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of our country, whose views and passions and interests must be consulted by any party aspiring to power and place, some symptoms of an opposing tendency. Right glad are we that the young “sovereigns" show some signs of beginning to take sounder and more practical views, and to cherish a reaction against the ultraisms of the day. This oration, and some other indications, which have not escaped our notice, prove to us that there is a returning respect for the wisdom of experience, and that the reign of the Garrisons, the Parkers, the Sumners, the O'Sullivans, the Channings, the Abby Folsoms, et id omne genus, approaches its termination, and that henceforth practical sense and wise experience will at least dispute the throne with fanatic zeal, blind enthusiasm, and bloated conceit. In
preparing this oration, Mr. Webster must have been conscious that he was running athwart the views of many whom inost of us have been accustomed to hold in high esteem, and that, in venturing to assert the lawfulness of war and the obligation of the citizen to obey the government, he would be attacking every class of fanatics in the land, and conld not fail to incur the unmitigated wrath and hostility of the whole modern“ Peace” party. Yet his courage did not fail him. He does not appear to have had any misgivings before even the awful shade of the late Noah Worcester, founder of the American Peace Society, and he has dared consult his relations as a man and a citizen, and to lay it down as his rule of action, that he is responsible, not to the self-created associations of the day, to the reigning cant of the time and place, but solely to his God and his country. For this, however much he may be condemned by fanatical reformers, we honor him, and for this every right-minded man will honor him; for in this he has asserted his independence, and set an example worthy of imitation.
The main topic of this oration is the lawfulness of war, and the duty of the citizen to obey the government, a topic at all times interesting and important, and especially so at this time, when we are actually engaged in a war with a neighboring republic, the necessity of which is questioned by many of our citizens; and when there is widely prevalent a notion that the citizen is under no moral obligation to obey the law, if it does not chance to coincide with his own private convictions of justice and expediency. We agree in the main with the view of this topic which the author takes, and gladly avail ourselves of the occasion to make some additional remarks of our own, which may tend to illustrate and confirm it, though the readers of the oration may, perhaps, consider them quite superfluous.
The war of 1812, declared by this country against Great Britain, as is well known, was exceedingly unpopular in the New England states,-not, indeed, in consequence of any especial partiality for Great Britain herself, nor because they were less patriotic than the other inembers of the confederacy, but because the chief burdens of the war fell upon them, in the ruin it bronght to their commerce and its dependent interests, then their principal interests. It is not for us to pronounce any opinion on the justice or expediency of that war; but we cannot censure with extreme severity the New England people for being strongly opposed to it. Yet there can be no question, that, in the madness of the moment, the opposition was carried to wholly unjustifiable lengths, and, though we willingly acquit it of all treasonable intentions, it in reality stopped only this side of treason. Some weak-minded but well disposed New England ministers, incapable of taking comprehensive views and of seeking to remedy an evil by attacking it in its principle, seeing the danger to the Union, to the stability of our institutions, occasioned by the opposition to war, which they never thought of censuring or attempting to moderate, lamenting the very serious evils suffered by their friends and neighbors, and taking it for granted that the war was wholly unnecessary and unjust, made the grand discovery in moral theology that war is malum in se, is always unnecessary, and can never be lawful. They without much delay proceeded, more suo, to form an association against war, and to preach, lecture, and issue tracts in favor of universal peace. They appealed to the prejudices against the actual war, and to general philanthropy. New Englanders, especially Bostonians, are rarely insensible to the appeal to philanthropy. Since the softening down of some of the asperities of their primitive Puritanism, which took place in the latter half of the last century, they have been justly remarkable for their philanthropy, -no people in the world more 80. Industrious, frugal, economical, they certainly are; but mean, sordid, miserly, they are not, and are incapable of being. They are, in truth, open, frank, generous, and liberal, with a sort of passion for world reform, which is one of their foibles. The unpopularity of the war of 1812, and the
popularity of the appeal to philanthropy, gave to the peace movement a speedy and strong support, till peace became a sort of cant among us, and it was hazardous to one's reputation to intimate that war, terrible as may be its evils, is nevertheless sometimes just and necessary,
But the genuine Yankee is never satisfied with doing only one thing at a time. He is really in his glory only when he has some dozen or inore irons all in the fire at once. The simple question of peace could by no means absorb his superabundant zeal and philanthropy, so he invented and set on foot anti-slavery and various other movements, all of which adopted the “ peace principle ;” for the chief actors in one were, for the most part, prominent actors in all. By means of agitation, froth and foam, declamation and rant, of conventions, agents, tracts, lectures, sermons, periodicals, a new code of morals has been gradually framed among us; all that was once regarded as settled is now called in question; what was approved by the generations which preceded us is now pronounced low, earthly, sensual, devilish ; the fairest reputations are blackened ; our own patriots and heroes are calumniated, and even Washington himself has been publicly branded as an “inhuman butcher.” cast completely adrift. There was no true morality in the world before these modern societies sprung from the womb of night, and we are required to look to a few canting ministers, strolling spinsters, and beardless youths, as the sole authoritative expounders of the precepts of the divine law. We are unable to determine what it is safe to eat or to drink, when to rise up or sit down, unless some of these self-constituted guides condescend to inform us. Sin and death hover everywhere; poison lurks in every thing, even in the bread made from the finest wheat, and in the purest water from the fountain ; and there seems to be no possible means of living but to go naked and cease to eat or drink. It is a wonder how the world has contrived, for six thousand years, to get on, how men and women have contrived to be born, to live, to grow, and to persuade themselves that they enjoy a tolerable share of health and vigor, both of mind and body.
