What is Lawful in War?July 30, 2022
Having, in the preceding books, considered by what persons, and for what causes, war may be justly declared and undertaken, the subject necessarily leads to an inquiry into the circumstances, under which war may be undertaken, into the extent, to which it may be carried, and into the manner, in which its rights may be enforced. Now all these matters may be viewed in the light of privileges resulting simply from the law of nature and of nations, or as the effects of some prior treaty or promise. But the actions, which are authorised by the law of nature, are those that are first entitled to attention.
II. In the first place, as it has occasionally been observed, the means employed in the pursuit of any object must, in a great degree, derive the complexion of their moral character from the nature of the end to which291 they lead. It is evident therefore that we may justly avail ourselves of those means, provided they be lawful, which are necessary to the attainment of any right. Right in this place means what is strictly so called, signifying the moral power of action, which any one as a member of society possesses. On which account, a person, if he has no other means of saving his life, is justified in using any forcible means of repelling an attack, though he who makes it, as for instance, a soldier in battle, in doing so, is guilty of no crime. For this is a right resulting not properly from the crime of another, but from the privilege of self-defence, which nature grants to every one. Besides, if any one has SURE and UNDOUBTED grounds to apprehend imminent danger from any thing belonging to another, he may seize it without any regard to the guilt or innocence of that owner. Yet he does not by that seizure become the proprietor of it. For that is not necessary to the end he has in view. He may DETAIN it as a precautionary measure, till he can obtain satisfactory assurance of security.
Upon the same principle any one has a natural right to seize what belongs to him, and is unlawfully detained by another: or, if that is impracticable, he may seize something of equal value, which is nearly the same as recovering a debt. Recoveries of this kind establish a property in the things so reclaimed; which is the only method of restoring the equality and repairing the breaches of violated justice. So too when punishment is lawful and just, all the means absolutely necessary to enforce its execution are also lawful and just, and every act that forms a part of the punishment, such as destroying an enemy’s property and country by fire or any other way, falls within the limits of justice proportionable to the offence.
III. In the second place, it is generally known that it is not the ORIGIN only of a just war which is to be viewed as the principal source of many of our rights, but there may be causes growing out of that war which may give birth to additional rights. As in proceedings at law, the sentence of the court may give to the successful litigant other rights besides those belonging to the original matter of dispute. So those who join our enemies, either as allies or subjects, give us a right of defending ourselves against THEM also. So too a nation engaging in an unjust war, the injustice of which she292 knows and ought to know, becomes liable to make good all the expences and losses incurred, because she has been guilty of occasioning them. In the same manner those powers, who become auxiliaries in wars undertaken without any reasonable grounds, contract a degree of guilt and render themselves liable to punishment in proportion to the injustice of their measures. Plato approves of war conducted so far, as to compel the aggressor to indemnify the injured and the innocent.
IV. In the third place, an individual or belligerent power may, in the prosecution of a lawful object, do many things, which were not in the contemplation of the original design, and which in THEMSELVES it would not be lawful to do. Thus in order to obtain what belongs to us, when it is impossible to recover the specific thing, we may take more than our due, under condition of repaying whatever is above the real value. For the same reason it is lawful to attack a ship manned by pirates, or a house occupied by robbers, although in that ship, or that house there may be many innocent persons, whose lives are endangered by such attack.
But we have had frequent occasion to remark, that what is conformable to right taken in its strictest sense is not always lawful in a moral point of view. For there are many instances, in which the law of charity will not allow us to insist upon our right with the utmost rigour. A reason for which it will be necessary to guard against things, which fall not within the original purpose of an action, and the happening of which might be foreseen: unless indeed the action has a tendency to produce advantages, that will far outweigh the consequences of any accidental calamity, and the apprehensions of evil are by no means to be put in competition with the sure hopes of a successful issue. But to determine in such cases requires no ordinary penetration and discretion. But wherever there is any doubt, it is always the safer way to decide in favour of another’s interest, than to follow the bent of our own inclination. “Suffer the tares to grow, says our divine teacher, least in rooting up the tares you root up the wheat also.”
