Immanuel Kant.

Perpetual peace; a philosophical essay, 1795 online

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" For 1 dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be ;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales ;
Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly de\v
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;
Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm ;
Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.
There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law."

TENNYSON : Locksley Hall.

Ex Libria












Printed at the Motley Press, 18, Eldon St., E.G.




THIS translation of Kant's essay on Perpetual
Peace was undertaken by Miss Mary Campbell
Smith at the suggestion of the late Professor
Ritchie of St. Andrews, who had promised to write
for it a preface, indicating the value of Kant's
work in relation to recent discussions regarding the
possibility of ^" making wars to cease." In view
of the general interest which these discussions have
aroused and of the vague thinking and aspiration
which have too often characterised them, it seemed
to Professor Ritchie that a translation of this wise
and sagacious essay would be both opportune and
valuable. * His untimely death has prevented the
fulfilment of his promise, and I have been asked,
in his stead, to introduce the translator's work.

This is, I think, the only complete translation
into English of Kant's essay, including all the notes
as well as the text, and the translator has added
a full historical Introduction, along with numerous
notes of her own, so as (in Professor Ritchie's words)
"to meet the needs (i) of the student of Political

* Cf. his Studies in Political and Social Ethics, pp. 169, 170.

vi Preface

Science who wishes to understand the relation of
Kant's theories to those of Grotius, Hobbes, Locke,
Rousseau etc., and (2) of the general reader who
wishes to understand the significance of Kant's
proposals in connection with the ideals of Peace
Congresses, and with the development of International
Law from the end of the Middle Ages to the Hague

Although it is more than 100 years since Kant's
essay was written, its substantial value is practically
unimpaired. Anyone who is acquainted with the
general character of the mind of Kant will expect
to find in him sound common-sense, clear recogni- >
tion of the essential facts of the case and a remark-
able power of analytically exhibiting the conditions
on which the facts necessarily depend. These
characteristics are manifest in the essay on Perpetual
Peace. Kant is not pessimist enough to believe
that a perpetual peace is an unrealisable dream or
a consummation devoutly to be feared, nor is he
optimist enough to fancy that it is an ideal which
could easily be realised if men would but turn
their hearts to one another. For Kant perpetual
peace is an ideal, not merely as a speculative
Utopian idea, with which in fancy we may play,
but as a moral principle, which ought to be, and
therefore can be, realised. Yet he makes it perfectly
clear that we cannot hope to approach the realisation

Preface vii

of it unless we honestly face political facts and get
a firm grasp of the indispensable conditions of a
lasting peace. To strive after the ideal in contempt
or in ignorance of these conditions is a labour that
must inevitably be either fruitless or destructive of
its own ends. Thus Kant demonstrates the hope-
lessness of any attempt to secure perpetual peace
between independent nations. Such nations may
make treaties ; but these are binding only for so
long as it is not to the interest of either party to
denounce them. To enforce them is impossible
while the nations remain independent. "There is,"
as Professor Ritchie put it (Studies in Political and
Social Ethics, p. 169), "only one way in which war
between independent nations can be prevented ;
and that is by the nations ceasing to be indepen-
dent." But this does not necessarily mean the
establishment of a despotism, whether autocratic
or democratic. On the other hand, Kant maintains
that just as peace between individuals within a
state can only be permanently secured by the
institution of a "republican" (that is to say, a
representative) government, so the only real guarantee
of a permanent peace between nations is the
establishment of a federation of free "republican"
states. Such a federation he regards as practically
possible. "For if Fortune ordains that a powerful
and enlightened people should form a republic

