By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Military Manners and Customs
Author: Farrer, James Anson
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Military Manners and Customs" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)

    Transcriber's Note:

    Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as
    possible, including inconsistent hyphenation. Some changes have been
    made. They are listed at the end of the text.

    Italic text has been marked with _underscores_.


                          LONDON: PRINTED BY
                         AND PARLIAMENT STREET

                           MILITARY MANNERS
                              AND CUSTOMS


                          JAMES ANSON FARRER

                               AUTHOR OF


                   _‘Homo homini res sacra’_--Seneca

                      CHATTO & WINDUS, PICCADILLY

               [_The right of translation is reserved._]


In the present volume I have attempted within the limits of the
historical period and of our European civilisation, and without
recognising any hard and fast line between ancient and modern,
Christian and Pagan, to allude, in the places that seemed most
appropriate, to all points in the history of war that appeared to be
either of special interest or of essential importance. As examples
of such points I may refer to the treatment of prisoners of war, or
of surrendered garrisons; the rules about spies and surprises; the
introduction of, and feeling about, new weapons; the meaning of parts
of military dress; the origin of peculiar customs like the old one of
kissing the earth before a charge; the prevalent rules of honour, as
displayed in notions of justice in regard to reprisals, or of fairness
in stratagems and deception. The necessity of observing in so vast a
field the laws of proportion has enforced resort to such condensation,
that on subjects which deserve or possess their tomes upon tomes, I
have in many cases been unable to spend more than a page or a chapter.
It is easier, however, to err on the side of length than of brevity,
but on whichever side I have exceeded, I can only hope that others, who
may feel the same interest with myself in the subject without having
the same time to give to it, may derive a tithe of the pleasure from
reading the following nine chapters that I have found in putting them

The study, of course, is no new one, but there can be no objection
to calling it by the new name of Bellology--a convenient term, quite
capable of holding its own with Sociology or its congeners. The only
novelty I have aimed at is one of treatment, and consists in never
losing sight of the fact that to all military customs there is a moral
and human side which has been only too generally ignored in this
connection. To read books like Grose’s ‘Military Antiquities,’ one
would think their writers were dealing with the manners, not of men but
of ninepins, so utterly do they divest themselves of all human interest
or moral feeling, in reference to the customs they describe with so
laudable but toneless an accuracy.

The starting-point of modern bellological studies will, undoubtedly,
always be the Parliamentary Blue Book, containing the reports (less
full than one might wish) of the Military International Conference
that met at Brussels in 1874, to discuss the existing laws and customs
of war, and to consider whether any modification of them were either
possible or desirable. Most of the representatives appointed to attend
by the several Powers were military men, so that we are carried by
their conversation into the actual realities of modern warfare, with
an authority and sense of truth that one is conscious of in no other
military book. It is to be regretted that such a work, instructive as
it is beyond any other on the subject, has never been printed in a
form more popular than its official dress. It was from it that I first
conceived the idea of the following pages, and in the sequel frequent
reference will be made to it, as the source of the most trustworthy
military information we possess, and as certain to be for some time
to come the standard work on all the actual laws and customs of
contemporary warfare.





 The prohibition of explosive bullets in war                           2

 The importance of the Declaration of St. Petersburg of 1868           3

 The ultimate triumph of more destructive methods                      4

 Illustrated by history of the crossbow or the musket                  5

 Or of cannons, torpedoes, red-hot shot, or the bayonet                5

 Numbers slain in modern and earlier warfare                           8

 The laws of war at the Brussels Conference of 1874                   10

 Do the laws of war tend to improve?                                  13

 A negative answer suggested from reference                           13

    1. To the use of poison in war                                    14

    2. To the bombardment of towns                                    15

    3. To the destruction of public buildings                         16

    4. To the destruction of crops and fruit-trees                    16

    5. To the murder of prisoners or the wounded                      17

    6. To the murder of surrendered garrisons                         18

    7. To the destruction of fishing-boats                            19

    8. To the disuse of the declaration of war                        19

    9. To the torture and mutilation of combatants and
          non-combatants                                              20

   10. To the custom of contributions                                 20

 The futile attempts of Grotius and Vattel to humanise warfare        21

 The rights of war in the time of Grotius                             24

 The futility of international law with regard to laws of war         26

 The employment of barbarian troops                                   26

 The taking of towns by assault                                       27

 The laws of war contrasted with the practice                         28

 War easier to abolish than to humanise                               30



 Delusion about character of war in days of chivalry                  32

 The common slaughter of women and children                           33

 The Earl of Derby’s sack of Poitiers                                 34

 The massacres of Grammont and Gravelines                             35

 The old poem of the Vow of the Heron                                 36

 The massacre of Limoges by Edward the Black Prince                   37

 The imprisonment of ladies for ransom                                38

 Prisoners of war starved to death                                    39

 Or massacred, if no prospect of ransom                               41

 Or blinded or otherwise mutilated                                    42

 The meaning of a surrender at discretion                             44

 As illustrated by Edward III. at Calais                              44

 And by several instances in the same and the next century            45

 The practice of burning in aid of war                                47

 And of destroying sacred buildings                                   47

 The practice of poisoning the air                                    49

 The use of barbarous weapons                                         50

 The influence of religion on war                                     51

 The Church in vain on the side of peace                              52

 Curious vows of the knights                                          54

 The slight personal danger incurred in war by them                   54

 The explanation of their magnificent costume                         55

 Field sports in war-time                                             56

 The desire of gain the chief motive of war                           57

 The identity of soldiers and brigands                                57

 The career and character of the Black Prince                         59

 The place of money in the history of chivalry                        61

 Its influence as a war-motive between England and France             62

 General low character of chivalrous warfare                          64



 Robbery the first object of maritime warfare                         66

 The piratical origin of European navies                              67

 Merciless character of wars at sea                                   69

 Fortunes made by privateering in England                             71

 Privateers commissioned by the State                                 72

 Privateers defended by the publicists                                73

 Distinction between privateering and piracy                          73

 Failure of the State to regulate privateering                        74

 Privateering condemned by Lord Nelson                                77

 Privateering abolished by the declaration of Paris in 1856           78

 Modern feeling against seizure of private property at sea            79

 Naval warfare in days of wooden ships                                80

 Unlawful methods of maritime war                                     81

 The Emperor Leo VI.’s ‘Treatise on Tactics’                          83

 The use of fire-ships                                                84

 Death the penalty for serving in fire-ships                          85

 Torpedoes originally regarded as ‘bad’ war                           85

 English and French doctrine of rights of neutrals                    86

 Enemy’s property under neutral flag secured by Treaty of Paris       87

 Shortcomings of the Treaty of Paris with regard to--

   1. A definition of what is contraband                              88

   2. The right of search of vessels under convoy                     88

   3. The practice of Embargoes                                       89

   4. The _Jus Angariæ_                                               90

 The International Marine Code of the future                          91



 International law on legitimate reprisals                            93

 The Brussels Conference on the subject                               95

 Illustrations of barbarous reprisals                                 97

 Instances of non-retaliation                                         98

 Savage reprisals in days of chivalry                                100

 Hanging the commonest reprisals for a brave defence                 101

 As illustrated by the warfare of the fifteenth century              102

 Survival of the custom to our own times                             104

 The massacre of a conquered garrison still a law of war             105

 The shelling of Strasburg by the Germans                            106

 Brutal warfare of Alexander the Great                               107

 The connection between bravery and cruelty                          110

 The abolition of slavery in its effects on war                      112

 The storming of Magdeburg, Brescia, and Rome                        112

 Cicero on Roman warfare                                             114

 The reprisals of the Germans in France in 1870                      115

 Their revival of the custom of taking hostages                      117

 Their resort to robbery as a plea of reprisals                      118

 General Von Moltke on perpetual peace                               119

 The moral responsibility of the military profession                 121

 The Press as a potent cause of war                                  122

 Plea for the abolition of demands for unconditional surrender       123

 Such as led to the bombardment of Alexandria in 1882                123



 Grotius’ theory of fair stratagems                                  126

 The teaching of international law                                   127

 Ancient and modern naval stratagems                                 127

 Early Roman dislike of such stratagems                              132

 As ambuscades, feigned retreats, or night attacks                   132

 The degenerate standard of Frontinus and Polyænus                   135

 The Conference stratagem of modern Europe                           136

 The distinction between perfidy and stratagem                       139

 The perfidy of Francis I.                                           140

 Vattel’s theory about spies                                         141

 Frederick the Great’s military instructions about spies             142

 Lord Wolseley on spies and truth in war                             144

 The custom of hanging or shooting spies                             145

 Better to keep them as prisoners of war                             146

 Balloonists regarded as spies                                       147

 The practice of military surprises                                  148

 Death formerly the penalty for capture in a surprise                150

 Stratagems of uncertain character                                   151

 Such as forged despatches or false intelligence                     151

 The use of the telegraph in deceiving the enemy                     151

 May prisoners of war be compelled to propagate lies?                152

 General character of the military code of fraud                     153



 Variable notions of honour                                          156

 Primitive ideas of a military life                                  156

 What is civilised warfare?                                          158

 Advanced laws of war among several savage tribes                    159

 Symbols of peace among savages                                      161

 The Samoan form of surrender                                        162

 Treaties of peace among savages                                     162

 Abeyance of laws of war in hostilities with savages                 163

 Zulus blown up in caves with gun-cotton                             165

 Women and men kidnapped for transport service on the Gold Coast     166

 Humane intentions of the Spaniards in the New World                 167

 Contrasted with the inhumanity of their actions                     167

 Wars with natives of English and French in America                  170

 High rewards offered for scalps                                     171

 The use of bloodhounds in war                                       171

 The use of poison and infected clothes                              172

 Penn’s treaty with the Indians                                      173

 How Missionaries come to be a cause of war                          176

 Explanation of the failure of modern missions                       178

 The mission stations as centres of hostile intrigues                179

 Plea for the State-regulation of missions                           181

 Depopulation under Protestant influences                            181

 The prevention of false rumours--_Tendenzlügen_                     182

 Civilised and barbarian warfare                                     183

 No real distinction between them                                    184



 The war question at the time of the Reformation                     185

 The remonstrances of Erasmus against the custom                     186

 Influence of Grotius on the side of war                             187

 The war question in the early Church                                188

 The Fathers against the lawfulness of war                           190

 Causes of the changed views of the Church                           192

 The clergy as active combatants for over a thousand years           193

 Fighting bishops                                                    193

 Bravery in war and ecclesiastical preferment                        196

 Pope Julius II. at the siege of Mirandola                           197

 The last fighting bishop                                            197

 Origin and meaning of the declaration of war                        198

 Superstition in the naming of weapons, ships, &c.                   200

 The custom of kissing the earth before a charge                     201

 Connection between religious and military ideas                     202

 The Church as a pacific agency                                      204

 Her efforts to set limits to reprisals                              207

 The altered attitude of the modern Church                           208

 Early Reformers only sanctioned _just_ wars                         208

 Voltaire’s reproach against the Church                              210

 Canon Mozley’s sermon on war                                        212

 The answer to his apology                                           214



 Increased severity of discipline                                    218

 Limitation of the right of matrimony                                219

 Compulsory Church parade and its origin                             219

 Atrocious military punishments                                      221

 Reasons for the military love of red                                223

 The origin of bear-skin hats                                        223

 Different qualities of bravery                                      225

 Historical fears for the extinction of courage                      225

 The conquests of the cause of Peace                                 227

 Causes of the unpopularity of military service                      228

 The dulness of life in the ranks                                    228

 The prevalence of desertion                                         230

 Articles of war against Malingering                                 231

 Military artificial ophthalmia                                      233

 The debasing influence of discipline                                234

 Illustrated from the old flogging system                            235

 The discipline of the Peninsular army                               236

 Attempts to make the service more popular                           239

 By raising the private’s wages                                      239

 By shortening his term of service                                   240

 The old recruiting system of France and Germany                     241

 The conscription imminent in England                                242

 The question of military service for women                          242

 The probable results of the conscription                            243

 Militarism answerable for Socialism                                 246



 The old feeling of the moral stain of bloodshed                     250

 Military purificatory customs                                       250

 Modern change of feeling about warfare                              252

 Descartes on the profession of arms                                 254

 The old-world sentiment in favour of piracy                         255

 The central question of military ethics                             257

 May a soldier be indifferent to the cause of war?                   257

 The right to serve made conditional on a good cause                 258

 By St. Augustine, Bullinger, Grotius, and Sir James Turner          258

 Old Greek feeling about mercenary service                           260

 Origin of our mercenary as opposed to gratuitous service            260

 Armies raised by military contractors                               261

 The value of the distinction between foreign and native
    mercenaries                                                      262

 Original limitation of military duty                                264

 To the actual defence of the realm                                  264

 Extension of the notion of allegiance                               265

 The connection of the military oath with the first Mutiny Act       265

 Recognised limits to the claims on a soldier’s obedience            266

 The falsity of the common doctrine of duty                          266

 Illustrated by the devastation of the Palatinate by the French      267

 And by the bombardment of Copenhagen by the English                 268

 The example of Admiral Keppel                                       270

 Justice between nations                                             271

 Its observation in ancient India and Rome                           271

 St. Augustine and Bayard on justice in war                          273

 Grotius on good grounds of war                                      273

 The military claim to exemption from moral responsibility           276

 The soldier’s first duty to his conscience                          279

 The admission of this principle involves the end of war             280




    _Ce sont des lois de la guerre. Il faut estre bien cruel bien
    souvent pour venir au bout de son ennemi; Dieu doit estre
    bien miséricordieux en nostre endroict, qui faisons tant de
    maux._--MARSHAL MONTLUC.

    The prohibition of explosive bullets in war--The importance of the
    Declaration of St. Petersburg of 1868--The ultimate triumph of
    more destructive methods--Illustrated by history of the cross-bow
    or the musket; or of cannons, torpedoes, red-hot shot, or the
    bayonet--Numbers slain in modern and earlier warfare--The laws of
    war at the Brussels Conference of 1874--Do the laws of war tend to
    improve?--A negative answer suggested from reference: (1) to the
    use of poison in war; (2) to the bombardment of towns; (3) to the
    destruction of public buildings; (4) to the destruction of crops
    and fruit trees; (5) to the murder of prisoners or the wounded; (6)
    to the murder of surrendered garrisons; (7) to the destruction of
    fishing boats; (8) to the disuse of the declaration of war; (9) to
    the torture and mutilation of combatants and non-combatants; (10)
    to the custom of contributions--The futile attempts of Grotius
    and Vattel to humanise warfare--The rights of war in the time of
    Grotius--The futility of international law with regard to laws of
    war--The employment of barbarian troops--The taking of towns by
    assault--The laws of war contrasted with the practice--War easier
    to abolish than to humanise.

It is impossible to head a chapter ‘The Laws of War’ without thinking
of that famous chapter on Iceland headed ‘The Snakes of Iceland,’
wherein the writer simply informed his readers that there were none in
the country. ‘The laws of war’ make one think of the snakes of Iceland.

Nevertheless, a summary denial of their existence would deprive the
history of the battle-field of one of its most interesting features;
for there is surely nothing more surprising to an impartial observer of
military manners and customs than to find that even in so just a cause
as the defence of your own country limitations should be set to the
right of injuring your aggressor in any manner you can.

What, for instance, can be more obvious in such a case than that no
suffering you can inflict is needless which is most likely permanently
to disable your adversary? Yet, by virtue of the International
Declaration of St. Petersburg, in 1868, you may not use explosive
bullets against him, because it is held that they would cause him
needless suffering. By the logic of war, what can be clearer than that,
if the explosive bullet deals worse wounds, and therefore inflicts
death more readily than other destructive agencies, it should be
used? or else that those too should be excluded from the rules of the
game--which might end in putting a stop to the game altogether?

The history of the explosive bullet is worth recalling, for its
prohibition is a straw to clutch at in these days of military revival.
Like the plague, and perhaps gunpowder, it had an Eastern origin. It
was used originally in India against elephants and tigers. In 1863 it
was introduced into the Russian army, and subsequently into other
European armies, for use against ammunition-waggons. But it was not
till 1867 that a slight modification in its construction rendered it
available for the destruction of mankind. The world owes it to the
humanity of the Russian Minister of War, General Milutine, that at this
point a pause was made; and as the Czar, Alexander II., was no less
humane than his minister, the result was the famous Declaration, signed
in 1868 by all the chief Powers (save the United States), mutually
foregoing in their future wars by land or sea the use of projectiles
weighing less than 400 grammes (to save their use for artillery),
either explosive or filled with inflammable substances. The Court of
Berlin wished at the time for some other destructive contrivances to be
equally excluded, but the English Government was afraid to go further;
as if requiring breathing time after so immense an effort to diminish
human suffering, before proceeding in so perilous a direction.

The Declaration of St. Petersburg, inasmuch as it is capable of
indefinite expansion, is a somewhat awkward precedent for those who
in their hearts love war and shield its continuance with apologetic
platitudes. How, they ask, can you enforce agreements between nations?
But this argument begins to totter when we remember that there is
absolutely no superior power or tribunal in existence which can enforce
the observance of the St. Petersburg Declaration beyond the conscience
of the signatory Powers. It follows, therefore, that if international
agreements are of value, there is no need to stop short at this or that
bullet: which makes the arbitration-tribunal loom in the distance
perceptibly nearer than it did before.

At first sight, this agreement excluding the use of explosive bullets
would seem to favour the theory of those who see in every increase in
the peril of war the best hope of its ultimate cessation. A famous
American statesman is reported to have said, and actually to have
appealed to the invention of gunpowder in support of his statement,
that every discovery in the art of war has, from this point of view,
a life-saving and peace-promoting influence.[1] But it is difficult
to conceive a greater delusion. The whole history of war is against
it; for what has that history been but the steady increase of the
pains and perils of war, as more effective weapons of destruction have
succeeded one another? The delusion cannot be better dispelled than by
consideration of the facts that follow.

It has often seemed as if humanity were about to get the better of
the logical tendency of the military art. The Lateran Council of 1139
(a sort of European congress in its day) not only condemned Arnold of
Brescia to be burnt for heresy, but anathematised the cross-bow for its
inhumanity. It forbade its use in Christian warfare as alike hateful to
God and destructive of mankind.[2] Several brave princes disdained to
employ cross-bow shooters, and Innocent III. confirmed the prohibition
on the ground that it was not fair to inflict on an enemy more than the
least possible injury.[3] The long-bow consequently came into greater
use. But Richard I., in spite of Popes or Councils or Chivalry, revived
the use of the cross-bow in Europe; nor, though his death by one
himself was regarded as a judgment from Heaven, did its use from that
time decline till the arquebus and then the musket took its place.

Cannons and bombs were at first called diabolical, because they
suggested the malice of the enemy of mankind, or serpentines, because
they seemed worse than the poison of serpents.[4] But even cannons were
at first only used against fortified walls, and there is a tradition
of the first occasion when they were directed against men.[5] And
torpedoes, now used without scruple, were called infamous and infernal
when, under the name of American Turtles, they were first tried by the
American Colonies against the ships of their mother country.

In the sixteenth century, that knight ‘without fear or reproach,’ the
Chevalier Bayard, ordered all musketeers who fell into his hands to
be slain without mercy, because he held the introduction of fire-arms
to be an unfair innovation on the rules of lawful war. So red-hot
shot (or balls made red hot before insertion in the cannon) were at
first objected to, or only considered fair for purposes of defence,
not of attack. Yet, what do we find?--that Louis XIV. fired some
12,000 of them into Brussels in 1694; that the Austrians fired them
into Lille in 1792; and that the English batteries fired them at the
ships in Sebastopol harbour, which formed part of the Russian defences.
Chain-shot and bar-shot were also disapproved of at first, or excluded
from use by conventions applying only to particular wars; now there
exists no agreement precluding their use, for they soon became common
in battles at sea.

The invention of the bayonet supplies another illustration. The
accounts of its origin are little better than legends: that it was
invented so long ago as 1323 by a woman of Bayonne in defence of the
ramparts of that city against the English; or by Puséygur, of Bayonne,
about 1650; or borrowed by the Dutch from the natives of Madagascar;
or connected with a place called the Redoute de la Baïonnette in the
Eastern Pyrenees, where the Basques, having exhausted their ammunition
against the Spaniards, are said to have inserted their knives into
the muzzles of their guns. But it is certain that as soon as the idea
was perfected by fixing the blade by rings outside the muzzle (in
the latter quarter of the seventeenth century), battles became more
murderous than ever, though the destruction of infantry by cavalry
was diminished. The battle of Neerwinden in 1693, in which the French
general, Luxembourg, defeated the Prince of Orange, is said to have
been the first battle that was decided by a charge with a bayonet, and
the losses were enormous on both sides.[6]

History, in fact, is full of such cases, in which the victory has
uniformly lain ultimately with the legitimacy of the weapon or method
that was at first rejected as inhumane. For the moment, the law of
nations forbids the use of certain methods of destruction, such as
bullets filled with glass or nails, or chemical compounds like kakodyl,
which could convert in a moment the atmosphere round an army into one
of deadly poison;[7] yet we have nothing like certainty--we have not
even historical probability--that these forbidden means, or worse
means, will not be resorted to in the wars of the future, or that
reluctance to meet such forms of death will in the least degree affect
either their frequency or their duration.

It is easy to explain this law of history. The soldier’s courage, as he
faces the mitrailleuse with the same indifference with which he would
face snow-balls or bread-pellets, is a miracle of which discipline is
the simple explanation; for whether the soldier be hired or coerced to
face death, it is all one to him against what kind of bullet he rushes,
so long as discipline remains--as Helvetius the French philosopher
once defined it, the art of making soldiers more afraid of their own
officers than of their enemy.[8] To Clearchus, the Lacedæmonian, is
attributed the saying that a soldier should always fear his own general
more than the enemy: a mental state easily produced in every system of
military mechanism. Whatever form of death be in front of a man, it
is less certain than that in his rear. The Ashantees as they march
to battle sing a song which is the soldier’s philosophy all the world
over: ‘If I go on, I shall die; if I stay behind I shall be killed; it
is better to go on.’[9]

How often is it said, in extenuation of modern warfare, that it is
infinitely less destructive than that of ancient or even mediæval
times; and that the actual loss of life in battle has not kept pace
with the development of new and more effective life-taking implements!
Yet it is difficult to imagine a stranger paradox, or a proposition
that, if true, would reflect greater descredit on our mechanical
science. If our Gatling guns, or Nordenfeldt 5-barrels capable of
firing 600 rounds a minute, are less effective to destroy an enemy than
all the paraphernalia of a mediæval army, why not in that case return
to weapons that by the hypothesis better fulfilled the purposes of war?
This question is a _reductio ad absurdum_ of this soothing delusion;
but as a matter of fact, there is no comparison in destructiveness
between our modern warfare and that of our ancestors. The apparent
difference in our favour arises from a practice alluded to by Philip
de Commines, which throws a flood of light upon the subject: ‘There
were slain in this battle about 6,000 men, which, to people that are
unwilling to lie, may seem very much; but in my time I have been in
several actions, where for one man that was really slain they have
reported a hundred, thinking by such an account to please their
masters; and they sometimes deceive them with their lies.’ That is to
say, as a rule the number of the slain should be divided by a hundred.

This remark applies even to battles like Crecy or Agincourt, where the
numbers slain were unusually high, and where they are said to have been
accurately ascertained by counting after the victory. When Froissart on
such authority quotes 1,291 as the total number of warriors of knightly
or higher rank slain at Crecy, it is possible of course that he is not
the victim of deception; but what of the 30,000 common soldiers for
whose death he also vouches? A monk of St. Albans, also a contemporary,
speaks only of an unknown number (_et vulgus cujus numerus ignoratur_);
which in the account of the Abbot Hugo was put definitely at more than
100,000. It is evident from this that the greatest laxity prevailed
in reference to chronicling the numbers of the slain; so that if we
take 3,000 instead of 30,000 as the sum total of common soldiers slain
at Crecy, it is probable that we shall be nearer the truth than if we
implicitly accept Froissart’s statement.

The same scepticism will of course hold good of the battles of the
ancient world. Is it likely, for instance, that in a battle in which
the Romans are said only to have lost 100 men, the Macedonians should
have lost 20,000?[10] Or again, is it possible, considering the
difficulty of the commissariat of a large army, even in our own days
of trains and telegraphs and improved agriculture, that Marius in one
battle can have slain 200,000 Teutons, and taken 90,000 prisoners?
But whilst no conclusion is possible but that the figures of the older
histories are altogether too untrustworthy to afford any basis for
comparison, the calculation rests on something more like fair evidence,
that in the fortnight between August 4, 1870, the date of the battle
of Wissembourg, and August 18, that of Gravelotte, including the
battles of Woerth and Forbach on August 6, of Courcelles on the 14th,
and of Vionville on the 16th more than 100,000 French and Germans
met their death on the battle-field, to say nothing of those who
perished afterwards in agonies in the hospitals. Recent wars have been
undoubtedly shorter than they often were in olden times, but their
brevity is founded on no reason that can ensure its recurrence: nor, if
100,000 are to be miserably cast out of existence, is the gain so very
great, if the task, instead of being spread over a number of years,
requires only a fortnight for its accomplishment.

For the nearest approach to a statement of what the laws of war in our
own time really are, we must turn to the Brussels Conference, which
met in 1874 at the summons of the same great Russian to whom the world
owes the St. Petersburg Declaration, and which constituted a genuine
attempt to mitigate the evils of war by an international agreement and
definition of their limits. The idea of such a plan was originally
suggested by the Instructions published in 1863 by President Lincoln
for the government of the armies of the United States in the civil
war.[11] The project for such an international agreement, originally
submitted by the Russian Government for discussion, was very much
modified before even a compromise of opinion could be arrived at on
the several points it contained. And the project so modified, as a
preliminary basis for future agreement, owing to the timid refusal
of the English Government to take further part in the matter, never,
unfortunately, reached its final stage of a definite code;[12] but it
remains nevertheless the most authoritative utterance extant of the
laws generally thought to be binding in modern warfare on the practices
and passions of the combatants. The following articles from the project
as finally modified are undoubtedly the most important:--

_Art. 12._ The laws of war do not allow to belligerents an unlimited
power as to the choice of means of injuring the enemy.

_Art. 13._ According to this principle are strictly forbidden--

 _a._ The use of poison or poisoned weapons.

 _b._ Murder by treachery of individuals belonging to the hostile
    nation or army.

 _c._ Murder of an antagonist who, having laid down his arms, or having
    no longer the means of defending himself, has surrendered at

 _d._ The declaration that no quarter will be given.

 _e._ The use of arms, projectiles, or substances which may cause
    unnecessary suffering, as well as of those prohibited by the
    Declaration of St. Petersburg in 1868.

 _f._ Abuse of the flag of truce, the national flag, or the military
    insignia or uniform of the enemy, as well as the distinctive badges
    of the Geneva Convention.

 _g._ All destruction or seizure of the enemy’s property which is not
    imperatively required by the necessity of war.

_Art. 15._ Fortified places are alone liable to be besieged. Towns,
agglomerations of houses or villages which are open or undefended,
cannot be attacked or bombarded.

_Art. 17._ ... All necessary steps should be taken to spare as far as
possible buildings devoted to religion, arts, sciences, and charity,
hospitals and places where sick and wounded are collected, on condition
that they are not used at the same time for military purposes.

_Art. 18._ A town taken by storm shall not be given up to the
victorious troops for plunder.

_Art. 23._ Prisoners of war ... should be treated with humanity.... All
their personal effects except their arms are to be considered their own

_Arts. 36, 37._ The population of an occupied territory cannot be
compelled to take part in military operations against their own
country, nor to swear allegiance to the enemy’s power.

_Art. 38._ The honour and rights of the family, the life and property
of individuals, as well as their religious convictions and the exercise
of their religion, should be respected.

Private property cannot be confiscated.

_Art. 39._ Pillage is expressly forbidden.

There is at first sight a pleasing ring of humanity in all this,
though, as yet, it only represents the better military spirit, which is
always far in advance of actual military practice. In the monotonous
history of war there are always commanders who wage it with less
ferocity than others, and writers who plead for the mitigation of
its cruelties. As in modern history a Marlborough, a Wellington, or
a Villars forms a pleasant contrast to a Feuquières, a Belleisle, or
a Blücher, so in ancient history a Marcellus or a Lucullus helps us
to forget a Marius or an Alexander; and the sentiments of a Cicero or
Tacitus were as far in advance of their time as those of a Grotius or
Vattel were of theirs. According to the accident of the existence of
such men, the laws of war fluctuate from age to age; but, the question
arises, Do they become perceptibly milder? do they ever permanently

It will be said that they do, because it will be said that they have;
and that the annals of modern wars present nothing to resemble the
atrocities that may be collected from ancient or mediæval history. Yet
such statements carry no conviction. Deterioration seems as likely as
improvement; and unless the custom is checked altogether, the wars of
the twentieth century may be expected to exceed in barbarity anything
of which we have any conception. A very brief inquiry will suffice to
dispel the common assurances of improvement and progress.

Poison is forbidden in war, says the Berlin Conference; but so it
always was, even in the Institutes of Menu, and with perhaps less
difference of opinion in ancient than in modern times. Grotius and
Vattel and most of their followers disallow it, but two publicists
of grave authority defend it, Bynkershoeck and Wolff. The latter
published his ‘Jus Gentium’ as late as 1749, and his argument is worth
translating, since it can only be met by arguments which equally apply
to other modes of military slaughter. ‘Naturally it is lawful to kill
an enemy by poison; for as long as he is our enemy, he resists the
reparation of our right, so that we may exercise against his person
whatever suffices to avert his power from ourselves or our possessions.
Therefore it is not unfair to get rid of him. But, since it comes to
the same thing whether you get rid of him by the sword or by poison
(which is self-evident, because in either case you get rid of him, and
he can no longer resist or injure you), it is naturally lawful to kill
an enemy by poison.’ And so, he argues with equal force, of poisoned
weapons.[13] That poison is not in use in our day we do not therefore
owe to our international lawyers, but to the accident of tradition. In
Roman history the theory appears to have been unanimous against it.
‘Such conduct,’ says the Roman writer Florus of a general who poisoned
some springs in order to bring some cities in Asia to a speedier
surrender, ‘although it hastened his victory, rendered it infamous,
since it was done not only against divine law, but against ancestral
customs.’[14] Our statesman Fox refused indignantly to avail himself
of an offer to poison Napoleon, but so did the Roman consuls refuse a
similar proposal with regard to Pyrrhus; and Tiberius and the Roman
senate replied to a plan for poisoning Arminius, that the Roman people
punished their enemies not by fraud or in secret, but openly and in

The history of bombarding towns affords an instance of something
like actual deterioration in the usages of modern warfare. Regular
and simple bombardment, that is, of a town indiscriminately and not
merely its fortresses, has now become the established practice. Yet,
what did Vattel say in the middle of the last century? ‘At present we
generally content ourselves with battering the ramparts and defences of
a place. To destroy a town with bombs and red-hot balls is an extremity
to which we do not proceed without cogent reasons.’ What said Vauban
still earlier? ‘The fire must be directed simply at the defences and
batteries of a place ... and not against the houses.’ Then what of the
English bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807, when the cathedral and some
300 houses were destroyed; what of the German bombardment of Strasburg
in 1870, where rifled mortars were used for the first time,[15] and the
famous library and picture gallery destroyed; and what lastly of the
German bombardment of Paris, about which, strangely enough, even the
military conscience of the Germans was struck, so that in the highest
circles doubts about the propriety of such a proceeding at one time
prevailed from a moral no less than from a military point of view?[16]

With respect again to sacred or public buildings, warfare tends to
become increasingly destructive. It was the rule in Greek warfare to
spare sacred buildings, and the Romans frequently spared sacred and
other buildings, as Marcellus, for instance, at Syracuse.[17] Yet when
the French ravaged the Palatinate in 1689 they not only set fire to the
cathedrals, but sacked the tombs of the ancient Emperors at Spiers.
Frederick II. destroyed some of the finest buildings at Dresden and
Prague. In 1814 the English forces destroyed the Capitol at Washington,
the President’s house, and other public buildings;[18] and in 1815 the
Prussian general, Blücher, was with difficulty restrained from blowing
up the Bridge of Jena at Paris and the Pillar of Austerlitz. Military
men have always the excuse of reprisals or accident for these acts of
Vandalism. Yet Vattel had said (in language which but repeated the
language of Polybius and Cicero): ‘We ought to spare those edifices
which do honour to human society, and do not contribute to the enemy’s
strength, such as temples, tombs, public buildings, and all works of
remarkable beauty.’

Of as little avail has been the same writer’s observation that those
who tear up vines and cut down fruit trees are to be looked upon
as savage. The Fijian islanders were barbarians enough, but even
they used as a rule to spare their enemies’ fruit trees; so did the
ancient Indians; and the Koran forbids the wanton destruction of fruit
trees, palm trees, corn and cattle. Then what shall we think of the
armies of Louis XIV. in the Palatinate not only burning castles,
country-houses, and villages, but ruthlessly destroying crops, vines,
and fruit trees?[19] or of the Prussian warrior, Blücher, destroying
the ornamental trees at Paris in 1815?

It is said that the Germans refused to let the women and children leave
Strasburg before they began to bombard it in 1870.[20] Yet Vattel
himself tells us how Titus, at the siege of Jerusalem, suffered the
women and children to depart, and how Henri IV., besieging Paris, had
the humanity to let them pass through his lines.

It was in a campaign of this century, 1815, that General Roquet
collected the French officers, and bade them tell the grenadiers that
the first man who should bring him in a Prussian prisoner should be
shot; and it was in reprisals for this that a few days later the
Prussians killed the French wounded at Genappe.[21]

Grotius, after quoting the fact that a decree of the Amphictyons
forbade the destruction of any Greek city in war, asserts the existence
of a stronger bond between the nations of Christendom than between
the states of ancient Greece. And then we remember how the Prussians
bombarded the Danish town of Sönderborg, and almost utterly destroyed
it, though it lay beyond the possibility of their possession; and we
think of Peronne in France reduced to ruins, with the greater part of
its fine cathedral, in 1870; and of the German shells directed against
the French fire-engines that endeavoured to save the Strasburg Library
from the flames that consumed it; and we wonder that so great a jurist
could have been capable of so grievous a delusion.

To murder a garrison that had made an obstinate defence, or in order
to terrorise others from doing the same, was a right of modern war
disputed by Grotius, but admitted by Vattel not to be totally exploded
a century later. Yet they both quote cases which prove that to murder
enemies who had made a gallant defence was regarded in ancient times as
a violation of the laws of war.

To murder enemies who had surrendered was as contrary to Greek or
Roman as it ever was to Christian warfare. The general Greek and
Roman practice was to allow quarter to an enemy who surrendered, and
to redeem or exchange their prisoners.[22] There was indeed, by the
laws of war, a right to slay or enslave them, and though both rights
were sometimes exercised with great barbarity, the extent to which the
former right was exercised has been very much exaggerated. Otherwise,
why should Diodorus Siculus, in the century preceding our era, have
spoken of mercy to prisoners as the common law (τὰ κοινὰ νόμιμα), and
of the violation of such law as an act of exceptional barbarity?[23]
It may be fairly doubted whether the French prisoners in the English
hulks during the war with Napoleon suffered less than the Athenian
prisoners in the mines of Syracuse; and as to quarter, what of the
French volunteers or Franc-tireurs who in 1870 fell into the hands of
the Germans, or of the French peasants, who, though levied and armed
by the local authorities under the proclamation of Napoleon, were, if
taken, put to death by the Allies in 1814?

Some other illustrations tend further to show that there is no real
progress in war, and that many of the fancied mitigations of it are
merely accidental and ephemeral features.

The French and English in olden time used to spare one another’s
fishing boats and their crews. ‘Fishermen,’ said Froissart, ‘though
there may be war between France and England, never injure one another;
they remain friends, and assist each other in case of need, and buy
and sell their fish whenever one has a larger quantity than the other,
for if they were to fight we should have no fresh fish.’[24] Yet in
the Crimean war, the English fleets in the Baltic seized or burnt the
fishing boats of the Finns, and destroyed the cargoes of fish on which,
having been salted in the summer months, they were dependent for their
subsistence during the winter.[25]

Polybius informs us that the Œtolians were regarded as the common
outlaws of Greece, because they did not scruple to make war without
declaring it. Invasions of that sort were regarded as robberies, not
as lawful wars. Yet declarations of war may now be dispensed with, the
first precedent for doing so having been set by Gustavus Adolphus.

Gustavus Adolphus, in 1627, issued some humane Articles of War, which
forbade, among other things, injuries to old men, women, and children.
Yet within a few years the Swedish soldiery, like other troops of their
time, made the gratuitous torture and mutilation of combatants or
non-combatants a common episode of their military proceedings.[26]

When Henry V. of England invaded France, early in the fifteenth
century, he forbade in his General Orders the wanton injury of
property, insults to women, or gratuitous bloodshed. Yet four centuries
later the character of war had so little changed that we find the Duke
of Wellington, when invading the same country, lamenting in a General
Order that, ‘according to all the information which the Commander
of the Forces had received, outrages of all descriptions’ had been
committed by his troops, ‘in presence even of their officers, who took
no pains whatever to prevent them.’[27]

The French complain that their last war with Germany was not war,
but robbery; as if pillage and war had ever been distinct in fact
or were distinguishable in thought. There appears to have been very
little limit to the robbery that was committed under the name of
contributions; yet Vattel tells us that, though in his time the
practice had died out, the belligerent sovereigns, in the wars of Louis
XIV., used to regulate by treaty the extent of hostile territory in
which each might levy contributions, together with the amount which
might be levied, and the manner in which the levying parties were to
conduct themselves.[28]

Is it not proved then by the above facts, that the laws of war
rather fluctuate from age to age within somewhat narrow limits than
permanently improve, and that they are apt to lose in one direction
whatever they gain in another? Humanity in warfare now, as in
antiquity, remains the exception, not the rule; and may be found now,
as at all times, in books or in the finer imaginations of a few, far
more often than in the real life of the battle-field. The plea of
shortening the horrors of war is always the plea for carrying them to
an extreme; as by Louvois for devastating the Palatinate, or by Suchet,
the French general, for driving the helpless women and children into
the citadel of Lerida, and for then shelling them all night with the
humane object of bringing the governor to a speedier surrender.[29]

Writers on the Law of Nations have in fact led us into a Fool’s
Paradise about war (which has done more than anything else to keep
the custom in existence), by representing it as something quite mild
and almost refined in modern times. Vattel, the Swiss jurist, set the
example. He published his work on the rights of nations two years
after the Seven Years’ War had begun, and he speaks of the European
nations in his time as waging their wars ‘with great moderation and
generosity,’ the very year before Marshal Belleisle gave orders to
make Westphalia a desert. Vattel too it was who first appealed to the
amenities that occasionally interrupt hostilities in support of his
theory of the generosity of modern warfare.

But what after all does it come to, if rival generals address each
other in terms of civility or interchange acceptable gifts? At
Sebastopol, the English Sir Edmond Lyons sent the Russian Admiral
Machinoff the present of a fat buck, the latter acknowledging the
compliment with the return of a hard Dutch cheese. At Gibraltar, when
the men of Elliot’s garrison were suffering severely from scurvy,
Crillon sent them a cartload of carrots. These things have always
occurred even in the fiercest times of military barbarism. At the
siege of Orleans (1429) the Earl of Suffolk sent the French commander
Dunois a present of dessert, consisting of figs, dates, and raisins;
and Dunois in return sent Suffolk some fur for his cloak; yet there was
little limit in those days to the ferocity shown in war by the French
and English to one another. A ransom was extorted even for the bodies
of the slain. The occasional gleams of humanity in the history of war
count for nothing in the general picture of its savagery.

The jurists in this way have helped to give a totally false colour to
the real nature of war; and scarcely a day passes in a modern campaign
that does not give the lie to the rules laid down in the ponderous
tomes of the international-law writers. It is said that Gustavus
Adolphus always had with him in camp a copy of ‘Grotius,’ as Alexander
is said to have slept over Homer. The improbability of finding a copy
of ‘Grotius’ in a modern camp may be taken as an illustration of the
neglect that has long since fallen on the restraints with which our
publicists have sought to fetter our generals, and of the futility of
all such endeavours.

All honour to Grotius for having sought to make warfare a few degrees
less atrocious than he found it; but let us not therefore deceive
ourselves into an extravagant belief in the efficacy of his labours.
Kant, who lived later, and had the same problem to face, cherished no
such delusion as to the possibility of humanising warfare, but went
straight to the point of trying to stop it altogether; and Kant was in
every point the better reasoner. Either would doubtless have regarded
the other’s reasoning on the subject as Utopian; but which with the
better reason?

Grotius took the course of first stating what the extreme rights of
war were, as proved by precedent and usage, and of then pleading for
their mitigation on the ground of religion and humanity. In either case
he appealed to precedent, and only set the better against the worse;
leaving thereby the rights of war in utter confusion, and quite devoid
of any principle of measurement.

Let us take as an illustration of his method the question of the
slaughter of women and children. This he began with admitting to be
a strict right of war. Profane history supplied him with several
instances of such massacres, and so more especially did Biblical
history. He refrained, he expressly tells us, from adducing the slaying
of the women and children of Heshbon by the Hebrews, or the command
given to them to deal in the same way with the people of Canaan, for
these were the works of God, whose rights over mankind were far greater
than those of man over beasts. He preferred, as coming nearer to the
practice of his own time, the testimony of that verse in the Psalms
which says, ‘Blessed shall he be who shall dash thy children against a
stone.’ Subsequently he withdrew this right of war, by reference to the
better precedents of ancient times. It does not appear to have occurred
to him that the precedents of history, if we go to them for our rules
of war, will prove anything, according to the character of the actions
we select. Camillus (in Livy) speaks of childhood as inviolable even
in stormed cities; the Emperor Severus, on the other hand, ordered his
soldiers to put all persons in Britain to the sword indiscriminately,
and in his turn appealed to precedent, the order, namely, of Agamemnon,
that of the Trojans not even children in their mothers’ womb should
be spared from destruction. The children of Israel were forbidden in
their wars to cut down fruit trees; yet when they warred against the
Moabites, ‘they stopped all the wells of water and felled all the good
trees.’ It was only possible in this way to distinguish the better
custom from the worse, not the right from the wrong; either being
equally justifiable on a mere appeal to historical instances.

The rules of war which prevailed in the time of Grotius--the early
time of the Thirty Years’ War--may be briefly summarised from his work
as follows. The rights of war extended to _all_ persons within the
hostile boundaries, the declaration of war being essentially directed
against every individual of a belligerent nation. Any person of a
hostile nation, therefore, might be slain wherever found, provided it
were not on neutral territory. Women and children might be lawfully
slain (as it will be shown that they were also liable to be in the
best days of chivalry); and so might prisoners of war, suppliants for
their lives, or those who surrendered unconditionally. It was lawful
to assassinate an enemy, provided it involved no violation of a tacit
or express agreement; but it was unlawful to use poison in any form,
though fountains, if not poisoned, might be made undrinkable. Anything
belonging to an enemy might be destroyed: his crops, his houses, his
flocks, his trees, even his sacred edifices, or his places of burial.

That these extreme rights of war were literally enforced in the
seventeenth century admits of no doubt; nor if any of them have at all
been mitigated, can we attribute it so much to the humane attempt of
Grotius and his followers to set restrictions on the rightful exercise
of predominant force, as to the accidental influence of individual
commanders. It has been well remarked that the right of non-combatants
to be unmolested in war was recognised by generals before it was ever
proclaimed by the publicists.[30] And the same truth applies to many
other changes in warfare, which have been oftener the result of a
temporary military fashion, or of new ideas of military expediency,
than of obedience to Grotius or Vattel. They set themselves to as
futile a task as the proverbial impossibility of whitening the negro;
with this result--that the destructiveness of war, its crimes, and
its cruelties, are something new even to a world that cannot lose the
recollection of the sack of Magdeburg in 1631, or the devastation of
the Palatinate in 1689.[31]

The publicists have but recognised and reflected the floating
sentiments of their time, without giving us any definite principle by
which to separate the permissible from the non-permissible practice in
war. We have seen how much they are at issue on the use of poison. They
are equally at issue as to the right of employing assassination; as to
the extent of the legitimate use of fraud; as to the right of beginning
a war without declaration; as to the limits of the invader’s rights of
robbery; as to the right of the invaded to rise against his invader; or
as to whether individuals so rising are to be treated as prisoners of
war or hanged as assassins. Let us consider what they have done for us
with regard to the right of using savages for allies, or with regard to
the rights of the conqueror over the town he has taken by assault.

The right to use barbarian troops on the Christian battle-field is
unanimously denied by all the modern text-writers. Lord Chatham’s
indignation against England’s employment of them against her revolted
colonies in America availed as little. Towards the end of the Crimean
war Russia prepared to arm some savage races within her empire, and
brought Circassians into Hungary in 1848.[32] France employed African
Turcos both against Austria in 1859 and against Prussia in 1870; and it
is within the recollection of the youngest what came of the employment
by Turkey of Bashi-Bazouks. Are they likely not to be used in future
because Bluntschli, Heffter, or Wheaton prohibits them?

To take a town by assault is the worst danger a soldier can have to
face. The theory therefore had a show of reason, that without the
reward of unlimited licence he could never be brought to the breach.
Tilly is said to have replied, when he was entreated by some of his
officers to check the rapine and bloodshed that has immortalised
the sack of Magdeburg in 1631: ‘Three hours’ plundering is the
shortest rule of war. The soldier must have something for his toil
and trouble.’[33] It is on such occasions, therefore, that war shows
itself in its true character, and that M. Girardin’s remark, ‘_La
guerre c’est l’assassinat, la guerre c’est le vol,_’ reads like a
revelation. The scene never varies from age to age; and the storming of
Badajoz and San Sebastian by the English forces in the Peninsular War,
or of Constantine in Algeria by the French in 1837, teaches us what
we may expect to see in Europe when next a town is taken by assault,
as Strasburg might have been in 1870. ‘No age, no nation,’ says Sir
W. Napier, ‘ever sent forth braver troops to battle than those who
stormed Badajoz’ (April 1812). Yet for two days and nights there
reigned in its streets, says the same writer, ‘shameless rapacity,
brutal intemperance, savage lust, cruelty, and murder.’[34] And what
says he of San Sebastian not a year and a half later? A thunderstorm
that broke out ‘seemed to be a signal from hell for the perpetration
of villany which would have shamed the most ferocious barbarians of
antiquity.’ ... ‘The direst, the most revolting cruelty was added to
the catalogue of crime: one atrocity ... staggers the mind by its
enormous, incredible, indescribable barbarity.’[35] If officers lost
their lives in trying to prevent such deeds--whose very atrocity, as
some one has said, preserves them from our full execration, because it
makes it impossible to describe them--is it likely that the gallant
soldiers who crowned their bravery with such devilry would have been
one whit restrained by the consideration that in refusing quarter, or
in murdering, torturing, or mutilating non-combatants, they were acting
contrary to the rules of modern warfare?

If, then, we temper theory with practice, and desert our books for the
facts of the battle-field (so far as they are ever told in full), we
may perhaps lay down the following as the most important laws of modern

1. You may not use explosive bullets; but you may use conical-shaped
ones, which inflict far more mutilation than round ones, and even
explosive bullets if they do not fall below a certain magnitude.

2. You may not poison your enemy, because you thus take from him the
chance of self-defence: but you may blow him up with a fougass or
dynamite, from which he is equally incapable of defending himself.

3. You may not poison your enemy’s drinking-water; but you may infect
it with dead bodies or otherwise, because that is only equivalent to
turning the stream.

4. You may not kill helpless old men, women, or children with the sword
or bayonet; but as much as you please with your Congreve rockets,
howitzers, or mortars.

5. You may not make war on the peaceable occupants of a country; but
you may burn their houses if they resist your claims to rob them of
their uttermost farthing.

6. You may not refuse quarter to an enemy; but you may if he be not
equipped in a particular outfit.

7. You may not kill your prisoners of war; but you may order your
soldiers not to take any.

8. You may not ask a ransom for your prisoners; but you may more than
cover their cost in the lump sum you exact for the expenses of the war.

9. You may not purposely destroy churches, hospitals, museums, or
libraries; but ‘military exigencies’ will cover your doing so, as they
will almost anything else you choose to do in breach of any other
restrictions on your conduct.

