Page images

stroyed the harvests; the pestilence has spread around its envenomed breath; intolerance has sacrificed her victims; crimes of every kind have desolated the earth. But reason has also obstinately fought against folly, morality against vice, art against disease, and industry against the rigor of bad seasons.

But I hear it stated, as a last objection, that men delight in hazards, and often seek them of their own accord. I allow it; but, admitting that some men have voluntarily placed themselves in a situation which they know to be exposed to calamities, will the nature of these calamities be changed by that consideration? The ignorance of the vulgar is a protracted minority; and in every situation in which they may be impelled by circumstances, neither their first choice, nor their first impulse, is to be considered in this argument. We must study their sentiments in those moments when, distracted by a thousand excruciating pains, yet still lingering in existence, they are carried off in heaps from the fatal field in which they have been mowed down by the enemy. We must study their sentiments in those noisome hospitals in which they are crowded together, and where the sufferings they endure, to preserve a languishing existence, so forcibly prove the value they set upon the preservation of their lives, and the greatness of the sacrifice to which they had been exposed. We ought also to study their sentiments in those moments in which, perhaps, to such a variety of wo, is added the bitter remembrance of that momentary error which led them to such misery. We ought, more especially, to study their sentiments on board those ships on fire, in which there is but a moment between them and the most cruel death ; and on those ramparts where subterraneous explosion announces, that in an instant they are to be buried under a tremendous heap of stones and rubbish. But the earth has covered them, the sea has swallowed them up, and we think of them no more. Their voice, extinguished forever, can no longer arraign the calamities of war. What unfeeling survivors are we! While we walk over mutilated bodies and shattered bones, we exult in the glory and honors of which we alone are the heirs.

Let me not be reproached with having dwelt too long on these melancholy representations. We cannot exhibit them too often; so much are we accustomed, in the very midst of society, to behold nothing in war, and all its attendant horrors, but an honorable employment for the courage of aspiring youth, and the school in which the talents of great officers are unfolded; and such is the effect of this transient intoxication, that the conversation of the polite circles in the capital is often taken for the general wish of the nation. Oh! ye governors, do not suffer yourselves to be deceived by this mistaken voice. For my part, far from regretting that I have opposed, to the best of my abilities, those chimeras which are subversive of the happiness of mankind, and of the true greatness of states; far from believing that I have displayed too much zeal for truths that are repugnant to so many passions and prepossessions, I believe these truths to be so useful, so essential, and so perfectly just, that after having supported them by my

[ocr errors]

feeble voice in the course of my administration, and endeavored even from my retirement to diffuse them wide, I could wish that the last drop of my blood were employed to trace them on the minds of all.

This subject is of importance to every nation; and the spirit of the reflections I have made, is applicable not merely to the nations whose interests are regulated by the pleasure of an individual. I address myself equally to you, Great Nation (England) to whom the spirit of liberty communicates all its force. Let the energy of your soul, let that abundance, or that community of knowledge which results from it, lead you to those sentiments of political humanity which are so well connected with elevated thoughts. Be not influenced by a blind avidity for riches, by the pride of confidence, or a perpetual jealousy of others; and, since the waves of the ocean free you from the imperious yoke of disciplined armies, recollect that your first attention is due to the preservation of that precious government you enjoy. Tremble, lest you one day become indifferent to it, if from the excessive taxes which war accumulates, you expose to the dreadful conflicts of private interest, that public and patriotic sentiment which has so long been the source of your greatness and your felicity.

And may, you, young and rising Nation (United States of America,) whose generous efforts have released you from your European yoke, make the rights you have acquired still more respected through the world, by employing yourselves constantly in promoting the public happiness. Sacrifice it not to vague notions of policy, and the deceptive calculations of warlike ambition. Avoid, if possible, the passions which agitate our hemisphere; and long may you preserve the simplicity of the primitive ages.

