A Range of Reactions Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Statesmen, of course, were not the only ones who had opinions about the war and the United States’ place in it. In the present section we sample the opinions and actions of some of those outside of government, along with statements from one U.S. senator who opposed the war on political and economic grounds. Others who opposed the war did so because they were pacifists or because they felt no great friendship for Britain or France. At the opposite end of the spectrum were those who used the isolationist ideology of “America First” to say that, in this instance, it was in America’s best interests to fight imperial Germany so as to preserve the freedoms that Americans enjoyed. The war, in the view of some, might even be “good” for the United States in that it would draw people together in a common cause and demonstrate that, beneath the apparent “mongrel” makeup of the American populace, with its diverse ethnicities, lay a grand unity. Such views were part of a growing wave of nationalism; they were argued in varying degrees of subtlety–and obviousness. Meanwhile, some ethnic populations–particularly German Americans–were especially challenged both before and during America’s wartime involvement. Two of the documents included here deal explicitly with that theme. A third describes the continuing discrimination faced by African American soldiers during the war.

Statesmen, of course, were not the only ones who had opinions about the war and the United States’ place in it. In the present section we sample the opinions and actions of some of those outside of government, along with statements from one U.S. senator who opposed the war on political and economic grounds. Others who opposed the war did so because they were pacifists or because they felt no great friendship for Britain or France. At the opposite end of the spectrum were those who used the isolationist ideology of “America First” to say that, in this instance, it was in America’s best interests to fight imperial Germany so as to preserve the freedoms that Americans enjoyed. The war, in the view of some, might even be “good” for the United States in that it would draw people together in a common cause and demonstrate that, beneath the apparent “mongrel” makeup of the American populace, with its diverse ethnicities, lay a grand unity. Such views were part of a growing wave of nationalism; they were argued in varying degrees of subtlety–and obviousness. Meanwhile, some ethnic populations–particularly German Americans–were especially challenged both before and during America’s wartime involvement. Two of the documents included here deal explicitly with that theme. A third describes the continuing discrimination faced by African American soldiers during the war.

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