The last resort for the settlement of disputes is the appeal to physical force, whereby the weaker is either compelled to yield to the demands of the stronger, put to flight, or, in the last extremity, slain. War is an instrument of policy for the imposition of the will of one community upon another by force of arms.
Military history is the history of the strife of communities expressed through the conflict of organised bands of armed men. One is obliged to say bands of armed men so as to exclude such a case as a duel between two or more chosen champions of quarrelling communities; and the word organised is added so as to indicate that, below a certain stage of civilisation, there can be no military history.
War is resorted to either for advantage or for vengeance. The one party possesses something which the other has resolved to seize, or has inflicted some real or supposed injury on the other, which he determines to punish by the infliction of a corresponding chastisement.
War and law are quite opposed to each other, but while opposed they are also related. The ultimate means of enforcing law is by physical force, but in every society the aim of law is to put down every appeal to force except on the part of the magistrate, and equally to restrict his use of it to the enforcement of the law. Where there is no organized society, every individual family, or group, enforces its own claims, and appeals to force are consequently frequent, but as society extends its organization these partial appeals to force are declared illegal and put down. But the society, however extended, is still partial; outside of it exist other societies with independent laws and different interests. Between these, disputes are liable to arise, which, failing mutual accommodation, can only be settled by force.
In each society, moreover, the central authority is liable to vicissitudes of strength. When it is active and vigorous, the whole society is kept in equilibrium and repose; when it is weak or idle, private or party interests assert themselves, the laws are disobeyed and the central authority may be defied and overthrown.
Thus, three conditions of warfare arise according to the degree of organization of society: the state of private war, when no great central authority has been established, or when it has been wholly destroyed; the state of civil war, when such an authority, having been established, has decayed, and the society arranges itself in different parties for the purpose of maintaining the old, or establishing a new central authority; and the state of international war, when states sufficiently powerful to control their own subjects quarrel among themselves. In each of these states war is conterminous with and opposed to law.
The aim of law is always to control war, and either suppress it or render it subservient to its own enforcement or re-establishment; the aim of war is either to supplement the impotence of law, or accomplish some object forbidden by it. Hence the peculiarity of all laws relating to war. They are fluctuating in their nature, because the power to enforce them is frequently wanting; yet they are necessary, and in the end efficacious, because force can be applied in favor of law as well as against it, and it commonly becomes the interest of society in the long run so to apply it. It follows also from these conditions that as there are three states of warfare, so there are three relative states of law opposed to them: international law is opposed to international war, national law to civil war, and natural law to private war.
In each case, law forms the boundary of war and war of law, so that where one is strong the other is weak. International law may thus be defined as consisting of those common principles which still continue to be recognized and observed by belligerents. The persistent disregard of any principle of law by a belligerent would annihilate it as a principle of international law, and as the belligerent has already set the power of its immediate antagonist at defiance, the only considerations which can enforce its observance of an international law are its own respect for its principle, or its fear of the power of neutrals. In like manner national law is opposed to and limits civil war. In as far as either party sets the national law at defiance the law is abrogated and can only be re-established by force; in as far as it is observed it controls the action of both parties. Private war is opposed by natural law because there is no positive law recognized by the parties. Violence is limited only by the power or conscience of the belligerents.
Fifteen Decisive Battles of the WorldIt has been estimated that down to the time of the Great War no less than 6,860,000,000 men had lost their lives on fields of battle. Irrespective of the character of the individual battles, the following list of the most important wars that have been waged between the various nations since the Middle Ages is generally regarded as reasonably complete and thoroughly representative:
- Marathon, at which, on 28 Sept 490 BC, a 1,000 Greeks defeated a Persian force numbering more than 110,000 men. The Grecian army was commanded by such generals of genius as Miltiades, Aristides, and Themistocles. The Persian army was forced to retreat to Asia.
- Syracuse, 419 BC, when the besieged Syracusans turned upon the invading Athenians, almost completely destroying their forces, driving them, with heavy slaughter, over the cliffs, which an hour or two before they had scaled full of hopes and confident of success."
- Arbela, the battle between Alexander the Great and Darius Codomanus which decided the fate of the Persians; 1 Oct. 331 BC
- Metaurus, at which Hasdrubal, the brother of Hannibal, was defeated and slain by the Roman army under the command of Livius and Claudius Nero; 207 BC
- Teutoburg, 9 AD, the battle at which Varus and the Romans were defeated by the Germans, and which was regarded at Rome as such a national calamity that Augustus is said to have cried aloud in agony, "Varus, give me my legions!"
- Chalons, at which, in 451 AD, Actius defeated Attila the Hun, compelling him to retire into Pannonia.
- Tours, at which Charles Martel saved Europe by bis great victory over the invading hosts of the Sarcens. This conflict is also sometimes known as the battle of Poitiers; 732 AD
- Hastings, at which, on 14 Oct. 1066, Harold II. of England lost his life and kingdom in battle against William, Duke of Normandy.
- Orleans, besieged by the English during October 1428; it was bravely defended by Goucour, who realized that its fall would bring- ruin to the cause of Charles IV. of France. On 8 May 1429, the siege was raised as the result of the heroism of Joan of Arc.
- The Spanish Armada, the naval battle at which the Spanish fleet was almost completely destroyed by the British.
- Blenheim, at which the French and Bavarians were defeated by the English under the Duke of Marlborough, 2 Aug. 1704.
- Pultowa, where Charles XII. of Sweden was completely defeated by the Saxons; 1 May 1703.
- Saratoga, the engagement regarded as the greatest check suffered by the British forces during the Revolutionary War in America. At this battle, fought on 17 Oct. J777. the British general, Burgoyne, still flushed by his victory at Gcrraantown, was obliged to surrender his entire force of 5,791 men to the American commander. General Gates.
- Valmy, where the French, commanded by Kellerman, defeated the Prussians, commanded by the Duke of Brunswick, 20 Sept. 1792.
- Waterloo, at which the great Napoleon was compelled to accept defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington's forces; 18 June 1815.
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