The Clare Spark Blog

March 22, 2012

The Great Dumbing Down (2)

Devils from Rila Monastery

In a prior blog, I attempted to “periodize” the moment when American culture turned toward stupidity and away from the Prometheanism implied in the conception of American exceptionalism and the making of the Constitution by such as Alexander Hamilton (not that Hamilton was an American Candide). In that blog (, I fingered William James and other “pragmatists” as major figures in the deterioration of education. Now I add that moderate man Reinhold Niebuhr to my enemies list.

In the Fall of 1957, I took David Brion Davis’s course in American intellectual history at Cornell U. I have a clear memory of his stating that “the devil was back” in his discussion of Hawthorne and Melville. What Davis meant was that both writers took a dim view of the theory of progress, attacking its key precept, that man was malleable morally (as demonstrated in travel narratives or utopian communes such as Brook Farm) and that better government and capitalism could ameliorate what had been lives that were “nasty, brutal, and short” (Hobbes). Davis also lectured about the importance of Reinhold Niebuhr in furthering that pessimistic ideology after the second world war. See That Niebuhr should have switched his political views at that time, puts him in the camp of other pessimists who sought to dampen American hubris after the defeat of  the Axis powers by the Western democracies (see my blog on film noir:

It was also a moment when the high school population exploded and when returning veterans were availing themselves of the G. I. Bill, flooding colleges with cocky survivors of a war unprecedented in its mayhem. The major universities took note and reconstructed the humanities curriculum in collectivist and anti-urban directions– a direction that would halt the feared road to communism in America. Simply put, the real Marxist-Leninists were mostly purged, and “right-wing social democrats” (the “moderate” conservatives) took over and now are referred to as “the Left.” Their statism (but one that includes “ a reasonable amount of private property”) often leads some right-wing authors to conflate social democrats with Leninists, Italian Fascists, and Nazis.

As the Wikipedia biography of Niebuhr demonstrates, the key element in his conversion to “Christian Realism” (said to be a forerunner of “realism” in foreign relations), was the linking of evil to self-love and pride. Comes now the canonical reading of Melville’s Promethean Captain Ahab as the epitome of narcissism; indeed the Icarus legend was used to describe his literary fortunes from 1919 on. (As Ahab, his wings melted, plunging HM back to earth where he either drowned as Narcissus or burned as Icarus. In any case, he was demonic—the mirror of the Parsee Fedallah– and that theme remains dominant in Melville criticism as taught in the dumbing-down schools and universities controlled by the so-called left.)

Melville was ambivalent about “evil” as an independent entity apart from historically specific institutions and individuals. At times he wrote “evil is the chronic malady of the universe,” or in another mood he would say that good and evil were braided together so confusingly that he could say through one of his characters (the ambiguous Pierre) that “virtue and vice are trash” and that he must “gospelize the world anew.” I am convinced that Mark Twain read Melville, for in his fragment “The Character of Man” he echoes Melville in his most depressed and misanthropic moods.

To summarize: “moral relativism” has been a term used by some conservatives to condemn the explorations typified by the modern, mind-expanding world. What it meant to the Enlightenment was not the trashing of “virtue” but the realization that such conceptions as good and evil were socially constructed and could vary according to the institutional structures and resources of different societies; that in lauding individuals or social practices as either laudatory or destructive, such valuations had meaning only in specific historical contexts. Because many of the Founding Fathers were highly educated men, conversant with antiquity as well as with the discoveries of European explorers, they did not rely upon such ahistoric conceptions as The Devil to mold the Constitution that would govern negative human impulses in favor of a more orderly progress than had heretofore existed. But in the “progressive” world view of such as William James and Reinhold Niebuhr, the human capacity to be educated and uplifted has been ringed round with anxiety and self-doubt. Learning is hard enough without that extra dollop of immobilizing fear. For more on “the moderate men” (Melville’s phrase), see Moderation is a buzz word without concrete meaning, and is a key word in psychological warfare.

September 29, 2009

Anne Hutchinson’s Red Regiment and the Cultural Historians, part one

The Uppity Woman in Context

This is the first part of a multi-part blog series about irrationalist renditions of the Reformation. Readers of prior blogs will recognize my  opponent: the “moderate man,” who, I argue, cannot identify irreconcilable conflicts, but believes that all conflict is susceptible to mediation by “rational” arbitrators. The strange historiography on the famous troublemaker Anne Hutchinson serves as instructive example of the rule of “moderates” in the academy.

I.     During the mid-1630s, Anne Hutchinson, a middle-aged gentlewoman, self-appointed lay preacher, midwife and healer, rocked the infant colony of Massachusetts Bay with sufficient vehemence to toss it, bloodied and adrift, into the cold waters of religious and political controversy.  Hutchinson and her large Boston following had challenged the credentials of all but two of the Bay Colony ministry, hence the legitimacy of the ruling group.  Accordingly, the Hutchinsonians, who included wealthy merchants and artisans as well as the humble, were disfranchised, disarmed, or otherwise terrorized and persecuted, while Anne Hutchinson herself was imprisoned, banished, excommunicated and denounced as a Familist, a witch, and a degenerate.[i]

Across the Atlantic in 1636, the very year that Governor John Winthrop declared Anne Hutchinson a troublemaker, another upper-class radical was arrested.  An esteemed English cleric, Dr. John Everard, was accused of preaching Familism, a radical utopian doctrine originated a century earlier by Hendrick Niclaes of Münster which “undermined clerical control over the psychological lives of ordinary people” by encouraging “the newly literate sectors of society–women, artisans, servants and laborers” to read the Bible for themselves and, if need be, challenge the interpretations decreed by their betters. “The heightened self-esteem literacy fostered and the intellectual independence it encouraged suggested to working people that they were not innately sinful and enabled them to believe that one day they might create a perfect society here on earth–an idea that sapped the foundations of Tudor government.” [ii]

Although Anne Hutchinson, the eminently respectable wife of a merchant, landowner and judge, repeatedly disavowed any radical sympathies, her detractors just as persistently characterized her as the non plus ultra of extremists, poisoning the body politic and inciting civil war. John Winthrop fretted that her confidence in “immediate revelation” was “the most desperate enthusiasm in the world…Of all the revelations that ever I read of I never read the like ground laid as is for this. The Enthusiasts and Anabaptists have never the like.”

The Deputy Governor Dudley agreed with Winthrop’s historical analogy:  “These disturbances that have come among the Germans have been grounded upon revelations, and so they that have vented them have stirred up their hearers to take up arms against their prince and to cut the throats of one another, and these have been the fruits of them, and whether the devil may inspire the same into their hearts here I know not, for I am fully persuaded that Mrs. Hutchinson is deluded by the devil, because the spirit of God speaks truth in all his servants.”

Thomas Weld complained that her venom had diffused into “the very veines and vitalls of the People,” dividing every institution: churches, courts, town meetings, the militia, “and in families setting division betwixt husband and wife!”  For Nathaniel Hawthorne, writing two centuries later, Anne Hutchinson was an archetype: “the woman” as riveting agitator. She stares down her persecutors during the civil trial that had arraigned her for criticizing ministers:

[Hawthorne:] “In the midst, and in the centre of all eyes, we see the woman. She stands loftily before her judges with a determined brow; and, unknown to herself, there is a flash of carnal pride half hidden in her eye, as she surveys the many learned and famous men whom her doctrines have put in fear. They question her; and her answers are ready and acute: she reasons with them shrewdly, and brings Scripture in support of every argument. The deepest controversialists of that scholastic day find here a woman, whom all their trained and sharpened intellects are inadequate to foil. But, by the excitement of the contest, her heart is made to rise and swell within her, and she bursts forth into eloquence….”

Hawthorne’s sketch of that enlarged and bursting heart would be realized in Hester Prynne’s scarlet letter, Zenobia’s passion flower, Miriam’s ruby jewel, and the Wandering Jew’s “blood-incrusted pen of steel,” then in Melville’s prideful, eloquent Captain Ahab, a character read as a “mystic” by Melville’s first modern biographer, Raymond Weaver.[iii] Today Anne Hutchinson is a heroine to some feminists and libertarians, a protofascist to one prominent New Americanist.  This is how Richard Brodhead, then dean of Yale college and Professor of English, depicted the lineage she spawned, worsened by “the emotional dependencies produced in the hyperaffectionate, inward-turning, hothouse family newly prominent in Melville’s time”:

“Captain Ahab is a figure of the psychically damaged man as visionary authority and charismatic leader.  Ahab knows and persuades others of the One Sole Truth, the truth of his demented obsession.  Pierre is another incarnation of a type that has run through American history, from the antinomian religious dissidents of the 1640s [sic] to the civil disobeyers and antislavery radicals of Melville’s generation to the sect and militia leaders of our own time.  In its harrowing rendition of the cult of private visionary calling, “Pierre” envisions this urge as leading not just to violent trashing of the conventional social world but to a meltdown or disorientation of the moral world.” [iv]

But what of the historic figure? How has “the Woman” been appropriated in the twentieth century? How might we rehistoricize this provocative personality, “the Woman,” not only as a fascinating and complex problem in itself, but as a spotlight into academic politics?  Is there a contrast between the seventeenth-century nexus of the Antinomian Controversy vs. the context and pivotal actions as they have been asserted by recent cultural historians?  Has fear within the professoriate itself of upper-class dissent and agitation tout court distorted a conflict with quite different dynamics than the ones reported heretofore?