viii Preface

which by its very nature is inclined to perpetual
peace this would serve as a centre of federal
union for other states wishing to join, and thus
secure conditions of freedom among the states in
accordance with the idea of the law of nations.
Gradually, through different unions of this kind,
the federation would extend further and further."
Readers who are acquainted with the general
philosophy of Kant will find many traces of its
influence in the essay on Perpetual Peace. Those
who have no knowledge of his philosophy may
find some of his forms of statement rather difficult
to understand, and it may therefore not be out of
place for me to indicate very briefly the meaning
of some terms which he frequently uses, especially
in the Supplements and Appendices. Thus at the
beginning of the First Supplement, Kant draws a
distinction between the mechanical and the teleo-
logical view of things, between " nature " and " Proyi^
dence ", which depends upon his main philosophical
position. According to Kant, pure reason has two
aspects, theoretical and practical. As concerning
knowledge, strictly so called, the a priori principles
of reason (e.g. substance and attribute, cause and
effect etc.) are valid only within the realm of
possible sense-experience. Such ideas, for instance,
cannot be extended to God, since He is not a
possible object of sense-experience. They are limited

Preface ix

to the world of phenomena. This world of pheno-
mena (" nature " or the world of sense-experience)
is a purely mechanical system. But in order to
understand fully the phenomena^ world, the pure
theoretical reason must postulate certain ideas (the
Ideas of the soul. *% worM anH God)j the objects
of which transcend sense-experience. These ideas
are not theoretically valid, but their validity is
practically established by the pure practical reason,
which does not yield speculative truth, but pre-
scribes its principles " dogmatically " in the form of
imperatives to the will. The will is itself practical
reason, and thus it imposes its imperatives upon
itself. The fundamental imperative of the rjractical
eason_ is stated by Kant in Appendix I. (p. 175):
' * A^_gP that thou canstjwill that, thy__maxim should.
be a universal law, be_the_end_ of thy actionjyliat.
jt will/' If the end of perpetual peace is a duty,
it must be necessarily deduced from this general
law. And Kant does regard it as a duty. "We
must desire perpetual peace not only as a material
good, but also as a state of things resulting from
our recognition of the precepts of duty" (loc. ctt.}.
This is further expressed in the maxim (p. 177):
" Seek ye first the kingdom of pure practical reason
and its righteousness, and the object of your
endeavour, the blessing of perpetual peace, will be
added unto you." The distinction between the

x Preface

moral politician and the political moralist, which is
developed in Appendix I., is an application of the
general distinction between duty and expediency,
which is a prominent feature of the Kantian ethics.
Methods of expediency, omitting all reference to
the pure practical reason, can only bring about
re-arrangements of circumstances in the mechanical
course of nature. They can never guarantee the
attainment of their end: they can never make it
more than a speculative ideal, which may or may
not be practicable. But if the end can be shown
to be a duty, we have, from Kant's point of view,
the only reasonable ground for a conviction that
it is realisable. We cannot, indeed, theoretically
know that it is realisable. "Reason is not suffi-
ciently enlightened to survey the series of predeter-
mining causes which would make it possible for
us to predict with certainty the good or bad
results of human action, as they follow from the
mechanical laws of nature; although we may hope
that things will turn out as we should desire " (p.
163). On the other hand, since the idea of perpetual
peace is a moral ideal, an " idea of duty ", we are
entitled to believe that it is practicable. " Nature
guarantees the coming of perpetual peace, through
the natural course of human propensities ; not indeed
with sufficient certainty to enable us to prophesy
the future of this ideal theoretically, but yet clearly

Preface xi

enough for practical purposes " (p. 157). One might
extend this discussion indefinitely; but what has
been said may suffice for general guidance.

The "wise and sagacious" thought of Kant is
not expressed in a simple style, and the translation
has consequently been a very difficult piece of
work. But the translator has shown great skill in
manipulating the involutions, parentheses and
prodigious sentences of the original. In this she has
had the valuable help of Mr. David Morrison, M.A.,
who revised the whole translation with the greatest
care and to whom she owes the solution of a
number of difficulties. Her work will have its
fitting reward if it succeeds in familiarising the
English-speaking student of politics with a political
essay of enduring value, written by one of the
master thinkers of modern times.

