Jonathan Dymond.

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No. 51, Fifth Avenue,



In reprinting this Essay, the Editors desire to remind
its readers that it is only one of a series of Essays on
Christian Morality by the same gifted writer, and that'the
others are characterized by the same clear and cogent
reasoning so noteworthy in the one now published. In
preparing the Essay on War for tlie press, they have
thought it best here and there to alter a word or sentence,
or to omit a passage or note, with a view to either modern
usage, clearness, brevity, or changed conditions ; but they
have in no case interfered with the author's argument,
either in its management or development. They desire
earnestly to commend the Essay to the careful and un-
prejudiced consideration of all thoughtful people.








T KNOW of 110 better book dealing with morals as
applied to nations than Dymond's Essays. As the
world becomes more Christian, this book will be more
widely read, and the name of its author more revered.

I have been asked on several occasions, "What do you
think about the doctrine of the Peace Society, or of your
own Religious Body, in their opposition to all War however
necessary or however just it may seem to be, or however
much you are provoked and injured ? " I think every man
must make up his own mind on that abstract principle ;
and I would recommend him, if he wants to know a book
that says a good deal upon it, to study the New Testament,
and make up his mind from that source.

It will be time enough perhaps to discuss that question



when we have abandoned everything that can be called
unjust and unnecessary in the way of War. Now, I
believe, that with wise counsels, great statesmen, large
knowledge of affairs combined with Christian principle,
there is prabably not a single war in which we have been
engaged from the time of William III. that might not have
been without difficulty avoided ; and our military system
might have been kept in great moderation, our National
Debt would never have accumulated, our population would
have been a great deal less barbarous anti less ignorant
than they are, and everything that tends to the true
grandeur and prosperity and happiness of the people would
have been infinitely advanced beyond or above what we see
now in our own time.

I think we ought to begin to ask ourselves how it is that
Christian nations — that this Christian nation — should be
involved in so many wars. If we may presume to ask our-
selves, what, in the eye of the Supreme Ruler, is the
greatest crime which His creatures commit, I think we
may almost with certainty conclude that it is the crime of
War. Somebody has described it as "the sum of all
villainies " ; and it has been the cause of sufferings, misery,
and slaughter, which neither tongue nor pen can ever
describe. And all this has been going on for eighteen


hundred years after men have adopted the religion whose
Founder and whose Head is denominated the Prince of
Peace. It was announced as a religion which was intended
to bring "Peace on earth, and good will towards men" ;
and yet, after all these years, the peace on earth has not
come, and the goodwill among men is only partially and
occasionally exhibited ; and amongst nations we find
almost no trace of it century after century.

Now in this country we have a great institution called
the Established Church. I suppose that great institution
numbers twenty thousand or more places of worship
in various parts of the kingdom. I think this does not
include what there are in Scotland, and what there are
in Ireland. With these twenty thousand churches there
are at least twenty thousand men, educated and for the
most part Christian men, anxious to do their duty as
teachers of the religion of peace ; and besides these, there
are twenty thousand other churches which are not con-
nected with the Established institution, but have been
built, and are maintained, by that large portion of the
people who go generally under the name of Dissenters or
Nonconformists : and they have their twenty thousand
ministers ; also men, many of them, as well educated, as
truly Christian and devoted men, as the others ; and they


are at work continually from day to day, and they preach
from Sabbath to Sabbath what they believe to be the
doctrines of the Prince of Peace ; and yet, notwithstanding
all that, we have more than £30,000,000 a year spent by
this country in sustaining armies and navies, in view of
wars which, it is assumed, may suddenly and soon take
place. Now, why is this, I should like to ask : for all
these teachers and preachers profess to be the servants of
the Most High God, and teachers of the doctrines of His
Divine Son ; and being such, may I not appeal to them
and say — What have you, forty or fifty thousand men,
with such vast influence, what have you been doing with
this great question during all the years that you have
ministered, and called yourselves the ministers of the
Prince of Peace ?

And I would not confine my appeal to the ministers only,
but to the devout men of every church and every chapel,
who surround the minister and uphold his hands ; who do
in many things his bidding, and who join him heartily and
conscientiously in his work, — I say, what are they doing ?
Why is it that there has never been a combination of all
religious and Christian teachers of the country, with a view
of teaching the people what is true, what is Christian, upon
the subject?


I^believe it lies within the power of the churches to do
far more than statesmen can do in matters of this kind. I
believe they might (so brings this question home to the
hearts^and consciences of the Christian and good men and
women of their congregations, that a great combination of
public opinion might be created, which would wholly change
the aspect of this question in this country and before the
world, and would bring to the minds of statesmen that they
are not the rulers of the people of Greece, or of the maraud-
ing hordes of ancient Rome, but that they are, or ought to
be, the Christian rulers of a Christian people.


