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place where they are to kill people towards whom they have no animosity, is simply wonderful. To what has inveteracy of habit reconciled mankind! I have no capacity of supposing a case of slavery, if slavery be denied in this. Men have been sold in another continent, and philanthropy has been shocked, and aroused to interference; yet these men were sold not to be slaughtered, but to work; but of the purchases and sales of the world's political slave-dealers, what does philanthropy think or care? There is no reason to doubt that, upon other subjects, of horror, similar familiarity of habit would produce similar effects, or that he who heedlessly contemplates the purchase of an army, wants nothing but this familiarity to make him heedlessly look on at the commission of parricide.
Yet I do not know whether, in its effects on the military character, the greatest moral evil of war is to be sought. Upon the community its effects are indeed less apparent, because they who are the secondary subjects of the immoral influence, are less intensely affected by it than the immediate agents of its diffusion. But whatever is deficient in the degree of evil, is probably more than compensated by its extent. The influence is like that of a continual and noxious vapor; we neither regard nor perceive it, but it secretly undermines the moral health.
Every one knows that vice is contagious. The depravity of one man has always a tendency to deprave his neighbors; and it therefore requires no unusual acuteness to discover, that the prodigious mass of immorality and crime accumulated by a war, must have a powerful effect in demoralizing the public. But there is one circumstance connected with the injurious influence of war, which makes it peculiarly operative and malig
It is, that we do not hate or fear the influence, and do not fortify ourselves against it. Other vicious influences insinuate themselves into our minds by stealth ; but this we receive with open embrace. Glory, and patriotism, and bravery, and conquest, are bright and glittering things. Who, when he is looking delighted upon these things, is armed against the mischiefs which they veil ?
The evil is of almost universal operation. During a war, a whole people become familiarized with the utmost excesses of enormity, with the utmost intensity of human wickedness, and they rejoice and exult in them ; so that there is probably not an individual in a hundred, who does not lose something of his Christian principles by a ten years' war. “ It is, in my mind,” said Fox, “no small misfortune to live at a period when scenes of horror and blood are frequent. One of the most evil consequences of war is, that it tends to render the hearts of mankind callous to the feelings and sentiments of humanity.” Those who know
what the moral law of God is, and who feel an interest in the virtue and the happiness of the world, will not regard the animosity of party, and the restlessness of resentment which are produced by a war, as trifling evils. If any
thing be opposite to Christianity, it is retaliation and revenge. In the obligation to restrain these dispositions, much of the characteristic placability of Christianity consists. The very essence and spirit of our religion are abhorrent from resentment. But the very essence and spirit of war are promotive of resentment; and what then must be their mutual adverseness? That war excites these passions, needs not to be proved. When a war is in contemplation, or when it has been begun, what are the endeavors of its promoters? They animate us by every artifice of excitement to hatred and animosity. Pamphlets, Placards, Newspapers, Caricatures-every agent is in requisition to irritate us into malignity. Nay, dreadful as it is, the pulpit resounds with declamations to stimulate our too sluggish resentment, and invite us to slaughter. Thus the most unchristianlike of all our passions, the passion which it is most the object of our religion to repress, is excited and fostered. Christianity cannot flourish under circumstances like these. The more effectually we are animated to war, the more nearly we extinguish the dispositions of our religion. War and Christianity are like the opposite ends of a balance, of which one is depressed by the elevation of the other.
These are the consequences which make war dreadful to a state. Slaughter and devastation are sufficiently terrible ; but their collateral evils are their greatest. It is the immoral feeling that war diffuses, the depravation of principle, which forms the mass of its mischief.
To attempt to pursue the consequences of war through all their ramifications of evil, were both endless and vain. moral gangrene
which diffuses its humørs through the whole political and social system. To expose its mischief, is to exhibit all evil; for there is no evil which it does not occasion, and it has much that is peculiar to itself.
That, together with its multiplied evils, war produces some good, I have no wish to deny. I know that it sometimes elicits valuable qualities which had otherwise been concealed, and that it often produces collateral and adventitious, and sometimes immediate advantages. If all this could be denied, it would be needless to deny it; for it is of no consequence to the question whether it be proved. That any wide-extended system should not produce some benefits, can never happen. In such a system, it were an unheard-of purity of evil, which was evil without any mixture of good. But to compare the ascertained advantages of war with its ascertained mischiefs, and to maintain a question as to the preponderance of the balance, implies not ignorance, but disingenuousness, not incapacity to decide, but a voluntary concealment of truth.
It is a
AMERICAN PEACE SOCIETY, BOSTON, MASS.
WAR UNLAWFUL FOR CHRISTIANS.
BY JONATHAN DYMOND.
The inquiry is silently yet not slowly spreading in the world—Is War compatible with the Christian religion? There was a period when the question was seldom asked, and when war was regarded by almost every man as both inevitable and right. That period has certainly passed away; and not only individuals but public societies, and societies in distant nations, are urging the question upon the attention of mankind. The simple circumstance that it is thus urged, contains no irrational motive to investigation ; for why should men ask the question if they did not doubt ? And how, after these long ages of prescription, could they begin to doubt, without a reason ?
It is not unworthy of remark, that while disquisitions are frequently issuing from the press, of which the tendency is to show that war is not compatible with Christianity, few serious attempts are made to show that it is. Whether this results from the circumstance, that no individual is peculiarly interested in the proof, or that there is a secret consciousness that proof cannot be brought, or that those who may be desirous of defending the custom, rest in security that the impotence of its assailants will be of no avail against a custom so established and so supported, I do not know ; yet the fact is remarkable, that scarcely a defender is to be found. It cannot be doubted that the question is one of the utmost interest and importance to man. Whether the custom be defensible or not, every man should inquire into its consistency with the Moral Law. If it is defensible, he may by inquiry dismiss the scruples which certainly subsist in the minds of multitudes, and thus exempt himself from the offence of participating in that which, though pure, he “ esteemeth to be unclean." If it is not defensible, the propriety of investigation is increased in a tenfold degree.
