I’ve been eagerly anticipating Benjamin Garland’s White Racialism and American Nationalism Pt. 2 because I was under the impression that he was going to seriously address the issues raised by critics of American Nationalism. Unfortunately, we will have to keep waiting.
It’s clear now that he has no response to our arguments. Instead, Garland sets up and attacks the straw man that we are “Southern Nationalists who want to bring back the Confederacy and think Yankees are worse than Jews” in order to AVOID addressing uncomfortable aspects of American history which plainly contradict his narrative that the Founding Fathers were White Nationalists.
The United States really was based on Enlightenment principles. The American Revolution really was about civic nationalism. The Founding Fathers thought of themselves as republicans rebelling against tyranny, not as White Nationalists. Now, it is true that whiteness was important in the American Founding, but this is because White racial consciousness is older than the United States.
At the inception of the United States, American national identity was composed of 1.) the English language, 2.) Protestant Christianity, 3.) whiteness and 4.) republican ideology. The “American” was a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant who subscribed to republican political principles. It was this latter ideological element that was introduced by the American Revolution. The other elements of Americanism were rooted in the colonial era along with slavery and white supremacy.
I’m not pointing this out because I hate Yankees. I’ve taken pains to point out that BEFORE the American Revolution, which is to say in the colonial era, the Northeast was more in line with the rest of the country. The Northeast had slavery and white supremacy. It was common knowledge in the Northeast in Cotton Mather’s time that blacks and Indians were inferior races. Yankees had struggled to come to this conclusion and initially had tried to integrate Indians into their Puritan and Quaker utopias, but after King Philip’s War their racial attitudes hardened until the American Revolution.
During the American Revolution, John Locke’s theories were seized on to justify the rebellion in New England and the implication of their victory over Britain was that his ideology became central to Americanism. Previously, Locke had been unknown in the American colonies, but Yankees swallowed his theories about the blank slate and from that point forward began to argue that racial differences were environmental in origin and that any differences between the races were the legacy of slavery and oppression. This is why the Northern Founding Fathers like Benjamin Rush and Benjamin Franklin were arguing with Thomas Jefferson about the nature of racial differences in the 1790s.
From the beginning, blacks were not only considered human in the Northeast, but were emancipated and became citizens and voters in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Pennsylvania. They lost their citizenship and voting rights in Pennsylvania in 1838 because of shifting demographics due to Irish and German immigration. How does Benjamin Garland think Frederick Douglass became such a celebrity in the United States? How did he marry a White woman?
The truth is that from the outset Yankees wrestled with the contradiction between their leveling ideology of civic nationalism and inherited racial, cultural and gender hierarchies. The most obvious example is slavery which was swiftly abolished in New England and Pennsylvania before the Constitution was even ratified. Benjamin Garland brings up the fact that suffrage was initially restricted to a tiny minority of White male property owners, but this isn’t as significant as the long term collapse of the Federalist Party and the inexorable shift toward universal manhood suffrage.
Led by the Quakers who were America’s original egalitarians, Pennsylvania was the first state to repeal its anti-miscegenation law in 1780. It was followed by Massachusetts in 1834. New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan never had anti-miscegenation laws. Iowa repealed its anti-miscegenation law in 1851. Kansas repealed its anti-miscegenation law in 1859. How does Benjamin Garland explain this shift in sentiment toward miscegenation?
Nothing illustrates how advanced the disease of civic nationalism had become in the Northeast as much as the controversy over the Dred Scott decision in 1857. Chief Justice Roger Taney wrote the decision which settled the question of whether blacks were citizens of the United States. Several New England states had black citizenship which wasn’t recognized by other states. Benjamin Garland glosses over the fact that the Dred Scott decision was considered outrageous in New England. William Lloyd Garrison denounced the Constitution as “a covenant with death.” Harriet Beecher Stowe popularized the magic negro in her book Uncle Tom’s Cabin which the best-selling book of the 19th century.
Maybe it is true that Southern Nationalists dwell on the War Between the States and our opinion of American Nationalism is colored by that experience. When a quarter of all Southern White men died in that war, it is hard to gloss over that fact and pretend it is all the fault of the Jews when the Union armed the slaves to conquer the Confederacy. During Reconstruction, most of the South was put under black majority rule. The Radical Republicans passed the Reconstruction Amendments, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the Force Acts of 1870 and 1871 and the Civil Rights Act of 1875.
