On War

By William Ellery Channing (1839)

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William Ellery Channing (1780 - 1842) was a prominent Unitarian minister and an intellectual leader in New England. A friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson (and grandson of William Ellery, a signer of the Declaration of Independence), Ellery helped set the tone for the New England Renaissance, along with its religiously-inspired themes of abolition and peace. The cause of peace was a major theme throughout Channings's work, and is treated in numerous other sermons, lectures, writings, and letters.


        Preface and Introduction
        I. The Chief Evil of War
        II. The True Remedy of War
        III. Causes of Insensibility to the Evils of War




THIS LECTURE was delivered in the beginning of the last year (1838). It was prepared with a distinct knowledge of the little interest taken in the subject by the people at large, and was prepared on that very account. It is now published in consequence of fresh proofs of the insensibility of the mass of this community to the crimes and miseries of war. For a few weeks this calamity has been brought distinctly before us: we have been driven by one of the states into a hostile position towards a great European power; and the manner in which the subject has been treated in and out of Congress is a sad proof of the very general want of Christian and philanthropic views of the subject, as well as of strange blindness to our national and individual wellbeing. One would think that the suggestion of a war with England would call forth one strong, general burst of opposing feelings. Can a more calamitous event, with the exception of civil war, be imagined? What other nation can do us equal harm? With what other nation do we hold equally profitable connections? To what other are we bound by such strong and generous ties? We are of one blood. We speak one language. We have a common religion. We have the noble bond of free institutions; and to these two countries, above all others, is the cause of freedom on earth intrusted by Providence. A war with England would, to a great extent, sweep our ships from the seas, cut off our intercourse with the world, shut up our great staples, palsy the spirit of internal improvement, and smite with languor, if not death, our boldest enterprises. It would turn to the destruction of our fellow-creatures vast resources which are now working out for us unparalleled prosperity. It would load us with taxes and public debts, and breed internal discontents, with which a free government contends at fearful odds in the midst of war. Instead of covering the ocean with the sails of a beneficent commerce, we should scour it with privateers, that is, as legalized pirates. Our great cities would be threatened with invasion, and the din of industry in the streets of this metropolis would be stilled. And all this would come upon us at a moment when the country is pressing forward to wealth, greatness, and every kind of improvement, with an impulse, a free, joyous activity, which has no parallel in the history of the world. And these immense sacrifices are to be made for a tract of wild land, perhaps not worth the money which it has cost us within a few weeks past, if we take into account the expenses of Maine, and the losses which the whole country has suffered by interruption of trade.

But this is not all. We are not to suffer alone. We should inflict in such a war deep wounds on England, not only on her armed bands, on her rich merchants, on her widespread interests, but on vast numbers of her poor population, who owe subsistence to the employment furnished by the friendly intercourse of the two countries. Thousands and ten thousands of her laborers would be reduced to want and misery. Nor would it be any mitigation of these evils to a man of humanity that we were at war with the government of England.

And this is not all. A war between these countries would be felt through the whole civilized world. The present bears no resemblance to those half-barbarous ages when nations stood apart, frowning on one another in surly independence. Commerce is binding all nations together, and of this golden chain England and America are the chief links. The relations between these countries cannot become hostile without deranging more or less the intercourse of all other communities, and bringing evils on the whole Christian world.

Nor is this all. War can hardly spring up between two great countries without extending beyond them. This fire naturally spreads. The peace of nations is preserved by a kind of miracle. The addition of a new cause of conflict is always to be dreaded; but never more than at this moment, when communities are slowly adjusting themselves to a new order of things. All nations may be drawn into the conflict which we may thoughtlessly begin; and if so, we shall have to answer for wide and prolonged slaughters from which we should recoil with horror could they be brought plainly before our eyes.

And these evils would be brought on the world at a moment of singular interest and promise to society; after an unparalleled duration of peace; when a higher civilization seems to be dawning on Christendom; when nations are everywhere waking up to develop their own resources; when the conquests of industry, art, and science are taking the place of-those of war; when new facilities of intercourse are bringing countries from their old unsocial distance into neighborhood; and when the greatest of all social revolutions is going on, that is, the elevation of the middling and laboring classes, of the multitude of the human race. To throw the firebrand of war among the nations at this period would be treason against humanity and civilization, as foul as was ever perpetrated. The nation which does this must answer to God and to society for every criminal resistance to the progress of the race. Every year, every day of peace is a gain to mankind, for it adds some strength to the cords which are drawing the nations together. And yet, in the face of all these motives to peace, we have made light of the present danger. How few of us seem to have felt the infinite interests which a war would put in jeopardy! Many have talked of national honor, as duelists talk of their reputation; a few have used language worthy of a mob making a ring to see a fight. Hardly anywhere has a tone worthy of the solemnity of the subject been uttered. National honor! This has been on our lips; as if the true honor of a nation did not consist in earnest, patient efforts for peace, not only for its own sake, but for the sake of humanity; as if this great country, after a long history which has borne witness to its prowess, needed to rush to battle to prove itself no coward! Are we still in the infancy of civilization? Has Christianity no power over us? Can a people never learn the magnanimity of sacrifices to peace and humanity? The vast majority of the community would shrink from this war were it to come nearer. But had we feelings worthy of Christians, should we wait for the evil to stand at our door before waking up to the use of every means for averting it? ... 2

And here I am bound to express my gratitude to the present Chief Magistrate of the Union for his temperate and wise efforts for the preservation of peace. He will feel, I trust, that there is a truer glory in saving a country from war than in winning a hundred battles. Much also is due to the beneficent influence of General Scott. To this distinguished man belongs the rare honor of uniting with military energy and daring the spirit of a philanthropist. His exploits in the field, which placed him in the first rank of our soldiers, have been obscured by the purer and more lasting glory of a pacificator and of a friend of mankind. In the whole history of the intercourse of civilized with barbarous or half-civilized communities we doubt whether a brighter page can be found than that which records his agency in the removal of the Cherokees. As far as the wrongs done to this race can be atoned for, General Scott has made the expiation. In his recent mission to the disturbed borders of our country he has succeeded, not so much by policy as by the nobleness and generosity of his character, by moral influences, by the earnest conviction with which he has enforced on all with whom he had to do the obligations of patriotism, justice, humanity, and religion. It would not be easy to find among us a man who has won a purer fame; and I am happy to offer this tribute, because I would do something, no matter how little, to hasten the time when the spirit of Christian humanity shall be accounted an essential attribute and the brightest ornament in a public man.