There is a dearth of diaries, letters or other primary sources in Hutchinson’s own hand to cast light upon her private beliefs and intentions.  Commentators must rely on “transcripts” of her civil trial and ecclesiastical examination to find her words, and these were delivered in the heat of battle.[v] The other major sources are the memoirs and propaganda of her opponents, such as Governor Winthrop, the minister Thomas Weld, and her once-beloved teacher, the “turncoat” John Cotton. The paucity or one-sidedness of the sources, however, has not prevented many scholars and biographers from making elaborate conjectures concerning Hutchinson’s politics and motives.  Moreover, corporatist ‘liberal’ political assumptions have led biographers to blame the victim by implying that the Antinomian controversy could have been smoothed over or its more repressive consequences averted had its leading figures, especially the ambitious, sharp-tongued, fanatical, and intransigent Anne Hutchinson, commanded the skills of political maturity: self-control and a state of mind conducive to compromise, conciliation, and those democratic procedures necessary to “conflict-resolution” and “adjustment” in the pluralist society of today, the “milieu” in which scholars are expected to function, a setting with little resemblance to the conditions experienced by the English settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Some historians, choosing to emphasize gender antagonisms as the major feature of the controversy, have failed to examine all of the other conflicts in the Bay Colony which could have impinged upon the social crisis of 1636-38, yet we cannot find a balanced assessment of Anne Hutchinson’s role without such a systematic reconstruction.  For “the woman’s” martyrdom was not the only instance of persecution.  To be sure, the writings of ministers and magistrates are so replete with misogyny and hysteria directed against her that the Antinomian controversy may seem like a gender conflict in which an uppity woman got her just desserts.  But women and men of different classes and ‘races’ were at odds during this period; the sex war cannot be detached from other conflicts which perhaps allowed it to surface and which made it seem so threatening.  For instance, as Rutman notes, “Boston’s enlarged servant population…was almost entirely excluded from church membership following the Hutchinsonian disturbances.” [vi]   Defending himself from charges of presentism, Lyle Koehler exposed a weakness which runs through the literature: he has no theory of ideology to connect political economy and culture, hence cannot sort out the variables of class, gender, and ‘race.’  To the complaint from Sidney A. Hart and John Walter Putre that the Antinomian controversy was a conflict grounded in religious differences, not an outbreak of “primitive feminism,” Koehler could only respond: “My concern…was to deal with the question why so many women became “Antinomians” and how the authorities responded to them.  I was concerned with the juxtaposed [his emph.] theological and social dimensions of the Antinomian unrest, but only insofar as those dimensions affected the women’s arm of that unrest.” [vii]  It has been acknowledged by writers of the past and present alike, say Hume in the eighteenth century and Robert Brenner today, that religion provided the vocabulary that subsumed all social conflicts; have other contemporary cultural historians, like Koehler, relieved themselves of customary critical tools?

The Pequot War (May 1637) was fought during this period. To account for the extreme individual and mass political emotions generated in the Antinomian controversy, historians might consider and reject the “fortress mentality” of a colonial society displacing both hostile and friendly natives, but perceiving itself besieged by “papistical Frenchmen and pagan Indians”–a society which saw itself as the victim, not the perpetrator of aggression.[viii] James Axtell explained that “the colonist’s [were] a chosen if momentarily abandoned people.  As the Israelites had suffered oppression and attack in another wilderness, the English felt themselves besieged by Satan’s minions in the form of pagan Indians and papistical Frenchmen.”  Ancient Jews, however, did not characterize their opponents as the Devil’s minions.  Although it is true that Indian relations were a preoccupation for John Winthrop that surely intensified his urgent desire for group solidarity, Axtell has put a dubious spin on this element of the explanatory context; his is an organicist formulation that, like Richard Brodhead’s, subtly smears “Hebraic” radical puritanism.  This essay is intended to historicize all such irrationalist, corporatist explanations founded upon the dodgy notion of group character.

It has been a common Tory strategy to attribute Jewish characteristics to the rebels, first after the English Civil War, then after the American Revolution; the ex-colonists were hypocrites, preaching godliness and equality while killing Indians and enslaving Africans, although I did not see it when I began to write about the Antinomian controversy in 1983-84.  The essentialist anti-puritan/anti-Jewish/misogynistic reading of the Antinomian controversy of this century had powerful precedents in the writing of earlier Tories seeking upper-class unity to stave off another civil war, and in their ideological brethren on American soil.  Take two examples; first, the nineteenth-century American historian Charles Frances Adams: [ix]

It was a struggle for civil power and ecclesiastical supremacy in a small village community.  As such it naturally–it almost necessarily–resulted in a display of the worst qualities of those engaged in it.  It illustrated also with singular force the malign influence apt to be exercised by the priest and the woman as active elements in political life.  Stirred by an access of ill-considered popular enthusiasm, the body of the freemen had, at the election of 1636, put a slight upon the time-honored magistrates of the colony, by placing the boyish Vane over their heads, in the office of governor.  An ambitious woman, with her head full of Deborahs and the like, and with a genius for making trouble, had then sought to drive from his pulpit, in the chief town, its long-settled pastor, in order to install her own favorite preacher in his place, with her kinsman as that preacher’s associate and successor.  In her day-dreams she herself probably occupied, in the new order of things she proposed to bring about, the position of a prophetess,–the real guiding spirit of the whole, –with her husband possibly in the judge’s seat.  Altogether it was an exhilarating vision,–such a vision as self-conscious and usually unappreciated natures have in every time and most places been wont to revel in….(569)…At the hands…of an historian whose intelligence is not mastered by his sympathies, she and her friends, including Governor Vane, are entitled to no consideration.  They went on a fool’s errand, and they brought great principles into lasting odium (574).

[Adams, cont.] On the other hand, the way in which the adherents of Vane and Mrs. Hutchinson were suppressed cannot be defended, without including in the defence the whole system of religious and political intolerance of that time.  But why should it be defended?  It is impossible to ignore the fact, and worse than useless to deny it, that the New England Puritans were essentially a persecuting race.  They could not be otherwise. They believed that they were God’s chosen people.  As such, they were right; all others were wrong.  If, therefore, they failed to bring up their children in the strait and narrow way, and to protect them and all the people from the wiles of the Evil One, God would not hold them guiltless.  The Israelites were their models in all things, and the precedents which guided their action were precedents drawn from the books of the Old Testament.  “So, by the example of Lot in Abraham’s family, and after Hagar and Ishmael, he saw they must be sent away.”  The Israelites were not an attractive or an amiable or a philosophical race; they were narrow, devout and clannish.  No one ever presumed to sophisticate away their cruelties or their persecutions.  Yet withal they were a strong and aggressive people, believing certain things implicitly; and accordingly they impressed themselves and their beliefs on the human mind.  Their very imperfections were essential elements of their strength.  They believed to fanaticism; and it was the strength of their fanaticism which caused their belief to dominate.  It was the same with the Puritans of New England. They persecuted as a part of their faith (Adams, 574-575).

The impartial historian Adams’ misreading of ancient history is remarkably sturdy; it has buttressed antidemocratic, antirepublican social movements since the English Civil War.  In his portrait of the usurping Anne Hutchinson, we have the ahistoric archetype of the totalitarian agitator, the clingy maternal superego that holds humanity, rulers and ruled alike, to universal and timeless ethical standards, that sends unwary men like Ahab and Pierre on utopian crusades that are sure to fail. [x]  It is fascinating and alarming to contemplate the birthing of Adams’-style “pluralism,” scattering the dark shadows of ‘intolerant’ Hebraic Puritanism, cradle of both factions in the Antinomian controversy.

A voluble eighteenth-century predecessor to Adams was the Tory David Hume, noted today more for his contributions to skeptical philosophy than for his massive History of England. It was Hume who eloquently and subtly argued for “toleration” as the only option for societies facing the mayhem fomented by science, printing and mass literacy.  I shall quote at length and comment upon key passages in Hume’s recipes for preventive politics and social stability in an unprecedented and unpredictable social environment; Hume is our guide to the vicissitudes of civil liberties, extending from the sixteenth century to the hard-fought culture wars of the late twentieth century; he was seeking the third way, the moderate solution to the polarizing tendencies of the Reformation-Counter-Reformation; in Hume’s diagnostics, exemplary conduct in the upper-classes is crucial, yet his remedies do not make sense.[xi] Hume’s post-new model intellectual persists today in the humanities, dispensing confusion, not enlightenment.

