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general abolition of the African slave trade, at least of the publick toleration of it. While these abuses existed, the idea of reforming any one of them was probably considered as wild and chimerical a notion, as some at present consider the possible cessation of war. No doubt it was looked upon as impossible to reform them-but now that the thing is done, we can very readily see a vast difference between them and another abuse that is not yet reformed. This difference, however, is in reality nothing more than the difference between a thing that has been done and a thing that has not. The latter is apt to be looked upon as impossible, for, it is said, if this thing could have been done, it would have been done-people would have accomplished it before now-and the world is too indolent to examine why the object may have been neglected, or whether any better reason can be given why the thing cannot be done, than that it has not. As we consider this conclusion rather in the nature of a non sequitur, we shall, for the reasons stated above, take it for granted that there is no impossibility of eradicating the custom of war, and proceed to the second point of inquiry under this head.

What is the probability of the discontinuance of this practice ? The answer to this question depends upon the answer that may be given to the following one, which is in fact only the same question in other words. What probability is there that publick opinion may change with regard to the character of war?

The military system is sustained in the publick opinion, first, by its antiquity and the familiarity with it, derived from its long continued practice. This is of course a defence, that cannot be immediately shaken. Nothing can alter what is already past, or make this custom, as Napoleon did his Berlin and Milan decrees, to be viewed as non avenu. In opposition, however, to the effect of antiquity, may be urged that the practice is admitted by all to be bad. Nobody defends it, though all allow it to be ancient. It is not, therefore, of the number of those abuses, which have become so sanctified by age that they are considered as blessings, and that it is thought sacrilege to attempt to reform them. The only unfavourable effect of the antiquity of this practice, is to make the iniquity and horrour of it less striking, and thus

to abate in some degree the zeal that might be felt for its removal.

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The second great reason why war is tolerated by publick opinion, is the manner, in which it is treated by the great majority of writers, philosophical, historical, and poetical. Nothing is so bad that it has not its bright side, and it seems to have been a malignant contrivance of the enemies of humanity, to associate with the external aspect of war as many imposing and captivating circumstances as possible. It happens, therefore, by a strange and most unnatural combination, that the preparations for the most desolating scene of misery that the earth affords, are more gorgeous and glittering, than for any other occasion whatever. Blood and murder wear the array of a pompous festival. To see a large body of troops in their costly and elegant equipments, with glittering arms and joyous faces, one would think they were going somewhere to celebrate a great and glorious national jubilee. Instead of that, they are merely marching to a distant spot to meet as many more, as gaily drest as themselves, and slaughter them in cold blood, for reasons, of which they are completely ignorant, and which are so trifling that they may be said not to exist. Such is the inconsistency between the external and actual character of war. There is also, a great developement of intellectual and physical powers in the course of these vast and dreadful struggles, and a field afforded by the various incidents of them, for all the exercise of the finest feelings and most amiable virtues. All these circumstances combine to make military transactions a very favourable subject for poetrybesides which, in the earlier stages of society when the best poets commonly appear, there is no other important or honourable line of action-nothing else is thought worth description. The consequence is, that from the time of Homer to that of Walter Scott, war has been the never ceasing theme of poetry. Description delights to dwell upon its favourable side-to expatiate on the grandeur and beauty of its external display-to describe the vigour and bravery of its heroes. The poets are a race of imitators, and it has been correctly observed before, that it is quite impossible to say how much mischief the works of Homer alone may have done the world by encouraging a taste and fondness for military scenes. The world has gradually become


better informed and more enlightened-other occupations beside the military have been introduced into society, and other views are generally entertained of war by judicious men, but it still remains the best subject of poetry, and as such continues to be constantly employed at the present day. Even Byron, who in one of his works has painted better, than any body before him, the vices of the practice, resorts to the worst species of military characters for the heroes of his narrative poems.

