by Adin Ballou
The Safety Of Non-Resistance
Raymond the traveler – Agent of the Bible Society in Texas – The young man near Philadelphia – Robert Barclay and Leonard Fell – Archbishop Sharpe – Rowland Hill – Two Methodist Non-Resistants – The two New Zealand chiefs – The Missionary and Arabs – A Christian tribe in Africa – The Moravian Indians – The Moravians of Grace Hill – The Shakers – The Indians and the Quaker family – The Indians and the Quaker Meeting – The Christian town in the Tyrol – Captain Back, the Quakers, and the Maylays – Jonathan Dymond – Colony of Pennsylvania.
I have been endeavoring to demonstrate in the preceding chapter that non-resistance, instead of being contrary to nature, is in perfect accordance with all her fundamental laws. I intend in the present chapter to complete that demonstration by a further illustration of the superior general safety of non-resistance. This will be done by anecdotes and historical facts, showing its actual workings in many cases of imminent danger. I do not undertake to prove that the practice of non-resistance will always preserve the life and personal security of its adherents, but only that it generally will. Jesus, the apostles, and thousands of Christian martyrs were slain notwithstanding their non-resistance. Doubtless others will be wronged, outraged, and murdered in time to come, notwithstanding the same safeguard. Exceptions do not disprove a general rule. As the advocates of deadly resistance do not contend that it always ensures the preservation of life and personal security, so neither do I contend that Christian non-resistance will do it. They contend that discretionary resistance is safer than non-resistance; that its general tendency, despite of incidental failures, is to preserve life and render personal safety secure. I contend for the exact reverse. Here is an important issue. The deadly resistants affirm the superior safety of their principle of action; the non-resistants of theirs. The parties are in direct contradiction. Which of them is right? The resistants have lost, according to Dr. Dick, 14,000,000,000, and according to Mr. Burke, 35,000,000,000 human lives since their experiment commenced. Can non-resistants make a greater loss than this? Can their principle of action result in a greater expenditure of life and happiness? No. Under the most unfavorable circumstances they will not lose in the proportion of one to a thousand, and a few centuries of perseverance in their principle would totally extinguish the fires of human violence throughout the earth. Let us proceed to show that the practice of non-resistance is preeminently safe.
Raymond the Traveler
Raymond, a celebrated European traveler, bears the following testimony:
Speaking of the Spanish smugglers, he says, “These smugglers are as adroit as they are determined, are familiarized at all times with peril, and march in the very face of death. Their first movement is a never-failing shot, and certainly would be an object of dread to most passengers, for where are they to be dreaded more than in deserts, where crime has nothing to witness it, and the feeble no assistance? As for myself, alone and unarmed, I have met them without anxiety, and have accompanied them without fear. We have little to apprehend from men whom we inspire with no distrust or envy, and everything to expect in those from whom we claim only what is due from man to man. The laws of nature still exist for those who have long shaken off the laws of civil government. At war with society, they are sometimes at peace with their fellows. The assassin has been my guide in the passes of the boundaries of Italy; the smuggler of the Pyrenees has received me with a welcome in his secret paths. Armed, I should have been the enemy of both; unarmed, they have alike respected me. In such expectation, I have long since laid aside all menacing apparatus whatever. Arms may, indeed, be employed against the wild beast, but no one should forget that they are no defense against the traitor; that they irritate the wicked, and intimidate the simple; lastly, that the man of peace, among mankind, has a much more sacred defense—his character”.
Agent of the Bible Society in Texas
“In the early part of the year 1833, or about that time, an agent of the Bible Society was traveling in Texas. His course lay through a piece of woods, where two men waylaid him with murderous intentions, one being armed with a gun, the other with a large club. As he approached the place of their concealment, they rushed towards him; but finding that no resistance was offered, they neither struck nor fired. He began to reason with them; and, presently, they seemed less eager to destroy him in haste. After a short time, he prevailed on him to sit down with him upon a log, and talk the matter over deliberately; and finally, he persuaded them to kneel with him in prayer, after which they parted with him in a friendly manner.” – Calumet.
The Young Man Near Philadelphia
A few years since, a young man in the vicinity of Philadelphia was one evening stopped in a grove, with the demand, “Your money, or your life.” The robber then presented a pistol to his breast. The young man, having a large sum of money, proceeded leisurely and calmly to hand it over to his enemy, at the same time setting before him the wickedness and peril of his career. The rebukes of the young man cut the robber to the heart. He became enraged, cocked his pistol, held it to the young man’s head, and with an oath, said, “Stop that preaching, or I will blow out your brains.” The young man calmly replied, “Friend, to save my money, I would not risk my life; but to save you from your evil course, I am willing to die. I shall not cease to plead with you.” He then poured in the truth still more earnestly and kindly. Soon the pistol fell to the ground; the tears began to flow; and the robber was overcome. He handed the money all back with the remark, “I cannot rob a man of such principles.”
Robert Barclay and Leonard Fell
Robert Barclay, the celebrated apologist of the Quakers, and Leonard Fell, a member of the same Society, were severally attacked by highwaymen in England, at different times. Both faithfully adhered to their non-resistance principles, and both signally triumphed. The pistol was leveled at Barclay, and a determined demand made for his purse. Calm and self-possessed, he looked the robber in the face, with a firm but meek benignity, assured him he was his and every man’s friend, that he was willing and ready to relieve his wants, that he was free from the fear of death through a divine hope in immortality, and therefore was not to be intimidated by a deadly weapon, and then appealed to him, whether he could have heart to shed the blood of one who had no other feeling or purpose but to do him good. The robber was confounded; his eyes melted; his brawny arm trembled; his pistol fell to his side; and he fled from the presence of the non-resistant hero whom he could no longer confront.
