Comment: This Pundit Gets It

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This Pundit Gets It

Benjamin Franklin – On Bradley Manning;

“It has been for some time a generally receiv’d Opinion, that a military Man is not to enquire whether a War be just or unjust; he is to execute his Orders.

All Princes who are dispos’d to become Tyrants must probably approve of this Opinion, and be willing to establish it.

But is it not a dangerous one? since, on that Principle, if the Tyrant commands his Army to attack and destroy, not only an unoffending Neighbour Nation, but even his own Subjects, the Army is bound to obey.

A Negro Slave in our Colonies, being commanded by his Master to rob or murder a Neighbour, or do any other immoral Act, may refuse, and the Magistrate will protect him in his Refusal. The Slavery then of a Soldier is worse than that of a Negro!

A consciencious Officer, if not restrain’d by the Apprehension of its being imputed to another Cause, may indeed resign; rather than be employ’d in an unjust War; but the private Men are Slaves for Life, and they are perhaps incapable of judging for themselves.

We can only lament their Fate; and still more that of a Sailor, who is often dragg’d by Force from his honest Occupation, and compell’d to imbrue his Hands in perhaps innocent Blood.

But methinks it well behoves Merchants, Men more enlightened by their Education, and perfectly free from any such Force or Obligation, to consider well of the Justice of a War, before they voluntarily engage a Gang of Ruffians to attack their Fellow Merchants of a neighbouring Nation, to plunder them of their Property, and perhaps ruin them and their Families, if they yield it, or to wound, main and murder them if they endeavour to defend it. Yet these Things are done by Christian Merchants, whether a War be just or unjust; and it can hardly be just on both sides. They are done by English and American Merchants, who nevertheless complain of private Thefts, and hang by Dozens the Thieves they have taught by their own Example.

It is high time for the sake of Humanity that a Stop be put to this Enormity.”

— Benjamin Franklin – Letter to Benjamin Vaughan (unpublished) – Passy, March 14. 1785