Sounding like Darwin, Madison Gant unequivocally declared in The Passing of the Great Race:
“Mistaken regard for what are believed to be divine laws and a sentimental belief in the sanctity of human life tend to prevent both the elimination of defective infants and the sterilization of such adults as are themselves of no value to the community.
“The laws of nature require the obliteration of the unfit and human life is valuable only when it is of use to the community or race… As the percentage of incompetents increases, the burden of their support will become ever more onerous until, at no distant date, society will in self-defense put a stop to the supply of feebleminded and criminal children of weaklings.”
Grant saw that the main vehicle which can stop his Darwinian principle from fruition is the church, as he added:
“The church assumes a serious responsibility toward the future of the race whenever it steps in and preserves a defective strain. The marriage of deaf-mutes was hailed a generation ago as a triumph of humanity. Now it is recognized as an absolute crime against the race. A great injury is done to the community by the perpetuation of worthless types. Before eugenics was understood much could be said from a Christian and humane viewpoint in favor of indiscriminate charity for the benefit of the individual.”
Unless readers didn’t get his message the first time, Grant ensured everyone that he meant business by relentlessly saying,
“Those who read these pages will feel that there is little hope for humanity, but the remedy has been found, and can be quickly and mercifully applied. A rigid system of selection through the elimination of those who are weak or unfit—in other words, Social failures—would solve the whole question in a century, as well as enable us to get rid of the undesirables who crowd our jails, hospitals and insane asylums.
“The individual himself can be nourished, educated, and protected by the community during his lifetime, but the state through sterilization must see to it that his line stops with him or else future generations will be cursed with an ever-increasing load of victims of misguided sentimentalism. This is a practical, merciful and inevitable solution to the whole problem and can be applied to an ever-widening circle of social discards, beginning always with the criminal, the diseased, and the insane and extending gradually to types which may be called weaklings rather than defectives and perhaps ultimately to worthless race types.”
Grant, the man who remained a bachelor throughout his life, reverberated: “Man has the choice of two methods of race improvement. He can breed from the best or he can eliminate the worst by segregation or sterilization.” How do we know the “unfit”? By intelligence testing, which was imported from France and which eugenicists used for “race betterment.”
Many passages in The Passing of the Great Race, as one scholar suggests, “give the impression that the author is in command of his facts.” It was very clear by some scholars that “Pseudoscience, masquerading as hereditary science, provided Americans with a convenient way to naturalize class and racial differences.” Finally, Grant was simply reproducing what people like Francis Galton (Darwin’s cousin) were saying. As Thomas G. Gossett points out:
“Galton looked across the English Channel and explained the low state of European civilization on the basis of defective human stock. The qualities of the white races there had been sapped by the policies of a repressive church and repressive governments. The celibacy required of Catholic orders meant, for example, that many of the most gifted men and women of Europe did not reproduce their kind. In addition, the persecution of heretics by the church decimated a large number of those who were ‘the most fearless, truth-seeking, and intelligent.’ The Church of Rome ‘practiced the arts which breeders would use, who aimed at creating ferocious, currish, and stupid natures.’”
Throughout much of his life, Galton, who lived “the life of the idle rich” for six years after he dropped out of his formal academic studies, complained and lamented that “the vigorous class” failed to produce enough children, whereas “the incompetent, the ailing, and the desponding” were producing children by leaps and bounds. The interesting thing is that Galton remained a bachelor for his entire life!
As we have argued in the article entitled “Charles Murray, White Trash, and Madison Grant,” the white nationalists are carrying an enormous historical and philosophical burden, one which continues to make the white ideology laughable. As anthropologist John Hartigan of the University of Texas has meticulously shown, white trash presents a huge problem for people who use skin color as the basis for solidarity ties.
Hartigan focuses some of his studies and historical research on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the conclusion from those periods is that “one might be both white and racially distinct from other whites. This system of difference becomes audible in the rhetorical tactics and representational strategies that crafted white trash as a distinct cultural figure in the mid-nineteenth century and continue operating to this day.”
