ON THE HORRORS OF WAR.
IT is wonderful, with what coolness and indif∣ference the greater part of mankind see war com∣menced. Those who hear of it at a distance, or read of it in books, but have never presented its evils to their minds, consider it as little more than a splendid game, a proclamation, an army, a battle, and a tri∣umph. Some indeed must perish in the most success∣ful field, but they die upon the bed of honour, re∣sign their lives awidst the joys of conquest, and, filled with England's glory, smile in death.
The life of a modern soldier is ill represented by heroic fiction. War has means of destruction more formidable than the cannon and the sword. Of the thousands and ten thousands who perished in our late contests with France and Spain, a very small part ever felt the stroke of an enemy; the rest languished in tents and ships, amidst damps and putrefaction, pale, torpid, spiritless, and helpless; gasping and groaning, unpitied among men, made obdurate by a long con∣tinuance of hopeless misery; and were at last whelmed in pits, or heaved into the ocean, without notice, and without remembrance. By incommodious en∣campments, and unwholesome stations, where courage is useless, and enterprize impracticable, fleets are silently dispeopled, and armies sluggishly melted away.
Thus is a people gradually exhausted, for the most part with little effect. The wars of civilized nations make very slow changes in the system of empire. The public perceives scarcely any alteration but an en∣crease of debt; and the few individuals who are be∣nefited, are not supposed to have the clearest right to their advantages. If he who shared the danger en∣joyed the profit, and after bleeding in the battle grew rich by the victory, he might shew his gains without Page 223envy. But at the conclusion of a ten years war, how are we recompenced for the death of multitudes, and the expence of millions, but by contemplating the sudden glories of paymasters and agents, contractors and commissuries, whose equipages shine like meteors, and whose palaces rise like exhalations.
These are the men who, without virtue, labour, or hazard, are growing rich as their country is im∣poverished; they rejoice when obstinacy or ambition add; another year to slaughter and devastation; and laugh from their desks at bravery and science, while they are adding figure to figure, and cipher to cipher, hoping for a new contract from a new armament, and computing the profits of a siege or a tempest.