"Addresses on War:
1845, 1849, 1870"
Sen. Charles Sumner, LL.D.
(Boston: 1845, 1849, 1870)
Welcome to this series of three scholarly lectures,
"The True Grandeur of Nations" (4 July 1845) (pp 5-132)
"War System of the Commonwealth of Nations" (28 May 1849) (pp 133-239)
"The Duel between France and Germany, with Its Lesson to Civilization" (26 October 1870) |
Charles Sumner (1811-1874), after a classic-style college education (A.B. 1830) and law school (LL.B. 1834; LL.D. 1859), became an attorney, law professor, judicial decision reporter, and activist. In 1851, he was elected U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, serving 1851-1874. In 1861, his colleagues chose him as Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, serving as Chairman 1861-1871.
In that capacity, he helped to preserve the U.S.A. during the Civil War, due to his personal international prestige, reputation, and credibility, by aiding Lincoln in restraining other nations (e.g., England, France) in two ways:
(a) against helping the Confederates and
(b) against intervening hostilely towards the U.S.A.
His reputation derived not only from his scholarship, but also from his well-known anti-slavery activism, e.g., his Barbarism of Slavery (1860), and others listed below.
Table of Contents
|Introduction by 1904 Editor Edwin D. Mead||--|
|The True Grandeur of Nations||5|
|I. [Animal Brute Force Origin]||18|
|II. [Severing Normal Relations]||21|
|IV. [Prejudices Rebutted]||49|
|3. [Alleged Christianity]||54|
|War System of the Commonwealth of Nations||133|
|The Duel between France and Germany||241|
He [Sumner] was disposed to dissent from the maxim, which had of late [recent] years received very general assent, that the best security for the continuance of peace was to be prepared for war. That was a maxim which might have been applied to the nations of antiquity, and to society in a comparatively barbarous and uncivilized state. . . . Men, when they adopted such a maxim, and made large preparations in time of peace that would be sufficient in time of war, were apt to be influenced by the desire to put their efficiency to the test, that all their great preparations and the result of their toil and expense might not be thrown away.—EARL OF ABERDEEN, Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, July 20, 1849.
Bellum para, si pacem velis, was a maxim regarded by many as containing an incontestable truth. It was one, in his opinion, to be received with great caution, and admitting of much qualification. . . . We should best consult the true interests of the country by husbanding our resources in a time of peace, and, instead of a lavish expenditure on all the means of defence, by placing some trust in the latent and dormant energies of the nation.—SIR ROBERT PEEL, Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, March 12, 1850.
Let us terminate this disastrous system of rival expenditure, and mutually agree, with no hypocrisy, but in a manner and under circumstances which can admit of no doubt,—by a reduction of armaments,—that peace is really our policy.—MR. [Benjamin] D'ISRAELI, Hansard's Parliamentary Debates, July 21, 1859.
All high titles of honor come hitherto from fighting. Your Herzog (Duke, Dux) is Leader of Armies; your Earl (Jarl) is Strong Man; your Marshal, Cavalry Horseshoer. A Millennium, or Reign of Peace and Wisdom, having from of old been prophesied, and becoming now daily more and more indubitable, may it not be apprehended [concluded] that such fighting titles will cease to be palatable, and new and higher [titles / ranks] need to be devised?—CARLYLE, Sartor Resartus, Book III. chap. 7.
After the memorable conflict of June, 1848, in which, as Chef de Bataillon, he [Ary Scheffer] had shown a capacity for military conduct not less remarked than his cool courage, Général Changarnier, then commanding thé National Guard of Paris, tendered to Scheffer's acceptance the cross [position, rank] of Commandeur. He replied, "Had this honorable distinction been offered to me in my quality of Artist, and as a recognition of the merit of my works, I should receive it with deference and satisfaction. But to carry about me a decoration reminding me only of the horrors of civil war is what I cannot consent to do."—ARY SCHEFFER, Life by Mrs. Grote, Appendix.
IN accordance with uninterrupted usage, on this [civil religion] Sabbath [4 July] of the Nation, we have put aside our daily cares, and seized a respite from the never-ending toils of life, to meet in gladness and congratulation, mindful of the blessings transmitted from the Past, mindful also, I trust, of our duties to the Present and the Future.
All hearts turn first to the Fathers of the Republic. Their venerable forms rise before us, in the procession of successive generations. They come
from the frozen rock of Plymouth,
from the wasted bands of Raleigh,
from the heavenly companionship of Penn,
from the anxious councils of the Revolution,
—from all those fields of sacrifice, where, in obedience to the spirit of their age, they sealed their devotion to duty with their blood.
They say to us, their children,
|“Cease to vaunt what you do, and what has been done for you.
“Learn to walk meekly and to think humbly.
“Cultivate habits of self-sacrifice.
“Never aim at what is not RIGHT, persuaded that without this every possession and all knowledge will become an evil and a shame.
“And may these words of ours be ever in your minds!
“Strive to increase the inheritance we have bequeathed to you,—bearing in mind always, that, if we excel you in virtue, such a vic-
Honor to the memory of our fathers! May the turf lie lightly on their sacred graves! Not in words only, but in deeds also, let us testify our reverence for their name, imitating what in them was lofty, pure, and good, learning from them to bear hardship and privation.
May we, who now reap in strength what they sowed in weakness, augment the inheritance we have received! To this end, we must not fold our hands in slumber, nor abide content with the past. To each generation is appointed its peculiar task; nor does the heart which responds to the call of duty find rest except in the grave.
Be ours the task now in the order of Providence cast upon us. And what is this duty? What can we do to make our coming welcome to our fathers in the skies, and draw to our memory hereafter the homage of a grateful posterity? How add to the inheritance received?
The answer must interest all, particularly on
|tory will be to us a mortification, while defeat will bring happiness. In this way you may conquer us.
“Nothing is more shameful for a man than a claim to esteem, not on his own merits, but on the fame of his ancestors. The glory of the fathers is doubtless to their children a most precious treasure; but to enjoy it without transmission to the next generation, and without addition, is the extreme of ignominy.
“Following these counsels, when your days on earth are finished, you will come to join us, and we shall receive you as friend receives friend; but if you neglect our words, expect no happy greeting from us.”1
(1) This is borrowed almost literally from the words attributed by Plato to the Fathers of Athens, in the beautiful funeral discourse of the Menexenus.
this festival [Fourth of July], when we celebrate the Nativity of the Republic. It well becomes the patriot citizen, on this anniversary, to consider the national character, and how it may be advanced,—as the good man dedicates his birthday to meditation on his life, and to resolutions of improvement.
Avoiding, then, all exultation in the abounding prosperity of the land, and in that freedom whose influence is widening to the uttermost circles of the earth, I would turn attention to the character of our country, and humbly endeavor to learn what must be doue that the Republic may best secure the welfare of the people committed to its care,—that it may perform its part in the worid's history,—that it may fulfil the aspirations of generous hearts,—and, practising that righteousness which exalteth a nation [Proverb 14:34], attain to the elevation of True Grandeur.
With this aim, and believing that I can in no other way so fitly fulfil the trust reposed in me to-day, I purpose to consider what, in our age, are the true objects of national ambition,—what is truly National Honor, National Glory,—WHAT IS THE TRUE GRANDEUR OF NATIONS.
I would not depart from the modesty that becomes me, yet I am not without hope that I may do something to rescue these terms, now so powerful over the minds of men, from mistaken objects, especially from deeds of war, and the extension of empire, that they may be applied to works of justice and beneficence, which are better than war or empire.
The subject may be novel, on an occasion like the present; but it is comprehensive, and of transcendent importance. It raises us to the contemplation of things not temporary or local, but belonging to all ages and
countries,—things lofty as Truth, universal as Humanity. Nay, more; it practically concerns the general welfare, not only of our own cherished Republic, but of the whole Federation of Nations. It has an urgent interest from transactions in which we are now unhappily involved.
By an act of unjust [pro-slavery expansion] legislation, extending our power over Texas, peace with Mexico is endangered,—while, by petulant assertion of a disputed claim to a remote territory [Oregon] beyond the Rocky Mountains, ancient fires of hostile strife are kindled anew on the hearth of our mother country [England].
Mexico and England both avow the determination to vindicate what is called the National Honor; and our Government [under President James Polk] calmly contemplates the dread Arbitrament of War, provided it cannot obtain what is called an honorable peace.
Far from our nation and our age be the sin and shame of contests hateful in the sight of God and all good men, having their origin in no righteous sentiment, no true love of country, no generous thirst for fame,“that last infirmity of noble mind,” but springing manifestly from an ignorant and ignoble passion for new [slave] territory, strengthened, in our case, in a republic whose star is Liberty, by unnatural desire to add new links in chains destined yet to fall from the limbs of the unhappy slave!
In such contests God has no attribute which can join with us.
Who [except slavers] believes that the national honor would be promoted by a war with Mexico or a war with England? What just man would sacrifice a single human life to bring under our rule both Texas and Oregon?
