John Stuart Mill: On the American Civil War

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 is willing to fight for, 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 and 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 the one against the other.

The above quotation from John Stuart Mill, British Member of Parliament,writer and philosopher,  is frequently bandied about the internet, usually in an inaccurate form.  The quote is taken from an article that Mill wrote for Frasier’s Magazine and which was published in February 1862.  It is entitled The Contest in America, and here is the full text of the article: (more…)

Published in: on February 9, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on John Stuart Mill: On the American Civil War  
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