As we moved to the end of the twentieth century, it became clear that “certain groups undergo a process of racial redefinition as shifting social and political circumstances require,” and “white identity” is a new political ideology, one which always keeps people from reaching their full potential as thinkers.
David Roediger of the University of Illinois and Yiorgos Anagnostou of Ohio State University say pretty much the same thing, that white trash poses a serious problem for those who want to appeal to skin color as a basis for solidarity ties. In 1911 Henry Pratt Fairchild, the American sociologist at New York University who served as President of the American Eugenics Society said this about southeastern European immigrants:
“There is much similarity between the case of the negroes and that of the modern immigrants. To be sure, the newcomers are for the most part white-skinned instead of colored…yet in the mind of the average American, the modern immigrants are generally regarded as inferior peoples—races he looks down on, and with which he does not wish to associate in terms of social equality…
“The business of the alien is to go into the mines, the foundries, the sewers, the stifling air of factories and workshops, out on the roads and railroads in the burning sun of summer, or the driving sleet and snow. If he proves himself a man, and rises above his station, and acquires wealth, and cleans himself up—very well, we receive him after a generation or two. But at present, he is far beneath us, as the burden of proof rests with him.”
Anagnostou points out that this was “a test to biological fitness.” He goes on to say that “the labor conditions of industrial capitalism test racial immigrant fitness.” Greek immigrants were viewed as “undifferentiated members of a racially inferior Mediterranean race.” Fairchild declared of the Greeks:
“The Greek is much inclined to be indolent, egotistical, vain and superficial. In general, dishonesty is one of the most serious faults of the race.” Racialists “drew immutable boundaries racialized citizenship and the immigrants, barring the latter from participation in the polity. Access to whiteness here became a utopian impossibility, for the immigrants were seen as organically alien substances to the national body…Racist nationalists dehumanized Greek immigrants, fixing them outside whiteness, even outside common humanity.”
Newspaper advertisements such as “No sailors, dogs, or Greeks allowed” and “John’s Restaurant, Pure American. No Rats, no Greeks” were quite common in the early part of the twentieth century. “Italians and Poles,” write Roediger, “stood among the ‘worst’ of the ‘races’ from Europe…” Using eugenics, racialists convinced themselves that the Slavs, the Germans, the Italians, among others, were intellectually, physically, and morally inferior to the Brits, Dutch, Canadians, Scandanavians, and Scots.
As Princeton psychologist Carl C. Brigham put it, “The intellectual superiority of our Nordic group over the Alpine, Mediterranean and negro groups has been demonstrated.” How do these issues line up with the “white identity” that is being promulgated by Jared Taylor, Kevin MacDonald, and others? Hartigan documents that white trash or poor whites were actually viewed as “‘racial poisons’ within the white race.”
The most puzzling question is simply this: Are people like Jared Taylor and Kevin MacDonald descendants of the “white trash” group or descendants of the privileged and elite class, which included Darwin? We know for certain that people like MacDonald appeal to Darwin to make their case, and history has shown us that it was the intellectual disciples of Darwin who were literally using eugenics to sterilize a large section of the population in the 1920s and 30s in both Europe and America.
As we have already seen, it was the intellectual disciples of Darwin who were waging a war against “white trash” in America, particularly in the South. The magisterial work of sociologist Matt Wray of Temple University cuts to the heart of the complex matter. Wray writes: “Eugenicists were extremely effective in portraying white trash as racially degenerate and biologically inferior and therefore incapable of making any positive contribution to a democratic society.”
No one in the “white identity” community has been able to address these issues. Kevin MacDonald in particular cited Madison Grant approvingly in Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition and The Culture of Critique, but he never pointed out that many of Grant’s theories were historically unfounded and categorically false. It is pretty clear by now that there is more to the white ideology as advanced by Taylor and others than meets the eye. The history of persecution of Catholic immigrants from Ireland, Italy, Poland, and Québec in the United States opens up crucial terrain in the problematics of “white identity.” “Anti-Catholicism as a social movement did not surface until the 1840s when large numbers of German Catholics and especially Irish Catholic immigrants arrived in the United States.”