In my first example, Hume describes the debates between Catholics and radical Protestants aroused by the proposal to disseminate a corrected version of the Tindal translation of the Bible during the reign of Henry VIII.  His remarks demonstrate the urgent need to control what, indeed, the revealed word of God commanded:  While Protestants demanded that all believers, one by one, inspect the written Word to check the veracity of their instructors and to choose more rationally amidst the competing claims of sects, Catholics argued that ambiguity, internal contradiction, and arousing but confusing metaphors in the Bible itself were ingredients that torched the too-vulnerable bodies of “silly women and mechanics”:

[Hume:]  The friends of the reformation asserted, that nothing could be more absurd than to conceal, in an unknown tongue, the word of God itself, and thus to counteract the will of Heaven, which, for the purpose of universal salvation, had published that salutary doctrine to all nations: that if this practice were not very absurd, the artifice at least was very gross, and proved a consciousness, that the glosses and  traditions of the clergy stood in direct opposition to the original text, dictated by supreme intelligence: that it was now necessary for the people, so long abused by interested pretensions, to see with their own eyes, and to examine whether the claims of the ecclesiastics were founded on that charter which was on all hands acknowledged to be derived from Heaven: and that, as a spirit of research and curiousity was happily revived, and men were more obliged to make a choice among the contending doctrines of different sects, the proper materials for decision, and above all, the Holy Scriptures, should be set before them; and the revealed will of God, which the change of language had somewhat obscured, be again, by their means, revealed to mankind.

The favorites of the ancient religion maintained on the other hand, that the pretence of making the people see with their own eyes was a mere cheat, and was itself a very gross artifice, by which the new preachers hoped to obtain the guidance of them, and to seduce them from those pastors whom the laws, whom the ancient establishments, whom Heaven itself, had appointed for their spiritual direction: that the people were by their very ignorance, their stupidity, their necessary avocations, totally unqualified to choose their own principles; and it was a mockery to set materials before them, of which they could not possibly make any proper use: that even in the affairs of common life, and in their temporal concerns, which lay more within the compass of human reason, the laws had in a great measure deprived them of their right of private judgment, and had, happily for their own and the public interest, regulated their conduct and behavior: that theological questions were placed far beyond the sphere of vulgar comprehension; and ecclesiastics themselves, though assisted by all the advantages of education, erudition, and an assiduous study of the sciences, could not be fully assured of a just decision, except by the promise made them in Scripture, that God would be ever present with his church, and that the gates of hell should not prevail against her: that the gross errors adopted by the wisest heathens, proved how unfit men were to grope their own way through this profound darkness; nor would the Scriptures, if trusted to every man’s judgment, be able to remedy; on the contrary they would much augment those fatal illusions: that sacred writ itself was involved in so much obscurity, gave rise to so many difficulties, containing so many appearing contradictions, that it was the most dangerous weapon that could be intrusted into the hands of the ignorant and giddy multitude: that the poetical style in which a great part of it was composed, at the same time that it occasioned uncertainty in the sense, by its multiplied tropes and figures, was sufficient to kindle the zeal of fanaticism, and thereby throw civil society into the most furious combustion: that a thousand sects must arise, which would pretend, each of them, to derive its tenets from the Scripture; and would be able, by specious arguments, or even without specious arguments, to seduce silly women and ignorant mechanics into a belief of the most monstrous principles: and that, if ever this disorder, dangerous to the magistrate himself, received a remedy, it must be from the tacit acquiescence of the people in some new authority; and it was evidently better, without further contest or inquiry, to adhere peaceably to ancient, and therefore the more secure establishments. [Hume, 221-222].

Will the fiery class of Bible readers feel too great a confidence in its own strength?  Now Hume makes his anxiety about role-models explicit; speculative thought in the Head provides a perilous example to the ignorant and giddy multitude, progressively disintegrating the body politic; mass religious instruction was spinning out of control:

[Hume:] The king [Henry VIII] made in person a speech to the parliament on proroguing them; in which, after thanking them for their loving attachment to him, which, he said, equalled what was ever paid to their ancestors by any king of England, he complained of their dissensions, disputes, and animosities in religion.  He told them that the several pulpits were become a kind of batteries against each other; and that one preacher called another a heretic and Anabaptist, which was retaliated by the opprobrious appellations of Papist and hypocrite: that he had permitted his people the use of the Scriptures, not in order to furnish them with materials for disputing and railing, but that he might enable them to inform their consciences and instruct their children and families: that it grieved his heart to find how that precious jewel was prostituted, by being introduced into the conversation of every alehouse and tavern, and employed as a pretence for decrying the spiritual and legal pastors: and that he was sorry to observe, that the word of God, while it was the object of so much anxious speculation, had very little influence on their practice; and that, though an imaginary knowledge so much abounded, charity was daily going to decay.  The king gave good advice; but his own example, by encouraging speculation and dispute, was ill fitted to promote that peaceable submission of opinion which he recommended. [in year 1545, p.298].

Ever the mediator between extremes, Hume distances himself from the Catholics; Hume is a modern and an enemy to superstition.  Repression is no alternative to Protestant disputation, he argues; ignorance but exacerbates feelings of emnity: Hume, as doctor to society and a man of the world, prescribes the toleration of difference, but apparently not from a desire for the intellectual engagement that could lead to rational social action in the body politic he wants to preserve; rather he wishes to forestall outbreaks of barbarism in the lower orders.  The good king will relax the hold of religion, constricting its sphere so that men may be flexible; free to seize new opportunities by ingratiating themselves with more powerful others whose ethical beliefs are different from their own.  Here Hume expatiates upon the wages of persecution during the reign of Queen Mary; no one is so opinionated, irrationally dogmatic and hence destructive of good order, as “polemical divines”; again, Hume reconstructs the debate:

[Hume:] The practice of persecution, said the defenders of Pole’s opinion, is the scandal of all religion; and the theological animosity, so fierce and violent, far from being an argument of men’s conviction in their opposite sects, is a certain proof that they have never reached any serious persuasion with regard to those remote and sublime subjects.  Even those who are the most impatient of contradiction in other controversies, are mild and moderate in comparison of polemical divines; and wherever a man’s knowledge and experience give him a perfect assurance in his own opinion, he regards with contempt, rather than anger, the opposition and mistakes of others.  But while men zealously maintain what they neither clearly comprehend nor entirely believe, they are shaken in their imagined faith by the opposite persuasion, or even doubts, of other men; and vent on their antagonists that impatience which is the natural result of so disagreeable a state of the understanding.  They then easily embrace any pretence for representing opponents as impious and profane; and if they can also find a color for connecting this violence with the interests of civil government, they can no longer be restrained from giving uncontrolled scope to vengeance and resentment.  But surely never enterprise was more unfortunate than that of founding persecution upon policy, or endeavoring, for the sake of peace, to settle an entire uniformity of opinion in questions which, of all others, are least subjected to the criterion of human reason.  The universal and uncontradicted prevalence of one opinion in religious subjects can be owing, at first, to the stupid ignorance alone and barbarism of the people, who never indulge themselves in any speculation or inquiry; and there is no expedient for maintaining that uniformity so fondly sought after, but by banishing forever all curiosity, and all improvement in science and cultivation.  It may not indeed appear difficult to check, by a steady severity, the first beginnings of controversy; but besides that this policy exposes forever the people to all the abject terrors of superstition, and the magistrate to the endless encroachment of ecclesiastics, it also renders men so delicate that they can never endure to hear of opposition; and they will some time pay dearly for that false tranquillity in which they have been so long indulged.  As healthful bodies are ruined by too nice a regimen, and are thereby rendered incapable of bearing the unavoidable incidents of human life, a people who were never allowed to imagine that their principles could be contested fly out into the most outrageous violence when any event (and such events are common) produces a faction among their clergy, and gives rise to any difference in tenet or opinion.  But whatever may be said in favor of suppressing, by persecution, the first beginnings of heresy, no solid argument can be alleged for extending severity towards multitudes, or endeavoring, by capital punishments, to extirpate an opinion which has diffused itself among men of every rank and station.  Besides the extreme barbarity of such an attempt, it commonly proves ineffectual to the purpose intended, and serves only to make men more obstinate in their persuasion, and to increase the number of their proselytes.  The melancholy with which the fear of death, torture, and persecution inspires the sectaries, is the proper disposition for fostering religious zeal: the prospect of eternal rewards, when brought near, overpowers the dread of temporal punishments: the glory of martyrdom stimulates all the more furious zealots, especially the leaders and preachers: where a violent animosity is excited by oppression, men naturally pass from hating the persons of their tyrants to a more violent abhorrence of their doctrines: and the spectators, moved with pity towards the supposed martyrs, are easily seduced to embrace those principles which can inspire men with a constancy that appears almost supernatural.  Open the door to toleration, mutual hatred relaxes among the sectaries; their attachment to their particular modes of religion decays; the common occupations and pleasures of life succeed to the acrimony of disputation; and the same man who, in other circumstances, would have braved flames and tortures, is induced to change his sect from the smallest prospect of favor and advancement, or even from the frivolous hope of becoming more fashionable in his principles.  If any exception can be admitted to this maxim of toleration, it will only be where a theology altogether new, nowise connected with the ancient religion of the state, is imported from foreign countries, and may easily, at one blow, be eradicated, without leaving the seeds of future innovation.  But as this exception would imply some apology for the ancient pagan persecutions, or for the extirpation of Christianity in China and Japan, it ought surely, on account of this detested consequence, to be rather buried in eternal silence and oblivion.

