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An essay by Thomas De Quincey

On War

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Title:     On War
Author: Thomas De Quincey [More Titles by De Quincey]

Few people need to be told--that associations exist up and down Christendom, having the ambitious object of abolishing war. Some go so far as to believe that this evil of war, so ubiquitous, so ancient and apparently so inalienable from man's position upon earth, is already doomed; that not the private associations only, but the prevailing voice of races the most highly civilized, may be looked on as tending to confederation against it; that sentence of extermination has virtually gone forth, and that all which remains is gradually to execute that sentence. Conscientiously I find myself unable to join in these views. The project seems to me the most romantic of all romances in the course of publication. Consequently, when asked to become a member in any such association, I have always thought it most respectful, because most sincere, to decline. Yet, as it is painful to refuse all marks of sympathy with persons whose motives one honors, I design at my death to bequeath half-a-crown to the chief association for extinguishing war; the said half-crown to be improved in all time coming for the benefit of the association, under the trusteeship of Europe, Asia, and America, but not of Africa. I really dare not trust Africa with money, she is not able as yet to take care of herself. This half-crown, a fund that will overshadow the earth before it comes to be wanted under the provisions of my will, is to be improved at any interest whatever--no matter what; for the vast period of the accumulations will easily make good any tardiness of advance, long before the time comes for its commencing payment; a point which will be soon understood from the following explanation, by any gentleman that hopes to draw upon it.

There is in Ceylon a granite _cippus_, or monumental pillar, of immemorial antiquity; and to this pillar a remarkable legend is attached. The pillar measures six feet by six, _i. e._ thirty-six square feet, on the flat tablet of its horizontal surface; and in height several _riyanas_, (which arc Ceylonese cubits of eighteen inches each,) but of these cubits, there are either eight or twelve; excuse me for having forgotten which. At first, perhaps, you will be angry, viz., when you hear that this simple difference of four cubits, or six feet, measures a difference for your expectations, whether you count your expectations in kicks or halfpence, that absolutely strikes horror into arithmetic. The singularity of the case is, that the very solemnity of the legend and the wealth of the human race in time, depend upon the cubical contents of the monument, so that a loss of one granite chip is a loss of a frightful infinity; yet, again, for that very reason, the loss of all _but_ a chip, leaves behind riches so appallingly too rich, that everybody is careless about the four cubits. Enough is as good as a feast. Two bottomless abysses take as much time for the diver as ten; and five eternities are as frightful to look down as four-and-twenty. In the Ceylon legend all turns upon the inexhaustible series of ages which this pillar guarantees. But, as one inexhaustible is quite enough for one race of men, and you are sure of more by ineffable excess than you can use in any private consumption of your own, you become generous; 'and between friends,' you say, in accepting my apologies for the doubtful error as to the four cubits, 'what signifies an infinity more or less?'

For the Ceylonese legend is this, that once in every hundred years an angel visits this granite pillar. He is dressed in a robe of white muslin, muslin of that kind which the Romans called _aura textilis_-- woven, as might seem, from zephyrs or from pulses of the air, such in its transparency, such in its gossamer lightness. Does the angel touch the pillar with his foot? Oh no! Even _that_ would be something, but even _that_ is not allowed. In his soundless flight across it, he suffers the hem of his impalpable robe to sweep the surface as softly as a moon-beam. So much and no more of pollution he endures from contact with earthly objects. The lowest extremity of his dress, but with the delicacy of light, grazes the granite surface. And _that_ is all the attrition which the sacred granite receives in the course of any one century, and this is all the progress which we, the poor children of earth, in any one century make towards the exhaustion of our earthly imprisonment. But, argues the subtle legend, even _that_ attrition, when weighed in metaphysical scales, cannot be denied its value; it has detached from the pillar an atom (no matter that it is an invisible atom) of granite dust, the ratio of which atom to a grain avoirdupois, if expressed as a fraction of unity, would by its denominator stretch from the Accountant-General's office in London to the Milky Way. Now the total mass of the granite represents, on this scheme of payment, the total funded debt of man's race to Father Time and earthly corruption; all this intolerable score, chalked up to our debit, we by ourselves and our representatives have to rub off, before the granite will be rubbed away by the muslin robe of the proud flying angel, (who, if he were a good fellow, might just as well give a sly kick with his heel to the granite,) before time will be at an end, and the burden of flesh accomplished. But you hear it expressed in terms that will astonish Baron Rothschild, what is the progress in liquidation which we make for each particular century. A billion of centuries pays off a quantity equal to a pinch of snuff. Despair seizes a man in contemplating a single _coupon_, no bigger than a visiting card, of such a stock as this; and behold we have to keep on paying away until the total granite is reduced to a level with a grain of mustard-seed. But when that is accomplished, thank heaven, our last generation of descendants will be entitled to leave at Master Time's door a visiting card, which the meagre shadow cannot refuse to take, though he will sicken at seeing it; viz., a P. P. C. card, upon seeing which, the old thief is bound to give receipt in full for all debts and pretended arrears.

The reader perhaps knows of debts on both sides the Atlantic that have no great prospect of being paid off sooner than this in Ceylon.

And naturally, to match this order of debts, moving off so slowly, there are funds that accumulate as slowly. My own funded half-crown is an illustration. The half-crown will travel in the inverse order of the granite pillar. The pillar and the half-crown move upon opposite tacks; and there _is_ a point of time (which it is for Algebra to investigate) when they will cross each other in the exact moment of their several bisections--my aspiring half-crown tending gradually towards the fixed stars, so that perhaps it might be right to make the man in the moon trustee for that part of the accumulations which rises above the optics of sublunary bankers; whilst the Ceylon pillar is constantly unweaving its own granite texture, and dwindling earthwards. It is probable that each of the parties will have reached its consummation about the same time. What is to be done with the mustard- seed, Ceylon has forgotten to say. But what is to be done with the half-crown and its surplus, nobody can doubt after reading my last will and testament. After reciting a few inconsiderable legacies to the three continents, and to the man in the moon, for any trouble they may have had in managing the hyperbolical accumulations, I go on to observe, that, when war is reported to have taken itself off for ever, 'and no mistake,' (because I foresee many false alarms of a perpetual peace,) a variety of inconveniences will arise to all branches of the United Service, including the Horse Marines. Clearly there can be no more half-pay; and even more clearly, there is an end to full-pay. Pensions are at an end for 'good service.' Allowances for wounds cannot be thought of, when all wounds shall have ceased except those from female eyes--for which the Horse Guards is too little advanced in civilization to make any allowance at all. Bargains there will be no more amongst auctions of old Government stores. Birmingham will be ruined, or so much of it as depended on rifles. And the great Scotch works on the river Carron will be hungering for beef, so far as Carron depended for beef upon carronades. Other arrears of evil will stretch after the extinction of war.

