Home > Uncategorized > Joseph Addison and Richard Steele: It is a stupid and barbarous way to extend dominion by arms

Joseph Addison and Richard Steele: It is a stupid and barbarous way to extend dominion by arms

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Joseph Addison: Already have our quarrels fill’d the world with widows and with orphans

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Joseph Addison and Richard Steele
From The Sir Roger de Coverley Papers (1711)

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He is well acquainted with commerce in all its parts, and will tell you that it is a stupid and barbarous way to extend dominion by arms; for true power is got by arts and industry. He will often argue that of this part of our trade were well cultivated, we should gain from one nation; and if another, from another. I have heard him prove that diligence makes more lasting acquisitions than valour…

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…I remembered that Monsieur Pascal, in his most excellent discourse on the ‘Misery of Man,’ tells us that our endeavors after greatness proceed from nothing but a desire of being surrounded by a multitude of persons and affairs that may hinder us from looking into ourselves…

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A furious party spirit, when it rages in its full violence, exerts itself in civil war and bloodshed; and when it is under its greatest restraints naturally breaks out in falsehood, detraction, calumny and a partial administration of justice. In a word, it fills a nation with spleen and rancour, and extinguishes all the seeds of good-nature, compassion, and humanity.

Plutarch says, very finely, that a man should not allow himself even to hate his enemies; – “Because,” says he, “if you indulge this passion in some occasions, it will rise of itself in others; if you hate your enemies, you will contract such a vicious habit of mind as by degrees will break out upon those who are your friends, or those who are indifferent to you.” I might here observe how admirably this precept of morality – which derives the malignity of hatred from the passion itself, and not from its object – answers to that great rule which was dictated to the world about an hundred years before this philosopher wrote…

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How many honest minds are filled with uncharitable and barbarous notions, out of their zeal for the public good! What cruelties and outrages would they not commit against men of an adverse party, whom they would honour and esteem, if, instead of considering them as they are represented, they knew them as they are! There are persons of the greatest probity seduced into shameful errors and prejudices, and made bad men even by that noblest of principles, the “love of their country.”

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