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Charles Sumner 1811-1874

The True Grandeur of Nations

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Charles Sumner's Grandeur of Nations speech.

It follows the full text transcript of Charles Sumner's The True Grandeur of Nations speech, delivered before the authorities of the city of Boston on July 4, 1845.

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Charles Sumner Speech

In obedience to an uninterrupted usage of our community, we have all, on this Sabbath of the Nation, put aside the common cares of life, and seized a respite from the never-ending toils of labor, to meet in gladness and congratulation, mindful of the blessings transmitted from the Past, mindful also, I trust, of the duties to the Present and the Future. May he who now addresses you be enabled so to direct your minds, that you shall not seem to have lost a day !


All hearts turn first to the Fathers of the Republic. Their venerable forms rise before us, in "the procession of successive generations. They come from the frozen rock of Plymouth, from the wasted bands of Raleigh, from the heavenly companionship of William Penn, from the anxious councils of the Revolution, and from all those fields of sacrifice, on which, in obedience to the Spirit of their Age, they sealed their devotion to duty with their blood. They speak to us, their children: " Cease to vaunt yourselves of what you do, and of what has been done for you. Learn to walk humbly, and to think meekly of yourselves. Cultivate habits of self-sacrifice and of devotion to duty. Never aim at aught which is not BIGHT, persuaded that without this, every possession and all knowledge will become an evil and a shame ; and may these words of ours be always in your minds. Strive to increase the inheritance which we have bequeathed ; bearing in mind always, that, if we excel you in virtue, such a victory will be to us a mortification, while defeat will bring happiness. In this way, you may conquer us. Nothing is more shameful for a man, than to found his title to esteem, not on his own merits, but on the fame of his ancestors. The Glory of the Fathers is doubtless to their children a most precious treasure ; but to enjoy it without transmission to the next generation, and without any addition, this is the height of imbecility. Following these counsels, when your days are finished on earth, you will come to join us, and we shall receive you as friends receive friends ; but if you neglect our words, expect no happy greeting then from us." *

* This is borrowed almost literally from the words attributed by Plato to the Fathers of Athens, in the beautiful funeral discourse of the Menezenus.

Honor to the memory of our Fathers ! May the turf lie gently on their sacred graves ! Not in words only, but in deeds also, let us testify our reverence for their name. Let us imitate what in them was lofty, pure, and good ; let us from them learn to bear hardship and privation. Let us, who now reap in strength what they sowed in weakness, study to enhance the inheritance we have received. To do this, we must not fold our hands in slumber, nor abide content with the Past. To each generation is committed its peculiar task ; nor does the heart, which responds to the call of duty, find respite except in the world to come.

Be ours, then, the task which, in the order of Providence, has been cast upon us ! And what is this task? How shall we best perform our appointed part ? What can we do, to make our coming welcome to our Fathers in the skies, and draw to our memory hereafter the homage of a grateful posterity? How may we add to the inheritance received ? The answer cannot fail to interest all, particularly on this festival, when we celebrate the Nativity of the Republic. In truth, it well becomes the patriot citizen, on this anniversary, to consider the national character, and how it may be advanced as the good man dedicates his birthday to meditation on his life, and to aspiration for its improvement. Avoiding, then, all customary exultation in the abounding prosperity of the land, and in that Freedom, whose influence is widening to the uttermost circles of the earth, let us turn our thoughts on the character of our country, and humbly endeavor to learn what we must do, to the end that the Republic may best secure the rights and happiness of the people committed to its care ; that it may perform its part in the World's History ; that it may fulfill the aspirations of generous hearts ; and, practising that righteousness which exalteth a Nation, thus attain to the heights of True Grandeur.


With this aim, and believing that I can in no other way so fitly fulfill the trust reposed in me when I was selected as the voice of Boston, on this welcome Anniversary, I propose to consider what, in our age, are the true objects of National Ambition what is truly National Honor National Glory WHAT is THE TRUE GRANDEUR OP NATIONS. I would not depart from the modesty that becomes me, but I am not without hope that I may contribute something to rescue these terms, now so powerful over the minds of men, from the mistaken objects to which they are applied, from deeds of War, and the extension of empire, that they may be reserved for works of JUSTICE and BENEFICENCE.

The subject may be novel, on an occasion like the present; but it is comprehensive and transcendant in importance. It raises us to the contemplation of things that are not temporary or local in character ; but which belong to all ages and countries ; which are as lofty as Truth, as universal as Humanity. Nay, more ; it practically concerns the general welfare, not only of our own cherished Republic, i>ut of the whole Federation of Nations. At this moment, it derives a peculiar and urgent interest from transactions in which we are unhappily involved. On the one side, by an act of unjust legislation, extending our power over Texas, we have endangered Peace with Mexico ; while, on the other, by the petulant assertion of a disputed claim to a remote territory beyond the Rocky Mountains, we have kindled anew, on the hearth of our Mother Country, the smothered fires of hostile strife. Mexico and England both aver the determination to vindicate what is called the National Honor; and our Government now calmly contemplates the dread Arbitrament of War, provided it cannot obtain what is called an honorable Peace.*

* The official paper at Washington has said, "We presume the negotiation is really resumed, and will be prosecuted in this city, and not in London, to some definite conclusion peaceably, we should hope but we wish for no peace but an honor" able peace."

Far be from our country and our age the sin and shame of contests hateful in the sight of God and all good men, having their origin in no righteous though mistaken sentiment, in no true love of country, in no generous thirst for fame, that last infirmity of noble minds ; but springing in both cases from an ignorant and ignoble passion for new territories ; strengthened, in one case, by an unnatural desire, in this land of boasted freedom, to fasten by new links, the chains which promise soon to fall from the limbs of the unhappy slave ! In such contests, God has no attribute which can join with us. Who believes that the National Honor will be promoted by a war with Mexico, or a war with England? What just man would sacrifice a single human life, to bring under our rule both Texas and Oregon? An ancient Roman, a stranger to Christian truth, touched only by the relations of fellow-countryman, and not of. fellow-man said, as he turned aside from a career of Asiatic conquest, that he would rather save the life of a single citizen, than become master of all the dominions of Mithridates.

A war with Mexico would be mean and cowardly ; with England it would be bold at least, though parricidal. The heart sickens at the murderous attack upon an enemy, distracted by civil feuds, weak at home, impotent abroad ; but it recoils in horror from the deadly shock between children of a common ancestry, speaking the same language, soothed in infancy by the same words of love and tenderness, and hardened into vigorous manhood under the bracing influence of institutions drawn from the same ancient founts of freedom. Curam acuebat, quod adversus Latinos bellandum erat, lingua, mori bus, annorum genere, institutis ante omnia militaribus, congruentes; milites militibus, centurionibus centuriones, tribuni tribunis compares, collegceque, iisdem pracesidiis, scepe iisdem manipulis permixti fuerant.*

* Liv. VIII. c. 6.

IN OUR AGE THERE CAN BE NO PEACE THAT IS NOT HONORABLE ; THERE CAN BE NO WAR THAT IS NOT DISHONORABLE. The True Honor of a Nation is to be found in deeds of Justice and Beneficence, securing and advancing the happiness of its people, inconsistent with War. In the clear eye of Christian judgment, vain are its victories ; infamous are its spoils. He is the benefactor, and worthy of Honor, who brings, comfort where before was . wretchedness ; who dries the tear of sorrow ; who pours oil into the wounds of the unfortunate ; who feeds the hungry and clothes the naked ; who does H V. justice ; who enlightens the ignorant ; who unlooses the fetter of the slave ; who, by virtuous genius, in art, in literature, in science, enlivens and exalts the hours of life ; who, by word, or action, inspires a love for God and for man. This is the Christian hero; this is the man of Honor in a Christian land. He is no benefactor, nor deserving of Honor, whatever his worldly renown, whose life is passed in feats of brute force ; who renounces the great law of Christian brotherhood ; whose vocation is blood. Well may old Sir Thomas Browne exclaim, " The world does not know its Greatest Men ; " for thus far it has chiefly discerned the violent brood of battle, the armed men springing up from the dragon's teeth sown by Hate, and cared little for the Truly Good Men, children of Love, guiltless of their country's blood, whose steps on earth have been noiseless as an angel's wing.

It must not be disguised that this standard differs from that of the world down to this day. The voice of man is yet given to praise of military chieftains ; and the honors of victory are chanted even by the lips of woman. The mother, while rocking her infant on the knee, stamps upon his tender mind, at that age more impressible than wax, the images of War ; she nurses his slumbers with its melodies ; pleases his waking hours with its stories ; and selects for his playthings the plume and the sword. From the child is formed the man ; and who can weigh the influence of a mother's spirit on the opinions of later life ? The mind which trains the child is like the hand that commands the end of a long lever; a gentle effort at that time suffices to heave the enormous weight of succeeding years. As the boy advances to youth, he is fed like Achilles, not on honey and milk only, but on bear's flesh and lion's marrow. He draws the nutriment of his soul from a literature, whose beautiful fields have been moistened by human blood. Fain would I offer my tribute to the Father of Poetry, standing with harp of immortal melody, on the misty mountain-top of distant antiquity ; to those stories of courage and sacrifice which emblazon the annals of Greece and Rome ; to the fulminations of Demosthenes and the splendors of Tully ; to the sweet verse of Virgil and the poetic prose of Livy. Fain would I offer my tribute to the new literature, which shot up in modern times as a vigorous forest from the burnt site of ancient woods ; to the passionate song of the Troubadour of France, and the Minnesinger of Germany ; to the thrilling ballad of Spain, and the delicate music of the Italian lyre. But from all these has breathed the breath of War, that has swept the heart-strings of thronging generations of men !