The general destruction, which the Almighty, in right of his supreme Majesty, has sometimes decreed and executed, is not a rule, which we can presume to follow. He has not invested men, in the exercise of power, with those transcendent sovereign rights. Yet he himself,293 notwithstanding the unchangeable nature of his sovereign will, was inclined to spare the most wicked cities, if ten righteous persons could be found therein. Examples like these may furnish us with rules to decide, how far the rights of war against an enemy may be exercised or relaxed.
V. It frequently occurs as a matter of inquiry, how far we are authorised to act against those, who are neither enemies, nor wish to be thought so, but who supply our enemies with certain articles. For we know that it is a point, which on former and recent occasions has been contested with the greatest animosity; some wishing to enforce with all imaginary rigour the rights of war, and others standing up for the freedom of commerce.
In the first place, a distinction must be made between the commodities themselves. For there are some, such as arms for instance, which are only of use in war; there are others again, which are of no use in war, but only administer to luxury; but there are some articles, such as money, provisions, ships and naval stores, which are of use at all times both in peace and war.
As to conveying articles of the first kind, it is evident that any one must be ranked as an enemy, who supplies an enemy with the means of prosecuting hostilities. Against the conveyance of commodities of the second kind, no just complaint can be made.—And as to articles of the third class, from their being of a doubtful kind, a distinction must be made between the times of war and peace. For if a power cannot defend itself, but by intercepting the supplies sent to an enemy, necessity will justify such a step, but upon condition of making restoration, unless there be some additional reasons to the contrary. But if the conveyance of goods to an enemy tends to obstruct any belligerent power in the prosecution of a lawful right, and the person so conveying them possesses the means of knowing it; if that power, for instance, is besieging a town, or blockading a port, in expectation of a speedy surrender and a peace, the person, who furnishes the enemy with supplies, and the means of prolonged resistance, will be guilty of an aggression and injury towards that power. He will incur the same guilt, as a person would do by assisting a debtor to escape from prison, and thereby to defraud his creditor. His goods may be taken by way of indemnity, and in discharge of the debt. If the person has294 not yet committed the injury, but only intended to do so, the aggrieved power will have a right to detain his goods, in order to compel him to give future security, either by putting into his hands hostages, or pledges; or indeed in any other way. But if there are evident proofs of injustice in an enemy’s conduct the person who supports him in such a case, by furnishing him with succours, will be guilty not barely of a civil injury, but his giving assistance will amount to a crime as enormous, as it would be to rescue a criminal in the very face of the judge. And on that account the injured power may proceed against him as a criminal, and punish him by a confiscation of his goods.
These are the reasons, which induce belligerent powers to issue manifestoes, as an appeal to other states, upon the justice of their cause, and their probable hopes of ultimate success. This question has been introduced under the article, which refers to the law of nature, as history supplies us with no precedent to deduce its establishment from the voluntary law of nations.
We are informed by Polybius, in his first book, that the Carthaginians seized some of the Romans, who were carrying supplies to their enemies, though they afterwards gave them up, upon the demand of the Romans. Plutarch says that when Demetrius had invested Attica, and taken the neighbouring towns of Eleusis and Rhamnus, he ordered the master and pilot of a ship, attempting to convey provisions into Athens, to be hanged, as he designed to reduce that city by famine: this act of rigour deterred others from doing the same, and by that means he made himself master of the City.
VI. Wars, for the attainment of their objects, it cannot be denied, must employ force and terror as their most proper agents. But a doubt is sometimes entertained, whether stratagem may be lawfully used in war. The general sense of mankind seems to have approved of such a mode of warfare. For Homer commends his hero, Ulysses, no less for his ability in military stratagem, than for his wisdom. Xenophon, who was a philosopher as well as a soldier and historian, has said, that nothing can be more useful in war than a well-timed stratagem, with whom Brasidas, in Thucydides agrees, declaring it to be the method from which many great generals have derived the most brilliant reputation. And in Plutarch, Agesilaus maintains, that deceiving an enemy is both295 just and lawful. The authority of Polybius may be added to those already named; for he thinks, that it shews greater talent in a general to avail himself of some favourable opportunity to employ a stratagem, than to gain an open battle. This opinion of poets, historians, and philosophers is supported by that of Theologians. For Augustin has said that, in the prosecution of a just war, the justice of the cause is no way affected by the attainment of the end, whether the object be accomplished by stratagem or open force, and Chrysostom, in his beautiful little treatise on the priestly office, observes, that the highest praises are bestowed on those generals, who have practised successful stratagems. Yet there is one circumstance, upon which the decision of this question turns more than upon any opinion even of the highest authority, and that is, whether stratagem ought to be ranked as one of those evils, which are prohibited under the maxim OF NOT DOING EVIL, THAT GOOD MAY ENSUE, or to be reckoned as one of those actions, which, though evil IN THEMSELVES, may be so modified by particular occasions, as to lose their criminality in consideration of the good, to which they lead.
