Henry Wager Halleck.

Elements of Military Art and Science Or, Course Of Instruction In Strategy, Fortification, Tactics Of Battles, &C.; Embracing The Duties Of Staff, Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, And Engineers; Adapted online

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Online LibraryHenry Wager HalleckElements of Military Art and Science Or, Course Of Instruction In Strategy, Fortification, Tactics Of Battles, &C.; Embracing The Duties Of Staff, Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, And Engineers; Adapted → online text (page 2 of 35)
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considers the law of benevolence to forbid the use of force between men.
He forgets this, it is true, in speaking of our duties towards our
fellow-men of the same _society_, and even allows us to punish the
murderer with death; but towards the foreigner he requires a greater
forbearance and benevolence than towards our neighbor; for if another
nation send its armies to oppress, and rob, and murder us by the
thousand, we have no right to employ physical force either to prevent or
to punish them, though we may do so to prevent or punish a neighbor for
an individual act of the same character. The greater the scale of crime,
then, the less the necessity of resorting to physical force to prevent

"4th. But it may be asked, what is to prevent repeated and continued
aggression? I answer, first, not instruments of destruction, but the
moral principle which God has placed in the bosom of every man. I think
that obedience to the law of God, on the part of the injured, is the
surest preventive against the repetition of injury. I answer, secondly,
suppose that acting in obedience to the law of benevolence will not
prevent the repetition of injury, will acting on the principle of
retaliation prevent it?" Again; "I believe aggression from a foreign
nation to be the intimation from God that we are disobeying the law of
benevolence, and that this is his mode of teaching nations their duty,
in this respect, to each other. So that aggression seems to me in no
manner to call for retaliation and injury, but rather to call for
special kindness and good-will."

This argument, if such it can be called, is equally applicable to
individual aggressions. We are bound to regard them as intimations of
our want of benevolence, and to reward the aggressors for the
intimations! Is it true, that in this world the wicked only are
oppressed, and that the good are always the prospered and happy? Even
suppose this true, and that I, as a sinful man, deserve God's anger, is
this any reason why I should not resist the assassin, and seek to bring
him to punishment? The whole of this argument of Dr. Wayland applies
with much greater force to municipal courts than to war.

V. "Let us suppose a nation to abandon all means both of offence and of
defence, to lay aside all power of inflicting injury, and to rely for
self-preservation solely upon the justice of its own conduct, and the
moral effect which such a course of conduct would produce upon the
consciences of men. * * * * How would such a nation be protected from
external attack, and entire subjugation? I answer, by adopting the law
of benevolence, a nation would render such an event in the highest
degree improbable. The causes of national war are, most commonly, the
love of plunder and the love of glory. The first of these is rarely, if
ever, sufficient to stimulate men to the _ferocity necessary to war_,
unless when assisted by the second. And by adopting as the rule of our
conduct the law of benevolence, all motive arising from the second cause
is taken away. There is not a nation in Europe that could be led on to
war against a harmless, just, forgiving, and defenceless people."

History teaches us that societies as well as individuals have been
attacked again and again notwithstanding that they either would not or
could not defend themselves. Did Mr. White, of Salem, escape his
murderers any the more for being harmless and defenceless? Did the
Quakers escape being attacked and hung by the ancient New Englanders any
the more because of their non-resisting principles? Have the Jews
escaped persecutions throughout Christendom any the more because of
their imbecility and non-resistance for some centuries past? Poland was
comparatively harmless and defenceless when the three great European
powers combined to attack and destroy the entire nation, dividing
between themselves the Polish territory, and enslaving or driving into
exile the Polish people.

"Oh, bloodiest picture in the book of time,
Sarmatia fell, unwept, without a crime!"

We need not multiply examples under this head; all history is filled
with them.

