Page images
PDF
EPUB

the line, the Ohio, carrying ninety guns, finished in 1836 for $547,888, repaired only two years afterwards for $223,012; with an armament which has cost $53,945; making an amount of $8:34,845, as the actual cost of that single ship; more than $100,000 beyond all the available accumulations of the richest and most ancient seat of learning in the land! Choose ye, my fellow citizens, between the two caskets--that wherein is the loveliness of knowledge and truth, or that which contains the carrion death. --Let us pursue the comparison still further. The account of the expenditures of the University during the last year, for the general purposes of the College, the instruction of the Undergraduates, and for the Schools of Law and Divinity, amounts to $45,949. The cost of the Ohio for one year in salaries, wages and provisions, is $220,000; being $175,000 more than the annual expenditures of the University; more than four times as much. For the annual sum which is lavished on one ship of the line, four Institutions, like Harvard University, might be sustained throughout the country! The pry of the Captain of a ship like the Ohio, is $4,500, when in service, and $3,500, when on leave of absence, or off duty. The salary of the President of Harvard University is $2,205, without leave of absence, and never being off duty !

If the large endowments of Harvard University are dwarfed by a comparison with the expense of a single ship of the line, how much more must it be so with those of other institutions of learning and beneficence, less favored by the bounty of many generations. The average cost of a sloop of war is $315,000; more, probably, than all the endowments of those twin stars of learning, in the Western part of Massachusetts, the Colleges at Williamstown and Amherst, and of that single star in the East, the guide to many ingenuous youth, the seminary at Andover. The yearly cost of

sloop of war in service is about $50,000; more than the annual expenditures of these three Institutions combined. I might press the cornparison with other Institutions of beneficence; with the annual expenditures for the Blind,—that noble and successful charity,-amounting to $12,000; and the annual expenditures for the Insane of the Commonwealth, another charity dear to humanity, amounting to $27,814. Take all the Institutions of learning and beneficence, the precious jewels of the Commonwealth, the schools, colleges, hospitals and asylums; and the sums by which they have been purchased and preserved, are trivial and beggarly, compared with the treasures squandered within the borders of Massachusetts in vain preparations for war. There is the Navy Yard at Charlestown, with its stores on hand, all costing $4,741,000; the fortifieations in the harbors of Massachusetts, in which have been sunk already incalculable sums, and in which it is now proposed to sink $3,85:3,000 more; and besides, the Arsena) at Springfield, containing in 1842, 175,118 muskets, valued at $2,999,998, and which is fed by an annual appropriation of about $200,000.

Look for a moment at the administration of justice. Perhaps no part of our system is regarded with more pride and confidence by the enlightened sense of the country. To this, indeed, all the other concerns of Government, all its complications of machinery, are in a manner subordinate, since it is for the sake of justice that men come together in states, and establish laws. What part of the Government can compare in importance with the federal Judiciary, that great balance-wheel of the Constitution, controlling the relations of the States to each other, the legislation of Congress and of the States, besides private interests to an incalculable amount? Nor can the citizen, who discerns the true glory of his country, fail to recognize in the judicial labors of MARSHALL, now departed, and in the inmortal judgments of Story, a higher claiin to admiration and gratitude thrın can be found in any triumph of battle. The expenses of the administration of Justice, throughout the United States, under the Federal Government, in 1842, embracing the salaries of the judges, the cost of juries, court-houses and all officers thereof, in short, all the outlay by which Justice is carried to every man's door, amounted to $540,390 ; a larger sum than is usually appropriated for this purpose, but how insignificant compared with the demands of the army and navy! Such are a few illustrations of the tax which the nations of the world, and particularly our own country, impose on the people, in time of profound peace, for no purpose of good, but only in obedience to the spirit of war.