VII. There is one kind of stratagem, it is proper to remark, of a negative, and another of a positive kind. The word stratagem, upon the authority of Labeo, taken in a negative sense, includes such actions, as have nothing criminal in them, though calculated to deceive, where any one, for instance, uses a degree of dissimulation or concealment, in order to defend his own property or that of others.58 So that undoubtedly there is something of harshness in the opinion of Cicero, who says there is no scene of life, that will allow either simulation, or dissimulation to be practised. For as you are not bound to disclose to others all that you either know or intend; it follows that, on certain occasions, some acts of dissimulation, that is, of concealment may be lawful. This is a talent, which Cicero, in many parts of his writings, acknowledges that it is absolutely necessary for statesmen to possess. The history of Jeremiah, in the xxxviiith chapter of his prophecy, furnishes a remarkable instance of this kind. For when that prophet was interrogated296 by the king, respecting the event of the siege, he prudently, in compliance with the king’s orders, concealed the real matter from the nobles, assigning a different, though not a false reason for the conference, which he had had. In the same manner, Abraham called Sarah, his sister, an appellation used familiarly at that time to denote a near relation by blood, concealing the circumstance of her being his wife.
VIII. A stratagem of a positive kind, when practised in actions, is called a feint, and when used in conversation it receives the name of a lie or falsehood. A distinction is made by some, between these two kinds of stratagems, who say, that words are signs of our ideas, but actions are not so. But there is more of truth in the opposite opinion, that words of themselves unaccompanied by the intention of the speaker, signify nothing more than the inarticulate cries would do of any one labouring under grief, or any other passion: which sounds come under the denomination of actions, rather than of speech. But should it be said that being able to convey to others the conceptions of his mind, by words adapted to the purpose, is a peculiar gift of nature, by which man is distinguished from other parts of the animated creation, the truth of this cannot be denied.
To which we may add that such communication may be made not only by words, but by signs or gestures, like those used to the dumb; it makes no difference, whether those signs or gestures have any natural connection with the thing they are intended to signify, or whether such a connection is only assigned to them by custom. Equivalent to such signs or gestures is handwriting, which may be considered, as a dumb language, deriving its force not merely from the words used, and the particular form of the letters, but from the real intention of the writer, to be gathered from thence:—to be gathered either from the resemblance between the characters and the intentions, as in the Egyptian hieroglyphics, or from pure fancy, as among the Chinese.
Here likewise another distinction is necessary to be applied in the same manner, as was done before, in order to remove all ambiguity in using the term of the Law of Nations. For it was there said, that the laws established by independent and separate states, whether or no those laws implied any mutual obligations, were denominated297 the Law of Nations.59 So that words, gestures, and signs, made use of to convey a meaning, imply an obligation, in all the persons concerned, to receive and employ them in their common acceptation. But the employment of OTHER MEANS, coming under NONE OF THOSE DESCRIPTIONS, cannot be construed into a violation of any social contract, although some may be deceived thereby. It is the REAL NATURE of the actions that is here spoken of, and not the ACCIDENTAL circumstances attending them: such actions for instance, as occasion no mischief; or if they do so, there is no guilt, where there is no treacherous design.
