Yesterday I wrote about a letter I found from Professor J. R. Parrott, the head of the Shops Department at Virginia Tech during WWI, which addressed his views on the war. The letter and essay, “A Little Preachment from the Pew to the Pulpit,” was a surprising and welcome discovery.
The day after Parrott sent his “Little Preachment” President Eggleston sent a three page reply to his friend (who we must also remember was his employee). Eggleston’s reply is much more reserved than Parrott’s “Preachment” and Eggleston writes cautiously. He begins by telling Parrott that he has not seen the “flings” from ministers which Parrott took offense to. He then proceeds to tell his friend that he agrees that the war is a “war of chastisement” and that the “present war” is an example of God using nations to “chastise others.” Though Eggleston wrote that we should do everything to bring the war to an end, he believed that the United States would chastise Germany and, in the process, be chastised itself.
On the second page of his letter, Eggleston reveals to Parrott that he believes that greed (remember Parrott’s suspicion of moneyed interests) “is eating into our vitals.” America, Eggleston wrote, became a “reckless, extravagant, Sabbath-breaking, whiskey-drinking, covetous, man-exalting people.” To Eggleston, the United States had fallen off the path of Godly righteousness and the only way for a nation to “avert war is to stay on the paths of righteousness.”
Below is the letter in it’s entirety:
Eggleston’s response to Parrott’s “Little Preachment” is much less revealing and it was written cautiously. But I think this letter can still reveal some things about Eggleston’s feelings towards the war. Though he seems to take a more moderate position than Parrott does it is apparent that Eggleston has deep reservations about American involvement in the war. Like Parrott, Eggleston seats these reservations in religious terms. To Eggleston the war is God’s chastisement upon the nations involved. He seems to have also resigned himself to American involvement by saying “now that we are in this war” we should “do our part to bring it to an end.” But, Eggleston also sees possible calamity for the United States and believes that the war will also humble/chastise America.
I’m curious if Eggleston’s private views were different from his public views and if his views were known by other faculty or students. With seven boxes of his records I might have to sort through a lot of different correspondence to get at his views. Just from my time spent I do see some glimpses into Eggleston’s mind. Unfortunately, unlike Parrott, who is straightforward about what he believes, Eggleston seems to toe a fine line because he holds an important position in the university.
Also, in the back of my mind is the fact that Eggleston left the university less than six months after the war ended. Two months after the armistice he submitted his resignation to the Board of Visitors and officially left the university at the end of the 1918/1919 term. Though he struggled with the state legislature over funding for Virginia Tech, I wonder how much Virginia Tech’s wartime experiences influenced Eggleston’s decision to leave?