"Resist Not Evil": The Ideological Roots of Civil War Pacifism
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

"Resist Not Evil": The Ideological Roots of Civil War Pacifism Thomas E Curran In June of 1861, Alfred H. Love wrote a letter to William J. Mullen in response to an address Mullen had given at the First Baptist Church of Philadelphia. The letter, published a year later with the title An Appeal in Vindication of Peace Principles, and Against Resistance by Force of Arms, condemned the use of carnal force to put down the Southern rebellion, and specifically criticized people who had been active in the peace movement prior to 1861 for laying aside their peace principles in order to help prosecute the war, as Mullen had done. "Excuse me if I reflect too severely," stated Love in the letter. "But thy having been imbued with the importance of pure peace principles, and even now acknowledging their virtue, renders thee far more recreant to the trust imposed by our Father, than one who has not advanced to this high moral standard."1 Alfred Love, a Philadelphia woolens merchant and an avowed pacifist, argued against Mullen's claims that in this particular instance the use of one evil—violence—was necessary in order to destroy a worse evil— secession—and that a permanent peace could never exist so long as sin and wickedness exist in the world. "Although a pure non-resistance by carnal weapons politically considered, may seem at this time impractical," Love countered, "yet as Christians we must know nothing of expediency, for that presupposes a palliation of evil; we must know nothing of compromises, for that mediates an agreement with wickedness." For Love, there could be no deviation from the principles of nonresistance for any reason, even in the midst of this national crisis which threatened the very existence of the United States. He continued: Thee admits my premises are right, but says it is too late to talk peace and irresistance by the sword. That it may do in the hereafter; that this is not the 1 Alfred H. Love, An Appeal in Vindication of Peace Principles, and Against Resistance by Force of Arms (Philadelphia: Maas and Vogdes, 1862), 6. Civil War History, Vol. XXXVI, No. 3, c 1990 by the Kent State University Press 198CIVIL WAR HISTORY millennium. Why we make millenniums! They are the highest development of our spiritual nature, attainable only by lives of purity and virtue, by abjuring the use of carnal weapons and adopting a system of universal benevolence and love to mankind.2 Alfred Love based his pacifism on the belief that humans could attain Christian perfection by emulating the examples of Jesus as shown in the New Testament, examples that delineated the laws of God. For him, the Second Coming of Jesus and the advent of the millennium were not faraway events in time, but rather a spiritual phenomenon experienced by individuals who accepted God's laws. "We agree," Love wrote of himself and his fellow pacifists, "that to take up arms at all, even in the present engrossing conflict, is wrong, and must be declined by all who would be faithful followers of the precepts and examples of Jesus Christ."3 The Civil War put severe strains upon the faith of Northern pacifists like Love. Yet a significant number adhered to their principles of nonresistance to violence throughout the conflict, despite the fact that the vast majority of Northerners completely supported military intervention in order to save the Union. This essay will discuss the ideology of Civil War pacifism by focusing on two individuals, Alfred Love and Adin Ballou, and on the traditionally pacifistic Mennonite sect. But first a note should be made on popular thought in the North concerning the prosecution of the war. The firing on Fort Sumter and Abraham Lincoln's subsequent call for volunteers consolidated Northern opinion in favor of a military response to secession. Except for the pacifists and a small group of Democrats sympathetic in various degrees toward the South, Northerners initially gave their support to the Union effort and continued to do so throughout the duration of the war, accepting the Lincoln administration's war policies, including emancipation and conscription.4 Patriotism, however, did not completely account for this northern war...


pdf