And what is the use of our Standing Army? It has been a principle of freedom, during many generations, to avoid a standing army; and one of the complaints in the Declaration of Independence was, that George III. had quartered large bodies of troops in the colonies. For the first few years after the adoption of the Federal Constitution, before our power was assured, before our name had become respected in the family of nations, under the administration of Washington, a small sum was deemed ample for the military establishment of the United States. It was only when the country, at a later day, had been touched by the insanity of war, that it surrendered to military prejudices, and, abandoning the true economy of a Republic, cultivated a military spirit, and lavished the means, which it begrudged to the purposes of Peace, in vain preparation for War. It may now he said of the army of the United States, as Dunning said of the prerogatives of the crown, it has increased, is increasing, and oughi to be diminished. At this moment there are more than fifty-five military posts in the country. Of what use is the detachment of the second regiment of Artillery in the quiet town of New London, Conn.? Of what use is the detachment of the first regiment of Artillery in that pleasant resort of fashion, Newport ? No person, who has not lost sensibility to the dignity of human nature, can observe, without mortification, the discipline, the drilling, the marching and countermarching, the putting guns to the shoulder, and the dropping them to the earth, which fill the lives of the poor soldiers, and prepare them to become the mere inanimate parts of a mere machine, to which the great living master of the art of war has likened an army. And ihis sensibility must be much more offended when he beholds a number of the ingenuous youth of the country, under the auspices

of the Government, amidst the bewitching scenery of West Point, an establishment upon which has been (1845) lavished $4,002,901, trained to these same farcical and humiliating exercises. It is time that the people should declare the army to be an utterly useless branch of the public service; not merely useless, but a seminary of idleness and vice, breeding manners uncongenial with our institutions, shortening the lives of those whom it enlists, and maintained at an expense which far surpasses all that is bestowed on all the civil purposes of the Government.

But I hear the voice of some defender of this abuse, some upholder of this “ rotten borough” of our Constitution, crying, the army is needed for the defence of the country! As well might you say, that the shadow is needed for the defence of the body ; for what is the army of the United States but the feeble shadow of the power of the American people? In placing the army on its present footing, so small in numbers compared with the forces of the great European States, our Government has tacitly admitted its superfluousness as a means of defence. Moreover, there is one plea for standing armies in Europe which cannot prevail here. They are supposed to be needed by Governments which do not proceed from the popular voice, to sustain their power. The monarchs of the Old World, like the chiefs of the ancient German tribes, are upborne on the shields of the soldiery. Happily with us the Government springs from the hearts of the people, and needs no janizaries for its support. It remains only to declare distinctly that the country will repose, in the consciousness of right, without the wasteful excess of supporting soldiers, lazy consumers of the fruits of the earth, who might do the State good service in the various departments of useful industry.

What is the use of our Navy? Its annual expense for several years has been upwards of six millions of dollars. For what purpose is this paid ? Not for the apprehension of pirates; for frigates and ships of the line are of too great bulk to be of service for this purpose. Not for the suppression of the Slave Trade ; for, under the stipulations with Great Britain, we employ only eighty guns in this holy alliance. Not to protect our coasts; for all agree that our few ships would form an unavailing defence against any serious attack. Not for these purposes, all will admit; but for the protection of our Navigation! This is not the occasion for minute calculations; but suffice it to say, that the annual profits of our whole mercantile marine does not equal the annual expenditures of our Navy!

In objecting to the Navy, I wish to limit myself to the Navy as an asserted arm of national defence. So far as it may be necessary as a part of the police of the seas to purge them of pirates, and, above all, to defeat the hateful traffic in human flesh, it is a proper arm of government. The free cities of Hamburg and Bremen, survivors of the great Hanseatic League, with a commerce that whitens the most distant seas, are without a single ship of

Let the United States be willing to follow their wise example, and abandon an institution which has already become a vain and most expensive Tor!

war.

What is the use of our Fortifications? We have already seen the enormous sums locked in the dead hands, in the odious mortinain, of their everlasting masonry:

This is in the hope of saving the country thereby from the horrors of conquest and bloodshed. Let us then suppose the case of a war, unjust and unchristian it must be, between our country and one of the great powers of Europe. In such a war, what would be the effect of these fortifications ? Clearly to invite the attack which they would in all probability be inadequate to defeat. It is a rule now recognized even in the barbarous code of war, that non-combatants shall not in any way be molested, and that the property of private persons shall in all cases be held sacred. So firmly did the Duke of Wellington act upon this rule, that throughout the murderous campaigns of Spain, and afterwards when he entered France, flushed with the victory of Waterloo, he directed that his army should pay for all provisions, and even for the forage of their horses. The war is carried on against public property,—against fortifications, navy-yards and arsenals. But if these do not exist, there can be no aliment, no fuel for the flame. Every new fortification and every additional gun in our harbor is, therefore, not a safeguard, but a source of danger to our city. Better throw them into the sea, than madly allow thein to draw to our homes the lightning of battle!

