The Clare Spark Blog

October 15, 2011

The Protestant Establishment taps the Good Jew

E. Digby Baltzell

While still in graduate school, I met several editors then employed by the University of California Press. I was advised by one of them to read John Murray Cuddihy’s  The Ordeal of Civility (1978) that they were all talking about. I found it offensive to be told to read a book about manners. But even more offensive, if amusingly so, is Philadelphian* E. Digby Baltzell’s earnest appeal to upper-class Americans published  just as the civil rights movement was in high gear:  The Protestant Establishment: Aristocracy and Caste in America (N.Y.: Random House, 1964).

The aim of the sociologist Baltzell’s book was to distinguish between an aristocratic upper class that carried out the programs of Jefferson and Lincoln and a retardataire Republican Party that, unlike the cosmopolitan Wilson and FDR,  had not only systematically refused Jewish entry to the establishment, but was, implicitly, going to oppose the upward mobility of deserving “Negroes.” The good guys (Woodrow Wilson and the two Roosevelts) had abandoned the racist “caste” ideology of the money-mad, exclusionary Republican establishment for the truly aristocratic [co-optative] strategies of liberal democrats like himself.  Mind you, Baltzell was no extremist. He loathed such as Joseph McCarthy and his [vulgar] Jewish henchmen, Roy Cohn and David Schine; similarly he was horrified by the 1930s revolutionaries (John Dos Passos for instance) who had overreacted to the sex and booze-madness of the 1920s. (Interestingly, the horror of the First World War and the rejection of the idea of progress gets no mention in Baltzell’s cultural history of American writers of “the lost generation.”)

I had not expected to read such a friendly book about Jews coming from a Protestant professor, but wait: entry into Wall Street or the higher levels of Washington politics, signified by membership in the chic urban clubs and country clubs of the old rich was conditional: Jews were advised to bond with the “tory Reformer” type, such as JFK (p.81).   And, would-be patrician Jews had better clean up their act by following FDR’s warning to the economic royalists, who had sullied the temple of capitalism: Here is Baltzell quoting Professor Cochran: “In the early months of 1933, the term ‘bankster’ classified these erstwhile paragons of respectability with the underworld and President Roosevelt in his inaugural address promised to drive the money changers from the temple.” (p.226).

Nor was the materialism of Republicans to be an example to the better sort of Jew: Here the Roosevelt family is compared to du Pont family: “…the du Ponts surely stood for the idea of the single-minded , and scientific, pursuit of success….” (p. 250) [cf. monomania imputed to Captain Ahab, though Ahab was not interested in profits]

As a moderate man, i.e., a proponent of balance, Baltzell fears that the Roosevelt tradition will get out of hand: “Reflecting on de Tocqueville and the Republican du Pont family: “…Tocqueville would also see the possible usefulness of dynasties like the du Ponts, as ‘secondary powers’ and guardians of freedom, in an age that has gone far beyond the Roosevelt revolution on the road toward the omnipotent state. Like Aristotle before him, Tocqueville was always aware of the need for balance and the moderate mean: in the depths of a depression, the balance of power surely needed tipping in the direction of Washington, as against Wilmington or Wall Street; this may not be the case today [1964, C.S.].” (p.252) See

And we wonder why many liberal Jewish writers (including those of Jewish “origin” or Jewish “blood,” as Baltzell would say) rail against “neocons” and other defectors from the moderate consensus! Their own hard won class mobility (up from the ghettoes or Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens) might be threatened by those who have joined the unregenerate “racists”** of the Right. A gentleman hath proclaimed it so.

* Baltzell’s Wikipedia entry states that he was born to a wealthy Episcopalian family and attended St. Paul’s preparatory school.

** For an example of the racialist discourse of multiculturalism, along with its “cultural” hierarchy see


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