M.G. Miles over at Those Who Can See, has recently compiled an article on the hidden history of American demographics.
It is one of the most capable presentations of the “cumulative migration” thesis of American decline: that successive waves of migration from Southern and Eastern Europe and ultimately from elsewhere have diluted the Anglo-American native stock and destroyed social capital, leading to today’s Weimerican Republic.
Indeed, M.G. actually understates his case in that particular post: the involvement of Italian immigrants in insurrectionary anarchism (which triggered the misleadingly named “Red Scare” — as if it were not a justifiable one) the surprisingly large amount of Finns in communist fronts are just a couple of things left unstated, though he has likely discussed them in other instances. He relies heavily on John R. Commons’ testimony for the first part.
There is little that I can factually dispute in the article. Irish machine politics, Slavic and Italian extended family patterns translating into greater clannishness, etc. are mundane observations controversial only in our time.
My objections are not regarding what M.G. says, but what he doesn’t say. The first disagreement is mostly an aesthetic one. It seems like M.G., like many other right-wing HBD bloggers, has this overly mechanical expectation of what intelligent, well-adjusted and law-abiding people are supposed to be. He mixes up concerns of minority criminality with much vaguer appeals to character traits like “capacity of self-government.” Or when he singles out Mohammedans for being a “parallel society” and having a “parallel education system,” when the problem is not the existence of a legal polyarchy itself (a normal phenomenon for much of European history), but its dysfunctional and parasitic nature.
Fighting, drinking, being rowdy, banging on pots and pans to shame adulterers are not necessarily degenerate and backward behaviors, but can be normal communal behavior. Certainly, they are illiberal, though not always undemocratic. But if liberalism requires the suppression of communal shaming mechanisms, so much the worse for liberalism. The whole archetype of the law-abiding high-IQ Nordic man west of the Hajnal line seems to internalize too much of the ethos of the managerial state that everyone should be a sedated prole who must under no circumstances ever take matters outside the “rule of law” so-called.
So, when M.G. says “If we treasure the liberal democratic systems we’ve inherited, let us have the good common sense to think carefully about just who we allow into that ‘delicate fabric.’,” he ignores that by the time America actually became a liberal democracy, propositional nationalism was already a force to be reckoned with.
The second disagreement is with his holistic portrait. We read all about spics, guidos, coons and the usual cast, but the omission of the Anglo-American native stock itself is a problem. Because when we factor it in as a variable, our picture changes. Significantly so, by my judgment.
M.G. writes that Englishmen’s “individualism and commonweal orientation led naturally to republican self-government.”
Individualism, that is quite undeniable. Commonweal orientation is more disputable — it conflicts with individualism, after all. Natural republican self-government, the most disputable.
Before we get to the American settlers themselves, some notes on democracy in the 19th century among the English race itself.
(Wasserman and Jaggard 2007) have quantified electoral violence in England and Wales between 1857 and 1880.
Here is a report from the Manchester Guardian (or today simply known as The Guardian, that goddamned rag) on an election riot in Wolverhampton, 1874:
At half-past one a mob of youths, wearing Conservative colours, and armed with staves, collected in the centre of Wolverhampton, and commenced an indiscriminate attack upon all wearing the Liberal colours . . . Vehicles and horses and even women were beaten . . . The Liberals responded and commenced a similar sally, armed with timber, which they tore down from fences.
Scenes like this were not atypical in the least. For much of the 19th century after electoral reform in 1832, all of the High Tory warnings against popular government were not mere pie-in-the-sky theorizing, but empirical induction from ongoing real-world example.
Here is the table of violent incidents:
Here is the table of violent incidents classified by scale:
By labor, ethnic and police statistics, divided by areas of the country:
(The most violent areas were in the West Midland, the Northwest and York. The concentration of Irishmen is not a direct correlate to the distribution of violence, as there are lots of outliers, though it can help explain the scale when issues like Irish home rule were at stake. Violence would have been considerable without them.)
Bristol borough election in 1868, as reported by the Gloucester Journal Nov. 21:
The destruction of property was very great. The windows of chapels, schools, and private residences were smashed without respect to party. Public houses were forced open, and the mob helped themselves to wine, spirits and beer, cigars, biscuits . . . Mr Morley [Liberal] was . . . an object of attack, but his assailants did not succeed in their attempts. A boy was dangerously injured, and nine persons were taken to the Hospital to have their wounds dressed.