I close this preface with a topic which ought not to be set aside as an unmeaning commonplace. We have Christians among us not a few. Have they been true to themselves and their religion in the present agitation of the question of war? Have they spoken with strength and decision? Have they said, We will take no part in a rash, passionate, unnecessary war? Or have they sat still and left the country to parties and politicians? Will they always consent to be the passive tools of the ambitious or designing? Is the time never to come when they will plant themselves on their religion and resolve not to stir an inch in obedience to the policy or legislation of the men of this world? On this topic I have enlarged in the following discourse, and I respectfully ask for it the impartial attention of Christians.


In commencing this lecture on war my thoughts are irresistibly drawn to that exemplary servant of God, the late NOAH WORCESTER, through whose labors, more than through any other cause, the attention of the community has been awakened to the guilt and misery of war. I feel my own obligation to him in this particular. In truth, it was not easy to know him and to escape wholly the influence of his character. So imbued was he with the spirit of peace that it spread itself around him like the fragrance of sweet flowers. Even those within his sphere, who listened at first with distrust or with a feeling approaching opposition, were not seldom overcome by the singular union in his conversation of gentleness, earnestness, and serene wisdom. He did not live in vain. One of my motives for taking part in this course of lectures is my respect for this venerated man. Another and a stronger motive is the fact that, notwithstanding the favorable impression made by his efforts, there is yet comparatively little interest in the subject of peace. It is a reason for setting forth great truths, that skeptics deride them and the multitude pass them by with unconcern. Dr. Worcester was not roused by the shouts of a crowd to lift up his voice in behalf of peace. He did not postpone his testimony to "a more convenient season." He was as "one crying in the wilderness." He began his ministry amidst the triumphs of the spirit of war. He took counsel not of men, but of the divine oracle in his own breast. The truth, which was burning as a fire within him, he could not but give forth. He had faith in it. He had faith in God, its inspirer. So ought we to trust. So ought we to bear a more fervent witness to truth, on the very ground that it is unpopular, neglected, despised.

In the following lecture I shall aim to set forth the chief evil of war, to set forth its great remedy, and then to point out some of the causes of the faint impression made by its woes and crimes.

Before entering on these topics I would offer one or two remarks. In speaking, as I propose to do, of the evils of war, I have no thought of denying that war has sometimes done good. There is no unmixed evil in the universe. Providence brings good from everything, from fearful sufferings, from atrocious crimes. But sufferings and crimes are not therefore to be set down among our blessings. Murder sometimes cuts short the life and triumphs of a monster of guilt. Robbery may throw into circulation the useless hoards of a miser. Despotism may subdue an all-wasting anarchy. But we do not therefore canonize despotism, robbery, and murder. In fierce ages, when common life is made up of violence and borders on bloodshed, when piracy is an honorable trade and a stranger is a foe, war, by accumulating force in the hands of an able chieftain, may gather many petty tribes under one iron will, and thus a state may be founded, and its rude organization may prove a germ of social order. In later times war may carry into less civilized regions the influences, knowledge, arts, and religion of more cultivated nations. Above, all, war may call forth, in those whom it assails, an indignant patriotism, a fervent public spirit, a generous daring, and heroic sacrifices, which testify to the inborn greatness of human nature; just as great vices, by the horror with which they thrill us, and by the reaction they awaken, often give strength to the moral sentiments of a community. These, however, are the incidental influences of war. Its necessary fruits are crime and woe. To enthrone force above right is its essential character; and order, freedom, civilization, are its natural prey. Besides, the benefits of war, such as they are, belong to unrefined ages, when the passions, if not expended in public conflicts, would break out in worse forms of rapine and lust, and when one nation can act on another only by violence. Society, in its present stage, stands in need of war no more than of the ordeal, the rack, the inquisition, the baronial license of the middle ages. All these monuments and ministers of barbarism should be buried in one grave.

I. The Chief Evil of War

I now proceed to consider, first, as I proposed, the chief evil of war. The chief evil of war! What is it? What induces us to place war at the head of human calamities? In replying to these questions I shall not direct you to the physical sufferings of war, however great or terrible. Death in its most agonizing forms, the overthrow of proud cities, the devastation of fruitful fields, the impoverishing of nations, famine, pestilence, — these form the train of victorious war. But these are not the distinguishing evils of war. These are inflictions of other causes much more than of war. Other causes are wasting human life and joy more than battles. Millions, indeed, die by the sword, but these millions are as nothing compared with the countless multitudes who die by slow and painful disease. Cities are overthrown by earthquakes as well as by armies, and more frequently swept by accidental conflagrations than by the flames of war. Hostile bands ravage the fields; but how much oftener do whirlwinds, storms, hurricanes rush over land and sea, prostrating harvests and destroying the labors of years on a scale so vast as to reduce human devastations to a narrow extent! The truth is, that man is surrounded with mighty powers of nature which he cannot comprehend or withstand; and, amidst their beneficent operations, all of them inflict much suffering. What distinguishes war is not that man is slain, but that he is slain, spoiled, crushed by the cruelty, the injustice, the treachery, the murderous hand of man. The evil is moral evil. War is the concentration of all human crimes. Here is its distinguishing, accursed brand. Under its standard gather violence, malignity, rage, fraud, perfidy, rapacity, and lust. If it only slew men, it would do little. It turns man into a beast of prey. Here is the evil of war, that man, made to be the brother, becomes the deadly foe of his kind; that man, whose duty it is to mitigate suffering, makes the infliction of suffering his study and end ; that man, whose office it is to avert and heal the wounds which come from nature's powers, makes researches into nature's laws and arms himself with her most awful forces, that he may become the destroyer of his race. Nor is this all. There is also found in war a coldhearted indifference to human miseries and wrongs, perhaps more shocking than the bad passions it calls forth. To my mind this contempt of human nature is singularly offensive. To hate expresses something like respect. But in war man treats his brother as nothing worth, sweeps away human multitudes as insects, tramples them down as grass, mocks at their rights, and does not deign a thought to their woes.

These remarks show us the great evil of war. It is moral evil. The field of battle is a theater, got up at immense cost, for the exhibition of crime on a grand scale. There the hell within the human breast blazes out fiercely and without disguise. A more fearful hell in any region of the universe cannot well be conceived. There the fiends hold their revels and spread their fury.