What more can be said ? Here I should stop, for my feeble voice is altogether unequal to so important a subject; nevertheless, I venture once more to solicit a moment's attention. It is in considerations of public good, and just conceptions of true power, that I have hitherto sought motives to deter sovereigns from war; but I should imperfectly perform my task, if I did not endeavor to interest them in truths, the defence of which I have undertaken, by urging on them the close connection of these truths with their personal happiness.

How much has ambition, however dazzling and renowned, disquietude and remorse for its attendants ! In the midst of battles and of ruins; in the midst of heaps of cinders, where the flames have destroyed flourishing cities; from the graves of that field where whole armies are buried, without doubt a name is raised and commemorated in history, even that of a sovereign who, to satiate his thirst for glory, has commanded these ravages, has willed these desolations. I will depict to myself this prince in the zenith of his glory and his triumphs, and imagine him listening to the flatteries of his courtiers, and feeling intoxicated with their praises, then retiring alone, holding in his hand the details of a battle. He reads attentively the recital, not as a mere curious inquirer who, having nothing to reproach himself with, calmly

takes a view of the events, but as the author of such an accumulation of wrongs, and of which there is not one, perhaps, for which, in the inmost recesses of his soul, his conscience does not reproach him. He is at the same time on the point of giving orders for a fresh effusion of blood, of increasing the weight of the taxes, of aggravating the misfortunes of his people, of laying his conquering arm heavily on them. What distressing reflections must present themselves to him! At this moment he would fain recall the crowd that had surrounded him. “Return,' he would spontaneously exclaim, return, and repeat to me all that has even now intoxicated me. Alas! you are får off, and I find myself in a frightful desert, in solitude. I no longer discover the traces of my former sentiments; the light which dazzled me, is extinguished ; my joy is departed, and my glory vanished !'

Such is nearly the train of reflections that would present themselves to the monarch when alone. In the mean time night comes on, darkness and silence cover the earth, peace appears to reign every where except in his breast. The plaintive cries of the dying, the tears of ruined families, the various evils of which he is the author, present themselves to his view, and disturb his imagination. A dream, the noise of the wind, a clap of thunder, are sometimes sufficient to agitate him, and remind him of his own insignificance. • Who am I,' he is impelled to say, who am I, that I should command so many ravages, and cause so many tears to flow ? Born to be the benefactor, I am the scourge of mankind. Is this the use to which I should appropriate the treasures at my disposal, and the power with which I am entrusted ? Hereafter I shall have to deliver up an account; and what will this account be?' It is then in vain for him to attempt to prop up his pride, and exculpate himself in his own eyes, by presenting to the Supreme Being his successes and his triumphs; he feels an invisible hand repulsing him, and apparently refusing to acknowledge him. Disturbed with these cogitations, he endeavors at last to bury in sleep the moments which thus annoy him, impatient for the dawn of day, for the splendor of the court, and the concourse of his servants, to dissipate his anguish, and restore to him his illusions.

Ah! what a different picture does the life of a beneficent king present! He finds in the inclination of his soul a continual source of pleasing sensations. The shadows of the night, by gathering around him consoling recollections of the past, enliven his retirement; the concussions of agitated nature, far from disturbing his imagination, awaken in him ideas which sweetly harmonize with his feelings; the love of mankind with which he is smitten, the public benevolence with which he is animated, that order which he has been desirous to maintain, recall to his mind the most delightful recollections. In such a career, the beneficent king sees his days pass away ; and, when warned that the period draws nigh in which his strength must give way, he surveys with tranquillity this inevitable hour, and satisfied with the wise use he has made of his power, resigns himself to those hopes of which virtuous and sensible souls alone are capable.

