The Collected Letters, Volume 26


TC TO HENRY RICHARD; 18 July 1851; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18510718-TC-HR-01; CL 26: 107-108


Chelsea, July 18 1851


I fear I shall not be able to attend any of your meetings;1 but certainly I can at once avow, if, indeed, such an avowal on the part of any sound-minded man be not a superfluous one, that I altogether approve your object, heartily wish it entire success, and even hold myself bound to do, by all opportunities that are open to me, whatever I can towards forwarding the same. How otherwise? ‘If it be possible, as much as in you lies, study to live at peace with all men’;2 this, sure enough, is the perpetual law for every man, both in his individual and his social capacity; nor in any capacity or character whatsoever is he permitted to neglect this law, but must follow it, and do what he can to see it followed. Clearly, beyond question, whatsoever be our theories about human nature, and its capabilities and outcomes, the less war and cutting of throats we have among us, it will be the better for us all. One rejoices much to see that immeasurable tendencies of this time are already pointing towards the result you aim at; that, to all appearance, as men no longer wear swords in the streets, so neither, by-and-by, will nations; that, among nations, too, the sanguinary ultima ratio [last resort] will, as it has done among individuals, become rarer and rarer; and the tragedy of fighting, if it can never altogether disappear, will reduce itself more and more strictly to a minimum in our affairs. Towards this result, as I said, all men are at all times bound to cooperate; and, indeed, consciously or unconsciously, every well-behaved person in this world may be said to be daily and hourly co-operating towards it—especially in these times of banking, railwaying, printing, and penny-posting; when every man's traffickings and labourings, and whatever industry he honestly and not dishonestly follows, do all very directly tend, whether he knows it or not, towards this good object among others.

I will say farther, what appears very evident to me, that if any body of citizens, from one, or especially from various countries, see good to meet together and articulate, reiterate these or the like considerations, and strive to make them known and familiar3—the world in general, so soon as it can sum up the account, may rather hold itself indebted to them for so doing. They are in the happy case of giving some little furtherance to their cause by such meetings, and, what is somewhat peculiar, of not retarding it thereby on any side at all. If they be accused of doing little good, they can answer confidently that the little good they do is quite unalloyed—that they do no evil whatever. The evil of their enterprise, if evil there be, is to themselves only; the good of it goes wholly to the world's account without any admixture of evil: for which unalloyed benefit, however small it be, the world surely ought, as I now do, to thank them rather than otherwise.

One big battle saved to Europe will cover the expense of many meetings. How many meetings would one expedition to Russia cover the expense of! Truly I wish you all the speed possible; well convinced that you will not too much extinguish the wrath that dwells, as a natural element, in all Adam's posterity; and I beg to subscribe myself, Sir,

Yours very sincerely,

T. Carlyle.