An ancient Roman, ignorant of Christian truth, touched only by the relation of fellow-countryman, and not of fellow-man, said, as he turned
|Ed. Note: President James Polk, to support the South's slavery expansion goal, was planning a war of aggression by the U.S. to attack both England and Mexico, to seize Oregon, Texas, California, etc.|
aside from a career of Asiatic conquest, that he would rather save the life of a single citizen than win to his power all the dominions of Mithridates.1
A war with Mexico [to conquer and annex Texas, California, Arizona, etc.] would be mean and cowardly; with England [for Oregon] it would be bold at least, though parricidal. The heart sickens at the murderous attack upon an enemy [Mexico] distracted by civil feud, weak at home, impotent abroad; but it recoils in horror from the deadly shock between chiidren of a common ancestry, speaking the same language, soothed in infancy by the same words of love and tenderness, and hardened into vigorous manhood under the bracing influence of institutions instinct with the same vital breath of freedom.
The Roman historian has aptly pictured this unnatural combat. Rarely do words of the past so justly describe the present.
Can there be in our age any peace that is not honorable, any war that is not dishonorable? The true honor of a nation is conspicuous only in deeds of justice and beneficence, securing and advancing human happiness.
In the clear eye of that Christian judgment which must yet prevail, vain are the victories of War, infamous its spoils. He is the benefactor, and worthy of honor, who carries comfort to wretchedness, dries the tear of sorrow, relieves the unfortunate, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, does justice, enlightens the ignorant, unfastens the fetters of
|“Curam acuebat, quod adversus Latinos bellandum erat, lingua, moribus, armorum genere, institutis ante omnia militaribus congruentes: milites militibus, centurionibus centuriones, tribuni tribunis compares collegæque, iisdem præsidiis, sæpe iisdem manipulis permixti fuerant?”2|
1 Plutarch, Lucullus, Cap. VIII.
2 Livy, Hist., Lib. VIII. c. 6.
|Ed. Note: People were then better educated than now, so even in a speech to the public, it was (a) unnecessary to translate the above Latin quotation, nor (b) to explain the footnotes' references and allusions.|
the slave, and finally, by virtuous genius, in art, literature, science, enlivens and exalts the hours of life, or, by generous example, inspires a love for God and man. This is the Christian hero; this is the man of honor in a Christian land.
He is no benefactor, nor worthy of honor, whatever his worldly renown, whose life is absorbed in feats of brute force, who renounces the great law of Christian brotherhood, whose vocation is blood. Well may the modern poet exclaim, “The world knows nothing of its greatest men!”—for thus far it has chiefly honored the violent brood of Battle, armed men springing up from the dragon's teeth sown by Hate, and cared little for the truly good men, children of Love, guiltless of their country's blood, whose steps on earth are noiseless as an angel's wing.
It will not be disguised that this standard differs from that of the world even in our day. The voice of man is yet given to martial praise, and the honors of victory are chanted even by the lips of woman. The mother, rocking the infant on her knee, stamps the images of War upon his tender mind, at that age more impressible than wax; she nurses his slumber with its music, pleases his waking hours with its stories, and selects for his playthings the plume and the sword.
From the child is formed the man; and who can weigh the influence of a mother's spirit on the opinions of his life? The mind which trains the child is like a hand at the end of a long lever; a gentle effort suffices to heave the enormous weight of succeeding years. As the boy advances to youth, he is fed like Achilles, not on honey and milk only, but on bears' marrow and lions' hearts. He draws the nutriment of his soul from a literature whose beautiful fields are moistened by human
|Ed. Note: Sumner also said: "Give me the money that has been spent in war and I will clothe every man, woman, and child in an attire of which kings and queens will be proud. I will build a schoolhouse in every valley over the whole earth. I will crown every hillside with a place of worship consecrated to peace."|
blood. Fain would I offer my tribute to the Father of Poetry, standing with harp of immortal melody on the misty mountain-top of distant Antiquity,—to those stories of courage and sacrifice which emblazon the annals of Greece and Rome,—to the fulminations of Demosthenes and the splendors of Tully,—to the sweet verse of Yirgil and the poetic prose of Livy; fain would I offer my tribute to the new literature, which shot up in modern times as a vigorous forest from the burnt site of ancient woods,—to the passionate song of the Troubadour in France and the Minnesinger in Germany,—to the thrillingballad of Spain and the delicate music of the Italian lyre: but from all these has breathed the breath of War, that has swept the heart-strings of men in all the thronging generations.
And when the youth becomes a man, his country invites his service in war, and holds before his bewildered imagination the prizes of worldly honor. For him the pen of the historian and the verse of the poet. His soul is taught to swell at the thought that he, too, is a soldier,—that his name shall be entered on the list of those who have borne arms for their country; and perhaps he dreams that he, too, may sleep, like the Great Captain of Spain, with a hundred trophies over his grave.
The law of the land throws its sanction over this frenzy. The contagion spreads beyond those subject to positive obligation. Peaceful citizens volunteer to appear as soldiers, and affect, in dress, arms, and deportment, what is called the “pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war.” The ear-piercing fife has to-day filled our streets, and we have come to this church, on this National Sabbath [Fourth of July], by the thump of drum and with the parade of bristling bayonets.
It is not strange, then, that the Spirit of War still finds a home among us, nor that its honors continue to be regarded. All this may seem to illustrate the bitter philosophy of [Thomas] Hobbes [1588-1679], declaring that the natural state of mankind is War, and to sustain the exulting language of the soldier in our own day, when he wrote,
This is broad and bold. In madder mood, another British general is reported as saying,
|“War is the condition of this world. From man to the smallest insect, all are at strife; and the glory of arms, which cannot be obtained without the exercise of honor, fortitude, courage, obedience, modesty, and temperance, excites the brave man's patriotism, and is a chastening corrective for the rich man's pride.”1|
All these spoke in harmony. If one is true, all are true. A French voice has struck another note, chanting nothing less than the divinity of war, hailing it as
|“Why, man, do you know that a grenadier is the greatest character in this world,”—and after a moment's pause, with the added emphasis of an oath,“and, I believe, in the next, too.”2|
|“divine” in itself,—“divine” in its consequences,—“divine” in mysterious glory and seductive attraction,—“divine” in the manner of its declaration,—“divine” in the results obtained,—“divine” in the undefinable force by which its triumph is determined;3|
and the whole earth, continually imbibing blood, is nothing but an immense altar, where life is immolated without end, without measure, without respite. But this oracle [B.S.] is not saved from rejection even by the magistral style in which it is delivered.
1 Napier, Peninsular War, Book XXIV. ch. 6, Vol. VI. p. 688.
2 Southey, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, Coll. VIII., Vol. I. p. 211.
3 Joseph de Maistre, Soirées de Saint-Pétersbourg, Tom. II. pp. 27, 32-35.
Alas! in the existing attitude of nations, the infidel philosopher and the rhetorical soldier, to say nothing of the giddy general and the French priest of Mars, find too much support for a theory which degrades human nature and insults the goodness of God.
It is true that in us are impulses unhappily tending to strife. Propensities possessed in common with the beast, if not subordinated to what in man is human, almost divine, will break forth in outrage. This is the predominance of the animal. Hence wars and fightings, with the false glory which crowns such barbarism.
But the true civilization of nations, as of individuals, is determined by the extent to which thse evil dispositions are restrained. Nor does the teacher ever more truly perform his high office than when, recognizmg the supremacy of the moral and intellectual, he calls upon nations, as upon individuals, to declare independence of the bestial, to abandon practices founded on this part of our nature, and in every way to beat down that brutal spirit which is the Genius of War.
In making this appeal, he will be startled as he learns, that, while the municipal law of each Christian nation, discarding the Arbitrament of Force, provides a judicial tribunal for the determination of controversies between individuals, International Law expressly establishes the Arbitrament of War for the determination of controversies between nations.
Here, then, in unfolding the True Grandeur of Nations, we encounter a practice, or custom, sanctioned by the Law of Nations, and constituting a part of that law, which exists in defiance of principles such as no individuals can disown.
If it is wrong and inglorious when individuals consent and agree to determine their petty
controversies by [trial by] combat, it must be equally wrong and inglorious when nations consent and agree to determine their vaster controversies by combat.
Here is a positive, precise, and specific evil, of gigantic proportions, inconsistent with what is truly honorable, making within the sphere of its influence all true grandeur impossible, which, instead of proceeding from some uncontrollable impulse of our nature, is expressly established and organized by law.
|Ed. Note: Sumner's point about the wrongness of war, would be accepted in 1923, see p 51, infra.|
As all citizens are parties to Municipal Law, and responsible for its institutions, so are all the Christian nations parties to International Law, and responsible for its provisions. By recognizing thse provisions, nations consent and agree beforehand to the Arbitrament of War, precisely as citizens, by recognizing Trial by Jury, consent and agree beforehand to the latter tribunal.
As, to comprehend the true nature of Trial by Jury, we first repair to the Municipal Law by which it is established, so, to comprehend the true nature of the Arbitrament of War, we must first repair to the Law of Nations.
Writers of genius and learning have defined this arbitrament, and laid down the rules by which it is governed, constituting a complex code, with innumerable subtile provisions regulating the resort to it and the manner in which it must be conducted, called the Laws of War.
In these quarters we catch our first authentic glimpses of its folly and wickedness.
