The Civil War between the North and the South in America was not even a half year old when well-known Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote his article “Bread and the Newspaper” in prestigious Boston The Atlantic Monthly magazine, which he helped to found. He wrote in the magazine that war to preserve the union will bring the various citizens of the country together and needs to be fought on three fronts, one is the law, one is in the mind of the people and one requires the spilling of blood, all in the tradition of the Revolutionary War.
Holmes starts his comments in the article with the headline, which he named “Bread and the Newspaper” (346), which he calls “the new version of the Panem et Circenses of the Roman populace” (Holmes 346). Panem et circenses means, according to the Oxford dictionary “bread and circus games” (“panem et circenses”), which was what the Roman empire sought to employ in order to appease the masses in its cities; meaning, giving them food and rather bloody entertainment in the arenas of the vast imperium. Yet, instead of the thrill to be had in the arena that the Romans had, modern people during the beginning of the civil war get an equal thrill reading the newspapers with the latest news about the war. Stating that Romans looked at “circus-shows” and now people looking at newspapers, implies that the new technologies of picture taking and the telegraph will bring the bloody spectacle instead of the arena into the people’s houses and influences them equally to see the necessity of fighting the South and its illegal practices.
Therefore, the people can see the need for sacrifice in order to support the war effort of the North, which had the law on its side, “Everything else we can give up. If we are rich, we can lay down our carriages,… and adjourn the trip to Europe sine die. If we live in a small way, there are at least new dresses… which we can dispense with”(Holmes 346). He uses a legal term when he says that the trip to Europe is adjourned, and “sine die” means according to the US Senate Glossary the final adjournment of a session of congress and no further meeting until the next session with a possible new election is planned. What Holmes, a student of the law, states for his readers, is that until the difficulties at home in the United States are solved, no one needs to visit Europe, since there are currently more urgent evils to be solved in the Union. Using the legal term implies strongly that this is not merely a war, but that it is a pressing legal issue, as well. While all wars probably have to deal with legal issues, especially during the aftermath of the war, he declares here that legally the United States existence is at risk with those legal words and that after the next session when people will be able to visit Europe again for fun, it could look much differently.
In the same paragraph, he continues to state, “We all take a pride in sharing the epidemic economy of the time” (Holmes 346). While Holmes states...