War, by Thomas Carlyle
What, speaking in quite unofficial language, is the net purpose and
upshot of war? To my own knowledge, for example, there dwell and toil in
the British village of Dumdrudge [Footnote: Dumdrudge: a fictitious
name.] usually some five hundred souls. From these there are
successfully selected, during the French war, say thirty able-bodied
men. Dumdrudge, at her own expense, has suckled and nursed them. She
has, not without difficulty and sorrow, fed them up to manhood, and even
trained them to crafts, so that one can weave, another build, another
hammer, and the weakest can stand under thirty stone avoirdupois.
Nevertheless, amid much weeping and swearing, they are selected; all
dressed in red; and shipped away at the public charges some two thousand
miles, or say only to the south of Spain; and fed there until wanted.
And now to that same spot in the south of Spain, are thirty similar
French artisans, from a French Dumdrudge, in like manner wending. At
length, after infinite effort, the two parties come into actual
juxtaposition; and thirty stands fronting thirty, each with a gun in his
hand. Straightway the word "Fire!" is given, and they blow the souls out
of one another. And in place of sixty brisk useful craftsmen, the world
has sixty dead carcasses, which it must bury and anew shed tears for.
Had these men any quarrel? Busy as the Devil is, not the smallest! They
lived far enough apart, were the entirest strangers, nay, in so wide a
universe, there was even unconsciously, by commerce, some mutual
helpfulness between them. How then? Simpleton' their Governors had
fallen out, and instead of shooting one another, had the cunning to make
these poor blockheads shoot.
[Footnote: Does Carlyle write from the usual military standpoint? Does
war seem glorious or heroic from this point of view? Is ridicule an
effective weapon against wrongs? Do you know of any abuses or wrongs
that have been abolished by being shown up as ridiculous? Do you think
it likely that the militaristic type of mind can have much sense of
Louise de la Ramee