Monday, September 26, 2005

Emeric Crucé

In her, "A Brief History of the Quest for Peace: Pacifism and Just War Theory in Europe from the 16th to the 20th Centuries," Grace G. Roosevelt (d. 1994), granddaughter of Teddy Roosevelt, Rousseau scholar, and former Adjunct Assistant Professor of the Humanities in the General Studies Program at New York University, divides the European peace movement into two branches: first, there is the pacifist branch (which, she says, stems from Erasmus, without mentioning the Anabaptists); and second, there is the movement for international law (which, she claims, evolved out of just war theory).
After Erasmus, she mentions Emeric Crucé, a French monk who taught in Paris and authored a treatise on universal peace entitled The New Cyneas: Discourse on Opportunities and Means for Establishing a General Peace and Freedom of Trade Throughout the World, which was published in 1623 with a second edition in 1624. The plan he presented for peace was unprecedented because it sought to include non-Christians in world governance: “Crucé's plan aimed to include not only European rulers but the Emperor of the Turks, the Jews, the Kings of Persia and China, the Grand Duke of Moscovy (Russia) and monarchs from India and Africa.” He was not an absolute pacifist, in that he held that the order imposed by his world government should be backed with armed force. More detail can be found on
Sanderson Beck’s site, where a synopsis of Crucé's work finishes as follows: “Crucé concluded with a description of the horrors of war that are caused by the sins of arrogance and cruelty. With little provocation thousands of men clash with each other, resulting in slaughter, dismemberment, and misery. Then innocent people are massacred, women violated, and temples profaned; famine and pestilence follow. Crucé exhorted us to renounce arrogance and cruelty so that wars will cease.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Vachel Lindsay

Repin Ilya Yfimovich (1844-1930)
Portrait of Leo Tolstoy as a Ploughman on a Field (1887, Moscow, The Tretyakov Gallery)

Tolstoi is plowing yet. When the smoke-clouds break,
High in the sky shines a field as wide as the world.
There he toils for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake.

Ah, he is taller than clouds of the little earth.
Only the congress of planets is over him,
And the arching path where new sweet stars have birth.

Wearing his peasant dress, his head bent low,
Tolstoi, that angel of Peace, is plowing yet;
Forward across the field, his horses go.

-written by Vachel Lindsay on the sinking of the Lusitania,appearing in the Chicago Herald, May 11, 1915.
vach1.jpg (17223 bytes)

Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931)
Photo Source:


I saw St. Francis by a stream
Washing his wounds that bled.
The aspens quivered overhead.
The silver doves flew round.

Weeping and sore dismayed
"Peace, peace," St. Francis prayed.

But the soft doves quickly fled.
Carrion crows flew round.
An earthquake rocked the ground.

"War, war," the west wind said.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


"Patriotism in its simplest, clearest, and most indubitable signification is nothing else but a means of obtaining for the rulers their ambitions and covetous desires, and for the ruled the abdication of human dignity, reason, and conscience, and a slavish enthralment to those in power. And as such it is recommended wherever it is preached.
Patriotism is slavery."
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), from "On Patriotism"

Repin Ilya Yfimovich (1844-1930)
Portrait of Leo Tolstoy (1887, Moscow, The Tretyakov Gallery)

Tolstoy goes on to argue that the way to peace is not through social activism, but through thought and its expression. What is needed, according to Tolstoy, is a change in public opinion, and this will come about only when men have the courage to express the truth of the brotherhood of all nations. He enjoins people to have faith in themselves, to believe that what they are conscious of in the depths of their souls "is the power which transforms the world, and to express which is the mission of mankind: it is sufficient to believe that truth is not what men talk of, but what is told by his own conscience, that is, by God..." He finishes the essay:

If only the hearts of individuals would not be troubled by the seductions with which they are hourly seduced, nor afraid of those imaginary terrors by which they are intimidated; if people only knew wherein their chiefest, all-conquering power consists--a peace which men have always desired, not the peace attainable by diplomatic negotiations, imperial or kingly progresses, dinners, speeches, fortresses, cannon, dynamite, and melinite, by
the exhaustion of the people under taxes, and the abduction from labor of the flower of the population, but the peace attainable by a voluntary profession of the truth by every man, would long ago have been established in our midst.