To many the physical evils of war are more striking than the moral. The outward impresses multitudes more than the inward. It is because they cannot look inward, because they are too earthly and sensual to see and comprehend the deformity of a selfish, unjust, malignant soul. The outward evils of life are emblems of the inward, and are light when severed from these. The saddest view of war is, that it is the breaking out of the human heart, revealing there what is more awful than the miseries which it inflicts. The death groan is fearful; but how much more appalling the spirit of murder which extorts it!

Suppose two multitudes of men, each composed of thousands, meeting from different countries, but meeting not to destroy but to consult and labor for the good of the race; and suppose them, in the midst of their deliberations, to be smitten suddenly by some mysterious visitation of God, and their labors to be terminated by immediate death. We should be awe-struck by this strange, sudden, widespread ruin. But reflection would teach us that this simultaneous extinction of life in so many of our race was but an anticipation or peculiar fulfillment of the sentence passed on all mankind; and a tender reverence would spring up as we should think of so many generous men coming together from so many different regions, in the spirit of human brotherhood, to be wrapped in one pall, to sleep in one grave. We should erect a monument on the solemn spot — but chiefly to commemorate the holy purpose which had gathered them from their scattered abodes; and we should write on it, "To the memory of a glorious company, suddenly taken from God's ministry on earth to enter again, a blessed brotherhood, on a higher ministry in heaven." Here you have death sweeping away hosts in a moment. But how different from death in a field of battle, where man meets man as a foe, where the countenance flashes rage and the arm is nerved for slaughter, where brother hews down brother, and where thousands are sent unprepared, in the moment of crime, to give their account! When nature's laws, fulfilling the mysterious will of God, inflict death on the good, we bow, we adore, we give thanks. How different is death from the murderous hand of man!

Allow me to make another supposition, which may bring out still more strongly the truth on which I now insist, that the great evil of war is inward, moral; that its physical woes, terrible as they may be, are light by the side of this. Suppose, then, that in traveling through a solitary region, you should catch the glimpse of a distant dwelling. You approach it eagerly in the hope of hearing a welcome after your weary journey. As you draw nigh, an ominous stillness damps your hope; and on entering, you see the inmates of the house, a numerous family, stretched out motionless and without life. A wasting pestilence has in one day made their dwelling a common tomb. At first you are thrilled with horror by the sight; but as you survey the silent forms you see on all their countenances, amidst traces of suffering, an expression of benignity. You see some of the dead lying side by side, with hands mutually entwined, showing that the last action of life was a grasp of affection, whilst some lie locked in one another's arms. The mother's cold lips are still pressed to the cheek of the child, and the child's arms still wind round the neck of the mother. In the forms of others you see no ambiguous proof that the spirit took its flight in the act of prayer. As you look on these signs of love and faith, stronger than the last agony, what a new feeling steals over you! Your horror subsides. Your eyes are suffused with tears, not of anguish, but of sympathy, affection, tender reverence. You feel the spot to be consecrated. Death becomes lovely, like the sleep of infancy. You say, Blessed family, death hath not divided you!

With soothed and respectful sorrow you leave this resting place of the good, and another dwelling, dimly descried in the horizon, invites your steps. As you approach it the same stillness is an augury of a like desolation, and you enter it expecting to see another family laid low by the same mysterious disease. But you open the door, and the spectacle freezes your blood and chains your steps to the threshold. On every face you see the distortion of rage. Every man's hand grasps a deadly weapon; every breast is gored with wounds. Here lies one, rived asunder by a sword. There two are locked together, but in the death grapple of hatred, not the embrace of love. Here lies woman, trampled on and polluted, and there the child, weltering in his own blood. You recoil with horror as soon as the sickness of the heart will suffer you to move. The deadly steam of the apartment oppresses, overpowers you, as if it were the suffocating air of hell. You are terror-struck, as if through the opening earth you had sunk into the abode of fiends; and when the time for reflection comes, and you recall the blessed habitation you had just before left, what a conviction rushes on you that nothing deserves the name of woe but that which crime inflicts! You feel that there is a sweetness, loveliness, sacredness in suffering and death when these are pervaded by holy affections; and that infinite wretchedness and despair gather over these when springing from unholy passion, when bearing the brand of crime.

In these remarks I do not mean to deny that the physical sufferings of war are great and should incite us to labor for its abolition. But sufferings, separate from crime, coming not through man's wickedness but from the laws of nature, are not unmixed evils. They have a ministry of love. God has ordained them, that they should bind men to one another, that they should touch and soften the human heart, that they should call forth mutual aid, solace, gratitude, and self-forgetting love. Sorrow is the chief cement of souls. Death, coming in the order of nature, gathers round the sufferer sympathizing, anxious friends, who watch day and night, with suffused eyes and heart-breathed prayer, to avert or mitigate the last agonies. It calls up tender recollections, inspires solemn thought, rebukes human pride, obscures the world's glories, and speaks of immortality. From the still deathbed, what softening, subduing, chastening, exalting influences proceed! But death in war, death from the hand of man, sears the heart and conscience, kills human sympathies, and scatters the thought of judgment to come. Man dying in battle, unsolaced, unpitied, and a victim to hatred, rapacity, and insatiable ambition, leaves behind him wrongs to be revenged. His blood does not speak peace or speak of heaven, but sends forth a maddening cry, and exasperates survivors to new struggles.

Thus war adds to suffering the unutterable weight of crime, and defeats the holy and blessed ministry which all suffering is intended to fulfill. When I look back on the ages of conflict through which the race has passed, what most moves me is not the awful amount of suffering which war has inflicted. This may be borne. The terrible thought is that this has been the work of crime; that men, whose great law is love, have been one another's butchers; that God's children have stained his beautiful earth, made beautiful for their home, with one another's blood; that the shriek which comes to us from all regions and ages has been extorted by human cruelty; that man has been a demon and has turned earth into hell. All else may be borne. It is this which makes history so horrible a record to the benevolent mind.

