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for aggressive violence and bloodshed. Why is it more criminal to establish a monarchy restrained in its action by the people represented in a legislature, than a monarchy without such restraint ? Why is it less justifiable to establish a republican form of government than a despotism ? And we may add, what is that national independence worth, which does not permit a nation to establish or alter its own internal forms of administration ? The right to form a government is involved in the very idea of independence ; and the nation, that receives its government from the forcible hand of foreign interposition, are undoubtedly to be regarded as slaves, whatever different pretensions they may make.
There is not only reason to believe, that the right of interposition does not extend to the mere object of establishing or altering a form of government, but there is reason to question also, whether the principle, in its most mitigated form, is not untenable in the view of enlightened reason, and ought not to be wholly expunged. It would seem to be clear, looking at the question as an original and unsettled one, that every independent nation, which has not 'restricted itself by some previous compact, has a right to extend or diminish the amount of its armaments at pleasure. On the other hand it is equally evident, that other nations, in the view of such increased armament, have a right to take their measures accordingly, and to any extent short of actual hostility. The increased armaments of a neighboring nation would be a just ground of solicitude ; but it is questionable, whether they are to be regarded as just grounds of offence. They would justify, (reasoning on the false maxims, which now govern the political intercourse of the world,) a preparation for war, but it is not so clear, that they would justify an actuai resort to war without further cause ; in a word, without some overt and decided act
of hostility. If this were the position taken in the precepts of public law, instead of the one already referred to, we are persuaded, it would be found favorable to the repose of nations. Nothing obviously can lead to more evil results than the right of resorting to arms on the ground of a presumed or anticipated hostility of other nations. This alledged right, (which is the principle actually established in the existing public law,) is so broad and indefinite, that ambition and intrigue may deduce from it a colorable pretext for any war whatev
In other situations, even those of small consequence, there is hazard in acting on mere suspicion. How unreasonable, then, is it, on such grounds to plunge into the horrors of war, when all the purposes of prudence will be answered by an augmentation of any precautions on our own part, short of actual hostility! And if there still remain any doubts in respect to this course, may we not find a solution of them in history? It is believed, that many of the wars, which have afflicted the world, may justly be attributed to this doubtful principle, originating in a determination on the part of the actual aggressor, which this principle permits nations to entertain, to retaliate on merely suspected and anticipated wrongs. A nation prepares some fifty or an hundred cannon, perhaps merely because it is a matter of convenience, or sends on some indefinite destination a few ships of war, probably to keep the vessels in order and the sailors out of idleness; and this is considered sufficient cause for a grand movement on the part of other nations, the sending of ambassadors, the utterance of rebukes, the note of warlike preparation, the striking of some sudden homeblow, the involving of the world in strife, and thousands of private families in misery. Let nations publish to the world in good faith, that they are determined to pursue a strict course of neutrality and
justice, and they will have but little reason to tremble and throw themselves into an attitude of violence at the changes constantly taking place in the military arrangements of other nations. They have a source of defence, additional to that of mere military preparations, of the very highest value. Saying nothing of the unseen, yet real protection of an overruling Providence, they are entitled to reckon among their means of defence the strong tower of public sentiment, a safeguard, which has hitherto been imperfectly understood, and too little relied on.
What is it, that, amid the terrible convulsions of Europe, has preserved the diminutive republics of Cracow and San Marino, when mighty empires have been shaken and scattered around them? By what agency or power, have the peaceful Cantons of Switzerland been able to maintain their integrity and independence, when pressed on every side by standing armies and frowning battlements ? It is not their cannon ; it is not their soldiers. Their great defence is in the rectitude of their policy, and the favorable sentiment of other nations. They are enshrined in the affections of the world, and are safe. What is the foundation of the respectability and influence and security of the United States ? Certainly not her army of six thousand men. It is the policy of Washington, the Proclamation of neutrality, freedom from jealousy of other nations, unfeigned love of justice and peace. It is these, and not embattled columns and “ meteor flags,” which constitute the corner-stone of her security and the foundation of her fame. Happy would it be, if this policy could become a prevalent one throughout the world, and if nations would plant themselves on their rectitude, and not on their powder magazines, and arm themselves with the shield of faith instead of the protection of military panoply. There is a deplorable want of moral confidence; or rath
er, applying the sentiment to nations, of political faith founded on political honesty. The nation, that will purify its conscience, will at the same time dissipate its fears; and will feel stronger in its rectitude, than it formerly did in its cannon. The happiness and glory of a State do not depend
“On high-raised battlement, or labored mound,
“Thick wall, or moated gate ; but rather on the knowledge of rights, the spirit of justice, and a benevolent and magnanimous temper, which practically recognises the obligation of doing good to others as we desire them to do to ourselves.