- To the Right Honourable Charles James Fox.
- Personal Nobility Or , Letters to a Young Noble Man
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- The Spirit of Despotism.
- Section I.: Introductory.
- Section II. Oriental Manners, and the Ideas Imbibed In Youth, Both In the West and East Indies, Favourable to the Spirit of Despotism.
- Section III. Certain Circumstances In Education Which Promote the Spirit of Despotism.
- Section IV. Corruption of Manners Has a Natural Tendency to Promote the Spirit of Despotism.
- Section V. An Abhorrence of Despotism and an Ardent Love of Liberty Perfectly Consistent With Order and Tranquillity; and the Natural Consequence of Well-informed Understandings and Benevolent Dispositions.
- Section VI. On the Venality of the Press Under the Influence of the Despotic Spirit, and Its Effects In Diffusing That Spirit.
- Section VII. The Fashionable Invectives Against Philosophy and Reason, a Proof of the Spirit of Despotism.
- Section VIII. Of Loyalty, and Certain Mistaken Ideas of It.
- Section IX. On Taking Advantage of Popular Commotions, Accidental Excesses, and Foreign Revolutions, to Extend Prerogative and Power, and Encroach On the Liberties of the People.
- Section X. When Human Life Is Held Cheap, It Is a Symptom of a Prevailing Spirit of Despotism.
- Section XI. Indifference of the Middle and Lower Classes of the People to Public Affairs, Highly Favourable to the Encroachments of the Tory Principle, and Therefore to the Spirit of Despotism.
- Section XII. The Despotic Spirit Is Inclined to Discourage Commerce, As Unfavourable to Its Purposes.
- Section XIII. The Spirit of Despotism Displaying Itself In Private Life, and Proceeding Thence to Avail Itself of the Church and the Military.
- Section XIV. The Despotic Spirit Inclined to Avail Itself of Spies, Informers, False Witnesses, Pretended Conspiracies, and Self-interested Associations Affecting Patriotism.
- Section XV. The Manners of Tory Courtiers, and of Those Who Ape Them, As People of Fashion, Inconsistent With Manliness, Truth, and Honesty; and Their Prevalence Injurious to a Free Constitution, and the Happiness of Human Nature.
- Section XVI. The Spirit of Truth, Liberty, and Virtue, Public As Well As Private, Chiefly to Be Found In the Middle Ranks of the People.
- Section XVII. On Debauching the Minds of the Rising Generation and a Whole People, By Giving Them Military Notions In a Frée and Commercial Country.
- Section XVII. Levity, Effeminacy, Ignorance, and Want of Principle In Private Life, Inimical to All Public Virtue, and Favourable to the Spirit of Despotism.
- Section XIX. Certain Passages In Dr. Brown’s “estimate” Which Deserve the Serious Consideration of All Who Would Oppose the Subversion of a Free Constitution By Corruption of Manners and Principles, and By Undue Influence.
- Section XX. On Several Subjects Suggested By Lord Melcombe’s Diary; Particularly the Practice of Bartering the Cure of Souls For the Corruption of Parliament.
- Section XXI. On Choosing Rich Men, Without Parts, Spirit, Or Liberality, As Representatives In the National Council.
- Section XXII. Of the Despotic Influence of Great Merchants Over Their Subalterns, of Customers Over Their Tradesmen, and Rich Trading Companies Over Their Various Dependents, In Compelling Them to Vote For Court Candidates For Seats In Parliment, Merely T
- Section XXIII. Of the Pageantry of Life; That It Originates In the Spirit of Despotism; and Contributes to It, Without Advancing Private Any More Than Public Felicity.
- Section XXIV. Insolence of the Higher Orders to the Middle Ranks and the Poor; With Their Affected Condescension, In Certain Circumstances, to the Lowest of the People.
- Section XXV. Of a Natural Aristocracy.
- Section XXVI. The Excessive Love of Distinction and Power Which Prevails Wherever the Spirit of Despotism Exists, Deadens Some of the Finest Feelings of the Heart, and Counteracts the Laws of Nature.
- Section XXVII. On the Opinion That the People Are Annihilated Or Absorbed In Parliament; That the Voice of the People Is No Where to Be Heard But In Parliament; and On Similar Doctrines, Tending to Depreciate the People.
- Section XXVIII. The Fashionable Contempt Thrown On Mr. Locke, and His Writings In Favour of Liberty; and On Other Authors and Books Espousing the Same Cause.
- Section XXIX. Of the Despotism of Influence; While the Forms of a Free Constitution Are Preserved.
- Section XXX. The Spirit of Despotism Delights In War Or Systematic Murder.
- Section XXXI. On the Idea That We Have Arrived At Perfection In Politics, Though All Other Sciences Are In a Progressive State.
