The Growth of American Thought

By Merle Curti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII The Thrust of the Civil War into Intellectual Life

Weeping, sad and lonely,
Hopes and fears, how vain;
Yet praying
When this cruel war is over,
Praying that we meet again.

-- When this Cruel War is Over, 1863

And let the hands that ply the pen
Quit the light task, and learn to wield
The horseman's crooked brand, and rein
The charger on the battle field.

-- BRYANT, Our Country's Call, 1861

Every aspect of life, including that of the mind, felt the impact of the war which few people, North or South, had believed would be the outcome of the growing tension between the two sections. The issue of bloodshed was accepted dubiously in many quarters on both sides of the Mason and Dixon line, enthusiastically in others. A small minority of the members of the peace societies in the North refused to compromise with their principle of absolute opposition to all war, and a growing number of men and women in both sections, distrustful of their leaders, sympathetic with the enemy, or merely war-weary, preferred compromise or even defeat to the continuation of the struggle. The fact of war affected the thinking not only of these dissidents but of the great majority of people who accepted it as inevitable and hoped that good would come from it.

In spite of the influence of the war on all aspects of life, ordinary routine, cherished ideas, and long-term historical tendencies were not entirely thrust aside. Many Northerners and Westerners carried

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