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far that the verdict of the people adverse to the special claims of the South, as expressed in the late presidential election, could prove an occasion of armed insurrection.
We have been accustomed to great political excitements accompanied with threats of dissolution, yet always passing away so soon as the decision made at the ballot-box was made known. The prospect a few years ago of the election of Mr. Banks, as Speaker of the House of Representatives, was made the pretext of dissolution, the moment the “ deed was done." Yet a wealthy slave-holder, and from South Carolina, too, courteously introduced the successful candidate to the chair; and all parties and factions were at once quiet. We thought that a reverence for the ballot-box had become integral in the hearts of the American people. The circumstance that any evil or wrong done through the ballot-box may always be remedied by the ballot, in connection with judicial safeguards, and the obstructions to unjust legislation in the admirable system of “checks and balances," so inherent in our form of government, it seemed to us must satisfy the most fastideous people. We knew that Southern politicians were impulsive and rash, but we did not think them insane. We gave them credit for loyalty at heart, however perverse and defiant amid the contests of a political campaign. When the great historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire congratulated the world that another irruption of barbarians was an impossibility, we credited his words in the sense in which he used them. It had not occurred to us that our own land was destined to prove the fallacy of his prediction. Our notions on the efficacy of peace principles and measures, so far as they have had a deterinined form, have been cherished in the belief that the world was ready for their practical application. The events of the past year have assured us that we were greviously in mistake.
Of the large number of professed Christians whose convictions and feelings in regard to war, have undergone a a sudden change, it is but justice to say, that, with rare exceptions, they have never claimed that anti-war principles are adapted to every phase of human society. Most of these are believers in the Old Testament, and have admitted the justice and expediency of the wars waged by the Israelites, on the ground that only severe measures are practicable in
dealing with a barbarous people. The course of history, happily styled “the logic of events,” clearly shows that mild measures will not be effective among a people as yet unciv. ilized. It is not a historical date, but a point of culture, that divides the period in which men are under the law, from the period in which they are under the gospel. In our times, the conviction has been somewhat general, that human society, in nations nominally civilized, have reached this point of culture. In our country, at least, we supposed that the war of the ballot had forever rendered impossible the war of the bullet. But we are startled on learning that in this fond expectation we have hugged a delusion. The old contest between barbarism and civilization is seen to be no longer one of the things that were but are not. In our own day and in our own land the strife of ages is renewed. We must put down the enemies of man by such measures as will be effective. We grieve to say, that we see no alternative other than the terrible one of the sword.
We come now to the practical question, What is our duty as a Christian people in the present national crisis? In resolving to put down the rebellion by resort to the sword and bayonet, must we give up our religion? In this severe ordeal must we choose whether to obey Christ or to obey the government? Is it possible to be loyal to our government and fight its battles, and at the same time be loyal to “ the Captain of our Salvation ?”
In every form of phraseology, we have rejoiced to believe that the Gospel of the New Testament is adapted to every possible condition of Christian men. It will be lamentable indeed if we have now reached a condition in which the words and spirit of Christ can no longer avail. The millions whom the religion of Christ has blessed and comforted, would find it hard indeed if a crisis is reached in which they must no longer call him Master in case they would be true to their country in its hour of peril. We must hope that this alternative before us is not this.
Another preliminary word before coming directly to the question before us. We have said, that hstherto we have formed our notions of the subject on war without the expectation that we should have occasion to practice them. Our interest in the subject has been speculative. We have sought a metaphysical entertainment, and have not so much as dreamed that our fine-drawn theories must be put to a practical test. We trust that this practice has passed away. We must henceforth have opinions that we can use. We must no longer fashion mere speculations for metaphysical diversion, but solid weapons for actual service in the battle of life. And while we define our position, we must fix it. Let us not again be found with notions which we must drop the very moment we are called upon to act.
We must be ready hereafter for every possible emergency. It is easy enough to chant the praises of peace and the measures of peace, while war's - rude alarm” is no longer heard in the land; but we shall be remiss in duty if a second emergency finds us without the proper mental as well as physical equipments for actual service. Never till recently, have we appreciated the wisdom of the aphorism, “In time of peace prepare for war”—an aphorism not less applicable to the necessities of the mind, than those of the body.