- Section XXXII. On Political Ethics; Their Chief Object Is to Throw Power Into the Hands of the Worst Part of Mankind, and to Render Government an Institution Calculated to Enrich and Aggrandize a Few, At the Expense of the Liberty, Property, and Lives of
- Section XXXIII. On Trafficking With the Cure of Souls, (cura Animarum,) For the Purposes of Political, I. E. Moral, Corruption.
- Section XXXIV. Of Mr. Hume’s Idea, That Absolute Monarchy Is the Easiest Death, the True Euthanasia of the British Constitution.
- Section XXXV. The Permission of Lawyers By Profession, Aspiring to Honours In the Gift of the Crown, to Have the Greatest Influence In the Legislature, a Circumstance Unfavourable to Liberty.
- Section XXXVI. Poverty, When Not Extreme, Favourable to All Virtue, Public and Private, and Consequently to the Happiness of Human Nature; and Enormous Riches, Without Virtue, the General Bane.
- Section XXXVII. On the Natural Tendency of Making Judges and Crown Lawyers, Peers; of Translating Bishops and Annexing Preferments to Bishoprics, In, What Is Called Commendam.
- Section XXXVIII. That All Opposition to the Spirit of Despotism Should Be Conducted With the Most Scrupulous Regard to the Existing Laws, and to the Preservation of Public Peace and Good Order.
- Section XXXIX. The Christian Religion Favourable to Civil Liberty, and Likewise to Equality Rightly Understood.
- Section Xl. the Pride Which Produces the Spirit of Despotism Conspicuous Even On the Tombstone. It Might Be Treated With Total Neglect, If It Did Not Tend to the Oppression of the Poor, and to Bloodshed and Plunder.
- Section Xli.: Conclusion.
- Antipolemus; Or, the Plea of Reason, Religion, and Humanity, Against War. a Fragment; Translated From the Latin of Erasmus.
- Preface. By the Translator.
- Antipolemus; Or, the Plea of Reason, Religion, and Humanity, Against War.
BY THE TRANSLATOR.
Platode Rep. lib. v.
Unless either Philosophers bear rule in states, or those who are now called Kings and Potentates, learn to philosophise justly and properly, and thus both civil power and philosophy are united in the same person, it appears to me that there can be no cessation of calamity either to states or to the whole human race.
It pleases Almighty God to raise up, from time to time, men of extraordinary abilities, combined with virtues no less extraordinary; who, in the dark night of ignorance and prejudice, shine, like the nocturnal lamp of Heaven, with solitary but serene lustre; obscured indeed at first by the gathering clouds of envy, unseen awhile through the voluntary blindness of self-interest; almost extinguished by civil and ecclesiastical bigotry; but at length, bursting through every obstacle, and reflecting a steady light on those labyrinths of error which lead to misery. Such was Erasmus; a name, at the mention of which, all that is great and good, and learned and free, feéls a sentiment of cordial respect, and rises to pay a voluntary obeisance.
God had given him an intellect in a state of vigour rarely indulged to the sons of men. Trained in the school of adversity, he sought and found in it the sweet solace of learning and virtue. He there cultivated his native talents by early and constant exercise; and thus accumulated, by indefatigable industry, a store of knowledge; which, by means of an eloquence scarcely exceeded in the golden ages, he lavishly disseminated over the world, at that time barren, dark, and dreary, to enlighten and to fertilize it.
God had given him not only a preeminent intellect, but a gift still more estimable, a good and feeling heart, a love of truth, a warm philanthropy, which prompted him to exert his fine abilities, totally regardless of mean honours, or sordid profits, in diffusing most important information, in an age when human misery was greatly augmented by gross ignorance, and when man, free-born but degraded man, was bound down in darkness, with double shackles, in the chains of a twofold despotism, usurping an absolute dominion, both in church and in state, over the body and the soul.
These two gifts combined formed an Erasmus; a man justly deemed and called the Phœnix of his age. He it was who led the way both to the revival of learning and the restoration of religion. Taste and polite letters are no less indebted to him than rational theology. Liberty acknowledges him as one of her noblest assertors. Had he not appeared and fought on the side of humanity, with the spear of truth and the lash of ridicule, Europe, instead of enjoying or contending for freedom at this hour, might perhaps have been still sunk in the dead repose of servitude, or galled with the iron hand of civil tyrants; allied, for mutual aid, in a villanous confederacy, with the despotism of ecclesiastics. Force and fraud, availing themselves of the superstitious fears of ignorance, had united against the people, conspired against the majority of men, and dealt their curses through the land without mercy or controul. Then rose Erasmus, not indeed furnished with the arms of the warrior, but richly adorned with the arts of peace. By the force of superior genius and virtue, he shook the Pontiff's chair under him, and caused the thrones of the despots to tremble. They shrunk, like the ugly birds of the evening, from the light; they wished to hide themselves in the smoke that they had raised around them; but the rays of his genius penetrated the artificial mist and exposed them to the derision of the deluded and oppressed multitude. The fortress of the tyrant and the mask of the hypocrite were both laid open on the combined attack of argument and ridicule.