One of the main groups that persecuted the Catholics during that era was the Ku Klux Klan, an establishment that identified itself as a Protestant American organization in creed, prayer, and in print, and which had a history of conjuring one complete fabrication after another in order to denounce Catholics from the public square and expel them from any political discourse.
Many Klansmen saw themselves as successors of the Reformation who would bring about church cleansing and democracy and freedom in the United States. Hiram Wesley Evans, the second Imperial Wizard of the Klan, believed that the founding of the Klan fraternity was the second Reformation, one which sought to wipe out any political vestige of Catholicism in the United States. Following Martin Luther’s principle, Evans thought that the Klan had the potential to reform much of Christianity. The Klan, said Evans, could bring about “universal and rock-bottom reform.”
It was no coincidence that Catholics became one of the Klan’s primary targets. The group was even more concerned with Catholic influence on the United States than with black Americans. “The Klan claimed that the Catholics could never be good citizens because they owed their primary loyalty to the pope.” As a result, the Klan argued for immigration restrictions, because “the recent arrivals from eastern and southern Europe were of inferior racial stock and incapable of assimilation. The Klan’s belief that the United States was becoming the ‘dumping ground’ for the ‘scum,’ ‘dirt,’ and ‘filth’ of Europe resembled ideas advocated by leading academic critics of immigration.”
Another movement that attempted to eradicate “the political influence of immigrants and Catholics” was the Know Nothing party, which burst onto the political scene in 1854. Historian Peter Schrag of the University of California notes that Know Nothings were “a strange animal, a conglomerate of largely Protestant blue-collar workers in the Order of the Star Spangled Banner and similar fraternal Masonic-like organizations.”
According to historian Tyler G. Anbinder, “anti-Catholic sentiment never diminished during the mid-nineteenth century.” That sentiment began as early as the 1820s. In 1836 in Michigan, “virulently anti-Catholic Presbyterians dominated the Whig party and committed it to oppose a provision to allow alien suffrage in the new state’s constitution.” Some of those sentiments were even written in some party documents. For example, some documents called for “the repeal for all Naturalization Laws,” the election of “none but native Americans to office,” “war to the hilt on political Romanism,” and “more stringent and effective Emigration [sic] Laws.”
Schrag writes that the American “race” has always been assumed to be Anglo-Saxon, “the world’s great civilizer, with America as its greatest and noblest home. And Anglo-Saxon, it went without saying, meant Protestant.” In 1848, two of the nation’s most celebrated journals, the American Whig Review and the North American Review, had already published articles such as “The Anglo-Saxon Race.” By 1879, one writer in the North American Review declared:
“The Roman Catholic peasantry, who have flowed over into America, are poor, ignorant creatures, who care nothing for the Constitution, whose interests, so far as they have any, are in Ireland and in their creed, and who vote as their priests direct them. . . . The Constitution guarantees liberty of speech and of the press. The Pope says this is the liberty of perdition, and should not be tolerated.”
Similarly, the American Protective Association pronounced: “We are not a lot of bigots or of fools. But ye Roman Catholic hordes,/We will buckle on our swords,/If you dare meddle with our public schools.” In the same year, the Reverend William Henry Poole even began to hypothesize that the Anglo-Saxons were the lost tribes of Israel. With the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859 and his Descent of Man in 1871, the Know Nothing party began to embrace imperialism and the triumph of the Anglo Saxons over the “inferior races.”
The economist and statistician Francis Amasa Walker, the first president of MIT, wrote in 1896 that “vast masses of peasantry degraded below our utmost conceptions, is a matter which no intelligent patriot can look upon without the gravest apprehension and alarm. They have beaten men from beaten races. They have none of the ideas and aptitudes such as belong to those who were descended from the tribes that met under the oak trees of old Germany to make laws and choose chiefs.”
