« PreviousContinue »
takes a view of the events, but as the author of such an accumulation of wrongs, and of which there is not one, perhaps, for which, in the inmost recesses of his soul, his conscience does not reproach him. He is at the same time on the point of giving orders for a fresh effusion of blood, of increasing the weight of the taxes, of aggravating the misfortunes of his people, of laying his conquering arm heavily on them. What distressing reflections must present themselves to him! At this moment he would fain recall the crowd that had surrounded him. “Return,' he would spontaneously exclaim, return, and repeat to me all that has even now intoxicated
Alas! you are far off, and I find myself in a frightful desert, in solitude. I no longer discover the traces of my former sentiments; the light which dazzled me, is extinguished; my joy is departed, and my glory vanished !'
Such is nearly the train of reflections that would present themselves to the monarch when alone. In the mean time night comes on, darkness and silence cover the earth, peace appears to reign every where except in his breast. The plaintive cries of the dying, the tears of ruined families, the various evils of which he is the author, present themselves to his view, and disturb his imagination. A dream, the noise of the wind, a clap of thunder, are sometimes sufficient to agitate him, and remind him of his own insignificance.. • Who am I,' he is impelled to say, “who am I, that I should command so many ravages, and cause so many tears to flow ? Born to be the benefactor, I am the scourge of mankind. Is this the use to which I should appropriate the treasures at my disposal, and the power with which I am entrusted ? Hereafter I shall have to deliver up an account; and what will this account be?' It is then in vain for him to attempt to prop up his pride, and exculpate himself in his own eyes, by presenting to the Supreme Being his successes and his triumphs; he feels an invisible hand repulsing him, and apparently refusing to acknowledge him. Disturbed with these cogitations, he endeavors at last to bury in sleep the moments which thus annoy him, impatient for the dawn of day, for the splendor of the court, and the concourse of his servants, to dissipate his anguish, and restore to him his illusions.
Ah! what a different picture does the life of a beneficent king present! He finds in the inclination of his soul a continual source of pleasing sensations. The shadows of the night, by gathering around him consoling recollections of the past, enliven his retirement; the concussions of agitated nature, far from disturbing his imagination, awaken in him ideas which sweetly harmonize with his feelings; the love of mankind with which he is smitten, the public benevolence with which he is animated, that order which he has been desirous to maintain, recall to his mind the most delightful recollections. In such a career, the beneficent king sees his days pass away ; and, when warned that the period draws nigh in which his strength must give way, he surveys with tranquillity this inevitable hour, and satisfied with the wise use he has made of his power, resigns himself to those hopes of which virtuous and sensible souls alone are capable.
How different is the closing scene of that sovereign whose views were influenced only by ambition and the love of war! How often does this last moment appear terrible to him, and of what avail are his most glorious exploits? Weighed down by age and sickness, when the shades of death surround him with melancholy reflections, does he then command his attendants to entertain him with a recital of his victorious battles? Does he order those trophies to be spread before him, on which he might discern the tears that watered them? No; all these ideas terrify and distract him. I have been too fond of war, was the last speech of the most powerful of kings; such were the words he addressed to his great grandson. Too late regret! which certainly did not suffice to calm the agitations of his soul! Ah! how much happier he would have been, if, after a reign similar to that of Titus and Antoninus, he had been able to say to the young prince, 'I have experienced all sorts of pleasures ; I have been acquainted with all kinds of glory: believe a dying king; I have found no real content but in the good I have been able to do. Tread in my steps ; entertain for your people the same tender affection I have felt for them. Instead of destroying the establishments I have formed the prosperity of the state; instead of rejecting my principles of order and economy; instead of abolishing the laws I have promulgated for the benefit of the lower class, and the comfort of the wretched, proceed still farther, and let our names, blended together, be equally blessed. The only just opinion of us, is that which we leave behind; the only glory, that which remains attached to our memory.
