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The Idea of Europe

Catriona Seth
Rotraud von Kulessa

70. An End to Wars in Europe?

Texte intégral

1Benjamin Constant (1767–1830),i in On the Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation in Respect of European Civilisation (1814), includes a chapter entitled ‘On the Spirit of Conquest in the Present State of Europe’. He returns to an idea that is dear to him: that the age of war is (or ought to be) definitively over.

2Nowadays, a government which wanted to push a European people to war and conquests would thereby be committing a gross and deadly anachronism. It would be working to give its nation an impulse against nature. As none of the motives which moved the men of earlier ages to face so many dangers, to bear so many wearying things still exists for the men of our own times, other motives would need to be found, drawn from the present state of our civilisation; they would need to be roused to combats by that same love of pleasures which, left to its own devices, would dispose them only to peace. Our age, which measures everything in terms of utility, and which, when one seeks to move it on from this sphere, sets irony against real or specious enthusiasm, would not readily sate itself on sterile glory which it is no longer our custom to prefer above all others. Pleasure should replace this glory and pillage replace triumph. One shudders to think what the military spirit would become, were it founded solely on these motives.

3Benjamin Constant,
On the Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation in Respect of European Civilisationii(1814).

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