Fell was assaulted in a much more violent manner. The robber rushed upon him, dragged him from his horse, rifled his pockets, and threatened to blow out his brains on the spot if he made the least resistance. This was the work of a moment. But Fell experienced no panic. His principles raised him above the fear of man and of death. Though forbidden to speak, he calmly but resolutely reproved the robber for his wickedness, warned him of the consequences of such a course of life, counseled him to reform, and assured him that while he forgave this wanton outrage on himself, he hoped for his own sake he would henceforth betake himself to an upright calling. His expostulation was so fearless, faithful, and affectionate that the robber was struck with compunction, delivered back his money and horse, and bade him go in peace. Then, with tears filling his eyes, he exclaimed, “May God have mercy on a sinful wretch,” and hastened out of sight.
“Archbishop Sharpe was assaulted by a robber on the highway, who presented a pistol and demanded his money. The Archbishop spoke to the robber in the language of a fellow man and of a Christian. The man was really in distress, and the prelate gave him such money as he had, and promised that, if he would call at the palace, he would make up the amount to fifty pounds. This was the sum of which the robber had said he was in the utmost need. The man called and received the money. About a year and a half afterwards, this man came again to the palace, and brought back the same sum. He said that his circumstances had become improved, and that, through the “astonishing goodness” of the Archbishop, he had become “the most penitent, the most grateful, and happiest of his species.” Let the reader consider how different the Archbishop’s feelings were from what they would have been if by his hand this man had been cut off.” – Dymond.
I have seen an impressive anecdote of this distinguished London preacher, which I have failed to find among my papers, notwithstanding considerable search. I have but an imperfect recollection of the details, but the substance was as follows. Mr. Hill was returning from an excursion out of the city. A man suddenly beset him from the wayside, pistol in hand, and demanded his purse. Mr. Hill calmly scrutinized his countenance with a look of compassion, and, while taking out his money, remarked to the robber that he did not look like a man of that bloody calling, and he was afraid some extreme distress had driven him to the crime. At the same time he inquired how much he stood in need of. The man was affected, declared this was his first offence, and pleaded the distress of his family as his only excuse. Mr. Hill kindly assured him of his sympathy, and of his willingness to relieve him. He gave him a certain sum on the spot, and promised him further aid if he would call at his house. The robber was melted into tears, humbly thanked his benefactor, and hastened towards the city. Mr. Hill, desirous of knowing the whole truth of the matter, directed his servant to follow the man home. This was accordingly done, and it was ascertained that the poor man occupied a miserable tenement in an obscure street, where his wife and children were on the verge of starvation. He was seen to hasten first to a bakery, and then home with a few loaves of bread. His wife received the bread with joy, but with astonishment, expressing her hope that her dear husband had obtained it by none but innocent means. The children cried for joy as they began to satiate their hunger, and the father alone looked sad.
Mr. Hill benevolently took this man under his immediate care, provided a tenement for his family, and made him his coachman. He proved to be a remarkably honest and industrious man, in a little time became a convert to experimental religion, and connected himself with Mr. Hill’s church. For fifteen years he walked with such Christian circumspection as to command the entire confidence of all who knew him. At length he died in the triumphs of hope. His pastor preached an effecting funeral sermon on the occasion, in which for the first time he communicated the affair of the robbery, and took occasion to impress on his auditors the excellence of Christian forbearance, kindness, and compassion towards the guilty. Here was a man withdrawn from an awful course of crime, and by divine grace rendered a child of God – an exemplary and beloved brother in Christ. How different might have been the result, had Rowland Hill either resisted him with deadly weapons, or taken the same pains to hand him over to the government, that he did to befriend him? O how lovely is true righteousness! How comely is Christian non-resistance! How safe!
The Methodist Non-Resistants
“The Rev. John Pomphret, an English Methodist minister, always advocated the practical applicability of the ‘peace doctrine,’ – ‘If a man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also, and if he compel thee to go with him a mile, go with him twain,’ – always declaring that if he should be attacked by a highwayman, he should put it in practice. Being a cheese-monger (he preached to do good, not for wages), on his return from market one day, after he had received a large amount of money from his customers for the purpose of replenishing his year’s stock, he was accosted by a robber, demanding his money, and threatening his life if he refused. The reverend peace-man coolly and kindly replied, ‘Well, friend, how much do you want, for I will give it to you, and thus save you from the crime of committing highway robbery.’ ‘Will you certainly give me what I require?’ asked the robber. ‘I will, in truth, if you do not require more than I have got,’ replied the non-resistant. ‘Then, I want fifteen pounds,’ (about seventy-five dollars). The required sum was counted out to him, and in gold, instead of in bank-bills, which, if the numbers had been observed, the reverend father, by notifying the bank, could have rendered non-negotiable, besides leaving the robber liable to detection in attempting to pass them, telling him at the same time why he gave the gold instead of bank-notes, and saying, ‘Unfortunate man, I make you welcome to this sum. Go home. Pay your debts. Hereafter, get your living honestly.’
“Years rolled on. At length, the good preacher received a letter, containing principal and interest, and a humble confession of his sins, from the robber saying that his appeals awoke his slumbering conscience, which had given him no rest until he had made both restitution and confession, besides wholly changing his course of life.
“Reader! Conscience is a more powerful principle than fear, and more difficult to stifle. Precaution may make the wicked feel safe; but conscience is not to be thus put off, or its remonstrances hushed by thoughts of safety. Punishment appeals to physical fear, which a due precaution against detection quiets, but cultivates and properly direct the consciences of children, and urge home moral accountability upon adults, and an effectual reformation will thereby be brought about. Reader! I leave it for you to say, whether this is not a law of mind.