II. The True Remedy of War

I have now set before you what I deem the chief evil of war. It is moral evil. And from these views you will easily judge what I regard as the true remedy of war, as the means of removing it, which above all others we should employ. If the most terrible view of war be that it is the triumph and jubilee of selfish and malignant passions, then its true cure is to be sought in the diffusion of the principles of universal justice and love, in that spirit of Jesus Christ which expels the demons of selfishness and malignity from the heart. Even supposing that war could be abolished by processes which leave the human character unchanged, that it could be terminated by the progress of a civilization which, whilst softening manners, would not diminish the selfishness, mercenariness, hard-heartedness, fraud, ambition of men, its worst evils would still remain, and society would reap in some other forms the fruits of its guilt. God has ordained that the wickedness within us shall always find its expression and punishment in outward evil. War is nothing more than a reflection or image of the soul. It is the fiend within coming out. Human history is nothing more than the inward nature manifested in its native acts and issues. Let the soul continue unchanged; and should war cease, the inward plague would still find its way to the surface. The infernal fire at the center of our being, though it should not break forth in the wasting volcano, would not slumber, but by other eruptions, more insensible yet not less deadly, would lay waste human happiness. I do not believe, however, that any remedy but the Christian spirit can avail against war. The wild beast that has gorged on millions of victims in every age is not to be tamed by a polished or selfish civilization. Selfishness, however drilled into courtesy, always tends to strife. Man, as long as possessed by it, will sacrifice others to his own interest and glory, and will grow angry and fierce when others stand in his way.

War will never yield but to the principles of universal justice and love; and these have no sure root but in the religion of Jesus Christ. Christianity is the true remedy for war, not Christianity in name, not such Christianity as we see, not such as has grown up under arbitrary governments in church and state, not such as characterizes any Christian sect at the present day, but Christianity as it lived in the soul and came forth in the life of its Founder; a religion that reveals man as the object of God's infinite love, and which commends him to the unbounded love of his brethren; a religion, the essence of which is self-denial, self-sacrifice, in the cause of human nature; a religion which proscribes, as among the worst sins, the passion of man for rule and dominion over his fellow-creatures; which knows nothing of rich or poor, high or low, bond or free, and casts down all the walls of partition which sever men from one another's sympathy and respect.

Christian love alone can supplant war; and this love is not a mere emotion, a tenderness awakened by human suffering, but an intelligent, moral, spiritual love, a perception and deep feeling of the sacredness of human nature, a recognition of the inalienable rights, the solemn claims, of every human being. It protests fearlessly against all wrong, no matter how obscure the victim. It desires to lift up each and all, no matter how fallen. It is a sympathy with the spiritual principle dwelling under every human form. This is the love which is to conquer war; and as yet this has been but little diffused. The Quakers, indeed, have protested against war as unchristian, but have done little towards bringing into clear light, and sending forth with new power, the spirit to which war is to yield. Cutting themselves off by outward peculiarities from the community, secluding themselves from ordinary intercourse through fear of moral infection, living almost as a separate race, they have been little felt in society; they have done little to awaken that deep religious interest in man as man, that sensibility to his rights, that hatred of all wrong, that thirst for the elevation of every human being, in which Christian love finds its truest manifestation. Every sect has as yet been too imbued with the spirit of sects, and has inherited too largely the exclusiveness of past ages, to understand or spread the true spirit of human brotherhood. The love which Christ breathes, which looks through man's body to the immortal spirit, which sees something divine in the rational and moral powers of the lowest human being, and which challenges for the lowest the sympathy, respect, and fostering aid of his race; this has been rare, and yet it is only by the gradual diffusion of this that the plague of war can be stayed. This reverence for humanity, could it even prevail through a narrow sphere, could it bind together but a small body of men, would send forth a testimony against war which would break the slumber of the Christian world, and which would strike awe into many a contemner of his race.

I am aware that others are hoping for the abolition of war by other causes; and other causes, I am aware, must be brought into action. I only say that, unless joined with the spirit of Christianity, they give no assurance of continued repose. This thought I would briefly illustrate.

The present unusual cessation of arms in the Christian world is to some a promise of a happier era in human affairs. It is, indeed, a cheering fact, and may well surprise us when we consider how many causes of war have been in action, how many threatening clouds have overcast the political sky during the pause of war. But if we examine the causes of this tranquillity we shall learn not to confide in it too strongly.

The first cause was the exhaustion in which Europe was left by the bloody conflicts of the French Revolution. The nations, worn out with struggles, wasted by successive invasions, and staggering under an unprecedented load of debt, yearned for repose. The strong man had bled too freely to fight more. For years poverty has kept the peace in Europe. One of the fruits of civilization is the increasing expensiveness of war, so that when the voice of humanity cannot be heard, the hollow sound of an empty treasury is a warning which cannot be slighted. This cause of peace is evidently temporary. Nations resting from exhaustion may be expected to renew their pernicious activity when their strength is renewed.

Another cause of the continuance of peace is undoubtedly the extension of new and profitable relations through the civilized world. Since the pacification of Europe in 1816, a new impulse has been given to industry. The discoveries of science have been applied with wonderful success to the useful arts. Nations have begun in earnest to develop their resources. Labor is discovered to be the grand conqueror, enriching and building up nations more surely than the proudest battles. As a necessary result of this new impulse, commerce has been wonderfully enlarged. Nations send the products of their soil and machinery where once they sent armies; and such a web of common interests has been woven that hostilities can spring up in no corner of the civilized world without deranging in a measure the order and industry of every other state. Undoubtedly we have here a promise of peace; but let us not be too sanguine. We have just begun this career, and we know not its end. Let wealth grow without a corresponding growth of the temperate, just, and benevolent spirit of Christianity, and I see few auguries but of evil. Wealth breeds power, and power always tempts to wrong. Communities which at once grow rich and licentious breed desperate men, unprincipled adventurers, restless spirits, who unsettle social order at home, who make freedom a cloak and instrument of ambition, and find an interest in embroiling their country with foreign foes. Another consequence of growing prosperity is the rapid growth of population; and this, in the absence of Christian restraints and Christian principles, tends to pauperism and crime, tends to make men cheap, and to destroy the sacredness of human life; and communities are tempted to throw off this dangerous load, this excess of numbers, in foreign war. In truth, the vices which fester in the bosom of a prosperous, licentious, over-peopled state are hardly less fearful than those of war, and they naturally seek and find their punishment in this awful calamity. Let us not speak of industry, commerce, and wealth as insuring peace. Is commerce never jealous and grasping? Have commercial states no collisions? Have commercial rights never drawn the sword in self-defense? Are not such states a tempting prey? And have they no desire to prey on others? Does trade cherish nothing analogous to the spirit of war in ordinary pursuits? Is there no fighting on the exchange? Is bargaining nothing but friendship and peace? Why, then, expect from trade alone peace among nations? Nothing, nothing can bind nations together but Christian justice and love. I insist on this the more earnestly because it is the fashion now to trust for every good to commerce, industry, and the wonderful inventions which promise indefinite increase of wealth. But to improve man's outward condition is not to improve man himself, and this is the sole ground of hope. With all our ingenuity we can frame no machinery for manufacturing wisdom, virtue, peace. Railroads and steamboats cannot speed the soul to its perfection. This must come, if it come at all, from each man's action on himself, from putting forth our power on the soul and not over nature, from a sense of inward not outward miseries, from "hunger and thirst after righteousness," not after wealth. I should rejoice, like the prophet, "to bring glad tidings, to publish peace." But I do fear that, without some great spiritual revolution, without some new life and love breathed into the church, without some deep social reforms, men will turn against each other their new accumulations of power; that their wealth and boasted inventions will be converted into weapons of destruction; that the growing prosperity of nations will become the nutriment of more wasteful wars, will become fuel for more devouring fires of ambition or revenge.