The authors of the study also summarize the fatalities, with 1868 as the most brutal year of all:
Violent electioneering during the period also resulted in eleven fatalities: a police constable was killed during a riot in Kidderminster in 1857; the Grantham borough election of 1865 left one voter dead after a crowd of Liberal supporters attempted to up-end the hustings into a fire; in Newport during the 1868 Monmouth borough election a woman was killed as soldiers cleared the streets during a riot; the county election of Monmouthshire in the same year left three people dead; in Blackburn in 1868 two men died during violence at the municipal and parliamentary elections; in North Durham a riot during the county contest resulted in the death of a sixty-three-year-old man after a paving stone was smashed over his head; the porter of Christ’s College, Cambridge was stoned to death during an election skirmish in the town; and in Gravesend the leader of a riot during the borough contest died after his leg was broken.
As to America…
The Irish made machine politics famous, or rather infamous, but it was New Yorkers behind Van Buren who instituted it — so we can perhaps chalk it up to the Dutch, which still makes this a Nordic transgression. It would, however, be Whigs like Thurlow Weed who would truly perfect the machine.
Mobocracy itself, having colonial and native English traditions, peaking in the American Revolution, would resume in the First Party System of Federalists and Republicans also.
Protests against ratification of the Constitution in Carlisle, PA involved burning effigies, kindling bonfires, throwing barrels and running with guns and bludgeons. In Albany, NY, a fight with clubs, stones and bricks broke out, resulting in some deaths.
Effigy burnings occurred in protest against the Jay Treaty in 1795.
The Anglophile-Francophile conflict which was one of the dimensions of the Federalist-Republican conflict reached its most violent apex in the Baltimore riot of 1812, in relation to the war brewing then:
A small book giving various eye witness accounts of the “Second Baltimore Riot”, one of the most violent anti-federalists attacks during the War of 1812. The first riot took place just over a month before when the Baltimore based “pro-British” Federalist newspaper The Federal Republican denounced the declaration of war. On the night of June 20th a mob stormed the newspaper’s offices destroying the building and its contents. A truce was eventually negotiated and the owner of the paper, Alexander Hanson, and his employees were taken into protective custody. In July, after spending a few weeks in Georgetown, Hanson brought his newspaper back to a building in Baltimore and continued to write editorials denouncing the war. Once again, a mob lay siege to the building but this time Hanson and his employees fought back with gunfire, reportedly killing two of the mob. A military force intervened and again escorted Hanson and his supporters to jail for their protection. The following night the mob broke into the jail and nine Federalists, including Hanson, were hauled out into the street and given a severe three-hour beating, including being stabbed with penknives and having hot candle wax dropped into their eyes. Eventually the authorities intervened. One of the paper’s employees, a Revolutionary War veteran named James Lingan, had been killed while Hanson was to die only seven years later never having fully recovered. No one ended up being brought to justice for the attacks.
What of the antics at the voting booth itself?
David Grimsted’s American Mobbing and Richard Franklin Bensel’s The American Ballot Box in the Mid-Nineteenth Century are good attempts at summarizing the situation.
Grimsted cites the diary of Henry B. Miller in August 1838, where Whigs and Democrats fought with bowie knives, clubs and rocks, attempting to stall each other’s factions from casting a ballot, and constantly chanting such slogans (in the Whigs’ case) as “Pull down the banner. Kick them, drive them away! Keep the polls! Hurra for the Whigs!…”
Alcohol was ubiquitous, and even affected candidacy in local elections:
At elections liquor flowed free. Candidates had no greater electioneering expenses than those for alcohol. Anson Buttles noted why a local Wisconsin tavern caucus nominated him as town clerk and justice of the peace: “The caucus cost me $5.64 for treating today. Two months later at the general election, Buttles won the justiceship but lost as town clerk, perhaps because he spent for liquor only “about $15.00.” A North Carolina congressman wrote a play in which he depicted the general view of part of the electorate to democratic duty: “No, I ha’nt voted yet. I’m waiting to see who treats me the best — I votes for them that give me the most grog. I have not had but four drinks today. I’m not drunk enough to vote yet!”
The 1840 campaign of William Henry Harrison had quite the dramatic stunt to fit the famous “log cabin and hard cider” slogan that positioned Harrison as a common man. The Whigs deployed a wagon pulled by thirteen yoke of oxen carrying a large log cabin topped by a flag and decorated with a stuffed eagle, coonskins and a live raccoon. In the rear door of the cabin would sit girls handing out cups of cider as crowds of cheering men would follow from behind.