University of Glasgozv, May 1903.
















THIS is an age of unions. Not merely in the
economic sphere, in the working world of unworthy
ends and few ideals do we find great practical
organizations ; but law, medicine, science, art,
trade, commerce, politics and political economy
we might add philanthropy standing institutions,
mighty forces in our social and intellectual life, all
have helped to swell the number of our nineteenth
century Conferences and Congresses. It is an age
of Peace Movements and Peace Societies, of peace-
loving monarchs and peace-seeking diplomats. This
is not to say that we are preparing for the millen-
nium. Men are working together, there is a new-
born solidarity of interest, but rivalries between
nation and nation, the bitternesses and hatreds in-
separable from competition are not less keen; pre-
judice and misunderstanding not less frequent;
subordinate conflicting interests are not fewer, are
perhaps, in view of changing political conditions
and an ever-growing international commerce, multi-
plying with every year. The talisman is, perhaps,
self-interest, but, none the less, the spirit of union is
there; it is impossible to ignore a clearly marked

Perpetual Peace

tendency towards international federation, towards
political peace. This slow movement was not born
with Peace Societies ; its consummation lies perhaps
far off in the ages to come. History at best moves
slowly. But something of its past progress we shall
do well to know. No political idea seems to have
so great a future before it as this idea of a fede-
ration of the world. It is bound to realise itself
some day ; let us consider what are the chances that
this day come quickly, what that it be long delayed.
What obstacles lie in the way, and how may they
be removed? What historical grounds have we for
hoping that they may ever be removed? What,
in a word, is the origin and history of the idea of
a perpetual peace between nations, and what would
be the advantage, what is the prospect of realis-
ing it?

The international relations of states find their
expression, we are told, in war and peace. What
has been the part played by these great coun-
teracting forces in the history of nations? What
has it been in pre-historic times, in the life of man
in what is called the "state of nature"? "It is no
easy enterprise," says Rousseau, in more than
usually careful language, " to disentangle that which
is original from that which is artificial in the actual
state of man, and to make ourselves well acquainted
with a state which no longer exists, which perhaps

Translator 's Introduction

never has existed and which probably never will
exist in the future." (Preface to the Discourse on
the Causes of Inequality, 1753, publ. 1754.) This
is a difficulty which Rousseau surmounts only too
easily. A knowledge of history, a scientific spirit
may fail him: an imagination ever ready to pour
forth detail never does. Man lived, says he, " without
industry, without speech, without habitation, without
war, without connection of any kind, without any
need of his fellows or without any desire to harm
them .... sufficing to himself." * (Discourse on the
Sciences and Arts, 1750.) Nothing, we are now
certain, is less probable. We cannot paint the life
of man at this stage of his development with any
definiteness, but the conclusion is forced upon us
that our race had no golden age, f no peaceful
beginning, that this early state was indeed, as

* For the inconsistency between the views expressed by Rousseau
on this subject in the Discourses and in the Central Social (Cf. I.
Chs. VI., VIH.) see Ritchie's Natural Right, Ch. III., pp. 48, 49;
Caird's essay on Rousseau in his Essays on Literature and
Philosophy, Vol.1.; and Morlcy's Rousseau, Vol. I., Ch. V.; Vol.
II., Ch. XII.

f The theory that the golden age was identical with the state
of nature, Professor D. G. Ritchie ascribes to Locke (see Natural
Right, Ch. II., p. 42). Locke, he says, " has an idea of a golden
age" existing even after government has come into existence a
time when people did not need "to examine the original and
rights of government." [Civil Government, II., ill.] A little
confusion on the part of his readers (perhaps in his own mind)
makes it possible to regard the state of nature as itself the golden

Perpetual Peace

Hobbes held, a state of war, of incessant war
between individuals, families and, finally, tribes.

The Early Conditions of Society.

