Графични страници
PDF файл


rapine and devastation, all the ruin and damage, as well as the blood, that is the consequence of that war. We may piously believe, that all the princes of the world who have wantonly obliged their subjects to serve them in a war by which millions of men have been exposed to slaughter, fire and famine, will sooner find remission for all the other sins they have committed, than for that obstinate outrage against the life of man, and the murders which have been committed by their authority."*

NECKER, the illustrious financier of France, expatiates largely on the guilt and evils of war. “ With what impatience,” he exclaims, “ bave I wished to discuss this subject ! How irresistibly has my heart been led to expatiate on the evils which are ever attendant on this terrible calamity! War, alas ! impedes the course of every salutary plan, exhausts the sources of prosperity, and diverts the attention of governors from the happiness of nations. It even suspends, sometimes, every idea of justice and humanity. In a word, instead of gentle and benevolent feelings, it substitutes hostility and hatred, the necessity of oppression, and the rage of desolation.

What must be our impressions, if we add to the waste of property the calamities inseparable from war, and endeavor to form an estimate of the lives and sufferings of men ?

In the midst of a council convened to deliberate on the question of peace or war, an upright servant might well have the courage thus to address his sovereign : • Sire, the war to which you are advised, will cost you perhaps eight or nine hundred millions; and even were victory every where to follow your arms, you will devote to death, or to cruel sufferings, so great a number of your subjects, that were any one who could read futurity, to present you this moment with the list, you would start back with horror. Your own people you are going to crush with new taxes, and to slacken the activity of commerce and manufactures, those inestimable sources of industry and wealth. If you are desirous of new subjects, you may acquire them without the effusion of blood, or the triumphs of a battle. A good government multiplies men, as the morning dews of spring unfold the buds of plants. What personal motive then can determine you to war? Is it the splendor of victories, or the ambition of a greater name in the annals of mankind? But is renown confined to bloodshed and devastation?'

In every situation where men are impelled by circum

[ocr errors]

* Clarendon's Essays, XX, XXI, pp. 236—253.

stances, neither their first choice, nor their first impulse, is to be considered in this argument. We must study their sentiments in those moments when, distracted by a thousand excruciating pains, yet still lingering in existence, they are carried off in heaps from the fatal field where they have been mowed down by the enemy. We must study their sentiments in those noisome hospitals where they are crowded together, and where the sufferings they endure to preserve a languishing existence, too forcibly prove the value they set upon their lives, and the greatness of the sacrifice to which they had been exposed. We ought more especially to study their sentiments on board those ships on fire, in which there is but a moment between them and the most cruel death; and on those ramparts where subterraneous explosion announces, that in an instant they are to be buried under a tremendous heap of stones and rubbish. But the earth has covered them, the sea has swallowed them up, and we think of them no more. Their voice, extinguished for ever, can no longer arraign the calamities of war. What unfeeling survivors we are! While we walk over mutilated bodies, and shattered bones, we exult in the glory and honor of which we alone are the heirs.

Let me not be reproached with having dwelt too long on these melancholy representations. We cannot exhibit them too often; so much are we accustomed to behold in war, and all its attendant horrors, nothing but an honorable employment for the courage of aspiring youth, and the school in which the talents of great officers are unfolded; and such is the effect of this transient intoxication, that the conversation of the polite circles in the capital is often mistaken for the general wish of the nation.

For my part, far froin being apprehensive that I have displayed too much zeal for truths that are repugnant to so many passions and prepossessions, I believe these truths to be so useful, so essential, and so perfectly just; in a word, I am so deeply affected by them, that after having supported them by my feeble voice in the course of my administration, and endeavored even from my retirement to diffuse them wide, I could wish that the last drop of my blood were employed to trace them on the minds of all.

This subject is of vast importance to every nation ; and it cannot be observed without pain, that war is not the only cause which multiplies the calamities of mankind. Another cause may be traced to that military genius which is sometimes the effect, and sometimes the harbinger of war.

Several states

are already converted, as it were, into a vast body of barracks ; and the successive augmentation of disciplined armies will be sure to increase taxes, fear and slavery in the same proportion.

How much disquietude and remorse must military ambition have for its attendants ! In the midst of battles and of ruins, amidst the cinders of once flourishing cities reduced to ashes, from the graves of that field where whole armies are buried, a name may doubtless be raised, and commemorated in history; but the dreadful traces of desolation which mark the progress of a warlike and victorious prince, leave no evidence of his enjoyment. I will depict such a prince in the zenith of his glory and his triumphs. Imagine him, after he has been listening to the flattery of his courtiers, and become intoxicated with their praises, entering his closet alone, and there holding in his hand the details of all the horrors of a battle. He reads attentively the recital, not with the calm curiosity of a mere inquirer who has nothing to reproach himself with, but as the author of such accumulated wrongs, for every one of which his conscience secretly upbraids him. What distressing reflections must present themselves to him, what gloomy thoughts assail him ! “Who am I,' he is compelled to say, 'who am I, that I should command so many ravages, and cause so many tears to flow? Born to be the benefactor, I am the scourge of mankind. Is this the use to which I should appropriate the treasures at my disposal, and which I should make of the power entrusted to my hands ? Either there is no order in the universe, and morality is a mere fiction, or I shall have hereafter to give an account for all this; and what will that account be?'