Now upon my half-crown fund (which will be equal to anything by the time it is wanted) I charge once and for ever the general relief of all these arrears--of the poverty, the loss, the bankruptcy, arising by reason of this _quietus_ of final extinction applied to war. I charge the fund with a perpetual allowance of half-pay to all the armies of earth; or indeed, whilst my hand is in, I charge it with _full_ pay. And I strictly enjoin upon my trustees and executors, but especially upon the man in the moon, if his unsocial lip has left him one spark of gentlemanly feeling, that he and they shall construe all claims liberally; nay, with that riotous liberality which is safe and becoming, when applied to a fund so inexhaustible. Yes, reader, my fund will be inexhaustible, because the period of its growth will be measured by the concurrent deposition of the Ceylon mustard-seed from the everlasting pillar.

Yet why, or on what principle? It is because I see, or imagine that I see, a twofold necessity for war--necessity in two different senses-- 1st, a physical necessity arising out of man's nature when combined with man's situation; a necessity under which war may be regarded, if you please, as a nuisance, but as a nuisance inalienable from circumstances essential to human frailty. 2dly, a moral necessity connected with benefits of compensation, such as continually lurk in evils acknowledged to be such--a necessity under which it becomes lawful to say, that war _ought_ to exist as a balance to opposite tendencies of a still more evil character. War is the mother of wrong and spoliation: war is a scourge of God--granted; but, like other scourges in the divine economy, war purifies and redeems itself in its character of a counterforce to greater evils that could not otherwise be intercepted or redressed. In two different meanings we say that a thing is necessary; either in that case where it is inexorably forced on by some sad overruling principle which it is vain to fight against, though all good men mourn over its existence and view it as an unconditional evil; or secondly, in that case, where an instrument of sorrowful consequences to man is nevertheless invoked and postulated by man's highest moral interests, is nevertheless clamorously indicated as a blessing when looked at in relation to some antagonist cause of evil for which it offers the one only remedy or principle of palliation. The very evil and woe of man's condition upon earth may be oftentimes detected in the necessity of looking to some other woe as the pledge of its purification; so that what separately would have been hateful for itself, passes mysteriously into an object of toleration, of hope, or even of prayer, as a counter-venom to the taint of some more mortal poison. Poverty, for instance, is in both senses necessary for man. It is necessary in the same sense as thirst is necessary (_i. e._ inevitable) in a fever--necessary as one corollary amongst many others, from the eternal hollowness of all human efforts for organizing any perfect model of society--a corollary which, how gladly would all of us unite to cancel, but which our hearts suggest, which Scripture solemnly proclaims, to be ineradicable from the land. In this sense, poverty is a necessity over which we _mourn_,--as one of the dark phases that sadden the vision of human life. But far differently, and with a stern gratitude, we recognize another mode of necessity for this gloomy distinction--a call for poverty, when seen in relation to the manifold agencies by which it developes human energies, in relation to the trials by which it searches the power of patience and religion, in relation to the struggles by which it evokes the nobilities of fortitude; or again, amongst those who are not sharers in these trials and struggles, but sympathizing spectators, in relation to the stimulation by which it quickens wisdom that watches over the causes of this evil, or by which it vivifies the spirit of love that labors for its mitigation. War stands, or seems to stand, upon the same double basis of necessity; a primary necessity that belongs to our human degradations, a secondary one that towers by means of its moral relations into the region of our impassioned exaltations. The two propositions on which I take my stand are these. _First_, that there are nowhere latent in society any powers by which it can effectually operate on war for its extermination. The machinery is not there. The game is not within the compass of the cards. _Secondly_, that this defect of power is, though sincerely I grieve in avowing such a sentiment, and perhaps (if an infirm reader had his eye upon me) I might seem, in sympathy with his weakness, to blush --not a curse, no not at all, but on the whole a blessing from century to century, if it is an inconvenience from year to year. The Abolition Committees, it is to be feared, will be very angry at both propositions. Yet, Gentlemen, hear me--strike, but hear me. I believe that's a sort of plagiarism from Themistocles. But never mind. I have as good a right to the words, until translated back into Greek, as that most classical of yellow admirals. '_Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt!_'