“My task is now at an end, and you are going to begin yours. Yes, a moment longer, and those courtiers who surround me, will attend on you; a moment longer, and the drums of the guards will announce your accession, and all the splendor of the throne will be displayed before your eyes. Do not suffer yourself to be. dazzled by these brilliant seductions of the supreme rank; but more especially resist those wrong ideas of the greatness of kings, which ambitious or interested men will endeavor to inculcate on you. You will be rendered envious of the power of other nations, before you have time to be acquainted with your own; you will be urged to destroy their felicity, before you have time to reflect on the good you may do to your own subjects; you will be solicited to overturn the peace of the world, before you have secured the maintenance of order within your own kingdom; and you will be inspired with the desire of increasing your dominions, before you have even ascertained what cares and informations are necessary to govern with prudence the smallest of your provinces. Mistrust all those measures with which they attempt to make sovereigns forget, not only the limits of their faculties, but the shortness of their life, and every thing that they have in common with other men. Stay by me a little longer, my son! to learn that the sovereign of a most powerful empire vanishes from the earth with less noise than a leaf falls from the tree, or a light is extinguished.'
AMERICAN PEACE SOCIETY, BOSTON, MASS.
SETTING aside persons who hold political or military office, or who by their connection with government are led to imagine they have an interest in war, it is believed there are few intelligent or benevolent men who now advocate that cruel practice as a good in itself or its results ; but there are many sincere philanthropists, who, fully perceiving the vast amount of suffering and corruption caused by this custom, believing such calamity to be unalleviated, and uncompensated by any resulting good, and earnestly desiring the extinction of war, still doubt the practicability of that extinction by any means in the power of the friends of peace to apply.
First, it is objected that the magnitude of the evil is such as to be irremovable by private effort. The insatiable ambition, the pride of honor, fancied interest, and deep-rooted customs of nations, the enthusiastic canonization of warriors, the brilliant examples of classic history, the flattering voice of poetry, the splendor of monumental arts, the chivalry of patriotism, and the imposing fascinations of military display, all combine to drown the still small voice of humanity, -altogether form an overwhelming power, against which individual or associated philanthropy must strive in vain. What can a few peace societies and their friends effect against the gigantic pride and customs of sovereign rulers and the political world?
It is not to be wondered at, that men,-even intelligent and considerate men,-make an objection like this; for the world has hitherto seemed to be governed or revolutionized by force; and they are naturally incredulous of any important change without the perception of physical power to effect it. But it is overlooked, that many of the most signal revolutions of the globe have originated in some new or disregarded principle,-religious, moral or political,-brought out by some obscure, perhaps despised individuals, which afterwards proved to be the actuating soul of the great physical movement. Such was the case with the Crusades, the Reformation, the discovery of America, the American and French Revolutions. The most remarkable revolution of the earth was the promulgation of Christianity by a few fishermen of Galilee, and their associates, changing the religion and moral habits of a large portion of the civilized world. It may be thought that this should not be adduced as an instance, as it was under the special and miraculous direction of the Most High; but we are taught that all events are, in reality, guided by his Providence; and, if the progress of peace principles is predicted, and their promotion enjoined by this revelation, there is as much rea
son to expect his divine aid in their extension, as in that of the gospel, of which it forms so essential a part.
Again, it should be recollected, that under the perpetual advance of Christianity and civilization, mere physical power is every where losing, and moral power gaining social and political influence. In former ages, it might perhaps be said, that before the proud thrones or passion-led multitudes of the world, moral effort would avail but little in presenting truth, or advocating humanity. Already has the religious and intellectual change been such, that no oppressive abuse of physical power can be long continued in face of the unequivocal rebuke of religious enthusiasm, or philosophical philanthropy; and under the obvious progress of society we have every promise that the claims of enlightened benevolence must be heard, and will be effectual. But the friends of universal peace, if guided by truth, and warmed with zeal, are plainly possessed of a moral influence superior to the power of brute force, however imposing; and, if efficiently sustained by those who are in sentiment with them, so that they could bring all the religious and benevolent of the civilized world into an united, energetic protest against the practice of war, neither despotism, nor custom, nor chivalric delusion, could withstand it; the pride of the martial world must bend before the frown of Christian reproof. Let us not, then, in timid distrust of moral power, withhold it. Give it in sanguine faith, and it will be decisively victorious.