The spoils system was definitive and its effects massive. Nixon caused a scandal with the so-called “Saturday Night Massacre,” but such massacres were a normal part of parties switching in office in the 19th century, for instance:
The Know-Nothing victory in New Orleans led to dismissal of the whole police force as well as schoolteachers and street sweepers, all of them Democratic political appointees. The age’s political correspondence is full of letters like that from Philadelphia clerk Joseph M. Cord in 1857. Cord begged to be kept on by the new Democratic administration until October so “he could get into some other business as I have a family to support”; he reported that he had “voted and done all I could secretly” for the winning party. Any project or institution that received government funds might be affected. Democrats accused Anti-Masons of forcing canal workers to vote for their governor’s reelection in 1838. He lost, and an engineer in the Pennsylvania canal cautioned a coworker that they’d better hide their support of Harrison to ensure keeping their jobs in 1840.
And, contrary to perceptions that this is a phenomenon unique to post-1965, the practice of illegally naturalizing immigrants to use them as vote banks was recorded as being a mass phenomenon as early as the 1830s:
The first wide-scale reports of illegal naturalization for a particular election occurred in 1834 during New York City’s troubled spring voting. The Commercial Advertiser reported “the melancholy and amusing” sight of hordes appearing at the court and emerging five minutes later to be “sent off to the polls to support the Constitution and break men’s heads.” In Cincinnati 1200 were naturalized the day before the election of 1844 and almost as many the day prior to the 1848 voting. In the latter year, about 100 immigant St. Louisians voted the same day they became citizens. The many naturalized immigrants whom New Orleans Democratic policemen herded to the polls were believed to comprise the bulk of the 3000 rise in the number of voters in 1853. In Maryland, politicians “vied with each other … in cramming boarding houses with aliens, whence, scarcely recovered from the dizziness of the sea voyage, they were driven to the polls.”
Bensel cites the case of a Republican party agent named Marion Keever who engaged in a vivid vote bribery scheme with a lifelong Democrat in his 50s, Daniel Bixler, of Licking County, Ohio. A common event, but this instance involved a particularly large offer. Being around 1866, it also helped that the victorious Union was imposing loyalty oaths in Southern states:
[Keever] came down to my house and wanted to know if I was going to that election. I told him that I supposed I would… He said I had better go up; I told him I supposed I would some time during the day; then he wanted to know who I was going to vote for; I told him I didn’t hardly know until I got up into town, and some man would give me a ticket that I could put dependence in; then he told me if I would vote for Columbus Delano [Republican candidate] he would give me five dollars, and he would pay me one dollar and a half for a corn basket; would buy me brick to build a chimney; also he said he would give me a tree of winter apples and ten or fifteen bushels of drying apples, and that three stores – Graves’s, Moore’s, and Conaway’s — would give me seventy dollars for voting for Delano, and he would see that I got a due bill if I did not wanht to trade it all out at one time … I went to the election with him … He came after me in a buggy at my house.
Unfortunately, Bixler only got the apples.
(For all of the typical ballot-box anarchy and “log cabin and hard cider” antics going on then, there were a couple of incidents that came close to being classified as small wars: the Buckshot War in 1838 and the Dorr War in 1842.)
The most blatant manifestation of a paramilitary unit in American party politics were definitely the Wide Awakes. These kiddos (they were overwhelmingly young men) would menacingly march in torchlit parades and later brawl in support of Lincoln in 1860, terrorizing the South in the process and receiving a response.
To pick up chicks, of course:
The Wide Awake network also benefited from its social appeal. Each company consisted of about one hundred young men who, joined by strong fraternal bonds, met several evenings each week in their storefront clubhouses. The diary of Jeremiah Wilcox—a twenty-year-old carriage maker in Connecticut—depicts the camaraderie that helped attract members. Wilcox, who usually spent his leisure time fishing, added “torchlite procession nice evening had a very fine time” to his usual diary entry in late spring. Soon he was attending Wide Awake meetings regularly and fishing less. The movement’s parades also allowed young men to court the many young women who turned out to view the demonstrations. As one diarist in Ohio noted, “The ladies, bless them, stayed and cheered us with their presence till we were through, and they were as good looking a company of women as one will see.”
Fighting the slave power and getting pussy.
The diary of Colonel Oscar L. Jackson mentions the Wide Awakes in his experiences as a young Republican organizer. He recalls speaking at a meeting in Islesborough, Hocking County that was heckled by Democrats, and that the Wide Awakes were ready to draw blood if they saw fit: “Although the Republican boys took their insults without saying much, I afterwards found that it came near taking a serious turn, as the “Wide Awakes” were prepared and would have shot and sliced them like dogs if any one of us had been struck.”