The first proposition is, that war _cannot_ be abolished. The second, and more offensive--that war ought not to be abolished. First, therefore, concerning the first. One at a time. Sufficient for the page is the evil thereof! How came it into any man's heart, first of all, to conceive so audacious an idea as that of a conspiracy against war? Whence could he draw any vapor of hope to sustain his preliminary steps? And in framing his plot, which way did he set his face to look out for accomplices? Revolving this question in times past, I came to the conclusion--that, perhaps, this colossal project of a war against war, had been first put in motion under a misconception (natural enough, and countenanced by innumerable books) as to the true historical origin of wars in many notorious instances. If these had arisen on trivial impulses, a trivial resistance might have intercepted them. If a man has once persuaded himself, that long, costly, and bloody wars had arisen upon a point of ceremony, upon a personal pique, upon a hasty word, upon some explosion of momentary caprice; it is a natural inference, that strength of national will and public combinations for resistance, supposing such forces to have been trained, organized, and, from the circumstances of the particular nation, to be permanently disposable for action, might prove redundantly effective, when pointed against a few personal authors of war, so presumably weak, and so flexible to any stern counter-volition as those _must_ be supposed, whose wars argued so much of vicious levity. The inference is unexceptionable: it is the premises that are unsound. Anecdotes of war as having emanated from a lady's tea-table or toilette, would authorize such inference as to the facilities of controlling them. But the anecdotes themselves are false, or false substantially. _All_ anecdotes, I fear, are false. I am sorry to say so, but my duty to the reader extorts from me the disagreeable confession, as upon a matter specially investigated by myself, that all dealers in anecdotes are tainted with mendacity. Where is the Scotchman, said Dr. Johnson, who does not prefer Scotland to truth? but, however this may be, rarer than such a Scotchman, rarer than the phoenix, is that virtuous man, a monster he is, nay, he is an impossible man, who will consent to lose a prosperous anecdote on the consideration that it happens to be a lie. All history, therefore, being built partly, and some of it altogether, upon anecdotage, must be a tissue of lies. Such, for the most part, is the history of Suetonius, who may be esteemed the father of anecdotage; and being such, he (and not Herodotus) should have been honored with the title, _Father of Lies_. Such is the Augustan history, which is all that remains of the Roman empire; such is the vast series of French memoirs, now stretching through more than three entire centuries. Are these works, then, to be held cheap, because their truths to their falsehoods are in the ratio of one to five hundred? On the contrary, they are better, and more to be esteemed on that account; because, _now_ they are admirable reading on a winter's night; whereas, written on the principle of sticking to the truth, they would have been as dull as ditch water. Generally, therefore, the dealers in anecdotage are to be viewed with admiration, as patriotic citizens, willing to sacrifice their own characters, lest their countrymen should find themselves short of amusement. I esteem them as equal to Codrus, Timoleon, William Tell, or to Milton, as regards the liberty of unlicensed printing. And I object to them only in the exceptional case of their being cited as authorities for an inference, or as vouchers for a fact. Universally, it may be received as a rule of unlimited application,--that when an anecdote involves a stinging repartee, or collision of ideas, fancifully and brilliantly related to each other by resemblance or contrast, then you may challenge it as false to a certainty. One illustration of which is--that pretty nearly every memorable _propos_, or pointed repartee, or striking _mot_, circulating at this moment in Paris or London, as the undoubted property of Talleyrand, (that eminent knave,) was ascribed at Vienna, ninety years ago, to the Prince de Ligne, and thirty years previously, to Voltaire, and so on, regressively, to many other wits (knaves or not); until, at length, if you persist in backing far enough, you find yourself amongst Pagans, with the very same repartee, &c.;, doing duty in pretty good Greek; [Footnote: This is _literally_ true, more frequently than would be supposed. For instance, a jest often ascribed to Voltaire, and of late pointedly reclaimed for him by Lord Brougham, as being one that he (Lord B.) could swear to for _his_, so characteristic seemed the impression of Voltaire's mind upon the _tournure_ of the sarcasm, unhappily for this waste of sagacity, may be found recorded by Fabricius in the _Bibliotheca Graeca_, as the jest of a Greek who has been dead for about seventeen centuries. The man certainly _did_ utter the jest; and 1750 years ago. But who it was that he stole it from is another question. To all appearance, and according to Lord Brougham's opinion, the party robbed must have been M. de Voltaire. I notice the case, however, of the Greek thefts and frauds committed upon so many of our excellent wits belonging to the 18th and 19th centuries, chiefly with a view to M. de Talleyrand--that rather middling bishop, but very eminent knave. He also has been extensively robbed by the Greeks of the 2d and 3d centuries. How else can you account for so many of his sayings being found amongst _their_ pages? A thing you may ascertain in a moment, at any police office, by having the Greeks searched: for surely you would never think of searching a bishop. Most of the Talleyrand jewels will be found concealed amongst the goods of these unprincipled Greeks. But one, and the most famous in the whole jewel-case, sorry am I to confess, was nearly stolen from the Bishop, not by any Greek, but by an English writer, viz., Goldsmith, who must have been dying about the time that his Excellency, the diplomatist, had the goodness to be born. That famous _mot_ about language, as a gift made to man for the purpose of _concealing_ his thoughts, is lurking in Goldsmith's Essays. Think of _that!_ Already, in his innocent childhood, whilst the Bishop was in petticoats, and almost before he had begun to curse and to swear plainly in French, an Irish vagabond had attempted to swindle him out of that famous witticism which has since been as good as a life-annuity to the venerable knave's literary fame.] sometimes, for instance in Hierocles, sometimes in Diogenes Laertius, in Plutarch, or in Athenaeus. Now the thing you know claimed by so many people, could not belong to all of them: _all_ of them could not be the inventors. Logic and common sense unite in showing us that it must have belonged to the moderns, who had clearly been hustled and robbed by the ancients, so much more likely to commit a robbery than Christians, they being all Gentiles--Pagans--Heathen dogs. What do I infer from this? Why, that upon _any_ solution of the case, hardly one worthy saying can be mentioned, hardly one jest, pun, or sarcasm, which has not been the occasion and subject of many falsehoods--as having been _au-(and men)-daciously_ transferred from generation to generation, sworn to in every age as this man's property, or that man's, by people that must have known they were lying, until you retire from the investigation with a conviction, that under any system of chronology, the science of lying is the only one that has never drooped. Date from _Anno Domini_, or from the Julian era, patronize Olympiads, or patronize (as _I_ do, from misanthropy, because nobody else _will_) the era of Nabonassar,--no matter, upon every road, thicker than mile-stones, you see records of human mendacity, or (which is much worse, in my opinion,) of human sympathy with other people's mendacity.

