IT must be a matter of deep regret to all right-thinking men that there should have been during the latter half of the century now expiring so marked a revival of the war spirit. In the middle of the century it was thought by many that the world had learned wisdom from the terrible experiences of the past, and that with the development of international trade war would become an outworn mode of settling international controversies. How different a turn things were destined to take need not here be told. Coming to recent events, however, we may say that it is lamentable our own country could not have won by peaceful means whatever advantages it has secured by its recent war with Spain. Equally lamentable is it that Great Britain, the other great representative of Anglo-Saxon civilization, should at this moment be engaged in a still bloodier struggle over questions which it is hard to believe could not have been settled by negotiation. "Whence come wars and fightings among you?" is a question that was asked very long ago, and we do not know that it is possible to improve on the answer then given: "From your lusts."
We do not say that a nation should not resist to the death a distinct aggression on its liberties or its independence. We do not say that when horrors are being enacted in any part of the world force may not righteously be employed to arrest them; but it is clear to our mind that, in the present age, wars between civilized countries might be almost wholly avoided if more reliance were placed upon moral force and less rein given to the impulse to employ physical force. This is a matter for the people in any state enjoying free institutions to take to heart. Let every man in a time of national difficulty ask himself this question: "Do I personally want to have blood shed over this matter?" Or this one: "Am I personally indifferent whether or not this dispute ends in bloodshed?" If a nation or the majority of a nation wants to have blood shed over a dispute with another nation, or is indifferent as to whether that shall be the outcome, the discussion will be carried on in a very different spirit from what it would be if there were a pronounced aversion to such a result. With nations, as with individuals, everything depends upon the spirit and ulterior purpose with which a question is approached. The cases must be very few in which a great nation, safe itself from attack, might not, in any matter in which minor interests are involved, resolve within itself that it will not resort to war—that it will work, and continue to work, on moral lines, trusting that, if it has right on its side, it will in due time carry its point. If blood cries from the ground against the slayer, what must be the responsibility of those who heedlessly and ruthlessly give their voices for war, when patience, moderation, and disinterestedness would have better accomplished every legitimate purpose? Slaughter is slaughter, murder is murder, however we may seek to weaken their import by a conventional treatment. War is mutual murder carried on professionally and systematically. Yet the primal command still makes its solemn appeal to the human heart and conscience: "Thou shalt not kill."