Home > Uncategorized > La Rochefoucauld: The petty causes of great wars

La Rochefoucauld: The petty causes of great wars


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

French writers on war and peace


Francois de La Rochefoucauld
From Reflections or Sentences and Moral Maxims
Translated by J. W. Willis Bund

Great and striking actions which dazzle the eyes are represented by politicians as the effect of great designs, instead of which they are commonly caused by the temper and the passions. Thus the war between Augustus and Anthony, which is set down to the ambition they entertained of making themselves masters of the world, was probably but an effect of jealousy.

Valour in common soldiers is a perilous method of earning their living.

Most men expose themselves in battle enough to save their honor, few wish to do so more than sufficiently, or than is necessary to make the design for which they expose themselves succeed.

Love of glory, fear of shame, greed of fortune, the desire to make life agreeable and comfortable, and the wish to depreciate others are often causes of that bravery so vaunted among men.

There are crimes which become innocent and even glorious by their brilliancy, their number, or their excess; thus it happens that public robbery is called financial skill, and the unjust capture of provinces is called a conquest.

Reconciliation with our enemies is but a desire to better our condition, a weariness of war, the fear of some unlucky accident.

Philosophy triumphs easily over past evils and future evils; but present evils triumph over it.

If there is a pure love, exempt from the mixture of our other passions, it is that which is concealed at the bottom of the heart and of which even ourselves are ignorant.

To praise good actions heartily is in some measure to take part in them.

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