YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

December 12, 2015

The State of the Blog (3)

zombies-historyPeriodically, I report to my readers how the blog is doing, especially in contrast with competing media that also want your eyeballs. I have noticed that the term “blog” is usually derisive, for there are millions of bloggers competing with academics and journalists, while many of the bloggers, unlike professors and writers for the major websites, lack the institutional legitimacy that makes them trustworthy.

The most important point in this blog is as follows: there is nothing I put up on the Yankee Doodle Society website that is in any way different than a paper I would present to fellow academics, or an article that I would submit to an academic publisher. Whether footnotes appear or not, they are always in my head; this does not imply that I am entirely objective, for we are all limited by life experience, preferred ideology, and our access to, and interest in, primary source materials.

Why is the blog, though relatively popular, not even more widely seen? Because “moderation” is hegemonic and my blogs have traced the mostly invisible rise of the moderate men. The New Left and the Frankfurt Institute refugees (the critical theorists) did not invent or advance the turn to culturalism in the 1930s, in tandem with the New Deal assault upon freedom and its attendant laissez-faire capitalism and so-called American “imperialism.” See for example, Barton Swaim’s WSJ review of a reissued book by Roger Scruton’s Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands, that ostensibly reveals the illegitimate domination of New Leftists and critical theorists–including Gramsci, their supposed inspiration– in the academy. What Swaim leaves out (besides the social psychologists affiliated with FDR) is the introduction of multiculturalism in the early 20th century by those intellectuals who would blot out the red specter of proletarian internationalism in favor of the “progressive” internationalism of Woodrow Wilson.  And Woodrow Wilson is currently being rehabilitated by fellow corporatist liberals, despite his well-known racism.

(For the New Deal turn to cultural history at the expense of “economic determinism” and science, see https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/.)

We find ourselves in the early stages of an election campaign for the American presidency, horribly distracted by terrorism in France and San Bernardino, while the media establishment has kittens over the popularity of businessman and populist outsider Donald J. Trump. Currently, I am reading Milton Friedman’s popular book Capitalism and Freedom (1962), for I have exhausted myself in writing about what I already studied in graduate school and in the years following: the Melville Revival, the chief actors in the rise of cultural history and modern social psychology, the many faces of antisemitism, the founding of Israel, ongoing resistance to modernity, the various forms of fascism, and psychological warfare in general.

Stay tuned, as I find points of agreement and disagreement with the “Chicago school” of economics, and whether or not there exists a decisive international population of “moderate Muslims” who will arouse themselves to brake the (“Islamist”) jihadists among them.

June 19, 2015

Multiculturalism and the Charleston Massacre

RoofcapturedThe Wall Street Journal completed an editorial on June 19th, 2015 with “…the reality that evil still stalks the land.”

The notion that racism can be overcome by moralistic arguments is grotesque and misguided. What ever happened to clashes of economic interest, for instance, labor competition? Oh, I forgot, we don’t do materialism any longer. That would be too “modern.”

Instead the event has been interpreted through a medieval religious framework: Human nature is evil; this world belongs to the Devil. “Reality” is too mysterious or deceptive to penetrate—again the (lying) Devil’s work, and he is out to get us.

Entirely missing from this discourse is the assumption that “multiculturalism” (MC) is an effective remedy against “racism.” (I will use the abbreviation MC for multiculturalism in the rest of the blog.)

This entire website has been devoted to the insight that MC was a product of German Romanticism, aka German Idealism in the late eighteenth century (Loren Goldner, a leftist, warned me about it years ago, then I read the intellectual history of the concept in English translations for years, noting how the liberal establishment institutionalized MC as a weapon against “racism.” For links to prior blogs on the subject see https://clarespark.com/2013/07/02/groupiness-group-think-and-race/).

H. Strickland Constable, Harper's Weekly 1899

H. Strickland Constable, Harper’s Weekly 1899

Briefly, the collectivist notion that racially or ethnically defined groups can peacefully co-exist is an evasion of all the material considerations that actually divide groups. 19th C. “scientific racism,” supposedly transcended in the new dispensation, persists when we imagine that all whites, all Jews, all blacks, all Latinos, etc. each share a common, indivisible rootedness and world-view, incomprehensible to other groups. Nostrums such as “tolerance” or “diversity” supposedly avert conflicts that are only understood (by enlightened persons) through analyses of clashing material interests within the “collective” entity. Marxists and advocates of free market societies disagree about how to resolve such clashes, but no materialist would deny that they exist..

The better historians understand that ideology attempts to create consensus through scapegoating. Dylann Storm Roof, perhaps egged on by deteriorating “race” relations, blames blacks for “taking over the world.” This is racist ideology, pure and simple. Although family relationships should never be discounted, we don’t have to look only for mental illness specific to his family history as psychiatrist Keith Ablow declared on Hannity (March 18, 2015, the day that Fox News Channel mostly focused on the massacre made even more somber by its taking place in an historic black church). Ideologies provide the representations that feed into specific cases of mental illness.


There is blatant racism, acted out by the shooter, but there is the more subtle racism inherent in MC. We are one species, and MC, the moderate (Wilsonian) solution to war and conflict, has joined other völkisch movements, in confusing well-meaning progressives with a bogus solution to hateful aggression. When the arguably racist but “internationalist” Woodrow Wilson called for “self-determination” he didn’t refer to individuals, but to the group-think/collectivism inherent in cultural nationalism (http://www.e-ir.info/2014/04/17/what-is-self-determination-using-history-to-understand-international-relations/).

MC is a mental illness (i.e., it distorts reality), and it is hegemonic in America and in the United Nations too.

photo Keith Bacongco

photo Keith Bacongco

September 29, 2012

Index to blogs on antisemitism

Saudi cartoon 2008










https://clarespark.com/2010/11/14/the-abcs-of-antisemitism/ (a synthesis that takes account of the “Hebraic” Reformation sects)


https://clarespark.com/2011/03/28/index-to-multiculturalism-blogs/ (index to German Romantic sources for multiculturalism and related issues, such as identity politics)



https://clarespark.com/2011/10/15/baltzell-on-the-good-jews/ (retitled The Protestant Establishment Taps a Good Jew)


















It is a misconception to think that a person’s views toward individual Jews tests their antisemitic views one way or another. A-S is above all, a theory of history, most recently a reaction to the “disruptive” effects of modernity, and an identification of the source of Evil. Most or all antisemitism is racist, for no matter how assimilated a person of Jewish descent may be, that person retains mental, physical, and moral attributes attributed to “the Jews” considered as a collective entity. Of these, none is more pernicious than the  notion that all “Jews” partake of the Old Testament God as read by non-Jews, most famously by Voltaire (whose admirers were possibly angrier at Christianity, the offshoot of Judaism). That deity is domineering, militaristic, and genocidal, looking out solely for his “Chosen People.” One would think that such a powerful set of misconceptions would be corrected in the schools and in the mass media, but no. For in a highly populated globe, the masses must be controlled, and there is no more potent poison, directing popular anger away from abusive elites, than antisemitism: our innermost desires for truth, for a relatively accurate inventory of our past, is stigmatized as disintegrating to “the family.” So despite occasional hand-wringing over “the Holocaust,” antisemitism is still poorly, even crudely, understood by most, if not all, trained intellectuals.

Gustave Doré: Lost Satan

Gustave Doré: Lost Satan

July 1, 2010

The New/Old (anti) Americanism

Thomas Dixon, The Ku Klux Klan

This blog has a simple purpose: to distinguish between the ugly nativism (sometimes called 100% Americanism) that characterized an earlier America and that deserves to be repudiated, and the anti-Americanism propagated by the New Left and that reached its apogee in the election of Barack Obama, for some an act of reparation for the sins of white supremacy. For these and others the Obama presidency is the supreme outcome of the multiculturalism that New Leftists found agreeable in their long march through the institutions, including not only academe, but the mass media.

Everyone knows who the villains were as they flourished in the early twentieth century. Here are a few names that are most notorious:  Madison Grant, Lothrop Stoddard, Henry Pratt Fairchild, William McDougall, Henry Ford, and the novelist Thomas Dixon, author of the The Clansman and the screenplay for Birth of a Nation (enjoyed and praised by Woodrow Wilson in its White House screening).  After all, nativists argued, it was their ancestors who had tamed a continent in covered wagons, killed hostile Indians, fought the Civil War and blocked Reconstruction—that period of “misrule.” Dixon (see his fascist Flaming  Sword of 1939 and equally bizarre earlier novels) went so far as to argue that the Southern Scots-Irish race had fought and were decisive in the Revolutionary War against Britain, and their later descendants paternally protected the freedmen until nosy red unreconstructed Yankees tried to educate them, unleashing sexual chaos upon the land, and in the process killing good middle-class white folk.  Nativist propaganda helped pass the Immigration Act of 1924, and many a professor (John Higham for instance) made his reputation denouncing these bigots, while younger scholars  were training their students to despise the American past, finding it essentially racist, patriarchal, ecocidal, and capitalist/imperialist. That meant that American “identity” was demonic, we were all infected, and hence all American institutions must be denounced, and if possible, dismantled, with reparations delivered to all non-whites, here and everywhere.  Even the abolitionists were motivated by greed, it was alleged (and it is still argued). Enter “whiteness studies.” Exit a view of American history that looked to its promise, its freedoms, its largely successful (though co-opted) labor, feminist, and civil rights movements, and achievements in raising the living standards of millions.*

It was not just that all the “isms” (Indian removal, slavery, racism, etc.) were contested at the time when these events and institutions existed, but that capitalism (especially as manipulated by “the [accursed] Jews” ) was seen as the root cause of American evil, especially by organic conservatives masked as “progressives.” (Where is Charles Sumner in our historiography? See https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/, for an analysis of the contrasting rhetoric of such liberals as Sumner with that of Woodrow Wilson and other organicists whose view of governance is paternalistic and evocative of the unreconstructed Southern plantation owner.)

To conclude: the nativists reacting to mass immigration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries mentioned above were politically defeated and marginalized (though some paleoconservatives are still noisily active). The New Left, however, though they were supposedly anti-Stalinist, taught and still teach a view of the U.S. that is identical with Stalinist and Nazi anti-American propaganda, for example that “Zionists” control America, and that “institutional racism” still exists under its maleficent aegis, as if a jewified, trigger-happy John Calhoun had just been elected as the President of a slavocracy. Now it is time for a more realistic view of the American past, neither idealizing it nor casting it into the pit.

*I left out environmentalism for two reasons: first, it has been infiltrated by communists and/or hippie-ish “deep ecologists”; second, I think the situation is even worse than most think, but then I have a strong science background (was instructed in ecology at Cornell). It is my impression that we don’t know enough about our impact on the environment to press ahead at the industrializing pace we have to date. And if America has failed in this respect, so has the rest of the planet.

Thomas Dixon II

June 17, 2010


American Progress

This blog continues a series in which I show how the post-Civil War Progressives appropriated Herman Melville’s fiction and poetry: one could describe their project as the taming of a rugged individualist, of a frontiersman. Their project was first designed to attenuate sectional loyalties in the American Leviathan: the moderate men will weigh in with their “materialist” history to monitor and ambivalently celebrate the frontiersman. In their construction of a national literature they intended to overcome post-Civil War sectional bitterness, while using that bad example to support the new Progressive reading of American history, as exemplified by Frederick Jackson Turner (an ex-student of Woodrow Wilson). Hence, Ahab (surfacing in 1851) would have to be a negative model for the moderate men of the following century, who attempted unsuccessfully to both defend national interests while simultaneously cooperating with an “international community” as embodied in the United Nations. If Ahab stands for a brutally expanding Amerika, then Melville as the converted Ishmael could be seen as the moderate corrective to a young country fatally dedicated to WASP supremacy and hyper-individualism, or worse, especially after two world wars, with recent immigrant masses frighteningly susceptible to the siren call of Bolshevism.

First read https://clarespark.com/2009/09/03/advice-for-the-lovelorn-with-thoughts-on-hero-worship/ (retitled Manifest Destiny and Political Liberty), and https://clarespark.com/2009/09/06/the-hebraic-american-landscape-sublime-or-despotic/.

I begin with two views of Anglo-American culture and its expansionist frontiersmen as defined by Herman Melville in his allegorical work Mardi (1849).  Vivenza[1] stands for America, Bello is England, Dominora is Europe, Oro is God, Mardi is the world.  The first speaker is Taji the narrator who expects the Jacksonian expansionists to moderate their behavior in time; the second is Babbalanja, the philosopher who calls for all youthful minds in the West to join the Anglo-American project of intellectual emancipation, associating oppressive domination with the English upper classes, who have suppressed their libertarian tradition; the third speaker is a fiery youth antagonistic to free thought, associating it with the tyranny of the newly empowered democratic polity, some of whom, at the time of Melville’s writing, were promoting the extension of slavery to the Western territories.  The dialogue between democrat and aristocrat runs throughout Melville’s writing; but it is the third speaker, the fiery Tory youth, whose fear and anger pervade the humanities throughout its whispering sacred groves. Have they transmuted the boundless expansion of our moral and intellectual development (arguably Ahab’s project) into the illicit penetration and appropriation of Mother Earth, so that the act of discovery itself becomes criminal, tantamount to endorsing slavery?

Materials from my research into the Melville Revival along with the history of “Progressive” history-writing are presented chronologically, in order of publication.

[Taji:]    This chieftain, it seems, was from a distant western valley, called Hio-Hio, one of the largest and most fertile in Vivenza, though but recently settled.  Its inhabitants, and those of the vales adjoining,–a right sturdy set of fellows,–were accounted the most dogmatically democratic and ultra of all the tribes in Vivenza; ever seeking to push on their brethren to the uttermost; and especially were they bitter against Bello.[2] But they were a fine young tribe, nevertheless.  Like strong new wine they worked violently in becoming clear.  Time, perhaps, would make them all right….

[Babbalanja:] “…my lord, King Bello should never forget, that whatever be glorious in Vivenza, redounds to himself…My lord, behold these two states!  Of all nations in the Archipelago, they alone are one in blood.  Dominora is the last and greatest Anak of Old Times; Vivenza, the foremost and goodliest stripling of the Present.  One is full of the past; the other brims with the future.  Ah! did this sire’s old heart but beat to free thoughts, and back his bold son, all Mardi would go down before them.  And high Oro may have ordained for them a career, little divined by the mass.  Methinks, that as Vivenza will never cause old Bello to weep for his son; so, Vivenza will not…be called to weep over the grave of its sire.  And though King Bello may yet lay aside his old-fashioned cocked hat of a crown, and comply with the plain costume of the times; yet will his frame remain sturdy as of yore, and equally grace any habiliments he may don.  And those who say, Dominora is old and worn out, may very possibly err.  For if, as a nation, Dominora be old–her present generation is full as young as the youths in any land under the sun.  Then, Ho! worthy twain!  Each worthy the other, join hands on the instant, and weld them together.  Lo! the past is a prophet.  Be the future, its prophecy fulfilled.”

[Fiery Tory youth:]   “Sovereign-kings of Vivenza! it is fit you should hearken to wisdom.  But well aware, that you give ear to little wisdom except of your own; and that as freemen, you are free to hunt down him who dissents from your majesties; I deem it proper to address you anonymously.

