Knickerbocker's History of New York, Complete eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 422 pages of information about Knickerbocker's History of New York, Complete.


   [40] Haz.  Coll.  Stat.  Pap.


It was the opinion of that poetical philosopher, Lucretius, that war was the original state of man, whom he described as being, primitively, a savage beast of prey, engaged in a constant state of hostility with his own species, and that this ferocious spirit was tamed and ameliorated by society.  The same opinion has been advocated by Hobbes;[41] nor have there been wanting many other philosophers to admit and defend it.

For my part, though prodigiously fond of these valuable speculations, so complimentary to human nature, yet, in this instance, I am inclined to take the proposition by halves, believing with Horace,[42] that though war may have been originally the favorite amusement and industrious employment of our progenitors, yet, like many other excellent habits, so far from being ameliorated, it has been cultivated and confirmed by refinement and civilization, and increases in exact proportion as we approach towards that state of perfection which is the ne plus ultra of modern philosophy.

The first conflict between man and man was the mere exertion of physical force, unaided by auxiliary weapons—­his arm was his buckler, his fist was his mace, and a broken head the catastrophe of his encounters.  The battle of unassisted strength was succeeded by the more rugged one of stones and clubs, and war assumed a sanguinary aspect.  As man advanced in refinement, as his faculties expanded, and as his sensibilities became more exquisite, he grew rapidly more ingenious and experienced in the art of murdering his fellow beings.  He invented a thousand devices to defend and to assault—­the helmet, the cuirass, and the buckler, the sword, the dart, and the javelin, prepared him to elude the wound as well as to launch the blow.  Still urging on, in the career of philanthropic invention, he enlarges and heightens his powers of defense and injury.  The aries, the scorpio, the balista, and the catapulta, give a horror and sublimity to war, and magnify its glory, by increasing its desolation.  Still insatiable, though armed with machinery that seemed to reach the limits of destructive invention, and to yield a power of injury commensurate even with the desires of revenge—­still deeper researches must be made in the diabolical arcana.  With furious zeal he dives into the bowels of the earth; he toils midst poisonous minerals, and deadly salts—­the sublime discovery of gunpowder blazes upon the world; and finally, the dreadful art of fighting by proclamation seems to endow the demon of war with ubiquity and omnipotence!

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Knickerbocker's History of New York, Complete from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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