For the barbarian, war is the rule; peace the
exception. His gods, like those of Greece, are war-
like gods ; his spirit, at death, flees to some Val-
halla. For him life is one long battle; his arms
go with him even to the grave. Food and the
means of existence he seeks through plunder and
violence. Here right is with might; the battle is
to the strong. Nature has given all an equal claim
to all things, but not everyone can have them.
This state of fearful insecurity is bound to come
to an end. "Government," says Locke, (On Civil
Government, Chap. VIII., 105) "is hardly to be

age, and the way is prepared for the favourite theory of the eigh-
teenth century:

"Nor think in nature's state they blindly trod;

The state of nature was the reign of God:

Self-love and social at her birth began,

Union the bond of all things and of man.

Pride then was not, nor arts that pride to aid;

Man walk'd with beast, joint tenant of the shade;

The same his table, and the same his bed ;

No murder cloath'd him, and no murder fed."

[Essay on Man, III., 147 stq.~]

In these lines of Pope's the state of nature is identified with
the golden age of the Greek and Latin poets; and "the reign of
God" is an equivalent for Locke's words, "has a law of nature
to govern it."

Translator's Introduction 5

avoided amongst men that live together." * A con-
stant dread of attack and a growing consciousness
of the necessity of presenting a united front against
it result in the choice of some leader the head of
a family perhaps who acts, it may be, only as cap-
tain of the hosts, as did Joshua in Israel, or who
may discharge the simple duties of a primitive
governor or king, f Peace within is found to be
strength without. The civil state is established, so
that "if there needs must be war, it may not yet

* Cf. Republic, II. 369. "A state," says Socrates, "arises out
of the needs of mankind: no one is self-sufficing, but all of us
have many wants."

f See Hume's account of the origin of government ( Treatise, III.,
Part II., Sect. VIII.). There are, he says, American tribes " where
men live in concord and amity among themselves without any
established government; and never pay submission to any of their
fellows, except in time of war, when their captain enjoys a shadow
of authority, which he loses after their return from the field, and
the establishment of peace with the neighbouring tribes. This
authority, however, instructs them in the advantages of govern-
ment, and teaches them to have recourse to it, when either by
the pillage of war, by commerce, or by any fortuitous inventions,
their riches and possessions have become so considerable as to
make them forget, on every emergence, the interest they have

in the preservation of peace and justice Camps are the

true mothers of cities; and as war cannot be administered, by
reason of the suddenness of every exigency, without some autho-
rity in a single person, the same kind of authority naturally
takes place in that civil government, which succeeds the military."
Cf. Cowper: The Winter Morning Walk:

" and ere long,

When man was multiplied and spread abroad
In tribes and clans, and had begun to call
These meadows and that range of hills his own,

Perpetual Peace

be against all men, nor yet without some helps."
(Hobbes: On Liberty ', Chap. I., 13.) This found-
ation of the state is the first establishment in
history of a peace institution. It changes the cha-
racter of warfare, it gives it method and system;
but it does not bring peace in its train. We have
now, indeed, no longer a wholesale war of all
against all, a constant irregular raid and plunder
of one individual by another; but we have the
systematic, deliberate war of community against
community, of nation against nation. *

War in Classical Times.

In early times, there were no friendly neigh-
bouring nations: beyond the boundaries of every

The tasted sweets of property begat

Desire of more;

Thus wars began on earth. These fought for spoil,

And those in self-defence. Savage at first

The onset, and irregular. At length

One eminent above the rest, for strength,

For stratagem, or courage, or for all,

Was chosen leader. Him they served in war,

And him in peace for sake of warlike deeds

Rev'renced no less

Thus kings were first invented."

* " Among uncivilised nations, there is but one profession
honourable, that of arms. All the ingenuity and vigour of the
human mind are exerted in acquiring military skill or address."
Cf. Robertson's History of Charles V. (IVorks, 1813, vol. V.) Sect.
I. vii.