It was impossible but that the penetrating mind of Erasmus should see the grave follies, and mark the sanctified villanies of his time. He saw them, and laughed them to scorn. He took the side of human nature; serving every body, and obliging nobody. He sought no reward, but the approbation of his God and his conscience; and left the little great ones to contend among themselves, unenvied and unrivalled by him, for coronets, mitres, croziers, and cardinals' hats, while he, undignified, untitled, unknown by any addition to the name of Erasmus, studied, and successfully promoted, the improvement and happiness of human nature; the great society of all human beings united under one king, their common Creator and Preserver.
As he marked and reprobated the folly and misery of superstition, so he saw and no less clearly demonstrated the absurdity, the wretchedness, and the wickedness of War. His heart felt for the misery of man, exposed by the perverseness of his rulers, in addition to the natural and moral evil he is doomed to suffer, to all the calamities of war. He found in his intellectual storehouse, arms sufficient to encounter this giant fiend in his castle. On the rock of Religion he planted the artillery of solid arguments. There they still stand; and when the impediments of prejudice, pride, malice, and ambition shall be removed, which now retard their operation, they will beat down the ill-founded citadel, but tressed as it is by all the arts and arms of human power, endeavouring to build a fancied fabric of selfish or private felicity on the wreck and ruins of human nature.
Erasmus demands attention. His learning, his abilities will reward attention. His disinterestedness secures, from all disinterested men, a most respectful attention. Poor in the world, but rich in genius; obscure at his birth, and unpreferred at his death, but illustrious by his virtues, he became the self-appointed champion of man, a volunteer in the service of miserable mortals, an unbought advocate in the cause of those who could only repay him with their love and their prayers; the poor outcast, the abject slave of superstition or tyranny, and all the nameless, numberless sons of want and woe, born only to suffer and to die.
This great man has actually succeeded in exploding ecclesiastical tyranny: for we are greatly indebted to him for the reformation. We feel at this hour, and acknowledge with alacrity, the benefit of his theological labours in removing one cruel prejudice. It is true he has not yet succeeded in abolishing war. Success was more difficult, where arguments only were to be opposed to men of violence, armed with muskets, bayonets, and trains of artillery. The very din of arms stifles the still small voice of reason. But the friends of man will not yet despair, Erasmus their guide; God and nature urging their exertions, and a bleeding world imploring their merciful interference. Theirs is a real crusade: the olive, the dove, and the cross, their standards; the arts of persuasion, their arms; mercy to man, their watch-word; the conquest of pride, prejudice, and passion, their victory; peace and happiness, truth and justice, religion and piety, their trophies and reward.
With such enemies as pride, prejudice, and passion, the conflict must be long and obstinate. The beneficent efforts of Erasmus were violently opposed while he lived, and his name aspersed with the blackest calumny. Where indeed is the great benefactor to society at large, the friend of man, not of a faction, who has not been opposed, who has not been calumniated by those who are selfishly interested in the misery of others, and personally benefitted by the continuation of abuse? By what description of men was Erasmus opposed? By sordid worldlings, wearing the cloak of religion, to hide the ugliness of their avarice and ambition; by opulent dunces, whose stupidity was exceeded by nothing but their malice, selfishly wallowing in luxury, and forgetful that any existed but themselves, with rights to God's best gifts, life, comfort, peace, and liberty; by wretches sunk in the dull indolence of unwieldy pomp, who claimed a prescriptive right to respect; and considered all the active part of mankind as mere vassals, and all that dared to suggest improvement, either civil or ecclesiastical, as dangerous and seditious innovators; by priests, who thought, and indeed justly thought, that, in proportion as the light of knowledge was diffused, their craft was in danger. By these, and such as these, Erasmus was opposed in his endeavours to revive learning, and to reform religion. But, great by nature, a lord by God's creation, a pontiff by the election of his own superior genius, virtue, learning, and piety, he rose above all his opposers. They feared and honoured, while they hated and calumniated him. Popes, emperors, and kings courted his favour; and through dread of his heaven-bestowed power, paid him a sincerer and more reverential homage than they ever extorted from their myrmidons. Though he was stigmatized as an innovator, menaced, slandered, harassed by literary controversy, they felt the weight of his superiority, bowed to him from their thrones, and would gladly have domesticated him in their palaces; but he spurned their offers, and preferred, to the most splendid servitude, that liberty which he loved, and whose charms he had displayed to nations pining in darkness and in dungeons. Such, to the honour of truth and goodness, of genius and learning, such was the natural dominion of real and indisputable abilities, preserved in a state of independence by a virtue equally real, and a spirit truly noble. Every one has probably heard, that it has been said by Bruyere, and repeated by all true friends to personal merit, that “he who cannot be an Erasmus, must content himself with being a bishop.” One may go farther and say, that he who cannot be an Erasmus, must condescend to a second rank, and be satisfied with becoming a pope, or an emperor. The dominion of genius and virtue like his was indeed of divine right. It was the gift of God for the good of man.
