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sideration of this subject by the Legislature of Massachusetts in 1837, moved several resolutions, condemning the “resort to War to settle questions of national profit or honor;" and recommending " the institution of a Congress or Court of Nations." The first petition of the New York Peace Society besought Congress, to " adopt the principle of reference to a third Power of such international disputes as cannot be amicably adjusted by the parties themselves, as an in variable rule instead of an occasional one; and further, that, “in pursuance of this principle, a proposal be sent forth by this Government to those of other nations, that they would unite with it in the establishment of a great international Board of Arbitration, or a Congress of Nations, to which to refer international disputes; and also for the purpose of digesting and preparing a regular code of international law, obligatory on such nations as may afterwards adopt it." This memorial was read, and laid upon the table, in consequence of a very able report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, by Mr. Legare, of South Carolina.
The Peace movement has encountered less opposition in this country and abroad, than perhaps any other cause of moral reform; and the inconsiderable degree of interest it has hitherto excited may, in part at least, be traced to the nature of the principle itself, which, when stated in its most general form, meets with universal assent or acquiescence; but when set forth with all the consequences derived from it by uncompromising practical reasoners, fuds but few minds willing to adopt it. It is allowed by all that Peace is in general better than War; and that for the redress of wrong the use of moral power is generally preferable to physical force. But that coercion and war vught never to be resorted to, even in defence of life and liberty—this is a corollary to the Peace principle which would require a radical change of sentiment to gain admission to the practical creed of individuals and nations. This internal impediment to the progress of the Peace cause, arising from the nature of the principle on which it rests, is sufficiently evident from the change which the constitution of the society has undergone in the fundamental article which defines its object; and in the recent attempt at a still more thorough reform which has led to the formation of the New England Non-Resistance Society."
The object of the American Peace Society as stated in its original constitution was the abolition of offensive war. Nothing was said with regard to the moral character of defensive war, because a difference of opinion was known to exist among the friends of Peace on that subject, and because the abolition of all offensive or oppressive wars implied that of defensive warfare as a necessary consequence. But this prudential restraint, and calculation of consequences, did not satisfy those who had embraced the principle of Peace as a divine precept that required explicit profession and
VOL. V. NO. XV.-- JIARCH, 1839.
strict obedience. They also argued, with much effect, that the term defensive war' is in practice at least a vague title, which im most cases, as recently in the wars of Napoleon, has been used by each of the contending powers to justify its having recourse to
Accordingly, at the ninth anniversary of the society, in 1837, the constitution was amended so as to deelare, that “all war is contrary to the spirit of the Gospel."
This change was deprecated by those members of the society who approved of defensive war; and they thought themselves bound in conscience to dissolve their connexion. The official organ of the society endeavoured to persuade them to remain uvited, although “the revised constitution had recognised for its basis the contrariety of all war to the spirit of the Gospel.” “Under such a constitution,” it was said, “ cannot all the friends of peace corsistently unite? We do not propose this principle as a pledge ; we do not enforce it as a test; we merely give it as a guarantee, that our influence as a society shall never go to countenance any form of war." * But this mode of reasoning, while it did not convince the conscientious believers in the justice of defensive war, failed, on the other hand, of satisfying those whose opposition to all war was only the consequence of a more radical principle. They reasoned in this way; and it is a singular instance of the general tendency of the times to push abstract principles to impracticable and even absurd extremes in their application: If the Government have no right to use and prepare means for defence against foreign aggressors, how can it be justified in proceeding forcibly against internal enemies by threatening and inflicting punishments? And “if a nation has no right to defend itself against foreign enemies, or to panish its invaders, no individual possesses that right in his own cause." The Gospel precepts, • Do not kill,' *kesist not evil,' and Render not evil for evil but overcome evil with good,' absolutely forbid the taking of humau life, and discountenance the use of force against enemies in every case, and inculcate an implicit faith in moral means, in reinonstrance and self-sacrificing endurance, as sufficient to protect the just from the unjust, and to convert enemies into friends. These sentiments which had been cherished for some time by some of the most zealous advocates of the cause, though disavowed by the official organ of the society, found a full expression in the Peace Convention, held in Boston, on the 18th, 19th, and 20th of Septem ber last. This convention resulted in the formation of the “New England Non-Resistance Society," which put forth a Declaration of Sentiments, and adopted a constitution distinct from that of the American Peace Society. The second article of the new society states its object, in the words following:
* Advocate of Peace, No. 3, December 1837, page 107.
« Art. II. The members of this society agree in opinion, that no man, nor body of men, however constituted, and by whatever name called, have a right to take the life of any man as a penalty for transgression; that no one who professes to have the spirit of Christ, can consistently sue a man at law for redress of injuries, or thrust any evil-doer into prison, or fill any office in which he would come under obligation to execute penal enactments—or take any part in the military service-or acknowledge allegiance to any human government-or justify any man in fighting in defence of property, liberty, life, or religion; that he cannot engage in, norcountenance any plot or effort to revolutionize, or change, by physical violence, any government, however corrupt or oppressive; that he will obey 'the powers that be,' except in those cases in which they bid him violate his conscience and then, rather than resist, he will meekly submit to the penalty of disobedience; and that, while he will cheerfully endure all things for Christ's sake, without cherishing even a desire to inflict injury upon his persecutors, yet he will be bold and uncompromising for God, in bearing his testimony against sin, in high places and in low places, until righteousness and peace shall reign in all the earth, and there shall be none to molest or make afraid."
