Page images




daily beverage; so long as some of her most godly ministers could distil and peddle it for their own support in preaching the gospel, would you have said, spread such a Christianity, and that will stop these drinking usages ; make men such Christians, and they will cease from the very practices in which they are now indulging without scruple?

Still perhaps you say, 'the church must not turn aside from her missionary work to the cause of peace. Turn aside for peace! Why, it lies right in her path, a part of this very work, and quite indispensable to the speedy or ultimate accomplishment of this work. Peace is her first want, the place to stand upon for an effective application of her great moral lever to the world. She must have peace; and her best economy is to make sure of it from the outset. How strange for a man to say he cannot afford a scaffold for the edifice he is erecting! So poor he cannot stop long enough to eat, or spend an hour in quenching a fire that would soon lay in ashes the earnings of his whole life! The church cannot spare the time or the money requisite for the cause of peace! A vigorous, decisive support of this cause would be the best economy she has ever practised even for her missionary work. It has been said by wise, coolheaded men, that a war between us and England might put back the world's conversion a whole century; yet could the Christians in these two countries prevent such a war with one half the effort they expend on the missionary cause in a single year. In no other way could a part of our money be spent to better purpose even for this cause; and hence the church should contribute, and her wealthy members leave legacies, for peace just as they do for missions.

What a world of evil has been prevented, how vast an amount of good secured, by God's blessing on the little already done in the cause of peace! Hardly a thousand dollars a year were given to this cause in our own country during the first twenty-five years from its origin, and probably not more than four thousand a year from all Christendom; and yet has this pittance sufficed materially to change the international policy of the civilized world, and preserve its general peace ever since the overthrow of Napoleon; a result as truly owing under God to the cause of peace, as the triumphs of temperance are to that cause, or the spread of the gospel to the missionary enterprise. In what way could the same amount of money have done more good, or contributed more to the world's evangelization ? To this glorious result peace is indispensable; and in vain, so long as the war-cancer is gnawing her own vitals, or the war-system of Christendom is resting like a mammoth incubus on her bosum, and leaving its bloodprints on the banners of her cross, will the church wait for the coming of that era when the kingdoms of this world shall all become the kingdom of our Lord, and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig-tree, with none to molest or make him afraid.'




In attempting to form an accurate estimate of the moral character of human actions and opinions, it is often of importance to inquire how they have been produced. There is always great reason to doubt the rectitude of that of which the causes and motives are impure; and if, therefore, some of the motives to war, and of its causes, are inconsistent with reason or with virtue, Í would invite the reader to pursue his inquiries on this subject with suspicion at least of the rectitude of our ordinary opinions.

There are some customs which have obtained so generally and so long, that what was originally an effect becomes a cause, and what was a cause becomes an effect, until, by the reciprocal influence of each, the custom is continued by circumstances so multiplied and involved, that it is difficult to detect them in all their ramifications, or to determine those to which it is principally to be referred. What were once the occasions of wars, may be easily supposed. Robbery, or the repulsion of robbers, was probably the only motive to hostility, until robbery became refined into ambition, and it was sufficient to produce a war, that a chief was not content with the territory of his fathers; but by the gradually increasing complication of society from age to age, and by the multiplication of remote interests and obscure rights, the motives to war have become so numerous and so technical, that ordinary observation often fails to perceive what they are. They are sometimes known only to a cabinet, which is influenced in its decision by reasonings of which a nation knows little, or by feelings of which it knows nothing; so that of those who personally engage in hostilities, there is perhaps not often one in ten who can distinctly tell why he is fighting.

