« PreviousContinue »
and misfortune inspired the friendship and the eulogies of Johnson, was tried for murder committed in a sudden broil. “ The expert swordsman,” says Mr. Jay, “the practised marksman, is ever more ready to engage in personal combats, than the man who is unaccustomed to the use of deadly weapons. In those portions of our country where it is supposed essential to personal safety to go armed with pistols and bowie-knives, mortal affrays are so frequent as to excite but little attention, and to secure, with rare exceptions, impunity to the murderer; whereas, at the North and East, where we are unprovided with such facilities for taking life, com: paratively few murders of the kind are perpetrated. We might, indeed, safely submit the decision of the principle we are discussing to the calculations of pecuniary interest. Let two men, equal in age and health, apply for an insurance on their lives ; one known to be ever armed to defend his honor and his life against every assailant; and the other a meek, unresisting Quaker. Can we doubt for a moment which of these inen would be deemed by the Insurance Company most likely to reach a good old age?”
The second of these grounds is a part of the unalterable nature of man. It is an expansion of the old Horatian adage Si vis me flere, dolendum est primum ipsi tibi ; if you wish me to weep, you must yourself weep first.
we all knit together that the feelings in our own bosom awaken corresponding feelings in the bosoms of others; as harp answers to harp in its softest vibrations; as deep responds to deep in the might of its passions. What within us is good, invites the good in our brother; generosity begets generosity; love wins love; Peace secures Peace ; while all within us that is bad, challenges the bad in our brother; distrust engenders distrust; hate provokes hate; War arouses War. Life is full of illustrations of this beautiful law. Even the miserable maniac, in whose mind the common rules of conduct are overthrown, confesses its overruling power, and the vacant stare of madness may be illumined by a word of love. The wild beasts confess it; and what is the interesting story of Orpheus, whose music drew in listening rapture the lions and panthers of the forest, but an expression of this prevailing law?
Literature abounds in illustrations of this principle. Looking back to the early dawn of the world, one of the most touching scenes which we behold, illumined by that Auroral light, is the peaceful visit of the aged Priam to the tent of Achilles to entreat the body of his son. The fierce combat has ended in the death of Hector, whose unhonored corse the bloody Greek has already trailed behind his chariot. The venerable father, after twelve days of grief, is moved to efforts to regain the remains of the Hector he had so dearly loved. lle leaves his lofty cedarn chamber, and with a single aged attendant, unarmed, repairs to the Grecian camp by the side of the distant sounding sea. Entering alone, he finds Achilles within his tent, in the company of two of his chiefs. He grasps his knees, and kisses those terrible homicidal hands which had taken the life of his son. The heart of the inflexible, the angry, the inflamed Achilles is touched by the sight which he
beholds, and responds to the feelings of Priam. He takes the suppliant by the hand, seats him by his side, consoles his grief, refreshes his weary body, and concedes to the prayers of a weak, unarmed old man, what all Troy in arms could not win. In this scene the poet, with unconscious power, has presented a picture of the omnipotence of that law of our nature, making all mankind of kin, in obedience to which no word of kindness, no act of confidence, falls idly to the earth.
Among the legendary passages of Roman history, perhaps none makes a deeper impression than that scene, after the Roman youth had been consumed at Allia, and the invading Gauls under Brennus had entered the city, where we behold the venerable Senators of the Republic, too old to tlee, and careless of surviving the Roman name, seated each on his curule chair in a temple, unarmed, looking, as Livy says, more august than mortal, and with the majesty of the gods. The Gauls gaze on them as upon sacred images, and the hand of slaughter, which had raged through the streets of Rome, is stayed by the sight of an assembly of unarmed old men. At leng
a Gaul approaches, and gently strokes with his hands the silver beard of a Senator, who, indignant at the license, smites the barbarian with his ivory staff, which was the signal for general vengeance. Think you, that a band of savages could have slain these Senators, if the appeal to force had not first been made by one of their own puinber?