Soon after the doings of this convention were made public, the constituted organs of the American Peace Society' published a • Disclaimer;' in which they declared, that the convention had been called by individuals acting on their own personal responsibility; that the society did not hold themselves accountable for any of the doings of, or sentiments expressed by, the convention; that the sole object of the society, as unalterably laid down in its constiturion, was the • Peace of Nations ;' and that the New England Non-Resistance Society could not be considered as one of the auxiliaries of the American Peace Society.
We have given this brief sketch of the progress of the Peace cause in our country partly because, as we have already 'observed, we look upon the history of moral principle, however well or however ill understood, as the most important part of human history; and partly because it is a striking exhibition of the characteristic spirit and tendency of our time. Every institution, every law, every custom, every assertion, is subjected to the ordeal of an all searching and uncompromising skepticism which rejects every authority but that of facts, and discredit every testimony but that of
Neither the opinion of the world, neither origin, nor age, nor even present and past utility, can insure permanence to any form of faith or practice. The great question is whether a thing be true and right in itself-every thing else is of secondary importance. It cannot be denied that this spirit of free inquiry has not only its true, but its false prophets also, whose course is marked by a superficial, capricious, and derogatory desire of change. But even the sympathy and encouragement which this thoughtless and reckless love of innovation occasionally meets with, may be traced to the solid advantages which the cause of truth and humanity has derived from this uncompromising search after right. Our own political existence as a free people is grounded upon an attempt of unprecedented boldness in rejecting every historical, and fictitious basis of government, and reducing it to first principles—even to the eternal principles of perfect justice. However inconsistent we may be in many points of practice when judged by the perfect law of liberty and equality as laid down in our Declaration of Independence, who would not prefer to be condemned by this, rather than be justified by a lower standard? We do not share any of the conservative fears of many of our contemporaries, either for our religious or political principles. We see in the skepticism of the age a striving after a deeper foundation for the highest faith. Instead of crying it down as ultraism, radicalism, infidelity, or fanaticism, we honor even its aberrations. We are ready to treat with respect, and meet with no other weapons than straightforward argument, any attack upon existing opinions and institutions, however just and beneficial we may think them, if our antagonists do but appeal to our reason, and not to our faith the infallibility of the new doctrine, or our patience to bear supercilious dogmatism.
Entertaining these views we are not willing to join in the hue and cry which has been raised in almost every newspaper we have met with, against the principles contained in the Declaration of Sen. timents, and the constitution of this New England Non-Resistance Society. Principles which are essentially the same as those enter. tained by the Society of Friends, have a right at least to be heard, and not to be condemned without benefit of reason. It is true, they attack that which every human government considers as the indispensable condition of its existence. But it should never be forgotten that the allegiance of republicans to their government rests not 80 much on the fact of its existence, and its power to enforce obedience, but mainly on the conviction of its being founded in justice. There is great danger in our country lest the moral foundation of our institutions be overlooked, partly on account of the unexampled prosperity to which they have given rise, and which now tempts us to forget the cause in the effects; and partly on account of our political inconsistencies which, so far as they are suffered to exist, degrade our government to the level of those which have no other support than brute force. It is on this account that we welcome this Peace controversy, and every other discussion which must in. duce our citizens to reflect upon the essential moral elements of our government.
The authors of the New England Non-Resistance Society have rendered an important service to the cause of Peace inasmuch as they have attempted to reduce it to first principles. The object of these associated efforts is the establishment of Peace. What then is Peace? According to the practical definition contained in the con. stitution of the American Peace Society, peace is the absence of war; and therefore the establishment of peace identical with the abolition of war. And what is War? It is a state of discoril between nations in which each thinks itself authorized to use against the other any violent measures that may promote the object it contends for. Now, if all war be sinful, being contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, what is it that constitutes its sinfulness? Evidently the resort to violent measures, the taking of human life, the destruction of property, and the infliction of other innumerable evils. If then war be sinful in all cases, and the use of violence constitutes the essence and essential immorality of war, the same principle must condemn the same means in every other case ; it makes its sinful in the individual to take the life of an enemy, or use physical force, even in self-defence; and equally sinful in the government to inflict not only capital punishments but punishments of any kind, or to resort to coercive measures of any description. Hence the duty of every Christian not only to abstain entirely from the use of force against human beings, (absolute non-resistance, ) but of refusing allegiance to any human government, inasmuch as being constituted to enforce its commands it is founded in sin.
We do not see how any man adopting the premises laid down by the American Peace Society, viz: that all war is contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, can arrive at any other results than those maintained by the New England Non-Resistance Society. We have no fault to find, then, with the logic of the Non-Resistance Society.
We will now briefly examine its premises, to see whether there be indeed no case in which war, or in general the use of force against human beings, be consistent with the spirit of the Gospel, and the principles of morality.
Both parties in this controversy, the advocates and the opponents of the non-resistance principle, refer to numerous scriptural authorities to sustain their respective views; and it must be confessed that the former are indeed able to assemble a sufficiently imposing array of texts, to diminish the surprise at first naturally entertained, that notions so radically at variance with every theory of human society that has ever been attempted to be applied to practice, could find any considerable number of intelligent partisans. For example, they cite the frequent repetition in the New Testament, of the precept, “Do not kill;"—the sublime prophecy concerning the last days,' that “people shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation: neither shall they learn war any more ; "—the various annunciations of peace connected with the advent of the Messiah, the “Prince of Peace;"—the example of non-resistance, even unto death, contained in the closing scenes of his own history upon earth ;-his rebuke of the disciple who drew his sword and wounded the servant of the High Priest ;-his answer to Pilate, “ My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this