Sydney Smith’s Letter to Lady Grey

Rev. Sydney Smith was the great classical liberal and anti-interventionist in early nineteenth century England. When Lord Grey, the Prime Minister, was moving toward a foreign war, Smith wrote the following letter to Lady Grey, in 1832.

“For God’s sake, do not drag me into another war! I am worn down, and worn out, with crusading and defending Europe, and protecting mankind; I must think a little of myself. I am sorry for the Spaniards — I am sorry for the Greeks — I deplore the fate of the Jews; the people of the Sandwich Islands are groaning under the most detestable tyranny; Baghdad is oppressed, I do not like the present state of the Delta; Tibet is not comfortable. Am I to fight for all these people? The world is bursting with sin and sorrow. Am I to be champion of the Decalogue, and to be eternally raising fleets and armies to make all men good and happy? We have just done saving Europe, and I am afraid the consequence will be, that we shall cut each other’s throats. No war, dear Lady Grey! — No eloquence; but apathy, selfishness, common sense, arithmetic! I beseech you, secure Lord Grey’s swords and pistols, as the housekeeper did Don Quixote’s armour. If there is another war, life will not be worth having.”

The original can be found in the volume of his letters, edited by W. H. Auden.

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