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chapter three: The Effect of the Politics of War on the Domestic Condition of Nations - Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments 
Principles of Politics Applicable to a all Governments, trans. Dennis O’Keeffe, ed. Etienne Hofmann, Introduction by Nicholas Capaldi (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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The Effect of the Politics of War on the Domestic Condition of Nations
After our examination of the most specious pretexts of war on the part of modern governments, let us dwell on one of their effects, one in my view insufficiently remarked on hitherto. This politics of war casts into society a mass of men whose outlook is different from that of the nation and whose habits form a dangerous contrast with the patterns of civil life, with the institutions of justice, with respect for the rights of all, with those principles of peaceful and ordered freedom which must be equally inviolable under all forms of government.
Over the last sixteen years there has been much talk about armies composed of citizens. To be sure, we do not wish to visit insults on those who so gloriously defended our national independence, on those who by so many immortal exploits founded the French Republic. When enemies dare to attack a people on its territory, the citizens become soldiers to repulse them. They were citizens,  they were the leading citizens, those who freed our soil from the profaning foreigner. In dealing with a general question, however, we must set aside remembrance of glory, which surrounds and dazzles us, seductive and captivating feelings of gratitude. In the present state of European societies the words “citizen” and “soldier” imply a contradiction. A citizen army is possible only when a people is virtually confined to a single city-state. Then the soldiers of that nation can rationally justify obedience. When they are in the bosom of their native land, between governors and governed whom they know, their understanding can count for something in their submission. A very large country, however, whether monarchy or republic, renders that supposition absolutely chimerical. A very large country requires from soldiers a mechanistic subordination and makes them passive, unreflective, and docile agents. As soon as they are displaced, they lose all the prior information capable of illuminating their judgment. The size of the country permitting those in charge of the armed forces to dispatch the natives of one province to another distant one, these men, subject to a discipline which isolates them from the local natives, are only strangers to the latter, although they are nominally their compatriots. They see only their commanders, know only them, obey their orders alone. Citizens in their birthplace, everywhere else they are soldiers. Once an army is among strangers, however it is organized, it is only a physical force, a pure instrument. The experience of the Revolution demonstrated only too well the truth of what I am affirming. We were told it was important for soldiers to be citizens, so they would never turn their arms against the people, and yet we have seen the unfortunate conscripts taken away from their ploughs, not only to contribute to the seige of Lyon, which could not be other than an act of civil war, but also to make themselves instruments of torture of the Lyonnais, disarmed prisoners, which was an act of implicit obedience and discipline, of  precisely that discipline and that obedience from which we had believed that the citizen soldiers would always be able to protect themselves.
A large army, whatever its basic elements, contracts, involuntarily, an esprit de corps. Such a spirit always seizes hold of organizations assembled for a single purpose, sooner or later. The only lasting thing men have in common is their interest. In all countries, in all centuries, a confederation of priests has formed, within the State, a State apart. In all centuries and countries, men associated together in the army for long periods have separated themselves from the nation. The very soldiers of freedom, in fighting for such, conceive a kind of respect for the use of force, regardless of its purpose. Without knowing it they contract thereby morals, ideas, and habits which are subversive of the cause they defend. The measures which ensure the triumph of war prepare the collapse of the law. The military spirit is haughty, swift, swaggering. Law must be calm, often slow, and always protective. The military spirit detests the thinking faculties as incipient indiscipline. All legitimate government rests on enlightenment and conviction. So in the annals of nations we often see armed force driving enemies from the territory; but we also see it no less often handing the fatherland over to its chiefs. It carries the glory of nations to the highest level; but it also adds their rights to the tally of their conquests, to be ceremoniously deposited at the feet of the Triumpher. We see the Roman legions, composed at least in part of citizens of a Republic illustrious from six centuries of victories, men born under freedom, surrounded by monuments raised by twenty generations of heroes to that tutelary deity, trample underfoot the ashes of Cincinnatus and the Camilli and march to the orders of a usurper, to profane the tombs of their ancestors and enslave the eternal city.5 We see the English legions who, with their own hands, had broken the throne of kings and shed their blood for twenty years to establish a republic spring into action with Cromwell against that nascent republic and impose on the people a tyranny more shameful than the chains from which their valor had delivered it.
 The idea of citizen soldiers is singularly dangerous. When armed men are directed against unarmed governments or peaceful individuals, it is said that citizens are being opposed to citizens. The Directory had the soldiers deliberate beneath their banners, and when it ordered a political opinion from them as if it were a drill, it said that citizen soldiers, far from having less right than the others, had more, since they had fought for the fatherland. Thus did the military spirit emerge in the Republic. It was claimed that for freedom as for victory, nothing was more appropriate than swift movements. Opinions were seen as like troops, to enroll or to fight, representative assemblies as agencies of command, opposition to them as acts of indiscipline, law courts as camps, judges as warriors, the accused as enemies, trials as battles. So it is not immaterial that there be created in a country, systematically, by way of war prolonged or constantly renewed under various pretexts, a mass of men imbued exclusively with the military spirit. The severest despotism becomes inevitable, if only to contain these men. And this is itself a great evil, that there should be a large minority of people containable only by the severest discipline. But these men, against whom despotism is called for, are at the same time despotism’s instruments against the rest of the nation. It is hard for soldiers, whose first duty is obedience to the slightest signal, not to persuade themselves effortlessly that all citizens are subject to this duty.