We have an instance of the former kind in the conduct of our Saviour, who, on the way to Emmaus, pretended to the disciples, that he was going further; here was a harmless stratagem, unless we interpret the words, as expressive of his intention to have gone further, if he had not been prevented by their efforts and entreaties to detain him. And in another part of the sacred history it is said, that he intended to have passed by the Apostles on the sea, that is, he intended to have done it, had he not been so earnestly importuned by them to go into the ship. There is another instance too in the conduct of Paul, who circumcised Timothy, though he knew the Jews would conclude from thence, that the ordinance of circumcision, which in reality had been abolished, was still binding upon the descendants of Israel, and that Paul and Timothy were of the same opinion. Whereas Paul had no such intention, but only hoped, by that means, to open for himself and Timothy a way to more familiar intercourse with the Jews. Neither could an ordinance of that kind, when the divine obligation was repealed, any longer be deemed of such importance, nor could the evil of a temporary error, resulting from thence, and afterwards to be corrected, be regarded as equivalent to the opportunity, which Paul thought to gain, of making it conducive to the introduction of Christian truth.
298 The Greek Fathers have given the name of ECONOMY, or MANAGEMENT to stratagems of this kind. On this subject there is an admirable sentiment in Clement of Alexandria, who, in speaking of a good man, says that “he will do many things for the benefit of his neighbour alone, which he would not otherwise have undertaken.”
One of these stratagems was practised by the Romans, who, during the time that they were besieged in the Capitol, threw some loaves of bread into the enemy’s camp, that it might not be supposed they were pressed by famine. The feigned flight, which Joshua ordered his people to make, to assist him in his designs upon Ai, affords an instance of a stratagem of the second kind; the ensuing mischiefs of which may be considered, as some of the effects of lawful war. The ORIGINAL DESIGN of that pretended flight does not at all affect the question. The enemy took it for a proof of fear; and he was at liberty to do so, without debarring the other of his right to march this way, or that, with an accelerated or retarded motion, with a shew of courage, or an appearance of fear, as he might judge it most expedient.
History furnishes us with innumerable examples of deceptions practised with success upon an enemy, by assuming his arms, ensigns, colours, or uniforms; all which may be justified upon the same principle. For all these are actions, which any one may avail himself of at his pleasure, by departing from the usual course of his military system. For such points of discipline and system depend upon the will and fancy of the military commanders in each state, rather than upon any invariable custom, equally binding upon all nations.
IX. Those signs, by which the daily intercourse of life is maintained, form a subject of more weighty discussion, with which the consideration of lies or falsehood is necessarily interwoven.
All stratagems of this kind are so direct a violation of all moral principle, both in their nature and consequences, that almost every page of the revealed will of God declares their condemnation. Solomon describes a righteous, that is, a good man, as one, who holds every false word in detestation, deprecating the least appearance of deception: and the Apostle’s injunction accords with these sentiments, instructing his disciples not to lie to one another.
299 Nor is it in the high standard of perfection alone, which the divine records present, that such a recommendation of fair, open, and sincere dealing is to be found. It is the theme of praise with poets and philosophers, and the angry hero of the Grecian poet declares, that he detests the man, as an infernal being, who utters one thing with his tongue, while he conceals another in his heart. But making some allowance for poetic fiction—we find even the grave, sober, and discerning, Stagirite describing falsehood, as a vile, and abominable refuge, and painting truth as a lovely object, that must extort the warmest praise.
These are all great and high authorities in favour of open dealing. Yet there are names of no less weight, both among sacred and profane writers, whose opinions are a vindication of stratagems, when used upon PROPER occasions. One writer speaks of a case, where stratagem may be used, even for the benefit of the person, on whom it is practised, and adduces the instances of a physician, who, by means of a deception, overcame the perverseness of a patient, and wrought a salutary cure.
X. To reconcile such a variety of discordant opinions, it may be necessary to devise some way of examining falsehood both in its more extensive, and more confined acceptation. Nor is speaking an untruth, UNAWARES, to be considered in the nature of a lie, but the falsehood, which comes within the limits here defined, is the KNOWN and DELIBERATE UTTERANCE of any thing contrary to our real conviction, intention, and understanding.
