« PreviousContinue »
PROGRESS OF PEACE,
HOW MUCH ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED IN THIS CAUSE.
THE cause of peace seeks, as its only object, the entire abolition of war. Nearly thirty years have elapsed (1844) since the origin of this movement; and here we may well pause awhile to review its progress, and see how much is already gained.
It is very difficult, however, to ascertain the exact degree of success in a cause like this. It lacks the usual criteria. It tells not of so many Bibles circulated, or so many heralds of the cross sent forth ; of so many churches gathered, or so many missionary stations established; of so many converts, or so many pledges. Such indices of progress belong not to this cause. Like leaven in bread, or sugar in fluids, it vanishes from our sight in the very act of accomplishing its purpose; and, if we would learn how much has been accomplished, we must trace, through a series of years, the gradual change of men's views, feelings, and habits on the subject of war.
If they have clearer perceptions of its guilt or its evils ; if they are less inclined to abet or tolerate appeals to the sword; if they have actually abstained from such appeals longer than they had for centuries before; if there is a growing demand from the people for other means of adjusting difficulties between nations ; if the rulers of Christendom are beginning to adopt pacific expedients for the settlement of national disputes, as their permanent policy, then have we all the proofs of success which the nature of the case will admit.
Such proofs we have; and mark the change. Time was, nor long ago, when warriors received the admiration of the world; when there was scarce an advocate of peace besides the Quakers, Moravians, and a very few others; when the idea of abolishing war was scouted as the wildest of Utopian dreams; when no press, and hardly a pulpit denounced this trade of blood as inconsistent with Christianity; when war, as an arbiter of disputes between nations, was considered as equally lawful with codes and courts of law for individuals; when ministers of the gospel, otherwise excellent, preached in favor of war, both defensive and offensive, as zealously as any one now can in support of civil government, and urged their hearers, in the language of the devout and eloquent Davies, 'to cherish a war-spirit as derived from God, as a sacred, heavenborn fire.'
How altered now the tone of public sentiment. Pass through the land; traverse all Christendom; converse with every class of men; examine the various issues of the press; and at every step will you meet with views far more pacific than formerly. A change is
P. T. NO. XIII,
corning over the minds of men; and already has peace become the popular demand of the age. There is a diminished respect for men of blood, and national competition is passing from the field of battle to those departments of science, art, and industry which procure wealth, and promote refinement and happiness. Most of the standing armies of Europe are in a course of reduction, and our own States are gradually ceasing to require military drills. Every where is the art of war falling into disuse; even now is it barely tolerated as a necessary evil; and some of our legislatures are calling for measures to supersede its alleged necessity by the adoption of substitutes far better than the sword. Such substitutes popular opinion is beginning to demand; and difficulties which would, fifty or even thirty years ago, have plunged nations instantly in blood, are now adjusted often with scarce a thought of appealing to arms. Negotiation, arbitration, and other pacific measures are actually taking the place of the sword in nine cases out of ten where it was formerly used. War has ceased to be regarded as the only arbiter of national disputes; and the leading cabinets of Christendom are beginning to adopt for this purpose pacific expedients as their permanent system. Already is the international policy of Christendom materially changed; and, should this policy continue much longer, it may yet suffice to keep the peace of the cwilized world for ages to come.
Observe the moral machinery set at work to produce such results. In nearly every country where any enterprises of the kind can be sustained, good men are combining their efforts for the abolition of war; and these associations, embracing some of the purest and most gifted minds in Christendom, have put in operation a variety of simple yet effective means. They employ the living voice, and are sending forth lecturers. They wield the press, and are circulating pamphlets, periodicals and tracts, far and wide. They have also published volumes; and some of these, written with singular ability, have gone to the libraries of the learned, to halls of legislation, and palaces of kings. Millions of pages on the subject of peace have, from year to year, been scattered over the best portions of Christendom, and sent occasionally into the four quarters of the globe.
Glance at the other agencies drawn into co-operation with us. We have waked the pulpit ; and thousands of ministers are now preaching peace as a part of the gospel. We have enlisted the press ; and multitudes of periodicals, both religious and secular, are beginning to discuss this grand question of the world. We have also laid the claims of peace before the Christian community ; and not only individual churches, but ecclesiastical bodies representing almost every considerable denomination in our land, have passed resolves in its favor, and commended it to the sympathies, prayers and patronage of good men. We have likewise brought the subject before not a few of our higher seminaries; and in these it is attracting attention, calling forth discussion, and raising up youthful friends who may one day become its champions. In
some of them, prizes have been annually given for the best essay on peace; and these essays, first delivered in public by their authors, and then sent forth to the world through some periodical, must contribute not a little to that change of popular sentiment which alone is requisite for the entire abolition of war.
Before rulers, also, have we brought the claims of this cause. On the alarm of war, we have remonstrated with them against a resort to arms, and have occasionally been successful in holding them back from bloodshed. We have shown them the possibility of superseding war by better means, and urged upon them the duty of adopting such substitutes in place of the cannon and the sword. We have petitioned them especially to obviate all necessity for war, either by incorporativg in their treaties a pledge to settle their disputes in the last resort by reference to umpires mutually chosen, or by calling a congress of nations to frame a specific, authoritative code of international law, and establish an international tribunal to interpret that law, and adjust all difficulties which may arise among the great brotherhood of nations.
But popular opposition would be the surest safeguard against war; and already are the people rallying to prevent the return of this terrible scourge. Even now does their voice decide in fact the question of peace or war; nor is there a despot in Christendom that would hazard an appeal to arms without first feeling the popular pulse. There is no escape; the will of the people must be heeded; and just as fast as they are enlightened, will rulers find it difficult, if not impossible, to play any longer this game of blood at the expense of their subjects. And the people are fast getting the light requisite for this purpose. The question is before them; and already is it discussed more or less by high and low, by old and young; in the pulpit, the senate, and the forum; in literary societies, in popular lyceums, in nearly all our seminaries of learning; in volumes and pamphlets, in quarterlies and monthlies, in weekly and daily newspapers ; by the farmer, the mechanic and the merchant, the citizen and the soldier.