And it is into these absurdities that the reasonings of Grotius and his
followers have led us. The real dreamers, it appears, have been, not
those who, like Henri IV., Sully, St. Pierre, or Kant, have dreamed of
a world without wars, but those who have dreamed of wars waged without
lawlessness, passion, or crime. On them be thrown back the taunts of
Utopianism which they have showered so long on the only view of the
matter which is really logical and consistent. On them, at least, rests
the shadow, and must rest the reproach, of an egregious failure, unless
recent wars are of no account and teach no lesson. And if their failure
be real and signal, what remains for those who wish for better things,
and for some check on deeds that threaten our civilisation, but to turn
their backs on the instructors they once trusted; to light their fires
rather than to load their shelves with Grotius, Vattel, and the rest;
and to throw in their lot for the future with the opinion, hitherto
despised, though it was Kant’s, and the endeavour hitherto discredited,
though it was Henry the Great’s, Sully’s, and Elizabeth’s--the opinion,
that is, that it were easier to abolish war than to humanise it, and
that only in the growth of a spirit of international confidence lies
any possible hope of its ultimate extinction?



    _Voi m’avete fatto tornare quest’arte del soldo quasi che nulla, ed
    io ne l’aveva presupposta la più eccellente e la più onorevole che
    si facesse._--MACHIAVELLI, _Dell’Arte della Guerra_.

    Delusion about character of war in days of chivalry--The common
    slaughter of women and children--The Earl of Derby’s sack of
    Poitiers--The massacres of Grammont and Gravelines--The old poem
    of the Vow of the Heron--The massacre of Limoges by Edward the
    Black Prince--The imprisonment of ladies for ransom--Prisoners
    of war starved to death; or massacred, if no prospect of ransom;
    or blinded or otherwise mutilated--The meaning of a surrender at
    discretion, as illustrated by Edward III. at Calais; and by several
    instances in the same and the next century--The practice of burning
    in aid of war; and of destroying sacred buildings--The practice of
    poisoning the air--The use of barbarous weapons--The influence of
    religion on war--The Church in vain on the side of peace--Curious
    vows of the knights--The slight personal danger incurred in war by
    them--The explanation of their magnificent costume--Field-sports
    in war-time--The desire of gain the chief motive to war--The
    identity of soldiers and brigands--The career and character of the
    Black Prince--The place of money in the history of chivalry--Its
    influence as a war-motive between England and France--General low
    character of chivalrous warfare.

For an impartial estimate of the custom of war, the best preparation
is a study of its leading features in the days of chivalry. Not only
are most of our modern military usages directly descended from that
period, though many claim a far remoter ancestry, and go back to the
days of primitive savagery, but it is the tradition of chivalry that
chiefly keeps alive the delusion that it is possible for warfare to be
conducted with humanity, generosity, and courtesy.

Hallam, for instance, observes that in the wars of our Edward III.,
‘the spirit of honourable as well as courteous behaviour towards
the foe seems to have arrived at its highest point;’ and he refers
especially to the custom of ransoming a prisoner on his parole, and to
the generous treatment by the Black Prince of the French king taken
captive at Poitiers.

In order to demonstrate the extreme exaggeration of this view, and to
show that with war, as with the greater crimes, moral greatness is only
connected accidentally, occasionally, or in romance, it is necessary
to examine somewhat closely the warfare of the fourteenth century.
Chivalry, according to certain historians, was during that century in
process of decline; but the decline, if any, was rather in the nature
of its forms and ceremonies than of its spirit or essence. It was
the century of the most illustrious names in chivalry, in France of
Bertrand du Guesclin, in England of the Black Prince, Sir Walter Manny,
Sir John Chandos. It was the century of the battles of Crecy, Poitiers,
Avray, and Navarette. It was the century of the Order of the Star in
France, of the Garter and the Bath in England. Above all, it was the
century of Froissart, who painted its manners and thoughts with a
vividness so surpassing that to read his pages is almost to live in his
time. So that the fourteenth century may fairly be taken as the period
in which chivalry reached its highest perfection, and in which the
military type of life and character attained its noblest development.
It is the century of which we instinctively think when we would imagine
a time when the rivalry of brave deeds gave birth to heroism, and the
rivalry of military generosity invested even the cruelties of the
battle-field with the halo of romance.

Imagination, however, plays us false here as elsewhere. Froissart
himself, who described wars and battles and noble feats of arms
with a candour equal to his honest delight in them, is alone proof
enough that there seldom was a period when war was more ferociously
conducted; when the laws in restraint of it, imposed by the voice
of morality or religion, were less felt; when the motives for it as
well as the incentives of personal courage, were more mercenary; or
when the demoralisation consequent upon it were more widely or more
fatally spread. The facts that follow in support of this conclusion
come, in default of any other special reference, solely from that
charming chronicler; allusions to other sources being only necessary
to prove the existence of a common usage, and to leave no room for the
theory that the cases gathered from Froissart were but occasional or
accidental occurrences.

Even savage tribes, like the Zulus, spare the lives of women and
children in war, and such a restraint is the first test of any warfare
claiming to rank above the most barbarous. But in the fourteenth
century such indiscriminate slaughter was the commonest episode of
war: a fact not among the least surprising when we remember that the
protection of women and the defenceless was one of the special clauses
of the oath taken by knights at the ceremony of investiture. Five
days after the death of Edward III., and actually during negotiations
between France and England, the admirals of France and Spain, at the
command of the King of France, sailed for Rye, which they burnt,
slaying the inhabitants, whether men or women (1377); and it is a
reasonable supposition that the same conduct marked their further
progress of pillage and incendiarism in the Isle of Wight.

Nor were such acts only the incidents of maritime warfare, and
perpetrated merely by the pirates of either country; for they occurred
as frequently in hostilities by land, and in connection with the
noblest names of Christendom. At Taillebourg, in Saintonge, the Earl
of Derby had all the inhabitants put to the sword, in reprisals for
the death of one knight, who during the assault on the town had met
with his death. So it fared during the same campaign with three other
places in Poitou, the chronicler giving us more details with reference
to the fate of Poitiers. There were no knights in the town accustomed
to war and capable of organising a defence; and it was only people of
the poorer sort who offered a brave but futile resistance to the army.
When the town was won, 700 people were massacred; ‘for the Earl’s
people put every one to the sword, men, women, and little children.’
The Earl of Derby took no steps to stop the slaughter, but after many
churches and houses had been destroyed, he forbade under pain of death
any further incendiarism, apparently for no other reason than that he
wished to stay there for ten or twelve days. A few years later, when
the French had recovered Poitiers, the English knights, who had been
there, marched away to Niort, which, on the refusal of the inhabitants
to admit them, they forthwith attacked and speedily won, owing to the
absence, as at Poitiers, of any knights to direct the defence. The male
and female inhabitants alike were put to the sword. All these instances
occur in one short chapter of Froissart.

Sometimes this promiscuous slaughter even raised its perpetrators to
higher esteem. An episode of this sort occurred in the famous war
between the citizens of Ghent and the Earl of Flanders. The Lord
d’Enghien, with 4,000 cavaliers and a large force of foot, besieged the
town of Grammont, which was attached to Ghent. About four o’clock one
fine Sunday in June, the besiegers gained the town, and the slaughter,
says Froissart, was very great of men, women, and children, for to
none was mercy shown. Upwards of 500 of the inhabitants were killed;
numbers of old people and women were burnt in their beds; and the town
being then set on fire in more than two hundred places, was speedily
reduced to ashes. ‘Fair son,’ said the Earl of Flanders, greeting his
returning relative, ‘you are a valiant man, and if it please God will
be a gallant knight, for you have made a handsome beginning.’ History,
however, may rejoice that so promising a career was checked in the bud;
for the young nobleman’s death in a skirmish within a few days made his
first feat of arms also his last.

A similar story is connected with the memory of the fighting Bishop of
Norwich, famous in those days. Having been authorised by Pope Urban
VI. to make war on Pope Clement VII., he went and besieged the town of
Gravelines with shot and wild-fire, ‘till in the end our men entered
the town with their Bishop, when they at his commandment destroying
both man, woman, and child, left not one alive of all those who
remained in the town.’[36] This was in 1383; and it will be observed
how then, just as in later days, the excuse of superior orders served
as an excuse for the perpetration of any crime, provided only it were
committed in war.

It would be an error to suppose that these things were the mere
accident of war, due to the passion of the moment, or to the feeble
control of leaders over their men. In a very curious old French poem,
called ‘The Vow of the Heron,’ indisputable evidence exists that the
slaughter of women and children was not only often premeditated before
the opening of hostilities, but that an oath binding a man to it was
sometimes given and accepted as a token of commendable bravery. The
poem in question deals with historical events and persons; and if not
to be taken as literal history, undoubtedly keeps within the limits
of probability, as proved by other testimony of the manners of those
times. Robert, Count of Artois, exiled from France, comes to England,
and bringing a roasted heron before Edward III. and his court, prays
them to make vows by it before eating of it (in accordance with the
custom which attached to such oaths peculiar sanctity) concerning the
deeds of war they would undertake against the kingdom of France. Edward
III., the Earl of Salisbury, Sir Walter Manny, the Earl of Derby,
Lord Suffolk, having all sworn according to the Count’s wishes, Sir
Fauquemont, striving to outdo them in the profession of military zeal,
swore that if the king would cross the sea to invade France, he would
always appear in the van of his troops, carrying devastation and fire
and slaughter, and sparing not altars, nor relations, nor friends,
neither helpless women nor children.[37]

Let the reader reflect that these things occurred in war, not of
Christians against infidels, but of Christians with one another, and
in a period commonly belauded for its advance in chivalrous humanity.
The incidents related were of too common occurrence to call for special
remark by their chronicler; but the peculiar atrocities of the famous
sack of Limoges, by the express orders of Edward the Black Prince,
were too much even for Froissart. It is best to let him tell his own
story from the moment of the entry of the besieging force: ‘The Prince,
the Duke of Lancaster, the Earls of Cambridge and of Pembroke, Sir
Guiscard d’Angle, and the others, with their men, rushed into the town.
You would then have seen pillagers active to do mischief, running
through the town, slaying men, women, and children, according to their
commands. It was a most melancholy business, for all ranks, ages, and
sexes cast themselves on their knees before the Prince, begging for
mercy; but he was so inflamed with passion and revenge that he listened
to none, but all were put to the sword, wherever they could be found,
even those who were not guilty; for, I know not why, the poor were
not spared, who could not have had any part in this treason; but they
suffered for it, and indeed more than those who had been the leaders
of the treachery. There was not that day in the city of Limoges any
heart so hardened or that had any sense of religion, who did not deeply
bewail the unfortunate events passing before their eyes; for upwards
of 3,000 men, women, and children were put to death that day. God have
mercy on their souls, for they were veritable martyrs.’ Yet the man
whose memory is stained with this crime, among the blackest in history,
was he whom not his own country alone, but the Europe of his day,
dubbed the Mirror of Knighthood; and those who blindly but (according
to the still prevalent sophistry of militarism) rightly carried out
his orders counted among them at least three of the noblest names in

The absence in chivalry of any feeling strong enough to save the lives
of women from the sword of the warrior renders improbable _à priori_
any keen scruples against making them prisoners of war. In France such
scruples were stronger than in England. The soldiers of the Black
Prince took captive the Duchess of Bourbon, mother to the King of
France, and imprisoned her in the castle of Belleperche; whence she was
afterwards conducted into Guyenne, and ransom exacted for her liberty.
Similar facts mark the whole period from the twelfth to the fifteenth
century. When the Crusaders under Richard I. took Messina by assault,
they carried off with their other lawful spoils all the noblest women
belonging to the Sicilians.[38] Edward I. made prisoners of the queen
of Robert Bruce and her ladies, and of the Countess of Buchan, who had
crowned Bruce. The latter, he said, as she had not used the sword,
should not perish by it; but for her lawless conspiracy she should be
shut up in a chamber of stone and iron, circular as the crown she gave;
and at Berwick she should be suspended in the open air, a spectacle to
travellers, and for her everlasting infamy. Accordingly, a turret was
fitted up for her with a strong cage of lattice-work, made of strong
posts and bars of iron.[39] In the fifteenth century, the English, in
their war upon the French frontier, according to Monstrelet, ‘made many
prisoners, and even carried off women, as well noble as not, whom they
kept in close confinement until they ransomed themselves.’[40] The
notion, therefore, that in those times any special courtesy was shown
in war to the weaker sex must be received with extreme latitude. In
1194, Henry, Emperor of the Romans, having taken Salerno in Apulia by
storm, actually put up for auction to his troops the wives and children
of the chief citizens whom he had slain and exiled.

To pass to the treatment of prisoners of war, who, be it remembered,
were only those who could promise ransom. The old historian Hoveden,
speaking of a battle that was fought in 1173, says that there fell in
it more than 10,000 Flemings; the remainder, who were taken captive,
being thrown into prison in irons, and there starved to death. There
is no evidence whether, or for how long, starving remained in vogue;
but the iron chains were habitual, down even to the fourteenth century
or later, among the Germans and Spaniards, the extortion of a heavier
ransom being the motive for increasing the weight of chain and the
general discomfort of prison. To let a prisoner go at large on parole
for his ransom was an advance initiated by the French, that sprang
naturally out of a state of hostilities in which most of the combatants
became personally acquainted, but it was still conduct so exceptional
that Froissart always speaks of it in terms of high eulogy. It was also
an advance that often sprang out of the plainest necessities of the
case, as when, after the battle of Poitiers, the English found their
prisoners to be double their own numbers, wherefore in consideration of
the risk they ran, they either received ransom from them on the spot
or gave them their liberty in exchange for a promise to bring their
ransom-money at Christmas to Bordeaux. Bertrand du Guesclin did the
same by the English knights after their defeat at Pontvalin; and it was
in reference to this last occasion that Froissart calls attention to
the superiority of the French over the Germans in not shackling their
prisoners with a view to a heavier ransom. ‘Curses on them for it,’ he
exclaims of the Germans; ‘they are a people without pity or honour,
and they ought never to receive quarter. The French entertained their
prisoners well and ransomed them courteously, without being too hard
upon them.’

Nevertheless we must suspect that this sort of courtesy was rather
occasional than habitual. Of this same Du Guesclin, whom St.-Palaye
calls the flower of chivalry,[41] two stories are told that throw a
different but curious light on the manners of those times. Having on
one occasion defeated the English and taken many of them prisoners,
Du Guesclin tried to observe the rules of distributive justice in
the partition of the captives, but failing of success and unable to
discover to whom the prisoners really belonged, he and Clisson (who
were brothers in arms) in order to terminate the differences which the
victorious French had with one another on the subject, conceived that
the only fair solution was to have them all massacred, and accordingly
more than 500 Englishmen were put to death in cold blood outside the
gates of Bressière.[42] So, on a second occasion, such a quantity
of English were taken that ‘there was not, down to the commonest
soldier, anyone who had not some prisoner of whom he counted to win a
good ransom; but as there was a dispute between the French to know to
whom each prisoner belonged, Du Guesclin, to put them all on a level,
ordered them to put all to the sword, and only the English chiefs were
spared.’[43] This ferocious warrior, the product and pride of his
time, and the favourite hero of French chivalry, was hideous in face
and figure; and if we think of him, with his round brown face, his
flat nose, his green eyes, his crisp hair, his short neck, his broad
shoulders, his long arms, short body, and badly made legs, we have
evidently one of the worst specimens of that type which was for so long
the curse of humanity, the warrior of mediæval Europe.

In respect, therefore, of Hallam’s statement that the courtesy of
chivalry gradually introduced an indulgent treatment of prisoners which
was almost unknown to antiquity, it is clear that it would be unwise to
press too closely the comparison on this head between pre-Christian and
post-Christian warfare. At the siege of Toledo, the Besque de Vilaines,
a fellow-soldier of Du Guesclin in the Spanish war, in order to
intimidate the besieged into a surrender, had as many gallows erected
in front of the city as he had taken prisoners, and actually had more
than two dozen hung by the executioner with that object. In the pages
of Livy or Thucydides there may be many a bad deed recorded, but at
least there is nothing worse than the deeds of the Besque de Vilaines,
or of Du Guesclin, Constable of France, or of Edward the Black Prince
of England.

There is another point besides the fettering of prisoners in which
attention is drawn in Froissart to the exceptional barbarity of
the Spaniards; and in no estimate of the military type of life in
the palmiest days of chivalry would it be reasonable to omit all
consideration of Spain. In the war between Castile and Portugal,
the forces under Don John of Castile laid siege to Lisbon, closely
investing it; and if any Portuguese were taken prisoners in a skirmish
or otherwise, their eyes were put out, their legs, arms, or other
members torn off, and in such plight they were sent back to Lisbon with
the message that when the town was taken mercy would be shown to none.
Such was the story told by the Portuguese ambassador to the Duke of
Lancaster, and repeated on his authority by Froissart. For the credit
of humanity, to say nothing of chivalry, one would fain disbelieve
the tale altogether, or regard it as an episode that stood by itself
and apart from the general practice of the age, since it is the only
one of the kind related by Froissart. But the frequency as much as
the rarity of a practice may account for the silence of an annalist,
and there is little doubt that mutilation of the kind described was
common in the chivalrous period, even if obsolete or nearly so in the
fourteenth century. Blinding and castration were not only punishments
inflicted for offences against the forest laws of the Norman kings of
England, but were the common fate of captive enemies in arms throughout
Europe in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. This, for instance, was
the treatment of their Welsh prisoners by the Earls of Shrewsbury
and Chester in 1098; as also of William III., King of Sicily, at the
hands of Henry, Emperor of the Romans, in 1194. At the close of the
twelfth century, in the war between Richard I. of England and Philip
Augustus of France, blinding was resorted to on both sides; for Hoveden
expressly says: ‘The King of France had the eyes put out of many of the
English king’s subjects whom he had made prisoners, and this provoked
the King of England, unwilling as he was, to similar acts of impiety.’
And to take a last instance, in 1225, the Milanese having taken
prisoners 500 Genoese crossbowmen, deprived each of them of an eye and
an arm, in revenge for the injury done by their bows.[44] So that it
would be interesting, if possible, to learn from some historian the
date and cause of the cessation of customs so profoundly barbarous and

By the rules, again, of chivalrous warfare all persons found within
a town taken by assault were liable, and all the male adults likely,
to be killed. Bertrand du Guesclin made it a maxim before attacking a
place to threaten its commander with the alternative of surrender or
death; a military custom perhaps as old as war itself, and one that
has descended unchanged to our own times. Only by a timely surrender
could the besieged cherish any hope for their lives or fortunes; and
even the offer of a surrender might be refused, and an unconditional
surrender be insisted upon instead. This is proved by the well-known
story of Edward III. at the siege of Calais, a story sometimes called
in doubt merely for resting solely on the authority of Froissart. The
governor of Calais offered to surrender the town and all things in it,
in return for a simple permission to leave it in safety. Sir Walter
Manny replied that the king was resolved that they should surrender
themselves solely to his will, to ransom or kill them as he pleased.
The Frenchman retorted that they would suffer the direst extremities
rather than submit to the smallest boy in Calais faring worse than the
rest. The king obstinately refused to change his mind, till Sir Walter
Manny, pressing upon him the reluctance of his officers to garrison his
castles with the prospect of reprisals which such an exercise of his
war-right would render probable, Edward so far relented as to insist
on having six citizens of Calais left to the absolute disposal of his
revenge. When the six who offered themselves as a sacrifice for the
rest of their fellow-citizens reached the presence of the king, the
latter, though all the knights around him were moved even to tears,
gave instant orders to behead them. All who were present pleaded for
them, and above all, Sir Walter Manny, in accordance with his promise
to the French governor; but it was all in vain, and but for the
entreaties of the queen, those six citizens would have fallen victims
to the savage wrath of the pitiless Edward.

Two facts support the probable truth of the above narrative from
Froissart. In the first place, it is in perfect keeping with the
conduct of the same warrior at the taking of Caen. When the king heard
what mischief the inhabitants had inflicted on his army by their
vigorous defence, he gave orders that all the rest of the inhabitants
should be slain and the town burnt;[45] and had it not been for the
remonstrances of Sir Godfrey de Harcourt, there is little reason to
doubt but that he would thus have glutted, as he craved to do, the
intense native savagery of his soul. In the second place, the story is
in perfect keeping with the common war-rule of that and later times, by
virtue of which a conqueror might always avail himself of the distress
of his enemy to insist upon a surrender at discretion, which of course
was equivalent to a surrender to death or anything else.

How commonly death was inflicted in such cases may be shown from
some narratives of capitulations given by Monstrelet. When Meaux
surrendered to Henry V., six of the defenders were reserved by name to
be delivered up to justice (such was the common expression), and four
were shortly after beheaded at Paris.[46] When Meulan surrendered to
the regent, the Duke of Bedford, numbers were specially excepted from
those to whom the Duke granted their lives, ‘to remain at the disposal
of the lord regent.’[47] When some French soldiers having taken refuge
in a fort were so closely besieged by the Earl Marshal of England as to
be obliged to surrender at discretion, many of them were hanged.[48]
When the garrison of Guise capitulated to Sir John de Luxembourg, a
general pardon was granted to all, except to certain who were to be
delivered up to justice.[49] When the same captain, with about one
thousand men, besieged the castle of Guetron, wherein were some sixty
or eighty Frenchmen, the latter proposed to surrender on condition
of the safety of their lives and fortunes; ‘they were told they must
surrender at discretion. In the end, however, it was agreed to by the
governor that from four to six of his men should be spared by Sir
John. When this agreement had been settled and pledges given for its
performance, the governor re-entered the castle, and was careful not to
tell his companions the whole that had passed at the conference, giving
them to understand in general that they were to march away in safety;
but when the castle was surrendered all within it were made prisoners.
On the morrow, by the orders of Sir John de Luxembourg, they were all
strangled and hung on trees hard by, except the four or six before
mentioned--one of their companions serving for the executioner.’[50]
One more of these black acts, so common among the warriors of chivalry,
and this point perhaps will be accepted as proved. The French had
gained possession of the castle of Rouen, but after twelve days were
obliged to surrender at discretion to the English; ‘they were all made
prisoners, and put under a good guard; and shortly after, one hundred
and fifty were beheaded at Rouen.’[51]

Let us pass next from the animate to the inanimate world as affected
by warfare. The setting on fire of Grammont in more than two hundred
places is a fair sample of the normal use of arson as a military weapon
in the chivalrous period. To burn an undefended town or village was
accounted no meanness; and was as frequent as the destruction of crops,
fruit trees, or other sources of human subsistence. The custom of
tearing up vines or fruit trees contrasts strongly with the command of
Xerxes to his forces to spare the groves of trees upon their march; and
any reader of ancient history will acknowledge the vast deterioration
from the pagan laws of war which every page of the history of Christian
chivalry reveals and exposes.

But little as was the forbearance displayed in war towards defenceless
women and children, or to the crops and houses that gave them food and
shelter, it might perhaps have been expected that, at a time when no
serious dissent had come to divide Christianity, and when the defence
of religion and religious ceremonies were among the professed duties of
knighthood, churches and sacred buildings should have enjoyed especial
immunity from the ravages of war. Even in pagan warfare the temples
of the enemy as a rule were spared; such an act as the destruction of
the sacred edifices of the Marsi by the Romans under Germanicus being
contrary to the better traditions of Roman military precedent.

Permissible as it was by the rules of war, says Polybius, to destroy
an enemy’s garrisons, cities, or crops, or anything else by which his
power might be weakened, it was the part of mere rage and madness to
destroy such things as their statues or temples, by which no benefit
or injury accrued to one side or the other; nor are allusions to
violations of this rule numerous in pre-Christian warfare.[52] The
practice of the Romans and Macedonians to meet peaceably together in
time of war on the island of Delos, on account of its sanctity as
the reputed birthplace of Apollo,[53] has no parallel in the history
of war among the nations of Christendom. The most that can be said
for the fourteenth century in this respect is that slightly stronger
scruples protected churches and monasteries than the lives of women and
children. This is implied in Froissart’s account of the storming of
Guerrande: ‘Men, women, and children were put to the sword, and fine
churches sacrilegiously burnt; at which the Lord Lewis was so much
enraged, that he immediately ordered twenty-four of the most active to
be hanged on the spot.’

But the slightest embitterment of feeling removed all scruples
in favour of sacred buildings. Richard II., having with his army
crossed the Tweed, took up his quarters in the beautiful abbey of
Melrose; after which the monastery, though spared in all previous
wars with Scotland, was burnt, because the English had determined,
says Froissart, to ruin everything in Scotland before returning home,
in revenge for the recent alliance entered into by that country with
France. The abbey of Dunfermline, where the Scotch kings used to be
buried, was also burnt in the same campaign; and so it fared with all
other parts of Scotland that the English overran; for they ‘spared
neither monasteries nor churches, but put all to fire and flame.’

Neither did any greater degree of chivalry display itself in the
matter of the modes and weapons of warfare. Although reason can urge
no valid objection against the means of destruction resorted to
by hostile forces, whether poisoned arrows, explosive bullets, or
dynamite, yet certain things have been generally excluded from the
category of fair military practices, as for example the poisoning of
an enemy’s water. But the warriors of the fourteenth century, even if
they stand acquitted of poisoning rivers and wells, had no scruples
about poisoning the air: which perhaps is nearly equivalent. The great
engines they called Sows or Muttons, like that one, 120 feet wide and
40 feet long, from which Philip von Artefeld and the men of Ghent cast
heavy stones, beams of wood, or bars of hot copper into Oudenarde, must
have made life inside such a place unpleasant enough; but worse things
could be injected than copper bars or missiles of wood. The Duke of
Normandy, besieging the English garrison at Thin-l’Evêque, had dead
horses and other carrion flung into the castle, to poison the garrison
by the smell; and since the air was hot as in midsummer, it is small
wonder that the dictates of reason soon triumphed over the spirit of
resistance. And at the siege of Grave the chivalry of Brabant made a
similar use of carrion to empoison the garrison into a surrender.

Even in weapons different degrees of barbarity are clearly discernible,
according as they are intended to effect a disabling wound, or a wound
that will cause needless laceration and pain by the difficulty of their
removal. A barbed arrow or spear betokens of course the latter object,
and it is worth visiting the multi-barbed weapons in Kensington Museum
from different parts of the world, to learn to what lengths military
ingenuity may go in this direction. The spear heads of the Crusaders
were barbed;[54] and so were the arrows used at Crecy and elsewhere,
as may be seen on reference to the manuscript pictures, the object
being to make it impossible to extract them without laceration of
the flesh. The sarbacane or long hollow tube was in use for shooting
poisoned arrows at the enemy;[55] and pictures remain of the vials
of combustibles that were often attached to the end of arrows and

The above facts clearly show the manner and spirit with which our
ancestors waged war in the days of what Hallam calls chivalrous virtue:
one of the most stupendous historical impostures that has ever become
an accepted article of popular belief. The military usages of the
Greeks and Romans were mild and polished, compared to the immeasurable
savagery which marked those of the Christians of Froissart’s day. As
for the redeeming features, the rare generosity or courtesy to a foe,
they might be cited in almost equal abundance from the warfare of the
Red Indians; but what sheds a peculiar stain on that of the Chevaliers
is the ostentatious connection of religion with the atrocities of
those blood-seeking marauders. The Church by a peculiar religious
service blessed and sanctified both the knight and his sword; and the
most solemn rite of the Christian faith was profaned to the level of
a preliminary of battle. At Easter and Christmas, the great religious
festivals of a professedly peace-loving worship, the Psalm that was
deemed most appropriate to be sung in the chapels of the Pope and the
King of France was that beginning, ‘Benedictus Dominus Deus meus, qui
docet manus meas ad bellum et digitos meos ad prœlia.’

It was a curious feature of this religion of war that, when Edward
III.’s forces invaded France, so strict was the superstition that led
them to observe the fast of Lent, that among other things conveyed
into the country were vessels and boats of leather wherewith to obtain
supplies of fish from the lakes and ponds of the enemy.

It is indeed passing strange that Christianity, which could command so
strict an observance of its ordinances as is implied in the transport
of boats to catch fish for Lent, should have been powerless to place
any check whatever on the ferocious militarism of the time; and the
very little that was ever done by the Church to check or humanise
warfare is an eternal reflection on the so-called conversion of Europe
to Christianity. Nevertheless the Church, to do her justice, used what
influence she possessed on the side of peace in a manner she has long
since lost sight of; nor was the Papacy in its most distracted days
ever so indifferent to the evils of war as the Protestant Church has
been since, and is still. Clement VI. succeeded in making peace between
France and England, just as Alexander III. averted a war between the
two countries in 1161. Innocent VI. tried to do the same; and Urban V.
returned from Rome to Avignon, hoping to effect the same good object.
Gregory XI. was keenly distressed at the failure of efforts similar to
those of his predecessors. The Popes indeed endeavoured to stop wars,
as they endeavoured to stop tournaments, or the use of the crossbow;
but they were defeated by the intense barbarism of chivalry; nor can it
be laid to the charge of the Church of Rome, as it can to that of the
Church of the Reformation, that she ever folded her hands in despairful
apathy before a custom she admitted to be evil. The cardinals and
archbishops of those days were constantly engaged in pacific, nor
always futile, embassies. And the prelates would frequently preach to
either side arguments of peace: a fact that contrasts badly with the
almost universal silence and impotence of the modern pulpit, either to
stay a war or to mitigate its barbarities.

But it is true that they knew equally well how to play on the martial
as on the pacific chord in their audiences; for the eloquence of an
Archbishop of Toulouse turned sixty towns and castles to the interest
and rights of the French king in his quarrel with England; and the
preaching of prelates and lawyers in Picardy had a similar effect in
other large towns. Nor were the English clergy slower than the French
to assert the rights of their king and country, for Simon Tibald,
Bishop of London, made several long and fine sermons to demonstrate (as
always is demonstrated in such cases) that the King of France had acted
most unjustly in renewing the war, and that his conduct was at total
variance both with equity and reason.

But these appeals to the judgment of their congregations by the clergy
are also a proof that in the fourteenth century the opinion of the
people did not count for so little as is often supposed in the making
of peace and war. Yet the power of the people in this respect was
doubtless as insignificant as it still is in our own days: nothing
being more remarkable, even in the free government of modern England,
than the influence of the people in theory and their influence in fact
on the most important question that regards their destinies.

Nor are the moral causes difficult to trace which in those times made
wars break out so frequently and last so long, that those who now read
of them can only marvel how civilisation ever emerged at all, even to
the imperfect degree to which it is given to us to enjoy it. The love
of adventure and the hope of fame were of course among the principal
motives. The saying of Adam Smith, that the great secret of education
is the direction of personal vanity to proper objects, contains the
key to all advance that has ever been made in civilisation, and to
every shortcoming. The savagery of the middle ages was due to the
direction of personal vanity exclusively into military channels, so
that the desire for distinction often displayed itself in forms of
perfect absurdity, as in the case of the young English knights who went
abroad with one eye veiled, binding themselves by a vow to their ladies
neither to see with their eyes nor to reply to anything asked of them
till they had signalised themselves by the performance of some wondrous
deed in France. The gradual opening up in later days of other paths to
distinction than that of arms has very much diminished the danger to
the public peace involved in the worthless education of our ancestors.

Nor was the personal distinction of the warrior gained at any great
risk of personal danger. The personal danger in war decreased in
exact ratio with the rank of the combatant, and it was only the lower
orders of the social hierarchy who unreservedly risked their lives.
In case of defeat they had no ransom to offer for mercy, and appear
almost habitually to have been slain without any. If it was a common
thing for either side to settle before a battle the names of those on
the other who should be admitted to ransom, it was no uncommon thing
to determine, as the English did before Crecy, to give no quarter to
the enemy at all. But as a rule the battle-field was of little more
peril to the knight than the tournament; and though many perished when
powerless to avert the long thin dagger, called the _miséricorde_, from
the interstices of their armour or the vizor of their helmets, yet the
striking fact in Froissart is the great number of battles, skirmishes,
and sieges in which the same names occur, proving how seldom their
bearers were wounded, disabled, or killed. This of course was due
mainly to the marvellous defensive armour they wore, which justifies
the wonder not merely how they fought but even how they moved. Whether
encased in coats of mail, sewn upon or worn over the gambeson or thick
undergarment of cloth or leather, or in plates of solid steel, at first
worn over the mail and then instead of it, and often with the plastron
or breastplate of forged iron beneath both hauberk and gambeson, they
evidently had little to fear from arrow, sword, or lance, unless
when they neglected to let down the vizor of the helmet, as Sir John
Chandos did, when he met with his death from a lance wound in the eye
(1370). Their chief danger lay in the hammering of battle-axes on their
helmets, which stunned or wounded, but seldom killed them. But the foot
soldiers and light cavalry, though generally well equipped, were less
well protected by armour than the knights, the hauberk or coat of mail
being allowed in France only to persons possessed of a certain estate;
so that the knights were formidable less to one another than to those
who by the conditions of the combat could not be so formidable to

The surcoat was also a defence to the knight, as indicating the ransom
he could pay for his life. Otherwise it is impossible to account for
his readiness to go into action with this long robe flowing over his
plate of steel and all his other accoutrements. Had Sir John Chandos
not been entangled in his long surcoat when he slipped, he might have
lived to fight many another battle to the honour of English chivalry.
Richness of armour served also the same purpose as the surcoat. At
the battle of Nicopoli, when the flower of the French nobility met
with so disastrous a defeat at the hands of the Turks, the lords of
France were, says Froissart, so richly dressed out in their emblazoned
surcoats as to look like little kings, and many for a time owed their
lives to the extreme richness of their armour, which led the Saracens
to suppose them greater lords than they could really boast to be. So
again the elaborate gold necklaces worn by distinguished officers in
the seventeenth century were probably rather symbols of the ransom
their wearers could pay, than worn merely for ostentation and vanity.
It was to carelessness on this score that the Scotch owed their great
losses at the battle of Musselborough in 1548: for (to put the words of
Patin in modern dress) their ‘vileness of port was the cause that so
many of the great men and gentlemen were killed and so few saved. The
outward show, the semblance and sign whereby a stranger might discern a
villain from a gentleman, was not among them to be seen.’

War under these conditions chiefly affected the lives of the great by
pleasantly relieving the monotony of peaceful days. In time of peace
they had few occupations but hawking, hunting, and tilting, and during
hostilities those amusements continued. Field sports, sometimes spoken
of by their eulogists as the image of war, were not absent during its
reality. Edward III. hunted and fished daily during his campaign in
France, having with him thirty falconers on horseback, sixty couples
of staghounds, and as many greyhounds. And many of his nobles followed
his example in taking their hawks and hounds across the Channel.

But the preceding causes of the frequency of war in the days of
chivalry are quite insignificant when compared with that motive
which nowadays mainly finds vent in the peaceful channels of
commerce--namely, the common desire of gain. The desire for glory had
far less to do with it than the desire of lucre; nor is anything from
the beginning to the end of Froissart more conspicuously displayed
than the merely mercenary motive for war. The ransom of prisoners
or of towns, or even ransom for the slain,[57] afforded a short and
royal road to wealth, and was the chief incentive, as it was also the
chief reward of bravery. The Chevalier Bayard made by ransoms in the
course of his life a sum equal to 4,000_l._, which in those days must
have been a fortune;[58] and Sir Walter Manny in a single campaign
enriched himself by 8,000_l._ in the same way.[59] So that the story is
perfectly credible of the old Scotch knight, who in a year of universal
peace prayed, ‘Lord, turn the world upside down that gentlemen may make
bread of it.’ Loot and rapine, the modern attractions of the brigand,
were then in fact the main temptations of the knight or soldier; and
the distinction between the latter and the brigand was far less than
it had been in the pre-Christian period, or than it is in more modern
times. Indeed the very word _brigand_ meant, originally, merely a
foot-soldier who fought in a brigade, in which sense it was used by
Froissart; and it was only the constant addiction of the former to
the occupations of the highwayman that lent to the word brigand its
subsequent evil connotation.

But it was not merely the common soldier to whom the first question in
a case of war was the profit to be gained by it; for men of the best
families of the aristocracy were no less addicted to the land piracy
which then constituted war, as is proved by such names as Calverly,
Gournay, Albret, Hawkwood, and Guesclin. The noble who was a soldier
in war often continued to fight as a robber after peace was made, nor
thought it beneath him to make wretched villagers compound for their
lives; and in spite of truces and treaties, pillage and ransom afforded
his chief and often his sole source of livelihood. The story of Charles
de Beaumont dying of regret for the ransom he had lost, because by
mistake he had slain instead of capturing the Duke of Burgundy at the
battle of Nancy, is a fair illustration of the dominion then exercised
by the lowest mercenary feelings over the nobility of Europe.

This mercenary side of chivalrous warfare has been so lost sight of in
the conventional descriptions of it, that it is worth while to bring
into prominence how very little the cause of war really concerned those
who took part in it, and how unfounded is the idea that men troubled to
fight for the weak or the oppressed under fine impulses of chivalry,
and not simply in any place or for any object that held out to them
the prospect of gain. How otherwise is it possible to account for the
conduct of the Black Prince, in fighting to restore Pedro the Cruel
to the throne of Castile, from which he had been displaced in favour
of Henry of Trastamare not merely by the arms of Du Guesclin and the
French freebooters, but by the wishes and consent of the people? Any
thought for the people concerned, or of sympathy for their liberation,
as little entered into the mind of the Black Prince as if the question
had concerned toads or rabbits. Provided it afforded an occasion for
fighting, it mattered nothing that Pedro had ruled oppressively; that
he had murdered, or at least was believed to have murdered, his wife,
the sister of the reigning King of France: nor that he had even been
condemned by the Pope as an enemy to the Christian Church. Yet before
the battle of Navarette (1367), in which Henry was completely defeated,
the Prince did not hesitate in his prayers for victory to assert that
he was waging war solely in the interests of justice and reason; and it
was for his success in this iniquitous exploit (a success which only
awaited his departure from the country to be followed by a rising in
favour of the monarch he had deposed) that the Prince won his chief
title to fame; that London exhausted itself in shows, triumphs, and
festivals in his honour; and that Germans, English, and Flemish with
one accord entitled him ‘the mirror of knighthood.’ The Prince was only
thirteen when he fought at Crecy, and he fought with courage: he was
only ten years older when he won the battle of Poitiers, and he behaved
with courtesy to the captive French king, from whom he looked for an
extortionate ransom: but the extravagant eulogies commonly heaped upon
him prove how little exalted in reality was the military ideal of his
age. His sack of Limoges, famous among military atrocities, has already
been spoken of; nor should it be forgotten, as another indication of
his character, that when two messengers brought him a summons from the
King of France to answer the appeal of the Gascons of Aquitaine, he
actually imprisoned them, showing himself however in this superior to
his nobles and barons, who actually advised capital punishment as the
fittest salary to the envoys for their pains.

The Free Companies, or hordes of robbers, who ravaged Europe through
all the period of chivalry and constituted the greatest social
difficulty of the time, were simply formed of knights and men-at-arms,
who, when a public war no longer justified them in robbing and
murdering on behalf of the State, turned robbers and murderers on their
own account. After the treaty of Bretigny had put a stop to hostilities
between France and England (1360), 12,000 of these men, men of rank
and family as well as needy adventurers, and under leaders of every
nationality, resolved sooner than lay down their arms to march into
Burgundy, there to relieve by the ransoms they might levy the poverty
they could not otherwise avert. Many a war had no other justification
than the liberation of one people from their outrages by turning them
upon another. Thus Du Guesclin led his White Company into Spain on
behalf of Henry the Bastard, less to avenge the cruelties of Pedro than
to free France from the curse of her unemployed chivalry; and Henry the
Bastard, when by such help he had wrested the kingdom of Castile from
his brother Pedro, designed an invasion of Granada simply to divert
from his own territories the allies who had placed him in possession of
them. This was a constant source of war in those days, just as in our
own the existence of large armies leads of necessity to wars for their
employment; and even the Crusades derive some explanation from the
operation of the motive indicated.

No historical microscope, indeed, will detect any difference between
the Free Companies and the regular troops, since not only the latter
merged into the former, but both were actuated by the sole pursuit
of gain, and equally indifferent to ideas of honour or patriotism.
The creed of both was summed up in the following regretful speech,
attributed to Aymerigot Marcel, a great captain of the pillaging
bands: ‘There is no pleasure in the world like that which men such as
ourselves enjoyed. How happy were we when, riding out in search of
adventures, we met a rich abbot, a merchant, or a string of mules, well
laden with draperies, furs, or spices, from Montpellier, Beziers, and
other places! All was our own, or ransomed according to our will. Every
day we gained money, ... we lived like kings, and when we went abroad
the country trembled; everything was ours both in going and returning.’

In the days of chivalry, this desire of gain, however gotten, pervaded
and vitiated all classes of men from the lowest to the highest. Charles
IV. of France, when his sister Isabella, queen of Edward II., fled to
him, promised to help her with gold and silver, but secretly, lest
it should bring him into war; and then when messengers from England
came with gold and silver and jewels for himself and his ministers,
both he and his council became in a short time as cold to the cause
of Isabella as they had been warm, the king even going so far as to
forbid any of his subjects under pain of banishment to help his sister
in her projected return. And again, when Edward III. was about to make
war with France, was he not told that his allies were men who loved to
gain wealth, and whom it was necessary to pay beforehand? And did he
not find that a judicious distribution of florins was as effective in
winning over to his interests a duke, a marquis, an archbishop, and the
lords of Germany, as the poorer citizens of the towns of Flanders?

Money, therefore, or its equivalent, and not the title to the crown of
France, was at the root of the wars waged abroad by the English under
Edward III. The question of title simply served as pretext, covering
the baser objects of the invasion. No historical fact is clearer,
ignored though it has been in the popular histories of England, than
that the unpopularity of his successor, Richard II., arose from his
marriage with the daughter of the King of France, and from his desire
for peace between the two kingdoms, of which the marriage was the
proof and the security. When his wish for peace led to the formation
of a war and a peace party among the English nobility, Froissart says:
‘The poorer knights and archers were of course for war, as their sole
livelihood depended upon it.[60] They had learnt idleness and looked to
war as a means of support.’ In reference to the great peace conference
held at Amiens in 1391, he observes: ‘Many persons will not readily
believe what I am about to say, though it is strictly true, that the
English are fonder of war than of peace. During the reign of Edward, of
happy memory, and in the lifetime of his son the Prince of Wales, they
made such grand conquests in France, and by their victories and ransoms
of towns, castles, and men gained such wealth, that the poorest knights
became rich; and those who were not gentlemen by birth, by gallantly
hazarding themselves in these wars, were ennobled by their valour and
worth. Those who came after them were desirous of following the same
road.... Even the Duke of Gloucester, son of King Edward, inclined to
the opinion of the commons, as did many other knights and squires who
were desirous of war to enable them to support their state.’[61]

No other country, indeed, pleased these English brigand knights so well
as France for the purpose of military plunder. Hence the English who
returned from the expedition to Castile complained bitterly that in the
large towns where they expected to find everything, there was nothing
but wines, lard, and empty coffers; but that it was quite otherwise
in France, where they had often found in the cities taken in war such
wealth and riches as astonished them; it was in a war with France
therefore that it behoved them to hazard their lives, for it was very
profitable, not in a war with Castile or Portugal, where there was
nothing but poverty and loss to be suffered.[62]

With this evidence from Froissart may be compared a passage from Philip
de Commines, where he says, in speaking of Louis XI. towards the end of
the following century: ‘Our master was well aware that the nobility,
clergy, and commons of England are always ready to enter upon a war
with France, not only on account of their old title to its crown, but
by the desire of gain, for it pleased God to permit their predecessors
to win several memorable battles in this kingdom, and to remain in
possession of Normandy and Guienne for the space of 350 years, ...
during which time they carried over enormous booty into England. Not
only in plunder which they had taken in the several towns, but in the
richness and quality of their prisoners, who were most of them great
princes and lords, and paid them vast ransoms for their liberty; so
that every Englishman afterwards hoped to do the same thereby and
return home laden with spoils.’[63]

Such, then, were the antecedents of the evil custom of war which has
descended to our own time; and we shall have taken the first step to
its abolition when we have thus learnt to read its real descent and
place in history, and to reject as pure hallucination the idea that
in the warfare of the past any more than of the present there was
anything noble or great or glorious. That brave deeds were often done
and noble conduct sometimes displayed in it must not blind us to its
other and darker features. It was a warfare in which not even women and
children were safe from the sword or lance of the knight or soldier;
nor sacred buildings exempt from their rage. It was a warfare in
which the occasional mercy shown had a mercenary taint; in which the
defeated were only spared for their ransom; and in which prisoners were
constantly liable to torture, mutilation, and fetters. Above all, it
was a warfare in which men fought more from a sordid greed of gain than
from any love or attachment to their king or country, so that all sense
of loyalty would speedily evaporate if a king like Richard II. chanced
to wish to live peaceably with his neighbours.

It is not unimportant to have thus shown the warfare of chivalry in its
true light. For it is the delusion with regard to it, which more than
anything else keeps alive those romantic notions about war and warriors
that are the most fatal hindrance to removing both from the face of the
earth. We clearly drive militarism to its last defences, if we deprive
it of every period and of almost every name on which it is wont to rely
as entitling it to our admiration or esteem.



    _Una et ea vetus causa bellandi est profunda cupido imperii et

    Robbery the first object of maritime warfare--The piratical origin
    of European navies--Merciless character of wars at sea--Fortunes
    made by privateering in England--Privateers commissioned by
    the State--Privateers defended by the publicists--Distinction
    between privateering and piracy--Failure of the State to regulate
    privateering--Privateering condemned by Lord Nelson--Privateering
    abolished by the Declaration of Paris in 1856--Modern feeling
    against seizure of private property at sea--Naval warfare in days
    of wooden ships--Unlawful methods of maritime war--The Emperor
    Leo VI.’s ‘Treatise on Tactics’--The use of fire-ships--Death
    the penalty for serving in fire-ships--Torpedoes originally
    regarded as ‘bad’ war--English and French doctrine of rights of
    neutrals--Enemy’s property under neutral flag secured by Treaty of
    Paris--Shortcomings of the Treaty of Paris with regard to:--(1)
    A definition of what is contraband; (2) The right of search of
    vessels under convoy; (3) The practice of embargoes; (4) The _jus
    angariæ_--The International Marine Code of the future.