And when the youth becomes a man, his country invites his service in War, and holds before his bewildered imagination the prizes of worldly Honor. For him is the pen of the historian, and the verse of the poet. His soul is taught to swell at the thought that he also is a soldier ; that his name shall be entered on the list of those who have borne arms for their country'; and perhaps he dreams that he too, may sleep, like the Great Captain of Spain, with a hundred trophies over his grave. The law of the land throws its sanction over this madness.

The contagion spreads beyond those on whom is imposed any positive obligation. Peaceful citizens volunteer to appear as soldiers, and to affect in dress, arms, and deportment, what is called " the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war." The ear-piercing fife has today filled our streets, and we have come to this Church on this National Sabbath, by the thump of drum, and with the parade of bristling bayonets.

It is not strange, then, that the Spirit of War still finds a home among us ; nor that its Honors continue to be regarded. All this may seem to give point to the bitter philosophy of Hobbes, who declared that the natural state of mankind was war, and to sustain the exulting language of the soldier in our own day, who has said, " War is the condition of this world. From man to the smallest insect, all are at strife, and the glory of arms, which cannot be obtained without the exercise of honor, fortitude, courage, obedience, modesty, and temperance, excites the brave man's patriotism, and is a chastening correction of the rich man's pride." * This is broad and bold. In different mood, another British general is reported as saying, " Why, man, do you know that a grenadier is the greatest character in this world ; " and, after a moment's pause, with the added emphasis of an oath, " and I believe, in the next too." f All these spoke in harmony. If one is true, then all are true.

* Napier, Penins. War, VI. 688. Southey's Colloquies on the Progress of Society, vol. i. p. 211.

Alas ! in the existing relations of nations, the infidel philosopher, and the rhetorical soldier, to say nothing of the giddy general, find too much support for a theory which slanders human nature, and insults the goodness of God. It is true that there are impulses in us which unhappily tend to strife. There are propensities, that we have in common with the beast, which, if not kept in subordination to what in man is human, or, perhaps, divine, will break forth in outrage. This is the predominance of the animal qualities. Hence come wars and fightings, and the false glory which crowns such barbarism. But the Christian elevation of nations, as of individuals, may well be determined by the extent to which these evil dispositions are restrained. Nor does the Christian teacher ever perform his high office more truly than when, recognizing the supremacy of the moral and intellectual faculties, he calls upon nations, as upon individuals, to declare independence of the bestial propensities, to abandon practices founded on these propensities, and in every way to beat down that profane spirit which is the genius of war. In making this appeal, he will be startled by the fact, as discreditable as important, that, while the municipal law of each Christian nation discarding the Arbitrament of Force provides a judicial tribunal for the determination of controversies between individuals, International law expressly establishes the Arbitrament of War for the determination of controversies between nations.

Here, then, in unfolding the True Grandeur of Nations, we encounter a practice, or custom, sanctioned by the Law of Nations, and constituting a part of that law, which exists in defiance of principles, such as no individuals can disown. If it is wrong and , inglorious in individuals to consent and agree to determine their petty controversies by combat, it must be equally wrong and inglorious for nations to consent and agree to determine their vaster controversies by combat. Here is a positive, precise, and specific evil, of gigantic proportions inconsistent with all that is truly honorable making within the sphere of its influence all True Grandeur impossible and it does not proceed from any uncontrollable impulses of our nature, but is expressly established and organized by law.


As all citizens are parties to municipal law, and are responsible for its institutions, so are all the Christian nations parties to International Law, and responsible for its provisions. By recognizing these provisions, nations consent and agree beforehand to the Arbitrament of War, precisely as citizens, by recognizing Trial by Jury, consent and agree beforehand to the latter tribunal. As to understand the true nature of Trial by Jury, we first repair to the municipal law by which it is established : so, to understand the true nature of the Arbitrament of War, we must first repair to the Law of Nations.

Writers, of transcendent genius and learning, have defined this Arbitrament, and laid down the rules by which it is governed, constituting a complex code, with innumerable subtle provisions, regulating the resort to it, and the manner in which it shall be conducted, called the Laws of War. In these quarters, we catch our first authentic glimpse of its folly and wickedness. War is called by Lord Bacon, " One of the highest Trials of Right, when princes and states, that acknowledge no superior upon earth, shall put themselves upon the justice of God for the deciding of their controversies, by such success as it shall please Him to give on either side." (Works, vol. iii. p. 40.) This definition of the English philosopher has been adopted by the American jurist, Chancellor Kent, in his authoritative Commentaries on American Law (vol. i. p. 46). The Swiss Professor, Vattel, whose work is regarded as an important depository of the Law of Nations, defines War as " that state in which we prosecute our rights by Force" (Book III. ch. i. 1.) In this, he very nearly follows the eminent Dutch authority, Bynkershoek, who says : "Bellum est eorum, qui suae potestatis sunt ; juris sui persequendi ergo, concertatio per vim vel dolum." (Qucest. Jur. Pub. Lib. I. ch. vi.) Mr. Whewell, who has done so much to illustrate philosophy in all its departments, says, in his recent work on the elements of Morality and Polity, " Though War is appealed to, because there is no other ULTIMATE TRIBUNAL to which states can have recourse, it is appealed to for justice" (Vol. ii. 1146.) And in our country, Dr. Lieber says, in a work abounding in learning and sagacious thought (Political Ethics, vol. ii. 643), that War is a mode of obtaining rights, a definition which hardly differs in form from that of Vattel and Bynkershoek.

In harmony with these definitions, let me define the Evil which I now arraign. War is a public armed contest between nations, under "the sanction of International Law, to establish JUSTICE between them; as, for instance, to determine a disputed boundary line, or the title to territory.

This definition, it will be perceived, is confined to contests between nations. It is restrained to International War. It carefully excludes the question, so often agitated, of the right of revolution, and that other question, on which the friends of Peace sometimes differ, the right of personal self-defense. It does not in any way involve the question, of the right to employ force in the administration of justice, or in the conservation of domestic quiet.

It is true that the term defensive is always applied to Wars in our day. And it is creditable to the moral sense of nations, that they feel constrained to allege this seeming excuse, although its absurdity is attested by the fact, that it is advanced equally by each belligerent party. It is unreasonable to suppose that War can arise in the present age, under the sanctions of International Law, except to determine an asserted right. Whatever may have been its character in periods of barbarism, or when invoked to repel an incursion of robbers or pirates the enemies of the human race War becomes in our day, among all the nations who are parties to existing International Law, simply a mode of litigation, or of deciding a Lis Pendens, between these nations. It is a mere TRIAL OF RIGHT. It is an appeal for justice to Force. The Wars that now lower from Mexico 2* and from England are of this character. On the one side, we assert a title to Texas, which is disputed; and on the other, we assert a title to Oregon, which is disputed. It is only according to " martial logic," or the "flash language" of a dishonest patriotism, that the Ordeal by Battle in these causes can be regarded, on either side, as defensive War. Nor did the threatened War with France in 1834 promise to assume any different character. Its professed object was to secure the payment of five million dollars in other words, to determine by this Ultimate Tribunal a simple question of justice. And, going back still further in our history, the avowed purpose of the War declared by the United States against Great Britain in 1812, was to obtain from the latter Power an abandonment of her claim to search American vessels. Unrighteous as was this claim, it is plain that War was here invoked only as a Trial of Right.

But it forms no part of my purpose to consider individual Wars in the Past, except so far as necessary by way of example. My aim is above this. I wish to expose the irrational, cruel, and impious custom of War, as sanctioned by the Law of Nations. On this account, I resort to that supreme law, for my definition. And here, let me be understood as planting myself on this definition. This is the foundation of the argument which I venture to submit.


When we have considered, in succession, first, the character of War; secondly, the miseries it produces ; and, thirdly, its utter and shameful insufficiency, as a mode of determining justice, we may be able to decide, strictly and logically, whether it must not be ranked with crimes from which no True Honor can spring, to individuals or nations, but rather condemnation and shame. It will then be important, in order to appreciate this Evil, and the necessity for its overthrow, to pass in review the various prejudices by which War is sustained, and especially that most pernicious prejudice, in obedience to which, uncounted sums are diverted from purposes of Peace to PREPARATIONS FOR WAR.


I. And first, as to the character of War, or that part of our nature in which it has its origin. Listen to the voice of the ancient poet of Boeotian Ascra :

This is the law for mortals, ordained by the Ruler of Keayen ; Fishes and Beasts and Birds of the air devour each other ; JUSTICE dwells not among them ; only to MAN has he given JUSTICE the Highest and Best.*

* Hesiod, Works and Days, v. 276-279 . Cicero also says : Neque ulla re longius absumus a natura ferarum, in quibus in esse fortitudinern ssepe dicimus, ut in equis, in leonibus ; justitiarn, equitatem, bonitatem non dicimus. De Offic. Lib. L cap. 16.