How different is the closing scene of that sovereign whose views were influenced only by ambition and the love of war! How often does this last moment appear terrible to him, and of what avail are his most glorious exploits? Weighed down by age and sickness, when the shades of death surround him with melancholy reflections, does he then command his attendants to entertain him with a recital of his victorious battles ? Does he order those trophies to be spread before him, on which he might discern the tears that watered them? No; all these ideas terrify and distract him. I have been too fond of war, was the last speech of the most powerful of kings ; such were the werds he addressed to his great grandson. Too late regret! which certainly did not suffice to calm the agitations of his soul! Ah! how much happier he would have been, if, after a reign similar to that of Titus and Antoninus, he had been able to say to the young prince, “I have experienced all sorts of pleasures; I have been acquainted with all kinds of glory: believe a dying king; I have found no real content but in the good I have been able to do. Tread in my steps ; entertain for your people the same tender affection I have felt for them. Instead of destroying the establishments I have formed for the prosperity of the state; instead of rejecting my principles of order and economy; instead of abolishing the laws I have promulgated for the benefit of the lower class, and the comfort of the wretched, proceed still farther, and let our names, blended together, be equally blessed. The only just opinion of us, is that which we leave behind; the only glory, that which remains attached to our memory.

• My task is now at an end, and you are going to begin yours. Yes, a moment longer, and those courtiers who surround me, will attend on you; a moment longer, and the drums of the guards will announce your accession, and all the splendor of the throne will be displayed before your eyes. Do not suffer yourself to be dazzled by these brilliant seductions of the supreme rank; but more especially resist those wrong ideas of the greatness of kings, which ambitious or interested men will endeavor to inculcate on you. You will be rendered envious of the power of other nations, before you have time to be acquainted with your own; you will be urged to destroy their felicity, before you have time to reflect on the good you may do to your own subjects; you will be solicited to overturn the peace of the world, before you have secured the maintenance of order within your own kingdom; and you will be inspired with the desire of increasing your dominions, before you have even ascertained what cares and informations are necessary to govern with prudence the smallest of your provinces. Mistrust all those measures with which they attempt to make sovereigns forget, not only the limits of their faculties, but the shortness of their life, and every thing that they have in common with other men. Stay by me a little longer, my son! to learn that the sovereign of a most powerful empire vanishes from the earth with less noise than a leaf falls from the tree, or a light is extinguished.'




Setting aside persons who hold political or military office, or who by their connection with government are led to imagine they have an interest in war, it is believed there are few intelligent or benevolent men who now advocate that cruel practice as a good in itself or its results ; but there are many sincere philanthropists, who, fully perceiving the vast amount of suffering and corruption caused by this custom, believing such calamity to be unalleviated, and uncompensated by any resulting good, and earnestly desiring the extinction of war, still doubt the practicability of that extinction by any means in the power of the friends of pea ce to apply.

First, it is objected that the magnitude of the evil is such

to be irremovable by private effort. The insatiable ambition, the pride of honor, fancied interest, and deep-rooted customs of nations, the enthusiastic canonization of warriors, the brilliant examples of classic history, the flattering voice of poetry, the splendor of monumental arts, the chivalry of patriotism, and the imposing fascinations of military display, all combine to drown the still small voice of humanity,—altogether form an overwhelming power, against which individual or associated philanthropy must strive in vain. What can a few peace societies and their friends effect against the gigantic pride and customs of sovereign rulers and the political world?

It is not to be wondered at, that men,-even intelligent and considerate men,-make an objection like this; for the world has hitherto seemed to be governed or revolutionized by force; and they are naturally incredulous of any important change without the perception of physical power to effect it. But it is overlooked, that many of the most signal revolutions of the globe have originated in some new or disregarded principle,-religious, moral or political,—brought out by some obscure, perhaps despised individuals, which afterwards proved to be the actuating soul of the great physical movement. Such was the case with the Crusades, the Reformation, the discovery of America, the American and French Revolutions. The most remarkable revolution of the earth was the promulgation of Christianity by a few fishermen of Galilee, and their associates, changing the religion and moral habits of a large portion of the civilized world. It may be thought that this should not be adduced as an instance, as it was under the special and miraculous direction of the Most High; but we are taught that all events are, in reality, guided by his Providence; and, if the progress of peace principles is predicted, and their promotion enjoined by this revelation, there is as much rea

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »