Washington Irving: Most pacific nation in the world? Rather the most warlike
From Salmagundi (1807)
Although the dervishes differ widely in the particulars…yet they all agree in terming their government one of the most pacific in the known world. I cannot help pitying their ignorance, and smiling, at times, to see into what ridiculous errors those nations will wander who are unenlightened…To call this nation pacific! most preposterous! It reminds me of the title assumed by the sheik of that murderous tribe of wild Arabs that desolate the villages of Belsaden, who styles himself “star of courtesy – beam of the mercy-seat!”
The simple truth of the matter is, that these people are totally ignorant of their own true character; for, according to the best of my observation, they are the most warlike, and, I must say, the most savage nation that I have as yet discovered among all the barbarians. They are not only at war, in their own way, with almost every nation on earth, but they are at the same time engaged in the most complicated knot of civil wars that ever infested any poor unhappy country…
Among the various plans that have been offered, the most conspicuous is one devised and exhibited, as I am informed, by the notable confederacy, “The North River Society.”
Anxious to redeem their reputation from the foul suspicions that for a long time have overclouded it, these aquatic incendiaries have come forward, at the present alarming juncture, and announced a most potent discovery which is to guarantee our port from the visits of any foreign marauders. The society have, it seems, invented a cunning machine, shrewdly yclept a Torpedo; by which the stoutest line of battleship, even a “Santissima Trinidada,” may be caught napping and decomposed in a twinkling; a kind of submarine power-magazine to swim under water, like an aquatic mole, or water-rat, and destroy the enemy in the moments of unsuspicious security.
This straw tickled the noses of all our dignitaries wonderfully; for to do our government justice, it has no objection to injuring and exterminating its enemies in any manner – provided the thing can be done economically.