Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States

Edited by: Lalor, John J.
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New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co.
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Includes articles by Frédéric Bastiat, Gustave de Molinari, Henry George, J. B. Say, Francis A. Walker, and more.
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PEACE. Says de Maistre: "History unfortunately proves that war is, in a certain sense, the habitual state of mankind: that is, that human blood must be shed, here or there, without interruption on the earth; and that a state of peace is, for each nation, but a respite." Is this true? When God created the world, did he hand it over, forever, to the destroying angel? Is there no means to preserve peace among the nations? A means to prevent war, generally, would be to sanction, as an inviolable principle of public law, that each state is independent and free, and that no state has a right forcibly to meddle with the constitution or government of another state. A state is a society of men which alone can rule and dispose of itself; to meddle with its affairs, whatever they be, is to render uncertain the autonomy of all states; it means to scatter the seeds of war, which sooner or later will germinate and bear the most bitter fruit. It will be remembered, that on Aug. 10, 1791, Mirabeau being then president of the constitutional assembly, some Quakers appeared before the bar of that body and asked to be permitted to live under the protection of the laws of France, but reserving in their own favor the condition, that they should never be compelled to go to war. With admirable good sense, Mirabeau answered them, amid applause: "* * If I ever meet a Quaker I shall say to him: 'My brother, if thou hast the right to be free, thou hast the right to prevent thy being made a slave. Thou wantest peace? Well, it is weakness which invites war: a general resistance would be universal peace.'" A general resistance of all states against any intermeddling in the affairs of others would be one of the greatest guarantees of peace in the world. Thus, in some way a federation of free states would be formed, of states which desired to remain free, and which proclaimed as an unalterable rule of international law the principle of non-intervention.


—The reciprocal independence of the nations thus proclaimed and assured, we would see the burden of standing armies, which lead to that terrible, inexorable tax, the tax of blood, but nevertheless the most indispensable of all taxes, disappear. This tax does not take from the contributor simply part of his income, or his entire income, a part of his capital, or even his whole capital, but it takes liberty and life from him; it has become the indispensable condition of political societies. The liberties of nations could not but gain by the abolition of standing armies; for history teaches us, that standing armies are an eternal danger to the liberties of nations. "Regular troops (miles perpetuus)," says Kant, "being always ready to act, incessantly menace other states, and incite them to increase their number of armed men ad infinitum. Such rivalry, an inexhaustible source of expense, which makes peace more onerous than a short war, sometimes even leads a state into open hostilities with the sole view of getting rid of so painful a burden.' The suppression of standing armies would, therefore, be one of the most powerful means to preserve peace.


—One of the greatest obstacles to the maintenance of peace among nations has been the facilities to feed war which credit procures. It is war that invents those loans by means of which a warlike people finds at a given hour an immense lever, great sums of money, to transform the spades which render the soil of the country fruitful, into instruments which devastate the fields, destroy the cities, and decimate the population. It would be well to admit, as a principle of international law, that the loans effected in a state or abroad, and not destined for the economical wants of the state, should be considered as a menace to the other states, and that it would authorize the latter to form a league against the state which should allow itself to take measures involving an attempt on their security and their independence.


—Without pretending to contradict the principles which Mirabeau caused to triumph in his celebrated discussion on the right to declare war, might we not introduce a guarantee into political constitutions, by making, at least to some extent, the consent of the subjects of a state a condition to a declaration of war? Shall the sovereign have a right to dispose, at his will, of the lives and the savings of several generations, for the sake of quarrels which the people frequently do not understand? The answer is well known which a prince of Bulgaria gave to an emperor of the orient, when the latter proposed to him to settle their differences in single combat: "Would a farrier who had a pair of pincers take the red-hot iron from the furnace with his hands?" We wish means might be found to lay the following questions before the people of a country before a war is undertaken: "Who wants the war? Is it the nation? Is it the government? Does the nation want to see its ports and its workshops closed, its commerce diminished, perhaps even annihilated, its industry ruined, and its wealth pass into the hands of others? Does the nation want that now and forever new taxes and duties be added to the duties and taxes with which the nation is already overburdened? Does the nation want its children taken a way, to make them live a life of fatigue and danger, of sacrifices and resignation, to make them shed their blood in battle? Does the nation want that even those of its other children, who had paid already their tribute to the fatherland, should be taken away once more, on the day after they had again crossed the paternal thresh-old?"*21


—May a system of international arbitration be relied on as a means to preserve peace among nations? We can not consider that means as effective. With the small nation of the Greeks the amphictyonic council was unable to preserve a state of peace; no modern confederation has escaped civil war; and can we hope that the confederation of the nations of Europe would be more fortunate? We forget that passion is the principal cause of war; and can we think that passion would submit to arbitration? Moreover, if arbitration has no sanction, it does not mean anything; if it have a sanction, that sanction is war.*22


—Whatever may be thought of the means to preserve peace which we have just indicated, the fact remains that war exists. We need not examine whether it is just, useful or necessary, as an illustrious philosopher (Cousin) declared it to be. All are agreed that war should be terminated as quickly as possible, and the instrument of peace be signed. That instrument is called a treaty by the law of nations, and from the moment of its conclusion all hostilities should cease. Generally it is the victor who dictates the conditions of the peace; it is also a principle, that in case of difficulties all obscure and ambiguous clauses must be construed against him.


—The power to make peace, which is generally accorded to the heads of states by the constitutions of the latter, does not necessarily carry with it the right to make concessions of territory. Thus, the assembly of Cognac declared that Francis I., although he had the absolute control over peace and war, could not, by the treaty of Madrid, alienate any part of his kingdom.


—The violation of the treaty of peace by one of the parties, is not necessarily accompanied by a resumption of hostilities. According to international usage, official cognizance is taken of the rupture, and all rights are reserved for the future.


—The most celebrated treaties of peace in modern times are the treaty of Westphalia (1648), which put an end to the thirty years war; the treaty of Utrecht (1713), which closed the war of succession in Spain; the treaty of Vienna (1815), which concluded the wars of the empire; the treaty of Paris (1856), which ended the oriental war; and the treaty of Frankfort (1871), which put an end to the France-German war. All these treaties were closed only after terrible wars, which had cost streams of blood and the wealth of the people.


Notes for this chapter

The preceding only applies to wars of aggression, and in such cases most constitutions require the consent of the national representatives. Even when the constitution attributes to the king the right to declare war, this does not mean that the war is the result of the royal will, but only that it is one of the king's functions (and not, for instance, one of the functions of a minister or prefect) to sign the act. The right of defense, in case of an attack, is too evident, and is therefore not mentioned.
Arbitration can be employed only in cases involving material interests, and in that case all European nations will submit to it in the future. Is there any material interest which is worth the milliards which war actually costs? Thus, there will be no more fighting but for honor or for a sentiment, a passion; but what can arbitrators do in such a case?

Footnotes for PERSIA.

End of Notes

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