Words, or signs, importing the same meaning as words, are generally taken for conceptions of the mind, yet it is no lie for any man to utter a falsehood, which he believes to be true; but the propagation of a truth, which any one believes to be false, IN HIM amounts to a lie. There must be in the use of the words therefore an INTENTION to deceive, in order to constitute a falsehood in the proper and common acceptation. Consequently, when any one single word, or the whole tenour of a discourse, admits of more significations than one, either by the use of some popular phrase, some term of art, or intelligible figure of speech, in that case if the speaker’s intention correspond with any one of those meanings, he cannot be charged with using falsehood, although it is possible that a hearer may take his words in a very different sense. It is true that using such an ambiguous method of speaking on ALL OCCASIONS300 is not to be approved of, though there are particular circumstances under which it may be reconciled with honour and justice. In communicating knowledge, for instance, there is no harm in using a metaphor, an irony, or an hyperbole, figures of speech, tending either to adorn or to elucidate a subject. There are cases too, where by this doubtful mode of expression it may be proper to avoid an urgent and impertinent question. There is an instance of the former kind in our Saviour’s saying, that “our friend Lazarus sleepeth,” where the disciples understood him, as if he were speaking of the refreshing rest of an ordinary sleep: and when he spoke of restoring the temple, which he meant his own body, he knew that the Jews applied what he said to the MATERIAL EDIFICE of the Temple. In the same manner he frequently addressed the multitudes in parables, which they could not understand by barely hearing, without that docility of mind, and attention, which the subject required. Profane history too furnishes us with an example of the second kind, in the conduct of Vitellius, who, as Tacitus informs us, gave Narcissus doubtful and ambiguous answers, in order to avoid his urgent questions; as any explicit declaration might have been attended with danger.
On the other hand, it may happen to be not only censurable, but even wicked to use such a manner of speaking, where either the honour of God or the welfare of mankind is concerned, or indeed any matter, which demands explicit avowals, and open dealing. Thus in contracts every thing necessary to their fulfillment ought to be fully disclosed to those concerned. There is an apposite expression of Cicero, who says, that every degree of deception ought to be banished from all contracts, and there is in the old Athenian Laws a proverb, conformable to this, which says, there must be nothing, but open dealing in markets.
XI. In strictness of speech such ambiguity is excluded from the notion of a lie. The common notion of a lie therefore is something spoken, written, marked, or intimated, which cannot be understood, but in a sense different from the real meaning of the speaker. But a lie, in this stricter acceptation, having some thing unlawful in its very nature, necessarily requires that a distinction should be made between it and that latitude of expression already explained. And if this acceptation be properly considered, at least according to the opinion301 prevailing in all nations, it seems, that no other explanation of it is necessary to be given, except that it is a violation of the existing and permanent rights of the person, to whom a discourse, or particular signs, are directed. It is a violation of the rights of ANOTHER; for it is evident, that no one can utter a falsehood with a view to impose upon himself. The rights here spoken of are peculiarly connected with this subject. They imply that liberty of judgment, which men are understood, by a kind of tacit agreement, to owe to each other in their mutual intercourse. For this, and this alone is that mutual obligation, which men intended to introduce, as soon as they began to use speech, or other signs of equal import. For without such an obligation the invention of those signs would have been perfectly nugatory. It is requisite too, that at the time a discourse is made, such a right or obligation should remain in full force.
A right may indeed have existed and afterwards have become obsolete, owing to the rise or occurrence of some new right: which is the case with a debt, that may be released by acquittance, or non-performance of a condition. It is farther requisite, to constitute a VIOLATION OF THIS RIGHT, that the ensuing injury should immediately affect the PERSON ADDRESSED: as in contracts, there can be no injustice, but what affects one of the parties, or persons concerned.
And perhaps under the head of this right, it may not be improper to assign a place to that TRUE SPEAKING, which Plato, following Simonides, classes with justice, in order to form a more striking contrast with that falsehood, so often prohibited in Scripture, by the name of false witness to, or against, our neighbour, and which Augustin, in defining a lie, calls an intention to deceive. Cicero also in his offices lays down truth, as the basis of justice.
