our right to use arms under any circumstances, there are many religious enthusiasts in other communions who, from causes already noticed, have adopted the same theory, and hold all wars, even those in self-defence, as unlawful and immoral. This opinion has been, within the last few years, pressed on the public with great zeal and eloquence, and many able pens have been enlisted in its cause. One of the most popular, and by some regarded one of the most able writers on moral science, has adopted this view as the only one consonant with the principles of Christian morality.

It has been deemed proper, in commencing a course of lectures on war, to make a few introductory remarks respecting this question of its justifiableness. We know of no better way of doing this than to give on the one side the objections to war as laid down in Dr. Wayland's Moral Philosophy, and on the other side the arguments by which other ethical writers have justified a resort to war. We do not select Dr. Wayland's work for the purpose of criticizing so distinguished an author; but because he is almost the only writer on ethics who advocates these views, and because [9] the main arguments against war are here given in brief space, and in more moderate and temperate language than that used by most of his followers. I shall give his arguments in his own language.

“I. All wars are contrary to the revealed will of God.”

It is said in reply, that if the Christian religion condemns all wars, no matter how just the cause, or how necessary for self-defence, we must expect to find in the Bible some direct prohibition of war, or at least a prohibition fairly implied in other direct commandments. But the Bible nowhere prohibits war: in the Old Testament we find war and even conquest positively commanded, and although war was raging in the world in the time of Christ and his apostles, still they said not a word of its unlawfulness and immorality. Moreover, the fathers of the church amply acknowledge the right of war, and directly assert, that when war is justly declared, the Christian may engage in it either by stratagem or open force. If it be of that highly wicked and immoral character which some have recently attributed to it, most assuredly it would be condemned in the Bible in terms the most positive and unequivocal.

But it has been said that the use of the sword is either directly or typically forbidden to the Christian, by such passages as “Thou shalt not kill,” (Deut. v. 17,) “I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also,” (Matt. v. 39,) &c. If these passages are to be taken as literal command s, as fanatics and religious enthusiasts would have us believe, not only is war unlawful, but also all our penal statutes, the magistracy, and all the institutions of the state for the defence of individual rights, the protection of the innocent, and the punishment of the guilty. But if taken in conjunction with the whole Bible we must infer that they are hyperbolical expressions, used [10] to impress strongly on our minds the general principle of love and forgiveness, and that, so far as possible, we overcome evil with good. Can any sober-minded man suppose, for a moment, that we are commanded to encourage the attacks of the wicked, by literally turning the left cheek when assaulted on the right, and thus induce the assailant to commit more wrong Shall we invite the-thief and the robber to persevere in his depredations, by literally giving him a cloak when he takes our coat; and the insolent and the oppressor to proceed in his path of crime, by going two miles with him if he bid us to go one?

Again, if the command, “Thou shalt not kill,” is to be taken literally, it not only prohibits us from engaging in just war, and forbids the taking of human life by the state, as a punishment for crime; it also forbids, says Dr. Leiber, our taking the life of any animal, and even extends to the vegetable kingdom,--for undoubtedly plants have life, and are liable to violent death — to be killed. But Dr. Wayland concedes to individuals the right to take vegetable and animal life, and to society the right to punish murder by death. This passage undoubtedly means, thou shalt not unjustly kill,--thou shalt do no murder; and so it is rendered in our prayer-books. It cannot have reference to war, for on almost the next page we find the Israelites commanded to go forth and smite the heathen nations,--to cast them out of the land,--to utterly destroy them,--to show them no mercy, &c. If these passages of the Bible are to be taken literally, there is no book which contains so many contradictions; but if taken in connection with the spirit of other passages, we shall find that we are permitted to use force in preventing or punishing crime, whether in nations or in individuals; but that we should combine love with justice, and free our hearts from all evil motives. [11]

II. All wars are unjustifiable, because “God commands us to love every man, alien or citizen, Samaritan or Jew, as ourselves; and the act neither of society nor of government can render it our duty to violate this command.”

It is true that no act of society can make it our duty to violate any command of God: but is the above command to be taken literally, and as forbidding us to engage in just war? Is it not rather intended to impress upon us, in a forcible manner, that mutual love is a great virtue; that we should hate no one, not even a stranger nor an enemy, but should treat all with justice, mercy, and loving-kindness? If the meaning attempted to be given to this command in the above quotation be the true one, it is antagonistical not only to just war, but to civil justice, to patriotism, and to the social and domestic affections.