“The Rev. Mr. Ramsay, another Methodist clergyman, was wholly dependent for his living on the quarterly collection made by his people, which was barely sufficient, by the greatest economy, to support his family. On the night that one of these collections was taken up, he was obliged to preach six miles distant from his home, and the night was too stormy to allow of his return. During the night, two robbers broke into his house, called up Mrs. Ramsay and her sister (there were no men living in the house), and demanded to know where the money was. Mrs. R., in her night dress, lit the candle, and leading the way to the bureau that contained the precious deposit, procured the key, opened the drawer, and pointing out the money as it lay in a handkerchief, said, ‘This is all we have to live on. It is the Lord’s money. Yet, if you will take it, there it is.’ With this remark, she left them and retired to bed. The next morning, the money to a cent was found undisturbed. Conscience here, as above, was appealed to, and with the same results.” – Fowler’s Phrenological Journal.
The Two New Zealand Chiefs
The following highly interesting fact relates to the conduct of two principal persons in New Zealand; one of them of the Ngapuhi tribe, and the other residing at Otumoetai in that island. We are indebted for this truly gratifying account of highly elevated feelings (in men, until lately, looked upon as incorrigible savages) to the Rev. Messrs. Taylor and Wilson, stationed among them. It is extracted from the (Church of England) Missionary Register for January 1841. Who can but wish that all our countrymen, recently gone thither, may acquire this truly Christian spirit in settling disputes, and forget the warlike methods that, to the disgrace of Christianity, are practiced in Europe and elsewhere, by the professed followers of the Savior of the world, the Prince of Peace?
When the Ngapuhi people came to attack the town of the Otumoetai chief, he one morning went out to reconnoiter their camp; and while in concealment amongst the fern, he perceived the principal chief of the enemy advancing towards him, who was coming with a similar intention. The enemy was well armed, but he had no weapon with him; yet, not deterred, he continued for some time in his place of concealment, until he observed the chief sit down on the shore at a distance, with his back towards him. He then crept unperceived and, springing suddenly upon him like a tiger, he in an instant turned him over, wrested his mery (a weapon of war), from his hand, deprived him of his double-barreled gun, and, tying his arms behind, made him march before him to his town. When he had nearly reached it, he ordered his prisoner to stand. He did so, expecting it to be the signal for his death; instead of which, the conqueror unbound his arms and restored his weapons, bidding him to bind him, and drive him in the same way, as a prisoner to his camp, which was accordingly done. When they entered it, the people set up a shout on beholding their chief leading in so distinguished a prisoner, and it was with difficulty that he could preserve him from being instantly put to death. The chief who had been so nobly released bade them have patience until he had told them how his captive had acted, when he might have put him to death if he wished. After some hesitation they consented, and sat down in a circle around them. The whole story was then told; which not only raised a general feeling of admiration in favor of their prisoner, but also was the means of an immediate peace being proclaimed! Should not Christians pray that a like spirit might henceforward animate themselves? – Tract of the London Peace Society.
The Missionary and Arabs
Mr. King, a respectable missionary in Palestine, mentions a remarkable instance of the effect of pacific conduct, which operated to preserve his own life and the lives of a considerable party, when assailed by a powerful band of Arabs on the plain of Esdracion. The party of Mr. King had lost a trunk, which had been stolen, as they supposed, by some Arabs. In consequence of this they seized two Arabs and bound them together with cords, believing them to be the robbers. These they took along with them on their journey, contrary to the wishes of Mr. King. Soon the whole party was attacked by a band of Arabs, who set their brethren at liberty. Great was the alarm; Mr. King objected when one of the party was about to fire on the Arabs, and others interposed in season to prevent the evil intended. Every part of the Kofila was soon attacked, and Mr. King observed:
“It was no time to parley. All was confusion. No one knew whether he expected life or death. The latter, however, seemed to stare us in the face. Our baggage was at length cut off. There seemed to be a little cessation on the part of the Arabs, and I hoped that, contented with our baggage, they would let us go in peace. But in a moment I saw them coming on again. I thought that probably all was lost and that, as they had stopped our baggage, they now intended to take our lives. It was an awful moment. I could only say, ‘Heaven defend us.’ I was in front of the Kofila, and a little distance ahead, when an Arab sheik came flying up to me on his steed with a large club in his hand. Making a halt, I addressed him, calling him brother; and said, ‘Do me no harm, I have not injured you.’
“I spoke to him words of peace and gentleness. Upon this he let down his club which he had been brandishing, halted, listened, and presently turned away; and soon after I saw him driving back some of our pursuers, and the cry of ayman (safety) was heard by us; and I need not say it was a welcome sound to our ears.
“The baggage, too, to my surprise, was soon after permitted to come on. The attack was a gallant one, and made by the Arabs as if they were determined to carry their point through life or death. And I have no doubt that had one of their party fallen by our hands, it would have been the signal for the slaughter of us all.”
A Christian Tribe in Africa
The following interesting incident is copied from Moffat’s Southern Africa. It occurred in a remote village of native Africans, the inhabitants of which had received Christian teachers, and were just emerging from a state of barbarism:
“This little Christian band had met on a Sabbath morning with the people, in the centre of the village, to hold the early prayer meeting before the services of the day. They were scarcely seated when a party of marauders approached from the interior, whither they had gone for plunder, and not having succeeded to their wishes, had determined to attack this village on their return.
