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William Dean Howells: Warmongers should tremble when they remember that God is just


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

American writers on peace and against war

William Dean Howells: Selections on war


William Dean Howells
Member of the Anti-Imperialist League

From a letter to his sister Aurelia H. Howells
September 5, 1897


On Wednesday we came to Weimar, and spent two days there. Goethe and Schiller lived there, you know, in the favor and friendship of the grand dukes, and literature was glorified as much there as war is elsewhere.


From a letter Aurelia H. Howells
May 1, 1898

The war seems to be taking its bloody course. Who wanted it? That is the mystery. I met a man last night who had been through Kansas, and that part of the West, where Eastern people think the war-feeling prevails; but he found only the greatest indifference and reluctance. The most we can hope for, now, is a clean fight-through with Spain, and no outside trouble; but this is uncertain, and in the meantime our wretched victories seem only a little less hateful than our defeats would be.


From a letter to Aurelia H. Howells
July 17, 1898

Yesterday Elinor and I went over to Kittery Point to see the Harvard, which had just come in with 1000 Spanish prisoners. We took a cat-boat and sailed out to her, where she laid in the stream; but the prisoners had been taken off in the morning, and we went up the Piscataqua river to Seavey’s Island where they are put – now 1700 in all. There we saw them lying on the grass, or crowding the doors of their long barracks, guarded by sentries twenty feet apart, and in peril of death if they passed a certain line within their high board fence; Gatling guns overlooked them from three heights above. It was better than fighting, but what must such captivity be to those poor boys! Just what it would be to ours in Spain. It seemed impossible that we should have entered upon this abominable business. If we were still in the habit of fearing God we might well tremble when we remember that he is just, as Jefferson did when he thought of slavery.

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