But are we bound to love all human beings alike; that is, to the same degree? Does the Bible, as a whole, inculcate such doctrine? On the contrary, Christ himself had his beloved disciple,--one whom he loved pre-eminently, and above all the others; though he loved the others none the less on that account. We are bound to love our parents, our brothers, our families first, and above all other human beings; but we do not, for this reason, love others any the less. A man is not only permitted to seek first the comfort and happiness of his own family, but if he neglect to do so, he is worse than an infidel. We are bound to protect our families against the attacks of others; and, if necessary for the defence of their lives, we are permitted to take the life of the assailant; nay more, we are bound to do so. But it does not follow that we hate him whom we thus destroy. On the contrary, we may feel compassion, and even love for him. The magistrate sentences the murderer to suffer the penalty of the law; and the sheriff carries the sentence into execution by taking, in due form, the life of the prisoner; [12] nevertheless, both the magistrate and the sheriff may have the kindest feelings towards him whom they thus deprive of life.

So it is in the external affairs of the state. Next to my kindred and my neighbors do I love my countrymen. I love them more than I do foreigners, because my interests, my feelings, my happiness, my ties of friendship and affection, bind me to them more intimately than to the foreigner. I sympathize with the oppressed Greek, and the enslaved African, and willingly contribute to their relief, although their sufferings affect me very remotely; but if my own countrymen become oppressed and enslaved, nearer and dearer interests are affected, and peculiar duties spring from the ties and affections which God has formed. If my countrymen be oppressed, my neighbors and kindred will be made unhappy and suffering; this I am bound to take all proper measures in my power to prevent. If the assailant cannot be persuaded by argument to desist from his wicked intentions, I unite with my fellow-citizens in forcibly resisting his aggressions. In doing this I am actuated by no feelings of hatred towards the hostile forces; I have in my heart no malice, no spirit of revenge; I have no desire to harm individuals, except so far as they are made the instruments of oppression. But as instruments of evil, I am bound to destroy their power to do harm. I do not shoot at my military enemy from hatred or revenge; I fight against him because the paramount interests of my country cannot be secured without destroying the instrument by which they are assailed. I am prohibited from exercising any personal cruelty; and after the battle, or as soon as the enemy is rendered harmless, he is to be treated with kindness, and to be taken care of equally with the wounded friend. All conduct to the contrary is regarded by civilized nations with disapprobation. [13]

That war does not properly beget personal malignity, but that, on the contrary, the effects of mutual kindness and courtesy on the battle-field, frequently have a beneficial influence in the political events of after years, may be shown by innumerable examples in all history. Soult and Wellington were opposing generals in numerous battles; but when the former visited England in 1838, he was received by Wellington and the whole British nation with — the highest marks of respect; and the mutual warmth of feeling between these two distinguished men has contributed much to the continuance of friendly relations between the two nations. And a few years ago, when we seemed brought, by our civil authorities, almost to the brink of war by the northeastern boundary difficulties, the pacific arrangements concluded, through the intervention of General Scott, between the Governors of Maine and New Brunswick, were mainly due to ancient friendships contracted by officers of the contending armies during our last war with Great Britain.

III. “It is granted that it would be better for man in general, if wars were abolished, and all means, both of offence and defence, abandoned. Now, this seems to me to admit, that this is the law under which God has created man. But this being admitted, the question seems to be at an end; for God never places man under circumstances in which it is either wise, or necessary, or innocent, to violate his laws. Is it for the advantage of him who lives among a community of thieves, to steal; or for one who lives among a community of liars, to lie?”

The fallacy of the above argument is so evident that it is scarcely necessary to point out its logical defects.

My living among a community of thieves would not justify me in stealing, and certainly it would be no reason why I should neglect the security of my property. My living among murderers would not justify me in committing [14] murder, and on the other hand it would be no reason why I should not fight in the defence of my family, if the arm of the law were unable to protect them. That other nations carry on unjust wars is no reason why we should do likewise, nor is it of itself any reason why we should neglect the means of self-defence.

It may seem, to us short-sighted mortals, better that we were placed in a world where there were no wars, or murders, or thefts; but God has seen fit to order it otherwise. Our duties and our relations to our fellow-men are made to suit the world as it is, and not such a world as we would make for ourselves.

We live among thieves: we must therefore resort to force to protect our property — that is, to locks, and bars, and bolts; we build walls thick and high between the robber and our merchandise. And more: we enact laws for his punishment, and employ civil officers to forcibly seize the guilty and inflict that degree of punishment necessary for the prevention of other thefts and robberies.

We live among murderers: if neither the law nor the ordinary physical protections suffice for the defence of our own lives and the lives of our innocent friends, we forcibly resist the murderer, even to his death, if need be. Moreover, to deter others from like crimes, we inflict the punishment of death upon him who has already taken life.

These relations of individuals and of society are laid down by all ethical writers as in accordance with the strictest rules of Christian morality. Even Dr. Wayland considers it not only the right, but the duty of individuals and of society to resort to these means, and to enact these laws for self-protection. Let us extend the same course of reasoning to the relations of different societies.

