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  • Title: The Sixteenth Century on War
  • Editor: James D. Mardock

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    Authors: Balthazar Ayala, Robert Barret, Richard Crompton, Stephen Gosson, Barnabe Rich
    Editor: James D. Mardock
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    The Sixteenth Century on War

    1Stephen Gosson, The Trumpet of War: a sermon preached at Paul's Cross the seventh of May 1598 (selections)

    The cause of war [B4-B7]

    War is of the nature of just judgment, and the calamities that wait upon war be very great. Therefore, as a judge doth not punish every light offence, but such as are against the good of the commonweal, so war is not to be undertaken upon every light occasion, but upon such as shall be proportionable to the damage and distress of war. Because there are many false claims and titles laid upon the action of war to justify the same, it shall not be amiss to shut out the false titles as I pass along, and let in the true. The first of them

    False titles of war.

    is infidelity. The second is the revenge of the injuries done unto God by the sin of idolatry: because (Deuteronomy 2:34) the children of Israel war upon Sihon king of Heshbon, an idolater, they destroy his people, and take his cities. And (Deuteronomy 13:13) this title seems to be expressed: God chargeth his people that when they shall hear any hath gone out from among them and drawn other to the worship of strange gods, they shall destroy the inhabitants of that city and raze the city. The third is supreme authority in things temporal; they that hold this opinion imagine the heathen not to be lords of their own lands, but either the emperor or the pope. The fourth is unaptness to govern, because the heathen are barbarous and unfit to govern, and the law of nature wills that such should be ruled by wiser than themselves. Aristotle sayeth that war undertaken

    4. Polit. cap. 5.

    against such is just and lawful, because it is attempted against those that are born to obey and will not. . . .

    They are all four false and erroneous: the two first because God hath not given every man authority to revenge the injury done to him, but sayeth, Mihi vindicta, and ego rependam. Neither is it expedient for the race of man that it should be so, for, by this means the garboils and troubles of the earth would be so great, that God's injuries would rather be multiplied than avoided. And seeing this cannot be demonstrated, idolaters might lawfully betake themselves to arms in their own defense, whereby war should be just on both sides, which is unpossible. . . . The innocent strives not with the innocent, but the innocent with the offender, and the offender with the innocent; the war can be just but of one side. . . .

    The third title is as false as the former, in that all the kings of the earth do hold their crowns of God, that sayeth Per me reges regnant: by me kings rule and princes decree justice. In their lands and dominions temporal, neither pope nor emperor have anything to do. . . . Last of all, how untrue and erroneous the fourth title is may easily appear, in that many pagans and infidels are more ingenious, politic, and apt to govern than many Christians. Neither is it enough to justify the war that the people upon whom the war is made are inferior in wit unto the warrior -- except they be so poor that they live like brute beasts or feed upon human flesh, in which case peradventure it may be lawful to invade them, not to kill them, as the Spaniards did the naked Indians, but to bring them in order to live

    1. Polit. cap. 5.

    like men. Aristotle holds this to be lawful when such people differ as far from men as the body differs from the soul. Yet is this either seldom or never to be admitted, except upon some occasion of innocence or wrong, and the war rather revoked to a defensive than an offensive war.

    The false titles excluded, there remains but one just in general: that is, necessity. Nullum bellum iustum nisi necessarium. It may be just and necessary two ways: the one is in defense of the innocent; the other is in revenge of injuries. In defense of the innocent, because God hath given all the kingdoms of the earth to his son Christ Jesus (Psalm 2), princes are exhorted to kiss the son of God lest he be angry and they perish. In another place of the Psalms, princes are commanded to set open their gates that the king of glory may come in. Therefore if either Turk, or pope, or idolatrous princes force the law of Mohammed or idolatry upon their people when they are desirous to embrace the gospel, the gospel may then be brought in by arms. But if the Turk, or pope, or idolatrous princes beguile their people, and their people willingly entertain a false religion, there is no violence offered, and Ubi non est vis non habet locum defensio: where no violence is offered, defense can take no place. On the contrary, if the Turk, pope, or idolatrous princes conspire to drive out the gospel from those Christian kingdoms where it is preached, Non est simile ius: the case is not alike. To banish the gospel is to do an injury.

    5The injuries that may make war to be just and lawful are of divers sorts.