Politically, it took the South until the first decade of the 20th century to throw off the legacy of Reconstruction. Economically, the South didn’t recover from the War Between the States until the 1940s. The North, however, never recovered from Reconstruction. As I have already shown, the North was not “well on our way to correcting the racial blunder of the Civil War.” On the contrary, the North was integrated during the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s and remained integrated down to the present day. Jim Crow was a a Southern system that also existed to a more limited extent in the West until the aftermath of World War II. The Northeast and Midwest were integrated in Madison Grant’s time.
Madison Grant and Charles Davenport are not proof of a revival of Northern White racial consciousness in the early 20th century. Instead, Grant and Davenport illustrate just how different Northerners and Southerners thought about race. Northern racialists were focused on class and ethnicity in the Jim Crow era at a time when blacks were flooding into Northern cities during the Great Migration. They were obsessed with preserving the Nordic race by excluding all the Slavs and Italians who were immigrating to the North during the Great Wave. The Klan of the 1920s was focused on European Catholic immigrants. Similarly, the eugenicists were focused on dysgenic reproduction of poor Whites.
Contrast Madison Grant in New York with Walter Plecker in Virginia. Plecker’s obsession which resulted in the Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924 was identifying and weeding out mulattoes to preserve the purity of the White race. There was nothing like the Virginia Racial Integrity Act in any of the Northern states. California’s sterilization law targeted poor Whites.
The forward march of civic nationalism had continued in the 1920s which Benjamin Garland is trying to disingenously present as some kind of Golden Age of American Nationalism. Garland doesn’t mention the fact that the United States had just passed through another one of the greatest social revolutions in American history – the passage of the 19th Amendment which extended voting rights to women. He doesn’t bring up the fact that newly emancipated Northern women who were known as flappers began to reject childbearing and flaunt social norms and have interracial sex with blacks in Northern speakeasies during Prohibition where they danced to swing and jazz music.
Oscar Stanton De Priest was elected to Congress in Chicago in 1928. Blacks were moving to the North at the time where they were allowed to vote in elections and gain political power. De Priest was the first in the return of black congressmen to Washington and the rise of black political power in Northern cities. The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 extended American citizenship to all American Indians born in the United States. It was also during the 1920s when psychologists began to attack the concept of inherent mental differences between racial groups. Racial science was losing respectability in Britain and the United States in psychology, genetics and anthropology.
By the 1920s, Jews had already become very influential in the United States. The ADL went after both Madison Grant and Henry Ford. Grant’s book The Conquest of a Continent was a commercial failure. Louis Brandeis had been appointed by Woodrow Wilson as a justice of the Supreme Court. Walter Lippmann had become incredibly influential Jewish journalist. Jews had created Hollywood and rose to power in the Democratic Party when FDR became president in 1933. Far from being compatible with fascism, it was the United States which waged war against the Axis powers and destroyed fascism in Italy!
The United States under FDR waged war against the Third Reich in the name of civic nationalism. American wartime propaganda contrasted the American tradition of civic nationalism with the Nazi program of racial nationalism. “Racism” became stigmatized in the United States between 1938 and 1945. American racial attitudes, particularly in the Northern states, softened during this period. It became dogma that blacks were equal to Whites. How was any of this possible in Garland’s account of American Nationalism?
Benjamin Garland blames it all on the Jews. Why were millions of Jews let into the United States in the first place though? Why were they allowed to hijack our institutions? Why were they allowed to become so culturally, politically and economically powerful? Why were they praised by George Washington who said that the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance”?
The answer to all of the questions and more is one that Benjamin Garland refuses to entertain: it is because American Nationalism is civic nationalism. That’s why slavery was abolished. That’s why blacks were given citizenship. That’s why women were given the right to vote. That’s why universal manhood suffrage triumphed. That’s why husbands lost authority over their wives and children. That’s why Jews were accepted and treated as equal citizens from the beginning. That’s why traditional morality and religion has collapsed into this orgy of nihilism and consumerism.
We’ve simply taken the axioms and logic of American Nationalism to greater and greater extremes and we are living with the consequences. It is time to repent of civic nationalism.
Note: Just listen to the Battle Hymn of the Republic. It uses the music from John Brown’s Body.