“Moshen (the chief) arose, and begged the people to sit still, and trust in Jehovah, while he went to meet the marauders. To his inquiry what they wanted, the appalling reply was, ‘your cattle, and it is at your peril you raise your weapons to resist.’ ‘There are my cattle,’ replied the chief, and then retired and resumed his position at the prayer meeting. A hymn was sung, a chapter read, and then all kneeled in prayer to God, who only could save them in their distress.
“The sight was too sacred and solemn to be gazed on by such a band of ruffians; they all withdrew from the spot, without touching a single article belonging to the people.”
The Moravian Indians
A small tribe of Indians in the West had been converted by the Moravian Missionaries to their faith, one article of which is that Christians cannot innocently fight, even to save their lives. A while afterwards, this little pacific tribe was thrown into extreme alarm and distress by intelligence that a much larger tribe at some distance to the North meditated a hostile incursion upon them. They called on their Moravian teachers for advice. They did not see how they could possibly avoid fighting under such circumstances. They feared they should be utterly destroyed by their enemies unless they resisted. They were affectionately and earnestly exhorted to abide by their principles, and trust in God. They were told of the superior numbers of the hostile tribe, and how uncertain their fate would be, should they presume to make deadly weapons their reliance. They were advised to select a few of their oldest men as a delegation, and to supply them with such presents of choice eatables and other articles, as their circumstances would afford. This venerable delegation, entirely unarmed except with their baskets of parched corn, fruits, etc., were to advance and meet the enemy at a distance from the village. Meantime those who remained behind were to engage in united supplication to the Father of spirits for his protection. The advice was accepted, faithfully followed, and successfully carried out. The hostile Indians were advancing upon their defenseless prey. The old men, laden with their simple but significant presents, went out to meet them. The invaders, astonished and awed by the spectacle, halted on their tomahawks. When the delegates reached the advanced lines they opened as if by magic, and a passage was freely offered them to the presence of the commanding Sachem. Their age and meekness commanded his instant admiration. He accepted their presents, listened to their counsels of peace, declared his friendship, sent them back with assurances that no injury should be done by his tribe to theirs, and declared that if any attack should be made upon them he and his people would be their protectors. So these truly Christian Indians escaped entirely the threatened injury, and sat down in their cabins, surrounded by bulwarks of security such as nothing but these divine principles and their all perfect Author can establish.
The Moravians of Grace Hill
During the rebellion in Ireland, in 1793, the rebels, it is stated, had long meditated an attack on the Moravian settlement at Grace Hill, Wexford County. At length, in fulfillment of their threats, a large body of them marched to the town. But the Moravians, true to their principles in this trying emergency, did not meet them in arms; but assembling in their place of worship, besought Jehovah to be their shield and protector in the hour of danger. The hostile bands, who had expected an armed resistance, were struck with astonishment at a sight so unexpected and impressive; they heard the prayers and praises of the Moravians; they listened to supplications in their own behalf; and after lingering in the streets a whole day and night, they with one consent turned and marched away, without having injured a single individual.
“The Shakers, too, have experienced that protection which pacific principles are sure to afford. About the year 1812, the inhabitants of Indiana were harassed by incursions from the Indians; but the Shakers who lived in that region, although they were without garrisons and without arms, appear to have been entirely secure while the work of destruction was going on around them. The question was once put to a prominent chief, why the Indians did not attack and injure the Shakers, as well as others. His answer was, ‘We warriors meddle with a peaceable people? That people, we know, will not fight. It would be a disgrace to hurt such a people.’” – The Friend of Peace.
The Indians and the Quaker Family
An intelligent Quaker of Cincinnati related to me the following circumstance, as evidence that the principle of non-resistance possesses great influence, even over the savage. During the last war, a Quaker lived among the inhabitants of a small settlement on our western frontier. When the savages commenced their desolating outbreaks, every inhabitant fled to the interior settlements, with the exception of the Quaker and his family. He determined to remain, and rely wholly upon the simple rule of disarming his enemies with entire confidence and kindness. One morning he observed, through his window, a file of savages issuing from the forest in the direction of his house. He immediately went out and met them, and put out his hand to the leader of the party. But neither he nor the rest gave him any notice – they entered his house and searched it for arms, and, had they found any, most probably would have murdered every member of the family. There were none, however, and they quietly partook of the provisions that he placed before them, and left him in peace. At the entrance of the forest, he observed that they stopped and appeared to be holding a council. Soon one of their number left the rest, and came towards his dwelling on the leap. He reached the door, fastened a simple white feather above it, and returned to his band, when they all disappeared. Ever after, that white feather saved him from the savages; for whenever a party came by and observed it, it was a sign of peace to them. In this instance, we discover that the law of kindness disarmed even savage foes, whose white feather told their red brethren that the Quaker was a follower of Penn, and the friend of their race. – Montgomery’s Law of Kindness.
The Inhabitants of the Loochoo Islands
These islands are in the neighborhood of the Chinese Sea. They have been visited by several navigators, and, among others, by Captain Basil Hall. He states that they do not have forts, men-of-war, garrisons, arms, or soldiers, and appear to be quite ignorant of the art of war. They are kind, hospitable, courteous, honest, and acquainted with some of the mechanical arts. Well, what has been their fate? Reasoning on the rash premises of our opponents, we should predicate their utter destruction. But have they been destroyed? Quite the contrary. They have been preserved in peace, safety, and happiness. “The olive branch” is planted on their shores, and they sit beneath it, “no man daring to make them afraid.” – McCree.
