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Adler, Philip A. (ed.) / The Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XVI, Number 8 (May 1917)

McGilvary, Evander Bradley
War!,   pp. 231-233


Page 231

WISCONSIN LITERARY MAGAZINE
War!
EVERY newspaper and every magazine is full of
Iii articles on the war. With the discussion that is
thus going on in public print as well as in private con-
versation it is now quite impossible for any one to say
anything new or original about it. Our reasons for go-
ing into the struggle have been eloquently set forth by
President Wilson in his War Address before Con-
gress; the demands that are made on all citizens have
likewise been clearly stated by him in his appeal to
the nation. There are perhaps still some among us
who either do not believe that we had to enter into this
gigantic contest or who question our motives for en-
trance. Against these disbelievers argument at this time
is ineffective. Motives are notoriously difficult to es-
tablish in face of dispute. But fortunately it is not
necessary to defend our motives; those who doubt are
relatively few.
It might well have been otherwise.  A year ago
there was in the minds of many of our most thoughtful
citizens a deep fear that if the United States should
become embroiled in the war there would be internal
strife. War against the entente has at no time within
the last thirty months been a possibility worth consid-
eration; if we had to fight it would be with Germany,
and war against Germany was something that would go
counter to the feelings and sympathies of a large num-
ber of our own citizens. These sympathies were nat-
ural. The ties that bound many Americans to Ger-
many were close, and as the war went on in Europe it
was inevitable that sympathies should grow stronger.
There was among pro-German sympathizers a resent-
ment against the unneutrality of our press, and the al-
leged unneutrality of our government. Would this re-
sentment lead to serious internal friction in case Ameri-
ca did come in on the side of the Allies? This was a
question that caused much anxiety.
Had it not been for the suspicion of German prop-
aganda organized by the agents of the German govern-
ment, a suspicion that was confirmed by numerous plots
unearthed and established by our courts, we should
have trusted the loyalty of our fellow-citizens, sharp
as would be the wrench to the feelings of those of Ger-
man descent when they should be called upon to de-
fend the country of their adoption against the country
of their extraction. But what had this propaganda
achieved in the way of organizing natural feelings into
an effective political and military menace? Organiza-
tion we had all been led to believe in-organization of
unknown extent.
This organization had a foundation to build on, such
as no anti-German organization could have had. There
was a grandeur in the German achievement within the
last fifty years that appealed to the imagination of men
of German blood. German science, German industry,
German social reforms, German expansion in all direc-
tions, not only were brilliant accomplishments, but were
.more splendid advertisements. Every American whose
forefathers had come from Germany was proud to be-
long to the race that had done and was doing wonder-
ful things. It is true that many of these Americans
were descended from men and women who had emi-
grated from Germany because of intolerable political
conditions. But in the mere flight of time there is a
softening effect. The good is remembered; and the
evil, the harshness and the tyranny, are forgotten.
There was a new Germany over the waters, no longer
the Germany of 1848; and it was this glorified Ger-
many that now was reaching out to grip the hearts and
the imagination of her expatriated children. The Ger-
man government declined to recognize the expatriation;
its theory was that one could be both an American and
a German. And while until 1914 there was not the re-
motest suspicion on the part of most Americans that
there would be any danger to our national unity from
this bi-nationalism, the burst of passion that followed
the invasion of Belgium, passion pro-German and pas-
sion anti-German, brought us all face to face with what
seemed to be an accomplished break in our national
unity.
But the forces of passion at work were not so simple
as the account just given would imply. Those who
took sides against Germany were suspected by their
opponents of having as strongly pro-British sympathies
as theirs were pro-German. The way to combat anti-
Germanism was then to arouse the latent feelings of dis-
like for England and her empire. These feelings have
been slumbering in American minds for more than a
hundred years. Our text-books of history had been
largely written in an Anglophobe spirit. Our Irish
population had their remembered grievances, also ok-
ganized into a campaign of hate against England The
memory of some passages in the Civil War and of the
Venezuelan incident did not serve to abate the sinister
tradition. The national patriotic sport of twisting the
British lion's tail served as an excellent basis for an anti-
British propaganda. Pro-Germanism would not have
been such a serious menace to us at this crisis had it not
been combined with a violent hate of Britain. German
militarism, never popular in America, was represented
as a no more serious menace than British navalism.
Germany was represented as standing for the freedom
of the seas; England with her naval zones was repre-
May, 1917
231


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