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from want of pay and employment; but it is impossible to conceive that, in the present advanced state of civilization, Governments can be long blind to the absolute insanity of war.”
This Essay and Illustrations will at least fully show how many condemnations of War have been strongly felt and strongly expressed by divines, moralists, and historians.
MOTIVES OF WARS.
I am well aware that, by a very prudent rule of our Society, we are precluded from political as well as theological discussions. I shall therefore endeavour to avoid any investigation of warfare that may infringe on the spirit of this rule, in the following Essay, by confining my views to a general consideration of the subject, and to illustrations chiefly from past ages.
No one can appreciate more highly than I do many of the virtues called forth in warfare, in compensation for the dreadful evils, physical and moral, which it produces. I know full well the many instances of heroic valour that it displays; of patriotism, of intellectual energy, of prudence, of ingenuity, of generosity, of philanthropy, even amidst scenes of carnage ;-of chivalry, and that high sense of honour, which has polished the manners of mankind, and of which we may see so many instances in our own and other countries. I am well aware that as long as the vicious passions of man are in activity, they will influence states, as well as individuals, and that, unless there be some supreme tribunal, like that of the Amphictyonic council, to control the oppression of the greater powers, and the jealousies of the weaker, wars must necessarily prevail for conquest or defence.
Offensive wars have generally originated from the ambition or territorial cupidity of governments, whether monarchical or democratical; for the latter have been not less guilty of this vice than the former. They have also proceeded from excess of population above the means or arts of obtaining food. Many wars have arisen from jealousy of the strength of a neighbouring power; many, from civil discord and contest for supreme power by rival claimants; and too many of modern wars, (alas !) from the worst and most irrational motive,—to compel an uniformity of religious faith or worship. Some have been caused by mere accidents, or causes so absurd, as to appear more like the squabbles of children, drunkards, or madmen, than of reasonable beings: and these wars will be chiefly the subject of the following Essay. .
Of the first kind of wars, those springing from
the lust of power, or territorial cupidity, I need only advert to the extensive devastations of the Assyrian and Persian monarchs,—of the Macedonian madman, from Greece to the Indus,—of the Athenian republic, in Asia Minor and Sicily, —of Rome, the mighty oppressor of more than half the then-known world, -of Tamerlane and Kouli Khan, in the East --of Charlemagne, of Philip the First, in America, -of Russia, the devourer of Poland, and the jackals Austria and Prussia, who were permitted to have their share in the prey,—and, finally, of the last and one of the greatest and most fatal examples of this insane passion, the wonderful and insatiable demon of war, Napoleon Buonaparte, who paid so dearly, or rather suffered so justly, for all the horrors that he had committed, and the miseries that he had inflicted. Burke, in one of his earliest and most ingenious tracts, written ironically to ridicule Bolingbroke's philosophy, has most eloquently expatiated on this subject :
6 The first accounts of mankind are but so many accounts of their butcheries. We know little of Sesostris, but that he led out of Egypt an army of 700,000 men, and overran the Mediterranean coast as far as Colchis; that in some places he met little resistance, and of course shed not a great deal of blood; but that in others he found a people who knew the value of their liberties, and sold them dear. It will be but reasonable to allow, for his wars, at least a million of deaths; and then we shall see this conqueror (the oldest we have on the records of history) opening the scene by the destruction of at least one million of his species, unprovoked but by ambition, without any motives but pride, and cruelty, and madness, and without any benefit to himself, (for Justin expressly tells us he did not maintain his conquests,) but solely to make so many people, in such distant countries, feel experimentally how severe a scourge Providence intends for the human race, when he gives one man the power over many, and arms his naturally impotent and feeble rage with the hands of millions, who know no common principle of action but a blind obedience to the passions of their ruler.