“And if it please you, you may ascribe this voice to the gods; for never will you trace it to man….” [Mardi, 1849; 518, 519, 520, 524]

[Victorian poet and radical journalist (“B.V.”) James Thomson to Bertram Dobell, from the U.S., ca. 1872.  An admirer of Melville and Whitman, Thomson ambivalently contemplates the American melting pot and offers an interpretation of the sublime (“vastitude”) similar to Taji’s and Babbalanja’s; cf. Charles Olson’s emphasis on “scale” in his Melville criticism, along with the anti-expansionism he picked up from Frederick Merk at Harvard:]  I think we must forgive the Americans a good deal of vulgarity and arrogance for some generations yet.  They are intoxicated with their vast country and its vaster prospects.  Besides, we of the old country have sent them for years past, and are still sending them, our half-starved and ignorant millions.  The Americans of the War of Independence were really a British race, and related to the old country as a Greek colony to its mother city or state.  But the Americans of today are only a nation in that they instinctively adore their union.  All the heterogeneous ingredients are seething in the cauldron with plenty of scum and air bubbles atop.  In a century or two they may get stewed down into homogeneity–a really wholesome and dainty dish, not to be set before a king though, I fancy.  I resisted the impression of the mere material vastitude as long as possible, but found its influence growing on me week by week: for it implies such vast possibilities of moral and intellectual expansion.  They are starting over here with all our experience and culture at their command, without any of the obsolete burdens and impediments which in the course of a thousand years have become inseparable from our institutions, and with a country which will want still more labour and more people for many generations to come. [3]

[William F. Allen, Frederick Jackson Turner’s teacher, 1885:]  The solid and substantial character which the Federalism of Hamilton during the years 1789-97, gave to the national edifice secured by the Constitution; the sudden list to individualism, equally unexpected and undesired by the “fathers of the republic,” which was given by the Democracy of Jefferson during years 1793-1800; the territorial expansion of 1803, with its inevitable and far-reaching consequences–here were three fundamental and discordant forces, whose reduction to harmony would alone make this a period of vital importance in American history.  As the ship, sliding from the ways, lurching first to one side then to the other, settles down into her natural position, American history not only then but thereafter, was made during those fourteen years.[4]

[From the Preface to Scribner’s Statistical Atlas of the United States, 1885, the crucial and unappreciated influence on Turner’s sociological method of writing history, Fulmer Mood, 1943, 309.  “Race” and “nativity” are given the same objective status as “physical features” and economic statistics.]  It is the aim of this work to bring together and to present by graphic methods, all the leading statistical facts regarding the physical, social, industrial, commercial and political conditions of the United States.  It portrays the physical features of the country which more or less determine its development, the political history of the nation, the succession of parties and the ideas for which they existed; and the progress of settlement, throughout the valley of the Mississippi, and beyond the barriers of the Cordilleras.  It treats of the population, its varieties of race and nativity, its educational and religious condition, its occupations and its mortality.  Passing to the industries, it exhibits the great leading branches, agriculture, manufactures, mining, trade and transportation.  Under the head of Finance and Commerce, it pictures the wealth of the country, and its public debt and taxation, its foreign commerce and carrying trade, its expenditure and its force of revenue–thus presenting to the comprehension of all, the balance sheet of the General Government.  The work closes fittingly with a series of diagrams which summarize and bring together for comparison, the leading facts previously developed.

[F. J. Turner,“The Significance of the Frontier,” The Frontier in American History, 1921, 2, 3, 33, 34, 38, 39. A scientific warning about conditions favoring the recurrence of populist agitation delivered in 1893 to the American Historical Association:]  Thus American development has exhibited not merely advance along a single line, but a return to primitive conditions on a continually advancing frontier line, and a new development for that area.  American social development has been continually beginning over again on the frontier.  This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life, this expansion westward with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnish the forces dominating American character….A primitive society can hardly be expected to show the intelligent appreciation of the complexity of business interests in a developed society.  The continual recurrence of these areas of paper-money agitation is another evidence that the frontier can be isolated and studied as a factor in American history of the highest importance.

The East has always feared the result of an unregulated advance of the frontier and has tried to check and guide it.  The English authorities would have checked settlement at the headwaters of the Atlantic tributaries and allowed the “savages to enjoy their deserts in quiet lest the peltry trade should decrease.”  This called out Burke’s splendid protest: “If you stopped your grants, what would be the consequence?  The people would occupy without grants.  They have already so occupied in many places.  You cannot station garrisons in every part of these deserts.  If you drive the people from one place, they will carry on their annual tillage and remove with their flocks and herds to another. Many of the people in the back settlements are already little attached to particular situations.  Already they have topped the Appalachian mountains.  From thence they behold before them an immense plain, one vast, rich, level meadow; a square of five hundred miles.  Over this they would wander without a possibility of restraint; they would change their manners with their habits of life; would soon forget a government by which they were disowned; would become hordes of English Tartars; and pouring down upon your unfortified frontiers a fierce and irresistible cavalry, become masters of your governors and your counselors, your collectors and comptrollers, and of all the slaves that adhered to them.  Such would, and in no long time must, be the effect of attempting to forbid as a crime and to suppress as an evil the command and blessing of Providence, ‘Increase and multiply.’  Such would be the happy result of an endeavor to keep as a lair of wild beasts that earth which God, by an express charter, has given to the children of men.” [end Burke quote]

[Turner, cont..:] …[T]o the frontier the American intellect owes its striking characteristics.  That coarseness and strength combined with acuteness and inquisitiveness; that practical, inventive turn of mind, quick to find expedients; the masterful grasp of material things, lacking in the artistic but powerful to effect great ends; that restless, nervous energy; that dominant individualism, working for good and evil, and withal that buoyancy and exuberance that comes with freedom–these are traits of the frontier, or traits called out elsewhere because of the existence of the frontier….And now, four centuries from the discovery of America, at the end of a hundred years of life under the Constitution, the frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first period of American history.

[Frank Jewett Mather, Jr. The Review, August 9, August 16, 1919:]…no ordinary person loves Melville….Upon the reader’s slant towards this sort of parable [Ishmael and the try-works, as Ishmael separates his persona from Ahab’s] will very much depend his estimate of “Moby Dick.” [5]

[H.M. Tomlinson, The Literary Review of the New York Evening Post, Nov. 5, 1921:]  “Moby Dick” is a supreme test. If it captures you, then you are unafraid of great art.  You may dwell in safety with fiends or angels and rest poised with a quiet mind between the stars and the bottomless pit.

[John Freeman to John Haines, April 23, 1926:]…Melville is out, and I wait to see if two continents are aware of his greatness.  Or will the brave sprats gore this Whale anew?  God forbid that the traducers of Swinburne’s genius should perceive Melville’s, with their little viper eyes all of rancour and squint….

[Lewis Mumford to Raymond Weaver, May 21, 1928:]  Melville is a very whale to handle, isn’t he?  My task waxes as my energies wane.

[Raymond Weaver, 1931, p.190:]  The man who had created Moby Dick had in early manhood prayed that if his soul missed its haven it might at least end in utter wreck. “All Fame is patronage,” he had once in long past written to Hawthorne; “let me be infamous.”  But as if in contempt even for this preference, he had, during the last half of his life, cruised off and away upon boundless and uncharted waters, and in the end he sank down into death without a ripple of renown.

[Poet and editor of the London Mercury, J.C. Squire (former Fabian Socialist, during this period, interested in adapting Italian Fascism for England) delivers a lecture series on American poetry at Cambridge University, his alma mater; this excerpt on Whitman, Nov. 11, 1933.  Squire quietly  warns old fogeys about the stultifying American practice of writing only about the Bay of Naples, Vesuvius, Acropolis, Pompeii, etc. which had been rejected by Walt Whitman, father of modern poetry]: “…all that went on while Whitman was writing that revolutionary stuff.  Can you blame the man for being so spasmodic and violent?  He simply could not bear these cultivated surroundings: it was bad enough in the old cultivated surroundings: it was bad enough in the old cultivated country but when you have got a new one, as Whitman found when he was a young man and a middle-aged man, a thing that was not deeply rooted but just existed because it was supposed to be good form to be cultivated, an extremely violent reaction is sure to be expected.  Had he been born in Europe he no doubt would have been an original, eccentric and rather violent revolutionary, but being born in America with that hot, fiery temper and modulation it was only natural that he should go to the extremes to which he did.  We must forgive him his eccentricities, his endless undigested catalogues geographical and geological…facts which make no music and always any sense even: we must forgive him all this because of the havoc he made of things being too crustified, that music seldom came out in rhyme….[Box 5, J.C. Squire papers, UCLA]

[Ralph Henry Gabriel, The Course of American Democratic Thought, 1940, 74:]  Melville sensed that the concept of the moral law which dominated the Middle Period was a utopian ethics.  The doctrines of progress was [sic] an affirmation that men, through apprehending the moral law and through making it effective in society can advance toward some paradise from which sin and baseness have vanished.  Melville looked upon such a goal as a Never-Never Land.  To found, as Emerson did, a philosophy of individualism upon such a dream of utopia seemed to Melville to be an attempt to transform men into children.

What then is the fundamental moral law?  Melville could only answer that the essence of the world is a dualism between good and evil.  He saw it everywhere: the beautiful English countryside and the rotting tenements of Liverpool where he had seen a mother and her babes starving; Fayaway and the sweating bones left from the cannibal feast; the law of love proclaimed by the Man of Nazareth and the world [“] a den/Worse for Christ’s coming, since His love/ (Perverted) did but venom prove.”….

[From a document first published in 1942: Frederick Jackson Turner’s proposal for “International Political Parties in a Durable League of Nations” (for Woodrow Wilson, 1918):]

[F. J. Turner is saying below that national political parties in America overcame sectional loyalties; that this precedent would be effective in stopping Bolshevism internationally, indeed would respond to the pacifist democratic masses. Note the double bind: the elastic bond makes it possible to cater to local interests without destroying international unity. Remember that Wilson was a Southerner who opposed the sectional bitterness that followed the Civil War, hence his delight with The Birth of a Nation. By following his ex-student Turner’s formulation of wild West in contrast to conservative East, he could displace the North-South polarization—indeed as did Thomas Dixon in his novels.]

[Turner:] The following is an abstract of suggestions (derived from the study of the history of American sectionalism and the geography of American political parties) upon the bearing of American experience on the problems of the League of Nations.  The conclusion is reached that in such a League there should be a Legislative body, with substantial, but at first limited, functions, as well as a Court, or Council of Nations, and particularly that the operation of international political parties in connection with such a Legislature would promote the permanence of the League….

…American ideals as so nobly set forth by the President, have found a quicker response among the European laboring classes than elsewhere, and in the passion for democratic peace among the masses lies the hope of the peace of the World internationally.  What light does American experience cast upon the possibility of so using the masses as to promote international unity?…We have given evidence that immigrants from all nations of the world can live together peacefully under a single government that does justice….In a region as diversified in some respects as Europe itself, and as large, the national political parties ran across all sections, evoked intersectional or nonsectional party loyalty, checked the exclusive claim of the section to a vote in the interest of the section, furnished the dissenting minority within the section an organic connection with party associates in other sections, at the same time that this connection was dependent upon just recognition of the special section in which the minority lived.  It was an elastic bond, but one that was strong.  It ran horizontal cross-sections of party ties across the vertical lines of sectional division.  It enabled the voter to act continentally, and it compelled the statesman to act on lines of policy that transcended his section, if he would secure a continental following strong enough to bring him success.

6. There is a distinct advantage in utilizing this party system in a League of Nations…In essence it means the utilization of that body of internationalism already in evidence not only in such organizations as radical political parties, such as the International, the I.W.W., Socialists generally, etc. but also the opposite tendencies seen in international business combinations, scientific and educational international organizations, and conservative forces generally.  The class struggle, so called, is in fact not a national but an international struggle.  If party organization of the radical element alone exists, and if this organization is also dominated and shaped by some one or two nations, as Germany or Russia, it will be extended, as it has been, to other countries in the form of secret, or intriguing societies, proceeding by revolutionary methods, with little or no regard for the separate interests of the nation into which it is introduced as an alien, and with the helmsman operating from the outside, and steering a course which almost necessarily involves adhesion to the primary interest of the country in which such a party is recognized as a powerful interest in the determination of the policy.

Is it better to try to exclude these international political forces from the organization of the new order, or to utilize their internationalizing tendencies by enabling them to operate upon an international legislative body, responsive to play of parties?  Is it worth while to use the fact of class consciousness to diminish the violence of national consciousness?

There can be little doubt that the common people, whether of the extreme radical wing of socialists, or of the conservative party groups, were reluctant to enter the war, and are now in Germany and Austria-Hungary the severest critics of the autocratic group which deceived them and misled them….

7. One recoils from any suggestion of adding a party loyalty international in its appeal to the loyalty of the individual nation.  But the very idea of a League of Nations involves some diminution of the national feeling, some cultivation of international loyalty.  If one could keep the Bolsheviki serpent out of the American Eden, he would hesitate to admit any international party organization which permitted such organization.

But in the reconstruction and ferment which will follow the return of peace, there will be doubts about the existence of Edens anywhere, and the Bolsheviki serpent will creep in under whatever fence be attempted.  May it not be safer to give him a job of international legislation rather than to leave him to strike from dark corners, and with no sense of responsibility?….

…It must…be admitted that the difference between section and nation are many and deep, and that there are some points in which international jealousy and controversy might be promoted rather than restrained by internationally organized parties operating on a legislature…There will be sectional jealousy and suspicion in any League, with whatever form of political organization.  It is inherent in its nature.  The problem is the introduction of checks and antidotes to this tendency.[6]

[Ralph Henry Gabriel, “Thorp, Curti, Baker: American Issues,” American Historical Review, July 1942, 875-876:]  Dr. Thorp and Dr. Baker insist in the foreword [American Issues, 1941] that aesthetic considerations have controlled the choices for Volume II.  “American eagerness to have a national literature,” they affirm, “has too often led us to praise as creative writers men who produced social documentation rather than works of art.”  “We have aimed”, they add, “to include in the second volume only such writing as can honestly be said to show the artist’s hand at work, consciously shaping his material.”…The functional approach to intellectual history fails to take account of some of the forces that bring about the change from one climate of opinion to another….”

[Fulmer Mood on the molding of a great mind:  Frederick Jackson Turner descended from 17th century immigrants, born in the “native community” of Portage, Wisconsin to newspaperman father and ex-schoolteacher mother, no longer pioneers, hence: “Their home was thus one in which some concern was felt for things of the spirit, a space where limited and cramped views did not prevail.”  His insights into behind-the scenes management were gleaned from father, Chair of Board of Supervisors of Columbia County who had to harmonize the interests of Protestants and Catholics, rival nationalities and towns [284-287].  Turner’s democratic ideals were shaped by the character of his birthplace: “The world of Portage, which he had a chance to study thoroughly, taught him things not learned in books.  Portage was plain, a homespun community, democratic in spirit, neighborly.  Turner was of it, genuine; unassuming.  In after years he was to walk in stately academic processions, wearing the cap and gown, singled out for special distinction, for honorary degrees.  But he took the honors with the humility of spirit of one who knew that thereby American democracy complimented not the man Turner but Turner the scholar, the servant of a nation’s best ideals….The social ideals of this young man, early acquired, never disintegrated.  To the last he retained his loyalty to democracy” [285, 287, 293].  Turner’s conception of American history: “as the history of a group of sectionally different communities, each one established in a physiographic area of its own, each one devoted to its particular economy and social life, its own culture and politics.  In the large view of affairs that he upheld, it was the interplay and interdependence of these sections with one another that formed the stuff of American history.  The forward moving frontier was important because, in its westward progress it advanced with unique virgin physiographic areas and thus generated the beginning of still other sections” [337].  The achievement of (classically educated) Turner’s The Rise of the New West: “The grand topics of Congressional debate and legislation were considered in the light of sectional influences impinging on Congress in the persons of sectional champions, political figures in national life.  Federal policy was thus shown to be a resultant of compromise and conciliation which reduced the originally extreme claims of rival sections to a decent moderation.  Natural history, as studied in Congressional action and presidential policy, came thus to have coordinate interest and importance with the internal history of the sections.  And underneath all, the strong tide of nascent democracy was shown silently on the upsweep, moving toward the political victory of Andrew Jackson in 1828.” [Mood, Development of Frederick Jackson Turner as a Historical Thinker, 1943, 346].

[John Maurice Clark delivers a series of lectures at Columbia University, 1946] …when the world was ‘in the grip of a mighty struggle.  On one side are forces driving toward chaos and anarchy, political, social, economic, and moral.  On the other side are forces of centralized control.  Between them stand the forces and men who are trying desperately to salvage a workable basis for a humane and ordered community, in which some effective degree of freedom and democracy may be kept alive without wrecking society by their undisciplined exercise and disruptive excesses.’  [quoted in Schriftgiesser, Business and Social Policy: The Role of the Committee for Economic Development, 1967, 15-16.]

