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Upton Sinclair: World war as a business enterprise


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Upton Sinclair: Selections on war


Upton Sinclair
From Boston (1928)


Josiah gave his decision, in his old man’s voice that was beginning to crack. Jerry Walker might break himself some day, but not now; these were the days to buy anything at any price; hats were necessary to armies and felt slippers were worn in the hospitals. That led them to the subject which all men of affairs were discussing in this summer of 1915. Josiah repeated his well-known opinion that it would be a long war and that it was the part of wisdom to buy and buy. Cornelia sat thinking of human lives while they were thinking of money.

Rupert was of the opinion that the war couldn’t last over the year, because the warring nations were heading for bankruptcy. But Josiah told him not to worry; we would lend them the money, provided they spent it for our goods. How would we get the money back? And Josiah said we wouldn’t have to get it back – it would be like Jerry Walker’s felt business. “When Jerry can’t pay what he owes us we’ll take over his plants.”


Not even the destruction of the Reims cathedral, not even the thought of the peasant-boys in the trenches, could wipe out her amusement at the moral impulse of Boston, which was driving Rupert Alvin to take charge of Jerry Walker’s felt-business, and likewise the geography and finance of Europe. Her last thought was “He’ll do both those things.” And, in his own time and at his own convenience, he did.

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