Let us to-morrow destroy our forts and ships of war, disband our army
and navy, and apply the lighted torch to our military munitions and to
our physical means of defence of every description; let it be proclaimed
to the world that we will rely solely upon the consciences of nations
for justice, and that we have no longer either the will or the ability
to defend ourselves against aggression. Think you that the African and
Asiatic pirates would refrain, any the more, from plundering our vessels
trading to China, because we had adopted "the law of benevolence?" Would
England be any the more likely to compromise her differences with us, or
be any the more disposed to refrain from impressing our seamen and from
searching our merchant-ships? Experience shows that an undefended state,
known to suffer every thing, soon becomes the prey of all others, and
history most abundantly proves the wisdom and justice of the words of

But let us bring this case still nearer home. Let it be known to-morrow
that the people of Boston or New York have adopted the strictly
non-resisting principle, and that hereafter they will rely solely on the
consciences of men for justice; let it be proclaimed throughout the
whole extent of our Union, and throughout the world, that you have
destroyed your jails and houses of correction, abolished your police and
executive law officers, that courts may decide justice but will be
allowed no force to compel respect to their decisions, that you will no
longer employ walls, and bars, and locks, to secure your property and
the virtue and lives of your children; but that you will trust solely
for protection to "the law of active benevolence." Think you that the
thieves, and robbers, and murderers of Philadelphia, and Baltimore, and
New Orleans, and the cities of the old world, will, on this account,
refrain from molesting the peace of New York and Boston, and that the
wicked and abandoned men now in these cities, will be the more likely to
turn from the evil of their ways?

Assuredly, if this "law of active benevolence," as Dr. Wayland
denominates the rule of non-resistance, will prevent nations from
attacking the harmless and defenceless, it will be still more likely to
prevent individuals from the like aggressions; for the moral sense is
less active in communities than where the responsibility is individual
and direct.

Throughout this argument Dr. Wayland assumes that all wars are wars of
aggression, waged for "plunder" or "glory," or through "hatred" or
"revenge," whereas such is far from being true. He indeed sometimes
speaks of war as being _generally_ of this character; at others he
speaks of it as being _always_ undertaken either from a spirit of
aggression or retaliation. Take either form of his argument, and the
veriest schoolboy would pronounce it unsound: viz.,

_All_ wars are undertaken either for aggression or retaliation;

Aggression and retaliation are forbidden by God's laws; - therefore,

_All_ wars are immoral and unjustifiable.


Wars are _generally_ undertaken either for aggression or retaliation;

Aggression and retaliation are forbidden by God's laws - therefore,

_All_ wars are immoral and unjustifiable.

VI. "Let any man reflect upon the amount of pecuniary expenditure, and
the awful waste of human life, which the wars of the last hundred years
have occasioned, and then we will ask him whether it be not evident,
that the one-hundredth part of this expense and suffering, if employed
in the honest effort to render mankind wiser and better, would, long
before this time, have banished wars from the earth, and rendered the
civilized world like the garden of Eden? If this be true, it will follow
that the cultivation of a military spirit is injurious to a community,
inasmuch as it aggravates the source of the evil, the corrupt passions
of the human breast, by the very manner in which it attempts to correct
the evil itself."

Much has been said to show that war begets immorality, and that the
cultivation of the military spirit has a corrupting influence on
community. And members of the clergy and of the bar have not
unfrequently so far forgotten, if not truth and fact, at least the
common courtesies and charities of life, as to attribute to the military
profession an unequal share of immorality and crime. We are declared not
only parasites on the body politic, but professed violators of God's
laws - men so degraded, though unconsciously, that "in the pursuit of
justice we renounce the human character and assume that of the beasts;"
it is said that "murder, robbery, rape, arson, theft, if only plaited
with the soldier's garb, go unwhipped of justice."[1] It has never been
the habit of the military to retort these charges upon the other
professions. We prefer to leave them unanswered. If demagogues on the
"stump," or in the legislative halls, or in their Fourth of-July
addresses, can find no fitter subjects "to point a moral or adorn a
tale," we must be content to bear their misrepresentations and abuse.

[Footnote 1: Sumner's Oration.]