I have thus submitted my ideas, and the ideas of his own age, and of all the protestant literati, concerning the author of this Fragment on War, which I now place before the English reader. In the course of my reading I found it accidentally; and, struck with its excellence, translated it freely; modernising it, and using, where perspicuity seemed to require, the allowed liberty of occasional paraphrase. I have not indeed scrupled to make those slight alterations or additions which seemed necessary, to give the author's ideas more completely to the English reader, and to render the meaning fully intelligible, without a marginal commentary. It will occur to every one, that the purposes of philanthropy rather than of philology, the happiness of human nature rather than the amusements of verbal criticism, were intended by the author, as well as the translator, in this Dissertation.
There will never be wanting pamphleteers and journalists to defend war, in countries where prime ministers possess unlimited patronage in the church, in the law, in the army, in the navy, in all public offices, and where they can bestow honours, as well as emoluments, on the obsequious instruments of their own ambition. It seems now to be the general wish of indolent luxury in high life, to throw itself on the public for maintenance; but the strongest bridge may break when overladen. Truth will then prevail; and venality and corruption, exceeding all bounds, be driven into everlasting exile.
It gives me pleasure to discover, that my own favourable opinion of this philanthropic piece is confirmed by so great a critic as Bayle; whose words are these, in a note on the life of Erasmus:
“Jamais homme n'a été plus éloigné que lui de l'humeur impétueuse de certains théologiens, qui se plairent à corner la guerre. Pour lui, il aimoit la paix et il en connoissoit l'importance.
Une des plus belles dissertations, que l'on puisse lire est celle d'Erasme sur le proverbe, Dulce bellum inexpertis. Il y fait voir qu'il avoit profondement médité les plus importans principes de la raison et de l'évangile, et les causes les plus ordinaires des guerres. Il fait voir que la méchanceté de quelques particuliers, et la sottise des peuples, produirent presque toutes les guerres; et qu'une chose, dont les causes sont si blamables, est presque toujours suivie d'une très pernicieux effet. Il prétend que ceux que leur profession devroit le plus engager à déconseiller les guerres, en sont les instigateurs.∗∗∗∗∗
“Les loix, poursuit-il, les statuts, les priviléges, tout cela demeure sursis, pendant le fracas des armes. Les Princes trouvent alors cent moiens de parvenir à la puissance arbitraire; et de là vient, que quel-ques-uns ne sauroient suffrir la paix.”
Near three hundred years have elapsed since the composition of this Treatise. In so long a period, the most enlightened which the history of the world can display, it might be supposed that the diffusion, of Christianity, and the improvements in arts, sciences, and civilisation, would either have abolished war, or have softened its rigour. It is however a melancholy truth, that war still rages in the world, polished as it is, and refined by the beautiful arts, by the belles lettres, and by a most liberal philosophy. Within a few years the warriors of a mighty and a Christian kingdom, were instructed to hire the savages of America to fight against a sister nation, or rather its own child; a nation speaking the same language with its parent, worshipping the same God, and hoping to become a joint heir of immortality. The savages were furnished with hatchets, to cut and hack the flesh and bones of their fellow Christians; of those who may be deemed in a political sense, their brothers, sisters, and children. The savages cruel enough by nature, finding their cruelty encouraged by Christians, used the hatchet, the tomahawk, and the scalping knife, with redoubled alacrity. The poor Indians were called, by those who justified the employment of them, the means which God and nature put into their hands; and the engaging of them on their side was thought a master-stroke of political wisdom. They were rewarded with money, and numbered among good and faithful allies. After efforts so execrable, the very party which put the hatchet into the hands of the savages, for the purpose of hewing their brothers in pieces, was vanquished, and piled their arms with ignominy, in sight of an insulted foe; leaving posterity to contemplate the scene with the indignation ever due to savage barbarity, and at the same time, with the contempt which naturally falls on malice of intention, cruelly displayed without power of execution.
Have the great and polished nations of Europe profited by this detestable example, and avoided every approach to barbarity? What must we think of the Duke of Brunswick's manifesto? What must be said of engaging Algerine pirates, against in-offensive merchantmen pursuing their business in the great waters; what of instigating the Indians of America once more, against a friendly nation in a state of perfect peace? Rumours of such enormous cruelty and injustice, in very recent times, have been diffused by men in high rank, and of most indisputable authority. If they are founded, never let it be said that the arguments against war, which Erasmus and other philanthropists have used, are needless, in the present times of boasted lenity and refinement. Have the French, or the Germans, or the Russians conducted themselves with such exemplary humanity, as to prove to the world that exhortations to it are no longer necessary? Tens of thousands of those who could answer this question most accurately, are now sleeping in the grave; where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.
