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Nicolas de Condorcet: War, the most dreadful of all calamities, the most terrible of all crimes

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

French writers on war and peace

Nicolas de Condorcet: War can never benefit the majority of individuals of a nation

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Nicolas de Condorcet
From Outlines of an historical view of the progress of the human mind
Translator unknown

The people being more enlightened, and having resumed the right of disposing for themselves of their blood and their treasure, will learn by degrees to regard war as the most dreadful of all calamities, the most terrible of all crimes. The first wars that will be superseded will be those into which the usurpers of sovereignty have hitherto drawn their subjects for the maintenance of rights pretendedly hereditary.

Nations will know, that they cannot become conquerors without losing their freedom; that perpetual confederations are the only means of maintaining their independance; that their object should be security, and not power. By degrees commercial prejudices will die away; a false mercantile interest will lose the terrible power of imbuing the earth with blood, and of ruining nations under the idea of enriching them. As the people of different countries will at last be drawn into closer intimacy, by the principles of politics and morality, as each, for its own advantage, will invite foreigners to an equal participation of the benefits which it may have derived either from nature or its own industry, all the causes which produce, envenom, and perpetuate national animosities, will one by one disappear, and will no more furnish to warlike insanity either fuel or pretext.

Institutions, better combined than those projects of perpetual peace which have occupied the leisure and consoled the heart of certain philosophers, will accelerate the progress of this fraternity of nations; and wars, like assassinations, will be ranked in the number of those daring atrocities, humiliating and loathsome to nature; and which set upon the country or the age whose annals are stained with them, an indelible opprobrium.

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The people of Europe will learn in time that exclusive and chartered companies are but a tax upon the respective nation, granted for the purpose of placing a new instrument in the hands of its government for the maintenance of tyranny.

Then will the inhabitants of the European quarter of the world, satisfied with an unrestricted commerce, too enlightened as to their own rights to sport with the rights of others, respect that independence which they have hitherto violated with such audacity. Then will their establishments, instead of being filled by the creatures of power, who, availing themselves of a place or a privilege, hasten, by rapine and perfidy, to amass wealth, in order to purchase, on their return, honours and titles, be peopled with industrious men, seeking in those happy climates that ease and comfort which in their native country eluded their pursuit. There will they be retained by liberty, ambition having lost its allurements; and those settlements of robbers will then become colonies of citizens.

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