Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
Source: James Madison: “Political Observations” (1795-04-20); also in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison (1865), Vol. IV, p. 491.
Liberty Letters are researched, compiled, and edited (with occasional commentary) by Steve Farrell. Copyright © 2011 Steve Farrell
The Moral Liberal recommends: James Madison: Writings: Writings 1772-1836 (Library of America)