Wednesday, August 24, 2011

James II's Instructions to his Son on Warfare

James II (left) was King of England from 1685 to 1688, when William III of Orange invaded England and took the crown. James fled to France, and then to Ireland, where he waged war against William. The Jacobites (followers of King James) were defeated at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Also in 1690, James II began to draft these instructions to his son James Francis Edward Stuart, who was then two years old. My selections for this article represents James's view on war. Read the full instructions here, along with a multitude of other original documents from James II, James Francis Edward Stuart, and more.

If it please God to restore me (which I trust in his goodness he will do) I may then hope to settle all things so as may make it easier for you to govern all my dominions with safety to the monarchy, and the satisfaction of all the subjects; no king can be happy without his subjects be at ease, and the people cannot be secure of enjoying their own without the King be at his ease also, and in a condition to protect them and secure his own right; therefore preserve your prerogative, but disturb not the subjects in their property, nor conscience, remember the great precept, Do as you would be done to, for that is the law and the prophets. Be very careful that none under you oppress the people, or torment them with vexations, suits, or projects: Remember a king ought to be the father of his people, and must have a fatherly tenderness for them. Live in peace and quiet with all your neighbours, and know that kings and princes may be as great robbers as thieves and pirates, and will receive their punishment for taking anything unjustly from them, at the great tribunal, and be not carried away by ambition or thoughts of glory in this world, to make you forget that divine precept, and never be persuaded to go about to enlarge your territories by unjust acquisitions, be content with what is your own.
. . .
And now I must give you warning not to let yourself at any time be carried away by heat of youth, ambition or flattering interest to embark yourself in an offensive war, none of which can be justified by Christianity or morality. Kings and princes can no more justify their taking from their neighbours, but by way of reprisal towns or provinces, than thieves of highway men their unlawful gains.
Remember that maxim of Christ: "That one must not do ill that good may follow," and the other, "Be content with what is your own," which does not hinder kings and states from preserving and defending what is justly theirs by taking arms and repelling force by force; they owe that to themselves and to their subjects, but it is a terrible thing to begin unjust war.
Consider the consequences of it, both as to this world and the next, no forgiveness without restitution. Besides what desolation does it not bring upon whole kingdoms and provinces, and though armies that are well paid and under good discipline may be hindered from committing great disorders even in an enemy's country, yet what devastations does it not cause in an active war, which cannot be avoided to the ruin of thousands of poor people.

The young James Francis Edward Stuart and his mother, Queen Mary of Modena

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