Unjust wars, as well as unjust litigation, are immoral in their effects
and also in their cause. But just wars and just litigation are not
demoralizing. Suppose all wars and all courts of justice to be
abolished, and the wicked nations as well as individuals to be suffered
to commit injuries without opposition and without punishment; would not
immorality and unrighteousness increase rather than diminish? Few events
rouse and elevate the patriotism and public spirit of a nation so much
as a just and patriotic war. It raises the tone of public morality, and
destroys the sordid selfishness and degrading submissiveness which so
often result from a long-protracted peace. Such was the Dutch war of
independence against the Spaniards; such the German war against the
aggressions of Louis XIV., and the French war against the coalition of
1792. But without looking abroad for illustration, we find ample proof
in our own history. Can it be said that the wars of the American
Revolution and of 1812, were demoralizing in their effects? "Whence do
Americans," says Dr. Lieber, "habitually take their best and purest
examples of all that is connected with patriotism, public spirit,
devotedness to common good, purity of motive and action, if not from the
daring band of their patriots of the Revolution?"

The principal actors in the military events of the Revolution and of
1812, held, while living, high political offices in the state, and the
moral tone which they derived from these wars may be judged of by the
character stamped on their administration of the government. These men
have passed away, and their places have, for some time, been filled by
men who take their moral tone from the relations of peace. To the true
believer in the efficacy of _non-resistance,_ and in the demoralizing
influence of all wars, how striking the contrast between these
different periods in our political history! How infinitely inferior to
the rulers in later times were those, who, in the blindness of their
infatuation, appealed to physical force, rather than surrender their
life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness! Let us trace out this
contrast: -

In the earlier ages of our republic, and under the rule of those whose
moral character had been corrupted by war, party spirit ran higher and
was less pure than at later periods in our history. The object of the
principal leaders of the great political parties was then to render the
opinions of the opposite party odious: now, their only object is to
sustain their own opinions by argument. Then, each party claimed to
itself an exclusive love of country, and stigmatized the other as aliens
and the natural enemies of the state: now, they both practise great
forbearance, love, and charity, towards political opponents. Then, men
obtained place through intrigue and corruption, and a universal scramble
for the loaves and fishes of office on the one side, and a universal
political proscription on the other, were regarded as the natural
results of an election: now, this disgusting strife for office has
ceased; men no longer seek place, but wait, like Cincinnatus, to be
called from their ploughs; and none are proscribed for opinion's sake.
Then, in electing men to office the most important social and
constitutional principles were forgotten or violated: now, we have the
august spectacle of a nation-choosing its rulers under the guidance of
strict moral principle. Then, the halls of congress were frequently
filled with demagogues, and tiplers, and the _small men_ of community:
now, the ablest and best of the country are always sought for as
representatives. Then, the magnates of party were the mere timid,
temporizing slaves of expediency, looking, not to the justice and wisdom
of their measures, but to their probable popularity with then sneaking
train of followers: now, they rely for respect and support upon the
judgment of the honest and enlightened. Then, the rank and file of party
were mere political hirelings, who sold their manhood for place, who
reviled and glorified, and shouted huzzas and whispered calumnies, just
as they were bidden; they could fawn upon those who dispensed political
patronage with a cringing servility that would shame the courtiers of
Louis XIV., or the parasites and hirelings of Walpole: now, all
political partisans, deriving their moral tone from the piping times of
peace, are pure, disinterested patriots, who, like the Roman farmer,
take office with great reluctance, and resign it again as soon as the
state can spare their services. Then, prize-fighters, and blacklegs, and
gamblers, having formed themselves into political clubs, were courted by
men high in authority, and rewarded for their dirty and corrupting
partisan services by offices of trust and responsibility: now, no man
clothed with authority would dare to insult the moral sense of community
by receiving such characters in the national councils, or by bestowing
public offices upon these corrupt and loathsome dregs of society.

