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Here is the upshot of the argument; but the great masters of international law put it in a form somewhat more philosophical. War they regard as a judicial process, a tribunal of justice be. tween nations, a method of determining their rights, of redressing their wrongs, and inflicting condign punishment upon the guilty. Lieber calls it “a mode of obtaining rights;" Vattel defines it to be “that state in which we prosecute our rights by force;' and Lord Bacon describes it as “one of the highest trials of right, when princes and states put themselves upon the justice of God for the deciding of their controversies by such success as it shall please him to give to either side."
Here is the whole force of the legal argument in favor of war as a method of international justice. The plea is sufficiently plausible ; but will facts at all justify it? What is there in war
? resembling a process of justice? In every judicial trial, we see, first, a law common to the parties; next, a judge and jury, as impartial umpires between them; then the accuser publicly meeting the accused face to face with his charges; next the witnesses testifying in open court, and subject to the most searching examination by each party; then the whole case fully argued on both sides, and closed by the charge of the judge, and the verdict of the jury, each delivered under all the solemnities of an oath ; and finally, the sentence of the court, to be executed according to law only by a special warrant from the highest executive authority.
Here is a legal process of justice; but what shadow of resemblance to all this can you find in war ? There is no law to define right; no judge to interpret that law, or jury to apply it; no tribunal to try the case ; no rules prescribing the mode of trial, and requiring notice of the complaint, and opportunity for vindication ; no charges duly preferred ; no testimony given under oath, and fairly examined ; no delay, or chance for the correction of errors; no privilege of appeal to a higher tribuual, or right to claim a new hearing; no hope of reprieve or pardon ; no trustworthy officer to execute the precise sentence of the law; no restriction of the penalty to the exact demerits of the criminal; no precautions to guard the innocent against suffering with the guilty. No; each party makes a law for itself, erects its own tribunal of blood, and then proceeds to act as accuser and witness, as counsel, judge and executioner. What a burlesque on all ideas ofjustice! Justice by the process of twenty, fifty or a hundred
thousand professional homicides, the very bloodhounds of society, meeting on a field of battle to shoot, and stab, and hew, and trample each other down! It is a libel on the name of justice, an outrage on common sense, to call this a judicial process, a mode of redress for national grievances. As well might we call a fight between two mad-men, between a score of jackals, or a hundred buffalos, a process of justice !
Yet is it by such a fiction as this that the great mass of even conscientious, intelligent Christians reconcile themselves to the follies and absurdities, the crimes and woes of war. "Shall not slavers be captured, pirates exterminated, and insurrections put down ? Certainly; but is this war? It does involve the idea of FORCE ; but the act of force, even though it end in destroying life, is not necessarily war. Confusion here arises very much from the fact, that the military are employed, in special emergencies, as a civil police; but, when thus used to enforce law, they are in the service not of war, but of civil government, and wield the sword, not of war, but of the magistrate. It is, in all such cases, a strictly civil, legal, peaceful process. In acts of this sort, there is not necessarily anything peculiar to war, or involving a single principle of war. Yet because Christians may properly act as police-men in preserving order, repressing popular outbreaks, and bringing criminals to condign punishment, not a few strangely jump to the conclusion that they may with equal propriety devote themselves to the profession of arms, to the trade of blood, as the business of life. According to this logic, soldiers, Christian soldiers, were employed in our revolutionary war, and in our last war with England, on each side, to execute justice, England against us, and we against England; both right, and both wrong; in one view wrong-doers, and in another avengers of similar wrong in others !
Take the case, a very coinmon one in its principle, of the devout young Capt. Vicars. ". There cannot be a doubt,” he says of the Crimean war, " that it is a just war we are engaged in ; and therefore I say the sooner we are let loose upon the Russians, the better. There are some people, I know, cannot imagine how any Christian could ever join the deadly strife of battle; but I can only say that with such I do not agree, so that I shall not flinch from doing my duty to my Queen and my country, the Lord being my helper. I consider war to be a dire calamity, but as much a
visitation from the Almighty as cholera, or any other scourge ; and, as on the appearance of that dreadful malady, we do not sit quietly down, and let it take its course, but very rightly use every precaution, and employ every means to drive it from amongst us, so in the case of this war with the Russian despot. He has made an aggression upon a country, one of our oldest allies, which had given no just cause of provocation, and has thus disturbed the peace of Europe, and let loose upon us the horrors of
And shall we Britons let him have his own way, and tamely look on? God forbid ! Rather will we, the Lord being our shield and buckler,' crush the evil, and restore peace and quietness to the land.” A pretty fair specimen of war-logic in hich Christians often indulge; but its weakness and absurdity are too glaring to need or deserve a passing comment. Russian soldiers could and did, on the other side, reason in essentially the same way ;
and thus one of the most inexcusable wars on modern record, was justified by Christians as necessary and righteous on both sides.
SAFETY OF PEACE PRINCIPLES. There is a very general distrusl of moral means as a security against evils from our fellow-men ; but the more we inquire and reflect on the subject, the more shall we find that a course of conduct strictly pacific, affords, both for individuals and for nations, the surest grounds of trust and safety. We are well aware that the mass of even Christians do not think so; and hence we would fain do what we can to rectify herein their wrong modes of reasoning, and bring them into full accord with the gospel they profess to take to be their guide.
