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interval of six hundred and seventy years, England has been at war, with France alone, two hundred and sixty-six years! If to this we add our wars with other countries, probably we shall find that one half of the last six or seven centuries has been spent by this country in war! A dreadful picture of human violence! How many of our fellow men, of our fellow Christians, have these centuries of slaughter cut off! What is the sum total of the misery of their deaths ?
When political writers expatiate upon the extent and the evils of taxation, they do not sufficiently bear in mind the reflection, that almost all our taxation is the effect of war. A man declaims upon national debts; he ought to declaim upon the parent of those debts. Do we reflect that if heavy taxation entails evils and misery upon the community, that misery and those evils are inflicted upon us by war? The annount of supplies in Queen Anne's reign was about seventy millions; and of this about sixty-six millions was expended in war. Where is our equivalent good ?
Such considerations ought undoubtedly to influence the conduct of public men in their disagreement with other states, even if higher considerations do not influence it. They ought to form part of the calculations of the evil of hostility. I believe that a greater mass of human suffering, and loss of human enjoyment are occasioned by the pecuniary distresses of a war, than any ordinary advantages of a war compensate. But this consideration seems too remote to obtain our notice. Anger at offence, or hope of triumph, overpowers the sober calculations of reason, and outbalances the weight of after and long continued calamities. The only question appears to be, whether taxes enough for a war can be raised, and whether the people will be willing to pay
them. But the great question ought to be, (setting questions of Christianity aside,) whether the nation will gain as much by the war aš they will lose by taxation, and its other calamities.
If the happiness of the people were, what it ought to be, the primary and the ultimate object of national measures, I think the policy which pursued this object, would often find that even the pecuniary distresses resulting from a war, make a greater deduction from the quantum of felicity, than those evils which the war may have been designed to avoid.
• But war,” says Erasmus, “ does more harm to the morals of men, than even to their property and persons.” If, indeed, it depraves our morals more than it injures our persons, and deducts from our property, how enormous must its mischiefs be!
I do not know whether the greater sum of moral evil resulting from war, is suffered by those who are immediately engaged in it, or by the public. The mischief is most extensive upon the community, but upon the profession it is most intense.
“Rara fides pietasque viris qui castra sequuntur.”—Lucan. No one pretends to applaud the morals of an army, and for its religion, few think of it at all. The fact is too notorious to be insisted upon, that thousands who had filled their stations in life with propriety, and been virtuous from principle, have lost, by a military lite, both the practice and the regard of morality, and, when they have become habituated to the vices of war, have laughed at their honest and plodding brethren who are still spiritless enough for virtue, or stupid enough for piety.
Does any man ask, What-occasions depravity in military life? I answer in the words of Robert Hall, “War reverses, with respect to its objects, all the rules of morality. It is nothing less than a temporary repeal of all the principles of virtue. It is a system out of which almost all the virtues are excluded, and in which nearly all the vices are incorporated.” And it requires no sagacity to discover, that those who are engaged in a practice which reverses all the rules of morality, which repeals all the principles of virtue, and in which nearly all the vices are incorporated, cannot, without the intervention of a miracle, retain their minds and morals undepraved.
Look for illustration to the familiarity with the plunder of property, and the slaughter of mankind which war induces. He who plunders the citizen of another nation without remorse or reflection, and bears away the spoil with triumph, will inevitably lose something of his principles of probity. He who is familiar with slaughter, who has himself often perpetrated it, and who exults in the perpetration, will not retain undepraved the principles of virtue. His moral feelings are blunted; his moral vision is obscured; his principles are shaken ; an inroad is made upon their integrity, and it is an inroad that makes after inroads the more easy. Mankind do not generally resist the influence of habit. If we rob and shoot those who are “enemies” to-day, we are in some degree prepared to shoot and rob those who are not enemies to-morrow. Law may indeed still restrain us from violence; but the power and efficiency of principle is diminished; and this alienation of the mind from the practice, the love, and the perception of Christian purity, of necessity extends its influence to the other circumstances of life. The whole evil is imputable to war; and we say that this evil forms a powerful evidence against it, whether we direct that evidence to the abstract question of its lawsulness, or to the practical question of its expediency. That can scarcely be lawful which necessarily occasions such wide-spread immorality. That can scarcely be expedient, which is so pernicious to virtue, and therefore to the state.
The economy of war requires of every soldier an implicit submission to his superiors and this submission is required of every gradation of rank to that above it. “I swear to obey the orders of the officers who are set over me: so help me, God.” This system may be necessary to hostile operations; but í think it is unquestionably adverse to intellectual and moral excellence.
