Sunday, October 9, 2011
In June 1863 after more than two years of bloody conflict the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee commanding, slips across the Potomac to begin the invasion of the North...Their objective is to draw the Union army out into the open where it can be destroyed...General Lee knows that a letter has been prepared by the Southern government; a letter which offers peace. It is to be placed on the desk of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States the day after Lee has destroyed the Army of the Potomac somewhere north of Washington... (Opening Narration: Gettysburg, 1993 [emphasis mine]) 

Surely there are few literal pacifists living on this earth. The majority of us would acknowledge the necessity of violence in the case of self-defense or the defense of others. To feel one's self in danger invokes all the natural instincts necessary to commit physical evils in order to prevent moral evils. Love, which moves us to will the good of another, brings other persons into that realm of one's own being which we wish always to protect. It may even be more intense than the attachment one has to one's literal self. The more loving the husband and father, the more tender the wife and mother, and the more devoted the brother or sister, the more capable they are of turning viciously on a wicked aggressor in a way which they would never even wish their loved ones to witness. 

This is rather self-evident to anyone who has truly loved. What is not self-evident is when the ratiocinations of which man alone is capable projects beyond our emotive, animal instincts and thinks of defense in the light of attack. Here the avenging hand falters. Less than two centuries ago, at just such a juncture, i.e., the Mason-Dixon line, thousands of the grey army of the Confederacy, though bound to their General Robert E. Lee with the most intense filial affection, laid down their arms and refused to go further:

'They had volunteered willingly enough to defend their homes,' a regimental historian explained, 'but some did not think it right to invade Northern territory.' _(Landscape Turned Red, Stephen Sears) 

On such a subject as attacking in the name of defense, I am writing of something completely out of the reach of my personal sympathies, both as a woman and as one of melancholic temperament. When I hear of one nation bearing swords across the boundaries of another, I shudder with the same repugnance that I would feel on seeing an armed man entering another man's home. Yet, with my reason, I must acknowledge that my emotive reaction is not necessarily an intution of what is true. Reason must govern emotions. 'The heart can and should obey the head.'

An officer of the state must take in a dangerous criminal, even if he must do so before the man's wife and children. Her pleas and their tears must not alter the course of justice. However clemency may wish to provide for these unfortunates later, evil must not be tolerated to spare them pain. The sacredness of the threshold of hearth and home is not an absolute thing in the case of the individual. Nor is it the case with the State. A nation that has been bellicose against another is not often sufficiently rebuked by merely being defeated on the foreign soil where it had no right to go: 

Always mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy, if possible; and when you strike and overcome him, never let up in the pursuit so long as your men have strength to follow... _Stonewall Jackson

The enemy must be pursued and soundly chastened. It is not enough to make a thief return his booty. He must give expiation for the evil in his act--providing some recompense to the injured party. He must be punished enough himself so that he shall never wish to commit the crime again.

Lee therefore justly overruled his generals in taking his army North. What seemed a desecration of the cause to some, was the best chance of ending the war and securing victory. Considerations of feeding the Confederate army and the hopes of impressing--even galvanizing--European allies also played a great part in the decision. The ability to carry a hard or even severe idea into act is the reason choleric men exist. Once vindicated by their minds, they see--and rightly see--that the time has come to lock up their hearts. 

Lucy Maud Montgomery observed this well through one of her finest works. In her narrative, it is revealed that it is possible for a woman's husband to have a surgery that may restore his senses after years of living life only half-aware. The trouble is that he was an unkind, selfish, immoral bore beforehand, and his wife's life has at least been easier after her husband became an idiot. Anne naturally wishes to spare the wife, who is also her friend, but the men in her life come down against her:

"Oh, Captain Jim, I didn't think you'd say that," she exclaimed reproachfully. "I thought you wouldn't want to make more trouble for her." 

Captain Jim shook his head. "I don't want to. I know how you feel about it, Mistress Blythe-- just as I feel meself. But it ain't our feelings we have to steer by through life--no, no, we'd make shipwreck mighty often if we did that. There's only the one safe compass and we've got to set our course by that--what it's right to do. I agree with the doctor. If there's a chance for Dick, Leslie should be told of it. There's no two sides to that, in my opinion." 

"Well," said Anne, giving up in despair, "wait until Miss Cornelia gets after you two men." 

"Cornelia'll rake us fore and aft, no doubt," assented Captain Jim. "You women are lovely critters, Mistress Blythe, but you're just a mite illogical. You're a highly eddicated lady and Cornelia isn't, but you're like as two peas when it comes to that. I dunno's you're any the worse for it. Logic is a sort of hard, merciless thing, I reckon." (Anne's House of Dreams, Chapter XXX: Leslie Decides) 

Leslie's decision was one for the truth. In the end, it set her free. Ergo:

Acting the law we live by without fear;
And, because right is right, to follow right
Were wisdom in the scorn of consequence.
Alfred Lord Tennyson, Œnone

Thus, I have at last come to understand the anniversary celebrated by Poles tomorrow. On 9 October, 1610 Polish squadrons, led by Hetman Stanisław Zolkiewski, entered the Kremlin. This was the culmination of a brilliant military campaign, which had seen such remarkable victories as the Battle of Kłuszyn, where 12,300 soldiers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth soundly defeated 48,000 Muscovites, near the place which today has taken a darker shade of meaning for Poles: Smoleńsk. 

As with all military campaigns, there are causes and concerns as to the integrity and purity of both the idea and the execution of the war. Yet, when a man honours the victories of war, he does not assert that the conflict is sainted, but that the elements which were righteous should be honoured. Of course, that sentiment itself is not a sufficient justification. It is as emotive as repugnance for strife. The scrutiny of reason in the light of morality is the only thing that can justify honouring the bloody mess of war. 

It had begun with Polish support of 'False Dmitri', one of the many who aspired to the Russian throne after the death of Ivan IV. This support came mainly from Poland's nobility and not her king. When he was killed in 1606, his followers were also massacred. This sparked the Polish invasion of Russian borders. Here, one may concede some measure of retaliation, but invasion? And why had it been necessary for Poles to support any particular contender for the tsardom to begin with? What right did they have to exacerbate Russia's 'time of troubles'?

Now one must go back further. If we begin with Ivan III, one witnesses the explosion of the Russian state's expansion, justifying Ivan's epithet: the 'gatherer of Russian lands.' One of the lands into which he had stepped to gather was Lithuania, from whom he wanted access to the Baltic Sea. His son, Vasili III continued this campaign of warring and annexing. They were unsuccessful however against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, though they had inflicted enough harm to give those two nations pause.

It should not suprise anyone, regardless of their sympathies, that Poland refused to recognize the vast state of Ivan IV, the successor of his father and grandfather in every way. That would have been political naïveté to the extreme of treason. And perhaps even more than politics, this matter concerned the Faith as well.

In 1569 Ruthenia (Ukraine) was annexed to Poland. Those who have read Polish history will have been overawed by her tolerance of other creeds, even in the midst of religious turmoil elsewhere on the continent. So in Ruthenia, the Roman Catholic Church conquered not by the sword, but by grace. 

...the Ruthenians...began to compare the lamentable condition of their Church with the development and vitality of Catholicism and to turn their eyes towards Rome. The Ruthenian clergy were steeped in immorality and ignorance; the bishops made no scruple of setting their flocks an evil example, living in open concubinage, and practising the most brazen simony. Russian documents of the sixteenth century bear witness to this melancholy decay of the Orthodox Church in the Polish provinces and to the impossibility of applying any remedy. Face to face with this spiritual ruin, the Catholic Church, reinvigorated by the accession of Jesuit missionaries, was showing her immense religious and moral superiority. Some loyal and honourable members of the Orthodox clergy and laity gradually became convinced that only a return to the Roman obedience could secure for their Church anything like sound conditions. (

This spawned the Union of Brest, which so overwhelmingly delighted Pope Clement VIII, that he sanctioned without reserve the preservation of the traditions of the Eastern Church, while simultaneously bring her back to the paternal fold of the Vicar of Christ. Russian prelates however did not recognize the embrace of those Latin and Ruthenian bishops. Could there be any reason for this other than that they had wished to bring the flock that had belonged to the Patriarchate of Constantinople into the Patriarchate of Moscow? Alas, that is the only explanation that makes sense, and as Ivan saw himself as a spiritual leader, as well as a temporal one, the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church anywhere would also be his subjects. 

Thus, Polish interest in Russian succession is vindicated. Her retaliation for the murder of Poles taking that interest is justified. Her military campaign and diplomacy evinced in that time is a monument to human ability and should be marked with pride by her children. Whether the scope of her speculated ambitions in Russia were wise or just (some do claim Poland wanted to subjugate Russia to her commonwealth) is a matter for those who dote on the question 'What if?' As that query does not concern reality, it does not concern reason. If we do not cling to that, then we are left with naught but the bigotry of our own passions.


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Warsaw, Poland
Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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