Monday, December 28, 2015

American Anti-War Society

Where is it?

I have been thinking about this in reference to my earlier post, Common Cause, on the intersection of left, right, and libertarian anti-war / anti-empire supporters.  There are many voices, across a wide-ranging set of political ideologies, against war and empire.  Yet where is the center – an organized and focused effort to end the wars that have been a continuous feature of the government of the United States?

It is easy to understand why there is no such focus: war as it is practiced by today’s America visibly and directly costs the general population little – no conscription, no tax increases, no meaningful price inflation; the manifestation of the evils of war are all occurring “over there,” against those who are less than human. 

Conversely, to stand up against war brings a cost: the entirety of mainstream opinion and political correctness is arrayed against those who denounce war and come out against supporting the troops.  Time, money, reputation, and energy spent on a seemingly futile task, in opposition to an ungodly array of powerful and wealthy interests.

A search for any such organizations today turns up this apparently ancient listing at; of the four main organizations identified, only one web site seems to even be active.  What was once United for Peace has evolved into United for Peace and Justice:

Together we are working to end war and oppression, shift resources toward human needs, protect the environment and promote sustainable alternatives.    Our long-term goal is to grow a culture of justice, peace, equality, cooperation and respect.  We value diversity and respect the earth.

A mish-mash of causes certain to turn off more anti-war supporters than it might draw – a perfect complement to my aforementioned post: I share little politically with the mainstream left or right other than with the subset who also desire an anti-war position.  But then we divide ourselves because of all the other stuff.  Perhaps one more casualty of being stuck in a false left-right dichotomy.

Then there is a more exhaustive list presented by The Guardian.  It appears to be a British-based listing; upon checking the first several links, half come up dead or otherwise confusing.

I am not going to spend forever looking; that it might take forever only proves the point: any such organizations – if they even exist – are invisible.

Yet, there was once an issue that presented the exact same situation as does this issue of war today: slavery.  To whites, there was little visible or direct cost, the costs were born by the other – in this case, the Negro slave.  It was accepted that the Negro was something less than human, and to consider otherwise was not politically acceptable.  All nicely parallel the situation of today’s westerners relative to the fate of the (mainly brown-skinned and/or Muslim) victims of war.

A successful anti-slavery movement formed in Britain:

After the formation of the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787, William Wilberforce led the cause of abolition through the parliamentary campaign. It finally abolished the slave trade in the British Empire with the Slave Trade Act 1807. He continued to campaign for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, which he lived to see in the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

The background of this committee, formed in 1787:

The Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, (or The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade), was a British abolitionist group, formed on 22 May 1787, by twelve men who gathered together at a printing shop in London, England. The Society worked to educate the public about the abuses of the slave trade; it achieved abolition of the international slave trade in 1807, enforced by the Royal Navy.

It later was superseded by development of the Anti-Slavery Society in 1823, which worked to abolish the institution of slavery throughout the British colonies. Abolition was passed by parliament in 1833 (except in India, where it was part of the indigenous culture); with emancipation completed by 1838.

Of the twelve founding members, nine were Quakers and three were Anglicans: the roots of the movement are undeniably to be found in the morals of the Christian men of the age.

The Christian roots in the abolitionist movement in America are also quite evident, through the American Anti-Slavery Society.  From Jeffrey Rogers Hummel in Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men.  Consider the following excerpts from Hummel’s book and the applicability of each statement to the possibility and consequences of a movement against today’s issues of war and empire:

The most vitriolic of these abolitionists was William Lloyd Garrison….Garrison left no doubt about his refusal to compromise with the sin of slavery.

Garrison…did not look to direct political action to eradicate slavery.  Moral suasion and non-violent resistance were his strategies.

Garrison helped organize the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833.  Two thousand local societies with 200,000 members had sprung into existence by 1840.

Advocating abolition became a felony in Virginia in 1836.  The Georgia legislature offered a reward of $5,000 for anyone who would kidnap Garrison and bring him south for trial and punishment.

…abolitionists were unpopular in the North too.

A Boston mob dragged Garrison through the streets and almost lynched him.  An anti-abolitionist riot in New York City went on for half a week, during which crowds of day laborers damaged several churches, invaded black neighborhoods, and sacked the home of Lewis Tappan, a wealthy silk importer who generously financed antislavery organizations.
These assaults finally reached a fateful culmination in 1837.  Elijah Lovejoy, an abolitionist editor, was killed while defending his press from an Illinois mob.  The Lovejoy murder marked a turning point, however, “a shock as of an earthquake throughout the continent,” remarked former President John Quincy Adams.
Hope for greater public sympathy helped splinter the abolitionist crusade into doctrinal factions.
The society was considered controversial and sometimes met with violence. According to the Britannica Encyclopedia, "The society's antislavery activities frequently met with violent public opposition, with mobs invading meetings, attacking speakers, and burning presses."