This digression, now, on anecdotes,[Footnote: The word 'Anecdotes,' first, I believe, came into currency about the middle of the 6th century, from the use made of it by Procopius. _Literally_ it indicated nothing that could interest either public malice or public favor; it promised only _unpublished_ notices of the Emperor Justinian, his wife Theodora, Narses, Belisarius, &c.; But _why_ had they been unpublished? Simply because scandalous and defamatory: and hence, from the interest which invested the case of an imperial court so remarkable, this oblique, secondary and purely accidental modification of the word came to influence its _general_ acceptation. Simply to have been previously unpublished, no longer raised any statement into an anecdote: it now received a new integration it must be some fresh publication of _personal_ memorabilia; and these having reference to _human_ creatures, must always be presumed to involve more evil than good--much defamation true or false--much doubtful insinuation--much suggestion of things worse than could be openly affirmed. So arose the word: but the _thing_ arose with Suetonius, that dear, excellent and hard- working 'father of lies.'] is what the learned call an _excursus_, and, I am afraid, too long by half; not strictly in proportion. But don't mind _that_. I'll make it all right by being too short upon something else, at the next opportunity; and then nobody can complain. Meantime, I argue, that as all brilliant or epigrammatic anecdotes are probably false, (a thing that hereafter I shall have much pleasure in making out to the angry reader's satisfaction,) but to a dead certainty those anecdotes, in particular, which bear marks in their construction that a rhetorical effect of art had been contemplated by the narrator, --we may take for granted, that the current stories ascribing modern wars (French and English) to accidents the most inconsiderable, are false even in a literal sense; but at all events they are so when valued philosophically, and brought out into their circumstantial relations. For instance, we have a French anecdote, from the latter part of the seventeenth century, which ascribes one bloody war to the accident of a little 'miff,' arising between the king and his minister upon some such trifle as the situation of a palace window. Again, from the early part of the eighteenth century, we have an English anecdote, ascribing consequences no less bloody to a sudden feud between two ladies, and that feud, (if I remember,) tracing itself up to a pair of gloves; so that, in effect, the war and the gloves form the two poles of the transaction. Harlequin throws a pair of Limerick gloves into a corn-mill; and the spectator is astonished to see the gloves immediately issuing from the hopper, well ground into seven armies of one hundred thousand men each, and with parks of artillery to correspond. In these two anecdotes, we recognize at once the able and industrious artist arranging his materials with a pious regard to theatrical effect. This man knows how to group his figures; well he understands where to plant his masses of light and shade; and what impertinence it would be in us spectators, the reader suppose and myself, to go behind the scenes for critical inquiry into daylight realities. All reasonable men see that, the less of such realities our artist had to work with, the more was his merit. I am one of those that detest all insidious attempts to rob men situated as this artist of their fair fame, by going about and whispering that perhaps the thing is true. Far from it! I sympathize with the poor trembling artist, and agree most cordially that the whole story is a lie; and he may rely upon my support at all times to the extent of denying that any vestige of truth probably lay at the foundations of his ingenious apologue. And what I say of the English fable, I am willing to say of the French one. Both, I dare say, were the rankest fictions. But next, what, after all, if they were _not?_ For, in the rear of all discussion upon anecdotes, considered simply as true or _not_ true, comes finally a _valuation_ of those anecdotes in their moral relation, and as to the inferences which they will sustain. The story, for example, of the French minister Louvois, and the adroitness with which he fastened upon great foreign potentates, in the shape of war, that irritability of temper in his royal master which threatened to consume himself; the diplomatic address with which he transmuted suddenly a task so delicate as that of skirmishing daily in a Council Chamber with his own sovereign, into that far jollier mode of disputation where one replies to all objections of the very keenest logician, either with round shot or with grape; here is an anecdote, which (for my own part) I am inclined to view as pure gasconade. But suppose the story true, still it may happen that a better valuation of it may disturb the whole edifice of logical inferences by which it seemed to favor the speculations of the war abolitionists. Let us see. What _was_ the logic through which such a tale as this could lend any countenance to the schemes of these abolitionists? That logic travelled in the following channel. Such a tale, or the English tale of the gloves, being supposed true, it would seem to follow, that war and the purposes of war were phenomena of chance growth, not attached to any instinct so ancient, and apparently so grooved into the dark necessities of our nature, as we had all taken for granted. Usually, we rank war with hunger, with cold, with sorrow, with death, afflictions of our human state that spring up as inevitably without separate culture and in defiance of all hostile culture, as verdure, as weeds, and as flowers that overspread in spring time a fertile soil without needing to be sown or watered--awful is the necessity, as it seems, of all such afflictions. Yet, again, if (as these anecdote simply) war could by possibility depend frequently on accidents of personal temperament, irritability in a sensual king, wounded sensibilities of pride between two sensitive ladies, there in a moment shone forth a light of hope upon the crusade against war.

If _personal_ accidents could, to any serious extent, be amongst the causes of war, then it would become a hopeful duty to combine personal influences that should take an opposite direction. If casual causes could be supposed chiefly to have promoted war, how easy for a nation to arrange permanent and determinate causes against it! The logic of these anecdotes seemed to argue that the whole fountains of war were left to the government of chance and the windiest of levities; that war was not in reality roused into activity by the evil that resides in the human will, but on the contrary, by the simple defect of any will energetic enough or steady enough to merit that name. Multitudes of evils exist in our social system, simply because no steadiness of attention, nor action of combined will, has been converged upon them. War, by the silent evidence of these anecdotes, seemed to lie amongst that class of evils. A new era might be expected to commence in new views upon war; and the evil would be half conquered from the moment that it should be traced to a trivial or a personal origin.

All this was plausible, but false. The anecdotes, and all similar anecdotes, might be true, but were delusive. The logical vice in them was--that they substituted an occasion for a cause. The king's ill temper for instance, acting through the levity and impatience of the minister, might be the _causa occasionalis_ of the war, but not its true _causa efficiens_. What _was?_ Where do the true permanent causes of war, as distinguished from its proximate excitements, find their lodgment and abiding ground? They lie in the system of national competitions; in the common political system to which all individual nations are unavoidably parties; in the system of public forces distributed amongst a number of adjacent nations, with no internal principle for adjusting the equilibrium of these forces, and no supreme _Areopagus_, or court of appeal, for deciding disputes. Here lies the _matrix_ of war, because an eternal _matrix_ of disputes lies in a system of interests that are continually the same, and therefore the parents of rivalships too close, that are continually different, and so far the parents of alienation too wide. All war is an instinctive _nisus_ for redressing the errors of equilibrium in the relative position of nations amongst nations. Every nation's duty, first, midst, and last, is to itself. No nation can be safe from continual (because insensible) losses of ground, but by continual jealousies, watchings, and ambitious strivings to mend its own position. Civilities and high-bred courtesies pass and ought to pass between nations; that is the graceful drapery which shrouds their natural, fierce, and tiger-like relations to each other. But the glaring eyes, which express this deep and inalienable ferocity, look out at intervals from below these gorgeous draperies; and sad it is to think that at intervals the acts and the temper suitable to those glaring eyes _must_ come forward. Mr. Carter was on terms of the most exquisite dissimulation with his lions and tigers; but, as often as he trusted his person amongst them, if, in the midst of infinite politeness exchanged on all sides, he saw a certain portentous expression of mutiny kindling in the eyeball of any discontented tiger, all was lost, unless he came down instantly upon that tiger's skull with a blow from an iron bar, that suggested something like apoplexy. On such terms do nations meet in diplomacy; high consideration for each other does not conceal the basis of enmity on which they rest; not an enmity that belongs to their feelings, but to the necessities of their position. Every nation in negotiating has its right hand upon the hilt of its sword, and at intervals playfully unsheaths a little of its gleaming blade. As things stand at present, war and peace are bound together like the vicissitudes of day and night, of Castor and Pollux. It matters little which bucket of the two is going up at the moment, which going down. Both are steadfastly tied by a system of alternations to a revolving wheel; and a new war as certainly becomes due during the evolutions of a tedious peace, as a new peace may be relied on during the throes of a bloody war, to tranquillize its wounds. Consequently, when the arrogant Louvois carried a war to the credit of his own little account on the national leger of France, this coxcomb well knew that a war was at any rate due about that time. Really, says he, I must find out some little war to exhaust the _surplus_ irritability of this person, or he'll be the death of me. But irritable or not irritable, with a puppy for his minister or not, the French king would naturally have been carried headlong into war by the mere system of Europe, within a very few months. So much had the causes of complaint reciprocally accumulated. The account must be cleansed, the court roll of grievances must be purged. With respect to the two English ladies again, it is still more evident that they could not have _caused_ a war by pulling caps with each other, since the grounds of every war, what had caused it, and prolonged it, was sure to be angrily reviewed by Parliament at each annual exposition of the Finance Minister's Budget. These ladies, and the French coxcomb, could at the utmost have claimed a distinction--such as that which belonged to a particular Turkish gunner, the captain of a gun at Navarino, viz., that he, by firing the first shot without orders, did (as a matter of fact) let loose and unmuzzle the whole of that dreadful iron hurricane from four nations which instantly followed, but which (be it known to the gunner) could not have been delayed for fifty minutes longer, whether he had fired the unauthorized gun or not.