Though these arguments appear entirely satisfactory, yet such is the subtlety of human wit, that Gardiner and the other enemies to toleration were not reduced to silence; and they still found topics on which to maintain the controversy.  The doctrine, said they, of liberty and conscience, is founded on the most flagrant impiety, and supposes such an indifference in all religions, such an obscurity in theological doctrines, as to render the church and magistrate incapable of distinguishing with certainty the dictates of Heaven from the mere fictions of human imagination.  If the Divinity reveals principles to mankind, he will surely give a criterion by which they may be ascertained; and a prince who knowingly allows these principles to be perverted or adulterated, is infinitely more criminal than if he gave permission for the vending of poison, under the shape of food, to all his subjects.  Persecution may, indeed, seem better calculated to make hypocrites than converts; but experience teaches us, that the habits of hypocrisy often turn into reality; and the children, at least, ignorant of the dissimulation of their parents, may happily be educated in more orthodox tenets.  It is absurd, in opposition to considerations of such unspeakable importance, to plead the temporal and frivolous interests of civil society; and if matters be thoroughly examined, even that topic will not appear so universally certain in favor of toleration as by some it is represented.  When sects arise whose fundamental principle on all sides is to execrate, and abhor, and extirpate each other, what choice has the magistrate left but to take part, and by rendering one sect entirely prevalent, restore, at least for a time, the public tranquillity?  The political body, being here sickly, must not be treated as if it were in a state of sound health; and an affected neutrality in the prince, or even a cool preference, may serve only to encourage the hopes of all the sects, and keep alive their animosity.  The Protestants, far from tolerating the religion of their ancestors, regard it as an impious and detestable idolatry; and during the late minority, when they were entirely masters, they enacted very severe, though not capital, punishments against the exercise of all Catholic worship, and even against such as barely abstained from their profane rites and sacraments.  Nor are instances wanting of their endeavors to secure an imagined orthodoxy by the most rigorous executions: Calvin has burned Servetus at Geneva; Cranmer brought Arians and Anabaptists to the stake; and if persecution of any kind be admitted, the most bloody and violent will surely be allowed the most justifiable, as the most effectual.  Imprisonments, fines, confiscations, whippings, serve only to irritate the sects, without disabling them from resistance: but the stake, the wheel, and the gibbet must soon terminate in the extirpation of banishment of all the heretics inclined to give disturbance, and in the entire silence and submission of the rest. [Hume, 416-419].

For Hume, the curbing of speculative thought among the people will discourage science, a bad thing; and in this horrible practice, Protestants have been as guilty as the Catholics.  Toleration, then, entails incorporation or co-option of social irritants; tolerated as long as the troublemakers do not stray from their assigned turf to convince others, that is until they switch allegiances, good opportunists and moral relativists that they are, jumping to a different prospect.  The reader may judge for herself to what degree Anne Hutchinson’s friends and enemies diverge from Hume’s centrist formulation, fed with controversy that is not too hot, not too cold, but [the] Just Right.

[i]. See Darret B. Rutman, Winthrop’s Boston(Chapel Hill, 1965): 121. In addition to the familiar epithets of “antinomian,” “Anabaptist,” “Familist,” and “Opinionist,” all of which connoted varieties of anarchy, free love, and even communal ownership, Rutman has uncovered the appellation, “this red Regiment.”

2. See T. Wilson Hayes, “John Everard and the Familist Tradition,” The Origins of Anglo-American Radicalism, ed. Margaret C. Jacob and James Jacob (London, 1984): 60-61, 63.  Thomas Chaundler, a clothier, and Robert Sterete, a clerk, were arrested in 1561 and forced to give “lengthy confessions” about the practices of their Familist community.  They testified that “in their community they had all goods in common and met, thirty at a time, ‘to hear Scriptures expounded.’  The host furnished meat, drink and lodging for the night.  They attended church but objected to confessing to be ‘miserable sinners’ because such confessions lessened self-respect and made it more difficult to stop sinning.  They affirmed that all things are ruled by nature and not directed by God.  They prohibited weapons until they were attacked.  All marriages were performed ‘by the brethren’ and they allowed divorce by mutual consent after one year of marriage.  They denied that Christ is equal to God or is the son of God and believed that everyone must first be in error before understanding the truth.  They insisted that ‘heaven and hell are present in this world among us and that there is none other.’  They refused to hold funeral services or believe in the efficacy of church ceremonies, and thought all ministers should be itinerants and that every day should be a sabbath, for God made the earth to be enjoyed.  They believed Christ was in them, that there was a world before Adam’s time, that no one should be punished for his opinions, and, most important, that everyone has a right to interpret Scripture.”  If this community of Familists was typical, then there are no grounds for comparison between Hutchinsonian theology or social practice.  Hayes’ account differs from Larzer Ziff in Puritanism in America (N.Y.: Viking, 1973): 72.  Ziff writes, “‘Familists’ meant members of the Family of Love, a sect that believed that free love was a permitted result of the gracious life freed from the law.”  The Familists were merely a “counter-culture” “drawn from the disinherited of the earth” comforting themselves “in the little they do possess.”  Ziff’s description has trivialized the Familists and depoliticized their materialist challenge to the dominant culture.

For the Weld quote see David D. Hall ed., The Antinomian Controversy, 1636-1638, A Documentary History (Middletown, 1968): 207-209.

3. The moderate David Hume, foe to all forms of zealotry, described the end of Cranmer, burned at the stake by the Catholic Queen Mary, but uncompromised and united to his principles: “It is pretended, that after his body was consumed, his heart was found entire and untouched among the ashes; an event which, as it was then the emblem of his constancy, was fondly believed by the zealous Protestants.”  Cf. the remains of “Ethan Brand,” the prideful autodidact who haunted Nathaniel Hawthorne. See David Hume, History of England Vol. 3 (Boston, 1856): 434.

4. Richard Brodhead, “The Book That Ruined Melville,” New York Times Book Review, 1/7/96, p.35.  Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Mrs. Hutchinson,” in Tales, Sketches and Other Papers (Cambridge, 1878): 224.  See also Michael J. Colacurcio, “Footsteps of Anne Hutchinson: The Context of the Scarlet Letter, “ ELH 39, #3 (1972): 459-94.  Anne Hutchinson was the symbol of libertarian revolt and cultural dissolution;  the Antinomian Controversy is the sub-text of The Scarlet Letter. Anne Hutchinson and John Cotton were parents of the “monstrous birth” Antinomianism, just as Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale produced the monstrous child Pearl.

5. Historians have not seen the original reports of the two trials, nor can it be known whether the first transcripts were accurate.  The first account of the civil trial was appended to Thomas Hutchinson, The History of the Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay (Boston, 1767), but it was taken from “an ancient manuscript” which “may have disappeared in the sacking of Hutchinson’s house during the Stamp Act riots of 1765.  The proceedings of the church trial are an eighteenth-century copy of another lost “seventeenth-century original,” copied by Ezra Stiles, a Newport minister who became president of Yale College.  See Hall, Antinomian Controversy, 311, 350.

6. Rutman, Winthrop’s Boston, 146.

7. Lyle Koehler, William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, XXXII (January 1975): 170.

8. See James Axtell, The European and the Indian (N.Y.: 1981): 310.

9. Charles Francis Adams, Three Episodes of Massachusetts History Vol.II (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1903, Revised Edition).

10. See the Robert Altman-Donald Freed film Secret Honor, in which the Quaker Richard Nixon is dominated by his mother, the source of his over-reaching and tragic descent into madness.  First his mother’s little dog, he is set up to become the running dog of the fascistic nouveaux riche southwestern capitalists after the war.  It is hinted that the Eastern corporatist liberal establishment erred in not taking the talented young veteran and lawyer into their club; i.e., they lacked the necessary stabilizing pluralism that keeps capitalism afloat.

11. Quotes are from David Hume, History of England vol.3 (Boston, 1856), to be abbreviated HE

September 19, 2009

Populism, progressivism, and corporatist liberalism in The Nation, 1919

Oswald Garrison Villard

   In my last blog, I objected to David Brooks’s drastic separation of populism and progressivism. Here is an excerpt from the second chapter of my book on psychological warfare in the Melville revival (Hunting Captain Ahab (Kent State UP, 2001, second ed. paperback 2006). Readers of prior blogs will see ample evidence of the deletion of “Jewish” materialism in favor of “Christian humanism” in the fused populist-progressive movement. The influence of Hobson’s notion that finance capital was the cause of war is apparent in Villard’s Nation of 1919; it seems that international finance capital had dictated the peace as well. The Nation recommends a racially-inflected moderation as the remedy of choice to defeat class war and Bolshevism. For more on J. A. Hobson’s attack on “finance capital” see

[Book excerpt:] Blue-pencil deletions in The Nation (1919) and in a book for Jewish immigrants (1925)

Raymond M. Weaver’s 1921 biography of Melville had emphasized Melville’s romantic propensity to buy the blissful illusions constructed by bourgeois sentimental culture; these “stupendous discoveries” necessarily evaporated upon contact and brought him down. It is a commonplace of liberal Melville criticism, following Raymond Weaver’s lead, that “disillusion” with the bourgeois idea of progress after the debacle of the Great War to end all wars explains the receptiveness of writers and the reading public to the ever disillusioned Melville, who not only saw through the duplicities of confidence-men before anyone else, but prophesied the totalitarian dictators, Stalin and Hitler. Historicizing gobbet-girls will interrupt: “Just a minute: who was disillusioned after the war, who had been betrayed, and what was to be done?”

