Home > Uncategorized > William James: Party of civilization must oppose increase of military might

William James: Party of civilization must oppose increase of military might


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

American writers on peace and against war

William James: Selections on war


William James
From his correspondence


Since this country has absolutely nothing to fear, or any other country anything to gain from its invasion, it seems to me that the party of civilization ought immediately, at any cost of discredit, to begin to agitate against any increase of either army, navy, or coast defense….We live and learn: the labor of civilizing ourselves is for the next thirty years going to be complicated with this other abominable new issue of which the seed was sown last week. You saw the new kind of danger, as you always do, before anyone else; but it grew gigantic much more suddenly than even you conceived to be possible. Olney’s Jefferson Brick style makes of our Foreign Office a laughing-stock, of course. But why, oh why, couldn’t he and Cleveland and Congress between them have left out the infernal war-threat and simply asked for $100,000 for a judicial commission to enable us to see exactly to what effect we ought, in justice, to exert our influence….Distrust of each other must not be suffered to go too far, for that way lies destruction.



But seriously, all true patriots here have had a hell of a time. It has been a most instructive thing for the dispassionate student of history to see how near the surface in all of us the old fighting instinct lies, and how slight an appeal will wake it up. Once really waked, there is no retreat. So the whole wisdom of governors should be to avoid the direct appeals. This your European governments know; but we in our bottomless innocence and ignorance over here know nothing, and Cleveland in my opinion, by his explicit allusion to war, has committed the biggest political crime I have ever seen here. The secession of the southern states had more excuse. There was absolutely no need of it. A commission solemnly appointed to pronounce justice in the Venezuela case would, if its decision were adverse to your country, have doubtless aroused the Liberal party in England to espouse the policy of arbitrating, and would have covered us with dignity, if no threat of war had been uttered. But as it is, who can see the way out?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: