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Arnold Bennett: The Slaughterer

November 16, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Arnold Bennett: War casualties and war profiteers

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Arnold Bennett
From Riceyman Steps

“Pentonville! Joe, d’ye mean ye’ve been to prison?” He nodded. “What a shame!” she exclaimed in protest, not at his having done anything wicked enough to send him to prison, but at the police having been wicked enough to send him to prison. She assumed instinctively and positively that he was an innocent victim of the ruthless blue men whom some people know only as pilots of perambulators across busy streets.

“There was no option, ye know, so I had fourteen days.”

She dropped on her knees at the bedside, and put her left arm under his neck and threw her right arm over his waist, and with it felt again the familiar shape of his waist through the bedclothes, and gazed into his homely, ugly face upon which soft, dark hair – a beard on the chin – as sprouting. This faith and tenderness made Joe cry.

“Tell me,” she murmured, scarcely hoping that he would succeed in any narrative.

“Oh, it’s nothin’,” Joe replied gloomily. “Armistice Day, ye know. I had my afternoon, and I went out.”

“Were ye in a place, Joe?”

“I had a part-time place in Oxford Street – carrying coal upstairs, and cleaning brasses and sweeping and errands. And a bed. Yes, in the basement. Sort of a watchman. Doctor he give me a testimonial. Least, he sent it me when I wrote and asked him…I went down to Piccadilly to see the sights, and when it was about dark I see our old divisional general in a damn big car with two young ladies. There was a block, ye see, in Piccadilly Circus, and he was stopped by the kerb where them flower-girls are, ye know, by the fountain, and I was standing there as close as I am to you, Elsie. We used to call him the Slaughterer. That was how we called him. We never called him nothin’ else. And there he was with his two rows o’ ribbons and his flash women, perhaps they weren’t flash, and I didn’t like the look of his face – hard, ye know. Cruel. We knowed him, we did. And then I thought of the two minutes’ silence, and hats off and stand at ‘tention, and the Cenotaph, and it made me laugh. I laughed at him through the glass. And he didn’t like it, he didn’t. I was as close to him as I am to you, ye see. And he lets down the glass and says something about insultin’ behaviour to these ladies, and I put my tongue out to him. That tore it, that did. That fair put the lid on. I felt something coming over me – ye know. Then there was a crowd, and I caught a policeman one on the shoulder. Oh, they marched me off, three of ’em! The doctor at the station said I was drunk, me as hadn’t had a drop for three days! Next morning the beak he said he’d treat me lenient because it was Armistice Day, and I’d had some and I’d fought for the old country, but assaulting an officer of the law, he couldn’t let that pass. No option for that, so he give me fourteen days.”

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Categories: Uncategorized

Baruch Spinzoa: War corrupts civil society

November 13, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Baruch Spinoza: Men shouldn’t choose slavery in time of peace for better fortune in war

Baruch Spinoza: Peace is not mere absence of war

Baruch Spinoza: Tyrants and war for its own sake

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Baruch/Benedictus Spinoza
From Tractatus Politicus
Translated by R.H.M. Elwes

Besides, in war, there can be no greater or more honourable inducement to victory than the idea of liberty. But if, on the contrary, a certain portion of the citizens be designated as soldiers, on which account it will be necessary to award them a fixed pay, the king will, of necessity, distinguish them above the rest – that is, will distinguish men who are acquainted only with the arts of war, and, in time of peace, from excess of leisure, become debauched, and, finally, from poverty, meditate nothing but rapine, civil discord, and wars. And so we can affirm, that a monarchy of this sort is, in fact, a state of war, and in it only the soldiery enjoy liberty, but the rest are slaves.

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[E]veryone that judges things fairly will admit, that that dominion is the most durable of all which can content itself with preserving what it has got, without coveting what belongs to others, and strives, therefore, most eagerly by every means to avoid war and preserve peace.

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They who can treat secretly of the affairs of a dominion have it absolutely under their authority, and, as they plot against the enemy in time of war, so do they against the citizens in time of peace.

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The emoluments of the senators should be of such a kind, that their profit is greater from peace than from war. And therefore let there be awarded to them a hundredth or a fiftieth part of the merchandise exported abroad from the dominion, or imported into it from abroad. For we cannot doubt, that by this means they will, as far as they can, preserve peace, and never desire to protract war. And from this duty not even the senators themselves, if any of them are merchants, ought to be exempt; for such an immunity cannot be granted without great risk to trade, as I think no one is ignorant. Nay, on the contrary, it must be by law ordained, that no senator or ex-senator may fill any military post; and further, that no one may be declared general or prætor, which officers we said were to be only appointed in time of war, whose father or grandfather is a senator, or has held the dignity of senator within two years. Which laws we cannot doubt, that the patricians outside the senate will defend with all their might: and so it will be the case, that the senators will always have more profit from peace than from war, and will, therefore, never advise war, except the utmost need of the dominion compels them. But it may be objected to us, that on this system, if, that is, syndics and senators are to be allowed so great profits, an aristocracy will be as burdensome to the subjects as any monarchy. But not to mention that royal courts require larger expenditure, and are yet not provided in order to secure peace, and that peace can never be bought too dear; it is to be added, first, that all that under a monarchy is conferred on one or a few, is here conferred upon very many. Lastly, the burdens of a monarchy spring not so much from its king’s expenditure, as from its secret policy. For those burdens of a dominion, that are imposed on the citizens in order to secure peace and liberty, great though they be, are yet supported and lightened by the usefulness of peace. What nation ever had to pay so many and so heavy taxes as the Dutch? Yet it not only has not been exhausted, but, on the contrary, has been so mighty by its wealth, that all envied its good fortune. If therefore the burdens of a monarchy were imposed for the sake of peace, they would not oppress the citizens; but, as I have said, it is from the secret policy of that sort of dominion, that the subjects faint under their lord; that is, because the virtue of kings counts for more in time of war than in time of peace, and because they, who would reign by themselves, ought above all to try and have their subjects poor…

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Baruch Spinoza: Men shouldn’t choose slavery in time of peace for better fortune in war

November 12, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Baruch Spinoza: Peace is not mere absence of war

Baruch Spinoza: Tyrants and war for its own sake

Baruch Spinzoa: War corrupts civil society

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Baruch/Benedictus Spinoza
From Tractatus Politicus
Translated by R.H.M. Elwes

Yet if slavery, barbarism, and desolation are to be called peace, men can have no worse misfortune. No doubt there are usually more and sharper quarrels between parents and children, than between masters and slaves; yet it advances not the art of housekeeping, to change a father’s right into a right of property, and count children but as slaves. Slavery then, not peace, is furthered by handing over to one man the whole authority. For peace, as we said before, consists not in mere absence of war, but in a union or agreement of minds.

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War is only to be made for the sake of peace, so that, at its end, one may be rid of arms. And so, when cities have been taken by right of war, and terms of peace are to be made after the enemies are subdued, the captured cities must not be garrisoned and kept…

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For as to the case which often arises, where a king is chosen on account of war, that is, because war is much more happily conducted by kings, it is manifest folly, I say, that men should choose slavery in time of peace for the sake of better fortune in war; if, indeed, peace can be conceived of in a dominion, where merely for the sake of war the highest authority is transferred to one man, who is, therefore, best able to show his worth and the importance to everyone of his single self in time of war; whereas, on the contrary, democracy has this advantage, that its excellence is greater in peace than in war.

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But it cannot be doubted that the majority of this council will never be minded to wage war, but rather always pursue and love peace. For besides that war will always cause them fear of losing their property and liberty, it is to be added, that war requires fresh expenditure, which they must meet, and also that their own children and relatives, though intent on their domestic cares, will be forced to turn their attention to war and go a-soldiering, whence they will never bring back anything but unpaid-for scars.

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For the king by himself cannot restrain all by fear. But his power, as we have said, rests upon the number of his soldiers, and especially on their valour and faith, which will always remain so long enduring between men, as with them is joined need, be that need honourable or disgraceful. And this is why kings usually are fonder of exciting than restraining their soldiery, and shut their eyes more to their vices than to their virtues, and generally, to hold under the best of them, seek out, distinguish, and assist with money or favour the idle, and those who have ruined themselves by debauchery, and shake hands with them, and throw them kisses, and for the sake of mastery stoop to every servile action. In order therefore that the citizens may be distinguished by the king before all others, and, as far as the civil state and equity permit, may remain independent, it is necessary that the militia should consist of citizens only, and that citizens should be his counsellors; and on the contrary citizens are altogether subdued, and are laying the foundations of eternal war, from the moment that they suffer mercenaries to be levied, whose trade is war, and who have most power in strifes and seditions.

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For it cannot be, that a mercenary force be hired without great expense; and citizens can hardly endure the exactions required to maintain an idle soldiery.

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In order that the citizens may be as far as possible equal, which is of the first necessity in a commonwealth, none but the descendants of a king are to be thought noble. But if all the descendants of kings were allowed to marry wives, or beget children, they would grow, in process of time, to a very large number, and would be, not only burdensome, but also a cause of very great fear, to king and all. For men who have too much leisure generally meditate crime. And hence it is that kings are, on account of their nobles, very much induced to make war, because kings surrounded with nobles find more quiet and safety in war than in peace.

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War to end all wars: A century later

November 10, 2018 Leave a comment

Each human life represents a value. Mankind is not alike. There is slight consolation in the fact that our losses were one thousand, and the enemy’s ten.

Who knows if among those one thousand there was not a man who would have been the honour of his country, the benefactor of humanity throughout the centuries?

There may have been a Shakespeare or a Newton, a Kant or a Goethe, a Moliere or a Pasteur, a Copernicus, a Rubens, a Tolstoi among the hundreds of thousands of twenty-year-old English, French, German, Polish, Belgian, or Russian soldiers who have fallen.

The press, in belligerent countries, has taken upon itself to excite hatred against the enemy in order to create war enthusiasm. It should remember that the destroying hatred it calls into existence will live long after the war, and will inevitably give birth to new wars. The longer the war lasts, the shorter the coming peace will be.

Georg Brandes

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World
U.S.
Britain
France
Germany
Russia
Italy
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Samuel von Pufendorf: Perverted animals wage wars for superfluities

November 10, 2018 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Plato: All wars arise for the sake of gaining money

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Samuel von Pufendorf
From On the Duty of Man and Citizen
Translator unknown

Now man shares with all the animals that have consciousness the fact that he holds nothing dearer than himself…

Yet this animal, though so useful to his kind, suffers from not a few faults, and is endowed with no less power to injure; which facts make contact with him rather uncertain, and call for great caution, that one may not receive evil from him instead of good. First of all, there is generally a greater tendency to injure found in man than in any of the brutes. For the brutes are usually excited by the desire for food and for love, both of which, however, they can themselves easily satisfy. But having stilled that craving, they are not readily roused to anger or to injure people, unless someone provokes them. But man is an animal at no time disinclined to lust, and by its goad he is excited much more frequently than would seem necessary for the conservation of the race. And his belly desires not merely to be satisfied, but also to be tickled, and often craves more than nature is able to digest. That the brutes should not need clothing nature has provided. But man delights to clothe himself, not for necessity only, but also for display. Many more passions and desires unknown to the brutes are found in man, as the desire to have superfluities, avarice, the love of glory and eminence, envy, emulation, and rivalry of wits. Witness the fact that most wars, in which men clash with men, are waged for reasons unknown to the brutes.

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Baruch Spinoza: Peace is not mere absence of war

November 9, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Baruch Spinoza: Men shouldn’t choose slavery in time of peace for better fortune in war

Baruch Spinoza: Tyrants and war for its own sake

Baruch Spinzoa: War corrupts civil society

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Baruch/Benedictus Spinoza
From Tractatus Politicus
Translated by R.H.M. Elwes

Reason altogether teaches to seek peace…

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Now the quality of the state of any dominion is easily perceived from the end of the civil state, which end is nothing else but peace and security of life. And therefore that dominion is the best, where men pass their lives in unity, and the laws are kept unbroken. For it is certain, that seditions, wars, and contempt or breach of the laws are not so much to be imputed to the wickedness of the subjects, as to the bad state of a dominion. For men are not born fit for citizenship, but must be made so…For a civil state, which has not done away with the causes of seditions, where war is a perpetual object of fear, and where, lastly, the laws are often broken, differs but little from the mere state of nature, in which everyone lives after his own mind at the great risk of his life.

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But be it remarked that, by the dominion which I have said is established for this end, I intend that which has been established by a free multitude, not that which is acquired over a multitude by right of war. For a free multitude is guided more by hope than fear; a conquered one, more by fear than hope: inasmuch as the former aims at making use of life, the latter but at escaping death. The former, I say, aims at living for its own ends, the latter is forced to belong to the conqueror; and so we say that this is enslaved, but that free. And, therefore, the end of a dominion, which one gets by right of war, is to be master, and have rather slaves than subjects. And although between the dominion created by a free multitude, and that gained by right of war, if we regard generally the right of each, we can make no essential distinction; yet their ends, as we have already shown, and further the means to the preservation of each are very different.

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Of a commonwealth, whose subjects are but hindered by terror from taking arms, it should rather be said, that it is free from war, than that it has peace. For peace is not mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from force of character: for obedience is the constant will to execute what, by the general decree of the commonwealth, ought to be done. Besides that commonwealth, whose peace depends on the sluggishness of its subjects, that are led about like sheep, to learn but slavery, may more properly be called a desert than a commonwealth.

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In so far as men are tormented by anger, envy, or any passion implying hatred, they are drawn asunder and made contrary one to another, and therefore are so much the more to be feared, as they are more powerful, crafty, and cunning than the other animals. And because men are in the highest degree liable to these passions, therefore men are naturally enemies. For he is my greatest enemy, whom I must most fear and be on my guard against.

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[Men] are of necessity liable to passions, and so constituted as to pity those who are ill, and envy those who are well off; and to be prone to vengeance more than to mercy: and moreover, that every individual wishes the rest to live after his own mind, and to approve what he approves, and reject what he rejects. And so it comes to pass, that, as all are equally eager to be first, they fall to strife, and do their utmost mutually to oppress one another; and he who comes out conqueror is more proud of the harm he has done to the other, than of the good he has done to himself.

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Baruch Spinoza: Tyrants and war for its own sake

November 8, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Baruch Spinoza: Men shouldn’t choose slavery in time of peace for better fortune in war

Baruch Spinoza: Peace is not mere absence of war

Baruch Spinzoa: War corrupts civil society

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Baruch/Benedictus Spinoza
From Tractatus Theologico-Politicus
Translated by R.H.M. Elwes

There was another very important check on the unbridled license of the captains, in the fact that the army was formed from the whole body of the citizens, between the ages of twenty and sixty, without exception, and that the captains were not able to hire any foreign soldiery. This I say was very important, for it is well known that princes can oppress their peoples with the single aid of the soldiery in their pay…

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[N]either captains nor army had any reason for preferring war to peace. The army, as we have stated, consisted entirely of citizens, so that affairs were managed by the same persons both in peace and war. The man who was a soldier in the camp was a citizen in the market-place, he who was a leader in the camp was a judge in the law courts, he who was a general in the camp was a ruler in the state. Thus no one could desire war for its own sake…

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It is remarkable that during all the period, during which the people held the reins of power, there was only one civil war, and that one was completely extinguished, the conquerors taking such pity on the conquered, that they endeavoured in every way to reinstate them in their former dignity and power. But after that the people, little accustomed to kings, changed its first form of government into a monarchy, civil war raged almost continuously; and battles were so fierce as to exceed all others recorded; in one engagement (taxing our faith to the utmost) five hundred thousand Israelites were slaughtered by the men of Judah, and in another the Israelites slew great numbers of the men of Judah (the figures are not given in Scripture), almost razed to the ground the walls of Jerusalem, and sacked the Temple in their unbridled fury. At length, laden with the spoils of their brethren, satiated with blood, they took hostages, and leaving the king in his well-nigh devastated kingdom, laid down their arms, relying on the weakness rather than the good faith of their foes. A few years after, the men of Judah, with recruited strength, again took the field, but were a second time beaten by the Israelites, and slain to the number of a hundred and twenty thousand, two hundred thousand of their wives and children were led into captivity, and a great booty again seized. Worn out with these and similar battles set forth at length in their histories, the Jews at length fell a prey to their enemies.

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Hence it comes to pass that peoples have often changed their tyrants, but never removed them or changed the monarchical form of government into any other.

The English people furnish us with a terrible example of this fact. They sought how to depose their monarch under the forms of law, but when he had been removed, they were utterly unable to change the form of government, and after much bloodshed only brought it about, that a new monarch should be hailed under a different name (as though it had been a mere question of names); this new monarch could only consolidate his power by completely destroying the royal stock, putting to death the king’s friends, real or supposed, and disturbing with war the peace which might encourage discontent, in order that the populace might be engrossed with novelties and divert its mind from brooding over the slaughter of the king.

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Simplicity and truth of character are not produced by the constraint of laws, nor by the authority of the state, no one the whole world over can be forced or legislated into a state of blessedness; the means required for such a consummation are faithful and brotherly admonition, sound education, and, above all, free use of the individual judgment.

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No, the object of government is not to change men from rational beings into beasts or puppets, but to enable them to develop their minds and bodies in security, and to employ their reason unshackled; neither showing hatred, anger, or deceit, nor watched with the eyes of jealousy and injustice. In fact, the true aim of government is liberty.

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It is far from possible to impose uniformity of speech, for the more rulers strive to curtail freedom of speech, the [262] more obstinately are they resisted; not indeed by the avaricious, the flatterers, and other numskulls, who think supreme salvation consists in filling their stomachs and gloating over their money-bags, but by those whom good education, sound morality, and virtue have rendered more free. Men, as generally constituted, are most prone to resent the branding as criminal of opinions which they believe to be true, and the proscription as wicked of that which inspires them with piety towards God and man; hence they are ready to forswear the laws and conspire against the authorities, thinking it not shameful but honourable to stir up seditions and perpetuate any sort of crime with this end in view. Such being the constitution of human nature, we see that laws directed against opinions affect the generous-minded rather than the wicked, and are adapted less for coercing criminals than for irritating the upright; so that they cannot be maintained without great peril to the state.

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He that knows himself to be upright does not fear the death of a criminal, and shrinks from no punishment; his mind is not wrung with remorse for any disgraceful deed: he holds that death in a good cause is no punishment, but an honour, and that death for freedom is glory.

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Giovanni Pico della Mirandola: Holy peace wherein men become angels

November 5, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Italian writers on war and militarism

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Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
From Oration on the Dignity of Man
Translated by A. Robert Caponigri

Let us also inquire of the just Job, who made his covenant with the God of life even before he entered into life, what, above all else, the supreme God desires of those tens of thousands of beings which surround Him. He will answer, without a doubt: peace, just as it is written in the pages of Job: He establishes peace in the high reaches of heaven. And since the middle order interprets the admonitions of the higher to the lower orders, the words of Job the theologian may well be interpreted for us by Empedocles the philosopher. Empedocles teaches us that there is in our souls a dual nature; the one bears us upwards toward the heavenly regions; by the other we are dragged downward toward regions infernal, through friendship and discord, war and peace; so witness those verses in which he laments that, torn by strife and discord, like a madman, in flight from the gods, he is driven into the depths of the sea. For it is a patent thing, O Fathers, that many forces strive within us, in grave, intestine warfare, worse than the civil wars of states. Equally clear is it that, if we are to overcome this warfare, if we are to establish that peace which must establish us finally among the exalted of God, philosophy alone can compose and allay that strife. In the first place, if our man seeks only truce with his enemies, moral philosophy will restrain the unreasoning drives of the protean brute, the passionate violence and wrath of the lion within us. If, acting on wiser counsel, we should seek to secure an unbroken peace, moral philosophy will still be at hand to fulfill our desires abundantly; and having slain either beast, like sacrificed sows, it will establish an inviolable compact of peace between the flesh and the spirit…Natural philosophy…cannot assure us a true and unshakable peace. To bestow such peace is rather the privilege and office of the queen of the sciences, most holy theology.

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Summoned in such consoling tones and invited with such kindness, like earthly Mercuries, we shall fly on winged feet to embrace that most blessed mother and there enjoy the peace we have longed for: that most holy peace, that indivisible union, that seamless friendship through which all souls will not only be at one in that one mind which is above every mind, but, in a manner which passes expression, will really be one, in the most profound depths of being. This is the friendship which the Pythagoreans say is the purpose of all philosophy. This is the peace which God established in the high places of the heaven and which the angels, descending to earth, announced to men of good will, so that men, ascending through this peace to heaven, might become angels. This is the peace which we would wish for our friends, for our age, for every house into which we enter and for our own soul, that through this peace it may become the dwelling of God…

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Nicolas Malebranch: Ignorance, brutality and training for war

October 27, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Nicolas Malebranch
From Search After Truth: Or a Treatise of the Nature of the Human Mind
Translator unknown

The confused sensation which young men have of the disposition of their bodies make them please themselves in the thoughts of their strength and activity…Thus, by little and little, they strengthen their inclination for all bodily exercises, which is one of the chief causes of the ignorance and brutality  of men…This is the reason most part of the nobility, and such as are trained up to war, are incapable of applying themselves to anything; they argue about things according to the proverb, a word and a blow.

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The great are united to many more things than others, their slavery is further extended. A general of an army is united to all his soldiers, because they all reverence him: This slavery often creates valor; and the desire of being esteemed by all those who look upon him often obliges him to sacrifice other more sensible and more reasonable desires to it. It is the same with those that are in power, or that are popular. ‘Tis vanity which often animates their virtue; because the love of glory is commonly stronger than the love of truth.

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Auguste Comte: Permanent warfare as foundation of retrograde system, incompatible with modern civilization

October 21, 2018 2 comments

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

French writers on war and peace

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Auguste Comte
From Positive Philosophy
Translated by Harriet Martineau

The whole nature of Napoleon Bonaparte was incompatible with political ability; with any conception of social progression; with the mere idea of an irrevocable extinction of the old theological and military system, outside of which he could conceive of nothing…

The continuous development of military activity was the foundation, necessary at any cost, of this disastrous domination. To set up for awhile a system thoroughly repugnant to social conditions, it was necessary to enlist and humor, by perpetual stimulation, all the general vices of mankind, and all the special imperfections of the national character; and above all, an excessive vanity, which, instead of being carefully regulated by wise opposition, was directly excited to something like madness, by means derived, like all the rest of the system, from the most discredited customs of the ancient monarchy. Nothing but active warfare could have intercepted the effect of ridicule which could not but be excited to attempts so ill-suited to the age as the restoration of a nobility and a priesthood. In no other way could France have been oppressed so long and so shamefully…The second lesson is of the necessity of active and permanent warfare as the foundation of a retrograde system, which in no other way have developed any temporary consistence; and this condemns as chimerical and disturbing a policy which depends on a policy incompatible with modern civilization as a whole. It is true, the revolutionary warfare was defended as the necessary means of propagating revolutionary benefits: but the result is a sufficient reply to the sophism. The propagation was of oppression and pillage…

This system, founded on war, fell by a natural consequence of the war, when the resistance had become popular and the attack despotic.

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Thus the time is come when we may congratulate ourselves on the final passing away of serious and durable warfare among the most advanced nations. In this case as in others, the dreams and aspirations which have multiplied in recent times are an expression of a real and serious need, – a prevision of the heart rather than of the head, of a happier state of things approaching…

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August Wilhelm Schlegel: Aristophanes, tragedian of peace

October 20, 2018 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

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August Wilhelm Schlegel
From Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature
Translated by John Black

With the exception of [an] attack on Cleon, and with the exception also of the attacks on Euripides, whom he seems to have pursued with the most unrelenting perseverance, the other pieces of Aristophanes are not so exclusively pointed against individuals. They have always a general, and for the most part a very important aim, which the poet, with all his turnings, digressions, and odd medleys, never loses sight of. The Peace, the Acharnae, and the Lysistrata, with many turns, still all recommend peace…

Peace begins in the most spirited and lively manner…War, a desolating giant, with his comrade Riot, alone, in place of all the other gods, inhabits Olympus, and there pounds the cities of men in a great mortar, making use of the most celebrated generals for pestles. The Goddess Peace lies buried in a deep well, out of which she is hauled up by ropes, through the united exertions of all the states of Greece…

Acharnae…Dikaiopolis, the honest citizen, enraged at the base artifices by which the people are deluded, and by which they are induced to reject all proposals for peace, sends an embassy to Lacedaemon, and concludes a separate treaty for himself and his family. He then retires to the country, and, in spite of all assaults, encloses a piece of ground before his house, within which there is a peaceful market for the people of the neighbouring states, while the rest of the country is suffering from the calamities of war. The blessings of peace are represented most temptingly to hungry stomachs…

Lysistrata…According to the story of the poet, the women have taken it into their heads to compel their husbands, by a severe resolution, to make peace. Under the direction of a clever leader they organize a conspiracy for this purpose throughout all Greece, and at the same time gain possession in Athens of the fortified Acropolis. The terrible plight the men are reduced to by this separation gives rise to the most laughable scenes; plenipotentiaries appear from the two hostile powers, and peace is speedily concluded under the management of the sage Lysistrata. Notwithstanding the mad indecencies which are contained in the piece, its purpose, when stript of these, is upon the whole very innocent: the longing for the enjoyment of domestic joys, so often interrupted by the absence of the husbands, is to be the means of putting an end to the calamitous war by which Greece had so long been torn in pieces.

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Jules Janin: War aborts orators and writers, bears soldiers

October 15, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Jules Janin: War needs blood and gold

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Jules Janin
From An American in Paris
Translator unidentified

People of spirit who, under the empire, might have been orators or political writers became soldiers in order to have a good reason for neither speaking nor writing; – everything gave way, in republican France, to the passive obedience of the soldier to his chief. What the man of spirit would not have granted to the head of the nation without blushing at his own weakness the soldier would willingly yield to his captain. This accounts for the fact that there were so many good soldiers and so few passable writers under the empire. It was because as long as Napoleon lived such a captain contented himself with going to war, who was born and made his appearance in the world solely to be a great orator or a great writer. Thus Napoleon had misappropriated all the noble instincts, and had forced all the splendid intellects to the profit of his own power and supreme will. The proof of this is that – Napoleon fallen – French eloquence, that forgotten power, suddenly made its way through so many ravages. More than one eloquent voice made itself heard from the wrecks of armies, which foreign cannon had overwhelmed in the dust.

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Francis Bacon: Arts benefit man more than arms

October 11, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Francis Bacon
From Advancement of Learning

As for fortune and advancement, the beneficence of learning is not so confined to give fortune only to states and commonwealths, as it doth not likewise give fortune to particular persons. For it was well noted long ago, that Homer hath given more men their livings, than either Sylla, or Cæsar, or Augustus ever did, notwithstanding their great largesses and donatives, and distributions of lands to so many legions. And no doubt it is hard to say whether arms or learning have advanced greater numbers. And in case of sovereignty we see, that if arms or descent have carried away the kingdom, yet learning hath carried the priesthood, which ever hath been in some competition with empire…

We see then how far the monuments of wit and learning are more durable than the monuments of power or of the hands. For have not the verses of Homer continued twenty-five hundred years, or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter; during which the infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities, have been decayed and demolished? It is not possible to have the true pictures or statues of Cyrus, Alexander, Cæsar, no nor of the kings or great personages of much later years; for the originals cannot last, and the copies cannot but lose of the life and truth. But the images of men’s wits and knowledges remain in books, exempted from the wrong of time and capable of perpetual renovation. Neither are they fitly to be called images, because they generate still, and cast their seeds in the minds of others, provoking and causing infinite actions and opinions in succeeding ages.

****

From moral virtue let us pass on to matter of power and commandment, and consider whether in right reason there be any comparable with that wherewith knowledge investeth and crowneth man’s nature. We see the dignity of the commandment is according to the dignity of the commanded; to have commandment over beasts as herdmen have, is a thing contemptible; to have commandment over children as schoolmasters have, is a matter of small honour; to have commandment over galley-slaves is a disparagement rather than an honour. Neither is the commandment of tyrants much better, over people which have put off the generosity of their minds; and, therefore, it was ever holden that honours in free monarchies and commonwealths had a sweetness more than in tyrannies, because the commandment extendeth more over the wills of men, and not only over their deeds and services.

****

Alexander the Great, after that he was used to great armies, and the great conquests of the spacious provinces in Asia, when he received letters out of Greece, of some fights and services there, which were commonly for a passage or a fort, or some walled town at the most, he said:—“It seemed to him that he was advertised of the battles of the frogs and the mice, that the old tales went of.” So certainly, if a man meditate much upon the universal frame of nature, the earth with men upon it (the divineness of souls except) will not seem much other than an ant-hill, whereas some ants carry corn, and some carry their young, and some go empty, and all to and fro a little heap of dust.

****

Neither is certainly that other merit of learning, in repressing the inconveniences which grow from man to man, much inferior to the former, of relieving the necessities which arise from nature, which merit was lively set forth by the ancients in that feigned relation of Orpheus’ theatre, where all beasts and birds assembled, and, forgetting their several appetites – some of prey, some of game, some of quarrel – stood all sociably together listening unto the airs and accords of the harp, the sound whereof no sooner ceased, or was drowned by some louder noise, but every beast returned to his own nature; wherein is aptly described the nature and condition of men, who are full of savage and unreclaimed desires, of profit, of lust, of revenge; which as long as they give ear to precepts, to laws, to religion, sweetly touched with eloquence and persuasion of books, of sermons, of harangues, so long is society and peace maintained; but if these instruments be silent, or that sedition and tumult make them not audible, all things dissolve into anarchy and confusion.

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Julien Offray de La Mettrie: Wars are the plague of the human race

October 10, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Julien Offray de La Mettrie
From L’homme machine
Anonymous translation

History offers us a famous example of a lion which would not devour a man abandoned to its fury, because it recognized him as his benefactor. How much might it be wished that man himself always showed the same gratitude for kindnesses, and the same respect for humanity! Then we should no longer fear either ungrateful wretches, or wars which are the plague of the human race and the real executioners of the natural law.

****

Would its (animal’s) soul, which feels the same joys, the same mortification and the same discomfiture which we feel, remain utterly unmoved by disgust when it saw a fellow-creature torn to bits, or when it had itself pitilessly dismembered this fellow-creature?

****

[A] gentle and peaceful animal which lives among other animals of the same disposition and of gentle nurture, will be an enemy of blood and carnage; it will blush internally at having shed blood…[But] our compatriots fight, Swiss against Swiss, brother against brother, recognize each other, and yet capture and kill each other without remorse, because a prince pays for the murder.

****

[There] is so much pleasure in doing good, in recognizing and appreciating what one receives, so much satisfaction in practicing virtue, in being gentle, humane, kind, charitable, compassionate and generous (for this one word includes all the virtues), that I consider as sufficiently punished any one who is unfortunate enough not to have been born virtuous.

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Thomas Hobbes: Divine law is the fulfilling of peace

October 9, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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Thomas Hobbes
From The Elements of Law

The law of God is perfect, converting the soul. It giveth wisdom to the simple, and light unto the eyes. Jer. 31, 33: I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts. And John I, the lawgiver himself, God Almighty, is called by the name of Logos, which is also called: verse 4, The light of men: and verse 9, The light which lighteth every man, which cometh into the world: all which are descriptions of natural reason.

And that the law divine, for so much as is moral, are those precepts that tend to peace, seemeth to be much confirmed by such places of Scripture as these: Rom. 3, 17, righteousness which is the fulfilling of the law, is called the way of peace. And Psalm 85, 10: Righteousness and peace shall kiss each other. And Matth. 5, 9: Blessed are the peacemakers. And Heb. 7, 2, Melchisedec king of Salem is interpreted king of righteousness, and king of peace. And, verse 21, our Saviour Christ is said to be a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec; out of which may be inferred: that the doctrine of our Saviour Christ annexeth the fulfilling of the law to peace.

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Jules Janin: War needs blood and gold

October 8, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Jules Janin: War aborts orators and writers, bears soldiers

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Jules Janin
From Summer in Paris
Translator unidentified

There had been a truce in the wars of the world, a necessary truce; for the world was weary, and could bear it no longer. War needs blood and gold, and in 1815 there was not in all Europe another drop of blood or another ounce of gold to be lavished in battle. We must therefore introduce here a delightful blank page of ten years, during which France paid her debts and healed her wounds.

****

There is nothing new, besides this, except that the minister of war blew his brains out yesterday evening. What! the minister of war? Perfectly true. He was accused of wearing the cross of a Knight of the Legion D’Honneur without authority. What! had not the minister of war a croix d’honneur? It seems not. – Nonsense; I have seen him with the grand cordon.”

Thus talk our two newsmongers, only they forget to name that it is the Belgian minister of war of whom they are speaking…

At this hour of the day, these money-hunters are still civilized men: they have the manners of the world; they salute each other with grace and politeness, with the grace and politeness of two professed duelists, who will very soon try to kill each other.

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Herbert Spencer: No patriotism when it comes to wars of aggression

October 7, 2018 7 comments

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

British writers on peace and war

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Herbert Spencer
From Facts and Comments

Were anyone to call me dishonest or untruthful he would touch me to the quick. Were he to say that I am unpatriotic, he would leave me unmoved. “What, then, have you no love of country?” That is a question not to be answered in a breath.

The early abolition of serfdom in England, the early growth of relatively-free institutions, and the greater recognition of popular claims after the decay of feudalism had divorced the masses from the soil, were traits of English life which may be looked back upon with pride. When it was decided that any slave who set foot in England became free; when the importation of slaves into the Colonies was stopped; when twenty millions were paid for the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies; and when, however unadvisedly, a fleet was maintained to stop the slave trade; our countrymen did things worthy to be admired. And when England gave a home to political refugees and took up the causes of small states struggling for freedom, it again exhibited noble traits which excite affection. But there are traits, unhappily of late more frequently displayed, which do the reverse. Contemplation of the acts by which England has acquired over eighty possessions – settlements, colonies, protectorates, &c. – does not arouse feelings of satisfaction. The transitions from missionaries to resident agents, then to officials having armed forces, then to punishments of those who resist their rule, ending in so-called “pacification” – these processes of annexation, now gradual and now sudden, as that of the new Indian province and that of Barotziland, which was declared a British colony with no more regard for the wills of the inhabiting people than for those of the inhabiting beasts – do not excite sympathy with their perpetrators. Love of country is not fostered in me on remembering that when, after our Prime Minister had declared that we were bound in honour to the Khedive to reconquer the Soudan, we, after the re-conquest, forthwith began to administer it in the name of the Queen and the Khedive – practically annexing it; nor when, after promising through the mouths of two Colonial Ministers not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Transvaal, we proceeded to insist on certain electoral arrangements, and made resistance the excuse for a desolating war.* Nor does the national character shown by a popular ovation to a leader of filibusters, or by the according of a University honour to an arch-conspirator, or by the uproarious applause with which undergraduates greeted one who sneered at the “unctuous rectitude” of those who opposed his plans of aggression, appear to me lovable. If because my love of country does not survive these and many other adverse experiences I am called unpatriotic – well, I am content to be so called.

To me the cry – “Our country, right or wrong!” seems detestable. By association with love of country the sentiment it expresses gains a certain justification. Do but pull off the cloak, however, and the contained sentiment is seen to be of the lowest. Let us observe the alternative cases.

Suppose our country is in the right – suppose it is resisting invasion. Then the idea and feeling embodied in the cry are righteous. It may be effectively contended that self-defence is not only justified but is a duty. Now suppose, contrariwise, that our country is the aggressor – has taken possession of others’ territory, or is forcing by arms certain commodities on a nation which does not want them, or is backing up some of its agents in “punishing” those who have retaliated. Suppose it is doing something which, by the hypothesis, is admitted to be wrong. What is then the implication of the cry? The right is on the side of those who oppose us; the wrong is on our side. How in that case is to be expressed the so-called patriotic wish? Evidently the words must stand – “Down with the right, up with the wrong!” Now in other relations this combination of aims implies the acme of wickedness. In the minds of past men there existed, and there still exists in many minds, a belief in a personalized principle of evil – a Being going up and down in the world everywhere fighting against the good and helping the bad to triumph. Can there be more briefly expressed the aim of that Being than in the words “Up with the wrong and down with the right”? Do the so-called patriots like the endorsement?

Some years ago I gave my expression to my own feeling – anti-patriotic feeling, it will doubtless be called – in a somewhat startling way. It was at the time of the second Afghan war, when, in pursuance of what were thought to be “our interests,” we were invading Afghanistan. News had come that some of our troops were in danger. At the Athenæum Club a well-known military man – then a captain but now a general – drew my attention to a telegram containing this news, and read it to me in a manner implying the belief that I should share his anxiety. I astounded him by replying – “When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don’t care if they are shot themselves.”

I foresee the exclamation which will be called forth. Such a principle, it will be said, would make an army impossible and a government powerless. It would never do to have each soldier use his judgment about the purpose for which a battle is waged. Military organization would be paralyzed and our country would be a prey to the first invader.

Not so fast, is the reply. For one war an army would remain just as available as now – a war of national defence. In such a war every soldier would be conscious of the justice of his cause. He would not be engaged in dealing death among men about whose doings, good or ill, he knew nothing, but among men who were manifest transgressors against himself and his compatriots. Only aggressive war would be negatived, not defensive war.

Of course it may be said, and said truly, that if there is no aggressive war there can be no defensive war. It is clear, however, that one nation may limit itself to defensive war when other nations do not. So that the principle remains operative.

But those whose cry is – “Our country, right or wrong!” and who would add to our eighty-odd possessions others to be similarly obtained, will contemplate with disgust such a restriction upon military action. To them no folly seems greater than that of practising on Monday the principles they profess on Sunday.

* We continue to hear repeated the transparent excuse that the Boers commenced the war. In the far west of the U.S., where every man carries his life in his hand and the usages of fighting are well understood, it is held that he is the aggressor who first moves his hand towards his weapon. The application is obvious.

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Arthur Schopenhauer: Beasts of prey in the human race

October 6, 2018 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

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Arthur Schopenhauer
From Of Human Nature
Translated by Thomas Bailey Saunders

Government

There is a certain analogy between the operations of nature and those of man which is a peculiar but not fortuitous character, and is based on the identity of the will in both. When the herbivorous animals had taken their place in the organic world, beasts of prey made their appearance – necessarily a late appearance – in each species, and proceeded to live upon them. Just in the same way, as soon as by honest toil and in the sweat of their faces men have won from the ground what is needed for the support of their societies, a number of individuals are sure to arise in some of these societies, who, instead of cultivating the earth and living on its produce, prefer to take their lives in their hands and risk health and freedom by falling upon those who are in possession of what they have honestly earned, and by appropriating the fruits of their labour. These are the beasts of prey in the human race; they are the conquering peoples whom we find everywhere in history, from the most ancient to the most recent times. Their varying fortunes, as at one moment they succeed and at another fail, make up the general elements of the history of the world. Hence Voltaire was perfectly right when he said that the aim of all war is robbery. That those who engage in it are ashamed of their doings is clear by the fact that governments loudly protest their reluctance to appeal to arms except for purposes of self-defence.

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Joseph de Maistre: The soldier and the executioner

October 4, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Joseph de Maistre
From The Saint Petersburg Dialogues
Translation by Jack Lively

I have often imagined a scene in which I want you to participate. I suppose that for some good reason a stranger to our planet comes here and talks to one of us about the condition of this world. Among the strange things that are recounted to him, he is told that corruption and vices, of which he has been fully informed, in certain circumstances necessitate men dying by the hand of men, and that we restrict the right of killing within the law to the executioner and the soldier. He will also be told: “The one brings death to convicted and condemned criminals, and fortunately his executions are so rare that one of these ministers of death is sufficient for each province. As far as soldiers are concerned, there are never enough of them, because they kill without restraint and their victims are always honest men. Of these two professional killers, the soldier and the executioner, one is highly honored and always has been by all the nations who have inhabited up to now this planet to which you have come; but the other has just as generally been regarded as vile. Try to guess on which the obloquy falls.”

Surely this spirit from afar would not hesitate a moment; he would heap on the executioner all the praise which you did not feel able the other day to refuse him, Count, in spite of all our prejudices, when you talked of this gentleman, to use Voltaire’s phrase. “He is a sublime being,” he would say to us, “the cornerstone of society. Since crime is part of this world’s order and since it can be checked only by punishment, once deprive the world of the executioner and all order will disappear with him. Moreover, what grandeur of soul, what noble disinterestedness must necessarily be assumed to exist in a man who devotes himself to services which are no doubt worthy of respect but which are so distressing and so contrary to human nature! For, since I have lived among you, I have noticed that it hurts you to kill a chicken in cold blood. I am therefore convinced that opinion must cover him with all the honor necessary and so rightly owing to him. As for the soldier, he is on the whole an agent of cruelty and injustice. How many obviously just wars have there been? How many obviously unjust! How many individual injustices, horrors, and useless atrocities! I imagine therefore that opinion among you has very properly poured as much shame on the head of the soldier as it has thrown glory over the impartial executor of the judgments of sovereign justice.”

You know the truth, gentlemen, and the extent of the spirit’s mistake. In fact, the soldier and the executioner stand at the two extremes of the social scale, but in quite the opposite extremes put forward by this splendid theory…

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Antoine Destutt de Tracy: War leads to despotism, despotism to war

October 3, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Antoine Destutt de Tracy
From A Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s ’Spirit of Laws’
Translated by Thomas Jefferson

Indeed ignorant and rude men, cannot be presumed capable of combining principles of social organization: two modes of social action or order only could be conceived by them, either that all should take a part in common, in the management of their affairs; or that they should blindly charge one among them, in whom they have confidence, with the sole care of them. The first of these two means, is generally proposed by those whose restless activity have kept up a spirit of independence, and the second by those among whom idleness and love of repose are the predominant passions; in this primitive state of man, the influence of climate is powerful, and generally determines these dispositions; we see every society in a rude state, from North America to Africa, and to the islands of the Pacific Ocean, under one of these two modes of social organization, or passing rapidly from one to the other, according to circumstances; for when a horde of savages have elected a chief to conduct their war, they follow him and obey him implicitly, and thus simple democracy is transformed into pure monarchy.

***

“The spirit of monarchy, is war and aggrandizement; the spirit of republicanism, is peace and moderation.” Montesquieu repeats the same sentiments in several places…

[W]e ought to thank him, at least for having rejected the absurdities of all the older writers on this subject, and for having explicitly declared, that the right of making war has no other foundation than that of the necessity of self-defence; that arms should never be taken up to gratify self-love, or ideas of dignity, much less for what has been called the glory or the vanity of a prince.

***
He [absolute leader] holds in his hands all the real power, and it will be employed exclusively for himself: he is too much elevated above his fellow citizens to have an interest in common with them; and he stands only in need of the opportunity to perpetuate his power: the people require tranquillity and happiness, his element is bustle, disorder, contention; war, which rendering his talents necessary, gives him more power; his measures may not be necessary to the interests of his country, as military renown cannot make them prosperous, and external advantages are not required by their internal possessions…. conquest cannot give them quiet…

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Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle: Planet blessed with love but decimated by war

October 2, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle
From Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds
Translated by Elizabeth Gunning

This planet is blest with the delightful emotions of love, but at the same time decimated by the fury of war.

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You have doubtless observed the sort of shell in which the silk-worm imprisons itself, and which it forms with such astonishing art. It is composed of silk closely woven, but covered with a light down. Thus it is in regard to the earth, it is a solid body covered with an atmosphere extending to a certain height, which adheres to, and moves with it, as the down does with the firmer substance beneath it. Above our atmosphere is the celestial matter, incomparably more pure, subtile and active than air.

You represent the earth in a very contemptible light, said the Marchioness. Nevertheless on this silk-worm’s shell we find stupendous works, furious wars, and universal agitation. Yes, answered I, and while all this is going on, nature, who does not concern herself with such frivolous things, carries us all along, with an uninterrupted motion, and amuses herself with the little ball.

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Jeremy Bentham: A Plan for an Universal and Perpetual Peace

October 1, 2018 1 comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Jeremy Bentham: War is mischief upon the largest scale

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Jeremy Bentham
From The Principles of International Law

A Plan for an Universal and Perpetual Peace

The object of the present Essay is to submit to the world a plan for an universal and perpetual peace. The globe is the field of dominion to which the author aspires,- the press the engine, and the only one be employs,- the cabinet of mankind the theatre of his intrigue.

The happiest of mankind are sufferers by war; and the wisest, nay, even the least wise, are wise enough to ascribe the chief of their sufferings to that cause.

The following plan has for its basis two fundamental propositions: -1.The reduction and fixation of the force of the several nations that compose the European system; – 2. The emancipation of the distant dependencies of each state. Each of these propositions has its distinct advantages; but neither of them, it will appear, would completely answer the purpose without the other.

As to the utility of such an universal and lasting peace, supposing a plan for that purpose practicable, and likely to be adopted, there can be but one choice. The objection, and the only objection to it, is the apparent impracticability of it; – that it is not only hopeless, but that to such a degree that any proposal to that effect deserves the name of visionary and ridiculous. This objection I shall endeavour in the first place to remove; for the removal of this prejudice may be necessary to procure for the plan a hearing.

What can be better suited to the preparing of men’s minds for the reception of such a proposal than the proposal itself?

Let it not be objected that the age is not ripe for such a proposal: the more it wants of being ripe, the sooner we should begin to do what can be done to ripen it; the more we should do to ripen it. A proposal of this sort, is one of those things that can never come too early nor too late.

Who that bears the name of Christian can refuse the assistance of his prayers? What pulpit can forbear to second me with its eloquence, – Catholics and Protestants, Church-of-England-men and Dissenters, may all agree in this, if in nothing else. I call upon them all to aid me with their countenance and their support.

The ensuing sheets are dedicated to the common welfare of all civilized nations; but more particularly of Great Britain and France.

The end in view is to recommend three grand objects, – simplicity of government national frugality, and peace.

Reflection has satisfied me of the truth of the following propositions.

I. That it is not the interest of great Britain to have any foreign dependencies whatsoever.

II. That it is not the interest of Great Britain to have any treaty of alliance, offensive or defensive, with any other power whatever.

III. That it is not the interest of Great Britain to have any treaty with any power whatsoever, for the purpose of possessing any advantage whatsoever in point of trade, to the exclusion of any other nation whatever.

IV. That it is not the interest of Great Britain to keep up any naval force beyond what may be sufficient to defend its commerce against pirates.

V. That it is not the interest of Great Britain to keep on foot any regulations whatever of distant preparation for the augmentation or maintenance of its naval force; such as the Navigation Act, bounties on the Greenland trade, and other trades regarded as nurseries for seamen.

VI. VII. VIII. IX. & X. That all these several propositions are also true of France.

As far as Great Britain is concerned, I rest the proof of these several propositions principally upon two very simple principle.

i. That the increase of growing wealth every nation in a given period, is necessarily limited by the quantity of capital it possesses at that period.

ii. That Great Britain, with or without Ireland, and without any other dependencies can have no reasonable ground to apprehend injury from any one nation upon earth.

Turning to France, I substitute to the last of the two just-mentioned propositions the following: –

iii. That France, standing singly, has at present nothing to fear from any other nation than Great Britain: nor, if standing clear from her foreign dependencies, should she have anything to fear from Great Britain.

XI. That supposing Great Britain and France thoroughly agreed, the principal difficulties would be removed ta the establishment of a plan of general and permanent pacification for all Europe.

XII. That for the maintenance of such a pacification, general and perpetual treaties might be formed, limiting the number of troops to be maintained.

XIII. That the maintenance of such a pacification might be considerably facilitated, by the establishment of a common court of judicature for the decision of differences between the several nations, although such court were not to be armed with any coercive powers.

XIV. That secresy in the operations of the foreign department ought not to be endured in England; being altogether useless and equally repugnant to the interests of liberty and to those of peace.

Proposition I. – That it is not the interest of Great Britain to have any foreign dependencies whatsoever.

The truth of this proposition will appear if we consider, 1st, That distant dependencies increase the chances of war, –

By increasing the number of possible subjects of dispute.
By the natural obscurity of title in case of new settlements or discoveries.
By the particular obscurity of the evidence resulting from the distance.
By men’s caring less about wars when the scene is remote, than when it is nearer home.
2nd, That colonies are seldom, if ever, sources of profit to the mother country.

Profitable industry has five branches: –

1. Production of new materials, including agricultures, mining, and fisheries; 2. Manufactures; 3. Home trade; 4. Foreign trade; 5. Carrying trade. The quantity of profitable industry that can be carried on in a country being limited by that of the capital which the country can command, it follows that no part of that quantity can be bestowed upon any one branch, but it must be withdrawn from or withholden from, all the others. No encouragement, therefore, can be given to any one, but it must be a proportionable discouragement to all the others. Nothing can be done by government to induce a man to begin or continue to employ his capital in any one of those branches, but it must induce him in the same degree to withdraw or withhold that capital from all the rest. Of these five branches, no one is to such a degree more beneficial to the public than the rest, as that it should be worth its while to call forth the powers of law to give it an advantage. But if there were any, it would unquestionably be the improvement and cultivation of land. Every factitious encouragement to any one of these rival branches being a proportionable discouragement to agriculture. Every encouragement to any of those branches of manufacture which produce articles that are at present sold to the colonies, is a proportionable discouragement to agriculture.

When colonies are to be made out to he beneficial to the mother country, and the quantum of the benefit is to be estimated, the mode in which the estimate is made is curious enough. An account is taken of what they export, which is almost the whole of their produce. All this, it is said, while you have the colonies, is yours; this is exactly what you lose if you lose your colonies. How much of all this is really yours? Not one single halfpenny. When they let you take it from them, do they give it you for nothing? Not they indeed; they make you pay for it just as anybody else would do. How much? Just as much as you would pay them if they belonged to themselves or to anybody else. For maintaining colonies there are several avowed reasons, besides others which as not avowed: of the avowed reasons, by far the principal one is, the benefit of trade. If your colonies were not subject to you, they would not trade with you; they would not buy any of your goods, or let you buy any of theirs; at least, you could not be sure of their doing so: if they were subject to anybody else they would not do so; for the colonies of other nations are, you see, not suffered to trade with you. Give up your colonies, you give up so much of your trade as is carried on with your colonies. No; we do not give up any such thing, – we do not give up anything whatever. Trade with colonies cannot, any more than with anywhere else, be carried on without capital: just as much of our capital as is employed in our trade with the colonies – just so much of it is not employed elsewhere – just so much is either kept or taken from other trades.

Suppose, then, any branch of trade or manufacture to decline – even suppose it lost altogether – is this any permanent lose to the nation? Not the smallest. We know the worst that can happen from any such loss; the capital that would otherwise have been employed in the lost branch will be employed in agriculture. The loss of the colonies, if the loss of the colony trade were the consequence of the loss of the colonies, would at the worst be so much gain to agriculture.

Other reasons against distant dominions may be found in a consideration of the good of the government. Distant mischiefs make little impression on those on whom the remedying of them depends. A single murder committed in London makes more impression than if thousands of murders and other cruelties were committed in the East Indies. The situation of Hastings, only because he was present, excited compassion in those who heard the detail of the cruelties committed by him with indifference.

The communication of grievances cannot be too quick from those who feel them to those who have the power to relieve them. The reason which in the old writs the king is made to assign for his interfering to afford relief, is the real cause which originally gave birth to that interference, – it is one of those few truths which have contrived to make their way through the thick cloud of lies and nonsense they contain. “See what it is that these people want”, says the sovereign to the ministers of justice, “that I may not any more be troubled with their noise”. The motive assigned to the unjust judge in the Gospel, is the motive which the sovereign, who is styled the fountain of justice, is thus made to avow.

The following, then, are the final measures which ought to be pursued:—

Give up all the colonies.
Found no new colonies.
The following is a summary of the reasons for giving up all the colonies:–

i. Interest of the mother-country.

Saving the expense of the establishments, civil and military.
Saving the danger of war –
For enforcing their obedience;
On account of the jealousy produced by the apparent power they confer.
Saving the expense of defending them, in case of war on other
grounds.
Getting rid of the means of corruption afforded by the patronage – 1. Of their civil establishments; 2. Of the military force employed in their defence.
Simplifying the whole frame of government, and thereby rendering a competent skill in the business of government more attainable -. To the members of administration; 2. To the people.
1. The stock of national intelligence is deteriorated by the false notions which must be kept up, in order to prevent the nation from opening its eyes and insisting upon the enfranchisement of the colonies
At the same time, bad government results to the mother country from the complication of interests, the indistinct news, and the consumption of time, occasioned by the load of distant dependencies.

ii. Interest of the colonies. Diminishing the chance of bad government resulting from –

Opposite interest;
Ignorance.
The real interests of the colony must be sacrificed to the imaginary interests of the mother-country. It is for the purpose of governing it badly, and for no other, that you can wish to get or to keep a colony. Govern it well, it is of no use to you. Govern it as well as the inhabitants would govern it themselves,- you must choose those to govern it whom they themselves would choose. You must sacrifice none of its interests to your own, – you must bestow as much time and attention to their interests as they would themselves: in a word, you must take those very measures, and none others, which they themselves would take. But would this be governing? and what would it be worth to you if it were?

After all, it would be impossible for you to govern them so well as they would govern themselves, on account of the distance.

The following are approximating measures: –

Maintain no military force in any of the colonies.
Issue no moneys for the maintenance of any civil establishment in any of the colonies.
Nominate to the offices in the colonies as long as they permit you: – yield as soon as they contest such nomination.
Give general instructions to governors to consent to all acts presented to them.
Issue no moneys for fortifications.
Proposition II. That it is not the interest of Great Britain to have any treaty of alliance, offensive or defensive, with any other power whatever.

Reason: saving the danger of war arising out of them.

And more especially ought not Great Britain to guarantee foreign constitutions.

Reason: saving the danger of war resulting from the odium of so tyrannical a measure.

Proposition III. That it is not the interest of Great Britain to have any treaty with any power whatsoever, for the purpose of possessing any advantages whatsoever, in point of trade, to the exclusion of any other nation whatsoever.

That the trade of every nation is limited by the quantity of capital is so plainly and obviously true, as to challenge a place among self-evident proposition. But self-evident propositions must not expect to be readily admitted, if admitted at all, if the consequence of them clash with prevalent passions and confirmed prejudice.

Nation are composed of individuals. The trade of a nation must be limited by the same causes that limit the trade of the individual. Each individual merchant, when he has as much trade as his whole capital, and all the credit he can get by mean of his capital can suffice for carrying on, can have no more. This being true of each merchant, is not less true of the whole number of merchants put together.

Many books directly recognise the proposition, that the quantify of trade a nation can carry on is limited – limited by the quantity of its capital. None dispute the proposition; but almost all, somewhere or other, proceed upon the opposite supposition; they suppose the quantity of trade to have no limitation whatsoever.

It is a folly to buy manufactured goods; wise to buy raw materials. Why? because you sell them to yourselves, or, what is still better, to foreigners, manufactured; and the manufacturer’s profit is all clear gain to you. What is here forgotten is, that the manufacturer, to carry on his business, must have a capital; and that just so much capital as is employed in that way, is prevented from being employed in any other.

Hence the perfect inutility and mischievousness of all law and public measures of government whatsoever, for the pretended encouragement of trade – all bounties in every shape whatsoever – and non-importation agreements and engagements to consume home manufactures in preference to foreign – in any other view than to afford temporary relief to temporary distress.

But of the two prohibitions and bounties – penal encouragements and remuneratory – the latter are beyond comparison the most mischievous. Prohibitions, except while they are fresh, and drive men at a great expense out of the employments they are embarked in, are only nugatory. Bounties are wasteful and oppressive: they force money from one man in order to pay another man for carrying on a trade, which, if it were not a losing one, there would be no need of paying him for.

What then, are all mode of productive in industry alike? May not one be more profitable than another? Certainly. But the favourite one is it in fact, more profitable than any other? That is the question and the only question that ought to be put; and that is the very question which nobody ever thinks of putting.

Were it ever put and answered, and answered ever so clearly, it could never be of any use as a ground for any permanent plan of policy. Why? Because almost as soon as one branch is known to be more profitable than the rest, so soon it ceases so to be – Men flock to it from other branches, and the old equilibrium is presently restored. Your merchants have a monopoly against foreigners? True, but they have no monopoly as against one another. Men cannot, in every instance, quit the less productive branch their capitals are already employed in, to throw them into this more productive one. True – but there are young beginners as well as old stagers; and the first concern of a young beginner, who has a capital to employ in a branch of industry, is to look out for the most profitable.

Objection – Oh! but it is manufacture that creates the demand for the productions of agriculture. You cannot, therefore, increase the productions of agriculture but by increasing manufactures. No such thing. I admit the antecedent – I deny the consequence. Increase of manufactures certainly does create an increase in the demand for the productions of agriculture. Equally certain is it that the increase of manufacture is not necessary to produce an increase in that demand. Farmers can subsist without ribbons, gauzes, or fine cambric. Weavers of ribbons, gauzes, or fine cambrics, cannot subsist without the productions of agriculture; necessary subsistence never can lose its value. Those who produce it are themselves a market for their produce. Is it possible that provision should be too cheap? Is there any present danger of it? Suppose (in spite of the extreme absurdity of the supposition) that provisions were growing gradually too cheap, from the increase of the quantity produced, and the want of manufacturers to consume them, what would be the consequence? The increasing cheapness would increase the facility and disposition to marry: it would thence increase the population of the country; children thus produced, eating as they grew up, would keep down this terrible evil of a superabundance of provisions.

Provisions, the produce of agriculture, constantly and necessarily produce a market for themselves The more provisions a man raises, over and above what is necessary for his own consumption, the more he has to give to others, to induce them to provide him with whatever, besides provisions, he chooses to have. In a word, the more he has to spare, the more he has to give to manufacturers; who, by taking it from him, and paying him with the produce of their labours, afford the encouragement requisite for the productions of the fruits of agriculture.

It is impossible, therefore, that you can ever have too much agriculture. It is impossible that while there is ground untilled, or ground that might be better tilled than it is, that any detriment should ensue to the community from the withholding or withdrawing capital from any other branch of industry, and employing it in agriculture. It is impossible, therefore, that the loss of any branch of trade can be productive of any detriment to the community, excepting always the temporary distress experienced by the individuals concerned in it for the time being, when the decline is a sudden one.

The following are the measures the propriety of which results from the above principles: –

That no treaties granting commercial preferences should be made.
That no wars should be entered into for compelling such treaties.
That no alliances should be contracted for the sake of purchasing them.
That no encouragements should be given to particular branches of trade, by –
Prohibition of rival manufactures.
Taxation of rival manufactures.
Bounties on the trade meant to be favoured.
That no treaties should be entered into insuring commercial preferences. They are useless as they add nothing to the mass of wealth; they only influence the direction of it.
Proposition IV. – That it is not the interest of Great Britain to keep up any naval force beyond what may be sufficient to defend its commerce against pirates. It is unnecessary, except for the defence of the colonies, or for the purposes of war, undertaken either for the compelling of trade or the formation of commercial treaties.

Proposition V. – That it is not the interest of Great Britain to keep on foot any regulations whatsoever of distant preparation for the augmentation or maintenance of its naval force – such as the navigation act, bounties on the Greenland trade, and other trades regarded as nurseries for seamen.

This proposition is a necessary consequence of the foregoing one.

Propositions VI. VII. VIII. IX. &c. X.

Propositions similar to the foregoing are equally true applied to France.

Proposition XI. – That supposing Great Britain and France thoroughly agreed, the principal difficulties would be removed to the establishment of a plan of general and permanent pacification for all Europe.

Proposition XII. – That for the maintenance of such a pacification, general and perpetual treaties might be formed, limiting the number of troops to be maintained.

If the simple relation of a single nation with a single other nation be considered, perhaps the matter would not be very difficult. The misfortune is, that almost everywhere compound relations are found. On the subject of troops, – France says to England, Yes I would voluntarily make with you a treaty of disarming, if there were only you; but it is necessary for me to have troops to defend me from the Austrians. Austria might say the same to France; but it is necessary to guard against Prussia, Russia, and the Porte. And the like allegation might be made by Prussia with regard to Russia.

Whilst as to naval forces, if it concerned Europe only, the difficulty might perhaps not be very considerable. To consider France, Spain and Holland, as making together a counterpoise to the power of Britain, – perhaps on account of the disadvantages which accompany the concert between three separate nations, to say nothing of the tardiness and publicity of procedures under the Dutch Constitution, – perhaps England might allow to all together a united force equal to half or more than its own.

An agreement of this kind would not be dishonourable. If the covenant were on one side only, it might be so. If it regard both parties together, the reciprocity takes away the acerbity. By the treaty which put an end to the first Punic War, the number of vessels that the Carthaginians might maintain was limited. This condition was it not humiliating? It might be: but if it were, is must have been because there was nothing correspondent to it on the side of the Romans. A treaty which placed all the security on one side, what cause could it have had for its source? It could only have had one – that is the avowed superiority of the party the incontestably secured, – such a condition should only have been a law dictated by the conqueror to the party conquered. The law of the strongest. None but a conqueror could have dictated it; none but the conquered would have accepted it.

On the contrary, whatsoever nation should act the start of the other in making the proposal to reduce and fix the amount of its armed force, would crown itself with everlasting honour. The risk would be nothing – the gain certain. This gain would be, the giving an incontrovertible demonstration of its own disposition to peace, and of the opposite disposition in the other nation in case of its rejecting the proposal.

The utmost fairness should be employed. The nation addressed should be invited to consider and point out whatever further securities it deemed necessary, and whatever further concessions it deemed just.

The proposal should be made in the most public manner: – it should be an address from nation to nation. This, at the same time that it conciliated the confidence of the nation addressed, would make it impracticable for the government of that nation to neglect it, or stave it off by shifts and evasions. It would sound the heart of the nation addressed. It would discover its intentions, and proclaim them to the world.

The cause of humanity has still another resource. Should Britain prove deaf and impracticable, let France, without conditions, emancipate her colonies, and break up her marine. The advantages even upon this plan would be immense, the danger none. The colonies I have already shown are a source of expense, not of revenue, – of burthen to the people, not of relief. This appears to be the case, even upon the footing of those expenses which appear upon the face of them to belong to the colonies, and are the only ones that have hitherto been set down to their account. But in fact the whole expense of the marine belongs also to that account, and no other. What other destination has it? What other can it have? None. Take away the colonies, what use would there be for a single vessel, more than the few necessary in the Mediterranean to curb the pirates.

In case of a war, where at present (1789) could England make its first and only attack upon France? In the colonies. What would she propose to herself from success in such an attack? What but the depriving France of her colonies. Were these colonies – these bones of contention – no longer hers, what then could England do? what could she wish to do?

There would remain the territory of France; with what view could Britain make any attack upon it in any way? Not with views of permanent conquest; – such madness does not belong to our age. Parliament itself, one may venture to affirm, without paying it any very extraordinary compliment, would not wish it. It would not wish it, even could it be accomplished without effort on our part, without resistance on the other. It would not, even though France herself were to solicit it. No parliament would grant a penny for such a purpose. If it did, it would not be a parliament a month. No king would lend his name to such a project. He would be dethroned as surely and as deservedly as James the Second. To say, I will be king of France, would be to say, in other words, I will be absolute in England.

Well, then, no one would dream of conquest. What other purpose could an invasion have? The plunder and destruction of the country. Such baseness is totally repugnant, not only to the spirit of the nation, but to the spirit of the times. Malevolence could be the only motive – rapacity could never counsel it; long before an army could arrive anywhere, everything capable of being plundered would be carried off. Whatever is portable, could be much sooner carried off by the owners, than by any plundering army. No expedition of plunder could ever pay itself.

Such is the extreme folly, the madness of war: on no supposition can it be otherwise than mischievous, especially between nations circumstanced as France and England. Though the choice of the events were absolutely at your command, you could not make it of use to you. If unsuccessful, you may be disgraced and ruined: if successful, even to the height of your wishes, you are still but so much the worse. You would still be so much the worse, though it were to cost you nothing. For not even any colony of your own planting, still less a conquest of your own making, will so much as pay its own expenses.

The greatest acquisitions that could be conceived would not be to be wished for, – could they even be attained with the greatest certainty, and without the least expense. In war, we are as likely not to gain as to gain – as likely to lose as to do either: we can neither attempt the one, or defend ourselves against the other, without a certain and most enormous expense.

Mark well the contrast. All trade is in its essence advantageous – even to that party to whom it is least so. All war is in its essence ruinous; and yet the greatest employments of government are to treasure up occasions of war, and to put fetters upon trade.

Ask an Englishman what is the great obstacle to a secure and solid peace, he has his answer ready: – It is the ambition, perhaps he will add, the treachery of France. I wish the chief obstacle to a plan for this purpose were the dispositions and sentiments of France! – were that all, the plan need not long wait for adoption.

Of this visionary project, the most visionary part is without question that for the emancipation of distant dependencies. What will an Englishman say, when he sees two French ministers (Turgot and Vergennes) of the highest reputation, both at the head of their respective departments, both joining in the opinion, that the accomplishment of this event, nay the speedy accomplishment of it, is inevitable, and one of them scrupling not to pronounce it as eminently desirable.

It would only be the bringing things back on these points to the footing they were on before the discovery of America. Europe had then no colonies – no distant garrisons – no standing armies. It would have had no wars but for the feudal system – religious antipathy – the rage of conquest – and the uncertainties of succession. Of these four causes, the first is happily extinct everywhere – the second and third almost everywhere, and at any rate in France and England – the last might, if not already extinguished, be so with great ease.

The moral feelings of men in matters of national morality are still so far short of perfection, that in the scale of estimation, justice has not yet gained the ascendency over force. Yet this prejudice may, in a certain point of view, by accident, be rather favourable to this proposal than otherwise. Truth, and the object of this essay, bid me to say to my countrymen, it is for you to begin the reformation – it is you that have been the greatest sinners. But the same considerations also lead me to say to them, you are the strongest among nations: though justice be not on your side, force is; and it is your force that has been the main cause of your injustice. If the measure of moral approbation had been brought to perfection, such positions would have been far from popular, prudence would have dictate the keeping them out of sight, and the softening them down as much as possible.

Humiliation would have been the effect produced by them on those to whom they appeared true – indignation on those to whom they appeared false. But, as I have observed, men have not yet learned to tune their feelings in unison with the voice of morality in these points. They feel more pride in being accounted strong, than resentment at being called unjust: or rather, the imputation of injustice appears flattering rather than otherwise, when coupled with the consideration of its cause. I feel it in my own experience; but if I, listed as I am as the professed and hitherto the only advocate in my own country in the cause of justice, set a less value on justice than is its due, what can I expect from the general run of men?

Proposition XIII. – That the maintenance of such a pacification might be considerably facilitated, by the establishment of a common court of judicature, for the decision of differences between the several nations, although such court were not to be armed with any coercive powers.

It is an observation of somebody’s, that no nation ought to yield any evident point of justice to another. This must mean, evident in the eyes of the nation that is to judge, – evident in the eyes of the nation called upon to yield. What does this amount to? That no nation is to give up anything of what it looks upon as its rights – no nation is to make any concessions. Wherever there is any difference of opinion between the negotiators of two nations, war is to be the consequence.

While there is no common tribunal, something might be said for this. Concession to notorious injustice invites fresh injustice. Establish a common tribunal, the necessity for war no longer follows from difference of opinion. Just or unjust, the decision of the arbiters will save the credit, the honour of the contending party.

Can the arrangement proposed be justly styled visionary, when it has been proved of it – that

It is in the interest of the parties concerned.
They are already sensible of that interest.
The situation it would place them in is no new one, nor any other than the original situation they set out from.
Difficult and complicated conventions have been effectuated: for examples, we may mention, –
The armed neutrality.
The American confederation.
The German diet.
The Swiss league.
Why should not the European fraternity subsist, as well as the German diet or the Swiss league? These latter have no ambitious views. Be it so; but is not this already become the case with the former?
How then shall we concentrate the approbation of the people, and obviate their prejudices?

The main object of the plan is to effectuate a reduction, and that a mighty one, in the contributions of the people. The amount of the reduction for each nation should be stipulated in the treaty; and even previous to the signature of it, laws for the purpose might be prepared in each nation, and presented to every other, ready to be enacted, as soon as the treaty should be ratified in each state.

By these means the mass of the people, the part most exposed to be led away by prejudices, would not be sooner apprized of the measure, than they would feel the relief it brought them. They would see it was for their advantage it was calculated, and that it could not be calculated for any other purpose.

The concurrence of all the maritime powers, except England, upon a former occasion, proved two points: the reasonableness of that measure itself, and the weakness of France in comparison with England. It was a measure not of ambition, but of justice – a law made in favour of equality – a law made for the benefit of the weak. No sinister point was gained, or attempted to be gained by it. France was satisfied with it. Why? because she was weaker than Britain; she could have no other motive – on no other supposition could it have been of any advantage to her. Britain was vexed at it. Why? For the opposite reason: she could have no other.

Oh my countrymen! purge your eyes from the film of prejudice – extirpate from your hearts the black specks of excessive jealousy, false ambition, selfishness, and insolence. The operations may be painful; but the rewards are glorious indeed! As the main difficulty, so will the main honour be with you.

What though wars should hereafter arise? the intermediate savings will not the less be so much clear gain.

Though, in the generating of the disposition for war, unjust ambition has doubtless had by far too great a share, yet jealousy, sincere and honest jealousy, must be acknowledged to have had a not inconsiderable one. Vulgar prejudice, fostered by passion, assigns the heart as the seat of all the moral diseases it complains of; but the principal and more frequent seat is really the head: it is from ignorance and weakness that men deviate from the path of rectitude, more frequently than from selfishness and malevolence. This is fortunate; – for the power of information and reason, over error and ignorance is…much surer than that of exhortation, and all the modes of rhetoric, over selfishness and malevolence.

It is because we do not know what strong motives other nations have to be just, what strong indications they have given of the disposition to be so, how often we ourselves have deviated from the rules of justice, – that we take for granted, as an indisputable truth, that the principles of injustice are in a manner interwoven into the very essence of the hearts of other men.

The diffidence, which forms part of the character of the English nation, may have been one cause of this jealousy. The dread of being duped by other nations – the notion that foreign heads are more able, though at the same time foreign hearts are less honest than our own, has always been one of our prevailing weaknesses. This diffidence has perhaps some connexion with the mauvaise honte which has been remarked as commonly showing itself in our behaviour, and which makes public speaking and public exhibition in every line a task so much more formidable to us than to other people.

This diffidence may, perhaps, in part be accounted for, from our living less in society, and accustoming ourselves less to mixed companies, than the people of other nations.

But the particular cast of diffidence in question, the apprehension of being duped by foreign powers, is to be referred in part, and perhaps principally, to another cause – the jealousy and slight opinion we entertain of our ministers and public men; we are jealous of them as our superiors, contending against us in the perpetual struggle for power; we are diffident of them as being our fellow-countrymen, and of the same mould as ourselves.

Jealousy is the vice of narrow minds; – confidence the virtue of enlarged ones. To be satisfied that confidence between nations is not out of nature where they have worthy ministers, one need but read the account of the negotiation between De Wit and Temple, as given by Hume. I say, by Hume: – for as it requires negotiators like De Wit and Temple to carry on such a negotiation in such a manner, so it required a historian like Hume to do it justice. For the vulgar among historians know no other receipt for writing that part of history than the finding out whatever are the vilest and basest motives capable of accounting for men’s conduct in the situation in question, and then ascribing it to those motives without ceremony and without proof.

Temple and De Wit, whose confidence in each other was so exemplary and so just – Temple and De Wit were two of the wisest as well as most honourable men in Europe, The age which produced such virtue, was, however, the age of the pretended popish plot, and of a thousand other enormities which cannot now be thought of without horror. Since then, the world has had upwards of a century to improve itself in experience, in reflection, in virtue. In every other line its improvements have been immense and unquestioned. Is it too much to hope that France and England might produce not a Temple and a De Wit, – virtue so transcendent as theirs would not be necessary, – but men who, in happier times, might achieve a work like theirs with less extent of virtue.

Such a Congress or Diet might be constituted by each power sending two deputies to the place of meeting; one of these to be the principal, the other to act as an occasional substitute.

The proceedings of such Congress or Diet should be all public.

Its power would consist, – 1. In reporting its opinion;

2. In causing that opinion to be circulated in the dominions of each state.

Manifestoes are in common usage. A manifesto is designed to be read either by the subjects of the state complained of, or by other states, or by both. It is an appeal to them. It calls for their opinion. The difference is, that in that case nothing of proof is given; no opinion regularly made known. The example of Sweden is alone sufficient to show the influence which treaties, the acts of nations, may be expected to have over the subjects of the several nations, and how far the expedient in question deserves the character of a weak one, or the proposal for employing and trusting to it, that of a visionary proposal.

The war commenced by the king of Sweden against Russia, was deemed by his subjects, or at least a considerable part of them, offensive, and as such, contrary to the constitution established by him with the concurrence of the states. Hence a considerable part of the army either threw up their commissions or refused to act; and the consequence was, the king was obliged to retreat from the Russian frontier and call a diet.

This was under a government, commonly, though not truly, supposed to he changed from a limited monarchy, or rather aristocracy, to a despotic monarchy. There was no act of any recognised and respected tribunal to guide and fix the opinion of the people. The only document they had to judge from was a manifesto of the enemy, couched in terms such as resentment would naturally dictate, and therefore none of the most conciliating, – a document which had no claim to me circulated, and of which the circulation we may be pretty well assured, was prevented as much as it was in the power of the utmost vigilance of the government to prevent it.

3. After a certain time, in putting the refractory state under the ban of Europe.

There might, perhaps, be no harm in regulating, as a last resource, the contingent to be furnished by the several states for enforcing the decrees of the court. But the necessity for the employment of this resource would, in all human probability, be superseded for ever by having recourse to the much more simple and less burthensome expedient, of introducing into the instrument by which such court was instituted, a clause guaranteeing the liberty of the press in each state, in such sort, that the diet might find no obstacle to its giving, in every state, to its decrees, and to every paper whatever which it might think proper to sanction with its signature, the most extensive and unlimited circulation.

Proposition XIV. – That secresy in the operations of the foreign department in England ought not to be endured, being altogether useless, and equally repugnant to the interests of liberty and peace.

The existence of the rule which throws a veil of secresy over the transactions of the Cabinet with foreign powers, I shall not take upon me to dispute – my objection is to the propriety of it. Being asked in the House of Lords by Lord Stormont (May 22, 1789) about secret articles, the minister for foreign affairs refuses to answer. I blame him not. Subsisting rules, it seems to be agreed, forbid reply. They throw a general veil of secresy over the transactions of the Cabinet with foreign powers. I blame no man for the fault of the laws. It is these laws that I blame as repugnant to the spirit of the constitution, and incompatible with good government.

I take at once the boldest and the broadest ground – I lay down two propositions: –

That in no negociation, and at no period of any negociation, ought the negociations of the cabinet in this country to be kept secret from the public at large; much less from parliament and after inquiry made in parliament.
That whatever may be the case with preliminary negociations, such secresy ought never to be maintained with regard to treaties actually concluded.
In both cases, to a country like this, such secresy is equally mischievous and unnecessary.
It is mischievous. Over measures of which you have no knowledge, you can apply no controul. Measures carried on without your knowledge you cannot stop, – how ruinous soever to you, and how strongly soever you would disapprove of them if you knew them. Of negociations with foreign powers carried on in time of peace, the principal terminations are treaties of alliance, offensive or defensive, or treaties of commerce. But by one accident or other, everything may lead to war.

That in new treaties of commerce as such, there call be no cause for secresy, is a proposition that will hardly be disputed. Only such negociations, like all others, may eventually lead to war, and everything connected with war, it will be said, may come to require secresy.

But rules which admit of a minister’s plunging the nation into a war against its will, are essentially mischievous and unconstitutional.

It is admitted that ministers ought not to have it in their power to impose taxes on the nation against its will. It is admitted that they ought not to have it in their power to maintain troops against its will. But by plunging it into war without its knowledge they do both.

Parliament may refuse to carry on a war after it is begun: – Parliament may remove and punish the minister who has brought the nation into a war.

Sorry remedies these; add them both together, their efficacy is not worth a straw. Arrestment of the evil, and punishment of the authors, are sad consolations for the mischief of a war, and of no value as remedies in comparison with prevention. Aggressive war is a matter of choice: defensive, of necessity. Refusal of the means of continuing a war is a most precarious remedy, a remedy only in name. What, when the enemy is at your doors, refuse the materials for barricading them?

Before aggression, war or no war depends upon the aggressor; – once begun, the party aggrieved acquires a vote: He has his negative upon every plan for terminating the war. – What is to be done? Give yourself up without resistance to the mercy of a justly exasperated enemy? But this or the continuance of the war, is all the choice that is now left. In what state of things can this remedy be made to serve? Are you unsuccessful? – the remedy is inapplicable. Are you successful? – nobody will call for it.

Punishment of the authors of the war, punishment whatever it may be to the personal adversaries of the ministers, is no satisfaction to the nation. This is self-evident; but what is closer to the purpose and not less true, is, that in a case like this, the fear of punishment on such an account is no check to them: of a majority in parliament they are in possession, or they would not be ministers. That they should be abandoned by this majority is not in the catalogue of events that ought to be looked upon as possible: but between abandoning them and punishing them, there is a wide difference. Lord North was abandoned in the American war: he has not punished for it. His was an honest error in judgement, unstained by any malâ fide practice, and countenanced by a fair majority in parliament. And so may any other impolitic and unjust war be. This is not a punishing age. If bribe-taking, oppression, peculation, duplicity, treachery, every crime that can be committed by statesmen sinning against conscience, produce no desire to punish, what dependence can be placed on punishment in a case where the mischief may so easily happen without any ground for punishment? Mankind are not yet arrived at that stage in the track of civilization. Foreign nations are not yet considered as objects susceptible of an injury. For the citizens of other civilized nations, we have not so much feeling as for our negroes. There are instances in which ministers have been punished for making peace – there are none where they have been so much as questioned for bringing the nation into war; and if punishment had been ever applied on such an occasion, it would be not for the mischief done to the foreign nation, but purely for the mischief brought upon their own; not for their justice, but purely for the imprudence.

