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Francis Amasa Walker, president of M.I.T., first declared in 1891 what was soon to become an upper-class mantra: Anglo-Saxons were quietly committing "racial suicide." The insult of competing with Latin/Slav/Celtic folkways seemingly discouraged reproduction among families of the old stock. After that bombshell, an orchestrated campaign of scientific racism swept the United States and didnt flag in public energy for forty long years. Racial suicide was the Red Scare, Fifth Column, and AIDS epidemic of its day all rolled into one. In the long history of manufactured crises, it ranks up there with the Reichstag fire, Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin, the gasoline shortage of 1973, the Asian economic miracle, and corporate downsizing as a prime example of modern psychological management of public opinion. The racial suicide theme sounded at exactly the moment public schooling was transforming itself into forced government schooling.
The American campaign against racial suicide enlisted great scientists of the day to produce a full library of books, scientific journal articles, popular magazine pieces, legislation, lectures, and indirect school curricula. It caught the attention of the entire civilized world, including Imperial Germany and Imperial Japan. Both sent official study delegations to America to observe the resourcefulness of this new industrial utopia in purging itself of its original democratic character. It is as if there exists some tacit understanding on the part of mainstream scholarship and journalism to steer clear of the shoals of this period, but even an amateur like myself finds enough to indicate that racial suicide provided a leading motive to justify the radical shift of American society toward well-schooled orthodoxy. What is intriguing in light of the relative amnesia concerning these connections is the sheer quantity of the damning data. Genetic experimentation, once teased from its hiding holes, is revealed as a master political project of the twentieth century with the United States, Germany, and England its enthusiastic sponsors. Data gathered in school surveys and social experimentation with children have been important sources of grist for this initiative.
M.I.T.s Walker got an intellectual boost from activities of the influential American sociologist Edward A. Ross, who explained to the American Academy of Political and Social Science exactly how unchecked Asiatic immigration would lead to the extinction of the American people. Higher races, he said, will not endure competition from lower ones. After that, even Teddy Roosevelt was issuing marching orders to Anglo-Saxon mothers, asking well-bred ladies to mobilize their loins in an effort to arrest the suicidal decline. Breed as if the race depended on it, said Roosevelt. Eugenics had openly become national politics for the first time in America, but hardly the last.
Harpers Weekly chastised Roosevelt, saying mere exhortation would have no effect as long as immigration continued to reduce the native birthrate by insulting our best breeders. From 1905 to 1909 at least one major popular magazine article on the subject appeared every single month. Books warned that race suicide would "toll the passing of this great Anglo-Teuton people," giving the nation over to Latins, Slavs, or worse, Jews and other Asiatics.
Meanwhile, the long-ignored genetic work of monk Gregor Mendel was conveniently rediscovered, adding more fuel to the fires of racial thinking. Here, presumably, a humble man of God showed mathematically that something caused transmission of characteristics from generation to generation, independent of any effect of nurture or education. Horse, dog, and rose breeders had empirically derived these insights a thousand years before Mendel, but credit passed to science for the "discovery."
Into the center of this racial excitement strode the formidable figure of Sir Francis Galton, first cousin of Charles Darwin, in line of descent from Malthus,5 possessor of incredible intellectual ability and indefatigable energy, a man of great personal wealth, a knight of the realm. Galton preached improvement of the human breed with evangelical fervor, demanding a policy of biological positivism which would produce the same genetic dividends that were being reaped by positivism in the hard sciences of chemistry and physics. The "eugenics movement," as it was now called, would save us socially by manipulating the best to breed (positive eugenics) and encouraging the worst to die out (negative eugenics). School would have a major role to play in this. Race-improvement was in the air, its method compounded out of state action and forced schooling.
Galtons inspiration and plenty of American moneymuch of it Andrew Carnegies and Mrs. Averill Harrimansopened the first racial science laboratory in the world in Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, in 1904. And kept it open for thirty-five years, until Hitlers invasion of Poland made discretion seem the wiser part of zealotry for the moment at the Carnegie Corporation. In 1939, it was quietly shut down. The last president at the Cold Spring Harbor facility was M.I.T. president Vannevar Bush, often called "The Father of the Atomic Bomb." Eugenic thinking injected energy into the exploding "mental hygiene" movement, too. Word went out to the recently erected national network of hospitals that it was okay to begin sterilizing mental defectives. This green light came complete with legislative licenses to decide who those defectives wereand freedom from any legal jeopardy.
A scholarly book from M.I.T. created intellectual havoc in the year 1899 and long afterwards, lending maximum credibility to the eugenicist agenda. The Races of Europe was written by brilliant economist William Z. Ripley; it armed the racial-suicide crowd and its companion group of enthusiasts, the racial-science crowd, with information that Europe was divided into three races, easily distinguishable from one another by physical measurements. First, a race of blonde long heads (the Teutons); second, a central race of stocky round heads (the Alpines); and third, a southern race of slender, dark long heads (the Mediterraneans). Here, finally, was a way to distinguish reliably among the qualities of old immigration and new! Ripley took the 28-year-old Darwinian concept of "reversion" and charged it with new energy.
