Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

is now conducted, that increase may be stopped, or retarded; but the means of subsistence are diminished also, and in a greater proportion. By withdrawing hands from agriculture, and by enormous waste and destruction, it is the fact that war destroys the means of living, in a greater proportion than it destroys life; and consequently leaves society in a worse condition, as to the real or imagined evil of a redundant population, than at its commencement. It is as if a community, in danger of famine, should destroy a hundred of its members, and in the struggle waste the food of two hundred-they would be in greater danger than before. And while the effect of war on the amount of population compared with the means of subsistence has been overlooked, its influence on the absolute amount has been greatly overrated. Even during the late destructive contests, the population of the greater part of Europe increased considerably. To a certain extent, war acts rather as a stimulus than as a check. The demand for men produces a supply; and while he can pay for them, the slaughter-house of the conqueror, like that of the butcher, will not want a supply of victims. But enough of an objection which is only formidable because it is fashionable.

The hope that nations may ever have sufficient wisdom and goodness to decide their differences by a more rational mode than hiring men to cut

throats and burn towns, is so commonly scouted as visionary, that it is expedient to appeal to fact and experience, and inquire what improvement has already taken place on this very subject Perhaps if fifty or sixty years ago some of these cold-hearted philosophers had been asked which would be abolished first, the Slave Trade, or War, they might have hesitated-both were under the patronage of governments, both could plead the prescription of antiquity, both seemed the interest of large and powerful bodies of men, and had nothing against them but reason and justice. They would have hesitated-and deemed it a choice between two impossibilities. And the Slave Trade is abolished, and its practice is felony. Two facts are cheering. 1. Peace now scarcely differs more from war, than modern warfare does from ancient. We see in barbarous states what war must have been originally. It is mere slaughter. No quarter is given. All advantages are taken. Among the New Zealanders, and Aboriginal Americans, there is nothing like the openness and honour of European conflict. To lie in wait and rush unawares upon their prey; to fire upon him from unsuspected ambush; to steal in the dead of night, set fire to the huts, and massacre the inhabitants as they fly naked and defenceless from the flames; these are their deeds of glory. In Greece and Rome the vanquished had only the alternative of death

or slavery. What would be thought now of the insulting ceremony of leading princes and nobles through the streets, chained to a triumphal chariot, for the mob to gaze at-and then dismissing them to menial attendance on their victors? • The proportion of the numbers slained to those engaged, is trifling now, in comparison with the battles of antiquity; to say nothing of wars of cold-blooded massacre, and complete extermination. The improvements in the art of war have pretty uniformly tended to make it more a matter of calculation and less of force and slaughter. Perhaps, too, the advance of physical science may lead to discoveries and inventions which will have an unexpected and happy influence. At first brute strength alone decided contests. Discipline took off part of its superiority; and the use of gunpowder almost equalizes the weak with the strong. May not some future invention level the many with the few, or at least provide means of defence, which will baffle an immense superiority of numbers? Destructive machinery seems peculiarly adapted for this purpose. The torpedo may be improved so as to protect the fishing boat from the man of war, and secure the coast from desolation. However we shudder at such instruments, they may, perhaps, be brought to an infernal perfection, which will serve the cause of humanity, by infinitely multiplying the perils of encroachment and attack. However

f

this may be, it
obvious that there is more of
mind in the conduct of war, and of humanity in
its operations. Half the horrors of ancient war-
fare have vanished. (°) What is to stop the progress
here? 2. The tendencies of society have been,
and are, to limit war, and consequently to abolish
it ultimately. It cannot take place now in
numerous situations where it used to rage. The
formation of society stops individual hostilities.
Private war, once so general and destructive, is
abolished. In England once Baron warred upon
Baron, and castle against castle hoisted the flag
of defiance. Those combats have ceased, and
for ever. What rivers of blood have Scotch
and English shed in desperate struggles! From
all appearance, they have waged their last war
with each other. Had the United States of
America been, by different formation and cir-
cumstances, disunited kingdoms, or republics,
what incessant and bloody conflicts would have
deluged that continent! In this respect, the
tendency of small states to coalesce into larger,
and of large ones to a sort of federal union, is
auspicious to mankind. At present, all the great
powers of Europe are in alliance: this may be
only the coalition of governors. Supposing all
those governors to become the faithful guardians
of free nations, that union might remain-the
arbiter of national disputes, the congress of peace
and justice.

[ocr errors]

The wide diffusion of knowledge and Christianity, which we have already seen good reason to anticipate, and the hope of which will be further confirmed by considerations to which we shall hereafter advert, encourages us to argue from the manifest guilt and folly of wars to their disuse and abolition. Let but the great majority become enlightened, and although certain classes of society may still be interested in exciting appeals to the sword, there can be no want of means to prevent the sacrifice of the general good to their vanity, avarice or madness. Wars may be divived, according to their causes, into four principal classes:

1. Wars for disputed sovereignty. The crown of England was long contested by the two houses of York and Lancaster. An historian, speaking of the battle of Tewkesbury, which seated Edward IV. on the throne, says, "This was the twelfth battle that had been fought in this fatal quarrel; and in these battles, and on the scaffold, above sixty princes of the royal family, above one half of the nobles and principal gentlemen, and above one hundred thousand of the common people, lost their lives." And what followed? The licentiousness of Edward, the usurpation of Richard, the grinding avarice of Henry VII., and the wanton tyranny of Henry VIII. Had the common people had common sense, would they not have left the houses, or the nobles, if

« AnteriorContinuar »