Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Anti-War Sentiments During World War I

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, when large protests against the Vietnam War were fairly common across America, I somehow was led to believe or came to conclude that such anti-war sentiment was previously almost unheard of in this country. During the years since I have come to realize that the anti-war sentiment of the Vietnam war era was unprecedented perhaps only in its breadth and magnitude. Even during the Civil War, there was quite a bit of anti-war sentiment and a number of demonstrations of such sentiment, such as the New York City draft riots. I suspect that anti-war feelings have been around almost ever since we've had wars.
In my reading and research, I've noticed, in particular, that there was quite a bit of anti-war sentiment in the United States during World War I. I wrote on this blog not too long ago, for instance, about the fact that such sentiment was not altogether uncommon among German Americans (although German Americans were suspected of harboring such sentiments more often than they actually did). I also wrote a year or so ago about the so-called Cleburne County Draft War, which was a clash in Cleburne County, Arkansas, in early 1918 between local law enforcement and a small sect of Russellites whose sons had been targeted for arrest because they had not registered for the draft. The Russellites, as I explained at the time, was a religious sect that was a forerunner to present-day Jehovah's Witnesses. Often called Bible Students or the Watch Tower Society, the Russellites were noted for their pacifism, as are Jehovah's Witnesses still today.
Another interesting case of Russellite opposition to World War I occurred in Jasper County, Missouri. A Webb City man named L.D. Barnes, an avowed Bible Student, became the object of an investigation by the Bureau of Investigation (forerunner of the FBI) in early 1918 after he wrote a number of letters to the Joplin Globe and to area citizens espousing his opposition to the war. Although the agent who investigated Barnes labeled him "a religious crank of the worst kind," some of the things Barnes said in his letters actually make a lot of sense for anyone who is interested in paying more than lip service to the ideas of the New Testament. For instance, in one letter that he wrote to the minister of a Methodist church in Webb City, Barnes (who was upset by something he had read on the church's marquee about supporting the war effort) challenged the minister and his followers to live up to what the Bible actually teaches. "War and Christianity won't mix," he declared. "Ye cannot serve God and the Devil. If war is right, Christianity is wrong, false, a lie. If Christianity is right, war is wrong, false, a lie. The God revealed by Jesus is no God of battles. He lifts no sword. His rule is peace, and His method of persuasion is forgiveness. Hear the Scripture: 'Thou shalt not kill.'"
Especially in light of the terror and fanaticism we see in the world today, one might reasonably argue that Barnes was an impractical idealist, but I don't think I would call him "a religious crank of the worst kind."


Blogger Steve said...

Woodrow Wilson literally created the government apparatus to lie to the American people.

Edward Bernays, an adviser to Wilson, talked about the creation of the Committee on Public Information (CPI) and spoke of its mission as the "engineering of consent" and "the conscious manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses."

(Bernays, of course, was a master manipulator/advertiser who was later admired by Dr. Goebbels who liberally borrowed from his bag of tricks.)

The most notable victim of Wilson's fascist techniques was the great socialist leader Eugene V. Debs who dared to speak out against Wilson and World War I. He was arrested and charged with 10 counts of sedition.

Debs famously said at his trial, "I never more fully comprehended than now the great struggle between the powers of greed on the one hand and upon the other the rising hosts of freedom. I can see the dawn of a better day of humanity. The people are awakening. In due course of time they will come into their own."

Debs was sentenced to ten year sin prison and disenfranchised for life on Nov. 18, 1918. Even in prison, Debs received nearly 1 million votes in the 1920 election.

In 1921, President Harding commuted Debs' sentence to time served. He also warmly received him at the White House.

This is important to the region around Joplin, especially southeast Kansas because it was, at one time, one of the strongest socialist areas in the United States. Wilson's action succeeded in breaking the back of Socialism which was later unfairly linked to the abuses of Communism in the Soviet Union, once those were known.

Today, Socialism has made a rebound with Sen. Bernie Sanders, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money in the primary election of 2016.

September 7, 2016 at 9:02 AM  

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