This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
But our fourth reason for expecting that the great object of disarmament will be accomplished, arises from the consideration that public sentiment has been evidently turned in that direction for the last fifty years, and much has actually been done towards bringing the subject directly before the different nations.
(a) Associations have existed for a long time, whose object has been to bring about permanent and universal peace; and one of the prominent measures insisted upon
as necessary to this end, has been a congress of nations. To bring this idea distinctly before the public mind, an international Peace Congress was held in London, in 1843; in Brussels, in 1848; in Paris, in 1849; in Frankfort, in 1850; in London, in 1851; besides several other general convocations in regard to the same subject. At all these, the prominent idea has been the establishment of a general congress, organized by the representatives of all the states of Christendom.
The result of these movements has been to awaken an interest in the public mind in relation to this subject.
(5) In addition to these voluntary and merely philanthropic efforts, the question was distinctly presented in the British House of Commons by the late Mr. Cobden, who took great interest in the movement, and had perfect faith in its ultimate success.
So far back as June, 1851, this distinguished member of Parliament moved, "That an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that she will direct the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to enter into communication with the government of France, and to endeavor in future to prevent that rivalry of warlike preparations in time of peace which has hitherto been the avowed policy of the two nations; and to promote, if possible, a mutual reduction of armaments."
Lord Palmerston expressed his high approval of the motion, and said, "I am glad the honorable member has taken advantage of the meeting of the world (the Great Exhibition), to declare in his place in Parliament those principles of universal peace which do honor to him and the country in which they are proclaimed." Yet his lordship objected to being "bound into negotiations; " and, of course, nothing was ever done.
(c) A still more encouraging fact is found in the action of the French emperor in relation to this matter. Placed at the head of the most military nation in Europe, he proposed a congress to devise, amongst other measures, the means of reducing those enormous standing armaments which are the curse and peril of the world.
This proposal England alone, of. all the governments of Europe, declined. The Emperor of Russia, in his reply to the invitation of the French Emperor, said: "A loyal understanding between the sovereigns has always appeared to me desirable. I should be happy if the proposition issued by your majesty should lead to it." The King of Prussia replied, In such a work I will join with all my heart, and in perfect liberty only to consult my own solicitude for the general interest of Europe." The King of Italy said: "I adhere with pleasure to the proposal of your imperial majesty. My concurrence and that of my people are assured to the realization of this project, which will mark a great progress in the history of mankind."
The King of Norway and Sweden, the King of Denmark, the King of the Netherlands, the King of the Belgians, the Queen of Spain, the King of Bavaria, the King of Hanover, the Pope, the Germanic Confederation, the Kings of Saxony, Wurtemburg, and Greece, all replied to those pacific proposals of the French Emperor in terms of high and cordial approbation.
(d) The public press in Europe has also spoken very strongly in favor of disarmament.
The subject is thus referred to in the Paris journal, "La France:" — "Now let us for a moment suppose, that by an understanding with the great powers, a disarming in the proportion of one-half was effected. Immediately, 1,907,924 men of twenty to thirty-five years of age, constituting the flower of the population of that age, are restored to the labors of peace, and at once a saving of three hundred and twenty million dollars is effected in the totality of the annual European budgets; with that sum Europe might add, each year, to the railways at present existing, six thousand two hundred and fifty miles. She might establish in every commune, and even in each section of the communes, a primary school. These great improvements once realized, she might, if she decided in maintaining the same sum in her budget, apply it to the payment of the public debt. The annual interest upon the debts of the different European states being about four hundred and sixty-five millions of dollars, they might be paid off in about thirty-six years. If, on the contrary, the countries interested preferred applying the four hundred and sixty-five millions thus saved, to the reduction of those taxes which weigh most heavily on the production or consumption of articles of necessity, what an alleviation to the people, and what a stimulus it would give to business! The labor of these 1,907,924 men, at only two francs (about forty cents United-States currency) per day, would amount to about $1,500,-000,000 per annum."
The "Journal des Debats," of Dec. 14, 1864, says:— "The immense majority of the intelligent inhabitants of Europe have pronounced a preference for peace rather than war, for economy rather than enormous budgets, for productive rather than unproductive outlays; and yet the attitude of nations would lead one to believe that war is possible and imminent, for on every side the system of great armaments devouring so much capital is persisted in." — "La Presse" says: "Disarming is the order of the day in Italy, is in course of realization in Austria, and, being proposed by the Palmerston ministry, has formed the subject of discussion in the English journals. Spain is thinking of. reducing the number of men in her army and navy, thanks to the still-increasing probability of a European congress, the present necessities for which begin to popularize the Utopian character of the scheme. . . . We are pleased with the transformation: it is the outset of a prosperous career; it is the triumph of a truly great policy. It is not the congress itself, but, as a Spanish journal said a few days since, it is the preface to the congress."
In view of the encouraging facts we have presented, does it not seem highly probable that a general congress of nations will not be delayed much longer? The necessity for such an institution, in an economical and commercial point of view, is becoming every day more apparent and pressing. The matter rests entirely with the three principal nations of the world, — Great Britain, France, and the United States of America. They have the power to do as they will. Acting in concert, their influence is irresistible, and they can achieve any object that commends itself to the common sense of mankind. There is no adverse interest in the case, and it is only requisite that some one of the great powers should take the initiative. True, the French Emperor's proposal failed; but the condition of the world has greatly changed since it was made. The American Union has been restored, republicanism has been vindicated, the barbarism of slavery abolished, and the civilization of the world has received a powerful impetus.