Another cause of the recent long cessation of foreign wars has been the dread of internal convulsions, of civil wars. The spirit of revolution has more or less penetrated the whole civilized world. The grand idea of human rights has found its way even into despotisms. Kings have less confidence in their subjects and soldiers. They have felt their thrones totter, and have felt that a disastrous war would expose them to a force more terrible than that of victorious foes, — the force of burning discontent, exasperated opinion at home. It is understood that the next general war will be a war not of nations but of principles, that absolutism must measure swords with liberalism, despotism with free constitutions; and from this terrible encounter both parties recoil. We indeed believe that, with or without war, liberal principles and institutions are destined to advance, to make the conquest of Europe; and it is thought that these, being recognitions of human rights, will be less prodigal of human blood than absolute power. But can we hope that these, unsanctioned, unsustained by the Christian spirit, will insure peace? What teaches our own experience? Because free, have we no wars? What, indeed, is the free spirit of which we so much boast? Is it not much more a jealousy of our own rights than a reverence for the rights of all? Does it not consist with the inflictions of gross wrongs? Does it not spoil the Indian? Does it not enslave, the African? Is it not anxious to spread bondage over new regions? Who can look on this free country, distracted by parties, rent by local jealousies, in some districts administering justice by mobs and silencing speech and the press by conflagration and bloodshed, — who can see this free country and say that liberal opinions and institutions are of themselves to banish war? Nowhere are the just, impartial, disinterested principles of Christianity so much needed as in a free state. Nowhere are there more elements of strife to be composed, more passions to be curbed, more threatened wrongs to be repressed. Freedom has its perils as well as inestimable blessings. In loosening outward restraints, it demands that justice and love be enthroned within man's soul. Without Christian principle, freedom may swell the tide of tumult and war.

One other cause will probably be assigned by some for the long cessation of hostilities in the civilized world; and that is the greater success of statesmen in securing that long-bought good among nations, the balance of power. Be it so. But how soon may this balance be disturbed? How does it tremble now? Europe has long been threatened by the disproportionate growth of Russia. In the north of Europe is silently growing up a power which, many fear, is one day to grasp at universal empire. The south, it is said, is to fulfill its old destiny, that is, to fall a prey to the north. All Europe is interested in setting bounds to this half-civilized despotism. But the great absolute powers, Prussia and Austria, dreading more the progress of liberal opinions than of Russian hordes, may rather throw themselves into her scale, and be found fighting with her the battles of legitimacy against free institutions. It is true that many wise men dismiss these fears as vain, and believe that the ill-cemented union of the provinces, or rather nations, which compose the colossal empire of the north, cannot endure or at least will admit no steady prosecution of schemes of domination. I presume not to read the future. My single object is to show the uncertainty of all means of abolishing war, unless joined with and governed by the spreading spirit of our disinterested faith. No calculations of interest, no schemes of policy can do the work of love, of the spirit of human brotherhood. There can be no peace without but through peace within. Society must be an expression of the souls of its members. Man's character molds his outward lot. His destiny is woven by the good or evil principles which bear rule in his breast. I indeed attach importance to all the causes of peace which I have now stated. They are far from powerless; but their power will be spent in vain unless aided by mightier and diviner energy, by the force of moral and religious principles, the strength of disinterested love.

III. Causes of Insensibility to the Evils of War

I have now considered the great evil of war and the great remedy of this scourge of nations, and I proceed, as proposed, to point out some causes of that insensibility to its evils, so common in the world, and so common even among those from whom better things might be hoped; and this I do, not to gratify a love of speculation, but in the belief that this insensibility will be resisted and overcome, in proportion as its sources shall be explained.

Among its chief causes, one undoubtedly is the commonness of war. This hardens us to its evils. Its horrors are too familiar to move us unless they start up at our own door. How much more would they appall us were they rare? If the history of the race were, with one solitary exception, a history of peace, concord, brotherly love; if but one battle had been fought in the long succession of ages; if from the bosom of profound tranquillity two armies on one fatal day had sprung forth and rushed together for mutual destruction; if but one spot on earth had been drenched with human blood shed by human hands, — how different would be our apprehensions of war! What a fearful interest would gather round that spot! How would it remain deserted, dreaded, abhorred! With what terrible distinctness would the leaders of those armies stand out as monsters, not men! How should we confound them with Moloch and the fiercest fallen spirits! Should we not feel as if on that mysterious day the blessed influences of heaven had been intercepted, and a demoniacal frenzy had been let loose on the race? And has war in becoming common lost its horrors? Is it less terrible because its Molochs crowd every page of history and its woes and crimes darken all nations and all times? Do base or ferocious passions less degrade and destroy because their victims are unnumbered? If, indeed, the evils of war were only physical, and were inevitable, we should do well to resign ourselves to that kindly power of habit which takes the edge from oft-repeated pains. But moral evils, evils which may and ought to be shunned, which have their spring in human will, which our higher powers are given us to overcome, these it is a crime unresistingly to endure. The frequency and strength of these are more urgent reasons for abhorring and withstanding them. Reflection should be summoned to resist the paralyzing power of habit. From principle we should cherish a deeper horror of war, because its "sword devours forever."

