Andrew Fraser spins a long yarn here about the corrosive impact of whiteness on purebred Anglo-Saxons in America:
“Today such grandiose visions seem absurdly out of reach. Awesome Anglo-Saxon roosters have become wimpy WASP feather dusters.”
I’m not buying it.
There wasn’t a single spot in the entire British Empire that was more resistant to this disease that has paralyzed Anglo-Saxons than the “white” slave societies in the Caribbean and the American South.
In my opinion, there is a very simple and compelling answer that accounts for the stunning decline of the Yankee and the Englishman. It was due to a fatal combination of racial homogeneity, or a lack of slavery in most of the Anglosphere, and swallowing and ingesting the poison of liberalism and evangelical Christianity.
Correlli Barnett explains the origin of the “wimpy WASP feather dusters” in his excellent book from the Pride and Fall Sequence, The Collapse of British Power:
“However, it was religion which was to give the romantic movement in England its singularly moralistic direction and force. The eighteenth century founders of Methodism, the evangelists Wesley and Whitefield, although standing in an older tradition, brought to life a new religious emotionalism by loosing men’s feelings in vast open-air assemblies tumultuous with mass-hysteria; the archetypes of the mass-meetings of future democracy and its political demagoguery. From the Methodists themselves, the flame of emotionalism leaped and ran through the traditional but now torpid nonconformist sects. It ignited even the Church of England, a body which in the late eighteenth century might have been regarded as wholly proof against feelings stronger and deeper than those of respect for the squire or for a well-roasted goose. The Church of England revivalists, the so-called ‘evangelicals’ or ‘saints’, such as William Wilberforce, Hannah More and their friends, carried intense religious emotion and zeal for righteousness into the upper-middle classes. By the opening years of the nineteenth century all British Churches and sects, regardless of doctrine, had been set aflame. And the evangelical attitude to religion, indeed its attitude to the whole of personal and public life, spoke to the hearts of the future rulers of England, the rising middle classes of the towns.
To evangelicals, morality was no mere matter of pragmatic observance of the laws and mores of a society; no unconscious affair of habit; not something to be taken for granted. On the contrary, their attitude to morality was highly self-conscious; they saw it as an intensely personal question, to be answered according to strict doctrinaire principle. For evangelicals were tormented by a sense of what they called ‘sin’, a term which covered most aspects of human nature, and especially its strongest and most basic impulses. ‘Sin’ was to be conquered by earnest prayer in the course of private struggles of conscience conducted in a state of spiritual abasement. Evangelicals therefore saw human existence in all its rich complexity in simple terms of good and evil, right and wrong. They had no doubt at all that they were, although sinful, right. Indeed, their pew-hard certainty, on which no outside evidence could make an impression, was a distinguishing characteristic.
The importance of evangelicalism in terms of future British attitudes to world affairs lay in that it did not limit itself to theology or private examination of the soul, but saw religion as a rule-book to govern every aspect of personal, social and international life. In the words of Sir Edward Barker: ‘It has indeed been a feature common to the Evangelical and Catholic sections of the English Church — and, for that matter, a feature common to both with various nonconformist societies . . . that they have all sought to make religion a general social force.’
Traditional English pragmatism was therefore threatened by the onset of a rigid concern for doctrinaire principle. No less significant for the future tone of British politics and foreign policy was the emphasis of evangelical religion on humanitarian concern and pacifistic sentiment. This was the theological aspect of the new middle-class sentimentality that Dickens both tapped and stimulated, the compassion first manifested by the philanthropists of the eighteenth century. In the past religion had often served rather to justify struggle with one’s fellow men. St. Athanasius, for example, in the early Christian era, declared that it was lawful to kill enemies in war.
There is no biblical disapproval of slavery, although the abolition of the slave trade in 1807 as a result of a campaign led by William Wilberforce and of slavery itself in the British Empire in 1833 were the earliest of the great social achievements of British evangelicalism. Religious bigotry had served Cromwell and his Ironsides only to whet their resolution in battle. But while it is true that evangelical religion was to inspire some ruthless English men of action in the nineteenth century — General Gordon; the Lawrence brothers who administered the newly-won Punjab — these were nevertheless exceptions. To embrace one’s fellow men in brotherly love rather than smite them with the sword of righteousness was the broad instruction of evangelicalism to the British people. As a historian of Christian pacifism observes:
. . . our concentration on the primacy of love in the nature of God, and therefore in the Gospel .. . and therefore in the social, national and international implications of the Gospel, is a relatively modern phenomenon . . . I do not find it wiht any prominence earlier than about a hundred years ago.
By 1870 evangelical Christianity, like a clove of spiritual garlic, had permeated British life….
As a consequence of this spiritual revolution English policy ceased to be founded solely on the expedient and opportunistic pursuit of English interests. International relations were no longer sen as being governed primarily by strategy, but by morality. As Gladstone put it in 1870: ‘The greatest triumph of our epoch will be the consecration of the idea of a public law as the fundamental law of European politics.’
Starting in the late eighteenth century/early nineteenth century, the spread of evangelical Christianity began to rot the British character and create the precursors of the twentieth century “wimpy WASP feather dusters,” the earliest signs of which was Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce’s crusade to abolish the slave trade.
In the United States, abolitionism was born in the Deep North in the 1830s from the cultural foundation of the Second Great Awakening. Evangelical Christianity was the gasoline that ignited the Union in the War Between the States. See David Goldfield’s new book America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation which explains how evangelical Christianity in the North turned slavery into an intractable moral issue that could only be settled by bloodshed.
Note: I will address this subject in detail in OD’s first book, Shattering The Golden Circle: The Failure of Free Society in Dixie, Haiti, and the Caribbean.
As for the discussion at TOO, Andrew Fraser has reduced a cultural problem – the decline of the WASP, which was caused by the WASP’s own fatal embrace of liberalism and evangelical Christianity, and the subsequent moralizing and crusading that resulted from the infection – into a racial/ethnic problem which only obscures the real issue. There were plenty of purebred Anglo-Saxons in Britain, Canada, and Australia, but liberalism and evangelical Christianity had the same destructive cultural impact in the rest of the Anglosphere that it did among the Yankee in the Northeast.