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FOR JANUARY, 1817..
Art. I. 1. A Solemn Review of the Custom of War, showing that War is the effect of Popular Delusion, and proposing a Remedy. 8vo. pp. 24. America, printed at Hartford; Reprinted in England at the County Press, Ipswich, 1816.
2. Friend of Peace: containing a Special Interview between the President of the United States and Omar, an Officer dismissed for duelling: Six Letters from Omar to the President; and Omar's Solitary Reflections. The whole reported by Philo-Pacificus, Author of "A Solemn Review of the Custom of War." 8vo. pp. 40. America, printed. Reprinted by Low, London, 1816. 3. Thoughts on Universal Peace; a Sermon delivered on Thursday, Jan. 18, 1816. The Day of National Thanksgiving for the Restoration of Peace. By the Rev. Thomas Chalmers, Minister of the Tron Church, Glasgow. 8vo. pp. 42. Glasgow, 1816. 4. War contemplated by Religion, in a Sermon (on the same subject.) By Thomas Grinfield, M. A. late of Trinity College, Cambridge. 8vo. pp. 38. Gale and Fenner, 1816.
Idea of a New Law for the Civilized World, recommended to the consideration of France, Great Britain, and the American States. By the Author of "A Letter from Athens," &c. 8vo. pp. 72. Law and Co. 1816.
TO: the Public must not be led away by the declamations of Jacobin orators, or of sentimental philanthropists. Wars ever have been, and Wars ever will be. The business of empires cannot be carried on without them. A nation must have its arm of iron as well as its arm of gold. Wars are, it must be confessed, a rather expensive item in the disbursements of Governments, and they bear hard upon those particular countries which are so unfortunate as to form the actual theatre of the contest. But if, on the other hand, we consider the employment which War furnishes to a large mass of the population, the stimulus which it imparts to the physical energies of a country, the opportunities for distinction and advancement which it opens to buoyant and ambitious spirits, the consequence and respect it obtains for the VOL. VII. N. S.
belligerent in the eyes of other nations, the glory with which it covers the national character, the power and patronage which it places in the hands of Administration, by this means strengthening the legitimate government;-and besides all these considerations, the justness, in a word, the necessity of going to war for the particular object: we shall then have a body of practical argument in favour of the system, which it will not be very easy for moralizing theorists to overthrow. Moreover, though War is in itself a sort of necessary evil, it affords scope for some of the most brilliant achievements of human intellect and of moral energy. That noble contempt of danger, that invincible patience of endurance, that chivalrous spirit of enterprise, that disinterested lavishment of self, which the field of battle exhibits, and the collective greatness and mechanical force of a well-disciplined army, present, it must be allowed, objects fascinating to the imagination beyond all parallel. Where is the man that has once felt the stormy excitement of war, and tasted the sweets of a soldier's life, that is fit for any other occupation in society? On whom has the surname The Great been bestowed by common consent, but on the fortunate warrior of his age? And if we speak of Christianity, have not Christian Kings and Christian Nations been as fond of war, from the time of the Crusades down to the Battle of Waterloo, as any of the old Pagan heroes? And does not the Apocrypha, from which the clergy in general so frequently select their texts for sermons on public occasions, abound with inspiring accounts of Jewish heroism? Who are the persons that inveigh against War? Have any of the rulers or chief priests adopted these Quaker notions? Surely, if War were so unchristian a practice, the pulpits of our clergy would long since have resounded with manly reprobation of the prevailing evil; and the Heads of our Ecclesiastical Establishment would never cease to raise their voice as Senators, in solemn deprecation of the sang froid with which the subject is discussed, as a simple matter of policy, in contemplation of the order to renew the havoc,
"and let slip the dogs of war."
Of this nature, we imagine, must be the floating plausibilities which occupy the place of argument in the minds of persons who incline to vindicate or to palliate the evil of War. We have endeavoured to bring together all the considerations that it is probable the advocates of the system would work up into the semblance of reasoning, with a view to account in some degree for the fact, that in the Nineteenth Century, among the most moral and most Christianized portion of Society, the military passion has prevailed to an extent that has rendered it hitherto almost unsafe, in point of character, to question the lawfulness or the expediency of that policy which kindled and perpetuated the flames of War.
Exhaustion and poverty, the occasions of the drunkard's 'soberness and the libertine's virtue,' have at length brought the nations of Europe to entertain different feelings-to regret, though not, we fear, to repent of the past; to detest war, not so much from any positive dislike of the intoxication, as from a distaste of the bitterness which it has left. This interval of the fever, then, is the very crisis which the Abolitionists of War should improve; and we rejoice that attempts are being made, on how small soever a scale, to produce a beneficial impression by judicious publications on the subject. We are indebted to America for the best tract for general circulation that we have yet seen, and which we have placed at the head of this article. It is almost incredible how little attention has hitherto been paid in this country to the question under consideration. It was however by similar humble measures, inadequate as they might then appear, that the feelings of the public were first roused with regard to the Slave Trade, and stimulated, as the subject developed itself in all its atrocity and horror, to irrepressible indignation, till the tide of popular opinion set in too strong for corruption and self-interest to withstand.