The first striking difference between military and naval warfare is
that, while--in theory, at least--the military forces of a country
confine their attacks to the persons and power of their enemy, the
naval forces devote themselves primarily to the plunder of his
property and commerce. If on land the theory of modern war exempts
from spoliation all of an enemy’s goods that do not contribute to his
military strength, on sea such spoliation is the professed object of
maritime warfare. And the difference, we are told, is ‘the necessary
consequence of the state of war, which places the citizens or subject
of the belligerent states in hostility to each other, and prohibits
all intercourse between them,’[64] although the very reason for the
immunity of private property on land is that war is a condition of
hostility between the military forces of two countries, and not between
their respective inhabitants.[64]

Writers on public law have invented many ingenious theories to explain
and justify, on rational grounds, so fundamental a difference between
the two kinds of warfare. ‘To make prize of a merchant ship,’ says
Dr. Whewell, ‘is an obvious way of showing (such a ship) that its own
State is unable to protect it at sea, and thus is a mode of attacking
the State;’[65] a reason that would equally justify the slaughter
of nonagenarians. According to Hautefeuille, the differences flows
naturally from the conditions of hostilities waged on different
elements, and especially from the absence at sea of any fear of a
rising _en masse_ which, as it may be the result of wholesale robbery
on land, serves to some extent as a safeguard against it.[66]

A simpler explanation may trace the difference to the maritime Piracy
which for many centuries was the normal relation between the English
and Continental coasts, and out of which the navies of Europe were
gradually evolved. Sir H. Nicolas, describing the naval state of the
thirteenth and early part of the fourteenth century, proves by abundant
facts the following picture of it: ‘During a truce or peace ships were
boarded, plundered, and captured by vessels of a friendly Power as if
there had been actual war. Even English merchant ships were attacked
and robbed as well in port as at sea by English vessels, and especially
by those of the Cinque Ports, which seem to have been nests of robbers;
and, judging from the numerous complaints, it would appear that a
general system of piracy existed which no government was strong enough
to restrain.’[67]

The governments of those days were, however, not only not strong
enough to restrain, but, as a rule, only too glad to make use of these
pirates as auxiliaries in their wars with foreign Powers. Some English
ships carrying troops to France having been dispersed by a storm, the
sailors of the Cinque Ports were ordered by Henry III., in revenge, to
commit every possible injury on the French; a commission undertaken
with such zeal on their part that they slew and plundered not only all
the foreigners they could catch, but their own countrymen returning
from their pilgrimages (1242). During the whole reign of Henry IV.
(1399-1413), though there existed a truce between France and England,
the ordinary incidents of hostilities continued at sea just as if the
countries had been at open war.[68] The object on either side was
plunder and wanton devastation; nor from their landing on each other’s
coasts, burning each other’s towns and crops, and carrying off each
other’s property, did the country of either derive the least benefit
whatever. The monk of St. Denys shows that these pirates were really
the mariners on whom the naval service of England chiefly depended in
time of war, for he says, in speaking of this period: ‘The English
pirates, discontented with the truce and unwilling to abandon their
profitable pursuits, determined to infest the sea and attack merchant
ships. Three thousand of the most skilful sailors of England and
Bayonne had confederated for that purpose, and, as was supposed, with
the approbation of their king.’ It was not till the year 1413 that
Henry V. sought to put a stop to the piratical practices of the English
marine, and he then did so without requiring a reciprocal endeavour on
the part of the other countries of Europe.[69]

Maritime warfare being thus simply an extension of maritime piracy, the
usages of the one naturally became the usages of the other; the only
difference being that in time of war it was with the licence and pay of
the State, and with the help of knights and squires, that the pirates
carried on their accustomed programme of incendiarism, massacres, and

From this connection, therefore, a lower character of warfare prevailed
from the first on sea than on land, and the spirit of piracy breathed
over the waters. No more mercy was shown by the regular naval service
than was shown by pirates to the crew of a captured or surrendered
vessel, for wounded and unwounded alike were thrown into the sea. When
the fleet of Breton pirates defeated the English pirates in July 1403,
and took 2,000 of them prisoners, they threw overboard the greater
part of them;[70] and in the great sea-fight between the English and
Spanish fleets of 1350, the whole of the crew of a Spanish ship that
surrendered to the Earl of Lancaster were thrown overboard, ‘according
to the barbarous custom of the age.’[71]

Two other stories of that time still further display the utter want
of anything like chivalrous feeling in maritime usages. A Flemish
ship, on its way to Scotland, having been driven by a storm on the
English coast, near the Thames, and its crew having been slain by the
inhabitants, the king rewarded the assassins with the whole of the
cargo, and kept the ship and the rigging for himself (1318).[72] In
1379, when a fleet of English knights, under Sir John Arundel, on its
way to Brittany, was overtaken by a storm, and the jettison of other
things failed to relieve the vessels, sixty women, many of whom had
been forced to embark, were thrown into the sea.[73]

The piratical origin, therefore, of the navies of Europe sufficiently
explains the fact that plunder, which is less the rule than an incident
of war on land, remains its chief object and feature at sea. The fact
may further be explained by the survival of piracy long sanctioned by
the States under the guise of Privateering. If we would understand the
popularity of wars in England in the old privateering days, we must
recall the magnificent fortunes which were often won as prize-money in
the career of legalised piracy. During the war which was concluded in
1748 by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, England captured of French and
Spanish ships collectively 3,434, whilst she herself lost 3,238; but,
small compensation as this balance of 196 ships in her favour may seem
after a contest of some nine years, the pecuniary balance in her favour
is said to have amounted to 2,000,000_l._[74]

We now begin to see why our forefathers rang their church bells at the
announcement of war, as they did at the declaration of this one against
Spain. War represented to large classes what the gold mines of Peru
represented to Spain--the best of all possible pecuniary speculations.
In the year 1747 alone the English ships took 644 prizes; and of what
enormous value they often were! Here is a list of the values which the
cargoes of these prizes not unfrequently reached:

    That of the ‘Héron,’ a French ship, 140,000_l._
    That of the ‘Conception,’ a French ship, 200,000_l._
    That of ‘La Charmante,’ a French East Indiaman, 200,000_l._
    That of the ‘Vestal,’ a Spanish ship, 140,000_l._
    That of the ‘Hector,’ a Spanish ship, 300,000_l._
    That of the ‘Concordia,’ a Spanish ship, 600,000_l._[75]

Two Spanish register ships are recorded to have brought in 350_l._
to every foremast man who took part in their capture. In 1745 three
Spanish vessels returning from Peru having been captured by three
privateersmen, the owners of the latter received to their separate
shares the sum of 700,000_l._, and every common seaman 850_l._ Another
Spanish galleon was taken by a British man-of-war with a million
sterling in bullion on board.

These facts suffice to dispel the wonder we might otherwise feel at
the love our ancestors had for mixing themselves up, for any pretext
or for none, in hostilities with Continental Powers. Our policy was
naturally spirited, when it meant chances like these for all who lacked
either the wit or the will to live honestly, and returns like these on
the capital invested in the patriotic equipment of a few privateers.
But what advantage ultimately accrued to either side, after deduction
made for all losses and expenses, or how far these national piracies
contributed to the speedier restoration of peace, were questions that
apparently did not enter within the range of military reasoning to

Everything was done to make attractive a life of piracy spent in the
service of the State. Originally every European State claimed some
interest in the prizes it commissioned its privateers to take; but the
fact that each in turn surrendered its claim proves the difficulty
there was in getting these piratical servants to submit their plunder
to the adjudication of the prize-courts. Originally all privateers
were bound to deliver captured arms and ammunition to their sovereign,
and to surrender a percentage of their gains to the State or the
admiral; but it soon came to pass that sovereigns had to pay for the
arms they might wish to keep, and that the percentage deducted was
first diminished and then abolished altogether. At first 30 per cent.
was deducted in Holland, which fell successively to 18 per cent., to
10 per cent., to nothing; and in England the 10 per cent. originally
due to the admiral was finally surrendered.[76] The crew also enjoyed
an additional prize of money for every person slain or captured on an
enemy’s man-of-war or privateer, and for every cannon in proportion to
its bore.[77]

Of all the changes of opinion that have occurred in the world’s
history, none is more instructive than that which gradually took place
concerning privateering, and which ended in its final renunciation by
most of the maritime Powers in the Declaration of Paris in 1856.

The weight of the publicists’ authority was for long in its favour.
Vattel only made the proviso of a just cause of war the condition for
reconciling privateering with the comfort of a good conscience.[78]
Valin defended it as a patriotic service, in that it relieved the State
from the expense of fitting out war-vessels. Emerigon denounced the
vocation of pirates as infamous, while commending that of privateers
as honest and even glorious. And for many generations the distinction
between the two was held to be satisfactory, that the privateer acted
under the commission of his sovereign, the pirate under no one’s but
his own.

Morally, this distinction of itself proved little. Take the story of
the French general Crillon, who, when Henri III. proposed to him to
assassinate the Duc de Guise, is said to have replied, ‘My life and my
property are yours, Sire; but I should be unworthy of the French name
were I false to the laws of honour.’ Had he accepted the commission,
would the deed have been praiseworthy or infamous? Can a commission
affect the moral quality of actions? The hangman has a commission,
but neither honour nor distinction. Why, then, should a successful
privateer have been often decorated with the title of nobility or
presented with a sword by his king?[79]

Historically, the distinction had even less foundation. In olden times
individuals carried on their own robberies or reprisals at their own
risk; but their actions did not become the least less piratical when,
about the thirteenth century, reprisals were taken under State control,
and became only lawful under letters of marque duly issued by a
sovereign or his admirals. In their acts, conduct, and whole procedure,
the commissioned privateers of later times differed in no discernible
respects from the pirates of the middle ages, save in the fact of being
utilised by the State for its supposed benefit: and this difference,
only dating as it did from the time when the prohibition to fit out
cruisers in time of war without public authority first became common,
was evidently one of date rather than of nature.

Moreover, the attempt of the State to regulate its piratical service
failed utterly. In the fourteenth century it was customary to make
the officers of a privateer swear not to plunder the subjects of the
commissioning belligerent, or of friendly Powers, or of vessels
sailing under safe-conducts; in the next century it became necessary,
in addition to this oath, to insist on heavy pecuniary sureties;[80]
and such sureties became common stipulations in treaties of peace.
Nearly every treaty between the maritime Powers after about 1600
contained stipulations in restraint of the abuses of privateering;
on the value of which, the complaints that arose in every war that
occurred of privateers exceeding their powers are a sufficient comment.
The numerous ordinances of different countries threatening to punish
as pirates all privateers who were found with commissions from _both_
belligerents, give us a still further insight into the character of
those servants of the State.

In fact, so slight was the distinction founded on the possession of
a commission, that even privateers with commissions were sometimes
treated as actual pirates and not as legitimate belligerents. In the
seventeenth century, the freebooters and buccaneers who ravaged the
West Indies, and who consisted of the outcasts of England and the
Continent, though they were duly commissioned by France to do their
utmost damage to the Spanish colonies and commerce in the West Indies,
were treated as no better than pirates if they happened to fall into
the hands of the Spaniards. And especially was this distinction
disallowed if there were any doubt concerning the legitimacy of the
letters of marque. England, for instance, refused at first to treat
as better than pirates the privateers of her revolted colonists in
America; and in the French Revolution she tried to persuade the Powers
of Europe so to deal with privateers commissioned by the republican
government. Russia having consented to this plan, its execution was
only hindered by the honourable refusal of Sweden and Denmark to accede
to so retrograde an innovation.[81]

An illusory distinction between the prize of a pirate and that of
a privateer was further sustained by the judicial apparatus of the
prize-court. The rights of a captor were not complete till a naval
tribunal of his own country had settled his claims to the ships or
cargo of an enemy or neutral. By this device confiscation was divested
of its likeness to plunder, and a thin veneer of legality was laid on
the fundamental lawlessness of the whole system. Were it left to the
wolves to decide on their rights to the captured sheep, the latter
would have much the same chance of release as vessels in a prize-court
of the captor. A prize-court has never yet been equally representative
of either belligerent, or been so constituted as to be absolutely
impartial between either.

But, even granted that a prize-court gave its verdicts with the
strictest regard to the evidence, of what nature was that evidence
likely to be when it came chiefly from the purser on board the
privateer, whose duty it was to draw up a verbal process of the
circumstances of every visit or capture, and who, as he was paid and
nominated by the captain of the privateer, was dependent for his
profits in the concern on the lawfulness of the prizes? How easy to
represent that a defenceless merchant vessel had offered resistance to
search, and that therefore by the law of nations she and her cargo
were lawful prize! How tempting to falsify every circumstance that
really attended the capture, or that legally affected the captors’
rights to their plunder!

These aspects of privateering soon led unbiassed minds to a sounder
judgment about it than was discernible in received opinion. Molloy, an
English writer, spoke of it, as long ago as 1769, as follows: ‘It were
well they (the privateers) were restrained by consent of all princes,
since all good men account them but one remove from pirates, who
without any respect to the cause, or having any injury done them, or so
much as hired for the service, spoil men and goods, making even a trade
and calling of it.’[82] Martens, the German publicist, at the end of
the same century, called privateering a privileged piracy; but Nelson’s
opinion may fairly count for more than all; and of his opinion there
remains no doubt whatever. In a letter dated August 7, 1804, he wrote:
‘If I had the least authority in controlling the privateers, whose
conduct is so disgraceful to the British nation, I would instantly take
their commissions from them.’ In the same letter he spoke of them as
a horde of sanctioned robbers;[83] and on another occasion he wrote:
‘The conduct of all privateering is, as far as I have seen, so near
piracy, that I only wonder any civilised nation can allow them. The
lawful as well as the unlawful commerce of the neutral flag is subject
to every violation and spoliation.’[84] Yet it was for the sake of
such spoliation, which England chose to regard as her maritime right
and to identify with her maritime supremacy, that, under the pretext
of solicitude for the liberties of Europe, she fought her long war
with France, and made herself the enemy in turn of nearly every other
civilised Power in the world.

The Declaration of Paris, the first article of which abolished
privateering between the signatory Powers, was signed by Lord Clarendon
on behalf of England; but on the ground that it was not formally a
treaty, never having been ratified by Parliament or the Crown, it has
actually been several times proposed in the English Parliament to
violate the honour of England by declaring that agreement null and
void.[85] Lord Derby, in reference to such proposals, said in 1867:
‘We have given a pledge, not merely to the Powers who signed with
us, but to the whole civilised world.’ This was the language of real
patriotism, which esteems a country’s honour its highest interest; the
other was the language of the plainest perfidy. In November 1876, the
Russian Government was also strongly urged, in the case of war with
England, to issue letters of marque against British commerce, in spite
of the international agreement to the contrary.[86] It is not likely
that it would have done so; but these motions in different countries
give vital interest to the history of privateering as one of the
legitimate modes of waging war.

Moreover, since neither Spain, the United States, nor Mexico signed
the Declaration of Paris, war with any of them would revive all the
atrocities and disputes that have embittered previous wars in which
England has been engaged. The precedent of former treaties, such as
that between Sweden and the United Provinces in 1675, the United States
and Prussia in 1785, and the United States and Italy in 1871, by which
either party agreed in the event of war not to employ privateers
against the other, affords an obvious sample of what diplomacy might
yet do to diminish the chances of war between the signatory and the
non-signatory Powers.

The United States would have signed the Declaration of Paris if it had
exempted the merchant vessels of belligerents as well from public armed
vessels as from privateers: and this must be looked to as the next
conquest of law over lawlessness. Russia and several other Powers were
ready to accept the American amendment, which, having at first only
fallen through owing to the opposition of England, was subsequently
withdrawn by America herself. Nevertheless, that amendment remains the
wish not only of the civilised world, but of our own merchants, whose
carrying trade, the largest in the world, is, in the event of England
becoming a belligerent, in danger of falling into the hands of neutral
countries. In 1858 the merchants of Bremen drew up a formal protest
against the right of ships of war to seize the property and ships of
merchants.[87] In the war of 1866 Prussia, Italy, and Austria agreed
to forego this time-honoured right of mutual plunder; and the Emperor
of Germany endeavoured to establish the same limitation in the war of
1870. The old maxim of war, of which the custom is a survival, has
long since been disproved by political economy--the doctrine, namely,
that a loss to one country is a gain to another, or that one country
profits by the exact extent of the injury that it effects against the
property of its adversary. Having lost its basis in reason, it only
remains to remove it from practice.

If we turn for a moment from this aspect of naval warfare to the actual
conduct of hostilities at sea, the desire to obtain forcible possession
of an enemy’s vessels must clearly have had a beneficial effect in
rendering the loss of life less extensive than it was in battles on
land. To capture a ship, it was desirable, if possible, to disable
without destroying it; so that the fire of each side was more generally
directed against the masts and rigging than against the hull or lower
parts of the vessel. In the case of the ‘Berwick,’ an English 74-gun
ship, which struck her colours to the French frigate, the ‘Alceste,’
only four sailors were wounded, and the captain, whose head was taken
off by a bar-shot, was the only person slain; and ‘so small a loss was
attributed to the high firing of the French, who, making sure of the
‘Berwick’s’ capture, and wanting such a ship entire in their fleet,
were wise enough to do as little injury as possible to her hull.’[88]
The great battle between the English and Dutch fleets off Camperdown
(1795) was exceptional both for the damage inflicted by both on the
hulls of their adversaries, and consequently for the heavy loss of
life on either side. ‘The appearance of the British ships at the close
of the action was very unlike what it generally is when the French
or Spaniards have been the opponents of the former. Not a single mast
nor even a top-mast was shot away; nor were the rigging and sails of
the ships in their usual tattered state. It was at the hulls of their
adversaries that the Dutchmen had directed their shot.’[89] As the
English naturally retaliated, though ‘as trophies the appearance of
the Dutch prizes was gratifying,’ as ships of war ‘they were not the
slightest acquisition to the navy of England.’[90]

When this happened, as it could not but often do in pitched naval
battles, the Government sometimes made good to the captors the value of
the prizes that the serious nature of the conflict had caused them to
lose. Thus in the case of the six French prizes made at the Battle of
the Nile, only three of which ever reached Plymouth, the Government,
‘in order that the captors might not suffer for the prowess they had
displayed in riddling the hulls of the captured ships, paid for each of
the destroyed 74s, the “Guerrier,” “Heureux,” and “Mercure,” the sum of
20,000_l._, which was as much as the least valuable of the remaining
74s had been valued at.’

It is curious to notice distinctions in naval warfare between lawful
and unlawful methods similar to those conspicuous on land. Such
projectiles as bits of iron ore, pointed stones, nails, or glass, are
excluded from the list of things that may be used in _good war_; and
the Declaration of St. Petersburg condemns explosive bullets as much
on one element as on the other. Unfounded charges by one belligerent
against another are, however, always liable to bring the illicit
method into actual use on both sides under the pretext of reprisals;
as we see in the following order of the day, issued at Brest by the
French Vice-Admiral Marshal Conflans (Nov. 8, 1759): ‘It is absolutely
contrary to the law of nations to make bad war, and to shoot shells at
the enemy, who must always be fought according to the rules of honour,
with the arms generally employed by polite nations. Yet some captains
have complained that the English have used such weapons against them.
It is, therefore, only on these complaints, and with an extreme
reluctance, that it has been resolved to embark hollow shells on
vessels of the line, but it is expressly forbidden to use them unless
the enemy begin.’[91]

So the English in their turn charged the French with making bad
war. The wound received by Nelson at Aboukir, on the forehead, was
attributed to a piece of iron or a langridge shot.[92] And the wounds
that the crew of the ‘Brunswick’ received from the ‘Vengeur’ in the
famous battle between the French and English fleets in June 1794, are
said to have been peculiarly distressing, owing to the French employing
langridge shot of raw ore and old nails, and to their throwing
stinkpots into the portholes, which caused most painful burnings and
scaldings.[93] It is safest to discredit such accusations altogether,
for there is no limit to the barbarities that may come into play, in
consequence of too ready a credulity.

Red-hot shot, legitimate for the defence of land forts against ships,
used not to be considered good war in the contests of ships with one
another. In the three hours’ action between the ‘Lively’ and the
‘Tourterelle,’ a French privateer, the use by the latter of hot-shot,
‘not usually deemed honourable warfare,’ was considered to be wrong,
but a wrong on the part of those who equipped her for sea more than
on the part of the captain who fired them.[94] The English assailing
batteries that fired red-hot shot against Glückstadt in 1813 are said
to have resorted to ‘a mode of warfare very unusual with us since the
siege of Gibraltar.’[95]

The ‘Treatise on Tactics,’ by the Emperor Leo VI., carries back the
record of the means employed against an enemy in naval warfare to
the ninth century. The things he recommends as most effective are:
cranes, to let fall heavy weights on the enemy’s decks; caltrops,
with iron spikes, to wound his feet;[96] jars full of quicklime,
to suffocate him; jars containing combustibles, to burn him; jars
containing poisonous reptiles, to bite him; and Greek fire with its
noise like thunder, to frighten as well as burn him.[97] Many of these
methods were of immemorial usage; for Scipio knew the merits of jars
full of pitch, and Hannibal of jars full of vipers.[98] Nothing was
too bad for use in those days; nor can it be ascertained when or why
they ceased to be used. Greek fire was used with great effect in the
sea-battles between the Saracens and Christians; and it is a fair cause
for wonder that the invention of gunpowder should have so entirely
superseded it as to cause its very manufacture to have been forgotten.
Neither does history record the date of, nor the reason for, the disuse
of quicklime, which in the famous fight off Dover in 1217 between
the French and English contributed so greatly to the victory of the

It is difficult to believe that sentiments of humanity should have
caused these methods to be discarded from maritime hostilities; but
that such motives led to a certain mitigation in the use of fire-ships
appears from a passage in Captain Brenton’s ‘Naval History,’ where he
says: ‘The use of fire-ships has long been laid aside, to the honour of
the nation which first dispensed with this barbarous aggravation of the
horrors of war.’ That is to say, as he explains it, though fire-ships
continued to accompany the fleets, they were only used in an anchorage
where there was a fair chance of the escape of the crew against which
they were sent; they ceased to be used, as at one time, to burn or
blow up disabled ships, which the conqueror dared not board and carry
into port, and which were covered with the wounded and dying. The last
instance in which they were so used by the English was in the fight
off Toulon, in 1744; and their use on that occasion is said to have
received merited reproach from an historian of the day.[100]

As the service of a fire-ship was one that required the greatest
bravery and coolness--since it was, of course, attacked in every
possible way, and it was often difficult to escape by the boat chained
behind it--it displays the extraordinary inconsistency of opinion about
such matters that it should have been accounted rather a service of
infamy than of honour. Molloy, in 1769, wrote of it as the practice of
his day to put to death prisoners made from a fire-ship: ‘Generally
the persons found in them are put to death if taken.’[101] And another
writer says: ‘Whether it be from a refined idea, or from the most
determined resentment towards those who act in fire-ships, may be
difficult to judge; but there is rarely any quarter given to such as
fall into the enemy’s power.’[102]

Clock-machines, or torpedoes, were introduced into European warfare by
the English, being intended to destroy Napoleon’s ships at Boulogne in
1804. It is remarkable that the use of them was at first reprobated by
Captain Brenton, and by Lord St. Vincent, who foresaw that other Powers
would in turn adopt the innovation.[103] The French, who picked up some
of them near Boulogne, called them infernal machines. But at present
they seem fairly established as part of good warfare, in default of any
international agreement against them, such as that which exists against
explosive bullets.

The same International Act which abolished privateering between the
signatory Powers settled also between them two other disputed points
which for centuries were a frequent cause of war and jealousy--namely,
the liability of the property of neutrals to be seized when found in
the ships of an enemy, and of the property of an enemy to be seized
when found in the ships of a neutral.

Over the abstract right of belligerents so to deal with the ships
or property of neutral Powers the publicists for long fought a
battle-royal, contending either that a neutral ship should be regarded
as neutral territory, or that an enemy’s property was lawful prize
anywhere. Whilst the French or Continental theory regarded the
nationality of the vessel rather than of its cargo, so that the goods
of a neutral might be fairly seized on an enemy’s vessel, but those
of an enemy were safe even in a neutral ship; the English theory was
diametrically the opposite, for the Admiralty restored a neutral’s
property taken on an enemy’s vessel, but confiscated an enemy’s goods
if found on a neutral vessel. This difference between the English
rule and that of other countries was a source of endless contention.
Frederick II. of Prussia, in 1753, first resisted the English claim to
seize hostile property sailing under a neutral flag. Then came against
the same claim the first Armed Neutrality of 1780, headed by Russia,
and again in 1801 the second armed coalition of the Northern Powers.
The difference of rule was, therefore, as such differences always must
be, a source of real weakness to England, on account of the enemies it
raised against her all over the world. Yet the Continental theory of
free ships making free goods was considered for generations to be so
adverse to the real interests of England, that Lord Nelson, in 1801,
characterised it in the House of Lords as ‘a proposition so monstrous
in itself, so contrary to the law of nations, and so injurious to the
maritime interests of England, as to justify war with the advocates
of such a doctrine, so long as a single man, a single shilling, or a
single drop of blood remained in the country.’[104] The Treaty of Paris
has made binding the Continental rule, and in spite of Lord Nelson free
ships now make free goods.

The fact, therefore, that if England were now at war with France she
could not take French property (unless it were contraband) from a
Russian or American ship, we owe not to the publicists who were divided
about it, nor to naval opinion which was decided against it, but to the
accidental alliance between France and England in the Crimean war. In
order to co-operate together, each waived its old claim, according to
which France would have been free to seize the property of a neutral
found on Russian vessels, and England to seize Russian property on the
vessels of a neutral. As the United States and other neutral Powers
as well would probably have resisted by arms the claim of either so
to interfere with their neutrality, the mutual concession was one of
common prudence; and as the same opposition would have been perennial,
it was no great sacrifice on the part of either to perpetuate and
extend by a treaty at the close of the war the agreement that at first
was only to last for its continuance.

Much, however, as that treaty has done for the peace of the world, by
assimilating in these respects the maritime law of nations, it has left
many customs unchanged to challenge still the attention of reformers.
It is therefore of some practical interest to consider of what nature
future changes should be, inasmuch as, if we cannot agree to cease from
fighting altogether, the next best thing we can do is to reduce the
pretexts for it to as few as possible.

The reservation, then, in favour of confiscating property that is
contraband of war has left the right of visiting and searching neutral
or hostile merchantmen for contraband untouched; though nothing has
been a more fruitful source of quarrel than the want of a common
definition of what constitutes contraband. Anything which, without
further manipulation, adds directly to an enemy’s power, as weapons
of war, are contraband by universal admission; but whether corn and
provisions are, as some text-writers assert and others deny; whether
coined money, horses, or saddles are, as was decided in 1863 between
the Northern Powers of Europe; whether tar and pitch for ships are, as
was disputed between England and Sweden for 200 years; whether coal
should be, as Prince Bismarck claimed against England in 1870; or
whether rice is a war-threatening point of difference between England
and France in this very year of grace; these are questions that remain
absolutely undecided, or are left to the treaties between the several
Powers or the arbitrary caprice of belligerents.

The Declaration of Paris was equally silent as to the right (demanded
by all the Powers save England) for ships of war, which have always
been exempt from search, to exempt from search also the merchant
vessels sailing under their convoy. So fundamental a divergence between
the maritime usages of different countries can only be sustained under
the peril of incurring hostility and war, without any corresponding
advantage in compensation.

The Declaration of Paris has also left untouched the old usage of
embargoes. A nation wronged by another may still seize the vessels of
that other which may be in its ports, in order to secure attention to
its claims; restoring them in the event of a peaceable settlement,
but confiscating them if war ensues. The resemblance of this practice
of hostile embargo to robbery, ‘occurring as it does in the midst of
peace ... ought,’ says an American jurist, ‘to make it disgraceful and
drive it into disuse.’[105] It would be as reasonable to seize the
persons and property of all the merchants resident in the country, as
used to be done by France and England. In 1795, Holland, having been
conquered by France, became thereby an enemy of England. Accordingly,
‘orders were issued to seize all Dutch vessels in British ports;’ in
virtue of which, several gun-ships and between fifty and sixty merchant
vessels in Plymouth Sound were detained by the port admiral.[106] It is
difficult to conceive anything less defensible as a practice between
civilised States.

It equally descends from the barbarous origin of maritime law that all
ships of an enemy wrecked on our coast, or forced to take refuge in our
harbours by stress of weather or want of provisions, or in ignorance
of the existence of hostilities, should become ours by right of war.
There are generous instances to the contrary. The Spanish Governor of
Havana in 1746, when an English vessel was driven into that hostile
port by stress of weather, refused to seize the vessel and take the
captain prisoner; and so did another Spanish governor in the case of
an English vessel whose captain was ignorant that Honduras was hostile
territory. But these cases are the exception; the rule being, that a
hostile Power avails itself of a captain’s ignorance or distress to
make him a prisoner and his ship a prize of war; another proof, if
further needed, how very little magnanimity really enters into the
conduct of hostilities.

It is a still further abuse of the rights of war that a belligerent
State may do what it pleases, not only with all the vessels of its
own subjects, but with all those of neutrals as well which happen to
be within its jurisdiction at the beginning of a war; that it may, on
paying the owners the value of their freight beforehand, confiscate
such vessels and compel them to serve in the transport of its troops
or its munitions of war. Yet this is the so-called _jus angariæ_, to
which Prince Bismarck appealed when in the war with France the Germans
sank some British vessels at the mouth of the Seine.[107] It is true we
received liberal compensation, but the right is none the less one which
all the Powers are interested in abolishing.

If, then, from the preceding retrospect it appears that whatever
advance we have made on the maritime usages of our ancestors has been
due solely to international agreement, and to a friendly concert
between the chief Powers of the world, acting with a view to their
permanent and collective interests, the inference is evidently in
favour of any further advance being only possible in the same way. The
renunciations of each Power redound to the benefit of each and all;
nor can the gain of the world involve any real loss for the several
nations that compose it. We shall therefore, perhaps, not err far from
the truth, if we imagine the following articles, in complement of those
formulated in Paris in 1856, to constitute the International Marine
Code which will be found in the future to be most calculated to remove
sources of contention between nations, and best adapted, therefore, to
the permanent interests of the contracting parties:

 1. Privateering is and remains abolished.

 2. The merchant vessels and cargoes of belligerents shall be exempted
    from seizure and confiscation.

 3. The colonies of either belligerent shall be excluded from the field
    of legitimate hostilities, and the neutrality of their territory
    shall extend to their ships and commerce.

 4. The right of visiting and searching neutral or hostile merchantmen
    for contraband of war shall be abolished.

 5. Contraband of war shall be defined by international agreement; and
    to deal in such contraband shall be made a breach of the civil
    law, prohibited and punished by each State as a violation of its
    proclamation of neutrality.

 6. Except in the case of contraband as aforesaid, all trade shall
    be lawful between the subjects of either belligerent, since
    individuals are no more involved in the quarrel between their
    respective governments at sea than they are on land.

 7. The only limitation to commerce shall be so effective a blockade of
    an enemy’s ports as shall render it impossible for ships to enter
    or leave them; and the mere notification that a port is blockaded
    shall not justify the seizure of ships that have sailed from, or
    are sailing to, them in any part of the world.

 8. The right to lay hostile embargoes on the ships of a friendly
    Power, by reason of a dispute arising between them, shall be

 9. The right to confiscate or destroy the ships of a friendly Power
    for the service of a belligerent State, the _jus angariæ_, shall be

What, then, would remain for the naval forces of maritime Powers to do?
Everything, it may be replied, which constitutes legitimate warfare,
and conforms to the elementary conception of a state of hostility; the
blockading of hostile ports, and all the play of attack and defence
that may be imagined between belligerent navies. Whatsoever is more
than this--the plunder of an enemy’s commerce, embargoes on his ships,
the search of neutral vessels--not only cometh of piracy, as has been
shown, but is in fact piracy itself, without any necessary connection
with the conduct of legitimate hostilities.



    _Si quis clamet iniquum non dare pœnas qui peccavit, respondeo
    multo esse iniquius tot innocentium millia citra meritum in
    extremam vocari calamitatem._--ERASMUS.

    International law on legitimate reprisals--The Brussels Conference
    on the subject--Illustrations of barbarous reprisals--Instances
    of non-retaliation--Savage reprisals in days of chivalry--Hanging
    the commonest reprisals for a brave defence, as illustrated by the
    warfare of the fifteenth century--Survival of the custom to our own
    times--The massacre of a conquered garrison still a law of war--The
    shelling of Strasburg by the Germans--Brutal warfare of Alexander
    the Great--The connection between bravery and cruelty--The
    abolition of slavery in its effects on war--The storming of
    Magdeburg, Brescia, and Rome--Cicero on Roman warfare--The
    reprisals of the Germans in France in 1870--Their revival of the
    custom of taking hostages--Their resort to robbery as a plea
    of reprisals--General Von Moltke on perpetual peace--The moral
    responsibility of the military profession--The Press as a potent
    cause of war--Plea for the abolition of demands for unconditional
    surrender, such as led to the bombardment of Alexandria in 1882.

On no subject connected with the operations of war has International
Law come as yet to lamer conclusions than concerning Military
Reprisals, or the revenge that may be fairly exacted by one belligerent
from the other for violation of the canons of honourable warfare.

General Halleck, for instance, whilst as against an enemy who puts in
force the extreme rights of war he justifies a belligerent in following
suit, denies the right of the latter to do so against an enemy who
passes all bounds and conducts war in a downright savage fashion.
Whilst therefore, according to him, the law of retaliation would never
justify such acts as the massacre of prisoners, the use of poison, or
promiscuous slaughter, he would consider as legitimate reprisals acts
like the sequestration by Denmark of debts due from Danish to British
subjects in retaliation for the confiscation by England of the Danish
fleet in 1807, or Napoleon’s seizure of all English travellers in
France in retaliation for England’s seizure and condemnation of French
vessels in 1803.[108] And a French writer, in the same spirit, denies
that the French Government would have been justified in retaliating on
Russia, when the Czar had his French prisoners of war consigned to the
mines of Siberia.[109]

The distinction is clearly untenable on any rational theory of the laws
of retributive justice. You may retaliate for the lesser, but not for
the greater injury! You may check resort to infamous hostilities by the
threat of reprisals, but must fold your hands and submit, if your enemy
becomes utterly barbarous! You may restrain him from burning your crops
by burning his, but must be content to go without redress if he slays
your wives and children!

How difficult the question really is appears from the attempt made
to settle it at the Brussels Conference of 1874, when the following
clauses formed part of the original Russian project submitted to the
consideration of that meeting:

_Section IV._ 69. ‘Reprisals are admissible in extreme cases only, due
regard being paid as far as possible to the laws of humanity when it
shall have been unquestionably proved that the laws and customs of war
have been violated by the enemy, and that they have had recourse to
measures condemned by the law of nations.’

70. ‘The selection of the means and extent of the reprisals should be
proportionate to the degree of the infraction of the law committed by
the enemy. Reprisals that are disproportionately severe are contrary to
the rules of international law.’

71. ‘Reprisals should be allowed only on the authority of the
commander-in-chief, who shall likewise determine the degree of their
severity and their duration.’

The delicacy of dealing with such a subject, when the memories of
the Franco-German war were still fresh and green, led ultimately to
a unanimous agreement to suppress these clauses altogether, and to
leave the matter, as the Belgian deputy expressed it, in the domain
of unwritten law till the progress of science and civilisation should
bring about a completely satisfactory solution. Nevertheless, the
majority of men will be inclined, in reference to this resolution,
to say with the Russian Baron Jomini, the skilful President of that
Military Council: ‘I regret that the uncertainty of silence is to
prevail with respect to one of the most bitter necessities of war.
If the practice could be suppressed by this reticence, I could not
but approve of this course; but if it is still to exist among the
necessities of war, this reticence and this obscurity may, it is to be
feared, remove any limits to its existence.’

The necessity of some regulation of reprisals, such as that contained
in the clauses suggested at Brussels, is no less attested by the events
of the war of 1870 than by the customs in this respect which have at
all times prevailed, and which, as earlier in time, form a fitting
introduction to those later occurrences.

That the fear of reprisals should act as a certain check upon the
character of hostilities is too obvious a consideration not to have
always served as a wholesome restraint upon military licence. When, for
instance, Philip II. of Spain in his war with the Netherlands ordered
that no prisoners of war should be released or exchanged, nor any
contributions be accepted as an immunity from confiscation, the threat
of retaliation led to the withdrawal of his iniquitous proclamation.
Nor would other similar instances be far to seek.

Nevertheless, it is evident that, as seldom as war itself is prevented
by consideration of the forces in opposition, will its peculiar
excesses, which constitute its details, be restrained by the fear of
retaliatory measures; and inasmuch as the primary offence is more
often the creation of rumour than a proved fact, the usual result
of reprisals is, not that one belligerent amends its ways, but that
both belligerents become more savage and enter on a fatal career of
competitive atrocities. In the wars of the fifteenth century between
the Turks and Venetians, ‘Sultan Mahomet would not suffer his
soldiers to give quarter, but allowed them a ducat for every head, and
the Venetians did the same.’[110] When the Duke of Alva was in the
Netherlands, the Spaniards, at the siege of Haarlem, threw the heads of
two Dutch officers over the walls. The Dutch in return beheaded twelve
Spanish prisoners, and sent their heads into the Spanish trenches.
The Spaniards in revenge hung a number of prisoners in sight of the
besieged; and the latter in return killed more prisoners; and so it
went on during all the time that Alva was in the country, without the
least improvement resulting from such sanguinary reprisals.[111] At
the siege of Malta, the Grand Master, in revenge for some horrible
Turkish barbarities, massacred all his prisoners and shot their heads
from his cannon into the Turkish camp.[112] In one of the wars of Louis
XIV., the Imperialist forces having put to death a French lieutenant
and thirty troopers a few hours after having promised them quarter,
Feuquières, for reprisals, slew the whole garrison of two towns that he
won by surprise, though the number so slain in each instance amounted
to 650 men (1689).[113]

To all these cases the question asked by Vattel very pertinently
applies: ‘What right have you to cut off the nose and ears of the
ambassador of a barbarian who has treated your ambassador in that
manner?’ The question is not an easy one to answer, for we have no more
right in war than in civil life to punish the innocent for the guilty
apart from the ordinary accidents of hostilities, even if otherwise
we must dispense with redress altogether. To do so by intention and
in cold blood is ferocious, whatever the pretext of justification,
and is never worth the passing gratification it affords. The citizens
of Ghent, in their famous war with the Earl of Flanders, not only
destroyed his house, but the silver cradle and bathing tub he had used
as a child and the very font in which he had been baptized; but such
reprisals are soon regretted, and read very pitiably in the eyes of the

It is pleasanter to record some instances where abstinence from
reprisals has not been without its reward. It is said that Cæsar in
Iberia, when, in spite of a truce, the enemy killed many of his men,
instead of retaliating, released some of his prisoners and thereby
brought the foe to regard him with favour. We read in Froissart that
the Lisboners refrained from retaliating on the Castilians, when the
latter mutilated their Portuguese prisoners; and the English Government
acted nobly when it refused to reciprocate the decree of the French
Convention (though that also was meant as a measure of reprisals) that
no English or Hanoverian prisoner should be allowed any quarter.[114]
But the best story of this kind is that told by Herodotus of Xerxes
the Persian. The Spartans had thrown into a well the Persian envoys who
had come to demand of them earth and water. In remorse they sent two of
their nobles to Xerxes to be killed in atonement; but Xerxes, when he
heard the purport of their visit, answered them that he would not act
like the Spartans, who by killing his heralds had broken the laws that
were regarded as sacred by all mankind, and that, of such conduct as he
blamed in them, he would never be guilty himself.[115]

But the most curious feature in the history of reprisals is the fact
that they were once regarded as justly exacted for the mere offence
of hostile opposition or self-defence. Grotius states that it was the
almost constant practice of the Romans to kill the leaders of an enemy,
whether they had surrendered or been captured, on the day of triumph.
Jugurtha indeed was put to death in prison; but the more usual practice
appears to have been to keep conquered potentates in custody, after
they had been led in triumph before the consul’s chariot. This was the
fate of Perseus, king of Macedonia, who was also allowed to retain
his attendants, money, plate, and furniture;[116] of Gentius, king of
Illyria;[117] of Bituitus, king of the Arvernians. Prisoners of less
distinction were sold as slaves, or kept in custody till their friends
paid their ransom.

But in the mediæval history of Europe, in the so-called times of
chivalry, a far worse spirit prevailed with regard to the treatment
of captives. Godfrey of Bouillon, one of the brightest memories of
chivalry, was responsible for the promiscuous slaughter of three days
which the Crusaders exacted for the six weeks’ siege which it had cost
them to take Jerusalem (1099). The Emperor Barbarossa had 1,190 Swabian
prisoners delivered to the executioner at Milan, or shot from military
engines.[118] Charles of Anjou reserved many prisoners, taken at the
battle of Beneventum, to be killed as criminals on his entrance into
Naples. When the French took the castle of Pesquière from the Venetians
by storm, they slew all but three who surrendered to the pleasure of
the king; and Louis XII., who counted for a humane monarch, though his
victims offered 100,000 ducats for their lives, swore that he would
neither eat nor drink till they were hanged (1509).[119]

The indignation of the Roman Senate on one occasion with a consul
who had sold as slaves 10,000 Ligurian prisoners, though they had
surrendered at discretion,[120] was a sentiment that never affected the
warriors of mediæval Christendom. A surrender at discretion ceased to
constitute a claim for mercy. Where the pagan held it wrong to enslave,
the Christian never hesitated to kill. Froissart’s story of the six
citizens of Calais, whom Edward III. was with difficulty restrained
from hanging for the obstinate siege which their town had resisted,
throws a light over the war customs of that time, which other incidents
of history abundantly confirm. The record of the capitulations of
cities or garrisons is no pleasant one, but it is a record which must
be touched upon, in order that war and its still prevalent maxims may
be judged at their proper value. We need scarcely travel further than
the fifteenth century alone in search of facts to place in its proper
light this aspect of martial atrocities.

When the town of Rouen surrendered to Henry V. of England, the latter
stipulated for three of the citizens to be left to his disposal, of
whom two purchased their lives, and the third was beheaded (1419).[121]
When the same king the year following was besieging the castle of
Montereau, he sent some twenty prisoners to treat with the governor
for a surrender; but when the governor refused to treat, even to save
their lives, and when, after a fearful leave-taking with their wives
and relatives, they had been escorted back to the English army, ‘the
King of England ordered a gallows to be erected and had them all hanged
in sight of those within the castle.’[122] When the English took the
castle of Rougemont by storm, and some sixty of its defenders alive,
with the loss of only one Englishman, Henry V., in revenge for his
death, caused all the prisoners to be drowned in the Loire.[123] When
Meaux surrendered to the same king, it was stipulated that six of
its bravest defenders should be delivered up to _justice_, four of
whom were beheaded at Paris, and its commander at once hung to a tree
outside the walls of the city (1422).[124]

Not that there was any special cruelty in the English mode of warfare.
They simply conformed to the customs of the time, as we may see by
reference to the French and Burgundian wars into which they allowed
themselves to be drawn. In 1434, the garrison of Chaumont ‘was soon
so hardly pressed that it surrendered at discretion to the Duke of
Burgundy (Philip the Good), who had upwards of 100 of them hanged;’ and
as with the townsmen, so with those in the castle.[125] Bournonville,
who commanded Soissons for the Duke of Burgundy, and whom Monstrelet
calls ‘the flower of the warriors of all France,’ was beheaded at
Paris, after the capture of the town, by order of the king and council,
and his body hung to a gibbet, like a common malefactor’s (1414).[126]
When Dinant was taken by storm by the Burgundians, the prisoners,
about 800, were drowned before Bovines (1466).[127] When the town of
Saint-frou surrendered to the Duke of Burgundy, ten men, left to the
disposal of that warrior, were beheaded; and so it fared also with
the town of Tongres (1467).[128] After the storming and slaughter at
Liège, before the Duke of Burgundy (Charles the Bold) left the city,
‘a great number of those poor creatures who had hid themselves in the
houses when the town was taken and were afterwards made prisoners, were
hanged’ (1468).[129] At Nesle, most of those who were taken alive were
hung, and some had their hands cut off (1472).[130] After the battle
of Granson, the Swiss retook two castles from the French, and hung
all the Burgundians they found in them. They then retook the town and
castle of Granson, and ordered 512 Germans whom the Burgundians had
hung to be cut down, and as many of the Burgundians as were still in
Granson to be suspended on the same halters (1476). In the skirmishes
that occurred in a time of truce on the frontiers of Picardy, between
the French king’s forces and those of the Duke of Austria, ‘all the
prisoners that were taken on both sides were immediately hanged,
without permitting any, of what degree or rank soever, to be ransomed’
(1481). And as a climax to these facts, let us recall the decree of the
Duke of Anjou, who, when Montpellier was taken by siege, condemned 600
prisoners to be put to death, 200 by the sword, 200 by the halter, and
200 by fire, and who, but for the remonstrances of a cardinal and a
friar, would undoubtedly have executed his sentence.

Ghastly facts enough these! and a strange insight they afford us into
the real character of a profession which, in the days when these things
were its commonest occurrences, was held to be the noblest of all, but
of which it is only too patent that its mainsprings were simply the
brigand’s love of plunder and of bloodshed. One story may be quoted
to show that in this respect the sixteenth century was no improvement
on the fifteenth. In the war between the Dutch and the Spaniards, the
captain of Weerd Castle, having previously refused to surrender to Sir
Francis de Vere, begged at last for a capitulation with the honours
of war; Vere’s answer was, that the honours of war were halters for a
garrison that had dared to defend such a hovel against artillery. The
commandant was killed first, and the remaining 26 men, having been
made to draw black and white straws, the 12 who drew the white straws
were hanged, the thirteenth only escaping by consenting to act as
executioner of the rest![131]

It is clear, therefore, that in the wars of the past the axe and the
halter have played as conspicuous a part as the sword or the lance;
a fact to which its due prominence has not always been given in the
standard histories of military antiquities. It is surprising to find
how close to the glories of war lie the sickening vulgarities of murder.

To the Duke of Somerset, the regent of England for Edward VI., appears
to be due the credit of instituting a milder treatment of a besieged
but surrendered garrison than had been previously customary. For De
Thou, the historian, speaks of the admiration the Duke received for
sparing the lives of a Scotch garrison, contrary to that ‘ancient maxim
in war which declares that a weak garrison forfeits all claim to mercy
on the part of the conquerors, when, with more courage than prudence,
they obstinately persevere in defending an ill-fortified place against
the royal army,’ or refuse reasonable conditions.

But the ancient maxim lasted, in spite of this better example,
throughout the seventeenth and till late into the eighteenth century,
for we find Vattel even then thus protesting against it: ‘How could it
be conceived in an enlightened age that it was lawful to punish with
death a governor who has defended his town to the last extremity, or
who in a weak place had the courage to hold out against a royal army?
In the last century this notion still prevailed; it was looked upon as
one of the laws of war, and is not even at present totally exploded.
What an idea! to punish a brave man for having performed his duty.’[132]

But not even yet is the notion definitely expunged from the unwritten
code of martial etiquette. The original Russian project, submitted
to the Brussels Conference, proposed to exclude, among other illicit
means of war, ‘the threat of extermination towards a garrison that
obstinately holds a fortress.’ The proposal was unanimously rejected,
and that clause was carefully excluded from the published modified
text! But as the execution of a threat is morally of the same value
as the threat itself, it is evident that the massacre of a brave but
conquered garrison still holds its place among the laws of Christian

This peculiar and most sanguinary law of reprisals has always been
defended by the common military sophism, that it shortens the horrors
of war. The threat of capital punishment against the governor or
defenders of a town should naturally dispose them to make a conditional
surrender, and so spare both sides the miseries of a siege. But
arguments in defence of atrocities, on the ground of their shortening
a war, and coming from military quarters, must be viewed with the
greatest suspicion, and, inasmuch as they provoke reprisals and so
intensify passion, with the greatest distrust. It was to such an
argument that the Germans resorted in defence of their shelling the
town of Strasburg, in order to intimidate the inhabitants and drive
them to force General Uhrich to a surrender. ‘The abbreviation,’ said
a German writer, ‘of the period of actual fighting and of the war
itself is an act of humanity towards both parties;’[133] although the
savage act failed in its purpose and General Werder had to fall back,
after his gratuitous destruction of life and property, on the slower
process of a regular siege. If their tendency to shorten a war be the
final justification of military proceedings, the ground begins to slip
from under us against the use of aconitine or of clothes infected
with the small-pox. Therefore such a pretext should meet with prompt
condemnation, notwithstanding the efforts of the modern military school
to render it popular upon the earth.

In respect, therefore, to this law of reprisals, the comparison is
not to the credit of modern times as compared with the pagan era. A
surrender, which in Greek and Roman warfare involved as a rule personal
security, came in Christianised Europe to involve capital punishment
out of motives of pure vindictiveness. The chivalry so often associated
with the battle-field as at least a redeeming feature fades on closer
inspection into the veriest fiction of romance. Bravery under any form
has been the constant pretext for capital reprisals. Edward I. had
William Wallace, the brave Scotch leader, executed on Tower Hill;
and it has been observed by one writer, as the facts already quoted
prove, that the custom of thus killing defeated generals ‘may be traced
through a series of years so connected and extensive that we are not
able to point out the exact time when it ceased.’[134]

A characteristic incident of this sort is connected with the famous
pacification of Guienne by Montluc in 1562. Montluc had won Montsegur
by storm, and its commander had been taken alive. The latter was a man
of notorious valour, and in a previous campaign had been Montluc’s
fellow-soldier and friend. For that reason many interceded for his
life, but Montluc decided to hang him, and simply on account of his
valour. ‘I well knew his courage,’ he says, ‘which made me hang him....
I knew him to be valiant, but that made me the rather put him to
death.’ What of your chivalry after that?

But Alexander the Great, whose career has been the ideal of all
succeeding aspirants to military fame, dealt even more severely than
Montluc with Betis, the gallant defender of Gaza. When Gaza was at last
taken by storm, Betis, after fighting heroically, had the misfortune to
be taken alive and to be brought into the presence of the conqueror.
Alexander addressed him thus: ‘You shall not die, Betis, in the manner
you wished; but make up your mind to suffer whatever torture can be
thought of against a prisoner;’ and when Betis for all answer returned
him but the silence of disdain, Alexander had thongs fixed to his
ankles, and, himself acting as charioteer, drove his yet living victim
round the city, attached to his chariot wheels; priding himself that by
such conduct he rivalled Achilles’ treatment of Hector.[135]

A valiant resistance was with Alexander always a sufficient motive
for the most sanguinary reprisals. Arimages, who defended a fortified
rock in Sogdia, thought his position so strong that when summoned to
surrender, he asked tauntingly whether Alexander could fly; and for
this offence, when, unable to hold out any longer, Arimages and his
relations descended to Alexander’s camp to beg for quarter, Alexander
had them first of all flogged and then crucified at the foot of the
rock they had so bravely defended.[136] After the long siege of Tyre,
Alexander had 2,000 Tyrians, over and above the 6,000 who fell during
the storming of that city, nailed to crosses along the shore,[137]
perhaps in reprisal for a violation of the laws of war--for Quintus
Curtius declares that the Tyrians had murdered some Macedonian
ambassadors, and Arrian, who makes no mention of the crucifixion,
declares that they slew some Macedonian prisoners and threw them from
their walls--but more probably (since there were evidently different
stories of the Tyrians’ offence) on account simply of the obstinate
resistance they had offered to Alexander’s attack.