The joke, in fact, becomes serious. Many of the rising generation are beginning to take it, not as a dull jest, but as downright earnest. It interferes quite too much with the social and domestic business of life, and, if continued much longer, will reduce the great mass of us to mere automata. It is, therefore, high time for what sober sense, for what decency, there may have been left in the community to speak ont, send these fanatics back to their native inanity, and let it be known, that, though for a time we have suffered ourselves to be made fools of, after all, we are not quite so stupid, so vain or conceited, as to imagine that nobody understood or practised the moral virtues till our modern associations burst from darkness to teach them; that we really have not sunk so low as to lose all respect for our ancestors, all reverence for the awful past, over which has flowed the tide of human joy and human sorrow, and to be wholly unable to serve our own generation without calumniating those which have placed us in the world and made us what we are. He is a foolish as well as a wicked son who curses the mother that bore him. There has been, from the first, a Providence that has watched over and ruled in the affairs of men; our distant forefathers had eyes, ears, hands, intellects, hearts, as well as we, and knew how to use them, and did use them, not always ineffectually. How, indeed, would the hoary Past, were it not that experience has made it wise and taught it to make allowances for the follies and pranks of youth, laugh at our solemn airs and grave decisions ! How should we hang our heads and blush, even to the tips of our ears, could we but for one moment see ourselves as it sees us ! “The son,” says the proverb,“ thinks his father a fool; the father knows his son to be one.” The more we study what has been, the less disposed shall we be to exult in what is. Happily, we begin to discover some symptoms that there are those among us, who have, now and then, at least, a suspicion that change is not always progress, and that it is more creditable to be able to revere wisdom than to contemn it.
War, against which nearly all our modern fanatics declaim so much, and which in the new moral code is utterly prohibited, is, of course, not a thing to be sought for its own sake. Its necessity must always be lamented, as we must always lament that there are crimes to be redressed, or criminals to be punished, or diseases to be cured. But because we must always lament that there are offenders to be punished, it does not follow that to punish them is never necessary, or that their punishment is an evil, and morally wrong; or because it is to be regretted that there are di eases, that we must treat the physician and his drugs as a nuisance. The father weeps that he has occasion to chastise his child, but knows that “to spare the rod is to spoil the child;" nor does it necessarily follow, because war involves terrible evils, and is to be avoided whenever it can be without sacrificing the public weal, that it is in itself wrong, and inay never be resorted to without violating the law of God. Its necessity is an evil, but, as a remedy, it may be just and beneficial. Disease is an evil, but not, therefore, the medicine that restores to health. War is a violent remedy for a violent disease, and as such may, when all other remedies prove or must prove ineffectual," be resorted to without sin. We, therefore, venture to maintain, in the very face of our modern fanatics, that war declared by the sovereign authority of the state, for a just cause, and prosecuted with right intentions, is not morally wrong, and may be engaged in with a safe conscience.
That war is not morally wrong, in itself, is evident from the fact, that Almighty God has himself, on several occasions, as in the case of the ancient Israelites, actually commanded or approved it. But God cannot command or approve what is morally wrong, without doing wrong himself; which is absurd and impious to suppose. It cannot be in itself morally wrong, unless prohibited by some law; but there is no law which prohibits it. It is not prohibited by the law of nature. By the law of nature, the individual has the right to defend and avenge himself. Justice not only forbids wrong to be done, but requires that the wrong done be avenged. In a state of nature where there is no established government, but each individual is left to his own sovereignty, each one has the right of defending and avenging himself in his own hands. If this be true of a private person, it must also be true of the state or nation; for nations have precisely the same rights in relation to one another that individuals have. They then, who admit no law but the law of nature, inust concede that war is not prohibited.
Nor is war prohibited by the divine law. This all will readily grant to be true, so far as concerns the old law, which nowhere condemns war,and not unfrequently presents us God himself as commanding or approving it. It is also true, so far as concerns the new law, or Christian law. “ If Chris tian discipline," says St. Augustine, “condemned all wars, the Gospel would have given this counsel of salvation to the soldiers who asked what they should do, that they should throw away their arms and withdraw themselves from the