[Willard Thorp, “Herman Melville,” Literary History of the United States, 468. Fourth edition, revised.] The faith which Melville longed for while he was writing Clarel, and finally achieved in when he wrote Billy Budd was not the faith of his fathers.  He did not receive it in a moment of conversion to any inherited system of belief.  He had to construct it for himself. But it was complete and it was sufficient to satisfy him at last.  That he had to make the faith by which he could live–and that he succeeded in his long effort to do so–suggests why he has been so appealing a figure to many later writers whose struggles resemble his own.  War and economic chaos and the new fears aroused by atomic power have been as unsettling to men of sensibility as were the issues of Melville’s day to men of his kind.  Writers like Yeats and Auden, unable to rest in any traditional faith, had–even as Melville did–to construct their own.  Modern man must believe or he is lost.  That is the meaning of Clarel. “If Luther’s day expands to Darwin’s year,/Shall that exclude the hope–foreclose the fear?  The running battle of the star and clod/ Shall run for ever–if there be no God.” [7]

[William Gilman, Melville’s Early Life and Redburn, 1951, 216]…Like Taji and Ishmael, [Redburn] is another of the “isolatoes” whose social and spiritual predicaments became more and more the subject of American works, from Walden and Huckleberry Finn to “Gerontion,” “Prufrock,” and Look Homeward Angel.  Although Redburn does not realize it, it is the failure of the American dream that produces the sense of being an outcast with which he leaves home.  The emotional brutality of the sailors leaves him “a kind of Ishmael” on the ship.  And his isolation in Liverpool and the monstrous poverty of the place furnish glimpses of the growing conflict in the nineteenth century between man and the modern city.  In his love of historical tradition, Redburn is the civilized Westerner who seeks to assimilate and be assimilated by his own culture.  But in Liverpool Redburn finds a commercial and relatively new metropolis, blind to the past and interested only in profit, inhuman in itself and dehumanizing its swarming populace.  It allows widows and children to starve, and except for its churches it thrusts Redburn out of doors.  In Redburn’s awareness of the way a large city crushes both body and spirit in man, Melville makes one of the earliest statements of the cleavage between the individual and his environment in the modern world.

[H.M. Tomlinson, 1949, epigraph to Introduction, Eleanor Melville Metcalf’s Herman Melville: Cycle and Epicycle, 1953]  Our peering curiosity is the measure of his mastership. His contribution to the fun of life, and his deepening of its mystery, only quicken interest in his person, and desire to examine his relics for traces of his secrets.

[Lewis Mumford prefers the moderate middle distance:]  As far as my general approach goes, I stand by my original treatment of Melville in those very features that least comport with the present style of academic biography and criticism.  Just because every aspect of Melville has by now been subjected to microscopic magnification and ex-ray [sic] analysis, there remains perhaps a special place for works that regard him with the naked eye, at a reasonable distance, bringing out the main features and deliberately suppressing the pores and the pockmarks.  Not the least use of careful documentation is the freedom it gives to abandon the methods that produce it, once the results are taken into account.  Otherwise the scholarly virtues of patience, scrupulousness, exactitude, exhaustiveness would come at too high a price.  Without sufficient will to generalize and select, present-day American scholars are perhaps too often tempted to bury by an overload of minute analysis, meant chiefly to impress other scholars working in the same territory, works that were once in danger of being smothered by indifference.

…Like high-fidelity zealots in sound reproduction, many scholars in this generation make no distinction of value between music and noise; and even cheerfully sacrifice music to noise if the latter can be more accurately recorded and reproduced.  Against such minds my revised study may volunteer, as a scarred veteran, to join an open counter-attack.

…Let the reader treat this book as a guidepost, or rather, a partly effaced milestone, on the original narrow country lane of Melville scholarship.  That road has now turned into a six-lane motorway, busy with traffic: dashing private cars, ponderous trucks, bus-loads of tourists on guided tours.  Those who like to linger on an old shadow-dappled lane will not go so fast or get so far: but they will have the freedom to collect their own thoughts, inhale fresh air, take in the landscape, and pluck a few roadside flowers for themselves.  Since I have drawn freely from Melville’s own words whenever they were available, frequently without quotation marks, the voice that will accompany them on this solitary stroll will often be that of Herman Melville.  My task as a critic will have been well done, according to my own lights, if henceforward they ask for no better guide than Herman Melville.  [Lewis Mumford takes on the supposedly fact-fetishizing Stanley Williams faction of Melville scholarship: “Preface to the New Edition,” Herman Melville: A Study of His Life and Vision (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962): xiii,xiv.  See my book on the Melville Revival for his suppression of pores and pockmarks in the 1920s.)

[U. of Pennsylvania Professor Hennig Cohen, “Why Melville Isn’t For the Masses,” 1969:]  Herman Melville is no doubt the most famous but least celebrated writer in the history of American literature and the evidence received up to now does not indicate that the 150th anniversary of his birth…was an occasion for popular commemoration.  The reasons are almost Melvillean in their ambiguities.  First, Melville is a writer who arouses intense but private responses.  It is not easy to share him because this means sharing one’s privacy, and the sum total of many intensely personal responses does not equal mass popularity.  Though he identified with the outcasts and wanderers, the Ishmaels, Melville himself was no escapist fleeing the drudgery and frustrations of civilization for high drama aboard whaling ships and exotic adventures on the South Sea islands.  He was deeply committed to the world in which he lived and in his fashion, a sociable man.  Moreover, he was involved in significant manifestations of American destiny as both sailor and writer–to such an extent that the subject matter, even the style of his life and books exemplify the national character, and the metaphysical themes that engrossed his thinking are expressions of the national mind….”

[This is the first of two blogs on the antics of the moderate men who tamed Herman Melville. For Part two see https://clarespark.com/2010/06/18/whaleness-2/. You will find yourself at the end of a journey smack in the middle of the Democratic Party and with progressive Republicans too.]

NOTES. [1] Cf. Vivia, the hero of Pierre’s failed attempt at a masterpiece, in Pierre (1852).

[2] This is clearly a reference to Senator William Allen of Ohio, 1803-1879, a Jacksonian expansionist and supporter of Lewis Cass, the latter implemented Indian removal for Jackson: both were advocates of “Popular Sovereignty,” which in practice would have allowed individual states to determine the legality of slavery.

[3] Quoted in A Voice From The Nile, 1886, marked by Melville (Walker Cowen, II, 699). Thomson, then secretary to an English company formed to operate an American silver mine, had just “discovered that the shareholders had been deluded into purchasing an utterly unsound concern, so that his mission and his situation as secretary came to an end together.” (Dobell, Thomson’s biographer.)

[4] William F. Allen, 1885, writing in The Nation, quoted in Fulmer Flood, “The Development of Frederick Jackson Turner as a Historical Thinker,” 1943.  Allen, Turner’s teacher, brought order to the field by producing the first Syllabus of American History, 1883.

[5] The Review was a new journal welcomed by The Nation, May 3, 1919, p.675, as another voice to brake the rapid drift toward the extreme left, joining them, New Republic,and Dial. Mather refers to the “parable” in which Ishmael, after nearly capsizing the ship, turns his gaze away from the hypnotic try-works that represent the primitive emotions unleashed in violent revolution, and that will sink the Pequod: this turning away (apparently) saves Ishmael.  It is conceivable that the Epilogue to Moby-Dick establishing Ishmael’s survival may have been tacked on after British critics complained that the narrator could not be dead; or, the change may have reflected a typically Melvillean oscillation, or a calculated move to please audiences with different politics.  The Whale, in its original Bentley English edition, clearly establishes the whale as amoral authority, the object of the artist as conquering hero, and locates the work in the tradition of the Miltonic Sublime.  On the title page, there is an epigraph from Paradise Lost omitted from the American first edition: “…There Leviathan,/ Hugest of living creatures, in the deep/ Stretch’d like a promontory sleeps or swims,/ And seems a moving land; and at his gills/ Draws in, and at his breath spouts out a sea.” The Extracts (the montage of quotes from other authors concerning whales) does not begin the book, but ends it; the last verse is a “Whale Song”: “Oh the rare old Whale, mid storm and gale/ In his ocean home will be/ A giant in might, where might is right,/ And King of the boundless sea.” Thus the reader is left, not with an image of the pathetic orphaned Ishmael, transmitting the anti-pride message of Job, but a sea shanty glorifying the force and militarism that was deeply offensive to Christian pacifists; the grabbiness that Melville had repudiated in the chapter on Loose Fish and Fast Fish.  Here the key word is “boundless.” (Cf. Taji’s quest at the end of Mardi.)  He could be referring to the boundlessness of scientific inquiry that conservatives claimed was leading to unprecedented forms of tyranny, and for which Ahab had been punished with blindness.  The point is that no Melville scholar has proven that Melville’s original intention was to save Ishmael, and the issue has been neglected, given the weight accorded to Ishmael’s sudden illumination in teaching guides and other material directed at students.

[6] Turner Ms. in Wilson papers since 1918, published in American Historical Review, April 1942, 545-551; William Diamond of Johns Hopkins explained that Turner’s ms. was taken to Paris by Wilson in 1918, along with “a great staff of technical experts, several dossiers of material which he thought might be of use to him.”  Here was an example of the manner in which historians could put their knowledge to work for society, and one which suggested answers to questions that were current again in 1942.  Italics were added to the ms. by an unknown hand.

[7]Thorp distanced himself from Christian sectarianism and radical Protestantism throughout.  He seems to adhere to Christian Socialism (like Matthiessen); Margaret Farrand Thorp wrote a biography of Charles Kingsley, reviewed in London Mercury.  Thorp was a collaborator of Donald Drew Egbert in his survey of American socialism.

February 17, 2010

Nazi sykewar, American style, part three

The Business Behind Art knows the Art of Good Business, Hans Haacke, 1985

[Here the authors of German Psychological Warfare, ed. Ladislas Farago, explain why Americans should not be alarmed by the appropriation/adaptation of Nazi sykewar techniques to American democratic traditions. I am copying the last two pages of their text, wherein you will discover that they continue to use scientific-sounding language, while never specifying how such adaptations would not threaten the democratic value of questioning authority. Could it be because they viewed themselves as Platonic Guardians protecting the [skeptical] masses from their insatiable curiosity? The remainder of this blog is typed verbatim from pages 58-59 of the text. This will be followed by Queens College professor Kimball Young’s closing remarks. Then there will be two bibliographic entries referring to Freud, as founder of the mass psychology they seek to implement, as well as a comparable entry on Clausewitz.]



   Our Survey of German Psychological Warfare is based upon the writings of German military theorists, psychologists, and Nazi “philosophers.” Their books and articles have been carefully coordinated into a composite picture of German theories. By its very nature, such a survey cannot anticipate a finished portrait of German war psychology in action. We shall have to wait to see how valid many of these theories proved in the acid test of their actual application.

    While. thus, it is appropriate to caution against accepting every single German theory at face value, many of the German suggestions are adaptable to specific American requirements of national defense.

    Americans should have no qualms about adopting some of the best features of German military psychology. The Nazis have, on their part, expropriated the findings of many American scholars whose contribution to military psychology (particularly those of the Division of Psychology, U.S. Army 1917-18) were of the greatest interest and value when psychology was introduced as an integral part of the German war machine.


    American psychologists like Yerkes, McDougall [a famous racist, CS], Thorndike, Terman, Allport, Yoakum, Strong, O’Connor, Ligon, Dodge, and others have had an unmistakable influence on German military psychology, although their theories and practical suggestions were more or less distorted after going through the Nazi mill.

   American political scientists like Harold D. Lasswell and Leonard Doob have attracted Nazi attention and imagination. Lasswell’s Propaganda Technique in the World War and Doob’s Propaganda,iIts Psychology and Technique were carefully read and digested in Germany.

  Nor were the Germans the first to discover “psychological campaigns.” General Sherman Miles, present chief of our own Military Intelligence, surveyed the nature of modern warfare almost fifteen years ago in an article published in the North American Review. It is known that his article received the most careful attention of German military circles (347). [They cite an entry describing a Swiss sociologist inspired by Miles’s article, 1928. CS] Long before Hitler wrote his Kampf, Banse and Ludendorff their blueprints of Total War, or Blau his secret propaganda text-book, an American Colonel (now General) Walter Campbell Sweeney, described the changed character of modern wars in a prophetic little book entitled Military Intelligence—A New Weapon of War (New York: Stokes, 1924.)

   Written almost eighteen years ago and now all but forgotten, it was, in fact, the first warning and outline of “psychological warfare.” Colonel Sweeney wrote:

    “While espionage is still one of the recognized agencies in the collection of military information, its field of action has been extended…as to make its military phase an unimportant one…It may be called War Propaganda…and it is not a military weapon but a national one. It is not operated by military personnel but by civilians.  Even in war the attack chiefly is directed against the civilian population in the homeland and only partially against the military forces. Its main object in war is to weaken the enemy by destroying the faith of his people in their government. Its main object in peace is to select and prepare agencies which will be of value to it for the purposes when the time for the use of military force arrives.”

   The Fifth Column was clearly foreseen by Colonel Sweeney:

   “A possible method of acquiring information of value under such conditions but one whose use would not even be considered by the United States [!]  lies in establishing within the enemy country a system whereby local inhabitants act as spies and agents and make their reports to representatives who pass through at regular intervals. Such a system to be effective must be one that has been built up years before the commencement of the war.”

   And the warning:

   “It appears to be evident that a new agency with a new method of attack has come into existence. It was born out of the modern industrial necessities of the armies and the need for having full support of the public in prosecuting a war.

    New methods of attack require new methods of defense. The new weapon, war propaganda, as described, has developed the new method of attack and has brought us to the point where we must create a new agency and method of defense.”  [end pages 58-59. So the U.S. disavows Fifth Columns in Occupied Europe? CS]


[Kimball Young’s reassuring interpretive essay (pp.60-62), closing remarks:]

 …   It is quite possible that a study of our survey of German psychological warfare may lead to a conviction that we are up against something which cannot be successfully combated. Those who come around to this thinking neglect the fact that American culture has nurtured a strength which is vastly superior to the Nazi totalitarian spirit. We have had 150 years experience with a democratic form of government and we should be loath to let it slip away from us.

    Our superiority is backed up by tremendous technical skill and industrial capacity which in themselves constitute a powerful support for our psychological strength. Further, our individual initiative and strong sense of independence of action, if tempered and developed, are essential components of stable leadership. Our sense of team-play, co-ordination of tasks and esprit de corps, witnessed all through our everyday living, are also virtues of high importance. Our consciousness of mass strength, although it tends to be over-boastful at times, provides us with self-assurance and self-appreciation. Although our democratic ideology cannot be said to match the “attack attitude” stressed by Nazi military psychologists, we have a sticking quality that can be aroused to a genuine “fighting spirit” if our basic values are threatened.

   Finally, the crucial American faith in the common man, in his integrity, in his capacity to join his fellows in policy-making and execution of plans, and in his ability to combine individual responsibility with personal rights and liberties constitutes the foundation upon which a strong national morale may be built and sustained. [end, Kimball Young excerpt. The last two paragraphs were the democratic part: ordinary individuals, merged with stable leaders and not asking too many (“boastful”?) questions, should be part of a single well-oiled machine, cf. Woodrow Wilson, https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/. The Clausewitz and Freud factors follow in the Bibliography:]

“254. Freud, S. Zeitgemaesses ueber Krieg und Tod. Wien: Internatl. Psychoanalyt. Verlag, 1924.

CONTEMPORARY THOUGHTS ON WAR AND DEATH: Freud’s book is still widely read and anonymously quoted among German army psychologists.

374. Freud, S. Massenpsychologie und Ich-Analyse. Wien: Internationl. Psychoanalyt. Verlag, 1923.

MASS PSYCHOLOGY AND THE ANALYSIS OF THE EGO: This fundamental work is the raw material upon which the Nazis base a major part of their psychological offensives.”