    Either when one prince withholds that which is another's, or when iura gentium,


    the laws of nations or passages are denied


    Moreover, if the fame and honor of a prince be hurt, or disgrace and indignity offered to his ambassadors, war may lawfully be waged to revenge it (2 Samuel 10). Upon the like wrong done to David's messengers sent to the King of Ammon, when their clothes were cut and their beards shaved, David revenged it by arms. Yea, it is sufficient if injury be done to a prince's friend (Genesis 14): injury was done to Lot in surprising him, and Abraham rescued him by sword. . . .

    The execution of the action of war [C2-C8]

    The last point to be discoursed in the action of war, is the manner how it must be executed, which in divers places of the scripture is very different. . . in the execution of wars there be three differences of times to be considered: the beginning, the progress, and the end of it. In the beginning, because reason requireth in the ordinary affairs of this life, advice and diligence should be used answerable to the quality of the business in hand; war being the most weighty of all human affairs, there must be counsel and deliberation~ to begin it. Proverbs 24:6: Thou shalt enterprise thy war with counsel. . . .

    Five things to be considered in the beginning of wars.

    There be five things in the beginning of war to be thought upon: the loss of the country against which we fight; the loss of the country that goes to fight; the loss of the church; the probability of the victory; and the intention of the warrior. If the loss of the enemy be likely to fall out to be greater than the hurt he hath done, I find no great reckoning made of it, because the willfulness of the enemy is the cause of it, which may have peace and will not. If the loss be of the second or third sort, that is, the loss of the warrior or the loss of the church be likely to be greater than the hurt already received, there is some care to be had of it. For war hath the property of physic: if the physician by healing the present infirmity bring the body into worse case then it was before, his physic is very dangerous. Concerning the probability of the victory, which is the fourth point: Cajetan holds that in the enterprise of war, the preparation must be so great, that the warrior may be Moraliter certus de victoria: sure of the victory. . . . But this is not absolutely necessary, because it is impossible (Psalm 33): "The king is not saved by the multitude of an host nor the mighty man delivered by his great strength." How puissant soever the preparation of princes be, if God be not with them it is nothing worth. . . . Remember the great armada in the year 1588. The preparation was such, that the invader assured himself of victory and termed it invincible, yet was it in so short time with so few strokes and skirmishes, and with so small ships scattered and defeated. . . . If it should never be lawful to war but upon assurance of the victory drawn from the preparation, it should never be lawful for the smaller number to fight with the greater, or the weaker with the stronger. . . . Therefore when this certainty cannot be attained, princes are bound to attain to the greatest probability they can, and comparing the hope of their victory with the danger of their loss, adventure as far as shall be good for the commonweal. If the probability be slender and the war offensive, they ought to give it over, because the war is voluntary: if the probability be slender, and the war defensive, it may not be given over, because the war is necessary. . . .

    The fifth and last point concerning the beginning of this action is the intention of the warrior. . . . War may be undertaken upon good cause and law full authority, yet the intention of the warrior may be evil. Hereupon

    Cont. Faustum.

    Saint Augustine condemns in a warrior Nocendi cupiditatem, vlciscendi crude litatem, animum implacabilem, feritatem, dominandi libidinem: a desire to do mischief, cruelty in revenge, an implacable mind, a fell spirit, and an ambitious humor seeking after rule and domination.

    10The second difference of time is the progress of war before the victory, during which time, all the means are lawful that are requisite to the attaining of the victory: sleights, shifts, stratagems, burning, wasting, spoiling, undermining, battery, blows, and blood. . . .

    The third and last difference is the time


    after victory. Victory achieved, and the enemy

    The time after victory.

    subdued, because the blood of the conqueror begins to cool, and it is against humanity to kill more than needs, the slaughter ceaseth. There be many things in cold blood to be required: first, to spare the innocents: Thou shalt not slay the innocent.

    Exod. 23. 7

    The innocents are reputed to be young and old, women and children, which are by reason of sex or years or infirmity unable to carry arms; strangers and merchants, which are no parts nor members of the commonweal that hath offended -- if it may be found they have stirred no coals in setting princes together by the ears, nor carried arms in the resistance made during the time of the fight. The next thing is satisfaction for the wrongs done, wherein the spoil and waste of the country is to be reckoned for a part, because it is a part of the punishment. Last of all, hostage[s] may be taken for security of peace, and the spoil may be divided among the soldiers, who deserve as well to be partakers of the sweet as of the sour and bitter brunts of war. . .