Mark the result of these and kindred influences. After centuries of almost incessant conflict, the general peace of Europe has been preserved ever since the origin of efforts in this cause, now nearly thirty years; a longer period of rest from war than Christendom ever knew before.
These efforts have probably saved ourselves from several wars. It is impossible to tell how many dangers have been so far obviated as to keep them entirely from our knowledge; but during the last nine years, we have been in imminent exposure to war, first with France, next with Mexico, and finally with England herself. Had public opinion been what it was fifty years before, we could hardly have escaped a war in either case; but the change of sentiment through Christendom that prevented a calamity so dreadful, has resulted under God mainly from the efforts and the influences which together constitute the cause of peace. Provocations not half as great, have frequently occasioned fierce, protracted wars; and
nothing but the altered views of the age, especially of the parties themselves, averted that deplorable catastrophe.
We have rot room to review in detail all the cases just alluded to; but let us briefly revert to the danger of a war with Mexico. Nearly the whole South and West were calling aloud for it, and Congress was on the eve of taking measures which would have rendered it inevitable; but just at that crisis, the friends of peace petitioned our government to accept the proposal of Mexico for the settlement of their difficulties by reference to an umpire to be mutually chosen. The appeal was well-timed, and enabled the venerable John Quincy Adams, as he says himself, “to declare to the House and the country not only my aversion to a war with
Mexico, but the painful feelings with which I have seen it recom| mended. It will operate,” he continues, " as a check on the com
mittee to prevent their reporting any war-measure against Mexico, which they would infallibly have done, had not their disposition to it been met at the threshold. The proposal of a reference to arbitration was itself so reasonable, that no voice was heard in Congress against it; and very soon afterwards, it was conditionally accepted. This removed all immediate danger of a war; and if the petitioners of the peace societies had never rendered to their country any other service, they would have deserved the thanks of the whole nation for this."
Reflect on the importance of these results—three wars averted from our own land, and the general peace of Christendom preserved for nearly thirty years of almost incessant war that sacrificed no less than nine millions of lives, and some thirty or forty thousand millions of dollars! Is not here proof enough of the most triumphant success ? Had there been po drunkard, not a solitary case of intoxication, in our whole country for thirty years, would not such a fact alone prove the cause of temperance to have been gloriously successful ?
These results are undeniable ; but how many would fain account for them by quoting merely the general influences of civilization, and commerce, and Christianity, and popular education, and public opinion, and modern diplomacy, and recent experience of the evils inseparable from war! But if these influences are the cause of the world's peace for the last thirty years, why did they prove so utterly unsuccessful down to the very time, and become 80 successful ever since, and only since the time when the friends of peace began their united efforts ? Before the battle of Waterloo, was there in Christendom no civilization, no commerce, no Christianity, no pulpit or press, no popular education, no public opinion, no arts of diplomacy, no bitter experience of the evils inflicted by this master-scourge of the world? Yes; all these general influences were in existence and pretty full operation ages before. Why then did they fail to insure peace? For the same reason that the power of steam existed all over the earth thousands of years before it propelled a ship, or twirled a spindle—nobody applied it to that purpose. For the same reason that hundreds of water-falls poured from our own hills, century after century, without turning a single water-wheel-nobody applied them to that purpose. For the same reason that all the intelligence, virtue, and piety in our land failed for generations to check the progress of intemperance-nobody applied them to that specific purpose. Such an application was indispensable. It was no special increase of intelligence, or patriotism, or piety, or any other good influences, that accomplished the temperance reform, but the concentration of them all upon that specific object. Here is the whole secret; and without this, our intelligence, and patriotism, and virtue, and piety, and philanthropy might have continued till doomsday without rolling back the deluge of liquid fire that was sweeping over our land. Just so in the cause of peace. The civilization, and commerce, and Christianity, and public opinion, and all the other general influences so flippantly quoted by some as having secured for Christendom her last thirty years of peace, failed for centuries to prevent bloodshed, until the friends of peace, like those of temperance in their cause, seized those general influences, and concentrated them on their single purpose of abolishing war. Such influences are quite essential; but it is only their right application that can secure the result sought. They are the elements or instruments of every good cause. So in missions and temperance; but would any man, for this reason, attempt to account for all that has been accomplished in those causes by quoting such general influences without an allusion to the special efforts made by the associated friends of temperance and missions ? Yet we might as well do this, as think to account for the peace of Christendom for the last thirty years without giving to the cause of peace, under God, the chief credit of a result so immensely important to the world.
But some minds it is extremely difficult to cure of this strange skepticism. “We cannot,' say they, deny the glorious results of which you speak; but they came from influences not dependent on your movement. It is the gospel that has produced them.'— True ; but it is only the gospel as applied since the commencement of our efforts; for that very gospel failed for ages to produce such results. Why? Solely because it was not then applied as it is now beginning to be. But why not extend this reasoning to all other enterprises ? The gospel is the origin, the main-spring of the missionary, Bible, and temperance movements; but would you say there is no need of such enterprises, because the gospel, as applied by them, has confessedly effected every one of the results commonly ascribed to their agency? Because it is the medicine that cures, is there no need of its being applied ?
• But commerce and travel have done much for peace.'—Very true ; but they have done far more for missions and other benevolent enterprises. Shall we then say, that the latter do not deserve the credit of their own acknowledged achievements ? Our tracts, our Bibles, our missionaries are sent round the globe in the vessels of our merchants; is the credit of the result all due to come