These words of the early Hesiod exhibit the distinction between man and the beast ; but this very distinction belongs to the present discussion. The first idea that rises to the mind, is, that War is a  resort to brute Force, whereby each nation strives to overpower the other. Reason, and the divine part of our nature, in which alone we differ from the beast, in which alone we approach the Divinity, in which alone are the elements of justice, the professed object of War, are dethroned. It is, in short, a temporary adoption, by men, of the character of beasts, emulating their ferocity, rejoicing like them in blood, and seeking, as with a lion's paw, to hold an asserted right. In more recent days, this character of War is somewhat disguised, by the skill and knowledge which it employs ; it is, however, still the same, made more destructive by the genius and intellect which have become its servants. The primitive poets, in the unconscious simplicity of the world's childhood, make this boldly apparent. The heroes of Homer are likened in rage to the ungovernable fury of animals, or to things devoid of reason or affection. Menelaus presses his way through the crowd, " like a beast." Sarpedon is aroused against the Argives, "as a lion against the crooked-horned oxen ; " and afterwards rushes forward, " like a lion nourished on the mountains for a long time famished for want of flesh, but whose courage compels him to go even to the well-guarded sheepfold." The great Telamonian Ajax in one and the same passage is likened to " a beast," " a tawny lion," and " an obstinate ass ; " and all the Greek chiefs, the flower of the camp, are described as ranged about Diomed, " like raw-eating lions, or wild boars whose strength is irresistible." Even Hector, the hero in whom cluster the highest virtues of polished War, is called by the characteristic term, " the tamer of horses ; " and one of his renowned feats in battle, indicating brute strength only, is where he takes up and hurls a stone, which two of the strongest men could not easily put into a wagon ; and he drives over dead bodies and shields, while the axle is defiled by gore, and the guard about the seat, sprinkled from the horse's hoofs, and from the tires of the wheels ; and, in that most admired passage of ancient literature, before returning his child, the young Astyanax, to the arms of the wife he is about to leave, he invokes the gods for a single blessing on the boy's head, "that he may excel his father, and bring home bloody spoils, his enemy being slain, and so make glad the heart of his mother!"

From the early fields of modern literature, as from those of antiquity, similar illustrations might be gathered, all showing the unconscious degradation of the soldier, who, in the pursuit of justice, renounces the human character, to assume that of the beast. Henry V., as represented by our own Shakespeare, in the spirit-stirring appeal to his troops, says :

When the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger.

This is plain and frank, and reveals the true character of War.

I need not dwell on the moral debasement that must ensue. The passions are unleashed like so many blood-hounds, and suffered to rage. All the crimes which fill our prisons stalk abroad, plaited with the soldier's garb, and unwhipt of justice.

Murder, robbery, rape, arson, theft, are the sports of this fiendish Saturnalia, when

The gates of mercy shall be all shut up, And the fleshed soldier, rough and hard of heart, In the liberty of bloody hand shall range With conscience wide as hell.

Such is the foul disfigurement which War produces in man, of whom it has been so beautifully said, " How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties ! in form and moving, how express and admirable ! in action, how like an angel ! in apprehension, how like a god ! "


II. The immediate effect of War is to sever all relations of friendship and commerce between the belligerent nations, and every individual thereof, impressing upon each citizen, or subject, the character of enemy. Imagine this change between England and the United States. The innumerable ships of the two countries, the white doves of commerce, bearing the olive of peace, are driven from the sea, or turned from their proper purpose to be ministers of destruction ; the threads of social and business intercourse, so carefully woven into a thick web, are suddenly snapped asunder ; friend can no longer communicate with friend ; the twenty thousand letters, which are speeded each fortnight from this port alone, can no longer be sent ; and the human affections, of which they are the precious expression, seek in vain for utterance. Tell me, you who have friends and kindred abroad, or who are bound to foreigners by more worldly relations of commerce, are you prepared for this rude separation ?

This is little, compared with what must follow. It is but the first portentous shadow of the disastrous eclipse, the twilight usher of thick darkness, covering the whole heavens as with a pall, broken only by the blazing lightnings of battle and siege.

These horrors redden every page of history ; while, to the scandal of humanity, they have never wanted historians to describe them, with feelings kindred to those by which they were inspired. The demon that has drawn the sword, has also guided the pen. The favorite chronicler of modern Europe, Froissart while bestowing his equal admiration upon braver}'" and cunning, upon the courtesy which pardoned, as upon the rage which caused the flow of blood in torrents dwells with especial delight on "beautiful captures," " beautiful rescues," " beautiful prowesses," and " beautiful feats of arms ; " and he wantons in picturing the assaults of cities, " which, being soon gained by force, were robbed, and put to the sword without mercy, men, and women, and children, while the churches were burnt." *

* Froissart, c. 178, p. 68.

This was in a barbarous age. But popular writers, in our own day, dazzled by false ideas of greatness, at which reason and Christianity blush, do not hesitate to dwell on similar scenes with terms of rapture and eulogy. Even the beautiful soul of Wilberforce, which sighed " that the bloody laws of his country sent many unprepared into another world," by capital punishment, could hail the slaughter of Waterloo, on the Sabbath that he held so holy, by which thousands were hurried into eternity, as " a splendid victory." *

* Life of Wilberforce, IV. 256, 261.

My present purpose is, less to judge the writer, than to expose the horrors on horrors which he applauds. At Tarragona, above six thousand human beings, almost all defenseless, men and women, gray hairs and infant innocence, attractive youth and wrinkled age, were butchered by the infuriate troops in one night, and the morning sun rose upon a city whose streets and houses were inundated with blood. And yet this is called " a glorious exploit." *

* Alison, Hist, of French Rev. VIII. 114.

Here was a conquest by the French. At a later day, Ciudad Rodrigo was stormed by the British ; when in the license of victory, there ensued a savage scene of plunder and violence, while shouts and screams on all sides, mingled fearfully with the groans of the wounded. The churches were desecrated, the cellars of wine and spirits were pillaged; fire was wantonly applied to the city ; and brutal intoxication spread in every direction. Only when the drunken men dropped from excess, or fell asleep, was any degree of order restored ; and yet the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo is pronounced " one of the most brilliant exploits of the British army." *

 * Alison, Hist. VIII. 189.

This " beautiful feat of arms " was followed by the storming of Badajoz, in which the same scenes were enacted again, with added atrocities. Let the story be told in the words of a partial historian, who saw what he so eloquently describes. " Shameless rapacity, brutal intemperance, savage lust, cruelty and murder, shrieks and piteous lamentations, groans, shouts, imprecations, the hissing of fire bursting from the houses, the crashing of doors and windows, and the report of muskets used in violence, resounded for two days and nights in the streets of Badajoz ! On the third, when the city was sacked, when the soldiers were exhausted by their excesses, the tumult rather subsided than was quelled ! The wounded were then looked to, the dead disposed of." *

* Napier, History of Penins. War, IV. 431.

The same terrible War affords another instance of the atrocities of a siege, which cries to Heaven for judgment. For weeks before the surrender of Saragossa, the deaths were from four to five hundred daily ; the living were unable to bury the dead, and thousands of carcasses, scattered in streets and court-yards, or piled in heaps at the doors of churches, were left to dissolve in their own corruption, or be licked up by the flames of the burning houses. The city was shaken to its foundation, by sixteen thousand shells thrown during the bombardment, and the explosion of forty-five thousand pounds of powder in the mines ; while the bones of forty thousand persons, of every age and both sexes, bore dreadful testimony to the unutterable cruelty of War.

These might seem to be pictures from the age of Alaric, Scourge of God, or of Attila, whose boast was, that the grass did not grow where his horse had set his foot ; but no ! they belong to our own times. They are portions of the wonderful but wicked career of him who stands forth as the foremost representative of worldly Grandeur. The heart aches, as we follow him and his marshals from field to field of Satanic Glory,* finding everywhere, from Spain to Russia, the same carnival of woe.

*A living poet of Italy, who will be placed by his prose among the great names of his country's literature, in a remarkable ode, which, he has thrown on the Urn of Napoleon, leaves to posterity to judge whether his career of battle was True Glory.

Fu vera gloria? Aiposteri L'ardua sentenza. - Manzoni, II Cinque Maggio.

When men learn to appreciate moral Grandeur, the easy sentence will be rendered.

The picture is various, yet identical in character. Suffering, wounds, and death in every form, fill the terrible canvas. What scene more dismal than that of Albuera, with its horrid piles of corpses, while all night the rain pours down, and river, hill, and forest, on each side, resound with the cries and groans of the dying ? What scene more monumental than that at Salamanca, where, long after the great battle, the ground, strewn with fragments of casques and cuirasses, was still blanched by the skeletons of those who fell? What catalogue of horror more complete than the Russian campaign? At every step there is war, and this is enough ; soldiers black with powder ; bayonets bent with the violence of the encounter ; the earth ploughed with cannon-shot; trees torn and mutilated ; the dead and dying ; wounds and agony; fields covered with broken carriages, outstretched horses, and mangled bodies ; while disease, sad attendant on military suffering, sweeps thousands from the great hospitals of the army, and the multitude of amputated limbs, which there is no time to destroy, accumulate in bloody heaps, filling the air with corruption. What tongue, what pen, can describe the bloody havoc at Borodino, where, between rise and set of a single sun, more than one hundred thousand of our fellow-men, equaling in number the population of this whole city, sank to earth, dead or wounded? Fifty days after the battle, no less than twenty thousand are found, stretched where they gasped out their breath, and the whole plain is strewn with half-buried carcasses of men and horses, intermingled with garments dyed in blood, and bones gnawed by dogs and vultures. Who can follow the French army, in dismal retreat, avoiding the spear of the pursuing Cossack, only to sink beneath the sharper frost and ice, in a temperature below zero, on foot, without shelter for the body, famishing on horse-flesh and a miserable compound of rye and snow-water ? With a fresh array, the war is continued against new forces under the walls of Dresden ; and as the emperor after indulging in royal supper with the king of Saxony rides over the field of battle, he sees ghastly new-made graves, with hands and arms projecting, stark and stiff, above the earth. And shortly afterwards, when shelter is needed for the troops, the order is given to occupy the Hospitals for the Insane, saying, " turn out the mad."