The Indians and the Quaker Meeting
I have somewhere met with the following anecdote, but cannot now recollect where. In western New York or Pennsylvania, in a period of Indian hostilities, a neighborhood of Friends, who had erected a log meetinghouse, regularly assembled after the manner of their Society. They had been invited and urged to come within the protection of the army and its fortifications. But they refused to abandon their testimony by expressing any such reliance on the arm of flesh. They were consequently exposed to the attack of every wandering horde of warriors on that part of the frontier. One day, while sitting in silent devotion in their rude meetinghouse, a party of Indians suddenly approached the place, painted and armed for the work of slaughter. They passed to and fro by the open door of the house, looking inquisitively within and about the building, until having sufficiently reconnoitered the quiet worshippers, they at length respectfully entered and joined them. They were met by the principal Friends with the outstretched hand of peace, and shown to such seats as the house afforded, which they occupied in reverent silence until the meeting was regularly dissolved. They were then invited to one of the nearest dwellings by the leading man of the Society, and hospitably refreshed. On their departure the Indian chief took his host aside, and pledged him and his people perfect security from all the depredations of the red men. Said he, “When Indian come to this place, Indian meant to tomahawk every white man he found. But when Indian found white man with no guns, no fighting weapons, so still, so peaceable, worshipping Great Spirit, the Great Spirit say in Indian’s heart – no hurt them, no hurt them!” So saying, he gave a final friendly grip and hastened off with his followers to find that sort of white man whose confidence in deadly weapons invited destruction.
The Christian Town in the Tyrol
The following is a beautiful extract from one of Lydia Maria Child’s letters to the Boston Courier. I commend it not merely to a pleasant reading, which it will be sure to receive, but to a most serious consideration:
“Today is Christmas. From East to West, from North to South, men chant hymns of praise to the despised Nazarene, and kneel in worship before his cross. How beautiful is this universal homage to the principle of love – that feminine principle of the universe, the inmost centre of Christianity. It is the divine idea that distinguishes it from all other religions, and yet the idea in which Christian nations evince so little faith, that one would think they kept only to swear by that gospel which says, ‘Swear not at all.’
“Centuries have passed, and through infinite conflict have ‘ushered in our brief day;’ and is there peace and good will among men? Sincere faith in the words of Jesus would soon fulfill the prophecy that angels sung. But the world persists in saying, ‘This doctrine of unqualified forgiveness and perfect love, though beautiful and holy, cannot be carried into practice now; men are not prepared for it.’ The same spirit says, ‘It would not be safe to emancipate slaves; they must first be fitted for freedom.’ As if slavery ever could fit men for freedom, or war ever lead the nations into peace! Yet men who gravely utter these excuses laugh at the shallow wit of that timid mother, who declared that her son should never venture into the water until he had learned to swim.
“Those who have dared to trust the principles of peace, have always found them perfectly safe. It can never prove otherwise, if accompanied by the declaration that such a course is the result of Christian principle, and a deep friendliness for humanity. Who seemed so little likely to understand such a position, as the Indians of North America? Yet how readily they laid down tomahawks and scalping knives at the feet of William Penn! With what humble sorrow they apologized for killing the only three Quakers they were ever known to attack! ‘The men carried arms,’ said they, ‘and therefore we did not know they were not fighters. We thought they pretended to be Quakers, because they were cowards.’ The savages of the East, who murdered Lyman and Munson, made the same excuse. ‘They carried arms,’ said they, ‘and so we supposed they were not Christian missionaries, but enemies. We would have done them no harm, if we had known they were men of God.’
“If a nation could but attain to such high wisdom as to abjure war, and proclaim to all the earth, ‘We will not fight under any provocation; if other nations have aught against us, we will settle the question by umpires mutually chosen;’ think you that any nation would dare to make war upon such a people? Nay, verily, they would be instinctively ashamed of such an act, as men are now ashamed to attack a woman or a child. Even if any were found mean enough to pursue such a course, the whole civilized world would cry fie upon them, and, by universal consent, brand them as poltroons and assassins. And assassins they would be, even in the common acceptation of the term. I have read of a certain regiment ordered to march into a small town (in the Tyrol, I think) and take it. It chanced that the place was settled by a colony that believed the gospel of Christ, and proved their faith by works. A courier from a neighboring village informed them that troops were advancing to take the town. They quietly answered, ‘If they will, take it they must.’ Soldiers soon came riding in with colors flying, and fifes piping their shrill defiance. They looked round for an enemy, and saw the farmer at his plough, the blacksmith at his anvil, and the women at their churns and spinning-wheels. Babies crowed to hear the music, and boys ran out to see the pretty trainers, with feathers and bright buttons, ‘the harlequins of the nineteenth century.’ Of course, none of these were in a proper position to be shot at. ‘Where are your soldiers?’ they asked.’ ‘We have none,’ was the brief reply. ‘But we have come to take the town.’ ‘Well, friends, it lies before you.’ ‘But is there nobody here to fight?’ ‘No, we are all Christians.’ Here was an emergency altogether unprovided for by the military schools. This was a sort of resistance that no bullet could hit – a fortress perfectly bomb-proof. The commander was perplexed. ‘If there is nobody to fight with, of course we cannot fight,’ said he. ‘It is impossible to take such a town as this.’ So he ordered the horses heads to be turned about, and they carried the human animals out of the village, as guiltless as they entered, and perchance somewhat wiser.
“This experiment on a small scale indicates how easy it would be to dispense with armies and navies, if men only had faith in the religion they profess to believe. When France lately reduced her army, England immediately did the same; for the existence of one army creates the necessity of another, unless men are safely ensconced in the bomb-proof fortress above mentioned.”
Captain Back – The Quakers – The Malays
I shall make no apology for adding to the foregoing the following extracts from another article by the same fruitful and instructive pen.