But the enormous evil with which the Abolitionists of War have to grapple, is of a nature far more complicated than the evils connected with the Slave Trade; and there are peculiar disadvantages attendant on the endeavour to bring the force of public opinion to bear against it. It is not a subject respecting which the people are indifferent because they are ignorant; they are not therefore susceptible of the stimulus of information. No novel circumstances of iniquity can be brought forward in connexion with War, with which they have not long been familiarized. We may paint in all the naked horribleness of truth, the scenes of murder and devastation which it is the business of War to' create; and if we cannot exhibit a section of the field of battle as we should the section of a Slave-ship, still we may so bring the mind into contact with the detail, as to produce a shuddering sympathy with the realized case of individual suffering, although the contemplation of the aggregate failed to awaken the feelings from their apathy. But this the historian, the poet, and the panoramic artist, have again and again effected, to suit their respective purpose,-and what has been the result? The sensation has died away. Such wounds of sensibility require no balsam and leave no scar. By principles--by principles only, can the mind be instigated to virtuous action. Besides, the horrors of battle have scarcely any relation in the ideas of many persons, to the question of War. They would resent the application of an argument, founded on mere considerations of morality, as irrelevant to what they view as a question of national policy. Of nothing are men more jealous than of being
made even to feel against their will; and they have in general an unhappy facility in exercising, on all such emergencies, the abstractive faculty which effectually shuts out every view of the subject but that very one they choose to admit. Touch them, and like the tortoise, they shrink into the invulnerableness of self, and defy all impression.
The Slave Trade was a defined and palpable evil, known and easily apprehended in all its dimensions and all its bearings: War is a subject too vast to be surveyed at a glance, and its character, as an evil, borders upon the infinite. For the former, a specific remedy suggested itself, and its abolition was so practicable, that it rested on a simple decision of the Legislature. The latter is a radical habit so inherent in the political system, that the supposed impracticability of mitigating its prevalence, constitutes one of the most formidable obstacles to the attempt. Other evils admit of being combated with moral reasonings, on the broad ground of wisdom and justice. War is regarded as a question of ways and means, an affair of State, originating in an exercise of the prerogative of the Executive Power, and in which the people acquiesce from selfish indifference, or from national antipathy, or from panic fear, or from mere passiveness it is, in short, a question of expediency decided by the minister of Finance, and regulated by the laws of arithmetic.
It is not with immoral indifference, with the vis inertia of ignorance only, that the Abolitionists of War have to contend. A very considerable portion of the nation are attached by the strongest ties of interest and gratitude, to the system of which they are the creatures. There are in the first place, the immediate war-agents of Administration, and those who receive warsalaries, the collectors of the war-taxes, the contractors for warloans, the purveyors of war-stores, and the selfish tribe who traffic in the changes of the political barometer. Another large class consists of those who delight in War as their element, or who fly to it as a refuge from ennui, or depend upon it as the means of promotion: to them the thoughts of peace and halfpay, of being consigned to listless inaction, and of having to await the slow course of nature for advancement, are insufferable. Then there are others indirectly or accidentally benefited by the War, and those who expect to be so; manufacturers and commercial speculators who find it, or at least who did till lately find it, conducive to their present advantage, and who grew rich by the monopoly on which England so fatally relied. And with regard to the vast numbers who have since experienced so disastrous a reverse, the legacy of that dear friend, or rather fiend, in which they trusted, their lessened complacency in War has but a remote tendency to make them in love with Peace, since
it originates in no moral principle of preference; and if, as hath been so loudly and confidentially reiterated, all the present distresses arise simply from our transition from a state of war to a state of peace, what is there to prevent such persons from indulging the hope that a renewal of war would bring back commercial prosperity?
It cannot be denied or disguised, that the majority have ever been fond of war; fond of it, not specifically as affording the means of inflicting misery on other nations, but on account of the temporary profits, the fancied security, or the splendid visionary results which appeared to depend upon its continuance. Our own countrymen have been fond also of the glory of beating the Dutch, and beating the French, and beating the Spaniards, and beating the Americans. Thus the Minister has seldom had difficulty in rendering the war popular. All the bad passions of our nature are ready to enlist on the side of War, and fear, which is always cruel, is easily gained over by the veriest bug-bear, to take active part in the contest. What then has produced the present change in public feeling? The mere after-thought suggested by the Gazette? or, possibly, the increased circulation of the Bible? No, simply the Taxes! Who then would complain of taxation, when its moral efficiency, in opening the minds of the people, has been proved so salutary? O Poverty, thou art assuredly the parent of Benevolence!
But has any essential change actually taken place in the general sentiment regarding War, as a moral and political evil, irrespective of the burdens it has entailed upon us? It would be the height of absurdity to entertain a supposition so perfectly gratuitous and Utopian. Whatever be the degree of responsibility devolving upon those who, wielding the energies of nations at their pleasure, avail themselves of this evil bias of the heart, and furnish the objects and the occasions of warfare, the cause of War lies deeper than the intrigues of statesmen, or the will of monarchs. It is a trite quotation,
Quidquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi;
and history is but a continued commentary upon the remark. But the passion for extermination, the radical principle of War, is not confined to the bosoms of contending monarchs; it is the instinct of depraved human nature. The people have in all ages been ready to anticipate the ambitious projects of their rulers, and to let themselves for hire or for glory to the service of destruction. It would be difficult to analyze this passion; but its existence is too evident to be doubted. It is not the gross appetite of revenge, such as actuates the coward murderer. It disdains to take cognizance of man, as an individual: human nature, in the aggregate, is the object on which it blindly wreaks