The very nature of unconditional obedience implies the relinquishment of the use of the reasoning powers. Little more is required of the soldier than that he be obedient and brave. His obedience is that of an animal, which is moved by a goad or a bit, without judgment of his own; and his bravery is that of a mastiff that fights whatever mastiff others put before him. It is obvious that in such agency the intellect and the understanding have little part. Now, I think that this is important. He who, with whatever motive, resigns the direction of his conduct implicitly to another, surely cannot retain that erectness and independence of mind, that manly consciousness of mental freedom, which is one of the highest privileges of our nature. A British Captain (Basil Hall) declares that the tendency of strict discipline, such as prevails on board ships of war, where almost every act of a man's life is regulated by the orders of his superiors, is to weaken the faculty of independent thought.” Thus the rational being becomes reduced in the intellectual scale; an encroachment is made upon the integrity of its independence. God has given us, individually, capacities for the regulation of our individual conduct. To resign its direction, therefore, to the absolute disposal of another, appears to be an unmanly and unjustifiable relinquishment of the privileges which he has granted to us. And the effect is obviously bad; for, although no character will apply universally to any large class of men, and although the intellectual character of the military profession does not result only from this unhappy subjection, yet it will not be disputed, that the honorable exercise of intellect amongst that profession is not relatively great. It is not from them that we expect, because it is not from them that we generally find, those vigorous exertions of intellect which dignify our nature, and extend the boundaries of human knowledge.
But the intellectual effects of military subjection form but a small portion of its evils. The great mischief is, that it requires the relinquishment of our moral agency; that it requires us to do what is opposed to our consciences, and what we know to be wrong. A soldier must obey, how criminal soever the command, and how criminal soever he knows it to be. It is certain, that of those who compose armies, many commit actions which they believe to be wicked, and which they would not commit but for the obligations of a military life. Although a soldier determinately believes that the war is unjust, although he is convinced that his particular part of the service is atrociously criminal, still he must proceed-he must prosecute the purposes of injustice or robbery, must participate in the guilt, and be him'self a robber.
To what a situation is a rational and responsible being reduced, who commits actions, good or bad, at the word of another? I can conceive no greater degradation. It is the lowest, the final abjectness of the moral nature. It is all this, if we abate the glitter of war; and if we add this glitter, it is still the same.
Such a resignation of our moral agency is not contended for, or tolerated in any other circumstance of human life. War stands upon this pinnacle of depravity alone. She only, in the supremacy of crime, has told us that she has abolished even the obligation to be virtuous.
Some writers who have perceived the monstrousness of this system, have told us that a soldier should assure himself, before he engages in a war, that it is a lawful and just one; and they acknowledge that, if he does not feel this assurance, he is a murderer. But how is he to know that the war is just ? It is frequently difficult for the people distinctly to discover what the objects of a war are. And if the soldier knew that it was just in its commencement, how is he to know that it will continue just in its prosecution ? Every war is, in some parts of its course, wicked and unjust; and who can tell what that course will be ? You say, when he discovers any injustice or wickedness, let him withdraw. We answer, he cannot; and the truth is, that there is no way of avoiding the evil, but by avoiding the arnıy.
It is an inquiry of much interest, under what circumstances of responsibility a man supposes himself to be placed, who thus abandons and violates his own sense of rectitude and of his duties. Either he is responsible for his actions, or he is not; and the question is a serious one to determine. Christianity has certainly never stated any cases in which personal responsibility ceases. If she admits such cases, she has at least not told us so ; but she has told us, explicitly and repeatedly, that she does require individual obedience, and impose individual responsibility. She has made no exceptions to the imperativeness of her obligations, whether we are required by others to neglect them or not; and I can discover in her sanctions no reason to suppose, that in her final adjudications she admits the plea, that another required us to do that which she required us to forbear. But it may be feared, it may be believed, that, how little soever religion will abate of the responsibility of those who obey, she will impose not a little upon those who command. They, at least, are answerable for the enormities of war ; unless, indeed, any one shall tell me that responsibility attaches no where; that what would be wickedness in another man, is innocence in a soldier ; and that heaven has granted to the directors of war a privileged immunity, by virtue of which crime incurs no guilt, and receives no punishment.
And here it is fitting to observe, that the obedience to arbitrary power which war exacts, possesses more of the character of servility, and even of slavery, than we are accustomed to suppose. I will acknowledge that when I see a company of men in a stated dress, and of a stated color, ranged, rank and file, in the attitude of obedience, turning or walking at the word of another, now changing the position of a limb, and now altering the angle of a foot, I feel that there is something in the system that is wrong-something incongruous with the proper dignity with the intellectual station of man.
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