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Manhattan College and The Great War, 100 Years Later

No newspaper was published on the Manhattan College campus in the days of WWI. Still from 1914 to 1918 various literary magazines, newsletters and other publications reflected the life on campus during the years of the war.

“The Manhattan Quarterly” was the literary magazine of the time which published “subjects of interest to the general public” and was meant to “serve as a link between former students of Manhattan and their Alma Mater,” according to the April 1916 edition of the publication..

In the October 1916 edition of the Quarterly, Francis Sweeney class of 1916 wrote: “the twentieth century, with its wonderful inventions, discoveries, its learning culture and improved conditions in every phase of life, is deemed a gold age, and age of perfection. But there is a blot on its escutcheon, a disgrace to civilization and culture, a scourge to mankind, a devastator of the land and a destroyer of peace. It is the present world war, in which nearly every European nation is engaged in the dreadful conflict.”

Many of the articles published in the Quarterly in those years touch on topics and debates that surrounded WWI. In one piece written by Thomas J. Quinlan in the April 1916 edition titled “Europe and America,” the author debates the importance of European opinion of the United States, noting that the U.S. had not officially entered WWI in 1916.

Quinlan writes: “what Europe thinks of the United States is of dwindling importance every succeeding day of the war. But what the United States thinks of Europe is all-important.” The piece shows a divisive line of thinking as he condemns Americans who challenge the president’s opinion of U.S. neutrality in the war as well as the European opinion of Americans.

In that same issue, the editors republished a speech given by John J. Fitzgerald class of 1891. Fitzgerald, a member of the House of Representatives, noted in his speech that he was not given a subject matter to address and so he felt “free to present a few views upon one of the very important matters that to-day are engaging the attention of the people of the United States.”

Fitzgerald’s speech went on to engage the call for an increase in the U.S. naval forces and coastline defense. Fitzgerald called the two opposing arguments for and against “extreme” and took a neutral line on the matter. He writes: “one of the great difficulties in this country, and one which is correctly appreciated by the military experts, is the fact that we chiefly lack two things: one is a sufficient number of trained officers to be utilized in case of war, and the other is a system by which large numbers of young men may receive preliminary military training.”

Fitzgerald closes his speech by citing the questions that the U.S. will face about the military going forward. “It is not a partisan question. It is one that affects every man, woman, and child in the country; and I know of no class of men more competent to participate in the discussion of this great question, and to contribute much to the solution of the problem, than the men who have been sent out into the world by our alma mater, Manhattan College.”

In the October edition one of the editors wrote an article titled “Physical Training in the Schools” which argued for the very type of military preparation that Fitzgerald mentioned in his speech. The editor, who signed the article C. S. P., writes that “to say this program would in the remotest way engender or foster militarism in the young is absurd. While far removed from things military, it would, nevertheless, in time of national peril be of inestimable benefit in that it would furnish the country with a youth physically fit to endure the hardships of war.”

In January 1917 the death of one of Manhattan’s most famous brothers, Brother Chrysostom, dominated the pages of the Quarterly. One article, however, reminds us that the war raged on in Europe.

In an article by Arthur J. McConnell Jr. class of 1917 titled “Peace Note,” the author writes that President Wilson had been the recipient of a peace proposal from the German alliance. McConnell writes: ‘it is hoped that peace negotiations will not end with the rejection of this note, but will continue until a truce, based on equity and justice is established.”

After the U.S. entered the war in April of 1917, reporting on the war remained in the various campus publications. In the October 1917 edition of The Manhattan College News-letter, the editors write that: “studies were resumed on Wednesday, September 12, 1917. Contrary to expectations, the attendance was fully abreast of previous years. And this not-withstanding the fact that some twenty-five of the upper class men have been called to the colors.”

The next month, the News-letter reported that then president of Manhattan College, Brother Edward, represented the college at the University of the State of New York convocation in Albany. “The general theme was ‘The Schools and the War.’”

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