The ferocity of native barbarians admits of some excuse, from their state of ignorance unenlightened, and of passion unsoftened, by culture. They profess not a religion which teaches to forgive. But a similar ferocity, coolly, deliberately approved, recommended, and enforced by the highest authority, in a state justly pretending to all the polish of cultivated manners, and professing the purest Christianity, is mischievous, flagitious, and detestable, without one alleviating circumstance. The blackness of the deed is not diluted with one drop of a lighter colour to soften the shade. Let the curtain fall upon the picture. Let no historian record such conduct in the annals of his country, lest it be deemed by posterity a libel on human nature.
To eradicate from the bosom of man principles which argue not only obduracy, but malignity, is certainly the main scope of the Christian religion; and the clergy are never better employed in their grand work, the melioration of human nature, the improvement of general happiness, than when they are reprobating all propensities whatever, which tend, in any degree, to produce, to continue, or to aggravate the calamities of war; those calamities which, as his majesty graciously expressed it, in one of his speeches from the throne, are inseparable from a state of war.
The most ardent zeal, the most pertinacious obstinacy is displayed in preserving the minutest article of what is called orthodox opinion. But, alas! what, in a world of woe like this, what signifies our boasted orthodoxy in matters of mere speculation, in matters totally irrelevant to human happiness or misery? What signifies a jealous vigilance over thirty-nine articles, if we neglect one article, the law of charity and love; if we overlook the weightier matters, which Christ himself enacted, as articles of his religion, indispensably to be subscribed by all who hope for salvation in him; I mean forgiveness of injuries, mercy, philanthropy, humility? There is nothing so heterodox, I speak under the correction of the reverend prelacy, as war, and the passions that lead to it, such as pride, avarice, and ambition. The greatest heresy I know, is to shed the blood of an innocent man, to rob by authority of a Christian government, to lay waste by law, to destroy by privilege, that which constitutes the health, the wealth, the comfort, the happiness, the sustenance of a fellow-creature, and a fellow Christian. This is heresy and schism with a vengeance! against which we ought most devoutly to pray, in a daily litany, or a new form of prayer. Where, after all the heart-burnings and blood-shedding occasioned by religious wars; where is the true church of Christ, but in the hearts of good men; the hearts of merciful believers, who from principle, in obedience to and for the love of Christ, as well as from sympathy, labour for peace, go about doing good, consulting, without local prejudice, the happiness of all men, and instead of confining their good offices to a small part, endeavour to pour oil into the wounds of suffering human nature? In the hearts of such men, united in love to God and his creatures, is the church of Christ. Stone walls and steeples are not necessary to the true church; and mitres and croziers are little better than helmets and swords, when the wearers of them countenance by their counsels, or even connive at by their silence, the unchristian passions and inhuman practices inseparable from a state of war. The poor soldier in the field is but an instrument in the hands of others. The counsellors of war;—they are the warriors. The ministers of state;—they are the disturbers of peace; and surely it is lawful to censure them, for their heads are unanointed.
The passions which lead to war are diseases. Is there no medicine for them? There is a medicine and an antidote. There is a catholicon provided by the great Physician; and it is the pious office of the clergy to administer it, œgris mortalibus, to poor mortals lying sick in the great hospital of the world. “Take physic, Pomp,” they may say to all princes who delight in war;—imbibe the balsamic doctrines of the gospel. Pride, avarice, and ambition, are indeed difficult to cure; but it must be remembered that the medicine is powerful; and the good physician, instead of despairing, redoubles his efforts, when the disease is inveterate.
I hope the world has profited too much by experience, to encourage any offensive war, under the name and pretext of a holy war. Whether religion has been lately made use of to justify war, let others judge. We read in a recent form, an ardent prayer for protection against “those who, in the very centre of Christendom, threaten destruction to Christianity, and desolation to every country where they can erect their bloody standard!” It is meet, right, and our bounden duty to pray for protection against such men; but it would be alarming to those who remember the dreadful havoc of religious wars in former ages, if at this period, religion were publicly and solemnly assigned as a reason for continuing war. I think the apostolical method of converting the “declared enemies to Christian kings, and impious blasphemers of God's holy name,” must be more desirable to bishops and archbishops than the arm of flesh, the sword of the destroyer. The prayer ends with these words: “We are devoutly sensible, that all our efforts will be ineffectual, unless thou, O God, from whom cometh our help, and from whom alone it can come, goest forth with our fleets and armies. Our counsels, our hands, and our hearts, are under thy Almighty direction. Direct them, (the hands, &c.) O Lord, to such exertions as may manifest us to be under thy guidance. Convince our adversaries that thine arm (assisted by our hands) stretched out, can defeat the most daring designs against our peace; and that those who lift up their banners against thee, (that is, against us), shall be humbled under thy Almighty hand.” If this is not to represent a war as a holy war, what constitutes a holy war? As the prayer comes from great authority, it is to be received with deference; but it may be lawful to suggest, that it would have been very consistent with Christianity to have prayed in general terms, for peace without blood; to have prayed for our “adversaries” that they might be “convinced” of their fatal errors, not by our hands, but by persuasion, and by the grace of God. There follows indeed another very ardent prayer for our enemies; than which nothing can be more proper. It is only to be lamented, that Christianity should be represented in the former prayer, by those who are supposed best to understand it, as in any respect countenancing the propagation of the faith, or the conversion of unbelievers, by the sword, by fleets and armies, by exertions of the hand in the field of battle. Let Mahomet mark the progress of the faith by blood. Such modes of erecting the Cross are an abomination to Jesus Christ. Is it, after all, certain, that the slaughter of the unbelievers will convert the survivors to the religion of the slaughterers? Is the burning of a town, the sinking of a ship, the wounding and killing hundreds of thousands in the field, a proof of the lovely and beneficent spirit of that Christianity to which the enemy is to be converted, by the philanthropic warriors? Have not Jews, Turks, and infidels of all descriptions, triumphed in the everlasting wars of those who profess to be the disciples of the peaceful Jesus, the teachers and preachers of the gospel of peace?
