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particular chapter in his admirable comments on the Law of Nations and every one of the circumstances stated by him as forming an exception to the moral necessity of previous declaration of war concurred in the Copenhagen expedition. I need mention two only. First, by the act or acts, which provoked the expedition, the party attacked had knowingly placed himself in a state of war. Let A stand for the Danish, B for the British govern'ment. A had done that which he himself was fully aware would produce immediate hostilities on the part of B, the moment it came to the knowledge of the latter. The act itself was a waging of war against B on the part of A. B therefore was the party attacked; and common sense dictates, that to resist and baffle an aggression requires no proclamation to justify it. I perceive a dagger aimed at my back, in consequence of a warning given me, just time enough to prevent the blow, knock the assassin down, and disarm him: and he reproaches me with treachery, because forsooth I had not sent him a challenge! Secondly, when the object which justifies and necessitates the war would be frustrated by the proclamation. For neither state nor individual can be sumed to have given either a formal or acit assent to v such modification of a positive right, as would suspend and
ally annul the right itself;-the right of self-preservation, for stance. This second exception will often depend on the existence of the first, and must always receive additional strength and clearness from it. That both of these exceptions appertained to the case in question, is now notorious. But at the time I found it necessary to publish the following comment, which I now adapt to The Friend, as illustrative of the fundamental principle of public justice; namely, that personal and national morality, ever one and the same, dictate the same measures under the same circumstances, and different measures only as far as the circumstances are different.
As my limits will not allow me to do more in the second, or ethical, section of The Friend, than to propose and develop my own system, without controverting the systems of others, I shall therefore devote the essay, which follows this postscript, to the consideration of the question: How far is the moral nature of an action constituted by its individual circumstances?
It was once said to me, when the Copenhagen affair was in dispute, "You do not see the enormity, because it is an affair be
tween state and state: conceive a similar case between man and man, and you would both see and abhor it.” Now, I was neither defending nor attacking the measure itself. My arguments were confined to the grounds which had been taken both in the arraigning of that measure and in its defence, because I thought both equally untenable. I was not enough master of facts to form a decisive opinion on the enterprise, even for my own mind; but I had no hesitation in affirming, that the principles, on which it was defended in the legislature, appeared to me fitter objects of indignant reprobation than the act itself. This having been premised, I replied to the assertion above stated, by asserting the direct contrary; namely, that were a similar case conceived between man and man, the severest arraigners of the measure would, on their grounds, find nothing to blame in it. How was I to prove this assertion? Clearly, by imagining some case between individuals living in the same relation toward each other, in which the several states of Europe exist or existed. My allegory, therefore, so far from being a disguise, was a necessary part of the main argument, a case in point, to prove the identity of the law of nations with the law of conscience. We have only to conceive individuals in the same relations as states, in order to learn that the rules emanating from international law, differ from those of private honesty, solely through the difference of the circum
But why did I not avow the application of the principle to the seizure of the Danish fleet? Because I did not possess sufficient evidence to prove to others, or even to decide for myself, that my principle was applicable to this particular act. In the case of Pamphilus and Lathrodacnus, the prudence and necessity of the measure were certain; and, this taken for granted, I showed its perfect rightfulness. In the affair of Copenhagen, I had no doubt of our right to do as we did, the necessity supposed, or at least the extreme prudence of the measure; it being taken for granted that there existed a motive adequate to the action, and that the action was an adequate means of realizing the purpose.
But this I was not authorized to take for granted in the real, as I had been in the imaginary, case. I saw many reasons for the affirmative, and many for the negative. For the former, the certainty of a hostile design on the part of the Danes, the alarm
ing state of Ireland, that vulnerable heel of the British Achilles, and the immense difference between military and naval superiority. Our naval power collectively might have defied that of the whole world; but it was widely scattered, and a combined operation from the Baltic, Holland, Brest, and Lisbon, might easily bring together a fleet double to that which we could have assembled against it during the short time that might be neces sary to convey thirty or forty thousand men to Ireland. On the other hand, it seemed equally clear that Bonaparte needed sailors rather than ships; and that we took the ships and left him the Danish sailors, whose presence in the fleet at Antwerp turned the scale, perhaps, in favor of the worse than disastrous expedition to Walcheren.