But now, let me speak to the second proposition of my two-headed thesis, viz., that war _ought_ not to be abolished, if such an abolition were even possible. _Prima facie_, it seems a dreadful doctrine to claim a place for war as amongst the evils that are salutary to man; but conscientiously I hold it to be such. I hold with Wordsworth, but for reasons which may or may not be the same, since he has not stated _his_--


'That God's most dreaded instrument,
In working out a pure intent,
Is man--array'd for mutual slaughter:
Yea, Carnage is his daughter.'

I am obliged to hold, that supposing so romantic a condition realized as the cessation of war, this change, unless other evils were previously abolished, or neutralized in a way still more romantic to suppose, would not be for the welfare of human nature, but would tend to its rapid degradation.

One, in fact, of the earliest aspects under which this moral necessity for war forces itself upon our notice, is its physical necessity. I mean to say that one of the earliest reasons why war _ought_ to exist, is because under any mode of suppressing war, virtually it _will_ exist. Banish war as now administered, and it will revolve upon us in a worse shape, that is, in a shape of predatory and ruffian war, more and more licentious, as it enjoys no privilege or sufferance, by the supposition, under the national laws. Will the causes of war die away because war is forbidden? Certainly not; and the only result of the prohibition would be to throw back the exercise of war from national into private and mercenary hands; and _that_ is precisely the retrograde or inverse course of civilization; for, in the natural order of civilization, war passes from the hands of knights, barons, insulated cities, into those of the universal community. If, again, it is attempted to put down this lawless _guerilla_ state by national forces, then the result will be to have established an interminable warfare of a mixed character, private and public, civil and foreign, infesting the frontiers of all states like a fever, and in substitution for the occasional and intermitting wars of high national police, administered with the dignified responsibility that belongs to supreme rank, with the humanity that belongs to conscious power, and with the diminishing havoc that belongs to increasing skill in the arts of destruction. Even as to this last feature in warfare, which in the war of brigands and _condottieri_ would for many reasons instantly decay, no reader can fail to be aware of the marvels effected by the forces of inventive science that run along side by side with the advances of civilization; look back even to the grandest period of the humane Roman warfare, listen to the noblest and most merciful of all Roman captains, saying on the day of Pharsalia, (and saying of necessity,) 'Strike at their faces, cavalry,'--yes, absolutely directing his own troopers to plough up with their sabres the blooming faces of the young Roman nobility; and then pass to a modern field of battle, where all is finished by musquetry and artillery amidst clouds of smoke, no soldier recognizing his own desolations, or the ghastly ruin of his own right arm, so that war, by losing all its brutality, is losing half of its demoralization.

War, so far from ending, because war was forbidden and nationally renounced, on the contrary would transmigrate into a more fearful shape. As things are at present, (and, observe, they are always growing better,) what numbers of noble-minded men, in the persons of our officers (yes, and often of non-commissioned officers,) do we British, for example, disperse over battle-fields, that could not dishonor their glorious uniform by any countenance to an act of cruelty! They are eyes delegated from the charities of our domestic life, to overlook and curb the license of war. I remember, in Xenophon, some passage where he describes a class of Persian gentlemen, who were called the _ophthalmoi_, or _eyes_ of the king; but for a very different purpose. These British officers may be called the _opthalmoi_, or eyes of our Sovereign Lady, that into every corner of the battle carry their scrutiny, lest any cruelty should be committed on the helpless, or any advantage taken of a dying enemy. But mark, such officers would be rare in the irregular troops succeeding to the official armies. And through this channel, amongst others, war, when cried down by act of Parliament, and precisely _because_ it was cried down, would become more perilously effective for the degradation of human nature. Being itself dishonored, war would become the more effective as an instrument for the dishonoring of its agents. However, at length, we will suppose the impossible problem solved--war, we will assume, is at last put down.

At length there is no more war. Though by the way, let me whisper in your ear, (supposing you to be a Christian,) this would be a prelibation drawn prematurely from the cup of millennial happiness; and, strictly speaking, there is no great homage to religion, even thus far--in figuring _that_ to be the purchase of man for himself, and through his own efforts, which is viewed by Scripture as a glory removed to the infinite and starry distance of a millennium, and as the _teleutaion epigeinaema_, the last crowning attainment of Christian truth, no longer _militant_ on earth. Christianity it is, but Christianity when _triumphant_, and no longer in conflict with adverse, or thwarting, or limiting influences, which only can be equal to a revolution so mighty. But all this, for the sake of pursuing the assumption, let us agree to waive. In reality, there are two separate stations taken up by the war denouncers. One class hold, that an influence derived from political economy is quite equal to the flying leap by which man is to clear this unfathomable gulph of war, and to land his race for ever on the opposite shore of a self- sustaining peace. Simply, the contemplation of national debts, (as a burthen which never would have existed without war,) and a computation of the waste, havoc, unproductive labor, &c.;, attached to any single campaign--these, they imagine, might suffice, _per se_, for the extinction of war. But the other class cannot go along with a speculation so infirm. Reasons there are, in the opposite scale, tempting man into war,--which are far mightier than any motives addressed to his self-interest. Even straining her energies to the utmost, they regard all policy of the _purse_ as adequate: anything short of religion, they are satisfied, must be incommensurate to a result so vast.