The Macedonian conqueror regarded his whole expedition against Persia
as an act of reprisals for the invasion of Greece by Xerxes, 150
years before his own time. When he set fire to the Persian capital
and palace, Persepolis, he justified himself against Parmenio’s
remonstrances on the ground that it was in revenge for the destruction
of the temples in Greece during the Persian invasion;[138] and this
motive was constantly present with him, in justification both of the
war itself and of particular atrocities connected with it. In the
course of his expedition, he came to a city of the Branchidæ, whose
ancestors at Miletus had betrayed the treasures of a temple in their
charge to Xerxes, and had by him been removed from Miletus to Asia.
As Greeks they met Alexander’s army with joy, and at once surrendered
their city to him. The next day, after reflection given to the matter,
Alexander had every single inhabitant of the city slain, in spite of
their powerlessness, in spite of their supplications, in spite of their
community of language and origin. He even had the walls of the city
dug up from their foundation, and the trees of their sacred groves
uprooted, that not a trace of their city might remain.[139]

Nor can doubt be thrown on these deeds by the fact that they are
only mentioned by Quintus Curtius and not by Arrian. The silence of
the one is no proof of the falsity or credulity of the other. Both
writers lived many centuries after Alexander, and were dependent for
their knowledge on the writings, then extant but long since lost, of
contemporaries and eye-witnesses of the expedition to Asia. That those
witnesses often gave conflicting accounts of the same event we have the
assurance of either writer; but since it is impossible to determine
the degree of discretion with which each made their selections from
the original authorities, it is only reasonable to regard them both as
of the same and equal validity. Seneca, who lived before Arrian and
who therefore was equally conversant with the original authorities,
hardly ever mentions Alexander without expressions of the strongest

Cruelty, in fact, is revealed to us by history as the most conspicuous
trait in the character of Alexander, though not in his case nor in
others inconsistent with occasional acts of magnanimity and the gleams
of a higher nature. This cruelty, however, taken in connection with
his undoubted bravery, calls in question the truth of a remark made by
Philip de Commines, and supported, he affirmed, by all historians, that
no cruel man is ever courageous. The popular theory, that inhumanity is
more likely to be the concomitant of a timid than of a daring nature,
ignores altogether the teaching of history and the conclusions of _à
priori_ reasoning. For if our regard for the sufferings of others is
proportioned to our regard for our own sufferings, inasmuch as our
self-love is the foundation and measure of our powers of sympathy,
a man’s disregard for the sufferings of others--in other words his
cruelty--is likely to be the exact reflection of his disregard for
suffering in his own person, or, in other words, of his physical
courage. Men, moreover, like Cicero, of whom it was said by Livy that
he was better calculated for anything than for war, by their very
incapacity for positions where their humanity is likely to be tested,
are rarely exposed to those temptations of cruelty in which men of a
more daring temperament naturally find themselves placed.

And accordingly we find, by reference to instances which lie on the
surface of history, that great bravery and great cruelty have more
often been united than separate. In French history there is the cruelty
of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy; of Montluc and Des Adretz,
the latter of whom made 30 soldiers and their captain leap from the
precipice of a strong place they had defended, and of both of whom
Brantôme remarks that they were very brave but very cruel.[140] In
Scotch history, it was David I. who, though famed for his courage and
humanity, suffered the sick and aged to be slain in their beds, even
infants to be killed and priests murdered at the very altars.[141] In
English history, it was Richard Cœur-de-Lion who had 5,000 Saracen
prisoners led out to a large plain to be massacred (1191).[142] In
Jewish history, it was King David who, when he took Rabbah of the
Ammonites, ‘brought forth the people that were therein and put them
under saws and harrows of iron and under axes of iron, and made them
pass through the brick kiln; and thus did he unto all the cities of the
children of Ammon.’[143] It is not therefore more probable that a man
famed for his intrepidity will not lend himself to counsels or actions
of cruelty than that another deficient in personal courage will not be

And here one cause is deserving of attention as helping to explain the
greater barbarity practised by the modern nations in the matter of
reprisals, than that which was permitted by the code of honour which
acted in restraint of them in the better periods of pagan antiquity;
and that is the change that has occurred with regard to slavery.

The abolition of slavery, which in Western Europe has been the greatest
achievement of modern civilisation, did not unfortunately tend to
greater mildness in the customs of war. For in ancient times the sale
of prisoners as slaves operated to restrain that indiscriminate and
objectless slaughter which has been, even to cases within this century,
the marked feature of the battle-field, and more especially where
cities or places have been taken by storm. Avarice ceased to operate,
as it once did, in favour of humanity. In one day the population of
Magdeburg, taken by storm, was reduced from 25,000 to 2,700; and an
English eye-witness of that event thus described it: ‘Of 25,000, some
said 30,000 people, there was not a soul to be seen alive, till the
flames drove those that were hid in vaults and secret places to seek
death in the streets rather than perish in the fire; of these miserable
creatures some were killed too by the furious soldiers, but at last
they saved the lives of such as came out of their cellars and holes,
and so about 2,000 poor desperate creatures were left.’[144] ‘There
was little shooting, the execution was all cutting of throats and
mere house murders.... We could see the poor people in crowds driven
down the streets, flying from the fury of the soldiers, who followed
butchering them as fast as they could, and refused mercy to anybody;
till, driving them down to the river’s edge, the desperate wretches
would throw themselves into the river, where thousands of them
perished, especially women and children.’[145]

It is difficult to read this graphic description of a stormed city
without the suspicion arising in the mind that a sheer thirst for blood
and love of murder is a much more potent sustainer of war than it is
usual or agreeable to believe. The narratives of most victories and
of taken cities support this theory. At Brescia, for instance, taken
by the French from the Venetians in 1512, it is said that 20,000 of
the latter fell to only 50 of the former.[146] When Rome was sacked in
1527 by the Imperialist forces, we are told that ‘the soldiery threw
themselves upon the unhappy multitude, and, without distinction of age
or sex, massacred all who came in their way. Strangers were spared as
little as Romans, for the murderers fired indiscriminately at everyone,
from a mere thirst of blood.’[147]

But this thirst of blood was checked in the days of slavery by the
counteracting thirst of money; there having been an obvious motive
for giving quarter when a prisoner of war represented something of
tangible value, like any other article of booty. The sack of Thebes
by Alexander, and its demolition to the sound of the lute, was bad
enough; but after the first rage for slaughter was over, there remained
30,000 persons of free birth to be sold as slaves. And in Roman
warfare the rule was to sell as slaves those who were taken prisoners
in a stormed city; and it must be remembered that many so sold were
slaves already.[148] All who were unarmed or who laid down their arms
were spared from destruction, as well as from plunder;[149] and for
exceptions to this rule, as for instance for the indiscriminate and
cruel massacre committed at Illiturji in Spain, there was always at
least the pretext of reprisals, or some special military motive.[150]

Cicero, who lived to see the Roman arms triumphant over the world and
the conversion of the Roman republic into a military despotism, found
occasion to deplore at the same time the debased standard of military
honour. He believed that in cruel vindictiveness and rapacity his
contemporaries had degenerated from the customs of their ancestors, and
he contrasted regretfully the utter destruction of Carthage, Numantia,
and Corinth, with the milder treatment of their earlier enemies, the
Sabines, Tusculans, and others. He adduced as a proof of the greater
ferocity of the war spirit of his day the fact that the only term
for an enemy was originally the milder term of stranger, and that it
was only by degrees that the word meaning stranger came to have the
connotation of hostility. ‘What,’ he asks, ‘could have been added
to this mildness, to call him with whom you are at war by so gentle
a name as stranger? But now the progress of time has given a harder
signification to the word; for it has ceased to apply to a stranger,
and has remained the proper term for an actual enemy in arms.’[151]

Is a similar process taking place in modern warfare with regard to
the law of reprisals? It is a long leap from ancient Rome to modern
Germany; but to Germany, as the chief military Power now in existence,
we must turn, in order to understand the law of reprisals as it is
interpreted by the practice of a country whose power and example will
make her actions precedents in all wars that may occur in future.

The worst feature in reprisals is that they are indiscriminate and
more often directed against the innocent than the guilty. To murder
women and children, old men, or any one else, on the ground of their
connection with an enemy who has committed an action calling for
retribution, can be justified by no theory that would not equally apply
to a similar parody of justice in civil life. It is a return to the
theory and practices of savages, who, if they cannot revenge themselves
on a culprit, revenge themselves complacently on some one else. For
bodies of peasants to resist a foreign invader by forming ambuscades or
making surprises against him, though his advance is marked by fire and
pillage and outrage, may be contrary to the laws of war (though that
point has never been agreed upon); but to make such attacks the pretext
for indiscriminate murder and robbery is an extension of the law of
reprisals that was only definitely imported into the military code of
Europe by the German invaders of France in 1870.

The following facts, offered in proof of this statement, are taken
from a small pamphlet, published during the war by the International
Society for Help to the Wounded, and containing only such facts as were
attested by the evidence of official documents or of persons whose
positions gave them an exceptional title to credit.[152] At one place,
where twenty-five francs-tireurs had hidden in a wood and received the
Germans with a fusillade, reprisals were carried so far that the curé,
rushing into the streets, seized the Prussian captain by the shoulders
and entreated mercy for the women and children. ‘No mercy’ was the
only reply.[153] At another place twenty-six young men had joined the
francs-tireurs; the Baden troops took and shot their fathers.[154] At
Nemours, where a body of Uhlans had been surprised and captured by
some mobiles, the floors and furniture of several houses were first
saturated with petroleum and then fired with shells.[155]

The new theory also was imported into the military code, that a
village, by the mere fact of trying to defend itself, constituted
itself a place of war which might be legitimately bombarded and, when
taken, subjected to the rights of war which still govern the fate of
places taken by assault.[156] Nor let it be supposed that those rights
were not exercised as rigorously as they ever have been by victorious
troops. At Nogent-sur-Seine, the Wurtemburg troops carried their fury
to the slaughter of women and children and even of the wounded. And if
the belief still lingers that the German troops of the Emperor William
behaved otherwise towards the weaker sex than their ancestors in Rome
and Italy under the Constable of Bourbon, let the reader refer to the
experiences of Clermont, Andernay, or Neuville.[157]

Reprisals beget, of course, reprisals; and had the French and German
war been by any accident prolonged, it is appalling to think of the
barbarities that would have occurred. ‘Threat for threat,’ wrote
Colonel R. Garibaldi to the Prussian commander at Châtillon, in
reference to the latter’s resolve to punish the inhabitants of that
place for the acts of some francs-tireurs; ‘I give you my assurance
that I will not spare one of the 200 Prussians whom you know to be in
my hands.’[158] ‘We will fight,’ wrote General Chanzy to the Prussian
commander at Vendôme, ‘without truce or mercy, because it is a question
now not of fighting loyal enemies, but hordes of devastators.’[159]

Under the theory of legitimate reprisals, the Germans resuscitated
the custom of taking hostages. The French having (in accordance with
the still recognised but barbarous rule of war) taken prisoners the
captains of some German merchant vessels, the Germans retaliated
by taking twenty persons of respectable position at Dijon, and nine
at Vesoul, and detaining them as hostages. Nor was this an uncommon
episode in the campaign: though the sending to Germany as prisoners
of war of French merchants, magistrates, lawyers, and doctors, and
the making them answerable with their lives and fortunes for actions
of their countrymen which they could neither prevent nor repress, was
a revival in its worst form of the theory of vicarious punishment,
and a direction of hostilities against non-combatants, which was a
gross violation of the proclamation of the Prussian king, made at
the beginning of the campaign (after the common cant of the leaders
of armies), that his forces had no war to wage with the peaceable
inhabitants of France.

Even plunder enters into the German law of reprisals. Remiremont in
the Vosges had to pay 8,000_l._ because two German engineers and one
soldier had been taken prisoners by the French troops. The usual forced
military contributions which the victors exacted did not exclude a
system of pillage and devastation that the present age fondly believed
to belong only to a past state of warfare. On December 5, 1870, a
German soldier wrote to the _Cologne Gazette_: ‘Since the war has
entered upon its present stage it is a real life of brigands we lead.
For four weeks we have passed through districts entirely ravaged; the
last eight days we have passed through towns and villages where there
was absolutely nothing left to take.’ Nor was this plunder only the
work of the common military serfs or conscripts, whose miserable
poverty might have served as an excuse, but it was conducted by
officers of the highest rank, who, for their own benefit, robbed farms
and stables of their sheep and horses, and sacked country houses of
their works of art, their plate, and even of their ladies’ jewels.[160]

The world, therefore, at least owes this to the Germans, that they have
taught us to see war in its true light, by removing it from the realm
of romance, where it was decked with bright colours and noble actions,
to the region of sober judgment, where the soldier, the thief, and
the murderer are seen in scarcely distinguishable colours. They have
withdrawn the veil which blinded our ancestors to the evils of war,
and which led dreamy humanitarians to believe in the possibility of
_civilised warfare_; so that now the deeds of shame threaten to obscure
the deeds of glory. In the middle ages it was the custom to declare a
war that was intended to be waged with special fury by sending a man
with a naked sword in one hand and a burning torch in the other, to
signify that the war so begun was to be one of blood and fire. We have
since learnt that there is no need to typify by any peculiar ceremony
the character of any particular war; for that the characteristics of
all are the same.

The German general Von Moltke, in a published letter wherein he
maintained that Perpetual Peace was a dream and not even a beautiful
one, went on to say, in defence of war, that in it the noblest virtues
of mankind were developed--courage, self-abnegation, faithfulness to
duty, the spirit of sacrifice; and that without wars the world would
soon stagnate and lose itself in materialism.[161] We have no data from
which to judge of the probable state of a warless world, but we do
know that the brightest samples of these virtues have been ever given
by those who in peace and obscurity, and without looking for lands, or
titles, or medals for their reward, have laboured not to destroy life
but to save it, not to lower the standard of morality but to raise it,
not to preach revenge but mercy, not to spread misery and poverty and
crime but to increase happiness, wealth, and virtue. Is there or will
there be no scope for courage, for self-sacrifice, for duty, where
fever and disease are the foes to be combated, where wounds and pain
need to be cured or soothed, or where sin and ignorance and poverty are
the forces to be assailed? But apart from this there is another side to
the picture of war, of which Von Moltke says not a word, but of which,
in the preceding pages, some indication has been given. Now that we are
no longer satisfied with the dry narratives of strategical operations,
but are beginning to search into the details of military proceedings;
into the fate of the captured, of the wounded, of the pursued; into
the treatment of hostages, of women, of children; into the statistics
of massacre and spoliation that are the penalties of defeat; into the
character of stratagems; and into the justice of reprisals, we see war
in another mirror, and recognise that the old one gave but a distorted
reflection of its realities. No one ever denied but that great
qualities are displayed in war; but the doubt is spreading fast, not
only whether it is the worthiest field for their display, but whether
it is not also the principal nursing-bed of the crimes that are the
greatest disgrace to our nature.

It is idle to think that our humanity will fail to take its colouring
from our calling. Marshal Montluc, the bravest yet most cruel of
French soldiers, was fond of protesting that the inhumanity he was
guilty of was in corruption of his original and better nature; and at
the close of his book and of his life, he consoled himself for the
blood he had caused to flow like water by the consideration, that the
sovereigns whose servant he had been were (as he told one of them)
really responsible for the misery he had caused. But does the excuse
avail him, or the millions who have succeeded to his trade? A king or a
government can commission men to execute its policy or its vengeance;
but is a free agent, who accepts a commission that he believes to be
iniquitous, morally acquitted of his share of culpability? Is his
responsibility no greater than that of the sword, the axe, or the
halter with which he carries out his orders; or does the plea of
military discipline justify him in acting with no more moral restraint
than a slave, or than a horse that has no understanding? The Prussian
officer who at Dijon blew out his brains rather than execute some
iniquitous order[162] showed that he understood the dignity of human
nature as it was understood in the days of the bygone moral grandeur
of Rome. Such a man deserved a monument far more than most to whom
memorial monuments are raised.

Recent events lend an additional interest to the question of
reprisals, and add emphasis to the necessity of placing them, as it
was sought to do at Brussels, on the footing of an International
Agreement. It is sometimes said that dynastic wars belong to the past,
and that kings have no longer the power to make war, as they once did,
for their own pleasure or pastime. There may be truth in this, though
the last great war in Europe but one had its immediate cause in an
inter-dynastic jealousy; but a far more potent agency for war than
ever existed in monarchical power is now wielded by the Press. War in
every country is the direct pecuniary interest of the Daily Press. ‘I
know proprietors of newspapers,’ said Cobden during the Crimean war,
‘who have pocketed 3,000_l._ or 4,000_l._ a year through the war as
directly as if the money had been voted to them in the Parliamentary
estimates.’[163] The temptation, therefore, is great, first to justify
any given war by irrelevant issues or by stories of the enormities
committed by the enemy, or even by positive false statements (as when
the English Press, with the _Times_ at its head, with almost one voice
taught us that the Afghan ruler had insulted our ambassador, and left
us to find out our mistake when a too ready credulity had cost us a
war of some 20,000,000_l._); and then, when war has once begun, to fan
the flame by demanding reprisals for atrocities that have generally
never been committed nor established by anything like proof. In this
way the French were charged at the beginning of the last German war
with bombarding the open town of Saarbrück, and with firing explosive
bullets from the mitrailleuse; and the belief, thus falsely and
purposely propagated, covered of course with the cloak of reprisals a
good deal of all that came afterwards.

In this way has arisen the modern practice of justifying every resort
to war, not as a trial of strength or test of justice between enemies,
but as an act of virtuous and necessary chastisement against criminals.
Charges of violated faith, of the abuse of flags of truce, of
dishonourable stratagems, of the ill-treatment or torture of prisoners,
are seized upon, regardless of any inquiry into their truth, and made
the pretext for the indefinite prolongation of hostilities. The lawful
enemy is denounced as a rebel or a criminal, whom it would be wicked to
treat with or trust; and only an unconditional surrender, which drives
him to desperation, and so embitters the war, is regarded as a possible
preliminary to peace. The time has surely come when such a demand, on
the ground of reprisals, should cease to operate as a bar to peace.
One of the proposals at the Brussels Conference was that no commander
should be forced to capitulate under dishonourable conditions, that
is to say, without the customary honours of war. It should be one of
the demands of civilisation that an unconditional surrender, such
as was insisted upon from Arabi in 1882 and led to the bombardment
of Alexandria with all the subsequent troubles, should under no
circumstances be insisted on in treating with an enemy; and that no
victorious belligerent should demand of a defeated one what under
reversed conditions it would consider dishonourable to grant itself.



    _Hé! qu’il y a de tromperie au monde! et en nostre mestier plus
    qu’en autre qui soit._--MARSHAL MONTLUC.

    Grotius’ theory of fair stratagems--The teaching of international
    law--Ancient and modern naval stratagems--Early Roman dislike
    of such stratagems as ambuscades, feigned retreats, or night
    attacks--The degenerate standard of Frontinus and Polyænus--The
    conference-stratagem of modern Europe--The distinction between
    perfidy and stratagem--The perfidy of Francis I.--Vattel’s
    theory about spies--Frederick the Great’s military instructions
    about spies--Lord Wolseley on spies and truth in war--The
    custom of hanging or shooting spies--Better to keep them as
    prisoners of war--Balloonists regarded as spies--The practice of
    military surprises--Death formerly the penalty for capture in
    a surprise--Stratagems of uncertain character, such as forged
    despatches or false intelligence--The use of the telegraph in
    deceiving the enemy--May prisoners of war be compelled to propagate
    lies?--General character of the military code of fraud.

One of the most interesting aspects of the state of war is that of its
connection with fraud, deceit, and guile. If we may seek to obtain our
ends by force, we may surely, it is argued, do so by fraud; for what is
the moral difference between overcoming by superiority of muscle and
the same result obtained by dint of brain? Lysander the Spartan went so
far as to say that boys were to be cheated with dice, but an enemy with
oaths; and if the world has professed horror at his sentiment, it has
not altogether despised his authority.

Among military stratagems the older writers used to include every kind
of deception practised by generals in war, not only against the enemy,
but against their own troops; as, for instance, devices for preventing
or suppressing a mutiny, for stopping the spread of a panic, or for
encouraging them with false news before or during an engagement.

But in modern use the term stratagem has almost exclusive reference
to artifices of deception practised against an enemy; and the greater
interest that attaches to the latter kind of guile justifies the
narrowed denotation of the word. No one, for instance, would now
regard as a stratagem the clever behaviour of that Thracian general
Cosingas, who, acting also as priest to his forces, brought them back
to obedience by the report he artfully propagated that certain long
ladders which he had caused to be made and fastened together were
intended to enable him to climb to heaven, there to complain to Juno of
their misconduct. The false pretence that is involved in a stratagem is
addressed to the leaders of a hostile force, in order that their fear
or confidence, unduly raised by it, may be played upon to the advantage
of their more artful opponents. In the consideration, therefore, of
military stratagems, or _ruses de guerre_, it is best to conform
entirely to the more restricted sense in which they are understood in
modern parlance.

The following stratagem is a good one to start with. During the
Franco-German War of 1870, twenty-five franc-tireurs clothed themselves
in Prussian uniform, and by the help of that disguise killed several
Prussians at Sennegy near Troyes; and the deed was made a subject of
open boast in a French journal.[164] Was the boast a justifiable or a
shameful one?

Distinctly justifiable, if at least Grotius, the father of our
international law, is of any authority. The reasoning of Grotius runs
in this wise. There is a distinction between conventional signs that
are established by the general consent of all the world and those
which are only established by particular societies or by individuals;
deception directed against the former involves the violation of a
mutual obligation, and is therefore unlawful, whereas that against the
latter is lawful, because it involves no such violation. Therefore,
whilst it is wrong to deceive an enemy by words or signs which by
general consent are universally understood in a given sense, it is not
wrong to overcome an enemy by conduct which involves no violation of
a generally recognised and universally binding custom. Under conduct
of the latter type fall such acts as a simulated flight, or the use of
an enemy’s arms, his standards, uniform, or sails. A flight is not an
instituted sign of fear, nor have the arms or colours of a particular
country any universally established meaning.[165]

And in spite of the sound of sophistry that accompanies this reasoning,
the teaching of international law has not substantially swerved on this
point from the direction given to it by Grotius. In Cicero’s opinion,
although both force and fraud were resources most unworthy of rational
humanity, the one pertaining rather to the nature of the lion and the
other to that of the fox, fraud was an expedient deserving of more
hatred than the other.[166] But the teaching of later times has tended
to overlook this distinction. Bynkershoek, that celebrated Dutch jurist
who advocated the use of poison as one of the fair modes of employing
force, declares it to be a matter of perfect indifference whether
stratagem or open force be employed against an enemy, provided perfidy
be absent from the former. And Bluntschli, who is the German publicist
of greatest authority in our own day, expressly includes among the
lawful stratagems of war the use of an enemy’s uniform or flag.[167]

If, then, we test the received military theory by some actual
experience, the following episodes of history must challenge rather our
admiration than our blame, and stand justified by the most advanced
theories of modern international law.

Cimon, the Athenian admiral, having captured some Persian ships, made
his own men step into them and dress themselves in the clothes of the
Persians; and then, when the ships reached Cyprus, and the inhabitants
of that island came out joyfully to welcome their friends, they were of
course more easily defeated by their enemies.[168]

Aristomachus, having taken some Cardian ships, placed his own rowers
in them and towed his own ships behind them, as if they were being
conducted in triumph. When the Cardians came out to greet their
supposed victorious crews, Aristomachus and his men fell upon them and
succeeded in committing great carnage.[169]

Modern history supplies analogous cases. In September 1800 an English
crew attacked two ships that lay at anchor at Barcelona, by forcing
a Swedish vessel to take on board some English officers, soldiers,
and sailors, and so obtaining a means of approach that was otherwise
impossible.[170] And English naval historians tell with pride, rather
than with shame, how in 1798 two English ships, the ‘Sibylle’ and the
‘Fox,’ by sailing under false colours captured three Spanish gunboats
in Manilla Roads. When the Spanish guard-boat was sent to inquire what
the ships were, the pilot of the ‘Fox’ replied that they belonged to
the French squadron, and that they wished to put into Manilla, for the
recovery of the crews from sickness. The English Captain Cooke was
introduced under the French name of Latour; and a conversation ensued
in which the ceremony of wishing success to the united exertions of the
Spaniards and French against the English was not forgotten. Two Spanish
boats having then come to visit the vessels, their crews were quickly
handed below; and a party of British sailors having changed clothes
with them and got into their boat, advanced to the gunboats, which they
captured without pulling a trigger.[171]

On another occasion the same ‘Sibylle,’ which had been taken from the
French by Romney in 1794, captured a large French vessel that lay at
anchor, by standing in under French colours, and only hoisting her
real ones when within a cable’s length of her prize;[172] the only
limit to such a stratagem on the sea being the necessity for a ship to
hoist her real flag before proceeding to actual hostilities. A state of
war must surely play strange tricks with our minds to make it possible
for us to approve such infamous actions as those quoted. There can be
no greater proof of the utter demoralisation it causes than that such
devices should have ever come to be thought honourable; and that no
scruples should have ever intervened against the prostitution of a
country’s flag, the symbol of her independence, her nationality, and
her pride, to the shame of open falsehood. Antiquaries dispute the
correctness of the statement of Polyænus that Artemisia, the Queen of
Caria and ally of Xerxes against Greece, hoisted Persian colours when
in pursuit of Greek ships, but a Greek flag to prevent Greek ships from
pursuing herself, because they say that flags were not then in use; but
undoubtedly the custom is a very old one on the seas of having a number
of different flags on board a ship, for the purpose either of more
easily capturing a weaker or of more easily escaping from a stronger
vessel than herself. The French, for instance, in 1337 plundered and
burnt Portsmouth, after having been suffered to land under the cover of
English banners.[173] Not only the vessels of pirates and privateers,
but the war vessels of the State, learned to sail under colours that
belied their nationality.[174] The only limit to the stratagem of
the false flag (to which international custom gradually came to give
the force of law) came to be the necessity of hoisting the real flag
before proceeding to fire, a limitation that was not of much moment
after the successful deception had brought a defenceless merchant
vessel within the reach of easy capture. And with regard to ships of
war, the cannon-shot by which one vessel replied to the challenge of
its suspected nationality by the other came to be equivalent to the
captain’s word of honour that the flag which floated above the cannon
he fired represented the nationality of which it professed to be the
symbol. The flag itself might tell a lie, therefore the cannon-shot
oath must redeem it from suspicion. Such are the extraordinary ideas of
honour and morality that the system of universal fear, distrust, and
hostility, by many thought to be so surpassingly glorious, has caused
to become prevalent upon the ocean.

In spite, therefore, of Grotius, the above stratagems must be
considered as dishonourable; and that so they are beginning to be
considered is indicated by the fact that at the Brussels Conference of
1874 the use of an enemy’s flag or uniform was expressly rejected from
the category of fair military stratagems. But the improvement is in
spite of international law, not in consequence of it.

There is an obvious distinction indeed between the above method of
overcoming an enemy and such favourite devices as ambuscades, feigned
retreats, night attacks, or the diversion of a defence to the wrong
point. But perhaps nothing in the history of moral opinion is more
curious than that even these modes of deceit should have been, not by
one people or an unwarlike people, but by several people, and one among
them the most warlike nation known to history, deliberately rejected as
unfair and dishonourable modes of warfare. The historical evidence on
this point appears to be quite conclusive, and is worth recalling for
the interest that cannot but attach to one of the strangest but most
neglected chapters in the history of human ethics.

The Achæans, says Polybius, disdained even to subdue their enemies with
the help of deceit. In their opinion a victory was neither honourable
nor secure that was not obtained in open combat by superior courage.
Therefore they esteemed it a kind of law among them never to use any
concealed weapons, nor to throw darts from a distance, being persuaded
that an open and close conflict was the only fair method of combat.
For the same reason they not only made a declaration of war, but sent
notice each to the other of their resolution to try the fortune of a
battle, and of the place where they were determined to engage.[175]

And in Ternate, one of the Molucca Islands, which suffered such
untold miseries after the Europeans had discovered its spices and its
heathenism, not only was war never begun without being first declared,
but it was also customary to inform the enemy of the number of men and
the amount and kind of weapons with which it was intended to conduct

But the case of the Romans is by far the most remarkable. Polybius,
Livy, and Ælian all agree in their testimony that for a long period
of their history the Romans refrained from all kinds of stratagem as
from a sort of military meanness; and their evidence is corroborated
by Valerius Maximus, who says that the Romans, having no word in their
language to express a military ruse, were forced to borrow the Greek
word, from which our own word stratagem is derived.[177] Polybius, who
lived and wrote as late as the second century before Christ, after
complaining that artifice was then so prevalent among the Romans that
their chief study was to deceive one another in war and in politics,
adds that, in spite of this degeneracy, they still declared war
solemnly beforehand, seldom formed ambuscades, and preferred to fight
man to man in close engagement. So late as the year 172 B.C. the elder
senators regretted the lost virtue of their ancestors, who refrained
from such stratagems as night attacks, counterfeit flights, and sudden
returns, and who sometimes even appointed the day of battle and fixed
the field of combat, looking for victory not from fraud, but only from
superiority in personal bravery.[178] Ælian, too, declares that the
Romans never resorted to stratagems till about the end of the Second
Punic War; and truly the great Roman general, Scipio, who took the
name of Africanus, displayed a thorough African skill in the use he
made of spies and surprises to bring that war to a successful issue.

With regard to night attacks the Macedonians appear to have cherished
similar feelings, since we find Alexander refusing to attack Darius
by night on the ground that he did not wish to gain a stolen victory.
And with regard to close combat, something of the old Roman and Achæan
feeling was displayed in Europe when first the crossbow, and in later
times the musket, rendered personal prowess of lesser importance.
Before the time of Richard I., when the crossbow became the chief
weapon in war, warriors, says the Abbé Velley, were so free and brave
that they would only owe victory to their lance and their sword, and
everybody detested those perfidious arms with which a coward under
shelter was enabled to slay the bravest.[179] So said Montluc of the
musket, which in 1523 had not yet, he says, superseded in France the
use of the crossbow: ‘Would to God this accursed instrument had never
been invented.... So many brave and valiant men would not have met
their deaths at the hands very often of the greatest cowards, who
would not so much as dare look at the man whom they knock down from
a distance with their accursed balls.’[180] And in the same spirit
Charles XII. of Sweden once bade his soldiers to come to close quarters
with the enemy without shooting, on the ground that it was only for
cowards to shoot.

Such ideas are, of course, dead beyond the hope of recovery; but
they are an odd commentary on our conceit in the improved tone of
our military code of honour. We have long since learned to despise
these old-world notions of honour and courage, and to make very few
exceptions indeed to the newer doctrine of Christendom, that in war
anything and everything is fair. But it is worth the pause of a moment
to reflect that such moral sentiments in restraint of the use of fraud
in war should have once had a real existence in the world; that they
should once have swayed the minds of the most successful military
nation that ever existed, and stood by them till they had attained that
high degree of power which was theirs at the time of the Second Punic
War (217-199 B.C.) In comparing the code of military honour prevalent
in pagan antiquity with that of more recent times, it is but fair to
remember that the pagan nations of old recognised some principles
of action which were never dreamt of in the best days of Christian
chivalry; and that the generals of the people who we are sometimes told
were a mere robber community would have had as strong a feeling against
the righteousness of a night attack, a feigned retreat, or a surprise,
as our modern generals would have of an open violation of a truce or

The downward path in this matter is easy, and the history of Rome after
Scipio Africanus is associated with a change of opinion concerning
stratagems that in no degree fell short of that subtlety of the
Greeks, Gauls, or Africans, which the Romans once regarded as perfidy.
Frontinus, who wrote a book on stratagems in the reign of Trajan,
and still more Polyænus, who wrote a large book on the same subject
for the Emperors Verus and Antoninus, appear to have thought that no
deceit was too bad to serve as a good precedent for the conduct of war.
Polyænus not merely made a collection of some nine hundred stratagems,
but collected them for the express purpose of their being of service to
the Roman Emperors in the war then undertaken against Parthia. To the
rulers of a people who had once regarded even an ambuscade as beneath
their chivalry he brought as worthy of their recollection and study
actions which are an eternal stain on the memory of those who committed
them. Let us take for example the devices he records for obtaining
possession of besieged places, remembering that from the moment the
chamade has been beaten, or any other sign been given for a conference
or parley between the contending forces, a truce by tacit agreement is
held to suspend their mutual hostilities.

1. Thibron persuaded the governor of a fort in Asia to come out to
arrange terms, under an oath that he should return if they failed to
agree. During the relaxation of guard that naturally ensued, Thibron’s
men took the fort by assault: and Thibron, reconducting the governor
according to his word, forthwith put him to death.[181]

2. In the same way behaved Paches, the Athenian general at Notium.
Having got Hippias, the governor, into his power under the same promise
that Thibron made, he took the place by storm, massacred all he found
in it, reconducted Hippias according to his oath, and had him killed
upon the spot.[182]

3. Autophrodates proposed a parley with the chiefs of the Ephesian
army, having previously ordered his cavalry officers and other troops
to attack the Ephesians during the conference. The result was a
signal victory, and the capture or slaughter of a great number of

4. Philip of Macedon sent some envoys into a Thracian city, and whilst
the people all met in assembly to hear the proposals of the enemy the
King of Macedon attacked and took the city.[184]

5. The Thracians, having been defeated by the Bœotians, made a truce
with them, for a certain number of _days_, and attacked them one
_night_, whilst the enemy were engaged in making sacrifices. And so
dealt Cleomenes with the Argives; he made a truce with them for seven
days, and attacked them the second night.

All these things are told by Polyænus, not only without a word of
disapproval, but apparently as good examples for the conduct of a war
actually in progress. Such was the state of moral debasement in which
their long career of military success ultimately landed the great Roman

Nevertheless, it is not for modern history to cast stones at Paches or
at Thibron. The Conference-stratagem attained its highest development
in the practice of warfare in Christendom; so that Montaigne declares
it to have become a fixed maxim among the military men of his time
(the sixteenth century) never in time of siege to go out to a parley.
That great French soldier Montluc, whose autobiography contained in
his Commentaries displays so curious a mixture of bravery and cruelty,
of loyalty and cunning, and is perhaps the best military book by a
military man that has been written since Cæsar, tells us how once,
whilst he was bargaining with the governor of Sarvenal about the terms
of a capitulation, his men entered the place by a window on the other
side and compelled the governor to surrender at discretion, and how on
another occasion he sent his soldiers to enter Mont de Marsan and put
all they met to the sword, whilst he himself was deluding the governor
with a parley. ‘The moments of a parley are dangerous,’ he justly
observes, ‘and then more than ever should the besieged be careful in
guarding their walls, for it is the time when the besiegers, fearful
of losing by a capitulation the booty that would be theirs if they
took the place by storm, study to avail themselves of the relaxation
of vigilance promoted by the truce to approach the walls with greater
facility and success.’ And the man who wrote this as the experience of
his time, and illustrated it by the above accounts of his own practice,
rose to be a Marshal of France!

Some other examples of the same stratagem prove how widely the custom
entered into the warfare of the European nations. The governor of
Terouanne, besieged by the forces of the Emperor Charles V., having
forgotten in a negotiation for a capitulation to stipulate for a
suspension of arms, the town was surprised during the conference,
pillaged, and utterly destroyed.[185] And Feuquières, a French general
of Louis XIV., and the writer of a book of military memoirs which ran
through several editions, tells us how he surprised a place called
Kreilsheim in 1688: ‘I could not have taken this place by force,
surrounded as it was with a wall and a strong enough castle; but the
colonel in command having been imbecile enough to come outside the
place to parley with me, without exacting a promise from me to let
him return, I retained him and compelled him to order his garrison to
surrender itself prisoner of war.’[186] And he actually quotes this
to show that when it is necessary to take a post, all sorts of means
should be employed, provided they do not dishonour the general who
resorts to them, as would the failure of his word to the colonel have
dishonoured himself had the colonel demanded it of him.

A sounder sense of military honour was displayed by the English
general, Lord Peterborough, at the siege of Barcelona in 1705. Don
Velasco had promised to capitulate within a certain number of days,
in the event of no succour arriving, and he surrendered one gate as a
proof of his sincerity. During the truce involved in this proceeding,
the German and Catalonian allies of the English entered the town and
began that career of plunder and outrage which is the constant reward
and crown of such military successes. Lord Peterborough undertook to
prevent disorder in the town, expel the allied soldiery, and return
to his position. He was taken at his word, acted up to his word, and
saved the honour of England. But what of that of his allies?

It is a fine line that divides a stratagem from an act of perfidy.
Valerius Maximus denounces as an act of perfidy the conduct of Cnæus
Domitius, who, having received the King of the Arverni as a guest under
the pretence of a colloquy, sent him by sea a prisoner to Rome;[187]
but it is not easy to distinguish it from the actions of Montluc or
Feuquières. Vattel lays down the following doctrine on the subject: As
humanity compels us to prefer the gentlest means in the prosecution of
our rights, if we can master a strong place, surprise or overcome an
enemy by a stratagem or a feint void of perfidy, it is better to do so
than to have resort to a bloody siege or the carnage of a battle. He
expressly excludes perfidy; but might not Polyænus have defended it
on precisely the same humanitarian grounds as those by which Vattel
justifies the more ordinary stratagems? Might not an act of perfidy
equally prevent a siege or a battle? If we are justified in contending
for our rights by force, it is hard to say that we may not do so by
fraud; but it is still harder to distinguish the kinds and the limits
of such fraud, or to say where it ceases to be lawful.

And to this length did Polyænus apparently go, as we see in the cases
of downright perfidy which he includes in his collection of stratagems.
The Locrians swore to observe a treaty with the Sicilians so long as
they trod the earth they then walked on, or carried their heads on
their shoulders: the next day they threw away the heads of garlic which
they had carried under their cloaks on their shoulders, and the earth
they had strewn in their shoes, and began a general massacre of the
Sicilians.[188] The Campanians, having agreed to surrender half their
arms, cut them in half, and so virtually surrendered nothing.[189]
Paches, the Athenian, says Frontinus, having promised personal safety
to his enemies on condition of their laying down their arms, or as he
termed it, their _iron_, slew all those who, having laid down their
arms, still retained the _iron_ clasps in their cloaks.[190]

By these means it is undoubtedly possible to gain that advantage over
your enemy which, according to every theory of war, it is the paramount
object of hostilities to obtain; for it has been too often forgotten
that a nation’s honour and character, which an enlightened patriotism
should value higher than the mere earth on which it feeds and treads,
are sacrificed and impaired whenever a treaty is taken by one of the
parties to it to have been made in another sense from that which was
clearly understood by both parties to have constituted its spirit at
the time of making it. What a lasting stain rests, for instance, on the
memory of Francis I., who before signing the Treaty of Madrid, by which
he swore, in return for his liberty, to restore the Duchy of Burgundy,
and to return a prisoner to Spain if he failed to do so, made a formal
protest beforehand, in the presence of some friends, that the oath he
was about to take was involuntary and therefore void, and broke it the
moment he was free! And this was the man whose memory is associated
with the famous saying after the battle of Pavia: ‘All is lost save
honour.’ What he really said after that event, in a letter to his
mother, was this: ‘All is lost save my honour and my life, which is
safe,’ and the letter went on at length, much more in keeping with the
character of that monarch.[191] His life indeed he saved; his honour he
never recovered.

It was agreed at the Brussels Conference that resort to every possible
method of obtaining information about the forces or country of an
enemy should count as a fair military stratagem; and, indeed, with the
subject of the deceitful side of war the military theory and treatment
of Spies occupies no inconsiderable place.

Vattel is again as good an exponent as we can have of what international
law teaches on this subject. His argument is as follows: It is not
contrary to the law of nations to seduce one of the hostile side to
turn spy, nor to bribe a governor to deliver a town, because such
actions do not, like the use of poison or assassination, strike at
the common welfare and safety of mankind. Such actions are the common
episodes of every war. But that they are not in themselves honourable
or compatible with a good conscience is proved by the fact that
generals who resort to such means never boast of them; and, if they are
at all excusable, it is only in the case of a very just war, when there
is no other way of saving a country from ruin at the hands of lawless
conquerors. A sovereign has no right to require the services of a spy
from any of his subjects, but he may hold out the temptation of reward
to mercenary souls; and if a governor is willing to sell himself and
offer us a town for money, should we scruple to take advantage of his
crime, and to get without danger what we have a right to get by force?
At the same time a spy may rightly be put to death, because it is the
only way we have of guarding against the mischief he may do us.[192]

Frederick the Great of Prussia was a contemporary of Vattel, and in
November 1760 he published some military instructions for the use
of his generals which, in the matter of spies, was based on a wider
practical knowledge of the matter than of course belonged to the more
pacific publicist. He classified spies into ordinary spies, double
spies, spies of distinction, and spies by compulsion. By double spies
he meant spies who also pretended to be in the service of the side
they betrayed. By spies of distinction he meant officers of hussars,
whose services he had found useful under the peculiar circumstances of
the Austrian campaign. When he could not procure himself spies among
the Austrians, owing to the careful guard which their light troops
kept round their camp, the idea occurred to him, and he acted on it
with success, of utilising the suspension of arms that was customary
after a skirmish between hussars to make those officers the means
of conducting an epistolary correspondence with the officers on the
other side. Spies by compulsion he explained in this way: ‘When you
wish to convey false information to an enemy, you take a trustworthy
soldier and compel him to pass to the enemy’s camp to report there
all that you wish the enemy to believe; you also send by him letters
to excite the troops to desertion.’ And in the event of its being
impossible to obtain information about the enemy, this distinguished
child of Mars prescribes the following: Choose some rich citizen,
who has land and wife and children, and another man disguised as his
servant or coachman, who understands the enemy’s language. Force the
former to take the latter with him to the enemy’s camp to complain of
injuries sustained, threatening him that if he fail to bring the man
back with him after having stayed long enough for the desired object,
his wife and children shall be hanged and his house burnt. ‘I was
myself constrained,’ adds this great warrior, ‘to have recourse to this
method, when we were encamped at ----, and it succeeded.’[193]

Such were the military ethics of the great philosopher and king, whose
character in the closer intimacy of biography proved so disagreeable a
revelation to Carlyle. Pagan antiquity might be searched in vain for
practice or sentiments more ignoble. Sertorius, the Roman captain,
was one of the greatest masters of stratagem in the world, yet how
different his language from that of the Great Frederick! ‘A man,’ he
said, ‘who has any dignity of feeling should conquer with honour, and
not use any base means even to save his life.’

From the sentiments of Frederick the Great regarding spies, let us pass
to those of our own time. From Lord Wolseley’s ‘Soldier’s Pocket-Book’
may be gained some insight as to the manner in which a spy in an
enemy’s camp may correspond with the hostile general. The best way,
he suggests, is to send a peasant with a letter written on very thin
paper, which may be rolled up so tightly as to be portable in a quill
an inch and a half long, and this precious quill may be hidden in the
hair or beard, or in a hollow made at the end of a walking-stick. It is
also a good plan to write secret correspondence in lemon-juice across
a newspaper or the leaves of a New Testament; it is then safe against
discovery, and will become legible when held before a fire or near a
red iron.

‘As a nation,’ says Lord Wolseley, ‘we are bred up to feel it a
disgrace even to succeed by falsehood; the word spy conveys something
as repulsive as slave; we will keep hammering along with the conviction
that honesty is the best policy, and that truth always wins in the long
run. These pretty little sentiments do well for a child’s copy-book,
but a man who acts upon them had better sheathe his sword for
ever.’[194] Was there ever such a confession of the incompatibility of
the soldier’s calling with the precepts of ordinary honour? For how not
so, if he must so far stoop from the ordinary level of moral rectitude
as to be ready to scorn honesty and to trifle with truth? And then the
question is, Had not a man better sheathe his sword for ever, or rather
not enter at all upon a trade where he will have to regard the eternal
principles of right and wrong as so much pretty sentiment only fit for
the copy-book?

Since, therefore, we have the authority of Vattel, of Frederick the
Great, and of Lord Wolseley that spies may or even must be employed in
war, and that, be the trickery or bribery never so mean that procures
their services, no discredit reflects itself upon those generals
who use them--it is impossible not to notice it as one of the chief
anomalies in existing military usages that, although a general has an
unlimited right to avail himself of the services of a spy or a traitor,
the penalty for acting in either of the latter capacities is death.
The capital penalty is not of itself any test of the moral character
of the action to which it is affixed, for the service of a fire-ship,
which demanded the most desperate bravery, used to be undertaken in the
face of capital punishment. Moreover, some of the most famous names
in military history have not hesitated to act as spies. Sertorius
was honoured by Marius with the usual rewards of signal valour for
having learnt the language of the Gauls and gone as a spy amongst them
disguised in their dress. The French general Custine entered Mayence in
the disguise of a butcher. Catinat spied out the strength of Luxembourg
in the costume of a coal-heaver. Montluc entered Perpignan as a cook,
and only resolved never again to act as a spy because the narrowness
of his escape convinced him, not that it was a service of too much
dishonour, but a service of too much danger.

The custom of killing spies is an old Roman one,[195] and, indeed,
seems to have prevailed all the world over. Nevertheless there have
been exceptions even to that. Scipio Africanus had some Carthaginian
spies who were brought before him led through the camp, and then
dismissed under escort, and with the polite inquiry whether they had
examined everything to their satisfaction.[196]

The consul Lævinus is said to have dealt in the same way with some
spies that were taken, and so did Xerxes by some Greek detectives. At
the famous siege of Antwerp in 1584-5, when a Brabant spy was brought
before the Prince of Parma, the latter gave orders that he should be
shown all the works connected with the wonderful bridge that he was
then constructing across the Scheldt, and then sent him back to the
besieged city with these words: ‘Go and tell those who sent you what
you have seen. Tell them that I firmly intend either to bury myself
beneath the ruin of this bridge or by means of it to pass into your

There is a clear middle course between both extremes. Instead of being
hung or shot or sent away scot free, a spy might fairly be made a
prisoner of war. Suggestions in this sense were made at the Brussels
Conference on the Laws of War. The Spanish delegate proposed that the
custom of hanging or shooting detected spies should be abolished, and
the custom be substituted of interning them as prisoners of war during
the continuance of hostilities. The Belgian delegate proposed that in
no case should they be put to death without trial; and it was even
sought to establish a distinction between the deserts of the really
patriotic and the merely mercenary spy. The feeling in fact made itself
clearly visible, that an act of which a general might fairly avail
himself could not in common justice be regarded as criminal in the
agent. Between a general and a spy the common-law rule of principal and
agent plainly holds good: ‘He who acts through another acts through
himself.’ In a case of espionage either both principal and agent are
guilty of a criminal act, or neither is. If the spy as such violates
the laws of war, so does the general who employs him; and either
deserves the same punishment. Were it not so, a general who should
hire a bravo to assassinate an enemy would incur no moral blame, nor
could be held to act outside the boundary of lawful and honourable

In some other respects the Brussels Conference displayed the vagueness
of sentiment that prevails about the use of spies in war. It was
agreed between all the Powers that no one should be considered as a
spy but one who secretly or under false pretences sought to obtain
information for the enemy in occupied districts; that military men
collecting such information within the zone of hostile operations
should not be regarded as spies if it were possible to recognise their
military character; and that military men, and even civilians, if
their proceedings were open, charged with despatches, should not, if
captured, be treated as spies; nor individuals who carried despatches
or kept up communications between different parts of an army through
the air in balloons. The German delegate proposed, with regard to
balloons, that those who sailed in them might be first of all summoned
to descend, then fired at if they refused, and if captured be treated
as prisoners, not as spies. The rejection of his proposal implies
that by the laws of modern war a balloonist is liable to be shot as a
spy; so that, from the point of view of personal danger, the service
of a balloon becomes doubly heroic. The Brussels Conference settled
nothing, owing to the withdrawal of England from that attempt to settle
by agreement between the nations the laws that should govern their
relations in war-time; but from what was on that occasion agreed to or
rejected may be gathered the prevalent practice of European warfare.
Is it not then a little remarkable that for the dangerous service of
espionage a different justice should be meted out to civilians and to
military men; and that a patriot who risks his life in a balloon should
also risk it in the same way as a spy, a deserter, or a traitor?