According to Lord [Francis] Bacon [1561-1626], whose authority is always great,
|“Wars are no massacres and confusions, but they are the highest Trials of Right, when princes and states, that acknowledge no superior upon earth, shall put themselves upon the justice of God for the deciding of their|
This definition of the English philosopher is adopted by the American jurist, Chancellor [James] Kent [1763-1847], in his Commentaries on American Law.2
The Swiss publicist, [Emerich de] Vattel [1714-1767], whose work is accepted as an important repository of the Law of Nations, defines War as “that state in which a nation prosecutes its right by force.”3
In this he very nearly follows the eminent Dutch authority, [Cornelius van] Bynkershoek [1673-1743], who says,
|controversies by such success as it shall please him to give on either side.”1|
Mr. Whewell, who has done so much to illustrate philosophy in all its departments, says, in his recent work on the Elements of Morality and Polity,
|“Bellum est eorum, qui suæ potestatis sunt, juris sui persequendi ergo, concertatio per vim vel dolum.”4|
And in our country, Dr. Lieber says, in a work of learning and sagacious thought, that war is undertaken “in order to obtain right,”6—a definition which hardly differs in form from those of Vattel and Bynkershoek.
In accordance with these texts, I would now define the evil which I arraign. War is a public armed contest between nations, under the sanction of International Law, to establish JUSTICE between them: as, for instance, to determine a disputed boundary, the title to territory, or a claim for damages.
This definition is confined to contests between nations.
|“Though war is appealed to, because there is no other ULTIMATE TRIBUNAL to which states can have recourse, it is appealed to for justice.”5|
1 Observations upon a Libel, etc., Works, Vol. III. p. 40.
2 Lecture III., Vol. I. p. 45.
3 Book III. ch. 1, sec. 1.
4 Quæst. Jur. Pub., Lib. I. cap. 1.
5 Book VI. ch. 2. art. 1146.
6 Political Ethics, Book VII. sec. 19, Vol. II. p. 643.
It is restricted to International War, carefully excluding the question, often agitated, concerning the right of revolution, and that other question, on which friends of peace sometimes differ, the right of personal self-defence. It does not in any way throw doubt on the employment of force in the administration of justice or the conservation of domestic quiet.
It is true that the term defensive is always applied to wars in our day. And it is creditable to the moral sense that nations are constrained to allege this seeming excuse, although its absurdity is apparent in the equal pretensions of the two belligerents, each claiming to act on the defensive.
It is unreasonable to suppose that war can arise in the present age, under the sanctions of International Law, except to determine an asserted right.
Whatever its character in periods of barbarism, or when invoked to repel an incursion of robbers or pirates, “enemies of the human race,” war becomes in our day, among all the nations parties to existing International Law, simply a mode of litigation, or of deciding a lis pendens. It is a mere TRIAL OF RIGHT, an appeal for justice to force.
The wars now lowering [threatened by President James Polk] from Mexico and England are of this character. On the one side, we assert a title to Texas, which is disputed; on the other, we assert a title to Oregon, which is disputed. Only according to “martial logic,” or the “flash language” of a dishonest patriotism, can the Ordeal by Battle be regarded in these causes, on either side, as Defensive War.
Nor did the threatened war [under President Andrew Jackson] with France in 1834 promise to assume any different character. Its professed object was to obtain the payment of five million dollars,—in other words, to determine by this Ultimate
Tribunal a simple question of justice. And going back still farther in our history, the avowed purpose of the war against Great Britain in 1812 was to obtain from the latter power an abandonment of the claim to search American vessels. Unrighteous as was this claim, it is plain that war here was invoked only as a Trial of Right.
It forms no part of my purpose to consider individual wars in the past, except so far as necessary by way of example. My aim is higher. I wish to expose an irrational, cruel, and impious
custom, sanctioned by the Law of Nations. On this account I resort to that supreme law for the definition on which I plant myself in the effort I now make.
After considering, in succession, first, the character of war, secondly, the miseries it produces, and, thirdly, its utter and pitiful insufficiency, as a mode of determining justice, we shall be able to decide, strictly and logically, whether it must not be ranked as crime, from which no true honor can spring to individuals or nations.
To appreciate this evil, and the necessity for its overthrow, it will be our duty, fourthly, to consider in succession the various prejudices by which it is sustained, ending with that prejudice, so gigantic and all-embracing, at whose command uncounted sums are madly diverted from purposes of peace to preparations for war.
The whole subject is infinitely practical, while the concluding division shows how the public treasury may be relieved, and new means secured for human advancement.
First, as to the essential character and root of war, or that part of our nature whence it proceeds. Listen to the voice from the ancient poet of Bœotian Ascra:—
These words of old Hesiod exhibit the distinction between man and beast; but this very distinction belongs to the present discussion. The idea rises to the mind at once, that war is a resort to brute force, where nations strive to overpower each other.
Reason, and the divine part of our nature, where alone we differ from the beast, where alone we approach the Divinity, where alone are the elements of that justice, which is the professed object of war, are rudely dethroned.
For the time men adopt the nature of beasts, emulating their ferocity, like them rejoicing in blood, and with lion's paw clutching an asserted right.
Though in more recent days this character is somewhat disguised by the skill and knowledge employed, war is still the same, only more destructive from the genius and intellect which have become its servants.
The primitive [ancient] poets, in the unconscious simplicity of the world's childhood, make this boldly apparent. The heroes of Homer are likened to animals in ungovernable fury, or to things devoid of reason or affection. Menelaus presses his
|“This is the law for mortals, ordained by the Ruler of Heaven:
Fishes and beasts and birds of the air devour each other;
JUSTICE dwells not among them: only to MAN has he given
JUSTICE the Highest and Best.”1
1 Hesiod, Works and Days, vv. 276-279. Cicero also says, “Neque ulla re longius absumus a natura ferarum, in quibus inesse fortitudinem sæpe dicimus, ut in equis, in leonibus: justitiam, æquitatem, bonitatem non dicimus.”—De Offic., Lib. I. cap. 16.
way through the crowd “like a wild beast.” Sarpedon is aroused against the Argives, “as a lion against the crooked-horned oxen,” and afterwards rushes forward
In one and the same passage, the great Telamonian Ajax is “wild beast,” “tawny lion,” and “dull ass”; and all the Greek chiefs, the flower of the camp, are ranged about Diomed, “like raw-eating lions, or wild-boars, whose strength is irresistible.”
Even Hector, the model hero, with all the virtues of war, is praised as “tamer of horses”; and one of his renowned feats in battle, indicating brute strength only, is where he takes up and hurls a stone which two of our strongest men could not easily lift into a wagon; and he drives over dead bodies and shieids, while the axle is defiled by gore, and the guard about the seat is sprinkled from the horses' hoofs and the tires of the wheels;1 and in that most admired passage of ancient literature, before returning his child, the young Astyanax, to the arms of the wife he is about to leave, this hero of war invokes the gods for a single blessing on the boy's head,
|“like a lion nurtured on the mountains, for a long time famished for want of flesh, but whose courage impels him to attack even the well-guarded sheepfold.”|
From early fields of modern literature, as from those of antiquity, might be gathered similar illustrations, showing the unconscious degradation of the soldier, in vain pursuit of justice, renouncing the human character,
|“that he may excel his father, and bring home bloody spoils, his enemy being slain, and so make glad the heart of his mother!”|
1 Little better than Trojan Hector was the “great” Condé ranging over the field and exulting in the blood of the enemy which defiled his sword-arm to the elbow.—Mahon, Essai sur la Vie du Grand Condé, p. 60.
to assume that of brute. Bayard, the exemplar of chivalry, with a name always on the lips of its votaries, was described by the qualities of beasts, being, according to his admirers, ram in attack, wild-boar in defence, and wolf in flight.
Henry the Fifth, as represented by our own Shakespeare, in the spirit-stirring appeal to his troops exclaims,—
This is plain and frank, revealing the true character of war.
I need not dwell on the moral debasement that must ensue. Passions, like so many bloodhounds, are unleashed and suffered to rage. Crimes filling our prisons stalk abroad in the soldier's garb, unwhipped of justice. Murder, robbery, rape, arson, are the sports of this fiendish Saturnalia, when
“When the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger.”
By a bold, but truthful touch, Shakespeare thus pictures the foul disfigurement which war produces in man, whose native capacities he describes in those beautiful words:
|The gates of mercy shall be all shut up,
And the fleshed soldier, rough aud hard of heart,
In liberty of bloody hand shall range
With conscience wide as hell.”
And yet this nobility of reason, this infinitude of faculties, this marvel of form and motion, this nature so angelic, so godlike, are all, under the transforming power of War, lost in the action of the beast, or the license of the fleshed soldier with bloody hand and conscience wide as hell.
|“How noble in reason!
how infinite in faculties!
in form and moving
how express and admirable!
in action how like an angel!
in apprehension how like a god!”
The immediate effect of war is to sever all relations of friendship and commerce between the belligerent nations, and every individual thereof, impressing upon each citizen or subject the character of euemy.
Imagine this instant change between England and the United States. The innumerable ships of the two conntries, the white doves of commerce, bearing the olive of peace, are driven from the sea, or turned from peaceful purposes to be ministers of destruction; the threads of social and business intercourse, so carefully woven into a thick web, are suddenly snapped asunder; friend can no longer communicate with friend; the twenty thousand letters speeded each fortnight from this port alone are arrested, and the human affections, of which they are the precious expression, seek in vain for utterance.
Tell me, you with friends and kindred abroad, or you bound to other lands only by relations of commerce, are you ready for this rude separation?
This is little compared with what must follow. It is but the first portentous shadow of disastrous eclipse, twilight usher of thick darkness, covering the whole heavens with a pall, broken only by the lightnings of battle and siege.
