Isolation and Security: Ideas and Interests in Twentieth-Century American Foreign Policy

By Alexander Deconde | Go to book overview

4. Robert H. Ferrell
The Peace Movement

We highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.

--inscription on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated November 11, 1921.

WHAT, BRIEFLY, has been the history of the peace movement in the United States?

One fact is immediately apparent: the heyday of the movement, its era of greatest influence, came during the interwar period. Although the peace movement in America proudly traced its origin to the early nineteenth century, to the years after the Napoleonic wars, its day of influence really began after the World War of 1914-1918. Its history, prior to the First World War, was that of a genteel, blessed, but ineffective reforming movement.

In the century before 1914 there seemed little need for a peace movement. The world was, generally speaking, a peaceful place. Practical humanitarians in the United States gave their attention to such exigent evils as slavery and polygamy. While there was a peace movement in America during the early nineteenth century, it was a highly doctrinaire undertaking, part of the ferment of idealism that produced Transcendentalism and the utopian community schemes, The peace plans of William Ladd and Elihu Burritt, the founding of the Massachusetts Peace Society in 1815, the American Peace Society in 1828--all this was rich in activity but poor in practical effect. It could not halt the Mexican War or dissuade the nation from Civil War. In the years after 1865, American energies turned to railroad building, exploiting the West, industrializing the East. So much peace was there that the peace movement in the United States kept alive only with difficulty. Andrew Carnegie created the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in 1910, Edward Ginn endowed the World Peace Foundation,

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