Detailed safeguards against this danger, the most terrible which can menace a nation, are not enough. Rome had taken strong ones. No army could come near the capital. No soldier under arms could exercise citizen rights. It is always easy, however, for a government to evade these precautions. In vain we may give the legislative power the right to move the troops away, to fix their numbers, to block those of their movements whose hostile intentions seem apparent—and finally power to disband them. These means are at once extreme and impotent. Executive power must have de jure, and  always has de facto, control of the armed forces. Charged with watching over public security, it can make trouble break out to justify the arrival of a group of regiments. It can make them come in secret, and when they are gathered it can extract from the legislative power the appearance of agreement. All the safeguards which require the legislature to deliberate subsequently on the danger which threatens it turn in a vicious circle. The legislature has power to act only at the moment when the peril is displayed, that is to say, when the harm is done, and when the harm is done the legislative power can no longer act.
The military spirit, however, wherever it exists, is stronger than the written laws. It is this spirit which must be restrained. Only a national spirit focused on another purpose can do this. The national spirit communicates itself from the nation to the army, whatever the composition of the latter. When this national spirit does not exist, the soldiers, though formerly citizens, adopt the military spirit nonetheless. When this national spirit exists, the military spirit, even among soldiers who are not citizens, is checked by this, and tyranny itself is softened. “Those who corrupted the Greek republics,” says Montesquieu,6 “did not always become tyrants. That is because they were more attached to eloquence than the art of war.”
Under whatever point of view we consider this terrible question of war, we have to be convinced that any enterprise of this kind which does not have a defensive purpose is the worst outrage a government can commit, because it brings together the disastrous effects of all the outrages of government. It endangers all kinds of freedom, harms every interest, tramples underfoot all rights, combines and authorizes all the forms of domestic and foreign tyranny, depraves the rising generations, divides the nation into two parts, of which one scorns the other and passes readily from scorn to injustice, prepares future destructions by way of past ones, and purchases with the misfortunes of the present those of the future.
These truths are not new, and I do not offer them as such, but truths which seem recognized often need repetition.7 For  government, while calling them commonplaces, in its haughty disdain constantly treats them like paradoxes. It is, furthermore, a rather remarkable thing, that while our government, in all its public speeches, in all its communication with the people, professes the love of peace and a desire to give the world tranquillity, men who claim to be devoted to that government write daily that the French nation being essentially warlike, military glory is the only kind worthy of her and that France must win renown by her military brilliance. These men ought to tell us how military glory can be acquired other than through war and how the purpose they are proposing to the French people alone fits in with the peace of the whole world. I might well add that these authors themselves may never have thought about it. Happy to speak in flowery language, sometimes on one subject, sometimes on another, following the fashion of the moment, they rely, rightly, on forgetfulness to cover up their inconsistency.8 I have sometimes thought that this doctrine, wherever it dared to present itself, deserved rebuffing, and that it was worthwhile discomfitting writers who, when they deal with future government, recommend despotism, because they hope never to be other than its agents and, when dealing with international relations, see nothing so glorious as war, as if from the depths of their obscure study, they were the distributors of all the scourges which can weigh on the human race.
[7. ]This reflection can be compared with what Constant says in his Journal intime, 10 June 1804: “The new ideas one has should be announced as new only as little as possible. On the contrary, they should be given as far as may be  the appearance of received wisdom, so that they may be accepted less painfully. And if one is obliged to agree on the novelty of one of one’s ideas, it should be surrounded with a whole cortege of ideas to which the public is already more accustomed.”
[8. ]On these writers who preach war thus, see Constant’s letter of 13 messidor an X (2 July 1803) to Fauriel, in: Victor Glachant, Benjamin Constant sous l’oeil du guet, Paris, Plon, 1906, pp. 50–51.
[C. [Refers to page 284.]]“Nec civis meus est, in quem tua classica Caesar,
[C. [Refers to page 284.]]“Nec civis meus est, in quem tua classica Caesar,
Lucain, La guerre civile (La pharsale), Livre I, vv. 373–374 and 384–386. See the edition by A. Bourgery, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1926, t. I, pp. 17–18. “It is no longer my fellow citizen, against whom I will have heard the call of your trumpets, Caesar [. . .] our arms will push the battering ram which will sunder the foundation walls of the city whose annihilation you command, even were it Rome.”
[The French translator thinks the “arms” are “ours.” The Latin has “these shoulders.” Translator’s note]
In Ch. 2 De la corruption du principe de la démocratie.