This refinement in the motives of war is no trifling, evidence that they are insufficient or bad. When it is considered how tremendous a battle is, how many it hurries in a moment from the world, how much wretchedness and how much guilt it produces, it would surely appear that nothing but obvious necessity should induce us to resort to it. But when, instead of a battle, we have a war with many battles, and of course with multiplied sufferings and accumulated guilt, the motives to so dreadful a measure ought to be such as to force themselves upon involuntary observation, and to be written, as it were, in the skies. If, then, a large pro

* This and the four following articles or tracts contain the substance of all that Dymond wrote on the subject of Peace and War, mainly as abridged by himself in his Principles of Morality, but with a few additions from his somewhat fuller Inquiry into the accordancy of War with the Principles of Christianity.--AM. ED.

[blocks in formation]

portion of a people are often without any distinct perception of the reasons why they are slaughtering mankind, it implies, I think, prima facie evidence against the adequacy or the justice of the motives to slaughter.

Of the causes of war, one undoubtedly consists in the want of inquiry. We have been accustomed from earliest life to a familiarity with its “pomp and circumstance;" soldiers have passed us at every step, and battles and victories have been the topic of every one around us. It thus becomes familiarized to all our thoughts, and interwoven with all our associations. We have never inquired whether these things should be; the question does not even suggest itself. We acquiesce in it, as we acquiesce in the rising of the sun, without any other idea than that it is a part of the ordinary processes of the world. And how are we to feel disapprobation of a system that we do not examine? Want of inquiry has been the means by which long continued practices, whatever their enormity, have obtained the general concurrence of the world, and continued to pollute or degrade it long after the few who inquire into their nature have discovered them to be bad. It was by these means that the slave trade was so long tolerated by this land of humanity. Men did not think of its iniquity. We were induced to think; and soon we abhorred, and then abolished it. Of the effects of this want of inquiry we have indeed frequent examples upon the subject before us. Many who have all their lives concluded that war is lawful and right, have found, when they began to examine the question, that their conclusions were founded upon no evidence; that they had believed in its rectitude, not because they had possessed themselves of proof, but because . they had never inquired whether it was capable of proof or not. In the present moral state of the world, one of the first concerns of him who would discover pure morality should be, to question the purity of that which now obtains.

Another cause of our complacency with war, and therefore another cause of war itself, consists in that callousness to human misery which the custom induces. They who are shocked at a single murder on the highway, hear with indifference of the slaughter of a thousand on the field. They whom the idea of a single corpse would thrill with horror, contemplate with frigid indifference heaps of human carcasses mangled by human hands. If a murder is committed, the narrative is given in the public newspaper with many adjectives of horror, many expressions of commiseration, and many hopes that the perpetrator will be detected. In the next paragraph, the editor perhaps tells us that he has hurried a second edition to the press, in order that he may be the first to glad the public with the intelligence, that in an engagement which has just taken place, eight hundred and fifty of the enemy were killed. Now, is not this latter intelligence eight hundred and fifty times as deplorable as the first? Yet the first is the subject of our sorrow, and this—of our joy! The inconsistency and disproportionateness which has been occasioned in our sentiments of benevolence, offers a curious moral phenomenon.

The immolations of the Hindoos fill us with compassion or horror, and we are zealously laboring to prevent them. The sacrifices of life by our criminal executions, (one hundred and sixty kinds of crime being punishable with death in the time of Blackstone,) are the subject of our anxious commiseration, and we are strenuously endeavoring to diminish their number. We feel that the life of a Hindoo or a malefactor is a serious thing, and that nothing but imperious necessity should induce us to destroy the one, or to permit the destruction of the other. Yet what are these sacrifices of life in comparison with the sacrifices of war? In the late campaign in Russia, their fell, during one hundred and seventy-three days in succession, an average of two thousand nine hundred men per day; more than five hundred thousand human beings in less than six months! And most of these victims expired with peculiar intensity of suffering. We are carrying our benevolence to the Indies; but what becomes of it in Russia, or at Leipsic? We are laboring to save a few lives from the gallows; but where is our solicitude to save them on the field ? Life is life wheresoever it be sacrificed, and has every where equal claims to our regard. I am not now saying that war is wrong, but that we regard its miseries with an indifference with which we regard no others; that if our sympathy were reasonably excited respecting them, we should be powerfully prompted to avoid war; and that the want of this reasonable and virtuous sympáthy, is one cause of its prevalence in the world.