It has never been laid down as a rule that you should pay any regard to foreign nations: it has never been laid down that you should stick at anything which would give you an advantage in your dealings with foreign nations. On what ground could a minister be punished for a war, even the most unsuccessful, brought on by any such means? I did my best to serve you, he would say – the worse the measure was for the foreign nation, the more I took upon me: the greater therefore the zeal I showed for your cause: the event has proved unfavourable. Are zeal and misfortune to be represented as crimes?

A war unjust on the part of our own nation, by whose ministers it is brought on, can never be brought on but in pursuit of some advantage which, were it not for the injustice towards the foreign nation it would be for our interests to pursue. Their justice and the danger of retaliation being on all hands looked upon as nothing, the plea of the minister would always be, – “It was your interest I was pursuing.” And the uninformed and unreflecting part of the nation, that is, the great body of the nation would echo to him, – “Yes, it was our interest you were preserving.” The voice of the nation on these subjects can only be looked for in newspapers. But on these subjects the language of all newspapers is uniform: – “It is we that are always in the right, without a possibility of being otherwise. Against us other nations have no lights. If according to the rules of judging between individual and individual, we are right – we are right by the rules of justice: if not, we are right by the laws of patriotism, which is a virtue more respectable than justice” – Injustice, oppression, fraud, lying, whatever acts would be crimes, whatever habits would be vices, if manifested in the pursuit of individual interests, when manifested in pursuit of national interests, become sublimated into virtues. Let any man declare who has ever read or heard an English newspaper, whether this be not the constant tenor of the notions they convey. Party on this one point makes no difference. However hostile to one another on all other points, on this they have never but one voice – they write with the utmost harmony. Such are the opinions, and to these opinions the facts are accommodated as of course. Who would blush to misrepresent, when misrepresentation is a virtue?

But newspapers, if their voice make but a small part of the voice of the people, the instruction they give makes on these subjects the whole of the instruction which the people receive.

Such being the national propensity to error on these points, and to error on the worst side, the danger of parliamentary punishment for misconduct of this kind must appear equivalent to next to nothing, even in the eyes of an unconcerned and cool spectator. What must it appear then in the eyes of ministers themselves, acting under the seduction of self-partiality, and hurried on by the tide of business? No; the language which a minister on such occasions will hold to himself will be uniformly this, – “In the first place what I do is not wrong: in the next place, if it were, nothing should I have to fear from it.”

Under the present system of secresy, ministers have, therefore, every seduction to lead them into misconduct; while they have no check to keep them out of it. And what species of misconduct? That in comparison of which all others are but peccadillos. Let a minister throw away £30,000 or £40,000 in pensions to his creatures. Let him embezzle a few hundred thousand for himself: What is that to fifty or a hundred millions, the ordinary burthen of a war? Observe the consequence. This is the department of all others in which the strongest checks are needful; at the same time, thanks to the rules of secresy of all the departments, this is the only one in which there are no checks at all. I say, then, the conclusion is demonstrated. The principle which throws a veil of secresy over the proceedings of the foreign department of the cabinet is pernicious in the highest degree, pregnant with mischiefs superior to everything to which the most perfect absence of all concealment could possibly give rise.

There still remains a sort of inexplicit notion which may present itself as secretly furnishing an argument on the other side. Such is the condition of the British nation: peace and war may be always looked upon as being to all human probability in good measure in her power. When the worst comes to the worst, peace may always be had by some unessential sacrifice. I admit the force of the argument: what I maintain is that it operates in my favour. Why? It depends upon two propositions, – the matchless strength of this country, and the uselessness of her foreign dependencies. I admit both but both operate as arguments in my favour. Her strength places her above the danger of surprise, and above the necessity of having recourse to it to defend herself. The uselessness of her foreign dependencies prove a fortiori, the uselessness of engaging in wars for their protection and defence. If they are not fit to keep without war, much less are they worth keeping at the price of war. The inutility of a secret cabinet is demonstrated by this short dilemma. For offensive measures, cabinet secresy can never be necessary to this nation; for defence it can never be necessary to any.

My persuasion is that there is no state whatever in which any inconveniences capable of arising from publicity in this department would not be greatly overbalanced by the advantages; be the state ever so great or ever so small; ever so strong or ever so weak; be its form of government pure or mixed, single or confederated, monarchical, aristocratical, or democratical. The observations already given seem in all these cases sufficient to warrant the conclusion.

But in a nation like Britain, the safety of publicity, the inutility of secresy in all such business, stands upon peculiar grounds. Stronger than any two other nations, much stronger of course than any one, its superiority deprives it of all pretence of necessity in carrying points by surprise. Clandestine surprise is the resource of knavery and fear, of unjust ambition combined with weakness. Her matchless power exempts her from the one; her interest, if her servants could be brought to be governed by her evident interests, would forbid the other.

Taking the interest of the first servant of the state as distinct from and opposite to the nation, clandestinity may undoubtedly be, in certain cases, favourable to the projects of sceptred thieves and robbers. Without taking the precautions of a thief, the Great Frederic might probably enough not have succeeded in the enterprise of stealing Silesia from her lawful sovereign. Without an advantage of this sort, the triple gang might, perhaps, not have found it quite so easy to secure what they stole from Poland. Whether there can or cannot exist occasions on which it might, in this point of view, be the interest of a king of Great Britain to turn highwayman, is a question I shall waive: but a proposition I shall not flinch from is, that it never can be the interest of the nation to abet him in it. When those sceptred sinners sold themselves to the service of Mammon, they did not serve him for nought: the booty was all their own. Were we (I speak as one of the body of the nation) to assist our king in committing a robbery upon France, the booty would be his. He would have the naming to the new places, which is all the value that in the hands of a British robber such booty can be of to anybody. The privilege of paying for the horse and pistols is all that would be ours. The booty would be employed in corrupting our confidential servants: and this is the full and exact amount of what we should get by it.

Conquests made by New Zealanders have some sense in them; while the conquered fry, the conquerers fatten. Conquests made by the polished nations of antiquity, – conquests made by Greeks and Romans, – had some sense in them. Lands, moveables, inhabitants, everything went into the pocket. The invasions of France in the days of the Edwards and the Henrys, had a rational object. Prisoners were taken, and the country was stripped to pay their ransom. The ransom of a single prisoner, a Duke of Orleans, exceeded one third of the national revenue of England.

Conquests made by a modern despot of the continent have still some sense in them. The new property being contiguous, is laid on to his old property; the inhabitants, as many as he thinks fit to set his mark upon, so to increase his armies by their substance, as much as he thinks fit to squeeze from them, goes into his purse.

Conquests made by the British nation would be violations of common sense, were there no such thing as justice. They are bungling imitations of miserable originals, bating the essential circumstances. Nothing but confirmed blindness and stupidity can prompt us to go on imitating Alexander and Caesar, and the New Zealanders, and Catherine and Frederic, without the profit.

If it be the king alone who gets the appointment to the places, it is a part of the nation, it may be said, that gets the benefit of filling them. A precious lottery! Fifty or one hundred millions the cost of the tickets. So many years purchase of ten or twenty thousand a-year, the value of the prizes. This if the scheme succeed: – what if it fail?

I do not say there are no sharers in the plunder: – it is impossible for the head of a gang to put the whole of it into his own pocket. All I contend for is, that robbery by wholesale is not so profitable as by retail: – if the whole gang together pick the pockets of strangers to a certain amount, the ringleaders pick the pockets of the rest to a much greater. Shall I or shall I not succeed in persuading my countrymen that it is not their interest to be thieves?

“Oh, but you mistake!” cries somebody, “we do not now make war for conquests, but for trade.” More foolish still. This is a still worse bargain than before. Conquer the whole world, it is impossible you should increase your trade one halfpenny: – it is impossible you should do otherwise than diminish it. Conquer little or much, you pay for it by taxes: – but just so much as a merchant pays in taxes, just so much he is disabled from adding to the capital he employs in trade. Had you two worlds to trade with, you could only trade with them to the amount of your capital; and what credit, you might meet with on the strength of it. This being true of each trader, is so of all traders. Find a fallacy in this short argument if you can. If you obtained your new right of trading given you for nothing, you would not be a halfpenny the richer: if you paid for them by war or preparations for war; by just so much as you paid for these you would be the poorer.

The good people of England, along with the right of self-government, conquered prodigious right of trade. The revolution was to produce for them not only the blessings of security and power, but immense and sudden wealth. Year has followed after year, and to their endless astonishment, the progress to wealth has gone on no faster than before. One piece of good fortune still wanting, they have never thought of: – that on the day their shackles were knocked off, some kind sylph should have slipped a few thousand pounds in to every man’s pocket. There is no law against my flying to the moon. Yet I cannot get there. Why? Because I have no wings. What wings are to flying, capital is to trade.

There are two ways of making war for trade, – forcing independent nations to let you trade with them, and conquering nations, or pieces of nations, to make them trade with you. The former contrivance is to appearance the more easy, and the policy of it the more refined. The latter is more in the good old way, and the king does his own business and the nation’s at the same time. He gets the naming to the places: and the nation cannot choose but join with him, being assured that it is all for the sake of getting them the trade. The places he lays hold of, good man, only out of necessity, and that they may not go a-begging: – on his own account, he has no more mind for them than a new-made bishop for the mitre, or a new-made speaker for the chair. To the increase of trade, both these plans of war equally contribute. What you get in both cases is the pleasure of the war.

The legal right of trading to part of America was conquered by France from Britain in the last war. What have they got by it? They have got Tobago, bankruptcy, and a revolution, for their fifty millions. Ministers, who to account for the bankruptcy are forced to say something about the war, call it a national one: – the king has not got by it, – therefore the nation has. What has it got? A fine trade, were there but capital to carry it on. With such room for trade, how comes there to be no more of it? This is what merchants and manufacturers are putting themselves to the torture to account for. The sylph so necessary elsewhere, was still more necessary to France; since, over and above her other work, there was the fifty millions spent in powder and shot to replace.

The King of France, however, by getting Tobago, probably obtained two or three thousand pounds worth of places to give away. This is what he got, and this is all that anybody got for the nation’s fifty millions. Let us go on as we have begun, strike a bold stroke, take all their vessels we can lay hold of without a declaration of war, and who knows but what we may get it back again. With the advantages we now have over them, five times the success they are so pleased with, would be but a moderate expectation. For every fifty millions thus laid out, our king would get in places to the amount, not of two or three thousand pounds only, but say of ten, fifteen, or twenty thousand pounds. All this would be prodigious glory—and fine paragraphs and speeches, thanksgivings, and birth-day odes, might be sung and said for it: but for economy, I would much rather give the king new places to the same amount at home, if at this price his ministers would sell us peace.

The conclusion is, that as we have nothing to fear from any other nation or nations, nor want anything from other nations, we can have nothing to say to other nations, nor to hear from them, – that might not be as public as any laws. What then is the veil of secresy that enwraps the proceedings of the cabinet? A mere cloak for wickedness and folly – a dispensation to ministers to save them from the trouble of thinking – a warrant for playing all manner of mad and silly pranks, unseen and uncontrouled – a licence to play at hazard with their fellows abroad, staking our lives and fortunes upon the throw.

What, then, is the true use and effect of secresy? That the prerogatives of place may furnish an aliment to petty vanity, – that the members of the circulation may have as it were a newspaper to themselves, – that under favour of the monopoly, ignorance and incapacity may put on airs of wisdom, – that a man, unable to write or speak what is fit to be put into a newspaper, may toss up his head and say, I don’t read newspapers – as if a parent were to say I don’t trouble my head about schoolmasters, – and that a minister, secure from scrutiny in that quarter, may have the convenient opportunity, upon occasion, of filling the posts with obsequious cyphers, instead of effective men: – anything will do to make a minister whose writing may be written for him, and whose duty in speaking consists in silence.

This much must be confessed: – if secresy as against the nation be useless and pernicious to the nation, it is not useless and pernicious with regard to its servants. It forms part of the douceurs of office – a perquisite which will be valued in proportion to the insignificance of their characters and the narrowness of their views. It serves to pamper them up with notions of their own importance, and to teach the servants of the people to look down upon their masters.

Oh! – but if everything that were written were liable to be made public, were published, who would treat with you abroad? Just the same persons as treat with you at present. Negotiations, for fear of misrepresentation, would perhaps be committed somewhat more to writing than at present; – and where would be the harm? The king and his ministers might not have quite such such copious accounts, true or false, of the tittle-tattle of each court: or they must put into different hands the tittle-tattle, and the real business. And suppose your head servants were not so minutely acquainted with the mistresses and buffoons of kings and their ministers – what matters it to you as a nation, who have no intrigues to carry on, no petty points to compass?

It were an endless task to fill more paper with the shadows that might be conjured up in order to be knocked down. I leave that task to any that will undertake it. I challenge party men – I invite the impartial lovers of their country and mankind to discuss the question – to ransack the stores of history, and imagination as well as history, cases actual or possible, in which the want of secrecy in this line of business can be shown to be attended with any substantial prejudice.

As to the constitution, the question of cabinet-secresy having never been tried by the principles of the constitution, has never received a decision. The good old Tudor and Stuart principles have been suffered to remain unquestioned here. Foreign politics are questions of state. Under Elizabeth and James, nothing was to be inquired into—nothing was to be known – everything was matter of state. On other points the veil has been torn away: but with regard to these, there has been a sort of tacit understanding between ministers and people.

Hitherto war has been the national rage: peace has always come too soon, – war too late. To tie up the ministers’ hands and make them continually accountable, would be depriving them of numberless occasions of seizing those happy advantages that lead to war: it would be lessening the people’s chance of their favourite amusement. For these hundred years past, ministers, to do them justice, have generally been more backward than the people – the great object has rather been to force them into war, than to keep them out of it. Walpole and Newcastle were both forced into war.

It admits of no doubt, if we are really for war, and fond of it for its own sake, we can do no better than let things continue as they are. If we think peace better than war, it is equally certain that the law of secresy cannot be too soon abolished.

Such is the general confusion of ideas – such the power of the imagination – such the force of prejudice – that I verily believe the persuasion is not an uncommon one; – so clear in their notions are many worthy gentlemen, that they look upon war, if successful, as a cause of opulence and prosperity. With equal justice might they look upon the loss of a leg as a cause of swiftness.

Well, but if it be not directly the cause of opulence, it is indirectly; from the successes of war, come, say they, our prosperity, our greatness; thence the respect paid to us by Foreign Powers – thence our security: and who does not know how necessary security is to opulence?

No; war is, in this way, just as unfavourable to opulence as in the other. In the present mode of carrying on war – a mode which it is in no man’s power to depart from, security is in proportion to opulence. Just so far then as war is, by its direct effects, unfavourable to opulence, – just so far is it unfavourable to security.

Respect is a term I shall beg leave to change; respect is a mixture of fear and esteem, but for constituting esteem, force is not the instrument, but justice. The sentiment really relied upon for security is fear. By respect then is meant, in plain English, fear. But in a case like this, fear is much more adverse than favourable to security. So many as fear you, join against you till they think they are too strong for you, and then they are afraid of you no longer; – meantime they all hate you, and jointly and severally they do you as much mischief as they can. You, on your part, are not behindhand with them. Conscious or not conscious of your own bad intentions, you suspect theirs to be still worse. Their notion of your intentions is the same. Measures of mere self-defence are naturally taken for projects of aggression. The same causes produce, on both sides, the same effects; each makes haste to begin for fear of being forestalled. In this state of things, if on either side there happen to be a minister or a would-be minister, who has a fancy for war, the stroke is struck, and the tinder catches fire.

At school, the strongest boy may perhaps be the safest. Two or more boys are not always in readiness to join against one. But though this notion may hold good in an English school, it will not bear transplanting upon the theatre of Europe.

Oh! but if your neighbours are really afraid of you, their fear is of use to you in another way – you get the turn of the scale in all disputes. Points that are at all doubtful, they give up to you of course. Watch the moment, and you may every now and then gain points that do not admit of doubt. This is only the former old set of fallacies exhibited in a more obscure form, and which, from their obscurity only, can show as new. The fact is, as has been already shown, there is no nation that has any points to gain to the prejudice of any other. Between the interests of nations, there is nowhere any real conflict: if they appear repugnant anywhere, it is only in proportion as they are misunderstood. What are these points? What points are these which, if you had your choice, you would wish to gain of them? Preferences in trade have been proved to be worth nothing, – distant territorial acquisitions have been proved to be worth less than nothing. When these are out of the question, what other points are there worth gaining by such means.

Opulence is the word I have first mentioned; but opulence is not the word that would be first pitched upon. The repugnancy of the connexion between war and opulence is too glaring: – the term opulence brings to view an idea too simple, too intelligible, too precise. Splendour, greatness, glory, these are terms better suited to the purpose. Prove first that war contributes to splendour and greatness, you may persuade yourself it contributes to opulence, because when you think of splendour you think of opulence. But splendour, greatness, glory, all these fine things, may be produced by useless success, and unprofitable and enervating extent of dominion obtained at the expense of opulence; and this is the way in which you may manage so as to prove to yourself that the way to make a man run the quicker is to cut of one of his legs. And true enough it is, that a man who has had a leg cut of, and the stump healed, may hop faster than a man who lies in bed with both legs broken, can walk. And thus you may prove that Britain is in a better case after the expenditure of a glorious war, than if there had been no war; because France or some other country, was put by it into a still worse condition.

In respect, therefore, of any benefit to be derived in the shape of conquest, or of trade – of opulence or of respect no advantage can be reaped by the employment of the unnecessary, the mischievous, and unconstitutional system of clandestinity and secresy in negotiation.

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Denis Diderot: War is contest between beast and savage

September 30, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Denis Diderot
From Supplement to Bougainville’s “Voyage”
Translated by Jane Stewart and Jonathan Kemp

Every war is born from the common claim to the same property. One civilized man has a common claim with another civilized man to the possession of a field of which each occupies one end; and this field becomes the subject of dispute between them.

And the tiger has a common claim, with the savage, to the possession of a forest; that is the first of all claims and the oldest cause of war…

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St. James: Where do the wars among you come from?

September 28, 2018 Leave a comment

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

From the Epistle of St. James

Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from? Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?

You covet but do not possess. You kill and envy but you cannot obtain; you fight and wage war. You do not possess because you do not ask.

You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

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Thomas Reid: State of nature versus state of war

September 27, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

John Locke: State of war and state of nature are opposites

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Thomas Reid
From Essays on the Active Powers of Man

Of Systems of Natural Jurisprudence

Systems of Natural Jurisprudence, of the Rights of Peace and War, or the Law of Nature and Nations, are a modern invention, which soon acquired such reputation as gave occasion to many public establishments for teaching it along with other sciences. It has so close a relation to morals, that it may answer the purpose of a system of morals, and is commonly put in the place of it, as far, at least, as concerns our duty to our fellow-man…

Moral Duty had long been considered as a law of nature; a law not wrote on tables of stone or brass but on the heart of man; a law of greater antiquity and higher authority than the laws of particular states; a law which is binding upon all men of all nations, and, therefore, is called by Cicero the law of nature and of nations.

To say no more upon this point, it is of great use to sovereigns and states who are above all human laws, to be solemnly admonished of the conduct they are bound to observe to their subjects, to the subjects of other states, and to one another, in peace and in war. The better and more generally the law of nature is understood, the greater dishonour, in public estimation, will follow every violation of it.

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[David Hume] nowhere says, that it is not naturally criminal to rob an innocent man of his life, of his children, of his liberty, or of his reputation; and I am apt to think he never meant it.

The only philosopher I know who has had the assurance to maintain this, is Mr. Hobbes, who makes the state of nature to be a state of war, of every man against every man; and of such a war in which every man has a right to do and to acquire whatever his power can, by any means, accomplish – that is, a state wherein neither right nor injury, justice nor injustice, can possibly exist.