Such horrors redden the historic page, while, to the scandal of humanity, they never want [lack] historians with feelings kindred to those by which they are inspired. The demon that draws the sword also guides the [historians'] pen. The favorite chronicler of modern Europe, [Jean] Froissart [1333-1400], discovers [reveals] his [pro-war] sympathies in his Prologue, where, with
something of apostleship, he announces his purpose,
|“that the honorable enterprises and noble adventures and feats of arms which happened in the wars of France and England be notably registered and put in perpetual memory,”|
and then proceeds to bestow his equal admiration upon bravery and cunning, upon the courtesy which pardoned as upon the rage which caused the flow of blood in torrents, dwelling with especial delight on
|“beautiful incursions, beautiful rescues, beautiful feats of arms, and beautiful prowesses”; and wantoning in pictures of cities assaulted, “which, being soon gained by force, were robbed, and men and women and children put to the sword without mercy, while the churches were burnt and violated.”1|
This was in a barbarous age.
But popular writers in our own day, dazzled by false ideas of greatness, at which reason and humanity blush, do not hesitate to dwell on similar scenes even with rapture and eulogy. The humane soul of Wilberforce, which sighed that England's
|“bloody laws sent many unprepared into another world,”|
could hail the slaughter of Waterloo, by which thousands were hurried into eternity on the Sabbath he held so holy, as a
My present purpose is less to judge the historian than to expose the horrors on horrors which he applauds.
At Tarragona, above six thousand human beings, almost
all defenceless, men and women, gray hairs and infant innocence, attractive youth and wrinkled age, were butchered by the infuriate troops in one night, and the morning sun rose upon a city whose streets and houses
1 Froissart, Les Chroniques, Ch. 177, 179, Collection de Buchon, Tom. II. pp. 87, 92.
2 Life of William Wilberforce, by his Sons, Ch. 30, Vol. IV. pp 256, 261.
were inundated with blood: and yet this is called a
Here was a conquest by the French.
At a later day, Ciudad Rodrigo was stormed by the British, when, in the license of victory, there ensued a savage scene of plunder and violence, while shouts and screams on all sides mingled fearfully with the groans of the wounded. Churches were desecrated, cellars of wine and spirits were pillaged, fire was wantonly applied to the city, and brutal intoxication spread in every direction. Only when the drunken dropped from excess, or fell asleep, was any degree of order restored: and yet the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo is pronounced
This “beautiful feat of arms” was followed by the storming of Badajoz, where the same scenes were enacted again, with accumulated atrocities. The story shall be told in the words of a partial historian, who himself saw what he eloquently describes.
|“one of the most brilliant exploits of the British army.”2|
|“Shameless rapacity, brutal intemperance, savage lust, cruelty, and murder, shrieks and piteous lamentations, groans, shouts, imprecations, the hissing of fires bursting from the houses, the crashing of doors and Windows, and the reports of muskets used in violence, resounded for two days and nights in the streets of Badajoz. On the third, when the city was sacked, when the soldiers were exhausted by their own excesses, the tumult rather subsided than was quelled. The wounded men were then looked to, the dead disposed of.”3|
All this is in the nature of confession, for the historian is a partisan of battle.
The same terrible war affords another instance of atrocities at a siege crying to Heaven. For weeks be-
1 Alison, Hist. of Europe, Ch. 61, Vol. VIII. p. 237.
2 Ibid , Ch 64, Vol. VIII. p 482.
3 Napier, Hist Peninsular War, Book XVI. ch. 5, Vol. IV. p. 431.
fore the surrender of Saragossa, the deaths daily were from four to five hundred; and as the living could not bury the increasing mass, thousands of carcasses, scattered in streets and court-yards, or piled in heaps at the doors of churches, were left to dissolve in their own corruption, or be licked up by the flames of burning houses.
The city was shaken to its foundations by sixteen thousand shells, and the explosion of forty-five thousand pounds of powder in the mines,—while the bones of forty thousand victims, of every age and both sexes, bore dreadful testimony to the unutterable cruelty of War.1
These might seem pictures from the life of Alaric [370 - 410 C.E.], who led the Goths to Rome, or of Attila [406 - 453 C.E.], general of the Huns, called the Scourge of God, and who boasted that the grass did not grow where his horse had set his foot; but no! they belong to our own times. They are portions of the wonderful, but wicked, career of him [Napoleon] who stands forth the foremost representative of worldly grandeur. The heart aches, as we follow him and his marshals from field to field of Satanic glory,2 finding everywhere, from Spain to Russia, the same carnival of woe.
The picture is various, yet the same. Suffering, wounds, and death, in every form, fill the terrible canvas. What scene more dismal than that of Albuera, with its horrid piles of corpses, while all night the rain pours down, and river, hill, and forest,
1 Napier, Book V. ch. 3, Vol. II. p. 46.
2 A living poet of Italy, who will be placed by his prose among the great names of his country's literature, in a remarkable ode which he has thrown on the urn of Napoleon invites posterity to judge whether his career of battle was True Glory.
|“Fu vera gloria ? Ai posteri|
—MANZONI, Il Cinque Maggio.
When men learn to appreciate moral grandeur, the easy sentence will be rendered.
on each side, resound with the cries and groans of the dying?1
What scene more awfully monumental than Salamanca, where, long after the great battle, the ground, strewn with fragments of casques and cuirasses, was still white with the skeletons of those who fell?2
What catalogue of horrors more complete than the Russian campaign? At every step is war, and this is enough: soldiers black with powder; bayonets bent with the violence of the encounter; the earth ploughed with cannon-shot; trees torn and mutilated; the dead and dying; wounds and agony; fields covered with broken carriages, outstretched horses, and mangled bodies; while disease, sad attendant on military suffering, sweeps thousands from the great hospitals, and the multitude of amputated limbs, which there is no time to destroy, accumulate in bloody heaps, filling the air with corruption.
What tongue, what pen, can describe the bloody havoc at Borodino, where, between rise and set of a single sun, one hundred thousand of our fellow-men, equalling in number the whole population of this city, sank to earth, dead or wounded?3
Fifty days after the battle, no less than thirty thousand are found stretched where their last convulsions ended, and the whole plain is strewn with half-buried carcasses of men and horses, intermingled with garments dyed in blood, and bones gnawed by dogs and vultures.4
Who can follow the French army in dismal retreat, avoiding the spear of the pursuing Cossack only to sink beneath the sharper frost and ice,
1 Napier, Book XII. ch. 7, Vol. III. p 543.
2 Alison, Ch. 64, Vol. VIII. p. 589.
3 Ibid., Ch. 67, Vol. VIII. p 871.
4 Ibid., Ch. 68, Vol. VIII. p. 830. Ségur, Hist. de Napoléon, Liv. IX. ch. 7, Tom. II. p. 158. Labaume, Rel. de la Campagne de Russie, Liv. VII.
in a temperature below zero, on foot, without shelter for the body, famishing on horse-flesh and a miserable compound of rye and snow-water?
With a fresh array, the war is upheld against new forces under the walls of Dresden; and as the Emperor rides over the field of battle—after indulging the night before in royal supper with the Saxon king—he sees ghastly new-made graves, with hands and arms projecting, stark and stiff, above the ground; and shortly afterwards, when shelter is needed for the troops, the order to occupy the Hospitals for the Insane is given, with the words,
Here I might close this scene of blood. But there is one other picture of the atrocious, though natural, consequences of war, occurring almost within our own day, that I would not omit.
Let me bring to your mind Genoa [Italy], called the Superb, City of Palaces, dear to the memory of American childhood as the birth-place of Christopher Columbus, and one of the spots first enlightened by the morning beams of civilization, whose merchants were princes, and whose rich argosies, in those early days, introduced to Europe the choicest products of the East, the linen of Egypt, the spices of Arabia, and the silks of Samarcand. She still sits in queenly pride, as she sat then,—her mural crown studded with towers,—her churches rich with marble floors and rarest pictures,—her palaces of ancient doges and admirals yet spared by the hand of Time,—her close streets thronged by a hundred thousand inhabitants,—at the foot of the Apennines [Mountains], as they approach the blue and tideless waters of the Mediterranean Sea,
1 Alison, Ch. 72, Vol. IX. pp. 469, 553.
—leaning her back against their strong mountain-sides, overshadowed by the foliage of the fig-tree and the olive, while the orange and the lemon with pleasant perfume scent the air where reigns perpetual spring. Who can contemplate such a city without delight? Who can listen to the story of her sorrows without a pang?
At the opening  of the present century, the armies of the French Republic, after dominating over Italy, were driven from their conquests, and compelled, with shrunken forces, to find shelter under Massena, within the walls of Genoa. Various efforts were made by the Austrian general, aided by bombardment from the British fleet, to force the strong defences by assault. At length the city was invested by a strict blockade. All communication with the country was cut off, while the harbor was closed by the ever-wakeful British watch-dogs of war.
Besides the French troops, within the beleaguered and unfortunate city are the peaceful, unoffending inhabitants. Provisions soon become scarce; scarcity sharpens into want, till fell Famine, bringing blindness and madness in her train, rages like an Erinnys.
Picture to yourselves this large population, not pouring out their lives in the exulting rush of battle, but wasting at noonday, daughter by the side of mother, husband by the side of wife. When grain and rice fail, flaxseed, millet, cocoa, and almonds are ground by hand-fulls into flour, and even bran, baked with honey, is eaten, less to satisfy than to deaden hunger.
