Page images

sufficient to give great obliquity to the moral judgment, and to tempt us to many crimes. During a war of ten years there will always be many whose income depends on its continuance; and a countless host of commissaries, and purveyors, and agents, and mechanics, commend a war because it fills their pockets. And unhappily, if money is in prospect, the desolation of a kingdom is often of little concern; destruction and slaughter are not to be put in competition with a hundred a year! In truth, it seems sometimes to be the system of the conductors of a war, to give to the sources of gain endless ramifications. The more there are who profit by it, the more numerous are its supporters ; and thus the projects of a cabinet become identified with the wishes of a people, and both are gratified in the prosecution of war.

A support more systematic and powerful, however, is given to war, because it offers to the higher ranks of society a profession which unites gentility with profit, and which, without the vulgarity of trade, maintains or enriches them. It is of little consequence to inquire whether the distinction of vulgarity between the toils of war, and the toils of commerce be fictitious. In the abstract, it is fictitious; but of this species of reputation public opinion holds the arbitrium et jus et norma; and public opinion is in favor of war.

The army and the navy, therefore, afford to the middle and higher classes a most acceptable profession. The profession of arms is like the profession of law or physic—a regular source of employment and profit. Boys are educated for the army as they are educated for the bar; and parents appear to have no other idea than that war is part of the business of the world. Of younger sons, whose fathers in pursuance of the unhappy system of primogeniture, do not choose to support them at the expense of the heir, the army and the navy are the common resource. They would not know what to do without them. To many of these the news of a peace is a calamity; and, though they may not lift their voices in favor of new hostilities for the sake of gain, it is unhappily certain that they often secretly desire it. It is in this manner that much of the rank, the influence, and the wealth of a country become interested in the prosecution of wars; and when a custom is promoted by wealth, and influence, and rank, what is the wonder that it should be continued ? It is said, (if my memory serves me, by Sir Walter Raleigh,) " he that taketh up his rest to live by this profession, shall hardly be an honest man.”. By depending upon war for a subsistence, a powerful inducement is given to desire it; and when the question of war is to be decided, it is to be feared that the whispers of interest will prevail, and that humanity, and religion, and conscience will be sacrificed to promote it.

Of those causes of war which consist in the ambition of princes, or statesmen, or commanders, it is not necessary to speak; because no one to whom the world will listen is willing to defend them.

Statesmen, however, have, besides ambition, many purposes of nice policy which make war convenient; and when they have such purposes, they are sometimes cool speculators in the lives of into oblivion and contempt, it will not be the first instance in which wide-spread glory has been found to be a glittering bubble that has burst and been forgotten. Look at the days of chivalry. Of the ten thousand Quixottes of the middle ages, where is now the honor or the name? Yet poets once sang their praises, and the chronicler of their achievements believed he was recording an everlasting fame. Where are now the glories of the tournament? glories “ of which all Europe rang from side to side.” Where is the champion whom princesses caressed, and nobles envied ? Where are now the triumphs of Duns Scotus, and where the folios that perpetuated his fame? The glories of war have indeed outlived these; human passions are less mutable than human follies; but I am willing to avow my conviction, that these glories are alike destined to sink into forgetfulness, and that the time is approaching when the applauses of heroism, and the splendors of conquest, will be remembered only as follies and iniquities that are past. Let him who seeks for fame, other than that which an era of Christian purity will allow, make haste; for every hour that he delays its acquisition, will shorten its duration. This is certain, if there be certainty in the promises of Heaven.

[ocr errors]

Of this factitious glory as a cause of war, Gibbon says, “ As long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters.” “ 'Tis strange to imagine,” says the Earl of Shaftesbury, “that war, which of all things appears the most savage, should be the passion of the most heroic spirits.” But he gives us the reasons. “By a small misguidance of the affections, a lover of mankind becomes a ravager; a hero and deliverer becomes an oppressor and destroyer."

These are amongst the great perpetual causes of war. And what are they? First, we do not inquire whether war is right or wrong. Secondly, we are habitually haughty and irritable in our intercourse with other nations. Thirdly, war is a source of profit to individuals, and establishes professions which are very convenient to the middle and higher ranks of life. Fourthly, it gratifies the ambition of public men, and serves the purposes of state policy. Fifthly, notions of glory are attached to warlike affairs, which glory is factitious and impure.

In the view of reason, and especially in the view of religion, * what is the character of these causes ? Are they pure ? Are they

honorable? Are they, when connected with their effects, compatible with the moral law ? Especially, is it probable that a system of which these are the great ever-enduring causes, can • itself be good or right?