The composers of these prayers are probably pious and good men; but, in treading in the footsteps of less enlightened predecessors, are they not, without intending it, rendering religion subservient to a secular ambition? They sometimes censure politics as the subject of sermons; but are politics more allowable in prayers than in sermons? and is it right in twelve million of men to pray, by order of the shepherds of their souls, for vengeance from their common Father on thirty million? To pray for mercy on them all; to pray that wars may cease over the whole world; to pray that those who have erred and are deceived may be persuaded to think and to do what is right;—This is indeed princely, episcopal, Christian, and humane.
The Christian religion is either true or untrue. If true, as the church teaches, as I firmly believe, and as the law requires us all to believe; then it must be of the highest importance to men individually, and therefore in the aggregate. It is the first concern of the whole human race. National policy shrinks to nothing, in comparison with the happiness of the universal family of all mankind. If the Christian religion be true, it must supersede all the measures of worldly wisdom, which obstruct its views or interfere with its doctrines; therefore it must supersede war: if false, then why a national establishment of it, in the very country which pronounces it false? why an order of clergy publicly maintained to sup port it? why do we see churches every where rising around us? why this hypocrisy? why is it not abolished, as an obstacle to military operations, and to other transactions of state necessity? The language of deeds is more credible than the language of words; and the language of deeds asserts that the Christian religion is untrue. They who defend war, must defend the dispositions which lead to war; and these dispositions are absolutely forbidden by the gospel. The very reverse of them is inculcated in almost every page. Those dispositions being extinguished, war must cease; as the rivulet ceases to flow when the fountain is destitute of water; or as the tree no longer buds and blossoms, when the fibres, which extract the moisture from the earth, are rescinded or withered. It is not necessary that there should be in the gospel an absolute prohibition of war in so many express words; it is enough that malice and revenge are prohibited. The cause ceasing, the effect can be no more. Therefore I cannot think it consistent with the duty of a bishop, or any other clergyman, either to preach or pray in such a manner as to countenance, directly or indirectly, any war, but a war literally, truly, and not jesuitically, a defensive war pro aris et focis; and even then, it would be more characteristic of Christian divines to pray for universal peace, for a peaceable conversion of the hearts of our enemies, rather than for bloody victory.
Wars of ambition, for the extension of empire or for the gratification of pride, envy, and malice, can never be justified; and therefore it is, that all belligerent powers agree to call their several wars defensive in the first instance, and then, just and necessary. This is a tacit, but a very striking acknowledgment, on all sides, that offensive war is unjustifiable. But the misfortune is, that power is never without the aid of ingenious sophistry to give the name of right to wrong; and, with the eloquence which Milton attributes to the devil, to make the worse appear the better cause.
But as war is confessedly publica mundi calamitas, the common misfortune of all the world, it is time that good sense should interpose, even if religion were silent, to controul the mad impetuosity of its cause, ambition. Ambition is a passion in itself illimitable. Macedonia's madman was bounded in his ravages by the ocean. The demigod, Hercules, was stopt in his progress by the pillars, called after his name, at Gades; but to ambition, connected as it usually is, in modern times, with avarice, there is no ocean, no Gades, no limit, but the grave. Had Alexander, Caesar, Charles the Twelfth, or Louis the Fourteenth, been immortal in existence on earth, as they are in the posthumous life of fame, they must have shared the world among them in time, and reigned in it alone, or peopled with their own progeny. The middle ranks, among whom chiefly resides learning, virtue, principle, truth, every thing estimable in society, would have been extinct. Despots would have let none live but slaves; and those only, that they might administer to their idleness, their luxury, their vice. But though Alexander and Caesar, and Charles and Louis, are dead, yet ambition is still alive, and nothing but the progress of knowledge in the middle ranks, and the prevalence of Christianity in the lowest, have prevented other Alexanders, other Cæsars, other Charleses, and other Louises, from arising, and, like the vermin of an east wind, blasting the fairest blossoms of human felicity. Many Christian Rulers might with great propriety employ, like the Heathen, a remembrancer, to sound for ever in their ears, Forget not that thou art a man; to tell them, that the poorest soldier under their absolute command was born, like them, of woman, and that they like him shall die. The clergy, in Christian countries, possess this office of remembrancers to the great as well as to the little. To execute it they probably go to courts. They do well: let them not fear to execute it with fidelity. The kingdom of Christ should be maintained by them, so long as it is tenable, by argument and the mild arts of evangelical persuasion, though all other kingdoms fall. The Christian religion being confessedly true, there is a kingdom of Christ; and the laws of that kingdom must be of the first obligation. No sophistry can elude the necessary conclusion, “Fiat voluntas Dei; adveniat regnum ejus;” such is our daily prayer, and such should be our daily endeavour.