A convention of abolitionists was called to meet in December 1833 at the Adelphi Building in Philadelphia. The convention had 62 delegates, of which 21 were Quakers. The new American Anti-Slavery Society charged William Lloyd Garrison with writing the organization's new declaration. The document condemns the institution of slavery and accuses slave owners of the sin of being a "man-stealer". It calls for the immediate abolition of slavery without terms, and is critical of the efforts of the American Colonization Society. At the same time, it declares the group to be pacifist, and the signers agree, if necessary, to die as martyrs.

In 1839 the national organization split over basic differences of approach: Garrison and his followers were more radical than other members; they denounced the U.S. Constitution as supportive of slavery, were against established religion, and insisted on sharing organizational responsibility with women.

The Liberty Party was a separate anti-slavery organization that broke away from the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1839 in order to pursue an abolitionist agenda through the political process. As a radical, Garrison did not believe it prudent to fight the system from the inside. The disruption of the American Anti-Slavery Society, however, caused little damage to abolitionism.

Because of this schism in national leadership, the bulk of the activity in the 1840s and 1850s was carried on by state and local societies. The antislavery issue entered the mainstream of American politics through the Free Soil Party (1848–54) and subsequently the Republican Party (founded in 1854).

The American Anti-Slavery Society hoped to convince both white Southerners and Northerners of slavery's inhumanity. The organization sent lecturers across the North to convince people of slavery's brutality. The speakers hoped to convince people that slavery was immoral and ungodly and thus should be outlawed. The American Anti-Slavery Society also bombarded the United States Congress with petitions calling for the end of slavery. Rather than addressing the slavery issue, Congress imposed "the gag rule." The gag rule stated that Congress would not accept any petitions from the people of the United States that pertained to slavery.

From the Constitution of the Society:

The object of this Society is the entire abolition of slavery in the United States. …it shall aim to convince all our fellow-citizens, by arguments addressed to their understandings and consciences that slaveholding is a heinous crime in the sight of God, and that the duty, safety, and best interests of all concerned, require its immediate abandonment, without expatriation. The Society will also endeavour, in a constitutional way, to influence Congress to put an end to the domestic slave-trade, and to abolish slavery in all those portions of our common country which come under its control

It is clear from this earlier episode that the motive force of the anti-slavery movement was ethical and moral, grounded in the Christian faith of men and women willing to take a stand despite significant personal cost.


Consider the possible parallels: certain individuals – personally untouched by slavery – formed a society at great individual cost and risk; today, few Americans are personally affected by the costs (economic or otherwise) of war (as evil to its victims, and more so, than the impact of slavery on the slave), yet there is no similar risk taken.

The individuals took this anti-slavery action without the need to rely on a political champion; today – and certainly since Ron Paul has left the political scene – there is no such champion…and there is no such movement against war.  It seems clear that any such opposition to war in the US was neutered the day Obama took office – again demonstrating the lie that is the left-right dichotomy.

In the 1830s – with none of the benefits of communication we enjoy today – the Anti-Slavery Society quickly grew to 2,000 chapters and 200,000 members; this without Facebook, Twitter, Google Chat, or any of the dozens of ways we have today to form groups and otherwise reach out to each other.  This was when the US population was estimated to be about 17 million.  The equivalent today would be a 4 million member society against war.

I suspect that if such a society is to be formed it must come from within the Christian community – just as the anti-slavery movement did more than two centuries ago.  Unfortunately, the most visible expressions of support for war and empire come forward from much of this group – accurately labelled “warvangelicals” by Laurence Vance.

Where is such a society today?  Too morally bankrupt?  No desire to rock the boat?  Too many generations of being molded into sheep?

I suspect the answer to all three questions is yes.


  1. i have often wondered what became of all those who protested the Viet Nam War and, in the end, effected the termination of that crime against humanity.

    where are they now?

    if their conscience was affected then, why not now?

    how is 'now' different from 'then' to explain their absence?

    1. I was as student during the Viet Nam War years. The anti-war protests stopped the day after Nixon dismantled the draft. The protests disappeared with the military draft. Search for them there! As BM has pointed out, people will generally oppose an injustice only when they are personally at risk. Sad but true.

      Short of an economic collapse, the forcing of the dismantlement of the American empire won't happen until the draft is brought back for everyone.

    2. I will add, the absence of the draft could also partially explain the war / military worship - even or especially by those who protested / avoided the draft. Call it a guilt thing.

  2. Too much investment in the US military. Churches don't send forth missionaries, we send out soldiers. Try telling your kids you raised on military worship that you were wrong and you've led them astray...

  3. Left and Right probably follow a Bell Curve. and there seems to be irrefutable evidence that each is highly genetically passed on and not interchangeable. The crazies on each end are not capable of clear thought, and the middle cannot work together, because each has their own agenda.

