Essay: DIVIDED WE STAND: The Unpopularity of U.S. Wars

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The draft was Lincoln's biggest headache. In June 1863, after instructions were issued for enrollment of all men between 20 and 45, armed opposition arose in four of the seven Midwest states. In Kentucky, a guard was needed to protect draft officials; in Cleveland, a mob went beyond tearing up draft cards—it destroyed the box from which draftees' names were chosen. When the first names were drawn in New York City, a general uprising followed. Police Superintendent John Kennedy tried in vain to calm the rioters. The mob, reported one witness, "beat him, dragged him through the streets by his head, pitched him into a horsepond, rolled him into mud gutters, dragged him through piles of filth indescribable." Soldiers, police, militia and naval forces were required to quell the draft riots. Meade's army was so weakened by disappointing recruitment and withdrawals for guard duty in New York and other Northern cities, it was unable to resume the initiative after the Battle of Gettysburg.

Spanish-American War

President McKinley had no manpower problems for his war in 1898; volunteers flocked to the colors by the thousands. Wealthy contributers gave yachts, and financed whole regiments to help relieve the beleaguered Cuban revolutionaries after decades of Spanish oppression. No matter that the President, all but one of his Cabinet, and much of the business community opposed a fight with Spain. Wild enthusiasm for war had been whipped up by the "yellow" journalism of the day, particularly by Pulitzer's New York World and Hearst's New York Journal. Letters calling for war came in from every part of the country. One angry Senator burst into Assistant Secretary of State William Day's office, brandishing his cane and shouting "By God, don't your President know where the war-declaring power is lodged? Well, tell him, by God, that if he doesn't do something, Congress will declare war in spite of him!"

It was only after the Spanish were defeated and Cuba was free that the conscience of many Americans was disturbed by the unexpected annexation of the Philippines. The Anti-Imperialist League, founded in Boston by such well-known men as Grover Cleveland and Andrew Carnegie, attracted 500,000 protesting members, as U.S. troops found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to put down Philippine Guerrilla Leader Emilio Aguinaldo's liberation movement. "The Administration seeks to extinguish the spirit of 1776 in those islands," declared the league's 1899 platform. "We demand the immediate cessation of this war against liberty." Weeks later, President McKinley won a new term in office in a nation surprised but rather pleased to find itself the possessor of a new land across the sea.

World Wars I & II

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