We live among nations who frequently wage unjust wars; who, disregarding the rights of others, oppress, [15] and rob, and even murder their citizens, in order to reach some unrighteous end. As individuals, we build fences and walls for the protection of our grounds and our merchandise; so, as a nation, we build ships and forts to protect our commerce, our harbors, and our cities. But the walls of our houses and stores are useless, unless made so strong and high that the robber cannot break through or scale them without great effort and personal danger; so our national ships and forts would be utterly useless for protection, unless fully armed and equipped.

Further: as individuals and as societies we employ civil officers for the protection of our property and lives, and, when necessary, arm them with the physical means of executing the laws, even though the employment of these means should cost human life. The prevention and punishment of crime causes much human suffering; nevertheless the good of community requires that crime should be prevented and punished. So, as a nation, we employ military officers to man our ships and forts, to protect our property and our persons, and to repel and punish those who seek to rob us of our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. National aggressions are far more terrible in their results than individual crime; so also the means of prevention and punishment are far more stupendous, and the employment of these means causes a far greater amount of human suffering. This may be a good reason.. for greater caution in resorting to such means, but assuredly it is no argument against the moral right to use them.

IV. War is unjustifiable because unnecessary:

“1st. The very fact that a nation relied solely upon the justice of its measures, and the benevolence of its conduct. would do more than any thing else to prevent the occurrence of injury. The moral sentiment of every community would rise in opposition to injury inflicted upon the just, the kind, and the merciful.” [16]

The moral duty of nations in this respect is the same as that of individuals. Active benevolence and forbearance should be employed, so far as may be proper; but there are points at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue. If we entirely forbear to punish the thief, the robber, and the murderer, think you that crime will be diminished? Reason and experience prove the contrary. Active benevolence and kindness should always attend just punishment, but they were never designed to prohibit it. The laws of God's universe are founded on justice as well as love. “The moral sentiment of every community rises in opposition to injury inflicted upon the just, the kind, and the merciful;” but this fact does not entirely prevent wicked men from robbing and murdering innocent persons, and therefore wise and just laws require that criminals shall be punished, in order that those who are dead to all moral restraints may be deterred from crime through fear of punishment.

“2d. But suppose the [national] injury to be done. I reply, The proper appeal for moral beings, upon moral questions, is not to physical force, but to the consciences of men. Let the wrong be set forth, but be set forth in the spirit of love; and in this manner, if in any, will the consciences of men be aroused to justice.”

Argument, and “appeals to the consciences of men” should always be resorted to in preference to “physical force;” but when they fail to deter the wicked, force must be employed. I may reason with the robber and the murderer, to persuade him to desist from his attempt to rob my house, and murder my family; but if he refuse to listen to moral appeals, I employ physical force,--I call in the strong arm of the law to assist me; and if no other means can be found to save innocent life that is assailed, the life of the assailant must be sacrificed.

“If,” says Puffendorf, “some one treads the laws of [17] peace under his feet, forming projects which tend to my ruin, he could not, without the highest degree of impudence, (impudentissime,) pretend that after this I should consider him as a sacred person, who ought not to be touched; in other words, that I should betray myself, and abandon the care of my own preservation, in order to give way to the malice of a criminal, that he may act with impunity and with full liberty. On the contrary, since he shows himself unsociable towards me, and since he has placed himself in a position which does not permit me safely to practice towards him the duties of peace, I have only to think of preventing the danger which menaces me; so that if I cannot do this without hurting him, he has to accuse himself only, since he has reduced me to this necessity.” De Jure Nat. et Gent., lib. II., ch. v., § 1. This same course of reasoning is also applied to the duties of a nation towards its enemy in respect to war.

“3d. But suppose this method fail. Why, then, let us suffer the evil.”

This principle, if applied to its full extent, would, we believe, be subversive of all right, and soon place all power in the hands of the most evil and wicked men in the community. Reason with the nation that invades our soil, and tramples under foot our rights and liberties, and should it not desist, why, then, suffer the evil! Reason with the murderer, and if he do not desist, why, then, suffer him to murder our wives and our children! Reason with the robber and the defaulter, and if they will not listen, why, then, let them take our property! We cannot appeal to the courts, for if their decisions be not respected, they employ force to compel obedience to their mandates. But Dr. Wayland considers the law of benevolence to forbid the use of force between men. He forgets this, it is true, in speaking of our duties towards [18] our fellow-men of the same society, and even allows us to punish the murderer with death; but towards the foreigner he requires a greater forbearance and benevolence than towards our neighbor; for if another nation send its armies to oppress, and rob, and murder us by the thousand, we have no right to employ physical force either to prevent or to punish them, though we may do so to prevent or punish a neighbor for an individual act of the same character. The greater the scale of crime, then, the less the necessity of resorting to physical force to prevent it!