I proceed to a second cause of insensibility to the evils of war, and one of immense power. I refer to the common and almost universal belief that the right of war belongs to civil government. Let us be just to human nature. The idea of "right" has always mixed itself with war, and this has kept out of view the real character of most of the conflicts of nations. The sovereign, regarding the right of war as an essential attribute of sovereignty, has on this ground ascribed a legitimacy to all national hostilities, and has never dreamed that in most of his wars he was a murderer. So the subject has thought himself bound to obey his sovereign, and on this ground has acquitted himself of crime, has perhaps imputed to himself merit, in fighting and slaughtering for the defense of the most iniquitous claims. Here lies the delusion which we should be most anxious to remove. It is the legality ascribed to war, on account of its being waged by government, which produces insensibility to its horrors and crimes. When a notorious robber, seized by Alexander, asked the conqueror of the world whether he were not a greater robber than himself, the spirit of the hero repelled the title with indignation. And why so? Had he not, without provocation and cause, spoiled cities and realms, whilst the robber had only plundered individuals and single dwellings? Had he not slaughtered ten thousand innocent fellow-creatures for one victim who had fallen under the Jobber's knife? And why, then, did the arch-robber disclaim the name, and seriously believe that he could not justly be confounded with ruffians? Because he was a king, the head of a state, and as such authorized to make war. Here was the shelter for his conscience and his fame. Had the robber, after addressing his question to Alexander, turned to the Macedonian soldier, and said to him, " Are you not, too, a greater robber than I? Have not your hands been busier in pillage? Are they not dyed more deeply in innocent blood?" The unconscious soldier, like his master, would have repelled the title. And why? "I am a subject," he would have replied, "and bound to obey my sovereign; and in fulfilling a duty I cannot be sunken to the level of the most hated criminal." Thus king and subject take refuge in the right of war which inheres in sovereignty, and thus the most terrible crimes are perpetrated with little reproach.

I need not tell you that there are Christians who, to strip war of this pretext or extenuation, deny that this right exists; who teach that Jesus Christ has wrested the sword from the magistrate as truly as from the private man. On this point I shall not now enter. I believe that more good may be done in the present instance by allowing to government the right of war. I still maintain that most wars bring the guilt of murder on the government by whom they are declared, and on the soldier by whom they are carried on, so that our sensibility ought in no degree to be impaired by the supposed legitimacy of national hostilities.

I will allow that government has the right of war. But a right has bounds, and when these are transgressed by us it ceases to exist; and we are as culpable as if it had never existed. The private citizen, it is generally acknowledged, has the right of taking life in self-defense; but if, under plea of this right, he should take life without cause, he would not stand absolved of murder. In like manner, though government be authorized to make war in self-defense, it still contracts the guilt of murder if it proclaim war from policy, ambition, or revenge. By the Constitution of this country various rights are conferred on Congress for the public good; and should they extend these rights beyond the limits prescribed by the national charter, for purposes of cruelty, rapacity, and arbitrary power, they would be as treacherous, as criminal, as if they had laid claim to unconceded rights. Now, stricter bounds are set to the right of war than those which the Constitution has prescribed to the rulers. A higher authority than man's defines this terrible prerogative. Woe! woe to him who impatiently, selfishly spurns the restraints of God, and who winks out of sight the crime of sending forth the sword to destroy, because as a sovereign he has the right of war.

From its very nature this right should be exercised above all others anxiously, deliberately, fearfully. It is the right of passing sentence of death on thousands of our fellow-creatures. If any action on earth ought to be performed with trembling, with deep prostration before God, with the most solemn inquisition into motives, with the most reverent consultation of conscience, it is a declaration of war. This stands alone among acts of legislation. It has no parallel. These few words, "Let war be," have the power of desolation which belongs to earthquakes and lightnings; they may stain the remotest seas with blood; may wake the echoes of another hemisphere with the thunders of artillery; may carry anguish into a thousand human abodes. No scheme of aggrandizement, no doubtful claims, no uncertain fears, no anxiety to establish a balance of power, will justify this act. It can find no justification but in plain, stern necessity, in unquestionable justice, in persevering wrongs, which all other and long-tried means have failed to avert. Terrible is the responsibility, beyond that of all others, which falls on him who involves nations in war. He has no excuse for rashness, passion, or private ends. He ought at such a moment to forget, to annihilate himself.The spirit of God and justice should alone speak and act through him. To commit this act rashly, passionately, selfishly, is to bring on himself the damnation of a thousand murders. An act of legislation, commanding fifty thousand men to be assembled on yonder common, there to be shot, stabbed, trampled under horses' feet until their shrieks and agonies should end in death, would thrill us with horror: and such an act is a declaration of war; and a government which can perform it without the most solemn sense of responsibility and the clearest admonitions of duty deserves, in expiation of its crime, to endure the whole amount of torture which it has inflicted on its fellow-creatures.

I have said a declaration of war stands alone. There is one act which approaches it, and which, indeed, is the very precedent on which it is founded. I refer to the signing of a death warrant by a chief magistrate. In this case how anxious is society that the guilty only should suffer! The offender is first tried by his peers and allowed the benefit of skillful counsel. The laws are expounded and the evidence weighed by learned and upright judges; and when, after these protections of innocence, the unhappy man is convicted, he is still allowed to appeal for mercy to the highest authority of the state, and to enforce his own cry by solicitations of friends and the people; and when all means of averting his doom fail, religion, through her ministers, enters his cell, to do what yet can be done for human nature in its most fallen, miserable state. Society does not cast from its bosom its most unworthy member without reluctance, without grief, without fear of doing wrong, without care for his happiness. But wars, by which thousands of the unoffending and worthiest perish, are continually proclaimed by rulers, in madness, through ambition, through infernal policy, from motives which should rank them with the captains of pirate ships or leaders of banditti.

It is time that the right of war should not shield governments from the infamy due to hostilities to which selfish, wicked passions give birth. Let rulers learn that for this right they are held to a fearful responsibility. Let a war not founded in plain justice and necessity never be named but as murder. Let the Christian give articulate voice to the blood that cries from the earth against rulers by whom it has been criminally shed. Let no soft terms be used. On this subject a new moral sense and a new language are needed throughout the whole civilized and Christian world; and just in proportion as the truth shall find a tongue war will cease.

But the right of war, which is said to belong to sovereignty, not only keeps out of sight the enormous guilt of rulers in almost all national conflicts; it also hides or extenuates the frequent guilt of subjects in taking part in the hostilities which their rulers declare. In this way much of the prevalent insensibility to the evils of war is induced, and perhaps on no point is light more needed. The ferocity and cruelty of armies impress us little, because we look on them as doing a work of duty. The subject or citizen, as we think, is bound to obey his rulers. In his worst deeds as a soldier he is discharging his obligations to the state; and thus murder and pillage, covered with a cloak of duty, excite no deep, unaffected reprobation and horror.