But see this earlier entry on Clausewitz:

“7. Clausewitz, K. v. Vom Kriege. Berlin: Behr’s 1916

WAR: A Prussian general of the early 19th Century and founder of the unique German “war philosophy”, Clausewitz believed that war is part and parcel of the state and society. His famous dictum, “war is the continuation of politics by other means”, has been resuscitated by the Nazis as the kernel of their whole political philosophy and has become the theoretical basis of their “political warfare”. Clausewitz was the first of modern military writers whose conception of the “strategy of inner defense” has been realized in total war. By “strategy of inner defense” he meant psychological preparedness and a proper estimation of morale as decisive factors in war. [end Clausewitz entry]

January 3, 2010

This witch is not for burning: science as magic

Living Idol from the S-M Collection, UCLA

Living Idol from the S-M Collection, UCLA

I was talking to my sister this morning about how the history of science is being taught in history departments. Barbara used to work for the E.P.A., and is an expert on indoor air and toxic molds. One of her projects is the campaign to address asthma in the public schools. 7% of the population suffers from asthma, while among blacks, the figure is at least 25%. (Moreover, in poor neighborhoods, not all doctors are competent to treat asthma, a controllable disease.) This is a disgraceful disparity, but brings out the necessity for any public health measure to consider the dire effects of environmental contaminants, surely one reason that health-care costs cannot be brought be under control without preventive medicine. And our legislators see public health through such a clouded and narrow lens that any legislation that does not extend its vision into every nook and cranny of how we live, will be severely limited.  Will our politicians, at any level of government, address this and related matters affecting public health? It is up to each and every one of us to resist the ferocious anti-science bias in some aspects of “humanistic” Western culture.

I mention this discussion with my sister because she was incredulous (she shouted out in disbelief) when I told her that the UCLA Department of History has a special program in the history of science, taught as cultural anthropology, as if scientists should be studied as primitive tribes, as exotics. I audited a seminar in 1989, led by Cambridge U. academic star Simon Schaffer, in which he confidently declared that “science was, essentially, a swindle.” Schaffer views himself as a leftist, and probably so do the other members of the group that treats science as part of cultural studies. They follow Foucault, who believed that the bourgeoisie created knowledge in their institutions as a route to total mind-control, having their way with the rest of us, the easily bamboozled by the evidence of progress in combating disease, say, increased life expectancy. (I have blogged about this incessantly, but bear with me, or see https://clarespark.com/2013/03/28/power-and-aristocratic-radicals/.) When I fought back in the Schaffer seminar, the much younger graduate students were silent, or joined in the general mockery of Clare, the troglodyte, who was not only not with it, but who would never get a job. (They were correct of course; if it were possible, I would have been burned at the stake for my pro-science heresy.)

But now consider this: if you know the UCLA campus, the humanities are taught on North Campus, while mathematics and the sciences are located in the South Campus.  The students in the South Campus were nearly all Asian, while North Campus was the home to non-Asians. Do you suppose this was a coincidence, or was it a harbinger of the decline of the West at the hands of its groovy postmodernists and multiculturalists? If you think I am describing an atypical episode, take a look at the career of one of the coolest modernist authors of the twentieth century, William Gaddis, for instance, who described the medical profession as witch-doctors in “The Recognitions.” Misanthropy wins awards these days.

On this website and in my comments on Facebook I have often stood with libertarians. But to argue against “Big Government” without specifying what  positive role government can and should play in promoting a healthful life for us and our children, is a lapse of citizenship. Like other vague abstractions, the phrase can mean anything a demagogue wants it to. Localism has too often been a device to perpetuate reactionary social policies, in this sense a reiteration of the antebellum states’ rights ploy to perpetuate slavery. See blogs https://clarespark.com/2009/07/11/multiculturalists-and-wilsonians-cant-diagnose-the-new-antisemitism/, https://clarespark.com/2009/10/05/charles-sumner-moderate-conservative-on-lifelong-learning/and https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/. At its best, localism can result in a tight community committed to creative problem solving, but at its worst, localism can go parochial/provincial, condemning ourselves and our children to ignorance, undeserved suffering, and early death.

[Added 1-6-10: A note on the burgeoning Green movement. Beware, science students, of fringe groups that have bonded opportunistically with the respected ecologists. I have seen 60s mystical hippies, mystics of the New Age, and their soul-brothers– white supremacist or separatist groups– following the precepts of  the European New Right in order to add to their numbers and to rescue “spirituality” from capitalists, a.k.a. the Jews. Some very foolish Jews have allowed themselves to be used by these far Rightists, but apparently fail to recognize that they are dealing with arch-segregationists. I have read materials from one group suggesting that all Jews should to go to Israel, a reminder of the attitudes reported by Ralph Bunche in 1947 (i.e., there were numerous states that supported “Zionism” and the partition of Palestine in order to rid their country of Jews). The point is that these “new” rightists follow the degeneration narrative so popular in the late 19th-early 20th centuries, and expect new, ethnically homogeneous local [tribes] to spring up with autarkic economies after the great crumbling that they expect to commence any day now. When I wrote to one of their leaders, he did not shy away from the label “national socialist.” It is worth while contrasting those who oppose “multiculturalism” because they are modern Nordics, with those like myself who see multiculturalism as an elite strategy for micromanaging group conflict, subtly reiterating the racial discourse of old.]

Luis Ricardo Falero, 1878

Luis Ricardo Falero, 1878

October 9, 2009

Conflict Resolution: Ralph Bunche’s Nobel Prize (3)

Image (49)Today, October 9, 2009, President Barack Obama learned that he was to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; some believe that it was given in anticipation of the pacific and internationalist diplomacy that his administration would embody.  Since I have been writing for months here on progressives and their confidence in the efficacy of “conflict-resolution” as the jewel in their crowns, I am commenting on two figures today who also advocated an end to war. First, here is Woodrow Wilson, thirteen years before he commenced his promotion of the League of Nations; indeed the last of his famous Fourteen Points called for precisely such an international organization. But in the speech below, it is clearly the class war that alarmed him while he was still President of Princeton University. (The material that follows is the conclusion of my blog https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/ ):

     Representing the American Whig Society at the Sesquicentennial Celebration at Princeton University, a quaking Wilson addressed his magnificently dressed international audience, October 21, 1896; his topic “Princeton in the Nation’s Service.” “The Old World trembles to see its proletariat in the saddle.” “The literature of your own race and country” would instruct the masses, and neutralize “the work of the noxious, intoxicating gas which has somehow got into the lungs of the rest of us, from out the crevices of [the scientist’s] workshop…I should tremble to see social reform led by men who have breathed it; I should fear nothing better than utter destruction from a revolution conceived and led in the scientific spirit. Do you wonder, then, that I ask for the old drill, the old memory of times gone by, the old schooling in precedent and tradition, the old keeping of faith with the past, as a preparation for leadership in the days of social change?” Closing his remarks, a calmer Wilson elaborated his pacific model of the perfected university, breeding ground for democratic leaders to be trained in the ascetic ideal, hence liberated from Sumner’s ruptures, Margoth’s foul wind[s],[1] and the example of Europe’s runaway horsy proles. Serving “the nation,” it would be

           ” the home of sagacious men, hard-headed and with a will to know, debaters of the world’s questions every day and used to the rough ways of democracy: and yet a place removed–calm Science seated there, recluse, ascetic, like a nun, not knowing that the world passes, not caring, if the truth but come in answer to her prayer; and Literature, walking within her open doors, in quiet chambers, with men of olden times, storied walls about her, and calm voices infinitely sweet; here ‘magic casements opening on the foam of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn,’ to which you may withdraw and use your youth for pleasure; there windows open straight upon the street, where many stand and talk, intent upon the world of men and affairs. A place for men, and all that concerns them; but unlike the world in its self-possession, its thorough[2] way of talk, its care to know more than the moment brings to light; slow to take excitement; its air pure and wholesome with a breath of faith; every eye within it bright in the clear day and quick to look toward heaven for the confirmation of its hope. Who shall show us the way to that place?”

   With science safely closeted and purified, the South would rise again. Wilson’s home was a typically Southern one: quieted, for a time, but not subdued. In the late 1930s, one writer stated flatly that the South had justifiably hated the North, and without remission: ” The late war had seemed to them a test between the strength of men and the strength of things, between a spiritual philosophy and a materialistic philosophy; and they were convinced that the result of it would be the extinction of everything they valued. They felt that more-and-more and not better-and-better was the inevitable motto of the new order; and they believed that such a premise was comfortable only with the standardized and the un-polite; the essentially un-human.” [3]

The genteel South, like much of the anti-consumerist, anti-commercial 1960s counter-culture and New Left, would not be railroaded by Yankee Puritans; would not be uplifted by “geologic Jew[s]” into the modern age. [end excerpt, Margoth v. Robert E. Lee]

     Also, on this website, I have suggested that the Southerner Wilson viewed “self-determination” as analogous to “state’s rights,” and that his collectivist ideology, in a typical “progressive” gesture erased the individual and epistemological materialism in general in favor of “community” or “the public interest” (as defined by elites). Add to that the numerous blogs in which I likened the now omnipresent “peace studies” or “conflict-resolution” exercises in the schools, to a kind of “coerced harmony” from above, in which the artful, manipulative, but always rational and neutral “mediator” brings to the table two irrational entities, whose lust for war, in this industrialized but disorganized world of deadly weapons widely distributed to the crazies, will ignite the planet in a war that will destroy everyone with unprecedented ferocity.

     The fear of apocalypse was present in the imagination of Ralph Bunche as he was given the task of mediating the war of 1948, after the new state of Israel was invaded by her neighbors. His labors as mediator earned him a Nobel Peace Prize, but as he states (privately) in his papers, he thought that he should have given it back. The armistices that he negotiated were not peace treaties at all, but the result of unanticipated Israeli military victories in late 1948 that had brought Egypt to the table, lest Israel expand further beyond the borders agreed upon by the United Nations partition resolution of November 29, 1947. For the Arab states, the armistice agreements were stopping points in a war they would never relinquish until the Jews and their State were out of the Middle East.

    Nor was Bunche the disinterested figure that has been painted by hagiographers. His papers show that both during the period he was assisting Count Bernadotte and after he became Acting Mediator (Bernadotte had been assassinated in September 1948) he was transmitting the strategies advanced by the U.S. Department of State and the Foreign Office of the U.K., for instance in the designs that the U.K. had on the Negev as a site for a military base. I see the armistice negotiations as a charade, but Bunche’s success is made the inspiration for student exercises in effective conflict-resolution in a booklet prepared by the National Center for History in the Schools (UCLA), A Unit of Study for Grades 9-12. It is entitled “Infinite Patience, Indomitable Will, Ralph Bunche, His Struggle for Peace and Justice,” while the publicity for the Spingarn Medal awarded to him in 1949 restores the Great Man theory of history.

   A few scholars have noted Bunche’s real influences and the dynamics of conflict that led to the armistices between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria (Michael J. Cohen and before that, J. C. Hurewitz), but in the material presented by UCLA Magazine, he is lauded “for his success in negotiating a peaceful settlement….” as if the United Nations intervention alone had led to a resolution of conflict.

    To link these three sections together (Wilson, the spirituality of Southern Review, and Bunche), my complaint is not against conflict-resolution as such, but rather the invisibility of irreconcilable conflicts, grounded in competing material economic, political, and cultural interests, in the minds of many advocates of “peace studies.” When Wilson relegated “science” to the nunnery, he was throwing overboard the only methodology that could minimize future violent conflict: that is, narrowing the difference between the rich and poor nations through economic, political, and cultural development. Unless the meaning of “spirituality” is changed to the unblinkered search for the multiple material and ideological causes of conflict, we have nothing but words, words, words along with glittering medals that signify nothing.

[1] Herman Melville, Clarel, 2.26, 1-24. Margoth has insulted the Roman Catholic Church, declaring that “All, all’s geology, I trow.” Margoth is first introduced in the text at the dung-gate. The narrator explains that it marked where “By torch the tipstaves Jesus led,/ And so through back-street hustling sped/ To Pilate./ Odor bad it has/ This gate in story¼.” (1.24, 16-20).

 [2] Compare to Wilson’s description of the Radical Reconstruction program: “Thorough” in Division and Reunion.

 [3] From Southern Review Vol.3 (July-April 1937-38), “What The South Figured 1865-1914,” by John Donald Wade. See also Frank L. Owsley, “Jefferson Davis,” Southern Review, Vol.3, 762-768. Affirming the State’s rights position, Owsley points out that, despite modernization, differing sectional interests remain. The majority may not tyrannize minorities. Cf. Geographer Sumner’s survey of the American continent in “Are We A Nation?” Our rivers and mountains confer natural unity on the nation. In the same volume of Soutern Review see also Donald Davidson, “Regionalism as Social Science,” 209-224, for his preference for Turner over Beard. The essay may be read as supportive of multiculturalism and postmodernism. For a repudiation of Robert E. Lee’s too passive stance, see Andrew Nelson Lytle, “Robert E. Lee,” SR Vol.1 (1935-36): 411-422. “[It was not Lee, who submitted, and trusted in God’s mercy, but rather] those who led the Ku Klux Klan, that society which made survival possible.

July 11, 2009

Multiculturalists and Wilsonians can’t diagnose “the new antisemitism”

foreskinman[12-28-12: This essay explains in a roundabout way, how it is possible to be anti-Zionist without viewing oneself as antisemitic. “Peace is the answer.” It is especially timely given the possible nomination of the anti-Israel Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.]

I. Given the Senate hearings preparatory to the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court that are to begin July 13, I thought it would be timely to review how leading academics and other hip intellectuals are handling or ignoring the notion of the law, liberally conceived. Also, I am interested in the claim that her appointment would be a welcome gesture of “inclusion,” long overdue. Hence, this blog, which should be read in connection with my last one on unfinished revolutions. (See https://clarespark.com/2009/07/04/unfinished-revolutions-and-contested-notions-of-identity/.)

Professor Bernard Harrison recently delivered a well-received lecture at a recent conference on antisemitism at the U. of Haifa, June 22, 2009. (The link is http://www.edu.haifa.ac.il/~ilangz/antisemitism_conference/. What follows is my critique of two aspects of his general argument: 1. His notion of “prejudice” is not analyzed sufficiently as a term developed by propagandists for the “progressives” (conservative reformers staving off socialism and communism or any other replay of the “jacobin” French Revolution, often through the co-opting of dissident groups); and 2. The idea of “international community” is another “progressive” nostrum that flies in the face of international law and cannot achieve its stated objective of conflict resolution. (I refer the reader of this blog to an excellent essay by legal scholar Samuel J. Spector, disseminated through Middle East Forum that makes the same criticism as I do regarding the underlying ideology of Wilsonian internationalism (the hazy notion of “self-determination,” in Spector’s case study, dealing with the failed diplomacy in resolving problems in the Western Sahara.)


The premise of Harrison’s paper was that the once pervasive antisemitic prejudice was based on exclusion, but that it is now superseded by the newer paranoid variety that carries “the scent of death” and “the stench of bad eggs.” In deploying the idea of inclusion as a strategy to fight “prejudice” Harrison does not step outside the assumptions of “multiculturalism”–a policy that bears no relation to what used to be called the melting pot or pluralism–features of the secular state, that is, a state that forbids any and all religious establishments that hold themselves apart from the liberal state and the rule of law. Moreover, he appears to be unaware of the history of racial theory and the assumptions of populist and/or Marxist-Leninist anti-capitalism, with its important persistence in so-called “anti-imperialism,” black liberation theology, or Third World-ism today.

Harrison seems to think that Jews are now enjoying relative “inclusion.” But closer analysis of actual historic persons suggests that, for many,  if a non-Jew includes this or that person of Jewish origin in his/her charmed circle, it is because that exception is a good Jew (i.e. not a fanatic: s/he behaves like a Christian, or agrees with the ever-compromising world view of the “moderate” and “rational” gatekeeper, or worse, submits to Sharia law). This highly conditional idea of inclusion is forcefully brought out in the Radoshes new book on Truman and the founding of Israel, where Truman was strongly put-off by pushy, pressuring Zionist Jews, preferring those like Chaim Weizmann who concurred with his own self-image of the moderate man. It was the pleas of Weizmann and Truman’s old friend Eddie Jacobson who persuaded him to support the new Jewish state in May 1948 (but de jure, not de facto). Thus Truman is portrayed as facing down a recalcitrant and insubordinate Department of State, probably because of his earlier connection with Christian Zionism, blended with more recent humanitarian sympathies with stranded displaced persons in Europe, who were denied entrance to Palestine by the British, and who could not enter other societies as well, given their swelling numbers as many Jews fled Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, adding great numbers to the survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, and all living in horrendous conditions.

