The New York Times/Militarism

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We confess that we cannot share the apprehensions that the Hon. Carl Schurz with perfect sincerity and great seriousness, entertains as to the possible advent of militarism in the United States and the evils that would accompany it.

That we are or shall always be entirely free from this spirit he describes by this term no one will maintain. On the contrary, we shall always be exposed to it in nearly the proportion that we are obliged to employ or choose to employ military force. There have been two occasions at least in our history in which this has been shown to be the case. One was at the close of the Revolutionary War, to which Mr. Schurz alludes. The second was at the close of the war for the Union, to which he might have referred with peculiar authority, for he was one of the foremost in exposing and opposing the policy then springing from militarism.

In the first instance, he says:

“A large part of the Revolutionary Army, 'turned by six years of war from militia into seasoned veterans,' and full of that overbearing esprit de corps characteristic of standing armies, urged George Washington to make himself a dictator, a monarch; that, as one of his biographers expresses it, 'It was as easy for Washington to have grasped supreme power then as it would have been for Caesar to have taken the crown from Anthony upon the Lupercal'; and that it was only George Washington's patriotic loyalty and magnificent manhood that stamped out the plot.”

But it was not Washingtton's "patriotic loyalty" alone that made him refuse to take part in that plot, noble and complete as was that sentiment. It was the knowledge that the country could not have been ruled even by him by military power, and that to attempt it would have been only to court civil strife ending in the downfall of dictatorship. No man knew better than he that the Continental soldiers, "seasoned veterans" though they were, were not the stuff of which Caesar's legions, or Napoleon's "grand army," or Louis Napoleon's conscript corps were made, or could be made.

In the second instance, Gen. Grant stood very nearly as high in the confidence of the people as Washington did. He had no intention or desire to make himself dictator. But he did surround himself with men more fitted for war than peace, and he did seek to impose his will on Congress with less regard for the rights of honest opposition than, perhaps, any other President, save, possibly, Thomas Jefferson. But he did not get what he sought, and among his most sturdy and effective opponents were some who had commanded troops under him.

Certainly we shall do well to be watchful. Vigilance is the price of many things besides liberty — of decency, purity, justice in public affairs. But also, in the light of our history and the possibilities of the future, we shall do well to be hopeful.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).