Mr Hume mentions this system of Hobbes, but without adopting it…He says, in a note, “This fiction of a state of nature as a state of war was not first started by Mr Hobbes, as is commonly imagined. Plato endeavours to refute an hypothesis very like it in the 2d, 3d and 4th books, “De Republica”…

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George Berkeley: Continuing dishonorable war is committing murder, rapine, sacrilege and violence

September 26, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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George Berkeley
From Thoughts on Alliances in War

[It] cannot be denied that one party may, without consent of the rest, break off from an alliance in war originally founded on honourable motives, upon conviction that the ends for which the war was begun are sufficiently answered; although his allies, whether blinded by passion or finding their advantage in carrying on the war, should not concur with him in the same judgment. For it is no excuse for a man acting against his conscience that he made a bargain to do so. You’ll demand what must be thought in case it was a fundamental article of the alliance, that no one party should hearken to proposals of peace without consent of the rest. I answer that any such engagement is in and of itself absolutely void, for as much as it is sinful, and what no Prince or State can lawfully enter into, it being in effect no less than binding themselves to the commission of murder, rapine, sacrilege, and of violence, so long as it shall seem good…

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David Hume: War’s double standards

September 25, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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David Hume
From A Treatise on Human Nature

Whoever can find the means either by his services, his beauty, or his flattery, to render himself useful or agreeable to us, is sure of our affections. As on the other hand, whoever harms or displeases us never fails to excite our anger or hatred. When our own nation is at war with any other, we detest them under the character of cruel, perfidious, unjust and violent: But always esteem ourselves and allies equitable, moderate, and merciful. If the general of our enemies be successful, `tis with difficulty we allow him the figure and character of a man. He is a sorcerer: He has a communication with daemons; as is reported of Oliver Cromwell, and the Duke of Luxembourg: He is bloody-minded, and takes a pleasure in death and destruction. But if the success be on our side, our commander has all the opposite good qualities, and is a pattern of virtue, as well as of courage and conduct. His treachery we call policy: His cruelty is an evil inseparable from war. In short, every one of his faults we either endeavour to extenuate, or dignify it with the name of that virtue, which approaches it.

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Jeremy Bentham: War is mischief upon the largest scale

September 24, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Jeremy Bentham: A Plan for an Universal and Perpetual Peace

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Jeremy Bentham
From The Principles of International Law

Of War, Considered in Respect of its Causes and Consequences

War is mischief upon the largest scale. It might seem at first sight, that to inquire into the causes of war would be the same thing as to inquire into the causes of criminality, and that in the one case as in the other, the source of it is to be looked for in the nature of man, – in the self-regarding, the dissocial, and now and then, in some measure, in the social affections. A nearer view, however, will show in several points considerable difference, – these differences turn on the magnitude of the scale. The same motives will certainly be found operating in the one case as in the other; but in tracing the process from the original cause to the ultimate effect a variety of intermediate considerations will present themselves in the instance of war, which have no place in the quarrels of individuals.

Incentives to war will be found in the war admiring turn of histories, particularly ancient histories, in the prejudices of men, the notion of natural rivalry and repugnancy of interests, confusion between meum and tuum between private ownership and public sovereignty, and the notion of punishment, which, in case of war, can never be other than vicarious.

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There may arise difficulty in maintaining an army; there can arise none in not doing so.

It must be allowed that the matter would be a delicate one: there might be some difficulty in persuading one lion to cut his claws; but if the lion, or rather the enormous condor which holds him fast by the head, should agree to cut his talons also, there would be no disgrace in the stipulation: the advantage or inconvenience would be reciprocal.

Let the cost of the attempt be what it would, it would be amply repaid by success. What tranquillity for all sovereigns! – what relief for every people! What a spring would not the commerce, the population, the wealth of all nations take, which are at present confined, when set free from the fetters in which they are now held by the care of their defence.

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The utility with regard to the state which looks upon itself as aggrieved – the reasonableness in a word, of going to war with the aggressors depends partly upon his relative force, partly upon what appears to have been the state of his mind with relation to the injury. If it be evident that there was no mala fides on his part, it can never lie for the advantage of the aggrieved state to have recourse to war, whether it be stronger or weaker than the aggressor, and that in whatever degree; – in that case, be the injury what it will, it may be pronounced impossible that the value of it should ever amount to the expense of war, be it ever so short, and carried on upon ever so frugal a scale.

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Lastly, if the aggression, how unjust soever it may appear, when viewed in the point of view in which it is contemplated by the state which is the object of it, does not appear accompanied with mala fides on the part of the aggressor, nothing can be more incontestable than the prudence of submitting to it, rather than encountering the calamities of war. The sacrifice is seen at once in its utmost extent, and it must be singular, indeed, if the amount of it can approach to that of the expense of a single campaign.

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John Locke: State of war and state of nature are opposites

September 23, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

Thomas Reid: State of nature versus state of war

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John Locke
From Second Treatise of Government

The state of war is a state of enmity and destruction. So when someone declares by word or action – not in a sudden outburst of rage, but as a matter of calm settled design – that he intends to end another man’s life, he puts himself into a state of war against the other person; and he thereby exposes his life to the risk of falling into the power of the other person or anyone that joins with him in his defence and takes up his quarrel. [S]uch men are not under the ties of the common law of reason, have no rule except that of force and violence, and so may be treated as beasts of prey – dangerous creatures that will certainly destroy me if I fall into their power.

So it comes about that someone who tries to get another man into his absolute power thereby puts himself into a state of war with the other, for such an attempt amounts to a declaration of a plan against the life of the other man. If someone wants to get me into his power without my consent, I have reason to conclude that he would use me as he pleased when he had got me there, and would destroy me if he wanted to; for no-one can want to have me in his absolute power unless it’s to compel me by force to something that is against the right of my freedom, i.e. to make me a slave…

This is the plain difference between the state of nature and the state of war. Some men – notably Hobbes – have treated them as the same; but in fact they are as distant from one another as a state of peace, good will, mutual assistance and preservation is distant from a state of enmity, malice,
violence and mutual destruction. A state of nature, properly understood, involves men living together according to reason, with no-one on earth who stands above them all and has authority to judge between them. Whereas in a state of war a man uses or declares his intention to use force against another man, with no-one on earth to whom the other can appeal for relief.

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Thomas More: Battles result from lust for fame and glory

September 20, 2018 Leave a comment

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

British writers on peace and war

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St. Thomas More
From A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation

As for fame and glory desired but for worldly pleasure, it doth unto the soul inestimable harm. For that setteth men’s hearts upon high devices and desires of such things as are immoderate and outrageous, and by help of false flatterers puffs up a man in pride. And makes a brittle man (lately made of earth, and that shall again shortly be laid full low in earth, and there lie and rot and turn again into earth) take himself in the meantime for a god here upon earth, and ween to win himself to be lord of all the earth. This maketh battles between these great princes, and with much trouble to much people, and great effusion of blood, one king to look to reign in five realms that cannot well rule one. For how many now hath this great Turk, and yet aspireth to more? And those he hath he ordereth evil, and yet himself worst.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson: The cause of peace is not the cause of cowardice

September 19, 2018 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ralph Waldo Emerson: All history is the decline of war. Cannot peace be, as well as war?

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Universal peace is as sure as is the prevalence of civilization over barbarism

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Ralph Waldo Emerson
From War

War and peace thus resolve themselves into a mercury of the state of cultivation. At a certain stage of his progress, the man fights, if he be of a sound body and mind. At a certain higher stage, he makes no offensive demonstration, but is alert to repel injury, and of an unconquerable heart. At a still higher stage, he comes into the region of holiness; passion has passed away from him; his warlike nature is all converted into an active medicinal principle; he sacrifices himself, and accepts with alacrity wearisome tasks of denial and charity; but, being attacked, he bears it and turns the other cheek, as one engaged, throughout his being, no longer to the service of an individual but to the common soul of all men.

Since the peace question has been before the public mind, those who affirm its right and expediency have naturally been met with objections more or less weighty. There are cases frequently put by the curious, – moral problems, like those problems in arithmetic which in long winter evenings the rustics try the hardness of their heads in ciphering out. And chiefly it is said, – Either accept this principle for better, for worse, carry it out to the end, and meet its absurd consequences; or else, if you pretend to set an arbitrary limit, a “Thus far, no farther,” then give up the principle, and take that limit which the common sense of all mankind has set, and which distinguishes offensive war as criminal, defensive war as just. Otherwise, if you go for no war, then be consistent, and give up self-defence in the highway, in your own house. Will you push it thus far? Will you stick to your principle of non-resistance when your strong-box is broken open, when your wife and babes are insulted and slaughtered in your sight? If you say yes, you only invite the robber and assassin; and a few bloody-minded desperadoes would soon butcher the good.

In reply to this charge of absurdity on the extreme peace doctrine, as shown in the supposed consequences, I wish to say that such deductions consider only one half of the fact. They look only at the passive side of the friend of peace, only at his passivity; they quite omit to consider his activity. But no man, it may be presumed, ever embraced the cause of peace and philanthropy for the sole end and satisfaction of being plundered and slain. A man does not come the length of the spirit of martyrdom without some active purpose, some equal motive, some flaming love. If you have a nation of men who have risen to that height of moral cultivation that they will not declare war or carry arms, for they have not so much madness left in their brains, you have a nation of lovers, of benefactors, of true, great and able men. Let me know more of that nation; I shall not find them defenceless, with idle hands swinging at their sides. I shall find them men of love, honor and truth; men of an immense industry; men whose influence is felt to the end of the earth; men whose very look and voice carry the sentence of honor and shame; and all forces yield to their energy and persuasion. Whenever we see the doctrine of peace embraced by a nation, we may be assured it will not be one that invites injury; but one, on the contrary, which has a friend in the bottom of the heart of every man, even of the violent and the base; one against which no weapon can prosper; one which is looked upon as the asylum of the human race and has the tears and the blessings of mankind.

****

Nor, in the next place, is the peace principle to be carried into effect by fear. It can never be defended, it can never be executed, by cowards. Everything great must be done in the spirit of greatness. The manhood that has been in war must be transferred to the cause of peace, before war can lose its charm, and peace be venerable to men.

****

The cause of peace is not the cause of cowardice. If peace is sought to be defended or preserved for the safety of the luxurious and the timid, it is a sham, and the peace will be base. War is better, and the peace will be broken. If peace is to be maintained, it must be by brave men, who have come up to the same height as the hero, namely, the will to carry their life in their hand, and stake it at any instant for their principle, but who have gone one step beyond the hero, and will not seek another man’s life; – men who have, by their intellectual insight or else by their moral elevation, attained such a perception of their own intrinsic worth that they do not think property or their own body a sufficient good to be saved by such dereliction of principle as treating a man like a sheep.

If the universal cry for reform of so many inveterate abuses, with which society rings, – if the desire of a large class of young men for a faith and hope, intellectual and religious, such as they have not yet found, be an omen to be trusted; if the disposition to rely more, in study and in action, on the unexplored riches of the human constitution, – if the search of the sublime laws of morals and the sources of hope and trust, in man, and not in books, in the present, and not in the past, proceed; if the rising generation can be provoked to think it unworthy to nestle into every abomination of the past, and shall feel the generous darings of austerity and virtue, then war has a short day, and human blood will cease to flow.

It is of little consequence in what manner, through what organs, this purpose of mercy and holiness is effected. The proposition of the Congress of Nations is undoubtedly that at which the present fabric of our society and the present course of events do point. But the mind, once prepared for the reign of principles, will easily find modes of expressing its will. There is the highest fitness in the place and time in which this enterprise is begun. Not in an obscure corner, not in a feudal Europe, not in an antiquated appanage where no onward step can be taken without rebellion, is this seed of benevolence laid in the furrow, with tears of hope; but in this broad America of God and man, where the forest is only now falling, or yet to fall, and the green earth opened to the inundation of emigrant men from all quarters of oppression and guilt; here, where not a family, not a few men, but mankind, shall say what shall be; here, we ask, Shall it be War, or shall it be Peace?

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Ralph Waldo Emerson: Universal peace is as sure as is the prevalence of civilization over barbarism

September 18, 2018 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ralph Waldo Emerson: All history is the decline of war. Cannot peace be, as well as war?

Ralph Waldo Emerson: The cause of peace is not the cause of cowardice

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Ralph Waldo Emerson
From War

The idea [of peace] itself is the epoch; the fact that it has become so distinct to any small number of persons as to become a subject of prayer and hope, of concert and discussion, – that is the commanding fact. This having come, much more will follow. Revolutions go not backward. The star once risen, though only one man in the hemisphere has yet seen its upper limb in the horizon, will mount and mount, until it becomes visible to other men, to multitudes, and climbs the zenith of all eyes. And so it is not a great matter how long men refuse to believe the advent of peace: war is on its last legs; and a universal peace is as sure as is the prevalence of civilization over barbarism, of liberal governments over feudal forms. The question for us is only How soon?

That the project of peace should appear visionary to great numbers of sensible men; should appear laughable even, to numbers; should appear to the grave and good-natured to be embarrassed with extreme practical difficulties, – is very natural. ‘This is a poor, tedious society of yours,’ they say: ‘we do not see what good can come of it. Peace! why, we are all at peace now. But if a foreign nation should wantonly insult or plunder our commerce, or, worse yet, should land on our shores to rob and kill, you would not have us sit, and be robbed and killed? You mistake the times; you overestimate the virtue of men. You forget that the quiet which now sleeps in cities and in farms, which lets the wagon go unguarded and the farmhouse unbolted, rests on the perfect understanding of all men that the musket, the halter and the jail stand behind there, ready to punish any disturber of it. All admit that this would be the best policy, if the world were all a church, if all the men were the best men, if all would agree to accept this rule. But it is absurd for one nation to attempt it alone.’

In the first place, we answer that we never make much account of objections which merely respect the actual state of the world at this moment, but which admit the general expediency and permanent excellence of the project. What is the best must be the true; and what is true – that is, what is at bottom fit and agreeable to the constitution of man – must at last prevail over all obstruction and all opposition. There is no good now enjoyed by society that was not once as problematical and visionary as this. It is the tendency of the true interest of man to become his desire and steadfast aim.

But, further, it is a lesson which all history teaches wise men, to put trust in ideas, and not in circumstances. We have all grown up in the sight of frigates and navy-yards, of armed forts and islands, of arsenals and militia. The reference to any foreign register will inform us of the number of thousand or million men that are now under arms in the vast colonial system of the British Empire, of Russia, Austria and France; and one is scared to find at what a cost the peace of the globe is kept. This vast apparatus of artillery, of fleets, of stone bastions and trenches and embankments; this incessant patrolling of sentinels; this waving of national flags; this reveille and evening gun; this martial music and endless playing of marches and singing of military and naval songs seem to us to constitute an imposing actual, which will not yield in centuries to the feeble, deprecatory voices of a handful of friends of peace.

Thus always we are daunted by the appearances; not seeing that their whole value lies at bottom in the state of mind. It is really a thought that built this portentous war-establishment, and a thought shall also melt it away. Every nation and every man instantly surround themselves with a material apparatus which exactly corresponds to their moral state, or their state of thought. Observe how every truth and every error, each a thought of some man’s mind, clothes itself with societies, houses, cities, language, ceremonies, newspapers. Observe the ideas of the present day, – orthodoxy, skepticism, missions, popular education, temperance, anti-masonry, anti-slavery; see how each of these abstractions has embodied itself in an imposing apparatus in the community; and how timber, brick, lime and stone have flown into convenient shape, obedient to the master-idea reigning in the minds of many persons.

****

We surround ourselves always, according to our freedom and ability, with true images of ourselves in things, whether it be ships or books or cannons or churches. The standing army, the arsenal, the camp and the gibbet do not appertain to man. They only serve as an index to show where man is now; what a bad, ungoverned temper he has; what an ugly neighbor he is; how his affections halt; how low his hope lies. He who loves the bristle of bayonets only sees in their glitter what beforehand he feels in his heart. It is avarice and hatred; it is that quivering lip, that cold, hating eye, which built magazines and powder-houses.

It follows of course that the least change in the man will change his circumstances; the least enlargement of his ideas, the least mitigation of his feelings in respect to other men; if, for example, he could be inspired with a tender kindness to the souls of men, and should come to feel that every man was another self with whom he might come to join, as left hand works with right. Every degree of the ascendency of this feeling would cause the most striking changes of external things: the tents would be struck; the men-of-war would rot ashore; the arms rust; the cannon would become street-posts; the pikes, a fisher’s harpoon; the marching regiment would be a caravan of emigrants, peaceful pioneers at the fountains of the Wabash and the Missouri. And so it must and will be: bayonet and sword must first retreat a little from their ostentatious prominence; then quite hide themselves, as the sheriff’s halter does now, inviting the attendance only of relations and friends; and then, lastly, will be transferred to the museums of the curious, as poisoning and torturing tools are at this day.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson: All history is the decline of war. Cannot peace be, as well as war?

September 17, 2018 Leave a comment

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

American writers on peace and against war

Ralph Waldo Emerson: The cause of peace is not the cause of cowardice

Ralph Waldo Emerson: Universal peace is as sure as is the prevalence of civilization over barbarism

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Ralph Waldo Emerson
From War

Nothing is plainer than that the sympathy with war is a juvenile and temporary state. Not only the moral sentiment, but trade, learning and whatever makes intercourse, conspire to put it down. Trade, as all men know, is the antagonist of war. Wherever there is no property, the people will put on the knapsack for bread; but trade is instantly endangered and destroyed. And, moreover, trade brings men to look each other in the face, and gives the parties the knowledge that these enemies over sea or over the mountain are such men as we; who laugh and grieve, who love and fear, as we do. And learning and art, and especially religion weave ties that make war look like fratricide, as it is. And as all history is the picture of war, as we have said, so it is no less true that it is the record of the mitigation and decline of war. Early in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the Italian cities had grown so populous and strong that they forced the rural nobility to dismantle their castles, which were dens of cruelty, and come and reside in the towns. The popes, to their eternal honor, declared religious jubilees, during which all hostilities were suspended throughout Christendom, and man had a breathing space. The increase of civility has abolished the use of poison and of torture, once supposed as necessary as navies now. And, finally, the art of war, what with gunpowder and tactics, has made, as all men know, battles less frequent and less murderous.

By all these means, war has been steadily on the decline; and we read with astonishment of the beastly fighting of the old times. Only in Elizabeth’s time, out of the European waters, piracy was all but universal. The proverb was, – “No peace beyond the line;” and the seaman shipped on the buccaneer’s bargain, “No prey, no pay.” The celebrated Cavendish, who was thought in his times a good Christian man, wrote thus to Lord Hunsdon, on his return from a voyage round the world: “Sept. 1588. It hath pleased Almighty God to suffer me to circumpass the whole globe of the world, entering in at the Strait of Magellan, and returning by the Cape of Buena Esperanca; in which voyage, I have either discovered or brought certain intelligence of all the rich places of the world, which were ever discovered by any Christian. I navigated along the coast of Chili, Peru, and New Spain, where I made great spoils. I burnt and sunk nineteen sail of ships, small and great. All the villages and towns that ever I landed at, I burned and spoiled. And had I not been discovered upon the coast, I had taken great quantity of treasure. The matter of most profit to me was a great ship of the king’s, which I took at California,” etc. And the good Cavendish piously begins this statement, – “It hath pleased Almighty God.”

