James Madison on War

James Madison, a good deal of the time, wrote with terrific insight.  In a 1795 pamphlet, he summarized his thinking about the impact of war on a democratic society.  Remember that he had been a boy through the French and Indian War (ended when he was 12) and a young political official and congressional delegate through eight years of the Revolutionary War against Britain:

  • “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant [impact upon] republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals, engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

How long have we been in this War on Terror?

Madison, dismayed by war

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