1839 william ladd an essay on a congress of nations

Even when paganism had succumbed before the banners of the Cross, religious wars between nations that raised those banners against each other, raged with heathen fUry sometimes for a generation.

Christendom was one continuous field of battle, with only short breathing spaces called times of peace. Heroism, chivalry, patriotism, military history and glory of all the Grecian and Koman centuries ; of the middle ages, and all other ages ; Homer, Virgil, and all the classical romance of martial deeds and daring, — all these took hold of press, pul- pit, and people, and made a new literature in prose and verse to feed the appetites they created. Such was the time at which a few men in private life, of small influence, but of great faith and holy purpose, came together, each band a lit- tle handful, in London and Boston, almost simultaneously, without concert.

It required a faith which few men had attained in a thousand years to believe that the great destroyer could be bound and cast into the utter dark- ness that gave it birth. The struggle would be long and desperate, but not doubtftil in the far-off end.

This J;hey be- lieved. With this faith in the power of the Christian religion, reason, and the enlightened conscience of nations, they be- lieved that the war system might be abolished like other evils that had yielded to the same moral forces. Still there was one great difference between this system and all other per- nicious customs that had been put down or remained to be abolished. It was in this aggravated and formidable differ- ence that these early Mends of peace, and all who have since espoused the cause, met their greatest difficulty.

This difference between war and slavery or intemperance, or any other great form of wrong and oppression, has its most serious distinction in the fact, that one is an interna- tional, world-wide custom, and the other, local or national evils, to be abolished only by local efforts or national legisla- tion. England could and did abolish slavery in her colonies without asking concert or consent of other countries. The United States did the same. Intemperance has been and is a terrible evil in both countries ; but it is for the people of each to put it down in their own borders.

The example and sym- pathy of one are helpftil to the other, as a stimulus to new faith and exertion, but the real work and result are ]ocal. Each must do the one and achieve the other by and for itself. But no one, nor two, nor three nations can abolish war. To banish this great evil from the civilized world, requires the co-working and co-partnership of all the great nations of Christendom, no three of which speak the same language.

To reach and convince the minds of these rulers and peoples, and to enlist their effective co-operation, involved an effort from which even men of sanguine faith and hope might well have shrunk. But war was not only an international custom, to be abol- ished by the whole family of nations working in copartner- ship, but it was upheld by influences which no other evil habit or system ever won to its support.

Slavery never pro- duced any attractive literature to deepen its hold upon the popular mind of any country that tolerated the evil. It had no martial chivalry or heroics to sing about slave-hunting raids in Africa, or incidents of '' the middle passage," or of barracoons and slave-pens in America, Cuba, or Brazil. It furnished no tropes or illustrations for the press or pulpit rhetoric. It touched no enthusiasm ; it stirred no romantic sensibility in its favor. It had no hold upon the better nature of man ; nor found any defence or reason for its existence, except in the lowest instincts of self-interest of a man, of which his moral conscience was secretly ashamed.

Intem- perance was as poor, in literature, in prose or verse, as slavery. It had only the low language of appetite in its de- fence or apology. Its bacchanalian songs touched no chords of sympathy in the popular mind. It would not enlist music, poetry, and painting, nor make any attractive romance for novels.

The earnest men and women in America and Eng- land who banded themselves against these evils, could pierce them through and through with the arrows of truth. There were no thick bosses of classic literature and classic history to turn or dull the points of their weapons. It has suborned to its service and glorification the most brilliant literature of all the ages. One continuous line of poets, from Homer to Tennyson, has sung its glories with a genius the world has called divine. Music and painting and sculpture, and every other art that could throw a roman- tic gloss or glamour around its bloody deeds, have given their power to the beast.

Every college that has opened its doors in Christendom for the last thousand years, has nursed and fed the minds of its students with this literature. More than one hundred lines of Mars' bible have been taught and learned against one line of Christ's gospel committed to memory. And perhaps the press and pulpit never dealt in military allu- sions and Illustrations more freely than at this very day that we have reached.