Before the last extremities, a pound of horse-flesh is sold for thirty-two cents, a pound of bran for thirty cents, a pound of flour for one dollar and seventy-five cents. A single bean is soon sold for two cents, and a biscuit of three ounces for two dollars and a quarter,
till finally none can be had at any price. The wretched soldiers, after devouring the horses, are reduced to the degradation of feeding on dogs, cats, rats, and worms, which are eagerly hunted in cellars and sewers.
The day is dreary from hunger, — the night more dreary still, from hunger with delirious fancies. They now turn to herbs,—dock, sorrel, mallows, wild succory. People of every condition, with women of noble birth and beauty, seek upon the slope of the mountain within the defences those aliments which Nature designed solely for beasts. Scanty vegetables, with a scrap of cheese, are all that can be afforded to the sick and wounded, those sacred stipendiaries of human charity.
In the last anguish of despair, men and women fill the air with groans and shrieks, some in spasms, convulsions, and contortions, yielding their expiring breath on the unpitying stones of the street,—alas! not more unpitying than man. Children, whom a dead mother's arms had ceased to protect, orphans of an hour, with piercing cries, supplicate in vain the compassion of the passing stranger: none pity or aid. The sweet fountains of sympathy are all closed by the selfishness of individual distress.
In the general agony, some precipitate themselves into the sea, while the more impetuous rush from the gates, and impale their bodies on the Austrian bayonets. Others still are driven to devour their shoes and the leather of their pouches; and the horror of human flesh so far abates, that numbers feed like cannibals on the corpses about them.1
|“Happy were now,” exclaims an Italian historian, “not those who lived, but those who died!”|
1 This account is drawn from the animated sketches of Botta (Storia
At this stage the French general capitulated, claiming and receiving what are called “the honors of war,”—but not before twenty thousand innocent persons, old and young, women and children, having no part or interest in the contest, had died the most horrible of deaths. The Austrian flag floated over captured Genoa but a brief span of time; for Bonaparte had already descended like an eagle from the Alps, and in nine days afterwards, on the plains of Marengo, shattered the Austrian empire in Italy.
But wasted lands, famished cities, and slaughtered armies are not all that is contained in “the purple testament of bleeding war.” Every soldier is connected with others, as all of you, by dear ties of kindred, love, and friendship. He has been sternly summoned from the embrace of family. To him there is perhaps an aged mother, who fondly hoped to lean her bending years on his more youthful form; perhaps a wife, whose life is just entwined inseparably with his, now condemned to wasting despair; perhaps sisters, brothers. As he falls on the field of war, must not all these rush with his blood?
But who can measure the distress that
d' Italia dal 1789 al 1814, Tom III. Lib 19), Alison (History of Europe, Vol. IV. ch. 30), and Arnold (Modern History, Lect. IV.).
The humanity of the last [Arnold] is particularly aroused to condemn this most atrocious murder of innocent peopie, and, as a sufficient remedy, he suggests a modification of the Laws of War, permitting non-combatants to withdraw from a blockaded town! In this way, indeed, they may be spared a languishing death by starvation, but they must desert firesides, pursuits, all that makes life dear, and become homeless exiles,—a fate little better than the former.
It is strange that Arnold's pure soul and dear judgment did not recognize the truth, that the whole custom of war is unrighteous and unlawful, and that the horrors of this siege are its natural consequence.
Laws of War! Laws in what is lawless! rules of wrong! There can be only one Law of War,— that is, the great law which pronounces it unwise, unjust, and unchristian.
radiates as from a bloody sun, penetrating innumerable homes? Who can give the gauge and dimensions of this infinite sorrow?
Tell me, ye who feel the bitterness of parting with dear friends and kindred, whom you watch tenderly till the last golden sands are run out and the great hour-glass is turned, what is the measure of your anguish? Your friend departs, soothed by kindness and in the arms of Love: the soldier gasps out his life with no friend near, while the scowl of Hate darkens all that he beholds, darkens his own departing soul.
Who can forget the anguish that fills the bosom and crazes the brain of Lenore, in the matchless ballad of Bürger, when seeking in vain among returning squadrons for her lover left dead on Prague's ensanguined plain?
But every field of blood has many Lenores. All war is full of desolate homes, as is vividiy pictured by a master poet of antiquity, whose verse is an argument.
|“But through the bounds of Grecia's land,
Who sent her sons for Troy to part,
See mourning, with much suffering heart,
On each man's threshold stand,
On each sad hearth in Grecia's land.
Well may her soul with grief be rent;
She well remembers whom she sent,
She sees them not return:
Instead of men, to each man's home
Urns and ashes only come,
And the armor which they wore,—
Sad relics to their native shore
For Mars, the barterer of the lifeless clay,
Who sells for gold the slain,
And holds the scale, in battle's doubtful day,
High balanced o'er the plain,
From Ilium's walls for men returns
Ashes and sepuLchral urns,—
Ashes wet with many a tear,
Sad relics of the fiery bier.
Round the full urns the general groan
Goes, as each their kindred own:
One they mourn in battle strong,
And one that 'mid the armed throng
He sunk in glory's slaughtering tide,
And for another's consort died.
Others they mourn whose monuments stand
By Ilium's walls on foreign strand;
Where they fell in beauty's bloom,
There they lie in hated tomb,
Sunk beneath the massy mound,
in eternal chambers bound.”1
But all these miseries are to no purpose. War is utterly ineffectual to secure or advance its professed object. The wretchedness it entails contributes to no end, helps to establish no right, and therefore in no respect determines justice between the contending nations.
The fruitlessness and vanity of war appear in the great conflicts by which the worid has been lacerated. After long struggle, where each nation inflicts and receives incalculable injury, peace is gladly obtained on the basis of the condition before the war, known as the status ante bellum.
I cannot illustrate this futility better than by the familiar example—humiliating to both countries—of our last war [of 1812] with Great Britain, where the professed object was to obtain a renunciation of the British claim, so defiantly asserted, to impress our seamen. To overturn this injustice the Arbitrament of War was invoked, and for nearly three years the whole country was under its terrible ban.
American commerce was driven from the seas; the re-
1 Agamemnon of Æschylus: Chorus. This is from the beautiful translation by John Symmons [1781-1842, London: Taylor and Hessey, 1824].
|Ed. Note: Æschylus was 525 B.C.E. - 456 B.C.E.|
sources of the land were drained by taxation; villages on the Canadian frontier were laid in ashes; the metropolis of the Republic [Washington, D.C.] was captured [when Southern troops fled]; while distress was everywhere within our borders.
Weary at last with this rude trial, the National Government appointed commissioners to treat for peace, with these specific instructions:
Afterwards, finding small chance of extorting from Great Britain a relinquishment of the unrighteous claim, and foreseeing from the inveterate prosecution of the war only an accumulation of calamities, the National Government directed the negotiators, in concluding a treaty, to
|"Your first duty will be to conclude a peace with Great Britain; and you are authorized to do it, in case you obtain a satisfactory stipulation against impressment, one which shall secure under our flag protection to the crew. . . . . If this encroachment of Great Britain is not provided against, the United States have appealed to arms in vain."1|
Thse instructions were obeyed, and the treaty that restored to us once more the blessings of peace, so rashly cast away [by the Slave Power to damage the North], but now
hailed with intoxication of joy, contained no allusion to impressment, nor did it provide for the surrender of a single American sailor detained in the British navy.
Thus, by the confession of our own Government,
|“omit any stipulation on the subject of impressment.”2|
These important words are not mine; they are words of the country.
|“the United States had appealed to arms IN VAIN.”3|
|Ed. Note: The U.S. lost the War of 1812, fought it in vain. "The [peace] Treaty of Ghent was a simple cessation of hostilities. Every principle or cause for which the War of 1812 was fought was ignored," says Robert Leckie, The Wars of America (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), Part III, § 12, p 307.
1 Mr. [James] Monroe [Secretary of State] to Commissioners, April 15, 1813: American State Papers, Vol. VIII. pp. 577, 578.
2 Mr. Monroe to Commissioners, June 27, 1814: Ibid., Vol. VIII. p. 593.
3 Mr. Jefferson, in more than one letter, declares the peaco an armistice only, “because no security is provided against the impressment of our seamen.”—Letter to Crawford, Feb. 11, 1815; to Lafayette, Feb. 14, 1815; Works, Vol. VI. pp. 420, 427.
All this is the natural result of an appeal to war for the determination of justice. Justice implies the exercise of the judgment. Now war not only supersedes the judgment, but delivers over the pending question to superiority of force, or to chance.
Superior force may end in conquest; this is the natural consequence; but it cannot adjudicate any right. We expose the absurdity of its arbitrament, when, by a familiar phrase of sarcasm, we deride the right of the strongest,—excluding, of course, all idea of right, except that of the lion as he springs upon a weaker beast, of the wolf as he tears in pices the lamb, of the vulture as he devours the dove. The grossest spirits must admit that this is not justice.
But the battle is not always to the strong. Superiority of force is often checked by the proverbial contingencies of war. Especially are such contingencies revealed in rankest absurdity, where nations, as is the acknowledged custom, without regard to their respective forces, whether weaker or stronger, voluntarily appeal to this mad umpirage. Who beforehand can measure the currents of the heady fight?