Revisers' Notb ...
Introductory Words




Want of Inquiry i

Indifference to Human Misery ... 6
National Irritability 6


Secret Motives of Cabinets
Ideas of Glory


Destruction of Human Life ... 17

Taxation 17

Moral Depravity 18

Familiarity with Plunder 20

Implicit Obedience to Superiors
Resignation of Moral Afjency
Bondage and Degradation ..
I^ffects on the Community ...


Influence of Habit 29

The Appeal to Antiquity 31

The Christian Scriptures 34

Subjects of Christ's Benediction ... 40

Matthew xxvi. 52 41

The Apostles and Evangelists ... 42

The Centurion 46

Cornelius 47

Luke xxii. 36 49

John the Baptist 52

Far-fetched Arguments 53

Negative Evidence 54

Prophecies of the Old Testament ... 54

The Kequiremcnts of Christianity

are of Present Obligation 66

The Primitive Christians 57

Example and Testimony of Early

Christians . 58

Christian Soldiers 62

Wars of the Jews ... 63

Duties of Individuals and Nations . 64

Offensive and Defensive War ... 66

Wars always Aggressive 69

Paley 70

War wholly Forbidden 71


Quakers in America and Ireland ... 72
Colonisation of Pennsylvania .. 76
Confidence in the Providence of God "0

General Observations


Christianity the True Remedy for

War 86

Internatio lal ArHt »tion : a Fik

tical Application of Christian

Principles 86

Some of the Consequences of the
Modern War System 87



IT is one amongst the numerous moral phenomena of
the present times, that the inquiry is silently yet
not slowly spreading in the world — Is War compatible
with the Christian religion ? There was a period when
the question was seldom asked, and when War was regarded
almost by every man both as inevitable and right. That
period has certainly ))assed away ; and not only indi-
viduals but public societies, and societies in distant nations,
are urging the (question upon the attention of mankind.
The simple circumstance that it is thus urged contains
no irrational motive to investigation : for why should
men ask the question if they did not doubt ; and how,
after these long ages of prescription, could they begin to
doubt, without a reason ?

It is not unworthy of remark that, whilst dis(iuisitions
are frequently issuing from the press, of which the ten-
dency is to show that War is not compatible with Chris-
tianity, few serious attempts are made to show that it is.
Whether this results from the circumstance that no par-
ticular individual is interested in the proof, — or that there
is a secret consciousness that proof cannot be brought, —
or that those who may be desirous of defending the


custom rest in security tli:it the impotence of its assailants
will be of no avail against a custom so established and
so supported, — I do not know : but the fact is remarkable,
that scarcely a defender is to be found. It cannot be
doubted that the question is one of the utmost interest
and importance to man. Whether the custom be defen-
sible or not, every man should inquire into its consistency
with tiie Moral Law. If it is defensible, he may, by
inquiry, dismiss the scruples which it is certain subsist
in the minds of multitudes, and thus exempt himself
from the ofience of participating in that which, though
pure, he " esteemeth to be unclean." If it is not defen-
sible, the propriety of investigation is increased in a ten-
fold degi-ee.

It may be a subject therefore of reasonable regret to
the frienils and the lovers of truth, that the question of the
Moral Lawfulness of War is not brought fairly before the
public. I say fairly ; because though many of the publica-
tions which impugn its la\ advert to the ordinary
arguments in its favour, yet it is not to be assumed that
they give to those arguments all that vigour and force
which would be imparted by a stated and an able advocate.
Few books, it is probnble, would tend more powerfully to
promote the discovery and spread of truth, than one which
should frankly and fully and ably advocate, upon sound
moral principles, the practice of War. The public would
then see the whole of what can be urged in its favour with-
out being obliged to seek for arguments, as they now must,
in incidental, or imperfect or scattered, disquisitions : and
possessing in a distinct fo;ra the evidence of both narties


they would be enabled to judge justly between them.
Perhaps if, invited as the public are to the discussion, no
man is hereafter willing to adventure in the cause, the
conclusion will not be unreasonable, that no man is desti-
tute of a consciousness that the cause is not a good one.

Meantime it is the business of him whose inquiries have
conducted him to the conclusion that the cause is not
good, to exhibit the evidence upon which the conclusion is
founded. It happens that upon the subject of War, more
than upon almost any other subject of human inquiry, the
individual finds it difficult to contemplate its merits with
an unbiassed mind. He finds it difficult to examine it as
it would be examined by a philosopher to whom the sub-
ject was new. He is familiar with its details ; he is
habituated to the idea of its miseries ; he has perhaps
never doubted, because he has never questioned, its recti-
tude ; nay, he has associated with it ideas not of splendour
only but of honour and of merit. That such an inquirer
will not, without some efibrt of abstraction, examine the
question with impartiality and justice, is plain ; and there-
fore the first business of him who would satisfy his mind
respecting the lawfulness of War, is to divest liimself of all
those habits of thought and feeling which have been the
result not of reflection and judgment, but of the ordinary
associations of life. And perhaps he may derive some
assistance in this necessary but not easy dismissal of previous
opinions, by referring first to some of the ordinary Causes
and Consequences of War. The reference will enable us
also more satisfactorily to estimate the moral character of tne
practice itself; for it is no unimportant auxifiary in lormmg


such an estimate of human actions or opinions, to know
how they have been produced and what are their etiects.