Indeed, our American annals have preserved the vestiges of barbarous warfare down to more recent times. I read in Williams’s History of Maine, that “Assacombuit, the Sagamore of the Anagunticook tribe, was remarkable for his turpitude and ferocity above all other known Indians; that, in 1705, Vaudreuil sent him to France, where he was introduced to the king. When he appeared at court, he lifted up his hand and said, ‘This hand has slain a hundred and fifty of your majesty’s enemies within the territories of New England.’ This so pleased the king that he knighted him, and ordered a pension of eight livres a day to be paid him during life.” This valuable person, on his return to America, took to killing his own neighbors and kindred, with such appetite that his tribe combined against him, and would have killed him had he not fled his country forever.

The scandal which we feel in such facts certainly shows that we have got on a little. All history is the decline of war, though the slow decline. All that society has yet gained is mitigation: the doctrine of the right of war still remains.

For ages (for ideas work in ages, and animate vast societies of men) the human race has gone on under the tyranny – shall I so call it? – of this first brutish form of their effort to be men; that is, for ages they have shared so much of the nature of the lower animals, the tiger and the shark, and the savages of the water-drop. They have nearly exhausted all the good and all the evil of this form: they have held as fast to this degradation as their worst enemy could desire; but all things have an end, and so has this. The eternal germination of the better has unfolded new powers, new instincts, which were really concealed under this rough and base rind. The sublime question has startled one and another happy soul in different quarters of the globe, – cannot love be, as well as hate? Would not love answer the same end, or even a better? Cannot peace be, as well as war?

This thought is no man’s invention, neither St. Pierre’s nor Rousseau’s, but the rising of the general tide in the human soul, – and rising highest, and first made visible, in the most simple and pure souls, who have therefore announced it to us beforehand; but presently we all see it. It has now become so distinct as to be a social thought: societies can be formed on it. It is expounded, illustrated, defined, with different degrees of clearness; and its actualization, or the measures it should inspire, predicted according to the light of each seer.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau on peace and war

September 16, 2018 Leave a comment
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: War and despotism reinforce each other

September 15, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on peace and war

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
From A Lasting Peace
Translated by C. E. Vaughan

Again, anyone can understand that war and conquest without and the encroachments of despotism within give each other mutual support; that money and men are habitually taken at pleasure from a people of slaves, to bring others beneath the same yoke; and that conversely war furnishes a pretext for exactions of money and another, no less plausible, for keeping large armies constantly on foot, to hold the people in awe. In a word, anyone can see that aggressive princes wage war at least as much on their subjects as on their enemies, and that the conquering nation is left no better off than the conquered. ‘I have beaten the Romans,’ so Hannibal used to write to Carthage, ‘send me more troops. I have exacted an indemnity from Italy, send me more money.’ That is the real meaning of the Te Deums, the bonfires and rejoicings with which the people hail the triumphs of their masters.

A prince who stakes his cause on the hazards of war knows well enough that he is running risks. But he is less struck with the risks than with the gains on which he reckons, because he is much less afraid of fortune than he is content in his own wisdom. If he is strong, he counts upon his armies; if weak, upon his allies. Sometimes he finds it useful to purge ill humours, to weaken restive subjects, even to sustain reverses; and the wily statesman knows how to draw profit even from his own defeats. I trust it will be remembered that it is not I who reason in this fashion, but the court sophist, who would rather have a large territory with few subjects, poor and submissive, than that unshaken rule over the hearts of a happy and prosperous people, which is the reward of a prince who observes justice and obeys the laws.

****

It is a great miscalculation always to estimate the losses and gains of princes in terms of money; the degree of power the aim at is not to be reckoned by the millions in their cotters. The price always makes his schemes rotate: he seeks to command in order to enrich himself, and to enrich himself in order to command. He is ready by turns to sacrifice the one aim to the other, with a view to obtaining whichever of the two is most wanting at the moment. But it is only in the hope of winning them both in the long run that he pursues each of them apart. If he is to be master both of men and things, he must have empire and money at the same time.

****

Ministers are in perpetual need of war, as a means of making themselves indispensable to their master, of throwing him into difficulties from which he cannot escape without their aid, of ruining the State, if things come to the worst, as the price of keeping their own office. They are in need of it, as a means of oppressing the people on the plea of national necessity, of finding places for their creatures, of rigging the market and setting up a thousand odious monopolies. They are in need of it, as a means of gratifying their passions and driving their rivals out of favour. They are in need of it, as a means of controlling the prince and withdrawing him from court whenever a dangerous plot is formed against their power. With a lasting peace, all these resources would be gone.

****

For this, it would be essential that all, the private interests concerned, taken together; should not be stronger than the general interest, and that everyone should believe himself to see in the good of all the highest good to which he can aspire for himself. But this requires a concurrence of wisdom in so many heads, a fortuitous concourse of so many interests, such as chance can hardly be expected ever to bring about. But, in default of such spontaneous agreement, the one thing left is force; and then the question, is no longer to persuade but to compel, not to write books but to raise armies.

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From The State of War
Translated by C. E. Vaughan

Land, money, men – all, in short, that can be seized as booty – these come to be the principal objects of hostilities on either side. And when this mean greed has insensibly changed the principles of men, war ends by sinking into mere brigandage; and, having started as enemies and warriors, they become by degrees tyrants and robbers.

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Nicolas de Condorcet: War, the most dreadful of all calamities, the most terrible of all crimes

September 14, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Nicolas de Condorcet: War can never benefit the majority of individuals of a nation

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Nicolas de Condorcet
From Outlines of an historical view of the progress of the human mind
Translator unknown

The people being more enlightened, and having resumed the right of disposing for themselves of their blood and their treasure, will learn by degrees to regard war as the most dreadful of all calamities, the most terrible of all crimes. The first wars that will be superseded will be those into which the usurpers of sovereignty have hitherto drawn their subjects for the maintenance of rights pretendedly hereditary.

Nations will know, that they cannot become conquerors without losing their freedom; that perpetual confederations are the only means of maintaining their independance; that their object should be security, and not power. By degrees commercial prejudices will die away; a false mercantile interest will lose the terrible power of imbuing the earth with blood, and of ruining nations under the idea of enriching them. As the people of different countries will at last be drawn into closer intimacy, by the principles of politics and morality, as each, for its own advantage, will invite foreigners to an equal participation of the benefits which it may have derived either from nature or its own industry, all the causes which produce, envenom, and perpetuate national animosities, will one by one disappear, and will no more furnish to warlike insanity either fuel or pretext.

Institutions, better combined than those projects of perpetual peace which have occupied the leisure and consoled the heart of certain philosophers, will accelerate the progress of this fraternity of nations; and wars, like assassinations, will be ranked in the number of those daring atrocities, humiliating and loathsome to nature; and which set upon the country or the age whose annals are stained with them, an indelible opprobrium.

****

The people of Europe will learn in time that exclusive and chartered companies are but a tax upon the respective nation, granted for the purpose of placing a new instrument in the hands of its government for the maintenance of tyranny.

Then will the inhabitants of the European quarter of the world, satisfied with an unrestricted commerce, too enlightened as to their own rights to sport with the rights of others, respect that independence which they have hitherto violated with such audacity. Then will their establishments, instead of being filled by the creatures of power, who, availing themselves of a place or a privilege, hasten, by rapine and perfidy, to amass wealth, in order to purchase, on their return, honours and titles, be peopled with industrious men, seeking in those happy climates that ease and comfort which in their native country eluded their pursuit. There will they be retained by liberty, ambition having lost its allurements; and those settlements of robbers will then become colonies of citizens.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The advantages of peace

September 13, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on peace and war

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
From A Lasting Peace
Translated by C. E. Vaughan

There is yet another consideration which is likely to weigh even more with men so greedy of money, as princes always are. Not only will an unbroken peace give them, as well as their subjects, every means of amassing abundant riches; they will also be spared vast expenses by the reduction of their military budget, of those innumerable fortresses, of those enormous armies, which swallow up their revenue and become daily more and more of a burden to their subjects and themselves…The result will be that the people will have to pay much less; that the prince, being much better off, will be in a position to encourage commerce, agriculture and the arts and to create useful foundations which will still further increase his subjects’ riches and his own; and, over and above all this, that the State will enjoy a security far greater than it now draws from all its armies and from all that warlike parade which drains its strength in the very bosom of peace.

****

Of what use would it be to train for war, when you have no intention of ever making it? And which is the better course – to cultivate a pernicious art, or to destroy the need of it for ever? If the secret of perpetual health were discovered, would there be any sense in rejecting it, on the ground that doctors must not be deprived of the chance of gaining experience? And in making this parallel we have still to ask which of the two arts is the more beneficent in itself and the more deserving of encouragement.

****

It must be observed that we have not assumed men such as they ought to be, good, generous, disinterested and devoted to the public good from motives of pure humanity; but such as they are, unjust, grasping and setting their own interest above all things. All that I do assume in them is
understanding enough to see their own interest, and courage enough to act for their own happiness. If, in spite of all this, the project remains unrealised, that is not because it is Utopian; it is because men are crazy, and because to be sane in a world of madmen is in itself a kind of madness.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: No such thing as a successful war

September 12, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on peace and war

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
From A Lasting Peace
Translated by C. E. Vaughan

Think of the waste of men, of money, of strength in every form; think of the exhaustion in which any State is plunged by the most successful war; compare these ravages with the profit which results: and we shall find that we commonly lose where we suppose ourselves to win; that the conqueror, always enfeebled by the war, can only console himself with the thought that the conquered is still more enfeebled than himself. And even this advantage is more in appearance than reality; for the strength which has been gained upon our opponent has been lost against the neutrals who, without changing themselves, are nevertheless stronger relatively to us by all the strength that we have lost.

If all kings have not yet thrown off the folly of conquests, it would seem that the wiser of them at any rate are beginning to realise that they sometimes cost more than they are worth. Without going into a thousand distinctions which would only distract us from our purpose, we may say broadly that a prince who, in extending his frontiers, loses as many of his old subjects as he gains new ones in the process only weakens himself by his aggrandisement; because, with a larger territory to defend, he has no more soldiers to defend it. Everyone knows, however, that, as war is waged nowadays, the smallest part of the resultant loss of life is due to losses in the field.

Certainly, that is the loss which everyone sees and feels. But all the time there is taking place through the whole kingdom a loss far more serious and more irreparable than that of those who die: a loss due to those who are not born, to the increase of taxes, to the interruption of trade, to the desertion of the fields, to the neglect of their cultivation. This evil, which no one sees at first, makes itself felt in the end. And then the king is astonished to find himself so weak, as the result of making himself so strong.

****

I have nothing to say on the question of military parade because, when supported by no solid foundation either of hope or fear, such parade is mere child’s play, and kings have no business to keep dolls. I am equally silent as to the glory of conquest because, if there really were men who would break their hearts at the thought of having no one to massacre, our duty would be not to reason with such monsters but to deprive them of all means for putting their murderous frenzy into act.

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Étienne Bonnot de Condillac: Peace will not make good all the evils war has caused

September 11, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

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Étienne Bonnot de Condillac
Blows Directed Against Commerce: Wars
Translated by Shelagh Eltis

We have seen what freedom can achieve. It is time to sow dissension among our peoples, and to place constraints on trade: our assumptions will be the more plausible for that.

Divided by wars they form several nations which have opposing interests.

Now if we may assume that each of these nations trades freely within its boundaries we may no longer assume that they all trade freely with each other.

External trade, always hampered and sometimes suspended, will be all the less flourishing as it will be more expensive, whether from the losses to which it is exposed, or through the efforts made to sustain it.

These nations therefore do themselves mutual harm: firstly, because they each deprive themselves of the advantages which they would obtain for each other through exchanges.

Secondly, they harm themselves more, because they lay waste each others’ lands. Each time they take up arms, they destroy a stock of wealth which they could have put into circulation, and which cannot be there any more. There will be fields which warfare will not allow to be sown: there will be others, where it will not allow any harvesting. Consequently, products will diminish, and the population with them.

I want some of these nations to cover themselves with glory, with that glory which the peoples, in their stupidity, attach to conquest, and which historians, stupider still, love to celebrate to the point of boring the reader: what will be their advantage? They will rule far away in countries once populous and fertile, and now in part deserted and uncultivated. Because it is not by exterminating that they will assure their sway over previously free peoples. Let us assume that our cities are reduced to four enemy nations, more or less equally powerful, or which attempt to maintain themselves in a kind of equilibrium.

Are they equally powerful? They will hurt each other equally.

Do they try to keep themselves in a kind of balance? Two or three will join against a power whose dominance threatens to subject them, and they will hurt themselves again. The war will cost even the conquering nation provinces; because I regard as lost, provinces where the population and cultivation have been ruined or markedly damaged. Indeed, an empire which lost population and let lands fall fallow would not be the greater for having pushed back its boundaries.

But this balance, will one succeed in establishing it? Never: only false steps will be made, and anxiety will seem the sole moving force of the powers: they will confidently abandon themselves to the most ruinous projects, to carry them out in a more ruinous manner still.

Now, in this disorder, will the lands be as rich in products as when they were divided between a host of peaceful cities? They will be all the less so, as, with war taking away all freedom to trade, the surplus will cease to pass reciprocally from one nation to another. So it will not be consumed any more: now once it ceases to be consumed it ceases to reproduce itself.

While agriculture is damaged, many manufactures will collapse; and those which still exist will not have the same market any more. Normally they will only be able to sell to the nation in which they are established; and they will sell less to it, because that nation will itself be less rich.

No doubt you will say that these peoples will not always be at war. Indeed, there will be intervals of peace: but in those intervals you will not make good all the evils war has caused; and yet people will place new obstacles in the way of trade.

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: The scheme of founding a lasting peace is the most lofty ever conceived

September 10, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on peace and war

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
From A Lasting Peace
Translated by C. E. Vaughan

Let us admit then that the Powers of Europe stand to each other strictly in a state of war, and that all the separate treaties between them are in the nature rather of a temporary truce than a real peace whether because such treaties are seldom guaranteed by any except the contracting parties; or because the respective rights of those parties are never thoroughly determined and are therefore bound – they, or the claims which pass for rights in the eyes of Powers who recognise no earthly superior – to give rise to fresh wars as soon as a change of circumstances shall have given fresh strength to the claimants.

More than this: the public Law of Europe has never been passed or sanctioned by common agreement; it is not based upon any general principles; it varies incessantly from time to time and from place to place; it is therefore a mass of contradictions or rules which nothing but the right of the stronger can reduce to order: so that, in the absence of any sure clue to guide her, reason is bound, in every case of doubt, to obey the promptings of self-interest – which, in itself, would make war inevitable, even if all parties desired to be just.

****

With a view to answering this question, let us consider the motives by which princes are commonly led to take up arms. These motives are: either to make conquests, or to protect themselves from aggression, or to weaken a too. powerful neighbour, or to rnaintain their rights against attack, or to settle a difference which has defied friendly negotiation, or, lastly, to fulfill some treaty obligation. There is no cause or pretext of war which cannot be brought under one or other of these six heads; and it is manifest that not one of the six is left standing under the new order which I propose.

****

[T]he scheme of founding a lasting peace is the most lofty ever conceived and the most certain, if executed, to cover its author with undying glory; that such a scheme would not only do a greater service than any other to the people but also confer higher honour upon the Sovereign; that this is the only ideal not stained with blood, rapine, curses and tears; in a word, that the surest way for a Sovereign to raise himself above the common herd of kings is to labour for the good of the community.

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Giambattista Vico: Mars, the vilest of the gods

September 8, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Italian writers on war and militarism

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Giambattista Vico
From New Science
Translation by Thomas Goddard Bergin and Max Harold Fisch

Mars, in a stern reproof reported by Homer, is called by Jove “The vilest of all the gods”…

Wherever a people has grown savage in warfare so that human laws have no longer any place among it, the only powerful means of reducing it is religion.

This axiom establishes the fact that divine providence initiated the process by which the fierce and violent were brought from their outlaw state to humanity and entered upon national life. It did so by awaking in them a confused idea of divinity, which they in their ignorance attributed to that to which it did not belong. Thus through the terror of this imagined divinity, they began to put themselves in some order.

****

Since the door to honor in the popular commonwealth is wide open by law to the greedy multitude which is in command, in times of peace nothing remains but to struggle for power, not by law but by arms, and use the power to make laws with a view to increase of wealth…The result is civil wars at home and unjust wars abroad at the same time.

****

{The] Roman plebeians were nexi or bondsmen of the nobles and…were bound to serve them as impressed vassals at their own expense in war; a duty the Roman plebs still complained of under what has supposed to have been popular liberty. These must have been the first tribute-payers (assidui), who fought at their own expense (suis assibus militabant); but they were soldiers not of fortune but of harsh necessity.

****

What of the heroes of this time [Roman republic]?…[W]hat did any of them do for the poor and unhappy plebs? Assuredly they did but increase their burdens by war, plunge them deeper in a sea of usury, in order to bury them to a greater depth in the private prisons of the nobles, where they were beaten with rods on their backs like abject slaves. And if anyone in this period of Roman virtue attempted to relieve the lot of the plebs with some sort of agrarian law or grain law, he was accused of treason and sent to his death.

****

Wars like the ancient ones were all wars of religion, which, for reason we have taken as the first principle of this Science, made them always extremely bitter.

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Johann Gottfried von Herder: Selections on war

September 7, 2018 Leave a comment
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Erasmus: Selections on war

September 6, 2018 Leave a comment
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Jean-Jacques Rousseau: No nobler, more beautiful scheme than lasting peace

September 5, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Jean-Jacques Rousseau on peace and war

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau
From A Lasting Peace
Translated by C. E. Vaughan

Never did the mind of man conceive a scheme nobler, more beautiful, or more useful than that of a lasting peace between all the peoples of Europe. Never did a writer better deserve a respectful hearing than he who suggests means for putting that scheme in practice. What man, if he has a spark of goodness, but must feel his heart glow within him at so fair a prospect? Who would not prefer the illusions of a generous spirit, which overleaps all obstacles, to that dry, repulsive reason whose indifference to the welfare of mankind is ever the chief obstacle to all schemes for its attainment? I doubt not that many readers will forearm themselves with scepticism, as the best defence against the pleasure of yielding to conviction. I pity the melancholy mood which makes them take obstinacy for wisdom. On the other hand, I trust that every generous spirit will share the thrill of emotion with which I take up the pen on a subject which concerns mankind so closely. I see in my mind’s eye all men joined in the bonds of love. I call before my thoughts a gentle and peaceful brotherhood, all living in unbroken harmony, all guided by the same principles, all finding their happiness in the happiness of all. And, as I dwell upon this touching picture, the idea of an imaginary happiness will cheat me for a few moments into the enjoyment of a real one.

***

If the social order were really, as is pretended, the work not of passion but of reason, should we have been so slow to see that, in the shaping of it, either too much, or too little, has been done for our happiness? that, each one of us being in the civil state as regards our fellow citizens, but in the state of nature as regards’ the rest of the world, we have taken all kinds of precautions against private wars only to kindle national wars a thousand times more terrible? and that in joining a particular group of men, we have really declared ourselves the enemies of the whole race?

