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cunning and malicious, or even the specious views of political expe. diency, than the main pillar of a temple can be bent from its perpendicular, without endangering the ruin of the whole edifice. If the proposition be true, that Peace is a blessing, and War is a curse, the motives and the causes of the one must be of a character directly opposite to the motives and causes of the other; and, in so far as human agency is concerned in promoting either, the blessing will belong to the peacemaker or the curse to the violent, The elements of Peace are in their nature and operation supremely, virtuous ; the elements of war highly vicious. There is nothing of seeming contempt which can rob the first of its excellence, nor of gorgeous display which can hide the deformity of the last, and confer upon it real glory. By what perverted modes of thinking, then, is it, that a practice, which has even acquired the name of an art, and has proved an engine of destruction to so many millions of the human race, should continue to be trimmed with honours, and idolized with praises? We might reasonably wonder at the circumstance, if we did not on all sides perceive, that man, paradoxically enough, follows the evil which he abhors, and pursues his present, with infinitely more ardour than he does his future, good. That, in the case of War, he should be encouraged, by some wise and good men, to reconcile to reason and justice the indulgence of his malevolent feelings, is cause of still greater wonder, and certainly of deep lamentation.
For, notwithstanding the force of these principles,— in which, it is expected, most will be agreed, at least in theory,— when we come to consider the actual state of man, and the prevalence of evil in the world, we shall find that many specious arguments have been adduced against the practical adoption of the principles of Peace. It has been objected, that nations could not exist without War, that the wicked would overwhelm the good, and, although it may deplorable, that it is still a necessary evil. Hence, even among the professors of Christianity, self-preservation, which is called the first law of nature, justice, and even necessity, have been urged, separately and unitedly, as affording unanswerable reasons for maintaining the attitude, and proceeding to the extremity, of War.
In our reasonings on this subject, it will be assumed, that the contention between individuals, like that between states, arises from
the same principles ; and that the same arguments will apply to both
The plea of Self-defence, of Justice, and of Necessity will be considered in order.
PLEA OF SELF-DEFENCE.
Self-defence, it must be allowed, offers a plausible argument in favour of active resistance with the sword. It is, however, an argument which would apply to animals devoid of reason, better than to man, who is supereminently styled Rational.
It is even opposed by the analogy of nature; for, in strict unison with the moral state of man, while, in some of its phenomena, nature exhibits what are called physical evils, in other words, disorder and im. perfection,-yet, in others, she displays the signs of most perfect physical beauty and harmony, and of a workmanship eminently divine. If there be any thing in such an analogy, it is against the argument, taking the different circumstances of man and the brute into consideration : for brutes do not war against their own kinds, as was observed formerly by Juvenal. And again, those animals which are designed to make prey of others for their support, are formed with offensive weapons : while, on the other hand, their prey are provided with natural means of escape or resistance. But the human family is not divided in this way, into some naturally armed and ferocious, and into others naturally unarmed and gentle. We observe indeed that mankind is distinguished into those endowed with physical, and those with moral power. But these distinctions are more or less the effect of education and outward circumstances. In all ages, however, the moral or intellectual endowments of man, have had superiority over the physical, when the energies of the former have been brought into full play; and, in the unerring scale of justice, it has been provided, that the moral influence and virtues of the good, should be a sufficient counterbalance to the physical influence and vices of the bad.
We must conclude, therefore, that if the wise and good are reduced to the necessity of taking a part in any dispute, they are not to take the part which will increase it, but that which will allay it ;
as, in this way only, can harmony be at last attained. We conclude, that, if contests must needs arise, the only justifiable warfare in which the wise and good can engage, is that of moral influence against brute violence; in short, that good dispositions are to be opposed to evil-benevolent affections to malevolent—the principles of Peace to the principles of War.