“It is a mission worth living for, if I can give the least aid in convincing mankind that the Christian doctrine of overcoming evil with good is not merely a beautiful sentiment, as becoming to the religious, as are pearls to the maiden’s bosom, but that it is really the highest reason, the bravest manliness, the most comprehensive philosophy, and the wisest political economy.
“The amount of proof that it is so seems abundant enough to warrant the belief that a practical adoption of peace principles would be always safe, even with the most savage men, and under the most desperate circumstances, provided there was a chance to have it distinctly understood that such a course was not based on cowardice, but on principle.
“When Capt. Back went to the Polar Regions in search of his friend, Capt. Ross, he fell in with a band of the Eskimos, who had never seen a white man. The chief raised a spear to hurl it at the stranger’s head; but when Capt. Back approached calmly and unarmed, the spear dropped, and the rude savage gladly welcomed the brother man, who had trusted in him. Had Capt. Back adopted the usual maxim, that it is necessary to carry arms in such emergencies, he would probably have occasioned his own death and that of his companions.”
Perhaps the severest test to which the peace principles were ever put was in Ireland, during the memorable rebellion of 1798. During that terrible conflict the Irish Quakers were continually between two fires. The Protestant party viewed them with suspicion and dislike because they refused to fight or to pay military taxes; and the fierce multitude of insurgents deemed it sufficient cause of death that they would neither profess belief in the Catholic religion nor help them fight for Irish freedom. Victory alternated between the two contending parties, and, as usual in civil war, the victors made almost indiscriminate havoc of those who did not march under their banners. It was a perilous time for all men, but the Quakers alone were liable to a raking fire from both sides. Foreseeing calamity, they had, nearly two years before the war broke out, publicly destroyed all their guns, and other weapons used for game. But this pledge of pacific intentions was not sufficient to satisfy the government, which required warlike assistance at their hands. Threats and insults were heaped upon them from all quarters; but they steadfastly adhered to their resolution of doing good to both parties, and harm to neither. Their houses were filled with widows and orphans, with the sick, the wounded and the dying, belonging both to the loyalists and the rebels. Sometimes, when the Catholic insurgents were victorious, they would be greatly enraged to find Quaker houses filled with Protestant families. They would point their pistols and threaten death, if their enemies were not immediately turned into the street to be massacred. But the pistol dropped when the Christian mildly replied, “Friend, do what thou wilt, I will not harm thee, or any other human being.” Not even amid the savage fierceness of civil war, could men fire at one who spoke such words as these. They saw that this was not cowardice, but bravery very much higher than their own.
On one occasion, an insurgent threatened to burn down a Quaker house unless the owner expelled the Protestant women and children who had taken refuge there. “I cannot help it,” replied the Friend, “so long as I have a house, I will keep it open to succor the helpless and distressed, whether they belong to thy ranks, or those of thy enemies. If my house is burned, I must be turned out with them, and share their affliction.” The fighter turned away and did the Christian no harm.
The Protestant party seized the Quaker schoolmaster of Ballitore, saying they could see no reason why he should stay at home in quiet, while they were obliged to defend his property. “Friends, I have asked no man to fight for me,” replied the schoolmaster. But they dragged him along, swearing that he should at least stop a bullet. His house and schoolhouse were filled with women and children who had taken refuge there, for it was an instructive fact, throughout this bloody contest, that the houses of the men of peace were the only places of safety. Some of the women followed the soldiers, begging them not to take away their friend and protector, a man who had expended more for the sick and starving than others did for arms and ammunition. The schoolmaster said, “Do not be distressed, my friends. I forgive these neighbors; for what they do, they do in ignorance of my principles and feelings. They may take my life, but they cannot force me to do injury to one of my fellow creatures.” As the Catholics had done, so did the Protestants; they went away, and left the man of peace safe in his divine armor.
The flames of bigotry were, of course, fanned by civil war. On one occasion, the insurgents seized a wealthy old Quaker, in very feeble health, and threatened to shoot him if he did not go with them to a Catholic priest to be christened. They had not led him far, before he sank down from extreme weakness. “What do you say to our proposition?” asked one of the soldiers, handling his gun significantly. The old man quietly replied, “If thou art permitted to take my life, I hope our Heavenly Father will forgive thee.” The insurgents talked apart for a few moments, and then went away, restrained by a power they did not understand.
Deeds of kindness added strength to the influence of gentle words. The officers and soldiers of both parties had had some dying brother tended by the Quakers, or some starving mother who had been fed, or some desolate little ones who had been cherished. Whichever party marched into a village victorious, the cry was, “Spare the Quakers! They have done good to all, and harm to none.” While flames were raging, and blood flowing in every direction, the houses of the peacemakers stood uninjured.
It is a circumstance worthy to be recorded that,during the fierce and terrible struggle, even in counties where Quakers were most numerous, but one of their society fell a sacrifice. That one was a young man who, being afraid to trust peace principles, put on a military uniform and went to the garrison for protection. The garrison was taken by the insurgents, and he was killed. “His dress and arms spoke the language of hostility,” says the historian, “and therefore invited it.”
A few years ago, I met an elderly man in the Hartford stage, whose conversation led me to reflect on the baseness and iniquity often concealed behind the apparent glory of war. The thumb of his right hand hung down, as if suspended by a piece of thread, and some of the passengers enquired the cause. “A Malay woman cut the muscle with her saber,” was the reply.
“A Malay woman!” they exclaimed. “How came you fighting with a woman?”