“4th. But it may be asked, what is to prevent repeated and continued aggression? I answer, first, not instruments of destruction, but the moral principle which God has placed in the bosom of every man. I think that obedience to the law of God, on the part of the injured, is the surest preventive against the repetition of injury. I answer, secondly, suppose that acting in obedience to the law of benevolence will not prevent the repetition of injury, will acting on the principle of retaliation prevent it?” Again; “I believe aggression from a foreign nation to be the intimation from God that we are disobeying the law of benevolence, and that this is his mode of teaching nations their duty, in this respect, to each other. So that aggression seems to me in no manner to call for retaliation and injury, but rather to call for special kindness and good-will.”

This argument, if such it can be called, is equally applicable to individual aggressions. We are bound to regard them as intimations of our want of benevolence, and to reward the aggressors for the intimations! Is it true, that in this world the wicked only are oppressed, and that the good are always the prospered and happy? Even suppose this true, and that I, as a sinful man, deserve God's anger, is this any reason why I should not [19] resist the assassin, and seek to bring him to punishment? The whole of this argument of Dr. Wayland applies with much greater force to municipal courts than to war.

V. “Let us suppose a nation to abandon all means both of offence and of defence, to lay aside all power of inflicting injury, and to rely for self-preservation solely upon the justice of its own conduct, and the moral effect which such a course of conduct would produce upon the consciences of men. * * * * How would such a nation be protected from external attack, and entire subjugation? I answer, by adopting the law of benevolence, a nation would render such an event in the highest degree improbable. The causes of national war are, most commonly, the love of plunder and the love of glory. The first of these is rarely, if ever, sufficient to stimulate men to the ferocity necessary to war, unless when assisted by the second. And by adopting as the rule of our conduct the law of benevolence, all motive arising from the second cause is taken away. There is not a nation in Europe that could be led on to war against a harmless, just, forgiving, and defenceless people.”

History teaches us that societies as well as individuals have been attacked again and again notwithstanding that they either would not or could not defend themselves. Did Mr. White, of Salem, escape his murderers any the more for being harmless and defenceless? Did the Quakers escape being attacked and hung by the ancient New Englanders any the more because of their non-resisting principles? Have the Jews escaped persecutions throughout Christendom any the more because of their imbecility and non-resistance for some centuries past? Poland was comparatively harmless and defenceless when the three great European powers combined to attack and destroy the entire nation, dividing between themselves the Polish [20] territory, and enslaving or driving into exile the Polish people.

Oh, bloodiest picture in the book of time, Sarmatia fell, unwept, without a crime!

We need not multiply examples under this head; all history is filled with them.

Let us to-morrow destroy our forts and ships of war, disband our army and navy, and apply the lighted torch to our military munitions and to our physical means of defence of every description; let it be proclaimed to the world that we will rely solely upon the consciences of nations for justice, and that we have no longer either the will or the ability to defend ourselves against aggression. Think you that the African and Asiatic pirates would refrain, any the more, from plundering our vessels trading to China, because we had adopted “the law of benevolence?” Would England be any the more likely to compromise her differences with us, or be any the more disposed to refrain from impressing our seamen and from searching our merchant-ships? Experience shows that an undefended state, known to suffer every thing, soon becomes the prey of all others, and history most abundantly proves the wisdom and justice of the words of Washington--“if we desire to secure peace, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.”

But let us bring this case still nearer home. Let it be known to-morrow that the people of Boston or New York have adopted the strictly non-resisting principle, and that hereafter they will rely solely on the consciences of men for justice; let it be proclaimed throughout the whole extent of our Union, and throughout the world, that you have destroyed your jails and houses of correction, abolished your police and executive law officers, that courts may decide justice but will be allowed no force to compel respect [21] to their decisions, that you will no longer employ walls, and bars. and locks, to secure your property and the virtue and lives of your children; but that you will trust solely for protection to “the law of active benevolence.” Think you that the thieves, and robbers, and murderers of Philadelphia, and Baltimore, and New Orleans, and the cities of the old world, will, on this account, refrain from molesting the peace of New York and Boston, and that the wicked and abandoned men now in these cities, will be the more likely to turn from the evil of their ways?

Assuredly, if this “law of active benevolence,” as Dr. Wayland denominates the rule of non-resistance, will prevent nations from attacking the harmless and defenceless, it will. be still more likely to prevent individuals from the like aggressions; for the moral sense is less active in communities than where the responsibility is individual and direct.

