Page images
PDF
EPUB

Christendom. To this conclusion he comes from such views as he deems consistent with the right of drawing the sword in selfdefence. He knows the guilt and evils of war. He deplores its waste of property, and its havoc of human life; its sack of cities, its plunder of provinces, and its devastation of empires; its baleful influence on art, and science, and general improvement, on freedom, morality and religion, on all the great interests of mankind for two worlds ; its pride and lust, its rapacity and revenge, its wholesale robberies and murders, its vast and fearful complication of vices and crimes. Such aspects of war rouse him against the custom. Still he does not regard all war as unchristian; and shall we, for such a reason, thrust him from the ranks of peace? Shall we make our views a test for him, and insist that none shall labor for peace except in our way?

Let us now glance at the two intermediate classes of peace-men. Both believe that the gospel condemns all war, but reach this conclusion from different premises. One argues from the strict inviolability of human life; a principle which sweeps away not only war, but capital punishment, and the right of government to take life even for its own support; while the other reasons from principles of the gospel which do not in his view forbid the taking of life in such cases. Now, which of these two classes shall set up their modes of reasoning as a standard for all the friends of peace? Our society prefers the latter mode; but, because we dislike his mode, shall we spurn from our cause one who loves peace, and hates war as much as we do? Shall we let none oppose war except in our way? Is it wise for Saul to force his own armor upon David, or for the stripling shepherd to insist, because he had slain Goliath with his simple sling and stone, on arming all the hosts of Israel with that weapon alone ?

The cause of peace, then, ought to be prosecuted with the same liberality as other enterprises, and all its friends be permitted, without rebuke or suspicion, to promote it in such ways as they respectively prefer. The test should be, not the belief of this or that dogma, but a willingness to co-operate for the entire abolition of war; and all that will do this, and just as far as they do it, should be regarded as friends of peace. If any doctrine be required as a test, let it be the broad principle on which the first Ĝeneral Peace Convention in London (1843) was constituted, viz., that war is inconsistent with Christianity, and the true interests of mankind. We grant that this language is indefinite, allowing a pretty free play of the pendulum; but this is just what we want in order to meet the diversity of opinion among the friends of peace. We can make it express the belief of all war unchristian; but it pledges us only to a condemnation of the custom. To this principle there can be no objection from any one willing to labor for the abolition of war; and hence the test of principle would in fact be the very test of action on which alone we insist. We ask men to abolish war; and, if they gird themselves in earnest for this work, we would let them do it in their own way, nor quarrel with them about their motives.

For such a course, it were easy to find a multitude of arguments. We need not repeat, that it is the same with that adopted in all kindred enterprises ; but we may add, that it would relieve the cause of peace from much superfluous responsibility, and many irrelevant objections. It is in fact responsible only for the conclusion, that war ought to be abolished; but our opponents, the advocates or apologists for war, instead of meeting us on this point alone, assail us, for the most part, on questions either extraneous or unessential. Such issues are false and fruitless; for the only point in dispute is not, whether the Bible sanctions civil government, or capital punishment, or the taking of life in any case, or the use of physical force by one person against another, but whether war ought for any reason to be abolished. To this conclusion alone is the cause of peace pledged; nor can it fairly be held accountable for objections urged against such modes of reasoning as assert the inviolability of human life, or conflict with the legitimate internal operations of government, or justify any kind of war.

Thus would responsibility be left in every case to rest where it properly belongs. We do not ourselves feel bound to answer objections drawn either from the advocacy of defensive war, or from that species of non-resistance which denounces all forms of human government. We do not argue against war from either of these extremes; and only those who do, should be held responsible for them. The same might be said of other modes of reasoning ; let those who use them, meet their appropriate objections. The cause of peace is not accountable for any of them, because none of them are essential to its sole aim. Whatever may be thought of any arguments used by its friends, few will deny that war ought to be abolished; and for this conclusion alone is the cause itself fairly responsible.

