2⋆ Fighting the War, in Congress and at the Front

THERE is a tendency, after brass bands and exhortations have marshaled public opinion, to assume a far greater enthusiasm for war than actually existed at the moment of decision, and World War I was no exception.1 Certainly among LaGuardia's constituents, antiwar feeling was strong in the spring of 1917. Socialists in his district were vehemently opposed to American entrance into the war, despite the refusal of a number of top Socialist leaders to support the antiwar resolution adopted by their party at its St. Louis convention.2 In addition, the German-American newspapers expressed a cautious but unmistakable uneasiness about the action Congress had taken. The New YorkStaats- Zeitung said:

____________________
1
Congressional opposition to the war resolution probably would have been stronger if it were known that the sending of American troops abroad would follow. Thomas A. Bailey has said that at the time "there was no clear idea of raising a huge army" and that it "is probably true that if the ballot had been a secret one, and if it had been known that America was to send a conscript army overseas, the vote would have been closer" ( A Diplomatic History of the American People [ New York, 1950 ], 644). LaGuardia was of this view also and said later: "It was my belief at the time, and I have talked it over with a great many of my colleagues since, that at least sixty to sixty-five per cent of the members who voted for war did so in the belief and firm conviction that we would never have to send a single soldier to Europe" ( Making of an Insurgent, 140).
2
Ray Ginger, The Bending Cross ( New Brunswick, 1949), 341-343, discusses the varying Socialist reactions to the war.

-17-

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