History of Religion in the United States

By Clifton E. Olmstead | Go to book overview
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The Retreat to Normalcy

WORLD WAR I, THE WAR TO END ALL WARS WAS OVER. A HEAVY SILENCE lay over the battlefields where men had poured out their life's blood in the service of their country. Yet few in America paused to take careful measure of the sacrifice. There were glory and fanfare, tickertape and shouting, but only the bereaved and the survivors of battle knew the awful cost of the Great War. That same ebullient noisy enthusiasm with which Americans greeted the brief but bitter conflict was still conspicuous in the proud flush of victory. After all, the world was better for what they had done, a step closer to that inevitable utopia which lay just around the corner. To the victors at Versailles, terrible in their righteousness, it did not seem inconsistent to mete out a stern revengeful punishment to the vanquished in the name of divine justice and then in idealistic fashion turn to building a lasting world peace. It was one of the last naively optimistic acts of an age already in its dotage, a superannuated age about to be replaced by an era of reckless uncertainties and swaggering doubts.

During the brief period of elation and high resolve which followed the war, President Wilson was in France, prepared to commit the United States to the cause of international justice and peace through participation in a League of Nations. But even as he poured his energies into this new dream, the forces of reaction in his own country were undermining


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