Anti-Catholic sentiment flourished not because Catholics were viewed as lazy people. On the contrary, the Catholic population who came to America in the two decades after the War of 1812 were industrious. As Anbinder puts it;
The Catholics who emigrated were “the most enterprising, industrious, and virtuous part” of the Irish Catholic population: well-to-do farmers and middle-class city dwellers. Furthermore, the immigrants arriving in these years usually brought business or artisanal skills with them. Those without such skills had often been successful farmers, and a “substantial minority” of immigrants either bought farms when they arrived or worked in eastern seaboard cities until they saved enough money to buy farmland further west. “In general it is not the poorest who emigrate,” noted one visiting Frenchman, but “chiefly . . . the middle classes . . . , comfortable tradesman, or small farmers, who, though already possessing some comforts, are anxious to better their conditions.” Few ventured to the United States unless they had accumulated enough savings to finance a comfortable adjustment to their new home. The high cost of the Atlantic crossing also discouraged unskilled laborers and cash-poor tenant farmers from emigrating in this period.
So why did anti-Catholic attitudes pervade the political climate? It was because the largely Protestant establishment, including members of the Ku Klux Klan, associated the entire Catholic structure with the whore of Babylon and “the Lady in Scarlet.” As Schrag interprets the fear of the time, “there was the shadow of the Vatican, looming to take over American democracy and, more ominously, seducing the nation’s children.”
Schrag moves on to say that the first Americans in New England, New York, and Virginia had one common denominator: “the fear and hatred of Rome.” This was even the case with John Jay, one of the authors of The Federalist Papers and the first chief justice of the United States. As such, numerous attempts were made to stamp out the last vestige of Catholicism in America. Some of the conflicts and riots were so bloody that two Catholic churches were destroyed by fire in 1844 in Philadelphia. Moreover, Catholic immigrants became a threat because they began to outnumber native-born Protestants by the 1850s. Anbinder states:
By 1855, immigrants outnumbered native-born citizens in Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee, and the immigrant population would soon surpass the native in New York, Brooklyn, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. More than a third of the inhabitants of Boston, Pittsburgh, Albany, Rochester, and Troy were immigrants, and nearly that proportion lived in Philadelphia and Newark.
Persecution against the Catholics began in the 1830s. In the summer of 1834, a convent was burned by a mob in Charlestown, Massachusetts, after a rumor stating that a priest was suppressing a nun from leaving her order. But that was only the beginning. Schrag notes:
In succeeding years, there would be more anti-Catholic, anti-Irish riots in the textile-mill city of Lawrence, Massachusetts, in Baltimore, and in New York, among other places… Battles over prohibition, partisan animosity, literature like Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures, and fear of the growing “foreign influence” of the Catholic hierarchy in Philadelphia public schools triggered a wave of anti-Catholic demonstrations that quickly turned violent.
Protestant ministers like the celebrated Reverend Lyman Beecher (father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) were responsible for inciting their congregations to take action against the Catholics. Beecher in particular would talk about creeping “Popery” and the dangers of foreign immigration. In the same year, the American inventor and painter Samuel F. B. Morse wrote numerous acerbic letters saying that the monarchies in Europe were in cahoots with the Catholics to corrupt or pollute “the under-populated American west,” and this corruption would prevent the spread of democracy and religious freedom.
Anti-Catholic conspiracy books such as Lyman Beecher’s A Plea for the West (1835) and Maria Monk’s Awful Disclosures of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery of Montreal (1836) flourished. Numerous organizations, such as the Native American Democratic Association (NADA), which was formed in 1835, sought to stamp out the flood of Catholic immigrants to the United States.
In short, it should be clear by now that the “white identity” ideology that is being embraced by people like MacDonald and Taylor is historically unsustainable and incoherent.
Part of this article is taken from the book Kevin MacDonald’s Metaphysical Failure.
Jonas E. Alexis has degrees in mathematics and philosophy. He studied education at the graduate level. His main interests include U.S. foreign policy, the history of the Israel/Palestine conflict, and the history of ideas. He is the author of the book, Kevin MacDonald’s Metaphysical Failure: A Philosophical, Historical, and Moral Critique of Evolutionary Psychology, Sociobiology, and Identity Politics. He teaches mathematics in South Korea.