In common language, we confess the “chances” of battle; and soldiers devoted to this harsh vocation yet call it a “game.” The Great Captain of our age [Napoleon], who seemed to drag victory at his chariot-wheels, in a formal address to his officers, on entering Russia, says,
The famous victory of Marengo, accident of an accident, wrested unexpectedly [14 June 1800] at close of day from a foe [Italy] at an earlier hour successful [against Napoleon's Army], taught him the uncertainty of war.
Afterwards, in bitterness of spirit, when his immense forces were
|“In war, fortune has an equal share with ability in success.”1|
1 Alison, Ch. 67, Vol. VIII. p. 815.
shivered, and his triumphant eagles driven back with broken wing, he exclaimed, in that remarkable conversation recorded by his secretary, Fain,—
The same sentiment is repeated by the military historian of the Peninsular campaigns, when he [Napier] says,
|“Well, this is War! High in the morning,—low enough at night! From a triumph to a fall is often but a step.”1|
And again, in another place, considering the conduct of Wellington, the same military historian [Napier], who is an unquestionable authority, confesses,
|“Fortune always asserts her supremacy in war; and often from a slight mistake such disastrous consequences flow, that, in every age and every nation, the uncertainty of arms has been proverbial.”2|
|“A few hours' delay, an accident, a turn of fortune, and he would have been foiled. Ay! but this is War, always dangerous and uncertain, an ever-rolling wheel, and armed with scythes.”3|
And will intelligent man look for justice to an ever-rolling wheel armed with scythes?
Chance is written on every battle-field. Discerned less in the conflict of large masses than in that of individuals, it is equally present in both. How capriciously the wheel turned when the fortunes of Rome were staked on the combat between the Horatii and Curiatii!—and who, at one time, augured [predicted] that the single Horatius, with two slain brothers on the field, would overpower the three living enemies?
But this [fact] is not alone. In all the combats of history, involving the fate of individuals or nations, we learn to revolt at the frenzy which carries questions of property, freedom, or life to a judgment so uncertain and senseless. The humorous poet fitly exposes its hazards, when he says,—
1 Alison, Ch. 72, Vol. IX. p. 497.
2 Napier, Book XXIV. ch. 6, Vol. VI. p. 687.
3 Ibid. Book XVI. ch 7, Vol. IV. p 476.
During the early modern centuries, and especially in the moral night of the Dark Ages, the practice prevailed extensively throughout Europe of invoking this adjudication [War] for controversies, whether of individuals or communities.
|“that a turnstile is more certain
Than, in events of war, Dame Fortune.”1
I do not dwell on the custom of Private War, though it aptly illustrates the subject, stopping merely to echo that joy which, in a time of ignorance, before this arbitrament [Private War] yielded gradually to the ordinances of monarchs and an advancing civilization, hailed its temporary suspension as The Truce of God.
But this beautiful term, most suggestive, and historically important, cannot pass without the attention which belongs to it. Such a truce is still an example, and also an argument; but it is for nations. Here is something to be imitated; and here also is an appeal to the reason. If individuals or communities once recognized the Truce of God, why not again? And why may not its benediction descend upon nations also? Its origin goes back to the darkest night.
It was in 1032 that the Bishop of Aquitaine [France] announced the appearance of an angel with a message from Heaven, engaging men to cease from war and be reconciled. The people, already softened by calamity and disposed to supernatural impressions, hearkened to the sublime message, and consented.
From sunset Thursday to sunrise Monday each week, also during Advent and Lent, and at the great festivals, all effusion of blood was interdicted, and no man could molest his adversary. Women, children, travellers, merchants, laborers, were assured perpetual peace. Every church was made an asylum,
|Ed. Note: Sumner is making a standard distinction, practice vs. morals. Toi distinguish between the two, what to do is to (a) read the moral rules, and (b) not assume that practice (tradition, behavior, custom, culture, what people actually do) is moral or right, i.e., what they ought to do.|
It may be "practice" or "tradition" for people to jaywalk, rob, kidnap or enslave. But from the fact of what people do, it does not follow that that behavior is what moral guidance says to do!
What people do is not the standard of what is moral. The standard is what the moral code says to do. To find out what morals say, do not compare with tradition, with practice, with what people do. Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:9. Read the moral guidance. Here are explanatory precedents:
|"what ought to be done is fixed by a standard . . . whether it usually is complied with or not."-Texas & Pac Ry v Behymer, 189 US 468, 470; 23 S Ct 622, 623; 47 L Ed 903 (1903).|
A moral code is designed for a purpose. That is, it is
|"designed to disrupt" nonconforming practice-U.S. v City of Los Angeles, 595 F2d 1386, 1391 (CA 9, 1979).|
|A "practice not based upon any rule of law" must be reversed and rejected, Biafore v Baker, 119 Mich App 667; 326 NW2d 598 (1982); The T. J. Hooper, 60 F2d 737, 740 (CA 2, 1932).|
1 Hudibras, Part I. Canto 3, vv. 23, 24
and, by happy association, the plough also sheltered from peril all who came to it. This respite, justly regarded as marvellous, was hailed as the Truce of God.
Beginning in one neighborhood, it was piously extended until it embraced the whole kingdom [France], and then, by the authority of the Pope, became coextensive with Christendom, while those who violated it were put under solemn ban. As these things passed, bishops lifted their crosses, and the people in their gladness cried, Peace! Peace.!1
Originally too limited in operation and too short in duration, the Truce of God must again be proclaimed for all places and all times,—proclaimed to all mankind and all nations, without distinction of person or calling, on all days of the week, without distinction of sacred days or festivals, and with one universal asylum, not merely the church and the plough, but every place and thing.
From Private Wars, whose best lesson is the Truce of God, by which for a time they were hushed, I come to the Judicial Combat, or Trial by Battle, where, as in a mirror, we behold the barbarism of War, without truce of any kind. Trial by Battle was a formal and legitimate mode of deciding controversies, principally between individuals.
Like other ordeals, by walking barefoot and blindfold among burning ploughshares, by holding hot iron, by dipping the hand in hot water or hot oil, and like the great Ordeal of War, it was a presumptuous appeal to Providence, under the apprehension and hope that Heaven would give the victory to him who had the right. Its object was the
1 Robertson, Hist. of Charles V., Vol. I. note 21. Semchon, La Paix et la Trève de Dieu, Tom. II. pp. 35, 53.
very object of War,—the determination of Justice. It was sanctioned by Municipal Law as an arbitrament for individuals, as War, to the scandal of civilization is still sanctioned by International Law as an arbitrament for nations.
|“Men,” says the brilliant Frenchman, Montesquieu, [Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755)] “subject even their prejudices to rules”;|
and Trial by Battle, which he does not hesitate to denounce as a
was surrounded by artificial regulations of multifarious detail, constituting an extensive System, determining how and when it should be waged, as War is surrounded by a complex code, known as the Laws of War.
|“Nothing,” says Montesquieu again, “could be more contrary to good sense, but, once established, it was executed with a certain prudence,”—|
which is equally true of War.
No battle-field for an army is selected with more care than was the field for Trial by Battle. An open space in the neighborhood of a church was often reserved for this purpose. At the famous Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, in Paris, there was a tribune for the judges, overlooking the adjoining meadow, which served for the field.1
The combat was inaugurated by a solemn mass, according to a form still preserved, Missa pro Duello, so that, in ceremonial and sanction, as in the field, the Church was constantly present. Champions were hired, as soldiers now.2
No question was too sacred, grave, or recondite for this
1 Sismondi, Hist. des Français, Part. V. ch. 9, Tom. X. p. 514.
2 The pivotal character of Trial by Battle, as an illustration of War, will justify a reference to the modern authorities, among which are Robertson, who treats it with perspicuity and fulness (History of Charles V., Vol. I. note 22),—Hallam, always instructive (Middle Ages, Vol. I. Chap. II. pt. 2),—Blackstone, always clear (Commentaries, Book III. ch. 22, sec. 5, and Book IV. ch. 27, sec. 3),—Montesquieu, who casts upon it a flood of
tribunal. In France, the title of an Abbey to a neighboring church was decided by it; and an Emperor of Germany, according to a faithful ecclesiastic,
|“desirous of dealing honorably with his people and nobles”|
(mark here the standard of honor!), waived the judgment of the court on a grave question of law concerning the descent of property, and referred it to champions.
Human folly did not stop here. In Spain, a subtile point of theology was submitted to the same determination.1
But Trial by Battle was not confined to particular countries or to rare occasions. It prevailed everywhere in Europe, superseding in in many places all other ordeals, and even Trials by Proofs, while it extended not only to criminal matters, but to questions of property. In Orleans [France] it had an exceptional limitation, being denied in civil matters where the amount did not exceed five sous.2
Like War in our day, its justice and fitness as an arbitrament were early doubted or condemned. Liutprand [712 C.E. - 744 C.E.], a king of the Lombards, during that middle period neither ancient nor modern, in a law bearing date A. D.
light (Esprit des Lois, Liv. XXVIII. ch. 18-33),—Sismondi, humane and interesting (Histoire des Français, Part. IV. ch. 11, Tom. VIII. pp. 72-78),—Guizot, m a work of remarkable historic beauty, more grave than Montesquieu, and enlightened by a better philosophy (Histoire de la Civilisation en France depuis la Chute de l'Empire Romain, Tom. IV. pp. 89, 149-166),—Wheaton, our learned countryman (History of the Northmen, Chap. III. and XII.),—also the two volumes of Millingen's History of Duelling, if so loose a compend deserves a place in this list. All these, describing Trial by Battle, testify against War.