I myself certainly agree with this last class; but upon this arises a delusion, which I shall have some trouble in making the reader understand: and of this I am confident-that a majority, perhaps, in every given amount of readers, will share in the delusion; will part from me in the persuasion that the error I attempt to expose is no error at all, but that it is myself who am in the wrong. The delusion which I challenge as such, respects the very meaning and value of a sacrifice made to Christianity. What is it? what do we properly mean, by a concession or a sacrifice made to a spiritual power, such as Christianity? If a king and his people, impressed by the unchristian character of war, were to say, in some solemn act--'We, the parties undersigned, for the reasons stated in the body of this document, proclaim to all nations, that from and after Midsummer eve of the year 1850, this being the eve of St. John the Baptist, (who was the herald of Christ,) we will no more prosecute any interest of ours, unless the one sole interest of national defence, by means of war,--and this sacrifice we make as a concession and act of homage to Christianity,-- would _that_ vow, I ask, sincerely offered, and steadily observed, really be a sacrifice made to Christianity? Not at all. A sacrifice, that was truly such, to a spiritual religion, must be a sacrifice not verbally (though sincerely) dedicating itself to the religion, but a sacrifice wrought and accomplished by that religion, through and by its own spirit. Midsummer eve of 1850 could clearly make no spiritual change in the king or his people--such they would be on the morning after St. John's day, as on the morning before it--_i. e._, filled with all elements (though possibly undeveloped) of strife, feud, pernicious ambition,

The delusion, therefore, which I charge upon this religious class of war denouncers is, that whilst they see and recognize this infinite imperfection of any influence which Christianity yet exercises upon the world, they nevertheless rely upon that acknowledged shadow for the accomplishment of what would, in such circumstances, be a real miracle; they rely upon that shadow, as truly and entirely as if it were already that substance which, in a vast revolution of ages, it will finally become. And they rely upon this mockery in _two_ senses; first, for the _endurance_ of the frail human resolution that would thaw in an hour before a great outrage, or provocation suited to the nobler infirmities of man. Secondly, which is the point I mainly aim at, assuming, for a moment, that the resolution _could_ endure, amongst all mankind, we are all equally convinced, that an evil so vast is not likely to be checked or controlled, except by some very extraordinary power. Well, where _is_ it? Show me that power. I know of none but Christianity. _There_, undoubtedly, is hope. But, in order that the hope may become rational, the power must become practical. And practical it is not in the extent required, until this Christianity, from being dimly appreciated by a section [Footnote _What_ section, if you please? I, for my part, do not agree with those that geographically degrade Christianity as occupying but a trifle on the area of our earth. Mark this; all Eastern populations have dwindled upon better acquaintance. Persia that _ought_ to have, at least, two hundred and fifty millions of people, and _would_ have them under English government, and once was supposed to have at least one hundred millions, how many millions has she? _Eight!_ This was ascertained by Napoleon's emissary in 1808, General Gardanne. Afghanistan has very little more, though some falsely count fourteen millions. There go two vast chambers of Mahometanism; not twenty millions between them. Hindostan may _really_ have one hundred and twenty millions claimed for her. As to the Burman Empire, I, nor anybody else knows the truth. But, as to China, I have never for a moment been moved by those ridiculous estimates of the flowery people, which our simple countrymen copy. Instead of three hundred and fifty millions, a third of the human race upon the most exaggerated estimate, read eighty or one hundred millions at most. Africa, as it regards religion, counts for a cipher. Europe, America, and the half of Asia, as to space, are Christian. Consequently, the total _facit_, as regards Christianity, is not what many amiable infidels make it to be. My dears, your wish was father to that thought.] of this world, shall have been the law that overrides the whole. That consummation is not immeasurably distant. Even now, from considerations connected with China, with New Zealand, Borneo, Australia, we may say, that already the fields are white for harvest. But alas! the interval is brief between Christianity small, and Christianity great, as regards space or terraqueous importance, compared with that interval which separates Christianity formally professed, from Christianity thankfully acknowledged by universal man in beauty and power.

Here, therefore, is one spoke in the wheel for so vast a change as war dethroned, viz., that you see no cause, though you should travel round the whole horizon, adequate to so prodigious an effect. What could do it? Why, Christianity could do it. Aye, true; but man disarms Christianity. And no mock Christianity, no lip homage to Christianity, will answer.

But is war, then, to go on for ever? Are we never to improve? Are nations to conduct their intercourse eternally under the secret understanding that an unchristian solution of all irreconcileable feuds stands in the rear as the ultimate appeal? I answer that war, going on even for ever, may still be for ever amending its modes and its results upon human happiness; secondly, that we not only are under no fatal arrest in our process of improvement, but that, as regards war, history shows how steadily we _have_ been improving; and, thirdly, that although war may be irreversible as the last resource, this last resource may constantly be retiring further into the rear. Let us speak to this last point. War is the last resource only, because other and more intellectual resources for solving disputes are not available. And _why_ are they not? Simply, because the knowledge, and the logic, which ultimately will govern the case, and the very circumstances of the case itself in its details, as the basis on which this knowledge and logic are to operate, happen not to have been sufficiently developed. A code of law is not a spasmodic effort of gigantic talent in any one man or any one generation; it is a slow growth of accidents and occasions expanding with civilization; dependent upon time as a multiform element in its development; and presupposing often a concurrent growth of _analogous_ cases towards the completion of its system. For instance, the law which regulates the rights of shipping, seafaring men, and maritime commerce--how slow was its development! Before such works as the _Consolato del Mare_ had been matured, how wide must have been the experience, and how slow its accumulation! During that long period of infancy for law, how many must have been the openings for ignorant and unintentional injustice! How differently, again, will the several parties to any transaction construe the rights of the case! Discussion, without rules for guiding it, will but embitter the dispute. And in the absence of all guidance from the intellect, gradually weaving a _common_ standard of international appeal, it is clear that nations _must_ fight, and _ought_ to fight. Not being convinced, it is base to pretend that you _are_ convinced; and failing to be convinced by your neighbor's arguments, you confess yourself a poltroon (and moreover you _invite_ injuries from every neighbor) if you pocket your wrongs. The only course in such a case is to thump your neighbor, and to thump him soundly for the present. This treatment is very serviceable to your neighbor's optics; he sees things in a new light after a sufficient course of so distressing a regimen. But mark, even in this case, war has no tendency to propagate war, but tends to the very opposite result. To thump is as costly, and in other ways as painful, as to _be_ thumped. The evil to both sides arises in an undeveloped state of law. If rights were defined by a well considered code growing out of long experience, each party sees that this scourge of war would continually tend to limit itself. Consequently the very necessity of war becomes the strongest invitation to that system of judicial logic which forms its sole limitation. But all war whatsoever stands in these circumstances. It follows that all war whatever, unless on the brutal principle of a Spartan warfare, that made war its own sufficient object and self-justification, operates as a perpetual bounty offered to men upon the investigation and final adjudication of those disputed cases through which war prospers. Hence it is, viz., because the true boundaries of reciprocal rights are for ever ascertaining themselves more clearly, that war is growing less frequent. The fields open to injustice (which originally from pure ignorance are so vast) continually (through deeper and more expansive surveys by man's intellect--searching--reflecting--comparing) are narrowing themselves; narrowing themselves in this sense, that all nations under a common centre of religious civilization, as Christendom suppose, or Islamism, would not fight--no, and would not (by the national sense of wrong and right) be permitted to fight--in a cause _confessedly_ condemned by equity as now developed. The causes of war that still remain, are causes on which international law is silent--that large arrear of cases as yet unsettled; or else they are cases in which though law speaks with an authentic voice, it speaks in vain, because the circumstances are doubtful; so that, if the law is fixed as a lamp nailed to a wall, yet the _incidence_ of the law on the particular circumstances, becomes as doubtful as the light of the lamp upon objects that are capriciously moving. We see all this illustrated in a class of cases that powerfully illustrate the good and the bad in war, the why and the wherefore, as likewise the why _not_, and therefore I presume the wherefore _not_; and this class of cases belongs to the _lex vicinitatis_. In the Roman law this section makes a great figure. And speaking accurately, it makes a greater in our own. But the reason why this _law of neighborhood_ seems to fill so much smaller a section in ours, is because in English law, being _positively_ a longer section, _negatively_ to the whole compass of our law, it is less. The Roman law would have paved a road to the moon. And what is _that_ expressed in time? Let us see: a railway train, worked at the speed of the Great Western Express, accomplishes easily a thousand miles in twenty-four hours; consequently in two hundred and forty days or eight months it would run into the moon with its buffers, and break up the quarters of that Robinson Crusoe who (and without any Friday) is the only policeman that parades that little pensive appendage or tender to our fuming engine of an earth. But the English law--oh frightful reader, don't even think of such a question as its relation in space and time to the Roman law. That it would stretch to the fixed stars is plain, but to which of them,--don't now, dear persecuting reader, unsettle our brains by asking. Enough it is that both in Roman and English law the rights of neighborhood are past measuring. Has a man a right to play the German flute, where the partitions are slender, all day long in the house adjoining to yours? Or, supposing a beneficent jury (beneficent to _him_) finds this to be no legal nuisance, has he a right to play it ill? Or, because juries, when tipsy, will wink at anything, does the privilege extend to the jew's-harp? to the poker and tongs? to the marrowbones and cleavers? Or, without ranging through the whole of the _Spectator's_ culinary music, will the bagpipes be found within benefit of jury law? _War to the knife_ I say, before we'll submit to _that_. And if the law won't protect us against it, then we'll turn rebels.