I know it will be asked: "And is not the citizen bound to fight at the call of his government? Does not his commission absolve him from the charge of murder or enormous crime? Is not obedience to the sovereign power the very foundation on which society rests?" I answer: "Has the duty of obeying government no bounds? Is the human sovereign a God? Is his sovereignty absolute? If he command you to slay a parent, must you obey? If he forbid you to worship God, must you obey? Have you no right to judge his acts? Have you no self-direction? Is there no unchangeable right which the ruler cannot touch? Is there no higher standard than human law?" These questions answer themselves. A declaration of war cannot sanction wrong or turn murder into a virtuous deed. Undoubtedly, as a general rule, the citizen is bound to obey the authorities under which he lives. No difference of opinion as to the mere expediency of measures will warrant opposition. Even in cases of doubtful right he may submit his judgment to the law. But when called to do what his conscience clearly pronounces wrong, he must not waver. No outward law is so sacred as the voice of God in his own breast. He cannot devolve on rulers an act so solemn as the destruction of fellow-beings convicted of no offense. For no act will more solemn inquisition be made at the bar of God.

I maintain that the citizen, before fighting, is bound to inquire into the justice of the cause which he is called to maintain with blood, and bound to withhold his hand if his conscience condemn the cause. On this point he is able to judge. No political question, indeed, can be determined so easily as this of war. War can be justified only by plain, palpable necessity; by unquestionable wrongs, which, as patient trial has proved, can in no other way be redressed; by the obstinate, persevering invasion of solemn and unquestionable rights. The justice of war is not a mystery for cabinets to solve. It is not a state secret which we must take on trust. It lies within our reach. We are bound to examine it.

We are especially bound to this examination because there is always a presumption against the justice of war; always reason to fear that it is condemned by impartial conscience and God. This solemn truth has peculiar claims on attention. It takes away the plea that we may innocently fight because our rulers have decreed war. It strips off the most specious disguise from the horrors and crimes of national hostilities. If hostilities were as a general rule necessary and just, if an unjust war were a solitary exception, then the citizen might extenuate his share in the atrocities of military life by urging his obligation to the state. But if there is always reason to apprehend the existence of wrong on the part of rulers, then he is bound to pause and ponder well his path. Then he advances at his peril, and must answer for the crimes of the unjust, unnecessary wars in which he shares.

The presumption is always against the justice and necessity of war. This we learn from the spirit of all rulers and nations towards foreign states. It is partial, unjust. Individuals may be disinterested, but nations have no feeling of the tie of brotherhood to their race. A base selfishness is the principle on which the affairs of nations are commonly conducted. A statesman is expected to take advantage of the weaknesses and wants of other countries. How loose a morality governs the intercourse of states! What falsehoods and intrigues are licensed diplomacy! What nation regards another with true friendship? What nation makes sacrifices to another's good? What nation is as anxious to perform its duties as to assert its rights? What nation chooses to suffer wrong rather than to inflict it? What nation lays down the everlasting law of right, casts itself fearlessly on its principles, and chooses to be poor or to perish rather than to do wrong? Can communities so selfish, so unfriendly, so unprincipled, so unjust, be expected to wage righteous wars? Especially if with this selfishness are joined national prejudices, antipathies, and exasperated passions, what else can be expected in the public policy but inhumanity and crime? An individual, we know, cannot be trusted in his own cause to measure his own claims, to avenge his own wrongs; and the civil magistrate, an impartial umpire, has been substituted as the only means of justice. But nations are even more unfit than individuals to judge in their own cause, more prone to push their rights to excess and to trample on the rights of others, because nations are crowds, and crowds are unawed by opinion and more easily inflamed by sympathy into madness. Is there not, then, always a presumption against the justice of war?

This presumption is increased when we consider the false notions of patriotism and honor which prevail in nations. Men think it a virtuous patriotism to throw a mantle, as they call it, over their country's infirmities, to wink at her errors, to assert her most doubtful rights, to look jealously and angrily on the prosperity of rival states; and they place her honor not in unfaltering adherence to the right, but in a fiery spirit, in quick resentment, in martial courage, and especially in victory; and can a good man hold himself bound and stand prepared to engage in war at the dictate of such a state?

The citizen or subject, you say, may innocently fight at the call of his rulers; and I ask, Who are his rulers? Perhaps an absolute sovereign, looking down on his people as another race, as created to toil for his pleasure, to fight for new provinces, to bleed for his renown. There are, indeed, republican governments. But were not the republics of antiquity as greedy of conquest, as prodigal of human life, as steeled against the cries of humanity, as any despots who ever lived? And if we come down to modern republics, are they to be trusted with our consciences? What does the Congress of these United States represent? Not so much the virtue of the country as a vicious principle, the spirit of party. It acts not so much for the people as for parties; and are parties upright? Are parties merciful? Are the wars to which party commits a country generally just?

Unhappily, public men under all governments are of all moral guides the most unsafe, the last for a Christian to follow. Public life is thought to absolve men from the strict obligations of truth and justice. To wrong an adverse party or another country is not reprobated as are wrongs in private life. Thus duty is dethroned; thus the majesty of virtue insulted in the administration of nations. Public men are expected to think more of their own elevation than of their country. Is the city of Washington the most virtuous spot in this republic? Is it the school of incorruptible men? The hall of Congress, disgraced by so many brawls, swayed by local interest and party intrigues, in which the right of petition is trodden under foot, is this the oracle from which the responses of justice come forth? Public bodies want conscience. Men acting in masses shift off responsibility on one another. Multitudes never blush. If these things be true, then I maintain that the Christian has not a right to take part in war blindly, confidingly, at the call of his rulers. To shed the blood of fellow-creatures is too solemn a work to be engaged in lightly. Let him not put himself, a tool, into wicked hands. Let him not meet on the field his brother man, his brother Christian, in a cause on which heaven frowns. Let him bear witness against unholy wars, as his country's greatest crimes. If called to take part in them, let him deliberately refuse. If martial law seize on him, let him submit. If hurried to prison, let him submit. If brought thence to be shot, let him submit. There must be martyrs to peace as truly as to other principles of our religion. The first Christians chose to die rather than obey the laws of the state which commanded them to renounce their Lord. "Death rather than crime," — such is the good man's watchword, such the Christian's vow. Let him be faithful unto death.