“I did not know she was a woman, for they all dress alike there,” said he. “I was on board the U.S. ship Potomac, when it was sent out to chastise the Malays for murdering the crew of a Salem vessel. We attacked one of their forts and killed some two hundred or more. Many of them were women, and I can tell you, the Malay women are as good fighters as the men.”
After answering several questions concerning the conflict, he was silent for a moment, and then added, with a sigh, “Ah, that was a bad business. I do not like to remember it; I wish I had never had anything to do with it. I have been a seaman from my youth, and I know the Malays well. They are a brave and honest people. Deal fairly with them, and they will treat you well, and may be trusted with untold gold. The Americans were to blame in that business. The truth is, Christian nations are generally to blame, in the outset, in all the difficulties with less civilized people. A Salem ship went to Malacca to trade for pepper. They agreed to give the natives a stated compensation when a certain number of measures full of pepper were delivered.
“Men, women, and children were busy picking pepper and bringing it on board. The Captain proposed that the sailors should go on shore and help them; and the natives consented, with the most confiding good nature. The sailors were instructed to pick until evening, and then leave the baskets full of pepper around the bushes, with the understanding that they were to be brought on board by the natives in the morning. They did so, without exciting any suspicion of treachery. But in the night the baskets were all conveyed away, and the vessel sailed away, leaving the Malays unpaid for their valuable cargo. This, of course, excited great indignation, and they made loud complaints to the commander of the next American vessel that arrived on that coast. In answer to a demand of redress from the Government, they were assured the case should be represented, and the wrong repaired. But ‘Yankee cuteness’ in cheating a few savages was not sufficiently uncommon to make any great stir, and the affair was soon forgotten. Some time after, another Captain of a Salem ship played a similar trick, and carried off a still larger quantity of stolen pepper. The Malays, exasperated beyond measure, resorted to Lynch law, and murdered an American crew that landed there about the same time. The U.S. ship Potomac was sent out to punish them for the outrage; and, as I told, we killed some two hundred men and women. I sometimes think that our retaliation was not more rational or more like Christians than theirs.”
“Will you please,” said I, “to tell me what sort of revenge would be like Christians?”
He hesitated and said it would be a hard question to answer. “I never felt pleasantly about that affair,” continued he. “I would not have killed her if I had known she was a woman.”
I asked why he felt any more regret about killing a woman than killing a man.
“I hardly know why myself,” answered he. “I don’t suppose I should, if it were a common thing for women to fight. But we are accustomed to think of them as not defending themselves; and there is something in every human heart that makes a man unwilling to fight in return. It seems mean and dastardly, and a man cannot work himself up to it.”
“Then, if one nation would not fight, another could not,” said I. “What if a nation, instead of an individual, should make such an appeal to the manly feeling, which you say is inherent in the heart?”
“I believe other nations would be ashamed to attack her,” he replied. “It would take away all the glory and excitement of war, and the hardiest soldier would shrink from it, as from cold-blooded murder.”
“Such a peace establishment would be at once cheap and beautiful,” rejoined I; and so we parted.
Jonathan Dymond – Colony of Pennsylvania
I shall relieve myself, and edify my readers, by concluding this chapter with a somewhat extended extract from the essays of Jonathan Dymond. It is from that part of his third essay, headed The Probable Practical Effects of Adhering to the Moral Law in Respect to War. It is exceedingly pertinent, lucid, and convincing. He says:
“It is never to be forgotten that our apparent interests in the present life are sometimes, in the economy of God, made subordinate to our interests in futurity. Yet, even in reference only to the present state of existence, I believe that we shall find that the testimony of experience is that forbearance is most conducive to our interests. There is practical truth in the position that, ‘When a man’s ways please the Lord,’ he ‘maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.’
“The reader of American history will recollect, that in the beginning of the last century a desultory and most dreadful warfare was carried on by the natives against the European settlers; a warfare that was provoked – as such warfare has almost always originally been – by the injury and violence of the (nominal) Christians. The mode of destruction was secret and sudden. The barbarians sometimes lay in wait for those who might come within their reach, on the highway or in the fields, and shot them without warning, and sometimes they attacked the Europeans in their houses, ‘scalping some, and knocking out the brains of others.’ From this horrible warfare the inhabitants sought safety by abandoning their houses and retiring to fortified places, or to the neighborhood of garrisons; and those whom necessity still compelled to pass beyond the limits of such protection, provided themselves with arms for their defense. But amidst this dreadful desolation and universal terror, the Society of Friends, who were a considerable portion of the whole population, were steadfast to their principles. They would neither retire to garrisons, nor provide themselves with arms. They remained openly in the country, while the rest were flying to the forts. They still pursued their occupations in the fields or at their homes, without a weapon either for annoyance or defense. And what was their fate? They lived in security and quiet. The habitation that, to his armed neighbor, was the scene of murder and of the scalping knife, was to the unarmed Quaker a place of safety and of peace. Three of the Society were, however, killed. And who were they? They were three who abandoned their principles. Two of these victims were men who, in the simple language of the narrator, ‘used to go to their labor without any weapons, and trusted to the Almighty, and depended on his providence to protect them (it being their principle not to use weapons of war to offend others, or to defend themselves), but a spirit of distrust taking place in their minds, they took weapons of war to defend themselves, and the Indians who had seen them several times without them and let them alone, saying they were peaceable men and hurt nobody, therefore they would not hurt them – now seeing them have guns, and supposing they designed to kill the Indians, they therefore shot the men dead. The third whose life was sacrificed was a woman, ‘who had remained in her habitation,’ not thinking herself warranted in going ‘to a fortified place for preservation,’ neither she, her son, nor daughter, nor to take thither the little ones; but the poor woman after some time began to let in a slavish fear, and advised her children to go with her to a fort not far from their dwelling. She went; and shortly afterwards ‘the bloody, cruel Indians, lay by the way, and killed her.’
