In 1954, Presbyterian theologian Gordon Clark published a brief essay in which he criticized the moral optimism of the pre-WWI era. He included the following intriguing tidbit:

In the summer of 1914 a college president and Presbyterian elder had almost finished a book to prove there would be no more war. (source)

I'm trying to identify who exactly this author was. Wikipedia has turned up two possibilities—Woodrow Wilson (though I'm not sure he was an elder?) and E. D. Warfield—but I haven't been able to confirm the existence of a book similar to what Clark describes.

It's certainly possible that Clark has his details wrong; I've already noticed one historical error in a related essay by him. But the reference seems clear, almost as if he expects his audience to immediately know who he's talking about.

Who wrote the book that Clark is referring to?

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    I'd certainly believe it out of Wilson (both the elder part and the book part). But you'd think if it was him he'd have been identified as "the President" or even by name. In the Summer of 1914 he was already POTUS. So I'm pretty sure this would not have been referring to him. – T.E.D. Jun 22 '17 at 20:43
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    On the contrary, citing only lesser accomplishments is consistent with refusing to name the author. I don't know whether Wilson was a church elder, but insofar as Clark had beef with him, the latter might well have used such an oblique description. – Aaron Brick Jun 23 '17 at 2:23
  • Whomever published this doubtless plagiarized, or was influenced by, Jan Bloch's late 19th century work Is War Now Impossible? (Paris; 1898). (I read the English Translation about 20 years ago ... worth doing but a bit of a grind) Clark's: Herbert Spencer set the norm for much modernistic preaching in his prediction that the little evil remaining on earth would vanish in a short time. Books were written about moral man in an immoral society that needed only a good dose of socialism to become Utopian Might this be a philosophy question? – KorvinStarmast Jun 27 '17 at 14:20

Wilson was absolutely an Elder in the Presbyterian church. By 1914 he had been an officer in the national church (southern Presbyterians) for 30+ years(clerk). His father had been a founder of the Southern Presbyterians.

Source ( http://www.history.pcusa.org/blog/2016/07/woodrow-wilson-and-great-war )

Wilson was also the President of Princeton, one of the most prestigious Universities in the country; founded and operated by the Presbyterians.

Source (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princeton_University). see history

Yes Wilson could have written such an essay 1914, either before or after July when WWI began. It was not a minority or even controversial position given our history and long precident set by our ongoing foreign and military policy.

Source (http://theweek.com/articles/627638/brief-history-american-isolationism ). See "How were the Founders isolationist?" & "What revived isolationism?"

I would argue that the essay in question written in 1954 criticizing the "moral optimism" of pre-WWI era America isn't accurate in framing that belief to 1914. America's "moral optimism" would be more accurately framed from George Washington's farewell Address in 1789 up through WWII, and was being heatedly debated in 1954 when theologian Gordon Clark published his topical essay.

Source (http://www.jhubc.it/admissionsblogdocuments/paper%20isolation%201.2.2012.pdf). see Part III: The Rise of Non-Interventionism and the Battle of ‘52

The US was an isolationist country free from foreign security treaties and guarantees from 1789 when George Washington famously counseled such, up through Dec 7th 1941.

Source (http://www.ushistory.org/us/17d.asp). See Paragraph 8. Source (http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1601.html)

When WWII began for instance the US had a standing army roughly the size of Belgium's,

Source (http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2014/jun/13/ken-paxton/us-army-was-smaller-army-portugal-world-war-ii/)

and the US military survived a defunding vote by a single vote just months before Pearl Harbor in the US Congress.

Source (http://www.nytimes.com/1991/09/01/opinion/l-the-vote-that-saved-the-army-in-the-days-after-pearl-harbor-028191.html) See: The Vote(august 1941)That Saved the Army in the Days After Pearl Harbor -

Now that's some "moral optimism".

The essay being discussed written in 1954 is part of the debate the nation found itself in after the Korean War started and we went to war in 1950 with a small fraction of the forces we commanded five years prior at the end of WWII. That fraction being poorly trained, and poorly equipped when the war began.

The US largely demilitarizing after WWII and thus was rather hard pressed to come up with enough forces to repel N. Korea's advances.

Source (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_War#U.S._unpreparedness_for_war) see - U.S. unpreparedness for war

The debate framed by this Essay against "moral optimism" is one which resulted our status today and the most militarized country in the history of the world... One which spends more on it's self defense than the next greatest 8-10-12-18 largest militaries depending upon which year in the last decade you've asked that question(currently ).

Source (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures).


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