Such, the advocates of non resistance would persuade us, are the
legitimate results in this country of war on the one hand and of a
long-protracted peace on the other. But there are men of less vivid
imaginations, and, perhaps, of visions less distorted by fanatical zeal,
who fail to perceive these results, and who even think they see the
reverse of all this. These men cannot perceive any thing in the lives of
Washington, Hamilton, and Knox, to show that they were the less virtuous
because they had borne arms in their country's service: they even fail
to perceive the injurious effects of the cultivation of a military
spirit on the military students of West Point, whose graduates, they
think, will compare favorably in moral character with the graduates of
Yale and Cambridge. Nay, more, some even go so far as to say that our
army, as a body, is no less moral than the corresponding classes in
civil life; that our common soldiers are as seldom guilty of riots,
thefts, robberies, and murders, as similarly educated men engaged in
other pursuits; that our military officers are not inferior in moral
character to our civil officers, and that, as a class, they will compare
favorably with any other class of professional men - with lawyers, for
example. In justification of these opinions - which may, perhaps, be
deemed singularly erroneous - they say, that in the many millions of
public money expended during the last forty years, by military officers,
for the army, for military defences, and for internal improvements, but
a single graduate of West Point has proved a defaulter, even to the
smallest sum, and that it is exceedingly rare to see an officer of the
army brought into court for violating the laws.

But even suppose it true that armies necessarily diffuse immorality
through community, is it not equally true that habitual submission to
the injustice, plunder, and insult of foreign conquerors would tend
still more to degrade and demoralize any people?

With regard to "pecuniary expenditures" required in military defence,
many absurd as well as false statements have been put forth. With
respect to our own country, the entire amounts expended, under the head
of war department, whether for Indian pensions, for the purchase of
Indian lands, the construction of government roads, the improvement of
rivers and harbors, the building of breakwaters and sea-walls, for the
preservation of property, the surveying of public lands, &c., &c.; in
fine, every expenditure made by officers of the army, under the war
department, is put down as "expenses for military defence." Similar
misstatements are made with respect to foreign countries: for example,
the new fortifications of Paris are said to have already cost from fifty
to seventy-five millions of dollars, and as much more is said to be
required to complete them. Indeed, we have seen the whole estimated cost
of those works stated at two hundred and forty millions of dollars, or
twelve hundred millions of francs! The facts are these: the works, when
done, will have cost about twenty-eight millions. We had the pleasure of
examining them not long since, in company with several of the engineer
officers employed on the works. They were then three-fourths done, and
had cost about twenty millions. We were assured by these officers that
the fortifications proper would be completed for somewhat less than the
original estimate of twenty-eight millions. Had we time to enter into
details, other examples of exaggeration and misrepresentation could be

But it is not to be denied that wars and the means of military defence
have cost vast amounts of money. So also have litigation and the means
deemed requisite for maintaining justice between individuals. It has
been estimated that we have in this country, at the present time, thirty
thousand lawyers, without including pettifoggers. Allowing each of these
to cost the country the average sum of one thousand dollars, and we have
the annual cost to the country, for lawyers, thirty millions of dollars.
Add to this the cost of legislative halls and legislators for making
laws; of court-houses, jails, police offices, judges of the different
courts, marshals, sheriffs justices of the peace, constables, clerks,
witnesses, &c., employed to apply and enforce the laws when made; the
personal loss of time of the different plaintiffs and defendants, the
individual anxiety and suffering produced by litigation; add all these
together, and I doubt not the result for a single year will somewhat
astonish these modern economists. But if all the expenditures of this
nature that have been made for the last fifty years, in this individual
"war of hate," be added together, we have no doubt a very fruitful text
might be obtained for preaching a crusade against law and lawyers! But
could any sane man be found to say that, on account of the cost of
maintaining them, all laws and lawyers are useless and should be

If, therefore, these vast sums of money are deemed necessary to secure
justice between individuals of the same nation, can we expect that the
means of international justice can be maintained without expenditures
commensurate with the object in view? If we cannot rely exclusively upon
the "law of active benevolence" for maintaining justice between brothers
of the same country, can we hope that, in the present state of the
world, strangers and foreigners will be more ready to comply with its

The length of the preceding remarks admonishes us to greater brevity in
the further discussion of this subject.