The argument for self-defence, by means of deadly weapons, assumes, in its very principles, that man should always be armed against his fellow-man, and that brute force is superior to reason : consequently, that a rational being is not to be convinced and persuaded and reconciled ; but that, when offering violence, he is with summary vengeance to be overthrown by violence and put to death, like one of the inferior animals. Now, it is a state of things highly unbecoming to the dignity of rational creatures,
we say the dignity when we speak of those, who are upon the Lord's earth setting an example to others both of the excellency of virtue, and of the superiority of moral to physical acquirements - it is highly derogatory to the character of moral and intellectual beings, that they should go about armed with destructive weapons, in dread of each other. Even a Roman Poet says :
• Integer vitæ, scelerisque purus
Needs not the bow, nor venom’d Moorish dart.
superiority with the weapons chosen by the latter ; but it is to be considered a contest of virtue, honour, justice, integrity, benevolence, and order, with vice, infamy, wrong, deceit, violence, and confusion. Who can doubt, where such elements are fairly in opposition, to which side Providence will ultimately give the victory ?*
But when a human being, profligate and depraved, knows that society is all up in arms, and that cruel and vindictive laws are in operation against him, he will brave the worst, with the nerve and desperation of one, who has never tasted the milk of human kindness from any of his fellow-creatures, nor seen a tear of pity and compassion flowing for his sake. And so it is, when the worse part of society are persuaded, that if they encounter the better part, they will be resisted with violence, and if possible put to death ; they will naturally prepare themselves with weapons of destruction, and brace their nerves to cruelty ; because they feel a conviction, that those who would take their lives if they could, are brought more to a level, in spirit and intention, with themselves. If they were persuaded, on the contrary, that the better part would not resist them to the last extremity, it is most probable that, whatever might be their object, they would rarely attack any one with bloody designs. When it can be shewn that men, taken collectively or individually, can neither be brought to listen to reason, nor to humanity, nor to religion; and that reason, humanity, and religion, have exhausted their power against violence, without effect, — when it can be shewn that they pay no respect to the innocent, peaceable, virtuous and benevolent ; then, indeed, the plea of self-defence, if for no other end, yet for the sake of maintaining social and moral order, might be admitted to have some weight.
We are however disposed to think — though it is a question somewhat abstruse and difficult to meddle with — that the proposition is founded in truth, that it is not wholly by physical influence, such as an armed police or a military force, that civil order is maintained, even in heathen communities.
If this should prove
* In hujusmodi certamine ac prælio, nonne, etiam si hominum deficient, Dii ipsi immortales cogent ab his præclarissimis virtutibus, tot et tanta vitia superari? Cicero.-In such a conflict between good and evil, even if human efforts should be wanting, would not the immortal gods themselves interfere to prevent these eminent virtues being overcome by such an array of antagonist vices ?
to be the case, is it credible that in Christian societies, right should depend upon might to secure its ascendency? It is the common opinion, we know, that it is physical influence alone which enforces subordination, and supports the rights of justice ; and it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to convince the majority that this is not the case. For so long as the views, and hopes, and reasonings of men are outward, they will not rely upon providential assistance or moral influence, even in the conscientious discharge of their duty, nor will they admit it into their calculations.
When, indeed, the frame of civil society has been for a long time leaning upon outward weapons for its support, its integrity appears to be identified with them ; so that to take them
would seem to unhinge the whole structure, and to expose it to certain ruin. If a question, therefore, as to its preservation in this state, should arise, probably no prudent man would recommend an immediate change to an opposite state. For, unless the whole movements of the social system, should at the same time be regulated by a truly Christian spirit, half measures would be injurious : (as any adulteration of that which is pure, with that which is not so, both in principle and practice, is sure to rob the first of its essential characters ;) and would produce worse consequences than seem to await schemes entirely constructed on principles of outward expediency, which have no relation at all to a future state of retribution.
But, notwithstanding this admission, (and it is by no means to be understood as any concession in favour of violence) — whatever aid physical power may contribute to the maintenance of civil order, in societies whose institutions are not all established on a basis of true wisdom, after the Christian model, there is reason to think that it is the ascendency of moral influence, after all, which mainly supports the fabric, and that the great bulwarks of civil order rest on a firmer foundation than any outward visible means of defence.
If physical influence constituted the only means of maintaining civil order, evil-doers would plainly have the advantage, as to their physical strength; because the disposition to violence is more universal in the world than the disposition to peace and forbearance. Upon the principle therefore that the greatest amount of physical force ought to maintain an ascendency in human affairs, violence and outrage should prevail, so as to subvert all laws, both divine and human.