Mid-West Quarterly, The (1913-1918)


Date of this Version



Published in THE MID-WEST QUARTERLY 2:3 (April 1915), pp. 250-263. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons & the University of Nebraska.


The present state of public opinion is quite inexplicable unless we remember that great wars are periods of the abnormal, not only in the political, the industrial, and the commercial, but in the intellectual sphere as well. The mental chaos that confronts us on every hand can be accounted for only on the theory that wars are days of sickness in the life of the human race. The bold assertions, wild speculations, fanciful prophecies which one hears on every hand must be regarded as the incoherent prattle of a delirious public mind. Not only the unthinking public but men of learning have thrown cold reasoning to the winds and are swayed by feeling and passion. The scholar vies with the man of the street in seizing upon vague and conflicting newspaper reports to bolster up his whims and prejudices. Facts are ignored and principles of thought which were formerly deemed fundamental are now utterly disregarded. Personal bias has replaced the desire for truth, with the result that there is found among all classes a decided tendency to represent things not as they are but as people would have them be. The time-honoured and sound principle of historical thought, to subordinate the immediate to the remote cause, is at present generally rejected, and people hasten to fix the responsibility for war on the strength of the conflicting reports that have reached them since the outbreak of the struggle. Instead of judging current events in the penetrating light of the historical past, the public views them in the flickering gleam of a confused present.