Montaigne: Invasion concerns all men; not so defense: that concerns only the rich
Michel de Montaigne
Translated by George B. Ives
From Desire is Increased by Difficulty
Perchance the ease of attack serves, among other conditions, to shield my house from the violence of our civil wars. Defence attracts the attempt, and defiance the offence. I have weakened the design of the soldiers, depriving their exploit of risk and of all manner of military glory, which is wont to serve them as pretext and excuse. A brave deed is always an honourable one in times when justice is dead. I render the conquest of my house a dastardly and treacherous act…Our fathers did not dream of building frontier strongholds. The means of assailing – that is to say, without artillery and without an army – and taking our houses by surprise increases every day beyond the means of protection. Men’s wits are universally whetted in that direction. Invasion concerns all men; not so defence: that concerns only the rich…
We are right in discrediting the forms of pretence seen in war; for what is easier for a skilfull man than to avoid dangers, and to swagger when his heart is full of cowardice? There are so many ways of shunning occasions of risking oneself individually, that we shall have deceived the world a thousand times before we are engaged in a dangerous strait; and even when we find ourselves caught in it, we can, for the nonce, cloak our play with a bold countenance and confident speech, although our heart is quaking within us.
[In] a whole battle in which ten thousand men are maimed or killed, there are not fifteen that are talked of…For, to kill one man, or two, or ten, to offer oneself bravely to death, is in truth something to each of us, for we risk every thing; but to the world they are things so common, so many of them are seen every day, and so many of the like are needed to produce a noteworthy effect, that we cannot expect any special commendation for them…
Of so many thousands of valiant men who have died in France during the last fifteen hundred years, arm in hand, there are not a hundred who have come to our knowledge. The memory, not of the leaders only, but of the battles and victories, is buried.