Wednesday, November 30, 2011

War Is Ugly

The English philosopher John Stuart Mill, writing in 1862 about the American Civil War (although this was published in The Nation in 1867):

For these reasons I cannot join with those who cry Peace! peace'....  War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing worth a war, is worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice aud injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight, for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for one against the other. 


  1. I've always liked this quote. Interestingly, I keep a personal anthology of favorite quotes and had this one as "The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his . . ."

    Note that the author/editor of the version I had has taken it upon himself to edit JS Mill into gender-neutral language. If you google it, you find both versions of the quote.

    I'm curious now because many of the quotes in my personal collection are pulled from Bartlett's etc -- "legit" sources -- and it is intriguing that one of them may have edited in this way.

  2. Will: yes, I copied the text from, and fixed the OCR errors that I noticed. I'll fix that.


    I am not surprised!