Was it possible, Ripley asked, that promiscuous breeding of Nordic peoples with Southern Europeans could doom the New England Anglo-Nordic stock? Incipient race suicide could be dealt with only by legislation. Education should be employed to raise the current immigrants "standard of morality," making him more tolerable to society. That would help. But nothing could be done about reversion. Subspecies of men could not be allowed to couple with 100 percent American female breeding stock.
All the pieces were now in position for full-scale national hysteria to commence, an era of sanctions buttressed by the authority of peerless scientific experts. American society would require harsh discipline after the Prussian fashion in order to meet this challenge. Thanks to men like Ripley, the experts could apply such discipline with an exalted sense of mathematical righteousness. The first requirement would be to force the dangerous classes into schools. Laws were on the books, time to enforce them.
A covert American sterilization program managed by trusted administrators in the brand new hospital network took place during the same years that forced schooling was being brought along. This sterilization initiative occasionally broke silence in highly specialized journals whose reader discretion was taken for granted. Thus Charles V. Carrington, writing in the Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science (July 1910), reported on two interesting cases of successful involuntary sterilization. One involved an "epileptic masturbator" who, after vasectomy, "ceased masturbating altogether." The other was a black man also given to masturbation and general deviltry. After sterilization, he became "a strong, well-developed young Negro, nicely behaved, and not a masturbatory sodomist," Carrington reported. Surgical intervention as social policy was given its precedents in America long before the Nazi era.
Advocates of Yaleman Gesells "eugenic violence" offensive against the underclasses swung from every point on the scientific compass. William McDougall, the eminent social psychologist, announced himself a champion of Nordic superiority; Ellsworth Huntington, prominent Yale geographer, wrote The Character of Races, showing that only one race had any real moral character. Henry Fairfield Osborn, president and founder of the American Museum of Natural History, gave the "Address of Welcome" to the Second International Congress of Eugenics; Osborns close friend Lothrop Stoddard wrote The Revolt Against Civilization: Menace of the Underman; and psychologist James McKeen Cattell, a force in the rise of standardized testing, wrote to Galton, "We are following in America your advice and example."
The famous humanitarian anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber remarked acidly to a newsman that anti-eugenic protests came only from the "orthodoxly religious," rarely from the enlightened camp of science. So there it was. Keep them all in mind: Kroeber, Gesell, Ripley, McDougall, Huntington, Osborn, great scientific humanist names whose work underscored how important a role forced schooling was designed to play. Scientific studies had shown conclusively that extending the duration and intensity of schooling caused sharp declines in fertilityand sterility in many. Part of schools stealth curriculum would be a steady expansion of its reach throughout the century.
Two more examples will drive home the relentlessness of this long scientific campaign against American tradition. J.B.S. Haldane, a distinguished Fabian geneticist from England, issued a lurid warning about what might happen if blonde women bred with human demi-apes like Italians, Jews, and other kinds of retrograde biology: "A new type of submen, abhorred by nature, ugly as no natural product is ugly" would emerge. The new hypothesis held that female offspring of such unions would be too repulsive to look upon.
In Daedalus, or Science and the Future, Haldane said there were really only four fundamental biological innovations of prehistory: 1) Domestication of animals; 2) Domestication of plants; 3) The use of fungi for the production of alcohol; 4) The invention of frontal copulation "which altered the path of sexual selection, focused the attention of man as a lover upon womans face and breasts, and changed our ideal of beauty from the steatopygous Hottentot to the modern European, from the Venus of Brassenpouy to the Venus of Milo."
All evolution might be in jeopardy if there were no more pretty faces to look at, this was the thesis. Today, there is an aura of the absurd to these assertions, but it would be well to reflect on the institutional world that emerged from the other end of this same forge, for it is the new moral world you and I live in, a fully scientized and organized society, managed by the best peoplepeople who prefer to remain out of sight of the hoi polloi, segregated in their own in walled villages and other redoubts.
5Not quite as sinister as it sounds. Virtually all distinguished English names bear a family relationship toone another; its privileged classes, like those of other nations like Germany (or Japan) constitute a protected breeding stock in which intermarriage is not just common, but de rigeur, one might say with only a trace of mischief. Indeed, in a genealogy text whose title Ive long forgotten, I learned from the author (alas forgotten, too) that two thirds of all American presidents stood in an easily traceable family relationship to one another. See Chapter Twelve for more enlightenment on this score. Or simply ponder the meaning of this: After the 2004 presidential nominations have been decided, if Senator Kerry of Massachusetts is the Democratic nominee and George W. Bush the Republican, then five presidential terms in a row will have been served by men with a Yale degree when the eventual victors term is complete! And three if those terms will have featured a president who was a member, while at Yale, of a tiny secret society, Skull & Bones, which only accepts fifteen members a year. On this score, either Bush or Kerry will serve equally well as both are Yale graduates and both Skull & Bones initiates.
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