It may, therefore, be a subject of reasonable regret, that the question of the Moral Lawfulness of War is not brought fairly before the public. I say fairly, because, though many of the publications which impugn its lawfulness, advert to the ordinary arguments in its favor, yet they do not give to those arguments all that vigor and force which would be imparted by a stated and an able advocate. Few books would probably tend more powerfully to promote the discovery and dissemination of truth, than one which should frankly, and fully, and ably advocate, upon sound moral principles, the practice of war. The public would then see the whole of what can be urged in its favor, without being obliged to seek for arguments, as they now must, in incidental, or imperfect, or scattered disquisitions; and pos
sessing in a distinct form the evidence of both parties, they would be enabled to judge justly between them.
I would recommend to him who would estimate the moral chararter of war, to endeavor to forget that he has ever presented to his mind the idea of a battle, and to contemplate it with those emotions which it would excite in the mind of a being who had never bw-fore heard of human slaughter. The prevailing emotions of such a being would be astonishment and horror. If he were shocked by the horribleness of the scene, he would be amazed at its absurdity. That a large number of persons should assemble by agreement, and deliberately kill one another, appears to the understanding a proceeding so preposterous, so monstrous, that I think a being such as I have supposed, would inevitably conclude they were med. Vor is it likely, if it were attempted to explain to him some motives to such conduct, that he would be able to comprehend low any possible circumstances could make it reasonable. The ferocity and prodigious folly of the act would, in his estimation, outtalance the weight of every conceivable motive, and he would turn unsatisfied away, “ astonished at the madness of mankind."
It may properly be a subject of wonder, that the arguments which are brought to justify a custom such as war, receive so little investigation. It must be a studious ingenuity of mischief which could devise a practice more calamitous or horrible; and yet it is a practice of which it rarely occurs to us to inquire into the necessity, or to ask whether it cannot be, or ought not to be avoided. In one truth, however, all will acquiesce—that the arguments in favor of such a practice should be unanswerably strong.
Let it not be said that the experience and the practice of other ages have superseded the necessity of inquiry in our own; that there can be no reason to question the lawfulness of that which has been sanctioned by forty centuries; or that he who presumes to question it, is amusing himself with schemes of visionary philanthropy. “There is not, it may be,” says Lord Clarendon, “ a greater obstruction to the investigation of truth, or the improvement of knowledge, than the too frequent appeal, and the too supine resignation of our understanding, to antiquity.” Whosoever proposes an alteration of existing institutions, will meet from some men with a sort of instinctive opposition, which appears to be influenced by no process of reasoning, by no considerations of propriety, or principles of rectitude, which defends the existing system because it exists, and which would have equally defended its opposite, if that had been the oldest. “Nor is it out of modesty that we have this resignation, or that we do, in truth, think those who have gone before us, to be wiser than ourselves; we are as proud and as peevish as any of our progenitors; but it is out of laziness; we will rather take their words, than take the pains to examine the reason they governed themselves by.” To those who urge objections from the authority of ages, it is indeed a
sufficient answer to say, that they apply to evcry long-continued
Slave-dealers urged them against the friends of the abolition of the slave-trade; Papists urged them against Wickliffe and Luther; and the Athenians probably thought it a good objection to an Apostle, “ that he seemed to be a setter forth of strange gods."
The foundation of our duty is the will of God, and that will is to be ascertained by the Revelation he has made. To Christianity, therefore, we appeal; we admit no other test of truth; and with him who thinks that the decisions of Christianity may be superseded by other considerations, we have no concern; we address not our argument to him, but leave him to find some other and better standard. Does he loosely say wars are necessary? But supposing the Christian religion to prohibit them, it is preposterous, and irreverent also, to justify ourselves in supporting them because they are necessary. To talk of a divine law which must be disobeyed, implies such confusion,as well as laxity of moral principles, that neither the philosopher nor the Christian is required to notice it.—Perhaps some who say essary,” do not very accurately inquire what they mean. There are two sorts of necessity-moral and physical; and these, it is probable, some men are accustomed to confound. That there is any physical necessity for war, that people cannot, if they choose, refuse to engage in it, no one will maintain. And a moral necessity to perform an action, consists only in the prospect of a certain degree of evil by refraining from it. If then those who say wars are necessary, mean that they are physically necessary, we deny it. If they mean that wars avert greater evils than they occasion, we ask for proof. Proof has never yet been given; and, even if we thought we possessed such proof, we should still be referred to the primary question, “ What is the will of God ?”
It is some satisfaction to be able to give, on a question of this nature, the testimony of some great minds against the lawfulness of war, opposed as these testimonies are to the general prejudice and the general practice of the world. It has been observed by Beccaria, that“ it is the fate of great truths to glow only like a flash of lightning amid the dark clouds in which error has enveloped the universe ;” and if our testimonies are few or transient, it matters not, so that their light be the light of truth. There are indeed many who in describing the horrible particulars of a siege or a battle, indulge in some declamation on the horrors of war, such as has been often repeated, and often applauded, and as often forgotten. But such declamations are of Iittle value and of little effect; he who reads the next paragraph, finds probably that he is invited to follow the path to glory and to victory, to share the hero's danger, and partake the hero's praise'; and he soon discovers that the moralizing parts of his author are the impulse of feelings rather than of principles, and thinks that, though it may be very well to write, yet it is better to forget them.