There are two ways to keep men from injuring us - by compulsion, or by persuasion ; by brute force, or by kind moral influence; by appeals to their fears alone, or by addresses to their conscience and better feelings. We may resort to the law of violence, or to the law of love ; we may rely on the principle of war, or on the principle of peace. One threatens, the other persuades; one hates and curses, the other loves and blesses ; the former gives back insult and injury with interest, while the latter meekly turns the other cheek to the smiter, forgives even its bitterest enemies, and strives to overcome evil only with good.
No man at all acquainted with the gospel, needs to be told which of these methods is most accordant with its spirit or principles. The bare statement must suffice for any one who has read either the New Testament or the Old ; who has traced the example of Christ and his apostles, or caught from their lips such instructions as these – lay aside all malice; do good unto all men; love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and do good to them that despitefully use you ; resist not evil, but whoso smiteth you on one cheek, turn to him the other also; recompense to no man evil for evil, but overcome evil with good.
Here is the Christian mode of preventing or curing evils ; but most persons deem it unsafe, and resort to some form of violence. They have little confidence in the power of reason or truth, of justice or kindness, to hold in check the bad passions of mankind, but employ for this purpose threats of evil, and engines of vengeance and death. Fear they seem to regard as the only effectual restraint upon mischief or guilt; and hence they arm themselves with pistols and daggers against their personal foes, and think it madness for nations to rely for protection, one against another, on anything but fleets and armies, a soldiery well trained, and fortifications well manned. Milder means, appeals to the better feelings of our nature, they would not entirely discard ; but the former they make their last resort, their sole reliance, and honestly believe that war is the only sure way to peace ; that there is no real security but in bloodshed ; that we must either fight, or become the prey of malice or ambition, of rapacity or revenge. Nor can we deny that the history of our world, written mainly in blood, and detailing a series of almost incessant jealousies and conflicts between nations, would seem to justify such an opinion; and yet we verily believe that pacific principles are the surest safeguard, and would, if rightly used, suffice, far bet ter than any war-methods, to avert or mitigate the evils incident from bad passions to individual or national intercourse.
Let us first ascertain the precise point in dispute. The question is not whether the principles of peace, any measures of forbearance, kindness and conciliation, will, in every case, avert all evil. The depravity of mankind forbids any such hope. It is morally impossible ; and no means devised by the policy of man, or the wisdom of God, have hitherto succeeded in securing such a result. Certainly the war principle has not. It has been tried all over the earth for nearly six thousand years; but has it kept mad
from preying upon his brother, or nation from rising against nation? Has it prevented bloodshed, violence, rapine, injustice, oppression, despotism, the countless wrongs and evils that form nearly the sum total of bistory? Surely, then, war is no security against the bad passions of men; it would seem hardly possible for any system to produce worse results; and hence we are forced to inquire, as the only point at issue, whether a policy strictly pacific will prevent more evil, and secure more good, than war-methods actually have.
The advocates of war seem cven now to concede in fact the very point in debate; for they all admit, that we ought to use pacific expedients as long as we can, and to draw the sword only as a last and inevitable resort, This admission recognizes the superiority of pacific over warlike measures ; and we should, if consistent, abandon the latter, and adopt the former as our uniform and permanent policy.
History, 100, though extremely barren of examples to illustrate the efficacy of pacific principles, does nevertheless furnish some strong presumptions in their favor. War, as an engine of mere force and vengeance, belongs to a state entirely savage; and communities, like individuals, abandon or relax the war-principle just as far as they rise in the scale of general cultivation, and come under the sway of moral influences. Nations, even while retaining the war-system in the back-ground as the ultimate reliance, have already reached the wisdom of employing for the most part pacific expedients for the prevention or adjustment of difficulties with each other. They retain the sword, but keep it in the scabbard, and are fast superseding its use by the substitution of pacific methods. They continue the war-system either by the force of habit, or as a sort of scare-crow; it looms up before the world very like an old, useless hulk afloat on the ocean as a memento of the past, and a warning to the future; while they sedulously use in its stead the policy of peace in more than nine cases out of ten, and thus bear an unconscious but decisive testimony to the vast superiority of the former.
We can find in history no considerabile nation acting on the strictest principles of peace; but those which approach the nearest to these principles, uniformly enjoy the highest degree of safety and prosperity. Take China, Switzerland, or the United States; and you will see in their case a striking confirmation of this truth, and a strong presumptive argument for the strictest principles of peace. None of them have given up the system of arined self-defence; but they have for the most part adopted a policy unusually pacific, They have professedly acted only on the defensive; they have betrayed few, if any, wishes for aggression or conquest; they have kept up no fleets or armies sufficient to intimidate or provoke their neighbors ; they have been respectful, courteous and conciliatory in their intercourse with other nations, and relied mainly on their own character, and the force of reason and justice, for the vindication of their rights, and the redress of their wrongs. What is the result? No nations on earth have ever been so exempt from aggression, injury and insult; and, if the