Those Americans Who Opposed War:
"I regard it then and still regard it, as England's war... deliberately begun for the purpose of regaining her mastery of the world, which she was losing through the peaceful evolution of commerce."
-- John P. Grace, editor, Charleston American, 3 February 1917.
Although most South Carolinians supported President Wilson's declaration of war, some did not. Former Governor Coleman Blease was an outspoken opponent to war and his mouthpiece during the first months was the Charleston American, established in 1916 by former Charleston Mayor John P. Grace.
Certain communities in South Carolina spoke out against the war, especially those with large ethnic German populations such as Newberry, Lexington, Walhalla, and Charleston. After Congress declared war in April, anti-war demonstrations were organized in these areas. Few seem to have been anti-American, but they all opposed war. In April 1917, one local leader in the Dutch Fork area of the Midlands, an old German ethnic settlement, explained that although his community stood ready and willing to offer their lives, they saw it as a useless war.
War Opponents in other parts of the Nation:
Some regions where German ethnic groups lived, especially in the Mid-west and the West, opposed the war. The nation's greatest opponent to war was Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin. Although vilified by most of his Senate colleagues and the national press, La Follette denounced the war. He claimed it would only increase the profits of large corporations while causing the deaths of maiming of thousands of Americans. He barely avoided expulsion from the Senate.
South Carolina Leaders Opposed to the War;
Coleman Blease, former governor and arch rival of new Gov. Richard I. Manning, was the state's most visible opponent to war. He blasted Manning for supporting it, going to the extreme of calling the sitting governor in July 1917, "a coward" who "instead of going as a commander-in-chief with out troops and leading them like a brave man, lies in his feather bed in the mansion."
The other noted anti-war leader was John P. Grace, sometime mayor of Charleston and editor of the Charleston American. An Irish nationalist born and raised in the lowcountry, he oppose any alliance with Britain or France. In April 1917, he argued in his newspaper that "Anglo-mania" is found mostly on Wall Street and other money centers, and branded these sectors of society as not real, patriotic Americans but Anglo-Saxon at heart.
Both men were silenced by the end of summer, 1917, by the pro-war administrations in Columbia and Washington DC. Dissent was heavily suppressed by the new Patriotic Laws instituted by Congress. Although Grace's newspapers remained in print, another anti-war paper, the Abbeville Scimitar, was shut down in the fall for its continued attacks against the war.