I cannot leave these illustrations without alluding particularly to the history of the treatment of the insane. When Pinel first proposed to remove the heavy chains from the raving maniacs of the hospitals of Paris, he was regarded as one who saw visions, or dreamed dreams. His wishes were gratified at last; and the change in the conduct of his patients was immediate; the wrinkled front of evil passions was smoothed into the serene countenance of Peace. The old treatinent by force is now universally abandoned; the law of love has taken its place; and all these unfortunates mingle together, unvexed by those restraints which implied suspicion, and therefore aroused opposition. The warring propensities, which once filled with confusion and strife the hospitals for the insane while they were controlled by force, are a dark but feeble type of the present relations of nations, on whose hands are the heavy chains of military preparations, assimilating the world to one great mad-house ; while the peace and good-will which now abound in these retreats, are the happy emblems of what awaits the world when it shall have the wisdom to recognize the supremacy of the higher sentiments of our nature ; of gentleness, of confidence, of love.
I might also dwell on the recent experience, so full of delightful wisdom, in the treatment of the distant, degraded convicts of New South Wales, showing the importance of confidence and kindness on the part of their overseers, in awakening a corresponding sentiment even in these outcasts, from whose souls virtue seems, at first view, to be wholly blotted out. Thus from all quarters, from the far-off past, from the far-away Pacific, from the verse of the
poet, from the legend of history, from the cell of the mad-house, from the assembly of transported criminals, from the experience of daily life, from the universal heart of man, ascends the spontaneous tribute to the prevailing power of that law, according to which the human heart responds to the feelings by which it is addressed, whether of confidence or distrust, of love or hate.
It will be urged that these instances are exceptions to the general laws by which mankind are governed. It is not so. They are the unanswerable evidence of the real nature of man. They disclose susceptibilities which are general, confined to no particular race of men, to no period of time, to no narrow circle of knowledge and refinement. It is then on the universal and unalterable nature of man, that I place the fallacy of that prejudice, in obedience to which in time of peace we prepare for war.
But Christianity not only teaches the superiority of Love over Force; it positively enjoins the practice of the one, and the rejection of the other. It says, “ love your neighbors ;” but it does not say, “in time of Peace rear the massive fortification, build the man of war, enlist armies, train the militia, and accumulate military stores to be employed in future quarrels with your neighbors." Its precepts go still further. They direct that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us—a golden rule for the conduct of nations as well as individuals; but how inconsistent with that distrust of others, in wrongful obedience to which nations, in time of Peace, seem to sleep like soldiers on their arms! Its precepts go further still. They enjoin patience, suffering, forgiveness of evil, even the duty of benefiting a destroyer, “ as the sandal wood, in the instant of its overthrow, sheds perfume on the axe which fells it.” And can a people, in whom this faith is more than an idle word, consent to such enormous sacrifices of money in violation of its plainest precepts ?
In response to these views, I hear the skeptical note of some defender of the transmitted order of things, some one who wishes “to fight for Peace," saying, these views are beautiful but visionary; they are in advance of the age; the world is not yet prepared for their reception. To such persons I would say, nothing can be beautiful that is not true ; but these views are true, the time is now come for their reception, now is the day, and now the hour. Every effort to impede their progress, arrests the advancing hand on the great dial-plate of human happiness.
The name of Washington is invoked as an authority for a prejudice which Economy, Humanity and Christianity all declare lo be false. Mighty and reverend as is his name, more mighty and more reverend is truth. The words of counsel which he gave were in accordance with the spirit of his age, an age which was not shocked by the slave-trade; but his lofty soul, which loved virtue, and inculcated justice and benevolence, frowns upon the efforts of those who would use his authority as an incentive to war. God forbid that his sacred character should be profanely stretched, like the skin of John Ziska, on a militia drum to rouse the martial ardor of the American people! Look at the practice of Washington. During his administration, our expenses for the army and the navy fell short of $11,000,000, or $1,365,000 a year; while those of the eight years preceding 1844, reached nearly $164,000,000, or $20,417,000 a year; an increase of 1500 per cent.!