If it be true, that infidelity is increasing, if a great nation be indeed throwing aside Christianity, instead of the superstition that has disgraced it; it is time that those who believe in Christianity, and are convinced that it is beneficial to the world, show mankind its most alluring graces, its merciful, benignant effects, its utter abhorrence of war, its favourable influence on the arts of peace, and on all that contributes to the solid comfort of human life. But it is possible that, as it is usual to bend a crooked stick in the contrary direction in order to make it straight, so this great nation, in exploding the follies and misery of superstition, may be using a latitude and licentiousness of expression concerning the Christian religion, which it does not itself sincerely approve, merely to abolish the ancient bigotry. The measure is, I think, wrong, because it is of dangerous example; but whoever thinks so, ought to endeavour to rectify the error by persuasion, rather than to extirpate the men, by fire and sword, who have unhappily fallen into it. Their mistakes call upon their fellow-men for charity, but not for vengeance. Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord. Our own mild and Christian behaviour towards those who are in error, is the most likely means of bringing them into the pale of Christianity, by the allurement of an example so irresistibly amiable. If the sheep have gone astray, the good shepherd uses gentle means to bring them into the fold. He does not allow the watchful dog to tear their fleeces; he does not send the wolf to devour them; neither does he hire the butcher to shed their blood, in revenge for their deviation. But who are we? Not shepherds, but a part of the flock. The spiritual state of thirty million of men is not to be regulated, any more than their worldly state, by twelve million. Are the twelve million all Christians, all qualified by their superior holiness to be either guardian or avenging angels? It is indeed most devoutly to be wished, that religion in the present times may not be used, as it has often been in former days, to sharpen the sword of war, and to deluge the world with gore. Let these matters remain to be adjusted, not by bullets and bayonets, but between every man's own conscience and God Almighty.
It is obvious to observe, that great revolutions are taking place, I mean not political revolutions; but revolutions in the mind of man, revolutions of far more consequence to human nature, than revolutions in empire. Man is awaking from the slumber of childish superstition, and the dreams of prejudice. Man is becoming more reasonable; assuming with more confidence his natural character, approaching more nearly his original excellence as a rational being, and as he came from his Creator. Man has been metamorphosed from the noble animal God made him, to a slavish creature little removed from a brute, by base policy and tyranny. He is now emerging from his degenerate state. He is learning to estimate things as they are clearly seen, in their own shape, size, and hue; not as they are enlarged, distorted, discoloured by the mists of prejudice, by the fears of superstition, and by the deceitful mediums which politicians and pontiffs invented, that they might enjoy the world in state without molestation.
War has certainly been used by the great of all ages and countries except our own, as a means of supporting an exclusive claim to the privileges of enormous opulence, stately grandeur, and arbitrary power. It employs the mind of the multitude, it kindles their passions against foreign, distant, and unknown persons, and thus prevents them from adverting to their own oppressed condition, and to domestic abuses. There is something fascinating in its glory, in its ornaments, in its music, in its very noise and tumult, in its surprising events, and in victory. It assumes a splendour, like the harlot, the more brilliant, gaudy, and affected, in proportion as it is conscious to itself of internal deformity. Paint and perfume are used by the wretched prostitute in profusion, to conceal the foul ulcerous sores, the rottenness and putrescence of disease. The vulgar and the thoughtless, of which there are many in the highest ranks, as well as in the lowest, are dazzled by outward glitter. But improvement of mind is become almost universal, since the invention of printing; and reason, strengthened by reading, begins to discover, at first sight and with accuracy, the difference between paste and diamonds, tinsel and bullion. It begins to see that there can be no glory in mutual destruction; that real glory can be derived only from beneficial exertions, from contributions to the conveniencies and accommodations of life; from arts, sciences, commerce, and agriculture; to all which war is the bane. It begins to perceive clearly the truth of the poor Heathen's observation, Ον το μεγα εν' αλλα το ευ μεγα. The great is not therefore good; but the good is therefore great.
