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William Hazlitt: High-priests of Moloch foam at the mouth at the name of peace

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

British writers on peace and war

William Hazlitt: Selections on war

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William Hazlitt
From Vetus (1813)

This patriot and logician in a letter in The Times of Friday, labours to stifle the most distant hope of peace in its birth. He lays down certain general principles which must for ever render all attempts to restore it vain and abortive. With the watch-word of Eternal war with Bonaparte blazoned on his forehead, in the piety of his pacific zeal, he challenges Bonaparte as the wanton, unprovoked, implacable enemy of the peace of mankind. We will also venture to lay down a maxim, which is – That from the moment that one party declares and acts upon the avowed principle that peace can never be made with an enemy, it renders war on the part of that enemy a matter of necessary self-defence, and holds out a plea for every excess of ambition or revenge. If we are to limit our hostility to others only with their destruction, we impose the adoption of the same principle on them as their only means of safety. There is no alternative. But this is probably the issue to which Vetus wishes to bring the question. This writer not only outlaws Bonparte, but in a summary way, disfranchises the French nation at large of the right of making peace or war. ”Who?” he exclaims in wanton defiance of common sense, “are the French nation? To us a rank non-entity. We have only to do with Napoleon Bonaparte – with his rights, his interests, his honour. Who are to be the sole judges of his rights ? We and our Allies.” Admirable politician!

The events which have lately taken place on the Continent, and the moderate and manly tone in which those events have been received by Ministers, have excited the utmost degree of uneasiness and alarm in the minds of certain persons, who redouble the eagerness of their cries for war. The cold blooded fury and mercenary malice of these panders to mischief, can only be appeased by the prospect of lasting desolation. They rave, foam at the mouth, and make frantic gestures at the name of peace. These high-priests of Moloch daily offer up to their grim idol the same nauseous banquet of abuse and lies. Round them “a cry of hell-hounds never ceasing bark,” that with greedy appetite devour the offal. Every day they act over the same foul imposture, and repeat their monstrous masque. These mighty soothsayers took forward to another restoration of Europe after another twenty years of havoc and destruction. After urging her to the very edge of the precipice from which she has only just recovered, breathless and affrighted, they wish to goad her on once more to the same mad career. The storm is for the moment over-past, but they will not suffer the vessel of the state to enter the harbour, in the hope that they may still plunder the wreck and prey upon the carcases. The serpent’s hiss, the assassin’s yell, the mowing and chattering of apes, drown the voice of peace; and Vetus, like the solemn owl, joins in the distance, and prolongs the dreary note of death!

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