We must add, that there is a special reason why we should attempt to define a position now, and with great caution, for we fear that in the reaction which our minds have undergone, there is the natural danger of extremes. We have noticed that the severest epithets bestowed upon the rebel leaders, come not from the military profession, nor from politicians, but from the occupants of pulpits.
Hang the traitors !" came from a Christian minister, and a member of the American Peace Society! Most of us are safely delivered from the impracticable notions of what are called peace-doctrines; but there will be a strong temptation to push too far the sanguinary methods of war. To reach the true mean, and to ascertain the principles and methods that shall be effective in crushing rebellion, and yet not needlessly sacrifice the Christian obligation of charity,—if there is such a mean,-must be our object.
In the discussion of most questions, words are needlessly wasted simply from the neglect to define what is really meant. On the supposition that war is justifiable, let us determine what thought we wish this language to convey.
The common remark, “I am opposed to war,” is very ambiguous. Does the person who uses this language mean
that he is opposed to war as war? Who or what but a fiend would not be opposed to war in such a sense of the words ? What nation ever declared war against another for the sake of having a war? We shall not insult the reader's understanding or heart by attempting to show that war carried on for the sake of war, is unjustifiable and unchristian. As a general principle, and merely for the sake of the practice, we are not in favor of amputating human limbs ; yet there are individual cases in which it is wise and humane to perform such operations.
No person pretends to justify war except as a last resort. Every other method consistent with the vital principle involved must be attempted, and proved inefficient, before the dreadful appeal to the sword. No one will pretend to justify war except in this very limited sense of the words. In the case of a nation threatened in its rights, liberties, or existence, two questions present themselves, Are there alternatives other than war by which, in every conceiveable case, a nation may protect itself against such threats? In case it be admitted that in a given instance a nation cannot shield itself except by resort to the sanguinary measures of war, is it the Christian duty of such a nation to sacrifice its rights, liberties, or existence rather than resort to the terrible alternative of armed defence ?
There are a few very excellent people who have unquestioning confidence in the success of what we may call unqualified peace doctrines, as well as in the obligation of a Christian people to trust in no other. They reason that no nation could nerve itself to fight a people that will not fight in return ; and that human nature is not so depraved as to commit aggression upon persons who have not the spirit to oppose a physical resistance. There is, we have no doubt, more of practical wisdom in such convictions than the world is, as yet, able to appreciate; still there is a great fact in proof, that a pacific disposition is not an infallible preventive of assault in every instance. We must confess that the example of Christ—whether or not intended to be authoritative in its application to nationswas that of non-resistance. It is nevertheless true, that he was “taken by wicked hands and crucified and slain.” It may be a question, wliether the example of Christ obligates his disciples to feel and act upon non-resistant
principles; but so far from proving the efficiency of such principles, considered as a means of protection, it is simply an instance of their inefficiency.
It strikes us, however, as something absurd to urge nonresistant principles as expedients. To be good at all, one must be good for the sake of goodness. Even the aphorism, “ Honesty is the best policy,” is a contradiction in terms, for honesty is not policy in any sense of the word. The idea of loving one's enemies as an expedient for warding off injuries at their hands, makes a very near approach to the ludicrous. A good act performed for its own sake is a good example; but if performed for the sake of an example this very motive prevents it from being such. The good example of a deed is always and necessarily incidental to the good deed. And so, gentleness of disposition and a forgiving spirit may often disarm malice and avert aggression, but these beneficial results are possible only on the supposition that they are unsought that the gentle disposition and the forgiving spirit are real, and not mere pretenses for the sake of beneficial results. To transform a virtue into an expedient is simply to destroy the virtue. It seems to us, that the question, whether peace-measures, in the unqualified use of these words, are not sufficient to save a people in every conceiveable case, is disposed of.
We must here expose a fallacy in the use of words which is very common in treating questions kindred to the one now under consideration. The question is sometimes raised whether a government has a right, on Christian principles, to resort to the methods of war in defence of its rights and liberties under any circumstances. But, in the nature of the case, there can be no such question. The only question is, have people a right to government? What is a government? It is a system of laws for regulating certain affairs of a people as a people in their social and their external relations; and the distinctive attribute of a government is in the fact that their laws are coercive, that they rest upon physical force, in the last resort upon the sanguinary methods of war. We think it an open question, whether certain men in this nation have a right to live; but if we concede their right to live, we do not feel at liberty to raise the question, whether they have a right to breathe ? The essence of government is force. Representatives and