Weaver’s essay celebrating Melville’s centenary appeared in the Nation, 2 August 1919, the year of (apparently contagious) international revolution; the negotiation and ratification of the Versailles Treaty; raging class, ethnic, and racial conflict in the U.S.; and violent right-wing reaction, including the establishment of the anti-Bolshevik division of the FBI. The Nation responded with hysterical entreaties for reform even before the conclusion to the Versailles Treaty negotiations, regarded by editor Oswald Garrison Villard as a betrayal by Woodrow Wilson.[i] An editorial of February 8 unabashedly urged repressive tolerance as remedy of choice:

[Nation editorial:] The process of turning the thoughtful working people of the country into dangerous radicals goes merrily on…Readers of the Nation do not need to be reminded that for half a century it has opposed socialist dogma as energetically as it could; and it will continue to oppose it. But in the present premises it is concerned with preserving to every law-abiding citizen and organization the right to present for public consideration his ideas, no matter how erroneous they may appear. The democracy that cannot preserve that right for its minorities cannot live. It is the men who are denying that right, and not the Socialists or I.W.W.’s, who are the most dangerous enemies of the social order today.

For we live in perilous times. Privilege in Russia and Germany has dissolved, and in Great Britain is on the brink of dissolution. The people have lost faith in their rulers and leaders. Let not our privileged classes imagine that the United States is immune. Signs multiply that precisely the same unrest is working here. Deny men the right to discuss their grievances and to redress them through changes in the law, and you develop the temper recently expressed by one of the Socialist leaders: “I, for one, have severed all relations with the enemy. I have stopped signing petitions or other instruments of a pleading nature. I will endorse demands only. It is time that we came out in the open…We must isolate ourselves–fight alone. This is the method by which we will be able to demand–not beg–our rights.”

This is a spirit that cannot be put down by threats or suppression, and woe to that society in which it becomes rampant. We desire no violent revolution, and therefore we adjure the holders of privilege and power solemnly to consider whither their present course of repression leads. Perhaps it is not even yet too late.[ii] [end editorial]

The progressive but counter-revolutionary theme was constantly reiterated: “reconstruction” in the conciliatory mode of the Anglo-Saxon heritage. The search for “common ground” would lead the masses away from proletarian revolution and dictatorship; against the Spartacist Manifesto (reprinted in the Nation, March 8) claiming only socialism could bring peace and order, Anglo-Saxon progressives summoned another voice from Germany. Berlin professor and pacificist, F.G. Nicolai, argued that Karl Liebknecht, the recently murdered Spartacist leader, could have been brought into the system: “Revolution must come; not the revolution which is put through by force, but ordered revolution fought with spiritual weapons.”[iii] Another article opposed the “efficiency scientist,” pleading for a reformed academic humanism to protect “ordered progress,” the alternative to [Ahab-cancer]: “rampant Bolshevism” “malignantly seek[ing] to slay the great serpent, or at least scotch it into impotence.” The triumph of materialism would result in pseudo-humanism–chaotic, sentimental and dilettantish. In a pre-emptive strike, the reformed Ph.D. would promote Christian humanism: gentlemanly art was a moderating criticism of social evil.[iv] Freed from [Jewish] materialist science, [Christian] scholarship–once more liberal and courteous, prudent and restrained, spiritual and holistic–would not present a clear and present danger to capitalist and (patriarchal) family order.[v] Structural change was somewhere else, far, very far into the future.

The “disillusion” explanation for the Melville Revival has truth in it, but has been misunderstood. Internationalism was in the air; the world was confronted with two sublime visions after 1917, Lenin’s and Wilson’s. Both would find intellectual support in Melville’s White-Jacket: the perception of irreconcilable conflicts of interest between haves and have-nots, and the peace, order, and prosperity projected by the Protestant mission. Although Wilson’s and Lenin’s visions were apparently contradictory, at times the Left supported both. As Socialist H.W.L. Dana wrote to James Graham Phelps Stokes:

[Dana to Stokes:] The propaganda which I find most necessary here in Massachusetts is one in favor of Wilson’s ideals. So anxious do I feel myself to protect Wilson from attack, that I find myself ready to hold a position more radical than his in order to draw the fire of the reactionaries upon us. What does it matter if we are crushed out, so long as his liberal ideals remain…I am willing to sacrifice those things which one holds dearer than life, my reputation and the understanding of my fellow men, if I can only contribute a little toward that great solution of the problem of war; so that my bleeding brothers may not have bled in vain. [vi]

Thus Villard’s vehement opposition to the League of Nations gains added significance. The following is a synthesis of diagnoses and presciptions transmitted by the Nation, January-August 1919, reproducing the Judgment Day discourse of Villard and other writers. Materialism was linked both to Shylock/Wilson (international finance capital, the source of imperialism), and to Russo-Semitic mud of Greenwich Village (Freud’s “nauseous juices”).[vii] The “hostile spirit” of mass politics (likened to “white ants”), was eating at the foundations of society. Mammon, Freud, Eros, science, and cities marched past shriveling Anglo-Saxons.[viii]

Villard (who had once believed that the Fourteen Points would end war and arms races) howled at the betrayal of the Versailles Treaty, more or less denouncing Wilson as a hypnotic confidence-man, long aware of the Allies’ secret agreements to divest Germany of land and colonies.[ix] At the “mad” Peace Conference, Wilson’s disguise had been discarded of necessity; the lone wolf and egotist was snuggled in [Shylock’s [x]] pocket, international finance capital. Thought by the pathetically eager and gentle millions to be the carrier of the Christian mission, Wilson was sponsoring the League of Nations to promote peace, while conniving with other insider imperialists to dominate the world.[xi] Meanwhile, Europe lay in smoking ruins, bankrupt and hungry. The red flame of revolution leapt from Moscow to Munich, to Budapest, to Vienna, to London, to Paris, to Milan: Americans should be quarantined with a “Chinese Wall” to block the news (or “whirlwind”) from Europe.[xii] The disappointed, suspicious masses everywhere were tinder for the conflagration to come. Workers in Winnepeg, New York, Seattle, Toronto, Harrisburg (Pennsylvania), and Waltham (Massachusetts) were poised to take power. In the vacuum left by the fallen Wilson, the most deluded, stubborn and headstrong false messiahs would be taking the van, pointing away from the calm, careful, and free deliberations of Anglo-Saxon politics, most plainly exemplified in the Puritan town meeting and its spawn, the “honest populism” of the North Dakota Non-Partisan League. They were moving toward the savage (Jewish) vengeance of socialist revolution, mind-control, and the bureaucracy that would follow in an inefficient, decadent worker’s state.[xiii]

Under these desperate circumstances, what should a moderate man do? While praying for another Savior/Superman (an economic dictator or a Lord Robert Cecil), Villard’s action-oriented magazine (with very few exceptions) put out a familiar appeal to rational conservatives. The Right, in its crusading zeal to stamp out the Left, was destroying the Constitution and every semblance of civil liberty, driving orphaned Wilson children into the arms of [Jewish Bolshevism] where presumably they would be betrayed once again, this time for good.[xiv] Similarly, by invading the Soviet Union, America and the Allies were only consolidating the irrational hold of the Bolsheviks. Unmolested, the Russians would revert to type and turn inward; meanwhile, a profitable trading relationship with the Russian masses beckoned.[xv] To avert the bloody massacre of class war, Christian conservatives were to make a few needed sacrifices, move sharply to the Left, and engage Labor as partners to Capital in a Christian, decentralized, associationist state of humanistic, anti-materialist but productive brothers and sisters.[xvi] Alien and exploitative international finance capital (up in the air) should be banished; native commercial capital (close to the ground) would remain. If even twenty intelligent industrialists set their minds to it, conferred and planned, the problem of class warfare could be solved in a matter of weeks.[xvii] The socialist claim for international solidarity through “workers’ control”[xviii] was jettisoned in favor of spirituality and a reinstated family of democratic Christian gentlemen, one or more of whom would befriend the common people: a “builder of more stately mansions.”[xix] In spite of the Nation’s occasional support for liberal internationalism and opposition to racism and national chauvinism, (12 April, 540), the scientific but Jewishly-divisive suggestion of opposing interests between Capital and Labor had been discarded for the mystical but (internally[xx]) unifying glue of race and national character. Honest Anglo-Saxons invited shifty immigrants to rationally assimilate through class collaboration, even if they were racially unfit to get it, quite.

