Mr. Jefferson’s Answer to The Friend of Peace (1816)

Note: continuing to share the text of a book printed in 1822 by Philo Pacificus (Noah Worcester) here is a letter from Jefferson, published in The Friend of Peace No. IV:

Monticello
Jan. 29, 1816

Sir,

Your letter, bearing the date Oct. 18, 1815, came only to hand the day before yesterday, which is mentioned to explain the date of mine. I have to thank you for the pamphlets accompanying it, to wit, the Solemn Review, the Friend of Peace or Special Interview, and the Friend of Peace No. 2. The first of these I had received through another channel some months ago. I have not read the two last steadily through, because where one assents to propositions as soon as announced it is loss of time to read the arguments in support of them. These numbers discuss the first branch of the causes of war, that is to say, wars undertaken for the point of honor, which you aptly analogize with the act of duelling between individuals, and reason with justice from one to the other. Undoubtedly, this class of wars is in general what you state them to be, “needless, unjust, and inhuman, as well as antichristian.”

The second branch of this subject, to wit, wars undertaken on account of wrong done, and which may be likened to the act of robbery in private life, I presume will be treated of in your future numbers. I observe this class mentioned in the Soemn Review, p. 10, and the question asked, “Is it common for a nation to obtain a redress of wrongs by war?” The answer to this question you will of course draw from history; in the meantime reason will answer it on the grounds of probability, that where the wrong has been done by a weaker nation, the stronger one has generally been able to enforce redress; but where by a stronger nation, redress by war has been neither obtained nor expected by the weaker; on the contrary, the loss has been increased by the expenses of the war in blood and treasure: yet it may have obtained another object equally securing itself from future wrong. It may have retaliated on the aggressor losses of blood and treasure, far beyond the value to him, of the wrong he had committed, and thus have made the advantage of that too dear a purchase to leave him in a disposition to renew the wrong in future; in this way the loss by the war may have secured the weaker nation from loss by future wrong.

The case you state of two boxers, both of whom get a “terrible bruising,” is apposite to this; he of the two who committed the aggression on the other, although victor in the scuffle, yet probably finds his aggression not worth the bruising it has cost him. To explain this by numbers, it is alleged, that Great Britain took from us before the late war near 1000 vessels, and that during the war we took from them 1400; that before the war she seized, and made slaves of 6000 of our citizens, and that in the war we killed more than 6000 of her subjects, and caused her to expend such a sum as amounted to 4 or 5000 guineas a head for every slave she made. She might have purchased the vessels she took for less than the value of those she lost, and have used the 6000 of her men killed for purposes to which she applied ours, have saved the 4 or 5000 guineas a head, and obtained a character of justice, which is as valuable to a nation as to an individual. These conditions therefore leave her without inducement to plunder property, and take men in future on such dear terms.

I neither affirm nor deny the truth of these allegations, nor is their truth material to the question; they are possible and therefore present a case which will claim your consideration in a discussion of the general question: Whether any degree of injury can render a recourse to war expedient? Still less do I propose to draw to myself any part in this discussion. Age, and its effects both on body and mind, has weaned my attention from public subjects, and left me unequal to the labors of correspondence, beyond the limits of my personal concerns. I retire there from the question with a sincere wish, that your writings may have effect in lessening this greatest of human evils, and that you may retain life to enjoy the contemplation of this happy spectacle; and pray you to be assured of my great respect.

TH: JEFFERSON.

Note: only the first paragraph break is found in the original.

Pinter’s Provocation: Self Love in America

By Greg Moses

OpEdNews / UrukNet / SamHamod / CounterPunch / Bella Ciao

In homage to the Nobel Prize for Literature, Harold Pinter’s acceptance speech testifies to gifts of inspiration; hints of realms apart within; callings to craft that expose writers to tempestuous solitudes where lines between truth and unreality are not marked out in advance, where things press against each other in duality, both untrue and real at the same time.

That the writer who is driven into realms of edginess and duality can still keep a cold eye on profanity, horror, and outlandish hypocrisy is what Pinter then sets out to prove. His object lesson is the USA. By the time he is finished, we have a perfect ice sculpture of American immanence. One should take 46 minutes to see the words played out to their full and freezing effect.

One thing Pinter does not confess is that the writer sometimes presents a carefully chosen lie that begs to be decried. This prophetic lie is not to be confused with what Pinter calls the political lie that aims to keep truth well buried under phrases like “the American people”. The prophetic lie is what Pinter delivers when he states that “the most saleable commodity” being pushed by the juggernaut of the USA is “self love”.

We know that Pinter is not accepting the USA’s brand of ‘self love’ as self love itself, because for 46 minutes, Pinter practices a kind of self love that would freeze such salesmanship at the doorstep. And we know that any people comforted by the sound of their own name can have no real capacity for self love, because self love must have something to do with self knowledge, but knowledge is precisely what “the American people” do not seek at the sound of their own name.

So when Pinter hisses at the USA for selling ‘self love’ on the global market, he is really provoking us to argue that it’s not real ‘self-love’ that the USA is selling. The problem goes that deep.

On the 13th of December, twelve days before Christmas, the governor of California decides whether to stop the execution of Tookie Williams. Fantasy blurs into reality. The governor could never have been elected without first making himself real to the American people through fantasy projections of obligatory violence, heavily capitalized and mass produced. Fantasy gunslinger, property developer, the state’s executioner in chief. A kind of ‘self love’ is being sold in the governor’s tale. Is this not the kind of ‘self-love’ that Pinter accuses the USA of exporting?

But ask Tookie Williams (as Phil Gasper asked him) where do the problems of real-life gang violence begin and he will tell you the answer is ‘self-hate’. The ‘self-love’ so well commodified in Schwarzenegger (a minstrel name if ever there was one) is minted in a dual economy that also circulates ‘self-hate’. The same fantasy machine that lifts the Aryan upward churns whirlpools for others, tugging them down into gulags for life.

This is Pinter’s provocation: are “the American people” practicing real ‘self-love’? The kind of self love that Martin Luther King, Jr. once called ‘somebodiness’ and that serves as the first condition of empowerment? If it was ‘somebodiness’ we were practicing, wouldn’t we be a little busier about our own freedoms at home? Wouldn’t we care not to be the kind of people who send black ops around the world and then pretend not to see? Isn’t there a kind of self love that demands something from us long before we have to be needled into noticing that we have in fact given up our ‘self-love’ to a commodified political lie?

There is a kind of self-love that answers to the crisis we are in, and I’m sure Pinter knows it, but it is not the kind that he sees us selling, and so he spits the lie right back into our faces. Will we swallow it? If we are selling such a deeply counterfeit value to the world, are we capable of being ashamed about it? In a nation preparing for holy days of shopping, have we lost our capacity to be provoked by Pinter’s allegation of counterfeit love?

Somewhere it is written that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Yet we have long holiday debates about torture and human rights. This is what happens when you turn your self-love into snake oil. Commodify the self-love that you plug into the golden rule, and you forge an ironclad alibi for worldwide scourge. Question is, America, do we have the shame needed to tell Pinter that we recognize his prophetic lie?

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Note: special thanks to CounterPunch for updating the above article following the unconscionable execution of Tookie Williams.