I cannot conceal that so great an authority as Selden, a most enlightened jurist of the Long Parliament, argues the lawfulness of the Duel from the lawfulness of War. After setting forth that “a duel may be granted in some cases by the law of England,” he asks, “But whether is this lawful?” and then answers, “If you grant any war lawful, I make no doubt but to convince it.” (Table-Talk: Duel.) But if the Duel be unlawful, how then with War?
1 Robertson, Hist. Charles V., Vol. I note 22.
2 Montesquieu, Esprit des Lois, Liv. XXVII. ch. 19.
724 [C.E.], declares his distrust of it as a mode of determining justice; but the monarch is compelled to add, that, considering the custom of his Lombard people, he cannot forbid the impious law. His words deserve emphatic mention:
The appropriate epithet by which he branded Trial by Battle is the important bequest of the royal Lombard to a distant posterity. For this the lawgiver will be cherished with grateful regard in the annals of civilisation.
This custom received another blow from Rome. In the latter part of the thirteenth century, Don Pedro of Aragon [1276-1285], after exchanging letters of defiance with Charles of Anjou, proposed a personal combat, which was accepted, on condition that Sicily should be the prize of success. Each called down upon himself all the vengeance of Heaven, and the last dishonor, if, at the appointed time, he failed to appear before the Seneschal of Aquitaine, or, in case of defeat, refused to consign Sicily undisturbed to the victor.
While they were preparing for the lists [battle], the Pope, Martin the Fourth [1281-1285], protested with all his might against this new Trial by Battle, which staked the sovereignty of a kingdom, a feudatory of the Holy See, on a wild stroke of chance. By a papal bull, dated at Civita Vecchia, April 5th, 1283, he threatened excommunication to either of the princes who should proceed to a combat which he pronounced criminal and abominable.
By a letter of the same date, the Pope announced to Edward the First [1272-1307] of England, Duke of Aquitaine, the agreement of the two princes, which he most earnestly declared to
|“Propter consuetudinem gentis nostrœ Langobardorum|
LEGEM IMPIAM vetare non possumus.” 1
1 Liutprandi Leges, Lib. VI. cap. 65: Muratori, Rerum Italie. Script., Tom. I. pars 2, p. 74.
be full of indecency and rashness, hostile to the concord of Christendom, and reckless of Christian blood; and he urged upon the English monarch all possible effort to prevent the combat,—menacing him with excommunication, and his territories with interdict, if it should take place. Edward refusing to guaranty the safety of the combatants in Aquitaine, the parties retired without consummating their duel.1
The judgment of the Holy See, which thus accomplished its immediate object, though not in terms directed to the suppression of the custom, remains, nevertheless, from its peculiar energy, a perpetual testimony against Trial by Battle.
To a monarch of France belongs the honor of first interposing the royal authority for the entire suppression within his jurisdiction of this impious custom, so universally adopted, so dear to the nobility, and so profoundly rooted in the institutions of the Feudal Age.
And here let me pause with reverence as I pronounce the name of St. Louis [1226-1270], a prince whose unenlightened errors may find easy condemnation in an age of larger toleration and wider knowledge, but whose firm and upright soul, exalted sense of justice, fatherly regard for the happiness of his people, respect for the rights of others, conscience void of offence toward God or man, make him foremost among Christian rulers, and the highest example for Christian prince or Christian people,—in one word, a model of True Greatness.
He was of angelic conscience, subjecting whatever he did to the single and exclusive test of moral rectitude, disregarding every consideration of worldly advantage, all fear of worldly consequences.
1 Sismondi, Hist. des Français, Part. IV. ch. 15, Tom. VIII. pp. 338-347.
His soul, thus tremblingly sensitive to right, was shocked at the judicial combat. It was a sin [Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12], in his sight, thus to tempt God, by demanding of him a miracle, whenever judgment was pronounced. From these intimate convictions sprang a royal ordinance, promulgated first at a Parliament assembled in 1260:
Such were the restraints on the royal authority, that this beneficent ordinance was confined in operation to the demesnes of the king, not embracing those of the barons and feudatories. But where the [legal] power of the sovereign did not reach, there he labored by example, influence, and express intercession,—treating with the great vassals, and inducing many to renounce this unnatural usage. Though for years later it continued to vex parts of France, its overthrow commenced with the Ordinance [Law] of St. Louis.
Honor and blessings attend this truly Christian king, who submitted all his actions to the Heaven-descended sentiment of Duty,—who began a long and illustrious reign by renouncing and restoring conquests of his predecessor [Louis VIII (1223-1226)], saying to those about him, whose souls did not ascend to his heights,
|“We forbid to all persons throughout our dominions the TRIAL BY BATTLE; . . . . and instead of battles, we establish proofs by witnesses. . . . . AND THESE BATTLES WE ABOLISH IN OUR DOMINIONS FOREVER.”1|
|“I know that the predecessors of the King of England [Henry III] lost altogether by right the
conquest which I hold; and the land which I give him I do not give because I am bound to him or his heirs, but to put love between my children and his children, who are cousins-german; and it seems to me that what I|
1 Guizot, Hist. de la Civilisation en France, Leçon 14, Vol. IV. pp. 162-164.
Honor to him who never by force or cunning grasped what was not his own,—who sought no advantage from the turmoil and dissension of his neighbors,—who, first of Christian princes, rebuked the Spirit of War, saying to those who would have him profit by the strifes of others,
|“thus give I employ to good purpose.”1|
—who, by an immortal ordinance, abolished Trial by Battle throughout his dominions,—who extended equal justice to all, whether his own people or his neighbors, and in the extremity of his last illness, before the walls of Tunis, under a burning African sun, among the beqnests of his spirit, enjoined on his son and successor,
To condemn Trial by Battle no longer requires the sagacity above his age of the Lombard monarch, or the intrepid judgment of the Sovereign Pontiff, or the ecstatic soul of St. Louis. An incident of history, as curious as it is authentic, illustrates this point, and shows the certain progress of opinion; and this brings me to England, where this trial was an undoubted part of the early Common Law, with peculiar ceremonies sanctioned by the judges robed in scarlet.
The learned Selden, not content with tracing its origin, and exhibiting its forms, with the oath of the duellist,
|“in maintaining justice, to be inflexible and loyal, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left.”3 [Ed. Note: alluding to Deuteronomy 17:20.]|
|“As God me help, and his saints of Paradise,”|
shows also the copartnership [accessory role] of the Church through its liturgy appointing prayers for the occasion.4
For some time it was the
1 Guizot, Hist. de la Civilisation en France, Leçon 14, Vol. IV. p. 151.
2 “Benoist soient tuit li apaiseur.”—Joinville, p. 143.
3 Sismondi, Hist. des Français, Part. IV. ch. 12, Tom. VIII. p. 196.
4 Selden, The Duello, or Single Combat, from Antiquity derived into this
only mode of trying a writ of right, by which the title to real property was determined, and the fines from the numerous cases formed no inconsiderable portion of the King's revenue.1
It was partially restrained by Henry the Second [1154-1189], under the advice of his chief justiciary, the ancient law-writer, Glanville, substituting the Grand Assize as an alternative, on the trial of a writ of right; and the reason assigned for this substitution was the uncertainty of the Duel, so that after many and long delays justice was scarcely obtained, in contrast with the other trial, which was more convenient and swift.2
At a later day, Trial by Battle was rebuked by Elizabeth [1558-1603], who interposed to compel the parties to a composition,—although, for the sake of their honor, as it was called, the lists were marked out and all the preliminary forms observed with much ceremony.3
It was awarded under Charles the First [1625-1649], and the proceeding went so far that a day was proclaimed for the combatants to appear with spear, long sword, short sword, and dagger, when the duel was adjourned from time to time, and at last the king compelled an accommodation without bloodshed.4
Kingdom of England; also, Table Talk, Duel: Works, Vol. III. col. 49-84, 2027.
1 Madox, Hist. of Exchequer, Vol. I. p. 349.
2 “Est autem magna Assisa regale quoddam beneficium, . . . . quo vitæ hominum et status integritati tam salubriter consulitur, ut in jure quod quis in libero soli tenemento possidet retinendo, duelli casum declinare possunt homines ambiguum. . . . . Jus enim, quod post multas et longas dilatiiones vix evincitur per duellum, per beneficium istius constitutionis commodius et acceleratius expeditur.” (Glanville, Tractatus de Legibus et Consuetudinibus Regni Angliæ, Lib. II. cap. 7.) These pointed words are precisely applicable to our Arbitrament of War, with its many and long delays, so little productive of Justice.
3 Robertson, Hist. Charles V., Vol. I. note 22.
4 Proceedings in the Court of Chivalry, on an Appeal of High Treason by
into desuetude, quietly overruled by the enlightened sense of successive generations, yet, to the disgrace of English jurisprudence, it was not legislatively abolished till near our own day,—as late as 1819,— the right to it having been openly claimed in Westminster Hall [Court] only two years previous.
An ignorant man, charged with murder,—whose name, Abraham Thornton, is necessarily connected with the history of this monstrous usage,—being proceeded against by the ancient process of appeal, pleaded, when brought into court, as follows:
|“Not guilty; and I am ready to defend the same by my body”:|
and thereupon taking off his glove, he threw it upon the floor. The appellant, not choosing to accept this challenge, abandoned his proceedings.
