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we look at the two great inventions of which we have been led to speak. Was Roger Bacon right in his forebodings, that the discovery of gunpowder was a perilous secret, which, whenever it was divulged, would prove destructive to his fellow creatures ? .
MONTESINOS.. That foreboding evinced, in a remarkable degree, his foresight; for though he perceived at once the main use to which the discovery would be applied, men were slow in applying it to that purpose. More than two centuries elapsed after the first appearance of fire arms in European warfare, before any material effect in war was produced by them, and nearly a third before the whole system of war was changed in consequence; so greatly did his intellect outstrip the march of ordinary minds. That the discovery should have been less immediately destructive than he had feared, proves only the extent and quickness of his foresight. And if he anticipated that it would be more hurtful to humanity than it has proved, it was not possible for human sagacity to perceive in what manner the complicated relations of society would be affected by so great but gradual a change in what, during that age, to the reproach
of human nature, constituted the great business of mankind.
SIR THOMAS MORE.. · The art of war, like every other art, ecclesiastical architecture alone excepted, was greatly deteriorated during those years of general degradation, which preceded and produced the overthrow of the Roman empire. It would have revived about the time when gunpowder was introduced, without the introduction of any such new agent, as a necessary consequence of the systems of dominion which then began to be developed. Kingdoms just then acquired extent and stability, and sovereigns perceived that policy was the better part of strength. The feudal system had been broken down: chivalry and the chivalrous system of war could not long survive it. War must have been modified by the changes of society, whether gunpowder had been introduced or not; and if there had not been this invention, the restoration of letters would probably have brought back the tactics of the ancients. Some evil has resulted from the substitution, but on the whole it has been advantageous to humanity.
SIR THOMAS MORE. More terrible while they last; and it has the evil of having given a decided advantage to the besiegers, whereas, in the warfare of the ancients and of the middle ages, the means of defence appear to have been more efficacious than those of attack. But to compensate for this the duration of sieges is shortened; and except in rare instances, which, when they occur, draw after them the execration of mankind, the conquest is less ferocious, and less disgraceful to human nature.
MONTESINOS. This is owing to the greater humanity of modern times; to an improved state of public feeling, derived from the more extended influence of religion, which acts in no slight degree even upon the irreligious themselves, ungrateful as they are for the benefit, or unconscious of it. SIR THOMAS MORE.
. There is another reason. The manner of war, which affords most opportunity for personal prowess, and requires most individual exertion, calls forth more personal feeling and, consequently, fiercer passions. How much more murderous would battles be, if they were decided by the sword and bayonet; how few pri
soners would be taken, and how little mercy shown !
MONTESINOS. In proof of this, more Englishmen fell at Towton than in any of Marlborough's battles, or at Waterloo.
SIR THOMAS MORE. In war, then, it is manifestly better that men, in general, should act in masses as machines, than with an individual feeling.
MONTESINOS. . I remember to have read or heard of a soldier in our late war, who was one day told by his officer to take aim when he fired, and make sure of his man. “I cannot do it, Sir!" was his reply. “ I fire into their ranks, and that does as well; but to single out one among them, and mark him for death, would lie upon my mind afterwards.” The man who could feel thus was worthy of a better station than that in which his lot had been assigned.
SIR THOMAS MORE. And yet, Montesinos, such a man was well placed, if not for present welfare, for his lasting good. A soul that can withstand the hearthardening tendencies of a military life, is strengthened and elevated by it. In what other
station could he have attained that quiet dignity of mind, that consciousness of moral strength, which is possessed by those who, living daily in the face of death, live also always in the fear of God ?
MONTESINOS. That speech, Sir Thomas, would have delighted the old General, who, one day when he was reproving a grenadier for some neglect of duty, and telling him he could not bear to see a grenadier bring disgrace upon his corps, grew warm with the subject, and clapping him on the shoulder said, “Why, man, do you know that a grenadier is the greatest character in this world,”.. and, after a moment's pause, adding the emphasis of an oath to his speech,..“ and, I believe, in the* next, too !” There is, indeed, in the military and naval professions, what Dr, Johnson has well called the dignity of danger, and which, as he observes, accounts for the proper estimation in which they are held. But I know not how any parents, who consider the moral danger incident to those professions, can make choice of either for a son.
SIR THOMAS MORE.
* This story is told (I forget where) of General Meadows.