An anonymous review of George Woodberry’s “Nathaniel Hawthorne: How to Know Him” clarified American historicism in the Nation. Every writer (not only Hawthorne) should be first considered with regard to his all-shaping environment and the ideas of his time. Second, the writer, now located geographically and molded accordingly, should be considered with regard to his peculiar and idiosyncratic responses. These are the relevant factors of his biography. “Art,” however, was a separate category from life. “Aesthetics” were related to standards of universal literature; unity was found only in the aesthetic realm. Alas, non-Anglo-Saxons could only hope to peer at Hawthorne. As the reviewer noted of literary scholar George Woodberry: “[However singular and parochial Hawthorne might have been] there is no one now living who is so peculiarly fitted by racial inheritance to speak of Hawthorne with sympathetic understanding.”[xxi] Relations between Hawthorne and Woodberry were guaranteed to be harmonious since, happily, a similar biological environment had pre-soaked their individualities; why, they nearly had the same name. (Relations between Hawthorne and the Melville revivers would be as trouble-free; it shall be seen that Hawthorne’s insights into Melville’s obsessive character, especially as recorded in the former’s English Notebooks, would influence assessments of twentieth-century Melville revivers, almost as if a blood brother could not be contradicted.)

But such a rooted, blood and soil historicism would logically have to sabotage the rational search for “common ground” so strenuously advocated by Progressives as the approved Anglo-Saxon solution to class warfare. This impasse was addressed six years later by Nation reader Rabbi Lee J. Levinger, a pluralist and pragmatist, who was the self-proclaimed intellectual descendant of Kant, Comte, Spencer, LeBon, Durkheim, McDougall, Cooley, and John Dewey. Levinger identified two brands of extremism: 100 percent Americans pursuing the “lost cause” of anti-Semitism; and maladjusted Jews suffering from “oppression psychosis.” In his book Anti-Semitism in the United States: Its History and Causes (1925), Levinger softly explained that American “soil” sprouted neither Marxists nor nativist hysterics: “class consciousness” and “prejudice” disappear when hard hearts melt and rationally adapt to new conditions. Jewish immigrants should leave behind their rigid European formulations of Fascismo versus Socialism, Czarists versus Bolsheviks. In racially and ethnically diverse, sprawling, brawling America, unity would yet be found in the “higher synthesis” of “group minds” admiring their “ideal self.” An all inclusive God-figure smiled on equal opportunity, experiments in group adjustment, and a “scientific” sociology in which “group mind” (an “empirical fact”) confers “functional unity.” Worrisome dissension, hate and inter-group violence were produced solely by “hysteria,” the residual “high emotional tone” left in the dissolution of artificial wartime unity. With corrected “gradation of loyalties” and discreetly harmonized “overlapping” “group affiliations,” groups, not individuals, would be possessed of the “individuality” for which democrats yearned. The national (nascently international) symphony should commence. As for domination, there isn’t any. Levinger explained after quoting James Mark Baldwin, a sociologist:

“The real self is always the bi-polar self, the social self.” Empirically, not only are civilization, history and government the products of social heredity; the individual himself as we have him owes his mental content, many of his feelings and motor responses, and his ultimate ideals to the group in which he was born and has developed. On this basis the ancient conflict between the isolated individual and the group domination becomes unimportant, if not meaningless, from the empirical point of view (32).”

Regretfully, Levinger’s “exceptional individual,” the “genius or social discoverer” was linked to the “criminal or social rebel.” Mad and tragic misfits–like stubborn, hypersensitive, primitivistic Jews regressively merged with their “alters” or “other”– refused the “tolerant” “social self.”[xxii] By the end of the 1930s, Melville’s isolatoes (Ahab, Pierre, Isabel, Margoth) would be desaparecidos. Wholeness (but not whaleness) commanded “American” literature.

The Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed equal rights to every individual citizen. The new social psychology was sanely designed to wrest the concept of individuality from individual persons to groups: races, ethnicities and business corporations.[xxiii] There might be no commitment to civil liberties in the practice of corporatist intellectuals had not the bloody repression of oppositional political speech during the first two decades of the twentieth century apparently propelled workers and their allies toward socialism, forcing moderate conservatives to forestall revolution in the disillusioned lower orders after the Great War by incorporating libertarian ideals and subversive writers. But the inspiring enlightenment rationalism of John Locke, Condorcet, and the Founding Fathers [xxiv] was vitiated by the racialist Progressive discourse derived from German idealism and the ideas of J. G. Von Herder, the hyphenated Americanism promoted after 1916 that advocated antiracist social and educational policies persisting today as “multiculturalism.” [xxv] Horace Kallen’s Culture and Democracy in the United States: Studies in the Group Psychology of the American Peoples (1924) [xxvi] linked blood and soil determinism with anti-imperialism, boldly asserting an eighteenth-century völkisch social theory against materialist class analysis, proletarian internationalism, and war:

[Kallen:] “The experiments on the salamander and the ascidian, on the rat and the rabbit, make a prima facie case, the importance of which cannot be seriously questioned, for the inheritance of acquired physical traits. The experiments upon the white mice make an even more significant case for the inheritance of acquired “mental” traits (29). …The American people…are no longer one in the same sense in which the people of Germany or the people of France are one, or in which the people of the American Revolution were one. They are a mosaic of peoples, of different bloods and of different origins, engaged in rather different economic fields, and varied in background and outlook as well as in blood…The very conception of the individual has changed. He is seen no longer as an absolutely distinct and autonomous entity, but as a link in an endless historical chain which is heredity, and as a point in a geographical extent involving political, economic, social organization, and all the other factors of group life, which are his environment (58-59).

[Kallen, cont.:] …The fact is that similarity of class rests upon no inevitable external condition: while similarity of nationality has usually a considerable intrinsic base. Hence the poor of two different peoples tend to be less like-minded than the poor and the rich of the same peoples. At his core, no human being, even in a “state of nature” is a mere mathematical unit of action like the “economic man.” Behind him in time and tremendously in him in quality, are his ancestors; around him in space are his relative and kin, carrying in common with him the inherited organic set from a remoter common ancestry. In all these he lives and moves and has his being. They constitute his, literally, natio, the inwardness of his nativity, and in Europe every inch of his non-human environment wears the effects of their action upon it and breathes their spirit (93-94)…Americans are a sort of collective Faust, whose memories of Gretchen and the cloister trouble but do not restrain the conquest of the new empire, and perhaps, the endeavor after Helen (265). (my emph.)”

Researchers would not examine unique individuals with highly variable life experience, capabilities and allegiances: more or less informed individuals making hard choices in shifting situations that were similarly available to empirical investigation, reporting their findings to anyone who cared to listen and respond. For many “symbolic interactionists” or “structuralists,” “society” or “the nation” was a collective subject composed of smaller collective subjects or “sub-cultures”: classes, races, ethnicities, and genders; these collectivities each possessed group “character” expressed in distinctive languages; we communicated solely through the mediations of symbols or “institutional discourses,” and badly. The dissenting, universal individual (the mad scientist) had been swallowed up, while at the same time the conservative reformers claimed to protect or restore individuality in their rescue of deracinated immigrants. Such confusing policies, I believe, are a futile attempt by planners from the right wing of the Progressive movement to impose a sunny, placid, crystalline exterior upon social actors–both individuals and groups–riven by unrecognizable but seething inter- and intra-class conflicts.[xxvii] Although Progressive “corporate liberalism” has been derided by recent populists and New Leftists, its critics have not brought out the organicist sub-text, which, curiously, many radical critics carry but do not seem to see. Melville as Ahab and other dark characters diagnosed the demented character of ‘moderate’ social nostrums;[xxviii] his conservative characters blinkered themselves for the sake of family unity. Why this semi-visible racialist discourse on behalf of a more rooted cosmopolitanism was deemed indispensable to many Progressives is one theme in my book. The construction of the Jungian unconscious as site for Progressive purification and uplift is further developed below as I draw a straight line between some aristocratic radicals of the 1920s and their New Left admirers in the field of American literature.

[i]. Villard believed that the Peace Conference would degenerate into a contest for spoils without the presence of Wilson, The Nation, 2/15/19, 252. On 2/22, “The Net Result” (on the Peace Conference) argued that leaders were failing to perceive the importance of class conflict as national alignments gave way to those of class (268).

[ii] “Danger Ahead,” The Nation, 2/8/19, 186-187. (In the same issue, Nathaniel Hawthorne was lauded as a genius whose writing, formerly held to be parochial, was now to be judged in competition with universal art.) According to revolutionary socialists, tolerance is repressive when it masks social impotence; expression is “free” but may not be translated into measures for structural change beyond social democratic reformism.

[iii] “The Future of the World,”The Nation, 3/22/19, 298.