1834 specifically was one of the most traumatic years in American history. Bank, urban and race riots galore. Contemporaries like Unitarian theologian William Ellery Channing likened it to an Armageddon where “society was shaken to its foundations, all its joints loosened, all its fixtures about to be swept away.” Ralph Waldo Emerson commented after the Ursuline convent riots: “If the wishes of the lowest class that suffer in these long [Boston] streets should execute themselves, who can doubt that the city would topple in ruins.”
In electoral politics, New York’s first direct mayoral election went like so:
On April 8, 1834, men fought with knives and clubs, destroying ballots and virtually shutting down the entire process. One man was killed, twenty others wounded.
The Whigs were almost war-like in their determination to wrest power from Democrats, actually decorating a frigate with Whig banners, calling it the Constitution, and dragging it up Broadway in a violent and vitriolic parade. Democrats were no better; the following day, acolytes headed down to Wall Street to destroy a pro-Whig newspaper office, its publisher armed and ready to shoot.
By April 10, the final day of voting, thousands filled the streets, ransacking gun shops and arsenals, preparing for all-out chaos. “With Armageddon in the office, the mayor called out all troops — twelve hundred infantry and calvarymen — and order was restored,” according to Edwin G Burrows and Mike Wallace. But even that resolution was one-sided; most of the infantry was faithful to President Andrew Jackson — and by extension, Lawrence, the Democratic candidate.
In the beginning, M.G. mentions the American Party (better known as the Know Nothings), and how the idea of the proposition nation originated with their critics. Mostly true. However, it is worth looking into what the Know Nothings themselves wrote.
One of the most conspicuous of the Know Nothings was the Rev. William Henry Ryder, who served in various unitarian and universalist congregations, as well as being an abolitionist. Huh.
From his book Our country (1854):
We mean to encourage and cultivate among ourselves an intense nationality. We mean, as it is the dominant element, that the Anglo-Saxon element shall bear superior sway. We mean to stand by our good old mother tongue against the world, because it is the language of liberty all over the world. We mean, as it is our right, our constitutional right, and as it is our duty, to bear arms, so that we can, when our republic is assailed, defend it, for it has so turned out in human affairs that a country that cannot defend its liberty, has not retained it long. We mean to act in the spirit of that patriotism which governed our fathers, when they placed in the Constitution of the United States the provision that no man, save a native born citizen of this Republic, should be President of these United States.
Fellow-Citizens, I have spoken of these disturbing elements in our politics, — Slavery and Priestcraft. They have a common purpose : they seek Cuba and Hayti and the Mexican States together, because they will be Catholic and Slave. I say they are in alliance by the necessity of their nature, — for one denies the right of a man to his body, and the other the right of a man to his soul. The one denies his right to think for himself, the other the right to act for himself. One, assuming the livery of Democracy, steals men, and sells men, and buys men it would not pay to steal, — men beneath the slave, inasmuch as he never stooped to the degradation of selling himself. The other assumes the livery of Heaven, not to traffic in the bodies of men so much as in their souls : — for so much it will absolve, for so much pass you over that hard road to travel — Purgatory. Fortunately, men are not as bad as their systems. There is something deep down in the soul of every man, be he Catholic or Protestant, which rebels eternally against absolute authority, — and that, when you find it, is Protestanism, in whatever breast.
This quote is truly an astounding encapsulation of Boston. On one hand, Ryder speaks of the “cultivation of an intense nationality” and the necessity of the “Anglo-Saxon element bearing superior sway.”
All the same, he embarks on a rant against the dreaded Slave Power and the evils of popery, adding that English is “the language of liberty all over the world,” and moreover that every man deep down is a natural-born Protestant struggling against authority.
So, what happened isn’t complicated in hindsight: the Robert Lansings, the Cordell Hulls and the John Foster Dulleses of America carried on this mantle, but downplayed the “Anglo-Saxon element” in favor of the whole “deep down in the soul of every man there is Protestantism” angle instead.
America’s problem, in a nutshell: a nation whose religious roots abhorred the ordained priesthood. But with no priests to tame social vices, a new elect would emerge for that purpose — whether you call them half-breeds, free-soilers, barnburners, mugwumps, progressives. They ended the reign of the machines, but brought with it a new zeal for reform of all kinds (following, and often taking courses from, their Nordic neighbors across the ocean). What Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor decreed with the Truce of God, the managerial class tried to do the same for their booze-filled brawls at the ballot-box.