All the human industries and enterprises, all the heroic and patient philanthropies that have been set on foot for human good since the flood, have never made such poets, painters, and singers as war has brought into the world to celebrate its glories. Such, then, was the work which a small band of men, meet- ing in Boston almost simultaneously with a similar band in London, had faith and hope enough given them to set their hands to, soon after the battle of Waterloo.

The venerable Noah Worcester virtually led this forlorn hope in America, supported by a few others who shared his views and labors for the cause. His " Solemn Review of the Custom of War " made a deep impression upon many thoughtftil minds, and the new and unpopular society he represented gradually gained adherents in face of general indifference and much ridicule. But the cause was now to win one who may be called its flrst apostle in America.

The readers of his biography will notice the process of this preparation, and the affinities of his natural temperament and disposition for the work. Indeed, few men, even of this race, had ever fitted themselves for so many different positions and occupations, and filled them all so effectively. Graduating from Harvard to a place before the mast as a common sailor, and then A:om the mastership of a vessel of his own to a cotton plantation in Florida, and alternating between other occupations, on sea and land, at home and abroad, — he had a training in the knowledge of the world and of human nature, that fitted him in this respect admirably for his apostleship in the cause of peace.

But this training supplied, as it were, only the muscular force of intellect and experience for the work, and it would not have led him into it by its own impulse.


A kindness of heart and tender re- gard for man and beast ; a deep and generous sympathy with the oppressed and the suffering, whatever their color, race, or condition, were manifested and cultivated in all the enter- prises he had set his hand to, and fitted him for an advocate of a new course of philanthropy, suddenly brought before him under impressive circumstances. In the year , Mr.

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Ladd stood at the bedside of the ven- erable Dr. Appleton, President of Bowdoin College, who, in bidding adieu to the world, spoke with glowing faith and hope of the benevolent societies of the day, and of all the signs of promise and progress his closing eyes were permit- ted to see. All these societies were then few, feeble, and young. But he saw them in his vision multiplying in num- ber, and increasing in power for good. These he dwelt upon with fervid Interest, as if they led the way to the happy years of the Millennium.

It may have been the first time that Ladd had ever heard of such societies.

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Indeed, the dying old saint of Bowdoin College seemed and was to him another Ananias, who put his fingers on his eyes and opened them to the view of such a field of labor as he had never thought of. He went home from that bedside a Paul to a cause to which once he was tempted to be a Saul. For, after a long course of sea-faring life, he had thought seri- ously of entering the navy.

Peace Societies f the abolition of war? What a faith and purpose for a few men to entertain so soon after Waterloo, when the world was singing the songs of the big-plumed wars I It was a brave faith and purpose though, and they wrought upon Ladd's mind from day to day, until he threw himself into the cause with a devotion which, it is not invid- ious to any other advocate of it to say, has never been equalled.

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Ladd found in the " Christian Mirror," at Portland, a medium through which he could at all times reach the public with his views and sentiments In behalf of the cause he had espoused. We soon find peace societies reported In dlfiterent towns and counties In Maine, which doubtless owed their ex- istence to his ceaseless labor with pen and tongue.

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As a speaker he had remarkable power to Impress an audience with the eloquence of his earnest and deep convictions. All the training of his varied occupations and experience now came into effective use ; and the telling and happy Illustrations they supplied both to embellish and enforce his arguments, made his addresses very Interesting and convincing.

His whole heart and soul were In the work, and, speaking In earnest, he was listened to in earnest by all who heard him. H speaker of great force was delivered in Portland in , before the peace society of Maine. The next year he de- livered an address before the Massachusetts Peace Society at Boston, and both were so effective that they were printed and circulated in England. Every new speech Arom the platform and article ftom his pen deepened his devotion to the caase.

In a few years after his interview with Dr. Appleton at the closing hours of that good man's life, he became known and esteemed both in America and England as the Apostle of Peace. For he not only gave himself, heart, soul, mind, and purse to the work, but he was able to do what no one had done before, to go up and down through the country preach- ing the gospel on which it was founded, with an earnestness that always secured him an attentive hearing.

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To these labors was soon added a large correspondence with the Ariends of the cause in England and other countries, and men abroad of high official position, in connection with the publi- cations he forwarded to them. Among these was Lord Palmerston. For several years after Mr.