The right to a discovery of the whole truth may be relinquished by the express consent of the persons, who are engaged in a treaty: the one may declare his intention not to disclose certain points, and the other may allow of this reserve. There may be also a tacit presumption, that there are just reasons for such reserve which may perhaps be necessary out of regard to the rights of a third person: rights which, in the common judgment of all sober men, may be sufficient to counterbalance any obligation in either of the persons engaged in the treaty302 to make a full disclosure of his views and sentiments.—These principles, duly considered, will supply many inferences to reconcile any seeming contradiction in the opinions, that have been advanced.
XII. In the first place, many things may be said to madmen, or children, the LITERAL MEANING of which may not be true, without incurring the guilt of wilful falsehood. A practice which seems to be allowed by the common sense of all mankind. Quintilian, speaking of the age of puerility, says, it is a period of life, when many useful truths may be taught in the dress of fiction.—Another reason given is, that as children and madmen possess no perfect power of judging, impositions of that kind can do no injury to their rights, in such respects.
XIII. Secondly, when a conversation is addressed to any one, who is not thereby deceived, although a third person, not immediately addressed, may misconceive the matter, there is no wilful falsehood in the case. No WILFUL FALSEHOOD towards the person addressed: because he feels no greater injury from thence, than an intelligent hearer would do from the recital of a fable, or the use of a metaphor, irony, or hyperbole in speech. It cannot be said that an injury is done to the person, who accidentally and cursorily hears a matter, and misconceives it: for being no way concerned, there is no obligation due to him. As he misconceives a thing addressed to ANOTHER, and not to HIMSELF, he must take upon his own head all the consequences of the mistake. For, properly speaking, the discourse, WITH RESPECT TO HIM, is no discourse, but an inexpressive sound that may signify one thing as well as another. So that there was nothing wrong in the conduct of Cato the Censor, who made a false promise of assistance to his confederates, nor in that of Flaccus, who informed others that Aemilius had taken the enemy’s city by storm, although the enemy were deceived by it. Plutarch mentions an instance of the same kind in the life of Agesilaus. Here no communication was made to the enemy, and the prejudice he sustained was an accidental thing no way unlawful in itself, either to be wished for or procured.
XIV. In the third place, whenever it is certain that the person, on whom a deception is practised, discovers that the intent of it was to do him a service; he will not feel it as a grievance, nor can it come under the strict denomination of a lie or falsehood. It will be303 no more an INJURY, than it would be a THEFT in any one, presuming upon an owner’s consent, to take something belonging to that owner, in order to convert it to his use in a very beneficial way. For in cases of notorious certainty, a PRESUMPTION may be taken for express consent. But it is evident that no man would CONSENT to receive an INJURY.
From hence it appears, that a person is guilty of no treachery, who uses unfounded or fictitious motives to console a friend in distress, as Arria did to Paetus upon the death of his son, of which there is an account in Pliny’s Epistles, or in a general, who in a perilous situation should avail himself of false intelligence, to encourage his troops, by which perhaps a victory might be gained.
It may be observed likewise, that the injury done to the freedom of judgment is, in such a case, of less consequence, because it is but momentary, and the real fact is soon discovered.
XV. There is a fourth case, which bears a near affinity to those above mentioned, and that is, when any one, possessing pre-eminent authority, orders another, in a subordinate capacity, to execute some device or stratagem, conducive either to his individual, or to the public welfare. Which Plato seems to have had particularly in view, in allowing those in authority to avail themselves of pretexts, or stratagems. The same writer is very correct in his notion of not making such a device a characteristic of that authority, which belongs to the supreme being. For all such devices, however justifiable they may be in CERTAIN CASES, strongly betray that imperfection, which is inseparable from all human systems.
The stratagem, which Joseph employed to obtain further discoveries without making himself known to his brethren, is much commended by Philo, as a mark of great policy, when, contrary to the convictions and feelings of his own mind, he accused them of being spies, and afterwards charged them with theft. It was by a stratagem of the same kind, that Solomon gave proof of his inspired wisdom, when he used the FICTITIOUS threat of dividing the living child in order to discover the real mother.