The process would start relatively early, in fact. Here’s a sample from Lincoln’s Hungarian heroes; the participation of Hungarians in the Civil War, 1861-1865:
When the Civil War broke out in the spring of 1861., there were approximately three thousand Hungarians in the United States. The majority of these Hungarians left their homeland for political reasons after the war of Independence in 1848-1849. Before the war of 1848, there were very few of them who traded homelands merely for the sake of adventure or even for the hope of beginning life anew. There were only a few who came to America after the War for economic reasons.
These “48”-ers consisted (just as among the Germans) of the elite of those Hungarians who came to America. They could be divided into two groups: the first group consisted of those political refugees who considered their stay in America a temporary one, because they were certain that their triumphant return to their homeland was merely a question of time. The second group consisted of those emigrants who arrived in the New World with the intention of settling here permanently.
The emigration of Hungarians to America was undoubtedly begun by the Kossuth exiles. The Congress of the United States when it offered a new home to Kossuth and his followers, did this with the expectation that they, together with their leader, would settle here permanently. Kossuth, especially during the days of his exile at Sumla, thought longingly of the great democracy overseas, and when in 1850 the first group of Hungarians were preparing for their journey to the United States, upon receiving the offer of transportation from President Taylor, and Secretary of State Clayton— he wrote in the letter of introduction given to the prospective travelers :
“It is in the free soil of North America, in which I would wish to rest in eternal peace, if my bones could not mingle with the soil of my homeland.” (Sumla, Feb. 14, 1850. See: Hajnal p. 694.)
Fight popery, shelter revolutionaries.
Now, when the new priesthood was consolidating itself around the 1880s or so, its architects including civil service commisioner (and Unitarian) Dorman B. Eaton (check out his lovely rant against Jacksonian America and the “politician and patronage-mongering classes”), the proposition nation as an idea was taking hold at the same time.
Probably the most conspicuous example (though still with a legalistic cloak) was President Chester A. Arthur’s veto of the first draft of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882.
It deserves to be read in full, but among other things it heaps praise on the contributions of Chinese labor, says that the “system of personal registration and passports is undemocratic and hostile to the spirit of our institutions,” and even flat out pulls the “jobs Americans just won’t do” argument when he states that “Enterprises profitable alike to the capitalist and to the laborer of Caucasian origin would have lain dormant but for them.”
The proposition nation concept is actually older than many ideas that Americans consider integral to their political heritage, like absolute freedom of speech.
At one point, M.G. bemoans the political passivity of Hispanics, though he seems to conflate it with their corruption. He cites Thomas Jefferson that the love of liberty must be shared by the governed themselves.
But as I have tried to show, liberal democracy (the one where people don’t shoot and stab each other on the way to the voting place) crucially depends on maintaining a certain reserve level of political passivity. Inflaming popular passions too much is to be avoided. In the case of whites, passivity probably served to reduce corruption overall.
In fact, the drop in voter turnout in America was already substantial by the 1920s (from p.186 of Michael E. McGerr’s The Decline of Popular Politics: The American North, 1865-1928):
By the twenties, a massive political withdrawal had occurred across the country. Much of it took place in the South, where disenfranchisement between 1890 and 1910 had torn the vote away from blacks and many poor whites. Average Southern turnout at presidential elections, 64 percent from 187 to 1892, fell to 32 percent from 1900 to 1916 and then to just 20 percent in the campaigns of 1920 and 1924.
Even in the North, where there was nothing like disenfranchisement, people had abandoned the ballot box. After reaching 83 percent in 1896 and 1900, average Northern turnout at presidential elections moved down to 65 percent from 190 to 1916 and then to only 58 percent in 1900 and 1924. Voting decreased for elections at all levels. Turnout for off-year Congressional contests fell off from 70 percent in 1894 and 1896 down to 42 percent by 1922 and 1926. In the twenties, perhaps a fourth of all eligible Northerners never cast a ballot. The non-voters came disproportionately from the ranks of newly enfranchised women, young people, immigrants and their children, and the poor.
The people you don’t want to vote, didn’t. And yet that couldn’t save you, either.
Having made these additions, our picture changes from a model of cumulative migration and dilution of native stock, to a more nuanced one where an internal Anglo faction elevates itself to a new elite for the purpose of, among other things, taming democracy and making the country more governable. Racial spoils continue to be practiced as they were for a long time, but in a more controlled fashion until the past few decades where the pretense of order has unraveled. The missionary and proselytizing fervor hidden in American nativism and the congregationalist allies of American nativism have developed into an internationalism bent on liberating the world.