It is melancholy to consider the impediments which truth encounters on its first appearance. A large portion of mankind avert their countenances from all that is inconsistent with established usage ; but the practice of nations can be no apology for a system which is condemned by such principles as I have now considered. Truth enters the world like a humble child, with few to receive her; it is only when she has grown in years and stature, and the purple flush of youthful strength beams from her face, that she is sought and wooed. It has been thus in all ages. Nay, there is often an irritation excited by her presence; and men who are kind and charitable, forget their kindness, and lose their charity towards the unaccustomed stranger. It was this feeling which awarded a dungeon to Galileo, when he declared that the earth moved round the sun; which neglected the great discovery of the circulation of the blood by Harvey; and which bitterly opposed the divine philanthropy of Clarkson, when he first denounced the wickedness of the slave-trade. But the rejected truths of to-day shall become the chief corner-stones to the next generation.
Auspicious omens in the history of the past, and in the present, cheer us for the future. The terrible wars of the French Revolution were the violent rending of the body which preceded the exorcism of the fiend. Since the morning stars first sang together, the world has not witnessed a peace so harmonious and enduring as that which now blesses the Christian nations. Great questions between them, fraught with strife, and, in another age, sure heralds of war, are now determined by arbitration or mediation. Great political movements, which only a few short years ago must have led to forcible rebellion, are now conducted by peaceful discussion. Literature, the press, and various societies, all join in the holy work of inculcating good-will to man. The spirit of humanity now pervades the best writings of every kind; nor can genius ever be so Promethean as when it bears the heavenly fire of love to the hearths of men.
It was Dr. Johnson, in the last age, who uttered the detestable sentiment, that he liked “a good hater ;" the man of this age shall say, he likes “ a good lover.” A poet, whose few verses will bear him on his immortal flight with unflagging wing, has given expression to this sentiment in words of uncommon pathos and power:
“He prayeth well who loveth well
He made and lovcih all."
companion of the gentleman of the last century ; but he would be thought a madman or a bully who should wear either now. It is seen in the change in domestic architecture; the places once chosen for castles or honses, were in the most savage, inaccessible retreats, where the massive structure was reared, destined solely to repel attacks, and to enclose its inhabitants. The monasteries and churches were fortified, and girdled by towers, ramparts and ditches, and a child was often stationed as a watchman, not of the night, but to observe what passed at a distance, and announce the approach of the enemy! The houses of the peaceful citizens in towns were castellated, often without so much as an aperture for light near the ground, and with loop-holes above, through which the shafts of the cross-bow might be aimed. In the system of fortifications and preparations for war, nations act towards each other in the spirit of distrust and barbarism, which we have traced in the individual, but which he has now renounced. In so doing, they take counsel of the wild boar in the fable, who whetted his tusks on a tree of the forest, when no enemy was near, saying that in time of peace he must prepare for war. But has not the time now come, when man whom God created in his own image, and to whom He gave the heaven-directed countenance, shall cease to look down to the beasts for examples of conduct?
To Louis Philippe belongs the honest fame of first publishing from the throne (1843) the truth, that Peace is endangered by preparations for War. “ The sentiment, or rather the principle," he says, " that in peace you must prepare for war, is one of difficulty and danger; for while we keep armies to preserve peace, they are, at the same time, incentives and instruments of war. Peace is what all need ; and I think the time is coming when we shall get rid entirely of war in all civilized countries."
To William Penn belongs the distinction, destined to brighten as men advance in virtue, of first in human history establishing the Law of Love as a rule of conduct for the intercourse of nations. While he recognized as a great end of government, “ to support power in reverence with the people, and to secure the people from abuse of power,” he declined the superfluous protection of arins against foreign force, and “aimed to reduce the savage nations by just and gentle manners to the love of civil society and the Christian religion.” His serene countenance, as he stands with his followers in what he called the sweet and clear air of Pennsylvania, all unarmed, beneath the spreading elm, forming the great treaty of friendship with the untutored Indians, who fill with savage display the surrounding forest as far as the eye can reach, not to wrest their lands by violence, but to obtain them by peaceful purchase, is to my mind the proudest picture in the history of our country. “The great God," said this illustrious Quaker, in his words of sincerity and truth addressed to the Sachems, “has writ. ten his law in our hearts, by which we are taught and commanded to love, and to help, and to do good to one another. It is not our custom to use hostile weapons against our fellow-creatures, for which reason we have come unarmed. Our object is not to do