Of these Causes one undoubtetlly consists in the want
of inquiry. We have been accustomed from earliest life to
a familiarity with its " pomp and circumstance;" soldiers
have passed us at every step, and battles and victories
have been the topic of every one around us. It therefore
becomes familiarized to all our thoughts and interwoven
with all our associations. We have never inquired whether
these things should be : the question does not even sug-
gest itself. We acquiesce in it, as we acquiesce in the rising
of the sun, witliDut any other idea than it is a ])art of
the ordinary processes of the world. And how are we to
feel disapprobation of a system that we do not e.xamine.
and of the nature of which we do not think ? Want of
inquiry has been the means by which long-continued
practices, whatever has been their enormity, have obtained
the general concurrence of the world, and by which they
have continued to pollute or degrade it, long after the few
who inquire into titeir nature have discovered them to be
bad. It wa.s by these means that the Slave Trade was so
long tolerated by this land of humanity. Men did not
think of its iniquity. We were induced to think, and we
soon abhorred, and then abolished it. Of the effects of
this want of inquiry we have indeed frequent examples in
connection with the subject before us. Many who have all
their lives concluded that War is lawful and right, have


found, when they began to examine the question, that
their conchisions were founded upon no evidence ; that
they had believed in its rectitude, not because they had
possessed themselves of proof, but because they had never
inquired whether it was capable of proof or not. In the
present moral state of the world, one of the first concerns
of him who would discover pure morality should be to
question the purity of that which now obtains.


Another cause of our complacency with War, and there-
fore another cause of War itself, consists in that callousness
to human misery which the custom induces. They who
are shocked at a single murder on the highway, hear with
indifference of the slaughter of a thousand on the field.
They whom the idea of a single corpse would thrill with
terror, contemplate that of heaps of human carcasses
mangled by human hands, with frigid indifference. If
a murder is committed, the narrative is given in the public
newspaper, with many adjectives of horror, with many
expressions of commiseration, and many hopes that the
perpetrator will be detected. In the next paragraph, the
editor, perhaps, tells us that he has hurried a second edition
to the press, in order that he may be the first to gladden the
public with the intelligence, that in an engagement which
has just taken place, eight hundred and fifty of the enemy
were killed. Now, is not this latter intelligence eight
hundred and fifty times as deplorable as the first? Yet
the first is the subject of our sorrow, and this — of our joy '
The inconsistency and want of proportion which have been


occasioned in our sentiments of benevolence, offer a curious
moral plienomenon.

The immolations of the Hindoos fill us with compassion
or horror ; the sacrifices of life by our own criminal execu-
tions are the subject of our anxious commiseration. We
feel that the life of a Hindoo, or of a malefactor, is a serious
thing, and that nothing but imperious necessity should
induce us to destroy the one, or to permit the destruction
of the other. Yet what are these sacrifices of life in com-
parison with the sacrifices of War? In Napoleon's cam-
paign in Russia, there fell, during one hundred and seventy-
three days in succession, an average of two thousand nine
hundred men per day ; more than five hundred thousand
human beings in less than six months ! And most of these
victims expired with peculiar intensity of suffering. We
are carrying our benevolence to the Indies, but what
becomes of it in Russia, or at Leipsic ? We labour to save
a few lives from the gallows, but where is our solicitude to
save them on the field ? Life is life wheresoever it be
sacrificed, and has everywhere equal claims to our regard.
I am not now saying that War is wrong, but that we regard
its miseries with an indifference with which we regard no
others ; that if our sympathy were reasonably excited
respecting them, we should be powerfully prompted to
avoid War ; and that the want of this reasonable and
virtuous sympatjjy is one cause of its prevalence in the


And another consists in national irritability. It is often
assumed (not indeed upon the most rational grounds) that


the best way of supporting the dignity and maintaining
the security of a nation is, when occasions of disagreement
arise, to assume a high attitude and a combative tone.
We keep ourselves in a state of irritability which is con-
tinually alive to occasions of offence ; and he that is pre-
pared to be offended readily finds offences. A jealous
sensibility sees insults and injuries where sober eyes see
nothing ; and nations thus surround themselves with a sort
of artificial tentacula, which they throw wide in quest of
irritation, and by which they are stimulated to revenge, by
every touch of accident or ina^lverteucy. They who are
easily offended will also easily offend. What is the experi-
ence of private life ? The man who is always on the alert
to discover trespasses on his honour or his rights, never fails
to quarrel with his neighbours. Such a person may be
dreaded as a torpedo. We may fear, but we shall not love
him ; and fear, without love, easily lapses into enmity.
There are, therefore, many feuds and litigations in the life
of such a man, that would never have disturbed its quiet
if he had not captiously snarled at tiie trespasses of accident,
and savagely retaliated insignificant injuries. The viper
that we chance to molest, we suffer to live if he contmues
to be quiet ; but if he raise himself in menaces of destruc-
tion we knock him on the head.

