Friday, November 20, 2009

We Who Dared Say No To War

I just started reading We Who Dared Say No To War, a book of American anti-war writings from 1812 to the present. The book is edited by Tom Woods and Murray Polner. I am enjoying it and have already been very impressed by two particular speeches. The first was by Alexander Campbell, in his "Address on War," given in 1848 in relation to the Mexican-American War, in which the United States gained control of disputed territory in Texas, California, and New Mexico.

The whole speech is excellent, and may be read online. Here is the thrust of his argument:

"(1) The right to take away the life of the murderer does not of itself warrant war, inasmuch as in that case none but the guilty suffer, whereas in war the innocent suffer not only with, but often without, the guilty. The guilty generally make war and the innocent suffer from its consequences.

(2) The right given to the Jews to wage war is not vouchsafed to any other nation, for they were under a theocracy, and were God's sheriff to punish nations; consequently no Christian can argue from the wars of the Jews in justification or in extenuation of the wars of Christendom. The Jews had a Divine precept and authority; no existing nation can produce such a warrant.

(3) The prophecies clearly indicate that the Messiah himself would be "the Prince of Peace," and that under his reign "wars should cease" and "nations study it no more."

(4) The gospel, as first announced by the angels, is a message which results in producing "peace on earth and good will among men."

(5) The precepts of Christianity positively inhibit war - by showing that "wars and fightings come from men's lusts" and evil passions, and by commanding Christians to "follow peace with all men."

(6) The beatitudes of Christ are not pronounced on patriots, heroes, and conquerors but on peacemakers, on whom is conferred the highest rank and title in the universe: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God."

(7) The folly of war is manifest in the following particulars: First. It can never be the criterion of justice of a proof of right. Second. It can never be a satisfactory end of the controversy. Third. Peace is always the result of negotiation, and treaties are its guaranty and pledge.

(8) The wickedness of war is demonstrated in the following particulars:

First. Those who are engaged in killing their brethren, for the most part, have no personal cause of provocation whatever.

Second. They seldom, or never, comprehend the right or the wrong of the war. They, therefore, act without the approbation of conscience.

Third. In all wars the innocent are punished with the guilty.

Fourth. They constrain the soldier to do for the state that which, were he to do it for himself, would, by the law of the state, involve forfeiture of his life.

Fifth. They are the pioneers of all other evils to society, both moral and physical. In the language of Lord Brougham, "Peace, peace, peace! I abominate war as un-Christian. I hold it the greatest of human curses. I deem it to include all others - violence, blood, rapine, fraud, everything that can deform the character, alter the nature, and debase the name of man." Or with Joseph Bonaparte, "War is but organized barbarism - an inheritance of the savage state," With Franklin I, therefore, conclude, "There never was a good war, or a bad peace."

No wonder, then, that for two or three centuries after Christ all Christians refused to bear arms. So depose Justin Martyr, Tatian, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and so forth.

In addition to all these considerations, I further say, were I not a Christian, as a political economist even, I would plead this cause. Apart from the mere claims of humanity, I would urge it on the ground of sound national policy."

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