The course we recommend, would also secure for our cause the greatest variety of argument and influence. There are all sorts of minds to be convinced; and it is well to provide a corresponding variety of arguments. No single class of peacemen can meet the wants of all. A few, fond of elementary, comprehensive truths, would be pleased with the broad principle, that the gospel discards all physical force; but such logic will reach only a small portion of mankind, and be scouted by the rest as extreme radicalism. More will be influenced by the doctrine of the strict inviolability of human life; yet this principle will satisfy no considerable part of society. The class of peacemen who argue against all war from such precepts of the gospel as bid us love our enemies, return good for evil, and give the other cheek to the smiter, will make far more converts ; but a number greater than all the rest, will be attracted to our cause by those who dwell chiefly on the general wickedness and evils of war. These varieties of argument converge to the same result,—the abolition of war; and the cause of peace should be so managed as to secure, if possible, the co-operation of them all.

Nor can we discover the justice of excluding any class of peacemen. If any, which of the four ? The high non-resistant who regards all human government as sinful because resting in the last resort on brute force ? He deems himself the best, if not the only consistent peace-man. Shall we then refuse the right hand of fellowship to those who believe it wrong for man under any cirstances to take the life of his fellow ? Few, if any, can be stancher friends of peace. Shall we next discard those who admit the lawfulness of taking life in some cases, but deem all war contrary to the gospel? Such was William Penn himself; and such are probably the greater part of our most active and efficient friends. Shall we, in fine, exclude all that believe war strictly defensive to be right, yet condemn the custom itself, and are willing to labor for its abolition? Then must we strike from our list far the largest number of our co-workers, and commit the injustice of supposing them to have no heart for this enterprise of patriotism, philanthropy and religion. Many of these men are honest, active friends of our cause. Such was Noah Worcester himself, long after he became the pioneer of peace in modern times. Such, too, was William Ladd, who labored as zealously before as after he embraced the doctrine of all war contrary to the gospel. Such was Dr. Channing to the end of his life. Such are multitudes, whom we cannot spurn from us without equal injustice to them, and injury to our cause. They may need a deeper, clearer insight into its pacific principles; and the course we propose would be the likeliest way of bringing them ere-long to regard all war as unchristian; but, should they never reach that point, they may still render invaluable aid in the work of banishing war from the world.

We might, also, plead general precedent. The friends of peace, whatever their theories, have in fact acted, for the most part, on the principle for which we contend. In America, they have, with hardly an exception, proceeded on the plan of inviting the co-operation of all, whatever their views respecting wars termed defensive, who are willing to use means for abolishing the custom itself. Such have been, from the first, a vast majority of our coworkers; not our warmest, but our real friends; and, had we refused the co-operation of all such persons, we should never have even started in this enterprise, since its very originators were only moderate peace-men. Such, too, has been the practice, we believe, of all kindred societies in Europe. So it should be; for the strong friends of peace are not its only friends. Others love it as truly as we do; and we deem it wrong to deny them the credit of unfeigned interest in the cause, or the privilege of an honorable co-operation.

We wish, moreover, to influence those who guide the helm of state. How shall this be done? Not one in a thousand of them deems all war unchristian. Upon such men it would be quite useless to urge the extreme doctrines of peace; and, if we reach them at all, it must be through its moderate friends and moderate arguments.

Such a course would, likewise, obviate many causes of jealousy and collision among the friends of peace. All their strength ought

*

to be spent against their common foe; but no small part of their time and energies has hitherto been wasted in disputes among themselves on points not essential to their object.

Nor can we well imagine any valid objection to a course so liberal. Shall we be told, it erects no standard, fixes no principle?'-It provides all the standard, all the principle necessary for our purpose. Such a course goes against the whole war-system; and what else do the friends of peace, as such, aim to abolish? It goes for the entire abolition of war, for universal and permanent peace; and can the strongest friend of our cause ask for more ?

* But such a course would not introduce the right standard.?What class of peace-men, to the exclusion of all the rest, shall determine what is the right standard ? Whichever should, the others might complain; but the course we suggest, would leave them all to urge their respective views with entire freedom. Thus every aspect of the subject would be exhibited, all its arguments and 'illustrations exhausted; and every man's views would have a fair chance, and go for what different minds should think them worth.