But I repeat, that I had no concern with the measure itself; but only with the grounds or principles on which it had been attacked or defended. Those who attacked it declared that a right had been violated by us, and that no motive could justify such violation, however imperious that motive might be. In opposition to such reasoners, I proved, that no such right existed, or is deducible either from international law or the law of private morality. Those again who defended the seizure of the Danish fleet, conceded that it was a violation of right; but affirmed, that such violation was justified by the urgency of the motive. It was asserted (as I have before noticed in the introduction to the subject) that national policy can not in all cases be subordinated to the laws of morality; in other words, that a government may act with injustice, and yet remain blameless. To prove this assertion as groundless and unnecessary as it is tremendous, formed the chief object of the whole disquisition. I trust, then, that my candid judges will rest satisfied that it is not only my profession and pretext, but my constant plan and actual intention, to establish principles; that I refer to particular facts for no other purpose than that of giving illustration and interest to those principles; and that to invent principles with a view to particular cases, whether with the motive of attacking or defending a transitory cabinet, is a baseness which will scarcely be attributed to The Friend by any one who understands the work, even though the suspicion should not have been precluded by a knowledge of the author.
Ja, ich bin der Atheist und Gottlose, der einer imaginären Berechnungslehre, einer blossen Einbildung von allgemeinen Folgen, die nie folgen können, zuwider-lügen will, wie Desdemona sterbend lag; lügen und betrügen will, wie der für Orest sich darstellende Pylades; Tempelraub unternehmen, wie David; ja, Aehren ausraufen am Sabbath, auch nur darum, weil mich hungert, und das Gesetz um des Menschen willen gemacht ist, nicht der Mensch um des Gesetzes willen.
Yes, I am that atheist, that godless person, who in opposition to an imaginary doctrine of calculation, to a mere ideal fabric of general consequences that can never be realized, would lie, as the dying Desdemona lied ;* lie and deccive as Pylades when he personated Orestes; would commit sacrilege with David; yea and pluck ears of corn on the Sabbath, for no other reason than that I was fainting from lack of food, and that the law was made for man, and not man for the law. JACOBI'S LETTER TO FICHTE.
If there be no better doctrine,-I would add! Much and often have I suffered from having ventured to avow my doubts concerning the truth of certain opinions, which had been sanctified in the minds of my hearers by the authority of some reigning great name; even though, in addition to my own reasons, I had all the greatest names from the Reformation to the Revolution on my side. I could not, therefore, summon courage, without some previous pioneering, to declare publicly, that the principles of morality taught in the present work will be in direct opposition to the system of the late Dr. Paley. This confession I
Emilia.-O who hath done
Desd. Nobody; I myself; farewell;
Othello.-You heard her say yourself, it was not I.
Emilia.-Oh! the more angel she!
Othello, Act v. scene 1.
should have deferred to a future time, if my opinions on the grounds of international morality had not been contradictory to a fundamental point in Paley's system of moral and political philosophy. I mean that chapter which treats of general consequences, as the chief and best criterion of the right or wrong of particular actions.* Now this doctrine I conceive to be neither tenable in reason nor safe in practice and the following are the grounds of my opinion.
First; this criterion is purely ideal, and so far possesses no advantages over the former systems of morality; while it labors under defects, with which those are not justly chargeable. It is ideal for it depends on, and must vary with, the notions of the individual, who, in order to determine the nature of an action, is to make the calculation of its general consequences. Here, as in all other calculation, the result depends on that faculty of the soul in the degrees of which men most vary from each other, and which is itself most affected by accidental advantages or disadvantages of education, natural talent, and acquired knowledge -the faculty, I mean, of foresight and systematic comprehension. But surely morality, which is of equal importance to all men, ought to be grounded, if possible, in that part of our nature which in all men may and ought to be the same,- -in the conscience and the common sense. Secondly this criterion confounds morality with law; and when the author adds, that in all probability the divine Justice will be regulated in the final judgment by a similar rule, he draws away the attention from the will, that is, from the inward motives and impulses which constitute the essence of morality, to the outward act; and thus changes the virtue commanded by the gospel into the mere legality, which was to be enlivened by it. One of the most persuasive, if not one of the strongest, arguments for a future state, rests on the belief, that although by the necessity of things our outward and temporal welfare must be regulated by our outward actions, which alone can be the objects and guides of human law, there must yet needs come a juster and more appropriate sentence hereafter, in which our intentions will be considered, and our happiness and misery made to accord with the grounds of our actions. Our fellow-creatures can only judge what we are by what we do; but in the eye of our Maker what we do is of ne * Moral and Political Philosophy. B II. the first eight chapters.-EL