[iv]  Norman Foerster, “Reconstructing the Ph.D. in English,” The Nation, 5/10/19, 747-50. See also Richard M. Gummere, “The Modern World and the Latin Classroom,” 1/4/19, 13-14; Grant Showerman, “Measuring the Immeasurable,” 7/5, 12-13. Study of the classics would stave off the catastrophe resulting from the scientific vogue for quantitative results. See Norman Foerster, Literary Scholarship: Its Aims and Methods (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1941). Foerster et al were reforming the teaching of literature, seeking “to sort, order, weigh, apply—what the scholarship of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth so devotedly accumulated” (29-30); they will “expose and counteract the unbounded appetite for material power, combined with the self-deception of flimsy ideologies from eighteenth-century sentimentalism to twentieth-century totalitarianism” (31).

[v]  See Nation 1/25, 136. Jews are perennial radicals, no matter how wealthy; 4/19, 664-65; 4/26, 646-647; 5/3, 668, 675, 678.

[vi]  See the James Graham Phelps Stokes papers, Rare Book and Manuscript Collection, Butler Library, Columbia University. The Second International supported Wilsonian diplomacy, the Third did not support Wilson’s “alternative to Bolshevism” (the League, the International Labour Organization) until 1933, when Stalin felt himself menaced by both Germany and Japan. See Kathryn W. Davis, The Soviet Union and the League of Nations 1919-1933 (Geneva: Geneva Research Center, 1934), 3-23. Also see Arno J. Mayer, Wilson vs. Lenin: Political Origins of the New Diplomacy 1917-1918 (Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1964), 368-393. Mayer saw both visions headed in the same direction: “Lenin’s immediate aim was destructive: class war in preparation for the transitional dictatorship of the proletariat. However, his ultimate objective of the classless society in a warless world had the same hopeful and utopian quality as Wilson’s search for a peaceful community of sovereign democratic nations of unequal power” (393).

[vii]  See the hostile review of Albert Mordell, The Erotic Motive in Literature, 7/19, 94. Freud’s only God is Venus who “rages like a fire” “defaming and defacing” noblest names like Galahad and Lancelot. See also Walter A. Dyer, “The New Order at Juniper Hill,” 7/26, 104-106. The “Anglo-Saxon race” is free from ideas of “class revolution” (106); Fabian Socialism (bearing “inherent common sense”) is contrasted to the Greenwich Village “red radical[s]” with their “Russo-Semitic” “lineage” (104). The Right (a banker, an economist, an editor) is not characterized racially. The same issue notes that British conservatives in a “National Unity Movement” will remove false teachings from the working class (131).

[viii] “Mental Reconstruction,” a review of five recent books, 5/31/19, 871-873.

[ix] See Oswald Garrison Villard, “The Truth about the Peace Conference,” 4/26, 646-647. See also 2/15, 252; 2/22, 268; 5/10, 721, 728-30; 5/17, 826; 7/5, 30. Also, “The Failure of Moral Leadership,” 7/5, 4 (the hypnotic Wilson to which even The Nation had succumbed; the need for a spiritual revival); 5/5, 14-16; Lincoln Colcord, “Why Wilson Was Defeated at Paris,” 5/17, 782-84. Colcord explained that the secret treaties of the Allies had been published by Trotsky, November 1917; Wilson had them, but would not act. “With the ineluctable knowledge of their existence and terms, he outlined, a month later, his famous Fourteen Points…It is only fair to assume that he himself was deluded; at all times he promised himself that he would rectify the error when the Peace Conference came” (783). The preceding article, “Madness at Versailles” was harsher: “His rhetorical phrases, torn and faded tinsel of thought which men now doubt if he himself ever really believed, will never again fall with hypnotic charm upon the ears of eager multitudes. The camouflage of ethical precept and political philosophizing which for long has blinded the eyes of all but the most observing has been stripped away, and the peoples of the world see revealed, not a friend faithful to the last, but an arrogant autocrat and a compromising politician.” With the sane liberal center abandoned, there are two hostile camps: radicals and reactionaries. Wilson is with “the staunch supporters of power and privilege, the controllers of great wealth and dictators of social favor, the voluble champions of the established order against every form of revolution, the preachers of hate and prejudice, and the timid and dependent whose souls are not their own”(779). See also 7/19, 68.

[x]  Although Polish pogroms were vigorously protested, anti-Semitism in The Nation was implicit in its characterizations of finance capital and foreign radicalism. See especially W.G. Roylance, “Americanism in North Dakota,” 7/12, 37-39, a defense of the populists and their Anglo-Saxon antecedents the Lollards. “The League in North Dakota represents the organized revolt of the farmers, who make up the majority of the population, against long-continued exploitation of financial Shylocks and marketing profiteers.” The populists are not “European [dishonest] radicals” but examples of “honest American progressive democracy.” Failure will only come from outside the system (autocratic forces that hate democracy). In a review of a pamphlet, Shylock Not a Jew, by Maurice Packard and Adelaide Marshall, 6/28, 1018, the reviewer belittled “the little brochure” as unilluminating and belaboring the obvious.

[xi]  See the reprint of a pamphlet by the English anti-imperialist, J.A. Hobson, “The New Holy Alliance,” 4/19, 626-628: Wilson “willingly poured his idealism into the Smuts plan”; a “conspiracy of autocrats” will defeat true internationalism and control the world. Also, Lincoln Colcord, “A Receivership for Civilization,” 6/28, 1009-1010: The press has been hiding this story–American boys will be giving their lives to protect bond investors in Europe. Cf. 5/24, 820: U.S. soldiers will die to protect loans to China; Anglo-American imperialism will rule the world; progressives in the Republican Party are splitting from the Old Guard on this. Also, 7/5, editorial, Elihu Root, the servant of finance capital is swaying Republican opinion away from the progressive bloc to join Wilson and the Democrats, all of whom are in their pockets. Also, “[P]ossibly other inner circles” of finance capital for the benefit of Wall Street are mentioned in connection with the Treaty, 8/2, 140-141. The anti-Semitism of Hobson’s influential study of imperialism (1905) has been noted by Lewis Feuer, but from the Right. See Lewis Feuer, Imperialism and the Anti-Imperialist Mind (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1986).

[xii]  4/15/19, 485, “the whirlwind approaches across Europe.” Villard, “Germany Today: Food or Chaos,” 3/29, 464-465.

[xiii]  2/15, 246-247; 3/29, 464-66, 496-497; 4/26, 650-652; 4/12, 542-49; 4/19, 601-603; “Reason in Revolution,” 6/14/19, 932. If we open lawful channels for change, labor can realize its demands. 5/10, 726 on “May Day Rioting”: we should stick to “the Anglo-Saxon method [the moderate way] of settling our difficulties by peaceful means and no others.” Also, 6/7, 899, The “Anglo-Saxon way of altering social and political institutions by free debate and discussion” contrasted to “Prussian intolerance.” Also, Allen McCurdy, “Wanted–A Ballot Box,” 7/5, 9-10. Also, W.G. Roylance, “Americanism in North Dakota,” 7/12/19, 37-39. William MacDonald, “North Dakota’s Experiment,” 3/22, 420-422, “The Technique of Revolution,” 3/22, 417; 5/10, 738-39; 6/7, 899; 3/15, 396; 5/5, 10-11; 6/14, 955-56; 3/29, 460, 467-68; 5/17, 839-40; 5/31, 871-72; 7/5, 23; 7/12, 43.

[xiv]  “While They Dance the Tango,” 3/22, 452; Spartacism is unchecked, we need an economic dictator, also 459: labor and capital must sit down and transform industry; John Kenneth Turner, “A Pledge to the World,”7/5, 14-16: Lord Robert Cecil (like the model subscriber to The Nation?) had departed from the feudal and reactionary ways of his Vere de Vere type ancestors, standing for peace and cooperation with labor, in control of all the impulses that made for irresponsible demagoguery of the past. 3/8, “Poisoning the Wells”; 3/29, 485-486; 4/12, 553-54; 4/19, 595, 626-628; 5/3, 692, 699; 5/17, 806-808; 6/28, 1000; 7/12, 37-39; 7/26, 97.

[xv] 2/8, 188-190; 3/22, 413; 4/5, 522-25; 5/10, 792.

[xvi] See the review of M.P. Follet, The New State, 1/18, 97: the neighborhood group would be the embodiment of the “group state” that replaced the “crowd state.” Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. and Louis Brandeis [ideological successors to Melville’s father-in-law, Lemuel Shaw, Chief Justice of the State of Massachusetts] represented the change from a state that protected individualistic privilege to a conception of law as the “outcome of community life and bound to its service.” 3/1, 314-15; 3/29, 459, 463, 478-79; Richard Roberts, “England in Revolution,” 5/17, 784-85; “The League of Nations in Danger,” (sermon by Charles Gore, Bishop of Oxford, who fears  education and science as promoters of competition, not Christian corporatism), 806-808; 5/31, 866-67; “The Problem of the State,” 8/2, 137.