Throughout this argument Dr. Wayland assumes that all wars are wars of aggression, waged for “plunder” or “glory,” or through “hatred” or “revenge,” whereas such is far from being true. lie indeed sometimes speaks of war as being generally of this character; at others he speaks of it as being always undertaken either from a spirit of aggression or retaliation. Take either form of his argument, and the veriest schoolboy would pronounce it unsound: viz.,

All wars are undertaken either for aggression or retaliation;

Aggression and retaliation are forbidden by God's laws; therefore,--

All wars are immoral and unjustifiable.


Wars are generally undertaken either for aggression or retaliation; [22]

Aggression and retaliation are forbidden by God's laws;--therefore,

All wars are immoral and unjustifiable.

VI. “Let any man reflect upon the amount of pecuniary expenditure, and the awful waste of human life, which the wars of the last hundred years have occasioned, and then we will ask him whether it be not evident, that the one-hundredth part of this expense and suffering, if employed in the honest effort to render mankind wiser and better, would, long before this time, have banished wars from the earth, and rendered the civilized world like the garden of Eden? If this be true, it will follow that the cultivation of a military spirit is injurious to a community, inasmuch as it aggravates the source of the evil, the corrupt passions of the human breast, by the very manner in which it attempts to correct the evil itself.”

Much has been said to show that war begets immorality, and that the cultivation of the military spirit has a corrupting influence on community. And members of the clergy and of the bar have not unfrequently so far forgotten, if not truth and fact, at least the common courtesies and charities of life, as to attribute to the military profession an unequal share of immorality and crime. We are declared not only parasites on the body politic, but professed violaters of God's laws — men so degraded, though unconsciously, that “in the pursuit of justice we renounce the human character and assume that of the beasts ;” it is said that “murder, robbery, rape, arson, theft, if only plaited with the soldier's garb, go unwhipped of justice.” 1 It has never been the habit of the military to retort these charges upon the other professions. We prefer to leave them unanswered. If demagogues on the “stump,” or in the legislative halls, or in their Fourth-of-July [23] addresses, can find no fitter subjects “to point a moral or adorn a tale,” we must be content to bear their misrepresentations and abuse.

Unjust wars, as well as unjust litigation, are immoral in their effects and also in their cause. But just wars and just litigation are not demoralizing. Suppose all wars and all courts of justice to be abolished, and the wicked nations as well as individuals to be suffered to commit injuries without opposition and without punishment; would not immorality and unrighteousness increase rather than diminish? Few events rouse and elevate the patriotism and public spirit of a nation so much as a just and patriotic war. It raises the tone of public morality, and destroys the sordid selfishness and degrading submissiveness which so often result from a long-protracted peace. Such was the Dutch war of independence against the Spaniards; such the German war against the aggressions of Louis XIV., and the French war against the coalition of 1792. But without looking abroad for illustration, we find ample proof in our own history. Can it be said that the wars of the American Revolution and of 1812, were demoralizing in their effects? “Whence do Americans,” says Dr. Lieber, “habitually take their best and purest examples of all that is connected with patriotism, public spirit, devotedness to common good, purity of motive and action, if not from the daring band of their patriots of the Revolution?”

The principal actors in the military events of the Revolution and of 1812, held, while living, high political offices in the state, and the moral tone which they derived from these wars may be judged of by the character stamped on their administration of the government. These men have passed away, and their places have, for some time, been filled by men who take their moral tone from the relations of peace To the true believer in the efficacy [24] of non-resistance, and in the demoralizing influence of all wars, how striking the contrast between these different periods in our political history! How infinitely inferior to the rulers in later times were those, who, in the blindness of their infatuation, appealed to physical force, rather than surrender their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness! Let us trace out this contrast:--

In the earlier ages of our republic, and under the rule of those whose moral character had been corrupted by war, party spirit ran higher and was less pure than at later periods in our history. The object of the principal leaders of the great political parties was then to render the opinions of the opposite party odious: now, their only object is to sustain their own opinions by argument. Then, each party claimed to itself an exclusive love of country, and stigmatized the other as aliens and the natural enemies of the state: now, they both practise great forbearance, love, and charity, towards political opponents. Then, men obtained place through intrigue and corruption, and a universal scramble for the loaves and fishes of office on the one side, and a universal political proscription on the other, were regarded as the natural results of an election: now, this disgusting strife for office has ceased; men no longer seek place, but wait, like Cincinnatus, to be called from their ploughs; and none are proscribed for opinion's sake. Then, in electing men to office the most important social and constitutional principles were forgotten or violated: now, we have the august spectacle of a nation choosing its rulers under the guidance of strict moral principle. Then, the halls of congress were frequently filled with demagogues, and tiplers, and the small men of community: now, the ablest and best of the country are always sought for as representatives. Then, the magnates of party were the mere timid, temporizing slaves of expediency, looking, not to the justice and wisdom of [25] their measures, but to their probable popularity with their sneaking train of followers: now, they rely for respect and support upon the judgment of the honest and enlightened. Then, the rank and file of party were mere political hirelings, who sold their manhood for place, who reviled and glorified, and shouted huzzas and whispered calumnies, just as they were bidden; they could fawn upon those who dispensed political patronage with a cringing servility that would shame the courtiers of Louis XIV., or the parasites and hirelings of Walpole: now, all political partisans, deriving their moral tone from the piping times of peace, are pure, disinterested patriots, who, like the Roman farmer, take office with great reluctance, and resign it again as soon as the state can spare their services. Then, prize-fighters, and blacklegs, and gamblers, having formed themselves into political clubs, were courted by men high in authority, and rewarded for their dirty and corrupting partisan services by offices of trust and responsibility: now, no man clothed with authority would dare to insult the moral sense of community by receiving such characters in the national councils, or by bestowing public offices upon these corrupt and loathsome dregs of society.