Undoubtedly it will be objected that if one law of the state may in any way be resisted, then all may be, and so government must fall. This is precisely the argument on which the doctrine of passive obedience to the worst tyrannies rests. The absolutist says: "If one government may be overturned, none can stand. Your right of revolution is nothing but the right of anarchy, of universal misrule." The reply is in both instances the same. Extreme cases speak for themselves. We must put confidence in the common sense of men, and suppose them capable of distinguishing between reasonable laws and those which require them to commit manifest crimes. The objection which we are considering rests on the supposition that a declaration of war is a common act of legislation, bearing no strong marks of distinction from other laws, and consequently to be obeyed as implicitly as all. But it is broadly distinguished. A declaration of war sends us forth to destroy our fellow-creatures, to carry fire, sword, famine, bereavement, want, and woe into the fields and habitations of our brethren; whilst Christianity, conscience, and all the pure affections of our nature call us to love our brethren, and to die, if need be, for their good. And from whence comes this declaration of war? From men who would rather die than engage in unjust or unnecessary conflict? Too probably from men to whom Christianity is a name, whose highest law is honor, who are used to avenge their private wrongs and defend their reputations by shedding blood, and who, in public as in private life, defy the laws of God. Whoever, at such men's dictation, engages in war without solemnly consulting conscience and inquiring into the justice of the cause, contracts great guilt; nor can the " right of war," which such men claim as rulers, absolve him from the crimes and woes of the conflict in which he shares.

I have thus considered the second cause of the prevalent insensibility to war, namely, the common vague belief that, as the right of war inheres in government, therefore murder and pillage in national conflicts change their nature or are broadly distinguished from the like crimes in common life. This topic has been so extended that I must pass over many which remain, and can take but a glance at one or two which ought not to be wholly overlooked. I observe then, thirdly, that men's sensibility to the evil of war has been very much blunted by the deceptive show, the costume, the splendor in which war is arrayed. Its horrors are hidden under its dazzling dress. To the multitude the senses are more convincing reasoners than the conscience. In youth — the period which so often receives impressions for life — we cannot detect, in the heart-stirring fife and drum, the true music of war, — the shriek of the newly wounded or the faint moan of the dying. Arms glittering in the sunbeam do not remind us of bayonets dripping with blood. To one who reflects there is something very shocking in these decorations of war. If men must fight, let them wear the badges which become their craft. It would shock us to see a hangman dressed out in scarf and epaulet and marching with merry music to the place of punishment. The soldier has a sadder work than the hangman. His office is not to dispatch occasionally a single criminal; he goes to the slaughter of thousands as free from crime as himself. The sword is worn as an ornament; and yet its use is to pierce the heart of a fellow-creature. As well might the butcher parade before us his knife, or the executioner his ax or halter. Allow war to be necessary; still it is a horrible necessity, a work to fill a good man with anguish of spirit. Shall it be turned into an occasion of pomp and merriment? To dash out men's brains, to stab them to the heart, to cover the body with gashes, to lop off the limbs, to crush men under the hoof of the war horse, to destroy husbands and fathers, to make widows and orphans, all this may be necessary; but to attire men for this work with fantastic trappings, to surround this fearful occupation with all the circumstances of gayety and pomp, seems as barbarous as it would be to deck a gallows or to make a stage for dancing beneath the scaffold. I conceive that the military dress was not open to as much reproach in former times as now. It was then less dazzling and acted less on the imagination, because it formed less an exception to the habits of the times. The dress of Europe, not many centuries ago, was fashioned very much after what may be called the harlequin style. That is, it affected strong colors and strong contrasts. This taste belongs to rude ages and has passed away very much with the progress of civilization. The military dress alone has escaped the reform. The military man is the only harlequin left us from ancient times. It is time that his dazzling finery were gone, that it no longer corrupted the young, that it no longer threw a glare over his terrible vocation.

I close with assigning what appears to me to be the most powerful cause of the prevalent insensibility to war. It is our blindness to the dignity and claims of human nature. We know not the worth of a man. We know not who the victims are on whom war plants its foot, whom the conqueror leaves to the vulture on the field of battle or carries captive to grace his triumph. Oh! did we know what men are, did we see in them the spiritual, immortal children of God, what a voice should we lift against war! How indignantly, how sorrowfully should we invoke heaven and earth to right our insulted, injured brethren!

"Must the sword devour forever?" Is the kingdom of God, the reign of truth, duty, and love, never to prevail? Must the sacred name of brethren be only a name among men? Must the divinity in man's nature never be recognized with veneration? Is the earth always to steam with human blood shed by man's hands, and to echo with groans wrung from hearts which violence has pierced? Can you and I, my friends, do nothing, nothing to impress a different character on the future history of our race? You say we are weak; and why weak? It is from inward defect, not from outward necessity. We are inefficient abroad because faint within, — faint in love and trust and holy resolution. Inward power always comes forth and works without. Noah Worcester, enfeebled in body, was not weak. George Fox, poor and uneducated, was not weak. They had light and life within and therefore were strong abroad. Their spirits were stirred by Christ's truth and spirit, and so moved they spoke and were heard. We are dead and therefore cannot act. Perhaps we speak against war; but if we speak from tradition, if we echo what we hear, if peace be a cant on our lips, our words are unmeaning air. Our own souls must bleed when our brethren are slaughtered. We must feel the infinite wrong done to man by the brute force which treads him in the dust. We must see in the authors of unjust, selfish, ambitious, revengeful wars, monsters in human form, incarnations of the dread enemy of the human race. Under the inspiration of such feelings we shall speak, even the humblest of us, with something of prophetic force. This is the power which is to strike awe into the counselors and perpetrators of now licensed murder, which is to wither the laureled brow of now worshiped heroes. Deep moral convictions, unfeigned reverence and fervent love for man, and living faith in Christ are mightier than armies; mighty through God to the pulling down of the strongholds of oppression and war. Go forth, then, friends of mankind, peaceful soldiers of Christ! and in your various relations, at home and abroad, in private life, and if it may be in more public spheres, give faithful utterance to the principles of universal justice and love, give utterance to your deep, solemn, irreconcilable hatred of the spirit of war.

Source: William Ellery Channing, The works of William E. Channing. Boston: American Unitarian Association, 1877, pp. 664–79. Italics have been added.


1. Channing delivered this lecture in 1838 at a Boston meeting of the American Peace Society. The following year he published the speech, adding the Preface. The speech is sometimes called "On War 3", to distinguish it from two earlier major discourses on war, given in 1816 and 1835. See: Paul Rasor, "The War Discourses of William Ellery Channing", Journal for the History of Modern Theology/Zeitschrift für neuere Theologiegeschichte vol. 17 (2010):35-72. ^

2. One unimportant paragraph dealing with the peculiar political situation of Massachusetts at the time (the so-called "Aroostook War") is omitted here. - ^

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