Harrison has made a distinction between a “new antisemitism” and what he claims is a now virtually passé form of social prejudice. Ignoring the actual history of ethnopluralism/multiculturalism as transmitted by J.G. von Herder and the German Romantics in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, he supposes that all stigmatized groups, including Jews, are imagined not as coherent collectivities of persons sharing a national or other group character (such as ‘race’), but as collectivities of “individuals.” This does not square with the historical record. In the U.S., intellectuals such as Horace Kallen, a Progressive, clearly understood that “ethnic” solidarity or cultural nationalism trumped the alarming notion of proletarian internationalism, or the kinship of workers everywhere as Socialist and Marxists had been arguing.  (One favorite test question on the Ph.D. field exams in the UCLA Department of History was to state whether ethnicity or class was the engine of American history. The right answer was undoubtedly “ethnicity” since “class” was constantly collapsed into “race” while I was there, in good anti-imperialist fashion, and stranding the white working class as bearers of “white skin privilege.”)

Turning again to Harrison’s lecture, such social prejudice that makes exclusion or inclusion the test of either prejudice or acceptance, he traces to Rousseau and the (undifferentiated) Enlightenment, not to idealist Germany, with its leading intellectuals in opposition to the “mechanical materialist” French Enlightenment influence, both before and after the French Revolution. Oddly, for Harrison, the conceptual flaw of “exclusion” as the test for prejudice is that it lays “the Chosen People” open to the charge of bigoted exclusiveness. (Clearly, he does not understand or does not report the concept of chosenness as imposing a moral burden on Jews to repair themselves as individuals, through repentance and reparation to the wounded.) Anyway, he thinks such a form of social prejudice has nearly faded away, masking the infinitely more lethal threat of antisemitism that he (and Jean-Paul Sartre) attributed to genocidal Hitler and their current manifestations: Manichean antisemitism in which the division of the universe into the dualing forces of Good and Evil precedes the specifically paranoid conspiracy theory that comprises the new antisemitism. In other words, I infer that Harrison is defending moral relativism, another tic of progressives and moderates, who seek to compromise what may be irreconcilable conflicts with a “middle ground.”

It is my understanding that the conception of Good versus Evil is a feature of absolutist religious world views, and I hasten to add, not Judaism.* The latter has no conception of the devil or of original sin and fallen flesh redeemed by the Saviour. By contrast with Christianity, Judaism as a way of life constantly interrogates the individual as to the possible mixed motives for apparently good and generous gestures, whereas the Christian humanities professors and other intellectuals I have encountered either hesitate to look inside altogether or throw up their hands as to the possibility of any positive knowledge whatsoever of the human psyche. “It is all a mystery,” they often say, or quoting Scripture, we see “through a glass darkly.”   Harrison might have brought out this crucial contrast between some forms of Christianity and Judaism, but did not.

Does the current animus against Zionism and Jews in general have anything whatsoever to do with irrationalism or a fight to the finish between the forces of light and darkness?  The point I made above regarding good Jews (or other token friends from stigmatized groups) still holds. To the “progressive” person, the acceptable Jewish friend has converted away from the collectivity of bad, grasping, pushy, vulgar Jews; indeed has rejected her or his “essence,” but don’t think that the tolerant now-and-then bigot is necessarily comfortable or unwary about a possible switch back to the underlying collective “identity” of the Jew, black, woman, Scotsman, etc. Why? Because “prejudice,” taken by itself is a purely psychological/cultural category invented by social psychologists that is disconnected from the real world of political power,  economic interest, gender domination, and other material considerations. Telling the supposed bigot that s/he has a distorted, i.e., irrational idea of “the Other” is to ignore the structures of domination and irreconcilable conflicts out there (many of which cannot be erased through education or better communication or sensitivity training. And here I am condemning a wide array of social policy that seeks to ameliorate “prejudice”).

To put it plainly and severely, Harrison is worried that the recrudescence of the panicky paranoid variety of antisemitism is creating a “bunker mentality” that focuses Israelis on “security,” not “peace.”” He actually says this straight out, though this, to me, appalling statement, is almost buried by an avalanche of his opinions on other scary matters relating to growing violence against Jews everywhere. So notwithstanding the importance of Arab oil to the West for the last seven decades or so, or the penetration of the Islamic world by Axis elements before and during the 1940s, or the internal hard-line antidemocratic governance of the Arab states and Iran (featuring of course the control of women, and/or economic backwardness and tribalism), Harrison apparently believes that there is a plausible peace process in the offing between Israel and her neighbors, if only all parties would purge themselves of the irrational components of their psyches. And of course the moderate men, the mediators, will sensitively and artfully manipulate the warring parties to eliminate psychological obstacles to compromise (compromise being the braiding together of Good and Evil?). To me, that was the subtext of Harrison’s presentation at the U. of Haifa: a call to moderation and sanity, led by philosopher-kings.

II. In the remaining part of this essay, I  discuss the rejection by progressive anti-Semites of the chief tenet of the bourgeois Enlightenment: equality before the law– the keystone of the liberal state and of liberal nationalism. It is my suspicion that this so-called “legalism” has long been the gravest unpardonable sin indulged in by “the Jews”  and by their “Hebraic” Judeo-Christian progeny in the West.” As a would-be peacemaker in the time of multiculturalism, Bernard Harrison doesn’t see this.

It is no wonder that Carl Schmitt, Hitler’s favored legal theorist has been rehabilitated by some Leftists. This posting continues the thought expounded above with a distinction between rootless cosmopolitanism and rooted cosmopolitanism, expressed through the contrast between conceptions of liberal nationalism and conservative nationalism.

In the new book by Allis and Ronald Radosh that traces the intricate diplomacy surrounding the U.N. partition of Palestine and then the Jewish state (A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel, HarperCollins, 2009), they describe the findings of a prominent Democratic lawyer, Oscar R. Ewing, who determined that the Balfour Declaration of November 1917 was in conformity with international law, and that international law was based on the conquest theory of property.  That is, the Allied Powers had defeated the Ottoman Empire in the first world war, and were entitled to dispose of the previously Turkish lands as they saw fit (Safe Haven, pp.287-288). Hence, the idea of the partition of Palestine (as adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 29, 1947) did not violate international legal precedent. Against this sort of claim, Arab nationalists had long latched onto the Wilsonian notion of “self-determination.” It occurred to me after reading these pages that the common phrase “international community” must be the foil to “international law” and that “self-determination” was an intrinsic notion of multiculturalism, which stands, therefore, outside the law (and indeed any kind of universalist ethical imperative).

   Another way to put it is this: Ewing and such predecessors in America as Senator Charles Sumner or his ally Thaddeus Stevens (two of the “Black Republicans”) were advocates of the rational liberal state, understood as that overarching set of laws that guaranteed the protection of individual liberty and the common welfare. Liberty was understood not simply as limited government, but both as equal opportunity to advance through merit, and most crucially as equality before the law, i.e., one law for rich and poor alike. Such a classically liberal orientation has been characterized as “rootless cosmopolitanism” by its enemies, and as many of you know, Stalin abhorred and disposed of such an ideology that inevitably spawned enemies of the people. Prior opponents were organic conservatives of the Woodrow Wilsonian ilk, whose “cosmopolitanism” was “rooted.” What follows is Wilson’s own definition of community and its notion of Gemeinschaft.

[footnote from my article (“Margoth vs. Robert E. Lee”) https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/. See Woodrow Wilson, “A Calendar of Great Americans,” Mere Literature, 209-210: “[Like Lincoln, Lee was also “national in spirit”]: He fought on the opposite side, but fought in the same spirit, and for a principle which is in a sense scarcely less American than the principle of Union. He represented the idea of the inherent–the essential–separateness of self-government. This was not the principle of secession: that principle involved the separate right of the several self-governing units of the federal system to judge of national questions independently, and as a check upon the federal government,–and to adjudge the very objects of the Union. Lee did not believe in secession, but he did believe in the local rootage of all government. This is at the bottom, no doubt, an English idea; but it has had a characteristically American development. It is the reverse side of the shield which bears upon its obverse the devices of the Union, a side too much overlooked and obscured since the war. It conceives the individual State a community united by the most intimate associations, the first home and foster-mother of every man born into the citizenship of the nation. Lee considered himself a member of one of these great families; he could not conceive of the nation apart from the State: above all, he could not live in the nation divorced from his neighbors. His own community should decide his political destiny and duty.”

So where do the Jews come in? If anyone here has read George L. Mosse’s numerous books on the popular culture of Nazism, you will remember that the Jew was commonly seen in German novels or similar artifacts as the snake in the garden that attacked the roots of the tree. In other words, the Jewish threat is always, in one form or another, that of destroyer of “local rootage,” i.e., community and the solidarity that occurs within families, ‘races,’ and nation-states, with the nation state understood as control over specific territories and resources, as opposed to that of Gesellschaft: the liberal state as guarantor of freedom and safety for individual citizens. How do we “Jews” poison the well? Through the control of money and the media, through the advocacy of science and technology, the defense of equality before the law, skepticism, political and religious pluralism. Name your poison in this secular, hence jewified, world. In my view, this is what the Harrison paper misses (for many of these “Jewish” sins predate the onset of modernity and comprised Jew-hatred, and not simply exclusion or “social prejudice” but death to the Jewish collectivity, a collectivity understood by its opponents to share a common militaristic and domineering national character, instigated by its cruel and vindictive, particularistic God), and yet any serious student of intellectual history must recognize the pattern.

Finally, I refer you again to the paper posted on this website and excerpted above, as it spells out, in often entertaining detail, the difference between a “mechanical materialist” (i.e., “Jew” or Charles Sumner type) and an anti-science, anti-materialist organic conservative of the Woodrow Wilson-Robert E. Lee type. Although this distinction is developed throughout my book Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, this paper goes beyond the book and is more concrete with respect to Melville’s conservative racist persona as expressed in a book of poems he wrote as a meditation upon the Civil War and Reconstruction. Another of my essays on the origins of multiculturalism is found at https://clarespark.com/2009/12/12/switching-the-enlightenment-corporatist-liberalism-and-the-revision-of-american-history/. Readers here who are curious about the “rootless cosmopolitan” should look at the following paragraphs from Freud’s essay “Thoughts for the Time on War and Death” (1915):

[Freud describes what I call “the rootless cosmopolitan.”]… Relying on this unity among the civilized people, countless men and women have exchanged their native home for a foreign one, and made their existence dependent on the intercommunication between friendly nations. Moreover anyone who was not by stress of circumstance confined to one spot could create for himself out of all the advantages and attractions of these civilized countries a new and wider fatherland, in which he would move about without hindrance or suspicion. In this way he enjoyed the blue sea and the grey; the beauty of snow-covered mountains and of green meadow lands; the magic of northern forests and the splendour of southern vegetation; the mood evoked by landscapes that recall great historical events, and the silence of untouched nature. This new fatherland was a museum for him, too, filled with all the treasures which the artists of civilized humanity had in the successive centuries created and left behind. As he wandered from one gallery to another in this museum, he could recognize with impartial appreciation what varied types of perfection a mixture of blood, the course of history, and the special quality of their mother-earth had produced among his compatriots in this wider sense. Here he would find cool, inflexible energy developed to the highest point; there, the graceful art of beautifying existence; elsewhere, the feeling for orderliness and law, or others among the qualities which have made mankind the lords of the earth.

Nor must we forget that each of these inhabitants of the civilized world had created for himself a ‘Parnassus’ and’ a ‘School of Athens’ of his own. From among the great thinkers, writers and artists of all nations he had chosen those to whom he considered he owed the best of what he had been able to achieve in enjoyment and understanding of life, and he had venerated them along with the immortal ancients as well as with the familiar masters of his own tongue. None of these great figures had seemed to him foreign because they spoke another language – neither the incomparable explorer of human passions, nor the intoxicated worshipper of beauty, nor the powerful and menacing prophet, nor the subtle satirist; and he never reproached himself on that account for being a renegade towards his own nation and his beloved mother-tongue.”

*But see Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (Harper and Row, 1987), a large popular work dedicated to a Christian gentleman who is a friend to the Jews. In his first chapter Johnson calls their all encompassing and world-changing moral law “totalitarian” and making clear channels between right and wrong, good and evil. Using the word “totalitarian” in this context is provocative and ahistoric, especially as Johnson lauds the Jews as upholding life above all things, in contrast to their contemporaries in antiquity. But as I read further into the book, it seems to me to be one of the best history books for a popular audience that I have encountered.

May 3, 2008

Melville goes for Robert E. Lee

Son of the South: Robert E. Lee

Clare Spark, “Margoth v. Robert E. Lee: Melville’s Poetry and Rival Conceptions of National Unity,”

paper for panel “The Nineteenth-Century Artist,” American Literature Association Meeting, June 1, 2002, Long Beach, California.

Dramatis personae. Two contending ideologies are limned in an unresolved civil war. Radical liberal combatants include John Milton and his character Mammon (Paradise Lost), Charles Sumner, antislavery Senator from Massachusetts (1851-1874), and Melville’s rootless cosmopolitans: Captain Ahab (Moby-Dick, 1851), and Margoth (Clarel, 1876). The organic conservative adversaries include Melville’s Robert E. Lee (“Lee in the Capitol,” Melville himself as author of the Supplement to Battle-Pieces, Aspects of the War (1866), Robert E. Lee, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., Henry Cabot Lodge, and Woodrow Wilson.  [The term “organic” is affixed to the moderate men because they asserted the organic, spiritualized community against the depredations of mechanical materialism, the imputed weapon of the empiricist enemy, bearers of degeneration.]

I. Railroads and the liberal nation

The nineteenth-century American artist was situated on either side of the most difficult and unprecedented political conflict in the history of the human race: at bottom was a particular reading of the Constitution. Both the American and French Revolutions had advanced the theory and practice of popular sovereignty; moreover these human events were ruptures with the past that no Burkean gradualism could heal. The Civil War and its aftermath had pressed the novel question of equality to its logical conclusion: After Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, were Americans finally prepared, as Senator Charles Sumner had urged, to act upon the premises of the Declaration of Independence and the preamble to the Constitution? Where were our most accomplished artists moving? Would they follow Sumner’s road to equality before the law and the supremacy of the liberal nation, the overarching commonwealth that protected the human rights of every citizen without distinction of color? Note that Sumner referred to the equal rights of individuals, not of communities or states. Did not the Constitution, he asked in his speech “Are We A Nation?” (1867)[1], empower the national government to create States as Republics that would similarly protect the rights of individuals? Or would former rebels reorganize state governments in their own interest?

      Would nineteenth-century artists adhere to the feudal relic of States rights, that excuse for Secession; that doctrine that permitted Southern patricians to retain control of the freedmen until the civil rights movement of the late 1950s and 60s, in yet another chapter of an unconcluded Civil War, hearkening back to the English Civil War of the seventeenth century? There could be no equivocation in this decision: conciliation and compromise with unrepentant cavaliers would lead only to Southern victory and the reinstatement of slavery by other means. What was Sumner’s vision for the South (and North)? Was this program vindictive and punitive as Northern Democrats and Andrew Johnson supporters in the Republican Party (and some contemporary Melville scholars, praising the moderation of Melville’s “Supplement” to Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War[2]) have insisted? As opposed to Johnson’s plan of executive restoration (begun without participation of Congress), Sumner’s proposals for Congressional reconstruction demanded exclusion of rebels from government (for the time being[3]), unrestricted black male suffrage, free public schools (to accompany suffrage[4]), land for freedmen (for each head of household), removal of all discrimination and segregation, and the rights of blacks to sit on juries, and to serve as witnesses. The perfected Republic advocated by the Radical Republicans, with its emphasis on an excellent popular education for all, is still unrealized; its defeat by organic conservatives was one of the turning points in the history of our democracy. Perhaps had Sumner and his allies prevailed, had the liberal nation triumphed, we would not be reading diagnoses of his character as delivered by his (“pragmatic”) political enemies: “Hebraic” Sumner the neo-Jacobin, moral terrorist, fanatic, destroyer of the Union, stubbornly independent and individualistic, prolix, crazy, demagogic, tactless, Sumner the “nigger-lover”. Why, the man sounds like Melville’s Captain Ahab, as described by Ishmael and numerous literary scholars, taking railroading Ahab to be the essential American type, spawned by self-fashioning Puritan New Englanders (the Chosen People), and mowing down everything “spiritual” in its path.[5]

      Supporting the Iowa Railroad Bill of 1852, the fledgling Senator from Massachusetts had looked upon ever-enlarging democratic vistas: “It would be difficult to exaggerate the influence of roads as means of civilization¼where roads are not, civilization cannot be¼Under God, the road and the schoolmaster are two chief agents of human improvement. The education begun by the schoolmaster is expanded, liberalized, and completed by intercourse with the world; and this intercourse finds new opportunities and inducements in every road that is built.”[6] Now, twenty-four years later, comes Melville’s most unbeloved character, the “geologic Jew” Margoth of Clarel, a hammer-swinging little man, and, like Sumner, another liberal avatar of capital, expanding markets, and common sense.[7] Margoth, like Ahab or Sumner, recalls Milton’s rebel angel Mammon, “the least erected spirit”; declining the reverential glance upward,[8] Margoth is “¼earthward bent, [who] would pry and pore.” Addressing pilgrims touring the environs of Jerusalem, he obnoxiously desecrates the Holy Land:

               The bread of wisdom here to break,

            Margoth holds forth: the gossip tells

            Of things the prophets left unsaid—

            With master-key unlocks the spells

            And mysteries of the world unmade;

            Then mentions Salem: “Stale is she!