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Nicolas de Condorcet: War can never benefit the majority of individuals of a nation

September 4, 2018 Leave a comment

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

French writers on war and peace

Nicolas de Condorcet: War, the most dreadful of all calamities, the most terrible of all crimes

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Nicolas de Condorcet
From On The Benefits of the American Revolution with Respect to Preservation of Peace in Europe
Translated by Guillaume Ansart

The Abbé de Saint-Pierre had dared to believe that one day men would be reasonable enough for nations to consent by common agreement to forego the barbaric right to wage war and refer the discussion of their claims, interests or grievances to the judgment of peaceful mediators. Undoubtedly, this is not purely a visionary idea; it is so clearly demonstrated that war can never be to the benefit of the majority of the individuals of a nation! Why should men, who for so long have agreed to indulge in absurd and fatal errors, not concur one day to adopt simple and beneficial truths?…By creating more union between peoples in peacetime, such a tribunal [for mediation] could smother the seeds of war and destroy the germs of hatred as well as the kind of animosity of one people towards another which predisposes nations to war and causes them to seize on every pretext for it. Often, ambitious men who advocate war would not dare propose it without flattering themselves that they can rouse popular opinion in their favor – without the support of the very people whose blood and means of subsistence they squander…

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Johann Gottfried von Herder: Disturbing the peace of the world for domestic benefits

September 2, 2018 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Johann Gottfried von Herder: Selections on war

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Johann Gottfried von Herder
From Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind
Translated by T.O. Churchill

[The] patricians and plebeians were almost always at variance, so that the senate found it necessary to create wars for the purpose of employing the unruly multitude, or some turbulent leader, abroad that peace might be preserved at home…[As] the senate itself was often closely beset with dangers and frequently found victories or the fame of victories necessary for its support, and as every daring patrician who wished the people to espouse his cause stood in need of donations, games, celebrity and triumphs which war alone, or for the most part, could furnish, this divided, restless government was a cause of disturbing the peace of the world and keeping it in commotion for centuries; for out of regard to its own happiness, no orderly state, tranquil in itself, would have been the actor of such a fearful tragedy.

****

Impelled by pride or necessity and favoured by various circumstances, the Romans were engaged with them [other Italian cities] in arduous, bloody wars for five centuries…Once chained to Rome’s brazen yoke, they were compelled for centuries, as subjects or allies, to spill their blood in her service and for her profit and glory, not their own. Once chained to this yoke, notwithstanding all the privileges conferred on this people or on that, every individual was at last reduced to seek fortune, honour, wealth and justice in Rome alone so that in a few centuries the great city became the grave of Italy.

****

How foul to you must appear your honour, how bloody your laurels, how base and inhuman your exterminating arts! Rome is no more: and when it did exist the feelings of every worthy man must have whispered to him that all these monstrous, ambitious victories would call down vengeance and destruction on his country.

The law of retaliation is an eternal ordinance of nature. As in a balance neither scale can be depressed without the ascent of the other; so no political equilibrium can be destroyed, no sin against the rights of nations and of mankind can be committed without avenging itself; and the more the measure is heaped, the more tremendous will be its fall.

****

[Even] without luxury, without plebeians, without a senate and without slaves, the military spirit of Rome alone must have ultimately destroyed it; and that sword, which it so often drew against innocent cities and nations, have returned into its own bowels. But here all history speaks for me. When the legions, unsatiated with spoil, found nothing more to plunder, and on the frontiers of Parthia and Germany saw an end to their fame, what could they do but turn back and devour the parent state?

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Erasmus: The Soldier and the Carthusian

September 2, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Erasmus: Selections on war

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Desiderius Erasmus
From Colloquy: The Soldier and the Carthusian
Translated by N. Bailey

The Argument.
This Colloquy sets out to the Life, the Madness of young Men that run into the Wars, and the Life of a pious Carthusian, which without the love of Study, can’t but be melancholy and unpleasant. The Manners of Soldiers, the Manners and Diet of Carthusians. Advice in chusing a Way of getting a Livelihood. The Conveniency of a single Life, to be at Leisure for Reading and Meditation. Wicked Soldiers oftentimes butcher Men for a pitiful Reward. The daily Danger of a Soldier’s Life.

SOLDIER.
Good Morrow, my Brother.

CARTHUSIAN.
Good Morrow to you, dear Cousin.

Sol.
You put too much Confidence in Habits, Meats, Forms of Prayer, and outward Ceremonies, and neglect the Study of Gospel Religion.

Cart.
It is none of my Business to judge what others do: As to myself, I place no Confidence in these Things, I attribute nothing to them; but I put my Confidence in Purity of Mind, and in Christ himself.

Sol.
Why do you observe these Things then?

Cart.
That I may be at Peace with my Brethren, and give no Body Offence. I would give no Offence to any one for the Sake of these trivial Things, which it is but a very little Trouble to observe. As we are Men, let us wear what Cloaths we will. Men are so humoursome, the Agreement or Disagreement in the most minute Matters, either procures or destroys Concord. The shaving of the Head, or Colour of the Habit does not indeed, of themselves, recommend me to God: But what would the People say, if I should let my Hair grow, or put on your Habit? I have given you my Reasons for my Way of Life; now, pray, in your Turn, give me your Reasons for yours, and tell me, were there no good Physicians in your Quarter, when you listed yourself for a Soldier, leaving a young Wife and Children at Home, and was hired for a pitiful Pay to cut Men’s Throats, and that with the Hazard of your own Life too? For your Business did not lie among Mushrooms and Poppies, but armed Men. What do you think is a more unhappy Way of living, for a poor Pay, to murder a Fellow Christian, who never did you Harm, and to run yourself Body and Soul into eternal Damnation?

Sol.
Why, it is lawful to kill an Enemy.

Cart.
Perhaps it may be so, if he invades your native Country: Nay, and it is pious too, to fight for your Wife, Children, your Parents and Friends, your Religion and Liberties, and the publick Peace. But what is all that to your fighting for Money? If you had been knocked on the Head, I would not have given a rotten Nut to redeem the very Soul of you.

Sol.
No?

Cart.
No, by Christ, I would not. Now which do you think is the harder Task, to be obedient to a good Man, which we call Prior, who calls us to Prayers, and holy Lectures, the Hearing of the saving Doctrine, and to sing to the Glory of God: Or, to be under the Command of some barbarous Officer, who often calls you out to fatiguing Marches at Midnight, and sends you out, and commands you back at his Pleasure, exposes you to the Shot of great Guns, assigns you a Station where you must either kill or be killed?

Sol.
There are more Evils than you have mentioned yet.

Cart.
If I shall happen to deviate from the Discipline of my Order, my Punishment is only Admonition, or some such slight Matter: But in War, if you do any Thing contrary to the General’s Orders, you must either be hang’d for it, or run the Gantlope; for it would be a Favour to have your Head cut off.

Sol.
I can’t deny what you say to be true.

Cart.
And now your Habit bespeaks, that you han’t brought much Money Home, after all your brave Adventures.

Sol.
As for Money, I have not had a Farthing this good While; nay, I have gotten a good Deal into Debt, and for that Reason I come hither out of my Way, that you might furnish me with some Money to bear my Charges.

Cart.
I wish you had come out of your Way hither, when you hurried yourself into that wicked Life of a Soldier. But how come you so bare?

Sol.
Do you ask that? Why, whatsoever I got of Pay, Plunder, Sacrilege, Rapine and Theft, was spent in Wine, Whores and Gaming.

Cart.
O miserable Creature! And all this While your Wife, for whose Sake God commanded you to leave Father and Mother, being forsaken by you, sat grieving at Home with her young Children. And do you think this is Living, to be involved in so many Miseries, and to wallow in so great Iniquities?

Sol.
The having so many Companions of my Wickedness, made me insensible of my Evil.

Cart.
But I’m afraid your Wife won’t know you again.

Sol.
Why so?

Cart.
Because your Scars have made you the Picture of quite another Man. What a Trench have you got here in your Forehead? It looks as if you had had a Horn cut out.

Sol.
Nay, if you did but know the Matter, you would congratulate me upon this Scar.

Cart.
Why so?

Sol.
I was within a Hair’s Breadth of losing my Life.

Cart.
Why, what Mischief was there?

Sol.
As one was drawing a Steel Cross-bow, it broke, and a Splinter of it hit me in the Forehead.

Cart.
You have got a Scar upon your Cheek that is above a Span long.

Sol.
I got this Wound in a Battel.

Cart.
In what Battel, in the Field?

Sol.
No, but in a Quarrel that arose at Dice.

Cart.
And I see I can’t tell what Sort of Rubies on your Chin.

Sol.
O they are nothing.

Cart.
I suspect that you have had the Pox.

Sol.
You guess very right, Brother. It was the third Time I had that Distemper, and it had like to have cost me my Life.

Cart.
But how came it, that you walk so stooping, as if you were ninety Years of Age; or like a Mower, or as if your Back was broke?

Sol.
The Disease has contracted my Nerves to that Degree.

Cart.
In Truth you have undergone a wonderful Metamorphosis: Formerly you were a Horseman, and now of a Centaur, you are become a Kind of semi-reptile Animal.

Sol.
This is the Fortune of War.

Cart.
Nay, ’tis the Madness of your own Mind. But what Spoils will you carry Home to your Wife and Children? The Leprosy? for that Scab is only a Species of the Leprosy; and it is only not accounted so, because it is the Disease in Fashion, and especially among Noblemen: And for this very Reason, it should be the more carefully avoided. And now you will infect with it those that ought to be the dearest to you of any in the World, and you yourself will all your Days carry about a rotten Carcass.

Sol.
Prithee, Brother, have done chiding me. I have enough upon me without Chiding.

Cart.
As to those Calamities, I have hitherto taken Notice of, they only relate to the Body: But what a Sort of a Soul do you bring back with you? How putrid and ulcered? With how many Wounds is that sore?

Sol.
Just as clean as a Paris common Shore in Maburtus’s Road, or a common House of Office.

Cart.
I am afraid it stinks worse in the Nostrils of God and his Angels.

Sol.
Well, but I have had Chiding enough, now speak to the Matter, of something to bear my Charges.

Cart.
I have nothing to give you, but I’ll go and try what the Prior will do.

Sol.
If any Thing was to be given, your Hands would be ready to receive it; but now there are a great many Difficulties in the Way, when something is to be paid.

Cart.
As to what others do, let them look to that, I have no Hands, either to give or take Money: But we’ll talk more of these Matters after Dinner, for it is now Time to sit down at Table.

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Johann Gottfried von Herder: War springs from war and gives rise to another in turn

September 1, 2018 Leave a comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Johann Gottfried von Herder: Selections on war

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Johann Gottfried von Herder
From Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind
Translated by T.O. Churchill

Whenever the empire of humanity shall be established among mankind, the mad spirit of conquest which necessarily destroys itself in a few generations will immediately be renounced at her dictates. You drive men like cattle; and join them together as if they were inanimate substances without reflecting that they have minds and that perhaps the last, the outermost piece of the fabric will break off and crush the builder. A kingdom consisting of a single nation is a family, a well-regulated household: it reposes on itself, for it is founded by Nature and stands and falls by time alone. An empire formed by forcing together a hundred nations and a hundred and fifty provinces is no body public, but a monster.

***

What has been proposed in modern times as the sole mean of establishing perpetual peace throughout Europe, a tribunal of amphictyons, existed formerly among the Greeks; and indeed near the throne of the god of truth and wisdom who sanctified it by his authority.

****

A monarchy framed by wandering tribes whose political system as a continuation of their former mode of life will scarcely be of long duration: it ravages and subjugates, till at last itself is destroyed: the capture of the metropolis, or frequently the death of a king alone is sufficient to drop the curtain on the predatory scene. Thus it was with Babylon and Nineveh, with Ecbatana and Persepolis and so it is with Persia still. The empire of the great moguls in Hindostan is nearly at an end: and that of the Turks will not be lasting if they continue Chaldeans, that is foreign conquerors, and do not establish their government on a more moral foundation.

****

The Roman generals were frequently consuls whose military and civil offices usually continued but a year: accordingly they hastened to return triumphant and their successors were eager to emulate their honours. Hence the incredible progress of Roman wars: one sprang from another and gave rise to another in return. Occasions for future campaigns were reserved till the present [one] was ended; and reserved to accumulate with usury as a capital of spoil, success, and glory.

****

In vain did Numa erect the temples of Janus and Public Faith: in vain did he set up terminal gods and celebrate a boundary feast. These peaceable institutions were obeyed only during his life: for Rome, accustomed to plunder by the thirty years victories of her first ruler [Romulus], thought she could not pay more acceptable homage to Jove than by offering him the spoils of war.

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Erasmus: Of a Soldier’s Life

August 31, 2018 Leave a comment

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

Erasmus: Selections on war

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Desiderius Erasmus
From Colloquy: Of a Soldier’s Life
Translated by N. Bailey

The Argument.The wicked Life of Soldiers is here reprehended, and shewn to be very miserable: That War is Confusion, and a Sink of all manner of Vices, in as much as in it there is no Distinction made betwixt Things sacred and profane. The Hope of Plunder allures many to become Soldiers. The Impieties of a Military Life are here laid open, by this Confession of a Soldier, that Youth may be put out of Conceit of going into the Army.

HANNO, THRASYMACHUS

HANNO.
How comes it about that you that went away a Mercury, come back a Vulcan?

THRASYMACHUS.
What do you talk to me of your Mercuries and your Vulcans for?

Ha.
Because you seem’d to be ready to fly when you went away, but you’re come limping Home.

Thr.
I’m come back like a Soldier then.

Ha.
You a Soldier, that would out-run a Stag if an Enemy were at your Heels.

Thr.
The Hope of Booty made me valiant.

Ha.
Well, have you brought Home a good Deal of Plunder then?

Thr.
Empty Pockets.

Ha.
Then you were the lighter for travelling.

Thr.
But I was heavy loaden with Sin.

Ha.
That’s heavy Luggage indeed, if the Prophet says right, who calls Sin Lead.

Thr.
I have seen and had a Hand in more Villanies this Campaign than in the whole Course of my Life before.

Ha.
How do you like a Soldier’s Life?

Thr.
There is no Course of Life in the World more wicked or more wretched.

Ha.
What then must be in the Minds of those People, that for the Sake of a little Money, and some out of Curiosity, make as much Haste to a Battel as to a Banquet?

Thr.
In Truth, I can think no other but they are possess’d; for if the Devil were not in them they would never anticipate their Fate.

Ha.
So one would think, for if you’d put ’em upon any honest Business, they’ll scarce stir a Foot in it for any Money. But tell me, how went the Battel? Who got the better on’t?

Thr.
There was such a Hallooing, Hurly-burly, Noise of Guns, Trumpets and Drums, Neighing of Horses, and Shouting of Men, that I was so far from knowing what others were a doing, that I scarcely knew where I was myself.

Ha.
How comes it about then that others, after a Fight is over, do paint you out every Circumstance so to the Life, and tell you what such an Officer said, and what t’other did, as tho’ they had been nothing but Lookers on all the Time, and had been every where at the same Time?

Thr.
It is my Opinion that they lye confoundedly. I can tell you what was done in my own Tent, but as to what was done in the Battel, I know nothing at all of that.

Ha.
Don’t you know how you came to be lame neither?

Thr.
Scarce that upon my Honour, but I suppose my Knee was hurt by a Stone, or a Horse–heel, or so.

Ha.
Well, but I can tell you.

Thr.
You tell me? Why, has any Body told you?

Ha.
No, but I guess.

Thr.
Tell me then.

Ha.
When you were running away in a Fright, you fell down and hit it against a Stone.

Thr.
Let me die if you han’t hit the Nail on the Head.

Ha.
Go, get you Home, and tell your Wife of your Exploits.

Thr.
She’ll read me a Juniper-Lecture for coming Home in such a Pickle.

Ha.
But what Restitution will you make for what you have stolen?

Thr.
That’s made already.

Ha.
To whom?

Thr.
Why, to Whores, Sutlers, and Gamesters.

Ha.
That’s like a Soldier for all the World, it’s but just that what’s got over the Devil’s Back should be spent under his Belly.

Ha.
But I hope you have kept your Fingers all this While from Sacrilege?

Thr.
There’s nothing sacred in Hostility, there we neither spare private Houses nor Churches.

Ha.
How will you make Satisfaction?

Thr.
They say there is no Satisfaction to be made for what is done in War, for all Things are lawful there.

Ha.
You mean by the Law of Arms, I suppose?

Thr.
You are right.

Ha.
But that Law is the highest Injustice. It was not the Love of your Country, but the Love of Booty that made you a Soldier.

Thr.
I confess so, and I believe very few go into the Army with any better Design.

Ha.
It is indeed some Excuse to be mad with the greater Part of Mankind.

Thr.
I have heard a Parson say in his Pulpit that War was lawful.

Ha.
Pulpits indeed are the Oracles of Truth. But War may be lawful for a Prince, and yet not so for you.

Thr.
I have heard that every Man must live by his Trade.

Ha.
A very honourable Trade indeed to burn Houses, rob Churches, ravish Nuns, plunder the Poor, and murder the Innocent!

Thr.
Butchers are hired to kill Beasts; and why is our Trade found Fault with who are hired to kill Men?

Ha.
But was you never thoughtful what should become of your Soul if you happen’d to be kill’d in the Battel?

Thr.
Not very much; I was very well satisfied in my Mind, having once for all commended myself to St. Barbara.

Ha.
And did she take you under her Protection?

Thr.
I fancied so, for methought she gave me a little Nod.

Ha.
What Time was it? In the Morning?

Thr.
No, no, ’twas after Supper.

Ha.
And by that Time I suppose the Trees seem’d to walk too?

Thr.
How this Man guesses every Thing! But St. Christopher was the Saint I most depended on, whose Picture I had always in my Eye.

Ha.
What in your Tent?

Thr.
We had drawn him with Charcoal upon our Sailcloth.

Ha.
Then to be sure that Christopher the Collier was a sure Card to trust to? But without jesting, I don’t see how you can expect to be forgiven all these Villanies, unless you go to Rome.

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Johann Gottfried von Herder: Divine law ordains more doves and sheep than lions and tigers

August 30, 2018 1 comment

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

German writers on peace and war

Johann Gottfried von Herder: Selections on war

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Johann Gottfried von Herder
From Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind
Translated by T.O. Churchill

It is a divine law in the animal kingdom that not so many lions and tigers are capable of existence, and actually exist, as sheep and doves: in history we find the same beneficent disposition of things; so that we have a much smaller number of Nebuchadnezzars, Cambyses, Alexanders, Syllas, Attilas, and Genghis-Khans, than of less ferocious generals, or quiet peaceful monarchs. To the production of the former either very inordinate passions and faulty natural dispositions are requisite, whence they appear to the Earth as fiery meteors instead of associate planets; or singular circumstances of education, rare occurrences of early habit or the imperious demands of hostile, political necessity, stir up these scourges of divine wrath, as they are called, against mankind and keep up their relentless swing. If it be true, therefore, that Nature deviates not from her course on our account, when, among the innumerable varieties of form and temperament she produces she occasionally exhibits to the World men of unruly passions, spirits of destruction, not of preservation; still it remains in men’s own power not to entrust their flocks to these wolves and tigers and even to tame them by the laws of humanity. The wild ox no longer appears in Europe, which formerly enjoyed its forest domains in every part of it; and Rome at length found it difficult to procure the number of African monsters she required for her amphitheatres. In proportion as lands are cultivated, deserts are diminished and their wild inhabitants become rarer. In the human species the increasing civilization of man has had a similar effect; his disposition to unruly passions giving way with his decrease of strength, a more delicate creature was formed. With all this, irregularities are possible; and these frequently rage more perniciously from being founded on infantile weakness, as the examples of many Roman and Eastern despots show: however, as a spoiled child is always more easy to restrain than a bloodthirsty tiger, Nature, with her corrective regulations has taught us the way to rule the lawless and tame the insatiable savage by increasing diligence. If there be no longer regions of dragons to employ the arms of the giants of antiquity we require no Herculean destructive powers against men themselves. Heroes of this stamp may pursue their bloody game on Caucasus, or in Africa, and there seek new minotaurs to encounter…

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One passion kicks up the scale of reason, another drives it down, and thus history goes on for years and ages, before the period of tranquility returns. Thus Alexander destroyed the equilibrium of an extensive region of the World; and it was long after his death before the storm subsided. Thus Rome disturbed the peace of the Globe for more than a thousand years; and half a World of savage nations was requisite for the slow restoration of its quiet. The peaceable progress of an asymptote could by no means be expected, in these convulsions of countries and nations.

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