The historians might have been expected to be a little more considerate in their views of society and character than the poets. They must of course give narrations of wars, which have been and still are, almost the only publick business of nations; but one would naturally suppose that they would have viewed them as they are, as the bane and Scourge of the world, and while they consigned them to memory, have carefully noted their true character. They have done, however, nothing of all this. They not only give a disproportionate place in their narratives to military transactions, large as the space is that they would properly occupy, but never hint, even by casual reflections, at the folly and barbarity of the custom. They speak of it with calmness and freedom as if it were the natural business of life. Military success and skill is applauded without much regard to the cause in which it has been exerted. Nothing could be more frivolous for instance, than the pretended causes of the Peloponnesian war, that laid the foundation of the ruin of Greece-nothing more infamous than many of the individual enterprises, undertaken in the course of it. But we hear from Thucydides--a profound and philosophick thinker too-no reflections on the nature of this great vice in society. He gives a clear, circumstantial, minute detail of military transactions as they occurred, with occasional acute observations on the motives of his characters. Yet one would think, that a generous mind like his, sharpened as it was by adversity, would hardly have refrained from frequent bursts of indignation, in relating how the hopes and fortunes of the cultivated world were sacrificed to the miserable passions of a few demagogues and generals. Tacitus is almost the only historian who dwells but little on military details. The reason is, however, that they did not fall within the scope of his subject. His reproofs of tyranny are so manly

and vigorous, that one is almost tempted to think that war would have appeared under his pencil in its true colours. Much might have been expected from the modern philosophick historians, Hume, Gibbon, and Voltaire-but such expectations will be disappointed. The latter, in many detached passages of his various writings, exhibits as correct views of this subject as possible-but to flatter the vanity of his king, Louis XV. he dwells upon the battle of Fontenoy with the fondness of an amateur, and has given a finer graphical description of it than is extant in history of any other whatever.

However the poets and historians might have erred in their estimate of the character of the military system, it was naturally to be expected that the philosophers should have viewed it in its true light. Those who made it their profession to examine things by the clear eye of reason, and in the silence of the passions, could not certainly suffer themselves to be misled by this vulgar prejudice. Unfortunately most of the distinguished political writers have not only not discouraged the military spirit, but have actually done every thing to promote and heighten it. In the Republick of Plato, all the citizens were to devote themselves exclusively to the army, and so it was we know, in practice in the system of Lycurgus-nor do we recollect any philosophical writer who has made it a business to point out the radical vice of the military system. On the contrary, all of them when they have occasion to speak of it, regard it as an established part of social order, and extol in high terms the display of military virtues and talents. Even Montesquieu observes of Alexander, among other lofty encomiums, that in the wildest sallies of his extravagance, he had a flash of reason which directed him—and that those who pretend to censure his conduct were as incapable of understanding, as they were of equalling it. And yet, this man could march his army five or six hundred miles through an African desert, in order to prevail upon an impostor to tell him he was not the son of his father and could afterwards murder his best friend for not believing the assertion.

In process of time there arose a great scholar, who undertook to reduce war to a system of rules-we allude to the treatise of Grotius on the law of Peace and War. Unfor

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tunately this great scholar was but a poor philosopher, and although this was more the fault of his age than his own, the consequences have been very unfavourable to the cause of humanity. He justifies the practice of war on the ground of the justifiableness of personal self-defence, a thing with which, as we have shewn already, war, as a custom, has nothing to do. Taking it for granted that some wars may be justifiable, he considers it for the best that all wars should be so considered, that are once formally declared, and lays down a system of rules, calculated to mitigate to a certain degree the cruelties generally attending them. If war must continue as a part of the social system, it is, no doubt, better that it should be carried on with as little barbarity as possible, and on that supposition the treatise of Grotius may have produced great advantage. Some may also think, among those who believe in the possible discontinuance of war, that an improvement in the manner of carrying it on was a necessary step in the progress of society towards its abolition. It appears to us, however, sufficiently probable, that if Grotius, instead of temporising with it as he did, had at that time when the barbarity of it first began to be felt by the world, made a vigorous attack upon the practice itself, it would have been quite as likely to succeed, as at any subsequent period. As it was, the practice came down to succeeding generations, in the milder form in which he recommended it, sanctioned by the authority of his great name, which at the period when he lived was incalculably high. This was a sort of turning point, and was to decide whether a custom that had flourished so long through barbarous ages was to live on through ages of refinement; and the work of Grotius must have contributed considerably to the latter effect. Those who have treated this subject since Grotius have also grounded themselves almost entirely upon his work, and it is in fact rather remarkable, that this department of political philosophy, in practice by far the most important to the world, should not have been handled by any author of real ability. The writers on the law of nations are perhaps, as a class, the least valuable in the circle of political science.

The result of our observations on this point is, that the favourable manner in which war has been treated by most writers of all classes, is one principal reason why it is tolerated by publick opinion. Now it is obvious that this engine

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