It is indeed difficult to prevent the mind of the many from admiring the splendidly destructive, and to teach it duly to appreciate the useful and beneficial, unattended with ostentation. There are various prejudices easily accounted for, which from early infancy familiarize the ideas of war and slaughter, which would otherwise shock us. The books read at school were mostly written before the Christian era, They celebrate warriors with an eloquence of diction, and a spirit of animation, which cannot fail to captivate a youthful reader. The more generous his disposition, the quicker his sensibility, the livelier his genius, the warmer his imagination, the more likely is he, in that age of inexperience, to catch the flame of military ardour. The very ideas of bloody conquerors are instilled into his heart, and grow with his growth. He struts about his school, himself a hero in miniature, a little Achilles panting for glorious slaughter. And even the vulgar, those who are not instructed in classical learning by a Homer or a Cæsar, have their Seven Champions of Christendom, learn to delight in scenes of carnage, and think their country superior to all others, not for her commerce, not for her liberty, not for her civilisation, but for her bloody wars. Happily for human nature, great writers have lately taken pains to remove those prejudices of the school and nursery, which tend to increase the natural misery of man; and consequently war, and all its apparatus begin to be considered among those childish things, which are to be put away in the age of maturity. It will indeed require time to emancipate the stupid and unfeeling slaves of custom, fashion, and self-interest, from their more than Egyptian bondage.
Erasmus stands at the head of those writers who have attempted the emancipation. With as much wit and comprehension of mind as Voltaire and Rousseau; he has the advantage of them in two points, in sound learning, and in religion. His learning was extensive and profound, and there is every reason to believe that he was a sincere Christian. His works breathe a spirit of piety to God, equalled only by his benevolence to man. The narrow-minded politicians, who look no farther than to present expedients, and cannot open their hearts wide enough to unite in their minds the general good of human nature, with the particular good of their own country, will be ready to explode his observations on the malignity of war. But till they have proved to the suffering world, that their heads and hearts are superior to Erasmus, they will not diminish his authority by invective or derision. Let ministers of state, who, by the way, are always cried up as paragons of ability, wonders of the world, for the time being; let under-secretaries, commissioners, commissaries, contractors, clerks, and borough-jobbers, the warm patrons of all wars; let these men prove themselves superior in intellect, learning, piety, and humanity, to Erasmus, and I give up the cause. Let war fill their coffers, and cover them all over with ribands, stars, and garters; let them praise and glorify each other; let them rejoice and revel in the song and the dance; and let the stricken deer go weep, the middle ranks and the poor, who certainly constitute the majority of the human race, and who have in all ages fallen unpitied victims to war. Multis utile bellum, or the emoluments of war, sufficiently account for the opposition which some men make to peace and to peace-makers.
But the cause is ultimately safe in the hands of Erasmus; for he has established it on the rock Truth. It stands on the same base with the Christian religion. Reason, humanity, and sound policy, are among the columns that firmly support it; and to use the strong language of Scripture, the gates of hell shall not finally prevail against it. Let it be remembered that the reformation of religion was more unlikely in the twelfth century, than the total abolition of war in the eighteenth.
I hope and believe, I am serving my fellow-creatures in all climes, and of all ranks, in bringing forward this Fragment; in reprobating war, and in promoting the love of peace. That my efforts may be offensive to particular persons who are the slaves of prejudice, pride, and interest, is but too probable. I sincerely lament it. But whatever inconvenience I may suffer from their temporary displeasure, I cannot relinquish the cause. The total abolition of war, and the establishment of perpetual and universal peace, appear to me to be of more consequence than any thing ever achieved, or even attempted, by mere mortal man, since the creation. The goodness of the cause is certain, though its success, for a time, doubtful. Yet will I not fear. I have chosen ground, solid as the everlasting hills, and firm as the very firmament of heaven. I have planted an acorn; the timber and the shade are reserved for posterity.
It requires no apology to have placed before freemen, in their vernacular language, the sentiments of a truly good and wise man on a subject of the most momentous consequence. They accord with my own; and I have been actuated, in bringing them forward, by no other motive than the genuine impulse of humanity. I have no purposes of faction to serve. I am a lover of internal order as well as of public peace. I am duly attached to every branch of the constitution; though certainly not blind to some deviations from primitive and theoretical excellence, which time will ever cause in the best inventions of men. I detest and abhor atheism and anarchy as warmly and truly as the most sanguine abettors of war can do; but I am one who thinks, in the sincerity of his soul, that reasonable creatures ought always to be coerced, when they err, by the force of reason, the motives of religion, the operation of law; and not by engines of destruction. In a word, I utterly disapprove all war, but that which is strictly defensive. If I am in error, pardon me, my fellow-creatures; I trust I shall obtain the pardon of my God.
- War is a game, which, were their subjects wise,
- Kings would not play at.———