The New England Loyal Publication Society: an aspect in the molding of public opinion during the Civil War


Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University.In view of the magnitude and scope of the conflict, the Civil War has been accurately described as the first of modern wars. Because of the heavy burdens imposed in both manpower and money, civilian morale was a factor which assumed great significance. This was particularly so since the people of the North displayed an eager interest in the war. Not infrequently, therefore, military strategy and policies had to be subordinated to political considerations, with the consequence, that the Union government was often unable to proceed as vigorously as conditions might warrant. Since the Lincoln administration could act only as far as public opinion would permit, it was necessary at times to await support from the people before instituting certain measures. Such delays, ironically enough, were often interpreted by the more impetuous as evidences of lack of leadership. There were various means available by which civilians could criticize the war effort. The press was free to report and comment on military matters to a degree which would seem unusual today, and censorship, where it existed, was of a most casual nature. Thus, policies which were suggested or begun by the administration were discussed at length in terms which ranged from approval to frank hostility. Under the guise of comment, partisanship colored criticism, and the ultimate goal of the war itself was called into question by outspoken Copperheads. Nor was the press, potent though it was, the only medium by which citizens could express themselves on the conduct of the war. In mass meetings, petitions to Congress, and private gatherings, civilians in the North analyzed and debated the policies of the administration. All of this comment was not adverse but, as military success evaded the Federal armies, defeatist sentiment bec~une manifest. There was potential danger to the Union cause in the unguided and uninfluenced drift of public opinion. [Truncated

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