Jonathan Dymond

(Being Chapter 19 of Essay 3 of The Essays on Morality)

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Peter D. Sippel

During the course of his short (1796-1828) life Jonathan Dymond addressed the subject of war twice, both of them frequently later titled simply "Dymond on War." The first of these, An Enquiry(1) Into the Accordancy of War With the Principles of Christianity,(2) was first published in 1823 in an edition of three hundred copies.(3) Surviving copies are, needless to say, scarce though one exists in the Library at Friends' House in London and another (which once belonged to Isaac Crewdson, later of "Beacon" fame) is at the Friends' Historical Library at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania. A revised second edition came out in 1824,(4) followed by a third edition in the same year with further corrections and revisions. Dymond refers to these in a letter to his personal and familial friend Joseph John Gurney: "I have been thinking that thou hast perhaps not seen the 3rd Edition of my War Essay. It is, I hope, less imperfect that the 1st of which my father sent thee a copy. I hope to put a copy of the 3rd in thy hands on thy return, & thou must not think I have put it into its smart dress in order to give it to thee; for a bookseller, who thinks himself bound under some obligations, sent me a number of Cops. well bound."(5) All subsequent editions, except for abridged ones, appear to be reprints of the third edition, which is presently available online at the Quaker Heritage Press website.

The second of the essays, frequently called "War, Its Causes, Consequences, and Lawfulness" (or words to that effect) or sometimes simply "War: An Essay" or "Dymond on War" is actually the 19th and final chapter of the third and last essay of the Essays on Morality,(6) and is one of several chapters that were reprinted as separate, stand alone pamphlets or tracts. These essays, intended to be a comprehensive moral philosophy were left unfinished at the time of Dymond's death and were finished, corrected, and prepared for publication by his wife, Anna, and his brother, William and were first published in 1829.(7) Some of the (edited) reprints of the chapter alone feature an introduction by John Bright and an Appendix giving the opinions of eminent men and listing the death counts and financial costs of various 19th century wars. I have opted to include both of these in this production strictly as comments made by later people, and make no claims for the accuracy of any of the information.

Of Dymond himself there is relatively little to say.(8) He was born in Exeter, England, 12th month 19th, 1976, the fifth of seven children born to John and Olive Dymond, both ministers in the Society of Friends. He was contemplative and studious even as a child, to the point his brothers nicknamed him "the philosopher." He worked as a linen draper, and was several times consulted as an arbitrator in interpersonal disputes. Aside from occasional trips to London on business he traveled little. In 1822 he married Anna Wilkey, the daughter of John and Sarah Wilkey, of Plymouth. They had two children, a son, Charles Jonathan, who died of Tuberculosis in 1834 at the age of seven, and a daughter, Mary Anna, who lived to adulthood, married Henry Barret, had six children, and died in 1887.

Dymond was in poor health for much of his life with what is described as "a chronic bronchial affection" which worsened with age, leaving him unable to speak at the end of his life. Although he sought medical attention and tried relocating to supposedly more suitable locations his condition deteriorated and he died on the 6th of 5th month, 1828, at the age of 31.


1. Or "Inquiry," in the American editions.

2. Full title: An Enquiry Into the Accordacny of War With the Principles of Christianity, And An Examination of the Philosophical Reasoning by Which it is Defended. With Some Observations on Some of the Causes of War and on Some of its Effects.

3. London: Longman, Hurst, & Co., and Harvey & Darton; Edinburgh: Archibald Constable; and Exeter: T. Balle.

4. Same publishers.

5. The Journal of the Friends Historical Society, Vol 29 (1932) Pages 32-34.

6. Full title: Essays on the Principles of Morality, and on the Private and Political Rights and Obligations of Mankind.

7. London: Hamilton, Adams & Co.; Exeter: T. Balle.

8. Material in this section comes from Dymond, Charles William. Memoir, Letters, and Poems of Jonathan Dymond With Biographical Supplement. Printed for the Author, 1911, and from biographical articles in The Friend (London) Vol. 38, No. 32 (1897,) pages 519-521 and The Friends (Philadelphia) Vol. 71, No. 15 (1897,) pages 114-116, 123-124.