[xvii]  6/7, 931-44; Lincoln Colcord, “The Carving of Russia,” 6/14, 940-941, for the distinction between “industrial bankers” versus “financial bankers.” The “international bankers” stand in the background of the negotiations in Paris, arranging the destinies of men.” Commercial bankers are “outside” this scenario. Unlike the “financial” bankers, the commercial ones (e.g. National City Bank connected to Standard Oil, American International Corporation, and the banking-engineering firm of Stone and Weber) are close to production, wisely making concessions to labor. The former (e.g. J.P. Morgan) see the state as existing to clamp down on debtors. 7/12, 28: The Non-Partisans are not Socialists; they want to buy cheap and sell dear; alien speculators and alien control of markets and terminals are to be eliminated. In the same issue, a review entitled “Immanent Idealism” (a synthesis of the old idealism and pragmatism) recommends its formless self as best counter to emancipated, atheistic, international democracy (23). 2/15, 243; 3/22, 452; 4/12, 536.

[xviii]  2/8, 217, 241; Special Correspondent, “The Shop Stewards Movement,” 2/22, 277-279 (favorable towards worker’s control); 3/22, 451; 3/29, 477-78; 5/3, 680; 5/10, 722.

[xix] A.A. Berle, Jr., “The Betrayal at Paris,” 8/19/19, 170. Cf. 160, “An Appeal to America Not Yet Written by Woodrow Wilson,” in which the ideal leader is not a friend of one class over another, but helps classes to understand each other, then see their common interest and common justice.

[xx]  Internal to “the race,” not the individual psyche.

[xxi]  Unsigned review, 2/8, 202, possibly Carl Van Doren.

[xxii]  Rabbi Lee J. Levinger, Anti-Semitism in the United States, Its History and Causes (N.Y.: Bloch, 1925), 29, 333-34, 39-44, 51, 71, 78, 94-95, 110, 115.

[xxiii]  A clipping preserved by Carey McWilliams is revealing in this regard: Woodruff Randolph’s editorial in the Typographical Journal 9/4/37, protested recent right-wing offensives; the headline read “Incorporate Unions? Step Toward Fascism, Says ‘Typo’ Secretary.” Randolph contrasted the business corporation “partly a person and partly a citizen, yet it has not the inalienable rights of a natural person” with “A labor organization [which] is organized to do in numbers what each may do individually under his inalienable rights.” Carey McWilliams Papers, UCLA Special Collections, Box 14.

[xxiv] James W. Ceaser, Reconstructing America, Chapter 2. Ceaser differentiates among the Founders, arguing that Jefferson’s political rationalism existed in tension with received ideas on race; the overall effect was to replace political science with natural history as the guide to sound government. Condorcet, the most comprehensively democratic philosophe, the champion of internationalism, popular sovereignty, public education, feminism, and progress, and enemy to separation of powers and checks and balances (as ploys of elites to subvert democratic will), was annexed to the conservative enlightenment to give liberal credibility to the New Deal elevation of the executive branch of government over the legislative branch. See J. Salwyn Schapiro, Condorcet and the Rise of Liberalism (N.Y.: Octagon Reprint, 1978, orig. pub. 1934, repub. 1963), 276-277: “Security for both capital and labor is essential if freedom of enterprise is to survive…Responsibility in government can be more efficiently maintained by giving more authority to the executive, who would wield power, not as an irresponsible dictator, but as a democratically chosen official responsible to a legislature whose essential function would be to act as the nation’s monitor. Progress has been the peculiar heritage of liberalism to which it must be ever faithful in order to survive.” Condorcet joins Paine and Jefferson as fodder for the moderate men of the vital center.

[xxv]  I am using 1916 as a milestone in the promotion of ethnopluralism because of the publication of the Randolph Bourne article, “Trans-National America,” and a now forgotten book by the head psychologist of the Boston Normal School, J. Mace Andress, Johann Gottfried Herder as an Educator (New York: G.E. Stechert, 1916). The latter introduced Herder as the precursor to Franz Boas and advocated the new “race pedagogy.” There was no ambiguity about the welcome counter-Enlightenment drift of German Romanticism in this work. For Andress, the German Romantic hero was a rooted cosmopolitan, fighting to throw off [Jewish] materialist domination to liberate the Volksgeist. In 1942, Herder was presented as a Kantian, pantheist, cosmopolitan and quasi-democrat, even a supporter of the French Revolution in James Westfall Thompson, A History of Historical Writing, Vol. 2, 33-138, especially 137.

Some more recent intellectual historians are rehabilitating Herder along with other figures of the Hochklarung, similarly held to be avatars of the freethinking emancipated individual. In his talk at the Clark Library symposium “Materialist Philosophy, Religious Heresy, and Political Radicalism, 1650-1800,” (May 1, 1999) John H. Zammito declared that Herder’s philosophy (the demolition of mechanical materialism?) cleared the way for the further development of natural science in Germany. The key figure for these scholars is Spinoza, his pantheism the apex of “vitalist materialism.” Margaret C. Jacob, author of The Radical Enlightenment, 1981, was organizer of the conference, but we are using the term with differing assumptions about scientific method and what, exactly, constitutes the radical Enlightenment.

[xxvi]   Horace M. Kallen, Culture and Democracy in The United States: Studies in the Group Psychology of the American Peoples, (N.Y: Boni and Liveright: 1924), recognized in Alfred E. Zimmern’s review in The Nation and the Atheneum, 5/17/24, 207, as a shift away from Lockean environmentalism toward hereditarian racism, however (benignly) characterized as “a cooperation of cultural diversities”; Zimmern linked Kallen’s pluralism to that of William James. He did not mention Randolph Bourne’s Atlantic Monthly essay of 1916, “Trans-National America.” See also Robert Reinhold Ergang, Herder and the Foundations of German Nationalism, (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1931), Chapter III. On the explicit and implicit antisemitism/Counter-Enlightenment in Herder’s position, see p. 92: “The Hebrews ‘were a people spoiled in their education, because they never arrived at a maturity of political culture on their own soil, and consequently not to any true sentiment of liberty and honor.’ ” There it is, the Big Lie of rootless cosmopolitanism. See p.95 for the basis of Herder’s anti-French revolt: Rousseau’s Contrat social is not the force that binds a nation, but nature’s laws of blood and soil; Nature, not Culture creates interdependence; for Herder there is only Nature and all history is natural history; environmentally acquired characteristics are inherited by the corporate entity.

[xxvii] See for instance, Louis Filler, Randolph Bourne (Washington, D.C.: American Council On Public Affairs, 1943). The Council was a Progressive organization producing pamphlets during the war and promoting cooperation between capital and labor. Louis Filler (also a Nation writer) explained why Randolph Bourne, espousing an orderly “international identity” for America and explaining war as an outgrowth of nationalism, had been wrongly deemed as irrelevant to the youth of the 1930s; we need Bourne today. Filler explained, “Alien cultures, Bourne declared, brought new forces and ideas to American life. [Those bossy, snobbish Anglo-Saxon assimilationists who controlled everything, so] discouraged retention by immigrants of their Old World heritage did not thereby create Americans. They created “hordes of men and women without a spiritual country, cultural outlaws, without taste, without standards but those of the mob.” Moreover: “those who come to find liberty achieve only license. They become the flotsam and jetsam of American life, the downward undertow of our civilization with its leering cheapness and falseness of taste and spiritual outlook, the absence of mind and sincere feeling which we see in our slovenly towns, our vapid moving pictures, our popular novels, and in the vacuous faces of the crowds on the city street. This is the cultural wreckage of our time, and it is from the fringes of the Anglo-Saxon as well as the other stocks that it falls. America has as yet no compelling integrating force. It makes too easily for this detritus of cultures. In our loose, free country, no constraining national purpose, no tenacious folk-tradition and folk-style hold the people to a line.” What would be done about such a state of affairs? “America is a unique sociological fabric, and it bespeaks poverty of imagination not to be thrilled at the incalculable potentialities of so novel a union of men. To seek no other good but the weary old nationalism–belligerent, exclusive, inbreeding, the poison of which we are witnessing now in Europe–is to make patriotism a hollow sham, and to declare, that, in spite of our boastings, America must ever be a follower and not a leader of nations.” Do not, therefore, denigrate any culture that has driven stakes into the American soil: do not, certainly, term it un-American: “There is no distinctive American culture.” Do not, above all, set up American material achievement as a token of American fulfillment: “If the American note is bigness, action, the objective as contrasted with the reflective life, where is the epic expression of this spirit?” We were patently inhibited from presenting in impressive artistic form the energy with which we were filled. The reason was that we had not yet accepted the cosmopolitanism with which we had been endowed. Americans of culture could be made of the Germans in Wisconsin, the Scandinavians in Minnesota, and the Irish and Italians of New York. “In a world which has dreamed of internationalism, we find that we have all unawares been building up the first international identity (76-78)…[Bourne’s] ideas, his experiences, the warp and woof of his personality were not necessary to a generation that believed it had discovered impersonal economic laws that (properly applied) would at last bring about a settlement of human affairs (133).”

[xxviii]  Cf. David Leverenz on the “Ugly Narcissus,” Ahab: “He certainly is not afflicted with contradictory or discontinuous role-expectations. But he does start to experience a desire for [sadomasochistic] fusion, previously blocked by his obsession.” In Manhood and the American Renaissance (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1989), 294.

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