“The fate of the Quakers during the rebellion in Ireland was nearly similar. It is well known the Rebellion was a time – not only of open war, but also of cold-blooded murder – of the utmost fury of bigotry, and the utmost exasperation of revenge. Yet the Quakers were preserved even to a proverb; and when strangers passed through streets of ruin, and observed a house standing uninjured and alone, they would sometimes point, and say, ‘That, doubtless, is the house of a Quaker.’ So complete indeed was the preservation which these people experienced, that in an official document of the Society they say, ‘No member of our Society fell a sacrifice but one young man; and that young man had assumed regimentals and arms.’
“It is to no purpose to say, in opposition to the evidence of these facts, that they form an exception to a general rule. The exception to the rule consists in the trial of the experiment of non-resistance, not in its success. Neither is it to any purpose to say that the savages of America, or the desperadoes of Ireland, spared the Quakers because they were previously known to be an unoffending people, or because the Quakers had previously gained the love of these by forbearance or good offices. We concede all this; it is the very argument that we maintain. We say that a uniform, undeviating regard to the peaceable obligations of Christianity becomes the safeguard of those who practice it. We venture to maintain that no reason whatever can be assigned why the fate of the Quakers would not be the fate of all who should adopt their conduct. No reason can be assigned why, if their numbers had been multiplied ten-fold, or a hundred-fold, they would not have been preserved. If there is such a reason, let us hear it. The American and Irish Quakers were, to the rest of the community, what one nation is to a continent. And we must require the advocate of war to produce (that which has never yet been produced) a reason for believing that, although individuals exposed to destruction were preserved, a nation exposed to destruction would be destroyed. We do not, however, say that if a people, in the customary state of men’s passions, should be assailed by an invader, and should on a sudden choose to declare that they would try whether Providence would protect them – of such a people we do not say that they would experience protection, and that none of them would be killed. But we say that the evidence of experience is that a people who habitually regard the obligations of Christianity in their conduct towards other men and who steadfastly refuse, through whatever consequences, to engage in acts of hostility, will experience protection in their peacefulness. And it matters nothing to the argument, whether we refer that protection to the immediate agency of Providence, or to the influence of such conduct upon the minds of men.”
Such has been the experience of the unoffending and unresisting, in individual life. A National example of a refusal to bear arms, has only once been exhibited to the world; but that one example has proved, so far as its political circumstances enabled it to prove all that humanity could desire and all that skepticism could demand, in favor of our argument.
The Colony of Pennsylvania
“It has been,” says he, “the ordinary practice of those who have colonized distant countries, to force a footing; or to maintain it with the sword. One of the first objects has been to build a fort, and to provide a military. The adventurers became soldiers, and the colony was a garrison. Pennsylvania was, however, colonized by men who believed that war was absolutely incompatible with Christianity, and who, therefore, resolved not to practice it. Having determined not to fight, they maintained no soldiers and possessed no arms. They planted themselves in a country ‘that was surrounded by savages, and by savages who knew they were unarmed. If easiness of conquest, or incapability of defense, could subject them to outrage, the Pennsylvanians might have been the very sport of violence. Plunderers might have robbed them without retaliation, and armies might have slaughtered them without resistance. If they did not give a temptation to outrage, no temptation could be given. But these were the people who possessed their country in security, while those around them were trembling for their existence. Theirs was a land of peace, while every other was a land of war. The conclusion is inevitable, although it is extraordinary; they were in no need of arms, because they would not use them.
“These Indians were sufficiently ready to commit outrages on other states, and often visited them with desolation and slaughter; with that sort of desolation and that sort of slaughter which might be expected from men whom civilization had not reclaimed from cruelty, and whom religion had not awed into forbearance. ‘But whatever the quarrels of the Pennsylvania Indians were with others, they uniformly respected and held, as they were sacred, the territories of William Penn. The Pennsylvanians never lost a man, woman, or child by them; which neither the colony of Maryland nor that of Virginia could say, no more than the great colony of New England.’
“The security and quiet Pennsylvania was not a transient freedom from war, such as might accidentally happen to any nation. She continued to enjoy it ‘for more than seventy years,’ and ‘subsisted in the midst of six Indian nations, without so much as a militia for her defense.’
“I cannot wonder that these people were not molested, extraordinary and unexampled as their security was. There is something so noble in this confidence in the Supreme Protector, in this utter exclusion of ‘slavish fear,’ in this voluntary relinquishment of the means of injury or of defense, that I do not wonder that even ferocity could be disarmed by such virtue. A people generously living without arms amidst nations of warriors! Who would attack a people such as this? There are few men so abandoned as not to respect such confidence. It is a peculiar and an unusual intensity of wickedness that would not even revere it.
“And when was the security of Pennsylvania molested, and its peace destroyed? When the men who had directed its counsels, and who would not engage in war, were outvoted in its legislature; when they who supposed that there was greater security in the sword than in Christianity became the predominating body. From that hour the Pennsylvanians transferred their confidence in Christian principles to a confidence in arms; and from that hour to the present they have been subject to war.
“Such is the evidence, derived from a national example, of the consequences of a pursuit of the Christian policy in relation to war. Here are people who absolutely refused to fight, and who incapacitated themselves for resistance by refusing to possess arms; and these were the people whose land, amidst surrounding broils and slaughter, was selected as a land of security and peace. The only national opportunity that the virtue of the Christian world has afforded us of ascertaining the safety of relying upon God for defense has determined that it is safe.”