"Such a course, however, would be no reform, because not in advance of present opinion and practice.'—Not indeed beyond those of its active friends, since no man can honestly teach what he does not believe; but it would set every one at work in his own way, and give to truth the fairest chance of triumph. Besides, there is on this subject, as well as others, a great deal of dormant truth now among the people; and no small part of our work consists in rendering such truth effective for the prevention and ultimate abolition of war.

• But we should be obliged to contradict or conceal our principles.'-—By no means; for we allow you to utter yours without restraint, and merely ask you not to make others responsible for what they do not themselves believe. We would restrict the freedom of none. Different classes of peace-men are united in this cause; and we simply insist, that no peace society, as such, shall endorse for one to the exclusion of the rest. All may equally plead conscience; and we would permit them all alike to argue against war, each in his own way, nor hold them accountable for any views except their own.

• Such a course would make a Babel of our cause.'-How ? Almost every kindred enterprise has pursued a similar course without confusion or embarrassment. Did not Wilberforce and his coadjutors labor in this way for the abolition of the slave-trade? Was not every one allowed without complaint to urge his own arguments? Did the leaders lay down a single principle as a criterion, and insist that none but believers in that principle should co-operate with them? So with the friends of temperance. They all go for abstinence from intoxicating drinks, but leave every man to do so from whatever arguments or motives he pleases. The cause requires union only in the result; and, if its friends all

unite in total abstinence, they may reach that result by an Orthodox or a Unitarian, a Protestant or a Catholic mode of reasoning.

• I like, however, to see a reform reduced to its simplest elementary principle. —That may be a very pleasant and useful exercise for you; but is it a wise course for a reform which has to deal with all sorts of minds? You love to simplify and generalize; but most persons would be very likely to turn their back on such modes of advocating any cause. Such a procedure would also multiply the difficulties of reform. Let me suppose you arguing against the slave-trade. Not satisfied with proving it wrong, you try to bring it under the condemnation of some general principle applicable to a hundred other things; the principle, if you please, that all love of money, or all physical coercion of men, both of which are so deeply concerned in that trade, is unchristian. Your antagonist readily admits the traffic to be wrong, but joins issue on your general principle, and thus compels you to waste nearly all your strength upon what is not essential to your purpose. Were you endeavoring to abolish duelling, would you first establish the principle, that self-defence, or the taking of human life in any case, or all use of brute force, is unchristian, and then forbid the co-operation of any that did not embrace one or all of these principles ? True, if you prove either, you condemn duelling ; but if neither is true, that practice may still be utterly wrong. So in peace. I prove it just as wrong for nations to fight as it is for individuals; but one strenuous for simplification, presses me to know on what principle I condemn war. Why, I have just adduced a dozen in the shape of so many arguments against it.' “ But on what one in particular do you deem it wrong? What is your stand-point ?" If in reply I say, that human life is inviolable, or that the gospel discards all physical force, or forbids my injuring another for my own benefit, he starts at once a new trail of objections, not against my sole aim of abolishing war, but against my principle as applicable in his view to something else which he thinks right. He says it condemns capital punishment, and even subverts all human government; and thus he leads me away from my sole object into disputes which have little or no connection with peace. If you prove human life inviolable, or all use of brute force unchristian, you certainly condemn war; but is it wrong on no other grounds? If it is, then let all that choose, discard it on those grounds, nor insist that they shall argue against it only in your own favorite way.

But every reform should have some fixed, distinguishing principle.'—So it should; and such would our plan insure to the cause of peace. It is the principle, that war, being inconsistent with Christianity, and the true interests of mankind, ought to be abolished. What principle in any reform is more distinct, more intelligible, or more practical than this?

But we should carry out our principles.'—So we should to the accomplishment of our object, but no farther. Nothing more is done, or attempted, or even permitted in any enterprise of the kind. No principle is pushed to its utmost application. Take an example,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »