Behold the Devastator

Robert Owen, The Inauguration of the Millennium, May 14, 1855; Being the Report of Two Public Meetings.  London: J. Clayton and son, 1855: 6-9, 12, 24-25, 31-32.

The world must be convinced of its present gross error in principle and practice, and of the incalculable superiority of the principles and practice of the Millennial state of existence.

But what of this demoniac war now raging, and which threatens to continue and extend through the civilized world?  This horrible and useless waste of life and property, for no rational purpose, must be stopped, and war between nations for ever prevented.  If there had been wisdom and foresight in our government, this loss of life and property, and this cultivation of the fierce and diabolical passions, might have been avoided, and peace and harmony established between all nations and peoples.  Instead of the Secretaries of, and at, War, of the Ordnance, Admiralty, and Horse Guards—had government instituted a department of engineering, and encouraged the most advanced civil engineers to offer their talents and discoveries for the benefit of their country and of the population of the world, this war would not have commenced, or, if commenced, would have been immediately terminated, never again to torment and irrationalise the human race.

It must be now known to the world, that armies, navies, and fortifications will henceforth be useless for war purposes.  Inventions EXIST that, with few men and at a small expense, could be made to destroy all the armies, navies, and fortifications in the world.  And these new and dreadful inventions were a necessary preliminary to the introduction of the Millennium—for War and the Millennium can never co-exist.

Governments will at first resist this change, because they will know it will destroy all useless and mischievous patronage and power, and prepare the population of the world to become rational and wise.

[My friends, I have great pleasure and satisfaction in stating, that there is upon this platform a man who has invented a machine [7] that will be able to destroy all the armies of the world and all the fortifications now existing.  (A voice—When will that be?)  My friends, listen to what I have to say.  I trust that this machine, these enormous powers of devastation and destruction, will never be used for that purpose.  (Hear, hear.)  It will be the business of this meeting to inform the government of the existence of this machine; and the business of the government, in the next place, to inform the belligerent parties that these machines are invented and will be brought into action if necessary.  But, instead of calling them devastators, as they are now called, they should be called universal peace makers, because they will command peace every where in the world.  (Hear, hear.)  The Millennium could never exist with war; and that Power which over-rules all things has, at this particular juncture, brought forward the man whom you have the pleasure of now seeing.  This man has been my disciple for the last twenty years and more, and he has brought forward these machines to make the Millennium practicable, and which shall command the peace of the world, and man shall no more learn the art of war.  (Cheers.)  I know well that the public mind at present cannot understnd these things; but the time is rapidly approaching when they will understand them, and will perceive that all that I have stated now, and for half a century past, has been true to the very letter, as it will be found in those writings which I have given to the world, in which I have stated truths that will permanently benefit mankind.  Has our government acted wisely?  Has it given encouragement to civil engineers?  No.  The lives that have been destroyed, and the property that has been wasted at Sebastopol, might have been all preserved, if they had; nor should we be now in the position in which we are.  They knew not how to act.  But the public ought to teach them how to act, and what course to pursue for the happiness of the human race.  (Hear, hear.)  It is the duty of the public to oblige the government to act so as to produce this universal happiness.  (Hear, hear.)  The heads of the government are the immediate cause of all existing evils.  But who placed them in their present positions?  The people; and therefore the people, in doing that, are much more to blame than the members of government.  (Hear, hear.)  My friends, when these machines are brought into action, there will be no necessity for an Admiralty or a Board of Ordnance; or Horse Guards, or useless expenses; but these expenses for war may be applied, and must be applied, to purposes of peace, and to secure permanent happiness to the human race.  (Hear, hear.)] [. . .] [8]

One of my objects is to announce this change from war to universal peace.  Previous to knowledge on this subject, governments will be naturally inclined to oppose this change, although it is a necessary prelude to the Millennium; but soon they will discover that it is unavoidable—and afterwards that every member of every government will be essentially and permanently benefited by the change, and that thereby their children will be trained, educated, and placed, to become full-formed men and women, and superior rational beings.

[My friends!  Are not men superior rational beings now?  No, they are not.  Are they not full-formed men and women?  No, they are nothing of the kind.  The men and women are merely full grown children, trained in falsehood and deception, and will never be full-formed until this system is destroyed.  (Hear, hear.)]

Another object was to obtain this opportunity to declare to the Russian government and people, the impracticability of contending successfully against the new scientific powers of destruction, that will, if the war shall be persevered in, be brought to destroy their armies, fleets, and fortified places, without any chance of resistance.

Were this statement to be made to the Russian government by the British and French governments, no credit would be given to it, because governments have no faith in each other, knowing that diplomacy is the high school for deception and false colours.  But the Russian statesmen who know me will put implicit faith in any statement I may deem it my duty to make, and they also know that my object is not to benefit a particular nation, class, sect, or party, but equally to permanently benefit all nations and peoples without exception.  I tell the Russian government now, that at a small expense, and with the loss of few, if any, men, Sebastopol, Cronstadt, or any other fortress, could with ease be blown to atoms—their armies, however numerous, and their fleets, however formidable, in like manner destroyed.

If this statement should not be considered sacred, this new scientific power doubted, and more blood must be shed, and human carnage continued, then, as a convincing proof, let Sebastopol be thus blown up, and all within it sacrificed to folly and madness.

[I trust, however, that no such result will ever take place, but that the governments will now consult among themselves, what would be the wisest course to pursue.  This matter should no longer [9] be left in their hands, but should be in the hands of the public.  (Hear, hear.)]

Instead of this unnecessary, cruel, and unjust proceeding to those who must suffer in such contest, let the war cease in the shortest time practicable, and let the civilised governments of Europe, Asia, and America, form a truly holy alliance to protect themselves during this wild conflict of contending ignorance, and of repulsive feelings between creeds, sects, classes, and colours, and organise themselves to make the change as speedily as practicable, from the present insane conditions, prevalent in all countries, to those wise and foreseen conditions which can alone create, and exist in the Millennial state of society. [. . .] [12]

Mr. James Cowen, for the inventor of the new machine, stated that it could destroy 100,000 lives an hour, and would blow Sebastopol and Cronstadt, with the whole of the Russian fleet, to atoms in a few hours.  It was worked by steam.  Interviews had been held with Lord Hardinge, Lord Palmerston, &c., and the object explained. [. . .] [24]

[All things conspire at this time to introduce the Millennium into the world.  I will now take this opportunity of introducing to your notice a new and most powerful machine, which one of my friends has invented, and this machine is one that will accomplish great results.  (A large picture, about three feet square, was here placed in front of the platform, and excited the greatest interest.  It represented a field of battle, where French and English troops were fighting against Russians.  The machine, was called the “Devastator,” and it was stated that it had been invented by a working mechanic who was present.  It was represented in action, vomiting death on all sides.  It was fixed upon six wheels, and worked by steam, both for moving itself about and for working its guns.  In shape it resembled a kind of Noah’s Ark.  The upper part appeared to be constructed of corrugated iron.  There was one tier of guns all round, and the wheels had large sithes projecting from the nave, like what is seen in the engravings of some of the old war chariots of Rome.  It was stated to possess powers of destruction incredible and hitherto unheard of, and that it could discharge from its guns many thousands of shots per hour, and that it could propel itself without danger or delay over every description of road where any ordinary carriage could be moved.  It had been submitted to the war authorities, and after some consideration by them was finally rejected.)  Mr. Owen continued:  These machines may be constructed so as to destroy in a few minutes the most powerful armies on the earth, and the strongest fortifications.  The inventor has called it a “Devastator;” but I call it a “Universal Peace-Maker;” for when it is known that any one nation is in possession of these machines, and of such enormous powers of destruction, the opposing powers will be compelled to make terms of peace.  I would ask any one to have the kindness to tell me what possible good can arise from wars being carried on?  Have wars and their conditions every improved the human character?  No, my friends, we want positive practical measures of a different kind to be carried out by the government of the earth, in order to secure happiness to the governed without war and its evils.  (Hear, hear, hear.)  Look at the insane way in which the world is governed at present.  My friends, we should be able, under the new state of things, to make it totally impracticable for any government upon earth to long continue governing the human race in the insane way [25]  they do now.  (Hear, hear, hear.)  I can call it nothing less but insanity; and this statement refers to all governments.  Now I do not blame the individuals, for I know how they have been educated and placed in the world, and why they could not have been any better or wiser than they are; and they have acted according to the way in which they have been trained.  There must of necessity be a change in the system, and we have in our own hands the means of effecting such a change.  (Applause.)]

But whatever inventions may arise, to command by their overwhelming destructive power the external peace of nations, there can be no real internal peace for the human race until the divine principle which can alone create the pure spirit of universal charity and love can be made to be understood, and to pervade all hearts and minds. [. . .] [31]

To form these rational, good, and superior conditions, the first step is to obtain universal, permanent peace.  This is now to be obtained by a new combination of physical and mental power, which will evidently make it the interest of all, and also make it necessary that all nations should at once cease from war, or they must cease to exist as nations, while one belligerent shall be in the sole possession of the Universal Devastator, or, when properly applied, Universal Peace-Maker, the painting of which as when in action is now before you.

This is the invention of Mr. John Sweetlove and his assisting mechanics—plain, honest, well-meaning, self-taught men—drilled by experience to discover that which is highly beneficial for the human race.  Neither Mr. Sweetlove, nor Mr. Cowen, who has been most essential in bringing forward this wonderful machine, has been accustomed to address an audience such as is now before me, and I will therefore speak for them.

Two years ago, when the ideas leading to this invention were occurring to them, Russian agents, and some of our American friends, both actively alive to every new movement in this direction, applied to these parties to buy their ideas; having already previously secured to many valuable practical ideas and suggestions from John Bull; but these inventors were, and are, to the extent of their knowledge, true patriots, and would not listen to the most tempting offers which were made to them by these parties.  When these men had matured their invention, they offered and explained the power and working of it to their own government, who, after ample examination by a Select Committee appointed by the government, acknowledged, at that time, as Mr. Cowen tells me, its merits and its power to destroy any fortress [32], army, or opposing force, when properly applied, under sufficient civil engineering skill.

But I have just learned from Mr. Cowen that our government, after ten months of useless negotiation, has at length discovered that it is “inapplicable to the Ordnance Department;” and so it is—because it would destroy war, and would render that department unnecessary.  These inventors—feeling the great responsibility of this machine, capable of easily destroying the physical force of the world, and knowing I was a man of peace, having the happiness of the human race for my life’s object—committed it, (of their own suggestion, before I knew of the invention,) to my direction, wishing to act in this matter under my advice; and if they continue of this mind, I intend it shall be used to become the Universal Peace-Maker, and the introducer into practice of the happy Millennial State of existence.


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