            Lay flat the walls, let in the air,

            That folk no more may sicken there!

            Wake up the dead; and let there be

            Rails, wires, from Olivet to the sea,

            With station in Gethsemane.” (Clarel, 2.21, 84-94)

       Margoth goes off to “explore a rift”–a worrisome idea for Melville as conciliator of unhappily riven natural families of upper-class white people, persons who were, as Margoth’s parting glance would imply, “in decline.” (2.21, 105-111) In his unfinished tome, “The Philosophy of Politics”, Woodrow Wilson too would be fretting over deracinating modern inventions: “What effect may railroads (all the instrumentalities which make populations movable and detach from local connections and attachments) be expected to have on local self-govt., and in producing nationality?” In the same projected work, he defined “Political Liberty” as “Obedience to the laws of the social organism.” As his biographer explained, the Whole, not rule of the many, constituted the Nation. (Quoting Wilson) “It is for this that we love democracy: for the emphasis it puts on character; for its tendencies to exalt the purposes of the average man to some high level of endeavor; for its principle of common assent in matters in which all are interested; for its ideals of duty and its sense of brotherhood.”

        Deploying biological metaphors in his description of “industrial development,” Wilson invigorated his prose and his wilting class with the concept of an inexorable life process tending onward and upward; but liberty (including the right to dissent) as a human right had disappeared, along with the concept of the liberal nation: in its place, consensus instructed by the empathic leader, attuned to different points of view. [9]  It is my argument here that Herman Melville, though his pre-Civil War texts are dotted with dark characters arguing the radical democratic side of the debate, and though he had strongly affirmed American chosen people as the vanguard of political liberty in White-Jacket (1850); in 1866 he unambiguously emerged as the moderate man, exponent of the “virtuous expediency” previously mocked in such works as Moby-Dick, Pierre and The Confidence-Man, often in blackface. It is disquieting for a Melville admirer to admit the possibility that his antebellum defense of non-whites had been motivated primarily by romantic primitivism, or that he had tuned out the “Declaration of Independence” that “makes a difference.”[10] Though, as a good Christian he had constantly proclaimed the brotherhood of the human race, when faced with the actual possibility of black civic, political, and economic equality, of merging the interests of white and black in the People, that is, as discrete, individual citizens with equal rights, he ignominiously retreated to the poetic discourse of the racial community, going so far as to write

                        The blacks, in their infant pupilage to freedom, appeal to the sympathies of every humane mind. The paternal guardianship which for the interval Government exercises over them was prompted equally by duty and benevolence. Yet such kindliness should not be allowed to exclude kindliness to communities who stand nearer to us in nature. For the future of the freed slaves we may well be concerned; but the future of the whole country, involving the future of the blacks, urges a paramount claim upon our anxiety.[11]

For Sumner and others, those estimable qualities of Christian character: benevolence and kindliness, had nothing to do with postwar measures to be taken, for these were the terms of slaveholders justifying their property in humans; “benevolence,” etc. were qualities imputed to slaveholders in their positive defense of the “peculiar institution” after 1830. Would Americans follow the duties imposed by the founding principles of the liberal nation, also “the whole country,” or not? Would they talk in the empirical and concrete language of political science, or in the poetic terms deployed by pseudo-democratic organic conservatives, Woodrow Wilson, for instance, that obscure the real (albeit sometimes shifting) structures and relationships of and within political and economic institutions?

          Though he had begun his Supplement by denouncing “a war whose implied end was the erecting in our advanced century of an Anglo-American empire based upon the systematic degradation of man,” and though he had not objected to the test-oath requiring loyalty to the Union for elected officials, he quickly hoped that “the oath is alterable.” These and other pro-Southern sentiments (“From reason who can urge the plea–/ Freemen conquerors of the free?”)  explicitly aligned Melville, not only with his relatives and patrons, but with Andrew Johnson’s base of Northern Copperheads, Southern secessionists, and conservative Republicans, who were determined to rule the nation, reversing the Union victory; it was a coalition that would, over time, vastly enlarge the power of the executive branch over the People’s representatives in the legislative arm of government, rehabilitating the medieval notion of the good king, an older version of the people’s friend.[12]

        A few other scholars have protested this apparent turnabout in Melville’s political sympathies;[13] the originality of my paper consists primarily in locating the currently dominant pedagogy of multiculturalism and ethnopluralism (sometimes known as “identity politics”) in the neo-feudal ideology of Southern agrarianism and localism; a progressive ideology that while not abjuring science and technology, kept scientific method’s implications for unbounded critical thought safely circumscribed, much as the Burkean T. S. Eliot would attempt in his proposal for limiting the number of “freethinking Jews” to protect community cohesion, or “equilibrium” as Southerners addicted to Gemeinschaft over Gesellschaft  would understand the term.[14] I will show that Melville’s character Margoth, the can-do apostate Jew and geologist of Clarel, stands in contrast to Melville’s fatalistic Robert E. Lee; that Margoth would prefer to build the railroad not yet taken.  The epistemology of Margothian mechanical materialism, explicit in the thought of Charles Sumner,[15] is countered by the organic conservative discourse of such other Lee admirers as Charles Francis Adams and Woodrow Wilson. By contrast with Melville’s Robert E. Lee or future organic conservatives, Sumner does not look to Providence or to a change of heart or to inter-racial or inter-sectional sympathy and understanding to effect the nation’s purposes; rather he would reconstruct Federal law, returning to the bedrock constitutional principles of the Republic and its most enlightened, most liberating ideals.

II. A Horse Named Traveler

In his testimony to the Joint Congressional Committee on Reconstruction (Feb.17, 1866), Lee delivered a barely concealed threat that if the South was not quickly restored to equal rights with the North, that it might well resume hostilities in alliance with a foreign power; moreover, although he did not repudiate either the Federal or Confederate debts, his willingness to pay both would have alarmed many Republicans. (He also wished that Virginia could “get rid of” its Negroes, who should be replaced with an immigrant white labor force.) [16]

 Melville had carefully read Lee’s “discreet” responses, which are “Briefly straightforward, coldly clear.” But in the notes to the poem, “Lee in the Capitol” (dated April 1866), Melville explained that he had taken the “poetic liberty” of imagining Lee’s hidden thoughts as he rides to and from the Capitol. The artist will uncloak Lee’s habitual “cold reserve” to reveal “feelings more or less poignant.” The specified emotions regard matters not disclosed to the Committee: the role of Fate in causing the war, and “Nature’s strong fidelity;/True to the home and to the heart”¼to “kith and kin.” Such “natural” feelings, perhaps Melville’s own as he writes the poem, should override all other considerations, whether they be legal or religious. Melville’s rectified Lee “waives” the notion that “vain intermeddlers” (a bumbling generation) caused the war; that both sides are equally to blame in “every civil strife.” Rather, Lee’s (unmuffled) voice declares, “But this I feel, that North and South were driven/ By Fate to arms.” Actually, when asked by the Committee whether he had ever thought that politicians had caused the war, Lee, the cool moderate, had answered “¼I did believe at the time that it was an unnecessary condition of affairs, and might have been avoided if forbearance and wisdom had been practiced on both sides.” Melville seemingly takes these and other words to heart as advice to guide future policy, for he has Lee warn the Committee, “Push not your triumph; do not urge/ Submissiveness beyond the verge.”

      Assuming his own voice in the Supplement, and instructed not only by Lee’s warnings but by such events as the Memphis and New Orleans massacres of loyal whites and blacks,[17] and numerous other instances of white rebel rage, Melville hopefully avers that the South is not required to be penitent: “It is enough, for all practical purposes, if the South have [sic] been taught by the terrors of civil war to feel that Secession, like Slavery, is against Destiny; that both lie buried in one grave; that her fate is linked with ours; and that together we comprise the Nation.” Melville’s concept of the reunited Nation is embedded in an irrational religious discourse grafted onto a political practice. A rational political practice is one in which facts are unflinchingly sought and examined; in which human political will and invention, not Providence, will solve problems and make history. In his essay, enthusiastically quoted at length in the Democratic New York Herald, Melville has lost himself in the real, not the imagined, Lee, applying the latter’s values and suggested tactics to conciliate a Southern planter class that does not consider itself to have committed treason, and that, if not appeased, might once again be taking arms against the tyrannical North, destroyers of the rule of law. Melville-turning-into-Lee has discarded the black mask; the Christian gentleman puts the all-white, (“temple-white”?) family first over abstract principles of natural right; now the true patriot speaks: Melville was no blind adherent, no zealot claiming that the rebel states are conquered provinces, subject to the founding principles of the liberal nation should they wish to return. Melville is no Charles Sumner or Thaddeus Stevens, insisting that emancipation was meaningless until freedmen possessed the full rights of citizens, and that the reconstructed South could not deviate from this crucial republican principle.[18] For Melville, as a “practical” matter, the burden is on the patient, wise, and forbearing North to exercise Christian charity (with malice toward none), to bring the rebel states back into the Union. After all, the State’s rights argument was “plausibly urged.” Hence, there are no pending constitutional issues to be hammered out, since the South was “plausibly” within its rights to exercise the reserved rights of the states, including secession; anyway, slavery (a bad institution) was foisted upon the South; they too have great soldiers,[19] many a mother is mourning her young rebel son’s untimely death, and “exterminating hatred of race toward race”[20] might be aroused if “measures of dubious constitutional rightfulness” are invoked “to confirm the benefit of liberty to the blacks.” In the natural course of things, “our institutions have a potent digestion, and may in time convert and assimilate to good all elements thrown in, however originally alien.”[21] (All this while the Fourteenth Amendment was on the table, reported to Congress by the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, April 30, 1866, and passed in mid-June.[22] Melville’s essay implicitly aligns him with its opponents, who had insisted that it was a reserved right of the states to determine who was qualified for the franchise.) Again, more poetry than truth; more Machiavellian “reasons of state” than either Christianity or the rule of law. And for such a nation to cohere, its bonds had better be described through metaphor.[23]

       Melville’s advice to merciless Northerners in 1866 brings him into congruence with the Robert E. Lee as praised by Charles Francis Adams in 1902, a General Lee reconstructed as a national, not merely a sectional, hero.[24] Melville’s poem had already begun that process of nationalizing Lee: “Our cause I followed, stood in field and gate–/All’s over now, and now I follow Fate./ But this is naught.  A People call–/ A desolated land¼.” And, “Faith in America never dies¼.” Lee as Christian knight reversed fin de siècle decadence, for the prospect of an internationalized and militant proletariat loomed, the tools of science and rationalism in sometimes swarthy hands. To Adams (who had been a junior officer in the Civil War, and briefly commanded a Negro regiment, deficient, he said, as cavalry[25]) Lee “represented, individualized, all that was highest and best in the Southern mind and the Confederate cause,–the loyalty to State, the keen sense of honor and personal obligation, the slightly archaic, the almost patriarchal, love of dependent, family and home¼a type which is gone,-hardly less extinct than that of the great English nobleman of the feudal times, or the ideal head of the Scotch clan of a later period.”[26] In his Memorial Address (Nov. 15, 1915), delivered to the Massachusetts Historical Society, Henry Cabot Lodge rejoiced that the third and fourth generation of Adamses had thrown off the perilous Puritan “independence of thought” that had “developed in John Quincy Adams both mental solitude and minute introspection,” impeding decisive action.[27]

        Adams, like Melville, had tried to please everybody. Describing his family’s break with Charles Sumner, Adams cited Sumner’s abusive speech, “the Barbarism of Slavery”: “¼he should have said that which would have offended no man, and yet would have touched and appealed to all.” (Adams, p.53) An identical organic conservative discourse would be followed to the letter in Woodrow Wilson’s theory of the positive state. Unlike Sumner’s scientifically constructed liberal nation, Wilson’s mystical State expressed “an abiding natural relationship”; it was “a higher form of life”, and the source of spirituality for the lower, selfish, that is, overly self-directed, individual. Disavowing Jeffersonian notions of limited government and “scientific anarchy” (the consequence of epistemological materialism, abstract theories of rights, and ruptures with tradition), Wilson had explained in his notes for a Philosophy of Politics: “LIBERTY is to be found only where there is the best order. The machine free that runs with perfect adjustment; the skein free that is without tangle; the man free whose powers are without impediment to their best development.” (Bragdon, 261)

    Wilson’s railroads were running on time. What would his renovated concept of Liberty mean to the labor movement? Just as the ideal ascetic Lee had nobly sacrificed his own antislavery and antisecessionist sentiments, indeed even his proffered career as leader of the Union armies, to bow to the laws of Virginia, President Wilson proclaimed in a folksy speech to the AFof L in Buffalo (1917) that workers and other protesters must remain “in harness”: “I want to express my admiration of [Gompers’] patriotic courage, his large vision, and his statesmanlike sense of what has to be done. I like to lay my mind alongside of a mind that knows how to pull in harness. The horses that kick over the traces will have to be put in corral.” Workers, like their socially responsible employers, would sacrifice some of their demands to travel with other adjustable classes for the sake of the commonweal, eschewing the mob spirit to “release the spirits of the world from bondage.”[28] [The author breaks into song, “Fugue for Tinhorns” from Guys and Dolls: “I’ve got the horse right here/ his name is Paul Revere/, and there’s a guy who says if the weather’s clear, can do, can do, this guy says the horse can do/ if he says the horse can do, can do, can do¼.”]

III. The country-club pedagogy of American literature

       Twenty-one years earlier, Wilson the professor had assumed a less populist tone in his advice to the classes, but his fears of degeneration in the body politic were already intense: science-sniffing horses were breaking out of the corral. Representing the American Whig Society at the Sesquicentennial Celebration at Princeton University, a quaking Wilson addressed his magnificently dressed international audience, October 21, 1896; his topic “Princeton in the Nation’s Service.” “The Old World trembles to see its proletariat in the saddle¼.” “The literature of your own race and country” would instruct the masses, and neutralize “the work of the noxious, intoxicating gas which has somehow got into the lungs of the rest of us, from out the crevices of [the scientist’s] workshop…I should tremble to see social reform led by men who have breathed it; I should fear nothing better than utter destruction from a revolution conceived and led in the scientific spirit¼.Do you wonder, then, that I ask for the old drill, the old memory of times gone by, the old schooling in precedent and tradition, the old keeping of faith with the past, as a preparation for leadership in the days of social change?” Closing his remarks, a calmer Wilson elaborated his pacific model of the perfected university, breeding ground for democratic leaders to be trained in the ascetic ideal, hence liberated from Sumner’s ruptures, Margoth’s foul wind[s],[29] and the example of Europe’s runaway horsy proles. Serving “the nation,” it would be

            the home of sagacious men, hard-headed and with a will to know, debaters of the world’s questions every day and used to the rough ways of democracy: and yet a place removed–calm Science seated there, recluse, ascetic, like a nun, not knowing that the world passes, not caring, if the truth but come in answer to her prayer; and Literature, walking within her open doors, in quiet chambers, with men of olden times, storied walls about her, and calm voices infinitely sweet; here ‘magic casements opening on the foam of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn,’ to which you may withdraw and use your youth for pleasure; there windows open straight upon the street, where many stand and talk, intent upon the world of men and affairs. A place for men, and all that concerns them; but unlike the world in its self-possession, its thorough[30] way of talk, its care to know more than the moment brings to light; slow to take excitement; its air pure and wholesome with a breath of faith; every eye within it bright in the clear day and quick to look toward heaven for the confirmation of its hope. Who shall show us the way to that place?”

