The American Peace Crusade, 1815-1860

By Merle Eugene Curti | Go to book overview

V
THE CRUSADE TESTED, 1837-1852

From the middle of the thirties to the outbreak of the Civil War the peace movement was tested almost without break by wars and rumors of war. Although its leaders constantly pointed to its achievements in these crises, they admitted at the same time the weakness of the movement. In 1842 the Advocate of Peace boasted that the press had of late "teemed with many able and pertinent articles on peace," but close examination of this claim indicates that at best the list of secular journals admitting peace principles was unimpressive and remained so.1 Quite likely the press only reflected the apathy of the general public towards the cause.

Bad as this indifference was, that of the professed friends of the cause was even worse. Other benevolences seemed to absorb the major energy of humanitarian idealism. While many gave verbal approbation to the cause of peace, few contributed, and fewer still were genuinely convinced. This lamentable apathy accounts for the constant complaints of the editors of the Advocate of Peace and the Christian Citizen that peace workers seldom reported their activities, and that this made it impossible to keep their readers informed of what was being done. Samuel Plant of Northampton, Massachusetts, had labored as a member of one or another peace society for twenty-eight years, but in 1846 he had come to despair of ever witnessing, through the efforts of the peace movement, a change in public opinion on the subject of war. Again and again the leaders admitted lack of progress.2

In 1847, Beckwith, secretary of the American Peace Society, outlined causes for this situation. Time and again he heard people arguing that since peace could be achieved only by

____________________
1
Advocate of Peace, vol. iv, no. 5, April, 1842, pp. 139 ff.; no. 5, pp. 107 ff.
2
Ibid., December, 1844, p. 285; Christian Citizen, July 26, 1845; March 21, 1846.

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