Such, the advocates of non-resistance would persuade us, are the legitimate results in this country of war on the one hand and of a long-protracted peace on the other. But there are men of less vivid imaginations, and, perhaps, of visions less distorted by fanatical zeal, who fail to perceive these results, and who even think they see the reverse of all this. These men cannot perceive any thing in the lives of Washington, Hamilton, and Knox, to show that they were the less virtuous because they had borne arms in their country's service: they even fail to perceive the injurious effects of the cultivation of a military spirit on the military students of West Point, whose [26] graduates, they think, will compare favorably in moral character with the graduates of Yale and Cambridge. Nay, more, some even go so far as to say that our army, as a body, is no less moral than the corresponding classes in civil life; that our common soldiers are as seldom guilty of riots, thefts, robberies, and murders, as similarly educated men engaged in other pursuits; that our military officers are not inferior in moral character to our civil officers, and that, as a class, they will compare favorably with any other class of professional men — with lawyers, for example. In justification of these opinions — which may, perhaps, be deemed singularly erroneous — they say, that in the many millions of public money expended during the last forty years, by military officers, for the army, for military defences, and for internal improvements, but a single graduate of West Point has proved a defaulter, even to the smallest sum, and that it is exceedingly rare to see an officer of the army brought into court for violating the laws.

But even suppose it true that armies necessarily diffuse immorality through community, is it not equally true that habitual submission to the injustice, plunder, and insult of foreign conquerors would tend still more to degrade and demoralize any people?

With regard to “pecuniary expenditures” required in military defence, many absurd as well as false statements have been put forth. With respect to our own country, the entire amounts expended, under the head of war department, whether for Indian pensions, for the purchase of Indian lands, the construction of government roads, the improvement of rivers and harbors, the building of break-waters and sea-walls, for the preservation of property, the surveying of public lands, &c., &c.; in fine, every expenditure made by officers of the army, under the war department, is put down as “expenses for military defence.” [27] Similar misstatements are made with respect to foreign countries: for example, the new fortifications of Paris are said to have already cost from fifty to seventy-five millions of dollars, and as much more is said to be required to complete them. Indeed, we have seen the whole estimated cost of those works stated at two hundred and forty millions of dollars, or twelve hundred millions of francs! The facts are these: the works, when done, will have cost about twenty-eight millions. We had the pleasure of examining them not long since, in company with several of the engineer officers employed on the works. They were then three-fourths done, and had cost about twenty millions. We were assured by these officers that the fortifications proper would be completed for somewhat less than the original estimate of twenty-eight millions. Had we time to enter into details, other examples of exaggeration and misrepresentation could be given.

But it is not to be denied that wars and the means of military defence have cost vast amounts of money. So also have litigation and the means deemed requisite for maintaining justice between individuals. It has been estimated that we have in this country, at the present time, thirty thousand lawyers, without including pettifoggers. Allowing each of these to cost the country the average sum of one thousand dollars, and we have the annual cost to the country, for lawyers, thirty millions of dollars. Add to this the cost of legislative halls and legislators for making laws; of court-houses, jails, police-offices, judges of the different courts, marshals, sheriffs, justices of the peace, constables, clerks, witnesses, &c., employed to apply and enforce the laws when made; the personal loss of time of the different plaintiffs and defendants, the individual anxiety and suffering produced by litigation; add all these together, and I doubt not the result for a single year will somewhat astonish these modern [28] economists. But if all the expenditures of this nature that have been made for the last fifty years, in this individual “war of hate,” be added together, we have no doubt a very fruitful text might be obtained for preaching a crusade against law and lawyers! But could any sane man be found to say that, on account of the cost of maintaining them, all laws and lawyers are useless and should be abolished?

If, therefore, these vast sums of money are deemed necessary to secure justice between individuals of the same nation, can we expect that the means of international justice can be maintained without expenditures commensurate with the object in view? If we cannot rely exclusively upon the “law of active benevolence” for maintaining justice between brothers of the same country, can we hope that, in the present state of the world, strangers and foreigners will be more ready to comply with its requisitions?

