The American Peace Crusade, 1815-1860

By Merle Eugene Curti | Go to book overview

I
ORGANIZATION FOR PEACE, 1815-1816

The historian is interested in the recorded dreams of the past because they reflect the needs of the dreamers, and also because they sometimes point ahead to future realization. What men most feel the need of, that they are apt finally to obtain in some way. If what they lack cannot be actually experienced, they may continue to dream of it, and in their dreaming they may find some compensation. Plato, distressed by the "charming disorder" of the government of his day, found refuge in the contemplation of beauty and dreamed his ideal state. The slave has dreamed of rest and freedom. Peoples oppressed by harsh rulers dream of liberty. Men weary of struggle and of war dream of peace. Even in ancient times these dreams of peace were written down. The vision of the time when swords shall be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks has remained since Biblical times vividly in the minds of lovers of humanity.

Dreams alone, however, will not permanently satisfy a continuing need. A characteristic of waking dreams which continue to possess the imaginations of men is that they are likely to stimulate the dreamers to action. Men do not rest content with the world as it is. Constantly they seek to change it. Slowly it changes. These changes often represent plans, dreams if you will, which after centuries become realities.

The dream of peace has thus gradually taken shape in various definite projects for realizing peace. As early as the beginning of the fourteenth century Dante advocated a world empire for ending war, and a young Norman lawyer, Pierre Dubois, recommended a permanent tribunal of arbitration. The Christian humanists, especially Erasmus, condemned war and considered the advantages of peace and means of securing it. The seventeenth century had its Sully, its Eméric Crucé, its Grotius, and its William Penn with their plans for a federation of Europe and for the development of an international law of peace.

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