Now this law of neighborhood, this _lex vicinitatis_, amongst the Romans, righted itself and settled itself, as amongst ourselves it continues to do, by means of actions or legal suits. If a man poisons us with smoke, we compel him by an action to eat his own smoke, or (if he chooses) to make his chimneys eat it. Here you see is a transmuted war; in a barbarous state, fire and sword would have avenged this invasion of smoke; but amongst civilized men, paper bullets in the form of _Qui tam_ and _Scire facias_, beat off the enemy. And on the same principle, exactly as the law of international rights clears up its dark places, war gradually narrows its grounds, and the _jus gentium_ defines itself through national attorneys, _i. e._, diplomatists.

For instance, now I have myself seen a case where a man cultivating a flower-garden, and distressed for some deliverance from his rubbish of dead leaves, litter, straw, stones, took the desperate resolution of projecting the whole upon his neighbor's flower-garden. I, a chance spectator of the outrage, knew too much of this world to lodge any protest against it, on the principle of mere abstract justice; so it would have passed unnoticed, but for the accident that his injured neighbor unexpectedly raised up his head above the dividing wall, and reproached the aggressor with his unprincipled conduct. This aggressor, adding evil to evil, suggested as the natural remedy for his own wrong, that the sufferer should pass the nuisance onwards to the garden next beyond him; from which it might be posted forward on the same principle. The aggrieved man, however, preferred passing it back, without any discount to the original proprietor. Here now, is a ripe case, a _causa teterrima_, for war between the parties, and for a national war had the parties been nations. In fact, the very same injury, in a more aggravated shape, is perpetrated from time to time by Jersey upon ourselves, and would, upon a larger scale, right itself by war. Convicts are costly to maintain; and Jersey, whose national revenue is limited, being too well aware of this, does us the favor to land upon the coasts of Hampshire, Dorset, &c.;, all the criminals whom she cannot summarily send back to self-support, at each jail-delivery. 'What are we to do in England?' is the natural question propounded by the injured scoundrels, when taking leave of their Jersey escort. 'Anything you please,' is the answer: 'rise if you can, to be dukes: only never come back hither; since, dukes or _no_ dukes, to the rest of Christendom, to _us_ of the Channel Islands you will always be transported felons.' There is therefore a good right of action, _i.e._, a good ground of war, against Jersey, on the part of Great Britain, since, besides the atrocious injury inflicted, this unprincipled little island has the audacity to regard our England, (all Europe looking on,) as existing only for the purposes of a sewer or cess-pool to receive _her_ impurities. Some time back I remember a Scottish newspaper holding up the case as a newly discovered horror in the social system. But, in a quiet way Jersey has always been engaged in this branch of exportation, and rarely fails to 'run' a cargo of rogues upon our shore, once or so in the season. What amuses one besides, in this Scottish denunciation of the villany, is, that Scotland [Footnote: To banish them 'forth of the kingdom,' was the _euphuismus_; but the reality understood was--to carry the knaves, like foxes in a bag, to the English soil, and there unbag them for English use.] of old, pursued the very same mode of jail-delivery as to knaves that were not thought ripe enough for hanging: she carted them to the English border, unchained them, and hurried them adrift into the wilderness, saying--Now, boys, shift for yourselves, and henceforth plunder none but Englishmen.

What I deduce from all this is, that as the feuds arising between individuals under the relation of neighbors, are so far from tending to a hostile result, that, on the contrary, as coming under a rule of law already ascertained, or furnishing the basis for a new rule, they gradually tighten the cords which exclude all opening for quarrel; not otherwise is the result, and therefore the usefulness, of war amongst nations. All the causes of war, the occasions upon which it is likely to arise, the true and the ostensible motives, are gradually evolved, are examined, searched, valued, by publicists; and by such means, in the further progress of men, a comprehensive law of nations will finally be accumulated, not such as now passes for international law, (a worthless code that _has_ no weight in the practice of nations, nor deserves any,) but one which will exhaust the great body of cases under which wars have arisen under the Christian era, and gradually collect a public opinion of Christendom upon the nature of each particular case. The causes that _have_ existed for war are the causes that _will_ exist; or, at least, they are the same under modifications that will simply vary the rule, as our law cases in the courts are every day circumstantiating the particular statute concerned. At this stage of advance, and when a true European opinion has been created, a '_sensus communis_,' or community of feeling on the main classifications of wars, it will become possible to erect a real Areopagus, or central congress for all Christendom, not with any commission to suppress wars,--a policy which would neutralize itself by reacting as a fresh cause of war, since high-spirited nations would arm for the purpose of resisting such decrees; but with the purpose and the effect of oftentimes healing local or momentary animosities, and also by publishing the opinion of Europe, assembled in council, with the effect of taking away the shadow of dishonor from the act of retiring from war. Not to mention that the mere delay, involved in the waiting for the solemn opinion of congress, would always be friendly to pacific councils. But _would_ the belligerents wait? That concession might be secured by general exchange of treaties, in the same way that the cooperation of so many nations has been secured to the suppression of the trade in slaves. And one thing is clear, that when all the causes of war, involving _manifest_ injustice, are banished by the force of European opinion, focally converged upon the subject, the range of war will be prodigiously circumscribed. The costliness of war, which, for various reasons has been continually increasing since the feudal period, will operate as another limitation upon its field, concurring powerfully with the public declaration from a council of collective Christendom.

