One of the sentimentalities of the day, uttered in newspapers, as Peace Societies,–is that Military men are favorable to War, and therefore, not to be trusted. It is true, the people have almost uniformly decided in favor of Soldiers. But the idea remains with a good many people, who have good sense and are governed by good motives. It is singular, there should be doubt on the subject, when History can be appealed to for the origin of every War. In England and the United States nothing is more notorious, than that Military Men neither make Wars nor advise them, nor direct them, except only in the actual movements of the field. It is civilians, politicians, who make war, and that too, not for the honor of Moloch, but of Mammon;–
The quest[i]on was lately discussed in England by two men among the most competent in the world to discuss it and settle in favor of the Military Man. They were Samuel Gurney. Chairman of the Peace Society, and General Sir William Napier. The Times reported that Gurney, at a meeting of the Peace Society, in reference to the Caffre War, had said that it was a bad principle to have the Governor at the Cape, that there had been since 1837 “a constant reference to the Sword.”“—–The last erected spirit that fell,
General Napier addressed a letter to Guerney, in which he stated, that at that very date, 1832, Sir George Napier become Governor of the Cape and for eight years peace and Christianity had been cultivated, the Colonial debt reduced, public schools founded, and every thing left in peace and prosperity. Napier concludes, as to the comparison of military men and commercial men, with this pointed question: “What manner of men be they who have supplied the Caffres with fire-arms and ammunition in their savage and deplorable wars? Assuredly they are not military.” Gurney, in reply, admits these facts; but says, Sir Geo. Napier is an exception, and appears to the present Caffre war; but says of military men–”Trained up as they are to the sword, they are far too liable to look to the sword for the settlement of international disputes.”
This is a general proposition, and Napier sweeps it down at once by incontrovertible facts. He writes: “I say unto thee, that since the days of the Marlborough, military men have never had recourse at all to the sword for the settlement of international disputes, and it is not becoming to charge them with it as an offence. Mark, friend, political, and commercial men they are who have always find recourse to the sword.–He makes war, but he does not declare it. The political men declare war, and generally for commercial interests; but when the nation is thus embroiled with its neighbors, the soldiers save it from danger.”
General Napier then significantly asks whether Greenville, who made the Stamp act and the war with America, was a miltary man? Whether Pitt who made the long war with France, was a military man? Whether the East India Company, who conquered India, were military men? Was Warren Hastings or Lord Wellesly military men? Was it military men who made the Affghan war? the Punjaub war? and a war to force opium on China? And was it military men who caused the African Slave Trade, with all its African war? We say that in the history of England and America, for the last hundred years, that question is settled. Military men have fought battles, but not made wars. We have just had a most signal example of this. Who made war with Mexloo? and who fought its battles?–Mr. Polk and his civil administration, not one of them military, made war with Mexico–while Scott, Taylor, and their fellow-patriots won the battles.
Scott, the great military Captain of the country, is, perhaps, one of the most peaceful men in it, and who has, on more than one occasion, preserved the peace of the country when a very little indiscretion would have caused a war. Witness the Maine frontier when troops were marching on both sides–Seott, by availing himself of a personal friendship with the British Governor, prevented a collision and saved the administration from its difficulties.
So on the Niagara Frontier, when the slightest outbreak would have made war, he moved about, the minister of peace. And so in Mexico–he is at this moment charged, as a crime, with waiting and listening to the overtures of peace. Peace was the object of his movements, and he resorted to battle only when negotiation failed.
It is a little singular that an idea as plausible, and so caught at by many people should be so peremptorily negatived by actual history as that military men are disposed to make war, for wars sake. Young men may, and do desire the glory of victorious battle, but young men do not command even regiments, and experienced military men do not desire war. Why should they?