52 Quotations about War and Peace

From Liberty Fund's Online Library of Liberty

In 1808 when the war against Napoleon was in full swing the Scottish economist James Mill (1773-1836) denounced the economic impact that higher taxes and restrictions on foreign trade were having on the British people. He compared the ravages of war to a “pestilential wind” which shrivels up the national wealth and causes great poverty and hardship among ordinary working people:

To what baneful quarter, then, are we to look for the cause of the stagnation and misery which appear so general in human affairs? War! is the answer. There is no other cause. This is the pestilential wind which blasts the prosperity of nations. This is the devouring fiend which eats up the precious treasure of national economy, the foundation of national improvement, and of national happiness. Though the consumption even of a wasteful government cannot keep pace with the accumulation of individuals, the consumption of war can easily outstrip it. The savings of individuals, and more than the savings of individuals, are swallowed up by it. Not only is the progression of the country stopped, and all the miseries of the stationary condition are experienced, but inroads are almost always made upon that part of the annual produce which had been previously devoted to reproduction. The condition of the country therefore goes backwards; and in general it is only after the country is so exhausted that the expence of the war can hardly by any means be found, that it is ever put an end to.

The issue of War & Peace has always been of great concern to us. In fact, the first five OLL quotes dealt with war, peace, and patriotism. 

We list this collection of quotations about War & Peace below (in reverse chronological order) with links to the full quote so you can see what some of our authors have to say on the matter. We plan to compile these quotations into one file and make them available for download in PDF, ePub, and Kindle formats.

For further reading see the complete collection of 407 "Quotations about Liberty and Power".

52 Quotations about War & Peace

  1. The 10th Day of Christmas: Richard Cobden on public opinion and peace on earth (c. 1865)
  2. The 8th Day of Christmas: Jefferson on the inevitability of revolution in England only after which there will be peace on earth (1817)
  3. The 7th Day of Christmas: Madison on “the most noble of all ambitions” which a government can have, of promoting peace on earth (1816)
  4. The 4th Day of Christmas: Dante Alighieri on human perfectibility and peace on earth (1559)
  5. The 3rd Day of Christmas: Erasmus stands against war and for peace on earth (16th century)
  6. The 2nd Day of Christmas: Petrarch on the mercenary wars in Italy and the need for peace on earth (1344)
  7. The 1st Day of Christmas: Jan Huss? Christmas letters and his call for peace on earth (1412)
  8. The evangelist Luke “on earth peace, good will toward men” (1st century)
  9. Molinari on the elites who benefited from the State of War(1899)
  10. John Bright calls British foreign policy “a gigantic system of outdoor relief (welfare) for the aristocracy” (1858)
  11. James Madison on the necessity of separating the power of “the sword from the purse” (1793)
  12. Sumner?s vision of the American Republic was a parsimonious government which had little to do (1898)
  13. Sumner?s vision of the American Republic as a confederation of free and peaceful industrial commonwealths (1898)
  14. Cobden argues that the British Empire will inevitably suffer retribution for its violence and injustice (1853)
  15. John Bright on war as all the horrors, atrocities, crimes, and sufferings of which human nature on this globe is capable (1853)
  16. Cobden on the complicity of the British people in supporting war (1852)
  17. The City of War and the City of Peace on Achilles? new shield(900 BC)
  18. Cobden on the principle of non-intervention in the affairs of other countries (1859)
  19. Cobden urges the British Parliament not to be the “Don Quixotes of Europe” using military force to right the wrongs of the world (1854)
  20. James Mill likens the expence and economic stagnation brought about by war to a “pestilential wind” which ravages the country (1808)
  21. The Duke of Burgundy asks the Kings of France and England why “gentle peace” should not be allowed to return France to its former prosperity (1599)
  22. Grotius on Moderation in Despoiling the Country of one?s Enemies(1625)
  23. Sumner and the Conquest of the United States by Spain (1898)
  24. Trenchard on the dangers posed by a standing army (1698)
  25. John Jay on the pretended as well as the just causes of war (1787)
  26. Vicesimus Knox on how the aristocracy and the “spirit of despotism” use the commemoration of the war dead for their own aims (1795)
  27. Milton warns Parliament?s general Fairfax that justice must break free from violence if “endless war” is to be avoided (1648)
  28. Madison argued that war is the major way by which the executive office increases its power, patronage, and taxing power (1793)
  29.  Thomas Jefferson on the Draft as "the last of all oppressions" (1777)
  30. Daniel Webster thunders that the introduction of conscription would be a violation of the constitution, an affront to individual liberty, and an act of unrivaled despotism (1814)
  31. Alexander Hamilton warns of the danger to civil society and liberty from a standing army since “the military state becomes elevated above the civil” (1787)
  32. John Trenchard identifies who will benefit from any new war “got up” in Italy: princes, courtiers, jobbers, and pensioners, but definitely not the ordinary taxpayer (1722)
  33. Adam Smith observes that the true costs of war remain hidden from the taxpayers because they are sheltered in the metropole far from the fighting and instead of increasing taxes the government pays for the war by increasing the national debt (1776)
  34. James Madison on the need for the people to declare war and for each generation, not future generations, to bear the costs of the wars they fight (1792)
  35. Thomas Gordon on standing armies as a power which is inconsistent with liberty (1722)
  36. James Madison argues that the constitution places war-making powers squarely with the legislative branch; for the president to have these powers is the “the true nurse of executive aggrandizement” (1793)
  37. St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the three conditions for a just war (1265-74)
  38. A.V. Dicey noted that a key change in public thinking during the 19thC was the move away from the early close association between “peace and retrenchment” in the size of the government (1905)
  39. J.M. Keynes reflected on that “happy age” of international commerce and freedom of travel that was destroyed by the cataclysm of the First World War (1920)
  40. John Jay in the Federalist Papers discussed why nations go to war and concluded that it was not for justice but “whenever they have a prospect of getting any thing by it” (1787)
  41. Thomas Gordon gives a long list of ridiculous and frivolous reasons why kings and tyrants have started wars which have led only to the enslavement and destruction of their own people (1737)
  42. Hugo Grotius states that in an unjust war any acts of hostility done in that war are “unjust in themselves” (1625)
  43. Hugo Grotius discusses the just causes of going to war, especially the idea that the capacity to wage war must be matched by the intent to do so (1625)
  44. (Herbert Spencer argued that in a militant type of society the state would become more centralised and administrative, as compulsory education clearly showed (1882)
  45. William Graham Sumner denounced America?s war against Spain and thought that “war, debt, taxation, diplomacy, a grand governmental system, pomp, glory, a big army and navy, lavish expenditures, political jobbery” would result in imperialsm (1898)
  46. Erasmus has the personification of Peace come down to earth to see with dismay how war ravages human societies (1521)
  47. Ludwig von Mises laments the passing of the Age of Limited Warfare and the coming of Mass Destruction in the Age of Statism and Conquest(1949)
  48. Thomas Hodgskin on the Suffering of those who had been Impressed or Conscripted into the despotism of the British Navy (1813)
  49. Robert Nisbet on the Shock the Founding Fathers would feel if they could see the current size of the Military Establishment and the National Government (1988)
  50. Adam Smith on the Sympathy one feels for those Vanquished in abattle rather than for the Victors (1762)
  51. Hugo Grotius on sparing Civilian Property from Destruction in Time of War (1625)
  52. Bernard Mandeville on how the Hardships and Fatigues of War bear most heavily on the “working slaving People” (1732)