It is objected to war, that men being rational beings, should contend
with one another by argument, and not by force, as do the brutes.

To this it is answered, that force properly begins only where argument
ends. If he who has wronged me cannot be persuaded to make restitution,
I apply to the court, - that is, to _legal_ force, - to compel him to do
me justice. So nations ought to resort to _military force_ only when all
other means fail to prevent aggression and injury.

But war often fails to procure redress of grievances, or to prevent
repeated and continued aggression.

So does a resort to civil force; but such a resort is none the less
proper and just on that account.

But in war the innocent party is sometimes the sufferer, while the
guilty triumph.

So it often is in civil life: God, for some wise purpose, sometimes
permits the wicked to triumph for a season.

But in all wars one party must be in the wrong, and frequently the war
is unjust on both sides.

So in suits at law, one party is necessarily wrong, and frequently both
resort to the civil tribunals in hopes of attaining unrighteous ends.

But nations do not resort to tribunals, like individuals, to settle
their differences.

For the reason that it is believed a tribunal of this character - a
congress of nations, as it has been called, - would be more productive
of evil than of good. By such an arrangement the old and powerful
European monarchies would acquire the authority to interfere in the
domestic affairs of the weaker powers. We see the effects of
establishing such a tribunal in the so-called Holy Alliance, whose
influence is regarded by the friends of liberty as little less dangerous
than the Holy Inquisition. Moreover, such a tribunal would not prevent
war, for military force would still be resorted to to enforce its
decisions. For these and other reasons, it is deemed better and safer to
rely on the present system of International Law. Under this system, and
in this country, a resort to the arbitrament of war is not the result of
impulse and passion, - a yielding to the mere "bestial propensities" of
our nature; it is a deliberate and solemn act of the legislative
power, - of the representatives of the national mind, convened as the
high council of the people. It is this power which must determine when
all just and honorable means have been resorted to to obtain national
justice, and when a resort to military force is requisite and proper. If
this decision be necessarily unchristian and barbarous, such, also,
should we expect to be the character of other laws passed by the same
body, and under the same circumstances. A declaration of war, in this
country, is a law of the land, made by a deliberative body, under the
high sanction of the constitution. It is true that such a law may be
unjust and wrong, but we can scarcely agree that it will necessarily be
so. The distinction between war, as thus duly declared, and
"international Lynch-law" is too evident to need comment.

But it is said that the benefits of war are more than counterbalanced by
the evils it entails, and that, "most commonly, the very means by which
we repel a despotism from abroad, only establishes over us a military
despotism at home."

Much has been said and written about _military_ despotism; but we think
he who studies history thoroughly, will not fail to prefer a military
despotism to a despotism of mere politicians. The governments of
Alexander and Charlemagne were infinitely preferable to those of the
petty civil tyrants who preceded and followed them; and there is no one
so blinded by prejudice as to say that the reign of Napoleon was no
better than that of Robespierre, Danton, and the other "lawyers" who
preceded him, or of the Bourbons, for whom he was dethroned.

"Cæsar," says a distinguished senator of our own country, "was
rightfully killed for conspiring against his country; but it was not he
that destroyed the liberties of Rome. That work was done by the
profligate politicians without him, and before his time; and his death
did not restore the republic. There were no more elections: rotten
politicians had destroyed them; and the nephew of Cæsar, as heir to his
uncle, succeeded to the empire on the principle of hereditary

"And here History appears in her grand and instructive character, as
Philosophy teaching by example: and let us not be senseless to her
warning voice. Superficial readers believe it was the military men who
destroyed the Roman republic! No such thing! It was the politicians who
did it! - factious, corrupt, intriguing politicians - destroying public
virtue in their mad pursuit after office - destroying their rivals by
crime - deceiving and debauching the people for votes - and bringing

Online LibraryHenry Wager HalleckElements of Military Art and Science Or, Course Of Instruction In Strategy, Fortification, Tactics Of Battles, &C.; Embracing The Duties Of Staff, Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery, And Engineers; Adapted → online text (page 2 of 35)