It is with nations as with men. If on every offence we
fly to arms, we shall of necessity provoke exasperation ;
and if we exasperate a people as petulant as ourselves, we
may probably continue to butcher one another, until we
cease only from emptiness of exchequers or weariness of
slaughter. To threaten war is, therefore, often equivalent


to beginning it. In the present state of men's principles,
it is not probable that one nation will observe another
levying men, and building ships, and founding cannon,
without providing men, and ships, and cannon themselves ;
and when both are thus threatening and defying, what is
the hope that there will not be a war ?

If nations fought only when they could not be at peace,
there would be very little fighting in the world. The wars
that are waged for " insults to flags," and an endless train
of similar motives, are perhaps generally attributable to
the irritability of our pride. We are at no pains to appear
pacific towards the offender ; our remonstrance is a threat ;
and the nation, which would give satisfaction to an inquiry,
will give no other answer to a menace than a menace in
return. At length we begin to fight, not because we are
aggrieved, but because we are angry. One example may be
offered : " In 1789, a small Spanish vessel committed some
violence in Nootka Sound, under the pretence that the
country belonged to Spain. This appears to have been the
principal ground of offence : and with this both the
Government and the people of England were very angry.
The irritability and haughtiness which they manifested
were unaccountable to the Spaniards, and the peremptory
tone was imputed by Spain, not to the feelings of offended
dignity and violated justice, but to some lurking enmity,
and some secret designs which we did not choose to avow."*
If the tone had been less peremptory and more rational, no
such suspicion would have been excited, and the hostility
whioh was consequent upon the suspicion would, of course,
■ Sniollett'f England


have been avoided. Happily the English were not so
passionate but that before they proceeded to fight they
negotiated, and settled the affair amicably. The prepara-
tions for this foolish threatened war cost, however, tliree
millions one hundred and thirty-three thousand pounds !

So well indeed is national irritability known to be an
efficient cause of War, that they who from any motive wish
to promote it, endeavour to rouse the temper of a people
by stimulating their passions, just as the boys in our streets
stimulate two dogs to fight. These persons talk of the
insults, or the encroachments, or the contempts, of the
destined enemy, with every artifice of aggi-avation ; they
tell us of foreigners who want to trample upon our rights,
of rivals who ridicule our power, of foes who will crush,
and of tyrants who will enslave us. They pursue their
object, certainly, by efficacious means ; they desire a war,
and therefore irritate our passions ; and when men are
angry they are easily persuaded to fight.

That this cause of War is morally bad, that petulance
and irritability are wholly incompatible with Christianity,
will be universally admitted.


Wars are often promoted from considerations of interest,
as well as from passion. The love of gain adds its influ-
ence to our other motives to support them ; and without
other motives we know that this love is sufficient to give
great obliquity to the moral judgment, and to tempt us
to many crimes. During a war of ten years there will
always be many whose income depends on its continu-


Auce ; and a countless host of commissaries, and purveyors,
and agents, and mechanics, commend a war because it fills
their pockets. Arid unhappily, if money is in prospect, the
desolation of a kingdom is often of little concern : destruc-
tion and slaughter are not to be put in competition with
definite personal gain. In truth, it seems sometimes to be
the system of the conductors of a war to give to the sources
of gain endless ramifications. The more there are who
profit by it, the more numerous are its supporters ; and
thus the projects of a cabinet become identified with the
wislies of the people, and both are gratified in the prosecu-
tion of War.

A support more systematic and powerful is however given
to War, because it offers to the higher ranks of society a
profession which unites gentility with profit, and which,
without the vulgarity of trade, maintains or enriches them.
It i.s of little consequence to inquire whether the distinc-
tion, as regards vulgarity, between the toils of War and the
toils of commerce be fictitious. In the abstract, it is fic-
titious ; but of this species of reputation public opinion
holds the arhitrium et jus et norma ; and public opinion is
in favour of AVur.

The army and the navy, therefore, afford to the middle
and higher classes a most acceptable profession. The pro-
fession of arms is, like the profession of law or of physic,
a regular source of employment and ])rofit. Boys are
eiliicated fof the army as they are educated for tiie bar;
and many parents appear to have no other idea than that

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Online LibraryJonathan DymondWar : an essay → online text (page 1 of 7)