With science safely closeted and purified, the South would rise again. Wilson’s home was a typically Southern one: quieted, for a time, but not subdued. In the late 1930s, one writer stated flatly that the South had justifiably hated the North, and without remission:

            The late war had seemed to them a test between the strength of men and the strength of things, between a spiritual philosophy and a materialistic philosophy; and they were convinced that the result of it would be the extinction of everything they valued. They felt that more-and-more and not better-and-better was the inevitable motto of the new order; and they believed that such a premise was comfortable only with the standardized and the un-polite; the essentially un-human. [31]

The genteel South, like much of the anti-consumerist, anti-commercial 1960s counter-culture and New Left, would not be railroaded by Yankee Puritans; would not be uplifted by “geologic Jew[s]” into the modern age.


[1] Sumner’s speech, delivered to the New York Young Men’s Republican Union, Nov. 19, 1867, can be read on the internet: http://www.umdl.umich.edu/cgi-bin/moa/sgml/moa-idx?notisid=ABJ1723. The same principles are enunciated in Sumner’s speech, Feb. 1869, advocating a much stronger Fifteenth Amendment than the one adopted; in Harold M. Hyman, The Radical Republicans and Reconstruction, 1861-1870 (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967): 484-491. See David Herbert Donald, Charles Sumner (N.Y.: Da Capo Press, 1996): 219-237, for the events leading up to Sumner’s famous speech of 1852, “Freedom National, Slavery Sectional,” that  argued that the Constitution did not condone or allow slavery, citing the Sommersett Case of 1772 in England, which ruled that slavery, to be legal, must be affirmed by positive law. Sumner was attempting to declare the Fugitive Slave Law (upheld by Lemuel Shaw, Chief Justice of Massachusetts and Melville’s father-in-law) unconstitutional. Sumner had been making the same constitutional argument constantly prior to his entry into the Senate (1851), beginning in the Fall of 1845, setting Massachusetts on fire with antislavery fervor, according to one biographer, Archibald Grimke (1892).


[2] Stanton Garner cites Howard P. Vincent’s praise of Melville’s Supplement: it belongs among the “American Scriptures.” See The Civil War World of Herman Melville (Lawrence: U. of Kansas P., 1993): 436. By contrast to the nation-preserving Melville, who would have preferred “gradual manumission” to the divisive strategies of Northern radicals in the 1850s (27), Thaddeus Stevens (out to destroy “Southern culture”) is described as “an intemperate and acrimonious fanatic” (427). See also Hershel Parker, Herman Melville: A Biography, Volume 2, 1851-1891 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002): 615. “Hoadley [HM’s brother-in-law] was now in an intensely Radical phase, identified with Charles Sumner’s determination to punish white Southerners. Melville was much closer to the complicated, ambivalent feelings of Lemuel Shaw, Richard Lathers, John A. Dix, and their 1860 associates.” See also Robin Grey, “Annotations On Civil War: Melville’s Battle-Pieces and Milton’s War in Heaven,” Leviathan vol.4, nos. 1 and 2 (March and October 2002): 51-70; Grey treats both Milton and Melville as moderates.

     Compare Lamar of Mississippi, explaining his eulogy of Sumner after his death: “It is true he still advocated the civil Rights Bill which, in my opinion, is a measure of wrong & injustice & grievous injury to our people. I do not believe, however, that he meant it as a humiliation to us. It was, in his eye, a consummation of his life-long struggle for equal rights. Intensely opposed as I am to that measure I must say that if Mr. S. had not supported it he would not have been in harmony with himself.” (Letter in Hyman, pp. 515-519, but Hyman did not mention that Lamar had refused to sit next to a Negro representative before delivering his tribute.)


[3] See Sumner to Carl Schurz, Oct. 20, 1865: “The rebel states must not be allowed at once to participate in our government. This privilege must be postponed. ¼The President might have given peace to the country and made it a mighty example of justice to mankind. Instead of this consummation, he revives the old Slave Oligarchy, envenomed by war, and gives it a new lease of terrible power.” In Hyman, p.292. See Schurz’s lengthy response, on the exceptional nature of the moment, pp. 292-298.


[4] Charles Sumner, speech March 16, 1867, in Hyman, pp. 388-391.

[5] The identification of Ahab with railroads occurs at the close of the chapter 37, “Sunset”: “Swerve me? The path to my fixed purpose is laid with iron rails, whereon my soul is grooved to run. Over unsounded gorges, through the rifled hearts of mountains, under torrents’ beds, unerringly I rush! Naught’s an obstacle, naught’s an angle to the iron way!” That Ahab’s railroad image is tied to the civilizing process is borne out in Starbuck’s soliloquy in the following chapter, “Dusk.” “[Complaining about Ahab’s tyranny:] Oh, life! ‘tis an hour like this, with soul beat down and held to knowledge,–as wild, untutored things are forced to feed—“

       Compare to Donald Davidson, “Expedients Versus Principles–Cross Purposes in the South,” Southern Review Vol.2 (1936-37), 651. Decrying the habit of South-bashing in Northern newspapers, Davidson complained, “Denunciations of the older Klan disguised the working alliance of Radical Republicans and the Robber Barons. ¼”Urban-industrialized society” demolishes “whatever stands in its path.” The claim of collusion between the radicals and crooked capitalists is challenged in Stanley Coben, “Northeastern Business and Radical Reconstruction: a Re-examination,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review, XLVI (June 1959).

      See also David Herbert Donald, Charles Sumner (New York: Da Capo Press, 1996), for epithets directed against Sumner, e.g. footnote, pp.4-5. Based on the belief that Sumner’s mother, Relief Jacob “’was probably of Jewish descent,’” Frank Preston Stearns (1905) attacked “’the Hebrew element in Sumner’s nature; the inflexibility of purpose, the absolute self-devotion, and even the prophetic forecast.’ Such a theory of inherited racial traits is, of course, highly unscientific. But in any case, the Jewish strain in Sumner’s ancestry is dubious. At no point in his career, when virtually every other possible weapon was used against him, were anti-Semitic charges raised.” On the same page, Donald reports that Esther Holmes, the mother of Sumner’s father (who had been born out of wedlock) was rumored to have had some “Indian or negro blood.” Donald presents Sumner as having covered up his genealogy. Having denied that antisemitic charges were made, on p. 239 (second volume), Donald, while comparing Sumner (who wished to bar all ex-Confederates from government) to the more flexible Thaddeus Stevens, states “He announced principles, as from on Mount Sinai, and deplored the compromises needed to transform ideals into legislative reality.” Opposite p.228 (second volume), in a chapter entitled “Very Like Robespierre,” a cartoon “Free Soil Her” (1864) is shown in which Sumner is kissing an ape-like black woman, with the rhyme: “In vain you’ve preached your precepts round,/ Throughout this whole great Yankee nation;/ I think that you should prove them first,/ And early try amalgamation.” See also caricature opposite p.197, “I’m Not to Blame for Being White, Sir!” Sumner gives alms to a black child, while turning away from a white urchin.

    David Donald’s antipathy to Sumner is well known, but his criticisms were preceded, almost to the letter, in Anna Laurens Dawes, Charles Sumner (N.Y.: Dodd, Mead, 1892); Dawes viewed Sumner as archetypal Puritan/American, a prophet and our greatest orator, but not a statesman. Harold M. Hyman countered Donald’s statement that Sumner was “a man inflexibly committed to a set of moral ideas as basic principles,” observing that “in wartime matters Sumner was an immensely effective and intensely practical politician. As a combination, zeal and expertness are hard to beat.” In The Radical Republicans and Reconstruction, 1861-1870 (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1967): 103.

    Also, on “bloody Jacobins,” see Patrick Riddleberger, 1866: The Critical Year Revisited (Carbondale, Ill: Southern Illinois UP, 1979): 225, for the Herald’s characterization of the Radical’s campaign in the elections of 1866. They were provoking another “reign of terror” in which Northerners would be fighting each other, were they to win.

    The sub-text of the animus against Sumner is two-fold; first, as part of a historiographic trend claiming that extremists provoked the Civil War [see Hyman, “Introduction,” Radical Republicans]; and second, as an attack on laissez-faire by the progressive movement. The latter is summed up by Hardin Craig, Woodrow Wilson at Princeton (Norman, OK: U. of Oklahoma P., 1960): 14. “[Wilson believed] that universities should devote themselves always, regardless of other obligations, to the wise and proper service of the state, a belief that runs all through his university career.” Or, “’The chief end of life” is “to discipline men to serve the state, religiously, loyally.’” (10). “Order” for Wilson means “a sense of unity in human existence and in the universe itself.” (11) Leadership should make it clear that “Democracy is not a natural instinct of men–quite the contrary–and the doctrine of laissez-faire is its ruin.” (19). But the national government is not the chief focus of loyalty. Referring to Wilson’s article, “The Study of Administration,” (1887), Craig comments: “This article seems to suggest in education, as in all great social undertakings, a confederation of parts rather than a centralization of power, and a wide union of tolerated divisions of prerogatives in pursuit of common purposes ‘in honorable equality and honorable subordination.’ In other words, educational institutions should assume a form and operation not unlike his idea of the American system of government.” (22-23). Contrast this deified state and its “confederation of parts” to Sumner’s concept of the supreme central government as protector of individual development, and enforcer of “absolute equality before the law” in the states.

[6] Quoted in Jeremiah Chaplin and J.D. Chaplin, Life of Charles Sumner (Boston, 1874), 183-184.

[7] Herman Melville, Clarel, 2.22, 14; 1.24, 27-48. All references from Northwestern/Newberry edition.

[8] See Woodrow Wilson, “Princeton in the Nation’s Service,” below, p.  . For the explicit linking of Margoth to the rebel angels, see Clarel, 2.28, 9-10, 30-32. Margoth plucks a “fetid” fruit: “Pippins of Sodom? They’ve declined!” Then Margoth is viewed disapprovingly by the other pilgrims “raking their the land./ Some minerals of noisome kind/ He found and straight to the pouch consigned.”

[9] Henry Wilkinson Bragdon, Woodrow Wilson: The Academic Years (Cambridge: Harvard Belknap Press, 1967), 257, 258, 259. The idealist intellectual tradition defended by relativists in cultural studies, etc. is plainly illustrated in the communitarian thought of Woodrow Wilson. Note the pseudo-materialism of his approach to history and the Burkean foundation of his approach to authority. See Mere Literature and other Essays, 1896, and republished in the Houghton, Mifflin Riverside Press edition of 1924. Except for his new piece on Edmund Burke, they had previously appeared in Atlantic Monthly, Century Magazine, and Forum. The Wilson essays follow to the letter the frontier thesis of Frederick Jackson Turner, and illustrate the post-Civil War blood-and-soil organic conservatives co-option of the idea of progress. Organic conservatives were now democrats; they contrasted the ostensibly atomized, hence selfish, individual (the “mad scientist,” a synecdoche for Jacobins, in the tory discourse) with the individual-in-community. [for mad scientist, read Margoth]

      In “The Course of American History,” 213-247, Wilson adjusts the prior materialist formulation of American history as a (sectional) battle between [Hebraic] Puritans and Southern slaveholders to control the labor system in the Western territories. This domineering (i.e., Whiggish) narrative, Wilson claims, was a creation of New Englanders who dominate the writing of history. Following his former student, Fredrick Jackson Turner, he shifts the axis from North versus South to East versus West, with the ever- receding frontier shaping American character. And East and West are not in conflict, but interact upon each other, staving off both decadence and overly Jacksonian political styles and objectives (i.e., the negative State).

     Wilson emphasizes the importance of the middle states, ostensibly neglected by the New Englanders (aka “the chosen people”). What makes Lincoln the greatest American President and “supreme American” is 1. his ability to synthesize the conservative East and vigorous West; and 2. to understand and appreciate the point of view of all Americans, including most importantly, the South; moreover Lincoln is the great autodidact, bringing harmony instead of endless conflict into his (unfinished) life (206-208). (Autodidacts had been the object of horrified scrutiny since the invention of the printing press, and as materialists had been characterized as archetypal assassins.) Lincoln is contrasted to Thomas Jefferson, an example of “mixed breed” (187) because he had imbibed the French revolutionary spirit, and was hence, in Wilson’s words, “un-American.” (198) Jefferson, like other troublemakers, was impractical and given to abstractions. (196-199). What was at stake here? Supporting Burke, Wilson eschewed “government by contract” in favor of “government by habit.” (155)

      “The history of a nation is only the history of its villages writ large.” (214). Wilson’s advocacy of local history (the “vital” kind) is of a piece with his progressivism, also localist, in contrast to the big Leviathan state that increasingly characterized the New Deal in the late 1930s. Literary historians as well as historians of science should read the Wilson essays in tandem with the pro-fascist writers of American Review, edited by Seward Collins in the mid-1930s that attempted to unite the English Distributists, New Humanists, Southern Agrarians, and Neo-Thomists in a revolutionary conservative synthesis. The empiricism of St. Thomas Aquinas was constantly praised, along with the classical notion of the rooted individual as it had existed in the High Middle Ages. It is out of this intellectual tradition, I believe, that the cultural approach to history (to use Carolyn Ware’s phrase) was derived, setting itself against the dangers of “scientific” history that could lead the investigator, Ahabishly, god-knows-where. Such are the wondrous ways of the moderate men, and it seems to me to be the way of those who aspire to activism as historians; that is, their reforms entail non-structural adjustments (ethnopluralism and inter-racial understanding, for instance) that presume harmony as the outcome.



[10] During the question period following delivery of this paper, I was asked if I did not think that Melville returned to a more “dialogic” relationship to his themes and readers after Battle-Pieces. Upon reflection, I do not think that this characterization accurately reflects how Melville actually experienced the inner civil war described here. Although he often has characters arguing a wide range of religious and political issues, I believe that Freud’s concept of the return of the repressed more accurately describes his oscillations between radical liberalism and organic conservatism. That is, new, more accurate knowledge, particularly that which delegitimates established authority, is experienced as an “irruption,” hence as an invasion that assaults his body with destructive force; or sometimes it is an “eruption” of anger that comes from within, and must be suppressed to protect his family’s idealizations. Hence, his conservatism is a defense, but one which drives him into an equally frightening state of insensibility, of being buried alive within the walls, prompting another (self-inflicted) “irruption of heretic thought, hard to repress”; i.e., he is not calmly appraising different arguments, as the “dialogic” formulation would suggest. These points are already made in my book as I analyze Melville’s own rhetoric, and will be elaborated in future publications.

[11] Herman Melville, “Supplement” to Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866). Stanton Garner comments on this passage, “When he said that in nature the Southerners stood closer to the Northerners than did the freedmen, he was not necessarily referring to race. He was referring to the bond of nationality that had originated when Northerner and Southerner together had created the nation and given it form, and that bond probably extended to those black men who had already been assimilated into free society. To use the excuse of rebellion to substitute, in political terms, the freedmen for the former Confederates would be to disable a portion of the body politic in order to give immediate suffrage to men were of necessity ignorant, both in terms of education and in terms of the truncated experience of civil life permitted them by their servitude. That would impoverish the land, he thought. Citizenship and full political investiture were due the former slave, but they had to be given so as to produce the best future for men of both colors.” See Garner, 438. Hershel Parker quotes the passage without his own editorial comment, p.614.


[12] See Bragdon, pp.264-65. Bragdon notes that Wilson had earlier believed that the President was subordinate to Congress, but that after the Cleveland administration, changed his views. An important influence was Henry Jones Ford, author of The Rise and Growth of American Politics (1898), who saw “the increase in presidential power was both an inevitable process and a return to the ancient Teutonic tradition of elective monarchs.” Wilson brought him to Princeton as professor of politics in 1908.

   By the time that Melville wrote the Supplement, Johnson had asserted an imperial power in the presidency in his Message to Congress, vetoed the Civil Rights Bill and Freedmen’s Bureau Bill (the latter move subverted his own precedent in readmitting Tennessee). Both bills were passed by Congress over his veto. See Riddleberger, 79, 96-97, 125.

