Imágenes de páginas

it not, he is a murderer. No casuistry can save him from the guilt of it. He may conclude that they who lead him to slaughter know and are assured of the justice of the cause, but unless he knows it also, he is in the sight of God guilty of violating the laws of heaven. A man may be honestly engaged in the service of a certain cause, in which circumstances may lead him to war, and if fighting may be justified at all, it may be right in certain circumstances; but he is not thereby bound to fight in every cause which his superiors may adopt." The plain question is, does the command of a superior justify a violation of the laws of God? If it does for the hired soldier, it does also for the hired assassin. Suppose a man were to go to Copenhagen, and shoot a person whom he never saw before; then to Washington, and stab another, by whom he was never injured; then to the coast of France, and burn a third in his own house; what would all this be but repeated and atrocious murder? Would its moral character be changed by the command of a prince, minister or general? Certainly not; any more than their command would justify perjury or forgery. Indeed, the vindicators of war must plead that they would justify these also. Armies need spies, and spies must deceive; and forgery was more than once or twice employed in the late contest with great applause.

[ocr errors]


What a school of morals, into which to drain off the youthful part of the population of a country, after some years of education in it, to be turned back upon society! All habits of regular industry gone, accustomed to take by force,' familiarized with wounds and blood, their duty slaughtering, and their diversion gambling or debauchery, what is to be expected when they are disbanded? What, but that which always happens-robberies, murders, crowded gaols, disgusting executions. The commencement of peace sometimes doubles, and more than doubles, the number of criminals; uniformly shews a fearful increase. The influx of such characters is like inoculating society with a moral pestilence.


This combination of calamity and guilt must, and has, proved a gloomy interruption of that progress which may still be traced in the history of mankind, and it clouds our prospects of futurity. It is as if an individual should resolve, at certain intervals, to give himself to mischief, and forget all distinction of right and wrong, virtue and vice, good and evil: to abandon the study of truth, and the acquisition of goodness. Such an abandonment is war, to nations.

It prevents civilization. Tribes are kept in the savage state by wars with each other, and with their more polished neighbours. The Slave Trade fomented hostility through a thousand

petty kingdoms, who might have been won by friendly intercourse to quietness, harmony, commerce and improvement. Did America pursue a more generous policy towards the Aborigines of that continent, they might have all been induced, like those of them among whom the Quakers settled, to modify their habits and gain a social existence, instead of being destined, as they apparently are, to be exterminated by the sword of aggression. Civilization to some degree has been the occasional and accidental result of conquest. It never was the object—and might have been better attained by better means. On the other hand, the most refined have been barbarized, and Rome itself, the luxurious and magnificent, beheld her sun go back in the heavens to the darkness from which it arose.

The cultivation of literature, the peaceful arts. of life, the intercourse of different nations, which soften and obliterate prejudice, and diffuse the discoveries and superiorities of one over all others, these great principles of improvement are all suspended by war, and for the time almost annihilated. The sword divides where oceans could not separate. It elevates prejudice and destroys philanthropy. Millions of men are taught to hate other millions, from whom they might receive useful knowledge, to whom they might render important service, with whom they might exchange affection and esteem. As war hires to

execute slaughter the arm that should labour, it also hires to plan that slaughter the mind that should enlighten with philosophy and science. Its brutalizing magic transforms even the energies of intellect into machines of desolation.

How fatal are wars to liberty! Standing armies make tyrants, where they do not find them. Why does all the world speak of Washington as a singular character? He commanded a victorious army, and did not become a military despot. The exception is likely to remain unparalleled. The absolute obedience of soldiers, and power of generals, is fatal to civil liberty. Its death-warrant is signed in any country which aspires to conquest and military glory. Thus was Rome ruined. The armies made their commanders

emperors, who, by their aid made the people slaves, until the citizens, who in their days of freedom looked down on sovereigns, held property and life at the caprice of any fool, or wretch, or villain, to whom the Prætorian bands gave the imperial crown, or sold it by public auction. Freedom is as essential to improvement, as the air we breathe to our existence. The ornamental arts, or lighter literature, may be the trappings of a tyrant's throne, but genius cannot breathe the atmosphere of slavery. Its productions wither in the shade of the despot's palace, though glittering with splendid ornaments, while they flourish on the barren rock,

exposed to the winds, and beaten by the storm, The captive Hebrews hung their harps on the willows of the proud Euphrates, but by the lowlier stream of Jordan they struck them joyously to the sweetest and loftiest songs of Zion. With liberty, farewell the strength, and pride, and glory of intellect-oppression first forges its fetters, and then digs its grave.

And are mankind always to be driven by ambition, like sheep to the shambles? Is there in the road of improvement, to be at every step, a stumbling block? Yes, say some philosophers, whose doctrines have, from various causes, obtained a temporary prevalence, the world must always be subject to the scourge of war, to keep down the excess of population: and even were we arrived at Utopian felicity, this same tendency to excessive population, would prevent its permanence, and bring back war to avert starvation. This, if true, drops the curtain on our hopes, and falsifies the wishes of benevolence and the promises of heaven. The effect on a state of high improvement, once gained, belongs to our next Lecture. We only ask now, what is really the effect of wars on population? The evil of excessive population consists, not in the absolute number, but in its extending beyond the means of subsistence. While there is food, numbers are advantageous. Their increase is a good, provided the means of subsistencei ncrease also. As war

« AnteriorContinuar »