Why follow further in this career of blood? There is one other picture of the atrocious, though natural consequences of War, occurring almost within our own day, that I would not omit. Let me bring to your mind Genoa, called the Superb, City of palaces, dear to the memory of American childhood as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, and one of the spots first enlightened by the morning beams of civilization, whose merchants were princes, and whose rich argosies, in those early days, introduced to Europe the choicest products of the East, the linen of Egypt, the spices of Arabia, and the silks of Samarcand. She still sits in queenly pride, as she sat then, her mural crown studded with towers, her churches rich with marble floors and rarest pictures, her palaces of ancient doges and admirals yet spared by the hand of Time, her close streets, thronged by one hundred thousand inhabitants, at the feet of the maritime Alps, as they descend to the blue and tideless waters of the Mediterranean Sea, leaning with her back against their strong mountain-sides, overshadowed by the foliage of the fig-tree and the olive, while the orange and the lemon fill with their perfume the air where reigns perpetual spring. Who can contemplate such a city without delight? Who can listen to the story of her sorrows without a pang ?

In the last autumn of the last century, the armies of the French Republic, which had dominated over Italy, were driven from their conquests, and compelled, with shrunk forces, to seek shelter under Massena, within the walls of Genoa. After various efforts by the Austrian general on the land, aided by a bombardment from the British fleet in the harbor, to force the strong defences by assault, the city was invested by a strict blockade. All communication with the country was cut off, while the harbor was closed by the ever-wakeful British watch-dogs of war. Besides the French troops, within the beleagured and unfortunate city, were the peaceful unoffending inhabitants, more than those of Boston in number. Provisions soon become scarce ; scarcity sharpens into want, till fell Famine, bringing blindness and madness in her train, rages like an Erinnys. Picture to yourself this large population, not pouring out their lives in the exulting rush of battle, but wasting at noonday, the daughter by the side of the mother, the husband by the side of the wife. When grain and rice fail, flaxseed, millet, cocoas, and almonds are ground by handmills into flour, and even bran, baked with honey, is eaten not to satisfy, but to deaden hunger. During the siege, but before the last extremities, a pound of horse-flesh is sold for thirty-two cents ; a pound of bran for thirty cents ; a pound of flour for $1.75. A single bean is soon sold for four cents, and a biscuit of three ounces for $2.25, and none are finally to be had. The wretched soldiers, after devouring all the horses, are reduced to the degradation of feeding on dogs, cats, rats, and worms, which are eagerly hunted in the cellars and common sewers. Happy were now, exclaims an Italian historian, not those who lived, but those who died ! The day is dreary from hunger ; the night more dreary still, from hunger accompanied by delirious fancies. Recourse is had to herbs, monk's rhubarb, sorrel, mallows, wild succory. People of every condition, women of noble birth and beauty, seek on the slope of the mountain within the defences, those aliments which nature destined solely for the beasts. A scrap of cheese and scanty vegetables are all that can be afforded to the sick and wounded, those sacred stipendiaries of human charity. Men and women, in the last anguish of despair, fill the air with groans and shrieks ; some in spasms, convulsions, and contortions, gasping their expiring breath on the unpitying stones of the streets ; alas ! not more unpitying than man. Children, whom a dying mother's arms had ceased to protect, the orphans of an hour, with piercing cries, seek in vain the compassion of the passing stranger ; but none pity or aid. The sweet fountains of sympathy are all closed by the selfishness of individual distress. In the general agony, some precipitate themselves into the sea, while the more impetuous rush from the gates, and impale their bodies on the Austrian bayonets. Others still (pardon the dire recital !) are driven to devour their shoes and the leather of their pouches ; and the horror of human flesh so far abates, that numbers feed like cannibals on the corpses about them.*

*This account has been drawn from the animated sketches of Botta (History of Italy, under Napoleon, vol. i. cap. i.), Alison (History of French Rev., vol. iv. cap. xxx.), and Arnold (Modem History, lee. iv.). The humanity of the latter is particularly aroused to condemn this most atrocious murder of innocent people, and he suggests, as a sufficient remedy, a modification of the Laws of War, permitting all non-combatants to withdraw from a blockaded town ! In this way, they may be spared a languishing death by starvation ; but they must desert firesides, pursuits, all that makes life dear, and become homeless exiles, a fate little better than the former. It is strange that Arnold's pure soul and clear judgment did not recognize the truth, that the whole custom or institution of War is unrighteous and unlawful, and that the horrors of this siege are its natural consequence. Laws of War ! Laws in what is lawless ! rules of wrong! There can be only one law of War; that is the great law, which pronounces it unwise, unchristian, and unjust.

At this stage, the French general capitulated, claiming and receiving what are called " the honors of War ; " but not before twenty thousand innocent persons, old and young, women and children, having no part or interest in the contest, had died the most horrible of deaths. The Austrian flag floated over the captured Genoa but a brief span of time ; for Bonaparte had already descended, like an eagle from the Alps, and in less than a fortnight afterwards, on the plains of Marengo, shattered, as with an iron mace, the Austrian empire in Italy.


But wasted lands, famished cities, and slaughtered armies are only a part of " the purple testament of bleeding war." Every soldier is connected with others, as all of you, by dear ties of kindred, love, and friendship. He has been sternly summoned from the embrace of family. To him, there is, perhaps, an aged mother, who has fondly hoped to lean her decaying frame upon his more youthful form; perhaps a wife, whose life has been just entwined inseparably with his, now condemned to wasting despair ; perhaps sisters, brothers. As he falls on the field of war, must not all these rush with his blood ? But who can measure the distress that radiates as from a bloody sun, penetrating innumerable homes? Who can give the gauge and dimensions of this incalculable sorrow? Tell me, ye who feel the bitterness of parting with dear friends -and kindred, whom you watch tenderly till the last golden sands are run out and the great hour-glass is turned, what is the measure of your anguish? Your friend departs, soothed by kindness and in the arms of Love ; the soldier gasps out his life with no friend near, while the scowl of Hate darkens all that he beholds, darkens his own departing soul. Who can forget the anguish that fills the bosom and crazes the brain of Leonora, in the matchless ballad of Burger, when seeking in vain among returning squadrons for her lover left dead on Prague's ensanguined plain? But every field of blood has many Leonoras. Every war has its desolate homes, as is most vividly pictured by a master poet of antiquity, whose verse is an argument.*

* Agamemnon of AEschylus ; Chorus. This is from the beautiful translation by John Symmons.

But through the bounds of Grecia's land, Who sent her sons for Troy to part, See mourning, with much suffering heart, On each man's threshold stand, On each sad hearth in Grecia's land. Well may her soul with grief be rent; She well remembers whom she sent, She sees them not return ;  Instead of men, to each man's home, Urns and ashes only come, And the armor which they wore ; Sad relics to their native shore. For Mars, the barterer of the lifeless clay, Who sells for gold the slain, And holds the scale in battle's doubtful day, High balanced o'er the plain, From Ilium's walls for men returns Ashes and sepulchral urns ; Ashes wet with many a tear, Sad relics of the fiery bier. Round the full urns the general groan Goes, as each their kindred own. One they mourn in battle strong, And one, that 'mid the armed throng He sunk in glory's slaughtering tide, And for another's consort died.


Others they mourn whose monuments stand By Ilium's wall on foreign strand ; "Where they fell, in beauty's bloom, There they lie in hated tomb ; Sunk beneath the massy mound, In eternal chambers bound.


III. But all these miseries are to no purpose. War is utterly ineffectual to secure or advance the object which it professes to seek. The wretchedness which it entails, contributes to no end, helps to establish no right, and, therefore, in no respect determines justice between the contending nations.

The fruitlessness and vanity of War appear in the great conflicts by which the world has been lacerated. After long struggle, where each nation inflicts and receives incalculable injury, peace has been gladly obtained on the basis of the condition before the War, known as the Status ante Bellum.

I cannot better illustrate this point, than by the familiar example humiliating to both countries of the last war with Great Britain, the professed object of which was to obtain from the latter Power a renunciation of her insolent claim to impress our seamen. The greatest number of American seamen officially alleged to be compulsorily serving in the British navy was about eight hundred. To overturn this injustice, the Arbitrament of War was invoked, and the whole country was doomed for more than three years to its accursed blight. American commerce was driven from the seas ; the resources of the land were drained by taxation ; villages on the Canadian frontier were laid in ashes ; the metropolis of the Republic was captured, while gaunt distress raged everywhere within our borders. Weary at last with this rude Trial, our Government appointed Commissioners to treat for Peace, with these specific instructions: "Your first duty will be to conclude peace with Great Britain ; and you are authorized to do it, in case you obtain a satisfactory stipulation against impressment, one which shall secure under our flag protection to the crew. If this encroachment of Great Britain is hot provided against, the United States have appealed to arms ! in vain" *

* American State Papers, vol. vii. p. 577.

Afterwards, finding small chance of extorting from Great Britain a relinquishment of the unrighteous claim, and foreseeing only an accumulation of calamities from an inveterate prosecution of the War, our Government directed their negotiators, in concluding a treaty of Peace, " to omit any stipulation on the subject of impressment" The instructions were obeyed, and the Treaty that once more restored to us the blessings of Peace, so rashly cast away, but now hailed with an intoxication of joy, contained no allusion to impressment, nor did it provide for the surrender of a single American sailor detained in the British navy. Thus, by the confession of our own Government, " the United States had appealed to arms IN VAIN. "

All this is the natural result of an appeal to War, in order to establish justice. Justice implies the exercise of the judgment in the determination of right. Now War not only supersedes the judgment, but delivers over the pending question to superiority of force, or to chance.

Superior Force may end in conquest ; this is its natural consequence ; but it cannot adjudicate any right. We expose the absurdity of its Arbitrament, when, by a familiar phrase of sarcasm, we speak of the right of the strongest excluding, of course, all idea of right, except that of the lion, as he springs upon a weaker beast ; of the wolf, as he tears in pieces the lamb ; of the vulture, as he fattens upon the dove. The grossest spirits will admit that this is not justice.

But the battle is not always to the strong. Superiority of Force is often checked by the proverbial contingencies of War. Especially are such contingencies revealed in rankest absurdity, where nations, as is their acknowledged custom, without regard to their respective forces, whether weaker or stronger, voluntarily appeal to this mad Umpirage. Who can measure beforehand the currents of the heady fight? In common language, we speak of the chances of battle ; and soldiers whose lives are devoted to this harsh vocation, yet call it a game. The Great Captain of our age, who seemed to drag victory at his chariot-wheels, in a formal address to his officers, on entering Russia, says, " In war, fortune has an equal share with ability in procuring success." *

* Alison, VIII. 346.

The famous victory of Marengo, accident of an accident, wrested unexpectedly at the close of the day from a foe, who at an earlier hour was successful, taught him the uncertainty of War. Afterwards, in bitterness of spirit, when his immense forces had been shivered, and his triumphant eagles driven back with broken wing, he exclaimed, in that remarkable conversation recorded by the Abbee de Pradt : " Well, this is War. High in the morning, low enough at night. From a triumph to a fall, is often but a step." *

* Ib. IX. 239.

The same sentiment is repeated by the military historian of the Peninsular campaigns, when he says : " Fortune always asserts her supremacy in War ; and often from a slight mistake, such disastrous consequences flow, that, in every age and in every nation, the uncertainty of wars has been proverbial ; " *

*  J Napier, IV. 687.

and again, in another place, considering the conduct of Wellington, the same military historian, who is an unquestionable authority, confesses : " A few hours' delay, an accident, a turn of fortune, and he would have been foiled ! Ay ! but this is War, always dangerous and uncertain, an ever-rolling wheel, and armed with scythes." *

* Napier IV 477.

And can intelligent man look for justice to an ever-rolling wheel armed with scythes?

Chance is written on every battlefield. It may be discerned less in the conflict of large masses, than in that of individuals, though equally present in each. How capriciously the wheel turned when the fortunes of Rome were staked on the combat between the Horatii and Curiatii ! and who, at one time, could have augured that the single Horatius, with two slain brothers on the field, would overpower the three living enemies? But this is not alone. In all the combats of history, involving the fate of individuals or nations, we learn to revolt at the frenzy which carried questions of property, of freedom, or of life, to a judgment so uncertain and senseless.


During the early modern centuries, and especially in the moral night of the dark ages, the practice extensively prevailed throughout Europe, of submitting controversies, whether of individuals or communities, to this adjudication. I pass over the custom of Private War, though it aptly illustrates the subject, stopping merely to join in that delight, which, at a time of ignorance, before this mode of determining justice had gradually yielded to the ordinances of monarchs and an advancing civilization, hailed its temporary suspension, as The Truce of God; and I come at once to the Judicial Combat, or TRIAL BY BATTLE. In this custom, or institution, as in a mirror, we may behold the hideousness of War.

Trial by Battle was a formal and legitimate mode of deciding controversies, principally between individuals. Like other ordeals, by burning plough-shares, by holding hot iron, by dipping the hand in hot water or hot oil and like the great Ordeal of War it was a presumptuous appeal to Providence, under an apprehension and hope, that Heaven would give the victory to him who had the right. Its object was precisely the professed object of War, the determination of Justice. It was sanctioned by Municipal Law as an Arbitrament for individuals ; as War to the scandal of civilization is still sanctioned by International Law, as an Arbitrament for nations. Men, says the brilliant Frenchman, Montesquieu, subject to rules even their prejudices ; and Trial by Battle was surrounded by artificial regulations of multifarious detail, constituting an extensive system, determining how and when it should be waged ; as War is surrounded by a complex code, known as the Laws of War.

No question was too sacred, grave, or recondite for this Tribunal. The title of an abbey to a neighboring church, in France, was decided by it ; and an emperor of Germany, according to a faithful ecclesiastic, " desirous of dealing honorably with his people and nobles " (mark here the standard of honor !), waived the judgment of the court on a grave question of law, as to the descent of property, and referred it to champions. Human folly did not stop here. In Spain, a subtle point of theology was submitted to the same determination. But Trial by Battle was not confined to particular countries or to rare occasions. It prevailed everywhere in Europe, superseding in many places all other ordeals and even trials by proofs, and extending not only to criminal matters, but to questions of property. Like War in our day, its justice and fitness as an Arbitrament were early doubted or condemned. Luitprand, a king of the Lombards, in Italy, during that middle period which belongs neither to ancient nor to modern times, in a law bearing date 713, expresses his distrust of it as a mode of determining justice ; but the monarch is compelled to add that, considering the custom of his Lombard people, he cannot forbid the impious law. His words deserve emphatic mention : Propter consuetudinem gentis nostrse Longobardorum legem impiam vetare nonpossumus.*

* Muratori, Rerum Italic. Script, t. 2, p. 65.

The appropriate epithet by which he branded Trial by Battle is the important bequest of the royal Lombard to a distant posterity. For this, the name of the lawgiver will be cherished, with grateful regard, in the annals of civilization.

This custom received another blow from Rome. At the latter part of the thirteenth century, Don Pedro of Aragon, after exchanging letters of defiance with Charles of Anjou, proposed to the latter a personal combat, which was accepted, on condition that Sicily should be the prize of success.*

*Sismondi, Histoire des Fran9, VIII. 338-340.

Each called down upon himself all the vengeance of Heaven, and the last dishonor, if, at the appointed time, he failed to appear before the Seneschal of Aquitaine, or, in case of defeat, if he refused to consign Sicily undisturbed to the victor. While the two champions were preparing for the .lists, the pope, Martin IV., protested with all his power against this new Trial by Battle, which staked the sovereignty of a kingdom, a feudatory of the Holy See, on a wild stroke of chance. By a papal bull, dated at Civita Vecchia, April 5th, 1283, he threatened excommunication to either of the princes, who proceeded to a combat which he pronounced criminal and abominable. By a letter of the same date, the Pope announced to Edward I. of England, Duke of Aquitaine, the agreement of the two princes, which he most earnestly declared to be full of indecency and rashness, hostile to the concord of Christendom, and careless of Christian blood ; and he urged upon the English monarch to spare no effort to prevent the combat menacing him with excommunication, and his territories with interdict, if it should take place. Edward refusing to guarantee the safety of the combatants in Aquitaine, the parties retired without consummating their duel. The judgment of the Holy See, which thus accomplished its immediate object, though not in terms directed to the suppression of the custom of Trial by Battle, remains, nevertheless, from its peculiar energy of language, in perpetual testimony against it.


To a monarch of France belongs the honor of first interposing the royal authority, for the entire suppression within his jurisdiction, of this impious custom, so universally adopted, so dear to the nobility, and so profoundly rooted in the institutions of the Feudal Age. And here let me pause with reverence, as I mention the name of St. Louis, a prince, whose unenlightened errors may find easy condemnation in an age of larger toleration and wider knowledge, but whose firm and upright soul, whose exalted sense of justice, whose fatherly regard for the happiness of his people, whose respect for the rights of others, whose conscience, void of offence before God and man, make him foremost among Christian rulers, and the highest example for a Christian prince or a Christian people, in one word, a model of True Greatness. He was of angelic conscience, subjecting all that he did to the single and exclusive test of moral rectitude, disregarding every consideration of worldly advantage, every fear of worldly consequence.

His soul, thus tremblingly sensitive to questions of right, was shocked by the judicial combat. It was a sin, in his sight, thus to tempt God, by demanding of him a miracle, whenever judgment was pronounced. From these intimate convictions sprung a royal Ordinance, first promulgated at a Parliament assembled in 1260:

"We forbid to all persons throughout our dominions the TRIAL BY BATTLE ; and instead of battles, we establish proofs by witnesses; and we do not take away the other good and loyal proofs which have been used in lay courts to this day.

* * *


* Guizot, Histoire de la Civilization en France, IV. 162-164.

Such were the restraints on the royal authority, that this Ordinance did not extend to the demesnes of the barons and feudatories of the realm, being confined in its operation to those of the king. But where the power of the sovereign did not reach, there he labored by example, influence, and express intercession ; treating with many of the great vassals, and inducing them to renounce this unnatural usage. Though for many years later it vexed some parts of France, its overthrow commenced with the Ordinance of St. Louis.

Honor and blessings attend the name of this truly Christian king; who submitted all his actions to the Heaven-descended sentiment of duty ; who began a long and illustrious reign, by renouncing and restoring a portion of the conquests of his predecessor, saying to those about him, whose souls did not ascend to the height of his morality, " I know that the predecessors of the king of England have lost by the right of conquest the land which I hold ; and the land which I give him, I do not give because I am bound to him or his heirs, but to put love between my children and his children, who are cousins-german; and it seems to me that what I thus give, I employ to good purpose ! " *

* I b. IV. 151.

Honor to him who never grasped by force or cunning any new acquisition ; who never sought advantage from the turmoil and dissension of his neighbors, but studied to allay them ; who, first of Christian Princes, rebuked the Spirit of War, saying to those who would have him profit by the strifes of others, "Blessed are the Peacemakers;" * who, by an immortal Ordinance, abolished Trial by Battle throughout his dominions ; who executed equal justice to all, whether his own people, or neighbors, and in the extremity of his last illness on the sickening sands of Tunis, among the bequests of his spirit, enjoined on his son and successor, " in maintaining justice, to be inflexible and loyal, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left ! " **

* Benoist soient tuit li apaiseur. Joinville, p. 143.
** Sismondi, Histoire des France. VIII. 196.


To condemn Trial by Battle, no longer requires the sagacity above his age of the Lombard monarch, or the intrepid judgment of the Sovereign Pontiff, or the ecstatic soul of St. Louis. An incident of history, as curious as it is authentic, illustrates this point, and shows the certain progress of opinion. This custom, as a part of the common law of England, was partially restrained by Henry II., and rebuked at a later day by Elizabeth. Though fallen into desuetude, quietly overruled by the enlightened sense of successive generations, yet, to the disgrace of English jurisprudence, it was not legislatively abolished till almost in our own day, as late as 1817, when the right to it was openly claimed in Westminster Hall. An ignorant man charged with murder, whose name, Abraham Thornton, is necessarily connected with the history of this monstrous usage, being proceeded against by the ancient process of appeal, pleaded, when brought into court, as follows : " Not guilty, and I am ready to defend the same by my body ; " and thereupon taking off his glove, he threw it upon the floor. The appellant not choosing to accept this challenge, abandoned his proceedings. The bench, the bar, and the whole kingdom were startled by the outrage ; and at the next session of parliament, Trial by Battle was abolished in England. On introducing a bill for this purpose, the Attorney-General remarked, in appropriate terms, that "if the party had persevered, he had no doubt the legislature would have felt it their imperious duty to interfere, and pass an ex post facto law to prevent so degrading a spectacle from taking place."*

* Annual Register, vol. Ixi. p. 52 (1819) ; Blackstone, Com. Ill 337, Chitty's note.

These words aptly portray the impression which Trial by Battle excites in our day. Its folly and wickedness are apparent to all. As we revert to those early periods in which it prevailed, our minds are impressed by the general barbarism ; we recoil with horror from the awful subjection of justice to brute force ; from the impious profanation of God in deeming him present at these outrages ; from the moral degradation out of which they sprang, and which they perpetuated ; we involve ourselves in self-complacent virtue, and thank God that we are not as these men, that ours is an age of light, while theirs was an age of darkness !


But do not forget, fellow-citizens, that this criminal and impious custom, which we all condemn in the case of individuals, is openly avowed by our i own country, and by the other countries of the 'great Christian Federation nay, that it is expressly established by International Law as the proper mode of determining justice between nations ; while the feats of hardihood by which it is waged, and the triumphs of its fields, are exalted beyond all other labors, whether of learning, industry, or benevolence, as a well-spring of Glory. Alas ! upon our own heads be the judgment of barbarism, which we pronounce upon those that have gone before ! At this moment, in this period of light, while to the contented souls of many the noonday sun of civilization seems to be standing still in the heavens, as upon Gibeon, the relations between nations continue to be governed by the odious rules of brute violence, which once predominated between individuals. The dark ages have not yet passed away ; Erebus and black Night, born of Chaos, still brood over the earth ; nor can we hail the clear day, until the hearts of the nations are touched, as the hearts of individual men, and all acknowledge one and the same Law of Right.

Who has told you, fond man ! thus to find Glory in an act when performed by a nation which you condemn as a crime or a barbarism when committed by an individual ? In what vain conceit of wisdom and virtue do you find this incongruous morality? Where is it declared that God, who is no respecter of persons, is a respecter of multitudes ? Whence do you draw these partial laws of a powerful and impartial God ? Man is immortal ; but States are mortal. He has a higher destiny than States. Can States be less amenable to the supreme moral law ? Each individual is an atom of the mass. Must not the mass, in its conscience, be like the individuals of which it is composed? Shall the mass, in relations with other masses, do what individuals in relations with each other may not do? As in the physical creation, so in the moral, there is but one rule for individuals and masses. It was the lofty discovery of Newton, that the simple law, which determines the fall of an apple, prevails everywhere throughout the Universe ruling each particle in reference to every other particle, whether large or small reaching from earth to heaven, and controlling the infinite motions of the spheres ; so, with equal scope, another simple law, the Law of Right, which binds the individual, binds also two or three when gathered together ; binds conventions and congregations of men ; binds villages, towns, and cities ; binds states, nations, and empires ; clasps the whole human family in its sevenfold embrace ; nay, more,

Beyond the flaming bounds of place and time, The living throne, the sapphire blaze,

it binds the angels of Heaven, the Seraphim, full of love, the Cherubim, full of knowledge ; above all, it binds, in self-imposed bonds, a just and omnipotent God. This is the law, of Which the ancient poet sings, as Queen alike of mortals and immortals. It is of this, and not of any earthly law, that Hooker speaks in that magnificent period which sounds like an anthem ; "Of law, no less can be said, than that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world ; all things in Heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, the greatest as not exempted from her power ; both angels and men, and creatures of what condition soever, though each in different sort and manner, yet all with uniform consent admiring her as the mother of their peace and joy." Often quoted, and justly admired, sometimes as the finest sentence of our English speech, this grand declaration cannot be more justly invoked than to condemn the pretension of one law for individuals and another for nations.

Stripped of all delusive apologies, and tried by that comprehensive law under which nations are set to the bar like common men "War falls from Glory into barbarous guilt. It takes its place among bloody transgressions, while its flaming honors are turned into shame. Painful to existing prejudices as it may be, we must learn to abhor it, as we abhor similar transgressions by a vulgar offender. Every word of reprobation, which the enlightened conscience now fastens upon the savage combatant in Trial by Battle, or which it applies to the unhappy being, who, in murderous duel, takes the life of his fellow-man, belongs also to the nation that appeals to War. Amidst the thunders which made Sinai tremble, God declared, " Thou shalt not kill ; " and the voice of these thunders, with this commandment, has been prolonged to our own day in the echoes of Christian churches. What mortal shall restrain the application of these words? Who on earth is empowered to vary or abridge the commandments of God? Who shall presume to declare, that this injunction was directed, not to nations, but to individuals only ; not to many, but to one only ; that one man may not kill, but that many may ; that one man may not slay in duel, but that a nation may slay a multitude in the duel of war ; that it is forbidden to each individual to destroy the life of a single human being, but that it is not forbidden to a nation to cut off by the sword a whole people ? We are struck with horror and our hair stands on end at the report of a single murder ; we think of the soul that has been hurried to its final account ; we seek the murderer ; and the State puts forth all its energies to secure his punishment. Viewed in the unclouded light of truth, what is War but organized murder ; murder of malice aforethought ; in cold blood ; under the sanctions of an impious law; through the operation of an extensive machinery of crime ; with innumerable hands ; at incalculable cost of money; by subtle contrivances of cunning and skill ; or amidst the fiendish atrocities of the savage brutal assault ?

The Scythian, undisturbed by the illusion of military Glory, snatched a phrase of justice from an acknowledged criminal, when he called Alexander " the greatest robber in the world." And the Roman satirist, filled with similar truth, in pungent words, touched to the quick that flagrant unblushing injustice which dooms to condign punishment the very guilt, that in another sphere, and on a grander scale, under the auspices of a nation, is hailed with acclamation.

Ille crucem sceleris pretium tulit, hie diadema.*

* Juvenal, lat. xiii. 105.

Mankind, blind to the real character of War, while condemning the ordinary malefactor, may continue yet a little longer to crown its giant actors with Glory. A generous posterity may pardon to unconscious barbarism the atrocities which they have waged ; but the whole custom and it is of this that I speak though sanctioned by existing law, cannot escape the unerring judgment of reason and religion. The outrages which, under solemn sanctions of law, it permits and invokes for professed purposes of justice, cannot be authorized by any human power ; and they must rise in overwhelming judgment, not only against those who wield the weapons of Battle, but more still against all who uphold its monstrous Arbitrament.


When, oh ! when shall the St. Louis of the Nations arise the Christian ruler, or Christian people, who, in the spirit of True Greatness, shall proclaim, that henceforward forever the great Trial by Battle shall cease; that "these battles" shall be abolished throughout the Commonwealth of civilization ; that a spectacle so degrading shall never be allowed again to take place ; and that it is the duty of Nations, involving of course the highest policy, to establish love between each other, and, in all respects, at all times, with all persons, whether their own people or the people of other lands, to be governed by the sacred Law of Right, as between man and man. May God speed the coming of that day !


I have already alluded, in the early part of this Address, to some of the obstacles encountered by the advocate of Peace. One of these is the war-like tone of the literature, by which our minds are formed. The world has supped so full with battles, that all its inner modes of thought, and many of its rules of conduct, seem to be incarnadined with blood ; as the bones of swine, fed on madder, are said to become red. But I now pass this by, though a fruitful theme, and hasten to other topics. I propose to consider in succession, very briefly, some of those prejudices, which are most powerful in keeping alive the custom of War.


1. One of the most important is the prejudice founded on a belief in its necessity. When War is called a necessity', it is meant, of course, that its object can be attained in no other way. Now I think that it has already appeared with distinctness, approaching demonstration, that the professed object of War, which is justice between nations, is in no respect promoted by War ; that force is not justice, nor in any way conducive to justice ; that the eagles of victory are the emblems of successful force only, and not of established right. Justice is obtained solely by the exercise of reason and judgment; but these are silent in the din of arms. Justice is without passion ; but War lets loose all the worst passions of our nature, while " Chance, high arbiter, more embroils the fray." The age has passed in which a nation within the enchanted circle of civilization, can make war upon its neighbor, for any professed purpose of booty or vengeance. It does " naught in hate, but all in honor." There are profession* of tenderness even which mingle with the first mutterings of strife. As if conscience-struck at the criminal abyss into which they are plunging, each of the great litigants seeks to fix the charge of hostile aggression on the other, and to set up the excuse of defending some asserted right, some Texas, some Oregon. Like Pontius Pilate, it vainly washes its hands of innocent blood, and straightway allows a crime at which the whole heavens are darkened, and two kindred countries are severed, as the vail of the Temple was rent in twain.

The proper modes, for the determination of international disputes, are Negotiation, Mediation, Arbitration, and a Congress of Nations all practicable and calculated to secure peaceful justice. These may be employed at any time under the existing Law of Nations. But the very law itself, which sanctions War, may be changed, as regards two or more nations by treaty between them, and as regards all the Christian nations by general consent. If nations can agree together in the solemn provisions of International Law, to establish War as an Arbiter of Justice, they can also agree together to abolish this Arbitrament, and to establish peaceful substitutes; precisely as similar substitutes have been established by municipal law to determine controversies among individuals. A system of Arbitration may be instituted by treaties, or a Congress of Nations may be charged with the high duty of organizing an Ultimate Tribunal instead of "these battles" for the decision of international controversies. The will only is required for success in this work.

Let it not be said, then, that War is a necessity ; and may our country aspire to the Glory of taking the lead in disowning the barbarous system of International LYNCH LAW, and in proclaiming peaceful substitutes as the only proper mode of determining justice between nations ! Such a Glory, unlike the earthly fame of battle, will be immortal as the stars, dropping perpetual light upon the souls of men !


2. Another prejudice in favor of War is founded on the practice of nations, past and present. There is no crime or enormity in morals which may not find the support of human example, often on an extended scale. But it will not be urged in our day, that we are to look for a standard of duty in the conduct of vain, mistaken, fallible man. It is not in the power of man, by any subtle alchemy, to transmute wrong into right. Because War is according to the practice of the world, it cannot follow that it is right. For ages, the world worshipped false gods ; but these gods were not less false, because all bowed before them. At this moment, the larger portion of mankind are Heathen ; but Heathenism is not true. It was once the practice of nations to slaughter prisoners of war ; but even the Spirit of War recoils now from this bloody sacrifice. In Sparta, theft, instead of being judged as a crime, was, by a perverse morality, like War itself, dignified into an art and an accomplishment ; like War, it was admitted into the system of youthful education ; and it was illustrated like War also, by an instance of unconquerable firmness, which is a barbaric counterfeit of virtue. The Spartan youth, with the stolen fox beneath his robe eating into his heart, is an example of mistaken fortitude, not unlike that which we are asked to admire in the soldier. Other illustrations crowd upon the mind ; but I will not dwell upon them. We turn with disgust from Spartan cruelty and the wolves of Taygetus ; from the awful cannibalism of the Fejee Islands ; from the profane rites of innumerable savages; from the crushing Juggernaut ; from the Hindoo widow lighting her funereal pyre ; from the Indian dancing at the stake. But in their respective places and days, had not all these, like War, the sanction of established usage ?

It is often said, that we need not be wiser than our fathers. Rather strive to excel our fathers. What in them was good, imitate; but. do not bind ourselves, as in chains of Fate, by their imperfect example. Principles are higher than human examples. Examples may be followed when they accord with the admonitions of duty. But he is unwise who attempts to lean upon these, rather than upon those truths, which, like the Everlasting Arm, cannot fail !

In all modesty be it said, we have lived to little purpose, if we are not wiser than the generations that have gone before. It is the lofty distinction of man that he is a progressive being ; that his reason at the present day is not merely the reason of a single human being, but the reason of the whole human race, in all ages from which knowledge has descended, in all lands from which it has been borne away. We are the heirs to an inheritance of truth, grandly accumulating from generation to generation. The child at his mother's knee is now taught the orbits of the heavenly bodies,

Where worlds on worlds compose one Universe,

the nature of this globe, the character of the tribes of men by which it is covered, and the geography of nations, to an extent far beyond the ken of the most learned in other days. Therefore, it is true that antiquity is the real infancy of man. Then it is, that he is immature, ignorant, wayward, childish, selfish, finding his chief happiness in pleasures of sense, unconscious of the higher delights of knowledge, justice, love. The animal nature reigns supreme, and he is driven on by the gross impulses of force. He seeks contest, war, and blood. But man is no larger in childhood. Reason and the kindlier virtues of age, repudiating and abhorring force, now bear sway. We are the true Ancients. The single lock on the battered forehead of Old Time is thinner now than when our fathers attempted to grasp it; the hour-glass has been turned often since ; the scythe is heavier laden with the work of death.

Cease, then, to look for a lamp to our feet, in the feeble tapers that glimmer from the sepulchres of the Past. Rather hail those ever-burning lights above, in whose beams is the brightness of noon-day !


3. There is a topic which I approach with diffidence, but in the spirit of frankness. It is the influence which War, though condemned by Christ, has derived from the Christian Church. When Constantine, on one of his marches, at the head of his army, beheld the luminous trophy of the cross in the sky, right above the meridian sun, inscribed with these words, By this conquer, had his soul been penetrated by the true spirit of Him, whose precious symbol it was, he would have found in it no inspiration to the spear and the sword. He would have received the lesson of self-sacrifice, as from the lips of the Savior, and have learned that by no earthly weapon of battle can true victory be won. The pride of conquest would have been rebuked, and the bauble scepter of Empire have fallen from his hands. By this conquer; by patience, suffering, forgiveness of evil, by all those virtues of which the cross is the affecting token, conquer; and the victory shall be greater than any in the annals of Roman conquest ; it may not find a place in the records of man, but it shall appear in the register of everlasting life.

The Christian Church, after the first centuries of its existence, failed to discern the peculiar spiritual beauty of the faith which it professed. Like Constantine, it found new incentives to War in the religion of Peace ; and such has been its character, even to our own day. The Pope of Rome, the asserted head of the church, Vicegerent of Christ on earth, whose seal is a fisherman, on whose banner is a LAMB before the HOLY CROSS, assumed the command of armies, mingling the thunders of battle with the thunders of the Vatican. The dagger which projected from the sacred vestments of de Retz, while still an archbishop, was called by the Parisian crowd, u the Archbishop's Breviary." We read of mitred prelates in armor of proof, and seem still to catch the jingle of the golden spurs of the bishops in the streets of Cologne. The sword of knighthood was consecrated by the church; and priests became expert masters in military exercises. I have seen, at the gates of the Papal Palace in Rome, a constant guard of Swiss soldiers; I have seen, too, in our own streets, a show, as incongruous and as inconsistent, a pastor of a Christian church swelling by his presence the pomp of a military parade ! Aye ! more than this : some of us have heard, within a few short weeks, in a Christian pulpit, from the lips of an eminent Christian divine, a sermon, in which we are encouraged to serve the God of Battles, and, as citizen soldiers, to fight for Peace; a sentiment, in unhappy harmony with the profane language of the British peer, when, in addressing the House of Lords, he said,* " The best road to Peace, my Lords, is War; War, carried on in the same manner in which we are taught to worship our Creator, namely, with all our souls, with all our minds, with all our hearts, and with all our strength ; " but which surely can find no support in the Religion of Him who expressly enjoins, when one cheek is smitten, to turn the other, and to which we listen with pain and mortification from the lips of one who has voluntarily become a minister of Christian truth ; alas ! in his mind inferior to that of the Heathen, who declared that he preferred the unjustest peace to the justest war. **

* May 30th, 1794.
** Iniquissimam pacem, justissimo bello antefero, are the words of Cicero. Only eight days after Franklin had placed his name to the Treaty of Peace, which acknowledged the independence of his country, he wrote to a friend : " May we never see another war ; for, in my opinion, there never was a good war, nor a bad peace." It was with sincere reluctance, that I here seemed, by a particular allusion, to depart for a moment from so great a theme but the person and the theme here become united. I cannot refrain from the effort to tear this iron branch of War from the golden tree of Christian truth, even though a voice come forth from the breaking bough.

Well may we be astonished, that now in an age of civilization, the God of Battles should be invoked. Deo imperante, QUEM ADESSE BELLANTIBUS CREDUNT, are the appropriate words of surprise, by which Tacitus describes a similar savage superstition of the ancient Germans. *

* De Moribus German, 7.

The polite Roman did not think God present, to cheer those who fight in battle. And this Heathen superstition must at last have lost something of its hold, even in Germany ; for, at a recent period, her most renowned captain whose false Glory procured from flattering courtiers and a barbarous world the title of Great Frederick of Prussia, declared, with a commendable frankness, that he always found the God of Battles on the side of the strongest regiments ; and when it was proposed to adopt as an inscription for his banner, soon to flout the sky of Silesia, " For God and Country," he rejected the first word, declaring that it was not proper to introduce the name of the Deity in the quarrels of men. By this Christian sentiment, the war-worn monarch may be remembered, when the fame of his battles has passed away.

And who is the God of Battles ? It is Mars ; man-slaying, blood-polluted, city-smiting Mars ! *

* Iliad, V. 31.

Him we cannot adore. It is not He who binds the sweet influences of the Pleiades, and looses the bands of Orion ; who causes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust ; who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb ; who distils the oil of gladness upon every upright heart ; the fountain of Mercy and Goodness, the God of Justice and Love. The God of Battles is not the God of Christians ; he is not Our Father in Heaven ; to him can ascend none of the prayers of Christian thanksgiving ; for him there can be no words of worship in Christian temples ; no swelling anthem to peal the note of praise.

And yet Christ and Mars are still brought into fellowship. Let us see them together. There now floats in this harbor a national ship of the line. Many of you have pressed its deck, and observed with admiration the completeness which prevails in all its parts ; its lithe masts and complex network of ropes ; its thick wooden walls, within which are more than the soldiers of Ulysses ; its strong defenses, and its numerous dread and rude-throated engines of War. There each Sabbath, amidst this armament of blood, while the wave comes gently plashing against the frowning sides, from a pulpit supported by a cannon, in repose now, but ready to awake its dormant thunder, charged with death, a Christian preacher addresses the officers and crew ! May his instructions carry strength and succor to their souls ! But in such a place, those highest words of the Master he professes, " Blessed are the Peacemakers ; " " Love your Enemies ; " " Render not evil for evil," must, like Macbeth's " Amen," stick in the throat.

It cannot be doubted that this strange and unblessed conjunction of the Christian clergy with War, has had no little influence in blinding the world to the truth now beginning to be recognized, that Christianity forbids the whole custom of War.

Individual interests are mingled with prevailing errors, and are so far concerned in maintaining them, that it is not surprising how reluctantly military men yield to this truth. They are naturally like lawyers, as described by Voltaire, " the conservators of ancient barbarous usages;" but that these usages especially that the impious Trial by Battle should obtain countenance in the Christian church is one of those anomalies which make us feel the weakness of our nature and the elevation, of Christian truth. It is important to observe, as the testimony of history, that for some time after the Apostles, while the lamp of Christianity burnt pure and bright, not only the Fathers of the church held it unlawful for Christians to bear arms, but those who came within its pale abstained from their use, although at the cost of life, thus renouncing not only the umpirage of War, but even the right of self-defense. Marcellus, the Centurion, threw down his military belt at the head of the legion, and in the face of the standards, declared with a loud voice, that he would no longer serve in the army, for he had become a Christian; others followed his example. It was not until Christianity became corrupted, that its followers became soldiers, and its priests learned to minister at the altar of the God of Battles.

Thee to defend the Moloch priest prefers
The prayer of Hate, and bellows to the herd
That Deity, accomplice Deity,
In the fierce jealousy of waked wrath,
Will go forth with our armies and our fleets
To scatter the red ruin on our foes !
O blasphemy ! to mingle fiendish deeds
With blessedness ! *

* Religious Musings by Coleridge, written Christmas Eve, 1794.

One of the beautiful pictures adorning the dome of a church in Rome, by that master of art, whose immortal colors breathe as with the voice of a poet, the Divine Raffaelle, represents Mars, in the attitude of War, with a drawn sword uplifted and ready to strike, while an unarmed Angel from behind, with gentle but irresistible force, arrests and holds the descending arm. Such is the true image of Christian duty ; nor can I readily perceive the difference in principle between those ministers of the Gospel, who themselves gird on the sword, as in the olden time, and those others, who, unarmed, and in customary suit of solemn black, lend the sanction of their presence to the martial array, or to any form of Preparation for War. The drummer, who pleaded that he did not fight, was held more responsible for the battle than the mere soldier ; for it was the sound of his drum that inflamed the flagging courage of the troops.


4. From prejudices engendered by the Church, I pass to prejudices engendered by the army itself; having their immediate origin in military life, but unfortunately diffusing themselves, in widening though less apparent circles, throughout the community. I allude directly to what is called the point of honor, early child of chivalry, the living representative in our day of an age of barbarism. It is difficult to define what is so evanescent, so impalpable, so chimerical, so unreal, and yet which exercises such fiendish power over many men, and controls the relations of States. As a little water, fallen into the crevice of a rock, under the congelation of winter, swells till it bursts the thick and stony fibres ; so a word or slender act, dropping into the heart of man, under the hardening influence of this pernicious sentiment, dilates till it rends in pieces the sacred depository of human affections, while the demons Hate and Strife, no longer restrained, are let loose abroad. The musing Hamlet saw the strange and unnatural potency of this sentiment, when his soul pictured to his contemplations

the army of such mass and charge, Led by a delicate and tender prince, Exposing what is mortal and unsure To all that fortune, death, and danger dare Even for an egg-shell;

and when he, with a point which has given to the sentiment its strongest and most popular expression, exclaims

Rightly to be great Is not to stir without great argument; But greatly to find quarrel in a straw When honor's at the stake.

And when is Honor at stake ? This question opens again the argument with which I commenced and with which I hope to close this discourse. Honor can be at stake only where justice and beneficence are at stake ; it can never depend on an egg-shell, or a straw ; it can never depend on an impotent word of anger or folly, not even if followed by violence. True Honor appears in the highest moral and intellectual excellence, in the dignity of the human soul, in the nearest approach to those qualities which we reverence as the attributes of God. Our community frowns with indignation upon the profaneness of the duel, which has its rise in this irrational point of honor. Are you aware that you indulge this sentiment, on a gigantic scale, when you recognize this very point of honor as a proper apology for War ? We have already seen that justice is in no respect promoted by War. Is True Honor promoted, where justice is not ?

But the very word Honor, as used by the world, fails to express any elevated sentiment. How infinitely below the sentiment of duty ! It is a word of easy virtue, that has been prostituted to the most opposite characters and transactions. From the field of Pavia, where France suffered one of the greatest reverses in her annals, the defeated king writes to his mother : " All is lost, except honor." At a later day, the renowned cook, Vatel, in a paroxysm of grief and mortification at the failure of two dishes expected on the table, exclaims, " I have lost my honor" and afterwards stabs himself to the heart.*

* The death of the culinary martyr is described by Madame de Sevigne, with the accustomed coldness and brilliancy of her fashionable pen (Lettres L. and LI. Tom. I., p.164). Berchoux records his exclamation "Je suis perdu d'honneur, deux rotis ont manques."

Montesquieu, whose writings are a constellation of epigrams, places honor in direct contrast with virtue, and he calls it a prejudice only. Such as it is, he makes it the animating principle of monarchy, while virtue is the animating principle of a republic ; and he adds that, in well-governed monarchies, almost everybody is a good citizen, but it is rare to meet with a really good man. By an instinct that points to the truth, we do not apply this term to the high columnar virtues which sustain and decorate life, to parental affection, to justice, to the attributes of God. He would seem to borrow a worldly phrase, showing a slight appreciation of the distinctive qualities on which reverence is accorded, who should speak of a father, a mother, a judge, an angel, or finally of God, as persons of honor. In such sacred connections, we feel, beyond the force of any argument, the mundane character of the sentiment which plays such a part in history and in common life.

The rule of honor is founded in the imagined necessity of resenting by force a supposed injury, whether of word or act.*

* This is well exposed in a comedy of Moliere. Don Pedre. Souhaitez-vous quelque chose de moi ? Hali. Oui ; un conseil sur un fait d'honneur. Je sais qu'en ces matieres il est malaise de trouver un cavalier plus consomme que vous. Seigneur, fai refu un soufflet. Vous savez ce qu'est un soufflet, lorsqu'il se donne a main ouverte sur le beau milieu de la joue. J'ai ce soufflet fort sur le coeur ; et Je suis dans Vincertitude si, pour me venger de V affront, je dots me battre avnc mon homme, ou bien lefaire assassiner. Don Pedre. Assassiner c'est le plus sur et le plus court chemin. Moliere, Le Sicilien, So. 13.

Admit that such an injury is received, falsely seeming to sully the character; is it wiped away by a resort to force, with a descent to the brutal level of its author? "Could I wipe your blood from my conscience as easily as this insult from my face," said a Marshal of France, greater on this occasion than on any field of fame, " I would lay you dead at my feet." It is Plato, reporting the angelic wisdom of Socrates, who declares in one of those beautiful dialogues, which shine with stellar light across the ages, that it is more shameful to do a wrong than to receive a wrong.*

* This proposition is enforced by Socrates with unanswerable reasoning and illustration, throughout the whole of the Gorgias, which it appears Cicero read diligently while studying at Athens (De Oratore, I., 11).


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