Translator s Introduction

nation's territory, lay the land of a deadly foe.
This was the way of thinking, even of so highly
cultured a people as the Greeks, who believed that
a law of nature had made every outsider, every
barbarian their inferior and their enemy. * Their
treaties of peace, at the time of the Persian War,
were frankly of the kind denounced by Kant, mere
armistices concluded for the purpose of renewing
their fighting strength. The ancient world is a
world of perpetual war in which defeat meant
annihilation. In the East no right was recognised
in the enemy ; and even in Greece and Rome the
fate of the unarmed was death or slavery, f The

* Similarly we find that the original meaning of the Latin
word " hostts" was "a stranger."

t In Aristotle we find the high-water mark of Greek thinking
on this subject. " The object of military training," says he,
(Politics, Bk. IV. Ch. XIV., Welldou's translation in older editions
Bk. VII.) "should be not to enslave persons who do not deserve
slavery, but firstly to secure ourselves against becoming the slaves
of others; secondly, to seek imperial power not with a view to a
universal despotic authority, but for the benefit of the subjects whom
we rule, and thirdly, to exercise despotic power over those who are
deserving to be slaves. That the legislator should rather make it
his object so to order his legislation upon military and other
matters as to promote leisure and peace is a theory borne out by

the facts of history." (Joe. cit. Ch. XV.). " War, as we

have remarked several times, has its end in peace."

Aristotle strongly condemns the Lacedaemonians and Cretans for
regarding war and conquest as the sole ends to which all law and
education should be directed. Also in non-Greek tribes like the
Scythians, Persians, Thraciaus and Celts he says, only military

Perpetual Peace

barbaric or non-Grecian states had, according to
Plato and Aristotle, no claim upon humanity, no

power is admired by the people and encouraged by the state.
"There was formerly too a law in Macedonia that any one who
had never slain an enemy should wear the halter about his neck."
Among the Iberians too, a military people, " it is the custom to set
around the tomb of a deceased warrior a number of obelisks

corresponding to the number of enemies he has killed

Yet . . it may well appear to be a startling paradox that it should
be the function of a Statesman to succeed in devising the means
of rule and mastery over neighbouring peoples whether with or
against their own will. How can such action be worthy of a
statesman or legislator, when it has not even the sanction of law?"
(pp. cit., IV. Ch. 2.)

We see that Aristotle disapproves of a glorification of war for
its own sake, and regards it as justifiable only in certain circum-
stances. Methods of warfare adopted and approved in the East
would not have been possible in Greece. An act of treachery,
for example, such as that of Jael, (Judges IV. 17) which was
extolled in songs of praise by the Jews, (loc. cit. V. 24) the Greek
people would have been inclined to repudiate. The stories of
Roman history, the behaviour of Fabricius, for instance, or Regulus
and the honourable conduct of prisoners on various occasions
released on parole, show that this consciousness of certain principles
of honour in warfare was still more highly developed in Rome.

Socrates in the Republic (V. 469, 470) gives expression to a
feeling which was gradually gaining ground in Greece, that war
between Hellenic tribes was much more serious than war between
Greeks and barbarians. In such civil warfare, he considered, the
defeated ought not to be reduced to slavery, nor the slain despoiled,
nor Hellenic territory devastated. For any difference between
Greek and Greek is to " be regarded by them as discord only a

quarrel amonj friends, which is not to be called war" "Our

citizens [i.e. in the ideal republic] should thus deal with their
Hellenic enemies; and with barbarians as the Hellenes now deal
with one another." (V. 471.)

The views of Plato and Aristotle on this and other questions
wire in advance of the custom and practice of their time.

Translator's Introduction

rights in fact of any kind. Among the Romans
things were little better. According to Mr. T. J.
Lawrence see his Principles of International Law,
III., 21, 22 -they were worse. For Rome stood
alone in the world : she was bound by ties of
kinship to no other state. She was, in other words,

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