The bench, the bar, and the whole kingdom were startled by the infamy; and at the next session of Parliament Trial by Battle was abolished in England. In the debate on this subject, the Attorney-General remarked, in appropriate terms, that,
These words evince the disgust which Trial by Battle excites in our day. Its folly and wickedness are conspicuous to all.
Reverting to that early period in which it prevailed, our minds are impressed by the general barbarism; we recoil with horror from the awful subjection of justice to brute force,—from the impious profanation
|“if the appellant had persevered in the Trial by Battle, he had no doubt the legislature would have felt it their imperious duty at once to interfere, and pass an ex post facto law to prevent so degrading a spectacle from taking place.”1|
Donald Lord Rea against Mr. David Ramsay, 7 Cha. I., 1631: Hargrave's State Trials, Vol. XI. pp. 124-131.
1 Hansard, Parl. Debates, XXXIX. 1104. Blackstone, Com., III. 337; Chitty's note.
of God in deeming him present at these outrages,—from the moral degradation out of which they sprang, and which they perpetuated; we enrobe ourselves in self-complacent virtue, and [as per (Luke 18:9-14] thank God that we are not as these men,—that ours is an age of light, while theirs was an age of darkness!
But remember, fellow-citizens, that this criminal and impious custom, which all condemn in the case of individuals, is openly avowed by our own country, and by other countries of the great Christian Federation, nay, that it is expressly established by International Law, as the proper mode of determining justice between nations,—while the feats of hardihood by which it is waged, and the triumphs of its fields, are exalted [idolized] beyond all other labors, whether of learning, industry, or benevolence, as the well-spring of Glory.
Alas! upon our own heads be the judgment of barbarism which we pronounce upon those that have gone before! [Matthew 7:2-5].
At this moment, in this period of light, while to the contented souls of many, the noonday sun of civilization seems to be standing still in the heavens, as upon Gibeon [Joshua 10:12], the dealings between nations are still governed by the odious rules of brute violence which once predominated between individuals. The Dark Ages have not passed away; Erebus and black Night, born of Chaos, still brood over the earth; nor can we hail the clear day, until the hearts of nations are toucbed, as the hearts of individual men, and all acknowledge one and the same Law of Right.
What has taught you, O man! [Isaiah 2:4; Deuteronomy 18:9; Jeremiah 10:2] thus to find glory in an act, performed by a nation, which you condemn as a crime or a barbarism, when committed by an individual?
In what vain conceit of wisdom and virtue do you find this incongruous morality?
Where is it declared that God, who is no respecter of persons [Acts 10:34], is a respecter of multitudes? Whence do you draw these partial laws of an impartial God? Man is immortal; but Nations are mortal. Man has a higher destiny than Nations.
Can Nations be less amenable to the supreme moral law? Each individual is an atom of the mass. Must not the mass, in its conscience, he like the individuals of which it is composed? Shall the mass, in relations with other masses, do what individuals in relations with each other may not do?
As in the physical creation, so in the moral, there is but one rule for the individual and the mass. It was the lofty discovery of [Sir Isaac] Newton [1642-1727], that the simple law which determines the fall of an apple prevails everywhere throughout the Universe,—ruling each particle in reference to every other particle, large or small,—reaching from earth to heaven, and controlling the infinite motions of the spheres.
So, with equal scope, another simple law, the Law of Right, which binds the individual, binds also two or three when gathered together [Matthew 18:20],—binds conventions and congregations of men,—binds villages, towns, and cities,—binds states, nations, and races,—clasps the whole human family in its sevenfold embrace; nay, more, beyond
|Ed. Note: See the similar concept by Lysander Spooner, that people cannot delegate to others powers that they themselves lack, in his book Unconstitutionality (1845), p 14.
|“the flaming bounds of place and time,
The living throne, the sapphire blaze,”
it binds the angels of Heaven, Cherubim, full of knowledge, Seraphim, full of love; above all, it binds, in self-imposed bonds, a just and omnipotent God.
This is the law of which the ancient poet sings, as Queen alike of mortals and immortals. It is of this, and not of any earthly law, that Hooker speaks in that magnificent pe-
riod which sounds like an anthem:
Often quoted, and justly admired, sometimes as the finest sentence of our English speech, this grand declaration cannot be more fitly invoked than to condemn the pretence of one law for the individual aud another for the nation.
Stripped of all delusive apology, and tried by that comprehensive law under which nations are set to the bar like common men, War falls from glory into barbarous guilt, taking its place among bloody transgressions, while its naming houors are turned into shame. Painful to existing prejudice as this may be, we must learn to abhor it, as we abhor similar transgressions by vulgar offender.
Every word of reprobation which the enlightened conscience now fastens upon the savage combatant in Trial by Battle, or which it applies to the unhappy being who in murderous duel takes the life of his fellow-man, belongs also to the nation that appeals to War.
Amidst the thunders of Sinai God declared,
|“Of Law there can be no less acknowledged than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world: all things in heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest as not exempted from her power: both angels and men, and creatures of what condition soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent, admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy.”|
and the voice of those thunders, with this commandment, is prolonged to our own day in the echoes of Christian churches. What mortal shall restrict the application of thse words? Who on earth is empowered to vary or abridge the commandments of God? Who shall presume to declare that this injunction was directed, not to nations, but to individuals
only,—not to many, but to one only,—that one man shall not kill, but that many may,—that one man shall not slay in Duel, but that a nation may slay a multitude in the duel of War,—that each individual is forbidden to destroy the life of a single human being, but that a nation is not forbidden to cut off by the sword a whole people?
We are struck with horror, and our hair stands on end, at the report of a single murder; we think of the soul hurried to final account; we hunt the murderer; and Government puts forth its energies to secure his punishment.
Viewed in the unclouded light of Truth, what is War but organized murder,—murder of malice aforethought,—in cold blood,—under sanctions of impious law,—through the operation of an extensive machinery of crime,—with innumerable hands,—at incalculable cost of money,—by subtle contrivances of cunning and skill,—or amidst the fiendish atrocities of the savage, brutal assault?
By another commandment, not less solemn, it is declared, “Thou shalt not steal” [Exodus 20:15]; and then again there is another forbidding to covet what belongs to others [Exodus 20:17]: but all this is done by War, which is stealing and covetousness organized by International Law.
The Scythian, undisturbed by the illusion of military glory, snatched a phrase of justice from an acknowledged criminal, when he called Alexander “the greatest robber in the world.”
And the Roman satirist, filled with similar truth, in pungent words touched to the quick that flagrant, unblushing injustice which dooms to condign punishment the very guilt that in another sphere and on a grander scale is hailed with acclamation:—
|“Ille crucem sceleris pretium tulit, hic diadema.”1|
1 [Decimus] Juvenal [60 C.E. - 140 C.E.], Sat. XIII. 105. The same judgment is pronounced by [François] Fenelon [1651-1715]
While condemning the ordinary malefactor, mankind, blind to the real character of War, may yet a little longer crown the giant actor [the big malefactor] with glory; a generous posterity may pardon to unconscious barbarism the atrocities which have been waged; but the custom, as organized by existing law [traditions of men], cannot escape the unerring judgment of reason and religion.
The outrages, which, under most solemn sanctions, it permits and invokes for professed purposes of justice, cannot be authorized by any human power; and they must rise in overwhelming judgment, not only against those who wield the weapons of Battle, but more still against all who uphold its monstrous Arbitrament.
When, O, when shall the St. Louis of the Nations arise,—Christian ruler or Christian people,—who, in the Spirit of True Greatness, shall proclaim, that henceforward forever the great Trial by Battle shall cease,—that “these battles” shall be abolished throughout the Commonwealth of Civilization,—that a spectacle so degrading shall never be allowed again to take place,—and that it is the duty of nations, involving the highest and wisest policy, to establish love between each other, and, in all respects, at all times, with all persons, whether their own people or the people of other lands, to be governed by the sacred Law of Right, as between man and man?
I am now brought to review the obstacles encountered by those who, according to the injunction of St. Augus-
in his counsels to royalty, entitled, Examen de Conscience sur les Devoirs de la Royauté.
tine, would make war on War, and slay it with the word. To some of these obstacles I alluded at the beginning, especially the warlike literature, by which the character is formed. The world has supped so full with battles, that its modes of thought and many of its rules of conduct are incarnadined with blood, as the bones of swine, feeding on madder [red plants], are said to become red.
Not to be tempted by this theme, I hasten on to expose in succession those various PREJUDICES so powerful still in keeping alive the custom [human tradition] of War, including that greatest prejudice, mighty parent of an infinite brood, at whose unreasoning behest untold sums are absorbed in Preparations for War.
1. One of the most important [pro-war biases] is the prejudice from belief in its neccssity. When War is called a necessity, it is meant, of course, that its object can be attained in no other way.
Now I think it has already appeared [been proven], with distinctness approaching demonstration, that the professed object of War, which is justice between nations, is in no respect promoted by War,—that force is not justice, nor in any way conducive to justice,—that the eagles of victory are the emblems of successful force only, and not of established right.
Justice is obtained solely by the exercise of reason aud judgment; but these are silent in the din of arms.
Justice is without passion [emotion]; but War lets loose all the worst passions, while