What is the use of our Militia ? This immense system spreads over the whole country, sucking its best lite-blood, the unbought energies of the youth. The same farcical discipline, shouldering arms, and carrying arms, which we have observed in the soldier, absorbs their time, though to a much less degree than in the regular army. We read with astonishment of the painted flesh, and uncouth vestments of our progenitors, the ancient Britons; the generation will soon come that will regard with equal wonder the pictures of their ancestors, closely dressed in padded and wellbuttoned coats of blue, “ besmeared with gold,” surmounted by a huge mountain-cap of shaggy bear-skin, and with a barbarous device, typical of brute force, a tiger, painted on oil-skin, tied with leather to their backs! In the streets of Pisa, the galley-slaves are compelled to wear dresses stamped with the name of the crime for which they are suffering punishment, as theft, robbery, murder. It is not a little strange, that Christians, living in a land where bells have tolled to church,” should voluntarily adopt devices which, if they have any meaning, recognize the example of beasts as worthy of imitation by man. The militia is now most often spoken of as an important part of the police of the country. I would not undervalue the blessings to be derived from an active, efficient, ever-wakeful police; I believe that such a police has been long required in our country; but the militia, composed of youth of undoubted character, though of untried courage, is clearly inadequate for this purpose. No person, who has seen them in an actual riot, can hesitate in this judgment. A very small portion of the means which are absorbed by the militia, would provide a police competent to all the emergencies of domestic disorder and violence.

The sentiment, in peace prepare for war, has been transmitted from distant ages when brute force prevailed. It the terrible inheritance the damnosa hæreditas, which painfully reminds the people of our day of their relations with the Past. It belongs to the rejected dogmas of barbarism. It is the child of suspicion, and the forerunner of violence. Having in its favor the almost uninterrupted usage of the world, it possesses a hold on the common mind, which is not easily unloosed. And yet the conscientious soul cannot fail, on careful observation, to detect its most mischievous fallacy--a fallacy which dooms nations to annual tributes in comparison with which all that have been extorted by conquests, are as the widow's mite by the side of Pharisaical contributions. So true is what Rousseau said, and Guizot has since repeated, “ that a bad principle is far worse than a bad fact;" for the operations of the one are finite, while those of the other are infinite. I speak of this principle with earnestness ; for I believe it to be erroneous and false, unworthy of an age of light, and disgraceful to Christians. I have called it a principle; but it is a mere prejudice, in obeying which we imitate the early mariners who steered from headland to headland, and hugged the shore, unwilling to venture upon the broad ocean where their guide should be the luminaries of heaven.

Preparations for war in time of peace are pernicious on two grounds; first, because they inflame the people who make them, exciting them to deeds of violence which otherwise would be most alien to their minds; and secondly, because, having their origin in the low motive of distrust and hate, they inevitably, by a sure law of the human mind, excite a corresponding feeling in other nations. Thus they are in fact not the preservers of peace, but the provokers of war.

In illustration of the first of these grounds, it will occur to every inquirer, that the possession of power is always in itself dangerous ; that it tempts the purest and highest natures to self-indulgence; that it can rarely be enjoyed without abuse. History teaches that the nations possessing the greatest military forces, have always been the most belligerent; while the feebler powers have enjoyed, for a longer period, the blessings of Peace. "The din of war resounds throughout more than seven hundred years of Roman History, with only two short lulls of repose ; while smaller states, less potent in arms, and without the excitement to quarrels on this account, have enjoyed long eras of Peace. It is not in the history of nations only, that we find proofs of this law; the experience of private life, in all ages, confirms it. The wearing of arms has always been a provocative to combat. It has excited the spirit, and furnished the implements of strife. As we revert to the progress of society in modern Europe, we find that the odious system of private quarrels, of hostile meetings even in the street, continued so long as men persevered in the habit of wearing arms. 'Innumerable families were thinned by death received in these hasty and often unpremeditated encounters; and the lives of scholars and poets were often exposed to their rude chances. Marlowe, " with all his rare learning and wit," perished ignominiously under the weapon of an unknown adversary; and Savage, whose genius

« PreviousContinue »