The length of the preceding remarks admonishes us to greater brevity in the further discussion of this subject.

It is objected to war, that men being rational beings, should contend with one another by argument, and not by force, as do the brutes.

To this it is answered, that force properly begins only where argument ends. If he who has wronged me cannot be persuaded to make restitution, I apply to the court,--that is, to legal force,--to compel him to do me justice. So nations ought to resort to military force only when all other means fail to prevent aggression and injury.

But war often fails to procure redress of grievances, or to prevent repeated and continued aggression.

So does a resort to civil force; but such a resort is none the less proper and just on that account.

But in war the innocent party is sometimes the sufferer, while the guilty triumph. [29]

So it often is in civil life: God, for some wise purpose, sometimes permits the wicked to triumph for a season.

But in all wars one party must be in the wrong, and frequently the war is unjust on both sides.

So in suits at law, one party is necessarily wrong, and frequently both resort to the civil tribunals in hopes of attaining unrighteous ends.

But nations do not resort to tribunals, like individuals, to settle their differences.

For the reason that it is believed a tribunal of this character — a congress of nations, as it has been called,--would be more productive of evil than of good. By such an arrangement the old and powerful European monarchies would acquire the authority to interfere in the domestic affairs of the weaker powers. We see the effects of establishing such a tribunal in the so-called Holy Alliance, whose influence is regarded by the friends of liberty as little less dangerous than the Holy Inquisition. Moreover, such a tribunal would not prevent war, for military force would still be resorted to to enforce its decisions. For these and other reasons, it is deemed better and safer to rely on the present system of International Law. Under this system, and in this country, a resort to the arbitrament of war is not the result of impulse and passion,--a yielding to the mere “bestial propensities” of our nature; it is a deliberate and solemn act of the legislative power,--of the representatives of the national mind, convened as the high council of the people. It is this power which must determine when all just and honorable means have been resorted to to obtain national justice, and when a resort to military force is requisite and proper. If this decision be necessarily unchristian and barbarous, such, also, should we expect to be the character of other laws passed by the same body, and under the same circumstances. A declaration [30] of war, in this country, is a law of the land, made by a deliberative body, under the high sanction of the constitution. It is true that such a law may be unjust and wrong, but we can scarcely agree that it will necessarily be so. The distinction between war, as thus duly declared, and “international Lynch-law” is too evident to need comment.

But it is said that the benefits of war are more than counterbalanced by the evils it entails, and that, “most commonly, the very means by which we repel a despotism from abroad, only establishes over us a military despotism at home.”

Much has been said and written about military despotism; but we think he who studies history thoroughly, will not fail to prefer a military despotism to a despotism of mere politicians. The governments of Alexander and Charlemagne were infinitely preferable to those of the petty civil tyrants who preceded and followed them; and there is no one so blinded by prejudice as to say that the reign of Napoleon was no better than that of Robespierre, Danton, and the other “lawyers” who preceded him, or of the Bourbons, for whom he was dethroned.

Caesar,” says a distinguished senator of our own country, “ was rightfully killed for conspiring against his country; but it was not he that destroyed the liberties of Rome. That work was done by the profligate politicians without him, and before his time; and his death did not restore the republic. There were no more elections: rotten politicians had destroyed them; and the nephew of Caesar, as heir to his uncle, succeeded to the empire on the principle of hereditary succession.

And here History appears in her grand and instructive character, as Philosophy teaching by example: and let us not be senseless to her warning voice. Superficial [31] readers believe it was the military men who destroyed the Roman republic No such thing! It was the politicians who did it!--factious, corrupt, intriguing politicians — destroying public virtue in their mad pursuit after office — destroying their rivals by crime — deceiving and debauching the people for votes — and bringing elections into contempt by the frauds and violence with which they were conducted. From the time of the Gracchi there were no elections that could bear the name. Confederate and rotten politicians bought and sold the consulship. Intrigue and the dagger disposed of rivals. Fraud, violence, bribes, terror, and the plunder of the public treasury commanded votes. The people had no choice; and long before the time of Caesar, nothing remained of republican government but the name and the abuse. Read Plutarch. In the ‘ Life of Caesar,’ and not three pages before the crossing of the Rubicon, he paints the ruined state of the elections,--shows that all elective government was gone,--that the hereditary form had become a necessary relief from the contests of the corrupt,--and that in choosing between Pompey and Caesar, many preferred Pompey, not because they thought him republican, but because they thought he would make the milder king. Even arms were but a small part of Caesar's reliance, when he crossed the Rubicon. Gold, still more than the sword, was his dependence; and he sent forward the accumulated treasures of plundered Gaul, to be poured into the laps of rotten politicians. There was no longer a popular government; and in taking all power himself, he only took advantage of the state of things which profligate politicians had produced. In this he was culpable, and paid the forfeit with his life. But in contemplating his fate, let us never forget that the politicians had undermined and destroyed the republic, before he came to seize and to master it.