There is, besides, a distinct and separate cause of war, more fatal to the possibilities of peace in Europe than open injustice; and this cause being certainly in the hands of nations to deal with as they please, there is a tolerable certainty that a congress _sincerely_ pacific would cut it up by the roots. It is a cause noticed by Kant in his Essay on Perpetual Peace, and with great sagacity, though otherwise that little work is not free from visionary self-delusions: and this cause lies in the diplomacy of Europe. Treaties of peace are so constructed, as almost always to sow the seeds of future wars. This seems to the inexperienced reader a matter of carelessness or laxity in the choice of expression; and sometimes it may have been so; but more often it has been done under the secret dictation of powerful courts-- making peaces only as truces, anxious only for time to nurse their energies, and to keep open some plausible call for war. This is not only amongst the most extensive causes of war, but the very worst: because it gives a colorable air of justice, and almost of necessity to a war, which is, in fact, the most outrageously unjust, as being derived from a pretext silently prepared in former years, with mere subtlety of malice: it is a war growing out of occasions, forged beforehand, lest no occasions should spontaneously arise. Now, this cause of war could and would be healed by a congress, and through an easy reform in European diplomacy.[Footnote: One great _nidus_ of this insidious preparation for war under the very masque of peace, which Kant, from brevity, has failed to particularize, lies in the neglecting to make any provision for cases that are likely enough to arise. A, B, C, D, are all equally possible, but the treaty provides a specific course of action only for A, suppose. Then upon B or C arising, the high contracting parties, though desperately and equally pacific, find themselves committed to war actually by a treaty of lasting peace. Their pacific majesties sigh, and say--Alas! that it should be so, but really fight we must, for what says the treaty?]

It is the strongest confirmation of the power inherent in growing civilization, to amend war, and to narrow the field of war, if we look back for the records of the changes in this direction which have already arisen in generations before our own.

The most careless reviewer of history can hardly fail to read a rude outline of progress made by men in the rights, and consequently in the duties of war through the last twenty-five centuries. It is a happy circumstance for man--that oftentimes he is led by pure selfishness into reforms, the very same as high principle would have prompted; and in the next stage of his advance, when once habituated to an improved code of usages, he begins to find a gratification to his sensibilities, (partly luxurious sensibilities, but partly moral,) in what originally had been a mere movement of self-interest. Then comes a third stage, in which having thoroughly reconciled himself to a better order of things, and made it even necessary to his own comfort, at length he begins in his reflecting moments to perceive a moral beauty and a fitness in arrangements that had emanated from accidents of convenience, so that finally he generates a sublime pleasure of conscientiousness out of that which originally commenced in the meanest forms of mercenary convenience. A Roman lady of rank, out of mere voluptuous regard to her own comfort, revolted from the harsh clamors of eternal chastisements inflicted on her numerous slaves; she forbade them; the grateful slaves showed their love for her; gradually and unintentionally she trained her feelings, when thus liberated from a continual temptation to the sympathies with cruelty, into a demand for gentler and purer excitement. Her purpose had been one of luxury; but, by the benignity of nature still watching for ennobling opportunities, the actual result was a development given to the higher capacities of her heart. In the same way, when the brutal right (and in many circumstances the brutal duty) of inflicting death upon prisoners taken in battle, had exchanged itself for the profits of ransom or slavery, this relaxation of ferocity (though commencing in selfishness) gradually exalted itself into a habit of mildness, and some dim perception of a sanctity in human life. The very vice of avarice ministered to the purification of barbarism; and the very evil of slavery in its earliest form was applied to the mitigation of another evil--war conducted in the spirit of piratical outrage. The commercial instincts of men having worked one set of changes in war, a second set of changes was prompted by instincts derived from the arts of ornament and pomp. Splendor of arms, of banners, of equipages, of ceremonies, and the elaborate forms of intercourse with enemies through conferences, armistices, treaties of peace, &c.;, having tamed the savagery of war into connection with modes of intellectual grandeur, and with the endless restraints of superstition or scrupulous religion,--a permanent light of civilization began to steal over the bloody shambles of buccaneering warfare. Other modes of harmonizing influences arose more directly from the bosom of war itself. Gradually the mere practice of war, and the culture of war though merely viewed as a rude trade of bloodshed, ripened into an intellectual art. Were it merely with a view to more effectual carnage, this art (however simple and gross at first) opened at length into wide scientific arts, into strategies, into tactics, into castrametation, into poliorcetics, and all the processes through which the first rude efforts of martial cunning finally connect themselves with the exquisite resources of science. War, being a game in which each side forces the other into the instant adoption of all improvements through the mere necessities of self-preservation, became continually more intellectual.

It is interesting to observe the steps by which, were it only through impulses of self-conservation, and when searching with a view to more effectual destructiveness, war did and must refine itself from a horrid trade of butchery into a magnificent and enlightened science. Starting from no higher impulse or question than how to cut throats most rapidly, most safely, and on the largest scale, it has issued even at our own stage of advance into a science, magnificent, oftentimes ennobling, and cleansed from all horrors except those which (not being within man's power utterly to divorce from it) no longer stand out as reproaches to his humanity.

Meantime a more circumstantial review of war, in relation to its motives and the causes assigned for its justification, would expose a series of changes greater perhaps than the reader is aware of. Such a review, which would too much lengthen a single paper, may or may not form the subject of a second. And I will content myself with saying, as a closing remark, that this review will detect a principle of steady advance in the purification and elevation of war--such as must offer hope to those who believe in the possibility of its absolute extermination, and must offer consolation to those who (like myself) deny it.


[The end]
Thomas De Quincey's essay: On War

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