But whatever be the fate of a spy, and in spite of distinguished
precedents to the contrary, men of honour will always instinctively
shrink from a service which involves falsehood from beginning to
end. The sentiment is doubtless praiseworthy: but what is the moral
difference between entering a town as a spy and the military service
of winning it by surprise? What, for instance, shall we think of
the Spanish officers and soldiers who, dressed as peasants and with
baskets of nuts and apples on their arms, gained possession of Amiens
in 1597 by spilling the contents of their baskets and then slaying the
sentinels as they scrambled to pick them up?[197] What of the officers
who, in the disguise of peasants and women, and concealing daggers and
pistols, got possession of Ulm for the Elector of Bavaria? What of
the French who, in Dutch costume, and by supplications in Dutch to be
granted a refuge from a pursuing enemy, surprised a fort in Holland in
1672?[198] What of Prince Eugene, who took the fortress of Breysach by
sending in a large force concealed in hay-carts under the conduct of
two hundred officers disguised as peasants?[199] What of the Chevalier
Bayard, that favourite of legendary chivalry, who, having learnt from a
spy the whereabouts of a detachment of Venetian infantry, went by night
to the village where they slept, and with his men slew all but three
out of some three hundred men as they ran out of their houses?[200]
What of Callicratidas the Cyrenæan, who begged the commander of a fort
to receive four sick soldiers, and sent them in on their beds with
an escort of sixteen soldiers, so that they easily overpowered the
guards and won the place for their general?[201] What of Phalaris, who,
having petitioned for the hand of a commandant’s daughter, overcame
the garrison by sending in soldiers dressed as women servants, and
purporting to bear presents to his betrothed?[202] What of Feuquières,
who, whilst pretending to lead a German force and praying for shelter
from a snowstorm, affixed his pétards to the gates of Neuborg, and,
having taken the town, put the whole of the garrison of 650 men to the

In what respect do such actions which are the everyday stratagems of a
campaign, and count as perfectly fair, differ from the false pretences
which constitute the iniquity of the spy? In this respect only--that
whilst he bears his danger alone, in the case of a surprise the danger
is distributed among numbers.

And, in point of fact, there was a time when the service of a surprise
and that of espionage were so far regarded as the same that by the laws
of war death was not only the allotted portion of the captured spy but
of all who were caught in an endeavour to take a place by surprise.
The rule, according to Vattel, was not changed, nor the soldiers who
were captured in a surprise regarded or treated as prisoners of war,
till the year 1597, when, Prince Maurice having failed in an attempt to
take Venloo by surprise, and having lost some of his men, who were put
to death for that offence, the new rule that has since prevailed was
agreed upon by both sides for the sake of their future mutual immunity
from that peril.

The usual rule laid down to distinguish a bad from a good stratagem is
that in the latter there is no violation of an expressly or tacitly
pledged faith. The violation of a conference, a truce, or a treaty
has always therefore been reprobated, however commonly practised. But
certain occurrences of history suggest the feasibility of corresponding
stratagems which cannot be judged by so simple a formula and which
therefore are of still uncertain right.

The first stratagem of this kind that suggests itself is that of
forgery. Hannibal, having defeated and slain the Roman general
Marcellus, and thereby become possessed of his seal, the Romans found
it necessary to despatch messages to all their garrison towns that
no more attention should be paid to orders purporting to come from
Marcellus. The precedent suggests the use of forged despatches as a
weapon of war. To obtain in time of peace, for use in time of war, the
signatures of men likely to be hostile commanders, would obviously
be of immense military service for purposes either of defence or
aggression. The stratagem would be dishonourable in the highest degree;
but, unfortunately, the standard of measurement in such cases is rather
their effectiveness than their abstract morality.

The second stratagem of the sort is the stratagem of false intelligence.
To what extent is it lawful to deceive an enemy by downright falsehood?
The Chevalier Bayard, ‘without fear or reproach,’ when besieged by
the Imperialists in Mézières, contrived to make the enemy raise the
siege by sending a messenger with letters containing false information
destined to fall into the hands of the enemy. The invention of the
telegraph has increased the means of deceiving the enemy by false
intelligence, and was freely so used in the Civil War of the United
States. It is said to be better to secure the services of a few
telegraph operators in a hostile country than to have dozens of
ordinary spies; and for this reason, according to the eminent author of
the ‘Soldier’s Pocket-Book’: ‘Before or during an action an enemy may
be deceived to any extent by means of such men; messages can be sent
ordering him to concentrate upon wrong points, or, by giving him false
information, you may induce him to move as you wish.’

Another stratagem is suggested by the conduct of the Prince of Orange,
who, having detected in one of his own secretaries a spy in the
service of the Prince of Luxembourg, forced him to write a letter to
the latter containing such information as enabled himself to effect a
march he wished to conceal. Might not, then, prisoners of war be used
for the same compulsory service? For a spy just as much as a soldier
is a recognised and accredited military agent, and, if the former
may be made the channel of falsehood, why not the prisoner of war?
The Romans made use of the latter to acquire information about their
enemy’s plans, if in no other way, by torture or the threat of it;
the Germans forced some of their French prisoners to perform certain
military services connected with carrying on their campaign--would it
be therefore unfair to make use of them as the Prince of Orange made
use of his secretary?

To such questions there is no answer from the international law
writers. Still less is there any authoritative military doctrine
concerning them, and, if the stratagems in debate are excluded from
‘good’ war by the military honour of to-day, the above study of warlike
artifices has been made to little purpose if it has not taught us how
changeable and capricious that standard is, and of what marvellous
adjustment it is capable.

It were a treat at which the gods themselves might smile to see and
hear a moral philosopher and a military officer brought into conference
together concerning the stratagems permissible in war. Let the reader
imagine them trying to distribute in just and equal parts the due share
of blame attaching severally to the following agents--to the man who
betrays his country or his cause for gold, and the general who tempts
him to his crime or accepts it gladly; to the man who serves as a spy,
to the general who on the one side sends or employs him as a spy, and
to the general who on the other side hangs him as a spy; to the man
who discovers the strength of a town in the disguise of a butcher, and
to his fellow-soldiers who enter it disguised as peasants or under the
plea of shelter from sickness or a snowstorm; to the man who gains an
advantage by propagating false intelligence, and the man who does so
by the use of forged despatches; the man who, like Scipio, plays at
negotiations for peace in order the better to spy out and avail himself
of an enemy’s weakness, and the man who makes offers of treason to
an enemy in order the more easily to take him at a disadvantage--and
the conclusion will be not unlikely to occur to him, when he shudders
at the possible length and futility of that imaginary disputation,
that, whatever havoc is caused by a state of war to life, to property,
to wealth, to family affections, to domestic honour, it is a havoc
absolutely incomparable to that which it produces among the received
moral principles of mankind. The military code regarding the fair and
legitimate use of fraud and deception has nothing whatever in common
with the ordinary moral code of civil life, the principles openly
professed in it being so totally foreign to our simplest rules of
upright and worthy conduct that in any other than the fighting classes
of our civilised societies they would not be advocated for very shame,
nor listened to for a moment without resentment.



    _Non avaritia, non crudelitas modum novit.... Quæ clam commissa
    capite luerentur, quia paludati fecere laudamus._--SENECA.

    Variable notions of honour--Primitive ideas of a military
    life--What is civilised warfare--Advanced laws of war among
    several savage tribes--Symbols of peace among savages--The Samoan
    form of surrender--Treaties of peace among savages--Abeyance of
    laws of war in hostilities with savages--Zulus blown up in caves
    with gun-cotton--Women and men kidnapped for transport service
    on the Gold Coast--Humane intentions of the Spaniards in the
    New World contrasted with the inhumanity of their actions--Wars
    with natives of English and French in America--High rewards
    offered for scalps--The use of bloodhounds in war--The use of
    poison and infected clothes--Penn’s treaty with the Indians--How
    Missionaries come to be a cause of war--Explanation of the failure
    of modern Missions--The Mission Stations as centres of hostile
    intrigue--Plea for the State-regulation of Missions--Depopulation
    under Protestant influences--The prevention of false rumours,
    _Tendenzlügen_--Civilised and barbarian warfare--No real
    distinction between them.

A missionary, seeing once a negro furrowing his face with scars, asked
him why he put himself to such needless pain, and the reply was: ‘For
honour, and that people on seeing me may say, There goes a man of

Ridiculous as this negro’s idea of honour must appear to us, it bears
a sufficient resemblance to other notions of the same kind that have
passed current in the world at different times to satisfy us of the
extreme variability of the sentiment in question. Cæsar built with
difficulty a bridge across the Rhine, chiefly because he held it
beneath his own dignity, or the Roman people’s, for his army to cross
it in boats. The Celts of old thought it as ignominious to fly from an
inundation, or from a burning or falling house, as to retreat from an
enemy. The Spartans considered it inglorious to pursue a flying foe, or
to be killed in storming a besieged city. The same Gauls who gloried
in broadsword-wounds would almost go mad with shame if wounded by an
arrow or other missile that only left an imperceptible mark. The use
of letters was once thought dishonourable by all the European nations.
Marshal Montluc, in the sixteenth century, considered it a sign of
abnormal overbookishness for a man to prefer to spend a night in his
study than to spend it in the trenches, though, now, a contrary taste
would be thought by most men the mark of a fool.

Such are some of the curious ideas of honour that have prevailed at
different times. Wherein we seem to recognise not merely change but
advance; one chief difference between the savage and civilised state
lying in the different estimates entertained in either of martial
prowess and of military honour. We laugh nowadays at the ancient
Britons who believed that the souls of all who had followed any other
pursuit than that of arms, after a despised life and an unlamented
death, hovered perforce over fens and marshes, unfit to mingle with
those of warriors in the higher and brighter regions; or at the
horsemen who used before death to wound themselves with their spears,
in order to obtain that admission to Walhalla which was denied to all
who failed to die upon a battle-field; or at the Spaniards, who, when
Cato disarmed them, preferred a voluntary death to a life destined to
be spent without arms.[204] No civilised warrior would pride himself,
as Fijian warriors did, on being generally known as the ‘Waster’ or
‘Devastator’ of such-and-such a district; the most he would look for
would be a title and perhaps a perpetual pension for his descendants.
We have nothing like the custom of the North American tribes, among
whom different marks on a warrior’s robe told at a glance whether his
fame rested on the slaughter of a man or a woman, or only on that of a
boy or a girl. We are inferior in this respect to the Dacota tribes,
among whom an eagle’s feather with a red spot on it denoted simply
the slaughter of an enemy, the same feather with a notch and the
sides painted red, that the said enemy had had his throat cut, whilst
according as the notches were on one side or on both, or the feather
partly denuded, anyone could tell after how many others the hero had
succeeded in touching the dead body of a fallen foe. The stride is
clearly a great one from Pyrrhus, the Epirot king, who, when asked
which of two musicians he thought the better, only deigned to reply
that Polysperchon was the general, to Napoleon, the French emperor, who
conferred the cross of the Legion of Honour on Crescentini the singer.

And as the pursuit of arms comes with advancing civilisation to occupy
a lower level as compared with the arts of peace, so the belief is the
mark of a more polished people that the rapacity and cruelty which
belong to the war customs of a more backward nation, or of an earlier
time, are absent from their own. They invent the expression _civilised
warfare_ to emphasise a distinction they would fain think inherent
in the nature of things; and look, by its help, even on the mode of
killing an enemy, with a moral vision that is absurdly distorted. How
few of us, for example, but see the utmost barbarity in sticking a man
with an assegai, yet none whatever in doing so with a bayonet? And why
should we pride ourselves on not mutilating the dead, while we have
no scruples as to the extent to which we mutilate the living? We are
shocked at the mention of barbarian tribes who poison their arrows,
or barb their darts, yet ourselves think nothing of the frightful
gangrenes caused by the copper cap in the Minié rifle-ball, and reject,
on the score of the expense of the change, the proposal that bullets of
soft lead, which cause needless pain, should no longer be used among
the civilised Powers for small-arm ammunition.[205]

But whilst the difference in these respects between barbarism and
civilisation is thus one that rather touches the surface than the
substance of war, the result is inevitably in either state a different
code of military etiquette and sentiment, though the difference is
far less than in any other points of comparison between them. When
the nations of Christendom therefore came in contact with unknown
and savage races, whose customs seemed different from their own and
little worthy of attention, they assumed that the latter recognised
no laws of war, much as some of the earlier travellers denied the
possession or faculty of speech to people whose language they could not
interpret. From which assumption the practical inference followed, that
the restraints which were held sacred between enemies who inherited
the same traditions of military honour had no need to be observed in
hostilities with the heathen world. It is worth while, therefore, to
show how baseless was the primary assumption, and how laws of war, in
no way dissimilar to those of Europe, may be detected in the military
usages of barbarism.

To spare the weak and helpless was and is a common rule in the warfare
of the less civilised races. The Guanches of the Canary Islands, says
an old Spanish writer, ‘held it as base and mean to molest or injure
the women and children of the enemy, considering them as weak and
helpless, therefore improper objects of their resentment; neither
did they throw down or damage houses of worship.’[206] The Samoans
considered it cowardly to kill a woman:[207] and in America the Sioux
Indians and Winnebagoes, though barbarous enough in other respects, are
said to have shown the conventional respect to the weaker sex.[208]
The Basutos of South Africa, whatever may be their customs now, are
declared by Casalis, one of the first French Protestant missionaries
to their country, to have respected in their wars the persons of
women, children, and travellers, and to have spared all prisoners who
surrendered, granting them their liberty on the payment of ransom.[209]

Few savage races were of a wilder type than the Abipones of South
America; yet Dobritzhoffer, the Jesuit missionary, assures us not only
that they thought it unworthy of them to mangle the bodies of dead
Spaniards, as other savages did, but that they generally spared the
unwarlike, and carried away boys and girls uninjured. The Spaniards,
Indians, negroes, or mulattoes whom they took in war they did not
treat like captives, but with kindness and indulgence like children.
Dobritzhoffer never saw a prisoner punished by so much as a word or a
blow, but he bears testimony to the compassion and confidence often
displayed to captives by their conquerors. It is common to read of the
cruelty of the Red Indians to their captives; but Loskiel, another
missionary, declares that prisoners were often adopted by the victors
to supply the place of the slain, and that even Europeans, when it came
to an exchange of prisoners, sometimes refused to return to their own
countrymen. In Virginia notice was sent before war to the enemy, that
in the event of their defeat, the lives of all should be spared who
should submit within two days’ time.

Loskiel gives some other rather curious testimony about the Red
Indians. ‘When war was in contemplation they used to admonish each
other to hearken to the good and not to the evil spirits, the former
always recommending peace. They seem,’ he adds with surprise, ‘to
have had no idea of the devil as the prince of darkness before the
Europeans came into the country.’ The symbol of peace was the burial
of the hatchet or war-club in the ground; and when the tribes renewed
their covenants of peace, they exchanged certain belts of friendship
which were singularly expressive. The principal belt was white, with
black streaks down each side and a black spot at each end: the black
spots represented the two people, and the white streak between them
signified, that the road between them was now clear of all trees,
brambles, and stones, and that every hindrance was therefore removed
from the way of perfect harmony.

The Athenians used the same language of symbolism when they declared
war by letting a lamb loose into the enemy’s country: this being
equivalent to saying, that a district full of the habitations of men
should shortly be turned into a pasture for sheep.[210]

The Fijians used to spare their enemy’s fruit trees; the Tongan
islanders held it as sacrilege to fight within the precincts of the
burial place of a chief, where the greatest enemies were obliged to
meet as friends.

Most of the lower races recognise the inviolability of ambassadors and
heralds, and have well-established emblems of a truce or armistice.
The wish for peace which the Zulu king in vain sought from his English
invaders by the symbol of an elephant’s tusk (1879), was conveyed
in the Fiji Islands by a whale’s tooth, in the Sandwich by a young
plantain tree or green branch of the ti plant, and among most North
American tribes by a white flag of skin or bark. The Samoan symbol
for an act of submission in deprecation of further hostilities conveys
some indication of the possible origin of these pacific symbols. The
conquered Samoan would carry to his victor some bamboo sticks, some
firewood, and some small stones; for as a piece of split bamboo was
the original Samoan knife, and small stones and firewood were used for
the purpose of roasting pigs, this symbol of submission was equivalent
to saying: ‘Here we are, your pigs, to be cooked if you please, and
here are the materials wherewith to do it.’[211] In the same way the
elephant’s tusk or the whale’s tooth may be a short way of saying to
the victor: ‘Yours is the strength of the elephant or the whale; we
recognise the uselessness of fighting with you.’

In the same way many savage tribes take the greatest pains to impress
the terms of treaties as vividly as possible on the memory of the
contracting parties by striking and intelligible ceremonies. In the
Sandwich Islands a wreath woven conjointly by the leaders of either
side and placed in a temple was the chief symbol of peace. On the Fiji
Islands, the combatant forces would meet and throw down their weapons
at one another’s feet. The Tahitians wove a wreath of green boughs,
furnished by each side; exchanged two young dogs; and having also
made a band of cloth together, deposited the wreath and the band in
the temple, with imprecations on the side which should first violate
so solemn a treaty of peace.[212] On the Hervey Islands, the token of
the cessation of war was the breaking of a number of spears against
a large chestnut tree; the almost imperishable coral tree was planted
in the valleys to signify the hope that the peace might last as long
as the tree; and after the drum of peace had been solemnly beaten
round the island, it was unlawful for any man to carry a weapon, or
to cut down any iron-wood, which he might turn into an implement of

Even our custom of proclaiming that a war is not undertaken against
a people but against its rulers is not unknown in savage life. The
Ashantee army used to strew leaves on their march, to signify that
their hostility was not with the country they passed through but only
with the instigators of the war; they told the Fantees that they had
no war with them collectively, but only with some of them.[213] How
common a military custom this appeal to the treason of an enemy is,
notwithstanding the rarity of its success, everybody knows. When,
for instance, the Anglo-Zulu war began, it was solemnly proclaimed
that the British Government had no quarrel with the Zulu people; it
was a war against the Zulu king, not against the Zulu nation. (Jan.
11, 1879.) So were the Ashantees told by the English invading force;
so were the Afghans; so were the Egyptians; and so were the French
by the Emperor William before his merciless hordes laid waste and
desolate some of the fairest provinces of France; so, no doubt, will
be told the Soudan Arabs. And yet this appeal to treason, this premium
on a people’s disloyalty, is the regular precursor of wars, wherein
destruction for its own sake, the burning of grain and villages for
the mere pleasure of the flames, forms almost invariably the most
prominent feature. The military view always prevails over the civil,
of the meaning of hostilities that have no reference to a population
but only to its government. In the Zulu war, for instance, in spite
of the above proclamation, the lieutenant-general ordered raids to be
made into Zululand for the express purpose of burning empty kraals or
villages; defending such procedure by the usual military logic, that
the more the natives at large felt the strain of the war, the more
anxious they would be to see it concluded; and it was quite in vain for
the Lieutenant-Governor of Natal to argue that the burning of empty
kraals would neither do much harm to the Zulus nor good to the English;
and that whereas the war had been begun on the ground that it was waged
against the Zulu king and not against his nation, such conduct was
calculated to alienate from the invaders the whole of the Zulu people,
including those who were well disposed to them. Such arguments hardly
ever prevail over that passion for wanton destruction and for often
quite unnecessary slaughter, which finds a ready and comprehensive
shelter under the wing of military exigencies.

The assumption, therefore, that savage races are ignorant of all laws
of war, or incapable of learning them, would seem to be based rather on
our indifference about their customs than on the realities of the case,
seeing that the preceding evidence to the contrary results from the
most cursory inquiry. But whatever value there may be in our own laws
of war, as helping to constitute a real difference between savage and
civilised warfare, the best way to spread the blessing of a knowledge
of them would clearly be for the more civilised races to adhere to
them strictly in all wars waged with their less advanced neighbours.
An English commander, for instance, should no more set fire to the
capital of Ashantee or Zululand for so paltry a pretext as the display
of British power than he would set fire to Paris or Berlin; he should
no more have villages or granaries burnt in Africa or Afghanistan
than he would in Normandy; and he should no more keep a Zulu envoy or
truce-bearer in chains[214] than he would so deal with the bearer of a
white flag from a Russian or Italian enemy.

The reverse principle, which is yet in vogue, that with barbarians
you must or may be barbarous, leads to some curious illustrations of
civilised warfare when it comes in conflict with the less civilised
races. In one of the Franco-Italian wars of the sixteenth century,
more than 2,000 women and children took refuge in a large mountain
cavern, and were there suffocated by a party of French soldiers, who
set fire to a quantity of wood, straw, and hay, which they stacked
at the mouth of the cave; but it was considered so shameful an act,
that the Chevalier Bayard had two of the ringleaders hung at the
cavern’s mouth.[215] Yet when the French General Pélissier in this
century suffocated the unresisting Algerians in their caves, it was
even defended as no worse than the shelling of a fortress; and there
is evidence that gun-cotton was not unfrequently used to blast the
entrance to caves in Zululand in which men, women, and children had
hoped to find shelter against an army which professed only to be
warring with their king.[216]

The following description of the way in which, in the Ashantee war, the
English forces obtained native carriers for their transport service is
not without its instruction in this respect:--

‘We took to kidnapping upon a grand scale. Raids were made on all
the Assin villages within reach of the line of march, and the men,
and sometimes the women, carried off and sent up the country under
guard, with cases of provisions. Lieutenant Bolton, of the 1st West
India Regiment, rendered immense service in this way. Having been
for some time commandant of Accra, he knew the coast and many of the
chiefs; and having a man-of-war placed at his disposal, he went up and
down the coast, landing continually, having interviews with chiefs,
and obtaining from them large numbers of men and women; or when
this failed, landing at night with a party of soldiers, surrounding
villages, and sweeping off the adult population, leaving only a few
women to look after the children. In this way, in the course of a
month, he obtained several thousands of carriers.’[217]

And then a certain school of writers talks of the love and respect for
the British Empire which these exhibitions of our might are calculated
to win from the inferior races! The Ashantees are disgraced by the
practice of human sacrifices, and the Zulus have many a barbarous
usage; but no amount of righteous indignation on that account justifies
such dealings with them as those above described. If it does, we can
no longer condemn the proceedings of the Spaniards in the New World.
For we have to remember that it was not only the Christianity of the
Inquisition, or Spanish commerce that they wished to spread; not mere
gold nor new lands that they coveted, but that they also strove for
such humanitarian objects as the abolition of barbarous customs like
the Mexican human sacrifices. ‘The Spaniards that saw these cruel
sacrifices,’ wrote a contemporary, the Jesuit Acosta, ‘resolved with
all their power to abolish so detestable and cursed a butchery of
men.’ The Spaniards of the sixteenth century were in intention or
expression every whit as humane as we English of the nineteenth. Yet
their actions have been a reproach to their name ever since. Cortes
subjected Guatamozin, king of Mexico, to torture. Pizarro had the Inca
of Peru strangled at the stake. Alvarado invited a number of Mexicans
to a festival, and made it an opportunity to massacre them. Sandoval
had 60 caziques and 400 nobles burnt at one time, and compelled their
relations and children to witness their punishment. The Pope Paul had
very soon (1537) to issue a bull, to the effect that the Indians were
really men and not brutes, as the Spaniards soon affected to regard

The whole question was, moreover, argued out at that time between
Las Casas and Sepulveda, historiographer to the Emperor Charles V.
Sepulveda contended that more could be effected against barbarism by a
month of war than by 100 years of preaching; and in his famous dispute
with Las Casas at Valladolid in 1550, defended the justice of all wars
undertaken against the natives of the New World, either on the ground
of the latter’s sin and wickedness, or on the plea of protecting them
from the cruelties of their own fellow-countrymen; the latter plea
being one to which in recent English wars a prominent place has been
always given. Las Casas replied--and his reply is unanswerable--that
even human sacrifices are a smaller evil than indiscriminate warfare.
He might have added that military contact between people unequally
civilised does more to barbarise the civilised than to civilise the
barbarous population. It is well worthy of notice and reflection
that the European battle-fields became distinctly more barbarous
after habits of greater ferocity had been acquired in wars beyond the
Atlantic, in which the customary restraints were forgotten, and the
ties of a common human nature dissolved by the differences of religion
and race.

The same effect resulted in Roman history, when the extended dominion
of the Republic brought its armies into contact with foes beyond the
sea. The Roman annalists bear witness to the deterioration that ensued
both in their modes of waging war and in the national character.[218]
It is in an Asiatic war that we first hear of a Roman general poisoning
the springs;[219] in a war for the possession of Crete that the
Cretan captives preferred to poison themselves rather than suffer the
cruelties inflicted on them by Metellus;[220] in the Thracian war
that the Romans cut off their prisoners’ hands, as Cæsar afterwards
did those of the Gauls.[221] And we should remember that a practical
English statesman like Cobden foresaw, as a possible evil result of the
closer relations between England and the East, a similar deterioration
in the national character of his countrymen. ‘With another war or
two,’ he wrote, ‘in India and China, the English people would have an
appetite for bull-fights if not for gladiators.’[222]

Nor is there often any compensation for such results in the improved
condition of the tribes whom it is sought to civilise after the method
recommended by Sepulveda. The happiest fate of the populations he
wished to see civilised by the sword was where they anticipated their
extermination or slavery by a sort of voluntary suicide. In Cuba, we
are told that ‘they put themselves to death, whole families doing
so together, and villages inviting other villages to join them in a
departure from a world that was no longer tolerable.’[223] And so it
was in the other hemisphere; the Ladrone islanders, reduced by the
sword and the diseases of the Spaniards, took measures intentionally to
diminish their numbers and to check population, preferring voluntary
extinction to the foul mercies of the Jesuits: till now a lepers’
hospital is the only building left on what was once one of the most
populous of their islands.

It must, however, be admitted in justice to the Spaniards, that the
principles which governed their dealings with heathen races infected
more or less the conduct of colonists of all nationalities. A real
or more often a pretended zeal for the welfare of native tribes came
among all Christian nations to co-exist with the doctrine, that in
case of conflict with them the common restraints of war might be put
in abeyance. What, for instance, can be worse than this, told of the
early English settlers in America by one of themselves? ‘The Plymouth
men came in the mean time to Weymouth, and there pretended to feast
the savages of those parts, bringing with them forks and things for
the purpose, which they set before the savages. They ate thereof
without any suspicion of any mischief, who were taken upon a watchword
given, and with their own knives hanging about their necks were by the
Plymouth planters stabbed and slain.’[224]

Among the early English settlers it soon came to be thought, says
Mather, a religious act to kill an Indian. In the latter half of the
seventeenth century both the French and English authorities adopted
the custom of scalping and of offering rewards for the scalps of their
Indian enemies. In 1690 the most healthy and vigorous Indians taken
by the French ‘were sold in Canada, the weaker were sacrificed and
scalped, and for every scalp they had a premium.’[225] Caleb Lyman, who
afterwards became an elder of a church at Boston, left an account of
the way in which he himself and five Indians surprised a wigwam, and
scalped six of the seven persons inside, so that each might receive
the promised reward. On their petition to the great and general court
they received 30_l._ each, and Penhallow says not only that they
probably expected eight times as much, but that at the time of writing
the province would have readily paid a sum of 800_l._ for a similar
service.[226] Captain Lovewell, says the same contemporary eulogist of
the war that lasted from July 1722 to December 1725, ‘from Dunstable
with thirty volunteers went northward, who marching several miles up
country came on a wigwam where were two Indians, one of whom they
killed and the other took, for which they received the promised bounty
of 100_l._ a scalp, and two shillings and sixpence a day besides.’
(December 19, 1724.)[227] At the surprise of Norridjwock ‘the number of
dead which we scalped were 26, besides Mr. Rasle the Jesuit, who was a
bloody incendiary.’[228] It is evident that these very liberal rewards
must have operated as a frequent cause of Indian wars, and made the
colonists open-eared to tales of native outrages; indeed the whites
sometimes disguised themselves like Indians, and robbed like Indians,
in order, it would appear, the more effectually to raise the war-cry
against them.[229]

Since the Spaniards first trained bloodhounds in Cuba to hunt the
Indians, the alliance between soldiers and dogs has been a favourite
one in barbarian warfare. The Portuguese used them in Brazil when
they hunted the natives for slaves.[230] And an English officer in
a treatise he wrote in the last century as a sort of military guide
to Indian warfare suggested coolly: ‘Every light horseman ought to
be provided with a bloodhound, which would be useful to find out the
enemy’s ambushes and to follow their tracks. They would seize the
naked savages, and at least give time to the horsemen to come up with
them.’[231] In the Molucca Islands the use of two bloodhounds against
a native chief was the cause of a great confederacy between all the
islands to shake off the Spanish and Portuguese yoke.[232] And even
in the war waged by the United States in Florida from 1838 to 1840,
General Taylor was authorised to send to Cuba for bloodhounds to scent
out the Indians; nor, according to one account, was their aid resorted
to in vain.[233]

Poison too has been called in aid. Speaking of the Yuta Indians, a
traveller assures us that ‘as in Australia, arsenic and corrosive
sublimate in springs and provisions have diminished their number.’[234]
And in the same way ‘poisoned rum helped to exterminate the

But there is worse yet in this direction. The Portuguese in Brazil,
when the importation of slaves from Africa rendered the capture of the
natives less desirable than their extermination, left the clothes
of persons who had died of small-pox or scarlet fever to be found by
them in the woods.[236] And the caravan traders from the Missouri to
Santa Fé are said by the same method or in presents of tobacco to have
communicated the small-pox to the Indian tribes of that district in
1831.[237] The enormous depopulation of most tribes by the small-pox
since their acquaintance with the whites is one of the most remarkable
results in the history of their mutual connection; nor is it likely
ever to be known to what extent the coincidence was accidental.

It is pleasant to turn from these practical illustrations of the theory
that no laws of war need be regarded in hostilities with savage tribes
to the only recorded trial of a contrary system, and to find, not
only that it is associated with one of the greatest names in English
history, but also that the success it met with fully justifies the
suspicion and disfavour with which the commoner usage is beginning to
be regarded. The Indians with whom Penn made his famous treaty in 1682
(of which Voltaire said that it was the only treaty that was never
ratified by an oath, and the only treaty that was never broken), were
of the same Algonquin race with whom the Dutch had scarcely ever kept
at peace, and against whom they had warred in the customary ruthless
fashion of those times. The treaty was based on the principle of an
adjustment of differences by a tribunal of an equal number of Red
men and of White. ‘Penn,’ says the historian, ‘came without arms;
he declared his purpose to abstain from violence, he had no message
but peace, and not one drop of Quaker blood was ever shed by an
Indian’[238] For more than seventy years, from 1682 to 1754, when the
French war broke out, in short, during the whole time that the Quakers
had the principal share in the government of Pennsylvania, the history
of the Indians and Whites in that province was free from the tale of
murders and hostilities that was so common in other districts; so
that the single instance in which the experiment of equal laws and
forbearance has been patiently persevered in, can at least boast of a
success that in support of the contrary system it were very difficult
to find for an equal number of years in any other part of the world.

It may also be said against Sepulveda’s doctrine, that the habits of
a higher civilisation, where they are really worth spreading, spread
more easily and with more permanent effect among barbarous neighbours
by the mere contagion of a better example than by the teaching of
fire and sword. Some of the Dyak tribes in Borneo are said to have
given up human sacrifices from the better influences of the Malays
on the coast district.[239] The Peruvians, according to Prescott,
spread their civilisation among their ruder neighbours more by
example than by force. ‘Far from provoking hostilities, they allowed
time for the salutary example of their own institutions to work its
effect, trusting that their less civilised neighbours would submit to
their sceptre from a conviction of the blessings it would secure to
them.’ They exhorted them to lay aside their cannibalism, their human
sacrifices, and their other barbarities; they employed negotiation,
conciliatory treatment, and presents to leading men among the tribes;
and only if all these means failed did they resort to war, but to war
which at every stage was readily open to propositions of peace, and in
which any unnecessary outrage on the persons or property of their enemy
was punished with death.

Something will have been done for the cause of this better method
of civilising the lower races, if we forewarn and forearm ourselves
against the symptoms of hostilities with them by a thorough
understanding of the conditions which render such hostilities probable.
For as an outbreak of fever is to some extent preventable by a
knowledge of the conditions which make for fevers, so may the outbreak
of war be averted by a knowledge of the laws which govern their
appearance. The experience which we owe to history in this respect
is amply sufficient to enable us to generalise with some degree of
confidence and certainty as to the causes or steps which produce wars
or precede them; and from the remembrance of our dealings with the
savage races of South Africa we may forecast with some misgivings the
probable course of our connection with a country like New Guinea.

A colony of Europeans in proximity with barbarian neighbours naturally
desires before long an increase of territory at the expense of
the latter. The first sign of such a desire is the expedition of
missionaries into the country, who not only serve to spy it out for
the benefit of the colony, but invariably weaken the native political
force by the creation of a division of feeling, and of an opposition
between the love of old traditions and the temptation of novel customs
and ideas. The innovating party, being at first the smaller, consisting
of the feeblest and poorest members of the community, and of those who
gladly flock to the mission-stations for refuge from their offences
against tribal law, the missionaries soon perceive the impossibility of
further success without the help of some external aid. The help of a
friendly force can alone turn the balance of influence in their favour,
and they soon learn to contemplate with complacency the advantages of
a military conquest of the natives by the colony or mother-country.
The evils of war are cancelled, in their eyes, by the delusive visions
of ultimate benefit, and, in accordance with a not uncommon perversion
of the moral sense, an end that is assumed to be religious is made to
justify measures that are the reverse.

When the views and interests of the colonial settlers and of the
missionaries have thus, inevitably but without design, fallen into
harmony, a war is certain to be not far distant. Apparently accidental,
it is in reality as certain as the production of green from a mixture
of blue and yellow. Some dispute about boundaries, some passing act of
violence, will serve for a reason of quarrel, which will presently be
supported by a fixed array of collateral pretexts. The Press readily
lends its aid; and in a week the colony trembles or affects to tremble
from a panic of invasion, and vials of virtue are expended on the vices
of the barbarians which have been for years tolerated with equanimity
or indifference. Their customs are painted in the blackest colours; the
details of savage usages are raked up from old books of travel; rumours
of massacres and injuries are sedulously propagated; and the whole
country is represented as in such a state of anarchy, that the majority
of the population, in their longing for deliverance from their own
rulers, would gladly welcome even a foreign conqueror. In short, a war
against them comes speedily to be regarded as a war in their behalf,
as the last word of philanthropy and beneficence; and the atrocities
that subsequently ensue are professedly undertaken, not against the
unfortunate people who endure them, but to liberate them from the ruler
of their choice or sufferance, in whose behalf however they fight to
the death.

To every country, therefore, which would fain be spared from these
discreditable wars with barbarian tribes on the borders of its
colonies, it is clear that the greatest caution is necessary against
the abuses of missionary propagandism. The almost absolute failure of
missions in recent centuries, and more especially in the nineteenth,
is intimately associated with the greater political importance which
the improved facilities of travel and intercourse have conferred upon
them. Everyone has heard how Catholicism was persecuted in Japan, till
at last the very profession of Christianity was made a capital crime in
that part of the world. But a traveller, who knew the East intimately
at the time, explains how it was that the Jesuits’ labours resulted
so disastrously. On the outbreak of civil dissensions in Japan, ‘the
Christian priests thought it a proper time for them to settle their
religion on the same foundation that Mahomet did his, by establishing
it in blood. Their thoughts ran on nothing less than extirpating the
heathen out of the land, and they framed a conspiracy of raising an
army of 50,000 Christians to murder their countrymen, that so the whole
island might be illuminated by Christianity such as it was then.’[240]
And in the same way, a modern writer, speaking of the very limited
success of missions in India, has asserted frankly that ‘in despair
many Christians in India are driven to wish and pray that some one, or
some way, may arise for converting the Indians by the sword.’[241]

Nor are the heathen themselves blind to the political dangers which
are involved in the presence of missionaries among them. All over the
world conversion is from the native point of view the same thing as
disaffection, and war is dreaded as the certain consequence of the
adoption of Christianity. The French bishop, Lefebvre, when asked by
the mandarins of Cochin China, in 1847, the purpose of his visit, said
that he read in their faces that they suspected him ‘of having come
to excite some outbreak among the neophytes, and perhaps prepare the
way for an European army;’ and the king was ‘afraid to see Christians
multiply in his kingdom, and in case of war with European Powers,
combine with his enemies.’[242] How right events have proved him to
have been!

The story is the same in Africa. ‘Not long after I entered the
country,’ said the missionary, Mr. Calderwood, of Caffraria, ‘a leading
chief once said to me, “When my people become Christians, they cease to
be my people.”’[243] The Norwegian missionaries were for twenty years
in Zululand without making any converts but a few destitute children,
many of whom had been given to them out of pity by the chiefs,[244]
and their failure was actually ascribed by the Zulu king to their
having taught the incompatibility of Christianity with allegiance
to a heathen ruler.[245] In 1877, a Zulu of authority expressed the
prevalent native reasoning on this point in language which supplies
the key to disappointments that extend much further than Zululand: ‘We
will not allow the Zulus to become so-called Christians. It is not the
king says so, but every man in Zululand. If a Zulu does anything wrong,
he at once goes to a mission-station, and says he wants to become a
Christian; if he wants to run away with a girl, he becomes a Christian;
if he wishes to be exempt from serving the king, he puts on clothes,
and is a Christian; if a man is an umtagati (evil-doer), he becomes a

It is on this account that in wars with savage nations the destruction
of mission-stations has always been so constant an episode. Nor can
we wonder at this when we recollect that in the Caffre war of 1851,
for instance, it was a subject of boast with the missionaries that
it was Caffres trained on the mission-stations who had preserved the
English posts along the frontiers, carried the English despatches, and
fought against their own countrymen for the preservation and defence
of the colony.[247] It is rather a poor result of all the money and
labour that has been spent in the attempt to Christianise South Africa,
that the Wesleyan mission-station at Edendale should have contributed
an efficient force of cavalry to fight against their countrymen in
the Zulu campaign; and we may hesitate whether most to despise the
missionaries who count such a result as a triumph of their efforts, or
the converts whom they reward with tea and cake for military service
with the enemies of their countrymen.[248]

It needs no great strain of intelligence to perceive that this use of
mission-stations as military training-schools scarcely tends to enhance
the advantages of conversion in the minds of the heathen among whom
they are planted.

For these reasons, and because it is becoming daily more apparent that
wars are less a necessary evil than an optional misery of human life,
the principal measure for a country which would fain improve, and
live at peace with, the less civilised races which touch the numerous
borders of its empire, would be the legal restraint or prevention
of missionary enterprise: a proposal that will appear less startling
if we reflect that in no quarter of the globe can that method of
civilising barbarism point to more than local or ephemeral success.
The Protestant missions of this century are in process of failure,
as fatal and decided as that which befel the Catholic missions of
the French, Portuguese, or Spanish, in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, and very much from the same causes. The English wars in
South Africa, with which the Protestant missionaries have been so
closely connected, have frustrated all attempts to Christianise that
region, just as ‘the fearful wars occasioned directly or indirectly by
the missionaries’ sent by the Portuguese to the kingdoms of Congo and
Angola in the sixteenth century rendered futile similar attempts on the
West Coast.[249]

The same process of depopulation under Protestant influences may now
be observed in the Sandwich Islands or New Zealand that reduced the
population of Hispaniola, under Spanish Christianity, from a million to
14,000 in a quarter of a century.[250] No Protestant missionary ever
laboured with more zeal than Eliot did in America in the seventeenth
century, but the tribes he taught have long since been extinct:
‘like one of their own forest trees, they have withered from core to
bark;’[251] and, in short, the history of both Catholic and Protestant
missions alike may be summed up in this one general statement: either
they have failed altogether of results on a sufficient scale to be
worthy of notice, or the impartial page of history unfolds to us one
uniform tale of civil war, persecution, conquest, and extirpation in
whatever regions they can boast of more at least of the semblance of

Another measure in the interests of peace would be the organisation of
a class of well-paid officials whose duty it should be to examine on
the spot into the truth of all rumours of outrages or atrocities which
are circulated from time to time, in order to set the tide of public
opinion in favour of hostile measures. Such rumours may, of course,
have some foundation, but in nine cases out of ten they are false. So
lately as the year 1882, the _Times_ and other English papers were
so far deceived as to give their readers a horrible account of the
sacrifice of 200 young girls to the spirits of the dead in Ashantee;
and people were beginning to ask themselves whether such things could
be suffered within reach of an English army, when it was happily
discovered that the whole story was fictitious. Stories of this sort
are what the Germans call _Tendenzlügen_, or lies invented to produce a
certain effect. Their effect in rousing the war-spirit is undeniable;
and, although the healthy scepticism which has of recent years been
born of experience affords us some protection, no expenditure could be
more economical than one which should aim at rendering them powerless
by neutralising them at the fountain-head.

In the preceding historical survey of the relations in war between
communities standing on different levels of civilisation, the
allusion, among some of the rudest tribes, to laws of war very similar
to those supposed to be binding between more polished nations tends to
discredit the distinction between civilised and barbarian warfare. The
progress of knowledge threatens the overthrow of the distinction, just
as it has already reduced that between organic and inorganic matter,
or between animal and vegetable life, to a distinction founded rather
on human thought than on the nature of things. And it is probable that
the more the military side of savage life is studied, the fewer will be
found to be the lines of demarcation which are thought to establish a
difference in kind in the conduct of war by belligerents in different
stages of progress. The difference in this respect is chiefly one of
weapons, of strategy, and of tactics; and it would seem that whatever
superiority the more civilised community may claim in its rules of
war is more than compensated in savage life both by the less frequent
occurrence of wars and by their far less fatal character.

But, however much the frequency and ferocity of the wars waged by
barbarian races as compared with those waged by civilised nations has
been exaggerated, there is no doubt but that in warfare, more than
in anything else, there is most in common between civilisation and
savagery, and that the distinction between them most nearly disappears.
In art and knowledge and religion the distinction between the two is so
wide that the evolution of one from the other seems still to many minds
incredible; but in war, and the thoughts which relate to it, the points
of analogy cannot fail to strike the most indifferent. We see still
in either condition, the same notions of the glory of fighting, the
same belief in war as the only source of strength and honour, the same
hope from it of personal advancement, the same readiness to seize any
pretext for resorting to it, the same foolish sentiment that it is mean
to live without it.

Then only will the distinction between the two be final, complete,
and real, when all fighting is relegated to barbarism, and regarded
as unworthy of civilised humanity; when the enlightenment of
opinion, which has freed us already from such curses as slavery, the
torture-chamber, or duelling, shall demand instinctively the settlement
of all causes of quarrel by peaceful arbitration, and leave to the
lower races and the lower creation the old-fashioned resort to a trial
of violence and might, to competition in fraud and ferocity.



    _Etsi adierant milites ad Joannem et formam observationis
    acceperant, si etiam centurio crediderat, omnem postea militem
    Dominus in Petro exarmando discinxit._--TERTULLIAN.

    The war question at the time of the Reformation--The remonstrances
    of Erasmus against the custom--Influence of Grotius on the side of
    war--The war question in the early Church--The Fathers against the
    lawfulness of war--Causes of the changed views of the Church--The
    clergy as active combatants for over one thousand years--Fighting
    Bishops--Bravery in war and ecclesiastical preferment--Pope Julius
    II. at the siege of Mirandola--The last fighting Bishop--Origin
    and meaning of the declaration of war--Superstition in the naming
    of weapons, ships, &c.--The custom of kissing the earth before a
    charge--Connection between religious and military ideas--The Church
    as a pacific agency--Her efforts to set limits to reprisals--The
    altered attitude of the modern Church--Early reformers only
    sanctioned just wars--Voltaire’s reproach against the Church--Canon
    Mozley’s sermon on war--The answer to his apology.

Whether military service was lawful for a Christian at all was at the
time of the Reformation one of the most keenly debated questions;
and considering the force of opinion arrayed on the negative side,
its ultimate decision in the affirmative is a matter of more wonder
than is generally given to it. Sir Thomas More charges Luther and his
disciples with carrying the doctrines of peace to the extreme limits
of non-resistance; and the views on this subject of the Mennonites
and Quakers were but what at one time seemed not unlikely to have been
those of the Reformed Church generally.

By far the foremost champion on the negative side was Erasmus, who
being at Rome at the time when the League of Cambray, under the
auspices of Julius II., was meditating war against the Republic of
Venice, wrote a book to the Pope, entitled ‘Antipolemus,’ which, though
never completed, probably exists in part in his tract known under the
title of ‘Dulce Bellum inexpertis,’ and printed among his ‘Adagia.’
In it he complained, as one might complain still, that the custom of
war was so recognised as an incident of life that men wondered there
should be any to whom it was displeasing; and likewise so approved of
generally, that to find any fault with it savoured not only of impiety,
but of actual heresy. To speak of it, therefore, as he did in the
following passage, required some courage: ‘If there be anything in the
affairs of mortals which it is the interest of men not only to attack,
but which ought by every possible means to be avoided, condemned, and
abolished, it is of all things war, than which nothing is more impious,
more calamitous, more widely pernicious, more inveterate, more base,
or in sum more unworthy of a man, not to say of a Christian.’ In a
letter to Francis I. on the same subject, he noticed as an astonishing
fact, that out of such a multitude of abbots, bishops, archbishops, and
cardinals as existed in the world, not one of them should step forward
to do what he could, even at the risk of his life, to put an end to so
deplorable a practice.

The failure of this view of the custom of war, which is in its essence
more opposed to Christianity than the custom of selling men for slaves
or sacrificing them to idols, to take any root in men’s minds, is a
misfortune on which the whole history of Europe since Erasmus forms
a sufficient commentary. That failure is partly due to the unlucky
accident which led Grotius in this matter to throw all his weight into
the opposite scale. For this famous jurist, entering at much length
into the question of the compatibility of war with the profession of
Christianity (thereby proving the importance which in his day still
attached to it), came to conclusions in favour of the received opinion,
which are curiously characteristic both of the writer and his time.
His general argument was, that if a sovereign was justified in putting
his own subjects to death for crimes, much more was he justified in
using the sword against people who were not his subjects, but strangers
to him. And this absurd argument was enforced by considerations as
feeble as the following: that laws of war were laid down in the Book
of Deuteronomy; that John the Baptist did not bid the soldiers, who
consulted him, to forsake their calling, but to abstain from extortion
and be content with their wages; that Cornelius the centurion, whom St.
Peter baptized, neither gave up his military life, nor was exhorted by
the apostle to do so; that the Emperor Constantine had many Christians
in his armies, and the name of Christ inscribed upon his banners; and
that the military oath after his time was taken in the name of the
Three Persons of the Trinity.

One single reflection will suffice to display the utter shallowness of
this reasoning, which was after all only borrowed from St. Augustine.
For if Biblical texts are a justification of war, they are clearly a
justification of slavery; whilst, on the other hand, the general spirit
of the Christian religion, to say nothing of several positive passages,
is at least equally opposed to one custom as to the other. If then the
abolition of slavery is one of the services for which Christianity as
an influence in history claims a large share of the credit, its failure
to abolish the other custom must in fairness be set against it; for
it were easier to defend slave-holding out of the language of the New
Testament than to defend military service, far more being actually said
there to inculcate the duty of peace than to inculcate the principles
of social equality: and the same may be said of the writings of the

The different attitude of the Church towards these two customs in
modern times, her vehement condemnation of the one, and her tolerance
or encouragement of the other, appears all the more surprising when
we remember that in the early centuries of our era her attitude was
exactly the reverse, and that, whilst slavery was permitted, the
unlawfulness of war was denounced with no uncertain or wavering voice.

When Tertullian wrote his treatise ‘De Corona’ (201) concerning the
right of Christian soldiers to wear laurel crowns, he used words on
this subject which, even if at variance with some of his statements
made in his ‘Apology’ thirty years earlier, may be taken to express his
maturer judgment. ‘Shall the son of peace’ (that is, a Christian),
he asks, ‘act in battle when it will not befit him even to go to
law? Shall he administer bonds and imprisonments and tortures and
punishments who may not avenge even his own injuries?... The very
transference of his enrolment from the army of light to that of
darkness is sin.’ And again: ‘What if the soldiers did go to John
and receive the rule of their service, and what if the Centurion did
believe; the Lord by his disarming of Peter disarmed every soldier
from that time forward.’ Tertullian made an exception in favour of
soldiers whose conversion was subsequent to their enrolment (as was
implied in discussing their duty with regard to the laurel-wreath),
though insisting even in their case that they ought either to leave the
service, as many did, or to refuse participation in its acts, which
were inconsistent with their Christian profession. So that at that time
Christian opinion was clearly not only averse to a military life being
entered upon after baptism (of which there are no instances on record),
but in favour of its being forsaken, if the enrolment preceded the
baptism. The Christians who served in the armies of Rome were not men
who were converts or Christians at the time of enrolling, but men who
remained with the colours after their conversion. If it is certain that
some Christians _remained_ in the army, it appears equally certain that
no Christian at that time thought of _entering_ it.

This seems the best solution of the much-debated question, to what
extent Christians served at all in the early centuries. Irenæus
speaks of the Christians in the second century as not knowing how
to fight, and Justin Martyr, his contemporary, considered Isaiah’s
prophecy about the swords being turned into ploughshares as in part
fulfilled, because his co-religionists, who in times past had killed
one another, did not then know how to fight even with their enemies.
The charge made by Celsus against the Christians, that they refused
to bear arms even in case of necessity, was admitted by Origen, but
justified on the ground of the unlawfulness of war. ‘We indeed,’ he
says, ‘fight in a special way on the king’s behalf, but we do not go
on campaigns with him, even should he press us to do so; we do battle
on his behalf as a peculiar army of piety, prevailing by our prayers
to God for him.’ And again: ‘We no longer take up the sword against
people, nor learn to make war any more, having become through Jesus,
who is our general, sons of peace.’ Nothing could be clearer nor more
conclusive than this language; and the same attitude towards war was
expressed or implied by the following Fathers in chronological order:
Justin Martyr, Tatian, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Cyprian,
Lactantius, Archelaus, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Jerome, and Cyril. Eusebius
says that many Christians in the third century laid aside the military
life rather than abjure their religion. Of 10,050 pagan inscriptions
that have been collected, 545 were found to belong to pagan soldiers,
while of 4,734 Christian inscriptions of the same period, only 27 were
those of soldiers; from which it seems rather absurd to infer, as a
French writer has inferred, not that there was a great disproportion
of Christian to pagan soldiers in the imperial armies, but that most
Christian soldiers being soldiers of Christ did not like to have it
recorded on their epitaphs that they had been in the service of any

On the other hand, there were certainly always some Christians who
remained in the ranks after their conversion, in spite of the military
oath in the names of the pagan deities and the quasi-worship of the
standards which constituted some part of the early Christian antipathy
to war. This is implied in the remarks of Tertullian, and stands in
no need of the support of such legends as the Thundering Legion of
Christians, whose prayers obtained rain, or of the Theban legion of
6,000 Christians martyred under Maximian. It was left as a matter of
individual conscience. In the story of the martyr Maximilian, when Dion
the proconsul reminded him that there were Christian soldiers among the
life-guards of the Emperors, the former replied, ‘They know what is
best for them to do; but I am a Christian and cannot fight.’ Marcellus,
the converted centurion, threw down his belt at the head of his legion,
and suffered death rather than continue in the service; and the annals
of the early Church abound in similar martyrdoms. Nor can there be
much doubt but that a love of peace and dislike of bloodshed were the
principal causes of this early Christian attitude towards the military
profession, and that the idolatry and other pagan rites connected with
it only acted as minor and secondary deterrents. Thus, in the Greek
Church St. Basil would have excluded from communion for three years
any one who had shed an enemy’s blood; and a similar feeling explains
Theodosius’ refusal to partake of the Eucharist after his great victory
over Eugenius. The canons of the Church excluded from ordination all
who had served in an army after baptism; and in the fifth century
Innocent I. blamed the Spanish churches for their laxity in admitting
such persons into holy orders.[253]

The anti-military tendency of opinion in the early period of
Christianity appears therefore indisputable, and Tertullian would
probably have smiled at the prophet who should have predicted that
Christians would have ceased to keep slaves long before they should
have ceased to commit murder and robbery under the fiction of
hostilities. But it proves the strength of the original impetus, that
Ulphilas, the first apostle to the Goths, should purposely, in his
translation of the Scriptures, have omitted the Books of Kings, as too
stimulative of a love of war.

How utterly in this matter Christianity came to forsake its earlier
ideal is known to all. This resulted partly from the frequent use of
the sword for the purpose of conversion, and partly from the rise of
the Mahometan power, which made wars with the infidel appear in the
light of acts of faith, and changed the whole of Christendom into a
kind of vast standing military order. But it resulted still more from
that compromise effected in the fourth century between paganism and
the new religion, in which the former retained more than it lost, and
the latter gave less than it received. Considering that the Druid
priests of ancient Gaul or Britain, like those of pagan Rome, were
exempt from military service,[254] and often, according to Strabo, had
such influence as to part combatants on the point of an engagement,
nothing is more remarkable than the extent to which the Christian
clergy, bishops, and abbots came to lead armies and fight in battle,
in spite of canons and councils of the Church, at a time when that
Church’s power was greater, and its influence wider, than it has ever
been since. Historians have scarcely given due prominence to this
fact, which covers a period of at least a thousand years; for Gregory
of Tours mentions two bishops of the sixth century who had killed
many enemies with their own hands, whilst Erasmus, in the sixteenth,
complains of bishops taking more pride in leading three or four hundred
dragoons, with swords and guns, than in a following of deacons and
divinity students, and asks, with just sarcasm, why the trumpet and
fife should sound sweeter in their ears than the singing of psalms or
the words of the Bible.

In the fourteenth century, when war and chivalry were at their
height, occurred a remarkable protest against this state of things
from Wycliffe, who, in this, as in other respects, anticipated the
Reformation: ‘Friars now say that bishops can fight best of all men,
and that it falleth most properly to them, since they are lords of
all this world. They say, Christ bade his disciples sell their coats,
and buy them swords; but whereto, if not to fight? Thus friars make
a great array, and stir up men to fight. But Christ taught not his
apostles to fight with a sword of iron, but with the sword of God’s
word, which standeth in meekness of heart and in the prudence of man’s
tongue.... If manslaying in others be odious to God, much more in
priests who should be vicars of Christ.’ And Wycliffe proceeds not only
to protest against this, but to advocate the general cause of peace on
earth, on grounds which he is aware that men of the world will scorn
and reject as fatal to the existence of kingdoms.[255]

It was no occasional, but an inveterate practice, and, apparently,
common in the world, long before the system of feudalism gave it
some justification by the connection of military service with the
enjoyment of lands. Yet it has now so completely disappeared that--as
a proof of the possible change of thought which may ultimately render
a Christian soldier as great an anomaly as a fighting bishop--it is
worth recalling from history some instances of so curious a custom.
‘The bishops themselves--not all, but many’--says a writer of King
Stephen’s reign, ‘bound in iron, and completely furnished with arms,
were accustomed to mount war-horses with the perverters of their
country, to share in their spoil; to bind and torture the knights whom
they took in the chance of war, or whom they met full of money.’[256]
It was at the battle of Bouvines (1214) that the famous Bishop of
Beauvais fought with a club instead of a sword, out of respect for
the rule of the canon which forbade an ecclesiastic to shed blood.
Matthew Paris tells the story how Richard I. took the said bishop
prisoner, and when the Pope begged for his release as being his own
son and a son of the Church, sent to Innocent III. the episcopal coat
of mail, with the inquiry whether he recognised it as that of his son
or of a son of the Church; to which the Pope had the wit to reply that
he could not recognise it as belonging to either.[257] The story also
bears repeating of the impatient knight who, sharing the command of a
division at the battle of Falkirk with the Bishop of Durham, cried out
to his slower colleague, before closing with the Scots, ‘It is not for
you to teach us war; to your Mass, bishop!’ and therewith rushed with
his followers into the fray (1298).[258]

It is, however, needless to multiply instances, which, if Du Cange
may be credited, became more common during the devastation of France
by the Danes in the ninth century, when all the military aid that was
available became a matter of national existence. That event rendered
Charlemagne’s capitulary a dead letter, by which that monarch had
forbidden any ecclesiastic to march against an enemy, save two or
three bishops to bless the army or reconcile the combatants, and a few
priests to give absolution and celebrate the Mass.[259] It appears that
this law was made in response to an exhortation by Pope Adrian II.,
similar to one addressed in the previous century by Pope Zachary to
Charlemagne’s ancestor, King Pepin. But though military service and the
tenure of ecclesiastical benefices became more common from the time of
the Danish irruptions, instances are recorded of abbots and archbishops
who chose rather to surrender their temporalities than to take part in
active service; and for many centuries the whole question seems to have
rested on a most uncertain footing, law and custom demanding as a duty
that which public and ecclesiastical opinion condoned, but which the
Church herself condemned.

It is a signal mark of the degree to which religion became enveloped
in the military spirit of those miserable days of chivalry, that
ecclesiastical preferment was sometimes the reward of bravery on the
field, as in the case of that chaplain to the Earl of Douglas who, for
his courage displayed at the battle of Otterbourne, was, Froissart
tells us, promoted the same year to a canonry and archdeaconry at

Vasari, in his ‘Life of Michael Angelo,’ has a good story which is
not only highly typical of this martial Christianity, but may be also
taken to mark the furthest point of divergence reached by the Church in
this respect from the standpoint of her earlier teaching. Pope Julius
II. went one day to see a statue of himself which Michael Angelo was
executing. The right hand of the statue was raised in a dignified
attitude, and the artist consulted the Pope as to whether he should
place a book in the left. ‘Put a sword into it,’ quoth Julius, ‘for of
letters I know but little.’ This was the Pope of whom Bayle says that
never man had a more warlike soul, and of whom, with some doubt, he
repeats the anecdote of his having thrown into the Tiber the keys of
St. Peter, with the declaration that he would thenceforth use the sword
of St. Paul. However this may be, he went in person to hasten the siege
of Mirandola, in opposition to the protests of the cardinals and to
the scandal of Christendom (1510). There it was that to encourage the
soldiers he promised them, that if they exerted themselves valiantly
he would make no terms with the town, but would suffer them to sack
it;[260] and though this did not occur, and the town ultimately
surrendered on terms, the head of the Christian Church had himself
conveyed into it by the breach.

The scandal of this proceeding contributed its share to the discontent
which produced the Reformation; and that movement continued still
further the disfavour with which many already viewed the connection of
the clergy with actual warfare. It has, however, happened occasionally
since that epoch that priests of martial tastes have been enabled
to gratify them, the custom having become more and more rare as
public opinion grew stronger against it. The last recorded instance
of a fighting divine was, it would seem, the Bishop of Derry, who,
having been raised to that see by William III. in gratitude for the
distinguished bravery with which, though a clergyman, he had conducted
the defence of Londonderry against the forces of James II., and for
which the University of Oxford rewarded him with the title of Doctor
of Divinity, was shot dead at the battle of the Boyne. He had, says
Macaulay, ‘during the siege in which he had so highly distinguished
himself, contracted a passion for war,’ but his zeal to gratify it on
that second occasion cost him the favour of the king. It is, however,
somewhat remarkable that history should have called no special
attention to the last instance of a bishop who fought and died upon a
battle-field, nor have sufficiently emphasised the great revolution of
thought which first changed a common occurrence into something unusual,
and finally into a memory that seems ridiculous. No historical fact
affords a greater justification than this for the hope that, absurd as
is the idea of a fighting bishop to our own age, that of a fighting
Christian may be to our posterity.

As bishops were in the middle ages warriors, so they were also the
common bearers of declarations of war. The Bishop of Lincoln bore, for
instance, the challenge of Edward III. and his allies to Charles V.
at Paris; and greatly offended was the English king and his council
when Charles returned the challenge by a common valet--they declared
it indecent for a war between two such great lords to be declared by a
mere servant, and not by a prelate or a knight of valour.

The declaration of war in those times appears to have meant simply a
challenge or defiance like that then and afterwards customary in a
duel. It appears to have originated out of habits that governed the
relations between the feudal barons. We learn from Froissart that when
Edward was made Vicar of the German Empire an old statute was renewed
which had before been made at the emperor’s court, to the effect that
no one, intending to injure his neighbour, might do so without sending
him a defiance three days beforehand. The following extract from the
challenge of war sent by the Duke of Orleans, the brother of the King
of France, to Henry IV. of England, testifies to the close resemblance
between a declaration of war and a challenge to a deed of arms, and to
the levity which often gave rise to either: ‘I, Louis, write and make
known to you, that with the aid of God and the blessed Trinity, in the
desire which I have to gain renown, and which you likewise should feel,
considering idleness as the bane of lords of high birth who do not
employ themselves in arms, and thinking I can no way better seek renown
than by proposing to you to meet me at an appointed place, each of us
accompanied with 100 knights and esquires, of name and arms without
reproach, there to combat till one of the parties shall surrender; and
he to whom God shall grant the victory shall do with his prisoners as
he pleases. We will not employ any incantations that are forbidden by
the Church, but make use of the bodily strength given us by God, with
armour as may be most agreeable to everyone for the security of his
person, and with the usual arms, that is lance, battle-axe, sword, and
dagger ... without aiding himself by any bodkins, hooks, bearded darts,
poisoned needles or razors, as may be done by persons unless they are
positively ordered to the contrary....’[261] Henry IV. answered the
challenge with some contempt, but expressed his readiness to meet
the duke in single combat, whenever he should visit his possessions
in France, in order to prevent any greater effusion of Christian
blood, since a good shepherd, he said, should expose his own life for
his flock. It even seemed at one time as if wars might have resolved
themselves into this more rational mode of settlement. The Emperor
Henry IV. challenged the Duke of Swabia to single combat. Philip
Augustus of France is said to have proposed to Richard I. to settle
their differences by a combat of five on each side; and when Edward
III. challenged the realm of France, he offered to settle the question
by a duel or a combat of 100 men on each side, with which the French
king would, it appears, have complied, had Edward consented to stake
the kingdom of England against that of France.

In the custom of naming the implements of war after the most revered
names of the Christian hagiology may be observed another trace of
the close alliance that resulted between the military and spiritual
sides of human life, somewhat like that which prevailed in the sort of
worship paid to their lances, pikes, and battle-axes by the ancient
Scandinavians.[262] Thus the two first forts which the Spaniards built
in the Ladrone Islands they called respectively after St. Francis
Xavier and the Virgin Mary. Twelve ships in the Armada were called
after the Twelve Apostles, and so were twelve of his cannons by Henry
VIII., one of which, St. John by name, was captured by the French in
1513.[263] It is probable that mere irreverence had less to do with
this custom than the hope thereby of obtaining favour in war, such as
may also be traced in the ceremony of consecrating military banners,
which has descended to our own times.[264]

To the same order of superstition belongs the old custom of falling
down and kissing the earth before starting on a charge or assault
of battle. The practice is alluded to several times in Montluc’s
Commentaries, but so little was it understood by a modern French editor
that in one place he suggests the reading _baissèrent la tête_ (they
lowered their heads) for _baisèrent la terre_ (they kissed the earth).
But the latter reading is confirmed by passages elsewhere; as, for
instance, in the ‘Memoirs of Fleurange,’ where it is stated that Gaston
de Foix and his soldiers kissed the earth, according to custom, before
proceeding to march against the enemy;[265] and, again, in the ‘Life
of Bayard,’ by his secretary, who records it among the virtues of that
knight that he would rise from his bed every night to prostrate himself
at full length on the floor and kiss the earth.[266] This kissing of
the earth was an abbreviated form of taking a particle of it in the
mouth, as both Elmham and Livius mention to have been done by the
English at Agincourt before attacking the French; and this again was an
abbreviated form of receiving the sacrament, for Villani says of the
Flemish at Cambray (1302) that they made a priest go all over the field
with the sacred elements, and that, instead of communicating, each man
took a little earth and put it into his mouth.[267] This seems a more
likely explanation than that the custom was intended as a reminder to
the soldier of his mortality, as if in a trade like his there could be
any lack of testimony of that sort.

It is curious to observe how war in every stage of civilisation has
been the central interest of public religious supplication; and how,
from the pagans of old to modern savages, the pettiest quarrels and
conflicts have been deemed a matter of interest to the immortals. The
Sandwich islanders and Tahitians sought the aid of their gods in war
by human sacrifices. The Fijians before war were wont to present their
gods with costly offerings and temples, and offer with their prayers
the best they could of land crabs or whales’ teeth; being so convinced
that they thereby ensured to themselves the victory, that once, when
a missionary called the attention of a war party to the scantiness of
their numbers, they only replied, with disdainful confidence, ‘Our
allies are the gods.’ The prayer which the Roman pontifex addressed
to Jupiter on behalf of the Republic at the opening of the war with
Antiochus, king of Syria, is extremely curious: ‘If the war which the
people has ordered to be waged with King Antiochus shall be finished
after the wish of the Roman senate and people, then to thee, O Jupiter,
will the Roman people exhibit the great games for ten successive days,
and offerings shall be presented at all the shrines of such value as
the senate shall decree.’[268] This rude state of theology, wherein
a victory from the gods may be obtained for a fair consideration in
exchange, tends to keep alive, if it did not originate, that sense of
dependence on invisible powers which constitutes the most rudimentary
form of religion; for it is a remarkable fact that the faintest
notions of supernatural agencies are found precisely among tribes
whose military organisation or love for war is the lowest and least
developed. In proportion as the war-spirit is cultivated does the
worship of war-presiding deities prevail; and since these are formed
from the memories of warriors who have died or been slain, their
attributes and wishes remain those of the former earthly potentate, who
though no longer visible, may still be gratified by presents of fruit,
or by slaughtered oxen or slaves.

The Khonds of Orissa, in India, afford an instance of this close and
pernicious association between religious and military ideas, which may
be traced through the history of many far more advanced communities.
For though they regard the joy of the peace dance as the very highest
attainable upon earth, they attribute, not to their own will, but
to that of their war god, Loha Pennu, the source of all their wars.
The devastation of a fever or tiger is accepted as a hint from that
divinity that his service has been too long neglected, and they acquit
themselves of all blame for a war begun for no better reason, by the
following philosophy of its origin: ‘Loha Pennu said to himself, Let
there be war, and he forthwith entered into all weapons, so that from
instruments of peace they became weapons of war; he gave edge to the
axe and point to the arrow; he entered into all kinds of food and
drink, so that men in eating and drinking were filled with rage, and
women became instruments of discord instead of soothers of anger.’ And
they address this prayer to Loha Pennu for aid against their enemies:
‘Let our axes crush cloth and bones as the jaws of the hyæna crush
its prey. Make the wounds we give to gape.... When the wounds of our
enemies heal, let lameness remain. Let their stones and arrows fall
on us as the flowers of the mowa-tree fall in the wind.... Make their
weapons brittle as the long pods of the karta-tree.’

In their belief that wars were of external causation to themselves,
and in their endeavour to win by prayer a favourable issue to their
appeal to arms, it could scarcely be maintained that the nations
of Christendom have at all times shown any marked superiority over
the modern Khonds. But in spite of this, and of the fierce military
character that Christianity ultimately assumed, the Church always kept
alive some of her earlier traditions about peace, and even in the
darkest ages set some barriers to the common fury of the soldier. When
the Roman Empire was overthrown, her influence in this direction was
in marked contrast with what it has been ever since. Even Alaric when
he sacked Rome (410) was so far affected by Christianity as to spare
the churches and the Christians who fled to them. Leo the Great, Bishop
of Rome, inspired even Attila with respect for his priestly authority,
and averted his career of conquest from Rome; and the same bishop,
three years later (455), pleaded with the victorious Genseric that
his Vandals should spare the unresisting multitude and the buildings
of Rome, nor allow torture to be inflicted on their prisoners. At the
instance of Gregory II., Luitprand, the Lombard king, withdrew his
troops from the same city, resigned his conquests, and offered his
sword and dagger on the tomb of St. Peter (730).

Yet more praiseworthy and perhaps more effective were the efforts of
the Church from the tenth century onwards to check that system of
private war which was then the bane of Europe, as the system of public
and international wars has been since. In the south of France several
bishops met and agreed to exclude from the privileges of a Christian
in life and after death all who violated their ordinances directed
against that custom (990). Only four years later the Council of Limoges
exhorted men to swear by the bodies of the saints that they would cease
to violate the public peace. Lent appears to have been to some extent
a season of abstinence from fighting as from other pleasures, for one
of the charges against Louis le Débonnaire was that he summoned an
expedition for that time of the year.

In 1032 a Bishop of Aquitaine declared himself the recipient of a
message from heaven, ordering men to cease from fighting; and, not
only did a peace, called the Truce of God, result for seven years,
but it was resolved that such peace should always prevail during
the great festivals of the Church, and from every Thursday evening
to Monday morning. And the regulation for one kingdom was speedily
extended over Christendom, confirmed by several Popes, and enforced by
excommunication.[269] If such efforts were not altogether successful,
and the wars of the barons continued till the royal power in every
country was strong enough to suppress them, it must none the less be
recognised that the Church fought, if she fought in vain, against the
barbarism of a military society, and with an ardour that is in striking
contrast with her apathy in more recent history.

It must also be granted that the idea of what the Papacy might do
for the peace of the world, as the supreme arbiter of disputes and
mediator between contending Powers, gained possession of men’s minds,
and entered into the definite policy of the Church about the twelfth
century, in a manner that might suggest reflection for the nineteenth.
The name of Gerohus de Reigersperg is connected with a plan for the
pacification of the world, by which the Pope was to forbid war to
all Christian princes, to settle all disputes between them, and to
enforce his decisions by the greatest powers that have ever yet been
devised for human authority--namely, by excommunication and deposition.
And the Popes attempted something of this sort. When, for instance,
Innocent III. bade the King of France to make peace with Richard I.,
and was told that the dispute concerned a matter of feudal relationship
with which the Pope had no right of interference, he replied that he
interfered by right of his power to censure what he thought sin, and
quite irrespective of feudal rights. He also refused to consider the
destruction of places and the slaughter of Christians as a matter of no
concern to him; and Honorius III. forbade an attack upon Denmark, on
the ground that that kingdom lay under the special protection of the

The clergy, moreover, were even in the most warlike times of history
the chief agents in negotiations for peace, and in the attempt to
set limits to military reprisals. When, for instance, the French and
English were about to engage at Poitiers, the Cardinal of Perigord
spent the whole of the Sunday that preceded the day of battle in
laudable but ineffectual attempts to bring the two sides to an
agreement without a battle. And when the Duke of Anjou was about to
put 600 of the defenders of Montpellier to death by the sword, by the
halter, and by fire, it was the Cardinal of Albany and a Dominican monk
who saved him from the infamy of such a deed by reminding him of the
duty of Christian forgiveness.

In these respects it must be plain to every one that the attitude
and power of the Church has entirely changed. She has stood apart
more and more as time has gone on from her great opportunities as a
promoter of peace. Her influence, it is notorious, no longer counts for
anything, where it was once so powerful, in the field of negotiation
and reconcilement. She lifts no voice to denounce the evils of war, nor
to plead for greater restraint in the exercise of reprisals and the
abuse of victory. She lends no aid to teach the duty of forbearance
and friendship between nations, to diminish their idle jealousies, nor
to explain the real identity of their interests. It may even be said
without risk of contradiction, that whatever attempt has been made to
further the cause of peace upon earth or to diminish the horror of the
customs of war, has come, not from the Church, but from the school of
thought to which she has been most opposed, and which she has studied
most persistently to revile.

In respect, too, of the justice of the cause of war, the Church within
recent centuries has entirely vacated her position. It is noticeable
that in the 37th article of the English Church, which is to the effect
that a Christian at the command of the magistrate may wear weapons
and serve in the wars, the word _justa_, which in the Latin form
preceded the word _bella_ or wars, has been omitted.[271] The leaders
of the Reformation decided on the whole in favour of the lawfulness of
military service for a Christian, but with the distinct reservation
that the cause of war should be just. Bullinger, who was Zwingli’s
successor in the Reformed Church at Zurich, decided that though a
Christian might take up arms at the command of the magistrate, it
would be his duty to disobey the magistrate if he purposed to make
war on the guiltless; and that only the death of those soldiers on
the battle-field was glorious who fought for their religion or their
country. Thomas Becon, chaplain to Archbishop Cranmer, complained of
the utter disregard of a just and patriotic motive for war in the code
of military ethics then prevalent. Speaking of the fighters of his day,
he thus characterised their position in the State: ‘The rapacity of
wolves, the violence of lions, the fierceness of tigers is nothing in
comparison of their furious and cruel tyranny; and yet do many of them
this not for the safeguard of their country (for so it would be the
more tolerable), but to satisfy their butcher-like affects, to boast
another day of how many men they have been the death, and to bring
home the more preys that they may live the fatter ever after for these
spoils and stolen goods.’[272] From military service he maintained
that all considerations of justice and humanity had been entirely
banished, and their stead been taken by robbery and theft, ‘the
insatiable spoiling of other men’s goods, and a whole sea of barbarous
and beast-like manners.’ In this way the necessity of a just cause as
a reason for taking part in actual warfare was reasserted at the time
of the Reformation, and has only since then been allowed to drop out
of sight altogether; so that now public opinion has no guide in the
matter, and even less than it had in ancient Rome, the attitude of the
Church towards the State on this point being rather that of Anaxarchus
the philosopher to Alexander the Great, when, to console that conqueror
for his murder of Clitus, he said to him: ‘Know you not that Jupiter is
represented with Law and Justice at his side, to show that whatever is
done by sovereign power is right?’

Considering, therefore, that no human institution yet devised or
actually in existence has had or has a moral influence or facilities
for exercising it at all equal to that enjoyed by the Church, it is all
the more to be regretted that she has never taken any real interest
in the abolition of a custom which is at the root of half the crime
and misery with which she has to contend. Whatever hopes might at
one time have been reasonably entertained of the Reformed Church as
an anti-military agency, the cause of peace soon sank into a sort
of heresy, or what was worse, an unfashionable tenet, associated,
condemned, and contemned with other articles of religious dissent.
‘Those who condemn the profession or art of soldiery,’ said Sir James
Turner, ‘smell rank of anabaptism and quakery.’[273]

It would be difficult to find in the whole range of history any such
example of wasted moral force. As Erasmus had cause to deplore it in
the sixteenth century, so had Voltaire in the eighteenth. The latter
complained that he did not remember a single page against war in the
whole of Bourdaloue’s sermons, and he even suggested that the real
explanation might be a literal want of courage on the part of the
clergy. The passage is worth quoting from the original, both for its
characteristic energy of expression and for its clear insight into
the real character of the custom of war:--‘Pour les autres moralistes
à gages que l’on nomme prédicateurs, ils n’ont jamais seulement osé
prêcher contre la guerre.... Ils se gardent bien de décrier la guerre,
qui réunit tout ce que la perfidie a de plus lâche dans les manifestes,
tout ce que l’infâme friponnerie a de plus bas dans les fournitures des
armées, tout ce que le brigandage a d’affreux dans le pillage, le viol,
le larcin, l’homicide, la dévastation, la destruction. Au contraire,
ces bons prêtres bénissent en cérémonie les étendards de meurtre; et
leurs confrères chantent pour de l’argent des chansons juives, quand
la terre a été inondée de sang.’[274]

If Voltaire’s reproach is unjust, it can of course be easily refuted.
The challenge is a fair one. Let him be convicted of overstating his
charge, by the mention of any ecclesiastic of mark from either the
Catholic or the Protestant school within the last two centuries whose
name is associated with the advocacy of the mitigation or the abolition
of contests of force; or any war in the same period which the clergy
of either denomination have as a body resisted either on the ground
of the injustice of its origin or of the ruthless cruelty with which
it has been waged. Whatever has yet been attempted in this direction,
or whatever anti-military stimulus has been given to civilisation,
has come distinctly from men of the world or men of letters, not from
men of distinction in the Church: not from Fénelon or Paley, but from
William Penn, the Abbé St.-Pierre (whose connection with the Church
was only nominal), from Vattel, Voltaire, and Kant. In other words,
the Church has lost her old position of spiritual ascendency over
the consciences of mankind, and has surrendered to other guides and
teachers the influence she once exercised over the world.

This is especially the case with our own Church; for before the most
gigantic evil of our time, her pulpit stands mute, and colder than
mute. Whatever sanction or support a body like the Peace Society has
met with from the Church or churches of England during its seventy
years’ struggle on behalf of humanity has been, not the general rule,
but the rare exception; and recent events would even seem to show that
the voice of the pulpit, so far from ever becoming a pacific agency, is
destined to become in the future the great tocsin of war, the loudest
clamourer for counsels of aggression.

This attitude on the part of the Church having become more and more
marked and conspicuous, as wars in recent centuries have become more
frequent and more fierce, it was not unnatural that some attempt should
at last have been made to give some sort of justification of a fact
which has undoubtedly become an increasing source of perplexity and
distress to all sincere and reflective Christians. In default of a
better, let us take the justification offered by Canon Mozley in his
sermon on ‘War,’ preached before the University of Oxford on March 12,
1871, of which the following summary conveys a faithful, though of
necessity an abbreviated, reflection. The main points dwelt upon in
that explanation or apology are: That Christianity, by its original
recognition of the division of the world into nations, with all their
inherent rights, thereby recognised the right of war, which was plainly
one of them; that the Church, never having been constituted a judge
of national questions or motives, can only stand neutral between
opposing sides, contemplating war as it were forensically, as a mode
of international settlement that is amply justified by the want of
any other; that a natural justice is inherent not only in wars of
self-defence, but in wars for rectifying the political distribution of
the world’s races or nationalities, and in wars that aim at progress
and improvement; that the spirit of self-sacrifice inseparable from war
confers upon it a moral character that is in special harmony with the
Christian type; that as war is simply the working out of a problem by
force, there is no more hatred between the individual combatants than
there is in the working out of an argument by reasoning, ‘the enmity
is in the two wholes--the abstractions--the individuals are at peace;’
that the impossibility of a substitution of a universal empire for
independent nations, or of a court of arbitration, bars all hope of the
attainment of an era of peace through the natural progress of society;
that the absence of any head to the nations of the world constitutes
a defect or want of plan in its system, which as it has been given to
it by nature cannot be remedied by other means; that it is no part
of the mission of Christianity to reconstruct that system, or rather
want of system, of the world, from which war flows, nor to provide
another world for us to live in; but that, nevertheless, Christianity
only sanctions it through the medium of natural society, and on the
hypothesis of a world at discord with itself.

One may well wonder that such a tissue of irrelevant arguments could
have been addressed by any man in a spirit of seriousness to an
assembly of his fellows. Imagine such utterances being the last word of
Christianity! Surely a son of the Church were more recognisable under
the fighting Bishop of Beauvais’ coat of mail than under the disguise
of such language as this. Why should it be assumed, one might ask,
that the existence of distinct nations, each enjoying the power, and
therefore the right to make war upon its neighbours, is incompatible
with the existence of an international morality which should render the
exercise of the war-right impossible, or very difficult; or that the
Church, had she tried, could have contributed nothing to so desirable
a result? It is begging the question altogether to contend that a
state of things is impossible which has never been attempted, when
the very point at issue is whether, had it been attempted, it might
not by this time have come to be realised. The right of the mediæval
barons and their vassals to wage private war together belonged once
as much to the system, or want of system, of the world as the right
of nations to attack one another in our own or an earlier period of
history; yet so far was the Church, even in those days, from shrinking
from contact with so barbarous a custom as something beyond her power
or her mission, that she was herself the main social instrument that
brought it to an end. The great efforts made by the Church to abolish
the custom of private war have already been mentioned: a point which
Canon Mozley, perhaps, did wisely to ignore. Yet there is, surely, no
sufficient reason why the peace of the world should be an object of
less interest to the Church in these days than it was in those; or
why her influence should be less as one chief element in the natural
progress of society than it was when she fought to release human
society from the depraving custom of the right of private war. It is
impossible to contend that, had the Church inculcated the duties of
the individual to other nations as well as to his own, in the way to
which human reason would naturally respond, such a course would have
had no effect in solving the problem of enabling separate nationalities
to coexist in a state of peace as well as of independence. It is at
least the reverse of self-evident that the promotion of feelings of
international fraternity, the discouragement of habits of international
jealousy, the exercise of acts of international friendship, the
teaching of the real identity of international interests, in all of
which the pulpit might have lent, or might yet lend, an invaluable
aid, would have had, or would still have any detrimental effect on
the political system of distinct nationalities, or on the motives and
actions of a rational patriotism. It is difficult to believe that
the denunciations of a Church whose religious teaching had power to
restrain the military fury of an Alaric or a Genseric would have been
altogether powerless over the conduct of those German hordes whose
military excesses in France, in 1870, have left a lasting blot on
their martial triumph and the character of their discipline; or that
her efforts on behalf of peace, which more than a thousand years
ago effectually reconciled the Angles and Mercians, the Franks and
Lombards, would be wasted in helping to remove any standing causes of
quarrel that may still exist between France and Germany, England and
Russia, Italy and Austria.

There are, indeed, hopeful signs, in spite of Canon Mozley’s apology
of despair, that the priesthood of Christendom may yet reawake to a
sense of its power and opportunities for removing from the world an
evil custom which lies at the root of almost every other, and is the
main cause and sustenance of crime and pauperism and disease. It is
possible that we have already passed the worst period of indifference
in this respect, or that it may some day prove only to have been
connected with the animosities of rival sects, ever ready to avail
themselves of the chances that war between different nations might
severally bring to their several petty interests. With the subsidence
of such animosities, it were reasonable to expect the Church to
reassert the more genuine principle of her action and attitude--that no
evil incident to human society is to be regarded as irremediable till
every resource has been exhausted to cope with it, and every outlet of
escape from it been proved to be a failure. Then, but not till then, is
it becoming in Christian priests to utter the language of helplessness;
then, but not till then, should the Church fold her hands in despair.



    _La discipline n’est que l’art d’inspirer aux soldats plus de peur
    de leurs officiers que des ennemis._--HELVETIUS.

    Increased severity of discipline--Limitation of the right of
    matrimony--Compulsory Church parade, and its origin--Atrocious
    military punishments--Reasons for the military love of
    red--The origin of bear-skin hats--Different qualities of
    bravery--Historical fears for the extinction of courage--The
    conquests of the cause of peace--Causes of the unpopularity of
    military service--The dulness of life in the ranks--The prevalence
    of desertion--Articles of war against malingering--Military
    artificial ophthalmia--The debasing influence of discipline
    illustrated from the old flogging system--The discipline of the
    Peninsular army--Attempts to make the service more popular,
    by raising the private’s wages, by shortening his term of
    service--The old recruiting system of France and Germany--The
    conscription imminent in England--The question of military service
    for women--The probable results of the conscription--Militarism
    answerable for Socialism.

Two widely different conceptions of military discipline are contained
in the words of an English writer of the seventeenth century, and in
those of the French philosopher, Helvetius, in the eighteenth century.
There is a fine ring of the best English spirit in the sentence of
Gittins: ‘A soldier ought to fear nothing but God and dishonour.’
And there is the true French wit and insight in that of Helvetius:
‘Discipline is but the art of inspiring soldiers with more fear for
their own officers than they have for the enemy.’[275]

But the difference involved lies less in the national character of the
writers than in the lapse of time between them, discipline having by
degrees gained so greatly in severity that a soldier had come to be
regarded less as a moral free agent than as a mechanical instrument,
who, if he had any fear left for God and dishonour, felt it in a very
minor degree to that which he cherished for his colonel or commander.
This is the broad fact which explains and justifies the proposition of
Helvetius; though no one, recollecting the evils of the days of looser
discipline, might see cause to regret the change which deprived a
soldier almost entirely of the moral liberty that naturally belonged to
him as a man.

The tendency of discipline to become more and more severe has of course
the effect of rendering military service less popular, and consequently
recruiting more difficult, without, unhappily, any corresponding
diminution in the frequency of wars, which are independent of the
hirelings who fight them. Were it otherwise, something might be said
for the military axiom, that a soldier enjoys none of the common rights
of man. There is therefore no gain from any point of view in denying
to the military class the enjoyment of the rights and privileges of
ordinary humanity.

The extent of this denial and its futility may be shown by reference
to army regulations concerning marriage and religious worship. In the
Prussian army, till 1870, marriages were legally null and void and the
offspring of them illegitimate in the case of officers marrying without
royal consent, or of subordinate officers without the consent of the
commander of their regiments. But after the Franco-German war so great
was the social disorder found to be consequent upon these restrictions,
that a special law had to be made to remove the bar of illegitimacy
from the marriages in question.[276] In the English army the inability
of privates to marry before the completion of seven years’ service, and
the possession of at least one badge, and then only with the consent
of the commanding officer, is a custom so entirely contrary to the
liberty enjoyed in other walks of life, that, whatever its incidental
advantages, it can scarcely fail to act as a deterring motive when the
choice of a career becomes a subject of reflection.

The custom of what is known in the army as Church Parade affords
another instance of the unreasonable curtailments of individual
liberty that are still regarded as essential to discipline. A soldier
is drummed to church just as he is drummed to the drill-ground or the
battle-field. His presence in church is a matter of compulsion, not of
choice or conviction; and the general principle that such attendance is
valueless unless it is voluntary is waived in his case as in that of
very young children, with whom, in this respect, he is placed on a par.
If we inquire for the origin of the practice, we shall probably find it
in certain old Saxon and imperial articles of war, which show that the
prayers of the military were formerly regarded as equally efficacious
with their swords in obtaining victories over their enemies; and
therefore as a very necessary part of their duty.[277] The American
articles of war, since 1806, enact that ‘it is earnestly recommended
to all officers and soldiers to attend divine service,’ thus obviating
in a reasonable way all the evils inevitably connected with a purely
compulsory, and therefore humiliating, church parade.[278]

It may be that these restrictions of a soldier’s liberty are necessary;
but if they are, and if, as Lord Macaulay says, soldiers must, ‘for the
sake of public freedom, in the midst of public freedom, be placed under
a despotic rule,’ ‘must be subject to a sharper penal code and to a
more stringent code of procedure than are administered by the ordinary
tribunals,’ so that acts, innocent in the citizen or only punished
slightly, become crimes, capitally punishable, when committed by them,
then at least we need no longer be astonished that it should be almost
as difficult to entrap a recruit as to catch a criminal.

But over and above the intrinsic disadvantages of military service,
it would almost seem as if the war-presiding genii had of set purpose
essayed to make it as distasteful as possible to mankind. For they have
made discipline not merely a curtailment of liberty and a forfeiture of
rights, but, as it were, an experiment on the extreme limits of human
endurance. There has been no tyranny in the world, political, judicial,
or ecclesiastical, but has had its parent and pattern in some military
system. It has been from its armies more than from its kings that
our world has learnt its lesson of arbitrary tribunals, tortures, and
cruel punishments. The Inquisition itself could scarcely have devised
a more excruciating punishment than the old English military one of
riding the Wooden Horse, when the victim was made to sit astride planks
nailed together in a sharp ridge, so as roughly to resemble a horse,
with his hands tied behind him, and muskets fixed to his legs to drag
them downwards; or again, than the punishment of the Picket, in which
the hand was fastened to a hook in a post above the head, and the
man’s suspended body left to be supported by his bare heel resting on
a wooden stump, of which the end was cut to the sharpness of a sword
point.[279] The punishment of running the gauntlet (from the German
_Gassenlaufen_, street running, because the victim ran through the
street between two lines of soldiers who tormented him on his course)
is said to have been invented by Gustavus Adolphus; and is perhaps,
from the fact of thus bringing the cruelty of many men to bear on a
single comrade, the most cowardly form of torture that has ever yet
found favour among military authorities.[280]

But the penal part of military discipline, with its red-hot irons,
its floggings, and its various forms of death, is too repulsive to do
more than glance at as testimony of the cruelty and despotism that
have never been separated from the calling of arms. The art of the
disciplinarian has ever been to bring such a series of miseries to
bear upon a man’s life that the prospect of death upon the battle-field
should have for him rather charms than terrors; and the tale of the
soldier who, when his regiment was to be decimated, drew a blank
without the fatal D upon it, and immediately offered it to a comrade,
who had not yet drawn, for half-a-crown, shows at how cheap a rate men
may be reduced to value their lives after experience of the realities
of a military career.

Many of the devices are curious by which this indifference to life has
been matured and sustained. In ancient Athens the public temples were
closed to those who refused military service, who deserted their ranks
or lost their bucklers; whilst a law of Charondas of Catana constrained
such offenders to sit for three days in the public forum dressed in the
garments of women. Many a Spartan mother would stab her son who came
back alive from a defeat; and such a man, if he escaped his mother, was
debarred not only from public offices but from marriage; exposed to
the blows of all who chose to strike him; compelled to dress in mean
clothing, and to wear his beard negligently trimmed. And in the same
way a Norse soldier who fled, or lost his shield, or received a wound
in any save the front part of his body, was by law prevented from ever
afterwards appearing in public.[281]

There are, indeed, few military customs but have their origin and
explanation in the artificial promotion of courage in the minds of
the combatants. This is true even to the details and peculiarities
of costume. English children are, perhaps, still taught that French
soldiers wear red trousers in order that the sight of blood may not
frighten them in war-time; and doubtless French children imbibe a
similar theory regarding the red coats of the English. The same reason
was given by Julius Ferretus in the middle of the sixteenth century
for the short red frock then generally worn by the military.[282] The
first mention of red as a special military colour in England is said to
have been the order issued in 1526 for the coats of all yeomen of the
household to be of red cloth.[283] But the colour goes, at least, as
far back as Lycurgus, the Spartan lawgiver, who chose it, according to
Xenophon, because red is most easily taken by cloth and most lasting;
according to Plutarch, that its brightness might help to raise the
spirits of its wearers; or, according to Ælian and Valerius Maximus,
in order to conceal the sight of blood, that raw soldiers might not be
dispirited and the enemy proportionately encouraged.

The bear-skin hats, which still make some English regiments so
ridiculous and unsightly, were originally no doubt intended to inspire
terror. Evelyn, writing of the year 1678, says: ‘Now were brought into
service a new sort of soldiers called Grenadiers, who were dexterous
in flinging hand-grenades, every man having a handful. They had furred
caps with coped crowns like Janizaries, which made them look very
fierce; and some had long hoods hanging down behind as we picture
fools.’ We may fairly identify the motive of such headgear with the
result; and the more so since the looking fierce with the borrowed
skins of bears was a well-known artifice of the ancient Romans. Thus
Vegetius speaks of helmets as covered with bear-skins in order to
terrify the enemy,[284] and Virgil has a significant description of a
warrior as

    Horridus in jaculis et pelle Libystidis ursæ.

We may trace the same motive again in the figures of fierce birds or
beasts depicted on flags and shields and helmets, whence they have
descended with less harmful purpose to crests and armorial bearings.
Thus the Cimbri, whom Marius defeated, wore on their plume-covered
helmets the head of some fierce animal with its mouth open, vainly
hoping thereby to intimidate the Romans. The latter, before it became
customary to display the images of their emperors on their standards,
reared aloft the menacing representations of dragons, tigers, wolves,
and such like; and the figure of a dragon in use among the Saxons
at the time of the Conquest, and after that event retained by the
early Norman princes among the ensigns of war,[285] may reasonably
be attributed to the same motive. The legend of St. George killing
the Dragon, if it is not a survival of Theseus and the Minotaur, very
likely originated as a myth, intended to be explanatory of the custom.

Lastly, under this head should be mentioned Villani’s account of the
English armour worn in the thirteenth century, where he describes how
the pages studied to keep it clean and bright, so that when their
masters came to action their armour shone like looking glass and gave
them a more terrifying appearance.[286] Was the result here again the
motive, and must we look for the primary cause of the great solicitude
still paid to the brightness of accoutrements to the hope thereby to
add a pang the more to the terror desirable to instil into an enemy?

Such were some of the artificial supports supplied to bravery in former
times. But there is all the difference in the world between the bravery
appealed to by our ancestors and that required since the revolution
effected in warfare by the invention of gunpowder. Before that epoch,
the use of catapults, bows, or other missiles did not deduct from the
paramount importance of personal valour. The brave soldier of olden
times displayed the bravery of a man who defied a force similar or
equal to his own, and against which the use of his own right hand and
intellect might help him to prevail; but his modern descendant pits his
bravery mainly against hazard, and owes it to chance alone if he escape
alive from a battle. However higher in kind may be the bravery required
to face a shower of shrapnel than to contend against swords and spears,
it is assuredly a bravery that involves rather a blind trust in luck
than a rational trust in personal fortitude.

So thoroughly indeed was this change foreseen and appreciated that at
every successive advance in the methods of slaughter curious fears
for the total extinction of military courage have haunted minds too
readily apprehensive, and found sometimes remarkable expression.
When the catapult[287] was first brought from Sicily to Greece, King
Archidamus saw in it the grave of true valour; and the sentiment
against firearms, which led Bayard to exclaim, ‘C’est une honte qu’un
homme de cœur soit exposé à périr par une miserable friquenelle,’ was
one that was traceable even down to the last century in the history of
Europe. For Charles XII. of Sweden is declared by Berenhorst to have
felt keenly the infamy of such a mode of fighting; and Marshal Saxe
held musketry fire in such contempt that he even went so far as to
advocate the reintroduction of the lance, and a return to the close
combats customary in earlier times.[288]

But our military codes contain no reflection of the different aspects
under which personal bravery enters into modern, as compared with
ancient, warfare; and this omission has tended to throw governments
back upon pure force and compulsion, as the only possible way of
recruiting their regiments. The old Roman military punishments, such as
cruelly scourging a man before putting him to death, afford certainly
no models of a lenient discipline; but when we read of companies who
lost their colours being for punishment only reduced to feed on barley
instead of wheat, and reflect that death by shooting would be the
penalty under the discipline of most modern nations[289] for an action
bearing any complexion of cowardice, it is impossible to admit that
a rational adjustment of punishments to offences is at all better
observed in the war articles of the moderns than in the military codes
of pagan antiquity.

This, at least, is clear, from the history of military discipline,
that only by the most repressive laws, and by a tyranny subversive
of the commonest rights of men, is it possible to retain men in the
fighting service of a country, after forcing or cajoling them into
it. And this consideration fully meets the theory of an inherent love
of fighting dominating human nature, such as that contended for in a
letter from Lord Palmerston to Cobden, wherein he argues that man is
by nature a fighting and quarrelling animal. The proposition is true
undoubtedly of some savage races, and of the idle knights of the days
of chivalry, but, not even in those days, of the lower classes, who
incurred the real dangers of war, and still less of the unfortunate
privates or conscripts of modern armies. Fighting is only possible
between civilised countries, because discipline first fits men for war
and for nothing else, and then war again necessitates discipline. Nor
is anything gained by ignoring the conquests that have already been
won over the savage propensity to war. Single States no longer suffer
private wars within their boundaries, like those customary between
the feudal barons; we decide most of our quarrels in law courts, not
upon battle-fields, and wisely prefer arguments to arms. A population
as large as that of Ireland and about double as large as that of all
our colonies in Australia put together lives in London alone, not only
without weapons of defence in their hands, but with so little taste
for blood-encounters that you may walk for whole days through its
length and breadth without so much as seeing a single street-fight.
If then this miracle of social order has been achieved, why not the
wider one of that harmony between nations which requires but a little
common-sense and determination on the part of those most concerned in
order to become an accomplished reality?

The limitations of personal liberty already alluded to would of
themselves suffice in a country of free institutions to render the
military profession distasteful and unpopular. The actual perils
of war, at no time greater than those of mines, railways, or
merchant-shipping, would never alone deter men from service; so that
we must look for other causes to explain the difficulty of recruiting
and the frequency of desertion, which are the perplexity of military
systems still based, as our own is, on the principle of voluntary not
compulsory enlistment.

What then makes a military life so little an object of desire in
countries where it can be avoided is more than its dangers, more even
than its loss of liberty, its irredeemable and appalling dulness. The
shades in point of cheerfulness must be few and fine which distinguish
a barrack from a convict prison. In none of the employments of civil
life is there anything to compare with the unspeakable monotony of
parades, recurring three or four times every day, varied perhaps in
wet weather by the military catechism, and with the intervals of time
spent in occupations of neither interest nor dignity. The length of
time devoted to the mere cleaning and polishing of accoutrements is
such, that the task has actually come to have the name ‘soldiering’;
and the work which comes next in importance to this soldiering is the
humble one of peeling potatoes for dinner. Even military greatcoats
require on a moderate estimate half a hour or more every day to be
properly folded, the penalty of an additional hour’s drill being the
probable result of any carelessness in this highly important military
function. But for the attention thus given to military dress the author
of the ‘Soldier’s Pocket Book’ supplies us with a reason: ‘The better
you dress a soldier, the more highly he will be thought of by women and
consequently by himself.’

Still less calculated to lend attractiveness to the life of the ranks
are the daily fatigue works, or extra duties which fall in turn on the
men of every company, such as coal carrying, passage cleaning, gutter
clearing, and other like menial works of necessity.

But it is the long hours of sentry duty, popularly called ‘Sentry-go,’
which constitute the soldier’s greatest bane. Guard duty in England,
recurring at short periods, lasts a whole day and night, every four
hours of the twenty-four being spent in full accoutrements in the
guard-room, and every intervening two hours on active sentry, thus
making in all--sixteen hours in the guard-room, and eight on the sentry
post. The voluntary sufferings of the saints, the tortures devised by
the religious orders of olden days, or the self-inflicted hardships of
sport, pale before the two hours’ sentry-go on a winter’s night. This
it is that kills our soldiers more fatally than an enemy’s cannon, and
is borne with more admirable patience than even the hardships of a
siege. ‘After about thirty-one or thirty-two years of age,’ says Sir
F. Roberts, ‘the private soldier usually ages rapidly, and becomes a
veteran both in looks and habits;’[290] and this distinguished military
commander points to excessive sentry duty as the cause.

But, possible as it thus is, by rigour of discipline, to produce in a
soldier total indifference to death, by depriving him of everything
that makes life desirable, it is impossible to produce indifference to
tedium; and a policy is evidently self-destructive which, by aiming
exclusively at producing a mechanical character, renders military
service itself so unpopular that only the young, the inexperienced,
or the ill-advised will join the colours at all; that 10 per cent. of
those who do join them will desert; and that the rest will regard it as
the gala day of their lives when they become legally entitled to their
discharge from the ranks.

In England about 10 per cent. of the recruits desert every year, as
compared with 50 per cent. from the small army of the United States.
The reason for so great a difference is probably not so much that the
American discipline is more severe or dull than the English, as that in
the newer country, where subsistence is easier, the counter-attractions
of peaceful trades offer more plentiful inducements to desertion.

Desertion from the English ranks has naturally diminished since the
introduction of the short-service system has set a visible term to
the hardships of a military life. Adherence to the colours for seven
or eight years, or even for twelve, which is now the longest service
possible at the time of enlistment, and adherence to them for life,
clearly place a very different complexion on the desirability of an
illegal escape from them. So that considering the reductions that
have been made in the term of service, and the increase of pay made
in 1867, and again in 1873, nothing more strongly demonstrates the
national aversion of the English people to arms than the exceeding
difficulty with which the ranks are recruited, and the high average
of the percentage of desertions. If of recent years recruiting has
been better, the explanation is simply that trade has been worse;
statistics of recruiting being the best possible barometer of the state
of the nation, since the scarcity or abundance of recruits varies
concomitantly with the brisk or slack demand for labour in other

In few things has the world grown more tolerant than in its opinion and
treatment of Desertion. Death was once its certain penalty, and death
with every aggravation that brutal cruelty could add. Two of Rome’s
most famous generals were Scipio Æmilianus and Paulus Æmilius; yet the
former consigned deserters to fight wild beasts at the public games,
and the latter had them trodden to death by elephants.

A form of desertion, constituting one of the most curious but least
noticed chapters in the history of military discipline, is that
of Malingering, or the feigning of sickness, and self-mutilation,
disabling from service. The practice goes far back into history.
Cicero tells of a man who was sold for a slave for having cut off a
finger, in order to escape from a campaign in Sicily. Vegetius, the
great authority on Roman discipline, speaks of soldiers who simulated
sickness being punished as traitors;[291] and an old English writer on
the subject says of the Romans: ‘Whosoever mutilated their own or their
children’s bodies so as thereby designedly to render them unfit to
carry arms (a practice common enough in those elder times when all were
pressed to the wars), were adjudicated to perpetual exile.’[292]

The writer here referred to lived long before the days of the
conscription, with which he fancied self-mutilation to be connected.
And it certainly seems that whereas all the military codes of modern
nations contain articles dealing with that offence, and decreeing
penalties against it, there was less of it in the days before
compulsory service. There is, for instance, no mention of it in the
German articles of war of the seventeenth century, though the other
military crimes were precisely those that are common enough still.[293]

But even in England, where soldiers are not yet military slaves, it
has been found necessary to deal, by specific clauses in the army
regulations, with a set of facts of which there is no notice in the war
articles of the seventeenth or eighteenth century.[294] The inference
therefore is, that the conditions of military service have become
universally more disagreeable. The clauses in the actual war articles
deserve to be quoted, that it may appear, by the provisions against it,
to what lengths the arts of self-mutilation are carried by despairing
men. The 81st Article of War provides punishment against any soldier
in Her Majesty’s army ‘who shall malinger, feign or produce disease or
infirmity, or shall wilfully do any act or wilfully disobey any orders
whether in hospital or otherwise, thereby producing or aggravating
disease or infirmity or delaying his cure, ... or who shall maim or
injure himself or any other soldier, whether at the instance of such
other soldier or not, or cause himself to be maimed or injured by
any other person with intent thereby to render himself or such other
soldier unfit for service, ... or who shall tamper with his eyes with
intent thereby to render himself unfit for service.’

That it should be necessary thus to provide against self-inflicted
injuries is surely commentary enough on the condition of life in the
ranks. The allusion to tampering with the eyes may be illustrated from
a passage in the ‘Life of Sir C. Napier,’ wherein we are told how in
the year 1808 a private of the 28th Regiment taught his fellow-soldiers
to produce artificial ophthalmia by holding their eyelids open, whilst
a comrade in arms would scrape some lime from the barrack ceiling into
their eyes.[295] For a profession of which such things are common
incidents, surely the wonder is, not that it should be difficult, but
that it should be possible at all, to make recruits. In the days of
Mehemet Ali in Egypt, so numerous were the cases in which the natives
voluntarily blinded themselves, and even their children, of one eye in
order to escape the conscription, that Mehemet Ali is said to have
found himself under the necessity of raising a one-eyed regiment.
Others for the same purpose would chop off the trigger finger of the
right hand, or disable themselves from biting cartridges by knocking
out some of their upper teeth. Scarcely a peasant in the fields but
bore the trace of some such voluntarily inflicted disfigurement. But
with such facts it seems idle to talk of any inherent love for fighting
dominating the vast majority of mankind.

The severity of military discipline has even a worse effect than those
yet alluded to in its tendency to demoralise those who are long subject
to it, by inducing mental habits of servility and baseness. After
Alexander the Great had killed Clitus in a fit of drunken rage, the
Macedonian soldiery voted that Clitus had been justly slain, and prayed
that he might not enjoy the rites of sepulture.[296] Military servility
could scarcely go further than that, but such baseness is only possible
under a state of discipline which, to make a soldier, unmakes a man,
by depriving him of all that distinguishes his species. Under no other
than military training, and in no other than the military class, would
the atrocities have been possible which used to be perpetrated in the
barrack riding-school in the old flogging days. Officers and privates
needed the debasing influence of discipline to enable them to look on
as patient spectators at the sufferings of a helpless comrade tortured
by the cat-o’-nine tails. Sir C. Napier said that as a subaltern
he ‘frequently saw 600, 700, 800, 900, and 1,000 lashes sentenced
by regimental courts-martial and generally every lash inflicted;’
a feeling of horror would run through the ranks at the first blows
and some recruits would faint, but that was all.[297] Had they been
men and not soldiers, they would not have stood such iniquities.
A typical instance of this martial justice or law (to employ the
conventional profanation of those words) was that of a sergeant who in
1792 was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for having enlisted two drummers
for the East India Company whom he knew to belong already to the Foot
Guards; but the classical description of an English flogging will
always be Somerville’s account of its infliction upon himself in his
‘Autobiography of a Working Man.’[298] There you may read how the
regiment was drawn up four-deep inside the riding-school; how the
officers (men of gentle birth and breeding) stood within the lines of
the men; how the basin of water and towels were ready prepared in case
the victim should faint; how the hands and feet of the latter were
fastened to a ladder by a rope; and how the regimental sergeant-major
stood with book and pencil coolly counting each stroke as it was
delivered with slow and deliberate torture till the full complement of
a hundred lashes had been inflicted. The mere reading of it even now
is enough to make the blood boil, but that men, brave and freeborn,
should have stood by in their hundreds and seen the actual reality
without stirring, proves how utterly all human feeling is eradicable by
discipline, and how sure is the training it supplies in disregard for
the common claims of humanity.

Happily, floggings in the English army now count among the curiosities
of military discipline, like the wooden horse or the thumb-screw;
but the striking thing is that the discipline, in the sense of the
good conduct of the army in the field, was never worse than in the
days when 1,000 lashes were common sentences. It was precisely when
courts-martial had the legal power to exercise such tyranny that
the Duke of Wellington complained to Lord Castlereagh that the law
was not strong enough to maintain discipline in an army upon actual
service.[299] Speaking of the army in the Peninsula he says: ‘It is
impossible to describe to you the irregularities and outrages committed
by the troops; ... there is not an outrage of any description which
has not been committed on a people who have received us as friends
by soldiers who never yet for one moment suffered the slightest want
or the smallest privation.... We are an excellent army on parade, an
excellent one to fight, but we are worse than an enemy in a country.’
And again a few months later: ‘I really believe that more plunder and
outrage have been committed by this army than by any other that was
ever in the field.’ In the general order of May 19, 1809, are these
words: ‘The officers of companies must attend to the men in their
quarters as well as on the march, or the army will soon be no better
than a banditti.’[300]

Whence it is fair to infer that severity of discipline has no necessary
connection with the good behaviour or easy control of troops in
the field, such discipline under the Iron Duke himself having been
conspicuous for so lamentable a failure. The real fact would seem
to be, that troops are difficult to manage just in proportion to the
rigour, the monotony, and the dulness of the discipline imposed upon
them in time of peace; the rebound corresponding to the compression,
by a moral law that seems to follow the physical one. This fact is
nowhere better noticed than in Lord Wolseley’s narrative of the China
war of 1860, where he says, in allusion to the general love of pillage
and destruction that characterises soldiers and was so conspicuously
displayed at the shameful burning of the beautiful palaces in and
round Pekin: ‘Soldiers are nothing more than grown-up schoolboys.
The wild moments of enjoyment passed in the pillage of a place live
long in a soldier’s memory.... Such a time forms so marked a contrast
with the ordinary routine of existence passed under the tight hand of
discipline that it becomes a remarkable event in life and is remembered

The experience of the Peninsular war proves how slender is the
link between a well-drilled and a well-disciplined army. The best
disciplined army is the one which conducts itself with least excess
in the field and is least demoralised by victory. It is the hour of
victory that is the great test of the value of military regulations;
and so well aware of this was the best disciplined State of antiquity,
that the soldiers of Sparta desisted from pursuit as soon as victory
was assured to them, partly because it was deemed ungenerous to destroy
those who could make no further resistance (a sentiment absolutely
wanting from the boasted chivalry of Christian warfare), and partly
that the enemy might be tempted to prefer flight to resistance. It is a
reproach to modern generalship that it has been powerless to restrain
such excesses as those which have made the successful storming of
cities rather a disgrace than an honour to those who have won them.
The only way to check them is to make the officers responsible for
what occurs, as might be done, for instance, by punishing a general
capitally for storming a city with forces so badly disciplined as
to nullify the advantages of success. An English military writer,
speaking of the storming of Ismail and Praga by the Russians under
Suwarrow, says truly that ‘posterity will hold the fame and honour of
the commander responsible for the life of every human being sacrificed
by disciplined armies beyond the fair verge of battle;’ but it is idle
to speak as if only Russian armies were guilty of such excesses, or
to say that nothing but the prospect of them could tempt the Russian
soldier to mount the breach or the scaling-ladder. The Russian soldier
in history yields not one whit to the English or French in bravery, nor
is there a grain of difference between the Russian storming of Ismail
and Praga and the English storming of Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, or San
Sebastian, that tarnished the lustre of the British arms in the famous
Peninsular war.

And should we be tempted to think that successes like these associated
with the names of these places may be so important in war as to
outweigh all other considerations, we must also not forget that the
permanent military character of nations, for humanity or the reverse,
counts for more in the long run of a people’s history than any
advantage that can possibly be gained in a single campaign.

Enough has, perhaps, been said of the unpopularity of military service,
and of the obvious causes thereof, to make it credible that, had the
system of conscription never been resorted to in Europe, and the
principle of voluntary enlistment remained intact and universal, the
difficulty of procuring the human fighting material in sufficient
quantities would in course of time have rendered warfare impossible. As
other industries than mere fighting have won their way in the world,
the difficulty of hiring recruits to sell their lives to their country
has kept even pace with the facility of obtaining livelihoods in more
regular and more lucrative as well as less miserable avocations. In the
fourteenth century soldiers were very highly paid compared with other
classes, and the humblest private received a daily wage equivalent to
that of a skilled mechanic;[302] but the historical process has so
far reversed matters that now the pay of the humblest mechanic would
compare favourably with that of all the fighting grades lower than
the commissioned and warrant ranks. Consequently, every attempt to
make the service popular has as yet been futile, no amelioration of
it enabling it to compete with pacific occupations. The private’s pay
was raised from sixpence to a shilling during the wars of the French
Revolution;[303] and before that it was found necessary, about the
time of the war with the American colonies, to bribe men to enlist
by the system (since abolished) of giving bounties at the time of
enlistment. Previous to the introduction of the bounty system, a guinea
to provide the recruit with necessaries and a crown wherewith to drink
the king’s health was all that was given upon enlistment, the service
itself (with the chances of loot and the allied pleasures) having been
bounty enough.[304] Even the system of bounties proved attractive only
to boys; for as the English statesman said, whose name is honourably
associated with the first change in our system from enlistment for
life to enlistment for a limited period, ‘men grown up with all the
grossness and ignorance and consequent want of consideration incident
to the lower classes’ were too wary to accept the offers of the
recruiting department.[305]

The shortening of the term of service in 1806 and subsequently
the increase of pay, the mitigation of punishments, must all be
understood as attempts to render the military life more attractive
and more capable of competing with other trades; but that they have
all signally failed is proved by the chronic and ever-increasing
difficulty of decoying recruits. The little pamphlet, published by
authority and distributed gratis at every post-office in the kingdom,
showing forth ‘the Advantages of the Army’ in their rosiest colours,
cannot counteract the influence of the oral evidence of men, who,
after a short period of service, are dispersed to all corners of the
country, with their tales of military misery to tell, confirming and
propagating that popular theory of a soldier’s life which sees in it a
sort of earthly purgatory for faults of character acquired in youth, a
calling only to be adopted by those whose antecedents render industry
distasteful to them, and unfit them for more useful pursuits.

The same difficulty of recruiting was felt in France and Germany in the
last century, when voluntary enlistment was still the rule. In that
curious old military book, Fleming’s ‘Volkommene Teutsche Soldat,’ is a
picture of the recruiting officer, followed by trumpeters and drummers,
parading the streets, and shaking a hat full of silver coins near a
table spread with the additional temptations of wine and beer.[306] But
it soon became necessary to supplement this system by coercive methods;
and when the habitual neglect of the wounded and the great number of
needless wars made it difficult or impossible to fill up the ranks with
fresh recruits, the German authorities resorted to a regular system of
kidnapping, taking men as they could get them from their ploughs, their
churches, or even from their very beds.

In France, too, Louis XIV. had to resort to force for filling his ranks
in the war of the Spanish Succession; although the system of recruiting
remained nominally voluntary till very much later. The total cost of
a French recruit amounted to ninety-two livres; but the length of his
service, though it was changed from time to time from periods varying
from three to eight years, never exceeded the latter limit, nor came to
be for life as it did practically in England.

The experience of other countries proves, therefore, that England
will sooner or later adopt the principle of conscription or cease to
waste blood and money in Continental quarrels. The conscription will
be for her the only possible way of obtaining an army at all, or one
at all commensurate with those of her possible European rivals. We
should not forget that in 1878, when we were on the verge of a war with
Russia (and we live always on the verge of a war with Russia), our
best military experts met and agreed that only by means of compulsory
service could we hope to cope with our enemy with any chance of
success. And the conscription, whether under a free government or
not, means a tyranny compared to which the tyrannies of the Tudors
or Stuarts were as a yoke of silk to a yoke of iron. It would matter
little that it should lead to or involve a political despotism, for
the greater despotism would ever be the military one, crushing out
all individuality, moral liberty, and independence, and consigning to
the soul-destroying routine of petty military details all the talent,
taste, knowledge, and wealth of our country, which have hitherto given
it a distinctive character in history, and a foremost place among the
nations of the earth.

In the year 1702 a woman served as a captain in the French army with
such signal bravery that she was rewarded with the Order of St. Louis.
Nor was this the only result; for the episode roused a serious debate
in the world, whether, or not, military service might be expected of,
or exacted from, the female sex generally.[307] Why, then, should the
conscription be confined to one half only of a population, in the face
of so many historical instances of women who have shown pre-eminent,
or at least average, military capacity? And if military service is so
ennobling and excellent a thing, as it is said to be, for the male
population of a country, why not also for the female? Or as we may be
sure that it would be to the last degree debasing for the latter half
of the community, may we not suspect that the reasoning is altogether
sophistical which claims other effects as the consequence of its
operation on the stronger sex?

What those effects are likely to be on the further development of
European civilisation, we are as yet scarcely in a position to judge.
We are still living only on the threshold of the change, and can
hardly estimate the ultimate effect on human life of the transference
to the whole male population of a country of the habits and vices
previously confined to only a section of it. But this at least is
certain, that at present every prediction which ushered in the change
is being falsified from year to year. This universal service which
we call the conscription was, we were told, to usher in a sort of
millennium; it was to have the effect of humanising warfare; of
raising the moral tone of armies; and of securing peace, by making
the prospect of its alternative too appalling to mankind. Not only
has it done none of these things, but there are even indications of
consequences the very reverse. The amenities that cast occasional
gleams over the professional hostilities of the eighteenth century, as
when, for instance, Crillon besieging Gibraltar sent a cart-load of
carrots to the English governor, whose men were dying of scurvy, have
passed altogether out of the pale of possibility, and given place to
a hatred between the combatant forces that is tempered by no courtesy
nor restrained by the shadow of humanity. Whole nations, instead of
a particular class, have been familiarised with deeds of robbery and
bloodshed, and parted with a large part of their leisure once available
for progress in industry. War itself is at any given moment infinitely
more probable than it used to be, from the constant expectation of it
which comes of constant preparation; nothing having been proved falser
by history than the popular paradox which has descended to us from
Vegetius that the preparation for war is the high road to peace.[308]
When, one may ask, has the world not been prepared for war, and how
then has it had so much of it? And as to the higher moral tone likely
to spring from universal militarism, of what kind may we expect it to
be, when we read in a work by the greatest living English general,
destined, Carlyle hoped, one day to make short work of Parliament, such
an exposition as the following of the relation between the moral duties
of a soldier and those of a civilian: ‘He (the soldier) must be taught
to believe that his duties are the noblest which fall to a man’s lot.
He must be taught to despise all those of civil life. Soldiers, like
missionaries, must be fanatics.’[309]

Erasmus once observed in a letter to a friend how little it mattered
to most men to what nationality they belonged, seeing that it was only
a question of paying taxes to Thomas instead of to John, or to John
instead of to Thomas; but it becomes a matter of even less importance
when it is only a question of being trained for murder and bloodshed in
the drill-yards of this or that government. What is it to a conscript
whether it is for France or Germany that he is forced to undergo drill
and discipline, when the insipidity of the drill and the tyranny of the
discipline is the same in either case? If the old definition of a man
as a reasoning animal is to be exchanged for that of a fighting animal,
and the claims of a country upon a man are to be solely or mainly in
respect of his fighting utility, it is evident that the relation is
altered between the individual and his country, and that there is no
longer any tie of affection between them, nor anything to make one
nationality different from or preferable to another. This is clearly
the tendency of the conscription; and it is already remarkable how it
has lessened those earlier and narrower views of patriotism which were
the pretext formerly for so many trials of strength between nations.
What, then, are the probable ultimate effects of this innovation on the
development and maintenance of the peace in Europe?

The conscription, by reducing the idea of a country to that merely of
a military despotism, has naturally caused the differences between
nations to sink into a secondary place, and to be superseded by those
differences of class, opinions, and interests which are altogether
independent of nationality, and regardless of the barriers of language
or geography. Thus the artisan of one country has learnt to regard
his fellow-worker of another country as in a much truer sense his
countryman than the priest or noble who, because he lives in the same
geographical area as himself, pays his taxes to the same central
government; and the different political schools in the several
countries of Europe have far more in common with one another than with
the opposite party of their own nationality. So that the first effect
of that great military engine, the conscription, has been to unloosen
the bonds of the idea of nationality which has so long usurped the
title to patriotism; to free us from that notion of our duty towards
our neighbour which bids us hate him because he is our neighbour; and
to diminish to that extent the chances of war by the undermining of the
prejudice which has ever been its mainstay.

But the conscription in laying one spectre has raised another; for over
against Nationalism, the jealousy of nations, it has reared Socialism,
the jealousy of classes. It has done so, not only by weakening the old
national idea which kept the rivalry of classes in abeyance, but by
the pauperism, misery, and discontent which are necessarily involved
in the addition it causes to military expenditure. The increase caused
by it is so enormous as to be almost incredible. In France the annual
military expenditure is now about twenty-five million pounds, whereas
in 1869, before the new law of universal liability to service, the
total annual cost of the army was little over fifteen millions, or the
average annual cost of the present army of Great Britain. ‘Nothing,’
said Froissart, ‘drains a treasury like men-at-arms;’ and it is
probably below the truth to say that a country is the poorer by a
pound for every shilling it expends upon its army. Thus by the nature
of things is Socialism seen to flow from the conscription; and we have
only to look at the recent history of Europe to see how the former has
grown and spread in exact ratio to the extension of the latter. That it
does not yet prevail so widely in England as in France, or Germany, or
Russia is because as yet we have not that compulsory military service
for which our military advisers are beginning to clamour.

The growth of Socialism in its turn is not without an effect that
may prove highly beneficial as a solvent of the militarism which is
the uncompensated evil of modern times. For it tends to compel the
governments of our different nationalities to draw closer together,
and, adopting some of the cosmopolitanism of their common foe, to enter
into league and union against those enemies to actual institutions for
whom militarism itself is primarily responsible, owing to the example
so long set by it in methods of lawlessness, to the sanction so long
given by it to crime. With Socialistic theories permeating every
country, but more especially those that groan under the conscription,
international jealousies are smothered and kept down, and must, if the
cause continues, ultimately die out. Hence the curious result, but
a result fraught with hopefulness for the future, that the peace of
the world should owe itself now, in an indirect but clearly traceable
manner, to the military system which of all others that was ever
invented is the best calculated to prevent and endanger it. But since
this is merely to say that the danger of foreign war is lessened by
the imminent fear of civil war, little is gained by the exchange of
one peril for another. Socialism can only be averted by removing the
cause which gives birth to it--namely, that unproductive expenditure on
military forces which intensifies and perpetuates pauperism. So that
the problem of the times for us in England is not how we may obtain
a more liberal military expenditure, still less how we may compass
compulsory service; but rather how most speedily we can disband our
army--an ever-growing danger to our peace and liberty--and how we can
advance elsewhere the cause of universal disarmament.



    _‘I confess when I went into arms at the beginning of this war,
    I never troubled myself to examine sides; I was glad to hear the
    drums beat for soldiers, as if I had been a mere Swiss, that had
    not cared which side went up or down, so I had my pay.’_--MEMOIRS

    The old feeling of the moral stain of bloodshed--Military
    purificatory customs--Modern change of feeling about
    warfare--Descartes on the profession of arms--The old-world
    sentiment in favour of piracy--The central question of military
    ethics--May a soldier be indifferent to the cause of war?--The
    right to serve made conditional on a good cause, by St. Augustine,
    Bullinger, Grotius, and Sir James Turner--Old Greek feeling about
    mercenary service--Origin of our mercenary as opposed to gratuitous
    service--Armies raised by military contractors--The value of the
    distinction between foreign and native mercenaries--Original
    limitation of military duty to the actual defence of the
    realm--Extension of the notion of allegiance--The connection of the
    military oath with the first Mutiny Act--Recognised limits to the
    claims on a soldier’s obedience--The falsity of the common doctrine
    of duty illustrated by the devastation of the Palatinate by the
    French and by the bombardment of Copenhagen by the English--The
    example of Admiral Keppel--Justice between nations--Its observation
    in ancient India and Rome--St. Augustine and Bayard on justice
    in war--Grotius on good grounds of war--The military claim to
    exemption from moral responsibility--The soldier’s first duty to
    his conscience--The admission of this principle involves the end of

It must needs be that new questions arise, or old perplexities in
a fresh form; and of these one that has risen again in our time is
this: Does any moral stain attach to bloodshed committed upon the
battle-field? Or is the difference between military and ordinary
homicide a real one, and does the plea of duty sanction any act,
however atrocious in the abstract, provided it be committed under the
uniform of the State?

The general opinion is, of course, that no soldier in his military
capacity can be guilty of crime; but opinion has not always been so
fixed, and it is worth noticing that in the forms of civilisation that
preceded our own, and in some existing modern races of lower type
than our own, traces clearly appear of a sense of wrong attaching to
any form of bloodshed whatever, whether of fair battle or of base
treachery, calling alike for the purifying influences of expiation and
cleansing. In South Africa, for instance, the Basuto returning from
war proceeds with all his arms to the nearest stream, to purify not
only his own person but his javelins and his battle-axe. The Zulu, too,
practises ablutions on the same occasion; and the Bechuana warrior
wears a rude kind of necklace, to remind him of the expiation due from
him to the slain, and to disperse the dreams that might otherwise
trouble him, and perhaps even drive him to die of remorse.[310]

The same feelings may be detected in the old world. The Macedonians
had a peculiar form of sacrificatory purification, which consisted
in cutting a dog in half and leading the whole army, arrayed in full
armour, between the two parts.[311] As the Bœotians had the same
custom, it was probably for the same reason. At Rome, for the same
purpose, a sheep, and a bull, and a pig or boar, were every year led
three times round the army and then sacrificed to Mars. In Jewish
history the prohibition to King David to build the temple was expressly
connected with the blood he had shed in battle. In old Greek mythology
Theseus held himself unfit, without expiation, to be admitted to the
mysteries of Ceres, though the blood that stained his hands was only
that of thieves and robbers. And in the same spirit Hector refused to
make a libation to the gods before he had purified his hands after
battle. ‘With unwashen hands,’ he said, ‘to pour out sparkling wine
to Zeus I dare not, nor is it ever the custom for one soiled with the
blood and dust of battle to offer prayers to the god whose seat is in
the clouds.’[312]

For the cause of this feeling we may perhaps choose between an almost
instinctive reluctance to take human life, and some such superstition
as explains the necessity for purification among the Basutos,--the
idea, namely, of escaping the revenge of the slain by the medium of
water.[313] The latter explanation would be in keeping with the not
uncommon notion in savage life of the inability of a spirit to cross
running water, and would help to account for the necessity there was
for a Hebrew to flee, or for a Greek to make some expiation, even
though only guilty of an act of unintentional homicide. And in this way
it is possible that the sanctity of human life, which is one of the
chief marks, and should be one of the chief objects, of civilisation,
originated in the very same fear of a post-mortem vengeance, which
leads some savage tribes to entreat pardon of the bear or elephant
they have slain after a successful chase.

But, account as we like for the origin of the feeling, its undoubted
existence is the point of interest, for it is easy to see that under
slightly more favourable conditions of history it might have ripened
into a state of thought which would have held the soldier and the
manslayer in equal abhorrence. Christianity in its primitive form
certainly aimed at and very nearly effected the transition. In the
Greek Church a Christian soldier was debarred from the Eucharist for
three years if he had slain an enemy in battle; and the Christian
Church of the first three centuries would have echoed the sentiment
expressed by St. Cyprian in his letter to Donatus: ‘Homicide when
committed by an individual is a crime, but a virtue when committed in
a public war; yet in the latter case it derives its impunity, not from
its abstract harmlessness, but solely from the scale of its enormity.’

The education of centuries has long since effaced the earlier scruple;
but there are tens of thousands of Englishmen to whom the military
profession is the last they would voluntarily adopt, and it would be
rash to predict the impossibility of the revival of the older feeling,
or the dimensions it may ultimately assume. The greatest poet of our
time, who more than any other living man has helped to lead European
opinion into new channels, may, perhaps, in the following lines have
anticipated the verdict of the coming time, and divined an undercurrent
of thought that is beginning to flow even now amongst us with no
inconsiderable force of feeling:--

    La phrase, cette altière et vile courtisane,
    Dore le meurtre en grand, fourbit la pertuisane,
    Protège les soudards contre le sens commun,
    Persuade les niais que tous sont faits pour un,
    Prouve que la tuerie est glorieuse et bonne,
    Déroute la logique et l’évidence, et donne
    Un sauf-conduit au crime à travers la raison.[314]

The destruction of the romance of war by the greater publicity given to
its details through the medium of the press clearly tends to strengthen
this feeling, by tempering popular admiration for military success
with a cooling admixture of horror and disgust. Take, for instance,
the following description of the storming of the Egyptian trenches at
Tel-el-Kebir, by an eye-witness of it:--‘In the redoubts into which
our men were swarming the Egyptians, throwing away their arms, were
found cowering, terror-stricken, in the corners of the works, to hide
themselves from our men. Although they had made such a contemptible
exhibition, from a soldierly point of view, it was impossible to help
pitying the poor wretches as they huddled together; _it seemed so much
like rats in a pit when the terrier has set to work_.’ And some 2,500
of them were afterwards buried on the spot, most of them killed by
bayonet wounds in the back.

This is an instance of the _tuerie_ that Victor Hugo speaks of, which
we all call glorious when we meet in the streets, reserving, some of
us, another opinion for the secret chamber. Still, when it comes to
comparing the work of a victory to that of a terrier in a rat-pit, it
must be admitted that the realism of war threatens to become more
repellent than its romance was once attractive, and to deter men more
and more from the choice of a profession of which similar disgusting
scenes are the common and the probable episodes.

Descartes, the father of modern philosophy and of free thought, who,
from a youthful love for arms and camp-life, which he attributed to a
certain heat of liver, began life in the army, actually gave up his
military career for the reasons which he thus expressed in a letter
to a friend: ‘Although custom and example render the profession of
arms the noblest of all, I, for my own part, who only regard it like a
philosopher, value it at its proper worth, and, indeed, I find it very
difficult to give it a place among the honourable professions, seeing
that idleness and licentiousness are the two principal motives which
now attract most men to it.’[315]

Of course no one in modern times would come to the same conclusions
as Descartes for the same reasons, the discipline of our armies being
somewhat more serious than it was in the first half of the seventeenth
century. Nevertheless, it is impossible to read of the German campaign
in France without hoping, for the good of the world, that the
inevitable association of war with the most revolting forms of crime
therein displayed, may some day produce a general state of sentiment
similar to that anticipated by Descartes.

It may be, said that the example of Descartes proves and indicates
nothing; and we may feel pretty sure that his scruples seemed
extravagantly absurd to his contemporaries, if he suffered them to
know them. Nevertheless, he might have appealed to several well-known
historical facts as a reason against too hasty a condemnation of his
apparent super-sensitiveness. He might have argued that the profession
of a pirate once reflected no more moral discredit than that of a
soldier did in his days; that the pirate’s reply to Alexander, that he
infested the seas by the same right wherewith the conqueror devastated
the land, conveyed a moral sentiment once generally accepted, nor even
then quite extinct; that in the days of Homer it was as natural to ask
a seafarer whether he were a freebooter as whether he were a merchant;
that so late in Greek history as the time of Thucydides, several tribes
on the mainland of Greece still gloried in piracy, and accounted their
plunder honourably won; and that at Rome the Cilician pirates, whom
it devolved on Pompey to disperse, were joined by persons of wealth,
birth, and education, ‘as if,’ says Plutarch, ‘their employment were
worthy of the ambition of men of honour.’

Remembering, therefore, these things, and the fact that not so very
many centuries ago public opinion was so lenient to the practice of
bishops and ecclesiastics taking an active part in warfare that they
commonly did so in spite of canons and councils to the contrary, it is
a fair subject for speculation whether the moral opinion of the future
may not come to coincide with the feeling of Descartes, and it behoves
us to keep our minds alive to possibilities of change in this matter,
already it would seem in process of formation. Who will venture to
predict what may be the effect of the rise of the general level of
education, and of the higher moral life of our time, on the popular
judgment of even fifty years hence regarding a voluntarily adopted
military life?

We may, perhaps, attribute it to the extreme position taken up with
regard to military service by the Quakers and Mennonites that the
example of Descartes had so slight a following. That thick phalanx of
our kind who fondly mistake their own mental timidity for moderation,
perpetually make use of the doctrines of extremists as an excuse for
tolerating or even defending what in the abstract they admit to be
evil; and it was unfortunately with this moderate party that Grotius
elected to throw in his lot. No one admitted more strongly the evils
of war. The reason he himself gave for writing his ‘De Jure Pacis et
Belli’ was the licence he saw prevailing throughout Christendom in
resorting to hostilities; recourse had to arms for slight motives
or for none; and when war was once begun an utter rejection of all
reverence for divine or human law, just as if the unrestrained
commission of every crime became thenceforth legitimate. Yet, instead
of throwing the weight of his judgment into the scale of opinion which
opposed the custom altogether (though he did advocate an international
tribunal that should decide differences and compel obedience to its
decisions), he only tried to shackle it with rules of decency that are
absolutely foreign to it, with the result, after all, that he did very
little to humanise wars, and nothing to make them less frequent.

Nevertheless, though Grotius admitted the abstract lawfulness of
military service, he made it conditional on a thorough conviction
of the righteousness of the cause at issue. This is the great and
permanent merit of his work, and it is here that we touch on the pivot
or central question of military ethics. The orthodox theory is, that
with the cause of war a soldier has no concern, and that since the
matter in contention is always too complicated for him to judge of
its merits, his only duty is to blindfold his reason and conscience,
and rush whithersoever his services are commanded. Perhaps the best
exposition of this simple military philosophy is that given by
Shakespeare in his scene of the eve of Agincourt, where Henry V., in
disguise, converses with some soldiers of the English army. ‘Methinks,’
says the king, ‘I could not die anywhere so contented as in the king’s
company, his cause being just and his quarrel honourable.’

_William._ ‘That’s more than we know.’

_Bates._ ‘Ay, or more than we should seek after, for we know enough
if we know we are the king’s subjects. If his cause be wrong, our
obedience to the king wipes the crime of it out of us.’

Yet the whisper of our own day is, Does it? For a soldier, nowadays,
enjoys equally with the civilian, who by his vote contributes to
prevent or promote hostilities, the greater facilities afforded by
the spread of knowledge for the exercise of his judgment; and it is
to subject him to undeserved ignominy to debar him from the free use
of his intellect, as if he were a minor or an imbecile, incompetent
to think for himself. Putting even the difficulty of decision at its
worst, it can never be greater for the soldier than it is for the
voter; and if the former is incompetent to form an opinion, whence does
the peasant or mechanic derive his ability? Moreover, the existence
of a just and good cause has always been the condition insisted on as
alone capable of sanctioning military service by writers of every shade
of thought--by St. Augustine as representing the early Catholic Church,
by Bullinger or Becon as representatives of the early Reformed Church,
and by Grotius as representative of the modern school of publicists.
Grotius contends that no citizen or subject ought to take part in an
unjust war, even if he be commanded to do so. He openly maintains
that disobedience to orders is in such a case a lesser evil than the
guilt of homicide that would be incurred by fighting. He inclines to
the opinion that, where the cause of war seems doubtful, a man would
do better to refrain from service, and to leave the king to employ
those whose readiness to fight might be less hampered by questions of
right and wrong, and of whom there would always be a plentiful supply.
Without these reservations he regards the soldier’s task as so much the
more detestable than the executioner’s, as manslaughter without a cause
is more heinous than manslaughter with one,[316] and thinks no kind of
life more wicked than that of men who, without regard for the cause of
war, fight for hire, and to whom the question of right is equivalent to
the question of the highest wage.[317]

These are strong opinions and expressions, and as their general
acceptance would logically render war impossible, it is no small gain
to have in their favour so great an authority as Grotius. But it is
an even greater gain to be able to quote on the same side an actual
soldier. Sir James Turner at the end of his military treatise called
‘Pallas Armata,’ published in 1683, came to conclusions which, though
adverse to Grotius, contain some remarkable admissions and show the
difference that two centuries have made on military maxims with regard
to this subject. ‘It is no sin for a mere soldier,’ he says, ‘to serve
for wages, unless his conscience tells him he fights in an unjust
cause.’ Again, ‘That soldier who serves or fights for any prince or
State for wages in a cause he knows to be unjust, sins damnably.’ He
even argues that soldiers whose original service began for a just
cause, and who are constrained by their military oaths to continue
in service for a new and unjust cause of war, ought to ‘desert their
employment and suffer anything that could be done to them before they
draw their swords against their own conscience and judgments in an
unjust quarrel.’[318]

These moral sentiments of a military man of the seventeenth century
are absolutely alien to the military doctrines of the present day;
and his remarks on wages recall yet another important landmark of
ancient thought that has been removed by the progress of time. Early
Greek opinion justly made no distinction between the mercenary who
served a foreign country and the mercenary who served his own. All
hired military service was regarded as disgraceful, nor would anyone
of good birth have dreamt of serving his own country save at his own
expense. The Carians rendered their names infamous as the first of the
Greek race who served for pay; whilst at Athens Pericles introduced the
custom of supporting the poorer defenders of their country out of the
exchequer.[319] Afterwards, of course, no people ever committed itself
more eagerly to the pursuit of mercenary warfare.

In England also gratuitous military service was originally the
condition of the feudal tenure of land, nor was anyone bound to serve
the king for more than a certain number of days in the year, forty
being generally the longest term. For all service in excess of the
legal limit the king was obliged to pay; and in this way, and by
the scutage tax, by which many tenants bought themselves off from
their strict obligations, the principle of a paid military force was
recognised from the time of the Conquest. But the chief stipendiary
forces appear to have been foreign mercenaries, supported, not out
of the commutation tax, but out of the king’s privy purse, and still
more out of the loot won from their victims in war. These were those
soldiers of fortune, chiefly from Flanders, Brabançons, or Routers,
whose excesses as brigands led to their excommunication by the Third
Lateran Council (1179), and to their destruction by a crusade three
years later.[320]

But the germ of our modern recruiting system must rather be looked for
in those military contracts or indentures, by which from about the time
of Edward III. it became customary to raise our forces: some powerful
subject contracting with the king, in consideration of a certain sum,
to provide soldiers for a certain time and task. Thus in 1382 the
war-loving Bishop of Norwich contracted with Richard II. to provide
2,500 men-at-arms and 2,500 archers for a year’s service in France, in
consideration of the whole fifteenth that had been voted by Parliament
for the war.[321] In the same way several bishops indented to raise
soldiers for Henry V. And thus a foreign war became a mere matter
of business and hire, and armies to fight the French were raised by
speculative contractors, very much as men are raised nowadays to make
railways or take part in other works needful for the public at large.
The engagement was purely pecuniary and commercial, and was entirely
divested of any connection with conscience or patriotism. On the other
hand, the most obviously just cause of war, that of national defence in
case of invasion, continued to be altogether disconnected with pay, and
remained so much the duty of the militia or capable male population of
the country, that both Edward III. and Richard II. directed writs even
to archbishops and bishops to arm and array all abbots, priors, and
monks, between the ages of sixteen and sixty, for the defence of the

Originally, therefore, the paid army of England, as opposed to the
militia, implied the introduction of a strictly mercenary force
consisting indifferently of natives or foreigners, into our military
system. But clearly there was no moral difference between the two
classes of mercenaries so engaged. The hire, and not the cause, being
the main consideration of both, the Englishman and the Brabançon were
equally mercenaries in the ordinary acceptation of the term. The
prejudice against mercenaries either goes too far or not far enough.
If a Swiss or an Italian hiring himself to fight for a cause about
which he was ignorant or indifferent was a mercenary soldier, so was
an Englishman who with equal ignorance and indifference accepted the
wages offered him by a military contractor of his own nation. Either
the conduct of the Swiss was blameless, or the Englishman’s moral
delinquency was the same as his.

The public opinion of former times regarded both, of course, as equally
blameless, or rather as equally meritorious. And it is worth noticing
that the word _mercenary_ was applied alike to the hired military
servant of his own as of another country. Shakespeare, for instance,
applies the term mercenary to the 1,600 Frenchmen of low degree slain
at Agincourt, whom Monstrelet distinguishes from the 10,000 Frenchmen
of position who lost their lives on that memorable day--

          In this ten thousand they have lost,
    There are but sixteen hundred mercenaries.

And even so late as 1756, the original signification of the word had so
little changed, that in the great debate in the House of Lords on the
Militia Bill of that year Lord Temple and several other orators spoke
of the national standing army as an army of _mercenaries_, without
making any distinction between the Englishmen and the Hessians who
served in it.[323]

The moral distinction that now prevails between the paid service of
natives and of foreigners is, therefore, of comparatively recent
origin. It was one of the features of the Reformation in Switzerland
that its leaders insisted for the first time on a moral difference
between Swiss soldiers who served their own country for pay, and those
who with equal bravery and credit sold their strength to the service of
the highest foreign bidder.

Zwingli, and after him his disciple Bullinger, effected a change in the
moral sentiment of Switzerland equivalent to that which a man would
effect nowadays who should persuade men to discountenance or abandon
military service of any kind for pay. One of the great obstacles to
Zwingli’s success was his decided protest against the right of any
Swiss to sell himself to foreign governments for the commission of
bloodshed, regardless of any injury in justification; and it was
mainly on that account that Bullinger succeeded in 1549 in preventing
a renewal of the alliance or military contract between the cantons
and Henry II. of France. ‘When a private individual,’ he said, ‘is
free to enrol himself or not, and engages himself to fight against the
friends and allies of his sovereign, I know not whether he does not
hire himself to commit homicide, and whether he does not act like the
gladiators, who, to amuse the Roman people, let themselves to the first
comer to kill one another.’

But it is evident that, except with a reservation limiting a man’s
service to a just national cause, Bullinger’s argument will also apply
to the case of a hired soldier of his own country. The duty of every
man to defend his country in case of invasion is intelligible enough;
and it is very important to notice that originally in no country did
the duty of military obedience mean more. In 1297 the High Constable
and Marshal of England refused to muster the forces to serve Edward I.
in Flanders, on the plea that neither they nor their ancestors were
obliged to serve the king outside his dominions;[324] and Sir E. Coke’s
ruling in Calvin’s case,[325] that Englishmen are bound to attend the
king in his wars as well without as within the realm, and that their
allegiance is not local but indefinite, was not accepted by writers
on the constitution of the country. The existing militia oath, which
strictly limits obedience to the defence of the realm, covered the
whole military duty of our ancestors; and it was only the innovation of
the military contract that prepared the way for our modern idea of the
soldier’s duty as unqualified and unlimited with regard to cause and
place and time. The very word _soldier_ meant originally stipendiary,
his pay or _solde_ (from the Latin _solidum_) coming to constitute
his chief characteristic. From a servant hired for a certain task
for a certain time the steps were easy to a servant whose hire bound
him to any task and for the whole of his life. The existing military
oath, which binds a recruit and practically compels him as much to a
war of aggression as of defence at the bidding of the executive, owes
its origin to the revolution of 1689, when the refusal of Dumbarton’s
famous Scotch regiment to serve their new master, William III., in the
defence of Holland against France, rendered it advisable to pass the
Mutiny Act, containing a more stringent definition of military duty by
an oath couched in extremely general terms. Such has been the effect
of time in confirming this newer doctrine of the contract implied by
the military status, that the defence of the monarch ‘in person, crown,
and dignity against all enemies,’ to which the modern recruit pledges
himself at his attestation, would be held to bind the soldier not to
withhold his services were he called upon to exercise them in the
planet Mars itself.

Hence it appears to be an indisputable fact of history that the
modern military theory of Europe, which demands complete spiritual
self-abandonment and unqualified obedience on the part of a soldier,
is a distinct trespass outside the bounds of the original and, so
to speak, constitutional idea of military duty; and that in our own
country it is as much an encroachment on the rights of Englishmen as it
is on the wider rights of man.

But what is the value of the theory itself, even if we take no account
of the history of its growth? If military service precludes a man from
discussing the justice of the end pursued in a war, it can hardly be
disputed that it equally precludes him from inquiries about the means,
and that if he is bound to consider himself as fighting in any case
for a lawful cause he has no right to bring his moral sense to bear
upon the details of the service required of him. But here occurs a
loophole, a flaw, in the argument; for no subject nor soldier can be
compelled to serve as a spy, however needful such service may be. That
proves that a limit does exist to the claims on a soldier’s obedience.
And Vattel mentions as a common occurrence the refusal of troops to
act when the cruelty of the deeds commanded of them exposed them to
the danger of savage reprisals. ‘Officers,’ he says, ‘who had the
highest sense of honour, though ready to shed their blood in a field
of battle for their prince’s service, have not thought it any part of
their duty to run the hazard of an ignominious death,’ such as was
involved in the execution of such behests. Yet why not, if their prince
or general commanded them? By what principle of morality or common
sense were they justified in declining a particular service as too
iniquitous for them and yet in holding themselves bound to the larger
iniquity of an aggressive war? What right has a machine to choose or
decide between good and bad any more than between just and unjust? Its
moral incompetence must be thoroughgoing, or else in no case afford an
extenuating plea. You must either grant it everything or nothing, or
else offer a rational explanation for your rule of distinction. For it
clearly needs explaining, why, if there are orders which a soldier is
not bound to obey, if there are cases where he is competent to discuss
the moral nature of the services required of him, it should not also
be open to him to discuss the justice of the war itself of which those
services are merely incidents.

Let us turn from the abstract to the concrete, and take two instances
as a test of the principle. In 1689, Marshal Duras, commander of the
French army of the Rhine, received orders to destroy the Palatinate,
and make a desert between France and Germany, though neither the
Elector nor his people had done the least injury to France. Did a
single soldier, did a single officer quail or hesitate? Voltaire tells
us that many officers felt shame in acting as the instrument of this
iniquity of Louis XIV., but they acted nevertheless in accordance with
their supposed honour, and with the still orthodox theory of military
duty. They stopped short at no atrocity. They cut down the fruit-trees,
they tore down the vines, they burnt the granaries; they set fire to
villages, to country-houses, to castles; they desecrated the tombs of
the ancient German emperors at Spiers; they plundered the churches;
they reduced well-nigh to ashes Oppenheim, Spiers, Worms, Mannheim,
Heidelberg, and other flourishing cities; they reduced 400,000 human
beings to homelessness and destruction--and all in the name of military
duty and military honour! Yet, of a truth, those were dastardly deeds
if ever dastardly deeds have been done beneath the sun; and it is the
sheerest sophistry to maintain that the men who so implicitly carried
out their orders would not have done more for their miserable honour,
would not have had a higher conception of duty, had they followed the
dictates of their reason and conscience rather than those of their
military superiors, and refused to sacrifice their humanity to an
overstrained theory of their military obligation, and their memory to
everlasting execration.