Another cause is found in national irritability. It is assumed, that the best way of supporting the dignity, and maintaining the security of a nation is, when occasions of disagreement arise, to assume a high attitude and a fearless tone. We keep ourselves in a state of irritability which is continually alive to occasions of offence; and he that is prepared to be offended, readily finds offences. A jealous sensibility sees insults and injuries where sober eyes see nothing; and nations thus surround themselves with a sort of artificial tentacula, which they throw wide in quest of irritation, and by which they are stiinulated to revenge by every touch of accident or inadvertency. They who are easily offended, will also easily offend. What is the experience of private life? The man who is always on the alert to discover trespasses on his honor or his rights, never fails to quarrel with his neighbors. Such a person may be dreaded as a torpedo. We may fear, but we shall not love him; and fear without love easily lapses into enmity. There are therefore many feuds and litigations in the life of such a man, that would never have disturbed its quiet, if he had not captiously snarled at the trespasses of accident, and savagely retaliated insignificant injuries. The viper that we chance to molest, we suffer to live, if he continue to be quiet ; but if he raise himself in menaces of destruction, we knock him on the head.

It is with nations as with men. If on every offence we fly to arms, we shall of necessity provoke exasperation; and if we exasperate a people as petulant as ourselves, we may probably continue

to butcher one another, until we cease only from the emptiness of exchequers, or weariness of slaughter. To threaten war, is therefore often equivalent to beginning it. In the present state of men's principles, it is not probable that one nation will observe another levying men, and building ships, and founding cannon, without providing men, and ships, and cannon themselves; and when both are thus threatening and defying, what is the hope that there will not be a war?

If nations fought only when they could not be at peace, there would be very little fighting in the world. The wars that are waged for “ insults to flags,” and an endless train of similar motives, are perhaps generally attributable to the irritability of our pride. We are at no pains to appear pacific towards the offender; our remonstrance is a threat; and the nation, which would give satisfaction to an inquiry, will give no other answer to a menace than a menace in return. At length we begin to fight, not because we are aggrieved, but because we are angry. One example may be offered: “In 1789,” says Smollett, “ a small Spanish vessel committed some violence in Nootka Sound, under the pretence that the country belonged to Spain. This appears to have been the principal ground of offence; and with this both the government and the people of England were very angry. The irritability and haughtiness which they manifested, were unaccountable to the Spaniards, and the peremptory tone was imputed by Spain, not to feelings of offended dignity and violated justice, but to some lurking enmity, and some secret designs which we did not choose to avow.” If the tone had been less peremptory and more rational, no such suspicion would have been excited, and the hostility which was consequent upon the suspicion, would of course have been avoided. Happily the English were not so passionate, but that before they proceeded to fight, they negotiated, and settled the affair amicably. The preparations, however, for this foolish war cost 3,133,000 pounds!

So well indeed is national irritability known to be an efficient cause of war, that they who from any motive wish to promote it, endeavor to rouse the temper of a people by stimulating their passions—just as the boys in our streets stimulate two dogs to fight. These persons talk of the insults, or the encroachments, or the contempts of the destined enemy, with every artifice of aggravation ; they tell us of foreigners who want to trample upon our rights, of rivals who ridicule our power, of foes who will crush, and of tyrants who will enslave us. They pursue their object certainly by efficacious means; they desire a war, and therefore irritate our passions; and when men are angry, they are easily persuaded to fight. That this cause of war is morally bad, that petulance and irritability are wholly incompatible with Christianity, is too clear to need proof.

Wars are often prompteá from considerations of interest, as well as from passion. The love of gain adds its influence to our other motives, and even without other motives, we know that this love is

« PreviousContinue »