XVI. The fifth case, which allows a stratagem to be practised, is that, where it may be the ONLY means of saving the life of an innocent person, of obtaining some304 object of equal importance, or of diverting another from the perpetration of some horrid design. The heathen poet has given a beautiful illustration of this in his praises of Hypermnestra, whose conduct he calls “a splendid stratagem, ennobling the virgin to all posterity.”
XVII. It is evident that many writers of acknowledged wisdom, and sober judgment, have carried the point farther than has been done in this treatise, in allowing the use of false representations to an enemy. In cases, where public enemies are concerned, they maintain, that it is lawful to deviate from those strict rules of avowing and disclosing all our intentions, which they prescribe, on all other occasions. Such is the opinion of Plato and Xenophon among the Greeks, of Philo among the Jews, and Chrysostom among Christians. It may not perhaps be amiss to cite, in this place, the message sent by the men of Jabesh Gilead to the Ammonites, by whom they were besieged, and also that of the prophet Elisha, and at the same time to mention the conduct of Valerius Laevinus, who boasted of having killed Pyrrhus.
The third, the fourth and fifth observations above made, may be illustrated from what is said by Eustratus, Archbishop of Nice, “An able and upright counsellor is not obliged to disclose the whole truth: for there may be occasions, when it may be necessary for him to recommend the means of deceiving an enemy, or to employ some stratagem towards a friend, where it may turn to his advantage.”
XVIII. What has been said of false speaking must be understood as applied to affirmative declarations, which can be prejudicial to no persons, but public enemies: it can by no means be taken to include promises. For promises confer upon the person, to whom they are made, a peculiar right to claim their full performance. And this is a rule, which must take place, even between public enemies; a rule to which existing hostilities are not allowed to form an exception. It is a maxim proper to be enforced in TACIT, as well as in EXPRESS agreements: as when a parley or conference is demanded, there is always an IMPLIED promise, that both sides shall attend it with perfect safety. But these are points reserved for the discussion of another part of this treatise.
XIX. It will be necessary to repeat an observation made before, with respect to oaths, both of the affirmative and promissory kind, where it was maintained that305 they exclude all exceptions, all mental reservations towards the person, to whom they are made, being regarded not merely as a solemn transaction with that individual, but as a stedfast appeal to God. Such an appeal to the supreme being demands the performance of an oath, even if it gave the individual no right to the same.
At the same time it was observed, that a sworn declaration is not like one of any other kind, where an application of terms different from their usual meaning may supply the speaker with an excuse for evading their import. But truth requires every declaration and promise to be made in terms, which it is supposed that every man of integrity and clear judgment will understand, spurning at the impious thought, that men may be deceived by oaths, as children are by toys and trifles.
XX. Some nations and individuals indeed have rejected the use of those stratagems, which even the law of nature allows to be employed as a means of self-defence against an enemy. But they did so, not from any opinion of their unlawfulness, but from a noble loftiness of mind, and from a confidence in their own strength. Aelian has preserved a saying of Pythagoras, “that there are two things, in which man approaches nearest to God, in always speaking the truth, and doing good to others.” Aristotle, somewhere in his Ethics, calls speaking truth, the freedom of a great soul, and Plutarch says, that falsehood is the qualification of a slave. But an adherence to truth, in simplicity of heart, is not the only duty required of Christians, in this respect, they are commanded to abstain from all vain discourse, as having for their example him, in whose mouth there was found no guile.
XXI. With respect to the actions of men, there is another rule which may properly come under this head, and that is, the unlawfulness of urging or persuading any one to do an unlawful act. For instance, no subject has a right to lift his hand against his sovereign, to deliver up a town without public authority, or to despoil his neighbour of his goods. It would be unlawful then to encourage the subject of an enemy, as long as he continues his subject, to do any of these acts. For the person, who urges another to do a wicked act, makes himself a partner in his guilt. Nor can it be received as a just answer, that urging a subject to the perpetration of such a deed is nothing more than employing the lawful means of destroying an enemy. For though it306 may be necessary and just to destroy him, if possible, yet that is not the way, in which it should be done. Augustin has well observed, that it makes no difference whether any one should commit a crime himself, or employ another as his instrument.
But employing the spontaneous offers of a deserter is not contrary to the laws of war, and is a very different action from that of seducing a subject from his allegiance.