Look at the closing scene of a sovereign whose views had been influenced only by ambition, and the love of war. How often does this last moment appear terrible to him! Of what use his most glorious exploits ! Weighed down by age and sickness, encurtained with the shades of death, and anxious to chase away the melancholy reflections which haunt him, does he now command his attendants to entertain him with a recital of his victorious battles? Does he order those trophies to be spread before him on which he might still discern the tears that watered them? No; all these ideas terrify and distract him. I have been too fond of war, was the last speech of a most powerful king! Regrets that came too late to calm the agitations of his soul, or repair the evils he had done." *

* Necker on the Administration of Finances in France, chaps. 34, 35.



There is so palpable a contradiction between the precepts of the Bible, and the practices inseparable from war in any of its forms, that I wonder it has never attracted more attention. I cannot now go into a minute, extended illustration of this point; but I will give a very brief contrast of war with the moral law, and with some leading precepts of the gospel.

I. Look at war in the light of the decalogue.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me; and the second command of the decalogue forbids our making an idol of any thing in the universe. War contravenes both these precepts. It sprang from paganism ; its spirit is essentially pagan still ; and its laws every where require soldiers to obey their officers rather than God himself. Does it not thus dethrone Jehovah from the hearts of an army? Are not soldiers notorious for their neglect of God? A British officer, a few years ago, was cashiered by Protestants for refusing to join in what he deemed the idolatries of popery.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. War is a school of impiety and profaneness; blasphemy is the dialect of the army and navy; you can hardly enter a camp or a war-ship without meeting a volley of oaths, or find a warrior on land or sea who does not habitually blaspheme the name of God.

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. War scorns to acknowledge any Sabbath, and absolutely requires its servants to trample this day of God in the dust. Its battles are fought, its marches continued, all its labors exacted, all its recreations indulged, quite as much on this as any other day of the week. It is the chosen time for splendid reviews, and all the millions of soldiers in Christendom are compelled to violate the Sabbath.

Thou shalt not steal. War is a system of legalized national robbery; the very same thing for which individuals are sent to the prison or the gallows. To plunder, burn and destroy, is the soldier's professed business!

Thou shalt not kill. It is the very object of war to kill men. Its weapons are formed, its plans laid, its soldiers hired

and commissioned, on purpose to maim, and wound, and massacre. It is the most terrible engine ever contrived for the wholesale butchery of mankind. It is supposed already to have destroyed nearly twenty times as many as are now on the globe! I might easily continue this contrast, and show that war requires soldiers to violate the whole decalogue, and all the leading precepts of the Old Testament.

JI. But look at this custom in the light of the gospel.

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Can the soldier do this, and still continue his trade of human butchery? Can he love those as himself whom he is trying to kill, or make wretched? Love is said to be the fulfilling of the law, because it worketh no ill to his neighbor; but the soldier is required, as a matter of duty (!) to do his neighbor all the ill he can.

Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. Would you like to have a man burn your dwelling over your head, butcher your whole family, and then send a bullet or a bayonet through your own heart? This is the very business of war; and its grand maxim is to do unto others just what you would not have them do to you.

Avenge not yourselves. War is an engine of vengeance. Its spirit must be vindictive; for it proceeds in all cases upon the principle of injuring others either because they have injured us, or because we fear they will, unless we prevent it by injuring them in advance.

Love your enemies ;—war requires us to bate them, and cannot exist for a moment without a strong leaven of malice diffused through two nations. Do good unto all men ;-war would have us do them the utmost evil in our power. Seek peace ;-seek war. Follow peace with all men ;-follow war, the science of mischief to mankind, as the most honorable of all professions. Lay aside all malice ;-cherish as much as you can towards your enemies. Resist not evil;—resist evil unto death. Overcome evil with good ;-overcome evil with evil. IT'hoso smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also ;—whoso smiteth, or seemeth determined to smite thee, kill him in self-defence as the first law of thy nature.

Here is the pith of the Bible as a code of morals; but is not war in every form repugnant to all these precepts? Does it not trample on them all? Does it not require the soldier to do what God expressly forbids? Is not every possible form of war contrary to the spirit of the gospel ? Can the followers of the Prince of peace consistently have any thing to do with such a system of sin and mischief, of vice and crime, of robbery

« ПредишнаНапред »