Monday, September 12, 2005

From Erasmus to the Anabaptists

Anabaptist martyrs from The Martyrs' Mirror:

The peace movement in Europe gradually changed from a movement to unite European Christians against the Turks to a more total rejection of war with the radical reformation and the incorporation of pacifism into Anabaptist teachings. While Erasmus and other humanists may have had some influence on the Anabaptists in this regard, the matter is disputed by historians. In his Anabaptist History and Theology: An Introduction (Kitchener: Pandora Press, 1995), C. Arnold Snyder writes: "It may be that humanism helped form the pacifism of the Zürich Anabaptists, but if this was the case the lines of influence are no longer discernible." (57) At any rate, Erasmus was not a pacifist in the strict sense, since he allowed the necessity of defensive war, particularly against the Turks.

Like Luther, the Anabaptists tended to view the attacks on Europe by the Turks as a divine punishment. Austrian Anabaptists refused to pay war taxes for the campaign against the Turks, and were burnt at the stake in response. Hans Hut hoped that the Turks would execute God's vengence on the powerful, and Melchior Hoffman and Ursula Jost also viewed the Turks and instruments of divine vengence. (See Snyder, 155, 170, 194). Erasmus also argued that if the Christians were to rid themselves of the Turks, they must themselves cast out their "Turkish vices." (See Fred Dallmayr, Peace Talks: Who Will Listen? (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004), 28.)

A Biblical pacifism was defended by Conrad Grebel in a letter to Thomas Müntzer in 1524 and by Felix Mantz a couple years later. But not all early Anabaptists were strict pacifists. Aside from Müntzer's abberation, Balthasar Hubmaier actively supported the peasant rebellion of 1525 in Waldshut. Pacifism became codified in the sixth article of the Schleitheim Confession written by Michael Sattler in 1527, part of which reads (in John Howard Yoder's translation): "Lastly, one can see in the following points that it does not befit a Christian to be a magistrate: the rule of the government is according to the flesh, that of the Christians according to the spirit. Their houses and dwelling remain in this world, that of the Christians is in heaven. Their citizenship is in this world, that of the Christians is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). The weapons of their battle and warfare are carnal and only against the flesh, but the weapons of Christians are spiritual, agains the fortification of the devil. The worldly are armed with steel and iron, but Christians are armed with the armor of God, with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and with the Word of God."

Here the idea seems to be that peace should be obtained through the proper understanding of the gospels.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Hobbes or Erasmus?

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) held that the entire purpose of moral philosophy was to bring about and maintain peace. Peace through the understanding of moral philosophy! Having experienced the English civil war, he was more concerned to protect against civil strife than to prevent international conflicts, but he wrote about the need for peace generally.

[A]ll such calamities as may be avoided by human industry, arise from war, but chiefly from civil war.... The cause...of civil war is, that men know not the causes neither of war nor peace, there being but few in the world that have learned those duties which unite and keep men in peace, that is to say, that have learned the rules of civil life sufficiently. Now, the knowledge of these rules is moral philosophy. (De Corpore 1.7)

This quote is taken from J. B. Schneewind's The Invention of Autonomy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 83. Schneewind explains Hobbes' view as follows:

"Seek peace" is accordingly the first law of nature; and the second is "if peace is not attainable, do what you must to stay alive." Normative laws reflect psychological necessities. How is peace to be obtained? By giving up our right to all things. And what can this mean? Only this: recognizing that I must have peace, I will cease to have an overpoweringly strong desire for unlimited power, glory, and anything else I have previously wanted. I will come to want only as much as allows me to coexist with others who have a similarly limited set of desires. But this deisre will be my effective last appetite or will only if I am quite sure others have also come to want only this much. (90)

A much different approach to peace through understanding is found in the works of Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536). The topic of war and peace was a recurrent theme in his writings, one of which was titled with the adage: Dulce Bellum Inexpertis (war is sweet to the inexperienced). As Fred Dallmayr explains in his Peace Talks (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 2004): "Emulating Aristotle's teachings (and anticipating those of Hegel), experience for Erasmus signifies not just a factual happening, but rather a seasoning or learning process which transforms the person undergoing the experience." (33) So, the sort of understanding through which peace may be achieved, according to Erasmus, would not be knowledge of the moral rules to which Hobbes appeals, but the recollection of past sufferings leading to a determination to avoid their recurrence. People fail to learn from the horrors of past and present wars because of a kind of obtuseness or amnesia. This failure of understanding is promoted by warmongers and demagogues among whom are those "whose only reason for inciting war is to use it as a means to exercise their tyranny over their subjects more easily." (34)

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