    I cannot find even one instance where the “people” caused or decided to go to war. Emperors, Kings, Dictators and Democratic Committees of power hungry people are always the ones who process the wars. “Cannon Fodders” is a reality. 99.9% of the “people” have absolutely no power over war.

    All these Anti-War societies are a joke, Strange that the “People” have probably been opposing war for 10,000 years and still have not got their act together. Clearly they do not understand what war is about, and it is certainly not about them.

    Show me a Charity, a Do-Good Organization or an “Organized” Opposition to anything and we usually find that the 1% of their leadership is on the gravy train. I think Charities are allowed to consume something like 70% of what they take in as running expenses. Most of them have a Director on a salary which is mind boggling. The “Cause” is only the rubber stamp.

    As noble as the Anti-Slavery movement sounds, my intuition tells me that the final abolition had nothing to do with the Do-Gooders, but was precipitated by economic and political forces.

    Your faith in “Christian Roots” may be misplaced. These Christian Roots seem to have been content to go along with some very bad things for a very long time. They are then quick to claim a victory when circumstances have turned the wheel beyond their control.

    Please let us not have an Anti-War organization. Let every person identify for themselves where the problem lies. Those who cannot do so deserve what comes to them.

    Every time we abdicate our responsibilities to , Village Leaders, Town Leaders, City Leaders, Provincial, State Leaders and country Leaders, we deserve precisely the loss of individual and personal sovereignty which results.


    1. There are Christians and there are people who merely call themselves such. Quakers, though not perfect of course, were closer to the ideal than most. In the US, Quakers voluntarily renounced slavery and freed their slaves a full century ahead of the rest of the country. Yes, despite the obvious economic harm this did to their self-interest.

      Quakers were from the beginning a throwback to the "Christian Roots" which you scorn so.

      When every individual, or even just many of them, realize the immorality of war, then they will naturally constitute an anti-war organization just by working together.

      Igor Karbinovskiy

    2. Graham

      There are examples of individuals banding together to bring about meaningful change. There are examples in history of individuals who self-identified as Christian banding together to bring about meaningful change.

      No one is talking about abdicating responsibility; I only suggest that to get something done, an individual along with some group of people must decide to get something done.

  4. Bionic, we may disagree on many things, but I am glad we agree that war is the most horrible thing there is, the most anti-liberty thing. I am not a Quaker, and I don't even like religion, but every year I give money to the American Friends Services Committee, because they have been one of the most consistently anti-war organizations over the years. They are one of the organizations on that list that is still quite active.

    1. Ed, I am happy to find some common ground; yet, when I look at the web site of this organization it is far more than what you imply. Every left-wing cause is supported by this group. That is fine if that is what you are into, but it isn't what I was looking for (as should have been obvious from my post).

  5. As I see it, another challenge, related to war, is even more daunting than the issue of war. Libertarians can be argue that taxation, a violation of the non aggression principle, is slavery every bit as much as forcing blacks to pick cotton. We all pay visible and/or hidden taxes while we are all beneficiaries of the tax loot in one form or another. So, net tax payers are slaves to net tax consumers. How will that be resolved? By shaming the net tax consumers, many who themselves are barely getting by? Only a minority of Americans owned black slaves, but today net tax consumers probably outnumber and can outvote net tax payers. Short of an economic and political collapse, I can't see how this modern version of slavery can be peacefully resolved.

    1. I agree with your comments, without hesitation; I guess I focus on war (at least on this day) because the end result for too many non-combatants is death. Even a net taxpayer is better off than dead - he can choose death if he prefers it, while a dead victim of war cannot choose to be anything.

  6. I remember when the Viet Nam war was actually televised. Students protested. Wasn't OHIO about that? Remember? Four Dead in OHIO. I could be wrong.

    Now the wars are not televised. It is all so abstract now. Is 'now' the time for a 'no-fly zone' or not the time for a 'no-fly zone'? An abstraction I'm saying.

    Students now are instead protesting against micro-aggressions. How well have the distractions worked? So so well.

    1. I dropped out of college in 1968 to spend my energy attempting to persuade people to oppose the War in Vietnam. I had no measurable good effect. When drafted, I escaped to Canada. Organized opposition to that war did not end it.
      I have been persuaded by Stefan Molyneux that focusing on peaceful parenting will more effectively reduce the power of the state to pursue warfare than any other strategy. It’s something I can do that will affect at least one grandchild. I would be pleased to read Bionic Mosquito’s criticism of that strategy.

    2. I have no criticism of that strategy.

  7. Maybe we should reestablish the America First Committee.

  8. The "Powers That Be" have done a stellar job of associating a universal good cause such as being anti-war to people with peculiar social norms/ethic in the eyes of a general public, i.e. Hippies, etc. Now so many average people are dependent on the military industrial complex for their livelihood. The moneyed powers that be and their progressive technocrats have played the American public like a perfectly tuned violin.