   Also, compare Wilson’s view of executive leadership with Anna Laurens Dawes, Charles Sumner, p. 160-161: discussing Sumner’s conflicted relations with other Republicans during the first phase of the war, she writes, “Now more than ever Sumner showed what some one has called his “capacity for loving the absolute right abstracted from its practical use.” The old Puritan blood in him asserted itself, and with power in our own hands, he deemed it criminal as well as weak not to compel the end desired. He did not stop to consider whether we possessed anything more than the semblance of power, and he would not take into account the conservative necessities of responsibility. The process of educating and representing a whole people, and so ruling them, was abhorrent to him. He believed, as all his ancestors had done, that only his own faction could be right, and he followed that most specious of false maxims in national morals,— that the right was always the shortest line between the two points. These sentiments he did not hesitate to express in public and private.” [Sumner, along with a few others, had wanted immediate emancipation of all slaves, both as “a war measure” and as “a constitutional duty.” (184-185)]


[13] These scholars include Michael Rogin, George Fredrickson, Alfred Kazin, and Carolyn Karcher.


[14] See discussion in my Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and The Melville Revival, Chapter 2. In Clarel, the demystifier Margoth is linked by Rolfe to other “bold freethinking Jew[s], who “with vigor shook/ Faith’s leaning tower.” (2.22, 55-57). In comparing multiculturalism to neo-feudal agrarianism, I do not mean to criticize those practitioners who study the historically-specific experience and cultural expression of specific groups, but only those who claim that their cultures are incomprehensible to non-members, and who contest the objectivity of “facts”, asserting that all facts are “group facts” and are embedded in “values.” This is the radical subjectivist position as I understand it, and I reject it as counter-Enlightenment.


[15] See, for instance, Hyman, 191-192, 484-491. Presenting his own version of the Fourteenth Amendment (stronger than the one adopted), Sumner spoke, “Mr. President,–In the construction of a machine the good mechanic seeks the simplest process, producing the desired result with the greatest economy of time and force. I know no better rule for Congress on the present occasion. We are mechanics, and the machine we are constructing has for its object the conservation of Equal Rights¼How widely Senators are departing from this rule will appear before I have done.” (486-487)


[16] See summary in the Daily National Intelligencer, “The South in the Witness-Box”, March 28, 1866: “In regard to the Federal debt, the people of Virginia are represented as in favor of its repudiation, or, at least, of combining with it the Confederate debt. The witnesses who have been connected with the Confederacy, however, deny this, and represent the people as willing to pay their share of the Federal debt by taxation. On this subject, General Lee’s opinion is that they are willing to pay both, and opposed to a repudiation of either.” The Fourteenth Amendment, Sec.4, repudiates the Confederate debt. On this crucial question, see Riddleberger, 170-172. John C. Underwood had testified that if “the rebel debt could placed upon an equality with the National debt¼the leading spirits would claim compensation for their negroes.” (170)

   Lee’s comment on removing “the colored population” referred also to his prewar support for “gradual emancipation.” Cf. Garner, attributing this belief to Melville, p.27. On Lee’s postwar white supremacist racial attitudes, see Michael Fellman, The Making of Robert E. Lee (N.Y.: Random House, 2000): 271-273.


[17] See Riddleberger, 199, 225-26.

[18] See Sumner’s speech, February 5 and 6, 1866, “Equal Rights For All.” “It is not enough that you have given liberty. By the same title that we claim liberty do we claim equality also.” Quoted Riddleberger, p.114.


[19] See Riddleberger, 211-212, for a description of the Johnson-supporting National Union movement convention in Philadelphia, begun Aug.14, 1866, opposing the “conquered provinces” theory of the Radicals, in which the “law of nations” legitimated Congressional reconstruction of the rebel states before they could be reunited with the North. Riddleberger describes objections to the seventh clause of the Declaration of Principles: “’That it is with proud and unfeigned satisfaction that we recur to the conduct of the American soldier all through the recent conflict–his courage, his endurance merit our highest encomiums.’ Senator Hendricks felt that his clause was ambiguous. “What soldier does it mean?” he asked. Senator Cowan said the intention was ‘to include the soldiers of both armies.’ Southerners concurred in this, but some Northerners vehemently opposed it. A Michigan delegate said that he ‘had sacrificed his political position at home by consulting the sensitiveness of the South. He would do this no longer. It was that had prepared the way for the rebellion, and he did not mean to repeat the mistakes of former years¼he could never consent to extend equal applause to the men who had been in arms against the Government.’ To preserve harmony, the committee omitted the resolution altogether, but inserted another one simply stating to be the ‘duty of the National Government to recognize the rights of Federal soldiers and sailors¼by meeting promptly and fully their just and rightful claims.” (211)

[20] There is much evidence to support the notion that Melville was terrified of black rage. His poem, “The Swamp Angel” (“the great Parrott gun” used by the Union to bombard Charleston) is prefigured in the mayhem of the rebel slaves in “Benito Cereno” (1855).” The poem (one of Battle-Pieces) begins, “There is a coal-black Angel/ With a thick Afric lip,/ and he dwells (like the hunted and the harried)/ In a swamp where the green frogs dip./ But his face is against a City/ Which is over a bay of the sea,/ And he breathes with a breath that is /blastment,/ And dooms by a far decree.” The last line asks for a change of heart in “our guilty kind¼Christ, the Forgiver, convert his mind.”

    Similarly, Woodrow Wilson in his Division and Reunion, 1829-1889 (1893) constantly invokes the threatening character of a black multitude, suddenly freed, and susceptible to demagoguery and crime; giving this as one reason to explain why Southerners maintained slavery (111,114). For instance, slaves were a small part of the Northern population, but in the South: “¼the sentiment which had once existed in favor of emancipation had given way before grave doubts as to the safety of setting free a body of men so large, so ignorant, so unskilled in the moderate use of freedom.” (114). In his description of Reconstruction, he takes the point to poetic heights: Referring to the consequences of the “Thorough” policy of the Republican Congress: “[Thorough’s] practical operation was of course revolutionary in its effects upon the southern governments. The most influential white men were excluded from voting for the delegates who were to compose the constitutional conventions, while the negroes were all admitted to enrollment. Unscrupulous adventurers appeared, to act as leaders of the inexperienced blacks in taking possession, first of the conventions, and afterwards of the state governments; and in the States where the negroes were most numerous, or their leaders most shrewd and unprincipled, and extraordinary carnival of public crime set in under the forms of law. Negro majorities gained complete control of the state governments, or, rather, negroes constituted the legislative majorities and submitted to the unrestrained authority of small and masterful groups of white men whom the instinct of plunder had drawn from the North.” (223). Page numbers are from the Collier edition, 1961.


[21] This Burkean moment reminds me of a question Eleanor Melville Metcalf put to her mother, Frances Thomas, in her letter of 28 September 1919, and quoted in Hunting Captain Ahab, p.214: “Did you ever hear the story told Mr. Weaver by Dr. Coan, who had it from some old admiral, that at the beginning of the war when feeling ran high against England, because of her sympathy with the South, that Grandpa went up the Hudson, got a schooner and went sailing with a British flag waving on her. W. wants to know if it has any foundation.” FT wrote on the page, “absolutely no truth in this: I never heard of it.”


[22] The exact date of composition is uncertain, but Stanton Garner believes that the completed essay would have been delivered to Harper’s a week and a half before the date of publication, August 17, 1866. See Garner, p.439. Parker hints at an earlier date of completion, p. 613. For a detailed history of the Fourteenth Amendment, see Riddleberger, chapters 5-7. With the exception of Tennessee, the secessionist states all rejected the amendment when submitted to them.


[23] Hershel Parker writes, “In the next weeks of 1866 [after the poem was written] the fury of Radical Republicans intent on punishing the South led Melville to add the Supplement” (613). Thaddeus Stevens had countered similar sentiments among his Congressional colleagues: “The forgiveness of the gospel refers to private offenses, where men can forgive their enemies and smother their feeling of revenge without injury to anybody. But that has nothing to do with municipal punishment, with political sanction of political crimes. When nations pass sentence and decree confiscation for crimes unrepented there is no question of malignity. When the judge sentences the convict he has no animosity. When the hangman executes the culprit he rather pities than hates him. Cruelty does not belong to their vocabulary. Gentlemen mistake, therefore, when they make these appeals to us in the name of humanity. They, sir, who while preaching this doctrine of hugging and caressing those whose hands are red with the blood of our and their murdered kinsmen, are covering themselves with indelible stains which all the waters of the Nile cannot wash out.” Quoted in Benjamin B. Kendrick, The Journal of the Joint Committee of Fifteen on Reconstruction, 39th Congress, 1865-1867 (N.Y.: Columbia UP, 1914): 404-405.

     Compare Melville’s sentiments in the Supplement to Henry Grady, “The New South” (1886), addressing Tammany Hall in New York City. Lincoln is the Son, the embodiment of sectional harmony:“…the first typical American, the first who comprehended within himself all the strength and gentleness, all the majesty and grace of this Republic—Abraham Lincoln. He was the sum of Puritan and Cavalier, for in his ardent nature were fused the virtues of both, and in the depths of his great soul the faults of both were lost. He was greater than Puritan, greater than Cavalier, in that he was American, and that in his honest form were first gathered the vast and thrilling forces of his ideal government, charging it with such tremendous meaning and elevating it above human suffering, that martyrdom, though infamously aimed, came as a fitting crown to a life consecrated from the cradle to human liberty. Let us each cherishing the traditions and honoring his fathers, build with reverent hands to the type of this simple but sublime life, in which all types are honored, and in our common glory as Americans there will be plenty to spare for your forefathers and for mine.” (my italics) See also Melville’s poem “The Martyr”: …He lieth in his blood–/ The father in his face;/ They have killed him, the Forgiver—/ The Avenger takes his place….”


[24] See Wilson, “A Calendar of Great Americans,” Mere Literature, 209-210: “[Like Lincoln, Lee was also “national in spirit”: He fought on the opposite side, but fought in the same spirit, and for a principle which is in a sense scarcely less American than the principle of Union. He represented the idea of the inherent–the essential–separateness of self-government. This was not the principle of secession: that principle involved the separate right of the several self-governing units of the federal system to judge of national questions independently, and as a check upon the federal government,–and to adjudge the very objects of the Union. Lee did not believe in secession, but he did believe in the local rootage of all government. This is at the bottom, no doubt, an English idea; but it has had a characteristically American development. It is the reverse side of the shield which bears upon its obverse the devices of the Union, a side too much overlooked and obscured since the war. It conceives the individual State a community united by the most intimate associations, the first home and foster-mother of every man born into the citizenship of the nation. Lee considered himself a member of one of these great families; he could not conceive of the nation apart from the State: above all, he could not live in the nation divorced from his neighbors. His own community should decide his political destiny and duty.”

[25] Adams, p.166. Reflecting upon his “many mistakes”, Adams described his bad decision to mount his negro regiment. “The regiment was doing very good service, dismounted, as a garrison and on guard over the prisoner’s camp at Point Lookout. To mount it, meant only the waste of twelve hundred much-needed horses. Then, having got it mounted, through the same channels [his influence at Headquarters] I worked it into active service. Mistake number two; as the only result of so doing was to afford myself convincing proof that the negro was wholly unfit for cavalry service, lacking absolutely the essential qualities of alertness, individuality, reliability, and self-reliance.” This assessment from an officer who had nodded off at “the height of battle” at both Antietam and Gettysburg (152-54).


[26] Quoted in Gary Gallagher, Civil War History 1999      . Adams’s subsequent address “Lee’s Centennial,” delivered at Washington and Lee University, 19 Jan. 1907, is described as one of the happiest experiences of his life (Autobiography, 206-208). For more on the Lee myth see Thomas L. Connelly, The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and His Image in American Society (N.Y.: Knopf, 1977). 


[27] Lodge quoted Hamlet. See “Memorial Address,” Charles Francis Adams 1835-1915: An Autobiography (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1916): xvi-xvii.

[28] Woodrow Wilson in his folksiest mode, speaking to the American Federation of Labor at Buffalo, New York, November 12, 1917. The talk is entitled “Labor and the War” (the title perhaps conceived by The Committee on Public Information which published this and other speeches in 1918, as no.9 in a series “War, Labor, and Peace”). Wilson starts off with the rhetoric of equality and community and sublimity:

       “I am introduced to you as the President of the United States, and yet I would be pleased if you would put the thought of the office into the background and regard me as one of your fellow citizens who has come here to speak, not the words of authority, but the words of counsel; the words which men should speak to one another who wish to be frank in a moment more critical perhaps than the history of the world has ever yet known; a moment when it is every man’s duty to forget himself, to forget his own interests, to fill himself with the nobility of a great national and world conception, and act upon a new platform elevated above the ordinary affairs of life and lifted to where men have views of the long destiny of mankind.”

  Wilson goes on to describe the sneaky ways of German industry that, through government subsidy, has been able to beat out the competition and dominate the markets of the world. He then puts down the fatuous dreamers of Russia who have been “compounding” with Germany. We must stand together against the German menace. Then:

    “While we are fighting for freedom, we must see, among other things, that labor is free, and that means a number of interesting things. It means not only that we must do what we have declared our purpose to do, see that the conditions of labor are not rendered more onerous by the war, but also that we shall see to it that the instrumentalities by which the conditions of labor are improved are not blocked or checked. That we must do. That has been the matter about which I have taken pleasure in conferring from time to time with your president, Mr. Gompers; and if I may be permitted to do so, I want to express my admiration of his patriotic courage, his large vision, and his statesmanlike sense of what has to be done. I like to lay my mind alongside of a mind that knows how to pull in harness. The horses that kick over the traces will have to be put in corral.

…Nobody has a right to stop the processes of labor until all the methods of conciliation and settlement have been exhausted….[He will tell the capitalists the same thing at some future date; meanwhile] Everybody on both sides has now got to transact business, and a settlement is never impossible when both sides want to do the square and right thing.

  [We must negotiate face to face, for that makes hatred impossible.] So it is all along the line, in serious matters and things less serious. We are all of the same clay and spirit, and we can get together if we desire to get together. Therefore, my counsel to you is this: Let us show ourselves Americans by showing that we do not want to go off in separate camps or groups by ourselves, but that we want to co-operate with all other classes and all other groups in the common enterprise which is to release the spirits of the world from bondage. I would be willing to set that up as the final test of an American. That is the meaning of democracy. I have been very much distressed, my fellow citizens, by some of the things that have happened recently. The mob spirit is displaying itself here and there in this country. …There are some organizations in this country whose object is anarchy and the destruction of law, but I would not meet their efforts by making myself partner in destroying the law. I despise and hate their purposes as much as any man, but I respect the ancient processes of justice; and I would be too proud not to see them done justice, however wrong they are.

….the fundamental lesson of the whole situation is that we must not only take common counsel, but that we must yield to and obey common counsel….”


[29] Clarel, 2.26, 1-24. Margoth has insulted the Roman Catholic Church, declaring that “All, all’s geology, I trow.” Margoth is first introduced in the text at the dung-gate. The narrator explains that it marked where “By torch the tipstaves Jesus led,/ And so through back-street hustling sped/ To Pilate./ Odor bad it has/ This gate in story¼.” (1.24, 16-20).


[30] Compare to Wilson’s description of the Radical Reconstruction program: “Thorough” in Division and Reunion.


[31] From Southern Review Vol.3 (July-April 1937-38), “What The South Figured 1865-1914,” by John Donald Wade. See also Frank L. Owsley, “Jefferson Davis,” Southern Review, Vol.3, 762-768. Affirming the State’s rights position, Owsley points out that, despite modernization, differing sectional interests remain. The majority may not tyrannize minorities. Cf. Geographer Sumner’s survey of the American continent in “Are We A Nation?” Our rivers and mountains confer natural unity on the nation. In the same volume of Soutern Review see also Donald Davidson, “Regionalism as Social Science,” 209-224, for his preference for Turner over Beard. The essay may be read as supportive of multiculturalism and postmodernism. For a repudiation of Robert E. Lee’s too passive stance, see Andrew Nelson Lytle, “Robert E. Lee,” SR Vol.1 (1935-36): 411-422. “[It was not Lee, who submitted, and trusted in God’s mercy, but rather] those who led the Ku Klux Klan, that society which made survival possible.”

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