But we meet with a more serious objection to specific efforts for the cause of peace, among those religious and enlightened men on whom our chief reliance is placed as instruments of the cause. They doubt not the power of Christianity to overthrow the power
of war; but they consider the process proposed on this subject as wrong in its order; general Christian faith must precede it. “Make men Christians," they say, “and universal peace ' will follow.”. They have no expectation that peace principles will ever be received, until Christianity, as they understand it, is made to prevail in the world; and they accordingly think time and money wasted in any previous attempts to diffuse them. And yet a little attention will make it plain, that the whole strength of this objection lies in its ambiguity; an examination of what is here meant by Christianity, will dissipate it. If a Christianity is made to prevail over the world which involves the doctrines of forbearance and peace as essential elements, undoubtedly the prevalence of such a Christianity would forever extinguish war; and the course of the peace-makers is precisely that which the objectors would desire, but which they refuse to aid ; for these peace-makers strive to engraft this very feature inseparably on Christianity, and may be considered as missionaries of that religion in its genuine pacific form.
But the objectors have not in mind this idea of Christianity in making the objection; they mean Christianity as each understands it, according to the doctrines laid down by his sect or denomination respectively, in few of which, (with the exception of
the Friends and Moravians,) is the peace principle included as fundamental. The extension of such a Christianity will never produce peace. History is full of instances of pious and devoted
every form of religious faith, who have not only sanctioned, but participated in, the revolting violence and cruelties of
No one will call in question the religious character of the early fathers of the church, the reformers with Luther, the Covenanters of Scotland, or the pilgrims who landed on the Rock of Plymouth. Perhaps even the crusaders to Palestine, the German invaders of Saxony, and the Spanish conquerors of South America, may be allowed to have been actuated by a sincere faith in what they received as Christianity ; but in none of these instances or similar ones which history records, has the aspect of the Cross, in any of its varied lights, obliterated the heathen spirit of Mars; and what reason is there to believe that any view of Christianity, which includes not its peace principle as essential, whatever ascendency it may gain, will ever spread over the future a forbearing tranquillity which it has always failed to do in the fairest trials of the past? The true teachers of Christianity then, are the peace-makers. They alone preach a gospel from which peace can spring forth. They alone exhibit its love in connection with its faith.
Another objection to the practicability of peace efforts comes from a numerous class, confiding less in the power of Christianity. The war-spirit is said to be ineradicable, as founded in nature. All brute animals are by instinct prone to violence and conflict, and human beings have been engaged in war and bloodshed from the earliest ages, and in every realm. War must, then, ever continue, while man retains his present passions; and his race must be miraculously changed in nature, or extirpated from the earth, for a new creation, before peace can dwell over its extensive sphere. We then trive to counteract the laws of Providence, when we oppose war; every generation must pass through its bloody trials, and look to a future life for a regenerated, pacific constitution.
The fact of the universal custom of conflict, brutal and human, is indisputable; that in brutes it is founded in their unalterable nature, will not be questioned; but when this law is applied also to man, the whole truth is not shown; it is forgotten that man has higher and freer impulses, which counteract and modify his animal nature. His calculating reason, and penetrating foresight of consequences, direct his very passions to an action, by which their present gratification is sacrificed to future good. Moral principle, too, is perceived by his mind, and an instinct, nobler than the animal, bends him into obedience to it. Man, by nature, is acquisitive and grasping; and yielding only to this nature, the world would be a universal scene of robbery and plunder. Civilization, pointing through experience to general good, has brought him under laws which respect the right of property, and induce scruples of honesty, restricting desire where no punishment would follow its violation. Man, naturally, is indolent and self-indul.