Acrual CAUSES OF WAR.—The real causes of war are almost invariably trivial or wicked. “ A hundred thousand mad animals, whose heads are covered with hats, advance,” says Voltaire, “to kill or be killed by a like number of their fellow mortals covered with turbans. By this strange procedure, they want at best to decide whether a tract of land, to which none of them have any

claim, shall belong to a certain man whom they call Sultan, or to another whom they call Czar, neither of whom ever saw or will see the spot so furiously contended for, and very few of these creatures who thus butcher each other. What an excess of madness !"

“Sometimes," says Dean Swift, “a war between two princes is to decide which of them shall dispossess a third of his dominions, whereto neither of them pretends to have any right. Sometimes one prince quarrelleth with another for fear the other should quarrel with him. Sometimes a war is entered upon because the enemy is too strong, and sometimes because he is too weak. Sometimes our neighbors want the things that we have, or have the things that we want; and we both fight till they have ours, or give us theirs. It is justifiable to enter into a war even against our nearest ally, when one of his towns is convenient for us, or a part of his territory would render our dominions round and compact. If a prince sends forces into a nation, when the people are poor and ignorant, he may lawfully put half of them to death, and make sláves of the rest, in order to civilize and reduce them from their barbarous way of living."

What says history on this point? The ten years' war of the Greeks against Troy was all for a worthless courtezan; and often has the mistress of a monarch, or of his minister, whelmed nations in blood. In the reign of Edward I. a petty strife between the crews of an English and a French vessel at a spring near Bayonne, to determine which should supply themselves with water first, involved the two countries in a war that destroyed not less than 100,000 lives. The war of 1756, which cost France the flower of her youth, and more than half of her current money, besides the loss of her navy, her commerce and her credit, originated in the desire of a few ambitious persons to render themselves necessary and important.' Every one has heard of “the log-wood war between England and Spain. Early in the eleventh century the republics of Bologna and Modena fought twenty years about a stolen bucket not worth more than a shilling or two; and soon after the settlement of the Pilgrims in New England, two powerful tribes of Indians, getting into a dispute about some grasshoppers shot by their children for sport, plunged into a war, that continued until one tribe was entirely destroyed, and the other nearly so.

The Peace Society of Mass. near 1825 instituted an inquiry into the actual causes of war, and, besides a multitude of petty ancient wars, and of those waged by Christian nations with tribes of saya ages, ascertained 286 wars of magnitude to have had the following origin—22 for plunder or tribute; 44 for the extension of territory ; 24 for retaliation or revenge ; 6 about disputed boundaries ; 8 respecting points of honor or prerogative; 5 for the protection or extension of commerce; 55 civil wars ; 41 about contested titles to crowns; 30 under pretence of assisting allies ; 23 from mere jealousy of rival greatness; 28 religious wars, including the crusades; not one for defence alone !




To expatiate upon the miseries of war, appears a trite and a needless employment. We all know that its evils are great and dreadful. Yet the very circumstance that the knowledge is familiar, may make it inoperative upon our sentiments and our conduct. It is not the intensity of misery, not the extent of evil alone, which is necessary to animate us to that exertion which evil and misery should excite; if it were, surely we should be much more averse than we now are to contribute, in word or in action, to the promotion of war.

But there are mischiefs attendant upon the system, which are not to every man thus familiar, and on which, for that reason, it is expedient to remark. In referring especially to some of those moral consequences of war which commonly obtain little of our attention, it may be observed, that social and political considerations are necessarily involved in the moral tendency; for the happiness of society is always diminished by the diminution of morality, and enlightened policy knows that the greatest support of a state is the virtue of the people.

And yet the reader should bear in mind—what nothing but the frequency of the calamity can make him forget—the intense suffering and irreparable deprivations which one battle inevitably entails upon private life. These are calamities of which the world thinks little, and which, if it thought of them, it could not remove. A father or a husband can seldom be replaced ; a void is created in the domestic felicity which there is little hope that the future will fill. By the slaughter of a war, there are thousands who weep in unpitied and unnoticed secrecy, whom the world does not see; and thousands who retire in silence to hopeless poverty, for whom it does not care. To these, the conquest of a kingdom is of little importance. The loss of a protector or a friend is ill repaid by empty glory. An addition of territory may add titles to a king; but the brilliancy of a crown throws little light upon domestic gloom It is not my intention to insist upon these calamities, intense, and irreparable, and unnumbered as they are; but those who begin a war without taking them into their estimates of its consequences, must be regarded as at most half-seeing politicians. The legitimate object of political measures is the good of the people; and a great sum of good a war must produce, if it out-balances even this portion of its mischiefs.

Nor should we be forgetful of that dreadful part of all warfare, the destruction of mankind. The frequency with which this destruction is represented to our minds, has almost extinguished our perception of its horror. Between the years 1141 and 1815, an

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »