Page images
PDF
EPUB

War may be considered with a view to its causes and to its conduct.

The justifying causes of war are, deliberate invasions of right, and the necessity of maintaining such a balance of power amongst neighbouring nations, as that no single state, or confederacy of states, be strong enough to overwhelm the rest.The objects of just war are, precaution, defence, or reparation. In a larger sense, every just war is a defensive war, inasmuch as every just war supposes an injury perpetrated, attempted, or feared.

The insufficient causes or unjustifiable motives of war, are the family alliances, the personal friendships, or the personal quarrels, of princes; the internal disputes which are carried on in other na tions; the justice of other wars; the extension of territory, or of trade; the misfortunes or accidental weakness of a neighbouring or rival nation.

""

There are two lessons of rational and sober policy, which, if it were possible to inculcate them into the councils of princes, would exclude many of the motives of war, and allay that restless ambition which is constantly stirring up one part of mankind against another. The first of these lessons admonishes princes to place their glory and their emulation, not in extent of territory, but in raising the greatest quantity of happiness out of a given territory." The enlargement of territory by conquest is not only not a just object of war, but, in the greater part of the instances in which it is attempted, not even desirable. It is certainly not desirable where it adds nothing to the numbers, the enjoyments, or the security, of the conquerors.What commonly is gained to a nation, by the annexing of new dependencies, or the subjugation of other countries, to its dominion, but a wider frontier to defend; more interfering claims to vindicate; more quarrels, more enemies, more rebellions, to encounter; a greater force to keep up by sea and land; more services to provide for, and more establishments to pay? And, in order to draw from these acquisitions something that may make up for the charge of keeping them, a revenue is to be extorted, or a monopoly to be enforced and

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

watched, at an expense which costs half their produce. Thus the provinces are oppressed, in order to pay for being ill-governed; and the original state is exhausted in maintaining a feeble authority over discontented subjects. No assignable portion of country is benefitted by the change; and if the sovereign appear to himself to be enriched or strengthened, when every part of his dominion is made poorer and weaker than it was, it is probable that he is deceived by appearances. Or were it true that the grandeur of the prince is magnified by those exploits; the glory which is purchased, and the ambition which is gratified, by the distress of one country, without adding to the happiness of another, which at the same time enslaves the new and impoverishes the ancient part of the empire, by whatever names it may be known or flattered, ought to be an object of universal execration; and oftentimes not more so to the vanquished, than to the very people whose armies or whose treasures have achieved the victory.

There are, indeed, two cases in which the extension of territory may be of real advantage, and to both parties. The first is, where an empire thereby reaches to the natural boundaries which divide it from the rest of the world. Thus we account the British Channel the natural boundary which separates the nations of England and France; and if France possessed any countries on this, or England any cities or provinces on that, side of the sea, the recovery of such towns and districts to what may be called their natural sovereign, though it may not be a just reason for commencing war, would be a proper use to make of victory. The other case is, where neighbouring states, being severally too small and weak to defend themselves against the dangers that surround them, can only be safe by a strict and constant junction of their gth: here conquest will effect the purposes of on and alliance; and the union which it produces is often more close and permanent than that which results from voluntary association.Thus, if the heptarchy had continued in England, the different kingdoms of it might have separately fallen a prey to foreign invasion: and although the

interest and danger of one part of the island were in truth common to every other part, it might have been difficult to have circulated this persuasion amongst independent nations; or to have united them in any regular or steady opposition to their continental enemies, had not the valour and fortune of an enterprising prince incorporated the whole into a single monarchy. Here the conquered gained as much by the revolution as the conquerors. In like manner, and for the same reason, when the two royal families of Spain were met together in one race of princes, and the several provinces of France had devolved into the possession of single sovereign, it became unsafe for the inhabitants of Great Britain any longer to remain under separate governments. The union of England and Scotland, which transformed two quarrelsome neighbours into one powerful empire, and which was first brought about by the course of succession, and afterward completed by amicable convention, would have been a fortunate conclusion of hostilities, had it been effected by the operations of war. These two cases being admitted, namely, the obtaining of natural boundaries and barriers, and the including under the same government those who have a common danger and a common enemy to guard against; I know not whether a third can be thought of, in which the extension of empire by conquest is useful even to the conquerors.

The second rule of prudence which ought to be recommended to those who conduct the affairs of nations, is "never to pursue national honour as distinct from national interest." This rule acknowledges that it is often necessary to assert the honour of a nation for the sake of its interest. The spirit and courage of a people are supported by flattering their pride. Concessions which betray too much of fear or weakness, though they relate to points of mere ceremony, invite demands and.o hy tacks of more serious importance. Our rule allows all this; and only directs that, when points of honour become subjects of contention between sovereigns, or are likely to be made the occasions of war, they be estimated with a reference to utility, and not by themselves. "The dignity of his

trown, the honour of his flag, the glory of his arms," in the mouth of a prince, are stately and imposing terms; but the ideas they inspire, are insatiable. It may be always glorious to conquer whatever be the justice of the war, or the price of the victory. The dignity of a sovereign may not permit him to recede from claims of homage and respect, at whatever expense of national peace and happiness they are to be maintained; however un just they may have been in their original, or in their continuance however useless to the possessor, or mortifying and vexatious to other states. The pursuit of honour, when set loose from the admonitions of prudence, becomes in kings a wild and romantic passion: eager to engage, and gathering fury in its progress, it is checked by no difficulties, repelled by no dangers; it forgets or despises those considerations of safety, ease, wealth, and plenty, which, in the eye of true public wisdom, compose the objects to which the renown of arms, the fame of victory, are only instrumental and subordinate. The pursuit of interest, on the other hand, is a sober principle; computes costs and consequences; is cautious of entering into war; stops in time; when regulated by those universal maxims of relative justice, which belong to the affairs of communities as well as of private persons, it is the right principle for nations to proceed by; even when it trespasses upon these regulations, it is much less dangerous, because much more temperate, than the other.

II. The conduct of war.-If the cause and end of war be justifiable; all the means that appear necessary to the end, are justifiable also. This is the principle which defends those extremities to which the violence of war usually proceeds: for since war is a contest by force between parties who acknowledge no common superior, and since it includes not in its idea the supposition of any convention which should place limits to the operation of force, it has naturally no boundary but that in which force terminates-the destruction of the life against which the force is directed. Let it be observed, however, that the licence of war authorizes no acts of hostility but what are necessary or conducive to

the end and object of the war. Gratuitous barba rities borrow no excuse from this plea; of which kind is every cruelty and every insult that serves only to exasperate the sufferings, or to incense the hatred, of an enemy, without weakening his strength, or in any manner tending to procure his submission; such as the slaughter of captives, the subjecting of them to indignities or torture, the violation of women, the profanation of temples, the demolition of public buildings, libraries, statues, and in general, the destruction or defacing of works that conduce nothing to annoyance or defence. These enormities are prohibited not only by the practice of civilized nations, but by the law of nature itself; as having no proper tendency to accelerate the termination, or accomplish the object, of the war; and as containing that which in peace and war is equally unjustifiable,-ultimate and gratuitous mischief.

There are other restrictions imposed upon the conduct of war, not by the law of nature primarily, but by the laws of war first, and by the law of nature as seconding and ratifying the laws of war. The laws of war are part of the law of nations; and founded, as to their authority, upon the same principle with the rest of that code, namely, upon the fact of their being established, no matter when or by whom; upon the expectation of their being mutually observed, in consequence of that esta blishment; and upon the general utility which results from such observance. The binding force of these rules is the greater, because the regard that is paid to them must be universal or none. The breach of the rule can only be punished by the subversion of the rule itself: on which account, the whole mischief that ensues from the loss of those salutary restrictions which such rules prescribe, is justly chargeable upon the first aggressor To this consideration may be referred the duty of refraining in war from poison and from assassination. If the law of nature simply be considered, it may be difficult to distinguish between these and other methods of destruction, which are practised without scruple by nations at war. If it be lawful to kill an enemy at all, it seems lawful to do so by

« PreviousContinue »