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time prevailed from a moral no less than from a military point of view.
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. 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 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 ; 2 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. There is always the excuse of reprisals or accident. 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, or 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? 3 or of the Prussian warrior, Blücher, destroy. ing 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. 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.
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
This remarkable fact is certified by Mr. Russell, in his Diary in the Last Great War, 398, 399.
: See even the Annual Register, lvi. 184, for a denunciation of this proceeding, 3 Sismondi's Hist. des Français, xxv. * Edwards' Germans in France, 171,
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 misstatement.
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 rules of war.
To murder enemies who had surrendered was as contrary to Greek or Roman as it ever was to Christian warfare. Tacitus calls it savage ; Arrian speaks of Alexander's slaughter of the Thebans as un-Greek. The general Greek and Roman practice was to allow quarter to an enemy who surrendered, and to redeem or exchange their prisoners. They had 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 (rà couri rupa), and of the violation of such law as an act of exceptional barbarity ? 2 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 will perhaps further persuade us that there is no real progress in war, and that many of the fancied mitigations of it are merely accidental and ephemeral features.
Gustavus Adolphus, in 1627, issued some humane Articles of War, which forbade, among other things, injuries to old men, women, and children. Within a few years the Swedish soldiery, like other
· Woolsey's International Law, p. 223.
troops of their time, made the gratuitous torture and mutilation of combatants or non-combatants a common episode of their military proceedings."
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, lamerting 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.” 2
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.3
It appears, therefore, from 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, who drove the helpless women and children into the citadel of Lerida, and then shelled them all night with the humane object of bringing the governor to a speedier surrender.4
Writers on the Law of Nations have in fact led us into a Fool's
See Raumer's Geschichte Europa's, iii. 509-603, if any doubt is felt about the fact
? General Order of October 9, 1813. Compare those of May 29, 1809, March 25, 1810, June 10, 1812, and July 9, 1813.
3 Vattel, iii. ix. 165.
* 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.
Paradise about war (which has done more than anything else to keep that barbarous 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 waging their wars “with great moderation and generosity.” This was the year before Marshal Belleisle made a desert of Westphalia ; and scarcely a day passes in a modern war 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 obviously 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 mother's 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.” Joshua and David houghed their enemies' horses ; but it is not on record that the Greeks did the same. 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, that is, of the Thirty Years' War-may be briefly summarized 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 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