” [32]

We could point to numerous instances, where the benefits of war have more than compensated for the evils which attended it; benefits not only to the generations who engaged in it, but also to their descendants for long ages. Had Rome adopted the non-resistance principle when Hannibal was at her gates, we should now be in the night of African ignorance and barbarism, instead of enjoying the benefits of Roman learning and Roman civilization. Had France adopted this principle when the allied armies invaded her territories in 1792, her fate had followed that of Poland. Had our ancestors adopted this principle in 1776, what now had been, think you, the character and condition of our country?

Dr. Lieber's remarks on this point are peculiarly just and apposite. “The continued efforts,” says he, “requisite for a nation to protect themselves against the ever-repeated attacks of a predatory foe, may be infinitely greater than the evils entailed by a single and energetic war, which forever secures peace from that side. Nor will it be denied, I suppose, that Niebuhr is right when he observes, that the advantage to Rome of having conquered Sicily, as to power and national vigor, was undeniable. But even if it were not so, are there no other advantages to be secured? No human mind is vast enough to comprehend in one glance, nor is any human life long enough to follow out consecutively, all the immeasurable blessings and the unspeakable good which have resolved to mankind from the ever-memorable victories of little Greece over the rolling masses of servile Asia, which were nigh sweeping over Europe like the high tides of a swollen sea, carrying its choking sand over all the germs of civilization, liberty, and taste, and nearly all that is good and noble. Think what we should have been had Europe become an Asiatic province, and the Eastern principles of power and stagnation should [33] have become deeply infused into her population, so that no process ever after could have thrown it out again! Has no advantage resulted from the Hebrews declining any longer to be ground in the dust, and ultimately annihilated, at least mentally so, by stifling servitude, and the wars which followed their resolution? The Netherlands war of independence has had a penetrating and decided effect upon modern history, and, in the eye of all who value the most substantial parts and elementary ideas of modern and civil liberty, a highly advantageous one, both directly and through Great Britain. Wars have frequently been, in the hands of Providence, the means of disseminating civilization, if carried on by a civilized people — as in the case of Alexander, whose wars had a most decided effect upon the intercourse of men and extension of civilization — or of rousing and reuniting people who had fallen into lethargy, if attacked by less civilized and numerous hordes. Frequently we find in history that the ruder and victorious tribe is made to recover as it were civilization, already on the wane with a refined nation. Paradoxical as it may seem at first glance, it is, nevertheless, amply proved by history, that the closest contact and consequent exchange of thought and produce and enlargement of knowledge, between two otherwise severed nations, is frequently produced by war. War is a struggle, a state of suffering; but as such, at times, only that struggling process without which — in proportion to the good to be obtained, or, as would be a better expression for many cases, to the good that is to be borne — no great and essential good falls ever to the share of man. Suffering, merely as suffering, is not an evil. Our religion, philosophy, every day's experience, prove it. No material rejoicing brightens up a mother's eve without the anxiety of labor.”

One word more, and we must leave this subject. It [34] has been said by some that the duties of patriotism are less binding upon us than upon our ancestors; that, whatever may have been the practice in years that are past, the present generation can in no manner bear arms in their country's cause, such a course being not only dishonorable, but in the eye of the Christian, wicked, and even infamous! It is believed, however, that such are not the general opinions and sentiments of the religious people of this country. Our forefathers lighted the fires of Religion and Patriotism at the same altar; it is believed that their descendants have not allowed either to be extinguished, but that both still burn, and will continue to burn, with a purer and brighter flame. Our forefathers were not the less mindful of their duty to their God, because they also faithfully served their country. If we are called upon to excel them in works of charity, of benevolence, and of Christian virtue, let it not be said of us that we have forgotten the virtue of patriotism.2 [35]

1 Sumner's Oration.

2 For further discussion of this subject the reader is referred to Lieber's Political Ethics, Part II., book VII. chap. 3; Paley's Moral and Political Philosophy; Legare's Report of June 13, 1838, in the House of Representatives; Mackintosh's History of the Revolution of 1688, chap. x.; Bynkershock; Vatel; Puffendorf; Clausewitz; and most other writers on international law and the laws of war.

Dr. Wayland's view of the question is advocated with much zeal by Dymond in his Inquiry into the Accordancy of War with the Principles of Christianity; Jay's Peace and War; Judd's Sermon on Peace and War; Peabody's Address, &c.; Coue's Tract on What is the Use of the Navy? Sumner's True Grandeur of Nations.

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