The American Peace Crusade, 1815-1860

By Merle Eugene Curti | Go to book overview

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THE WANING OF THE CRUSADE, 1853-1860

With the success of the international peace congresses of Paris, Frankfort, and London, and the optimism inspired by the work for arbitration, it seemed as if the peace movement were destined for an even more promising and significant development. As a matter of fact, an Iliad of woes befell the movement from 1853 to 1860, and its decline, though not entirely clear to men at the time, was both steady and fundamental.

On casual inspection the reports of the income of the American Peace Society might be taken to indicate growth rather than decline, and this interpretation was implied in the annual reports. In the fiscal year 1849 the Society's receipts were $3,698, "a sum greater than the average during the preceding years," and the next year the income jumped to $6,204. Although this was unusual, the next year saw an income of $5,345, and in 1860 it was still at a good figure. An inspection of the complete figures, however, shows a general downward trend, the high points being due to special bequests and legacies. The older members of the movement were rapidly dying, and, as the annual reports indicate, several left very generous legacies. However optimistically interpreted by the peace men, then, these data on financial income cannot be taken to indicate genuine growth in the movement. In fact, we can see in them some indication of a lessening in general support.1

Statistics as to membership are so incomplete that it is scarcely possible to interpret the strength of organized pacifism in America on that basis. After 1852 lists of life members were discontinued in the Advocate of Peace, and the archives of the American Peace Society throw no light on membership during this period. In 1852 there were 307 life members, of whom 31

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1
Annual Reports of the American Peace Society, 1849-1860, in the Advocate of Peace, vols. viii-xiii, passim. For legacies, see especially vol. x, June and July, 1852, p. 124, and vol. xi, June, 1855, p. 290 (p. 19).

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