In the case of these destroyers military duty meant simply military
servility, and it was this reckless servility that led Voltaire in his
‘Candide’ to put into the mouth of his inimitable philosopher, Martin,
that definition of an army which tales like the foregoing suggested and
justified: ‘A million of assassins, in regiments, traversing Europe
from end to end, and committing murder and brigandage by rules of
discipline for the sake of bread, because incompetent to exercise any
more honest calling.’[326]

An English case of this century may be taken as a parallel one to the
French of the seventeenth, and as an additional test of the orthodox
military dogma that with the cause of war a soldier has no concern.
It is the Copenhagen expedition of 1807, than which no act of might
within this century was more strongly reprobated by the public opinion
of Europe, and by all but the Tory opinion of England. A fleet and
army having been sent to the Danish capital, and the Danish Government
having refused to surrender their fleet, which was demanded as the
alternative of bombardment, the English military officials proceeded
to bombard the city, with infinite destruction and slaughter, which
were only stayed at last by the surrender of the fleet as originally
demanded. There was no quarrel with Denmark at the time, there was no
complaint of injury; only the surrender of the fleet was demanded.
English public opinion was both excited and divided about the morality
of this act, which was only justified on the plea that the Government
was in possession of a secret article of the Treaty of Tilsit between
Napoleon and the Czar of Russia, by which the Danish fleet was to be
made use of in an attack upon England. But this secret article was
not divulged, according to Alison, till ten years afterwards,[327]
and many disbelieved in its existence altogether, even supposing that
its existence would have been a good case for war. Many military men
therefore shared in the feeling that condemned the act, yet they
scrupled not to contribute their aid to it. Were they right? Read Sir
C. Napier’s opinion of it at the time, and then say where, in the
case of a man so thinking, would have lain his duty: ‘This Copenhagen
expedition--is it an unjust action for the general good? Who can say
that such a precedent is pardonable? When once the line of justice has
been passed, there is no shame left. England has been unjust.... Was
not our high honour worth the danger we might perhaps have risked in
maintaining that honour inviolate?’[328]

These opinions, whether right or wrong, were shared by many men in
both services. Sir C. Napier himself says: ‘Were there not plenty of
soldiers who thought these things wrong? ... but would it have been
possible to allow the army and navy ... to decide upon the propriety of
such attacks?’[329] The answer is, that if they did, whether allowed or
not, such things would be impossible, or, at all events, less probable:
which is the best reason possible for the contention that they should.
Had they done so in this very instance, our historians would have been
spared the explanation of an episode that is a dark blot upon our

A more pleasing precedent, therefore, than that of the French officers
in the Palatinate, or of the English at Copenhagen, is the case of
Admiral Keppel, who, whilst numbers of naval officers flocked to the
Admiralty to offer their services or to request employment, steadily
declined to take part in the war of England against her American
colonies, because he deemed her cause a bad one.[330] He did no
violence to his reason or conscience nor tarnished his fame by acting a
part, of which in his individual capacity he disapproved. His example
is here held up as illustrating the only true doctrine, and the only
one that at all accords with the most rudimentary principles of either
religion or morality. The contrary doctrine bids a man to forswear the
use of both his reason and his conscience in consideration for his pay,
and deprives him of that liberty of thought and moral action compared
with which his civil and political liberty are nothing worth. For what
indeed is this contrary time-honoured doctrine when stripped of all
superfluities, and displayed in the outfit of common sense and common
words? What is it but that the duty of military obedience overrides
all duty of a man towards himself; that, though he may not voluntarily
destroy his body, he cannot do too much violence to his soul; that it
is his duty to annihilate his moral and intellectual being, to commit
spiritual suicide, to forego the use of the noblest faculties which
belong to him as a man; that to do all this is a just cause of pride
to him, and that he is in all respects the nobler and better for
assimilating himself to that brainless and heartless condition which is
that also of his charger or his rifle?

If this doctrine is true and sound, then it may be asked whether there
has ever been or exists upon the earth any tyranny, ecclesiastical or
political, comparable to this military one; whether any but the baser
forms of priestcraft have ever sought to deprive a man so completely
of the enjoyment of his highest human attributes, or to absolve him so
utterly from all moral responsibility for his actions.

This position can scarcely be disputed, save by denying the reality
of any distinction between just and unjust in international conduct;
and against this denial may be set not only the evidence of every age,
but of every language above the stage of mere barbarism. Disregard of
the difference is one of the best measures of the civilisation of a
people or epoch. We at once, for instance, form a higher estimate of
the civilisation of ancient India, when we read in Arrian that her
kings were so apprehensive of committing an unjust aggression that
they would not lead their armies out of India for the conquest of
other nations.[331] One of the best features in the old pagan world
was the importance attached to the justice of the motives for breaking
the peace. The Romans appear never to have begun a war without a
previous consultation with the College of Fecials as to its justice;
and in the same way, and for the same purpose, the early Christian
emperors consulted the opinion of the bishops. If a Roman general made
an unjust attack upon a people his triumph was refused, or at least
resisted; nor are the instances infrequent in which the senate decreed
restitution where a consul, acting on his own responsibility, had
deprived a population of its arms, its lands, or its liberties.[332]
Hence the Romans, with all their apparent aggressiveness, won the
character of a strict regard to justice, which was no small part of the
secret of their power. ‘You boast,’ the Rhodians said to them, ‘that
your wars are successful because they are just, and plume yourselves
not so much on the victory which concludes them as on the fact that
you never begin them without good cause.’[333] Conquest corrupted the
Romans in these respects as it has done many another people; but even
to the end of the Republic the tradition of justice survived; nor is
there anything finer in the history of that people than the attempt
of the party headed by Ateius the tribune to prevent Crassus leaving
Rome when he was setting out to make war upon the Parthians, who not
only had committed no injury, but were the allies of the Republic; or
than the vote of Cato, that Cæsar, who, in time of peace, had slain or
routed 300,000 Germans, should be given up to the people he had injured
in atonement for the wrong he had done to them.

The idea of the importance of a just cause of war may be traced, of
course, in history, after the extinction of the grand pagan philosophy
in which it had its origin. It was insisted on even by Christian
writers who, like St. Augustine, did not regard all military service
as wicked. What, he asked, were kingdoms but robberies on a vast scale,
if their justice were put out of the reckoning.[334] A French writer
of the time of Charles V. concluded that while soldiers who fell in a
just cause were saved, those who died for an unjust cause perished in
a state of mortal sin.[335] Even the Chevalier Bayard, who accompanied
Charles VIII. without any scruple in his conquest of Naples, was fond
of saying that all empires, kingdoms, and provinces were, if without
the principle of justice, no better than forests full of brigands;[336]
and the fine saying is attributed to him, that the strength of arms
should only be employed for the establishment of right and equity. But
on the whole the justice of the cause of war became of less and less
importance as time went on; nor have our modern Christian societies
ever derived benefit in that respect from the instruction or guidance
of their churches at all equal to that which the society of pagan Rome
derived from the institution of its Fecials, as the guardians of the
national conscience.

It was among the humane endeavours of Grotius to try to remedy this
defect in modern States by establishing certain general principles by
which it might be possible to test the pretext of any given war from
the side of its justice. At first sight it appears obvious that a
definite injury is the only justification for a resort to hostilities,
or, in other words, that only a defensive war is just; but then the
question arises how far defence may be anticipatory, and an injury
feared or probable give the same rights as one actually sustained.
The majority of wars, that have not been merely wars of conquest and
robbery, may be traced to that principle in history, so well expressed
by Livy, that men’s anxiety not to be afraid of others causes them
to become objects of dread themselves.[337] For this reason Grotius
refused to admit as a good _casus belli_ the fact that another nation
was making warlike preparations, building garrisons and fortresses,
or that its power might, if unchecked, grow to be dangerous. He also
rejected the pretext of mere utility as a good ground for war, or such
pleas as the need of better territory, the right of first discovery, or
the improvement or punishment of barbarous nations.

A strict adherence to these principles, vague as they are, would
have prevented most of the bloodshed that has occurred in Europe
since Grotius wrote. The difficulty, however, is, that, as between
nations, the principle of utility easily overshadows that of justice;
and although the two are related as the temporary to the permanent
expediency, and therefore as the lesser to the greater expediency,
the relation between them is seldom obvious at the time of choice,
and it is easy beforehand to demonstrate the expediency of a war of
which time alone can show both the inexpediency and the injustice.
Any war, therefore, however unjust it may seem, when judged by the
canons of Grotius, is easily construed as just when measured by the
light of an imperious and magnified passing interest; and the absence
of any recognised definition or standard of just dealing between
nations affords a salve to many a conscience that in the matters of
private life would be sensitive and scrupulous enough. The story of
King Agesilaus is a mirror in which very few ages or countries may not
see their own history reflected. When Phœbidas, the Spartan general,
seized the Cadmeia of Thebes in the time of peace, the greater part
of Greece and many Spartans condemned it as a most iniquitous act of
war; but Agesilaus, who at other times was wont to talk of justice
as the greatest of all the virtues, and of valour without it as of
little worth, defended his officer’s action, on the plea that it was
necessary to regard the tendency of the action, and to account it even
as glorious if it resulted in an advantage to Sparta.

But when every allowance is made for wars of which the justice is not
clearly defined from the expediency, many wars have occurred of so
palpably unjust a character, that they could not have been possible
but for the existence of the loosest sentiments with regard to the
responsibility of those who took part in them. We read of wars or the
pretexts of wars in history of which we all, whether military men or
civilians, readily recognise the injustice; and by applying the same
principles of judgment to the wars of our own country and time we are
each and all of us furnished for the direction of our conscience
with a standard which, if not absolutely scientific or consistent, is
sufficient for all the practical purposes of life, and is completely
subversive of the excuse which is afforded by occasional instances of
difficult and doubtful decision. The same facilities which exist for
the civilian when he votes for or against taxation for a given war,
or in approval or disapproval of the government which undertakes it,
exist also for the soldier who lends his active aid to it; nor is it
unreasonable to claim for the action of the one the same responsibility
to his own conscience which by general admission attaches to the other.

It is surely something like a degradation to the soldier that he
should not enjoy in this respect the same rights as the civilian; that
his merit alone should be tested by no higher a theory of duty than
that which is applied to the merit of a horse; and that his capacity
for blind and unreasoning obedience should be accounted his highest
attainable virtue. The transition from the idea of military vassalage
to that of military allegiance has surely produced a strange conception
of honour, and one fitter for conscripts than for free men, when a
man is held as by a vice to take part in a course of action which he
believes to be wrong. Not only does no other profession enforce such an
obligation, but in every other walk of life a man’s assertion of his
own personal responsibility is a source rather of credit to him than of
infamy. That in the performance of any social function a man should be
called upon to make an unconditional surrender of his free will, and
yield an obedience as thoughtless as a dummy’s to superior orders,
would seem to be a principle of conduct pilfered from the Society of
Jesus, and utterly unworthy of the nobility of a soldier. As a matter
of history, the priestly organisation took the military one for its
model: which should lead us to suspect that the tyranny we find fault
with in the copy is equally present in the original, and that the
latter is marked by the same vices that it transmitted to the borrowed

The principle here contended for, that the soldier should be fully
satisfied in his own mind of the justice of the cause he fights for, is
the condition that Christian writers, from Augustine to Grotius, have
placed on the lawfulness of military service. The objection to it, that
its adoption would mean the ruin of military discipline, will appear
the greatest argument of all in its favour when we reflect that its
universal adoption would make war itself, which is the only reason for
discipline, altogether impossible. Where would have been the wars of
the last two hundred years had it been in force? Or where the English
wars of the last six, with their thousands of lives and their millions
of money spent for no visible good nor glory in fighting with Afghans,
Zulus, Egyptians, and Arabs? Once restrict legitimate warfare to the
limits of national defence, and it is evident that the refusal of men
to take part in a war of aggression would equally put an end to the
necessity of defensive exertion. If no government could rely on its
subjects for the purposes of aggression and injustice, it goes without
saying that the just cause of war would perish simultaneously. It is
therefore altogether to be wished that that reliance should be weakened
and destroyed.

The reasoning, then, which contains the key that is alone capable of
closing permanently the portals of Janus is this: that there exists a
distinction between a just and an unjust war, between a good and a bad
cause, and that no man has a right either to take part knowingly and
wilfully in a cause he believes to be unjust, nor to commit himself
servilely to a theory of duty which deprives him, at the very outset,
of his inalienable human birthright of free thought and free will. This
is the principle of personal responsibility which has long since won
admission everywhere save in the service of Mars, and which requires
but to be extended there to free the world from the custom that has
longest and most ruinously afflicted it. For it attacks that custom
where it has never yet been seriously attacked before, at its real
source--namely, in the heart, the brain, and the conscience, that,
in spite of all warping and training, still belong to the individual
units who alone make it possible. It behoves all of us, therefore,
who are interested in abolishing military barbarism, not merely to
yield a passive assent to it ourselves, but to claim for it assent and
assertion from others. We must ask and reask the question: What is the
title by which a man, through the mere fact of his military cloth,
claims exemption from the moral law that is universally binding upon
his fellows?

For this principle of individual military responsibility is of such
power, that if carried to its consequences, it must ultimately prove
fatal to militarism; and if it has not yet the prescription of time
and common opinion in its favour, it is sealed nevertheless with the
authority of many of the best intellects that have helped to enlighten
the past, and is indissolubly contained in the teaching alike of our
religious as of our moral code. It can, in fact, only be gainsaid by a
denial of the fundamental maxims of those two guides of our conduct,
and for that reason stands absolutely proof against the assaults
of argument. Try to reconcile with the ordinary conceptions of the
duties of a man or a Christian the duty of doing what his conscience
condemns, and it may be safely predicted that you will try in vain.
The considerations that may occur of utility and expediency beat in
vain against the far greater expediency of a world at peace, freed from
the curse of the warrior’s destructiveness; nor can the whole armoury
of military logic supply a single counter-argument which does not
resolve itself into an argument of supposed expediency, and which may
not therefore be effectually parried, even on this narrower debating
ground, by the consideration of the overwhelming advantages which could
not but flow from the universal acceptance of the contrary and higher
principle--the principle that for a soldier, as for anyone else, his
first duty is to his conscience.

Or, to put the conclusion in the fewest words: The soldier claims to
be a non-moral agent. That is the corner-stone of the whole military
system. Challenge then the claimant to justify his first principle,
and the custom of war will shake to its foundation, and in time go the
way that other evil customs have gone before it, when once their moral
support has been undermined or shattered.


[1] Halleck’s _International Law_, ii. 21. Yet within three weeks of
the beginning of the war with France 60,000 Prussians were _hors de

[2] ‘Artem illam _mortiferam et Deo odibilem_ balistrariorum et
sagittariorum adversus Christianos et Catholicos exerceri de cætero sub
anathemate prohibemus.’

[3] Fauchet’s _Origines des Chevaliers_, &c. &c., ii. 56; Grose’s
_Military Antiquities_, i. 142; and Demmin’s _Encyclopédie d’Armurerie_,
57, 496.

[4] Fauchet, ii. 57. ‘Lequel engin, pour le mal qu’il faisait (pire que
le venin des serpens), fut nommé serpentine,’ &c.

[5] Grose, ii. 331.

[6] Dyer, _Modern Europe_, iii. 158.

[7] Scoffern’s _Projectile Weapons_, &c., 66.

[8] _Sur l’Esprit_, i. 562.

[9] Reade, _Ashantee Campaign_, 52.

[10] Livy, xliv. 42.

[11] These Instructions are published in Halleck’s _International Law_,
ii. 36-51; and at the end of Edwards’s _Germans in France_.

[12] ‘It would have been desirable,’ said the Russian Government,
‘that the voice of a great nation like England should have been heard
at an inquiry of which the object would appear to have met with its

[13] _Jus Gentium_, art. 887, 878.

[14] Florus, ii. 20.

[15] Edwards’s _Germans in France_, 164.

[16] This remarkable fact is certified by Mr. Russell, in his _Diary in
the last Great War_, 398, 399.

[17] Cicero, _In Verrem_, iv. 54.

[18] See even the _Annual Register_, lvi. 184, for a denunciation of
this proceeding.

[19] Sismondi’s _Hist. des Français_, xxv.

[20] Edwards’s _Germans in France_, 171.

[21] Lieut-Col. Charras, _La Campagne de 1815_, i. 211, ii. 88.

[22] Woolsey’s _International Law_, p. 223.

[23] Cf. lib. xii. 81, and xiii. 25, 26; quoted by Grotius, iii. xi.

[24] iii. 41.

[25] _Cambridge Essays_, 1855, ‘Limitations to Severity in War,’ by C.

[26] See Raumer’s _Geschichte Europa’s_, iii. 509-603, if any doubt is
felt about the fact.

[27] General Order of October 9, 1813. Compare those of May 29, 1809,
March 25, 1810, June 10, 1812, and July 9, 1813.

[28] Vattel, iii. ix. 165.

[29] Sir W. Napier (_Peninsular War_, ii. 322) says of the proceeding
that it was ‘politic indeed, yet scarcely to be admitted within the
pale of civilised warfare.’ It occurred in May 1810.

[30] Bluntschli’s _Modernes Völkerrecht_, art. 573.

[31] For the character of modern war see the account of the
Franco-German war in the _Quarterly Review_ for April 1871.

[32] Halleck, ii. 22.

[33] Vehse’s _Austria_, i. 369. Yet, as usual on such occasions, the
excesses were committed in the teeth of Tilly’s efforts to oppose them.

‘Imperavit Tillius a devictorum cædibus et corporum castimonia
abstinerent, quod imperium a quibusdam furentibus male servatum annales
aliqui fuere conquesti.’--Adlzreiter’s _Annales Boicæ Gentis_, Part
iii. l. 16, c. 38.

[34] _Battles in the Peninsular War_, 181, 182.

[35] _Ibid._ 396.

[36] Foxe’s _Actes and Monuments_, iii. 52.

[37] Saint-Palaye, _Mémoires sur la Chevalerie_, iii. 10, 133.

[38] Vinsauf’s _Itinerary of Richard I._, ii. 16.

[39] Matthew of Westminster, 460; Grose, ii. 348.

[40] Monstrelet, ii. 115.

[41] _Mémoires sur la Chevalerie_, i. 322.

[42] Petitot, v. 102; and Ménard, _Vie de B. du Guesclin_, 440.

[43] Petitot, v. 134.

[44] Meyrick, _Ancient Armour_, ii. 5.

[45] i. 123.

[46] Monstrelet, i. 259.

[47] ii. 5.

[48] ii. 11.

[49] ii. 22, compare ii. 56.

[50] Monstrelet, ii. 111.

[51] ii. 113.

[52] See for some, Livy, xxix. 8, xxxi. 26, 30, xxxvii. 21, xliii. 7,
xliv. 29.

[53] Livy, xliv. 29.

[54] Meyrick, i. 41.

[55] Demmin, _Encyclopédie d’Armurerie_, 490.

[56] Meyrick, ii. 204.

[57] Grose, ii. 114.

[58] Petitot, xvi. 134.

[59] Grose, ii. 343.

[60] iv. 27.

[61] iv. 36.

[62] iii. 109.

[63] _Mémoires_, vi. 1.

[64] Halleck, _International Law_, ii. 154.

[65] _Elements of Morality_, sec. 1068.

[66] _Des Droits et Devoirs des Nations neutres_, ii. 321-323.

[67] _History of the Royal Navy_, i. 357.

[68] Nicolas, ii. 341.

[69] Nicolas, ii. 405.

[70] Monstrelet, i. 12.

[71] Nicolas, ii. 108.

[72] _Ibid._ i. 333.

[73] Froissart, ii. 85.

[74] Entick, _New Naval History_ (1757), 823. ‘Some of the Spanish
prizes were immensely rich, a great many of the French were of
considerable value, and so were many of the English; but the balance
was about two millions in favour of the latter.’

[75] From Entick’s _New Naval History_ (1757), 801-817.

[76] Martens, _Essai sur les Corsaires_ (Horne’s translation), 86, 87.

[77] _Ibid._ 93.

[78] III. xv. 229.

[79] Emerigon, _On Insurances_ (translation), 442.

[80] Martens, 19.

[81] Hautfeuille, _Des Droits et Devoirs des Nations neutres_, ii. 349.

[82] _De Jure Maritimo_, i. 72.

[83] _Despatches_, vi. 145.

[84] _Despatches_, vi. 79.

[85] The last occasion was on April 13, 1875.

[86] Halleck, _International Law_, ii. 316.

[87] Bluntschli, _Modernes Völkerrecht_, art. 665.

[88] James, _Naval History_, i. 255.

[89] James, ii. 71.

[90] _Ibid._ ii. 77.

[91] Ortolan, _Diplomatie de la Mer_, ii. 32.

[92] Campbell’s _Admirals_, viii. 40.

[93] _Campbell_, vii. 21. _James_, i. 161. Stinkpots are jars or shells
charged with powder, grenades, &c.

[94] James, i. 283.

[95] Brenton, ii. 471.

[96] Caltrops, or crows’-feet, are bits of iron with four spikes so
arranged that however they fall one spike always remains upwards.
Darius planted the ground with caltrops before Arbela.

[97] Chapter xix. of the _Tactica_.

[98] Frontinus, _Strategematicon_, IV. vii. 9, 10. ‘Amphoras pice et
tæda plenas; ... vascula viperis plena.’

[99] Roger de Wendover, _Chronica_. ‘Calcem vivam, et in pulverem
subtilem redactam, in altum projicientes, vento illam ferente,
Francorum oculos excæcaverunt.’

[100] Brenton, i. 635.

[101] _De Jure Maritimo_, i. 265.

[102] Rees’s _Cyclopædia_, ‘Fire-ship.’

[103] Brenton, ii. 493, 494.

[104] Halleck, ii. 317.

[105] Woolsey, _International Law_, 187.

[106] James, i. 277.

[107] Phillimore, _International Law_, iii. 50-52.

[108] _International Law_, ii. 95.

[109] Villiaumé, _L’Esprit de la Guerre_, 56.

[110] De Commines, viii. 8.

[111] Watson’s _Philip II._, ii. 74.

[112] _Ibid._ i. 213.

[113] _Memoirs_, c. 19.

[114] Villiaumé (_L’Esprit de la Guerre_, 71) gives the following
version: ‘En 1793 et en 1794, le gouvernement anglais ayant violé le
droit des gens contre la République Française, la Convention, dans
un accès de brutale colère, décréta qu’il ne serait plus fait aucun
prisonnier anglais ou hanovrien, c’est-à-dire que les vaincus seraient
mis à mort, encore qu’ils se rendissent. Mais ce décret fut simplement
comminatoire; le Comité de Salut Public, sachant très-bien que de
misérables soldats n’étaient point coupables, donna l’ordre secret de
faire grâce à tous les vaincus.’

[115] Herodotus, vii. 136.

[116] Livy, xlv. 42.

[117] _Ibid._ xlv. 43.

[118] Ward, _Law of Nations_, i. 250.

[119] Petitot’s _Mémoires_, xvi. 177.

[120] Livy, xlii. 8, 9.

[121] Monstrelet, _Chronicles_, i. 200.

[122] _Ibid._ i. 224.

[123] _Ibid._ i. 249.

[124] _Ibid._ i. 259.

[125] Monstrelet, ii. 156.

[126] _Ibid._ 120.

[127] Philip de Commines, ii. 1.

[128] _Ibid._ ii. 2.

[129] _Ibid._ ii. 14.

[130] Philip de Commines, iii. 9.

[131] Motley’s _United Netherlands_, iii. 323.

[132] Vattel, iii. 8, 143.

[133] Borbstaedt, _Franco-German War_ (translation), 662.

[134] Ward, i. 223.

[135] Quintus Curtius, iv. 6, and Grote, viii. 368.

[136] Quintus Curtius, vii. 11.

[137] _Ibid._ iv. 15.

[138] Arrian, iii. 18.

[139] Quintus Curtius, vii. 5.

[140] ‘Tous deux furent très braves, très vaillants, fort bizarres et

[141] Lyttleton, _Henry II._, i. 183.

[142] Hoveden, 697.

[143] 2 Samuel xii. 31.

[144] _Memoirs of a Cavalier_, i. 47.

[145] _Memoirs of a Cavalier_, 49.

[146] ‘Life of Bayard’ in Petitot’s _Mémoires_, xvi. 9.

[147] Major-General Mitchell’s _Biographies of Eminent Soldiers_, 92.

[148] Livy, xxxi. 40. When Pelium was taken by storm, only the slaves
were taken as spoil; the freemen were even let off without ransom.

[149] _Ibid._ xxviii. 3.

[150] _Ibid._ xxviii. 20, xxvii. 16, xxxi. 27.

[151] _De Officiis_, i. 12. Yet on this passage is founded the common
assertion that among the Romans ‘the word which signified stranger was
the same with that which in its original denoted an enemy’ (Ward, ii.
174); implying that in their eyes a stranger and an enemy were one and
the same thing. Cicero says exactly the reverse.

[152] _Recueil de Documents sur les exactions, vols, et cruautés des
armées prussiennes en France._ The book is out of print, but may be
seen at the British Museum, under the title, ‘Prussia--Army of.’ It is
to be regretted that, whilst every book, however dull, relating to that
war has been translated into English, this record has hitherto escaped
the publicity it so well deserves.

[153] _Ibid._ 19.

[154] _Ibid._ 8.

[155] _Ibid._ 13.

[156] Chaudordy’s Circular of November 29, 1870, in the _Recueil_.

[157] _Recueil_, 12, 15, 67, 119.

[158] _Ibid._ 56.

[159] _Ibid._ 54.

[160] _Recueil_, 33-37, and Lady Bloomfield’s _Reminiscences_, ii. 235,
8, 9.

[161] The _Times_, March 7, 1881.

[162] _Recueil_, 29; compare 91.

[163] Morley’s _Cobden_, ii. 177.

[164] Professor Sheldon Amos quotes the fact, but refrains from naming
the paper, in his preface to Manning’s _Commentaries on the Law of
Nations_, xl. Was it not the _Journal de France_ for Nov. 21, 1871?

[165] iii. i. viii. 4.

[166] _De Officiis_, i. 13.

[167] _Modernes Völkerrecht_, Art. 565.

[168] Polyænus, _Strategematum libri octo_, i. 34.

[169] Polyænus, v. 41.

[170] Ortolan’s _Diplomatie de la mer_, ii. 31, 375-7.

[171] James’s _Naval History_, ii. 211; Campbell’s _Admirals_, vii. 132.

[172] James, _Naval History_, ii. 225.

[173] Nicolas, _Royal Navy_, ii. 27.

[174] Hautefeuille, _Droit Maritime_, iii. 433. ‘Les vaisseaux de
l’Etat eux-mêmes ne rougissent pas de ces grossiers mensonges qui
prennent le nom de ruses de guerre.’

[175] xiii. 1.

[176] Montaigne, ch. v.

[177] vii. 4. ‘Quia appellatione nostra vix apte exprimi possunt, Græca
pronuntiatione Stratagemata dicuntur.’

[178] Livy, xlii. 47.

[179] _Histoire de la France_, iii. 401.

[180] The word musket is from _muschetto_, a kind of hawk, implying
that its attack was equally destructive and unforeseen.

[181] Polyænus, ii. 19.

[182] Polyænus, iii. 2; from Thucydides, iii. 34.

[183] _Ibid._ vii. 27, 2.

[184] _Ibid._ iv. 2-4.

[185] Liskenne, _Bibliothèque Historique et Militaire_, iii. 845.

[186] _Memoirs_, ch. xix.

[187] ix. 6, 3.

[188] vi. 22.

[189] vi. 15.

[190] iv. 7, 17.

[191] E. Fournier, _L’Esprit dans l’Histoire_, 145-150.

[192] iii. 10.

[193] Liskenne, v. 233-4.

[194] _Soldier’s Pocket-Book_, 81.

[195] Polyænus, viii. 16, 8. ‘Lege Romanorum jubente hostium
exploratores interficere.’

[196] Livy, xxx. 29. According to Polyænus, he gave them a dinner and
sent them back with instructions to tell what they had seen; viii. 16,

[197] Watson’s _Philip II._ iii. 311.

[198] Liskenne, iii. 840.

[199] Hoffman, _Kriegslist_, 15.

[200] Petitot’s _Mémoires de la France_, xv. 317.

[201] Polyænus, ii. 27.

[202] _Ibid._ v. 1, 4.

[203] _Memoirs_, ch. xix.

[204] Livy, xxxiv. 17.

[205] As at the Brussels Conference, 1874, when such a proposal was
made by the member for Sweden and Norway.

[206] In Pinkerton, xvi. 817.

[207] Turner’s _Nineteen Years in Samoa_, 304.

[208] Schoolcraft’s _Indian Tribes_, iv. 52.

[209] _The Basutos_, 223.

[210] Potter’s _Grecian Antiquities_, ii. 69.

[211] Turner’s _Samoa_, 298.

[212] Ellis’s _Polynesian Researches_, i. 275.

[213] Hutton’s _Voyage to Africa_, 1821, 337.

[214] Colenso and Durnford’s _Zulu War_, 364, 379.

[215] Petitot’s _Mémoires_, xv. 329.

[216] The evidence is collected in _Cetschwayo’s Dutchman_, 99-103.

[217] Henty’s _March to Coomassie_, 443. Compare Reade’s _Ashantee
Campaign_, 241-2.

[218] Florus, ii. 19; iii. 4; Velleius Paterculus, ii. 1.

[219] Florus, ii. 20.

[220] _Ibid._ iii. 7.

[221] Florus, iii. 4; Cæsar, _De Bello Gallico_, ix. 44.

[222] Morley’s _Cobden_, ii. 355.

[223] Sir A. Helps’ _Las Casas_, 29.

[224] T. Morton’s _New England Canaan_, 1637, iii.

[225] Belknap’s _New Hampshire_, i. 262.

[226] Penhallow’s _Indian Wars_, 1826, republished 1859, 31-3.

[227] _Ibid._ 105, 6.

[228] _Ibid._ 103. For further details of this debased military
practice, see Adair’s _History of American Indians_, 245; Kercheval’s
_History of the Valley of Virginia_, 263; Drake’s _Biography and
History of the Indians_, 210, 373; Sullivan’s _History of Maine_, 251.

[229] Kercheval’s _Virginia_, 113.

[230] Eschwege’s _Brazil_, i. 186; Tschudi’s _Reisen durch Südamerika_,
i. 262.

[231] Parkman’s _Expedition against Ohio Indians_, 1764, 117.

[232] Argensola, _Les Isles Molucques_, i. 60.

[233] Drake’s _Biography and History of the Indians_, 489, 490.

[234] R. C. Burton’s _City of the Saints_, 576; Eyre’s _Central
Australia_, i. 175-9.

[235] Borwick’s _Last of the Tasmanians_, 58.

[236] Tschudi’s _Reisen_, ii. 262.

[237] Maccoy’s _Baptist Indian Missions_, 441; Froebel’s _Seven Years
in Central America_, 272; Wallace’s _Travels on the Amazon_, 326.

[238] Bancroft’s _United States_, ii. 383-5; and compare Clarkson’s
_Life of Penn_, chaps. 45 and 46.

[239] Brooke’s _Ten Years in Sarawak_, i. 74.

[240] Captain Hamilton’s _East Indies_, in Pinkerton, viii. 514.

[241] W. H. Russell’s _My Diary in India_, 150.

[242] _Annals of the Propagation of the Faith_, viii. 280-6.

[243] _Caffres and Caffre Missions_, 210.

[244] _Memorials of Henrietta Robertson_, 259, 308, 353.

[245] _Ibid._ 353.

[246] Colenso and Durnford’s _Zulu War_, 215.

[247] Holden’s _History of Natal_, 210, 211.

[248] Moister’s _Africa, Past and Present_, 310, 311.

[249] Tams’s _Visit to Portuguese Possessions_, i. 181, ii. 28, 179.

[250] Robertson’s _America_; Works, vi. 177, 205.

[251] Thomson’s _Great Missionaries_, 30; Halkett’s _Indians of North
America_, 247, 249, 256.

[252] Le Blant, _Inscriptions Chrétiennes_, i. 86.

[253] Bingham, _Christian Antiquities_, i. 486.

[254] Cæsar, _De Bello Gallico_, vi. 14. ‘Druides a bello abesse
consuerunt ... militiæ vacationem habent;’ and Origen, _In Celsum_,
viii. 73, for the Romans.

[255] Vaughan’s _Life of Wycliffe_, ii. 212-3.

[256] Turner’s _England_, iv. 458, from Duchesne, _Gesta Stephani_.

[257] ‘Non filius meus est vel ecclesiæ; ad regis autem voluntatem
redimetur, quia potius Martis quam Christi miles judicatur.’

[258] Turner’s _England_, v. 92.

[259] ‘Sanxit ut nullus in posterum sacerdos in hostem pergeret,
nisi duo vel tres episcopi electione cæterorum propter benedictionem
populique reconciliationem, et cum illis electi sacerdotes qui bene
scirent populis pœnitentias dare, missas celebrare, etc.’ (in _Du
Cange_, ‘Hostis’).

[260] Guicciardini. ‘Prometteva che se i soldati procedevano
virilmente, che non accetterebbe la Mirandola con alcuno patto: ma
lascierebbe in potestà loro il saccheggiarla.’

[261] Monstrelet, i. 9.

[262] Crichton’s _Scandinavia_, i. 170.

[263] _Mémoires du Fleurange._ Petitot, xvi. 253.

[264] See Palmer, _Origines Liturgicæ_, ii. 362-65, for the form of

[265] _Petitot_, xvi. 229.

[266] _Ibid._ 135.

[267] Petitot, viii. 55. ‘Feciono venire per tutto il campo un prete
parato col corpo di Christo, e in luogo di communicarsi ciascuno prese
uno poco di terra, e la si mise in boca.’

[268] Livy, xxxvi. 2.

[269] Robertson, _Charles V._, note 21. Ryan, _History of Effects of
Religion on Mankind_, 124.

[270] M. J, Schmidt, _Histoire des Allemands traduite, etc._, iv. 232,

[271] ‘Christianis licet ex mandato magistratus arma portare et _justa_
bella administrare.’

[272] _Policy of War a True Defence of Peace_, 1543.

[273] _Pallas Armata_, 369, 1683.

[274] In his treatise _Du droit de la guerre_.

[275] _L’Esprit_, i. 562.

[276] _Strafgesetzbuch_, Jan. 20, 1872, 15, 75, 150.

[277] Fleming’s _Volkommene Teutsche Soldat_, 96.

[278] Benet’s _United States Articles of War_, 391.

[279] Grose, ii. 199.

[280] See Turner’s _Pallas Armata_, 349, for these and similar military

[281] Crichton’s _Scandinavia_, i. 168.

[282] Grose, ii. 6.

[283] Sir S. Scott’s _History of the British Army_, ii. 436.

[284] ii. 16. ‘Omnes autem signarii vel signiferi quamvis pedites
loricas minores accipiebant, et _galeas ad terrorem hostium ursinis
pellibus tectas_.’

[285] Scott, ii. 9.

[286] Scott, i. 311.

[287] Said to have been invented about 400 B.C. by Dionysius, tyrant of

[288] Mitchell’s _Biographies of Eminent Soldiers_, 208, 287.

[289] Compare article 14 of the German _Strafgesetzbuch_ of January 20,

[290] _Nineteenth Century_, November 1882: ‘The Present State of the

[291] _De Re Militari_, vi. 5.

[292] Bruce’s _Military Law_ (1717), 254.

[293] See Fleming’s _Teutsche Soldat_, ch. 29.

[294] See the War Articles for 1673, 1749, 1794.

[295] 82.

[296] Quintus Curtius, viii. 2.

[297] _Military Law_, 163.

[298] 286, 290.

[299] _Despatches_, iii. 302, June 17, 1809.

[300] Compare also _Despatches_, iv. 457; v. 583, 704, 5.

[301] _China War_, 225.

[302] Scott’s _British Army_, ii. 411.

[303] _Wellington’s Despatches_, v. 705.

[304] See Windham’s Speech in the House of Commons. April 3, 1806.

[305] _Ibid._

[306] P. 122.

[307] Fleming, 109.

[308] Preface to b. iii. ‘Ergo qui desiderat pacem, præparet bellum.’

[309] Lord Wolseley’s _Soldier’s Pocket Book_, 5.

[310] Arbousset’s _Exploratory Tour_, 397-9.

[311] Livy, xl. 6.

[312] _Iliad_, vi. 266-8; and comp. _Æneid_, ii. 717-20.

[313] Casalis’s _Basutos_, 258.

[314] Victor Hugo’s _L’Ane_, 124.

[315] Baillat’s _Vie de Descartes_, i. 41.

[316] ii. 25, 9, 1. ‘Tanto carnifice detestabiliores quanto pejus est
sine causâ quam ex causâ occidere.’

[317] _Ibid._ 2. ‘Nullum vitæ genus est improbius quam eorum qui sine
causæ respectu mercede conducti militant, et quibus ibi fas ubi plurima
merces.’ Both the sentiment and the expression are borrowed from
Lucan’s _Pharsalia_, x. 408: ‘Nulla fides pietasque viris qui castra
sequuntur Venalesque manus; ibi fas ubi plurima merces.’

[318] 364.

[319] Potter’s _Greek Antiquities_, ii. 9.

[320] Henry’s _Britain_, iii. 5, 1; Grose i. 56.

[321] Grose, i. 58.

[322] _Ibid._, i. 67.

[323] _Parliamentary Debates_, May 24, 1756.

[324] Sir S. Scott’s _British Army_, ii. 333.

[325] N. Bacon’s Notes to _Selden’s Laws_, ii. 60.

[326] _Candide_, c. xx.

[327] Alison’s _Europe_, vi. 491.

[328] _Life of Sir C. Napier_, i. 77.

[329] _Military Law_, 17.

[330] _Keppel’s Life_, by T. Keppel, ii. 1.

[331] _Indian Expedition_, ix.

[332] Livy, 39, 3; 42, 21; 43, 5.

[333] Livy, xlv. 22. ‘Certe quidem vos estis Romani, qui ideo felicia
bella vestra esse, quia justa sint, præ vobis fertis, nec tam exitu
eorum, quod vincatis, quam principiis quod non sine causâ suscipiatis,

[334] _De Civitate Dei_, iv. 4 and 6.

[335] _Arbre des Batailles_, quoted in Kennedy’s _Influence of
Christianity on International Law_.

[336] Petitot, xvi. 137.

[337] III. 65. ‘Cavendo ne metuant, homines metuendos ultro se
efficiunt, et injuriam ab nobis repulsam, tamquam aut facere aut pati
necesse sit, injungimus aliis.’


 Achæan, curious mode of warfare, 131

 Alexander II. of Russia, 3, 10

 Armed neutrality, the, 86

 Armour, 55, 224

 Ashantee battle song, 86

 Balloonists in war, 148

 Battles, allusions to:
   Agincourt, 201, 262
   Bouvines, 194
   Camperdown, 80
   Crecy, 9, 54
   Dover, 84
   Musselborough, 56
   Navarette, 59
   Neerwinden, 6
   Nicopoli, 56
   Nile, 81
   Otterbourne, 196
   Pavia, 141
   Poitiers, 207
   Tel-el-Kebir, 253

 Bearskin hats, 223, 224

 Becon, Thomas, on military service in the sixteenth century, 208

 Bishops in war, 35, 52-3, 193-8, 261

 Blinding of prisoners, 42-3

 Blockade, effective, 92

 Bloodhounds used in war, 171-2

 Bombardment, theory and practice of, 12, 15, 17, 106, 116

 Bounties for scalps, 156

 Brigand, meaning of, 57

 Britons, love for military life, 156

 Brussels Conference on laws of war, 10, 94, 95, 105, 123, 130,
    141-6-7-8, 158

 Bullinger, limits to right of military service, 208, 263

 Cannons, 5

 Cannon-shot oath, 130

 Capitulations, 100-1

 Chain-shot, 6

 Chivalry, age of, 32

 Church, influence of, on war, 52, 185-193, 204-16, 252

 Churches, destruction of, 48

 Church parade, 219

 Cities, fate of, in war:
   Amiens, surprise of, 148
   Badajoz, storming of, 27
   Barcelona, siege of, 138
   Brescia, storming of, 103
   Calais, siege of, 44
   Constantine, storming of, 27
   Copenhagen, bombardment of, 15, 268
   Dinant, storming of, 102
   Gaza, storming of, 107
   Grammont, massacre at, 35
   Gravelines, massacre at, 36
   Haarlem, siege of, 97
   Liège, storming of, 102
   Limoges, massacre at, 37
   Londonderry, siege of, 197-8
   Magdeburg, massacre at, 27, 112
   Malta, siege of, 97
   Meaux, surrender of, 45, 101
   Mirandola, siege of, 197
   Oudenarde, siege of, 47
   Pekin, English at, 237
   Persepolis, burning of, 108
   Poitiers, massacre at, 34
   Rome, sack of, 103
   Rouen, surrender of, 47, 101
   San Sebastian, storming of, 28
   Strasburg, bombardment of 15, 17, 106
   Terouanne, destruction of, 137
   Thebes, sack of, 103
   Toledo, siege of, 42
   Tyre, siege of, 108
   Ulm, surprise of, 149
   Washington, English in, 16

 Conference stratagem, 136

 Conscription, the, 242-8

 Consecration of banners, 201

 Contraband, 88

 Contributions, military, 20, 118

 Costume, military, 222-3

 Crossbow, 4, 133

 Cruelty and courage, 110

 Custom of war, character of, 186, 210

 Decimation, story of, 222

 Declaration of Paris, 73, 78, 86-9

 Declaration of St. Petersburg, 2, 3, 81

 Declaration of war, 19, 198

 Desertion, 230-1

 Discipline, 7, 218, 234, 236

 Dress, philosophy of military, 229

 Duty, 74, 121, 264

 Embargoes, 89

 Explosive bullets, 1-2, 81

 False flag, stratagem of the, 128-130

 False information in war, 152

 Fecials, Roman, 271

 Firearms, feeling against, 5, 226

 Fireships, 84-5

 Flogging, 234-5

 Forged despatches, 151

 Free Companies, 60, 260

 Free ships, free goods, 87

 Fruit-trees, 16, 17, 47, 161

 Germans, the, in war, 40, 106, 115-9

 Greek fire, 83-4

 Grenadiers, 223

 Hanging in war, 44-7

 Honour, variable notions of, 155-6, 267

 Hostages, taking of, revived, 117

 Innocent III., 206

 Invention of the bayonet, 6

 Jomini, Baron, President of Brussels Conference, 95

 Julius II., story of, 196

 Jus Angariæ, 90

 Justice in war, 208, 258-9, 271, 273-80

 Khonds, theory of war, 203

 Kidnapping soldiers in Germany, 241

 Kissing the earth, custom of, 201

 Lateran Council, Third, 4

 Laws of war among savages, 159

 Lent, observation of, in war, 51, 205

 Leo the Great, 204

 Letters of marque, 74, 78

 Letters, military contempt for, 156

 Limoges, Council of, 203

 Loha Pennu, an Indian war-god, 203

 Macedonian warfare, 133

 Magic, use of, in war, 199

 Malingering, 231-4

 Marriage, restrictions on, 218-9

 Mercenary service, 260-3

 Military cant, 21, 105-6, 118, 163

 -- vandalism, 16, 48, 163, 237

 Missionaries, 176-182

 -- failure of, 177

 -- legal control of, 181

 Missionaries, Norwegian, in Zululand, 179

 Mission stations destroyed, 180

 Mozley, Canon, on war, 212

 Musket, 5, 133

 Mutiny Act, first, 265

 Names of weapons, 200

 Neutral ships and property, 86

 Night attacks, 133

 Numbers slain in war, 8-10

 Oath, military, 264-5

 Oath by cannon-shot, 130

 Ophthalmia, artificial, 233

 Palatinate, devastation of the, 17, 267

 Pay, soldiers’, 239, 261

 Perfidy, cases of, 135

 Perjury, cases of, 139

 Perpetual peace, Von Moltke on, 119

 Piracy, 67-70, 255

 Plunder of property at sea, 67-70

 Plunder of property on land, 61-3, 66, 118

 Poison, use of, in war, 13, 14, 172-3

 Poisoning the air, 49

 Poisoning water, 14, 29

 Press, influence of, in war, 112, 177, 182, 253

 Prisoners, treatment of, 17, 18, 40, 85, 99, 113

 Prisoners, beheaded, 97, 106

 -- blinded, 43

 -- burnt, 103, 111

 -- drowned, 101-2-6

 -- hung, 46, 101-3

 -- maimed, 43, 103

 -- massacred, 41, 111

 -- tortured, 194

 Privateering, 70-9

 -- Lord Nelson on, 77

 Prizes and prize-money, 70

 Prize Court, 76

 Punishments, military, 221-6

 Purificatory battle rites, 250

 Pursers on privateers, 76

 Recruiting, difficulty of, 240

 -- former system of, in France and Germany, 241

 Red, the military colour, 223

 Red-hot shot, 5, 83

 Reprisals, 93-118

 -- savage German, 117-8

 Right of search, 88

 Right of wreck, 89

 Roman warfare, 114, 132, 271-2

 Sacred buildings in war, 16, 48-9

 Sea battles, 80, 83

 Scalping enemies, 170

 Sentry-go, 229

 Slavery, influence of its cessation on war, 112

 Socialism, chief cause of, 245-8

 Soldiers of mark:
   Alaric, 204
   Alexander the Great, 107-10, 133
   Barbarossa, 100
   Bayard, 6, 57, 149, 151, 165, 201, 226, 273
   Bertrand du Guesclin, 40-1, 44
   Black Prince, the, 37, 59
   Blücher, 16, 17
   Cæsar, 98, 156, 169, 272
   Catinat, 145
   Chandos, Sir John, 55
   Charles of Anjou, 100
   Charles the Bold, 111
   Charles XII. of Sweden, 133, 226
   Crillon, 22, 73, 243
   Custine, 145
   David, king of the Jews, 111, 251
   David I. of Scotland, 111
   Des Adretz, 111
   Edward I., 106
   Edward III., 44
   Eugene, Prince, 149
   Feuquières, 97, 138, 149
   Francis I., 140
   Francis de Vere, 104
   Frederick the Great, 16, 142
   Genseric, 205
   Godfrey de Bouillon, 100
   Gustavus Adolphus, 19-20, 22, 221
   Henri Quatre, 30
   Henry V., 101
   Keppel, Admiral, 270
   Manny, Sir Walter, 44, 57
   Maurice, Prince, 150
   Montluc, 107, 121, 133, 137, 145, 156
   Moltke, 119
   Orange, Prince of, 152
   Parma, Prince of, 146
   Pélissier, 165
   Peterborough, Lord, 138
   Pyrrhus, 157
   Richard I., 111, 195
   Saxe, Marshal, 226
   Scipio, 146
   Sertorius, 143, 145
   Sully, 30
   Suwarrow, 238
   Wellington, Duke of, 20, 236
   Wolseley, Lord, 143-4, 151, 244
   Xerxes, 47, 99, 146

 Spaniards in war, 40, 42, 97, 167-9, 200

 Spies, 141-8
   Vattel on, 141
   Frederick the Great on, 142
   Lord Wolseley on, 143-4

 Storming cities, 27, 238

 Surprises, 148-9

 Surrender at discretion, 45, 100, 123

 Ternate, island of, 131

 Torpedoes, first use of, 5

 -- introduced into European warfare, 85

 Treatise on Tactics by Leo VI., 83

 Truce of God, 205

 War, real character of, 27, 186, 210

 Wars, abolition of private, 205, 227

 Weapons, 50

 Women, imprisoned in war, 38

 Women and children, slaughter of, 23, 33-8, 117

 Women as soldiers, 242

 Writers, &c.:
   Arrian, 109
   Bluntschli, 127
   Bynkershoeck, 14, 127
   Cicero, 114, 126
   Descartes, 254
   Dobritzhoffer, 160
   Emerigon, 73
   Erasmus, 186, 244
   Froissart, 23
   Frontinus, 134
   Grotius, 14, 17, 23, 126, 187, 256, 258, 273
   Hallam, 32, 50
   Hautefeuille, 67
   Kant, 23, 30
   Las Casas, 167
   Molloy, 77
   Origen, 190
   Palmerston, Lord, 227
   Penn, 173
   Polyænus, 135
   Quintus Curtius, 109
   St. Pierre, Abbé, 30
   Sepulveda, 167
   Tertullian, 189
   Turner, Sir James, 259
   Valin, 73
   Vattel, 14, 18, 21, 73, 104-5, 139, 141, 266
   Vauban, 15
   Victor Hugo, 252
   Voltaire, 210, 267-8
   Whewell, 67
   Wycliffe, 193
   Zwingli, 263

_Spottiswoode & Co., Printers, New-street Square, London._

    Transcriber's notes:

    The following is a list of changes made to the original.
    The first line is the original line, the second the corrected one.

    Page 11, footnote:

    like England should have been heard an inquiry of which
    like England should have been heard at an inquiry of which

    Page 78:

    which abolished privateering beween the signatory Powers,
    which abolished privateering between the signatory Powers,

    Page 244:

    such an expositon as the following of the relation between
    such an exposition as the following of the relation between

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Military Manners and Customs" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.